Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha

What am I doing here?

What am I doing here?

Awww

Awww

I'm at the top of that

I'm at the top of that

It was all Kersti's fault

It was all Kersti's fault

I’m alive!

That was very silly. VERY silly. I’ve done some stupid things in my life, but that has to be right up there. I have learned a valuable lesson (I think). Not sure what it is though.

I had a growing sense of foreboding from Thursday when we all met at Kersti’s (it was all her fault remember: see previous post). They had all trained for Tough Guy. Numpty head me had done nothing. So I honestly didn’t have a clue whether I could do it, whether I would freeze on some of the high obstacles, basically, whether I would live to see Monday morning.

I wasn’t going to drink that night - in fact, I had decided not to drink at all last week in the run up to Tough Guy. I even brought a bottle of Schloer round to Kersti’s, and some cake’s Luci’s mum (I work with Luci at Oxford Times/Oxford Mail) had got from her first day at work at a bakery. But Will brought wine and my resolve weakened. I also reasoned (see there was thought behind it) that it was all far too late anyway and I might as well enjoy my last few days on earth.

Hence the email next morning from mummy Kersti saying that Will and I had been very bad boys and deserved a hangover (I didn’t have one. HA!).

Friday was weird. I made a will - ok, but honestly, I didn’t know if I could do it. And people get hurt. And I need pampering. Crossing my gangplank drunk is about the closest I get to an assault course. And every time I tried to read the instructions, the macho, gung ho bollocks made me puke and go blind so I couldn’t read any of it. Things like the 80mph hour death slide and the swim around a lake pushing a log with your nose - my face is my fortune (which is probably why I run out of money every month - well that’s one of two reasons….)

So, I just jotted down, and it’s probably worth doing it again here just in case… I want to leave everything to Dylan and Aidan, and everything I own and owe is to be administered by my mum and dad and/or my sister until the boys are 18. Thanks for the memories. Love you all.

Then I left work.

Saturday I woke up with a weird eye thing and couldn’t wear my lenses. Great start. I’d had Aidan staying on Friday, so he was picked up, and I waited for Kersti, Tom and Will. They were late. But I was too late to run away. And then they came and we went.

What else could have taken me to Wolverhampton? Well, possibly a football match, since Wolves are now in the Premiership. And they did play Rangers in the semi final of the European Cup Winners Cup in 1961, in the days when the ECWC meant something (Rangers won 3-1 over two legs of course, but were beaten by Fiorentina in the final).

We went to register and walked the course. Full of bloody stupid signs saying stuff like ‘Danger: Death’ and ‘Enter at your own risk: you choose’ cheery stuff like that. Eight miles of hell loomed ahead of us.

A curry and a couple of beers seemed the perfect preparation. For a last supper, it was a good one. Good food and good company - Me, Kersti, Tom, Will, Janette, Simon and Donna (who wasn’t competing, but took the photos and video which should be here at some point).

Sunday I woke early. About five. I lay still, going through all my muscles in my mind to see if I could use a twinge anywhere to pull out. No luck. I felt reasonably well.

Soooo…after breakfast (I didn’t go for the fry up, just some toast, cereal coffee and grapefruit juice), we headed off. It was freezing and raining. I didn’t like it at all. I hadn’t figured on hypothermia in bloody July (actually, quite a few competitors did get hypothermia, including one guy in a mankini who I caught up with as I crawled through mud under barbed wire in the Stalag Escape. He had stopped and was shivering uncontrollably, which made his buttocks a very weird sight. I got past him as quickly as I could - there was nothing I could do for him).

We went into the changing barn, then Tom found out we could go into the team barn, which was closer to the showers afterwards. Any advantage. Nice one Tom. We moved, hung our towels on a rusty nail and started talking to the other fools. At least the spirit of cameraderie was alive. And the costumes were pretty good. You have to be tough to do the toughest assault course in the world (as Tough Guy apparently is) wearing a wonderwoman costume, or a pink tutu and fairy wings. I’d gone for the Jam Factory vest but I hadn’t worm it since last year’s five-a-side football tournament so I forgot how low cut it was (bad purchase Andrew). I definitely didn’t want to have chafed nipples. I wore long shorts and my tracky top, to try to cover as much skin as possible, so I didn’t leave it on the course (futile hope - my knees, shins, elbows, shoulders and arms haven’t been so skinned since I was a schoolboy.

Will and I (being the two most reluctant members of our team) were trying to work out how long we would be suffering. We reckoned it would be a mix of about an hour’s run and an hour’s assault course. Ha! Naive fools. Four hours it was. Four hours of torture. Four hours of hell. There were loads of bottlenecks though, and I reckon if we really wanted to we could shave an hour off that time. I don’t really want to. In fact I really don’t want to. No, I mean I REALLY don’t want to.

Then we made our way to the start and watched as the ‘elite’ were released. Most of us, you could have timed us with calendars. No-one cared about their time, we just wanted to live. But the elite pay extra to start first so they can get a good time. The guy who won it crossed the line in 1hr 18 minutes. He looked a miserable sod though. And I didn’t see any friends with him.

After the elite Front Squad, came the King Wisitors, then the Tough Guys, followed by the Wobblemuckers, the Qween Teams, the Qween Wizzas, then us, the Wetnecks. Close on our heels were the Ghoons, the Dick Heads, the Late Buggers then the poor unfortunates who were caught and put in the stocks for no misdemeanor that I could see.

At least the rain had stopped. But it was still bloody cold. Then I heard it. And I knew I would be OK. As we walked to the Jungle Montain start, I could hear the skirl of the Cannock Pipe Band. If only I could persuade a piper to run the course with me. The sound of bagpipes make it possible to do anything.

We lined up and we were off. Slithering down a mud covered hillside then running like loonies. I can’t really remember the rest. It was all a bit of blur. I did love the challenge of things like the slalom and ghurka grand national. The slalom was running up the side of the hill, then down again about eight times, and similarly, the GGN was slithering into, crossing and clambering out of, 10 foot wide mud trenches - about 15 of them. You just put your head down and go and don’t stop until there are no more. Cool Hand Luke tarring the road. “Oh you wild, beautiful thing. You crazy handful of nothin”

I also loved the Water Tunnels where you walk/swim to a wooden framework, duck underwater/mud and come up in a tiny enclosed space, duck down under a second log, up into another enclosed space, under again, up, under and out. I had borrowed Dylan’s goggles, cos I was worried about my contact lenses, but in the end, I never really had time to think about putting them on. But they were my Dumbo’s Magic Feather. I thought about Dylan and Aidan a lot on the way round.

Climbing over the 40ft A-frames was fine too. I don’t particularly like heights, but again, you just get up, get over and get down. Nae bother.

I knew I was going to hate walking the plank (it’s my pirate lifestyle). And so it proved. Walking out was fine, but 20 feet up into muddy water was a tester. But I did it. Twice. In the end I convinced myself that I hadn’t seen anyone else get (seriously) injured doing it. So why would I? Err. Good logic.

Actually, the constant drone of helicopters and the sound of sirens as ambulances ranged all over the course was a little bit offputting at times. I did see loads of people being tended by St John’s Ambulance, in various states of distress - from dislocated shoulders to sprained ankles to hypothermia.

And then, after four hours and 30 seconds (it seemed a lot quicker than that actually), I crossed the finish line - a couple of seconds AHEAD of Kersti, Tom, Will and Jeanette. Simon, Mark and Peter were three of four minutes ahead of us. Medals and a foil blanket, tea and biscuits, and a cattle procession through the shower barn into my warm towel and clothes. And a weird spaced out feeling. I did feel really chuffed to have done it. Safe in the knowledge that never again…..no Will, we’re not doing it in January.

One minor disappointment. The medal is handsome but heavy and the cheap ribbon chafes your neck. Hey, I’m a Tough Guy.

Tough Guy is not a war. We all paid to do it and we were all reasonably safe. Harry Patch never had those luxuries. He died the day before Tough Guy. The last British veteran of the trenches from the First World War. He must have been something special.

The Guardian gallery

Guardian video

Sleep well for tomorrow you die

As the first of you start to read this, I’m heading for an appointment with death…in Wolverhampton. I’m doing the Tough Guy challenge. Yes, I know, the clue is in the name. I don’t belong there. It’s a six mile run followed by a two mile assault course through mud, fire, electric fences, nettles, water tunnels, lakes, you name it. I just hope the mud is good for my skin. I’m an actor. I need pampering. It even says that on the T-shirt Kersti gave me.

Sorry. I know that anyone who knows me has just puked, choked or laughed til they shat. Those of you who don’t know me personally will soon join them. I apologise for your sudden loss of dignity.

It’s all Kersti’s fault. She’s very pretty and pretty persuasive…and I was pretty drunk. And she knew all the right buttons to push. I was defenceless at her merciless onslaught.

It’s not as though I haven’t trained…why I…why I…why I…why oh why didn’t I train. I did the Blenheim OX5 run in April, to see if I could remember how to run. I managed that in a respectable time of 46 minutes. Kersti and her boyfriend Tom (another member of ‘the team’ - Ha! -  who is pretty fit - the pair of them just cycled 700km from Switzerland through France) better not cross the finish line kissing and hand in hand like they did at the OX5. Yuk!

I also ran to work once, but it’s so much better getting a lift from Nige. And recently, why I’ve been drinking White Russians, and they have milk in them (and vodka and Kahlua). Plenty of calcium for my teeth and bones - in fact that’s probably how they’ll identify me at the end, through my dental records.

I could have been sat catching up with one of my oldest and bestest mates Danny, who’s in London this weekend to cover some pre-season friendly football for the Sunday Post. We could have been drinking in the sunshine, sniggering at Kersti, Tom, Will and the rest, instead, he’ll be drinking and sniggering while I splutter and splatter my way to oblivion. Bastard.

You can get some idea of the pain I’m going through now (before I even start the bloody thing)  by pressing HERE and HERE and HERE

See you on the other side. Maybe

A Fistful of sellouts

Annie (Louise Cobb) and Clint (Alan Mitchell)

Loony linedancers
Loony linedancers Carol (Katie Mansfield) Mary (Angie Stevens), Duncan (James Card) and Sophie (Pat Giles) Right, Annie (Louise Cobb) and Clint (Alan Mitchell). Below, Tom (Sam Mansfield) in his usual place

Fistful was brilliant. I’ve never done anything like it. It was a musical romantic comedy, but it was a GREAT NIGHT OUT, all singing all dancing, very very funny. We got two great reviews (and I got two great reviews - press HERE) and one really bad one but I know of the guy who wrote it and It smacks of jealousy - he has a lot to do with University drama in Oxford, but I saw his last show and it was terrible. I would have left at the interval if three of my friends weren’t in it! And they hated it too! In fact, I got chatting to the girl sitting next to me and she said she couldn’t take any more and left there and then. So I guess I got a friend over our shared bond of pain!

He basically said it was the worst script he’d seen performed - but I honestly just don’t believe he believed that. It was inaccurate, unprofessional bitter, petty and personal. I was going to post his review and my reply here, but to be honest, I don’t want all the negativity. I responded honestly.

It was a fantastic role for me, and I only realised that when there was an audience and I was able to play with it (and them). Just before the end of the first half of the dress rehearsal there was a power cut in the street, so we had to do the whole of the second half with the songs on a cd player and with no light or sound cues. That’s when it clicked and I knew we had a really good show. And we did. We sold out Tuesday (140), had 90 in on Wednesday, 130 on Thursday, 150 Friday (they sold the balcony) and 169 on Saturday (balcony and an extra front row).

The people were brilliant too. I now have an enlarged family.

I also shot a short film, After, by Ben Thatcher, over the weekend. I had previously shot the gay love scene with a mate (who probably wants to remain anonymous, if not I’ll add his name later, ok Tim). He kissed me by the way. I was asleep, drowsily thinking my girlfriend was caressing me when it turned into ‘him’ but it was only a nightmare, and my girlfriend was asleep beside me. Amy was my girlfriend, and it was great (as always) working with her. We were setting up for one shot with the camera on a board on the bed to look down on us, and Amy climbed into bed and said “there’s wood there.” I swear it’s true (and sorry Amy!)

The week went something like this: Monday dress and tech day, 10-10, pub til midnight, Tuesday work at Newsquest 8-5, straight to theatre, show til 10.30, pub til midnight, Wednesday, same, Thursday, same, Friday, Newsquest 8-4, picked boys up and back on train in a rush into theatre and get ready quickly, show til 10.30, Saturday filming 9-5, back to boat, feed boys, babysitter arrives (you lovely lifesavers Zara and Kerry and Caroline) run to theatre (for some reason my addled brain told me that it would be a good idea to strip to my pants outside the theatre and run on to the stage. They did laugh right enough), show til 10.30, get out til 11, quick drink and back to the boat, Sunday, filming 9-5, take Aidy back to meet his mum, then off for a cast and crew BBQ, which was great. Great week all round and some good stuff done.

I wasn’t sure how on earth the weekend was going to work, I was juggling so many balls. But thanks to my two brilliant boys and my wonderful lovely friends, and a patient, calm and understanding film cast and crew (who are new friends) I made it work and I got to spend some great time with the boys.

How did I do that?

X

Tom (my mate Sam Mansfield) in his usual place