It’s that time of year where the gym quietens down, the dieters stop pretending they’re not eating an entire chocolate pudding for lunch and all of the joggers start going missing like someone is filming CSI, Midsummer Murders and Miss Marple all in the same city.

The end of January is that quaint time of the year where everyone gives up on their futile dreams and returns to reality ready to face another brutal years grind with all the enthusiasm of a service station McDonald’s employee. But not me! No I’m still going strong. 2017 was the year I’d get less unhealthy than the year before and so far I’m actually doing it! In lieu of going to the gym (which just felt too mainstream in January) I decided to save money by switching my 25 minute bus journey to work for a 50 minute walk, twice a day. So far I have managed to achieve this goal at least 50% of the time. Which is much greater than my preset target of 10%. Anything is achievable if you set your goals low enough.

Wow Farrell, no need to brag, we know you’re a superior human specimen, why rub your iron will in our collective faces? I just want to bestow some wisdom, maybe change a life. There is a genuine health advantage to me walking to work, there is also the disadvantage that years of avid computer gaming have left my thighs fat, flabby and playing the role of trouser kindling squeaking against one another competing to see which can develop the most painful rash. I’ve always lived by the mantra, ‘hope for success but expect failure’, and sometimes ‘hope for failure but expect failure’ and it’s that mantra that allows me to feel like I could lead a self help seminar and start my own Fortune 500 company just because I haven’t entirely failed on a very simple year long endeavour by the middle of month 1. 

I do find that walking helps me think, for instance today’s summary of events is being written at 10am due to me coming up with all of my ideas whilst walking. What I hate however is how quickly thoughts and ideas dissipate the second my arse hits a cushioned chair. Walking to work this morning I thought of three fantastic anecdotes to share with you today. I was so pleased with them that I contemplated stopping mid stride to quickly jot them down on my phone. ‘No don’t be silly’ I thought to myself, ‘You’ll be there in 15 minutes, surely you won’t forget these dynamite stories by the time you sit down.’

And you know what… I was right, that was story 1. Knocked that one out of the park, now I just need to think of a seamless way to segway into story number 2…

On my epic daily hike to work I pass through this beautiful city sprawling footpath ‘New Walk’, I enjoy my time on New Walk, it spans between the city’s two universities and manages to go over the main ‘A’ road without removing the sense that you are on a stroll through an old market town. It’s one blemish however is that it happens to house one of the city’s two largish job-centres. Walking to work past a job-centre feels like walking past a homeless person whilst eating a hot dog; I immediately feel guilty but we both know I’m not giving this guy my hot dog.

I feel a lot of sympathy for the poor souls who have to be at the job-centre at 9am, it truly is a harrowing place. Throughout history the only places that come closer to matching it in terms of emotional torment are medieval torture chambers and military hospitals at war time. I have been ‘on the dole’ three times so far in my young life, the first and by far worst case being back in my hometown of Prestatyn in North Wales.

Whenever I tell anyone from ‘the city’ I grew up in North Wales there is always an approving noise of ‘that sounds nice’ or a ‘oh it’s lovely there’ from anyone that once drove past a beach back in the 70’s. In all honesty growing up in North Wales was fine, I was able to play football in the street after school, ride my bike for miles unsupervised and spend time by the sea with friends contracting cholera.

The problem came when I was grown. Almost immediately after hitting 17 or 18 everyone in North Wales comes to the same realisation, there’s about 5 jobs in the entire postcode and they’re all taken by family members of the company owners. People seem to think the biggest problem for adolescents in the countryside is a lack of clubs and youth centres and fun quirky bars with arcade machines. And OK, yes that was a slight concern, however it paled slightly when compared to a complete and utter lack of industry left in the wake of Margaret Thatcher’s ‘watch me fuck the poor’ tour.

My family had moved to North Wales from London as with one daughter and a son (me) on the way they decided inner city London was no place to raise a family, my dad’s company had offered him a relocation to the one building in Prestatyn that actually did a modicum of business and he accepted, moving us from a small flat in the capital to a 3 bedroom semi detached in Wales and I will always be grateful for the upbringing and freedom I had because of that.

However that won’t stop me pointing out that whilst growing up the neighbouring town of Rhyl was and still is the closest thing to a post apocalyptic wasteland we will see until a world leader gets drunk and tweets about Trump’s small fingers. The main attractions of Rhyl were a fairground and a sky tower, both of which are now out of service and half torn down. That’s right, half torn down, they literally gave up on taking the fairground apart when they realised nobody wanted the land, I’m serious, Google ‘Rhyl fun fair’ and check out the first images that pop up. It looks like the setting for a Scooby Doo clown snuff film.

Ocean Beach fun fair, Rhyl

Ocean Beach fun fair, Rhyl (or the start of any episode of Goosebumps)

Getting off track again, my point is there was no industry and me in my infinite ‘I know best’ teen wisdom had decided to take a gap year between college and university to earn some money. I spent the entire year on job seekers allowance. Not for lack of trying, I must have applied for between 10 and 20 jobs a week; I remember hearing about a job going as a cleaner at the local cinema and went in to pick up an application form that day. A friend of mine was working there at the time, upon handing me the form he told me it was around the 50th he’d handed out that morning… To be a fucking cleaner in a cinema.

It wasn’t until I lost my part time job in Lancaster years later (jumping about here I know) that I realised the job-centre was supposed to help you find a job. In North Wales it was literally a revolving door of depression. You went in, they queued you up, they stamped your book (without even opening it some days) and they shooed you out. Whereas in contrast, Lancaster job-centre expected to know exactly why you were still unemployed each week and the excuse that I was unemployable because I looked like an unwashed pirate didn’t quite cut the mustard.
Anyways those days are in the past now. I work in IT and have a fairly niche set of skills that should hopefully keep me employed until the robots take over (which could well be before 2020). So as much as I feel sympathy for anyone caught in the catch-22 cycle of needing experience for a job that you need in order to gain experience, I pay taxes now so you can all stop being lazy fucks and go work in McDonald’s (PS they ain’t hiring).