Haircuts, Football and a Beach – Freebies in London Town

By Colin Robinson

Being a recent graduate I was given the task to source out what the Capital of England has to offer for free. Not really, my student loan has run out and Mummy and Daddy have refused to give me any more money, they said it will be “character building” for me but the stress of finding a paid job is a consistent ball ache.

Having sold the majority of my DVD collections, my two next gen consoles and games, I’ve got a couple of hundred to start on, although that quickly went on gas, electric, rent, council tax, tv license, internet and food. Fuck. Welcome to the real fucking World. Kinda wish I didn’t spend 3 years at Uni pissing my student loan up against the wall through alcohol consumption, play.com and topshop.

If you’re going to Uni, put all that student loan a-side, knowing once you graduate, there’s not going to be a job for you, unless you’re doing a degree is something smart like science or specific like footwear technology.

It probably wasn’t the best time to test out what London has to offer for free during the Olympics because, it was more packed than usual and everyone tried to cash in on the flurry of visitors the games had attracted.

A few weeks ago I thought I’d cracked it, after visiting a dingy rock club in the west end, I found myself at the DJ’s house with plenty of others for an impromptu after the party. There was Jack Daniels bottles on tap, plus a shit load of drugs like meow, meow – which I thought was strictly banned but that’s what it was, or it’s ugly sister. Apparently none of this constitutes as ‘free’ so it was scrapped from the list.

Since the weather was sunny last weekend I was invited for a drink by some Uni mates (girls, I’ll have you know) in Camden Town. We usually go to the Ice Wharf to sit by the stinky canal but this time we went to Roundhouse after overhearing someone talking about a Beach.

The rumours were indeed true, although there were a lot of kids around building sand castles, which was weird considering all the people over 18 without kids were there to drink alcohol and get a sun tan.

 I could only afford one fucking drink at £4.50 for a small bottle of bear but I did enjoy sitting back in a deckchair with my bare feet in the sand. It was probably builder’s sand though, that’s been pissed and shat in by rats and foxes at night time. But it was free entry, and probably worth checking out whilst the Sun is still out to play this summer.

Another freebie I found was playing Football. The season starts again this weekend so I thought I’d try my skills at the local park in Regents. I only went with myself a ball to do some keepy-uppies but got invited to join a game and had a fun time, so much so I am going back next week.

It might not be as smooth as playing at GOALS or Power League but at least I didn’t have to fork out £10 to play. It was all free, apart from your own motivation.

Last week I had a job interview with an estate agent, which didn’t really look like an estate agents or what I imagined one to look like. It was dodgy and although it was a bit nicer than Barry’s car lot office from Eastenders, it looked like it had been made over night.

The bloke interviewing asked me when I’m planning on getting a haircut. I guess I had let it grow a bit wild but the last time I got a trim it cost me forty fucking quid at Toni & Guy. And it was shit. I looked like Justin Bieber.

Besides, I kinda got use to the Mod-come-Beatles-come-Hippy look that it had grown into but I guess you’re not going to get a job with it. I found a local barbers cutting hair for £5 but was put off by the cheap price and also the fact that the Polish women inside appeared to look extremely angry.

A mate told me about places offering free haircuts, usually done by students who need real people to practice on. I had horrible thoughts of Bart Simpson and his dodgy haircut in that episode from years ago but I didn’t really have much choice.

I could pay for a shit one or get a shit one for free. If it is really bad, I can just shave it off myself and look like a Nazi for the next few months.

After replying to some gumtree ads, I finally got mine done in Shoreditch, the trend centre of London.

I was expecting some pretentious art students prancing around a warehouse conversion, pretending to be the next Trevor Sorbie but I was wrong.

It was run by a bunch of cockney geezers in a basement of an old office building, but there were plenty of people there getting haircuts and people of all backgrounds, young and old, poor and the rich.

Next to me was a bloke in a suit who was telling the cocky teenager giving him a shave that he’s a business executive for the Olympics. But here he is getting a free shave and trim in some dingy room.

I was given a portfolio of styles and was told to choose one by this 40 year old geezer from Chiswick. Or what he called “CHIZ ICK”.

Thinking I’d picked something relatively easy for him to do, he seemed to get very agitated and called over a block called Tony or what he called “TOE KNEE”.

After a long reassurance by Tony, who I assumed was the boss and an actual qualified hairdresser there to cover up any major fuck-up’s, my hair was being hacked at.

Two hours later, I had a style straight out of the 1950’s which looked a bit too retro for my liking but thought at least I’d fit in around the area. Since then it’s been alright, considering I didn’t pay a penny. The qualified hairdresser took over most of the job in the end too so I ended up getting a good cut by someone qualified.

That’s 40 quid well saved then. I guess London does have some shit for free but I won’t stop here, there must be other free shit out there or I’ll be selling the big issue come Winter!

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A Bad Trip to Hell and Back

By Colin Robinson

It was Thursday 26th July and I was booked on the 12:05 train to Manchester from Euston station. This was off the back of one of craziest weekend’s of my life and unknown to me it wasn’t going to get any less crazy.

When you reply to an online ad looking for writers, you don’t expect it to end up in a binge of drink, drugs and debauchery but that’s exactly what occurred when I was invited along to a bar in central London to discuss a project called ‘Gonzeaux’.

In hindsight I can admit I was a little nervous about going to this meet-up as I didn’t know what to expect.  I’ve been all over the place since Uni finished back in May and I faced the result of what I came to expect, a big fat failure. 3 years of my life down the drain and no academic grade to show for it. Friends tell me you don’t need a degree to succeed, you just got to be in the know, I hope they’re right.

By the time I’d gone to this meet-up, I was a little half-cut [A little? I thought he had ADHD or something – Bill] and I saw the other guys there were much older than me. The drinks were flying in and conversations were flowing over ideas for articles and reports for the new project.

[Edit]Someone [not Bill Camden] gave me a small bag and told me to “open my mind” and then he was gone. By that time I was pretty wasted and just chucked them into my bag, before I went to another graduation party where I met other failed Graduates who wanted to bury their misery by getting fucked up.

To cut a long story short, once after party lead to another and before I knew it, it was Tuesday and I’d missed my Aunt’s birthday party on the Monday. But fuck it, she stopped giving me money for mine years ago so I didn’t feel so bad. Plus, I’m avoiding family right now.

Once I’d come to some kind of sober state, I checked with [The Boss] about writing for the Gonzeaux whilst I’m up in Manchester to watch Team GB. He tells me Lance Thorpe, one of the guys from the meet-up was going to and he’ll try put me in touch.

I don’t remember a Lance, maybe it was the posh bloke but I barely spoke to him. By the Wednesday I opened the bag that I was given on that night and found what looked like mushrooms but after getting a second opinion from my mate Dan, he confirmed they’re in fact magic truffles.

We decided to munch some of them along with Nutella and some bread. I’d done ‘shrooms before a Uni but all I remember was laughing my arse off and falling asleep.

This was totally different. I forgot Dan was even in the room with me as I lay back on my bed tripping my balls off for what I learnt to be about 10 hours. It felt like I’d gone into a lucid dream.

It was around 2 am on Thursday I came to my senses, Dan wasn’t around so called him to see what the hell had gone down. He told me I’d turned into a zombie and he decided to leave.

I was paranoid I’d miss the train to Manchester if I went to sleep so stayed up through the help of coffee and proplus. Once I’d got to Euston Station later that day, I rushed to platform 13 to get on the train, somehow I’d nearly missed it.

Once I was aboard, I finished panting and heavy breathing after some intense running and pulled out a bottle of drink in my bag. What I wasn’t aware of at this time was that it was not the bottle of Coca-Cola I’d left there before.

I came to find out that, Dan, had made some tea out of the magic truffles and had decided to empty the bottle of coke, fill it up and leave me some. Only, he forgot to tell me and here I was on the train drinking it down like a thirsty beast.

Once the taste had filled my buds, I began to yack and look down at the drink. It was the same colour of cola but knew it tasted fucking foul. On closer inspection I noticed there were bits floating around in the drink and I threw it in the bin. Thinking I’d got a stale bottle of cola.

About 30 minutes later, looking out of the window on the train, I started to wonder why the sky had turned purple. The music on my ipod sounded wavy and the bloke sitting opposite me on his laptop appeared to be grinning.

The sweat started to pour down my forehead and I shot up looking for my phone and headed out of the carriage to call Dan.

He’d explained about the shroom tea in the coke bottle and laughed at my situation. I hanged up with anger and headed towards the buffet as I was in desperate need of some water.

The walk through 3 carriages felt like a lifetime and the shrooms had almost fully taken over my system. After begging for water, what appeared to a cat-faced woman I sat in the toilet for the rest of the journey to scared to venture out and trapped in my own thoughts on an unplanned trip.

This wasn’t like the other day when I had taken these things. I was more awake in the experience but paranoia was rife. I answer my phone where a Uni friend explains how his cat died and he isn’t coming to the game or something.

I answer it trying to piece together the information but focussing on signs on how to get to Old Trafford. I get into a little panic and go up to two Coppers standing by the entrance to the station and ask them for directions.

Their faces started melting and I quickly hurried off before they told me fully, all I heard was the number of the bus. By luck or fortune I found a bus stop and jumped on the bus, where the driver said he goes near the stadium.

I head upstairs and collapse in a seat at the front. I’m desperately trying to think my way out of this trip but it just makes it worse. I decided to lay back and close my eyes.

I’m seeing blue, red and yellow shapes in squares and circles. There what looks like a castle made of blue stone and I enter it only to fall into a pool of red liquid.

Once I open my eyes, I panic and do not know where I am. I press the bell and get off thinking I’d missed my stop. I did not know where the hell I was.

All I could see were streets of houses and council estates. I start walking like I know where I’m going and then I see a gang of youths, three on foot and one on a BMX approaching me.

I turn around and walk in the opposite direction but they catch up and call to me.

Not actual footage

One of them asks for a fag and I give him one, I ask if they know how to get to Old Trafford. They won’t tell me and ask where I am from. The biggest one grabs the cigarette packet out of my hand.

The next thing I know I was being threatened with a knife and my wallet was taken out of my back pocket. They took a £20 note, my match ticket and a few coins.

It all happened in a flash, I dunno if it was the shrooms still or just the shock of it all but it fucking sucked.

Luckily they never took my phone.

I call my sister and blubber over the phone as I tell her all of what happened but she’s more concerned about me taking drugs than being mugged so I hang up and head to Old Trafford.

The ticket office won’t do anything over my stolen ticket and I got angry, probably a delayed reaction to being mugged but the security come over to try to calm me down, which just made me worse.

I ended up being dragged out away from the stadium grounds after refusing to leave.

There was no point going to the police, because of the drugs so after finding a cashpoint I grabbed a burger and walked around to find a pub. At least I got to see the game, even if it was on Television.

Since I’ve been back, I’ve got myself a job, reconnected with my family and taken up martial arts. Whether it was the experience being mugged or taking Psilocybin truffles I don’t know.

I just feel like a pretty humble and focused bastard now.