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Groupon #70: when spray tans go wrong

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tan tasticMy flatmates told me that it would make me look gorgeous. They told me that it was a great way to prepare for a date with my beloved ex-girlfriend. And so, for want of better judgement, that afternoon I went off to The Tanning Salon in Clapham to have a spray tan. An hour later I was stood in the lobby. On the way in I walked past a middle-aged woman the colour of an orangutan’s ball bag. She was a deep Lucozade orange, like a sub-Saharan reptile, or a Geordie. I approached the reception desk. Waiting there was Kayleigh in her skimpy black uniform, like a chorizo wrapped in a napkin. ‘Hello sir, I’m Kayleigh. What colour would you like? “Dark” or “Dark-dark”?’ she said. ‘I don’t know what you mean by that, Kayleigh. What’s the difference?’ ‘Well, do you want to look like Enrique Iglesias or Denzel Washington?’ she said. I thought about it for a second and then decided to play it safe. I went for ‘Dark’.

Next I was shown to an electronic spray tanning booth. Kayleigh was very cheerful, giggling away as we walked down the stairs and asking me lots of questions, including: ‘So are you having this for a special occasion or is it just a treat for your boyfriend?’ In the cubicle an electronic woman’s voice talked me through the whole process. All I had to do was strip totally naked and put a blue fishnet cap on my head. So by the time I stepped into the booth I looked like a Greggs’s employee who’d had a breakdown. Then the spraying began: the nozzles ejecting microscopic beads of brown paint in a cold mist. It’s a very weird smell, spray tan. It’s like a cross between chocolate and low self-esteem.

I got out of the booth and looked at myself in the full-length mirror. I didn’t look that brown. So I went upstairs to protest. Kayleigh tried to put me at ease. ‘Actually sir, you’re going to get really dark in, like, eight hours’ time.’ And in eight hours’ time I was at the Bloomsbury Theatre in London, watching a show. There were three intervals in this show, and each time I came back from the interval I was a different race of human. To the point where I came back from the third interval, and the bloke sitting next to me just went, ‘Errr, sorry, someone’s sitting there, mate,’ and I was like, ‘No, no, no, it’s just me. I’m blacked up.’

I did hundreds more Groupons. Including: colonic irrigation, wrestling alligators and baby scans. Buy the book here.

Groupon #2: Alpaca Trekking

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I got home and immediately rolled the Groupon roulette wheel again. I landed on something completely bizarre-I went alpaca trekking in Kent.


Apparently in a car park. You’ll notice I’m wearing an alpaca wool scarf, which is adding insult to injury for the alpaca. That’s like going to meet a pig wearing a bacon bikini. In hindsight, I think the alpaca trek is aimed at children rather than twenty six-year-old men. I know that because on the trek it was just me and a six-year-old girl. She turned up with her mother and her sister, but farm policy demanded that only two people could go on each trek and so the little girl ended up coming with me. The first thing I did was grooming. (The alpaca, I mean, not the six year-old girl). Then we all went for a walk around the Romney Marsh: me, the girl, Hershey the alpaca, and our guide, Lara. The little girl was such a brat. She just wouldn’t stop talking; I couldn’t get a word in edgeways. ‘Where’s his mummy?’

‘Do alpacas go to school?’

‘Does he do a wee-wee or a poo-poo?’

All questions I wanted to ask, but couldn’t.

alpaca 2

Alpacas are extremely hierarchical animals and walk together in a straight line in a woolly conga. If anyone tries to get above their station and jump the queue they get spat at. Yes, literally spat at. Alpacas have two stomachs, like cows (and Americans), and they regurgitate green bile from the first chamber and gob it at you. I tell you what though: they can give it out but they can’t take it. When I spat back at my alpaca it went absolutely mental.

But alpacas aren’t just farmed to provide comic relief to bored morons like me. They’re also often used by farmers to scare off dogs and foxes. Alpacas hate dogs and if they corner one they jump on it until it dies, like canine bubble wrap. Not so cute now, are they? When the little girl heard that fact her face dropped, her naive world view shattered, as if she’d just walked in on her Barbie shooting-up smack. No wonder she was disappointed. We overly romanticise animals, I think, especially for children. But the truth is we are deluding ourselves if we think animals are ethical. Have you ever seen a nature documentary? Animals are nihilistic psychopaths. Dolphins are prolific rapists, female pigs often eat their own piglets, and pandas deliberately refuse to reproduce in a cynical attempt to get handjobs from humans.

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