Wednesday, 28 August 2013

The end of the line

Well, this is it...we're into the last few days of my year in Hamburg, and what a year has been. I don't want to throw out all of those stereotypical, cliche phrases about it being the best year of your life and one of the greatest experiences...but it really has been a great year.

I've travelled to new places, I've seen new things and met new people. I've developed friendships and somehow strengthened relationships with people to be even better friends than we were to start with. I've been to some fantastic gigs and sporting events, I've spent some glorious days relaxing in the sunshine and enjoyed (is that the right word?) one of the longest and coldest winters in recent history.

But it really has been fantastic, and thanks gets given mainly to two groups of people. At the risk of this turning into a terrible awards ceremony style we go.

I found an absolutely fantastic cricket club in THCC Rot-Gelb, an incredible group of people that I couldn't have imagined meeting. If there's any regret there, it's that I didn't join the club earlier in the year and get to spend even more time with them. Plus, it's not every day when you can say that you're part of a team that has one of the best teams in an entire country. I've developed so much as a player in the last few months...I'm a more confident batsman, and while I'm not going to set the world alight with my batting, I at least have the confidence to know I can play a bit more than a forward defensive. My bowling has improved too. My fielding, while I always gave 100%, wasn't always fantastic. I still give 100%, but now I can say that I'm a better fielding, mainly due to being shown multiple times how to catch a ball properly. As stupid as it sounds, I've got more confidence taking high catches. Cam, Komal, Steve, Magic Moritz, Frank, Mark and everyone else...thank you. 
 To the 1st XI, best of luck in the national finals, you'll have at least one fan cheering you on from England and eagerly awaiting the result of the final. I'll forever be a Desperado, and if things go as I hope, I'll see you all next year.

Then there are the people at work. My wonderful colleagues at euroShell. What a wonderful, funny, utterly brilliant group of people they are. I've learnt so many new skills and developed so much as an individual. I went from not having a clue what I was doing on my first day to quickly figuring out what needed to be done. I'd like to think I've made a difference of some sort. Even if I haven't, I've made enough of a difference to myself in knowing what I can do...and perhaps what I want to do in the future. More windows and doors have been opened, it's just a case of seeing which way the wind blows. If opportunities arise in the future, I've potentially got more options to choose from and look at for careers and job prospects.
To Marc, Harm, Benjamin and Thomas, good day to you and thank you for everything. If our paths cross again, I look forward to the next meeting.

England, brace yourself. I'm coming back (for now).'s been fantastic and I'll see you again soon.

I'll leave the final word to The Doctor, who says it all...

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Growing up isn't easy

A couple of evenings ago, I had a rather enjoyable conversation on Skype with Rachel. That's right Rachel, enjoy your moment in the sunshine...because it's only going to go downhill from here in this entry. ;-) Apart from her almost seeing a bit too much of me at one point, we actually had something of a serious conversation about growing up and where life is taking us. Well, mainly me...but the topic definitely applied to Rachel too.

As we all know, I've been in Germany for near on a year now. Which means that my time in this land is coming to an end for the time being as in a shade under five weeks, I'll be packing my bags and heading back to England for the last year of university and a probable end to my road of education unless I suddenly find myself wanting/needing to do a Masters's possible. Anything is possible really.

Currently, my aim is to move back out to Germany after completing my degree. I know that's my plan, my parents know that's my plan, my friends know that's the plan...pretty much everyone who knows, or who has asked me about life after university knows that coming back to Germany is the plan. It might be Hamburg, I could find myself in a different all hinges on where I can find work. I'm working from the mindset that I need to go where the work is and there's not a lot of point saying to myself that I want to live somewhere and not be able to find a job there.

But the conversation was spearheaded by talking about this and Rachel secretly admitting that she might actually have an ounce of humanity towards me by saying that if I move back to Germany...she'll miss me. Once I'd gotten over the shock of hearing those words coming from her pint sized mouth (that's not being overly cruel, more a reference to her Twitter handle), it got me thinking a bit about other friends that I have where a similar scenario can, and probably will play over over the next year or two.

I'm taking it as something of a given that most of my friends who are also studying German will be spreading their wings after graduation to some extent. There'll be some of us who head back out to Germany/Austria to find/continue work and our lives, some will stay in the UK, whether going back to family or working in another city. Then there's always the option of moving to another country altogether. But I mean, that's just the sort of thing you'd expect from leaving university, especially having done a language degree.

Elsewhere, I've got friends who may decide to head back to other parts of the world, whether returning back East or to other parts of Europe where they had lives set before starting at university. 

So it wouldn't be completely unreasonable to think that there's a potential situation arising where some of my closest friends scatter around the world and those friendships become built on exchanges of emails, Skype calls and talking on Facebook. That's a slightly scary scenario and almost leads to a reset where it wouldn't be beyond the realm of possibility to find myself in a city and needing to start from scratch in terms of building new friendships. I mean, the ones I have now will last for years and years.

As I say though, I have to be realistic in my aims and aspirations for the future. There's no point in me returning to Hamburg if I have no money, no job and nothing concrete sorted out apart from "I want to live in Germany", and if I find work in the UK or another part of the world, then so be it...that's where I go.

Why do I need to grow up? Why can't we all just stay as we are and hang out in Leeds? Still, it's going to be a fun next stage!

Of course, when it all falls apart in a few years, I'll be moving to the USA to try and become a none of what I've written above really matters.

Friday, 14 June 2013

Catching up

I have to admit that since starting the podcast a couple of months ago, this blog has definitely taken a backseat. You can tell that by looking at the number of posts I've made in here over the last few, maybe two a month at best. But that really isn't good enough and it's something that needs to be changed to some extent. Even if I just start writing things of a different nature (because life can't always be incredibly exciting), it keeps me writing and keeps a regular output.

So where has life taken me in the last few weeks?

Well, after the little incident of falling over at cricket and getting a bump on the head, I ended up getting the rather polite suggestion from work that I go and get seen by a doctor. Surprise, surprise...I officially have another concussion to add to the list, though we sort of already knew that. It's been what, six weeks since I did that? My head is about as fine as it could be. Headaches can come and go, but I've had that happening for so long that it barely registers as something worth noticing.

Work has been rather good. Admittedly, having two or three weeks where both Thomas and Benjamin were off work wasn't ideal though it did give me a rather large to-do list which was dealt with in a successful and appropriate manner. My time-management skills might need a bit of work though. I'm not sure whether the work was MEANT to last me three weeks...but I had everything done in about two, and that was with working at what I thought was a relatively gentle pace.

I definitely needed a bit of a break though. Since coming back from England at the start of the year, I'd used relatively little in terms of my holidays. I took a few days off when my brother came over to visit for 16 Carat and then a single day of holiday when I made my flying visit to the UK in early April. Aside from that though, it's pretty much been five months without a break...and I was starting to feel a bit worn out by it all. So this week, I took the entire week off. There was some good logical thinking behind this, as I'll get into now.

Rachel and Beth came over for the weekend and brought the surprise of the year when Ben walks through Arrivals at the airport with them. Didn't see it coming (it helps when they didn't speak much to me in the week leading up to the trip, just in case someone spilled the beans) and I was more than pleased to see him. That was a really fun weekend and I enjoyed hanging out with them again and just spending some time with friends that I haven't been able to see for a long time. When they left on Monday evening, it was the end of a really good couple of days.

So what about the rest of the week? Well, to be honest...Tuesday was a bit of a write-off. I went for a walk into the city centre, went on a boat tour and just had some time to myself to take in the world. The definition of a lazy day, and then I followed it up by watching some cricket. Wednesday was the day that's been marked on my calendar for months...and I mean months. I think I bought tickets to Iron Maiden in late October, so it's been over 6 months of build up to this show. Hessie was meant to come originally (hence the gig being in Frankfurt, not Hamburg) but life doesn't always work out that way and SusiSuse was kind enough to take up the offer of the second ticket and come with me.

What a gig. Iron Maiden may be getting on in age a little bit, but they can definitely still put on one hell of a show. The Festhalle was a really great building too, so good choice of location to them on a venue. 

Today being Friday...I'm having a laid back morning and afternoon. A couple of hours of cricket awaits this evening. The weather is nice once again, and the three weeks of torrential rain seems to be behind us. It might be a bit too late for Spring to have finally maybe we're just getting an early summer. As long as it doesn't snow in August, I'll be happy with that.

I'm writing more too. Not necessarily on here, but I decided that I want to at least try and have a go at comedy in the future. At the moment, it's just a case of writing ideas and some early material and then once I get back to England, testing some stuff out and seeing whether I can make some people laugh. 

The podcast is going really well too, and I'm happy with the path it has been taking in recent weeks. There are episodes that I want to do in future weeks provided I can find the right guest, and there are some guests that I'd like to have on where...well, it might not really matter if there's a topic or not. The audience seems to be there and enjoying the content. Which reminds me...I need to record the intro for this week. The building work seems to have quietened down outside, so now might be a good time to do that...

I shall return.

Sunday, 5 May 2013

Heads aren't as hard as you think..

Well, I started out on writing a blog post the other day but didn't finish it off...hence it wasn't posted. Then some things I figure I may as well just tell the world what's going on. I'll put the other entry up in the next day or two.

If you don't have Twitter and follow me on there or haven't listened to this week's podcast, I had a rather interesting Friday night. Friday evenings are now cricket training up at THCC, which is great. I can leave work early on a Friday afternoon with a good excuse and get the train to the other side of Hamburg for a couple of hours of practice in the nets and on the field.

So that was fine. I loosened up as always and started sending down my medium pace deliveries when required. A couple were all over the place, but the majority of them were at a decent length considering I haven't bowled outside since last August. Maybe 25 minutes in, I get told to pad up and duly do so. I always imagine that going in to bat is a bit like being sent over the top, except without machine guns and barbed wire. So really, it's nothing like going over the's just having to defend my wicket while getting peppered with a variety of deliveries from the people bowling. Some clearly wanted to take my head off (despite the fact I don't wear a helmet, which I don't really think is on) and others were balls that I could play with relative comfort. I'm not the greatest batsman by any stretch of the imagination, so I tend to leave any balls that are going past leg stump unless I fancy having a bit of a slog. Great at a forward defensive though. ;)

I managed to escape batting relatively unscathed, just a massive bruise from where two consecutive balls from the same bowler came up and struck me which REALLY hurt. I should probably wear a thighpad in future to at least cushion the blow... Then I went off to do some fielding practice.

We get to the last 15 minutes or so and start to practice high catches...ball gets slogged into the air and I have to try and take the catch. So one gets sent up and it's not got a huge amount of distance, so I run in to take it. As I do, I slip over on some grass, fall backwards and give my head a good whack.

From that, things get a bit hazy. I remember pain and I remember everyone standing over me checking if I'm ok. Being the idiot that I am, I tried to stand up fairly quickly...which didn't go too well. Took a few minutes to compose myself and then moved to the edge of the field to continue lying down and gathering what senses I had. By which point, my head is throbbing, I feel a teensy bit sick and the world seems like it's got one of those stupid Instagram filters on it.

Ohh, what an idiot I am. Massive thanks to Steve for keeping an eye on me for the next few hours to make sure I didn't drop or have some sort of bizarre after-effects that I wasn't expecting. For those who know me, I've picked up a couple of head injuries in the past from things like this so I'm vaguely aware of what to expect. Maybe I shouldn't have done a podcast this week because listening back, I sound completely out of it...but I knew I needed to record the intro and finish some things off with it.

As things stand, my head isn't as fuzzy as it has been but I still have a headache. My neck and back are both sore so sitting down isn't too fun, lying down isn't fantastic either which leaves me with the option of spending my day standing or having a bit of nagging pain. Just like the last time I banged my head and knocked myself for six, I'm trying to sleep it off. I slept for a couple of hours yesterday and I've had a couple of hours today too.

Things could be a lot worse though. So let's keep some perspective on things.

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Drifting minds are a powerful thing

Do you ever find your mind drifting away to somewhere it quite possibly shouldn't be drifting to? It's happened to me a few times in recent weeks and months, and do you know the main reason for this happening (at least to me)? Train journeys. Sitting on a train for several hours and staring out of a window can really be dangerous for the human mind, especially when staring out at what seems like an eternity of German countryside. Then again, staring out of a window can also do some pretty good things to a mind...maybe a realisation of something or a euphoric moment. Perhaps not quite on the same level as some of the great discoveries in human history, but some good things have definitely come from staring out of a window on a long journey.

Anyway, I found myself thinking back to years and months gone by. Times where I've left an opportunity or a particular moment slip through my fingers and potentially disappear forever because I either don't say the right thing or say nothing at all. At times, I'm not sure which is worse...I suspect silence wins. As an alternative, maybe it's a situation where I should have done something...and did nothing.

It isn't the first time that I've done this, and it almost certainly won't be the last. It always seems to happen at moments of complete silence where I am able to be truly alone with my thoughts. I guess that's part of the reason I spend so much time listening to podcasts, music and comedy, especially when listening. That way, I can listen to someone else talking and hear their thoughts instead of whatever my brain has to conjure up. In some way, it could be a "save me from myself" type of thing...but at a very basic entry level of my mind.

I don't know why I do it, but I do. And I always seem to look at the mistakes I've made in life and reflect back on those rather than focusing on the good things, or things that I've done right. Maybe I'm an idiot for doing's just another reason on a fairly long list of why I could be called a fool with good reason.

I'll keep doing it though whenever I find myself alone with my thoughts. It makes me a stronger person, it gives me something to learn from and means that (hopefully) I don't repeat mistakes that I've already made somewhere in my life. There we go...that's my eureka moment.

Looking at it that way, maybe it isn't such a bad thing to spend a bit of time with my thoughts..

Sunday, 24 March 2013

A spring in my step

It might be a rather cool 0 degrees at the moment, it might feel a lot colder than that...but I don't care. It's springtime. Or at least, it is in terms of calendar. Then again, the sunshine is currently coming through my window and leaving a rather forgotten feeling of warmth. I've missed the sunshine...and the last few months haven't had much sun. 

It looks as though the worst of the cold weather is behind us and what is left of the snow is going to start melting and disappearing in the next few days...about time too. For what feels like an eternity, every day has had at least a sprinkling of snow. So the snow never fully melts (not that it would anyway) and you very quickly learn where the icy deathtraps are within daily life. For example, I know not be too careless on the two minute walk from the bus stop to the office through fear of falling flat on my face in front of people I work with and having to try and give the impression that I've only bruised my pride. 

Work is a mixture of ups and downs at the moment. There's nothing bad as such, but there can be days where there isn't a lot for me to do and I end up doing slightly trivial tasks for the sake of keeping busy at times. On the plus, it's meant that I've been getting more phone calls and emails from people outside of our little Finance corner asking me to investigate certain things and look up information about various aspects of the business for reports and conferences and the like. As a negative...well, I don't really think there is a negative. I'm still working and I'm still enjoying my time at work. It seems crazy that I'm over half way through the placement and there are just five months left on my contract before I pack up and head back to England. Where has the time gone?

There's a bit of a spring to my step at the moment. While I've fallen behind on listening to podcasts a bit and one or two have fallen by the wayside (sorry Bone Zone, you're no longer a must-listen to me), I've really picked up on the music again. Having sorted my music library out, I realised I had a couple of Lynyrd Skynyrd albums that had gone unlistened as well as a host of other bits and pieces that I hadn't listened to for a few years. Having stuck their music on after work on Friday, I think Skynyrd might be an ideal choice for the Friday afternoon walk home from work. At the moment, I've got a fantastic selection of 80s pop music playing (thank you Rachel for sending me that link). I've got a smile back on my face and 2013 continues to be a better year than 2012.

I started writing again, which has been something missing from my life for the last few months. Whether it's writing down those silly little stories that I come up with (which, it seemingly turns out, are brilliant at helping people sleep) or returning to writing down those little ideas for jokes that I get throughout the course of my day, I've been scribbling something down most days. Maybe it'll all just sit in a folder on my laptop to never be seen or used...maybe I'll find a way of using some of it in life.

I guess I have just one complaint and grumble about my life at the moment, and it's the lack of sleep. I's the same old story as always, and this can't have been the first time I've complained about a lack of sleep on this blog. It's getting pretty bad now though. I make jokes about never sleeping and not needing sleep, but that'll only get me so far before I eventually lose the plot completely and throw my computer out of the window at work (or fall asleep...I'm not sure which would land me in more trouble to be honest). Despite knowing that I'm having trouble sleeping and changing my pattern slightly to go to bed earlier in an attempt to counter this problem, I still find myself spending most nights getting no more than four or five hours at the very most. I'm sure that's not healthy...

At least when I'm sleeping, I'm getting some fantastic dreams. So it's not all bad. For the times when I'm lying in bed awake? I started reading a couple of really interesting books which can provide some interesting food for thought. I'd always heard Duncan Trussell talking about the Bhagavad Gita so decided to give that a read to see what it was all about (and so far, it's a cracking read, though a little difficult to fully get to grips with if not paying full concentration) and I've been working my way through a collection of books about the origins and history of cricket for a slightly lighter read. Reading is definitely helping matters. If I can't sleep, I may as well read and/or listen to the cricket commentary.

Tiredness kills. So will I if I don't start getting some sleep soon...
(If there are any legal type people out there, I don't mean this. I won't be killing people. Honest.)

Things can only get better. They're pretty good as it stands, but there's always room for improvement. 

Monday, 4 March 2013

Catching my breath

It's Monday evening, about 6pm. This is my first real chance to sit down, compose some thoughts and have some time to myself in about a week. My brother's on his flight back to England and I'm tucking into the packet of chocolate Hobnobs that he brought over (other biscuits are available, but they're just not as amazing). My rest is just about over and tomorrow, it'll be back to the normal routine and business as usual.

I've had a few days off work since my brother came over to Germany, partially to see me, but the main purpose of the trip was to go down to Oberhausen for the wXw 16 Carat weekend. I know that we're only two months into the year, but they feel as though they've been two really intense months at work and I hadn't taken any time off since Christmas. I also had some leftover holiday from 2012, so it made sense to use that to spend some time with Andrew and head down to Oberhausen.

It also gave me the opportunity to use my day off on Thursday to check out the 25 Years of Pixar exhibition at the MKG Hamburg. If you don't know this about me, then you really should...I am a HUGE Pixar fan. Everything about the company fascinates me, from their very very early beginnings with very basic animated shorts all the way through to their feature length films and the current day. Their films have been the background of an entire generation and the Toy Story trilogy...well, I doubt I need to say too much. The exhibition is a celebration of 25 years in the industry with a wide array of original drawings, paintings and moulds from Pixar films. To see the level of detail, even in the early drawings and ideas of characters and scenery is amazing. It was really cool to see character evolvement and progression, especially for films like Monsters. Inc where the main characters of Sullivan, Mike and Boo look nothing like the early drawings for their characters.

Friday came, and it was time to head down to Oberhausen for the tournament. Three packed days of action with 16 guys in the tournament from 8 countries (and plenty of other non-tournament action featuring even more people). Simply fantastic, and I take my hat off to wXw for being able to put on a three day event AND be able to fill the afternoons with really interesting extras. One of the big points for me was being able to watch the Westside Dojo training session led by Tommy End. Even though the session felt really packed and included a lot to push the trainees, Tommy said that the material they covered was maybe 10% of everything they do (a lot of the other 90% being stuff that you just can't show to an outsider), but it was a really cool thing to watch people going through the basics and also getting to hear about why they want to train and become wrestlers. Sometimes, it's the little things that make the biggest differences.

Still, three days and plenty of moments to remember. So that was my break from work. It's been a good little opportunity to check out something that I'm really into and get a few days out of the office, plus I was able to catch up with a couple of Germans I met last time. I can't say it was the most relaxing break ever though...I'm feeling pretty tired, but I'm looking forward to heading back into work tomorrow and getting to work for another busy stretch.

Work is still pretty busy but it's certainly interesting stuff...and it's a hell of a lot better than being bored and having nothing to do with my time. 

For those who have listened to my podcast so far (which you can find at, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. It's only a small small corner in the world of the internet, but it means something to me. With a bit of work and dedication, it might be able to mean something to others in the future. I've only had two 'proper' episodes so far, but they've both had good feedback and signs are encouraging. It's now available to listen to on the website as well as being on iTunes...and should hopefully be up on Stitcher Radio in the next day or two. I've got a couple of interesting guests lined up in the next few weeks and hopefully things will continue from there. 

It's an exciting time. Let's go!