Wednesday, 21 September 2011

It's good to be back

I'm trying out some different things on here, and while the shift back into university life is taking a bit out of me and meaning I'm probably not posting on here as often as I'd like, I can still find some time to scribble thoughts on the world. I'll be honest, I've had the intention of updating the blog for a few days now, but considering I've not actually started the uni work, I'm still pretty run off my feet.

Like I say though, I'm trying some stuff out, so this is a blog of two halves. Bear with me. It might get spliced into two separate entries spread over tonight and tomorrow. (In fact, this is going to be a two-parter. The other side of this will be up tomorrow since it's a completely different topic to this.)

Since I've got back to Leeds, I've been a pretty busy chap. There's been lots of preparation for the start of a new term with HD1C and the two Freshers Fairs that we did on Friday and Tuesday. Both of the fairs were great fun to do, and there are lots of positives that we can take from them. For example, there were a lot of people who expressed interest (to varying degrees) in joining HD1C, and we filled up quite a lot of contact sheets with names, email address and numbers. On top of that, I was able to talk to people from a couple of other societies and get to know them a little bit, and there was definitely some networking going on where hopefully it might lead to some potential collaborations between ourselves and different societies within the uni.

Without a doubt though, they were two busy days. There's been a lot of printing, copying, cutting and planning for those two days with the required changes to our union webpage, changes in membership and creating some funky flyers to give out to people. I think on Friday I ran half way around the uni trying to find the right people I need to sort out my failed attempts at playing around with printer settings. Thankfully, the receipt I have shows that a nice chap called Mark was able to help me and do my printing again as well as chopping the flyers into size. Excellent!

Between those two days, I headed over to Sheffield for a few days to catch up with the old friends, Sophie, KP and Alex. I also had a chance to catch up with newer friends, namely Sophie's housemates. For some unknown reason, they seem to like me (or at the very least, they're very nice and kind to me when I'm around). Either way, I'm glad because I like them too. I definitely think they've got a nicer house than I do here...they've got a definitely "family" feel in that place, and it's something that lacks a bit here. It's nothing against the house (apart from a semi-useless landlord who doesn't really seem keen to sort out problems) or the people, it's just that we are still essentially in a flat. Maybe that's just me...

We danced and fooled around, we went out and when we all got back from our nights out, there was still good conversation to be had. Saarah stayed up with me until well after 4am and we talked about some pretty interesting things. Strange how deep conversation can often come during the early hours. Does that say something about people? Maybe...I'd like to think so. I'm not quite sure *what* it says though. Either way, that conversation was probably far more productive than the writing that I started doing.

The trip was cut a bit short since I needed to hop back to Leeds to have a prep/admin meeting before Tuesday's Freshers Fair, but the train ride gave me a nice chance to write some things down.

My writing's definitely coming along. I've had two or three different strands of ideas that I've fleshed out a bit, so much so that I'd say I've almost got that initial 5 minutes of material that I'd want to have. I'm still adding little bits into it, then I'll start tweaking it before I take it into a public platform (and no doubt bomb horrendously to begin with, as I imagine most people do) and go through the process of changing things based on reactions I get. In some respects, I'm really looking forward to getting to that stage, since it takes things to a completely different level. The plan is to try and check out a couple of different comedy nights around Leeds (of which there are plenty), mainly because I love watching comedy and I love to see what different people talk about, maybe do some sneaky undercover work on looking at how people deliver and then head to a couple of open mic nights and give it a go myself.

Today was a pretty good day though. We had the intro meetings for German, and it made me realise just how much I'd missed being in uni and seeing everyone. It was great to catch up with friends and I'm looking forward to starting back on Monday. Sadly, I'm not really expecting to be eased back into work...I might have a bit of a shock to the system come the end of next week and a completely different opinion.

For now though, I'm looking forward to it. And I'll be looking forward to it with a smile.

Sunday, 11 September 2011

What makes me tick: Part 1 - F1

I get a bit of stick among some friends for being a fan of motorsport, with Formula 1 being one thing in life that can get me to drop virtually anything so I can sit down and watch it. A lot of it is just banter and saying that it's boring because they go around in circles and not a lot happens during races.

So in a new little side-track on this blog, I thought I'd start a little series of things detailing what makes me tick. It's nothing complex...I take the important things in my life and write about how they're influential and how they've helped make me who I am. I have a few ideas for what I can write about, but this is the one that I had to start with.

I'm a sucker for motorsport. I always have been, and I think I always will be. If it has an engine and wheels, I'm interested, and it seems to be a case that every weekend, there's a race somewhere in the world that I can find. On the rare occasions that I can't find anything, there are endless hours of races on Youtube and streaming websites where I can watch F1 from years gone by. My first race was the 1995 Canadian GP (won by Jean Alesi), and it completely captivated me. My first full season was in 1996, and I've watched every single season since I'm now in my 16th year of watching Formula 1. In 16 years, I've missed maybe four races live. There's only one race that I've never seen in full during that time: the 2006 Hungarian Grand Prix.

There's something magical about the piercing sound of a screaming engine, whether it's an old V10 engine of the 90s or early 2000s or one of the modern V8s. It's sent shivers down my spine since I was a little boy. I've only attended one race, this year's British GP but even on a cold Friday morning as first practice started, hearing the engines firing up got me excited. Watching the cars fly through Becketts as rain began to fall, the rooster tails of spray flying off the rear of the car as the cars dance through the corner is something to behold. Watching them on race day as they race to be quicker, better than everyone else out there is something I won't forget.

I'm interested in everything about the sport. I love reading about how a team has brought a new part to a race and what they hope it will do. Every year, I go through the sporting and technical regulations and make sure I keep up to date on rules. I'd like to think I'm pretty up to date with my knowledge and could answer most questions about the sport, but give me something from within the last 10 years or so, and I could definitely answer.

Perhaps what catches my interest the most is the delicate combination of driver and machine. A truly great driver can take a car to the edge of its limits and balance it to be the fastest man out there, and a car can do the same to a driver. Watching a driver on the edge, flirting with danger and death is captivating to me, and to me, nothing can beat it for exhilaration. Take someone like Ayrton Senna for example. He was a man who could keep a car on the limit of grip, his hands and feet permanently dancing around the cockpit to keep the car on the track. I wrote a blog entry about Senna after I watched the documentary about his life a bit earlier in the year (which you can read again here: )

This is Senna doing a qualifying lap of Monaco where he's absolutely on the limit. Monaco isn't a place where you can make mistakes, because you'll end up in the barriers. Somehow, Senna managed to get a car around the streets far quicker than anyone else. Amazing.

The man I've followed closest in F1 is Michael Schumacher. He's the most successful driver in the sport and he has to be considered as one of the greats. He may have been ruthless and done whatever it took to win, but I was drawn to this over the years. There would be races where he could do a 20 lap stint at a pace that no one could cope with, he raised the standard of F1 drivers to a new level, particularly in the area of fitness. For me, he revolutionised the sport and built one of the most successful teams in the sport to create an era of dominance.

Even aside from Formula 1, I love watching motorsport. This year, I've found myself branching out and watching different categories to explore different racing. I finally started watching Indycar and NASCAR from Stateside (and I definitely prefer Indycar), GP2 and GP3 from the F1 support races, British F3, British Touring Cars, Le Mans (both the 24 hour race and the Intercontinental Series) and then bits of Formula Renault (including the World Series events). All in all, I think that's more than enough motorsport to keep me occupied.

Formula One, and motorsport in general, isn't something that everyone 'gets'. But on the face of it, F1 is one of the most watched sports in the world, and I think I'm right in saying that it's the most watched annual sporting event (527 million people watched last season). Only the Olympic Games and the FIFA World Cup gets more viewers. That's pretty impressive.

This year has been one of the more exciting seasons. Admittedly, this is because the FIA introduced new rules to help overtaking, and there is a degree of artificialness to them, but it has helped raise the profile of the sport, and more people are watching than ever before. The racing is still there, the drama is still there and there's still a great fighting spirit.

That...that is what I love about it. That's what makes me tick.

Friday, 9 September 2011

Headaches and hotshotting around

I'll start off by being completely honest with you, I've not had the most exciting of weeks since I last wrote. It has been a week now and I think it's important to write on here at least once a week (simply for the output I get from doing this). So please, lower your expectations for the next few minutes. There won't be any stories about me chasing dragons or finding a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Sorry...I'll be back on the dragon hunt for next time though.

I have spent a large chunk of the last week with what has either been one gigantic headache, or a series of headaches that always seem to be in the same place and bugging me constantly. After I had that little incident with a go-kart just before my 18th, I'd like to think that I've become moderately competent at dealing with headaches in my own way. A lot of it is the usual stuff, I'll drink some water, use either one of those cool strip patch things which seem to work or an ice pack on my head and ease up for a bit. If that doesn't work, I go to sleep for a bit. Sleep may not be a solution to the headaches, but it does a good job of holding it at bay for a while.

I say that stuff worked, but a mixture of that and spending about a month feeling rather groggy did mess up Year 12 a little bit. For most of that month, I would be going to school and then coming home and sleeping because I was having horrid migranes that were slowing me down to a complete crawl during the day. A lot of it probably could have been prevented (at least to some extent) if I'd stuck around in hospital after the incident, but I'm a bit of a stubborn fool when I want to be.

That headache stuff has held me back a bit when it comes to seeing friends since I've missed one or two things because I've fallen asleep or felt like garbage. That's not really such a good thing when people are heading back to uni this weekend (myself included) and I probably won't see school friends until December at the earliest. Such is life.

I'm looking forward to getting back to Leeds though, even if it is just for a few days since I'm sprinting back home for Crawley's birthday next week. I might be slightly insane for doing that, but I can't really complain since it's my choice to yo-yo around for the next week. There are a few things to do while I'm back in Leeds for those few days though which need to be done and it's strange to think that we're so close to actually starting the second year of uni. There's another blog in that which I'll probably get up either over the weekend or early next week.

The rest of today is a mix of watching F1 practice, maybe some vintage F1 online (can you see a theme here?), packing up and then (if it doesn't rain) I think I'll go for a wander. Wandering always seems pretty good for my creativity, so I should find something good springing into my mind for writing. What a life.

Thursday, 1 September 2011

Pinch, punch, first of the month

Holy night sky Batman, where has the year gone? The summer is officially drawing to an end and the nights are drawing in. I was at the pub a few nights ago and this did cross my mind. It must have been maybe 8.30 and it was already getting pretty dark. Just a month ago (if that), 8.30 was maybe sunset and you'd get a splendid evening sky as the sun went down behind the horizon for another day.

September is the month where everything will start to get back to normal again though. I can't really speak for anyone else, but it feels as if the last few months have merged into one gigantic ball of time. It's not quite wibbley-wobbley-timey-wimey stuff, but it's still one big chunk of time. Since I finished my last exam in May, I've pretty much been a free man. Not to say I've wasted the last 3 months. Not by a long shot. I'd like to think that they've proven to be a rather productive three months. I don't have anything like a happy shiny bank balance to prove that, but I've got some good memories of this summer and some hopes and aspirations to carry forward through the next twelve months.

I guess it's just because schools are starting again. My mum had her first day back at work today which was...well, probably not a lot of fun. But to me, the start of September has always been the start of another year, which is true in the academic sense of things. Yet we don't start uni until virtually the last week of the month. Which gives me three weeks to get back in the swing of things and make sure I haven't lost any ground (who knows, I might have gained something). Conversation among friends has been about what we'll do before everyone scurries back to their university and we're not all back together until Christmas.

Christmas is coming though. I don't want to seem like one of those weirdos who celebrates the decorations going up in department stores at a ridiculously early stage, but it is definitely coming. September will come and go before we know it, and then October will come. Before you know it, I'm no longer a teenager and we're in full swing in the run-up towards Christmas. I don't know about you, but that's pretty scary stuff. Where does the year go?!

We're all rushing through life at a frantic pace, more so now than ever before. Weeks blend into months and months into years. Before you've even had a chance to sit by the fire and watch the snow fall (maybe a bit of Sinatra if you want to go there), the flowers are in blossom again and we're back at summer.

Which is why I'm glad I did nothing of great importance today. I went to the park with two of my closest friends and we did nothing. We sat by the boating lake, watched the world go by for a bit and then went and sat on the grass and just talked among ourselves. Something Sophie said really rang home to me. In 10 or 15 years when we've all moved on in our lives, maybe we've got families as well, there's always that hope that we'll still be in close contact with each other. We might not see each other all of the time, but we'll meet when we can and it'll be just like it is now.

The value of close friendship shouldn't ever be lost among people.

Go outside tomorrow and sniff the flowers. I promise you, it's a beautiful day to be alive.