Monday, 31 December 2012

Looking back and moving forward

The end of the world didn't happen, but we are at the end of another year. It really is ridiculous how quickly the year has flown by though, and no doubt that will continue in 2013 where the year will somehow feel like it has been compressed into just a handful of months.

At the end of last year, I wrote myself a letter and hid it away in the depths of my hard drive to not be opened until these last few days. I've read it back, and I'd like to think that pretty much everything in my letter worked out as well as could be.

Like everyone, there have been plenty of ups and downs. I've had a 12 months of relatively good productivity in life and with a bit of luck and some hard work, the next 12 months can be even better. The good times have been pretty good and the bad times...well, when you think about them, they weren't really that bad. 

I got my dream work placement working for a motorsport media group doing translation work for the ADAC Masters weekend, and was lucky enough to spend several race weekends translating a string of articles for the GT Masters. As a little side job while at uni and as preparation for the year abroad, it was near perfect. Looking at the long term future of what I'd love to do when I get out of uni and I'm thrown into the real world, it was could open a door to get a job working in the industry, especially in the world of sportscar racing where I'm more interested than I've ever been.

Then that job fell through at the eleventh hour. There's a blog dedicated to that earlier in the year, so you can read all about that there if you haven't already or want to remind yourself of that wonderful time. It struck me hard, it really hurt and for a while I didn't have a clue what the year abroad had in store for me. Thankfully, there was the great supporting network to pick me back off my slightly shaky feet, brush me down and help me out. Hessie, for being crazy enough to answer her phone to me at almost midnight when I got the news and needed someone to talk to. She was there as someone to talk to, she sat with me for several hours, reassured me and we knew that things would be ok. Giles, who despite getting knocked a bit for not always being very quick to reply to emails, was there for me straight away when I told him and helped me to find something else for the year. 

That something else, of course, was a job at euroShell. Four months into that job, and I'm very happy that I'm there. Obviously, I wish I could have taken the job in Austria with motorsport but the placement I have has allowed me to meet some really great people. I'm in a work environment where I'm allowed to push myself and find out just what I'm capable of. I've been given plenty of brand new situations to deal with, and I would like to think that I've dealt with them in a more than suitable manner. These are skills that I can continue to develop in the next eight months of my time in Hamburg, and no doubt I'll learn more skills and tricks along the way that can stand me in good stead when I graduate and start looking for jobs.

Aside from that, life has been pretty good. I was able to get back into playing cricket again this summer and despite not setting the world on fire, I had fun. We may not have won a game when I played, but if I can get enough practice in during Spring 2014, when summer rolls around (and if the weather holds off), I might be able to score a couple of runs and grab a wicket or two. 

I've made some good decisions with my personal life and I've made some not so clever decisions, but I don't think I regret a single thing I did with my year. Everything happens for a reason and sometimes we have no control as to whether things work out. 

2013 should be a good year. I've got plans and goals on where I want to take my life over the next 12 months. I've got plans to see friends, tickets for gigs and events (such as 16 Carat in March and Iron Maiden in June) and if things go well, I'll be making my first ventures into the world of sportscar racing by attending a couple of races. I might try and make it to an F1 race as well, but the main priorities in terms of motorsport are the 24 Hours of Nurburgring and going to Le Mans.

I said in the last entry that I'd be looking at starting a podcast too, which will be happening...usually with Rachel as my trusty sidekick and maybe once or twice with other people if I venture out and try to bring other people in to share their story. 

It might be overused, it might be cliche...but as Bill Hicks said so brilliantly, life is just a ride. Strap in, let's see what the year throws at us and make the most of each opportunity.

See you in 2013!

Thursday, 13 December 2012

The Power of the Podcast

I have to admit that I pretty much gave up on listening to the radio a couple of years ago. Local radio stations didn’t seem quite as good as I remembered them being from my youth and I would either feel that the presenters weren’t quite as energetic as they used to be, or I started to find parts of their act a bit tedious. My feelings on modern chart/radio-friendly music are pretty strong where I couldn’t tell you what is currently in the charts and the bits of chart music that I have heard (admittedly not through my own choice), don’t exactly capture my imagination. Then again, these songs and artists don’t have me as their target audience. They target a slightly younger audience who will buy their posters, t-shirts, other bits of merchandise and think that One Direction and Twilight are the great artistic works of this century.

There are exceptions, such as Radio 4 for their interesting array of programmes on a variety of areas (and the Shipping Forecast, even though I don’t have a clue what they’re on about most of the time), Radio 2 for music that is slightly more up my street and presenters I actually know and other niche markets and programmes like Test Match Special and Radio Le Mans for all of my motorsport news and commentaries.
Then, I stumbled across the world of podcasts. I think The Joe Rogan Experience was my first podcast, which makes sense since I can stretch back to as early as episode 10 when it was still him and Redban sitting in their “studio” goofing around with snowflake effects. I don’t even know how I found Rogan’s show, but it’s probably around the same time that I found out he wasn’t just a UFC commentator and that guy who used to present Fear Factor, but he was also a pretty good comedian.

From there, everything sort of snowballs. I would listen to podcasts with Rogan’s friends and from there, I started finding out more about these people. I got to know more about Doug Stanhope, listen to his back catalogue of work and I’ve now seen him two or three times where he’s probably one of my favourite comedians. I found out about their crazy friend called Joey “Coco” Diaz who has a life story crazier than that of the most over-the-top Hollywood film script. The great thing about these shows is that because Rogan can do two or three podcasts in a week, you get to know him over time, you know Redban and you get to know their crew of friends.

 I was on board with the Deathsquad network from an early stage too and have come to find out about personalities like Ari Shaffir, Brody Stevens, Esther Povitsky, Tom Segura, Christina Pazitsky and numerous others. Through their shows, you get to know about those people too and after a couple of shows, it just feels as though you’re listening to friends having a conversation. I don’t recommend talking back to the podcast since that’ll seem a bit weird, but you can certainly converse with these people on Twitter and send them emails.

It just keeps on growing though. I started to find other fans of Deathsquad on Twitter and get to know that online community of people from all over the world. I both follow and have followers from across the USA, Canada and parts of the UK and in some situations I’ve seen the power and effect that this community has on people. It brings people who would otherwise be complete strangers together to form friendships and perhaps most importantly of all, everyone gets inspiration from somewhere. Some like me, take the inspiration to stay creative and keep writing blogs as well as other side projects, some have started to chase dreams and taken to the stage to try their hand at stand up comedy and some have their own podcasts.

I’ll take Mick Guzman (@postalpoet on Twitter) as an example, since I was listening to his podcasts last night and we shared some thoughts online. Mick is someone that I don’t know personally, but I’ve been following him on Twitter for over a year now and we’ve shared some interesting thoughts. He started his own podcast called ‘Ask My Boss’ and over the last 8 months or so, he’s taken his creative process in a couple of really interesting directions with Keep Making Noise, Going Postal, his podcasts with “Pastor Joe” and more recently, he’s embarked on a creative journey looking back at his education going from his beginnings to where he is today in life. As I say, these latest episodes are something a bit different to what I listen to in podcasts these days, but they’re really interesting. I’m learning a lot, not just about education but also about Mick. I plan on being onboard for the rest of the journey to see where we finally end up.

Podcasts really are a powerful thing these days, and for me they’ve all but replaced radio for day-to-day listening. They serve as a fantastic way of getting to learn about other things in life, getting to know people you wouldn’t ever meet otherwise and as a platform for finding like-minded people in the world. I still listen to my music from time to time, but my iPod these days is heavily dominated by podcasts and comedy album. I always say I want to get my own podcast started and get another way of expressing my ideas and thoughts into the world, as well as getting to share some stories with friends. 

Maybe 2013 is the year I finally do it...

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Winter is here

Though I doubt you needed me to point that out to you.

Let's face it, we're all intelligent people could probably figure out that it's winter. Unless you're in the southern which case, it's summer. Sweet! Go the beach, enjoy the nice weather and laugh where appropriate.

In the last few days, it has felt as though everywhere else in Germany besides Hamburg was seeing snow. The weather forecast has had lovely snowflakes scattered across the map and for a fair few days, people have been talking about snow. Some people have had lots of it, some just a dusting. According to Sam, there was snow on the other side of Hamburg on Sunday morning but I saw nothing. I was awake thanks to my neighbour having seemingly turned nocturnal and having their TV on throughout most of the night with the volume up pretty loud. There's a plus side to this though where since I'm waking up early enough, I've found myself watching cartoons during the early morning. Most of them are the standard cartoons that you'd find pretty much anywhere in the world so they're not the most difficult thing to follow, but it's something stupid and keeps me amused for a bit.

I was stopped on my way to lunch today by someone I didn't know. She looked at me and said (I'm translating here), "Short sleeves? But it's cold outside!" I looked at her, smiled and said that it wasn't REALLY that cold, but she was pretty insistent that I was mad to want to venture across the car park to lunch without at least a jacket. Fair enough...or so I thought. Then when I decided to walk home from work, I had three or four people look at me while we were waiting to cross roads and question my sanity for not wearing a hat, scarf, gloves and have my coat zipped up tight. Instead, I was still wearing the short sleeved shirt, had my coat open and was nodding my head along quite happily to Fozzy's latest album which, if you haven't heard it, is totally froot and well worth checking out. In the highly unlikely event that Jericho or any other member of Fozzy reads this, I'm trying to get 'froot' back into circulation. You're welcome.

Maybe when it actually gets cold I'll think about zipping my coat up. Or when I get ill...which ever comes first.

Of course, just as I got back into the flat after the walk home, it started to snow. By no means is it a blizzard or heavy snow, but it looks as though it's settled after being dry for most of the day so hopefully that dusting will still be there by tomorrow. It's just nice to look at really and just points out that winter is here. I'm expecting there to be more snow before I fly home for Christmas in a couple of weeks...

That's a slightly scary thought. I'm home in about two weeks and I do only have 10 working days left (you can probably work out when I'm home based on that). Then Christmas is less than three weeks away. Where has the year gone?

I should probably get cracking on the Christmas shopping...if I have to go out into Liverpool a few days before Christmas, I might find myself killing some poor fool who, like me, has left it far too late to buy presents. That's what Amazon is for these days, right?

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Breaking down barriers

I don't think this Year Abroad was ever meant to be easy. Enjoyable? Yes. An experience? Yes. But not easy. If it were easy, what would we really accomplish from it? It's about getting thrown into a different environment and doing something you're not used to doing in working, studying or teaching in a different language in a different country. So far, that's exactly what this year has thrown up at me. I'm working on a full-time basis which is something completely brand new to me, I'm surrounded by the German language for the majority of my day, I can feel my language improving and I'm finding myself in situations that I never thought I'd be in.

For example, I never...NEVER thought I'd utter the words "I miss working in Finance", but it turns out I do. Obviously, my usual life plan wouldn't have me working in Finance since that isn't really meant to be one of my strong points. That's what this year has thrown at me though with this rotating internship...I've spent time working in Finance and getting to grips with the tasks on that side of the business, and I really enjoyed what I was doing. Maybe it's because I was being given jobs to do for a reason, rather than having tasks for the sake of having tasks...maybe it's because I was given responsibility and tasks that I wouldn't have thought were really best given to an intern. Who knows? 

In the last two weeks though, I've not been working in Finance full-time and have instead been integrated into the wonderful world of SaSu. My job there has been fairly one dimensional though...I knew it would be before we started and the staff apologised for not having the most exciting work for me, but it's a job that needs to be done. I don't even need to look that far to find the positives though, since it's given me chance to use some different tools and pieces of kit on the computer so I'm now comfortable using those. In short, I've had the joyful task of seeking out a couple of hundred customers and tracking down the bonuses that they're rewarded when they buy x litres of fuel a year. Find the files, copy them, scan them, go through them, compare the bonus in the files to what three different computer programs say, match them all up and then if they're not all singing from the same hymn sheet, take the issue up with other staff for them to resolve. As I say, it's not exciting, but it has to be done...I may as well do it.

As a result of all of this, my jobs in Finance have slowed down considerably but that was because my boss knew that I needed to finish this stuff off. Through the dozen or so trips that I've had to make to the filing room in the last two weeks, I go through their office most of the time and have a quick chat. He knows that I'm pretty much maybe I'll start getting some more work thrown my way again.

We finally bought a washing machine last week after two months of using the laundrette up the road. I wasn't completely set on the idea of buying one, but it made sense to get one...and in the long run, it'll be cheaper than a weekly trip to the laundrette and spending 5 Euros a go to get some clean clothes. So it came at the start of the week and spent a night sat downstairs. We moved it upstairs on Tuesday and then after leaving work early on Wednesday to wait for a plumber to install it, he didn't show up. Or he did show up and didn't call me or knock on the door like a normal person. I'm not sure. Either way, I ended up fitting it myself with some assistance from a Skype call to my Dad. I've seen him do it before, but doubted my own skills to be able to do such a thing. Turns out I'm an idiot and it's really not that difficult once you've had things explained...I'll admit that having looked at it earlier, I was pretty much right in thinking what needed to be done, needed to be done. Always nice to have it confirmed. So that's another thing I can say I'm able to do.

It's all about breaking down barriers. Put your mind to it, virtually nothing is impossible.

I've really started digging Everlast in the last week or two. Brilliant timing since I spotted a poster for a gig he's doing next month. On that basis, I might start listening to Foo Fighters and see if they want to announce something. ;) So here's one that I stumbled across while listening to his stuff in work. 

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Thoughts from the weekend

I haven’t really been overly bothered about my birthday for the last few years. With the exception of getting more post than usual and getting gifts (and most of the time, cake), it’s just a regular day. Living away from home in a different country meant that I really couldn’t have cared less about turning 21. Since the vast majority of my friends are of a similar age, I see people planning big occasions for their 21st and I know that I’ll be missing 95% of them and its case of if I’m on a rare occasion of being back in the UK, I’ll celebrate with you. If you’re in Germany with me, then I’ll certainly do my best where appropriate.

So the trip to Frankfurt during the last weekend of October sort of doubled up as a chance to celebrate my birthday. Our plan of going to see Steel Panther backfired since we took far too long to getting everyone to commit to the weekend and then by the time things could be confirmed, tickets had gone. Not that I’m surprised...those tickets would have flown out. To be honest, I don’t think we needed that gig in the end and we had an utterly awesome weekend doing our own thing. As I said in my last post, I definitely missed that crew far more than I’d realised, so I’m already counting down the days until the next gathering...though I’m not totally sure where/when that is. I think I know, but it’s pretty difficult to know for sure since it’s kind of late, I have no internet access at the time of writing this and I’m in a hotel room in Oberhausen.

If you’re wondering why I’m in a hotel room in Oberhausen, I’m here because of the wXw/CZW weekend that’s going on at the moment. Three shows across three days (plus a cinema screening of the wXw/CZW/BJW Triangle documentary which was brilliant) with a whole host of talent from across Europe and then some US guys with CZW that I’ve previously had little/no real interest in seeing. Though having seen some of their matches, I suspect a fair portion of that was because of prejudices towards what I’d heard/seen on the internet of CZW being trash wrestling, but having seen their guys work, they’ve got a pretty solid crew who can work both straight matches and hardcore matches. It’s fair to say that I’ve changed my perceptions of the hardcore/deathmatch style to professional wrestling in the last few days, so that can only be a good thing. I really hope I did bring my camera cable with me to Germany since I’ve got some cracking pictures on the camera from the first two days.

NOTE: Turns out I did! And you can see those lovely pictures of wrestlers, blood and me on my Facebook page.

As twisted as it sounds, my favourite picture might be of me and Drake Younger. He’d just come from a street fight against Matt Tremont where they were bleeding heavily pretty quickly in the match, they went around the building (including spilling some blood onto my coat as they battled past having done some twisted stuff right in front of me), and at the conclusion of the match went to intermission so the ring crew could clean up. Both guys went to the merch tables to take photos with the fans and say hello, and it gave me a chance to get photos with those guys and thank them for the match. They’re both still covered in blood and Drake has a great big smile. As I say, I’m not usually a fan of that style of match but I’ve found myself coming round to them in recent weeks (largely thanks to an insightful topic on deathmatches on UKFF with some cracking reviews from Richie Freebird).

Also, Greg Excellent loves Kenny Loggins. He was super surprised when I was able to rattle off a couple of Kenny’s songs and join in singing a couple. Those strange Americans...

Going back to my birthday, it was actually a pretty good day. Work was never going to be super exciting, possibly because it’s never super exciting. Interesting, yes...but not exciting. Not unless they’ve got the secret jet pack development hidden away or some sort of dirt racetrack for racing bikes and cars during lunch break. Thank you to everyone who threw me a message on Facebook to wish me a good day, they were all read (almost all were replied to) and all of them were appreciated.

There was a group of about 7 of us from Leeds who were about in Hamburg since there was a state holiday in parts of Southern Germany, so a couple of people headed up north to see friends. It gave us a good excuse to go out into Hamburg for a couple of drinks and catch up, which led to a pretty fun evening. A few drinks, talking to some strangers and making friends with them and then finding ourselves in a karaoke bar on Reeperbahn and stumbling across a group of English guys from Birmingham (who were terrible at placing accents if they thought Kirstie was from Leeds...). Fun place though, and of course...this is me we’re talking about, so I had to try a couple of songs. You can never know how well they’re received...but I stick to the plan of going for songs that aren’t technically difficult and just require some energy and enthusiasm to make me look great. Also, do it when people have had a bit to drink and you sound even better than you might do if people were completely sober.

Very good to see some more people from uni though, and it was good to get out there and meet/talk to some new people. That’s definitely something I need to do a little bit more (including perhaps getting some phone numbers to be able to see them again...).

Plenty to look forward to, but for now I’m just looking forward to going to bed since it’s rather late and I’m tired. It’s a bit strange to think that this is being written on Saturday night but won’t be published until Monday afternoon, so it’s already a bit dated. We’re on course to making this more regular than the very sporadic bi-monthly (and sometimes less frequent) posts, let’s keep this up!

Monday, 29 October 2012

Thoughts from a train

A long train journey is quite my case, it has given me four hours to look out of a window and admire the German scenery as we rush past at speeds of up to 250kph. Well, I would admire it...but travelling during the evening means you see nothing but darkness and the occasional flash of light from a passing train or cars on the Autobahn. So instead, as is often the case with me, the journey allows time to think and reflect on life and recent events, and it can be pretty good for writing too. Which means that over the course of my journeys to and from Frankfurt over the weekend, I was able to get some writing done. Which means that most of this blog will have been written on my phone and uploaded in parts.
It's ridiculously important in life to have good friends by your side. It's probably even more important to maintain your good friendships with these people. Most of all though, it's important to make sure that they know just how much they mean to you.
It's a sign of great friendships when you don't see each other for five months or so (the joys of a university summer and moving abroad) but when you meet up after all that time, you find yourself acting as though you only saw them yesterday. Once you've got through the quick catch up on life, things are back to the way they've always been.
That's crucial. And of course, you can go from having a silly conversation one moment about something utterly bizarre (as I quite frequently do), to being engaged in a serious conversation about something much deeper. At the drop of a hat, and when the timing is right of course, you can make things light-hearted and a bit silly again.
Seeing friends after such a great time span makes you realise a few things. First of all, how lucky you are to have such a brilliant circle of friends. Second of all, it goes to show how tight the friendships are that months. Most importantly of all, never go five months without seeing your best friends when you can avoid it. These days we have texts, tweets, Skype calls and Facebook messages...but nothing quite beats actually seeing your friends, giving them a hug and saying that you've missed them.
Friends have never been more important in life. They really are a second family...
Something completely different, but it caught my attention on Friday during the journey down. There were two kids, probably around the same age as Maisie and Joseph who were just raising hell. There's the bit inbetween carriages that flexes and moves with the train and these kids were having all sorts of fun. Running across it, jumping, standing in the middle and getting moved around...but all of the time they're doing this, they're giggling away and laughing.
I'm not usually a massive fan of random kids, especially when they're running riot (though to their credit, the parents were both there and both keeping an eye on them and calming them down)...but they seemed to be enjoying themselves. It was fun.
I'll probably be back with another entry later in the week with some recaps of Frankfurt (though there are no doubt plenty of photos on the way which will do that more than justice). All I will say is that it was an absolutely fantastic weekend with some brilliant people. All of you, thanks for the cracking weekend.

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

A little goes a long way

I won't lie, in the almost two months that I've been living in Hamburg, I haven't really got to know my neighbours too much. Maybe it's because the vast majority of them seem to be several decades older than us, and I doubt my bonding abilities stretch far enough to random 70s and 80s German references that would go right over my head. If the residents in this apartment block aren't hold, then they're a young family. At least, I'm assuming they're a young family based on the fact that there's a pram at the bottom of the stairs and I can occasionally see a baby if I'm sat on the balcony and peering down to see where the crying is coming from. It's the baby. It's always the baby.

The extent of my getting to know the neighbours predominantly came when we didn't have internet in the flat and I asked a couple of neighbours if they knew of an internet cafe nearby. While one lady actually asked me what an internet cafe was and another merely told me of a cafe just off Hamburger Straße (try the carrot cake, it's fantastic), I got lucky with the neighbour on the right hand side of our floor. She said there was one a short train ride away, but also that we could borrow her internet connection if we needed access....and that came in more than useful in the three weeks of not having internet since it meant that I could occasionally log on and get Doctor Who on iPlayer or stock up on podcasts for listening to during the week.

I think Vejuna has mentioned that she's bumped into neighbours once or twice and had very brief conversations which from her retelling of them seem to consist largely of "Oh, so you're one of the English students living here?" and then not a lot more besides that. 

Aside from that, seeing neighbours has been predominantly limited to seeing people as I'm coming or going from the flat at various points through the day. I'm always friendly/polite and say hello to them or hold the front door open if someone is behind me. 

It's a bit strange really. When you get into a pattern every day of journeying to and from work, you quickly see the same people. There's the old guy who sits outside the bakery downstairs every morning drinking his coffee and reading the morning newspaper, the same people I see at the bus stop every day (when I get the bus), the same people I see waiting for and getting on the same train as me and the same people riding the bus from the train station to work. Life quickly drops into a pattern of familiarity...which is why I occasionally mix things up of a morning by getting the train instead of the bus and even then, I can go from one of two stations. It's just about enough to keep me sane (though that moment may have passed a long time ago).

Anyway, when I got back from work this afternoon, a woman was just in front of me and struggling to get a bike and several bags of shopping along the hallway. So after she'd let me go past to check my mailbox (where I got Iron Maiden tickets and a book of German slang, wooo!), she went to let me go past on the other side again so I could go up the stairs to my flat. I thought I'd ask if she needed any help and offered to take some bags upstairs for her. What does it matter if I live on the third floor and you live on the fourth? I can take that extra flight of won't kill me. So I took some stuff up for her and then after letting myself into the flat to drop my jacket off, I heard her slowly making her way up the stairs. Again, I just asked if she wanted any more help and took another couple of bags up the rest of the way for her. 

Nothing to it, just being friendly and helping someone out. I'd like to think that if I were struggling to get up the stairs with something, someone would help me out if they spotted me.

As I dropped her bag off, she reached into one of her bags and after moving some cat food (at least I know who has the cat now), she gave me some ice tea as a way of saying thank you. I wasn't in it for the gifts and said that, but she seemed quite insistent and said some nice things, so it felt a bit wrong to refuse it. That's now sat in my fridge and will no doubt be consumed in the very near future. Probably just after I've posted this.

In short, I just wrote a blog to tell you I got a free carton of lemon flavoured iced tea for doing something good. Break from the routine, say hi to someone you don't know and help someone else out. Even if you don't get a free beverage, they'll appreciate it and you'll feel good.

Monday, 15 October 2012

A blog of two halves

Growing up isn’t something that we have to think about too much as individuals. It just sort of…happens as we go on through life and day by day, we get a little bit older, a little bit wiser, we learn something new and chances are we forget something along the way. At least, that’s my excuse for not being able to understand mathematical differentiation. Then again, if you saw me during A Levels, it’s probably not too far from the truth to say that I didn’t understand it then either.

But then as we grow up, we start to lose out on things. A lot of people don’t have time to do the things that they used to enjoy doing, they don’t have a chance to play and retain some of that inner child. People find themselves stuck in the rut of working life where work dominates and as a result, everything takes a backseat because by the time you eventually get home…there just isn’t the energy to do everything that you once did. I’m not saying that we should all sit down on the carpet and play with Lego every day (though we should, Lego is awesome and doesn’t have an upper age limit…only a limit of your creativity), but we still need time to relax and enjoy life. It passes us by far too quickly and before you know it, time is almost up.

I realise that this is a completely different take on the usual sorts of posts that I write, but I felt that something needed to be written down. In the last few days, I’ve had conversations about these sorts of things with a few people. And the chances are that I’m spouting utter garbage, as is often the case...such as the incredibly far-fetched theory of the Egyptian Pyramids being built with alien technology, or ideas of things that I’ve heard in podcasts and taken a few steps further with my own research. It’s also because this is a life blog, and sometimes I don’t actually have a lot going on in my life, or things that really stand out and make me think they’re worth sharing. I mean, everyone has their own life going on...and there are lot of blogs doing the rounds these days, thanks largely to virtually everyone on a Year Abroad deciding to start one.  The ones that I’ve read are really fun...and I guess like my blog does, it serves the purpose of keeping up with what we’re all doing with our years and saves on those overly repetitive conversations of where life is.

I do know that I’ve been heavily sliding on the blog and it’s been...quite a while since the last blog post. It’s something that I need to correct and get back into the pattern of writing it regularly...and at the same time, I need to start writing the motorsport/F1 articles again. I’ve been writing other things in the last few weeks, so my creativity is still there since I’ve been writing a mixture of little short stories or I’ve just been doing thought streams and getting things off my chest. Some of them are interesting, some are not that interesting...but it’s good to keep writing, and it can give the opportunity to write down things that I can’t put in a public forum like this for whatever reason.

At work, I’ve now finished my opening stint at Sales and have moved to the wonderful world of Finance. There are times when I wonder why I’m in the job because I seem completely useless but whenever I ask for someone to check through my figures or check my spreadsheets, I appear to be doing the right thing. So I guess I’m doing a fairly decent job at living up to my statement during my interview of “I can learn quickly. Even if I don’t fully know what I’m doing straight away, I will do by the end of the day”. I have no idea how long I’ll be working in Finance for before I return to Sales, but I think I’ll be happy at either department.

I’ve also learned just how tricky it is to try and communicate in another language when you have no voice. I could feel my voice starting to strain a bit on Friday and then over the course of the day, it got progressively worse. By Saturday, I wasn’t able to say a thing for the majority of the day but then my ability to speak returned (for the most part) on Sunday. Roll on Monday morning though, and I was back to incomprehensible sounds. The moral of the story? Always say something in the morning BEFORE you get into work...otherwise when you open your mouth and find that you’re not making any sounds, you’ll be slightly freaked out!

October’s shaping up to be a good month...Amanda came up to Hamburg last weekend while Vejuna was in Rome on a business trip, so it was really good to hang out and catch up. I don’t think I realise just how much I miss my friends until I get a chance to see them and spend some time with them. It’s probably not helped by the fact that we’ve spent the best part of a month without a proper internet connection in the flat, but that should be sorted out relatively soon. Like I say though, I realised how much I miss it’s just as well that I’ll be going to Frankfurt in just under two weeks time. I can’t really express how much I’m looking forward to see the gang since it’s been MONTHS! Hopefully everything works out for everyone with transport and we can all make it...and it also ties in (sort of) as a makeshift attempt at a gathering to spend my 21st. Then the following weekend, I will definitely be heading to Oberhausen after booking my weekend ticket for the wXw/CZW shows. I’m not totally sure what to expect since I’ve not exactly spent a lot of time watching CZW or deathmatch wrestling in general...but with the Sunday show being a European Tournament of Death, I guess I’m going to get a good education on things!

All in all, I’m quite happy with life as it is. I’m sure it’s the same with everyone in life, but there are things that I wish could have played out differently, people I wish I could see more and people I wish I had more time to speak to. I’m slowly making inroads into the list of people that I need to catch up with but hopefully I’ll make some major progress with that in the coming days (especially after we get our internet up and running on Wednesday and I’ll be able to actually maintain a conversation on Skype!).

Life rushes by...don't get left behind. Enjoy the ride and make the best of every opportunity life throws at you.  It's terribly clichéd, but it's true.

Until next time (which I promise won't be quite as long!)

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Throwing some thoughts down

This month has flown by...and even though it feels as though I haven't actually done that much, I think if I isolate every individual event, I've probably done quite a bit really. That was an idea I picked up listening to a podcast today (for the record, it was Beauty and Da Beast with Felicia Michaels and Joey Diaz) where Michaels was saying that sometimes, she thinks she's done nothing in a year but if she looks at every event and continuation of progress in life and a career, we get far more done in a space of time than we actually realise. So that's something I'm going to try and keep in my head going forward.

Work has been pretty good, though I'll admit that I've had a few days where it feels as though I'm just killing time and being given tasks for the sake of being given tasks. I've been working in sales for the last few weeks, though I've not been directly selling stuff...more working with the software and going through the backlog of entries to clean it up, keep things up to date and make sure any old entries were either sorted or deleted. Once you get your head around the software, it's not actually that complicated really, though I got the feeling that the people at work were relatively impressed with how quickly I was able to do some of the tasks set. So it meant that by the end of my three week stint, I had finished every job I had set and they were scrambling to find other bits and pieces for me to do.

 I'm meant to move to finance tomorrow which should be interesting, simply because it's another load of things to learn, another group of people to get to know and work with and another load of weird technical and business-specific German words to learn and try to figure out. It'll be a bit of a challenge but something that I'm looking forward to...mainly since maths hasn't been a super strong point of mine in the years since leaving school (though you could argue that it wasn't a strong point when I was in school)

In the last week, I've gone from completely losing my appetite to discovering it again and then trying to do days at work on minimal amounts of sleep, neither of which were really fun. I can't figure out why I didn't really eat for a couple of days, and it definitely made me feel a bit on the sluggish side since I was lacking the energy needed to do...well, anything. It took a quick step on the scales in the hallway to realise that a lack of appetite wasn't the greatest thing... But on Sunday, I woke up with a craving for the box of cinnamon crunch that I bought on Saturday evening, partially because I can only eat museli so often before being bored...and it had a picture of parrots and panthers on the back. Yes, I'm a child. We all know it.

Then across Saturday and Sunday, I had very little sleep as for whatever reason, my body just wasn't interested in sleeping. Sunday was helped partially by a headache and a really bizarre pain in my toes which came from absolutely nowhere, but it left me lying in bed for hours unable to sleep through a combination of not feeing tired, being in pain and either being too hot or too cold. I'm yet to find the fine line of temperature in this room...we'll get there.

We ventured to a little place called The Cotton Club in town over the weekend. Cotton Club is a little jazz club in a pretty nice part of the city centre and they get various jazz acts from around the world playing there. I think that place will become a fairly regular place for us this year since it's nice to just chill out every now and then with some jazz.

There are some good outings and adventures being planned over the next month or so which I'm really looking forward to. At the end of next month, I'm heading down to Frankfurt for the weekend to catch up with Hessie and hopefully see Amanda, Susan, Jess and David provided everyone sorts out a way of getting there. And we're going to see Steel Panther too, which is pretty awesome. It also ties in conveniently as the weekend before my 21st, so I'm using this as an unofficial weekend to celebrate that. Mainly since I'm planning on heading to Oberhausen the following weekend for a couple of nights with wXw doing a joint weekender with CZW. I'm yet to fully commit to anything, so I don't know whether I'll do all three nights of shows (though it'd also give me reason to take at least two days off work for the Friday and following Monday to return). I might head out of Germany for a weekend at some point too and go to somewhere like Denmark if I can find a cheap flight and somewhere to stay. There are other countries that I'd like to visit, but I think they might be suited to the new year when the weather improves again.

I thought I'd written about that beforehand...turns out I mentioned that stuff in the last post. I'm just an idiot...

I've got some new things in a creative manner lined up too. I've been toying with the idea of starting a podcast least a year and a half, maybe even two years and I've finally decided that it's the right time to do it. So I'm in the process of buying the equipment I need, and then I'll start trying to put some content out. It won't just be me talking about myself for a length of time and I've got some ideas for things I want to do with it, but we'll see what happens. To be honest, looking at what people on Twitter have been able to do, someone like Mick (@postalpoet), and seeing how they've been able to put out some really interesting and fascinating content with their shows. I can't promise that I'd be as interesting as these guys, but I can at least try.

I was about to say it's getting late and I'm off to bed. But it's not's 22:40. That's not late at all. I'm someone who can quite happily stay up until 2 or 3 in the morning...but not when I've got an alarm set for 6.45 in the morning. These early starts are going to kill me.

Until they do though, I'm going to keep on going and make the best of the hand life deals me. That's all I can do, and I can't give much more than that.

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Willkommen in Deutschland!

I’m more than aware that it’s been a while since the last entry, and I really seem to have settled into the groove of posting once every two weeks. Maybe that’s enough...I mean, Twitter is essentially a way of micro blogging and I’m there virtually every day. Here though, I can just gather all of my main thoughts and points and give things substance that just isn’t possible in 140 characters.

As you’ll have guessed from my title, I’m now living in Germany after I flew out on the 30th and I moved into the flat on the Friday after Len and Chris had finished packing up and caught their plane back to the UK. The flat itself is really nice, two bedrooms, a kitchen, a bathroom, a hallway and a balcony coming from the kitchen which overlooks the street. For anyone who wants to come over/up/down/across to Hamburg to pay a little visit to their favourite British export (that’s me...right?), then there’s even a spare bed in my room. I’m not too sure how comfortable it is since it currently has a guitar and some spare sheets/cushions strewn across it, but I’m sure it does the job.

The first few days were spent getting through all of the wonderful German bureaucracy such as spending a Friday morning sat at the Ortsamt. Admittedly, I did get a bit lost and walk past it about 4 times until I asked a friendly looking German for help who pointed across the road. I felt a bit stupid, but what’s new? Setting up a bank account was pretty straight forward too since the bank found someone who could speak English to do the process with me, just in case I couldn’t understand something. We got away with speaking at a moderate pace and discussing all things German and British, including some wonderful insights into the delights of the Hamburg winter...from the sounds of it, I am NOT properly prepared for that.

After a weekend to unpack my stuff, settle down in the flat, tidy up a bit and do a bit of exploring the local area, it was off to work on Monday morning. All I can remember from the morning is being shown around the office, meeting a variety of people, shaking a lot of hands and then being given loads of stuff to read. Turns out that for whatever reason, there wasn’t a computer at the desk where I’ll be sitting during my stint in Sales (I’ll move on in the world to attempt to understand Finance in a few weeks which should be interesting) so I was given plenty to read about the euroShell card, the application forms for getting a card and a raft of other things before eventually getting given my laptop at about 4pm, just in time to check it worked before going home.

Tuesday was the day I discovered the joys of IT help lines as I probably got to speak to every English-speaking member of the Shell IT help line, most of which seems to be in Malaysia apart from one friendly American guy who sorted everything out. For whatever reason, my smart card, which is used to log onto the computers, had decided it didn’t want to work so I was unable to access the system. Using other methods didn’t work, so I was sat at my desk for the entire morning...and a good chunk of the afternoon, before I could have access to the computer and actually start work.

The rest of the week wasn’t too amazing, just trying to get my head around the software that we use at work. Once you get your head around the system, it isn’t actually too complex but when you’re trying to figure it out for the first time and you’ve got everything being shown to you at lightning speed...and in German, it isn’t the easiest thing in the world. That’s what user guides are for though!

Again, my weekend wasn’t too exciting. I just caught up on sleep, relaxed, watched some motorsport and went wandering. It’s a bit strange...I’m used sleeping for about 6 hours a night anyway but getting up at 7am every morning seems enough to make all of the difference. By the time I clock off work, I’m ready for bed...which leaves very little energy for exploring, or making/eating food, or watching TV. I have, however, managed to get plenty of reading done in the last two weeks. After years and years of not reading them for whatever reason, I’ve polished off Mick Foley’s first two books as well as reading bits and pieces from George Carlin.

I did do some exploring on Sunday afternoon though and found myself in the Stadtpark which is maybe 15 minutes walk away. The actual walk up there was really nice as it goes alongside the canal for a while where people can rent boats (something that has shot right to the top of my list of things to do) and there are some ice cream parlours and whatnot. The park itself is HUGE and took me quite a while to walk around, but I managed to strike lucky as I heard the familiar sound of drums being I followed my nose (or ears) and found a samba band called Bloco Alegria. A brief chat, an exchange of names and contact details and I’ve hopefully found myself a samba band to get involved with while I’m here!

In short, life is good and I’ve enjoyed my brief time in Germany to date...but it’ll only continue to get better! There are a lot of good things I’ve got planned between now and Christmas such as trips to Frankfurt for Steel Panther (ohhhh yes!), a wXw weekend, perhaps Spinal Tap Day in mid-November and then no doubt some sort of pre-Christmas trip before I come home in late December for a bit of time at home. There’ll be more things that will be slightly more spontaneous.

Whatever happens, I think it’s going to be a good year.

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Here we go!

When I started this blog just over two years ago, I was about to move to Leeds and embark on the journey that is university life. Having just looked back at my first post, it seems REALLY strange looking back at it. I mentioned how I'd managed to cram most of my possessions into a couple of boxes and bags, moving away from home for the first time and the hope that there'd be more entries to come on this page.

Fast forward to where we are now...and I'm about to take the next step in the life of a modern languages student: the year abroad. So we're back to a slightly familiar situation. This time, I'm trying to figure out what I do and don't need and fitting my life for the next few months into a suitcase. I sincerely doubt I'll be returning home until Christmas unless something major crops up. I can just plan to there and then reassess at that stage...maybe after Christmas, I can think about packing some clothes for when it'll get a bit warmer again.

The major difference, aside from being more stressed than I think I've ever felt before, is that I'm not just going across the country from Liverpool to Leeds. This time, I'm off to Germany. In the grand scheme of things, it's still not actually that far so I do wonder sometimes what the stress is about. Maybe I've not planned ahead well enough and I left myself with too much to do just a day or two before. Actually, thinking about it...that's probably what happened.

And of course, I definitely managed to continue with this blog. As weird as that may sound, I'm quite happy that I was able to keep this going over the last two years. I considered branching into video entries and sticking stuff on YouTube but that never really happened and I've always toyed with the idea of moving into podcasting. That hasn't happened yet, but I can see that changing in the next few months. That's the next evolution and step forward of the blog.

I've got a fair bit to do once I get over to Hamburg tomorrow morning, but I'm feeling quite content with the way things stand. I've got a job, I've got somewhere to live, I've got a hostel to cover me for tomorrow night until I can move into the flat...that's all sorted. Then I have to do all of the wonderful formalities like registering and opening a bank account which will no doubt be a joy, so hopefully I can make a start on these things tomorrow and Friday.

From there, I've got the weekend to settle down and sort myself out before I start work on Monday. I'm still not completely sure what my role will be, so that's a surprise to look forward to. And of course, on a personal note, I get to watch my first F1 race live with German commentary. Or, you know...I'll completely cheat and find an alternative way of watching with English commentary. Who knows.

Elsewhere, we looked after Maisie and Joseph yesterday while Cheryl was at work so it was nice to be able to spend some time with the kids before I flew off. To be honest, I don't usually connect too well with Maisie since we don't share an affinity for Hello Kitty and Disney princesses (I know, how can she not like them?!) but we got on fairly well yesterday. It's rather typical that it happens just as I'm about to not see them until Christmas. Such is life!

As things stand, I'm pretty much packed up. It's time to buckle up and enjoy the ride.

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Counting down the days

Summer keeps ticking along, and it seems to be going relatively quickly. I could be talking complete rubbish (and it certainly wouldn’t be the first time), but it feels as though individual days can drag by quite slowly but the grand concept of time and summer is going by quite quickly. Maybe that’s helped by the fact that I’m counting down to a variety of different things, with the main countdown obviously leading to me flying off to Hamburg at the end of August...I don’t know, maybe I am talking crap.

I’ve had a slow couple of weeks really. There’s been nothing major to really stand out as a huge event. But as I get closer to August 30th when I move out to Hamburg, things are already starting to pick up. I've been playing cricket on Saturdays for the last few weeks, and while I haven't been performing brilliantly (read: I’m not going to get a call up from the ECB based on my batting performances), I've had fun...and that's meant to be what matters. I think. But I'm trying to improve with each game. I'd like to think that I've become a better fielder, and for some reason, the team has an ounce of faith in me since I spent a good chunk of last weekend fielding in catching positions. The week before that, I actually held onto a catch which is surprising since a few days before that, I’d been nothing short of atrocious when at nets doing some catching practice. Still, saving it for the matches is better than the other way around!

Everything’s starting to fall into place for Germany though. My flight is booked, the flat is pretty much sorted out, I’ve got a date for moving in...all I need to do is sort a hostel for one night and then pack my bags, board a plane and go. I’m really looking forward to going out there. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t...but then I’d also be lying if I didn’t say I’m more than a little bit nervous about it. I don’t think I’d go far enough to say I’m scared, but there are more than enough butterflies in the stomach.

I’m not the first person to get these worries, and I’d guess that more than a few people share similar worries. I worry that I’ll get out there and I’ll hate where I’m living, I worry that I’ll be rubbish at my job, I worry that I’ll realise how little German I actually know. That’s all they are though...they’re just worries. They’re (hopefully) not going to turn to reality.
But then, there are so many positive things to look forward to. Moving to a different country for 12 months is both something really exciting and terrifying at the same time...but I get the feeling I’m really going to enjoy it. It’ll be a new experience, as will the concept of working a full time job, but there are so many things to look forward to. I’m planning to do a variety of things over the year, whether it’s going to gigs and shows (the 16 Carat Weekender has no excuses to not happen!) around Germany, going to motorsport events such as the F1 race and Le Mans or just going to visit other cities and see some new places. I’ll meet new people and I’ll get to know people who I don’t know too well and find some new friendships.

Thinking about it, I’ve now only got two weeks left until I board that Lufthansa flight (other airlines are available)...and I’ve got some good things lined up like PCW’s anniversary show on Friday and Futureshock’s huge show from the RNCM, more cricket on Saturday at Mossley Hill (weather permitting) and I’ll hopefully make it to a day at Aigburth for Lancashire’s game a few days before I leave.

I’ve written another piece for Pure F1 since the last blog about innovation in the sport. I might see if I can get the pieces published on a few more websites like that to try and get more readership, comments and feedback on the work. It’s one of those things, I’m not exactly hoping to get an offer from Autosport about it, but it’s always nice to see what other people think and get discussion going. Mentioning Autosport, one of their articles published earlier today was about how pole position was still important in 2012, looking at the statistics of winners from pole and the front row of the grid. I’d just like to point out that I was in there first guys, I posted something on that same topic a few weeks ago with a lot of the same information/stats (though you’d expect that). I’ll assume that’s a good thing if I’m writing something that Autosport deem significant enough to write about. I must be doing something right!

I'll try and make sure the gaps in the blog aren't so great from now on. Even if I just return to writing every fortnight, it's better than having gaps of three weeks or so. Consistency is important on this, writing helps me get and develop ideas and I can share thoughts with the world.

Enjoy what you do and make the most of everything. Opportunity is everywhere, you just need to grab it.

Saturday, 4 August 2012

The importance of pole position

In previous years, pole position was thought of as one of the most important things in a race. If a driver was able to secure pole position on a Saturday afternoon, then all they would have to do was make it to the chequered flag on Sunday and they would be in with a very good chance of winning the race. In recent years though, with the return of a ban on refuelling mid-race and the introduction of KERS, DRS and Pirelli tyres, overtaking is at an all-time high. So, is pole position still as important in 2012?

Changes to the sport were introduced in 2011 in an attempt to spice up the racing and encourage more overtaking on track, as organisers, teams and fans became increasingly disillusioned with processional races featuring very little on-track overtaking, with the majority of positional changes occurring in the pit lane. In the last two seasons of racing, overtaking has seen a welcome return to races and while the action may sometimes be artificial and passing can be too easy with DRS at some circuits, processional races are largely a thing of the past.

As a result, the importance of pole position can be seen to have changed. Starting on the front row is no longer a driver’s best chance of picking up maximum points on race day as they must now have to manage their fuel load, look after tyres and potentially defend against drivers behind them able to use DRS when trying to pass.

Between 2004 and 2010, there were 126 Grand Prix with 67 of those won by the driver starting from pole position. This does not account for anomalies such as wet races which are notoriously more unpredictable and can throw ‘surprise’ winners, but a success rate of over 50% for a driver starting from pole position going on to then win the race is an impressive statistic. The driver starting from pole position will, in most situations, have the fastest car and would therefore be quite likely to go on to win, so this figure shouldn’t be too surprising.

During this time, the sport came under criticism for uneventful races with on-track action largely being limited to the opening few laps. With the cars becoming increasingly advanced and with engineers and designers looking for any way to add down force to the cars, overtaking was a rarity. It became common to witness cars unable to pass, trapped in the dirty air of the leading car and unable to use a speed advantage. According to some in the know, it was estimated that a car needed to be anywhere up to two seconds a lap quicker than the car in front to be able to pass on track.

Since the changes in the regulations to help aid overtaking, the starting grid hasn’t always reflected the positions at the end of the race. Looking at the figures from 2011 though, a familiar story is painted: of the 19 races held during the 2011 season, 9 of them were won from pole position. This was helped by the dominance of Sebastian Vettel in Qualifying, allowing him to lead races from the front and control the pace to never be in danger of being overtaken. So despite the fact that 2011 had more overtaking than ever before, pole position was still the best place to start the race.

At the halfway point of the 2012 season, six of the eleven races to date have been won by the man starting on pole position. Once again, the figures suggest that even with DRS and Pirelli tyres, the fastest man on Saturday is well placed to go on and win. Even where pole has not been converted into victory, the pole sitter has only failed to finish on the podium; Vettel in Canada (4th) and Valencia (DNF).

History suggests that pole position is a great position to start the race from and understandably so. The driver starting at the front will be in the fastest car, has a clean run to the first corner and has a great chance to lead the race. From this, he can look after his tyres and conserve fuel, turning up the revs when required to try and remain clear of the 1 second window needed for the chasing pack to use DRS. Even with the changes in regulations, exciting races and more overtaking than ever before, pole position remains as important as ever.

Sunday, 29 July 2012

Share it with the world

It's been about three weeks or so since I last posted something on here. Without looking at the individual dates of each of my entries, that could well be one of the biggest gaps I've had between entries. I just think that if I don't have anything that I deem worth putting down into a blog, there's no point writing something just for the sake of it. I'd like to think that what I write here has some sort of meaning and importance...

Earlier in the week, one of the people I follow on Twitter (@LOSTBUDWEISER) mentioned that he was thinking of starting a blog, but thought that it wouldn't be worthwhile. Having just looked it up, his exacts words were "Thinking of starting a blog, but then I realise, who the fuck am I to write a blog". That got me thinking a little bit. It got me thinking about this blog, what I've wanted to get from it, what I have got from it and where things can go.

But that tweet stood out to me, and I felt it was worth a reply. So I told him that he's someone who has something to write. Everyone has a life story, views, thoughts and opinions on the world. If you feel you have something that's worth sharing with the world...share it. Whether you have a readership of just one or two people, or you end up with thousands of people reading what you're writing about, it's worth sharing. For me, it's a good way of writing something down and getting some level of creativity. My memory is shocking enough anyway, so to some extent, this serves as a way of me being able to go back and read through various events. I can go back and read about my time at the Grand Prix last year, the Berlin trip in December or even just time with friends. So for me, that's useful. Then there are times when I'm not writing about my life and I'm writing about something a bit more personal. That's not just for my own purpose and instead, it can be for other people to get to know the inner me a bit better.

His reply to my tweet was pretty positive, and hopefully that means he'll go ahead and start to write something. It might not be regular, it could be once a month or so, but having that creative outlet is important if it's something you want.

I look at what some people I follow on Twitter have managed to achieve, and I'm pretty amazed and impressed. There are guys like Mick (@PostalPoet) who started his own podcast, Postal Poet Podcasts. It started with him asking his boss questions that people were putting to him on Twitter. He would record the conversations and upload them to the internet for people to listen to and enjoy. After that, he went in two directions: Going Postal (featuring Pastor Joe, a character he created) and Keep Making Noise (a more serious podcast with interviews and some really good discussion). This is something that, as far as I can see, has been built up from nothing aside from having the desire to put something out into the world...and it works. He's putting out some fantastic stuff and keeps going from strength to strength. I usually throw him some sort of comment with each episode because I feel that he more than deserves it.

If anything, I guess it shows to me that if I ever get around to starting my own podcast (an idea I've been toying with for a while but never actually getting around to committing to), I can do it and provided I can make something interesting, it's something that can give something useful.

I have got some of my own creativity going on at the moment. In the last two weeks or so, I've been a bit busy with my writing, and it's been serving me pretty well.

Remember in the last entry how I mentioned I was toying with the idea of starting a motorsport blog of sorts? Well, I think I've pretty much decided against doing that for the time being. I had a look around and there are so many people doing them that I'd be lost in the shuffle. Everyone has a blog, everyone writes about the races and every little bit of news...and to be honest, that's not what I'd want to do anyway.

So I've taken a bit of a different approach. I stumbled across PureF1 on Twitter (@PureF1DotCom) after one of their writers included one of my tweets in their blog. So after looking around at it, seeing that it's a website with articles written by fans, for fans...I decided I could try and write some stuff on there. Fast forward to today and I've got three articles up there at the moment. While there are articles that cover the weekend's F1 action on-track, I'm trying to cover a different approach to the sport. So instead, I'm doing what I'd like to think are more magazine style pieces looking at deeper aspects of the sport. I did my first piece about Michael Schumacher and whether he should continue competing into 2013, my second on how pole position is still important despite more exciting racing than ever before, and my most recent piece about the teams at the back of the grid and their continued struggle in search of their first point.

I've got a couple of other ideas for pieces, though one might require a bit of luck in trying to get some sort of discussion with someone to help me out and get some more knowledgeable opinions. With a month to go until the next race in Belgium, I'll hopefully get two or three more pieces written in that time.

I've also been writing a string of stories. They're not quite epic novels and if anything, they're just short children's stories. I've been making them up for quite a while, but prior to a few weeks ago, I hadn't ever bothered to write them down. I then found myself writing one out for a bit of a joke, and then I've scribbled a few more down after making them up. There's no real reason for doing's just nice to write down my silly stories. Maybe I'll do something with them once I've got a steady collection. I might just post stories on here. Let's just get there first.

In a quick life update: I fly to Hamburg at the end of August having booked my plane ticket earlier in the week. It's all rather real now. There are still one or two things that need to be sorted out, but I don't know how much I can do about those for the time being. Time is ticking, but it means that every passing day gets me one closer to my next destination.

Saturday, 7 July 2012

Home sweet home

Well, I've moved out of Leeds and most likely won't be back there until September 2013. Still seems a bit weird when I think about that properly...I spent a good chunk of last summer up in Leeds, and that option to 'escape' Liverpool for a week or two and go back up to Leeds isn't really viable this year. Of course, it wasn't ever really escaping. I'd go back up to Leeds to see some friends, or to try and sort some stuff out with various aspects of uni and uni-related life. But this summer, we've all scattered back to our homes. Some of us are already in Germany, some of us are heading out there in the very near future and some of us have still got a while to go before we embark on our year abroad. Thinking that I won't be back there for over a year is a bit of a strange thing to get my head around...I'm just refusing to accept that once I do that, it'll be my final year at university.

Moving out of Leeds wasn't too painful. I do own far too much crap though...I was amazed at how many boxes and bags I managed to fill with various bits and pieces that I've somehow accumulated over the last two years or so. Even with that, I still managed to leave all of my kitchen stuff in the house after simply forgetting to get it while moving out. It wasn't my plan to leave it...I had a very good set of scales in my drawer and some cake tins that I used which are either lost forever or now in Rachel's possession (which may well mean they're lost forever anyway) which was a bit annoying. No idea what has happened with my pots and pans. I sort of don't care...since the contract on that house ran out last Saturday, they're not my problem any more.

I had a realisation of sorts the other day, and (surprise surprise) it's a thought that I'm going to share with you. If things had gone to plan and not drastically changed as they did in May, I'd be in Austria right now. Now that is a bit of a strange thought to get my head around. If I hadn't lost the job with Adrivo, I would have flown out to Graz on Monday morning, I'd be living there and looking forward to starting work this coming Monday (9th). To some extent, I'm still beating myself up about that since I was really looking forward to it and getting a chance to get my foot in the door with a job in motorsport would have been a bit of a dream and potentially a great opportunity. I mean, I was never really thinking I'd be able to get a job in that. It's only really dreams where you can mix your hobbies/passions and a career. Very few get to do that.

I guess I'll just have to find another way in.

Still, that was then and this is now. Instead of being in Austria, I'm back in Liverpool for summer, not that there's anything wrong with that. I was back in Yorkshire last weekend with Beatlife for the Hebden Bridge Handmade Parade, which had been delayed a week after torrential rain led to flooding in the area. That parade is always one of my favourite gigs of the year and they put so much work and effort into making it a success, it's a real community thing with people of all ages taking part and making some frankly brilliant costumes. The weather just about held off for most of the day, though there were one or two rain showers during the static performances and it was a really good day. We got some good feedback from people about that which is always nice, and it was my first Beatlife gig since last summer so it was nice to play again. I just about managed to remember everything...and if I didn't then as the sole primeira, it wouldn't have mattered since I could just act like I knew what I was doing and keep on playing.

I'm toying with the idea of starting up another blog, I'm just weighing up the pros and cons of it before I jump in there because if I make the commitment, I feel it's only right that I stick with it. As I mentioned earlier in the blog, I still want to work in motorsport in some capacity and was having a few discussions with various people about this, talking about writing more stuff, trying to make some connections within the motorsport world and seeing if I can make something happen from my side. Essentially, a new blog would be a motorsport-style thing, not giving news or race reviews since there are other websites and established pages that can do that far better than I could, but instead focusing on opinion pieces. I've already got a few ideas for pieces that I'd like to even if I don't make a different blog, I might just write them up on here. That might be easier. (I really shouldn't have a conversation with myself on here, it makes me look insane.)

I need to sort my bike out in the next few days...check the tyres and brakes, give it a bit of a clean and get out on the road again. It's been a while since I was cycling around and it'd be good to get back out there. Having been used to walking everywhere in Leeds, it seems strange not walking everywhere in Liverpool, though I'm finding myself going out of the house most days for a bit of a walk, even if it's just a half hour walk and coming back with a newspaper to do some crosswords.

To be honest, life is pretty good at the moment. I'm not doing too badly.

Peace and love to everyone, thanks for continuing to read these entries. Apologies for my rambling nature at times...but that's just who I am.

Saturday, 23 June 2012

The smile is back

To start with, an apology of sorts. I know at the end of my last entry I said that I was planning to write/publish another entry within a few days of posting the last entry. As we can probably tell, that didn't happen. I went back to Liverpool the day after which meant that I spent my Friday morning packing up about 60% of my stuff to take home and as a result, I didn't really feel like posting anything on Friday. The weekend itself was spent at Rachel's for her birthday and then recovering/catching up on sleep on Sunday as well as watching the Canadian Grand Prix.

After that, I had a fair bit on my mind for the rest of the week wanting to think some things through, figuring out if some of the decisions I'm making in life are the right ones. On the back of these decisions, I went and made a few more completely crazy decisions and judgement calls...and the best thing is that I don't regret one of them. They may have caused me to pull my hair out and get incredibly stressed at points, but everything happens for a reason, and everything worked out pretty well.

Like everyone, I've taken my fair share of crap in life to this stage. Some take far more and don't deserve what happens to them, others are lucky and have very little to deal with. But we all have our problems in life and life is a journey of facing these problems and mishaps, finding ways to deal and cope with our problems as effectively as possible before continuing our journey down the path. Eventually, we reach the next little stumbling block and the process begins again. Sometimes, it can be years until you find yourself at one of these hurdles and sometimes it can feel like everything has hit you at once and you're staring at a wall.

But people are strong. That's why we're all unique, and we find ways to make the most of what we've got. At least, that's how I try to look at things. Maybe I'm looking at things from the wrong angle...but for the time being, it works for me.

I've been pretty lucky over the last 12 months. I've gone from really disliking my university experience (some of you out there in Blogsville will know just how much I disliked my first year) to being happy with life. I've made some really good friends from my course, and of the friends I did have, I'd like to think I've become even better friends with them as I got to know them more. This was helped by having a bit more free time than I did last year, getting more involved with the German society activities such as socials and being more open to talking to people. Maybe I was a bit of a dick, or seemed like someone who wasn't that friendly/approachable, but I'd hope that I've made up for this in the last 12 months.

I've lived with some brilliant people this year too. Whether it was people I've known for years (Rachel), people I met during my first year (Beth, Ben, Hamish and Rob), someone I barely knew (Sazzle) or someone I didn't know at all (Tom)...I've spent a year living with them. It probably seems a really stupid thing to say, but the best way of getting to know someone is by living with them for some time. You find out what their personality and character is like in all of its glory and there's very little in the way of being able to hide something. Yes, there have been little fights and arguments along the way...but it's been a good house to live in.

At the moment of writing this, I'm back in Leeds having come up for a last few days here (mainly to finish off packing up the rest of my stuff) before I spend the summer in Liverpool. It's also been a last chance of sorts to hang out with friends from uni before we all disappear and scatter around the German speaking world over the next year or so. That's a really strange thought...I'm struggling to get my head around the fact that pretty soon, I'll be living in Germany, so will a lot of my friends and we'll be all over the place. It's strange, but like I keep saying, it's going to be really good.

In fact, this will be the last blog entry that I write in Leeds until September 2013. I should think that I'll still be writing on here at that certainly hope so! I started the blog as a means of communicating with the world and logging events in my life as I journey through university (and life). That journey will continue over the next 14 months until I return to Leeds and I'll be sharing some of my experiences of my time abroad with the world on here.

I'm in an incredibly good place in life at the moment. There are those among us who know why I'm in a good place and I'm walking around with a smile on my face and there are many, many more who don't. Those of you who don't know...enjoy knowing I've got a smile on my face and I'm about as happy with where I am in life as I can be. Those of you who do know...well, you know why. I'm sure you understand.

So there we go, I've had a fairly good few weeks. In fact, scrap that. I've had what can probably be accurately described as the best few weeks in the last few years.

Long may it continue.