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!)