The Day in the life of Tony Cliffe

The blog that's full of discussion, advice, travel and ramblings!

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Rest Easy Grandad

Around six weeks ago we received a phone call from Ireland that nobody wants to hear. Your Grandad has been diagnosed with multiple aggressive cancers and has a few months to live. Despite knowing the inevitable, getting that phone call on Sunday afternoon to hear his battle was quick but ultimately now over was still tough to take.

Many people see their Grandads every week or they live very close for me I only ever got to see him a few times a year when I went over to Ireland. Flying over to Ireland just won’t be the same anymore. Despite only seeing him a few times a year a Grandad is your Grandad and we were close. I will miss not hearing the same stories of the War or his time in the Jungle, or the tales of adventure and faraway places he had visited in his time here. I think it was just under 100 odd countries! I guess that travel bug worked its way through the genes and into me. The funny thing about hearing those stories is I never minded that I’d heard them 100 times before because every time there would be a new piece of information added. I don’t know if that was just the passage of time that details get added in or if he just recalled it differently with each time but they were still always interesting to hear.

The stories of his time as a signal man in the Royal Signals battling in the heat and intense fighting of the Jungle always fascinated me, yet terrified me to. I know he was forever grateful for all the sacrifices and protection the Gurkhas offered him and his men. He was always keen to tell me to the stories so that people didn’t forget that generation and everything that they did. I once asked him if he had ever fired his gun in combat or did he ever kill anyone. He was proud to say he fought a war without firing a shot in anger. He protected his fellow soldiers through his use of the radio and passing information. I find that a very courageous thing to do. A man who fights a war without a weapon is the kind of man I’m glad to have known. I am glad to have known him despite some of his flaws and mistakes. He could be a stubborn man and I guess that generation of make do and mend was a downfall at times, especially when it came to his inevitable cancer. I will however forever be indebted to him for his helping hand in getting me to where I am today. Back in 2013 when my life goals of being an Air Traffic Controller had fallen through he had no hesitation of matching my savings to afford me to go on to do a Masters degree. If I didn’t do that Masters I would not be here doing something that I love today. I always felt like I had to do him proud, to reward his investment and I don’t think I’ll ever stop trying to do that.

Despite how sad these times are I am glad that I got to see him one last time while he was alive, something I’m fully aware that not many people ever get the opportunity to say goodbye to a loved one. It became quite aware to me over the past few years that every time I said goodbye to him to get back on the plane it always crossed my mind that that goodbye could be the last. When I flew out to see him a few weeks ago it was a weird feeling sitting alone on the plane heading to Ireland knowing that the goodbye would be the last one. He was still in hospital at the time and I had rehearsed what I was going to say. I wanted to thank him for everything he’s done, I wanted to thank him for being my Grandad and I wanted to ask if I had done him proud. I was told that the day before he was on a good day and that he was chatting and looking well so I was hopeful that I could say those things. Unfortunately life doesn’t always give you the ending that you wanted. By time I arrived at the hospital he was on a very bad day, something I know my Dad feels sorry that I saw but I am still glad I got to see him one last time. He was dazed and confused and only managed a few words and it wasn’t nice to see. I never got to ask any of those questions or talk for one last time.

I hate hospitals. Always have and always will. Those places took far too many years of my childhood for me to ever feel comfortable in them. Having to deal with all of the memories and the smells is bad enough when you’re trying to repress them to say your final goodbyes to your Grandad. I’m not going to lie, I was holding back trying not to throw up in the ward due to the heat and the smell and weight of the occasion. It also hit home that I was once a patient as a kid sitting in a bed in an oncology ward. Luckily for me my tumour was sorted and despite the few odd niggles in my leg from time to time touch wood, all is okay. I felt sad looking at him that such a positive outcome was not on the cards for him.

When the nurses came in to get him ready for bed all I managed as I was walking out of the ward was my last words for him “I’ll see you around”. Not the words I rehearsed in my head but oddly fitting in the end.

I am glad that his final days where spent pain free at home, looking out onto the garden that he loved, watching the numerous birds that would come and go. Especially the giant stork who would land to be fed every morning. I find great comfort in knowing that he did go peacefully and pain free and that ultimately his battle with cancer was quick and short. He also lived a good life and is something that does soften the pain of losing him.

Losing a loved one is never a good thing and I do wish I could have asked those questions to him but I am fully aware that I am lucky I got to see him at all, I know many people never do get that chance. I have great memories of him that I will cherish forever and I know on Saturday when the funeral is over it will be tough but ultimately he is in a better place now. I’m not particularly religious but I do like the idea of somewhere better.

I hope I continue to make him proud, I will continue to try and visit as many places as I can and I will continue to try and have a positive impact on people as best as I can. So for one last time the soldier can lay down his weapon and rest easy. Thank you for everything Grandad and I guess “I’ll see you around”.

Canada Trip Blog 1: The long trip west

Well what a trip, that’s all I can say. In fact no, what an adventure more like! The trip to Canada was one of the best trips I have ever been on and through a series of blogs I’ll try to outline why. I’ll be interlacing my thoughts with snippets of my diary as I went along. I’ll have a few blogs such as the travelling aspect (upgrade on the way back!), two for Toronto and two for Edmonton and probably a concluding one. Expect plenty of ramblings and pictures. I really hope you enjoy them as much as I enjoyed living it!

Pre-trip thoughts

This trip had come just at the right time for me. I needed this holiday, not just for a break but to regain some form of sanity. Working in academia is amazing and rewarding but blimey, it is mentally and emotionally draining. Add to the fact I haven’t been on a proper holiday since the Valencian grand prix in 2012 (research trips aside as they’re very much not holidays!) I was so looking forward to going away. Especially with the uncertainty around my contract and then with a PhD interview the week after the holiday looming which I really wanted to get, it was nice to go away, forget about everything and recharge. I have no doubt in my mind that I nailed the PhD interview only because I was in a nice calm and relaxed head space post trip.

Before I left I wouldn’t say I was nervous about what lay in stall but I was a little apprehensive by a few things. Those of you who know me well and follow my life through these blogs or social media, know random crap is never far away. I firmly believe I’m on some sort of TV show in a parallel universe although I can’t quite put my finger on if its a comedy show, a drama or a soap opera… So I was apprehensive in the sense that this trip would either be absolutely amazing and a classic episode in my life, or could turn into one where everything could go wrong. I mean I have form in that department, getting a puncture on the bike and having to walk 12 miles back into Valencia in 42 degree heatwave is just one of many moments abroad where shit happens. Above all of that though I was excited, not least for the eight flights ahead of me, two of which were on the 787 (avgeek squeal!). I was very excited and couldn’t wait to see family and keep the anglo-canadian/Irish links as strong as ever and above all it was Canada. A country I’ve loved since I first went as a child.

I leave with one question in my mind that I haven’t told anyone about, due to the uncertainties around my job and that was “Could I live there? Could I actually move here and start a life here” by the end of this holiday, that question would be firmly answered. I’ll know in my heart and my head if its meant to be. I’m at that age now where these decisions will be clear. So it’s now the night before I leave to travel thousands of miles across the ocean and what an adventure I hope I have in stall for me. The plans for the next few weeks are to fly to Ireland, then to Heathrow, then to Toronto, then to Edmonton, then to Calgary, then to Heathrow, then to Dublin and then finally back home. With a bag that was full to the brim, it’s time I get some sleep and its a time to leave.

The long trip west

I’ve grown quite fond of travelling on my own, there is a simple serenity in doing things the way you want to do them. There is a relaxed pace about it all which suits me down to the ground and above all I get the freedom to explore without having to please other people. Travelling around the UK or Ireland on your own is one thing. Travelling halfway across the world is a bigger kettle of fish. As much as I am an avgeek, travelling by plane is still stressful, at least the parts before you get on the aircraft. The hustle and bustle of the airport is exciting but can be a little daunting, especially when you have connecting flights in different countries to catch. I never really relax until I’m through security, there is just something that makes you think you have something on you even though you know you don’t, as you’ve patted yourself down so many times its boarding on weird. Yet never as weird as the guy who gives you the eye going through the detectors, you just know if that alarm goes off he’s going to love putting his hands everywhere. Seriously, I hope some of these people are vetted. I’ve been through airports before where it hasn’t even gone off but still got a free grope.

I have a long trip ahead of me that’s for sure and sitting in the living room of my house just before I’m about to leave and I know it’s going to be a long one and time is dragging. The first leg of my journey to Canada was to fly to Dublin first. Seems a roundabout way of doing things right? But starting and ending my Canada flight in Dublin saved me a massive £1000 believe it or not than flying out of the UK. I never know why Ireland is much cheaper, especially when you have to fly back to the UK to fly out to Canada but hey £1000 is a £1000. So with a return fare of £60 on Aer Lingus from Liverpool to Dublin I saved what was essentially my holiday spends.

I’ve checked my bags so many times that I probably could name every item and in what order it was in my suitcase! If this was supermarket sweep i’d make Dale Winton proud. The drive to the airport was fairly quiet and I was getting a twinge of excitement. I’d planned this trip for months and all of a sudden it was finally here. I hadn’t quite believed it yet and I wasn’t out of work mode yet either. The clouds around signalled some rain but of course its UK spring, whatever else!

Typical Liverpool airport fashion the airport was dead, it was a carbon copy of my flight out in November (outlined here: Day one of my Ireland Trip). As mentioned in that blog, I don’t get excited anymore flying to Ireland, it’s like getting on a train for me. After my parents said goodbye to me for a few weeks I trundled through the delights of security and then sat in Burger king with no-one but the cleaner looking out at a near empty and a now very wet apron. I don’t mind waiting for flights, I’m happy to get there super early, especially if I can do a bit of spotting but the only spotting I was doing was the raindrops on the windows. Liverpool is a great regional airport but when it’s quiet, it’s quiet.

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Lunch with a view

With a distinct lack of aircraft arriving or departing I decided to head downstairs to a little café’ I found last time I flew out of Liverpool, tucked away in the departure lounge. The peppermint tea was still as good as ever, as were the hot blonde chicks behind the counter. Easy job they have too, over the course of the hour I sat playing on my phone checking my flight had departed from Dublin and texting, they served a grand total of six people! Six people an hour. What a job. When you’re waiting for a flight, especially one which leads onto an adventure I was about to have, time stands still. With every gulp of warm tea it felt like minutes. When the gate finally appeared and we made our way to the queue I could hear the rain hammering down on the roof. Not great for flying in that’s for sure. I opened my aviation apps, looked at the METAR’s (Airport weather system) and it was red across the board. Strong wings, turbulent clouds and very heavy rain. There was no chance I’d be seeing anything flying today and I was glad I opted for a small lunch. At Liverpool you have to walk to the plane, no air bridges here. You could barely see the aircraft due to the weather. I haven’t seen rain that bad for a long time, people were running to the plane steps like I run for the last cake in a shop. What’s the point I asked myself? You’re going to be drenched either way, you would have been drier in a shower.

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Flight over to Dublin

 

Once on board and dripping wet, I noticed that once again this Thursday afternoon flight was completely dead. I head almost the entire rear of the plane to myself! Something I should have appreciated more, especially as every flight from then on, on that trip was always a full flight.

I’ve seen Eurofighter typhoons have a longer take off run that we had coming out of Liverpool. After a few bumps, a quick nap, 30 minutes later we were wheels down in my second home of Dublin. The original plan had been to pop into Ashbourne to stay with my grandparents and see them before I went off to Canada the next day. However with a change of flight time it would have meant getting a bus at 4 a.m. to get to the airport. With a long ass day ahead of travelling I opted to go to an airport hotel instead, the Radisson Blu. Great hotel, with great views of the approach into Dublin airport which I enjoyed while tucking in a really delicious burger which surprisingly was well priced for room service. After a bath and a few phone calls, I settled down for the night.

DAY TWO: Toronto via Dublin and Heathrow

Maybe it was the excitement of the trip ahead but at 4 a.m. I was wide awake and raring to go. After a quick shower I was in the lobby of the hotel waiting for the complementary shuttle service. I was amazed at how busy the lobby was at this unholy hour of the morning but then again, early morning is one of the busiest times of day for any airport so I should have realised that. However, everyone was very friendly, Italians, American’s, Spanish, it was a real mix of passengers in our little minibus to the airport. Early morning in airports have a really exciting atmosphere about them and its something I love. Outside is still dark, the world hasn’t really woken up yet but inside the terminal is a hive of activity. I love the excited chatter, the noise of the cases being hauled along and the smell of freshly brewed coffee filling the air. It really gets you in the mood for travelling. Especially as the way Terminal 2 in Dublin is designed is so bright and spacious that it’s a very smooth and stress free experience.

Queuing up to check in only took me five minutes and once at the counter the check-in clerk informs me…

“ I’m moving you onto the early flight of 6.20 am to Heathrow as they’re expecting severe delays in both Ireland and  London later due to weather and capacity issues. I’d rather you had longer to wait in Heathrow, than sit here worrying that you might miss your flight”.

He was very helpful and a great gesture as if I didn’t get moved I would have missed my flight! Lucky break number one on this trip already, good job that I was checking in so early. This now meant I didn’t have a great deal of time to get through a very busy security screening and by great deal I mean squeaky bum time deal. The stress o’meter was beginning to climb. The good thing about Dublin T2 is they’re very efficient and within a quarter of an hour I was through security but didn’t have any time to grab any breakfast. I only just had enough time to ping a text to my dad that I was on an earlier flight if he was up to track it. Of course I had enough time to take a picture of the plane though.

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Morning departure to London Heathrow with Aer Lingus A320.

After that it was straight to the gate to board Aer Lingus to LHR. The flight was a stark contrast to the one the previous day. There wasn’t a spare seat available and sadly I was put in the middle seat at check-in. Never fun, especially as the dick with the window seat was asleep the whole time, such a waste! Announcements were made for people to check in their carry-on luggage because the flight was so full but as I was connecting I didn’t have to worry about that.

I settled into my seat and claimed my elbow rests and got ready for the second flight of the trip, the first one of today.

“Good morning ladies and gentlemen this is your captain speaking….We’ve got a delay with our slot time. There are delays in Heathrow and that means we have to wait for a new slot here at Dublin. We’ll be pushing back in around half an hour”.

Knowing I now had a three hour lay-over to play with I wasn’t in the least bit annoyed by that delay. The only thing that annoyed me was the fact I left my headphones in the overhead locker with my bag. There is only so many times you can read the safety card. After half an hour we finally pushed back and I counted 9 aircraft ahead of us waiting to take off. So it took another 15 minutes to eventually get off the ground at Dublin. Solid cloud all the way until on the approach to Heathrow. I so wish I was right next to the window as London and all of the landmarks were perfectly in view! Yes, he was still asleep until we pulled into the gate.

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Plane spotting at Heathrow

 

Luckily I was transferring in the same Terminal, terminal 2. This meant that from plane to departure gates including security was less than 15 minutes! Very handy and stress free. Terminal 2 has recently been renovated to the similar specs of Terminal 5 which I’ve flown out of a few times and love how much natural light comes in with great views of the runways. Duty free was bought, new sunglasses, whiskey and finally some breakfast!

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Terminal two at Heathrow, waiting for my flight.

 

Finally got to do some spotting which is great at Heathrow and before long I was waiting at the gate for the 7 hour flight to Toronto. I was flying premium economy so got to board first which really is a god send. Not to mention the huge seats and excellent food (I’ll do a full review blog of my flights soon, so I won’t bore you with the details!). The Boeing 787 is a fantastic aircraft, bigger windows, very quiet and all round great experience. After listening to music, stopping for meals and watching a film and taking pictures before I knew it I arrived in Toronto. The holiday finally was about to start and oh boy did it start!

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Waiting to take off into the storm at LHR

 

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Over Northern Canada

 

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Great food on the plane.. Vegetable Lasagne was delicious.

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Most scenic wee ever!

 

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Lunch with a view

(Blog two to come soon, including a police escort through the airport, a private tour of an Emirates A380 and my first full day in Toronto. Exciting day!)

 

What would the perfect girl be if she existed?

Long-time no blog! Sorry, I fully expected to have at least a few blogs a month but it has just been so incredibly full on. I’ve had a lot to deal with lately and its big stuff in terms of where I’ll be come August. It’s no coincidence that the mileage on the bike has rapidly increased in the past two months! I vent and relax by two ways, by cycling because that means I don’t have to think about a problem or I write, where I get to distract myself and have some fun or I tackle the issues. I’ve avoided a big issue for long enough so the latter I will do next week and will be in a blog about what big decisions I have to make in the next few months. Real big decisions which are weighing on my mind a lot, ironically once again history repeating itself as I was in this position around two years ago when decisions are made out of your hands which define which way you’ll go. So look out for that one next week.

However tonight, is more about distraction. I don’t want to get too depressed with how bleak the outlook to my other problem is. I was today going to write a blog about cycling and my love of it however I thought me discussing Lycra, shaved legs, mental strength, Strava data and puking at the top of a climb is probably not a fun blog after all (although I will do a cycling blog at some point!).

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So I sat down and thought about a conversation I had in work before I went on Easter annual leave and I thought it would be fun to do this one instead. It follows on from previous blogs when the issue of relationships has come up (here we go again I hear you say!). Once again last week I had the same old “why are you single chat” someone who clearly hadn’t read my previous blog (https://thedayinthelifeoftonycliffe.wordpress.com/2016/01/24/an-honest-look-at-why-im-single/) and despite my explanations the good old you’re just too picky comment occurred again! By this point it is about as funny as hearing Adele every time I walk passed a radio. Which, is about as funny as meeting an ex’s mother by saying “oh is this your nan?” Yep…I did that once!

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Seriously wanted the sky to swallow me up when that happened.

So anyway this person despite my protests kept saying I’m too picky and that I compare every girl to some perfect girl in my head. This couldn’t be further from the truth so I’ve decided to indulge in their illusion of me comparing people to this mystical “perfect girl” that apparently I have in my head to compare to. Contrary to popular belief I don’t have a type per say. I have favourable traits but I’ve been attracted to many different girls, so while out cycling the other day as the forecasted sunshine turned to gales and wind and nearly choking on a leaf that blew into my face, I gave this some thought, as if I was creating a real life Sim, what would the perfect girl for me look like, act like and be like? Well here it is. Please bare in mind this is very satire and not in any way serious! Although if you do so happen to match this description, please apply within!

Looks

Okay, so let’s start with looks. “Beauty is on the inside”. Nope, sorry, it’s on the outside too. I don’t want to wake up next to a troll every morning no matter how beautiful you may be on in the inside. I have to look at myself every day in the mirror which is a shock within itself. Beauty and the beast I most certainly reside on the beast scale.  I’d rather not wake up terrified by rolling over to look at you. You may fart rainbows and bring life to sick puppies but if I’m not attracted to you then it won’t work. Is that wrong to be honest? People on high horses may say so but let’s face it, we all do it. You do need a physical attraction to someone to make things work. The difference is my idea of beautiful looks may be different to yours. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder after all but it’s definitely not a troll. Please see attached picture of scary Icelandic trolls that my sister brought me back!

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Hair colour

Okay so first and foremost let’s just get this not so secret, secret, out there, if you’re ginger you get extra points. Seriously I have a huge thing for ginger girls. It all stems from my first ever crush which was Ariel the little mermaid. Regardless of the fact she was a cartoon, nor the glaring omission of her having a tail and probably smelt of seaweed and fish, she was really hot. You may laugh but she was the original definition of babe. Granted she wasn’t the sharpest tool in the box, for Christ sake it’s a fork not a hair brush. Even a hermit crab could work that out. Or when a creepy classic Disney villain asks you to sign a contract, you don’t. However let me take this opportunity to say that why are clam bras not a fashion staple in this country? So you allow people to walk around in crocs, yet not hot women ginger fish women in clam bras? Where is the justice in that?

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Still a babe!

Sorry, I digress. I’ve always had a thing for ginger girls, I’ll come onto eye colour (to which I have no real preference) but if you’re ginger and have blue eyes, I kind of melt inside. Despite my ever present love for Taylor Swift and however much I would love to “Shake it off” with her, the one women I think is perfect in terms of looks, body type and I rate, shock horror, higher than T Swizzle is in fact Amy Adams. She is the definition of babe. Ginger, blue eyes, curves in the right places ahh ginger blue combo is my Achilles heel.  I’m yet to meet or know a ginger haired girl who wasn’t a little crazy in some way. I’ll come onto personality etc. later but I may as well address an observation here. I’m a pretty reserved, predictable guy. I find comfort in order and knowing what to expect and to an extent I would like that in a girl too, it scares me if a person yo-yo’s too much. With that in mind however I love someone who is a little unhinged at the same time.  I find that very enticing, especially because I’m so straight laced! It’s a sweet and sour combo. Every red head I’ve ever known does give off the vibe of being a little crazy in some way which only adds to the sex appeal. Gingers are fairly rare and so if I had to look back at my crushes both people I’ve known and celebrities, blonde is definitely up there. Taylor Swift, Hilary Duff, Avril Lavigne, my last girlfriend, all blonde. There’s something homely about blonde chicks and those on the lighter end of the spectrum. So the perfect girl would have ginger hair but I’d settle for blonde for example. Ha, who am I kidding I’d settle for anything with a pulse…kidding!

Eye colour

I’m not particularly fussed, it’s more about the depth of colour and what I would see in them. Eyes tell you everything you ever need to know about a person. You could be all smiles and laughs but if you’re in pain, if you’re sad, if you’re angry, if you’re happy your eyes will scream it. A lot of people don’t pay as much attention to people’s eyes as they probably should. Windows to the soul, so use them. But if this is an exercise of building up a picture of my perfect woman, we’ve already established she’d have red hair and her eyes would be blue. Blue just so happens to be my favourite colour too!

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Body type – I’m not exactly the fittest guy in the world so as long as you’re not bigger than me (hard to beat) I don’t really care! Although I must confess I’ve never been a fan of really skinny girls. All bones while cuddling, no thanks. I don’t want to date a CAFOD advert. Plus I eat a lot so I’d just feel really bad if all you ate were carrot sticks. By all means a girl who looks after herself is a good thing, I don’t want you dying early on me but the more crap you eat once in a while the more attractive you become. Nothing sexier than a girl who loves burgers and steak over celery and low fat insert never heard of vegetable smoothies. Have you ever smelt those things by the way? You shouldn’t be drinking something that smells and looks like something the incredible Hulk would flush down the loo. Just an average body type would be fine, whatever that is. As long as you’re happy with your body then so will I. Never a fan of the girls who say “oooh I’m too fat or I’m too ugly”. Zip it. If you’re not happy do something about it although 9 times out of 10 you’re absolutely perfect the way you are. People get too caught up in body image and type. Sure super models are good to look at but are they good for anything else like cuddles? Probably not. Plus, why even post that shit anyway? “You’re proppa fit babezz” … “Tar hunnies!” Eugh. Nearly throw up in my mouth every time.

 

 

Moving on, I can’t address body type without addressing the age old question. Guys fall into the Boobs, Bum or Legs category and I’m firmly in the first category. Bum’s never really seen the appeal, I mean I appreciate a good bum but I can take it or leave it. Despite cycling a lot my arse is as flat as my saddle. From the back of my neck to my heel is a vertical drop, you could base jump of that shit all the way down, so as long as you’re packing more in the trunk than me then I’m game. Plus I’ve never really seen the appeal of a bum because well…it’s a bum. Some guys go on about doing anal with a girl I mean dude, human evolution didn’t happen so that you could put your little dude in that hole. That and a graphic description from a friend is enough to make me feel queasy. Corn on the cob is all I’ll say on that one and I quote “imagine having sex inside a warm hula-hoop”. Never looked at beef and onion hula hoops the same way ever again. Now neither will you, enjoy!

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A good set of pins is always welcome, however and maybe because I’m a cyclist if you have well defined calves, which stands out to me. Only because in a narcissistic manor I do find myself admiring my own legs at times. It’s my only good feature okay! Stop judging. All cyclists do it. Trust me I have little to work with here, unless you like noses in the shape of a penis and hair the texture of an expensive carpet.  So bums and legs are not a deal breaker but boobs kinda’ are. Boobs are the best invention ever and clearly the pinnacle of human evolution. Yes, they’re just muscle and fat but they’re boobs! 34C boobs are the perfect size. Most guys go for giant boobs but maybe because I have had loads of girl mates over the years that I just feel genuinely sorry for girls with huge boobs. That backache and having a forward centre of gravity must be a killer! I’d hate to have a sack of potatoes pulling me forward all day, every day, so despite appreciating them I can’t stop thinking about how sore you might be! Yet I don’t want them too small because if my moobs are bigger than yours then that’s just embarrassing, not for you but for me! Pretty sure I’m rocking some sort of A cup.

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Personality

So while looks are important they probably only make up around 25% of the perfect girl or any girl for that matter. Personality is the big deciding factor. You may look like a goddess but if your personality resembles a brick then that’s not much good. I have always and probably always will be attracted to really driven and ambitious women, which is both good and bad at the same time. The perfect girl would have something that gives her fire, direction and purpose. Be that to be successful in a job or passionate about some cause. I absolutely love it when someone has that motivation and drive to make it happen because I’m like that. The problem arises in relationships and it happens all the time is when yours and her ambitions don’t align. Two driven people heading in different directions. So if the perfect girl could accommodate that then sweet. Following on from that I absolutely love a girl who keeps me on my toes and knocks me down a few pegs. I love a good mental sparring and especially in the form of sarcasm. Banter and quick wit are so endearing. Again I’m like that so someone who can counter me is both a fun challenge and it’s a cute form of flirting. I think so anyway.

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As much as having no common sense is pretty cute in a girl sometimes because you just want to pat them on the head and wonder how they’ve survived this long, the perfect girl really does need intelligence. I’m really nerdy. I have Stephen Hawkins books and a guide about quantum mechanics on my shelf as my idea of ‘light reading’. I don’t expect you to have an A Level in Quantum physics nor a PhD but I do want a level of intelligence. I love talking about the complexities or nature or the vastness of space or global news events and what that means. My mind needs to be stimulated and learning and I love a good debate. If a girl disagrees with me but puts up a great argument man I love that! Comes back to that passion before and that grit and keeping me on my toes that I love.

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The perfect girl would have some sort of creative or caring aspect to her personality. I’m never in relationships for the short term it’s always the long term. It takes me literally half a year to decide to go out with someone so I want to make sure it will last. Caring and kindness are beautiful qualities and the perfect girl would possess them in abundance. She would need to be family orientated too. I have a huge, crazy and very wonderful family and I’m a big family person so she would need to be the same too. We’d make good parents that way in the future! Adventurous side as in someone who wanted to travel or explore is really good to have too. I’m really not a nightclub or going out kind of person. My idea of a great night out is a pub quiz and bed by 10pm. I can’t be arsed with drunkenness or immaturity. The perfect girl would be someone who likes quiet restaurants, walks and strolls and more importantly cuddled up in front of a warm log fire watching movies or tv and chatting about crap.

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I do tend to splash out on loved ones in the past but I wouldn’t want a high maintenance girlfriend. One who can rock the nice expensive dresses but isn’t too obsessed by brands, price tags or looks. If you’re the kind of girl who wears a dress only once then you ain’t for me. To me, who’s financially savvy i.e. tighter than a ducks arse in water, I see that as an incredibly wasteful use of money.

Finally, the perfect girl would hold a pilot’s license, be a cyclist but not as good as me because I couldn’t hack that because I’m a shovenist pig, cook and bake, again shovenist but damn I love cake. If you can’t cook I don’t mind because I can pretty well but if you make a Victoria Sponge then yeah you’re marriage material.

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So wow, that was fun. Now I realise that this blog probably sounded like the worlds most complicated job advert. Now that is some lonely hearts advert right there. I’ve just realised that now that I’ve created this ‘perfect girl’ in my head will I now judge all non-existent females who are interested in me against this person? Have I now made a paradox? Oh no, what have I done!

Remember, this blog was a bit of fun and the perfect girl does not exist for the umpteenth time!  unless you happen to be a ginger, blue eyed, 34c, ambitious, driven, intelligent, witty, baker, cycling pilot. In which case I would say apply within but we all know my ability to flirt is on par with Andy Murray’s ability to smile. So for the last time I do not place women against a perfect girl in my head. I am single for far greater reasons, mainly a firm lack of interest from any female to actually compare to. So that was my sim life creation of the perfect girl. Ironically I do feel that whoever controls my love life is in effect has made a sim, put me in a swimming pool and has taken out the ladders. Swimming around an empty pool of life while the grim reaper sharpens his stabby thingy. At least I haven’t wet myself…yet.

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Until next time.

Toe

An honest look at why i’m single

A trip down honesty lane to discuss why I’m single and how I view the single life.

It’s no secret that I’ve been single for a while now and I’m mostly okay with that. There are a few aspects of relationships I do miss such as cute good morning kisses, being there for the little things, going and exploring new countries and places together but most of all knowing you have someone who loves you on another level and loves you for being you, including all of your flaws. Of course I have that support from close friends and family which I really do appreciate but it is different when it’s a relationship. Other than that I’m completely satisfied with single life despite the constant “I think you really need a girlfriend again Tony” remarks. So why have I been single for this long? Well after my last relationship it was no secret that I took that break up pretty hard and it was a long rebuild. So for quite a while I was emotionally unavailable and I threw myself into my academic career (which really has paid off so far!) and therefore I haven’t had time for one, nor been on the market per say. Other reasons? Well a distinct lack of interest from any woman on this earth has made that decision to stay single, not exactly a difficult one.

I’ve been accused lately by family, friends and even work colleagues that I’m “too picky” or I should just “go on dates” as if that’s the real reason I’m single. I can understand their concerns, to an extent. However to be picky implies I’m turning away women every day, however much I’d love that to be the case, It isn’t. I don’t know if people are being ironic or they genuinely believe I have an army of fan girls lining up behind me. Which is flattering if you do think so highly of me, it is a shame that is not the case! Being picky is something that I think all people who’ve been single for a long time do end up suffering with however. After a break up you think no one will compare with your ex, then over time you realise how many faults you turned a blind eye to and how many compromises you made. Once you’ve healed from the wounds you then search for something to fill the void, be that another person, a hobby or a career. Somewhere along that path of self-discovery (if you actually take the time to understand what went on and to learn from the positives and negatives and really move on that is) you become completely happy with who you are. You understand and accept your own flaws, you know your good and bad points, your limitations and most importantly you have an idea where you’re heading in life and how you want to get there. You arrive at the happy single stage, which I’m at and have been for quite a while. The problem with this however is, if you’re like me and you’re completely satisfied with your achievements both personal and professional, if you have a small but strong nucleus of people around you who support and love you (both family and friends) then it makes it incredibly difficult for a girl to come along and enhance your life more than it is already. Some say that relationships are about making you a better person, or making you feel complete. If you feel you’re as good as you can be right now or extremely satisfied with your progress in your life, that’s some tough act to beat.

I used to be blinded by love in the sense of I was a hopeless romantic and thought I always needed a girl to bring out the best version of me. Yet I’ve progressed so much in these three years being single, both personally and professionally, on my own, that it’s hard for someone like me who is now sceptical of love to see any real benefits of it when I’m doing better than I ever have alone. I’m also tentative to enter into a new relationships because I enjoy the freedom of the single life. I can do what I want and how I want it without checking if it’s okay with another person.

However behind the very proud persona of which I do have when I look back at all of my achievements being single, all of the above is a factor to being single but it is very much a smoke screen and an easy excuse for me to pull out. One of the main reasons which underpins why I’m single despite the lack of interest, despite a real sense of fulfilment being single, all of that stems from me being completely and utterly terrified of entering another relationship and that’s not easy to admit. For the first time in years a girl actually showed a hint of interest in me last summer. At first I thought it was a joke (which actually shows you how bad my love life has become when a girl is into you and you think its part of some elaborate joke) and then I got to know her and found her very interesting. Completely different to what I expected and I was surprised, intrigued and for the first time in a long time after many nights texting till 3 a.m, had my brain started to work out if we’d suit together.

I analyse everything in this life, seriously my brain runs a trillion calculations constantly to run various scenarios. I deal with data and look for patterns and outcomes as my day job so this analysis is ever more present than when it comes to relationships. I do that because I’ve been burnt too many times now that if I’m going to invest my love in a girl (to which I give my entire heart to those I chose to enter into a relationship with) I want to know it will pay off, or at least have the highest chance to. I want to make sure that it won’t be for nothing. Looking back at my last relationship despite making some mistakes I genuinely don’t think I could have been a better boyfriend if a tried and when you genuinely believe someone is the one and you give your all to one person, to have it end abruptly and out of the blue is almost like busting a gut in a marathon to find out after running 25 miles the race is cancelled. All that effort for what? I was cautious before that about investing in love but now I’m even more so.

After being single for so long I find it easier to hide behind someone not hitting all of the tick boxes in my head because I’m utterly terrified to get lost in love again and when it crashes and burns to feel the way I felt after my last breakup. Despite people thinking I’m picky because someone doesn’t compare to the perfect girl in my head is a completely false illusion. The biggest thing they fail against is my fear of sharing my life with someone on that level again to be fucked over. I analyse things in life because I like knowing outcomes, percentages, risk and reward. It took me a whole six months to run things in my head before I got with my ex, I want to make sure it was the right decision, the right girl. Yet the agonising beauty of love is making that unknown step, to jump and see if you fly or if you fall. It’s that last percentage missing, the final missing piece of the puzzle which is gut instinct and well, hope. So if I use the example of the girl in the summer for which I won’t name but she did exist! Although she didn’t tick all of the boxes she ticked quite a lot and it was more than enough for me to give it a go despite being different, despite it probably not working out I could have at least tried. Instead it was all too easy to say I don’t think this would work and approach it with a very compartmentalised manner. Why? Truth was I was terrified. I am terrified. So I killed it off before it ever could have got off the ground. I’m yet to meet someone I’m comfortable in making that leap of faith with, to reassure to the best of their knowledge that it would work.

So one of the main reasons I’m single is because i’m scared. It’s all too easy to push something promising away than give it a go. Other reasons well, I have a very strong personality, some people like it and my views and what I stand for, others think I’m a monumental cock. Either way, the persona I have is confidence, resilience and someone who is happy in their own skin, all of which is true. Yet behind all of that is still that young kid who believed in love and somehow got lost along the way. Despite being cynical about love I do still hold onto the notion of pure love. I have experienced it before and that was a long time ago, way before Stacey, way back when Freddo’s were 10p, summer days were actually summer days, dial-up and Panda pops existed.   Does it bother me being single? No, not really because of all of the achievements and close relationships I have with friends and family which are very rewarding. Does it bother me that I’m yet to have successful and lasting relationship? Yes. Some would say I’m a successful person. I’ve achieved many many things in this life and usually when I set myself a dream or a goal then I will get it through hard work and a bit of luck. Does it nag me that despite being relatively successful in many things that love isn’t one of them? Hell yes it does. It’s always that tiny little piece of the puzzle missing, seemingly always just out of reach. That begins to affect you in a confidence way too. I’m a naturally very self-confident guy, I have a big ego, a big personality that is very complex which some find attractive. I’m very easy going and approachable and I’m the loyalist guy you’d ever meet but I’m wise enough to know I’m not the most handsome guy in the world and looks are never going to be a strong thing for me. I have hair the texture of a sponge/rug, my nose resembles a gentlemen’s appendage, I’m certainly not beach ready body and well in all honesty, I’m quite a boring person. All you have to do is look through my Facebook feed to see how much enjoyment I get from moaning about merseyrail, updating the weather or cycling.  I’m too self-confident for that to bother me, I accept my looks and how I probably come across as boring because that’s me. I’d rather have the public persona very similar to the real me than one that isn’t. Too much effort to be false!

Yet that still doesn’t make you feel a little gutted when hardly any girl takes an interest in you. For example I spent an hour on tinder swiping right for fun, not one match. That’s so tragic, its funny.  Or when you look at some people in relationships and you think what the hell? What am I doing wrong?

So I’m in the place now where I’m incredibly comfortable with single life, yet I’m in that stable part of my life now and time is ticking on, especially when you notice going to another family party without a girlfriend again and pretty much everyone you know is in a relationship, getting married, having kids and you’re here dunking malted milk biscuits into Nutella, covered in crumbs wondering why you’re not a prized catch. It is time to look outwards and try to embrace the idea of being in a relationship, even if it is a tentative peak. Yet I’m held back by the terrifying thought of putting myself on the market again and certainly the terrifying thought of someone coming along who I really like, for me to decide to go for it, have a relationship, give it my all again for it to end…again.

So I kind of hope this year bring a relationship but I don’t want that over the current success I’m having in my career. I’ll take a career over a relationship right now unless someone changes that. I’m not picky, I’m just scared but if Tinder is anything to go by I’ll be waiting a long time before I need to be scared about a relationship!

Hope you enjoyed reading and if you’re a single and feel the same as me, don’t worry you’re not alone! Just remember the law of averages and chance means someone will come along eventually…I think 😉

Until next time!

Toe

My Facebook status’ of the year and what a story it tells of 2015

Every year I do a blog looking back at the previous twelve months and this year will be no exception. I have been very busy despite being off work over the Christmas holidays and so that big full review blog will come within the next few weeks. However, as a stop gap I’ve gone through my facebook to pull out some of the stories from the year. So here are some of my most liked Facebook status of the year and what a story it tells on my 2015!!

January

Falling on people

January started off in typical Tony fashion, by making a complete ass-hat out of myself. Those who follow me on social media will know how much I go on about Merseyrail, be it delays, cancellations or retelling a funny story of something that I’ve seen. Often in life I observe many stories around me however once in a while I become the main character and not by choice! I still have an immense sense of shame reliving this memory and the exchange when I saw this woman many months later was just as awkward as the first encounter! The day got even worse when I knocked coffee over another person. I should never have left the house that day!

A day of being an accidental Ass-hat

A day of being an accidental Ass-hat

A terrible commute home

I’ve been travelling on Merseyrail for many years and i’ve witnessed everything from fights between ex couples, a psychotic man in a Turkey hat mooing at people and i’ve even witnessed a fat woman running away from the ticket inspectors but getting stuck in the aisle between the seats. I’ve seen it all. One thing I never expected nor ever wished to witness was a suicide on the train. This was probably one of the lowest points of the year. If I was in the middle of the carriage it wouldn’t have been as bad, I would have felt disconnected from it all. Sadly I had my back right up to the drivers cab. The noise of her poor scream and the feel of body being obliterated by a train moving at 70mph still haunts me. The moment, the image, the feeling all flood back every time I travel through Capenhurst station. Everytime the train runs through there I physically tense up expecting to feel the ferocious thud. Having to then sit in the pitch black for two hours due to the power being cut and being trapped while you can see bits of body stuff on the windows was far from pleasant. I really appreciated everyones texts and messages trying to keep my mind occupied. It saddens me more that  it was a suicide and he was only 16 years of age. I also felt really sorry for the driver, she had no chance to avoid or brake in time. I really didn’t want to step foot back on a train and it took me two days to pluck up the courage to get back on one, but it life moves on.

Sad day on Merseyrail

Sad day on the train home

February

Feb not a great deal happened but I did enjoy my mum and her twin, my uncle Mikes 50th birthday meal. Which according to my Facebook I clearly enjoyed all the meat served at a brilliant Brazilian steak house. For Feb however I chose to highlight my first academic conference. By this point I’ was three months into my new job as a research assistant and I was still very much finding my feet. My boss couldn’t make it and sent me along as his research assistant to take notes for him. Like all good academics and certainly as a student I perfected the art of looking like I know what was going on. The following status summed up my very fish out of water conference. My mind was certainly challenged as although this came under my remit of community energy/sustainability research, some of the level of detail made me wish I didn’t have a masters in Sustainability and Business but a Masters in Electrical engineering!

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Fish out of water

A silverlining however was the day after on my way to work to pass over and debrief my Professor on the days events I witnessed a real highlight on 2015. It deserves to be on an endless repeating cycle!

Feb2

Have you had a slip, trip or fall at work?

March

By time I got to March I already thought i’d have enough stories to last a year. How wrong was I! This story still has me in tears laughing because I still cannot believe it happened to me! I mean who the hell gets run over by a mobility scooter!? That’s right me, I do. It was the look in her eye of complete disregard for anything but her Bingo! Her lack of remorse for her hit and run felt like I was in a weird GTA game. Crazy bitch! I was in my own little world too until that was shattered along with my right leg!

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A OAP hit and run

March continued when I graduated with my MSc in Sustainability for Community and Business and it was great to spend the day with my fellow classmates, my family and Chloe. It was touch and go as to whether I could afford to do the masters but family chipped in, believed in me and their continued support throughout and from my friends, made finishing with a merit a real honour. As proud as I was of myself, I was more proud for them as their investment in me paid off and they never stopped believing in me,even when I didn’t believe in myself. After a night I went home to continue the celebrations in the most Tony way like possible.

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Master of Science

April

April was quite a quiet month but for the 6th year running i’ve won the Grand National! Still amazed when I won at 100/1 a few years ago but I won again in 2015. My avgeek roots never let me down! All the more weird was seeing a horseshoe in the bottom of my cup an hour before the race!

April

Avgeek horse for the win

May

May was my Birthday, the three queens event, EUROVISION!!!! and sadly the general elections. Real shame the Tories didn’t get a Eurovision nill points. It was warm but not hot and my yearly rant about people with tops off came out again and a weird dream. Oh and a very very rare thing of me breaking a social norm but as I suspected the UK will go to shit with Tory rule (for which I was correct) I exercised my right to protest and commit anarchy in the most mundane Tony like way. THUG LIFE. Yes that is sarcasm. Yes I did feel guilty and found it hard to sleep that night…

May1

No more cheese before bedtime

May2

Suns out guns out

June

June was a really hot month for us in the UK and it felt uncomfortable for everyone. After a long hot sweaty day the last thing I needed was a two hour delay on my commute home. After holding back endless abusive tweets and status updates their announcements made me angry. When I get angry I get sarcastic, but seriously if brooms actually flew that’d be so much easier!

June

Alternative transport with a side order of truth

July

I spent most of July in work, at airshows, cycling and enjoying life. Even when my hands blew up to triple the size after clearing nettles by hand from a welsh river for eight hours (don’t ask, long story. Just another day in the life of a research assistant!). However I finally got my contract renewed for another year and what an exciting opportunity I was given! I tried not to squeal with delight while I got the final confirmation via email while having tea at a harvester. Love my job I really do! 😀

July

Over the moon!

So after relief of being kept on and having my contract renewed I was feeling pretty happy with life. Students had left for the summer and my research was well and truly underway. However like all moments in my life just when you think the world is on your side, it throws you a challenge…one I failed! Miserably.

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Mancard lost.

 

August

I was well into my research in work but it also gave me some down time to write up my own personal research on carbon offsetting of the aviation industry. Like all good researchers we access a lot of information from different sources but for the life of me could I find this one little thing. I turned to the power of social media and it came up with the goods! It turns out an old classmate from high school had written about them for one of her assignments during her masters course, such a life saver. The actual spinny thing is about two sentences in my journal article but it needed to be in there!

Aug

Researching at its best!

of course August carried on with more merseyrail rants. Every day this chav couple would get on the train and argue or just generally be a twat. I was so annoyed with them! So very british I facebooked it and tutted in a disapproval at them without uttering a word…

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MC-UNT

and it continued with what has to be the weirdest conversation i’ve ever heard on the train and trust me there has been a fair few!

Aug3

Errrm yeah…that happened

but I also spoke of the unspoken in August. I was glad to know I wasn’t the only one who did this.

Aug4-1

Henry sucks, it’s his job!

September

Here I am fully established in my job as a lead research assistant writing about research loafs. Goddammit! Loads damn you!

Sep-1

loafs

September marked the fact that I had now been single for three years (I know. With all these stories and poor writing skills you’d think i’d be a good catch right? I mean I am confused as to why i’m still single! Yes sarcasm) and people were reminding me by telling me I was picky. That day I had eight people tell me so I decided to set them straight. I mean seeeeriously you guys i’m not asking for much here 😉

Sep1-1

Perfect woman

Also I continue to mess up in life in both a professional and a social environment…

Sep3

Fake it till you make it

October

October continued where September left off. Making a complete twat of myself…AGAIN! Made it worse I tweeted a few Taylor Swift videos and my love for her…to all staff and students. Yep. Just another day in the life of Tony.

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Why always me!?

If I were a Jedi Yoda would say “Ineptitude is strong with this one”

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Kill me now.

but the best thing I have witnessed all year award goes to this! Seriously if there wasn’t hidden cameras i’ll be amazed because it was comedy sketch show gold! Unbelievable yet amazing! My drink nearly came out of my nose just thinking of It hahaha.

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My moment of 2015

November

The day my personal research came back to haunt me…well I thought it would it actually turned out to be a pleasant experience!

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Cliffe, Tony Cliffe, Licence to fuck up.

It seems this status obviously a lot agreed with!

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Unexpected Item in the bagging area

December

As always failing at life continued into the festive season. My knee is still sore and I still think my jeans are wet.

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Taking it like a man

but thanks for reading this blog looking back at some of my most liked statuses of the year. They certainly outline what a story 2015 was and now often I mess up in this life! I shall leave you with this, I hope you all had a great 2015 and have an even better 2016!
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Let me know what your favourite one from 2015 was in the comments!

 

Ireland Trip Part 2:Change of views, family and coastal walks

After a good night’s sleep in a bedroom that has barely changed in all the time I’ve been coming here, I felt refreshed and ready for the day ahead. Nan’s full Irish breakfast is always a good way to start the day. My Grandad often says I should come over more often as it’s the only time Nan will make his breakfast for him! There is something about Irish White pudding that just goes so incredibly well with bacon in a sandwich. Delicious!

However today was not about me revelling in the delights of Irish cooking (to which there are many delights I assure you!) today was about spending some quality time with my grandparents. Let’s not pull any punches here, they’re getting old. They’re into their 80’s now, not long had some major back surgery and the recovery hasn’t been as quick as they’d hoped. They’re both in pain and it’s showing and one of the reasons I make the effort to come over a couple of times a year is because I know I have much less visits left on the cards than I used to have. I want to make the most of my time with them while I can. Many people are very fortunate to pop down to their grandparents every week. I never got that luxury. Not when they live in another country. So your relationship consists of phone calls and then short visits. So I’m always mindful to maximise my time with them, share my life with them as much as they share theirs with me. I love all of their stories, they’ve visited over 40 countries, they’ve seen the world, and they offer great support and advice.

Even though I’ve heard some of the stories a billion times I still sit and listen as something new always comes up, another layer to the story that wasn’t there before. I’m still fascinated by my grandad’s stories of the war. Despite thinking that watching Spitfires dogfighting over Liverpool with German Me109’s with stray bullets flying around you while you watch is awesome in your head. They very much come across as quite terrifying and his stories of his service for the army in Jungle warfare are as exciting, scary and detailed as the best action thriller. The Gurkhas he is forever in debt for, for their protection in the jungle.

So today, with them both not as active as they once were due to their backs, it was nice to be invited along to the “men’s shed” with my grandad. It’s a new initiative in the village, where retired men can get together to build things, have a place to chat and meet up. I think it’s a wonderful idea and to come along to such a place was very rewarding. The amount of knowledge and expertise in the room is amazing and despite all being later on in life, in their eyes they’re teenagers. I found it very funny too, as typical Irish some of the things they would come out with deserves a blog in its own right! It did feel like I was in an episode of Father Ted! Yes I was every five minutes asked would I like more tea…

One thing I took away from that visit to the men’s shed was a young man called Aaron. He was only a few years older than me, at a push, has learning difficulties, not much family around, some say he was in an accident as a child, others say he was born with it. The men’s shed invited him in as one of their own, to be a friend to him and give him a place to fit in. The men’s shed were given the task this winter of building the crib for the local church and on the day that I visited they were planning how to make it and what it would look like. Aaron was instantly, and I could see it in his face, pride beaming away, instantly took me through all of their plans. He took me on a tour of the facilities, took me on a tour around the Church, explaining in very accurate details how he pictured this crib would play out from his ideas in his head, to how they would look in real life. There was a real pride from him in the way he spoke about the project and the men’s shed. Almost akin to an artist pitching his ideas to prospective buyers. To me, when I arrived it was just a meeting place for older dudes to hang out and to build a crib for the church for Christmas. Nothing mind-blowing, at least not to me. Yet, this project and place was this guys home, he felt for once like he has responsibility, for once people here treated him as an equal. He has learning difficulties but it doesn’t make him any less of a human than anyone else. Why people think that is beyond me. He told me with such pride how he had finally been given a job “washing the big pans” in a local takeaway. His smile was a wide as the river Liffy. For me because I’m a dick wouldn’t even bother myself to do that, at a push I certainly wouldn’t be smiling about it. For him it was as if he had won the lottery.

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Me and Aaron. Very proud of the Men’s shed.

It amazed me, it humbled me and I went away that night lying awake in bed and had to re-evaluate my outlook on things. To not take things for granted and to be grateful for the little things. His passion he showed I can only describe as a child before Christmas or me when I talk about my research or cycling. That’s almost frowned upon in everyday life now. It’s a real shame, I think we can all go back to being enthused by the little things. With a very firm handshake and thank you from him to me for showing me around (despite me repeatedly telling him it is me who is thanking him for the tour! Again that struck a cord with me. He was so thankful for someone listening to him to give him the time of day. That to him should be the norm, not a rare gift) I left with my grandad after a few more hours with the guys there having spent a lovely day with my grandad and his friends. I may have left one mark on the project and that was my suggestion of using modelling artificial grass for the roof of the crib. Something they hadn’t thought of, so it is nice to know a little piece of Tony Cliffe’s idea is a part of the Men’s Shed 2015 Ashbourne church Christmas crib!

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The cribs outline and instructions

 

I was very touched by the day’s events and some very enlightening conversations and stories with my grandparents and before long it was 11pm and it was time for bed.

The next day I woke up with both my grandparents still asleep. The snores from both of them rattling through the wall of my bedroom as if a jackhammer was digging up the road outside. I elected to skip a shower that morning. A, as I didn’t want to wake them and B. climbing up a very large hill I was going to get pretty smelly anyway!

After Jam on toast I waiting for my Aunt Susan and Uncle Dave to come pick me up. I was really looking forward to today for a few reasons. Howth head, is a stunningly beautiful place in Ireland and the pictures throughout this blog will show that. I’m a Geographer, I love nature and the outdoors and walking in those environments is very recharging for the soul. Especially after a very stressful and busy few months in work it’s nice to cut yourself off from the busy world of deadlines and emails and just drink in nature’s beauty. More than that, I was really looking forward to spending a quality day with my Aunt and Uncle. Something I don’t think I’ve ever had a day on my own with them, I’m either with family or over with my dad, so to just spend a day with the two of them was really really nice!

 

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Stunning Howth head © Anthony Cliffe

 

Susan and Dave have the best sense of humour, extremely down to earth and are two people who work incredibly hard and have their heads screwed on. So despite the amazing scenery, it was really nice to spend a day getting closer to them both and laughing an awful lot! To have two locals as a tour guide on this walk was invaluable and I just about kept up with the pair!  Howth head is a stunning place and a brilliant walk if you ever get the chance. From sweeping Cliffs that drop into a deep emerald waters of the Irish Sea, to dense and colourful forests that suddenly give way to shimmering marbled outcrops that overlook the city of Dublin and the bay, to the popping greens of the fields. It’s amazing! A Geographer and a photographers dream.

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Amazing scenery © Anthony Cliffe

 

Even the typical Irish weather couldn’t dampen the spirits and made it feel even more like an adventure and blimey it was some walk! Close to 10 miles we walked and up some bloody steep climbs and some scary cliff walks! I loved it. I’ve been going to Ireland for many many years and I have to say that day was right up there with the best.

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©Anthony Cliffe

 

 

Just when I think the day couldn’t get any more awesome they took me to the quirkiest pub I have ever been to for tea and soup after the walk. It’s almost impossible to describe it. In fact I can’t! It’s called the Dog House and well you could be a traveller anywhere in the world when you were in there. Such a cool place!

I finished the day off with my nans famous Steak and Guinness pie. What more can you ask for!?

My final full day was spent driving through horrendous weather to head up to the boarder of Northern Ireland to see my great Aunt Essie. I always muse to myself at all of the glacial features there, so many drumlins! It’s only then that i realise how much being a Geography academic turns you into a nerd but ah well, I digress! She’s my Dad’s favourite Aunt and he would spend all of his summers on the farm with them all. In fact the Grays have been on that plot of land for hundreds of years. I love going “up country” because it really is like going back in time. SO remote and I mean remote! It was only a few years ago they stopped washing in the well because well (pardon the pun) modern civilisation just didn’t reach this part of the world. It still amazes me how basic it is there in a developed country. Crazy. It was the first time back since my great Uncle Tommy died. I wrote a blog about him when he did pass and it still felt like his presence was in the house, I certainly couldn’t sit in his chair where he always would sit.  As we backed out of the driveway after a few hours with her, I could picture in my mind Tommy backing us out, with that full head of hair and rosy cheeks, puffing away on his pipe or cigarette and waving like he always has done. My dad has recently come back from Ireland and it was nice to know he thought the same as he was backing out of the driveway too. The biggest thing about those who live there is they haven’t been corrupted by the modern world or celeb culture. They’re just real down to earth genuine people who cook THE BEST food around. Seriously if you want home, traditional cooking, where everything you eat has been grown within sight. That is the place to go. Still makes me laugh of the story when they said to my dad, “Fancy some chicken tonight?”
“Yeah sure”
“Okay, pick one”…You can’t get much fresher than that! Despite on that trip eating my own body weight in potatoes at every meal, Irish spuds are the best.

How long they have left there I don’t know? What will happen to the site that my family have been on for hundreds of years now there is no one really to take it on and up keep it? I don’t know and it’s a worry. The house that has been there for centuries is falling down, the forest was sold off, and farming in rural Ireland doesn’t support those who worked it for years anymore. I’m a proud family man and to see such heritage be lost is quite sobering. In the future i want to hopefully take a partner and our kids there one day and say, “Look part of your family grew up here, your granddad spent his summers here and so did I”. I want them to be apart of that and not look at a new estate or a pile of rubble. I genuinely fear i’ll never get to share that. Sadly modern day life has arrived and it has hit hard. Each time I come here I notice new builds of the rich city folk who’ve built mansions and large second homes on the surrounding land. Sure, the roads are still full of cattle and tractors who think they’re on a race track but there are more and more cars, more and higher end cars at that, appearing. It’s a real shame. That one place that was untouched by modern life is sadly dying away with each passing of those who live there.

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View from her garden © Anthony Cliffe

 

Despite that being quite a sobering thought it is one of positive, at least for me this trip was. It was a trip were I could switch off and spend some quality time with family. To reconnect with the simplistic beauty of nature and to remember a life outside of social media and my smartphone. Strengthening bonds between family members is important and above all cherishing those moments you have with them. Although I hope they all have many years left in them and I’m sure they will have, you do have that horrible thought in your head that as you step on the plane and you whisper goodbye to Ireland for a few months as you climb into the clouds back home. Is that the last time you’ll see them? Despite how sad that is, it makes those memories and the moments even more special and I hope I have many many more memories and moments to share with them. Especially my grandparents who have supported me through everything and without them I certainly wouldn’t be in the position I am in today.

I’m back over in a couple of months where I’ll start a brilliant solo adventure to Canada. To see family in Toronto and then to travel right across the country to see Robbie my cousin, one of my best friends growing up and when he moved out to Canada from Ireland a few years ago I’ve been dying to go see him, Nicky, Luke and now baby Oliver. Yes I am so jealous he lives there! I’ll get over there one time but for now a week and a bit will have to do!

So remember always cherish time with family and go visit Ireland! You won’t regret it! Please click on the thumbnails below for full size images of some of the shots I took on this trip! Please comment too if you want to 🙂

Until next time.

Toe

 

How family have shaped who i am today.

So it’s been a long time since I’ve wrote a blog and it was not so long ago while waiting on the platform for another cancelled train, that I went back and read some of my old blogs. One that caught my eye was the one how female friends had shaped who I am. I still enjoy reading that but it also makes me appreciate how things in life change so quickly. That was around two to three years ago that I wrote that and in that time, even that’s changed!

I remember saying to myself that I should do a series of blogs about how people have shaped who I am today, life however got in the way and I never got the time to do it. Best friends and certainly female best friends both old and new; do continue to be one of my biggest influences. There is nevertheless one of the biggest and constant influences of support and love and that is family.

Most people will be adamant that their family is the best. I have to disagree! I firmly believe that I come from the best family around, at least I’m yet to meet one as crazy, as loyal, as supportive as my one to prove me wrong. I don’t say this lightly either, after years of having the piss taking out of me by family and no more so than my wonderful cousins (I think it’s called character building? In a supportive manner I suspect. DEBBIEEEE! Need I say more?) I’m more qualified than most to comment on my family.

I’m not a straight forward person, not by any stretch of the imagination. I say that because even from day 0 I was complicated. I’m pretty sure my family knew that I would be a little different. So much so that I had my umbilical cord wrapped around my feet, neck  and tied into a giant knot (in fact, once the doctors stopped laughing after they saved me, my umbilical cord is still in storage in Liverpool hospital as evidence as how huge  a knot can be in an umbilical cord, seriously!). Like I said, complicated.

Most children, their first words they hear is the relief and joy of their mothers after giving birth to a beautiful baby. By beautiful, I mean subjective beauty here, no new born is beautiful. They’re disgusting! They look like a wrinkly new potato, all covered in a light Jus of amniotic sack fluid, not beautiful at all! My delicate little ears heard these words instead.

Mum: *Gasps* Midwife: *Sharp in-take of breath* Mum: “OH MY GOD! What is it!? I’ve given birth to an alien!”

Yep. “Given birth to an alien” is what my first words in this world were. As much as I do still complain about this I can’t say I blame my mother. After being starved of oxygen intermittently due to the umbilical cord situation, I was blue and apparently my legs where about 3 times the length of my torso and my fingers were really long. So a blue spindly creature all covered in sack fluid I can see how my mum thought I may well have been an alien!

Despite the traumatic and drama filled entrance into this world, if I was indeed an alien then the little Green Blue men that dropped me off certainly gave me a good home. It saddens me deeply when people don’t get on with their parents, in fact it frustrates me. Especially those who do it just because they want to, or to seem cool and edgy around their mates. Fuck that, there is nothing cooler than hanging out with your parents! I never went through that teenage phase of being a rebel against them or shutting them out. I actively did the opposite and I feel so much more connected to my parents than others I know. People forget that parents don’t get a manual to read, they don’t get to go to the school of parenting or get any help. They haven’t got a pissing clue how to be a parent when you’re nothing but a determined sperm and an accepting egg. Their plans and life have changed now that you’re on the way kiddo. Like it or not you’re now their number one priority and they will sacrifice so many many things for you to be you and to support you. People forget that as you’re growing up learning about yourself and facing all those different life challenges, so are your parents. While you’re too busy trying to grow up you forget that they’re growing older and that they never stop learning. They’re learning how to deal with you coming home from school upset because of a bully. They’re learning how to deal with you breaking up with someone and seeing you incredibly hurt. They’re learning how to support your grand dreams and make you the best you, you can be.

Parents don’t go to parenting school but if mine did, they’d be graduating with first class honours. I have two of the best parents I could ever ask for in this world. If I become a parent one day, if I am a tenth of the parents mine are, then my child will have one hell of a life. My Dad will always be a larger than life character, not only from his physical presence (Yeah Papa Santa!) but his intellect and caring compassionate nature. He goes to work every day to save people’s lives and he’s been a paramedic for 36 years. 36 years doing that! I am in awe. He’s my first best mate and he’ll always be my best friend. He has taught me so much in this life that there is just too much to mention. The amount of sacrifices and hard work that he does to have given me the opportunities in this life, I cannot thank enough.  Along with my mum, the holidays we’ve had all over North America have been outstanding memories I treasure forever. We’re not a well off family but we’re not poor and so many times people take that as life is easy. Fuck no. My parents are in bits today because they work their arses to the bone. Hard work is a quality that bleeds out of both of my parents. Every holiday, every penny spent on me, every memory was made possible by their shear hard work and determination. I am forever grateful for that because it’s always been about me and my sister and never them. Utterly selfless.

There are two distinct sides to me. My intellect, rational and logical side and then my more personal, creative, social side. I certainly get my creative side and my confidence to talk to people from my mother. My mum is an amazing artist and she’s great in a group. She’s always the laugh at a party and her life skills and advice are second to none. However annoying it is at times, your mum is always right…about everything! She’s fought in my corner so many times and she’s always encouraging me to do things and supporting my decisions.

She works on her hands and knees as an industrial cleaner in Jacobs for over 25 years. I’m terrified of manual work, she does one of the most demanding, dangerous and physical exhausting jobs there is! All so you can eat your club biscuits and crackers. Working in 60c ovens daily is no mean feat!

I have a brilliant relationship with my parents and I treasure every success and failure with them. It’s a journey but one we’ve shared together, through my personal highs and lows. Throughout all of that time they’ve always supported me, guided me but the thing I am most grateful for is they let me be me. They got that distance perfectly right. Close enough to guide and encourage but far enough away for me to discover who I am, to follow what I wanted to do and to thrive in this world. That, to me, is something I am forever grateful for. My parents are probably the biggest influence in my life. Who I am today could physically not happen without them. Their love and continued support has been amazing and I wouldn’t be where I am today without their sacrifices. I love you guys and thanks for making me who I am today. You’re not just my parents you’re some of my best friends too!

So I’ve grew up in a loving and supporting home and I’ve grew up with my sister who’s older by three years. I always find it a little creepy when brothers and sisters get on like best friends. Me and my sister are so incredibly different in many ways and more often than not growing up we’d be arguing or shouting at each other. But no sooner have we fought that we’d be playing a game together or doing something together. I don’t say it often enough but I do really appreciate my big sister. No matter how many times we clash heads, I’ll always be there for her and she is for me. She has so much potential and she has a brain that is much more clever than I am. She isn’t as driven as me to apply that potential but I think that’s because she doesn’t see that potential in herself like I do. Sometimes we clash heads because I get so frustrated over that. You can do it dude. But that’s enough niceness, I can feel myself feeling sick just by typing that. Eeee! Only joking 😉

Many people have their grandparents as their big influences and they are mine too. I never got a chance to know my grandparents from my mums side. They were long gone before I was old enough to meet them. I love all the stories and I so wish I could have met them. I certainly would have gotten on so well with my Nan by all accounts. My mum would often say I am so on her wavelength on so many things. Those stolen moments from time I never got to share but they’re still a part of me and I know they’re around somewhere looking down and I hope they’re proud of their grandson they never got to meet.

My Grandparents on my Dads side are now in their 80’s and they’re amazing! I do love them and unlike most people who get to pop round every Sunday to see theirs, I only get to see them max 3 or 4 times a year due to living in Ireland. Just like my parents they’ve given me so much love and support over the years and I cherish every moment with them. Without them I would not have been able to do my masters and be in the position I am now. They’re always believing in you and that’s bigger than anything in this world.

But finally, I cannot do a family blog without mentioning my cousins. I have so many great Aunties and Uncles in my family. They make this family what it is! I will do a blog dedicated to them all but my cousins were my first friends and my first best friends too. I genuinely believe to this day that I get on better with women because of them. Growing up with all girl cousins is like some sort of social experiment. They have even said this at times that they tried to teach me and mould me into the perfect man and boyfriend for someone one day! (Juries out on that one for now!). But there is some truth to it. I do have a great knack of reading women, to hear all those words that are unspoken, what to say and when to say it and just having a much more general understanding of their behaviours and thought processes. I learnt from a young age and all of this has continued to help as I’ve grown older. Being the youngest in the family and the only guy I’ve had plenty of years of being subjected to their ways! But I do enjoy it and they’ve always protected me. I do feel sorry for ex girlfriends who’ve been given the interrogation at family parties!

Like some sort of group we all have our distinct personalities and when we all meet up it’s like we’re all best friends and we have such a laugh. Katy is the oldest of the group and certainly is the most family orientated out of all of us. I see her as the mother hen. She’s always looking out for us, including us all in everything and making sure we’re all okay. She’s the first to have a child too to her brilliant husband Lee and it’s like the cycle is starting all over again (thank god I’ll be the last to have a kid!). Beth, her daughter and my little cousin is going to be such a character when she grows up! I can’t wait to see the new generation growing up together.

Jenny is next and I see her as the adventurer and explorer. She’s a real get up and go person. Throw an obstacle in her way? She’ll climb it. Give her a challenge to do, she’ll do it. I admire her courage if I’m honest. No challenge or obstacle is too big, she’ll find a way to make it work. She’s explored so many parts of the world and to take a job in Bangkok teaching and to make a life out of there on her own to begin with takes huge balls! Jen is definitely the adventurer of the group and I can learn a lot from her.

Lish is the free spirit of the group, the wild flower. Always the cool quirky one with her own distinct persona and identity. Who drives a Morris minor and lives on a canal boat these days? Yeah she does! Because she’s bad ass and doesn’t give a shit if you think that’s weird. I happen to think its frickin’ cool! She’s so laid back and chilled and has such a self-aware knowledge of herself that I think is amazing. How many times do you think about what someone else might think or get so het up about things? I learnt a lot from Lish that being different is better than being a sheep and there is so much win in just going with the flow and being confident with who you are.

Finally is Keggs, or should I prefix that name with crazy in front of it! She’s a nutter alright. I love all of my cousins very much and we all have great times together  but I do see Keggs as close to my wavelength as the others. She’s probably the most protective over me and our sense of humour is much more closely aligned too. I really enjoy pissing myself laughing whenever we catch up. So many random things happen in my life that is usually at the expense of myself and luckily it seems that Keggs has been dealt that shame gene too! We’re always swopping hilarious stories and I still laugh about looking like a Roman coin even now. She’s usually the one to subject taunts and pranks that usually happen to me in this family because Keggs has organised it or planned it or in most cases executed it against me! How many times have I had plates of cream thrown in my face, silly stringed to death and many other embarrassing things done to me because of her! She has however given me great advice over the years and I hope I’ve repaid some of that along the way too.

My cousins were my first friends and I feel as we’ve got older we’ve grown closer too, we’re always looking out for each other and supporting each other. Even though we don’t get to see each other as often as we’d like. Cousins are that perfect medium between friends and family. They’re in the centre of those two bubbles. If we were not in each other’s houses every week playing, then we were making igloos in the snow. If we weren’t doing that then they were unfortunately as much as I do try to repress those memories, I was their newest make up model. If that wasn’t happening then we’d be doing something crazy.

I am privileged to have had a brilliant childhood in a loving and caring home and family around me. Family have shown me what love is and how supportive it can be through the highs and lows. I love my family for all of their support, friendship, loyalty, advice and laughs over the years. From my immediate family to my cousins you’ve all shaped me into who I am today. Someone I hope you are proud to call one of your own. I certainly know that I am proud to be part of this family and proud to say I am related to you. Family is huge to me, it always has been and always will.

Things they never tell you about when starting a Masters Degree

So you’ve done your Undergrad Degree and you feel great. Then you realise you have no idea what to do with your life so you look around for a Post Graduate degree because it looks good and ‘you want a better job’. So you get some money and you go and sign up. So you expect the long hours and the hard work but people never tell you what Masters Degree level is really like and how it changes your life. So i’ll take you on a quick stop look at a masters through the eyes of me and my Environmental Sustainability Masters.

1. You spend most of your time explaining at least 15 times to family and friends what your degree is about and how it will benefit you in the future. “No we don’t just look at wind farms…”

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2. In your justification for getting yourself in more debt you state that “Those with a Post Grad degree earn up to £250,000 more than those with an undergrad one”. Yeah! We just fail to mention that, that £250,000 extra is spent paying off the interest on your student loans.

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And student finance and the bank are like you owe us…

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3. You state that research is vitally important and that you are not a student…oh no. You’re now an Academic. No seriously. I wish I could stay in research. Pay me someone to be a Doctor…but not that type of Doctor.

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4. You look down on those with just an Undergrad Degree. You get super angry when people moan about how hard their non degree in “photography” is and how their 5000 word dissertation is taking over their life. Try 25,000 words bitch!

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5. Hoping women will find you attractive when you explain your complex and difficult higher level qualification and how rich you’ll be in the future…

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However, in reality, it often ends like this…

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6. You’ll spend most of your degree not doing research but playing the game of “where is my lecturer and where the fuck is my two month over due feedback”. Yep that’s right despite paying the University over £500 a day, they use that money to take a holiday and refuse to give feedback in time before your degree ends.

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7. At one point you’ll question your life choices and will cry at how hard an assignment is and wish you were an undergrad again. There will also be that one guest lecturer who states that the job market is impossible and you’ll be in debt until you die.

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8. You pretend to like the subject and it’s not because it pays great to have a job in that sector. “Yeah polar bears I totally love them! I’m all for sustainable living…no that airmiles gold card isn’t mine I promise”.

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9. You’ll end your lectures feeling as if your brain has been removed, stood on and then kicked around by Ronaldo. But you’ll feel super clever and pumped to change the world until you go home and watch Netflix.

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10. What you really do for “researching”

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11. Forming a brilliant group of friends in your Masters Degree, because you’re all in the same boat. A boat that more often than not feels like the Costa Concordia. So they’re totally cool when you flip out over an assignment in class…

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Such mutual grasping at straws on trying to stay afloat at post grad level, you’ll all sit round a table and ask the age old question of…even though we’ve just done three years at Undergrad…

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12. However you Learn a load of new skills which are awesome but no one outside of your Masters Degree understands but looks good on your CV. “Yes I have a CPD certificate in Promap!”

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13. Your research actually has the real potential to make a difference! You tell employers how hard you worked and how your research helped saved the endangered gobo’s from Croc island.

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14. You realise that to succeed you need to master the art of ‘Winging’ absolutely everything because it seems like everyone and everything tries to make you fail.

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15. When you graduate you become a Master of Science.

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You use this term to refer to yourself and you refer to everyone else as peasants. Bow down to my superior intellect in a specific subject. Yeah…take that. You feel almost as Awesome as Pickard! “Errrm hello? Yes I’m a Master of Science…Yes Star Fleet Academy i’ll hold.”

bravoI’ll let you know what post-post grad life is after the 30th of September when my degree finishes. To all my fellow Post Grad students I know how you feel! Good luck! To everyone else, if you’re thinking of joining us Post Grad lot…good luck to!

 

One week in the driest place in Europe. Wish me luck…

I’ve always entertained the thought of myself as being an adventurer at heart. Well he’s hidden away somewhere. That statement will probably come as a surprise to many people who know me as the definition of stoic and unadventurous. It’s true, I mean it wasn’t until last year that I had my first Stir-fry and my version of being adventurous is not taking a bottle of water out with me (total badass I know). So although I’m usually unadventurous in the things I do and eat, from the age of 2 months old I was put on a plane and taken to another country. Thanks to my parents I grew up traveling long distances across the vast expanse of the Atlantic Ocean. It’s hard to not suppress the travel bug when you’ve explored the entire nation of Canada and most of the USA to date. I’m as close as I can be to a seasoned traveller to I guess.

For years I’ve always entertained places to go to, to satisfy my inner need for adventure. Once you fly a plane and the vast openness of the sky is before you, it’s impossible not to imagine just jumping in your plane and heading in one direction and seeing where you come out. Plus, I’ve always been fascinated by Indian Jones type stories and of course my generations version, Nathan Drake in the Uncharted series (Total dude!).  If I could be like anyone it would definitely be a mixture of Alex Rider and Nathan Drake. I guess I still have a long way to go 😛

Although my adventure is looming is not as exotic as say some hidden temple in the Middle East, for me it’s as close as it probably will be. Plus we all know it’s very rare that anything in my life goes to plan so god knows what will happen while I’m away! If someone told me to go to the driest place in Europe, in 28 degree heat and stay in a “shack” with little water and electricity with no bedding and forced to take my own sleeping bag. I’d have looked at them and used some choice words. However as its part of my Masters course, I have no choice.

To many I’m sure, this trip would be quite funny to follow me on a fly on the wall type documentary. It’s as far out of my comfort zone as I can probably place myself. The nearest city is 170 km away, nothing but desert and xerophyte shrubs, government solar instillations and mountain ranges in the way. I don’t particularly do well in heat. I sweat when it’s 13 degrees outside and I drink at least 2 litres of water a day just to stay hydrated. Drop me in 28 degrees and it’s like dropping an ice cube into boiling water. It doesn’t last very long. However after surviving 45 degree weather in Valencia last year (How lucky was I to be in Valencia on one of their hottest ever recorded days) I’m sure 28 for a week will be no problem at all. I’m usually a very placid person in nature; it takes a lot to get me wound up. That is until it gets hot. My poor friend Luke had to sit through a torrent of abuse in a Valencia square when I was adamamet that the cathedral was my way. Even funnier to him, I’m sure, when I started to kick shit out of my bike which got a puncture in 38 degree weather, 10 miles from anywhere. So I do hope that I don’t end up killing anyone while we do some core samples.

So that’s where I’m off to in a few days, the aptly and uninviting name, “The bad lands of Spain”. If anyone wants to know where I am Google Almeria and then travel 170km odd North East of there and somewhere in that mass of mountain ranges is where I’ll be staying.  Practically every Spaghetti western was filmed there, including the Dr Who episode a Town Called Mercy. For the week we’ll be looking at caves, we have special insight into numerous usually restricted government instillations in the desert such as the desalination plant, solar institute (used by NASA) and we get to go into one of the worlds most advanced biospheres were we all have to wear white suits so not to upset the atmosphere. It’s the driest place in Europe but all of your veg in UK winter comes from these biospheres. In fact NASA runs experiments in this place to simulate Mars conditions and how to grow crops there. It’s going to be a pretty fascinating and varied trip.

 At least now I can finally call myself a ‘proper Geographer’ in the eyes of some. Although my degree was a BSc in Geography, I chose mostly Human topics, with a few physical ones to, to earn myself a bachelor of science instead of art, because that sounds gay. For those of you who are unaware of the differences between a human and a physical geographer, let me explain. A physical Geographer is the rugged explorer, the ones who marvel and excel in the outdoors, will climb mountains to count Lichen and marvel at rock formations. A human geographer is the type to excel in SPSS, questionnaires and sit in Café’s eating cakes and making said questionnaire responses up. The reason for this, is in final year, was the last time I went on a ‘Physical’ trip in second year I ended up falling face first down a scree slope, smashing my thigh into a boulder and smashing my Blackberry into tiny pieces. I much preferred getting abuse from the residents of Liverpool airport handing out questionnaires for my dissertation, while others were doing core samples in some windswept area of the country. I suppose at heart I’ve always been a Hybrid Geographer, if you can call it that. Dabbling in both sides of the Geographical Hemisphere.

Now I get to dust off the walking boots, throw some combats on, a lot of Kaki and become a physical geographer for the week.  There are many reasons I’m looking forward to this trip tho. First and foremost, I finally get on a trip that is outside of the country! In my undergrad years, Physical, Natural Hazards and IDS students went to different countries were my only option of abroad fieldwork was an optional trip to New York which I couldn’t afford! So the most exotic place I ever went to was Slapton in first year. Although I’m not knocking Slapton because I don’t think any trip will ever beat Slapton!

That leads me onto number 2. When you go on field work, especially residential fieldwork trips you usually form a really close bond with people you’re working with. I first experienced such a bond in Year 12 when I and my fellow small biology class were subjected to 5 days of torture in the form of Lichen forms 1-5 and the non-stop Commandant Day. Although fieldwork is meant to strike up partnerships, team work etc. through completing tasks, on that field trip to the Lakes we were brought together through the mutual hatred and exhaustion. But it was a brilliant trip, I’m still incredibly proud to be the champion tosser to! I wish we came up with a better name for that game!

When I went to London with A2 Astrophysics and Quantum Mechanics class that bond continued, especially as I’m sure if I saw any of them again in a few years they’ll still mention “I’m just putting it out there” :p.

And of course, when I went to uni, Slapton came about. I know, I know I still haven’t finished those blogs but it was too epic to cram everything into a blog. I’ve honestly never gone to a place and came back a changed man. I met and formed so many close ties and friendships in that place. Literally the people there and they know who they are became some of my best friends and they still make me laugh the crazy bunch. Susan Grace and the Candy Man Is all I have to say. I miss you guys!!

The final thing is it’s going to be one hell of an adventure, in a very harsh landscape, on the go all the time. It’s going to be a big personal achievement to complete the week and I’m sure I’ll have many stories to tell. It’s a brutal and harsh environment but that also makes it incredibly beautiful. I can’t wait to see the stars, untouched native lands, no tourism for over 175km around, I really will be in the middle of nowhere. I hear this place is one of the best places to see stars due to no light pollution for hundreds of miles around, so the astronomer in me cannot wait to see them.

I can’t wait to capture everything on my camera and share the experience with you guys when I get back. It’s going to be fun I’m sure. I’m nervous as hell but excitement is starting to creep in now that I’m just over 14 hours until I depart on my 30 hour journey by Planes, train and Automobiles. I hear the UK weather this week is a bit naff, 28 degrees and sun every day I’ll be in. Nice!

So tomorrow I head to London, then onto Madrid, then onto Almeria and then an hour’s drive over dirt tracks and mountain passes to the field base at Urra. Which is an old abandoned farm house. So sleeping in sleeping bags all week with a lovely selection of snakes to keep us company!

So here I go off on an adventure, it’s an adventure unlike any I’ve ever done before and it’s time to earn that Geography card.  

So hopefully I’ll survive.

If not someone finish off my novel please!

Until next time, I hope you all have a good week and I’ll see you next Tuesday!

Love Tony

xx

An honest look back at an odd summer but the summer i found myself again :)

I haven’t had much to blog about lately, but as I’m in bed writing this with the cat on my feet acting as a very handy pair of furry slippers, the wall mounted thermometer telling me its 15 degrees in my room. It means summer is over and autumn has arrived. Sadly. So I plan on looking back on an odd summer if I’m honest, it’s been unlike any I’ve ever had if truth be told, however I have a very honest stance on things from the past few months and it’s only now that this summer I’ve been able to really put things to bed and believe again. I feel the best I’ve ever felt within myself for months because of it to!

So before I do,  it looks like it’s time to look forward to the long nights, the jumpers, the crackling fires, the brilliant star gazing opportunities and well that’s about it. Oh and having an excuse to drink hot strawberry juice which tastes immense! I hate autumn however, always have. It’s as far opposite my favourite season of spring as you can get. In Spring I love how everything is that much crisper and sharper. I love nature and have always found peace and beauty in it, so spring to me is awesome. It gets warmer, the skies bluer, that freshly cut grass is greener and the colours of the flowers and trees are quite simply amazing. Spring has an energy about it, as if nature is waking up with a big old yawn and stretch. Full of promise and adventure for the summer months. Autumn however is cold, usually grey and wet, dark and dull. Many people love when the leaves turn a brilliant shade of orange. I just find this sad. It’s like the tree tries it’s best to cling onto life, even though it knows the inevitable of what will happen. I can almost imagine the fanfare and the big song as the big old oak tree bows out into the recesses of its deep sleep for another few months. Battening down the hatches for another harsh winter ahead.

Plus the fact that you know there is always that one arse-hole dog owner who lets their dog shit in the pile of leaves. Yeah we’ve all done it! Gone to volley a wedge of leaves because, let’s face it, it is fun…it is until you realise that leaf is a bit soft.

I just hate everything about autumn if I’m honest. I suppose though, as the nights draw in and it gets dark I get to write more things. Like now it’s 22.04 on the clock. I write way more creatively after sunset. Same goes for my novels, I tend to write after dark and edit in the day. It seems like as soon as the sun goes down my creativity increases. Maybe it’s some biological Author trait who knows?

Oh and I guess one other good thing about autumn is earning the man card. When every other cyclist and weekend warrior is hanging up the bib shorts and cleats for the winter, scurrying indoors for the turbo trainer or the gym. Me, well it’s time to dust off the thermal tights, the overshoes, the thermal jacket and the gloves and tackle the winter rides. There really isn’t a better feeling than on a crisp cold clear morning, cycling to the top of Clieves hill in 2 degree weather, tinkering on the brink of hypothermia but feeling absolutely awesome. When everyone else sits inside nice and warm and lazy, you’re out there being awesome! In fact me and my training partner Shaun have a 7 am 30 mile ride planned for Monday, forecasted weather windy at 8 degrees. Bring it on!

So, anyway, this summer, that’s what this blog is here for right. Well as I said, it’s been an odd one. In fact I’m not entirely sure where I would rate it as it’s unlike any before, a lot of soul searching and accepting things was done. It’s not been a classic by any means. It hasn’t been great but it’s not been a disgrace either. Any summer has to go a long way to beat the ones as a kid. Week long water fights between the boys and girls. I mean, honestly it was immense! In fact, next blog I think I’ll do it on just that. Because it really was like lord of the flies or if only children were in charge of warfare, that’s what it was like. Us boys designed and modified weaponry and tactics. Built mounts for our water guns so we could fire them from our bikes, in and out precision strikes on the enemy base. At the height of the war we built a go  (the X-22!) and retrofitted it with a water bomb holder, not to mention my old friend Shaun’s water mounted bag pack super soaker! Of course the girls turned to chemical warfare and dirty tactics. Placing washing up liquid in their bombs and water guns, screaming at high pitch and using their lady charms to fool us. As me and Vixs had a thing, we would meet up in the neutral zone when no one was looking, she’d pass us information about the next attack. Thinking back, that was awesome hahah. AH geez. I’d do anything for another day back in those summers. In fact, on a long lazy midnight walk home with my wingman Cal the other night, we were talking about those water fights. We took a trip around the places we used to go and how nothing had changed. Some brilliant memories. Plus we shared a laugh about how obviously back in the day the girls were the enemy and that was it. They were there to be “soaked and destroyed”. What we found funny the most was that clearly a shit load of wet t-shirts on the girls didn’t register one bit as a kid. If that happened now, with us all the age we are now, I guarantee the girls would win hands down. Only because all us guys would be gorping at see through white t-shirts.  Does anyone not miss the black and white innocence of a child? I do sometimes!

One summer did beat all of that tho and that was 2010. It had everything, epic holidays, really new experiences and first times for a few things, it had controversy, romance, drama, heartbreak. It had it all. Maybe that’s why this summer has seemed so odd; it’s been relatively drama free. Which is new to me, it really is. If I’m not dealing with other people’s drama then crazy stuff is happening to me. I really do subscribe to the fact that I think I have my own TV show in a parallel universe. I’d say Eastenders meets the inbetweeners would probably cover my life. I do have some brilliant soap opera plot lines that have happened to me.

The only real drama this summer was losing one of my best friends, over well…I’m not entirely sure. So that’s really sucked this summer. Sometimes when enough is enough it is time to walk away from someone who pushes you away and no matter how loyal you are to a person, everyone has their limit. I was pushed over mine. But as the dust has settled, you think things over and could have dealt with x,y and z better and against other peoples advice, if you’re reading this, I’d like to offer a public olive branch, if you’d do the same. Having our pride and stubbornness stand between our long and unique friendship would be a shame, I’m willing to swallow mine. I’m willing to try again if you are; you know where I am anyway dear, if you want to open up the dialogue again…

So while I’m still hopeful that that plot line will be resolved, in a happy manner (I hope), the summer has been drama free and so to for my friends. Which is brilliant! I really cannot stress enough how my close circle of friends, when happy and are in harmony, really make me happy and happy is exactly what I’ve been at the end of this summer, for to be brutally honest, a long long time.

You know I’m always brutally honest with these blogs and how I feel so I might as well be totally to the core with this. Many people who break up will go off with someone straight away to heal a broken heart and will act as if they’re better without that person and all that kind of crap to make them jealous or as if to prove some sort of point. That’s never been in my DNA. I don’t see the point in bullshitting anyone. If they walked out on your life it’s their loss, you don’t need to act like you’re fine if you’re not.  Last year, I was on top of the world and many people close to me will know I was happy. I’ve always had a strong base of family and friends in my life but for years I lacked that one thing I wanted more than ever and that was a girl who shared with me my life, my ups and downs and shared my dreams. As a Taurus I hate change and as a Taurus I always give 100% to everything and I always put my heart into everything. Everything is an investment with me. If I invest in you, it’s an all in investment with my mind, body and soul. I don’t do things half arsed. Hence why this year saying to my best friend in an heated argument that I’ve given up on them and I’m walking away hurt me more than it would have hurt them I’m sure.  That’s why I want to make a mends because I’ve invested so much in them, it feels wrong to back out. I pride myself on being a top friend. I failed.

So last September when the rug was pulled out from under my feet without any warning, it’s safe to say I felt pretty shitty and for a long time. Of course one bad thing leads to another and then another and you just get to the point of ah fuck it. For many months, I forced smiles, battled with myself day in and out. You see if I lose a friend or a love in that case I will always look inwards at myself before I blame anyone else. However reassuring it is to hear people say it’s her loss and all this I always look in on myself. There is no harsher critic than myself. I’m never truly satisfied with my work, there is always room for improvement.

So for months I ran scenario after scenario in my head. What did I do wrong? What could I have done? Going from always relying on myself assurance, in myself and my character I found It difficult to now be questioning myself. I lacked self-confidence and that “swagger” that I apparently have when all is well (a few people have refered to this but I don’t know what that is!? I don’t think I walk with a swag, or maybe its my aura I don’t know!) but either way it was missing. Not that anyone would know because I have a good control over my emotions. People knew I didn’t take the break up particularly well but to them I was just working through it and was fine.

So that confusion turns to anger and then bitterness. I swore to myself I wouldn’t let the bitterness consume me like it did with Laura, although I think many would agree it was justified in that case. So yeah a few deep breaths were needed to remember not to go there again. Things didn’t start to turn around until the BCUR conference.

For months I was keeping my head down just ploughing on with things, pushing things to the back of my mind. My friends had problems I’d go help them like I always do, if work needed to be done I’d do it, that hint on anger making my work that little bit better. So I came to the BCUR conference, having to speak in front of 1000 people about my research. 1000 people. The person I was when I was about to stand up in front of all those people in Plymouth  was a far cry away from the Tony who was comfortable in himself and was riding a wave of inner confidence for when I last done public speaking which was my leavers speech in Year 13. Now I had to stand in front of all these people, for 15 minutes talking about resident’s perceptions of aircraft noise surrounding an airport to academics, biologists, theologists and none of them interested in aviation. It was an impossible task I thought to myself. All these people are going to laugh at you dude, you’re shit, and your work is shit.

It was the morning of the conference as we sat over breakfast; I couldn’t hardly stomach it over the nerves and fear of the presentation. As we took the long walk to the uni, my very good friend Chloe pulled me back behind the group and said “Go prove her wrong, do yourself proud, do us proud. We believe in you” and those words. Believe in you. Is exactly what I needed to hear. When the break up happened it was as good as saying I don’t believe in you anymore and therefore I didn’t believe in myself, as I beat myself up i lost confidence in myself. If someone loses confidence in you then how can you possibly be confident in yourself I stated to myself.

So as I nervously cleared my throat to speak, looking at all the eyes looking at me, I felt that good old familiar fire ignite back in my stomach. That old cockiness, that selfbelief that had been missing for ages.  I spoke with confidence, that ego thing was back. Striving on being the one in control and having everyone’s attention in the room. I finished that presentation to a rapturous applause, loads of really good questions and people even coming up to me in the after party congratulating me and saying how interesting my research was, was awesome. BCUR was the start of a long recovery journey to where I am today. Of course I couldn’t deal with things in my head as we had work, then finals to revise for etc. I got a first for my dissertation, passed my degree with a 2:1 but I just didn’t feel happy with those achievements still. I was still unhappy, all those months after, it was as if everything was tarred with that brush. It wasn’t until the summer when I had time to think things over and really look at things in detail. I guess I didn’t want to face up to some of my own failures. But I looked at things and well, bar a few minor things, I honestly don’t see what I could have had changed. For my next relationship whenever or whoever that maybe with I don’t think I’ll change much from my approach. I feel I ticked most boxes of what a perfect boyfriend should be like and ey maybe it is cockiness here but I’d go as far as saying I was a damn good boyfriend! “Well why did she leave then” I hear you muse. Well my answer to that is … people change, people fall out of love I guess and that’s life and well her loss in my eyes. Who doesn’t want to date a spongeheaded, egocentric, Merseyrail bashing, aviation obsessed cyclist with permanently cold hands, an addiction to mint imperials and a misplaced self confidence in his own novels?

I don’t see why I beat myself up for so many months over it. Maybe it was the lack of self-confidence that was talking, I don’t know? But now I’ve had the summer to accept things, heal, spend some absolutely quality time with my best friends, Talbot, Emma, Shaun and Cal I come into this autumn fully refreshed, confident and well that “swag” is back bitches.

Maybe you’re reading this and you’re thinking well I wouldn’t want my ex to know she hurt me that much. Why not just pretend that you’re fine and get on with it like everyone else does. Well like I said that’s not me and why the hell would I want to be “like everyone else?” boring much? When you’re in the position I am, when you’re completely true to yourself, have dealt with all those niggling gremlins, when you’re truly happy in yourself again and love yourself again. It’s a brilliant feeling. I have no clue if she is happy now or not, I don’t really care. Good luck to her. Couple of months ago I’d have spat that sentence out with a splash of bitterness. Now I’ve realised I’ve wasted too much energy over it and I shouldn’t be bitter. Because really, I’m grateful to her, her loss is someone’s gain. I’m not entirely sure who wants to invest in me, I’m not the easiest, the safest or the straightest forward of investment but at least you know what you get and hey maybe like Taylor Swift you won’t end up in a song but a blog or a character in my novel is the least you’ll get :-).

So now I feel good! For so long I thought no one believed, I couldn’t be more wrong. From family members who are proud of where my life is heading, to my friends who continue their support and friendship and to the people who believe in my novels and my dreams. For months I thought I was alone on an island, looking out to sea, turns out I needed to stop beating myself up and to realise that my friends, family and even people I don’t really know that well, were the sand and the palm trees.  I couldn’t care less if you think it’s weak that It took me so long to get over it. I don’t care if you think laying my emotions out in my blogs is pointless, useless or “tragic”. I am who I am, I like who I am, people like who I am. If you don’t then I probably share a mutual dislike of you too :).

We’re all different and I like to tell it as it is. Honest and open. I think if a lot more people were as open about their feelings as I am then the world would be an easier place.

So unlike the people who dive into relationships after break ups, those who force themselves to be happy in new relationships. I say to you don’t. I say, take a break, have a look at yourself, forgive yourself, dust yourself off. When you’re happy in yourself, then you are the best you can be. You shouldn’t need a relationship to make you the best you can be, you should be the best you can be on your own.

So, I’m not sure were my life is going, I start my masters in a few weeks, I have a novel to complete, I’m broke, no girlfriend or any prospect of getting one anytime soon but you know what? I can’t wait for what’s around the corner.

So I head off into the unknown, with my coat over my shoulder, Tony swag, my chin held high. As I’ve walked through the storm and I can see the clear sky ahead. So I raise a glass to the past. Thanks for making me a better person, to myself, goodbye that Tony, hello again old classic one. I feel an adventure on the way, good luck to you if you’re on the journey with me. Sarah, if you want to talk things over you know where I am, I hope you do, because I miss you and I’d much prefer you to be a part of the present and the future than be locked away in the past, so yeah, I’m sorry. I can be an overprotective moron sometimes but it’s only because I care about people close to me that I do the things I do! It’s my egoness and stubbornness that does not know defeat and therefore believes I can solve any problem no matter how unsolvable it is. That’s just who I am. So yeah…I miss you dude :(.

So this summer I had one of the best gifts of all. Finding myself again.

So as the sunsets on a summer, as the autumnal moon rises, just as the change in the season occurs a change in me has occurred. It’s time to kick the tires and light the fires! Let the new adventures begin, buckle up mother fuckers. This bitch is back and is coming out fighting!

Well I say fighting, what I really mean is carrying on being me and doing my same old boring things 😛 . Ahhh it’s good to be me again!

Until next time!

As always, from the heart.

Toe

xx