The Day in the life of Tony Cliffe

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

Tag: Friends

My dedication to the inner circle!

I wrote a blog many years ago, which just happened to be one of my all-time favourite pieces I’ve ever written. It was an in-depth look into how females and particularly female best friends have had such a profound impact on my life and the person I am today. It was at the time one of my most-read posts, and it’s those kinds of dedication blogs that I rarely write, but when I do, I absolutely love it. I’m pretty terrible at telling someone how I feel in person, but I can express it and immortalise my respect, gratitude and love to them through the written word.

Unfortunately, I no longer have a copy of that blog. That old blog site was closed down without warning years ago (thankfully paying for this blog I have the peace of mind that these blogs will stay!) and I’ve long since got rid of that PC. I contemplated rewriting that for this post but take note Disney, that a well-received classic should never be remade, ever! No matter how hard you try, it will never compare to the standard or the heart of the original.

I think I signed off one of my recent blogs talking about how I am a wealthy individual, not in terms of monetary value but in terms of the company that I keep. I’m big enough, ugly enough, and wise enough to know that I’m not the easiest person to have as a friend. I’m always on the go, I demand the best from myself every day, and therefore I’m pushy and demanding of you to be the best that you can be. I can be direct and brutally honest at times…okay, all of the time. Where friends often use little white lies or disguise their disagreement with their friend’s actions to make their friend happy, that doesn’t happen with me. If you ask me my opinion on something, I’ll tell you even if you don’t like my answer. I can be incredibly stubborn at times and set in my ways. What you see with me is what you get, that honesty and black and white stance on things some people can’t handle. They prefer to be pampered or only have their own thoughts validated. So those who have stuck around first and foremost, thank you! I probably come across as a right twat don’t I? But despite those flaws, I do like to think that I am one of the most loyal, dedicated, protective and loving person to those few who I do let in.

I have many good friends, I have close friends, and I have a group of friends who sit in the inner circle. Those who over time their friendship has never faulted or waivered. These beautiful individuals all enhance my life greatly in a variety of ways, each one of them incredibly unique, each one my life would be decidedly empty and less fulfilling if they were not in it. There are many people close to me that I could and should thank (so please don’t be offended if you’re not in this blog! You don’t mean any less to me than these people!!) but I thought it would be nice to give my gratitude and thanks to those who’ve been through it all. They say that those who have been friends for between 7 and 9 years become friends for life. Thus, I think that’s a good cut off point for this blog because it just so happens that those who I’ve been friends with the longest just so happen to be those inner circle of people.

When I say inner circle it does sound a bit cultish or an elitist club, right? But that’s not really what I mean, the inner circle is simply a designator for those who I have no walls up for, for who know my many flaws and accept them, who know my hopes, dreams and desires and who knows my darkest secrets. I trust these individuals with my life, they have shown complete loyalty and dedication through the good times, but more importantly throughout the years and the hard times, they’ve never shone away from standing by me, either picking up a sword to fight alongside me or holding an umbrella up while I weather a raging storm. Some people rely upon and put all of their eggs into only one person, usually a boyfriend or girlfriend, at the expense of their friends. Me, well I much prefer diversity and a well-oiled machine around me, a team. Each one of these people is vastly different and all the better for it. So, without further exposition, let’s get into it!

Luke:

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My bro!

Holds the honour as one of the only males to make it into the inner circle! Luke isn’t a friend but is instead, an adopted big brother that I never had. We’re not friends, we’re Bros! My parents simply refer to him as “second son”. I’ve known Luke for what feels like a lifetime, we’ve practically grown up together. For context, Luke is a couple of years older than me and was my sister’s friend in high school. He popped round for tea one day and we got on really well, except our first conversation was an argument! An argument about the position of the vertical stabiliser on an F-18 vs an F-15. Nerdy or what but as a fellow avgeek we knew we’d be friends! From then practically every day during the summer holidays and weekends we’d spend together, climbing trees, buildings go-karts, fighting side by side in the infamous Hunt Road waterfight wars and generally just being lads!

As we got older, Luke was always the big brother I never had. Always there for me, protecting me, looking out for me, guiding me, and always on point with his advice. On paper, we’re vastly different people. Luke is athletic, outgoing, loud, a doer, incredibly funny and someone more of a risk-taker. Me I’m not athletic, not that adventurous, I’m more of a person to write the manual than actually to do it, and I’m risk-averse. Yet, it works! One thing i’ve learnt is to never play sports with Luke, he has an uncanny knack of using whatever sporting instrument be that a cricket ball or an air hockey puck, and getting a direct ‘accidental’ hit in my nuts. Bastard! We get on so well together, and my life would be completely different if I didn’t have my Bro in my life. Kudos to Amy, his beautiful wife, who still allows him to disappear every other Saturday so we can still hang out for a few hours!

Luke forces me to go out of my comfort zone, to be more adventurous and more outgoing. I can’t thank him enough for all of the times he’s been there for me through the good times but especially the dedication and encouragement through the bad times. Just an example of the kinda standup bloke he is, when I did go through that awful breakup, he left work early that day to hang out and take my mind off it and kept coming up with random things to do on weekends to keep me occupied until I was back on my feet. A true genuine legend. A true brother. I love you, Bro! Every guy needs a true bro, and I’m so very thankful that it’s you!

Chloe:

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My fav spud

Chloe or more accurately Spudette (I’m referred to as Spud!) has been one of my rocks and a pillar in my life. I met Chloe properly during our first year residential trip to Slapton and boy am I glad we did! From the early days of ripping each other for our accents, in scouse i say graph like it ends in a F whereas Chloe would say it as if it had too many A’s! Teaching her to say purple in scouse is still one of my personal highlights! Common vs Posh English! For eight years, I don’t think we’ve ever stopped laughing since! Chloe is one of the most beautiful people I know, not just in terms of looks (like all my female friends, they’re absolute babes!) but in terms of personality. I’ve never met someone who is as dedicated, loyal, caring and kind-hearted as Chloe. Not just towards me but everyone in her life, we all need a person like Chloe in our lives! From day one, we struck up a fantastic rapport, and from day one, I’ve always felt that no matter what, Chloe has my back. Chloe is the first person I turn to in a crisis or when a significant decision needs to be made. I often rarely ask for advice or seek council because I think I can do everything myself ( I can be pigheaded that way!), but any big decision gets run past her because she has such clarity and my best interests at heart that I value her advice and opinion so highly.

I recall spending hours at the river in Chester us both discussing what I should do, take the job in Nottingham, a £27,000 three year contract job or to stay in Chester and become a research assistant for £16,000 on a temporary year contract. I had conflicting thoughts, the logical rational me was a no doubt to take the Nottingham consultancy job. Yet the emotional me knew my heart was in research, so I wanted the Chester one, but that was an irrational and illogical choice. My Dad was pushing for me to take the Nottingham job, my Mum was pushing for the Chester one. Confusion and confliction everywhere. Everywhere until Chloe and I met up, finally, clarity. The weird thing about Chloe is there is a calmness that I don’t get with anyone else, she just gets it! At the end of the day, I took the illogical and irrational decision to take the Chester job. A decision I have never regretted! Thank you, Chloe!

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I’m not a religious person or that spiritual, but I do believe in the Universe, and it’s little nuances. I read many years ago about each of us have three assigned people, a soul mate (in the romantic sense), a soul mate (in terms of platonic love) and a Guardian/Protector. They can be one individual who is all three, or they could be three separate people. I’ve always thought since the day I met Chloe that she is the platonic soul mate and quite possibly the protector. There has always been an energy that we were meant to be best friends, from day one, it’s always been easy! I adore being in her company, and even though she now lives on the other side of the planet, our friendship is as strong as ever. I wrote a fun blog years ago about what the perfect woman would be like, Chloe’s personality formed a basis for comparison in terms of traits. An incredibly loyal, smart, dedicated, caring and super-intelligent woman! I love you Spudette, thanks for always saying the right things and always without hesitation, having my back. I so appreciate that, and I’m thankful that you’re apart of my life!

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Emma:

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My sister from another Mr!

If Luke is my Bro, then Emma is my sister from another Mr While I have a wonderful if not infuriating at times actual blood related older Sister, I’ve always seen Emma as a sister of my own age. A sister that I can talk to about everything, you know the things that you’d never really want to discuss with your family haha! When friends progress past friendship and enter the family tier, you know you have a friend for life. I’ve known Emma since year 9, so we’re looking at around 13 years! I think its testament to our friendship that in those many years, we’ve changed so much as individuals, we’ve both gone through so much and yet the bond between us has never faulted or waivered. Emma really is a friend for life. If you had to define what a true friend looked and acted like, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better example than Em!

You might be starting to notice a pattern here, that each one of these people is incredibly trustworthy and loyal. Em has stood by my side throughout everything, even at times in school, she rose above the mediocracy and idle gossip of others to stand at my side. She has a fantastic accurate moral compass. Em is always one of the first to message with congratulations when things are going well and consistently one of the first to offer assistance when it’s not going so well.

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Putting up with my shit since 2006!

That’s the thing I love about Em so much is that dedication and well maybe our unique sense of humour! Em is one of those people who doesn’t ever see how awesome she is, always playing herself down. Em is one of the best people that I know, and I couldn’t think of a life without her. Who would I message every day? Who could I moan to about stuff without judgement? Who would I share my love of Wagamama trips with!?

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I’ve enjoyed travelling to European destinations with Em, I’ve enjoyed our weekends away to the Lakes climbing mountains and our trips to London, above all else, I just really enjoy her company. In all the time I’ve known her, we’ve never fallen out. Sure at times, I’ve wanted to kill her, case in point trying to find platform nine and fucking three quarters in Kings Cross in 30c heat in London. Or when that bitch 😉 beat me in crazy golf to win the window seat on the plane to Amsterdam (grrrr. Still bitter! One point!). Emma is a stalwart of my friendship group, another one of those people who have just become such an immense pillar in my life. Her friendship means everything, I’m forever grateful for you and everything you stand for. I look forward to our monthly catch ups when we’re in our 90’s and laughing so much our teeth fall out!!

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Han:

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My fav midlander!

Back to undergrad friends now and like Chloe, Han has been a constant in my life since the first year of Uni. Han is one of the funniest people I know, whether she realises her humour or not, I do not know, but I find her hilarious! I get on so well with Han that every day we spent together was an absolute laugh, and even now we message each other every day without fail, and there is always a laugh to be had! Han is one of the most loyal and level headed people that I know. When her best friend and I broke up in Uni, it could have been very easy for her to pick a-side post break up but credit to Han, she never did. She had time for us both and never made anything awkward! As we’ve got older, I enjoy that Han is the one I have a daily moan to. Usually about the general public being idiots or football-related chats! Plus she’s the legend who loans me her BT account, so I can watch the football! What an epic person she is!

I’ve had so many fun times with Han, she introduced me to B movies, particularly any B movie titles with superlatives before sharks in it (Mega shark vs giant octopus was the first one she made me watch and oh boy is that still the best B Movie ever!). It’s also thanks to her that I’ve witnessed someone do the seemingly impossible and burn carrots! I can still taste that smell, haha! I love that we get to catch up every year and I’m proud of where you are in life right now, married to the awesome Dan and a little one on the way. You two are absolutely going to smash parenthood! That kid (baby Divok, you have to call it that!) is going to grow up with the two most loving, loyal, devoted, family-oriented parents. Han, you are beyond excellent, thank you for always being there!

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Ro:

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My fav ginge

Rochene, Ro, my fave ginger, whatever I call her, I love her. Unlike the others in this list who I’ve interacted with in-person from day one. Our friendship was for the first few years entirely based via Twitter! It was not until I offered to help her with some SPSS that we met up in Costa did we actually talk face to face! Ever since then, Ro has been one of my closest friends, and despite my love-hate relationship with SPSS, I thank it for the relationship we have now! Ro probably takes the title of being the most strong-willed and minded person I know. I thought I was strong-minded and stubborn, but boy does she give me a run for my money! Plus she’s probably the only person who truly competes with me on a sarcasm level. So. Much. Sass. She’s always very keen on keeping me grounded and putting me in my place!

Ro is definitely one of those people who sees the big gooey soft marshmallow side of me, and she puts up with all of my weirdness! Like all the others, loyalty in spades and is someone who has become another constant fixture and a pillar in my life. She is someone I will forever stand beside and back, regardless of the situation. She is by far the most complex person I know (in a good way), she’s a warrior, she’s brave, she’s independent, she’s incredibly funny, and she’s incredible! Weekends wouldn’t be the same without our coffee catch-ups, trips out walking to various places or just the simple task of running errands. Life would be pretty dull without you around! I cannot express how proud I am of you, for what you’ve achieved, what you’re doing, and what you stand for. You’ve taught me so many things that I don’t know where to begin. Thank you for always being around and putting up with me! For someone who is so small in stature, you’re an absolute giant to me!

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Final words:

There are so many people I could carry on about here, from old school pals like Shaun my cycling buddy, old uni friends like Mary and Sophie, to new ones from the PhD such as those from H105. They too are all incredibly special and are huge influences in my life, but oddly enough I probably tell them that more than I do the four above. I think I take them for granted at times, and that is why I’ve written this blog, to express my deepest love and thanks to four pillars of my life. I cannot imagine a life without you guys in it. A group of individuals who guide me, keep me grounded, help me achieve success, pull me out of the crap and above all else, a group of individuals that I am so unbelievably proud to say I know and that I am friends with.

Thank you!

This isn’t going to be my only dedication style blogs this year. Those others i mentioned there, don’t worry you’re getting your own blog post! I’m also going to be doing one about mentors and those who’ve influenced me to date. Keep an eye out for them! Above all, tell the people who you love that you appreciate, love and are thankful that they’re in your life. Share the love today!

The battle of the Viva and my ode to H105

“So congratulations Dr Cliffe” my internal examiner raises a huge grin and leans across the table to shake my hand, followed by my external then a slap on the back from my supervisor. I slump back in my chair as I thank them. I’m exhausted. I take a deep breath as I feel the stress of the viva flow through me and out with every breath. I can’t quite believe that I’ve survived. Is it over? There is no rising movie score of epic proportions, there is no confetti canon or wild cheering. A formal handshake completes the epic journey, a refined act for what has been an epic battle from day one. I’d just finished a PhD in 2 years 8 months and come through a tough viva, but I feel numb, completely numb. I’m happy, of course I am! But I’m also acutely aware of how instantly tired I am. When you’ve been stressed and working so hard for what felt like forever, with the goal reached it was that surreal moment of reaching the summit of the highest mountain you’ve ever climbed, looking back from where you’ve come from and then looking out at the view and just standing in amazement. I had reached my goal and now what was my first thought.

But more than that, I’m numb with bewilderment because I thought I had lost it all within 2 minutes of the 1hr 45 minute viva. I had done the best I could in the Viva but felt that my best wasn’t good enough, too many torpedo hits and not enough patching up to stop the ship from sinking. I was wrong, I had survived, I had done enough. Brutal. Intellectually brutal is the only word I can describe for the Viva. Nothing compares, and nothing ever will. I get it now, I really do when they say getting a PhD and particularly the final battle of the Viva is the hardest intellectual thing you can ever do. It all became apparent how hard it is to get a PhD in this moment.

There is no amount of patching up that you can do to save it, and no amount of effective counter weapons can save you and your thesis either.

I replay the morning ahead of me as I took a deep breath and thanked them all for their time, collected my belongings and walked out of the room. I could barely feel my feet under me, my mind still ultimately shell shocked at the whole experience, not just the Viva but the cumulation of nearly three years of solid hard work was over. Like a solider that’s been told the war is over, looking down at his dishevelled uniform.

To paraphrase a dear friend of mine, Rosie, she once offered her pearl of wisdom about the PhD and torpedoes. In essence, your thesis is a ship in a battle, and there are certain things that you’ll do or write that will come under attack from the examiners. So it’s your job to make sure your thesis is as watertight as possible, yet that is impossible. The examiners will always find something, they’ll send their torpedoes directly towards your ship. The point of her analogy was that there will be small torpedoes that you take the hit and move on, but there will be fundamental torpedoes such as your methods where if you’ve got that wrong, the examiners will send a direct hit, and you’ll be sunk. There is no amount of patching up that you can do to save it, and no amount of effective counter weapons can save you and your thesis either.

That analogy flashed across my mind as I watched that torpedo ripple under the waves towards my ship. The opening salvo of the battle of the Viva had begun, and in my head, it had felt as if I’d already lost. “Have you written a thesis that matches your title? We don’t think you have”. Boom. Damage report. Flashing lights and noise fill my head as I scramble to right myself, any sense of I could win this had vanished, any plan of attack I had and had prepared to defend my thesis was thrown out of the window. I scramble for a confident tone in my voice despite feeling my heart in my mouth and my entire PhD crumble around me “Yeah…I have…Absolutely”.

In my head, a million thoughts are rushing around my brain, and an internal dialogue goes on in my head, What have I missed? What has everyone else missed? I’ve planned for this worst-case scenario, but I never thought it would come true, what do I do? Have I failed? Is this a test question? I’ve come so far ahead of the curve people are going to be so let down if I fail. Did I gamble not ever working a Friday? Fuck. Fuck. Breathe Tony. Fight, you know your stuff, believe in your work. Come on! Battle stations!

For the next hour and three quarters, a healthy and in-depth viva discussion occurred with my excellent examiners. I had to take some torpedo hits that I was willing to let happen, but I fought back with my own, defending my thesis and my journey to this point. It was constant, question after question, no time for rest or composure. An intellectual debate of the highest order it had felt as if my brain was in a boxing match. From defending the use of certain words in the thesis, to a discussion of changing my title, to me shouting about the merits of my innovative EVFG that I’d created. Despite that initial blow, I felt that I had recovered throughout the Viva. The examiners seemed pleased with my answers to their tricky questions. I thought I had defended my thesis when needed and let it go when I needed to. For example, I have the term pedagogy in my title, I’ve never liked it, always felt uncomfortable with it in and its corresponding sections in my thesis. It showed in my writing. That torpedo they sent my way was directed right at that. My weakest section, my ships design flaw. They’d honed in on it straight away, a vulnerability I had recognised but put up with because I was in an education department, so it had to be in there, despite my true self being a Geographer, not a pedagogic researcher.

“Pedagogy means something very important to both of us. Why is it in your title? We both agree this is by far your weakest section, everything else is great but this. Let’s get to the bottom of it” was something like how they approached this deciding question of the thesis. I told the truth. I agreed it was my weakest and I explained how I didn’t ever really want it in there but gave it my best shot at putting it in there. I hoped my defence was enough, but there was no real telling from their responses from my perspective. My external sends a giant torpedo my way, I know at this moment that it’s the big one. Depending on my answer, I was either going to be sunk entirely, or I was going to stop that torpedo before it hit me. “Did you make your virtual field guide to enhance the students learning? Or, did you make the virtual field guide to prove a concept exists and if it happened to enhance their learning that was a byproduct?”

I answer without hesitation. The examiners despite the title had seen my vision and my work, I had created this brand new model to prove that as no one has done it before, that the concept could be done and it has benefitted students and educators in their learning on fieldwork, but that is just a fantastic bonus. I’ve proved the concept works, I was so glad that they agreed and were so enthusiastic about it. They saw real merit in it. In this moment I thought I might actually survive.

After what was the longest and quickest 1hr 45 mins of my life and after more thesis defence, the battle of the Viva concluded and I was released to enter the staff room while they spent 30 minutes conferring what my outcome would be. I had no way to tell how it had gone, I had fought back from that opening but I prepared for the worst.

“Oh, here he is!” Tim, my supervisor, exclaimed with a grin as I enter the staff room. “Fucking hell, Tim, that was brutal!” I exhale as I slump into the chair.”Ah can’t have been that bad?” he says jokingly as I turn to him “they want me to change my title, Tim!” I exclaim in exasperation. “Oh” is all he could offer. I then debriefed him on how it went, blow by blow, torpedo by counter torpedo. “I don’t know Tim…after that it could be anything, I suspect moderate but prepare for major. It all depends on if I’ve done enough to let the pedagogy go and defended the VFG well enough…” is my concluding statement of the debrief before I’m interrupted by the internal examiner knocking on the door asking for me and this time Tim, to join me in the room.

The walk up the stairs felt like the longest walk I’ve ever done. In my head, as I always do, expect the worst case scenario, and if its better than that, then that’s a bonus! Sitting down at the table, there were no signs from my external or internal which way this was going to go. My external commends me on how much work I’ve done, which according to him felt like 3 PhDs worth! And commends me on a great and in-depth viva before saying “congratulations Tony, We’d like to award you the PhD pending moderate corrections” I didn’t hear much after that! The examiners went through what corrections where to be made, what to remove and what to add. It had felt earned this moment, despite being mentally exhausted. It had been a hard viva, as hard as everyone says it was going to be. But weirdly, I’m glad it was hard. If the examiners had just said okay that’s great it wouldn’t have felt like the PhD was earnt but now it did. Both Gary and Judith as examiners where exceptional. No question was asked to catch me out, all their questions were to draw out of me clarity of my work and to see me defend every word, every action over the past 2 and a bit years which accumulated in the thesis. A textbook example of how a viva should be done. I can only thank them once again for what was the toughest but ultimately rewarding experience in my academic life thus far.

When I exited the room, I noticed that my old DoS’s door is open, a woman who I could not thank enough for getting me where I am today. If this were indeed a research war, she would have been my commanding officer. Fran was my DoS for just under two years before going on maternity to which my 2nd supervisor Tim took over for the final stretch of the campaign. I also realise at this moment how fortunate I was to have them both! Fran had made her way in especially for my Viva, to be there whether it was good or bad news. I guess while it was nerve-wracking for me, it was in my hands. For Fran, she hadn’t seen or been updated on the PhD for months since she was on maternity so I can only imagine what she must have been feeling as I ventured into that Viva!

I offer a weary, tired knock on her door and enter, god knows how I must have looked! I placed my stuff down on the table as she looked at me with a face that said: “Well, how did it go?”

I manage to raise a smile and just two words “Dr Cliffe!”

Seeing how happy she was for me, it slowly started to sink in just what it was that I had just achieved. In 2 years and 8 months and only working Monday to Thursday on it I had completed a PhD! I give her a quick debrief about the moderate corrections the examiners want me to do. “They’ve given me three months” I relay to her to which she replied “Knowing you, you’ll have it done in three weeks!” she knows me well! I leave and head down the old staircase and out into the bright blue sky and sunshine as I lug my giant thesis between my arms, what once was a mental weight on my shoulders has been lifted as I breathe in that cool fresh air. I offer myself a wry smile as I walk down that path towards my office that I’ve done thousands of times before with the crisp blue skies, lush green rolling grass giving way to the twinkling of the river in the distance capped by the looming Welsh hills. A sight I’d grown fond of over the years, a sight and a path I’ve walked for 2 years 8 months as a student, now finally a Dr.

I walk up to my office and notice a card and a blowup minion sellotaped to our office door. I raise another smile as I peel it away and open the door. For the first time today had I felt comfortable, I was home. H105.

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Thanks Sha!

Opening the door, my dear friend Vic turns around from her PC. I had grown used to and often looked forward to her cheery greeting and smile whenever either of us entered the office for the first time in the day, not so much today. “How did it go?” she asks a hint of nerves I detect. Which is my fault, I told her if I’m not back in 3 hours something awful has happened. A Viva shouldn’t be that long, so if it is that long, I’ve fucked it. As the Viva had started 45 minutes late and post debrief while it had only been 2 hours for me, it was touching 3 hours since I left the office for the Viva! Plus, how I looked hot, sweaty, and shell shocked probably didn’t do much to instil any good vibes from me!

“That was fucking brutal! But I did it! Mod corrections!” that hug was most definitely welcome! Vic joked later on that she’d never seen me like that before, that’s how bad it was! Outwardly and in person I have a firm control over my emotions and as such I have this persona of a very confident, calm and self-assured person. So much so that it is an injoke that I’m a robot. That had gone out of the window by time viva had come around! This robot was trying very hard not to malfunction! A few days before the Viva, I was out on a walk with my close friend Ro to clear my head pre-viva. “Wow, I’ve never seen this side to you before! Where is your confidence!?” truth of the matter is I never really have it I just think I have it!

We are the fellowship of the PhD

Vic came with me to the lunch with my supervisors and my examiners and Katie joined too with another welcome hug (and a fantastic Viva present, a llama lamp!). My mind was still spinning. The journey was over although I knew I still had corrections to do but I was confident in getting them done in a quick turnaround. After an hour or so, I thanked my examiners once again and my supervisors and was given what I was told is a tradition for passing a viva. A giant bottle of Champagne from Fran!

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Post Viva smiles!

I walked back with Vic and Katie to the office, just like so many times before. And that’s where it all feels like a double-edged sword for me, a victory and a loss at the same time. I’ve come and did my duty, I’ve fought my fight and I’ve won, I’ve finished, I’ve survived. Yet, I feel guilty that I’m not back in the fight with them anymore, I feel guilty that I won’t be in the office anymore, I feel guilty that I’m on the other side while they’re preparing to go through it all. They’re not colleagues, they’re not even friends or close friends, they’re more than that, so much more than that to me. They truly are a family to me, there are no other people I would have wanted to share this journey with, to stand shoulder to shoulder within this PhD war. In a war where everything does its best to not make you succeed, in a war which makes you doubt your abilities and in a war which takes you to some incredible lows, they’ve been there, a beacon of friendship, advice, solitude, a light in the dark. H105 and its occupants had become a sanctuary in the chaos. A bond that was forged in adversity would never be broken. We’ve faced it all together. I am forever indebted to them for everything, to them, to Laura, to Rosie and the rest of the PGR community. No words can ever express just how much they have meant to me on this journey. We’ve had highs and lows, we’ve laughed in the sun and we’ve wiped tears away in the rain. We’ve travelled to conferences together and had European adventures. We’ve been rocked by life and we’ve each been a shoulder to cry on. We’ve dropped everything to race to be there when tragedy has struck. We’ve celebrated the little and the big wins as if they were our own. I had to fight back a little tear as I read in my card “we are the fellowship of the PhD”. They mean everything to me.

 

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It really does pain me that I’m not going to be on the frontlines with them anymore, but I can offer something I couldn’t before. As the first to go through this process, I feel like I can be that lighthouse in the stormy seas. I have survived and I know they will survive too, I’m going to make sure that they do. Whether it’s the PhD or the Mphil. My family, my H105, forever stronger together. We can beat anyone and anything! The PhD and life here have thrown so much stuff our way, but we continue to defy the odds and come through it all. I cannot wait to be there when we’re all safe, when we’ve all survived, when we’ve all graduated. When we can all sit back whether we’re in academia or not, PhD or Mphil, and raise our glasses, to the best group of people I have ever known, I raise my glass to H105, the true meaning of the fellowship of the PhD.

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H105, the greatest office of them all

 

A look back on 2018 part 2

July

Starting July with a 50-mile cycle around Lake Geneva in my books is one hell of a way to start a month off!

A fantastic few days away this was. I look back fondly on my trip to Croatia and the trip to Switzerland, perfect days with not a care in the world with the best company. Sadly for a long time that would be the last time I’d see Laura as she headed off to new pastures down south and its when the year started to get a bit crap without my sidekick with me!

But despite the turn for the worse from July onwards, this caption sums life up well.

I brought a new phone in July after dropping mine while trying to take a selfie on the bike in Geneva, oops! The Samsung S9+ is, however, the best phone I’ve owned to date!

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Selfie mode on the S9 plus is awesome!

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I was home for only a few days before I was off on my travels again. This time I was heading to deep South Wales after I was invited by the British Ecological Society to run a workshop on Drone with their A-level course down in Port Talbot. What a totally rewarding and fantastic few days away that was, it was hot and hard work but the kids were lovely, and it really felt like I had made a difference to these kids.

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Moth traps set for tonight

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2 days later I was back on my travels south again, this time for pleasure as we headed off to the Royal International Air Tattoo. The biggest airshow in the world and we just so happened to have front row seats!

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Front row flightline seats! Let's goooo!

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F35 is a bit loud!

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I still snigger at this. Lolz.

I also finally got around to putting some pictures up in my room of my travels.

August

While the UK baked in one of the hottest summers on record, with the office empty of people as they were either on a break, in new jobs or were travelling, I was working flat out on the PhD alone. This summer was one long montage of movie themes and hard work.

In between all the hard work was the brutal extraction and complicated extraction at that of my wisdom tooth. I’d been putting up with the pain since April and finally got it sorted but holy fuck it was one of the worst pains having that out that I’ve ever had and that’s coming from someone who’s had multiple operations and 8 leg breaks!

A summer of editing and writing

Amazing what painkillers and determination will get you.

This picture summed up 2018 at times, just when everything is going well you fall down haha.

While the PhD was the focus of my last summer as a PhD student, it didn’t stop me taking some time out with my Ginger Zinger to go hiking. I’d wanted to head up to Mau Famau for ages and when Ro called up and wanted to go on an adventure, i knew the place to go!

And I’m always happiest outdoors up a mountain! Where the geographer belongs.

September

After a month of solid writing and spending my downtime hiking or cycling I was as fit as I’d ever felt.

Which just left more room for many many BBQs on what was fabulous weather for once!

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Mmmmmmm BBQ!

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And plenty of time catching up with the best people!

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Sunday impromptu walks! 😁

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Another day, another conference. This time I headed up to Leeds to present at the Enhancing Fieldwork Learning conference. One of the best conferences I’ve been to and I loved presenting my work there.

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Light pollution over Leeds at night.

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Finally, a few days off came. Happy times!

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Woo not in work for over a week! 😁

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But the days off don’t last long and once again I was on another train heading north, this time to Newcastle for the BERA conference. The biggest conference I could present at as an Education, PhD student. I was nervous but excited!

While my presentation went well, the conference itself was a bit crap! Too most elite for my liking but thank god my friend and office buddy Vic was presenting too at the conference! She made that conference for me 😀

As a life long Newcastle United fan, after being a Mascot for them as a kid, I finally managed to visit my favourite club!

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I finally visited my favourite club!

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And Vic holds the record for being the only person to get me out to drink in a town centre at 1 a.m. Many have tried but failed!

Back home it was time to relax by going to see the Royal Tattoo but this time in Liverpool. We’ve done the official one on Edinburgh before, but as a treat to my Dad we had a great father-son evening, drinking whiskey, eating steak in Millers & Carter and watching a fabulous show.

October

October started off pretty well I’d say!

After a hell of a lot of work over the summer burring myself, my first draft of my PhD was finished. This was quite emotional to get to this point. The PhD was nowhere near finished but its a major point in the life of a PhD student, the end which was once so far away was finally starting to come into view. It was time to enjoy the moment before months of editing and rewriting was to come.

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One phd draft equals half a forest

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While the family were on holiday abroad, I spent the many nights on my own stargazing in the back garden and rewarded with capturing a meteor!

For those of you who follow my Instagram stories will all recall this night well haha

October brought death in the family that hit me the hardest this year. Great Uncle Peter I absolutely idolised. I was and still am to know he’s no longer with us. When the family asked me to say a few words at his funeral, I wanted to, but I was aware of how much responsibility that was, to sum up, someone’s life who meant so much to you. Weirdly, that’s my proudest moment of 2018. Delivering that Eulogy which was my trademark sincere but full of humour style, what he would have wanted, getting a lot of laughs at a funeral is something not everyone does every day that’s for sure. Seeing the family proud and that I summed him up to a T really helped me and I’m glad I could do him proud one last time. I miss you, Pete.

I didn’t have too much time to process the funeral as I was straight on a flight to Norway for my final international conference as a PhD student.

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It's a bit cold here.

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Bergen was a truly fantastic place to visit for the ISSOTL conference a bit of time for solo travelling.

One of my favourite memories of this year was sitting in this coffee shop, with my cold hands wrapped around the cup, watching the people of Bergen pass the windows as coffee house music floated around me. It was the best coffee shop I’ve ever gone into. I had just stepped off a 3-hour Norwegian Fjord cruise, despite being layered up I was frozen to the bone. I spent 2 hours warming up, chatting to the locals and going through the hundreds of pictures of what was an amazing few hours in the Fjords.

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Coffee views!

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And the Fjord, wow. They were stunning.

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😍

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Bergen is surrounded by mountains, and every night I was there I took the lone hike through the forest up the mountain for a nighttime hike. I was rewarded with stunning clear skies and amazing stars.

Bergen is just as stunning at night as it is in the day.

That was it, my last two presentations as a PhD student was officially over. I’d presented in different countries and at two major international conferences. Hundreds of miles away from home at the top of a mountain I reflected on the journey on a such a cold but clear night. The following is one of my favourite pictures of 2018. Where the adventure will lead next, I have no idea, but I can’t wait to find out.

You’d be mad after a week of hiking and travelling to come home and go straight back out hiking, but that’s exactly what I did!

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Frozen in the rain but worth it!

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October started with a £100 win, and it ended with one too, boom!

And the Pumpkin of the year…

November

Autumn had arrived, I hate Autumn, and I hate winter, but I love it for the colours and photography.

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#autumn🍁

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Remembrance Sunday help a poignant and special meaning this year.

As with the lows in life, there are often the highs too. I was on my travel again to the Midlands to see my best friend from Uni, Han get married to Dan. A couple I had shipped for so long and was so happy to see get married! And what a wedding!! It was amazing, and it was great to catch up with the old housemates, and they’re witness to a very rare thing, me dancing!!

This sums up editing a PhD thesis.

Again, when you’re about to give up its often the moment that you make a breakthrough to carry on. I got my first ever academic citation from my paper I wrote last year! Aaaaaaaahhh!!!

December

What better way to start December than having our yearly jaunt around Liverpool Christmas market with Ro!

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Yearly christmas market selfie! 🎅

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The next day I took Em out for her Birthday meal in Millers & Carters. Can you get a better present than steak?

Of course, Meryseyrail where still being Merseryrail so I had no choice but to drink coffee and go Christmas shopping.

We finally got a new kitchen!

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Our new kitchen is done!

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Which meant our Xmas celebrations were way off kilter and at the last minute we managed to get out tree up. Phew.

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Tree is finally up! Merry Cliffemas!

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But to me, the best gift for Christmas was being reunited with this one for a little while before she headed back off for new adventures and more hard work!

Who knows what 2019 will bring? For me, I should finish my PhD and become Dr Cliffe. I plan on going travelling to new countries, continue to photograph everything in sight, value and cherish the moments I have with those that I love and hold dear whether they’re near or far. I don’t know what job I’ll have or where I’ll end up or what 2019 will be like. This year can be topped, but as I look back, there has been a lot of highs and some crushing lows. The hardest thing for me in the second half of the year was adjusting to work-life alone again. Laura heading off, Katie and Rosie moving to different countries and Vic travelling over summer meant a lonely summer slaving away on the PhD. I realised how much I’d come to rely on their company and humour each day. They made 2017 for me, and the adventures we’d shared in the first half of 2018 meant everything. 2019, I head out alone again on this road, but while they’re not here next to me, they come on this journey in my heart, and whatever we do in 2019, I’m sure it will be worth it, we’ll get there!

So no matter what your goals are or your aspirations for 2019, remember with the right attitude and hard work you can achieve it. I wish you, my followers and readers, a 2019 that is better than 2018 and I hope its a fantastic year for you. As always, you’ll see my 2019 on here, the good and bad. Who’s ready for another year of adventure hey?

Until next year,

Toe

X

Geneva with Laura

Those of you who had read my last blog My visit to Split, Croatia might be asking the question of how do you go to a conference in Split, Croatia, and end up in Geneva? Good question. To answer it is in part logistics and well any other excuse to go travelling. I’m fortunate as a funded PhD student to get £1500 per year for expenses to use for conferences, travel and anything PhD related. As beautiful as Split is, it’s an awkward place to get to, that also makes it expensive to get to. Flights from my part of the world are few and far between, i.e. once a week! But annoyingly that meant that while I could get to Split the day before the conference, it meant I couldn’t go back until three days afterwards at the cost of £500 return, not to mention how much an extra three days in the apartment may have costed me!

While I could afford that, I knew I had applied for my second international conference in Bergen, Norway in October so if I was accepted, I needed the £300 plus for the registration fee. So I hedged my bets that I’d get accepted and therefore needed to keep the money left of my expenses for the year (they run August to August) for that conference. So I got creative. The flight out to Split was £110 one way. I went on FlightRadar24 and had a look for departures from Split on the Saturday after the conference to see what destinations they flew to and using my extensive avgeekary I know pretty much all of the destinations served from Liverpool and Manchester. So my plan was to find somewhere I could fly to from Split and then after a few days get home again. That’s when I saw Geneva on the departure board. Much like Croatia, Switzerland and specifically Geneva, was on my 12 holidays in 12 months plan but I never got around to it, so it felt like a perfect excuse to go! The flight from Split was £60 and the return to Liverpool £80, bargain! As I book so many hotels every year I’m a genius member on Booking.com, so I get 15% off most hotels, I found a brilliant 4* hotel in Geneva for less than £200, and before I knew it that was my plan post-conference!

Those of you who follow my blogs know that 90% of my travels are solo affairs and I’ve written many times about how much I love that. However, they can get lonely at times, and as much as blogs and pictures try to convey the experiences it’s never really the same, and sometimes you can create special memories by sharing it with other people on the trip. While out on one of our many cycling rides, I told Laura about my plan and that all she needed to do was get her bum on a seat to Geneva and everything else was paid for. Yay! I had a travel buddy and even better that we decided to go hire some bikes to cycle the beautiful Lake Geneva.

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Time to head to Switzerland

Usually, as I waited for the local bus to the airport from Split, I’d be sad to leave such a fantastic place, but the thought of another couple of days away was exciting. I thought Split was hot, but Geneva and central Europe were in the grips of one of the most blistering heatwaves in recent times and so was in the high 30’s and the day we had planned to go cycling it was expected to hit 38c! As much as I loved Split, one thing let it down, and that was the airport. My god, that airport is shambolic. It’s such a shame too! It’s too small to handle the summer traffic, and for 2.5 hours I had to stand in the departure lounge due to a lack of seats, and there was only one tiny booth selling food and drink. I have never been in such a chaotic airport departure lounge. I watched Laura’s flight from Liverpool take off on my app, and before long, I was up in the air myself heading to Geneva.

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Lack of seats meant chaos trying to walk through the tiny terminal

As much as the landing into Split was epic, flying over Mont Blanc and the Alps on approach to Geneva was really awesome! The views on the flight flying over Venice, North Italy and then the Alps certainly made up for the cramped wait in Split. With clear blue skies and a gentle landing, it wasn’t long before I was in the arrivals hall waiting for my bag and I exchanged what leftover Croatian money I had into Swiss Franc which is probably the most Monopoly-ish money I’ve ever had! The great thing about Geneva is their exceptional system of providing free travel passes to visitors to get you from the airport to anywhere in the city (including trains, trams, buses and ferries… all for free!) all you had to do was press a button in the arrivals, and the only stipulation was you had to use it within an hour of getting it.

Laura’s plane had arrived about 45 minutes ahead of mine, so it was a comedy of WhatsApp calls trying to find each other in the arrivals, but we eventually did! For me, it felt like two spies meeting in a neutral location to swap stories, but that’s probably just the author in me! Laura had become one of my best friends in the short time I’d known her and is still one of my favourite humans, so I was really looking forward to exploring this new city with her.

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Meeting up in arrivals!

We navigated the train and ended up in the city where a wall of heat hit me. While Split was hot, there was a constant sea breeze which made it pleasant. In between the heat of the buildings of the city of Geneva, the heat was oppressive, which didn’t help to lug a giant suitcase through the streets. With thanks to Google Maps, we ended up at the hotel, and there was another brilliant perk of Geneva. Any guest staying in a hotel within the city boundaries is given free travel passes for their entire stay to use again on trains, trams, buses and ferries (such a fantastic idea to increase tourism!).

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The chair

After quickly freshening up we headed out to explore this place but not before going on a wild goose chase to find a supermarket! Wow. I mean that was a trek and a half to find this supermarket! After loading me up like a human packhorse, we headed to our closest landmark from the hotel, the UN building and the chair. I’ve visited the other UN building in New York, so it was really cool to see and get pictures with the main UN building! The chair is also iconic, and I didn’t know its three legs is a symbol of a reminder of landmines hence the one leg blown off, kind of neat in a weird way. After plenty of pictures outside the UN, we walked through their botanical gardens, which were sublime! Sitting on the grass felt surreal chilling like we usually do but miles away from home in another country like you do on an average Saturday!

 

 

 

 

Walking along the lake with the views of the city in the distance was so cool and walking through their park (and the customary picture with the WTO building. Geography bucket list tick!) it made us both think what giant city parks should be like. Sefton Park is okay, but it wasn’t a patch on this place. Music, parties, the smoke and smells of numerous BBQs drifted across our path. There was a wedding, there were family picnics, and people were jumping in the lake. It was unlike anything I’ve ever seen, the buzz and vibe of this place were already fantastic. You know what too? People were drinking responsibly, cleaning up after themselves and everyone was out enjoying the hot Saturday afternoon sunshine with no agro! If only our British culture weren’t so opposite! I can only imagine the scene in Sefton Park if this was to happen there.

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Lac Leman

After a long walk along the lake and as the sunset over Geneva, we went and got some food (that classic Swiss dish of McDonald’s) and headed back to the room for the night. The next day was really what we’d come for, a cycle around Lake Geneva!

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This bed is so big Laura is in France 🤣

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For £20 you could hire road bikes for the day and what a bargain that was! I had been lugging my cycling gear around with me since Split, so it felt really good to finally use it! I’ve only ever cycled abroad once, and that was around Valencia, and we all know how badly that ended with a flat tire and a 45c 10-mile walk back to the city centre! I hoped that this journey would be a little less troublesome. Switzerland is also known as a fantastic place to cycle, and I was so excited to clip in and head out on the open road for our less than usual Sunday ride! By the time we arrived in Geneva, it had become our thing to spend Sundays together cycling, chilling, cooking food, so it felt like a typical Sunday for us, except here we were in Geneva!

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Ready for our epic cycle!

The bikes we hired were fantastic road bikes “we’ve just got them in” in a thick French accent the guy tells us, cool. What wasn’t so cool was nearly having an argument with the arsey French guy about SPD vs Look cleats. While I respect that he owns the bike shop, he really ought to have known the difference, and while I would love to say his arrogant attitude was because English wasn’t his second language, I just think he was typically French!

My biggest concern cycling here was about being on the wrong side of the road but that never actually became a problem (except at roundabouts where you had to really use your brain). After heading out of the city (thankfully the roads early on a Sunday morning were lovely and quiet) we started to steadily climb out of the city, passing through these stunning Swiss villages. Glass free smooth roads paved our way as we cycled past vineyards, farms and cute houses. Before long, we reached the brow of a steady hill, and we both just had to stop and take in the scene in front of us. To our right the Lake had appeared below us, fields of giant sunflowers lead down to the lake, the morning sun shimmering off the blue water and right there, across the lake was the tall Alps rising in the morning mist to meet the sun. Just a stunning view that I will remember for a very long time.

 

 

 

 

We pushed on North following the Lake until we came across a small town called Rolle’ and we decided to stop for a coffee. We found this quaint little waterfront cafe, lined by manicured flowers with a view of the Lake and Alps. We parked our bikes up and using GCSE French and with the help of Google Translate managed to order two black coffees. Those of you who know us both will know how much we love coffee and I think I’m safe in saying that not only was that the most scenic coffee I have ever had, I feel like we both could have spent all day drinking coffee and looking out at the view. We cycled around a little castle and just admired the view. It was a perfect morning. This village was perfect!

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What struck me the most about cycling here was how effortless it was here. Cars gave you room, the pavements were incredibly smooth, it was a dream. Since that trip cycling in the UK is far harder and a lot more painful! We carried on as we tried to reach halfway around the lake until the dreaded fear of the hired bike became a reality. You read horror stories of bikes snapping in half or cassettes exploding on plenty of cycling abroad blog sites. By now it was in the mid 30’s and well into the afternoon, the heat once you stopped was crazy! While the mechanical on Laura’s bike wasn’t as dramatic as some of the stories of hire bikes, it was no less annoying. As they were new bikes, they hadn’t adjusted the limit screws or indexed the gears correctly. So anytime she tried to put any power down up a hill the gears would jump and skip, not only is that annoying but it can be pretty dangerous! The most annoying thing as we decided that it was better to call it quits and cycle the just under 30 miles back in one gear, was that it was a simple fix if you had the right tools. All it needed was a small screwdriver. I’ve adjusted my gears and indexed them many times on my own bike, so it was frustrating to be defeated by a simple mechanical.

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Zwift like Swiss villages we passed on our cycle

But, It’s cycling abroad, while I stayed in one gear to sympathise, at least this time I wasn’t walking back! Maybe next time I go cycling 3rd-time lucky mechanicals will stay away. On our trip back, it was no less beautiful, but I did become concerned very quickly about the heat. By now, it was 38c, and we had no water left at all. I was under no doubt that the sweat had probably washed away any of my sunblock. It’s a Sunday and nowhere is open and no water fountains to be seen. Laura suggested that we should stop at a Café or restaurant and just ask them to fill them up with water. Me being me was like they’ll never do that! Turns out as usual with her, I was wrong, and she was right. If it weren’t for her, I’d have been that pigheaded person who would have died on the bike through dehydration because I didn’t want to ask for water in French!

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LakeGeneva by bike

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Other than the mechanical, we arrived back after 50+ miles and 2400 feet of climbing! An epic ride, even more so when factoring in nearly 40c heat! It felt so good to get a shower after that’s for sure. As tired as we were, there is a euphoria of completing an epic ride like that and no doubt memories we’ll take away from it for a long time. For me, I feel it will take an exceptional ride to top that!

 

 

 

 

We didn’t stop there though, we got changed, got some food, then headed out for a sunset view around the town and the see the Jet ‘Eau at sunset. By the next morning, we checked out and headed back around the city, exploring and picking up some souvenirs for friends and family. By late afternoon we were flying back to Liverpool, and that brought a close to a fantastic few days away and for me, a brilliant just under 2 weeks away. Geneva is a city that I highly recommend you visit. Not only is it beautiful, clean, friendly and impressive, it also has a vibe about it that isn’t touristy. By that I mean, Prague last year with Laura and Katie was a fantastic and beautiful city, but you knew it was a tourist destination. Geneva, however, just felt like an ordinary city with people going about their daily lives and was very Swiss! If you get the chance to hire a bike head out to Rolle and enjoy a coffee with stunning vistas it will be worth it I assure you! Due to work commitments and moving different places in the country that was to be our last weekend together for a very long time, so it was sad to part ways at the bus stop at LJLA but what a tremendous mini-break away with one of my favourite people!

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Prague Trip Report: Day 4 and 5 – A rude awakening, a sobering afternoon and a trip home covered in Anti-Bac gel.

Whenever I’m away travelling I still like to keep to my usual morning schedule, at least an adapted one. I don’t mind if my morning routine is disrupted or out of order, it’s just I like doing things in an order because my brain doesn’t have to think about it! It can stay in sleep mode for that little bit longer. Part of the routine is waking up, going to the loo, doing my teeth and then jumping in the shower and then having breakfast. The girls were well used to me being in the shower first by now. I’m an early riser anyway and I tend to be the first in my house to get a shower. My family constantly say I spend too long in the shower. I don’t think 10 minutes is too excessive but they both mentioned in passing that I spend ages in the shower. Hint taken but there are some things I will not budge on. My morning shower being one of them! I had reduced my shower down to about 8 which is as good as they were going to get.

Turning the shower on in the morning as I put my tooth brush away, i step into the bath and HOLY SHI-I-I-I-T my breath is ripped away from the ice cold water that had just covered my legs and nether regions. How I didn’t fall over from shock I don’t know! I try to clamber out of the bath and ended up having a fight with the shower curtain instead while ice water continued to cascade over me. Each new place on the body the water hit sending me to gasp for breath. Annoyed and now very cold, I look at the boiler which was handily in the bathroom. A red light was flashing and the temperature dial had been replaced with a flashing F22. Mother Fucker. I mutter to myself. Yesterday was a very hot day and it was a warm night so I needed a shower. A cold one it would have to be. I had PTSD flashbacks to SAS training camp in cadets, in the cold February plains of Shropshire where despite it being 1 degree, you still had to shower in ice cold water. Something about making you stronger mentally. More like abuse but we’ll let that slide. Deep breath, control the breathing and back in we go. After the initial cold water shock when it goes over your head, I had the quickest shower I had ever done!

Getting changed in a hurry to try and get warm I then exit the bathroom “well guys shit. We have no hot water!” … “I thought you were quick!” (not the first time a woman has said that to me before haha!). I was quickly onto google. F22 was a boiler fault that was due to low water pressure. I watched a Youtube video from a very cockney plumber who explained how to rectify it (he really needed a flatcap and pipe to go with his accent and look, it felt like he was about to break into song at any minute) by adding water pressure through different valves under the boiler. I explain this to both of them and then Katie notices that the pressure reading was still 1.5 Bar. So not a water pressure issue. “Get in touch with Aldo”. Out of ideas and lacking any plumbing skills I did indeed text Aldo aka Cisco. I guess if Aldo’s Central City’s doppelganger can invent new ways to stop meta humans then he should know how to fix an F22 error. I was right! His text was simple and to the point.

“Turn it off and back on again”

Unsurprisingly that worked. If in doubt always do that! Unless it’s a nuclear reactor then maybe not but hurrah we had hot water. They were both happy, I was still thawing out by time we left the apartment for the day ahead. Laura had rescheduled the walking tour for 11 a.m. in Old Town Square, which was becoming more and more like home for us now. We would walk through it on our way to and from the apartment, so much so that we knew all the streets and no longer needed to look at any maps. One building we would see in the distance each time we crossed this main road that had tram tracks that had trams running up and down almost every two minutes. It was what we thought was a church with its tower looming up as if it was stuck in the middle of this road. We decided to go check it out, it was only fair on the poor thing! Once we got closer it turned out not to be a Church or at least not an active one. Instead it was different floors of different activities, including a Whiskey cellar, a Whiskey shop with Whiskey tours and a bar/restaurant in the roof which offered views of the city. A converted church that had Whiskey in it. Now that’s a religion I can get on board with! Sadly it was closed so after a few pictures we went in search for one of Prague’s top 10 things to Instagram. Usually you won’t find many cities top 10 things involving a trip to the municipal library but here is where we were heading. In this library was a book tower, we’re all book worms to some extent, two of us have dabbled with writing books in the past and it was free! So after a short walk we arrived. It was really odd but incredibly cool!

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To the book tower!

From there it was time for our first coffee of the trip. I am truly surprised it took us this long to have one! I used to drink coffee occasionally, usually to get me through an assignment or a long day of coding. I was certainly not a massive coffee drinker (I still do prefer naps for a caffeine boost!) however since hanging out with these guys who are big coffee drinkers and doing the PhD my coffee intake has rapidly increased! So much so that I’ve even developed a taste for black Americano’s now thanks to Laura. Once we got to Old Town Square we sat outside this very fancy café called the White Horse and ordered our coffees. That was a very lovely coffee and there is something very fitting about drinking a good coffee in mainland Europe, outside in the warmth, people watching. It’s very tranquil indeed.  Until the bastard of the insect world appeared. Why do Wasps insist on being annoying bastards? They’re like the Go Compare man. Hangs around for ages with an annoying whine and just when you think its gone, It comes back. I don’t know if its my aftershave or their perfume but he was not budging from flying around us three!

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Mmmmm coffee

Before we could get stung it was nearly 11 a.m and the start of our tour. Turns out plenty of tours start here in the square and they all have umbrellas to identify themselves too. Not very helpful! We were on NextCity tours free tour. An odd concept for me but one that works very well. The tour is free. There is no catch. A man, in this case, James a young lad from Chicago who went travelling after graduating University and fell in love with Prague, takes you on a three hour tour of the city for free. All he asks is that if you want, that you can tip him. Of course everyone is going to tip him (although I bet some right arseholes don’t!) but it’s a good concept, pay what you feel its worth. Seriously though, it was well worth 200 czk tip! I cannot recommend that tour enough!

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Taken at lunch time on our walking tour

Before James took us on a delightful tour of the city, explaining many of the features, historical figures and the history of the place, for which Prague is steeped in. I won’t go into too much detail of the tour as I really wouldn’t want to spoil it for you as you have to come here and go do it! Some of the things we had seen on our walks before but it felt good to finally add some historical context to them. Little things like Defenestration which is the legal act of throwing someone out of a window in Prague. Totally legal thing to do! (I did get worried in case I’d end up being thrown out of a sky light now!). Although some of the things we hadn’t seen before…like a decaying arm of a thief hanging from the ceiling of a church! Yep. No bullshit!

So before we went on the walking tour he introduced himself and made the rest of us introduce ourselves too, our names, where we come from, what takes our interest (i.e world war 2 history, architecture etc.) and if we were an interesting person or not. There were two other Brits, a lot of Americans, a few other European countries and two giant German people. They were a couple but they were absolutely huge! See below. James is the same height as me so around 6 foot. They make him look small!

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Giant Germans

Many people introduced themselves and bar a Scottish guy who told us he burns very easily as his interesting fact (yep I feel your pain brother!) one girl and I quote for her interesting fact “For my interesting fact I’m a Vegan”. Euuuugh you’re the worst I inwardly moan in my head as I try to supress a laugh. Way to quash your Vegan stereotypes of “How can you recognise a Vegan? Don’t worry, they’ll tell you!”

The walking tour was amazing, lunch was delicious and for me two bits of information stood out for me on that tour. One was I love World War 2 history so a walk around the Jewish Quarter is a must do and seeing the Church the two Czech soldiers hid out in after fatally wounding Hitler’s right hand man the horrific person who designed and came up with the gas chambers, was very interesting to see. Crazy how in this spot that happened due to two guys and if they didn’t pull off that mission, to which wasn’t easy (the gun jammed and they had to throw a grenade instead) if they didn’t pull it off the war could have been very very different indeed!

The second was the story of the Prague Gollum which is apparently sealed in this loft since the 17th century. From this story came the word for Robot and Superman is in fact based on this old tale of the Prague Gollum. Truly fascinating!

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Enjoying our final day

After we paid James and thanked him for his service (we worked out from the amount he got that he’s on £36 an hour. No wonder he stayed!) we went to buy a ticket for the Jewish Quarter museum which gets you into the various Synagogues and exhibitions which were all museum pieces. James couldn’t recommend this enough on his tour so we all agreed it was a must thing to do. I cannot recommend the Jewish Quarter enough. You seriously have to go visit this collection of buildings and museum pieces.

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The Spanish Synagogue

Two places I still get a lump in my throat thinking about now. In one of the catacombs of a Synagogue is every name of every Jewish person from Prague and the surrounding area who was taken during the Holocaust. Their names were painted on the walls and ceilings of these vast four rooms. Listed was their family name, their first name, when they were taken, when they died and what age they were. To see their names covering this vast area was truly sobering. There were too many names to take in. I saw one child’s name who was 5 when he was killed. I wonder what he would have become if he was allowed to live. These names where shadows of a future that was brutally taken away in one of History’s darkest pasts. I was moved far more than I thought I would be at this. The sheer scale of it all really threw me. Hearing vast amount of numbers killed in this case 80,000 you can still distance yourself from that but when you see those 80,000 names inscribed in front of you for as far as you can see, was just a very sobering experience. Especially as there was a mournful Jewish soundtrack playing which just added to the feel of the place. I don’t think any of us barely said a word to each other for the entire time in there. I think we were all lost in our own thoughts and contemplation’s.

The bit that I really want you to go and see is the Freidl Dicker-Brandeis exhibition. In the labour camps this was the first instance of using drawings with kids to help them get over trauma. Freidl did this in secret with the kids to help them and hid the drawings in cases under floorboards. Freidl knew they were being shipped off to the next camp to sadly perish. On display were the original drawings and paintings from some of these seven suit cases that the children had drawn. That really struck a chord with me emotionally. Some of the children had drew pictures and paintings of happier times, a life before all of this. Happy family meals, Passover, playing with friends. That gave me hope that in the darkest of times for these kids that they could hold onto the thought of positivity and happier times. Yet many showed the true horror of what they had seen and what they were going through at that time. One picture vividly sticks out in my head. Its drawing of himself bearing in mind this kid was 6 years old, he’s standing outside a burning house (which I assume was his childhood home), his mum and dad are outside with skull and crossbones over their faces, while a German soldier in the most horrific gas mask over his head, with a rifle pointing towards his parents on the ground. He drew himself to the side looking on with tears coming from his eyes. I could actually feel my eyes well up a little as I looked at it. 6 years old. Having to go through that and relive it every day just because he believed in a different religion. It made me so sad and so angry at the same time. I can only imagine what he must have felt like being in one of those camps alone with only his thoughts. He never made it past the age of 6. Another life needlessly taken.

As emotional as it was that afternoon I am so glad we decided to go and do it. It’s a must see thing and to learn about the Jewish culture and WW2 history is something I fully recommend.

After visiting there we headed back to the apartment to get changed before heading out for our last night in Prague. Laura since the first day had wanted a slice of pizza from this little Pizza place on the corner that we kept passing, she finally got her wish! It did look good and certainly smelt good too! For the evening we decided to head back to the White Horse café where we had had coffee that morning. It was a beautiful warm summer evening as we watched day turn into night and watched the hustle of Prague’s old town square transform as night fell. I had another Czech sausage which apparently doesn’t come with sides!? So I literally just had a sausage for tea. Well bar Katie very kindly offloading some of her chips to me as I agreed when she said “Tony…that’s pretty much just a starter for you isn’t it?”. She wasn’t wrong haha!

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Another great Czech sausage…without sides 😦

I tried to drink in the atmosphere, the warmth, the noise and the conversation and commit it to memory. It’s so very rare in the UK that you can sit out in such a place like this and in this temperature, the whole feel about it was amazing. A busker had appeared and began playing some beautiful music on his piano as the night grew darker and the buildings grew lighter in that soft Prague street light glow. What an evening. Even the return of the bastard Wasp didn’t dampen our spirits as even he got bored before our meal arrived and buggered off to let us three enjoy our final night in Prague together. On the way back to our apartment we decided to go souvenir shopping. You’re certainly not short on places to get stuff from that’s for sure and at the end of the day it really is all tat but still, you do have to buy it! Loaded up on goodies to take home we headed back to the apartment. Some more cards were played along with a music quiz of British children’s TV shows. Damn those shows have some catchy themes! From Raggy Dolls to Poddington Peas! Although I can still never get the opening of Rosie and Jim out of my head. “JIIIIIMMM”. Oh god.

Our last morning arrived and after tidying up the apartment we said one last goodbye to what had been our home for the past few nights. On leaving we bumped into Aldo and said our goodbyes as we headed back out into the warm sunshine for one final time. One final coffee was the order of the day for breakfast. We found a nice little café in Wenceslas square and sat outside people watching as the time ticked closer to 11 a.m. I decided to skip coffee this morning and instead have some peppermint tea which is one of my favourite drinks! It came with honey and lemon too. Honey in fresh mint tea tastes amazing, lemon….not so much. Lesson learnt!

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Top tip…don’t put lemon in your mint tea.

That’s not before learning how to use a cafeteria. I think four days of not having my required 8 hours sleep had turned my brain to mush. Much to their amusement! I eventually mastered this simple technique but my brain continued to fade throughout the day! So much so that in the airport Katie says “I think we broke Tony”. I think they did!

After paying up and popping to the loo which had a world map where you could place where you had come from, we headed to Albert supermarket (a place we had visited every night to get supplies) and then we jumped on the Metro and then the 119 Bus to the airport. I notice that absinth is a popular drink here, I think the driver had a bit too much as it was one crazy ride! As the bus snaked its way passed the perimeter fence of the airport I turn to Katie and say “At least I’ve learnt one word on this trip” …”Oh yeah?” … “Yeah! Prezni!” I exclaim proudly, my linguistical tongue bound to impress with my perfect Czech accent. She gave me a very confused look “Prezni? What’s that?” she enquired. “It means please…doesn’t it?” at this point my confidence wavered for the meaning of this word. She gave me that smile which I knew would lead into a laugh “Please is Prosim Tony!” … “Oh great! The one word I learnt and it’s not even the correct one!” both of them found this very amusing indeed. I still have no idea what Prezni means! I did learn another word though which is Thank You but it sounds very much like Dick Weed, so I elected to not commit that to memory or use it on the trip!

Prague airport is very odd. Who has shops before security and that security being at your gate? I finally admit defeat that Priority boarding is a complete waste of time. Something I found very difficult to admit to Katie who had the smugness of the cat who just got the cream. It seemed we weren’t the only ones trying to get home. Air traffic congestion over Germany meant we had to wait an extra 45 minutes before we took off into the late European summer blue sky. This extra 45 minutes didn’t do much good for my bladder. Katie needed the loo too but the service trolley was blocking our way and plus she had the aisle seat so had all the power. Evil woman! Finally the trolley went passed us!

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Time to head home!

On my return I asked her if I could borrow her hand gel, something I always use after using a public loo because humans are dirty buggers and people don’t wash their hands! “Of course!” naaw isn’t she nice I thought as I held my hands out. That grin appeared before it was too late to react. She proceeded to pour a shit load (technical term of measurement) of hand gel all over my hands while laughing! I tried to rub it in but there was just too much. I found it very funny…especially as its something i’d deffo do to her but she got there first so probably Katie 3 me 0 now. It was good to know that my hands will be clean for the next 10 years now anyway! Plus, I’m sure the rest of the aircraft enjoyed the slightly peachy scent of Anti-Bac gel. Before long the blue skies of Europe had been replaced by the dull grey heavy clouds of North West England and we touched down. Our holiday was over and we were back home.

We said our goodbyes in the airport and exchanged hugs and the amazing five days in Prague with two awesome people was sadly over. What a trip it had been and above all such a funny one. I would definitely travel with these two again and I know we’ll have many more adventures together! So there we have it, one excellent trip to Prague. Holiday blues are replaced by the thought of my next trip, the biggest solo trip of the year to Iceland and Canada at the end of the month!

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Prague Trip Report: Day 3 – Bye bye money, a sausage and a castle.

I slept right through tonight, a combination of exhaustion and my brain realising that no real threats existed in the apartment. I guess they could kill me at any time but I was hedging my bets that they wouldn’t do that…at least not tonight anyway! I did have a weird dream about being stranded by the both of them on this giant escalator however. Their dream selves were not very kind! At some point in that dream Laura was speaking Chinese. I was confused as to if I was dreaming or I was awake. She was incredibly loud and why she was speaking Chinese I have no idea, so I assumed I was still dreaming. I have a little chuckle to myself about the dream and the appearance of the Chinese speaking Laura while I was in the shower. While getting changed I could hear the both of them talking and Laura laughing. After I exit the bathroom I tell them both about my dream and how they left me on a huge escalator (to which they both agreed they’d totally do that in real life too. MEAN!) And then I explain how Laura appeared to be speaking Chinese really loudly in what I thought was a dream. Turns out Laura was actually sleep talking but in English much to Katie’s amusement after being terrified anyway. Why my brain translated it to Chinese I’ll never know!

Today we planned on going to the castle and then going for a walking tour. On our way to the castle we crossed over another fancy bridge (Yey! Bridges!) And had our obligatory morning selfie. One thing we learnt is that Czech drivers love to speed over bridges!

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Got to love a bridge selfie!

Looming up after the bridge was a ton of steps that snaked up a hill to a weird pendulum thing but offered just the best view of the city. It was amazing! The view of the city and the bridges was stunning, all surrounded by a stunning park and gardens. What a hidden gem! To top it off a Czech Military Hind helicopter (very rare to see so happy Avgeek) graced the city with its presence! You couldn’t ask for anything more.

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Such a beautiful view!

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Good to look at and i guess the view isn’t bad either.

We spent ages trying to find the entrance to the castle which is far harder than you actually would expect! The streets around there were so beautiful though that it almost felt like I was walking in some sort of Alex Rider novel! Especially as these amazing old houses had some armed guards outside. This certainly was the rich area of Prague! Eventually we found our way to the castle and made our way inside.

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The Castle!

After finally going through security which was more of a brief half arsed look through the bag and the guard asking me if I was carrying any knives in there, to which I replied no. This was sufficient enough for him to stop the search and wave us through. Thank god all terrorists are truthful people hey!

We were greeted by a large impressive court yard with these fancy buildings all towering around us. To the left was a long snaking queue towards the information office which had tickets underneath the sign. We had no other choice but to join the back of the queue and wait. We were in the queue for no longer than two minutes until to the right of us was a smaller building with a door that also said information and tickets. Me and Katie kept our place in the queue while Laura went into the building to scope it out to see if we could buy tickets from there. After some trouble with opening a push door by pulling it, she disappeared inside. She was gone for five minutes with no word from her and by this point we were pretty close to the entrance to the original building. I tried to phone her and Whatsapp her but I got no response. We decided that Katie would now hold our place in this line while I went on a rescue mission. After entering the building there she was just about to pay for her ticket. “I tried whatsapping you!” she shouts. Fair enough I notice my data hadn’t even connected. Doh! I wave Katie over and we join a very short queue. Why every other moron was standing in a big ass snaking line in the sun is beyond me! There were many different ticket options, you could walk around the palace and the cathedral for free but you couldn’t go in anything unless you paid. Ticket prices for admission were very reasonable and with an International Student card you could get almost half price tickets! Well, that’s if you were a student aged 18-26. I used my card and got my discount. Katie however despite being a full time student and having an international student card, just misses out on the 26 upper limit. The woman on the counter was very cold in pointing out that she was not 26 and would have to pay the full amount. Proper ageist!!

Me and Laura both felt guilty that we had got discounted prices but Katie had not. She may take the piss out of us “young ones” not being able to go a day without a nap but at least we got in for cheap ;)! In all seriousness though we did feel guilty and we both offered to pay the difference to her ticket. She politely declined the offer as we walked back out into the blazing sun of the courtyard. If it’s one thing I hate and that’s injustice and something being unfair, so I offered again. My offer was to hand her 50 Koruna which works out at around £1.50. She refused again to which I state “Well, you either take it or throw it away I don’t care. I’m offering, stop being stubborn, take it!”

“I will throw it away if you give it to me Tony!” she exclaims.

Meh. I slipped the 50 coin into her pocket. I thought I was doing a nice thing and she’d just accept the offer. Big mistake! I learnt very quickly that Katie is not the type of person to make idle threats! I watch, mouth half open as she places her hand into her pocket, and weighs the weight of the coin in her hand before with a smile, launching it across the court yard. I watch as my coin skims off the cobbles and through some tourist’s legs! I was too in shock to say anything. By this point Laura was laughing and in just as much shock that she actually threw it. Both of them however burst into a massive fit of laughter when a European gentlemen in broken English taps me on my shoulder and says “You’ve just dropped 50 Koruna there”. That was the icing on the cake for them two as they had tears coming down their face from laughter. Now I’m not sure how Europeans drop money but I doubt its launching them across a fucking courtyard! Now I had no choice but to trundle through the courtyard, pick up my coin and reluctantly put it back in my pocket.

“I cannot believe you actually just did that!” I say with a laugh as I walk back to them both, I did find it very funny! I’ve known plenty of independent women before but Jesus ha-ha “Fuck me Katie you mad woman!”

“I did warn you Tony! I told you I would, bitch!”

More laughter ensued.

Katie 1 – Tony 0

I guess while I’m here I should fast forward you to another story on the last morning of the holiday. Katie was getting far too much enjoyment out of empting the water bottles and standing on them to crush them before putting them into our little bin. I was watching on in amusement from my sprawled out position on the bed. I had bought a big 7Up bottle on the second day of the trip and had barely touched it. It sat there waiting nervously at the sink as it watched its fellow bottles be crushed. “Tony, are you going to drink this or are you going to empty it and bin it?” she enquires. After a short contemplation “Meh, probably not! You can go ahead and empty it and bin it if you’d like?” I reply with a smile and wink for good measure. Katie folds her arms with a smile on her face “Tony…It’s yours, you can do it yourself!” (Edit I’m 100% sure Katie swore at me here but she recalls differently haha)

Like a scolded child I get up off my bed, empty the bottle, crush it and then place it in the bin. Doing what I was told. “See! Wasn’t so hard was it!” she quipped, her words dripping in sarcasm and laughter. “I hate you” I countered with a laugh back. For a strong independent man, I’m seriously whipped by that woman that I fear my chauvinistic ways are officially dead hahaha! I would later go on to recite that story to my parents once I got back to the UK to which both of them clapped and exclaimed “Well done Katie!” So that’s now Katie 2 Tony 0. Sigh. A worthy adversary! I’m sure that’s not the last we’ll hear of it ha-ha.

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When she’s not throwing away my money she can be nice!

Back to day three and we follow the path my poor coin had taken only moments before. After walking through an archway we were greeted by the giant Cathedral that dwarfed everything. One of my other travel quirks besides the Hard Rock Café T-Shirts is I often try to climb the highest thing in the city to get a good view and I’ll visit their Cathedral. Often those two things go hand in hand. Usually for a small price you can walk up many Cathedrals and they offer excellent views of the city. As a photographer, I love the light in Cathedrals and the Architecture and grandeur of it all. Despite being raised Catholic and spending my High School years in a school run by Nuns, I’m very much not religious in that sense at least. So visiting Cathedrals has no draw to me other than their stunning architecture and design. There is a weird feeling about Cathedrals though. They all feel the same and it’s a hard one to describe. I guess they’re designed to make you feel like there is a presence there or a higher being watching. I do get that feeling every time I go in one. Kinda’ creeps me out! The Cathedral was stunning if not a little busy! We did try out the whispering arch ways but that didn’t work. We must have looked like right weirdos (which we are anyway I guess!) talking into archways!

After the Cathedral we were quite peckish and in a smaller courtyard with a fountain there was a Czech food vendor. I am quite partial to a bit of sausage…oh wait no. That didn’t come out right. I guess I always try to eat different sausa…actually no way can I write this without immature people (myself included) laughing or thinking of anything other than the innocence of eating a food product. What I’m trying to say is I love trying different types of sausages (stop it! You’re old enough!) and I was glad to try some proper German Bratwurst when I was in Berlin. Here, they were selling some Czech Paprika sausage, which I had to try. Especially for what was only around £3. Oh wow. It was so so good! My fellow sausage connoisseur Katie 😉 agreed that it was a far nicer, milder and sweeter Chorizo. Well done Czech people. You know how to make a sausage!

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Nice Sausage

Now suitably stuffed we went to the Basilica, the golden lane which was a y’olde type street. That was pretty cool especially the row of Knights armour throughout the years and the torture chamber was pretty grim! Katie made a valid point that we’re the only species who takes pleasure in creating different types of ways to kill each other. Other animals just club each other to death whereas we like to put spikes in chairs for fun.  Grim.

After that we plonked ourselves down on the floor in the courtyard with our backs against the fountain. It was so lovely to have the sun and blue skies feeling on your skin. It was lovely to just sit there and watch the milling about of fellow tourists. Now I don’t mind the sun or the heat. I’ve been in 45 degree heat before and numerous days in the desert at 38c. Summer is my favourite season…as long as I’m doing something in the sun. I can cope. If I’m just sitting there baking then after 20 minutes I can begin to hear my skin sizzle as I start to bake in my own body. For them two, they only have to look at the sun and turn brown. So. Jealous! Any burns for them in the day by time we were getting ready for bed they had already turned brown. *Sobs*.  For me I have plenty of Irish blood and therefore I only have to look at the sun and burn to a crisp. Something they both found hilarious at my expense. While not once did they apply any sun cream throughout the entire holiday, I lathered myself in factor 30 constantly and still burnt! You’d think Irish heritage working on farms all day that we’d have better skin but then I remembered Ireland never gets any sun, so that makes sense! However by day 5 I did go from a brilliant white to an off white so hey, that’s a tan for me!

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After 30 minutes and drinking that horrific water which now was as hot as a cup of tea, I asked politely if we could move before the very real possibility of me spontaneously combusting occurred! So on that water. While I love all types of water, I do have a tendency to drink fizzy water. I honestly don’t mind still or sparkling but for them two, sparkling water is probably on par with drinking death. They both despised it! So yesterday I mention about the whole water system in Europe. Blue Top should be still. Blue was not still to their horror. I still think it was still water but there were a few different bubbles in there. It had a horrific metallic weird taste to it. The name on the bottle was Magnesia and with a water drop logo had Mg on it. Now, they’re adamant that Magnesia was the name of the brand and that it tasted weird because it was fizzy. I drink fizzy and still all the time and fizzy water does not taste like that! I personally think for some odd reason the water had extra magnesium in it. Giving it that fizz feel but horrific metallic taste. We may never know. All you need to know was it was fucking disgusting and we only drank it because that’s all we had until we could restock later that day!

We decided that we should cancel our walking tour and to reschedule that for tomorrow. Good call guys! That gave us extra time to have a look around the place and visit the Castle. Castles in Prague are not like the Castles we’re used to but damn it was fancy! The architecture here is just stunning. It was starting to get to late afternoon by time we left the grounds of the Castle to be greeted by stunning views of the city. Which means more selfies…obviously!

Walking down the Castle steps is one of the must do things in Prague and we duly obliged as we went about our way to find the world’s narrowest street. We made a pit stop to an Italian Gelato café and once again, excellent call by the ladies! I had a mango sorbet and the girls had these really cute different flavours that were made into a little flower cones. So many flavours! Once again, curse you lactose intolerance! Grrrrr.

We found the world’s narrowest street, now I’m not sure what constitutes an alley way to a street but I guess as this narrow street down steps and between buildings led to a restaurant that counts. It’s so narrow that it has a traffic light system! That was really cool to go see and walk down.

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The worlds narrowest street!

After squeezing through the narrowest street in the world we headed back over Charles Bridge and back to the apartment. After a refresh it was back out for tea. This time, inspired by our Czech lunch we wanted to have some traditional Czech food for tea. We found a decent enough place that was underground. It gave me the feel of some Soviet Union bar/nightclub vibe. Very cool! Czech food isn’t particularly refined or looks very good! It’s Eastern European hearty food, good for those cold winter months. The number one Czech dish is Beef Goulash over there and since day one I wanted to try it. It may not look great but it tasted really good! Like the insides of a really nice beef and ale pie but instead of pastry you got bread dumplings! Katie had another Czech dish although they’ve clearly taken inspiration from their Austrian neighbours with the Chicken Schnitzel. Whereas Laura had the only real Czech vegetarian dish which is fried cheese! If that was a year ago, I know that’s all I would have eaten here!

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Czech’s number one dish.

After a good meal and an awkward selfie with the woman on the opposite table trying to avoid getting in it! We went out for another night time walk of Prague. It felt so good for everything to still feel so hot even though the sun had long set. The girls had a traditional Czech dessert which is a Trdlo. It’s basically a donut texture in a cone and Katie had hers filled with ice cream, whereas Laura went for Nutella. If I could, I think I’d have joined Laura with the Nutella choice! I did try a bit and none of us could quite place the flavour. It deffo wasn’t donut that’s for sure!

We spent hours getting lost in the city at night, just walking, taking pictures, chatting. Getting lost and just walking with no real destination is such a fun thing to do with people like these two! After a few hours we ended back up at the apartment to conclude another brilliant day in Prague. With only one full day left in Prague it was time for bed. I really don’t want to go home!

Prague Trip Report: Day 2 – Plenty of walking, facing the fear of heights and a portaloo from hell.

By time the alarm went off at 8 a.m. I think I managed between an hour and two hours’ sleep. It’s always the way, the first night in a new bed and location I never sleep well at all. There is probably some psychological reason for that, probably some sort of survival instinct which doesn’t allow you to drift off into a deep sleep in a new environment. I’ve always been like that and that puzzles me. For someone who sleeps through fire alarms and has no problem falling asleep on trains, in office chairs or public places, you would think I’d have no issues in new beds. I just guess that’s one of my many quirks! The bed was comfy enough, although I do prefer a slightly softer mattress to the one I had and I could have done with a second pillow. I sleep with only one at home but it’s so big it’s the size of two regular ones together. That and a combination of sharing a room with two people i wouldn’t usually share with was enough to keep me staring at the ceiling for most of the night. At around 2 in the morning my bladder decided it was time to have a wee. I spent half an hour weighing up if I could hold on until the morning as I didn’t fancy navigating the apartment in pitch black. In the end I gave up and knew I had to go on a night time mission to have the quietest wee in the world as to not wake my fellow bunkers. I faced a dilemma. I have a photographic memory so that means most of the time I can pretty much remember to the inch where obstacles are, however I hadn’t had time before we went to bed to commit the route to memory. The apartment was pitch black with very little ambient light to see. I didn’t want to use the torch on my phone as putting that on it might as well be daylight and I’m sure neither of them wanted to wake up to a midnight sun! In the end I decided the best course of action was to put my phone on the dimmest setting and use the tiny bit of ambient light to walk to the bathroom. The easiest option would have been to walk through the girl’s bedroom as no doors existed in this apartment, except thankfully the bathroom! As I reckoned ten steps from my bed, through their bedroom, a left turn, another four steps and I knew the bathroom would be there. However I thought it would be a bit weird if I did that and if they happened to wake up while I was walking passed their beds in just my boxers the conversation might be a bit weird ha-ha. Instead I decided to walk the long way around the kitchen. I’m blind enough as it is in daylight and at night it’s more of luck to not bump into anything rather than skill. I walked as slow and as carefully as I could as to not disturb them both. Tiny steps and strained eyes got me to the bathroom, for which my bladder was grateful for. Expert precision weeing in the dark was complete and content with myself as not hearing that I had woke anyone up I saunter back towards my bed. BANG! A sharp pain rockets up my toe and was met by a similar pain in my nose as my glasses and face clattered into something solid. “FUCK SAKE!” I mutter far too loudly. One out of pain and two all my hard work of being stealthy to go the loo had been shattered in a moment. Who the fuck puts a fucking cupboard just outside of the bathroom!? I nurse my wounds as I trundle back to my bed. I could hear no snoring and no one laughed so I assumed I may have got away with it. I plugged my phone back in and tried in vain to sleep, but my toe was throbbing!

By time it got to 5 a.m. I could see the deep black of night turn to a purple colour through the skylight above my head, I gave up trying to sleep. My body is pretty used to the whole first night thing so I didn’t actually feel too tired. When the alarm did go off I wasn’t the only one who barely slept that night. I think we may have got about three hours sleep between us all! Turns out both of them were awake and to their amusement watched me face plant into a cupboard at night and both of them very kindly held back their laughter when it did happen. Instead they saved that laughter for the morning for me, making me very red faced indeed! But i’m well used to these two taking the piss out of me anyway!

For the last hour before the alarm I decided to listen to some music. For a few months now I’ve been enjoying the musical delights of my Bose QC35’s. Sadly I had no room for them in my bag so had to make do with the crappy headphones that came with my Samsung phone. I didn’t realise that even on a moderate volume they leak more noise than a boombox. Something neither Katie nor Laura appreciated much, especially when they were trying to at least attempt to sleep! That was noted and I never used them again for the rest of the trip. That was totally okay as that’s what you do when you’re sharing close quarters with people. You’re still getting used to peoples routines and you need to adapt and compromise so that everyone is happy. Despite listening to a lot of music every day it’s certainly not life or death so I was happy to shelve my crap headphones anyway! Besides in Katie’s dream she dreamt that she was shouting at me because an Asian man was behind me in the apartment and apparently I was very blasé about it all. Subconsciously I think she was angry with me haha! She did apologise in the dream and in person so I guess we were even!

Any lingering tiredness I did have was washed away by the shower. I’m not sure who designed the height of the shower but I had to bend my knees so that I could wash my hair which was interesting! Today was always going to be a late start as we had to wait for Aldo the guy who ran the apartments to come between 9 and 10 a.m. to do some registration paperwork and so that I could pay him. After my shower, the girls got ready and we had some burnt but tasty waffles for breakfast. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a toaster smoke as much as that one without catching fire! A stubborn bit of food was stuck to the element which made a nice smoke effect in the apartment! It did add a cool dry ice 80’s rock music video vibe. Thankfully we had three big open skylight windows to deal with the smoke.

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Breakfast time!

Sometime after 9 Aldo knocked. Thankfully the smoke had gone and only the slight odour of burnt sweet waffles hung in the air. When I opened the door I was greeted by Cisco Ramone’s doppelganger from the Flash. I mean scarily alike! I guess if Star Labs ever falls through that it’s good to know his dopple is running apartments! Nice enough chap who took the payment and paperwork and explained some places to visit on his map. I committed the map to memory which is just as well because I forgot the map and it stayed on my bedside table for the rest of the trip by accident! There was a safe in the room and whoever used it last didn’t reset it so we couldn’t access it, it needed a key to be reset. It took him five minutes to root through his bag and his millions of keys. In the end, typical, that the only key he didn’t have was the one for the safe. He apologised and said he’d come back later with it. No big deal but it just meant we had to carry all our money and passports with us for the day ahead.

The day ahead we decided would be that we’d just go walking today and have no real plan. I’m glad we settled on that as that’s the first day thing I always do in a new city. Walking in new cities is the only way to see everything, get lost and discover new things. Before that though we needed water and food for the day. Oddly enough in Prague there was a lot of British brand shops. There were a few Costa Coffee’s, an M&S and more Tesco’s than probably in the entirety of Merseyside. They were everywhere! We got plenty of water for the day from this supermarket called BILLA, as I’m glad I’m not the only one who drinks a lot of water! Unlike some weird human Cacti, yes Laura I’m looking at you! Our water consumption habits actually became quite a talking point on this holiday. The things you learn about each other hey! I was still hungry and decided to take a punt on this pretzel type bun which I thought had poppy seeds on it. After our shop and our way back to the apartment to drop the water off did the full realisation of how much we were ripped off last night dawned on us. Water, breakfast and crisps came to about £3 compared to one bottle and crisps at about £8 last night! So top travel tip always shop in proper supermarkets abroad and not rip off merchants aka Twenty4Seven! Bastards!

In Europe a simple task of buying water is a bit of a minefield. Certainly something we would learn to our detriment the next day. I knew that in Europe they have three water systems. Blue bottle tops are still water, Green is a mildly sparkling one and Red is drop a Mentos into a coke bottle kind of fizz. I made that mistake in Amsterdam last summer buying a red top and I nearly died from the explosion of water from opening it!

Back in the apartment we ate our breakfast that we picked up. Sure enough my “it kind of’ looks like a Pretzel” certainly tasted like a pretzel however…they were definitely not poppy seeds. I have no fucking idea what they were or what I ate but they were not poppy seeds! They looked like tiny black croissants and had a weird sweet taste to them. I’m still undecided whether I liked it or not, it had the weird can’t put your finger on it kind of taste which kept making you want to eat more so you could decide! I never did reach a conclusion. One water I did pick up was some mint water. For those who know me, know that I am addicted to anything mint. Yet, this was horrifically bad! Imagine pouring toothpaste into water and then drinking it. To my horror that disgusting water didn’t even top tomorrows one!

Eventually we headed out for our first full day and had our first Selfie of the day. For the first proper time we could get a real feel for the city in daylight. It is such a beautiful city. I always thought Amsterdam was the prettiest city I’d ever visited but Prague makes it look incredibly plain in comparison. The mix of architecture, different vibrant colours and cobbled streets are just stunning! Our first stop was Prague’s most famous landmark, the Astronomical clock. It was a real shame it was shrouded in scaffolding, what a time to do work at the peak of tourist season! At 11 a.m. we all gathered around for the show of the clock. Well wow. Wow as in pretty disappointing. I expected so much more. Turns out it’s voted one of the most disappointing attractions in the world so good to know I wasn’t the only one but I am certainly glad to say I got to see it!

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The Astronomical Clock

We walked for miles and miles in the city, taking pictures, getting lost, chatting and having a laugh. It felt so good to be in a beautiful city, with the sun on your back with two of the best people. It felt so good and that feeling never left me until I said goodbye to them both at Liverpool airport!

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A different selfie this time!

I wanted to see Charles bridge which is one of those bridges that Prague is famous for. I obviously mentioned it a few times as I was accused of being obsessed with bridges. So anytime we spotted a bridge I would make reference to it and take a picture of it. Who doesn’t love a bit of structural engineering and a bit of Bridge Porn? Charles Bridge was massive and busy but had some great views and even better buskers! The bridge spanned over the river into the other part of Prague. We stepped off the bridge and wandered around until we found a nice park and a view to have some of our lunch which consisted of better Paprika crisps and some Bruschetta bites.

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Charles Bridge!

The heat of the day was certainly building by time we finished our lunch and after walking past possibly one of the oddest statues, we stopped to discuss what to do next. I read somewhere about a really good view point towards the castle which was a mile and a bit behind us on this side of the river. We headed that way until the tower of Petrin loomed up in the distance perched high on a mountain. Okay, technically it was a hill…but a really big fuck off steep hill. It’s still a mountain to me! I had seen pictures from the top of the tower and it gave amazing views of the city. We decided to head that way instead of the castle and it was a good decision to do so. There was a long queue for the tram that took people up the 1000 foot climb to the top of the hill. A) No way were we going to pay that and B) We’re all fit and young individuals who are on holiday to walk and explore. So we were all in agreement to walk to the top. We set out with all the bravado and gusto as the pavement turned into dirt tracks and the dirt tracks turned into nothing but dried mud and stupidly steep gradients. The inner geographer was loving the hike through the forest and the views behind of the city as we got higher and higher were amazing but my chest, with a 10kg bag pack full of water and camera gear felt like it was going to implode. Eventually we made it to the top and walked into a spectacular garden and much needed benches for a rest. I knew I’d walk a lot this holiday, I just didn’t expect to climb a mini mount Everest. That garden and bench was so peaceful that I feel we all could have stayed there all day as the sun beat down on us. I closed my eyes and enjoyed the sun, the warm wind and the distant chatter of people as they walked through the gardens.

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The gardens of Petrin.

After a while we decided to move on as it really was a possibility that if we didn’t move, we may still be sitting in that spot now! By this point I really needed a wee (drink a lot of water and it’s got to eventually go somewhere!) and by time we got to the tower my bladder was in emergency mode. Like a shining mirage a set of portaloos appeared by a busker who was singing Imagine by John Lennon…very very badly. Sadly I couldn’t imagine the horror I was about to witness. In I went in a rush and then the scene in front of me unfolded. You know in those movies were the character realises something and then the whole background zooms in as the camera shows their face contorts into horror? That’s what happened. I honestly don’t think I have ever been in a toilet as filthy as that. I actually felt like I was contracting a million diseases just standing there. There was shit everywhere. In my head I had Gordon Ramsey going “Look at the fucking mess in here! Wow.” There was even mould growing on the door so fuck knows the last time this toilet was cleaned? 1000 BC maybe? NASA wants to look for signs of life on the hostile environment of Mars. Fuck that guys. Alien life forms are living in that toilet! Right under your noses. Just make sure you manage to cover the nose up first!

After exiting and feeling like multiple showers in Dettol wouldn’t be enough to clean myself and purge the horror from my memory, I had to make do with dowsing my hands in Anti-Bac hand gel which I never go anywhere without. Katie exited the other one and judging by her face and the hands reaching for my gel, it was good to show we both had a shared PTSD whenever we now see a portaloo!

From one horror of shit to the next feeling of not wanting to shit myself due to the horror of heights. I don’t do heights. I mean I can stand on glass floors and fly planes upside down without a bother. Yet I can’t step on the second step of a step ladder without having legs the consistency of Jelly. So, naturally the idea of walking up a spiral staircase on the outside of a mini Eiffel tower on top of a 1000 foot hill was a great idea. In fact going up I was amazed at how unphased I was by it all. On one of the highest bits I even had the courage to stand on a ledge and look down. With nothing but my knees below the safety barrier. Much to poor Katie’s heart rate haha. Who is this Tony and where did he come from!?

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Neither of us like heights but totally nailed it! Go us!

The views were stunning and I recommend visiting the Petrin Tower. We all made it to the very top and oh boy was that high! That’s when suddenly any bravado or courage I had dissipated rapidly. I didn’t notice it at first until Laura mentioned that the entire building was swaying in the wind. Fuck that right off and get me down ASAP! That was not a pleasant feeling at all. I may have got up that building fine but going down the outside, looking down with the wind at your back trying to push you, urgh, all aboard the nope train. My legs felt like lead and jelly at the same time and took a whole 30 minutes to recover once we eventually got to the bottom! Fortune favours the brave…just. However I am glad for the experience. Amazing views and certainly a story to tell.

After that dice with heights we headed back to the apartment which was a 3 mile walk from where we were, stopping off in a supermarket to get more water and some snacks for the evening. Turns out in Prague beer is in fact cheaper than water. A bottle of Budweiser worked out as 26p! 26!!!

After a refresh, a change of clothes and a nap (I didn’t even hear Katie get into the shower!) and some chilling we headed out for our evening in Prague. Whenever I go to any new city, I always buy a hard rock café T-shirt from that city if they have one. It’s something I’ve done since I was a kid and I never really know why I started that collection but it continues to grow! Prague had a Hard Rock so I wanted to go visit the shop to buy one. I guess somewhere the translation was lost as I always visit a Hard Rock for the shirt but I don’t always eat there. They thought I did both, which was fine because Hard Rock café food is the best food going! Laura had never visited a Hard Rock café and Katie only once many years ago. So we booked a table, I got my shirt and we enjoyed a fabulous meal and drinks for prices way way cheaper than any Hard Rock I’ve ever been in. Full meal and drinks for £13 whereas Katie for a full meal, big cocktail including a kick ass glass to take home, only came to around £18! It’s unbelievably cheap here! Once again Hard Rock never disappoints!

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After an hour or so there we headed out for a night-time walk around the city. Prague by night as just as beautiful as Prague by day. In fact it often felt busier at night! The bridge was still alive with people at 10pm, the buskers were still playing and the soft glow of the street lamps just made the whole experience a real amazing one. God I love this city!

After sampling the delights of Prague at night we headed back to the apartment for more snacks, cards and more laughs. A truly brilliant first full days adventure. Eventually the lack of sleep over the 48 hours, the travelling and walking over 13 miles that day caught up with me and I was ready for bed. I looked forward to a good night’s sleep.

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The end to a fantastic first full day in Prague!

I did sleep…until a Chinese Laura appeared in the dead of night in the apartment…

Prague Trip Report: Day 1 – Arrivals day

I wake up with that familiar feeling before a new adventure, a feeling I’ve grown accustomed to this year. It’s that feeling of excitement and anticipation that comes with travelling. Luckily, for the first and only time this year, that my flight out to Prague was at 4pm in the afternoon rather than the usual crack of dawn starts. That allowed me the beauty of feeling that pre travel feeling for a bit longer. Usually that feeling fades by time I get into the shower and tiredness from a 3 or 4 a.m start replaces it!

One of the great things about an afternoon flight is the luxury of leaving the packing until the morning. It’s usually the last thing I do before I go to bed. For someone who plans a lot of things in life, you would think I’d be super organised with packing but no…definitely not me! More last minute the better, it’s part of the fun of travelling! I guess I have it easy as a guy anyway, especially travelling to a central European country in the height of summer. All I need is enough boxers and socks to cover me for the five days away, five different t-shirts, two shorts (with a preference for jean shorts as they have more pickpocket proof pockets, gotta’ keep that in mind travelling!), one smart shirt for the evening meals and I always wear jeans and a jumper for travelling in. Sorted. As a guy at least I don’t have to worry about strappy or long tops or different types or shoes etc to wear, unlike my two travel companions for this trip! All of that means my packing which I’ve got down to a fine art by now, took me less than ten minutes. I could get five days’ worth of stuff, toiletries and camera gear all in my trusty expedition day bag. Usually if I had a case with me I’d take more, especially my walking shoes. I elected to take the gamble and leave them at home. Last time I left my walking boots at home for a city break I came back with Plantar Fasciitis in my foot from walking so much in less than ideal shoes. My walking boots are size 11, they’re massive and they’re heavy. Great for the stuff I do but not so great for hot city walking and plus they were still covered in sand and sea water from my trip to Crosby with Katie, so they would probably begin to smell after a few days of heavy use in Prague! Both Laura and Katie certainly don’t deserve to be subjected to that!!

I bought myself a pair of Sketcher walking trainers. I know, I know, I can hear you groan at me for buying sketchers. However, for the price, lightness and comfort of them they proved a great alternative to my walking boots. Despite sleeping in and watching TV, the morning dragged on for what seemed like forever. Even getting my DNA results back didn’t pass the time as much as I hoped (disappointingly 98.9% British and Irish!). Time always drags for travelling, I think time does actually slow down as soon as you’re about to leave somewhere.

Finally 12.30 arrived on the clock and we pulled out of the drive way to head over to Katie’s house to pick her and Laura up to go to the airport. My Dad very kindly offered to take us to the airport (and that’s why he’s just the best Dad ever!) saving us a taxi or at least a train and bus ride. I was really excited at this point as we headed towards South Liverpool. I honestly couldn’t wait to get away with both of two people that I really appreciate in my life and just absolutely love spending time with. Every day is a laugh and I had a feeling that this trip was going to be really special and above all a really fun trip! As we got closer to the house I gazed out of the window at the endless grey clouds and couldn’t wait to go to Prague were sun was forecast for five days with a bit of heat thrown in too!

After picking both of them up and admiring Laura’s excellent parking skills, under 20 minutes later we said goodbyes to my Dad and we were walking across into the terminal. I’ve mentioned it before in my travel blogs how that first step into an airport still gives me that buzz. There is an energy about the place that’s always fascinated me even as a kid. A sense of adventure awaits amidst the chatter and sound of wheeled cases. Despite having checked my bag a billion times and knowing I have absolutely nothing out of the ordinary on me, I still get really nervous and on edge going through security. Every single aspect of flying I am totally relaxed with…except this part. As soon as I am through I can relax and know the holiday has started, until then I just can’t. It makes no sense and I agree it’s illogical and weird! Maybe as Katie said it’s just because I’m Scouse. She has a point! I think it’s in the blood like a survival skill to be naturally cautious around police and security personnel haha! I do have a valid reason to be sceptical travelling through Liverpool airport though. We have a long and at least relatively recent, turbulent history together. For a time I felt like I was public enemy number one due to my Undergraduate dissertation research findings which cost them quite a bit of money back in the day. Ooops! That much that I actively avoided travelling from there for two years until management moved on. Three times I’ve flown out of there this year and three times the metal detectors haven’t gone off but I’ve got a thorough pat down anyway. Now I’m not saying there is a link but three times I’m starting to question the “random search” algorithm! This patdown was particularly intimate. I mean holy shit, he really went to town on those legs and up around the crotch area. Which was of course to great amusement to both of them two! Looks like I took one for the team in the search area as both of them breezed through security without any issues at all! I guess one thing we found out, if you’re a girl and you’re travelling with straighteners don’t take my advice and take them out because they can be left in your bag. So I guess I learnt something new and shock horror, I was wrong for once!

Now that we were though security I could relax and look forward to the holiday. After coffees for them and tea for me to wash down the pain of paying close to £8 for a meal deal (WHSmith in airports are nothing but daylight robbery!) we headed for our gate. Me and Laura had priority boarding and I did feel guilty having to leave Katie to stand in the long ass queue by herself and even more so when she was outside of the first 90 and had to check her bag in. Luckily there is no charge for that in Liverpool, unlike the hassle on the return leg with bags! Argh! Plus don’t get me started on the utter waste that priority boarding is, I really should have learnt my lesson from Berlin!

I knew we’d have a flight delay as my FlightRadar app told me so and the distinct lack of our aircraft outside the window only seeked to confirm it. I knew we were going to be standing for ages. Just under 40 minutes we were standing up for until we eventually boarded the plane. I’ve mentioned it before how I’m really not a fan of the interior of Ryanair aircraft. The sea of plastic yellow and dark blue actually makes me feel nauseous. I still question how the interior design team ever signed off on that scheme and thought it looked good. Add to that the plastic headrest and the fact the plane was one of the oldest in the fleet at 12 years old. My tray table moved more laterally than it did vertically when stowed! Welcome to RyanScare.

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Our Flying 12 year old Tubaware box.

I had the window seat, I learnt my lesson from my trip to Amsterdam with Emma earlier in the year that you should never say “I’ll play you for it” because you’ll lose. Once bitten, twice shy. So that window seat was staying mine! Laura had the middle seat and Katie the aisle. After a pre-departure selfie which would be the first of very many on this trip, we were strapped in, doors shut and on our way for our much needed holiday!

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Pre flight selfie!

Or well we thought…

We were held at the holding point just before the runway for a good five minutes. Usually that’s due to waiting for a plane to land. After five minutes we taxied onto the runway but I noted it as odd that a plane hadn’t landed. I tried to think in my head what that delay was for. I reasoned that it was probably a slot issue, especially as we were already late. I explain to Laura what would be happening next, how the pilots would throttle those CFM engines to 25% wait for them to stabilize before going to full thrust and then leaving the ground at 140-160 mph. Sure enough those engines got to 25% and stayed at 25%. In my head I was like “Come on guys. Thrust!” Suddenly the engines went to idle and the brakes were applied and we taxied off the runway. Fuck I thought. Big problem.

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Squawk 7700

As this wasn’t a based aircraft if there was a technical fault there was no way we were going to be leaving today. I guess that five minute delay was them trying to rectify a fault which must have been unsuccessful. As we taxied back to stand a fire engine pulled up next to the aircraft, I really had a sinking bad feeling about it. An issue serious enough to abort a take-off is usually going to be a lengthy one to fix. However as soon as we pulled onto stand the Captain made an announcement that there was a medical emergency on-board. Gutted for them but relieved that it wasn’t a fault with the aircraft! Of all my years flying and with hundreds of flights that was my first ever RTO! Thank god it wasn’t just before V1 or after departure. It felt like a late call but the crew made the right decision. As the old aviation saying goes “it’s better to be on the ground wishing you were up there, than be up there wishing you were on the ground”. It turns out a woman was ill and was complaining of chest pains. It took a while for the Fire service who are trained in first aid to attend to her before she was offloaded with her partner. I really did feel sorry for them, especially as her Husband apologised to us all and went “we were really looking forward to this trip”. His apology felt misplaced among the few passengers who offered up a comforting awww. It’s not really her fault and I guess him saying that probably didn’t make her feel much better! I hope they eventually got to go away and that she makes a full recovery.

After a delay we taxied onto the runway for our second attempted take off. This time it was successful and we were finally on our way to Prague! Nothing like a bit of drama to kick off a holiday right? We were in the air for less than a minute before the tears of laughter started. In my attempt to explain the principles of air particles and lift on the wing surface I accidently used a hand gesture that’s much more appropriate for the bedroom than an aircraft full of passengers. I didn’t actually realise what I was doing by simulating the perpendicular force of lift up against a wing surface with two fingers until I was told to “never do that gesture in public ever again!”. When I realised what I had done that provided plenty of laughs for all three of us and became a recurring joke throughout the rest of the flight and holiday!

The rest of the 1 hour 45 minute flight was uneventful. We chatted, listened to music, read some books and before we knew it we were descending into a Prague sunset. As always I try to film the landings of new airports. Both so I can look back on them and upload them to Youtube so my fellow Avgeeks can view them. Of course they both find that hilarious and took the absolute piss out of me for the entire video down, although I did nail our landing time! I’m not even mad because it was fucking funny :P. I can probably never upload that video to Youtube ha-ha! Good job I love them both!

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Sunset Arrivals

From landing to going through passport control to waiting for the bags took less than 15 minutes! Probably the quickest entry to any country! We were all starving and it would be at least a 45 minute bus then metro ride to the apartment. So we decided to have our first Czech meal which was the very traditional dish of…McDonalds!

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Tasted so good and much cheaper than in the UK

For 300 Czech Koruna you can get a 72 hour pass on all transport and we just made it in time for the 119 bus. By this point it was pitch black outside and after the short bus ride it was onto Prague’s Merseyrail. Which were clean, on-time and their stations are really cool! They really reminded me of a Darlek!

Entering the city of Prague I didn’t realise how central our apartment really was, right in the centre of Wenceslas Square. I’m so grateful for my free European data as I used Google Maps to navigate the streets to our apartment. Instantly I knew I’d like this place. The vibe was really cool and there was a concert going on in the centre of the square. Even though it was just after 10pm it felt entirely different to the feeling of being in Liverpool at 10pm I can tell you that! We found our apartment which was tucked away inside a courtyard off the main street and we punched in our access code, climbed what would become a brutal four flights of stairs each day into B402. Our home for the next four nights. It was small but sufficient and for what was basically £25 a night there was certainly no complaints from us!

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Looking forward to spending the next few days with these guys

After a quick unpack we headed out to find some water and snacks. We came across a 24 hour shop which we didn’t realise how much we got ripped off until we went back to the apartment! More on that tomorrow!

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Entering our apartment for the first time!

We played some cards and ate weird tasting paprika crisps to unwind and Katie taught us a new card game which was affectionately called Shithead. After a few games of that and many laughs it was already into the early hours of the morning and bed was beckoning. However sleep never really arrived…