The Day in the life of Tony Cliffe

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

Tag: humour

My 2019 so far: January to July

A blog I tend to do every year is an end of year blog and a mid-year blog where I look back through my Instagram and reminisce about the highs, the lows and some of my favourite shots of the year so far. As we head into August and get closer to the darker nights, the crisp cool air and the twinkling of frost on the ground, I thought it would be an excellent time to review 2019 thus far!

January

Sadly, 2019 didn’t get off to the best of starts. The second half of 2018 was slowly sliding into a pile of crap compared to the first half, it accumulated in one of the worst Christmases in living memory, and I had high hopes that 2019 would be a fresh, new, positive start. A reset. Well, that didn’t go to plan. My beautiful feline best friend Tammy sadly passed away after being my cat of over 21 years. I was absolutely heartbroken. She had gone rapidly downhill in December and only saw the first week of 2019 before moving on to a better life. I still miss her terribly. Tam was my cat, she hated everyone else but me! She’d greet me at the door, she’d sleep on the pillow next to me every night, and I dearly miss having my furry little hot waterbottle to fall asleep to every night. You were a massive part of this family and me for 21 years, a beautiful little thing.

While the passing of Tam was a tough one to take, at least the PhD was on track. With the deadline of June looming, I had worked hard over Christmas, and on the 11th of January after so much hard work, I finally had something tangible, a first completed draft of my thesis. This was a huge mental milestone in the PhD life, the first glimmer of hope that I might actually finish this mammoth piece of work. While I knew I had months of editing and rewriting to come, to finally have all those bits of work into one document is the official beginning of the end.

On a freezing January day, a nice change of pace and excitement from PhD life when I arrived at Altcar military training base to view some special forces Chinooks and other assets as they departed after a special forces exercise in the area. Huge shout out to Altcar for allowing me on base to photograph these awesome machines and crews!

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Wokkah!!!

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While I hate winter, I do love the crisp, clear nights for stargazing. This January we had some exceptional clear skies and a few ISS passes I managed to catch on camera!

 

February

Feb was a quiet month as I worked away on my PhD edits. The only notable things were spending some downtime outdoors in new landscapes and photographing such exceptional star-studded skies!

I spruced up some personal home décor with a lovely addition to the bedroom!

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New plant for the bedroom!

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Love my Bonsai!

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In Feb, I discovered a hidden gem of a nature reserve that was only a five-minute drive from my house. A super place for photography, wildlife (particular bird watching), with rivers, woods and wetlands to explore.

March:

March, well everything got a bit real. The end was finally in sight! My thesis was printed, bound and ready to hand in for submission.

My few words on International Women’s Day. It’s 2019, and you still get taxed on essential lady things, absolute fucking disgrace IMHO! A huge shout out as always to all my awesome, amazing, beautiful, dedicated female friends!

When life just likes to troll you. I was so close to getting 10k a month but was one ball away each time. Absolutely livid and I still am to this day!

March got a lot brighter when my yearly meet up with Han and Dan, or should i say Mr & Mrs Watson, came about!

It was also my first ever Escape room! Han and Dan being veteran escapees we absolutely smashed not one but two escape rooms! They are my new favourite thing, they’re so fun, and I think we absolutely nailed our teamwork!

It was all well and good surviving an escape room, but I’ve not known fear like getting the viva date confirmed. D-Day now had a date, a very very near date! The day every PhD student dreads the final battle, the 3 hours where you either fail or succeed. The battle of the Viva loomed.

To take the fear of the viva away, I was still spending my downtime out in the countryside photographing nature at it’s best. This is one of my favourite pictures taken this year, I love the road leading you down to the lake and the gloomy storm approaching in the background. I felt as the viva loomed that I was walking that path towards the impending storm!

Best mothers day card, ever.

April:

Mark, my awesome cousin from Canada, popped in for his first visit to the UK and Liverpool after a European business trip! So great to spend the day with him showing him around this beautiful city and keeping those close family ties across the pond. Just a shame Liverpool decided to give him a welcome of torrential rain and wind! Hope to see you again Mark and thanks once again for taking the time to come visit!

My favourite shot of the year!

However, all things must come to an end, and I had my final day pre-viva in the office, a building that had been such a huge part of my life for the past 2 and a bit years.

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A lovely last day in the office today before my viva next week. Time to leave the comfort of H105 and have one final epic battle. V-Day fast approaches! Just under 3 years worth of hard work, 250,000 words, stress, imposter syndrome and over coming numerous failures and an unhealthy amount of coffee all comes down to a 3 hour viva where i have to defend every word and every decision made in those years to a panel of experts. PhD or no PhD all rests on that. The PhD has been the most intellectually and emotionally challenging thing i have ever done, it's been one epic journey that's made me grow as a person more than i ever have. I've made friends for life who without them life and the PhD would have been so much worse! I've been fortunate to travel to new countries and new cities and I've ticked off my life long goal of getting a CAA approved pilots licence ( i know it's no PPL!). PhDs are not about how clever you are, they're about how resilient you are and how stubborn you are to not give up when you're in a research world where it keeps knocking you down and you have to keep getting back up. A journey i hope next week i can end on a high otherwise it's been for absolutly nothing 🤣1st of September 2016 i started this journey to get the highest academic award possible. I set myself the stupid personal goal of finishing my PhD under 3 years and before my 27th birthday because no one sets more unattainable goals than my stupid brain. Now I'm days away from it all coming together. I want to do but i also don't because the viva if it goes well is the end. The end of the PhD, the end of my long life as a student. An end to an identity I've had for so long and is a part of me, i always want to learn and achieve more. It's also most likely the end of me in academia as I've made the decision that I'm unlikely to pursue a career in it. Forget the avengers, this is my end game! No pressure. In the words of Leeroy Jenkins, "Alright. Lets do this!" . . #PhDchat

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The battle of the viva was brutal, difficult, challenging, but ultimately rewarding! After just over two and a half years after starting the PhD, I had survived! I had made it to the end, the end game of being Dr Cliffe had been achieved! April 24th, 2019. What a day!!

May:

I may well now be a Doctor, but that didn’t earn me any more respect from my family, as evident by my birthday wrapping paper.

This badge was a fun joke given to me by my sister, but I was so unbelievably proud to wear it! Fun fact, the head of the Doctoral Academy loved it so much that they put an order in for them, so all new Drs will get one! A lovely little legacy!

Each weekend me and Ro would go an explore new places to visit and walk and we stumbled across another little local nature reserve. It was quaint!

I was given three months to do my post viva corrections to my thesis, but I completed them in 3 weeks. It felt so good but also sad to finally finish!

I discovered a Llama/Alpaca in my coffee cup! Little did I know in a few weeks I’d be surprised by my family to go walking with them in the lake district!

May saw me heading down to RAF Duxford to watch some preparations for the 75th D-Day anniversary. A brilliant event, so many Daks on the ground and plenty of warbirds!

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Ready for D-Day anniversary para drops

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June:

Well, June started with a win, a massive win! 6 times, baby! European Champions!!!

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Yaaaaaas!!!! #LFC

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The PhD was officially confirmed and approved. I had finally done it!

Visiting the Philharmonic is always special, but listening to John William scores of Speilberg films was another level!

In June, one of my favourite night time phenomenons occurs. The rare Noctilucent cloud formations! Formed a few weeks either side of the summer solstice, sunlight below the horizon lights up ice crystals high in the atmosphere turning night time into daylight. It’s an exceptional sight to see, I was lucky to have a few days of it, but this particular night it lasted for hours and was such a strong showing of them!

I travelled down South to just North of London to go to one of my all-time favourite humans and one of my closest and dearest friends wedding, Chloe’s! I also had to screenshot my Insta story of that day, which sums it all up!!

chloe

From one end of the country to the other! I was back in the Lake District, one of my favourite places in the UK! Spending a few days away with the family was a perfect little getaway and something we haven’t done together for so long!

I was surprised by my family with a two-hour walk with Alpacas. BEST DAY EVER!

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What a day! Alpaca walking ❤

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Nice few days away with the fam

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July:

Graduation day arrived!!

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Time to graduate!

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Graduation photos have arrived!

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Mission Accomplished!

This family are awesome!

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Great afternoon with the fam!

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A week on from officially becoming Dr Cliffe, I went and passed my driving test after only 18 hours of driving! Yaaaas! Some people thought this day would never come but just shows you when I set my mind to something, it gets done!

So far *touches wood* 2019 has been a good year and I’m excited for what lies ahead for the latter half of the year! Where will the adventure take me?!

 

 

 

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

A perfect weekend: A wedding and Friendships

Hey guys!

I wasn’t planning on writing another blog this month but last weekend was so awesome that it deserved its own outright blog! Plus I am currently sitting here doped up on painkillers after pulling my back out…not through some rigorous exercise or manly task –oh no. It went twang when I bent down to pick up the remote control off the floor. Eugh! 25 going on 80.

But before becoming the hunchback of Notre dam, last weekend was a very good one indeed. We go through each day having periods of happiness and laughs but often in-between those moments it’s often punctuated by lots of mundane things like travelling to work, answering emails or sitting in your own world of music (of which I have great choices of playlists…well I think so anyway). It’s rare to have a solid few days of nothing but laughs and enjoyment with the people you care about the most.

Before I take you back to the weekend, I guess I should really check your ticket and welcome you aboard the time travel train. Next stop 15 years ago.

15 years ago this guy comes around to my house. He was in my sister’s class so a few years older than me. He’d just moved in around the corner and he came around for tea. I didn’t know who he was and not that I really cared either. At least I didn’t until I hear him talking about planes with my Dad. Hmmm I thought, maybe this guy is an avgeek too. I had some really cool cloud wallpaper, let me remind you I was 10 years old at this point! I also had this really cool wallpaper boarder that had different military aircraft on it. As a side note it’s weird how boarders on wallpaper just isn’t a thing anymore! Anyway, I show him my awesome wallpaper and then we have a heated discussion about whether one of the aircraft depicted was an F-18 or an F-15. “No! The F-18 has vertical double tailfins. It’s an F18!” …”It’s an F15! The F15 has double vertical tailfins, the F-18 has slanted double tail fins.” And so on and so on. Safe to say my ten year old self was wrong and he was right. Welcome to the first conversation of a beautiful bromance with one of my oldest and most dearest guy mates, Luke. To call him a mate is a disservice to our friendship. I don’t see him as a friend, I don’t even seen him as a best friend. He’s my brother.

It’s no secret that I have a lot of women in my life and very strong and powerful ones at that, who shape who I am and are a massive part of my life. I’ve written a few blogs over the years as to why that is and I do cherish my female friends dearly. As much as I share so much with them, somethings just need a guy and I have a small select number of guy friends but Luke, my bro, has always been the biggest. From that first argument well actually discussion, I don’t think we’ve ever had a proper argument or falling out, we’ve been bro’s since. So much so that every day in summer he was around here, every weekend around my house, my parents call him son number 2 and likewise he calls them 2nd Mum and Dad! He has been there constantly for 15 years and offers everything a Brother would, advice, friendship, support, laughs and copious amounts of bullying ;). We’re two very different people, if you ever watch Hawaii Five-0 the Bromance Steve and Danno have is very much the two of us! One is very out going, gun ho, lives in the moment and gets stuff done. The other, like me, is very reserved, methodical, and prefers sarcasm and wit to make up for my lack of physical prowess. Nothing more outlines how different we are as people as this memory.

hawaii

Let me take you back to a baking hot early spring weekend day and as usual we’re playing some sort of game in the back garden. For those of you who have never had the pleasure of being around at my house, in my back garden we have this giant…humungous cherry tree. It’s about as tall as two houses and in full bloom about the width of one. It towers over everything, this big old mighty tree.

“I’m going to climb that tree…yep…I’m gonna’ do it!” he says with all the bravado of a teenage guy.

I shift uneasily on my feet “I’m not so sure mate. That’s very high, it’s quite windy and the tree hasn’t fully formed from winter yet. The branches won’t be very strong to take your weight. I don’t think the odds are good. I’d leave it.” I explain in typical Tony fashion.

“Nah. I’ll be fine! You worry too much!”

I watch as this boy turns into a spider monkey and rockets up the tree, branch to branch, shimmying up the main trunk like he was raised in the jungle. He disappears in the early spring blossom and then reappears at the top with a triumphant yell! With a whistle he exclaims “What a view!”

I call back “I’m sure it is! Stay safe up there!”

“Ha yeah. Hope I don’t fall!”

“Touch wood!” I retort.

“Yeah…Touch wood!”

While I turn my back to touch the wooden bench I was sitting on, I look on in a state of confusion and then a wry smile creeps across my face. I watch this spider monkey negotiate his way back down the tree, yearning for the next branch, then carefully placing his feet, I try to hold back my laugh as I realise what’s going on. I mean I could warn him, I could tell him but what sort of Brother would I be if I did?! He gets near the bottom and he’s hanging on by a few fingers, stretching with all of his reach…nearly there…little bit more. Ah. Finally. His finger touches the wooden fence before he retracts himself back up to the branch.

Through some laugher “Why the hell did you just do that?”

“Errrr Duh Tony. You said touch wood. So I touched wood!” he replied in a matter of fact tone.

“Dude. What’s a tree made out of?”

“….”

“You’re in a tree…made of wood.” I can’t even finish without laughing.

“Hmmm. Point taken!”

But for 15 years I’ve had a brother that I never had before and he is my closest guy mate. I’ve been there through his relationships and likewise he’s been through mine. I’ll still always be forever grateful for when my ex broke up with me he came around every day for a week, even after work to cheer me up and take my mind off it. What a top guy!

bro

So I’ve seen Luke grow into the man he is today and when Amy came along many years ago, it was the final missing piece for him. A beautiful, intelligent, funny and family orientated woman. I am a sucker for romance and for everything I’ve wrote and the stories I’ve wrote over the years, I’d struggle to put together two characters who are so suited as Luke and Amy are! When they announced their engagement I could not be happier!

While sitting in a Toronto hotel room trying to fight off the losing battle of jetlag after arriving in Canada, I get a message from him asking if I would do him the honour of being one of his best men. I was honoured and not even a fuzzy jetlagged mind had any hesitations in saying yes. Adam his real brother and Jay one of his oldest friends, were the other two best men. He’s a lucky guy to have such awesome dudes in his life, if I do say so myself!

So after the planning, picking out the suits and the stag do, in the run up to the wedding he asked if I would do a reading at the wedding service and if I would be Master of Ceremony. Jay would look after the rings and do the rings at the service and Adam would do the best man speech. Errrm let me think about that, position of power, organisation, and I get the kick ass title of master of ceremony hmmm. YES! I asked if I could wear a cloak and have a cane but apparently that wasn’t appropriate. L I can’t have it all! It was only until I went away and googled what my role involved did I realise what it was I actually just signed up for! Plus, every time I told anyone what my title was for the wedding they would take a sharp intake of breath and would say “wow. No pressure. Don’t fuck it up”.

For those of you who don’t know, the Master of Ceremony is as one website put it. The key linchpin in making a successful and smooth wedding day. Your duties include,

·         Being the wedding host- Greeting members of the wedding, introducing the day’s events on the microphone and telling people important things like speeches, when to sit, where to sit, when the first dance will be etc.

·         Run on schedule – Liaise with wedding venue staff and others to make sure everything is in place when and where it should be.

·         Trouble shooter – Deal with any problems. At no point should the bride and groom hear of any problems.

·         Make sure the guests and most importantly the bride and groom have the best and smoothest day possible.

So, no pressure! I didn’t mind the pressure as that’s when I’m at my best. Leading and being responsible for stuff, as an ENTJ it’s literally in the blood! Plus, I absolutely love public speaking so it was a role I was well suited for, even if I’d never really done a wedding before or done any of this before!

All best men worked incredibly hard that day to make sure it was such a smooth and enjoyable day. The venue was stunning. Old country manor style feel and the location for the service inside a converted barn was breath-taking and classy and just wow. I really cannot wait to see the official pictures!

It hit home how special it was when I was waiting outside for Amy and the bridesmaids to arrive and Luke was in the barn and all the guests were waiting patiently with a buzz of excitement. When they arrived it was show time. After a few words with them and making sure everything was set, we exchanged some thumbs up and as I walked up the aisle, I put my hand on his shoulder “She’s hear mate. She looks stunning! Show time!” then sat down next to him. When the music started and everyone turned around as she walked up the aisle and then seeing their two beaming smiles when they saw each other. Oh man! So cute!

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My Bro just before he got married!

The service was wonderful and I didn’t mess up my funny reading to which both he and Amy wanted me to do in ‘Your story’ voice. So plenty of emphasis and fun on some of the words. After pictures they both went to the beach with the photographer and then came back for the speeches and food and I did my MC duties before the night time started. What really struck me was when I had just one final thing to do at the end of the night and that was sorting the cake cutting. I’d been liaising all day with the staff and expected the cake room to be open at 9pm, right after the first dance. The kitchen staff were running behind schedule and I was helping them out while trying to organise the first dance and the tossing of the bouquet. When the first dance was announced I took a moment to just stop for a second for the first time that day and just look around from the back of the hall. Seeing two people so in love during their first dance and then watching everyone else join in, seeing everyone with a smile on their face. Such a wonderful moment. Its seldom we get those days when everyone is happy and there is nothing but love in the room. I knew at that point that I had done my job and that the wedding with everyone else’s help, had gone off without a hitch. I slipped away back to the kitchen before the end of the first dance to get the cake ready and managed to do my last thing, albeit two minutes behind schedule. Which isn’t too bad after everything!

Once my official duties were over and feeling real pressure which was leading the Macarena dance on the dance floor, which is terrifying. Give me the pressure of not fucking up my mates wedding any day than leading that dance! I was knackered ha-ha. It was great to see so many happy faces and it was great to see so many of my family there too! It was great to catch up. Weddings are truly special and one day when and if I ever have my own, I hope my wedding is just as good as theirs and I know Luke as my best man would do a wonderful job! My final duty was to announce last orders and after my goodbyes I was home by 12 and bed by 12.30. A successful, wonderful and very happy day!

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The Fam

Congratulations to you two amazing people! I hope you have a long, healthy and very happy life together Mr & Mrs Talbot!

A week before the wedding I was out riding with Laura and she suggested that me, her and Katie do something that weekend. Katie had recently moved to Liverpool and we all wanted to do something together and I personally didn’t want her to feel too lonely moving into a new place. We had all discussed the lakes but I thought I wasn’t going to be free until the afternoon, I honestly thought the wedding night would have gone on longer. I had promised Katie ages ago when she moved here, that I’d show her one of my favourite places in Merseyside, Formby Pinewoods. There, Crosby beach and Clieves Hill are my favourite spots.

I woke up at 6 a.m. on the Sunday morning still on a buzz from the day before and after some discussion between us all, we decided to go to the woods. Again more pressure. I had built this place up to be awesome and I promised the sight of squirrels! I was so looking forward to spending the day with these two. I often make reference to my life being some sort of TV series and that Sunday would be one of those episodes where you would just go back to time and time again to watch. Just pure comedy gold.

The PhD started off with a big cast of series regulars and slowly due to people moving away or different circumstances that the core group of people, has slowly reduced. In everyday are now only me, Laura and Katie. Rosie and Vic are in every so often but its Katie and Laura who I see every day and it’s no surprise that our friendship has grown together. Three different people but three people who work incredibly well together. I mentioned before the way your day has moments of joy and laughter in it and then is punctuated by the boring mundane things like work or travel. I’m so glad to be in that office because it’s more a case of laughter and joy than anything else. I’m the happiest I have ever been for a number of years and that’s most certainly down to having two great people to have a laugh with every day. It never feels like work with my ladies 😉 !

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Cool AF

I don’t think I have laughed as much as I did that day. There are far, far, far too many noteworthy moments that in all fairness, probably deserve a blog in their own right! From selfies, to pisstaking out of my excellent descending skills, to the infamous 50 shades of pug. In fact. No. I can’t even begin to explain or even try to type anything remotely about that, without having tears in my eyes from laughing. I will never look at a Pug or a member of a family. EVER.AGAIN! hahahaha. Fuck me. It was one of those you had to be there moments! Just pure comedy. On par if not surpassed by the office monkey GIF! Firmly blaming you for that one again Katie!!

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Its balancing act

There were so many and I mean so many, innuendos on that trip! I had promised them both that I would show them a squirrel (and no that is not a euphemism!). Just as they were about to give up on it and call me a liar, this little beauty of a squirrel appeared and bounded through the trees right by us to be fed. Thank you Mr Squirrel for not making me look like a dick!

Sunday was one of those rare days of pure comedy and joy and love. I think by time I come to do my end of year blog that day will firmly be in the top 5, if not top 3. A truly wonderful and fun day with two amazing people. I had built this place up and I think it delivered!

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We can’t go anywhere without a coffee stop first!

So sadly by time Monday came it was back to work and two fantastic, heart-warming, fun and loving two days was over. If those two days are anything to go and especially that Sunday, then when Prague comes around with those two in a months’ time, I can only imagine what blog that is going to make. I cannot wait!

So I guess what I’m trying to say is, sometimes in life you get given perfect days. Days when you have no troubles in the world, the weather is great and your company is greater and the only tears in your eyes are from laughter. Make the most of them. Take time to just stop and look around and enjoy it. Capture the moments in pictures and memorise them. It makes those mundane things in life worth it. Surround yourself with people who can love life and who love you. I am incredibly fortunate to have so many beautiful, caring and funny people in my life. Long may that continue!

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Three Amigo’s

Thanks for a great two days ❤

Until next time,

Toe

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PhD as a sitcom: It’s the friends that make you appreciate the journey

Before starting the PhD there was a sense that there was no doubt that it was a long journey ahead. I’m no stranger to long journeys or solo travel so the PhD was almost an intellectual perfect fit. I often pictured any long piece of writing, be that the two previous dissertations or the two novels that I’ve wrote as long climbs. Long climbs for example on the bike are always more about mental strength than physical. Cycling up a long hill, looking up but nothing but steeper road and no sign of any peak, is exhausting and everything in your head tells you to quit. Yet, when someone else is cycling with you, you keep going, you jeer each other on. The PhD is exactly the same.  Any article I read about doing a PhD before I started was everyone said how lonely the PhD experience was. I had images in my head of three years of solitary confinement and turning into Tom Hanks from Castaway. Perhaps the Thesis would be called Wilson?

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In some aspects as a PhD student you are on your own little island but others are on that island too. Ironically, like lost, it’s an Island that tries to kill you at every turn and we try to escape it over the course of three academic seasons.

I’ve been very fortunate to be in a position that not many new PhD students get to be in and that is a part of a cohort. My PhD was created through a new stream of funding and they wanted to develop a new PhD community in the Education faculty. So I was really lucky to start at the same time as a group of students were starting. So in September we all boarded the PhD boat and it set sail into the bold new waters of undiscovered research. At the moment that boat is somewhere between the Costa Concordia and the Titanic but what matters the most for this metaphor is we’re all in it together!

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Accurate representation of the PhD ship on a daily basis.

And that’s important to me. Those of you who know me well enough will know that I pride myself on the company I keep and I cherish my friendships.  As much as I love friends and family who are not involved in the PhD, they simply do not understand the stresses and strain of the PhD. That’s not their fault. It’s an entirely different world. I might as well be on the Enterprise as it’s a vastly different adventure to anything else. PhD friends however just get it and like Vic put it so well “You’re the only ones I can talk to about this stuff”. She’s right. For example the stress of the RD9R form, initiation to the PhD, quest or journey to hell and back, whatever you want to call it, was about as annoying as hearing Adele on the radio every two minutes! I could have complained to friends or family about it but I don’t think they quite grasp the scale of the torture of an RD9R form. On the other hand, my fellow PhD brethren fully appreciate my anger at it all. We all seriously had good and bad days with that form!

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Those that know me well will also know that I am rarely one to ask for help or seek council. When I do, you know it’s bad. I prefer to deal with issues myself but doing this PhD it’s almost as if the currency of a PhD is collaboration and help. You don’t help others for any person gain, it’s just what you do here in this weird and wonderful PhD world. If you don’t help each other out on this island you’re all going to starve. If one of you is a dick, then you’ll get murdered and eaten. I’ve read lord of the flies, no one wants to be Piggy.

That being said I love helping others out and I love giving objective advice. I’ve been on the other side of education as a staff member and I’ve seen all the issues that come with it. Therefore I’m well equipped to deal with most problems in academia, be that god awful supervisors to vast amount of red tape. The former I am so lucky to have brilliant supervisors for my PhD but I realise that I am one of the lucky ones. You read about horror stories of terrible Directors of Studies, unfortunately a dear friend is the one who has that nightmare! Pretty much the empire strikes back with that one. This is how villains are created! You know when you thought you could rely on someone being nice and then they turn really horrible on you. Her supervisors have basically pulled a Paolo from Lizzie McGuire.

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So, the PhD friends have made this PhD so special in just the short 6 months I’ve been at it. I still don’t think the PhD is hard. That’s not some ooh look at me doing a PhD and finding it easy. The Research Assistant job was just way way harder. I guess I have a busy GID department to thank for my training in those two years! So the research is fun but what makes it more fun is the people. As much as I am a self-centred narcissist at times I deeply value teams and team goals and I demand success from myself, so I demand it from others. I want other people to succeed. Yes, I like to be the leader of said teams or a point of contact for advice. It makes me feel like I have a purpose, which fuels my ego. Pretty straight forward cycle. However, I love giving advice, there is nothing better than seeing your words being put into action for the benefit of others! It’s one reason I’m in academia and that’s to make a difference. Yet, in this job I don’t actually see myself as better than anyone else, we’re all equals in that office because we all have our different strengths that we all bring to the team. We’re pretty much the PhD avengers. Viva people and research degree committees are pretty much Hydra too.

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You know well by now that I feel like my life is a TV show in a parallel universe due to the vast randomness that happens to me and all the drama that happens with my fellow cast members! If it was a TV show, I’m sure the audience all have their favourite characters (as do I!) but if my life was broken down into a series then this new series would be the PhD one. I’m pretty sure if the PhD was a series or a new TV show, we’d deffo be rocking 9.5 on IMDB. We even have our own theme song too! ‘Sheryl Crows – Winding Road’ if you wanted to know. It’s literally the perfect song! This group has it all. Vast amounts of comedy and I mean vast. Every day is a laugh and some of the one liners in this group are amazing! Sarcasm is rife, intellectual debate and comedy is pretty much how we talk to each other. You’d struggle to write a script as good as this. Yet, there is plenty of drama, there has been tears and what makes every TV show compelling is the dynamic and bond between the characters. It’s pretty much the TV show community. Everyone is there for everyone else because we’re all in this sinking research boat together. It’s amazing to be in such a friendly and collaborative environment. No problem is too big or too trivial. Everyone chips in to help out. Not for personal gain but because we want all of us to succeed. Statistically one of us will quit the PhD at some point. I like to think despite us all wobbling at times that we’ll be unique in doing this journey together. I’ve pulled one person back on the ship after nearly going overboard and I’m hauling another in as we speak. There will be no better sense of accomplishment to when we all graduate, knowing we’ve got through three years of the hardest mental challenge ever together.

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So, a little bit about my PhD dudes!

Emy: The Dad. is pretty much a time lord. I swear. For 52 he looks about 27! I don’t know if he bathes in a Lazarus pit but damn I hope I look that good when I’m that age! Emy was the first PhD student I met in H003 and for a about two weeks it was just the two of us in that office. Emy, is like the Dad of the group, he’s the wise figure head. His life experience is invaluable to all of us and I think I speak on behalf of all of the group when I say we massively respect him looking after a family and doing a PhD! His desk is a work of art in the sense that I thought mine was messy but holy cow, you need a Sherpa to navigate that desk! Luckily his advice and guidance far outweighs his sprawling mound of paper!

Laura: Cycling Bae. Laura was the second PhD student I met in H003 and my mornings would not be complete without our morning chats! Or should I say rants 😉 and by rants I mean I sit there and listen intently and filter the information before giving wonderful advice ;). If I do say so myself. Laura though is very funny and we have real deep and meaningful chats and we have our little side adventures. Be that our cycling trips or sneaking into meetings that we’re not strictly meant to attend. Laura is probably the most studious out of all of us. She’s pretty much replaced Alex from masters in undergrad in that regard. A very hard working person! Also, there isn’t a staff member or trick about the uni that Laura doesn’t know!

Rosie: My office P.I.C. That’s partner in crime if you weren’t down with the kids. There is a two hour window in the day when we’re not in the office together and that’s pretty much when 90% of our work gets done. We talk constantly! Probably to the annoyance of others in the office, sorry guys! I often like to think of myself as one of the most laid back and chilled people you’ll ever meet. Rosie blew that straight out of the water. I think Hammock is a pretty apt nickname. We’re very much alike which is no surprise considering we’re only born three days apart. Practically twins! Also, a southerner who hates Margaret Thatcher!? What a winner. Rosie is also a constant source of good food and tv advice and especially sweets…but not before 12. You have been warned!

Vic: Miss Fun and well miss organised. Vic is always the one to keep us motivated, happy and all together. Forever organising stuff as a group. She’s incredibly funny too but I don’t think she realises how funny! She says what she thinks which I love and is a real down to earth, honest and genuine girl. As she’s older than me she is pretty much almost like the mum of the group for her caring nature. Now that she’s our post grad rep I couldn’t think of a better role for her and I know any concerns we do have are certainly in her most capable of hands. In the nicest way, she has that fun quirky charm which I know we all appreciate!

Hannah and Cara: I speak about them as one because they’re almost impossible to separate. They’re a package and a double act. Like Ant and Dec but way funnier, cooler and generally more likeable. They don’t spend as much time in the office as those core group of the original H003 but they’re always fun to be around. Again, always a good source of humour! They really do have a hell of a lot to juggle and I am amazed at how well they do all of it!

Katie: The newest addition to this mad house that is H003. Even though we’re only 6 months in, we all kind of feel veterans of this PhD game now. Battled hardend and wary already! We probably came across as miserable buggers when she first met us when we discussed the RD9R form and what lay ahead! More so than anyone else are we here for advice for Katie because we wish we had someone who’d been there and got the battle scars, so we want her to have an easier ride! Yet, its almost as if she’s been here from the start. She’s fitted in perfectly! Again, I feel kinda’ guilty that she drew the short straw sitting next to me because I really do talk a lot! On the plus side of that, she has a great sense of humour, sarcasm in spades and what a wonderful surprise to find we share a love of writing and the anguish of what it’s like to put words on paper through novels and blogs (get back to blogs!!). Also it’s so fun to see another person who has random and weird train journeys! See everyone, it really isn’t just me, it happens to others too!!

Some new PhD students will be starting soon but I think this core of students is the one. The beauty of this is that I am always in the mind-set that it’s the people that make the place. These people make that place. The PhD although not hard, is by no means easy. Its mentally challenging, its one hell of a roller-coaster ride. We all share and celebrate each other’s highs because we know in a blink of an eye we’ll get a crushing low. Everyone else in the PhD environment puts you down, tells you you’re crap and that your work is never good enough. If it wasn’t for this bunch of PhD avengers I doubt any of us would have any positive outlooks on life. For someone who is highly independent I never thought I would rely on a group of people as much as I do now. They’re friends, they’re a family. The PhD is one long and arduous journey in a boat that is constantly trying to fill up with water. Yet, with these people, I know we’ll survive and we’ll get off this PhD Island one day. For now at least we have many episodes to come and I cannot wait to see them play out! I’ll end this blog with a quote that I find very apt. “It’s the friends we meet along the way, that help us to appreciate the journey”.

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We’re the new saved by the bell

Until next time,

Toe.

Life of a PhD student three months in.

So i’ve been a PhD student for three months now, so i thought i’d do a fun little blog about the trials and tribulations of gaining the hardest known academic qualification. Dr Awesome!

  1. So you’ve done your undergraduate degree, probably gone and got your Masters degree, maybe even worked as a research assistant for a few years. By this point its pretty clear you’re never leaving the education system so hey. Three year PhD, why not?
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  2. Even better when for the first time in your academic career people are paying you to be a student! Not only that, you’re now tax exempt on that money for three years! It’s basically a 22 grand job!
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  3. So you’re a student but you’re also staff. You’re a PhD researcher which means you get to use the staff room, have your own office and generally feel really cool walking around campus.
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  4. You have these big and bold ideas and you can’t wait to start! You’re the best in your field, you’ve made it through the gruelling application process. You can do it! Your research idea is going to change the world.
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  5. But your supervisory team are like…
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  6. You either get on great with your supervisor who will do absolutely anything to support you and build you up to be the best Dr ever. (luckily like mine!)
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    Or you can despise them or more likely they despise you, you’re an inconvenience and an embarrassment to the research empire
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  7.  So you start reading every journal, book, piece of information ever created in your chosen field. Your supervisors are telling you to look up theories, research paradigms, people keep saying big words and random french dudes names and you just sit there like
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  8. So you write a first draft of your lit review and your supervisor tries to be supportive
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    and you’re holding back tears as everything you’ve done gets ripped apart
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  9. But you realise you’re not alone, the other people in your lab/office have started the same time as you. You’re all in the same boat and through your mutual anguish of the PhD you all become friends and instantly feel like a PhD family.
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  10. You help each other out, keep each other motivated and before you know it, you’ve formed your own supergroup which will last for three years
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  11. More than likely your research idea will have to pass a boards approval before you can start. No one tells you how to fill the form out so you rely on other peoples information.
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  12. So you submit your forms and after a stupidly long time, they reject it outright. Not because its bad, it’s just they love to fuck with you and keep you in your place.
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  13. You make some changes which take far more time than they should and you get rejected again, expect this time their pointers are extremely vague which makes you question if they have actually read your report…Because it’s cool if you haven’t, i mean you didn’t just spend two weeks in a caffeine induced comma to write it or anything, no biggie.
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  14. By this time, you and your PhD office friends are so over this form. By this point you gather around to help each other. You can do this! We will do this! But we won’t let anyone else see how much its killing us.
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    You try to vent to your friends and family outside of the PhD life but they don’t understand as much as they try to.
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  15. So at this point you’ve done some work but you haven’t actually been approved for study yet because a committee of unknown evil people keep writing vague comments on your research report. No one in your office has passed yet. You’re all at the point of mental exhaustion and a lack of motivation.
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  16. You check your emails and it comes back again…

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  17. This is it. THE LAST TIME YOU A-HOLES|
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  18. IT’S FINALLY PASSED AND APPROVED. A committee has approved your study, your methods and basically you’re finally a PhD student.
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    And the rest of your office are pretty much approved too!
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  19. So now you can get on with sciencing the shit out of your research and take small steps on the way to becoming a Dr.
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  20. Then you realise its another three years of this. Better buckle up.
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    but you can do it! We can do it! As a PhD student, you wouldn’t have it any other way.
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What would the perfect girl be if she existed?

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

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

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

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

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

Looks

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

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Hair colour

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

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Still a babe!

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

Eye colour

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

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

 

 

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

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

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Personality

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Until next time.

Toe

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

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

January

Falling on people

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

A day of being an accidental Ass-hat

A day of being an accidental Ass-hat

A terrible commute home

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

Sad day on Merseyrail

Sad day on the train home

February

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

Feb1

Fish out of water

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

Feb2

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

March

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

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A OAP hit and run

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

Mrch2

Master of Science

April

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

April

Avgeek horse for the win

May

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

May1

No more cheese before bedtime

May2

Suns out guns out

June

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

June

Alternative transport with a side order of truth

July

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

July

Over the moon!

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

July2

Mancard lost.

 

August

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

Aug

Researching at its best!

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

Aug2-1

MC-UNT

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

Aug3

Errrm yeah…that happened

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

Aug4-1

Henry sucks, it’s his job!

September

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

Sep-1

loafs

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

Sep1-1

Perfect woman

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

Sep3

Fake it till you make it

October

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

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Why always me!?

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

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Kill me now.

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

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My moment of 2015

November

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

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Cliffe, Tony Cliffe, Licence to fuck up.

It seems this status obviously a lot agreed with!

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Unexpected Item in the bagging area

December

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

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Taking it like a man

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