The Day in the life of Tony Cliffe

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

Tag: relationships

A dedication to the mentors

A sign in my kitchen states ‘Behind every successful person lies a substantial amount of coffee’ while I agree that may well be the case, it is missing a sentence. That sentence should be “and a series of mentors who have inspired, developed and took a chance on that person”.

In my latest new series of dedication blogs, the first of which is dedicated to these five amazing individuals: My dedication to the inner circle! this one is dedicated to many people who, in a professional context have either inspired, developed or taken a chance on me as mentors. Despite being full of over-self confidence, I’m fully aware that my successes are not down to me alone. Hard work, a massive slice of luck and a number of dedicated mentors, have made me who I am today. I’ve been very fortunate to have had the guidance or the backing of a number of good mentors over the years. Too many, sadly to put in this blog. I’ve had mentors from football coaches as a kid to my recent supervisory team, all of whom have played an equally important part in my development. For example, my last supervisory team have had a considerable hand in my PhD success, but they know that and I’ve written about them in my PhD blogs. But, just like the first dedication blog I thought I’d pick this time, six people who I’d like to say thanks to, who I don’t often write about.

When you think of a typical mentor, you probably think of usually someone who is older, wiser and ultimately someone who you respect. Mentors can inspire you to be better, they can demand and push you to be better and ultimately, every mentor sees something in you that you fail to see in yourself. Mentors you don’t have to get along with or even like necessarily (but it does help), but you respect them. The mentors in this blog some I got on really well with and ultimately had a great working relationship with, some even became friends. Some, I had no formal working relationship with, and some I absolutely hated!

Inspiration 

A good mentor will often unlock hidden potential, or part of yourself that you didn’t know existed before. They’ll ignite a fire and a drive in you because they’ve been so inspirational, either in their demeanour or in whatever it is they do. For this, I often think of two teachers that I had in High School who inspired two significant parts of my identity, Geography and Writing.

Ask any Geographer and long after their degrees they’ll still strongly identify themselves as a proud geographer. Regardless of age, fierce debate and banter between the fractions of Geographers will always be had, and god help it if you proclaim a Human Geographer as a Physical one! Or vice a Versa. I’ve always had a passion for Geography as a subject, and it’s not solely down to my Geography Teacher Mr Naughton. My love for the subject started way earlier when, as a small child, I discovered this vast, imposing dusty Atlas in our attic. I can still smell that book now as I turned its pages, it was old, so ancient! But I remember flicking through the pictures of all the different countries, reading about the vastly different landscapes and it’s people. I was hooked. The sense of adventure, a world was waiting for me to explore. Of course, this was in the days of pre-internet, a dusty Atlas and Encarta 95 was all my child mind had in my pursuit of epic travels and adventure.

Mr Naughton, however, brought the subject to life. No longer was it on the pages of a dusty Atlas and a fanciful overactive imagination of my child self, it was now real. I’ve never met a teacher who was so enthusiastic about the subject, the proudest of Geographers. Mr Naughton really fostered that passion for the subject, little did I know that I’d go on to do it at GCSE, A-Level, Degree Level, Masters Level and then finally, PhD level! My long journey as a proud geographer started with the inspirational Mr Naughton.

So while I’m a proud geographer and always will be, I’m also a passionate writer. I write blogs and novels for fun, and that comes down Mrs Bygroves. Mrs Bygroves was a strict teacher, the scousest of scouse accents, hard but fair. As I explained in my blog about why I write: Why do I write blogs? It’s a window to the emotional me! It was her who pulled me to one side after my English GCSE coursework and told me I had a gift for the written word and that I should write novels and stories for others to enjoy. So I did. I wrote my first novel and published my second on Amazon. I had discovered a critical skill that I never knew I really had, a passion for conveying stories and emotions, something that is now a massive part of my identity is all down to Mrs Bygroves and her seeing something in me, that I didn’t know myself.

Push you to your limits

So while mentors should be inspirational and make you see something in yourself, they can often go about it in different ways. Some will nurture and foster it in a friendly manner to get you to be the best you can be. Others will be harsh, demanding, thankless and at times make you hate them with every fibre of your being. At the time you wonder why they’re picking on you, why are they so harsh on you compared to everyone else and why do you not get the praise that everyone else does. Then you realise when you do reach the top of your game that they did that to push you. They saw your maximum potential and that you were way below their standards and the only way to get you to push past what you thought was your limit was to be cruel to be kind.

I’ve had two mentors like that in my life, my old commanding officer in the Air Training Corps and my former Personal Academic Tutor who became my boss as an RA. Two older men who’s stature and stance oozed authority and wisdom. Two men who have pushed me further mentally than anyone has before and probably ever will. Two people for some unknown reason I desperately wanted to impress, to prove myself to and to be acknowledged. But this mentor taught me the very definition of pushing the limits.

It may come as a shock to some of you to know that I wasn’t always the over self-confident, outspoken person I am today. In fact, many years ago, I lacked a lot of confidence in myself and around others. That all changed with one man. As one of my COs, he was always on my back throughout training and day to day life. Throwing me into the deep end with things, leading tasks, getting my voice heard. ATC rarely gave out compliments to any of us, I guess that’s the RAFs way of making you want to be better. When it did come, it was often short and curtailed (tradition of stiff British upper lip I suspect) but rarely was it ever directed in my direction. Which conflicted me. I keep getting asked to do these new tasks for which I seemed to be good at, but there was no confirmation or praise from those above. That irritated me in a way that made my already stubborn self, even more determined to succeed.

A turning point in my self-confidence comes to mind as clear as day. We were on deployment for a week on an SAS training camp in the depths of Shropshire on a bitterly cold and snowy February. We’d spent all day and night evading the infamous Landy force across the vast rolling hills and outbuildings of the training ranges. I’d been put in charge of navigation, faces covered in camo paint, boots covered in slush and mud and near hypothermic, we achieved our objective. Rescued the downed pilot and got back to base without being captured. My first real sense of achievement by putting myself out there in a position of leadership. By the time we arrived back at the barracks in the early hours, we barely got any sleep before being rudely awoken by a room inspection. I’d been chosen by him to be in command of our small dorm in a barracks. Again, I felt woefully underqualified. He comes in, nods to others a job well done, looks at my boots which to me were spotless “Dirt on them, Cliffe. Do them again! Press-ups outside, now”. “Yes, Sir!” I replied through gritted teeth. He hated me, I thought!

A few hours later, we were kitted up to go on the range. By this time the snow had started again, an icy wind ripped through the standard-issue kit with such ease I might as well have been naked for all the warmth it offered. After dissembling and cleaning the L98 and SA80 rifles in record time (still no recognition for that) as a troop, we headed out into the freezing snow on the range. To this day, it is still one of my most epic and coolest memories, the sound of gunfire, the snow falling, a Lynx army helicopter hovering off to one side, the recoil of the weapon in your shoulder. So.Much.Awesomeness!

While firing down the range, my fingers turning to frostbite (You’ve never felt anything colder than a trigger on a rifle in the snow!) in my peripheral vision I could see hands raised to the left and right of me, muffled shouts of “Jam!” and the range officer coming over to each individual. I was an awful shot, a sniper or expert marksmen I most certainly was not but I kept firing, with each shot pulling the bolt back and watching as the expended shell casing flicked and spun in the air. Load, breathe, hold breath, squeeze the trigger, recoil, bolt. Repeat, until that click on the rifle meant all my rounds in the rifle had been expended into the target a few hundred yards away. I raise my hand and raise my rifle over my shoulder to show the range officer that my rifle was empty. “Jam?… Oh, all done? Report to the CO” and with a slap on my back I exited the range, still noticing various hands raising and the range officer moving in to unjam the guns. The rest of the squad still laying prone into the snow.

Then there he was, immaculately dressed, a warm thermos in his hand steeming in the cold weather, as I present my rifle to him through chattering teeth, god I had never been so cold!

“Sir. All rounds fired, no Jam. Sir”

He gave a raised smile, which was so rare that I didn’t know if I had indeed become delirious with hypothermia, and in the most typical British Officers voice exclaims “Only one not to Jam your weapon, Cliffe. I expected absolutely nothing less from you. You’d have been the only one not to be killed. Congratulations. Dismissed”.

To me, that was the biggest compliment I had ever been given by him! That night we received word that some of us where being selected to head down south to RAF Lyneham to fly in a C130 Hercules. An unbelievable opportunity! He read the names off of the 10 lucky few, I was number 10! The next day I remember looking out of the back of the C130 as we raced over the Bristol Channel at 1000 feet. Over the rush of adrenaline, air and incredible noise of the four engines he says “Cliffe! This is what happens when you believe in your abilities. I pushed you so hard so that you’d become that. You’ve pushed yourself and others this trip to be better, I’m proud of you. Enjoy this! I’m putting you forward for the NCO course” and with a salute and a handshake it finally all made sense. I had a perceived physical and mental limit, but his was way beyond that, and I needed that tough love to reach it. It was the first time I backed myself and truly knew my capabilities. From then on he was still as hard as ever but was more forthcoming with the odd compliment, I flew with him often, practising flying over the North West of England, always demanding but boy did I learn a hell of a lot from him! I owe a lot to my years to him and to the RAF ATC in general. It taught me mental strength, leadership, the ability to see the strengths and weaknesses of others, teamwork and plus the fantastic days flying aircraft and shooting weapons. Closest I ever got to be being a badass! They were the best of days!

Take a chance

So some mentors inspire you and some push you whereas others they toss their chips into the ring and take a gamble on you. This is a dedication to the mentors who placed their faith in you by taking some sort of risk and hoping it would pay off.

The epitome of that was my Maths teacher, Mr Coggin. He made a decision, a gamble, that ultimately had such a significant influence on my academic career. Coggin was a bit weird, a proper eco nut, way before it was socially acceptable or hipster to care about the environment. He was strange but really cared for his students, he had an engaging teaching style, but ultimately, maths was life to him. Maths, well we’ve never really got on, that and spelling are often my Achilles heel. Give me time and a pen and paper, and I’m okay, mental maths? Nope. No chance! As we got closer to year 9 SATs exams things were not going too well in maths. For those of you who don’t know, SATs were a form of exams taken in year 9 which based on your performance you got put into sets, 1 being the top, 5 being the bottom. Only sets 1 and 2 would be entered into the higher GCSE papers where you could get from A* to fail, whereas sets 3 to 5 would be entered into the intermediate and lower papers where the top grade you could achieve was a C. Therefore, in principle, easier exam but no higher than a C regardless if you aced it.

Each teacher in English, Maths and Science had to make a decision on sets before the SATs exam. I was struggling in maths and not for my lack of trying either. I knew how essential maths was as a subject. At this point, I still had dreams of being an Air Traffic Controller, I wanted to do science at GCSE and A-Level. While a C in GCSE maths is fine, I didn’t want to be a C student, I wanted to be more than that. I knew I needed a good SAT score to get into a top set, so that I could take the higher papers and get the As and Bs I wanted for A level and therefore get into University. I remember him breaking the news to me that he was considering dropping me down a set so that I’d find it more accessible, it wouldn’t look too good to have a Set 2 student do poorly. Yet, he knows I’m putting the effort in, that I wanted to be in a top set and just needed some more guidance. So, he said he was holding off on the decision, he’d give me a few weeks to improve despite the pressure from above to drop me a set. He gave me extra work, would always ask me to answer stuff in class, and I worked the hardest I ever had. I wanted to prove to myself that I could do it, but above all, I wanted to repay him and him putting his neck out on the line for me.

SATs came around, and I got straight 7-7-7. Top marks. I did it! I’d just got my results as I walked down the corridor and I bumped into him and told him the news. “Knew you could do it!” with a beaming smile. What a gamble! If it weren’t for him, I wouldn’t have gone on to do the higher papers in Maths and Science at GCSE and ultimately would never have taken my science A levels. While I still always struggled with Maths, I was happy to be a B student in it. Technically, you needed an A in maths to do the A levels in Quantum Mechanics and Astrophysics, but somehow I was let on with my B. I strongly suspect Coggin had a hand to play in that. I still always love and feel super nerdy that I have A levels in Quantum Mechanics and Astro Physics! That and Biology and Geography. All not possible without that gamble by him!

 

Look out for you

Mentors can often be one of those things above or all of them at once. Often what combines all mentors is a sense of looking out for you as a person and having your best interests at heart. Sure, they come at it from different angles based on their experiences and their personalities, but ultimately they want what’s best for you. Luckily, I think all of my many mentors have had that element about them, certainly my academic mentors from the entire GID staff to my former supervisors at LJMU, they’ve been nothing but supportive. Two mentors, however, stand out to me as being all those things discussed so far, inspirational, dedicated, driven, trust in you but finally, looking out for you. Dr Ruth Healey and Dr Katharine Welsh have been two of my biggest academic mentors for 9 years. I’ve gone from being a student of them both, to them both being my boss at various times, to colleagues, office buddies and then friends.

Ruth and Katharine have been incredibly supportive from day one as a student. As a boss, they were keen to develop me as best they could but in such a way that I was always looked after. A real rare commodity in this day and age when bosses actually care for their employees! Both of them had always looked out for me, especially when I moved away from Chester to do my PhD, they were still keeping in touch, being a soundboard for advice and always thinking of me when opportunities arose. Be that to present my work, do a research project here and there, work as an editor for a major journal or even job applications. I’ve been super fortunate to have many mentors like that, but the two of them have become to me, at least, the epitome of a perfect example of what a mentor should be. Whenever I mentor someone, be that students, fellow colleagues of friends, I take a leaf out of their style of mentorship. They have a bit of each and every one of those mentors discussed so far, but they put their own flair and spin on it.

My academic career thus far would have looked so very different if I wasn’t backed, supported, gambled on, guided and encouraged by those two.

Ultimately, a mentor should part wisdom, encourage, and after spending time with them, you become a better person. They and all of my mentors I owe for that! So, thank you, thank you for making me who I am, thank you for gambling on me, backing me, pushing me and seeing things in me that I didn’t see. Without you, I wouldn’t be me.

Thank you!

 

 

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!

Another Single Valentines day

Hey guys, well it’s that time of year again where single people like me wallow in self-pity. Doubly so this year as I can’t even comfort eat the numerous heart-shaped chocolates in the shops as I’m lactose/dairy intolerant, so it’s a double dagger to my jaded heart. Cruel. I mean I’m totally cool with being single for the 7th valentines day running, who’s counting…sniff…I say as the crumbs of my 25th consecutive Oreo falls into my beard (attractive I know ladies!).

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Valentines day blogs I’ve covered everything from the perfect gifts, to the bitter blogs about it being a corporate day which has origins in a Roman guy who stalked a girl, then died pushing her out of the way of a runaway cart. People say that’s cute! I say that’s a Netflix criminal documentary. These blogs, the emotional robot Tony (yes I do have them) often allow me to discuss my feelings on subjects of love and women. They’re often my favourite blogs over the years. After all my love of writing blogs came from me trying to deal with the shitstorm of 6th form. Over the years I’ve felt less and less inclined to wear my heart so openly online, I’m sure you’ve either read or can find those past blogs somewhere online. Yet, despite that I still love these types of blogs. Some of them are fun like a blog I wrote about why I’m single The Single Life of a Tony, or one of my favourite and actually most read blog was my joke take on what the perfect woman would be What would the perfect girl be if she existed?! Other blogs, well they’ve been a bit more sombre but packed a message like this one Cheating in relationship, is it in the Jeans?.

For this one, well I’ll try and strike a balance between the two! Lately, I’ve given some thought to relationships, I’ve been a bit preoccupied for a while with other stuff. I’ve had close friends start new relationships and others ending, I’ve seen those on a high and those struggling. Add to that I’m coming to the end of my PhD and in all honesty having absolutely no clue what lies in store for me next and the terrifying feeling I feel about leaving that life and for the first time probably ever, that I don’t have a solid plan or goal, it has made me think about a lot of things lately. Top piece of advice, I may seem like I have my shit together, but I’m just like you, a twig in a river just in for the ride having no clue.

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The last valentine’s day I spent with someone the tap jammed on and the kitchen nearly flooded with boiling hot water, and we spent the evening filling pots and pans to stop the water from flooding the kitchen. If that wasn’t a metaphor for how that relationship would eventually end, I don’t know what is haha! I’m not going to throw shade in this blog at people in relationships and whatever it is you do on valentines day. Whether you make it special or not, it’s your relationship and I for one and not in a position to judge. You know my thoughts on having a day to celebrate your love for another person and whether I think this is how it should be done.

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In terms of me, well yeah another year single. I honestly thought that last year that would have changed but as per usual with me and my love life well it’s often a square trying to fit into a circle, it never quite fits. I’ll pass on three scenarios or instances where I thought it would change, but the universe as usual laughed and went no.

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For the first time in a long, long time did I entertain the thought of being with someone, people commented on how I was smiling a lot more and was funnier and yeah, I did want to be a better person for her. I’ll take a side step here for a second to explain something. Despite my opening remarks, I’m actually a pretty happy single, I’ve written blogs before about how important it is when you come out of a relationship which you give your all in, to recharge, rediscover yourself and ultimately, forgive your flaws. After all, if you can’t love yourself then how can anyone ever truly love you and you to love someone else? What this means, however, when you’re very self-assured of yourself as well while you may miss having that one person to entirely rely on, or the cute things like morning kisses, on the whole, you enjoy life, you appreciate who you are and that’s important because you’re whole as a person and don’t need someone else to make you whole. I think that’s incredibly important! So when someone comes along who when you are a whole person make you sit up and think, well hey, this girl I want to be better than I am now and they’re going to enhance what I have. Take yourself from 10 to 11, that extra level you haven’t unlocked yet.

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So I met someone who for the first time in ages those thoughts crossed my mind, of course as per usual they were taken. I rolled my eyes, we’ve seen this episode before in the sitcom or is that the horror show that is my love life? Anyway, long story short the classic I’ll wait for her to sort her stuff out and I’ll be a gentleman and not tell her how I truly feel about her, it was too late. The moment had gone. That’s cool, we’ve been here before. As another joke, there was someone else who passed the Tony test, someone I didn’t really think would but did, and I enjoyed every moment with them, but circumstances meant that that would never happen. At least I now have a pretty good yardstick of who to compare to, to live up to my idea of a perfect woman. Lastly, while those two were the standard typical me issues, the latter is when I came to realise that I am destined to be single probably for another few years. It’s like every time something crops up to close that door. Those on Facebook will know about the Bumble story.

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Eugh. If that wasn’t a sign, then I don’t know what is. People used to think I’d be taking the piss with how unlucky I am with women, but that just proves it. To quote one of my dear friends “Tony, you really are the most unluckiest people in love I’ve ever met”. I have to agree. If you don’t know the story, well, after months, probably years of “You need to go dating, go on the dating apps” I caved in and dipped my fishing rod into the sea of online dating. Hardly any fish bit except one. A really good looking redhead (you know my Achilles heel), smart, super funny, loved black coffee and aviation, I was thinking well finally, here she is, the one that ticks all the boxes. We get on like a house on fire, and before I could ask to meet up on a date, I get ghosted. No messages for a week. From 100mph to 0. I’d heard about this dreaded phenomenon in the online world of being ghosted. I was, to put it mildly, fuming. After a week I go back onto my message on bumble, I couldn’t face it until then. That’s when the universe played a blinder and to be fair if I weren’t the butt of the joke I’d have pissed myself laughing at it. My phone and the app for whatever fucking reason decided to hold all her messages and not inform me she sent them. So while I thought I had been ghosted, I had inadvertently ghosted her. Her final message “Wow, I really thought we were getting on so well. I didn’t expect you to ghost me.”

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I messaged to explain the situation to no avail. I guess she read that and was like suuuure your phone did that, you complete dick. So yeah, whoop. That was fun, and by fun, I mean about as fun as being on Merseyrail.

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So while my single life is a shitshow as per usual someone asked me a question recently that actually got me thinking about where I stand on it all. She asked me, “Tony, would you trade in all of your degrees, all of your numerous awards and all of your successes for a happy and lasting relationship right now?”

I didn’t even hesitate in answering.

No.

No, I wouldn’t, and I’ll tell you why and why I feel comfortable single. Every degree, every award, every accolade I’ve done that on my own. I haven’t needed someone to confide in, to console, to complete me, that’s all me. It’s a badge of honour. It shows myself that I can do things, I can achieve and when it all goes to crap, I can always rely on myself. Behind those degrees and awards is a lifetime of failure, stress, self-doubt, imposter syndrome to name but a few negatives. Yet, it’s each fall, each hurdle, that I’ve had to pick myself up, learn, move forward, always moving forward. So no, I wouldn’t trade any of that in for a relationship.

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That got me thinking then that while I joke that the universe is against me when it comes to the opposite sex, I think actually I’m the problem! I’ll tell you why or at least why I think I am. The first reason is that I am a problem solver and I give advice, and I don’t beat around the bush. While I am deeply emotional as a person, you’ll never see that in person. I value rational thought and logic over emotions. While that is one of my strengths as I can cut through bullshit and sort mostly any problem out and I would say that those who are close to me value that quality that a spade is a spade. While that’s great as a friend or a colleague would a girl always want to be called out on the bad things to be improved? I’m not trying to be mean, not at all, just if I see you can be more efficient or improve something I’ll tell you. Of course, while I try to be a bit more inclined to the emotionally sensitive people, I imagine that how I come across is a bit abrasive.

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The second problem on those lines is I am so hard on myself. Always have been and probably always will be. Daft but a recent example, I’ve just finished writing my thesis in 2 years 5 months, way faster than the average and while so many people have been like that is amazing, you should be so proud. My first thought, why didn’t you finish it in 2 years 4 months, why didn’t you push yourself to write more papers instead of the one etc. I can’t ever just pat myself on the back, and when others send praise, I brush it off as it’s nothing. What that transpires into is that I demand a lot from myself, so those who I hold dear I demand their best too. I mentioned before that I’m a problem solver, my default is okay, here is a problem, right, how can I sort that for you so that you’ll be happy again or can move forward. What I’ve slowly become to learn is actually a lot of women just want to be listened to, to have someone agree and say you’re in their corner. Not to solve their problems but to say yeah, I’m standing with you on this one.

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Finally, what this all boils down to being single for so long is that I am utterly shitting myself for my next relationship. I’m terrified to take that step again, to open up my heart for fear of the damage an ending will have again. Heartbreak is the literal worst thing you can experience. It’s easier to not be in a relationship to not be hurt, and therefore walls are set in a solid foundation. When you’ve thought for just yourself for so many years, to then, think for two people will genuinely be a challenge for me. I know that one day I’m going to have to find the courage to retake that leap of faith, lately, each time I pluck up the courage something crops up. I know people say everything happens for a reason, well I’d like to see that reason sooner rather than later!

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Sometimes I sit here though, and I’m glad that I’m single. I see the pain that some people post break up go through, and I relive that crap time. I sympathise. I then see people really not happy in relationships but are so afraid to start again, to take drastic steps to be happy themselves that they stay in unhealthy relationships, denying themselves a better option and being in denial that things will get better. One thing that being single for so long gives you is clarity. Sometimes I think people fall in love with the idea of love and not the person. Love is fucking hard. Love isn’t holding hands, it isn’t supporting each other in the good times or telling them you love them when you feel like it. Love is when the shit hits the fan in your life, and the other person stands with you, love is when you’ve been chucking your guts up and look like death, and they tell you you’re beautiful because to them beauty if way past what you look like. Love is when you fundamentally disagree on an issue, but you put that aside and support unconditionally because you’re a team. You rely on each other. Love is making those efforts in the moments where it all seems like it could fall apart, but you work at it because you’re both invested.

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What I see, more often than not, however, is people think they’re in love when in fact they’re in love with the idea of love. They don’t love themselves or know what they want, so they settle for what they think they deserve. What this breads in the end if people who let their partner take liberties or actually when they take a close look realise they have nothing in common or actually we’re a team publically but behind closed doors we’re as far apart as can be. If you’re not happy in a relationship, you really need to leave, for your own sake and for the other person. Sure, it’s a weird single world out there, and I bet the thought of starting again is fucking terrifying, but at least you’re giving yourself the real possibility of finding happiness again. Find yourself or at least a teammate who’s going to always give you 100%.

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However, I see why valentines day is the day it is. Love is crazy, messed up, it’s fire and ice, it’s a rainbow in a storm, a light in an endless tunnel. I get it. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t miss having someone back me 100% as more than a friend, I’d be lying if I didn’t miss morning messages or random hairs on your clothes, and I’d be definitely lying if I didn’t say I miss the sex life. Which, for those asking is I think has now gone past drought to the UN’s definition of extinct! I’d be lying if I didn’t miss the powerful emotions that come with love. Future girlfriend better get ready for the best 10 seconds of her life!

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So, if you’re in a happy relationship and you love the person you’re with, on valentines day, I get it, I really do, and I applaud you. Tell that person you love them, not just on the 14th but every day. Sure, you’re going to hit turbulence along the way but make it work if you’re both committed. Never lose sight of the fact that you’re a team.

If you’re in a relationship and you’re deeply unhappy. As scary as it is, leave. It won’t get better, it never does, I’ve seen it a billion times before. You’re denying yourself a chance of happiness. If you’re newly single or just single, yeah this day sucks, it reminds you that even people like Hitler had a partner and you don’t. You’re literally less desirable than Hitler. I feel your pain. The 14th is brutal. But guess what, you are strong, you are you, you fight your battles every day on your own, you’re valued, and you won’t be as unlucky as me because I think I’m taking one for the team when it comes to love.

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So for next year, who knows if it’ll be 8 years or I’ll be one of those annoying over the top soppy people. Tune in next year guys. As always though, whatever happens, love yourself and give yourself a break!

Until next time.

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

August Blog: Summer on campus, Crime Scene Toilets, DIY SOS and the three Amigo’s go on an adventure ;)

Hey guys, its blogging time again! See I am trying to be more regular with these blogs like I promised so here is this month’s blog, almost exactly a month since my last one which you can find here A perfect weekend: A wedding and Friendships.

So it’s the summer time here, well I use the term summer lightly. It’s been a pretty awful August weather wise. I know this because I’ve been trying to fly my drone all August for PhD work and out of the 24 days so far only 2 have been within the aircraft limits to fly! Just 2! Either it’s been torrential rain or when the sun has occasionally graced us with its presence, the winds have been too strong. No wonder people don’t holiday in this country anymore! It can be pretty annoying seeing the rest of Europe basking in one of the hottest summers on record while we’re experiencing one of the coldest. I didn’t think Brexit included weather but I guess I was wrong.

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Summer time in University is a pretty weird place to be. The whole place feels empty because well…it is. Your supervisors are off on ‘fieldwork’ not ‘holidays’ for like two months, although in the case of my Professor that’s just a normal working month (and good for him! I wish I’m in the position to jet off to these exotic places every week for fieldwork one day!), every other staff member is ‘working’ from home and the only people you see on campus are admin staff, cleaners, the café people and fellow PGR students. I haven’t actually minded the peace and quiet this summer, it certainly has felt different this year at LJMU than it ever did at Chester. Chester in the summer felt like when you would go back to school in the night to help out, for say an open evening. It felt weird, empty, as if you just shouldn’t be there. We’re kept out of the city centre and way out in the sticks on a hill in Aigburth here at Marsh, so it’s always been a quieter campus away from the hustle and bustle of the city centre. I like that and that’s certainly not a complaint. The view from the office window and that walk across campus looking out onto the Mersey with the Welsh hills in the background is lovely. Certainly beats the hockey pitch and canal view I had in my old Chester office. So with no students about it’s been very peaceful! Well that was until the foreign exchange devils, sorry kids. Damn autocorrect! Came for two weeks. I should be thankful it was only two weeks at Marsh. In Chester those annoying fuckers were there for the entire summer making our lives a misery. That constant jibber jabber and why they have to scream all the time is beyond me. I get that its extra money for Universities to host these kids but dear lord some of us have to actually work and do things without hearing noisy bastards, who by the evidence of the boys toilets, which while spotless first thing in the morning, would descend into a murder scene. By time I’d go for a wee in the afternoon I half expected to step under a police cordon tape and see some CSI guys working away, while two detectives looked on in the distance while a police chief tells them they have 48 hours to solve the case. Language barrier is one thing but I can’t see not knowing that your wee goes in the toilet and not around the seat is not a universal thing and obviously to flush is something that hasn’t translated. If that wasn’t bad enough they would blast out the Verves – Bitter sweet symphony at the end of the every class. EVERY CLASS! The irony wasn’t lost on me either to that song name as I wept with PTSD every time it played.

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As soon as the violin kicks in for the billionth time.

Apart from those annoying kids the PhD has progressed over the summer and is ticking along. I finally managed to get my first model done. Which was super exciting! It’s been frustrating to be held down by red tape and procedure documents while the rest of the office have really got stuck into data collection. I know my PhD is vastly different to theirs and as a more procedural PhD my data collection was never going to be the same as theirs but its still been frustrating none the less. Data collection is the part where you actually feel like a proper researcher because it’s finally your own work. Writing procedures, literature reviews and methodologies are someone else’s words that you’re using. Anyone can do that with enough patience and coffee. When you go out and collect data and start analysing that’s your work and your voice and that’s the key driver and passion in research. It is for me anyway. Instead I’ve been writing a 22,000 word operations manual. An Ops Manual basically governs absolutely everything I will do with the aircraft for the PhD. So everything from Aviation Law to aircraft specifications which have to go into as much detail as (how do you plug the charger in) to writing down as many possible risks that can occur. You’ve all read a manual at some point right? Actually no. Who does? But people like me still have to write them. Then, you send it off to get checked and they tell you to change every “will do” to “must/should do” in a 22,000 word document, that’s after you wrote the first 22,000 words and they tell you there is a new template so you have to re-write those 22,000 words. Its soul destroying. That document was the most boring and frustrating thing I’ve ever had the displeasure of writing.

The worst part of it all was I then had to condense those 22,000 words into a methodology which is what I’ve been doing for the past three weeks. While using UAVs in fieldwork may sound fun, the sad reality is 90% of it is writing about flying than actually flying the aircraft! I really cannot wait to start proper data collection in the autumn so I can escape my desk!!

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Going on fieldwork like…

Away from the frustrations of the PhD writing, it’s been a frustrating month health and bike wise. I’ve had a persistent back pain niggle (I’m getting old and have to accept that ha-ha) that has been such a twat since I wrote about it in my last blog. That kept me off the bike for a few weeks and then the bike decided to break on me. I was debating on an upgrade for a while and took the plunge, a nice £450 plunge for a new groupset. So that took another week in the bike shop to get fixed. Then when I pick it up it gets a puncture on the way home and I have to walk 5 miles back and then two rides later I get another puncture! So that was an entire month off the bike and only two rides since getting it back. Annoying. But the bike looks Pro and feels a lot faster and lighter. Which is the opposite to me, a lot slower and fatter!

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Look at the 105 upgrade! Pro bike!

Apart from those frustrations though it’s been a very funny month, as always lately! As always that’s down to those special people I spend nearly every day with. I’m trying my best to not use the term PhD friends here. I got a stern talking to in the office for referring to them as PhD friends as that sounds like that’s all they are to me and they weren’t too happy about that! That couldn’t be further from the truth as they’re not only friends but very good friends at that both inside and outside of the office. PhD friends is just their identifier. Same goes for my “Uni” friends, “Maricourt” friends, “Chester” friends, “Legacy” friends and “other” categories. But anyway I’ve done enough grovelling 😛

While last month was highlighted by the epic trip to Formby woods, this month had a few new adventures in store. The first was certainly a new one for me, helping Vic to paint her house while an actual TV crew filmed it. Vic has been one of the very lucky people to buy one of those £1 houses in Liverpool and its either Chanel 4 or 5 who are documenting the transformation. So me, Laura and Katie along with a few of Vics friends all rolled up our sleeves and got stuck into painting. It’s certainly my first Paint Party! I don’t really do DIY. I’m more of a write the manual on how to do DIY than to actually do it. Which is pretty evident by my masking taping skills. I look forward to every tradesman taking the piss out of that when that comes on TV. As if trying to not fuck up your mates house wasn’t enough pressure, having a camera crew film you, while asking you questions, while you’re shaking like a shitting dog because you’re standing on a step ladder and you’re scared of heights was certainly interesting, to say the least. I’m really excited for Vic because it’s such a brilliant project to be involved in and the house looks amazing so far! How often do you get to effectively design your own home from scratch! Really cool project, with a really cool spin on it from a really cool chick. I can’t wait to see the finished project and I can’t wait to see if I’m on the documentary for 5 seconds, hopefully editing out numerous mentions of the PhD and my god awful masking skills!

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#nailedit

However I am used to painting, I painted my room and I’m used to painting aircraft models as a kid albeit that was on a much smaller scale. Me, Laura and Katie were assigned one room and boy did we smash it! Seriously if the PhD ever falls though I’m pretty sure we can make it in the painting and decorating business! It was a hell of a lot of fun which I’m sure the paint fumes added to. Of course me and Katie are big kids, so while Laura was the sensible one, me and Katie had a paint war. In the end we called it a draw or more importantly Laura told us to “grow up”. Rematch is deffo on the cards one day you! A worthy adversary ;). I’m still unsure on what was the most effective weapon for a paint war. I had the brush which was great for the dabs to the face, whereas her roller technique covered more area but was less agile. It’s a tough one to call!

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“We weren’t fighting…honest”

Speaking of Katie I had my first shopping experience with her this month. Worst. Female. Shopper. Ever. ;). I do joke. Certainly a contrast to my shopping trip with Laura though to which we went into M&S about 5 times before buying the shoes we saw the first time we entered. Thankfully I’d happily go shopping with either again. I’ve been shopping with some women before were throwing yourself down an escalator is a much more appealing prospect. Thankfully that thought never crossed my mind with either of them! It’s good to know that my B in GCSE textiles and numerous girl shopping trips growing up hasn’t failed my eye for picking out excellent women’s fashion. That and watching numerous next top models and say yes to the dress episodes. I’m not even ashamed. If you’re going to be a bag carrier, you might as well be an informed one. Straight Gok Wan at your service (n.b.  I actually just mean Gok Wan because I think he’s a very clever man and isn’t actually gay, think about it and tell me I’m wrong.)

The tour of Merseyside continued this month for Katie as I took her to one of my three favourite spots in Merseyside. Formby Pinewoods had already been ticked off, the next was Crosby beach. It’s a go to spot on the bike and for walks for me and you can’t live in Liverpool and not get a selfie with the Iron Men. It’s written into scouse law. So it was an honour to complete Katie’s honorary Scouser initiation. That was a really fun day and I still think I have sand in places that shouldn’t haha.

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New rendition of I am the Walrus by the Beetles 😉

It’s been well over a month since I did any travelling. The last being at the end of June in the Isle of Man for the British road race championships. It has been nice to have a month off travelling but now I can’t wait to go on this next Tony Travels adventure with the girls. Don’t forget to follow the usual hashtag of #TonyTravels when I’m away. I set out at the start of the year to go away every month of 2017. While that failed straight away as I didn’t go anywhere in January #fail, I managed to get away to somewhere every month since until July anyway. I’m about to embark on my next adventure to Prague. Then it’s Iceland in September followed by the North Atlantic coast of Canada in October. These next three trips will probably and sadly be my last of the year, so I don’t think I’ll be away for 11 of the 12 months but 8 of the 12 isn’t bad at all! That’s for a few reasons I guess. I’ve tried to arrange plans to go away for a Christmas market but schedules and locations clashed and cost which sadly made those final two trips a nonstarter. Sadly too by time the new academic year kicks in the PhD is really going to ramp up in terms of work load. While my supervisors wouldn’t mind me taking a few days off a month, I really wouldn’t want the extra pressure of trying to catch up on work. Especially as that will be my data collection phase. Finally, it’s time to be an adult. We’ve had serious discussions about moving in together and I couldn’t really afford to rent a house and still go off travelling! But that’s okay, I think it will be nice to start a new adventure at home.

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For now though, it’s ready for my travels again. This time I’m actually flying the furthest East I’ve ever been, to central Europe to the beautiful city of Prague with Laura and Katie. I’m really excited but I am a little well nervous isn’t the word but apprehensive probably is. I travel a lot on my own. There is a very deep innate joy in that, for instance I cannot wait to be walking in the wildness of Iceland or the red beaches of the North Atlantic Canadian coast alone. There is just a great sense of freedom and exploration with self-travel. However, that’s not to say I dislike travelling with people, far from it! It’s an amazing thing to do to share in these new adventures with people you care about. It’s just as good as solo travel, it’s just different that’s all. This year I’ve had a few travel partners, Emma, Shaun and Luke and the stag do crew. Where my apprehension lies is for example I’ve known Emma for far too many years now and we’ve been away on trips before to London etc. She knows all my quirks and likewise I know her and we’ve built up enough tolerance to each other to that spending a few days together in Amsterdam we didn’t feel the need to kill each other. I mean only once did that ever sort of happen and that was in London trying to find fucking platform 9 and ¾! I’ve never wanted to kill my sister from another Mr before or since, except for that day haha.

I’ve known Laura for just under a year now and Katie only five months. Which is crazy because it feels like I’ve known these two crazy cats for just as long as Emma or Shaun. I get on incredibly well with both of them, I mean it’s kinda’ scary how much we all do get on and are on each other’s wavelength. I dread to think how different the PhD and just life in general would be if we never met or never got on as well as we do. Plus it’s great that we’re still getting to know each other a little bit more each and every day. I know enough about them after spending most of my time with them that I don’t really see anything that would cause me to be annoyed on the trip to Prague. We’re very compatible. I’m more worried about them hating me or trying to kill me in Prague rather than me to them! I haven’t picked up on any such vibes…yet… so I’m pretty sure we’ll be okay. We all stayed over the other night, had some food and watched some tv and that was after a week together. So we didn’t kill each other that night, in fact it was a really funny night, so I guess we passed that test, so Prague should be a breeze! Although they weren’t best pleased with my 5.45 a.m. alarm call. Ooops. That will be firmly off in Prague!

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I’m really excited to spend five days away with them both. There has not been a day in each other’s company were we haven’t laughed our heads off. I know this trip is going to be one hell of a funny one and I cannot wait! It seems weird that it was only a few months ago me and Laura were sitting in Coopers Coffee which is actually starting to become this groups Central Perks! Where over the biggest full English I mentioned about my trying to get away every month idea and Laura mentioned how she wants to go to Prague. Prague has been on my list for ages, especially seeing the pics and the stories than Han and Dan had from there. We both agreed to go and two days later it was booked! We opened it up to the group and Katie gladly joined us. Its seemed ages away this trip and now its here and eeeek I really cannot wait! Beautiful city with two of the best peeps, it’s going to be a blast. Certainly blog worthy I suspect!

On a soppier note to end this month’s blog. They’ve both graduated into my inner circle. Which is a special place as a whole five people reside there. I have friends, good friends, close friends and then the inner circle of trust friends. Despite my blogs and social media being very open and honest, I am still a very private person. There is a lot of things I keep to myself and we all have personas that we display to different people. I am fortunate that the persona I give off is very close to the real Tony. However barriers exist to protect myself because trust is earnt and I place a massive emphasis on loyalty and trust. That usually takes a year maybe even two for me to fully develop enough confidence in someone that I can be me with. For me to completely trust them 100%. That comes from their interactions with not only me but how they interact and deal with others. But for these guys our friendship has progressed so much, so quickly and they’re such awesome people that I have enough to know that they’re special people in my life and I’m grateful for it.

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So it’s time to sign off for this month, pack my bags and go spend what will hopefully be five very fun days away! Be sure to check back in for a trip report blog soon!

Until next time!

Toe

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.

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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!

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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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Cheating in relationship, is it in the Jeans?

It’s been quite a while since I last wrote a blog that was solely dedicated to relationships or my usual non-existent love life. The last proper one was probably in 2015 An honest look at why I’m single or one of my favourite blogs of all time the one about the perfect girl which can be read here What would the perfect girl be if she existed?.  They’re often some of my favourite ones because there is so much scope for in-depth discussion or plenty of avenues for humour and stories.

I’ve actually been meaning to do one of these for quite a while, and that’s due to different things that have happened over the past 6 months with friends, which often prompted me to get down and write about it. The main thing is, as much as I love my girl mates, they have made some truly bad decisions lately :P. Or at least from my part what I see as bad decisions. Decisions that I completely disagree with but as friends you fully support, albeit reluctantly at times. That topic is cheating in a relationship. I was going to dedicate an entire blog to the subject as I see it as far more common from my girl mates and never from my guy mates, so it got me thinking why that is. While I morally disagree with their actions, I fully understand their reasoning for doing so. Sadly their reasons are justifiable something I never thought I’d agree with and sadly, each one of them has the exact same reasons. Which, while not perfect from the girls, it means guys are not doing what they should be doing in relationships. Which is a worrying trend and precedent for relationships in general.  Which is something I’ll outline in more depth in this blog.

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A few years ago in a Valentine’s Day blog, I compared two different types of love with food (naturally love and food are the same thing with me!) Asda smart price vs M&S food. I’ve now updated such analogy with Primark Jeans and Levi’s. All will become clear, I assure you. However, I didn’t go ahead with writing a full blog on it because I wanted something a little lighter and happier slant on love than what that would be. As my parents have just celebrated 30 years since being married and my best guy friend is getting married this weekend, I thought it was a good time to mix the light and the dark side of relationships. Starting in the dark and working towards the light…then throwing my somewhere in between love life in there too! (Edit: But while planning this blog I realised that I may not have time to write about the wedding and the anniversary. Maybe next time!)

Disagree with the action, agree with the justification

So to the dark side first. Everything I’m about to say has been said to them so now I’m just getting my thoughts out there to a wider audience. One time it happens doesn’t need to be talked about but four times needs addressing ha-ha! So let me put my stall out and my stance on cheating before I go into anything in more depth. I fully and wholeheartedly disagree with it. I’ve been the unfortunate victim of cheating in a relationship and let me tell you it sucks. It’s one thing for someone to tell you that they don’t love you anymore, but at least they had the respect for you, to tell you. So while they may break your heart for a time, at least you’re not in a relationship in denial. When someone cheats on you, it’s basically someone saying you’re not even worth that respect. Sure, you could be the most horrible boyfriend in the world, but they still deserve a “this isn’t working” rather than cheating. If you’re unhappy in a relationship, then leave before you do something with another person. We’re humans and evolution has programmed us to procreate, so it’s natural to be attracted to other people at times in a relationship. You’re allowed to window shop, but it’s important that you don’t enter the said shop.

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Taken? Then look but don’t touch.

I get it though, it can be daunting breaking someone’s heart but ultimately if you’re not happy, then you’re only cheating both of you out of a love life that you deserve. If you’re the one doing the breaking up then sure it’s going to hurt, you’re going to be the bad guy for a time, but ultimately it’s the right decision for you and both of you. If you’re the one who has been broken up with, sure it’s going to absolutely kill you but once the heart has healed you see it as a blessing in disguise. I hold 100% respect to an ex who told me they didn’t love me anymore. That took an immense amount of courage to do that, so I respected her for that. Let’s face it too, people fall out of love. It happens. People get with each other and then circumstances change, they change, and that’s all part of growing up and moving forward. These things happen, it’s not a bad reflection on either of you. Sometimes relationships just fail, and that’s okay. Take away the lessons from it and move forward. It is a bad reflection on you; however, if you then cheat in that relationship while lying to each other that you love each other when you don’t. They deserve better and quite frankly you’re better than that.

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So yeah, I’m fully against cheating in a relationship and at no point in any of the conversations I’ve had with these people do I agree with what they have done. Yet, I can 100% understand their reasoning’s and their attempts at justifying their position of why they have cheated. That’s where I’ve had the moral dilemma of disagreeing with the action but understanding the reasoning behind said action.

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Out of the four close girl mates that have done the cheating, each time I sat and listened to their story of events and their reasoning, it was as if the conversation was recorded and repeated. Just change the names and that would be it. The circumstances and reasons were exactly the same. These four girls are vastly different in personality, jobs, morals, and outlooks on life. Their only common factor is they’re friends with me. So, if they all have the same reasons for cheating, then that’s clearly an issue that needs to be addressed.

So what were their reasons I hear you ask? It was a variation on a lack of affection and support from their boyfriends. Now I’m not talking about someone missing an event or not backing them up in an argument. I’m talking about no flowers, no hugs, and no simple things like taking an interest in their family or how their partner’s day has been and just a general lack of being a good boyfriend. That’s the issue. Too many times have I seen guys who treat their girlfriends as if they were there guy mates, devoid of emotion or at least insensitive to such things. Sure, it’s good to be in a relationship which isn’t smothered by romance, and it’s healthy to have a laugh and goof around like best mates, and it’s vital you have your own pursuits outside of the relationship. Yet when no affection or support is offered, she will look elsewhere. That’s essentially what happened. Being in a relationship devoid of that and as soon as someone comes along who offers that person that love, support and affection, it’s not hard to see why it happened.

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That frustrates me, a lot. It seems guys have forgotten the fundamentals of relationships and being a good boyfriend. Affection and intimacy is a big part of a relationship. Now I’m not saying you have to buy gifts and flowers every week for them, but once in awhile, so they know they’re appreciated, or even if you just tell them, that goes a long way. I’m not going to outline the fundamentals of good relationship etiquette, go google the millions of blogs and magazine articles which already outline the obvious. Yet, some things aren’t as obvious that I feel if guys did more, maybe their girlfriends would be less inclined to look elsewhere for affection.

  1. Take an active interest in their lives:

    Yeah, some of her hobbies may be about as exciting as watching paint dry and maybe she works in a field that you have absolutely no clue about. Does it hurt to ask about it or try to take an interest in it? For example my ex, I knew nothing about horses, nor do I really care about showjumping or take any interest in horses outside of betting on them on the Grand National weekend. I knew it was important to her and a big part of her life, so I tried to take an interest in it and let her explain things and occasionally go along to her events. Would I choose to sit on a cold field watching people jump horses, to which I’m always allergic to? No. Did I do it anyway because I wanted to support her? Absolutely. Likewise, she would humour me by asking about cycling or aviation. It’s about sharing in those new experiences. It’s important, especially if they work in a tough job or sector that even if you have no clue about it, just ask her anyway. 99% of what she says may go over your head, but she’ll appreciate you asking. After all, you’re there to support them.

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  2. Support them:

You won’t always agree with somethings they said or do, and that’s fine because we’re not all the same and debate and argument in relationships is a healthy thing. However, they need to know that no matter what, you have their back. Like for example with those girl mates, I fully disagree with their actions, I told them that and the reasons why but ultimately I still said: “I stand by your decisions and I’m here to support you”. That’s just what a good friend and what a good boyfriend should do. You’re meant to be a team! You need to have each other’s back. I’d hate to be in a relationship and not feel like I had the backing of my girlfriend.
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  1. Be emotional:

I’m not talking about serenading her with an 80’s power Ballard while sitting on a sit-on lawnmower outside her window (totally on the list to do one day :D) or writing a love poem to her. I am talking however about show her you care. Tell her you love her once in a while. I’m an emotional robot for a lot of things in life, and that’s why many people come to me for advice, especially in terms of relationships because I can easily switch off my emotions to give objective and logical advice. In a relationship, you just can’t be that person. I can control my emotions because I’m a deeply emotional vibrant person. I’m sure close friends and past girlfriends have witnessed how deep my love and affection goes. Even if you’re an emotional robot, you need to show some sort of feelings towards them; otherwise, you’re just friends or just two people who occupy the same space. Compliments are always a big boost too. Even the girls who say they hate them, they’re lying. Everyone loves a good boost in confidence. Yet, compliments from most guys on their girl’s appearance are quite shallow and usually only used in the bedroom. Women are so much more than just appearance. Maybe next time compliment her on her personality, how driven or caring she is, or how intelligent she is. Show her you love her for more than just her looks because we’re all so much more than that.

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But I guess this all comes down from both sides as a lack of effort and back to that old analogy of Asda smart price food vs M&S. So let me update you with how I view relationships at the moment at least in this context.

Primark Jeans v Levi’s Analogy

Primark Jeans are basically what ‘relationships’ have become lately. A quick, comfy convenience that doesn’t require much effort or thought, lasts a few weeks to a few months, and once it’s broken, it is easy to replace. Like, Primark Jeans are very common, relatively cheap and do their job but within a few weeks to a month they shrink or come apart at the sides. There is no point working to repair them because you can just pick up another pair and you were never invested in them anyway from the start. Contrast that to a £100 pair of Levi jeans. You invest a substantial amount of money into them and usually as you’re spending that much you’ll spend your time finding the right pair before committing to the purchase. Not only do they last far longer, if they were to become damaged, you’ll work to get them repaired. Does that make sense? I’m definitely a Levi jeans kind of’ guy. I’d rather invest more and have it for longer than go through 10 pairs of Primark jeans. I just wish more people would be Levi kinda’ of people.

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I guess to conclude this part of the blog, while your reasons for your actions may be justifiable and if you feel yourself going there, end it with your boyfriend or girlfriend first before you go there. It’s not healthy for either of you, and if you continue to have your cake and eat it too, karma will come back to make you choke on it. Do the right thing. Likewise, guys, step up. If a girl loves you make an effort to support and love them back. This isn’t a one-way street, you’re a team and teams require teamwork and effort from both.

So I was going to now go into the light and talk about my Mum and Dad’s 30th wedding anniversary and my best guy friend’s wedding coming up at the weekend, but I realise that this blog has gone on much longer than I thought it would! I guess I had a lot to say, so I’ll save that for another blog. I will, however, now move into a more positive light and move towards talking about my still pretty much non-existent love life but why I hold great hope for the future. A bit lighter to end!

So ironically not a great deal has changed since those last blogs, and I’m still waiting for my ginger, cycling pilot baker girlfriend to appear. But alas it isn’t all that bad! I think I’m the happiest I have been since 2011/12, and I’m just enjoying life and travels and friendships. It’s only been maybe the past few months where I’ve actually considered and entertained the thought of being in a relationship again. Everything is now set up for one, and I know emotionally and physically, I can give time and effort into investing myself back into a relationship again. Of course, that’s easier said than done. You all know how I have that tick box system in my head and how despite having way too much self-confidence there is still the crippling fear of being hurt again and not living up to expectations in a relationship. I guess that’s normal, but I am ready to give up my selfish ways and compromise and share my life with someone in a way that is more than I do with friends. Maybe I have the courage to take that leap of faith again, but it has to be with the right person. The beauty of being single and loving yourself for who you are is that you know exactly what you want and what you need. I have felt really positive lately about the future outlook to my love life, which has been dormant for far too long! I feel like good things are on the way, and I’m excited about that adventure again as if the PhD and starting my own business wasn’t enough of an adventure already!

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Someone for the first time since my ex which is what four maybe even five years ago now has passed the Tony test, not that they know that of course! I do like to keep things to myself and my cards close to my chest. That over-complicated tick box exercise, which is my defence mechanism. That’s a big thing for them and for me because it literally never hardly happens! Whether or not that will ever develop into anything in the future is not up to me to write, I’m sure the directors of the universe have plans to either develop it or not but I really don’t care. What will be will be and I’m not even giving it any thought!

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However, in the meantime, I really am enjoying the PhD life and the friendships that come with that. It’s one thing to be single for a long time and while that’s great for exploring yourself and being 100% happy with who you are, it actually makes you really appreciate the journey you’re on and where you’ve been. You also really appreciate those in your life as friends, both old and new. Every day lately has been an absolute laugh, and that’s mostly down to old but also new friends, especially those from the PhD gang. Memes, gifs, puns and jokes galore along with the beauty of getting to know them in more depth! I’m loving it and I’m really grateful for where I am in my life right now.

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Before I wrote this blog, I went through some of my old ones trying to find my last dedicated relationship blog and came across one of those blogs I wrote just after that breakup. It amazes me to see how far I’ve come since then and that it truly was a blessing in disguise. The things I’ve achieved and who I’ve become since then actually makes me proud to see who I am today. So, I guess to round this blog off on a positive note. If you are that girl, who is thinking about breaking it off with their boyfriend because they are either not affectionate, caring or you’ve just run out of love for them. Set them free. It’s their choice to be another Primark Jean for another woman, but maybe you might set them free to become a Levi. They may just thank you. Don’t try to wear two jeans at once because no one wins then. With that in mind, maybe you’ll realise that while shopping in Primark has its perks, you might dip into your pocket and invest in a pair of single Levi jeans. We do exist 😀

Until next time,

Toe

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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

An honest look at why i’m single

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next time!

Toe

The Single Life of a Tony

So I’ve been single for quite a while now, and while that doesn’t bother me, I do find it funny the way everyone lately says I’m too picky or I need a girlfriend. I think doing Sudoku on a Friday night has tipped a few over the edge. So let us take a look at how I feel being single right now.

  1. First of all, I’m mostly single because I simply haven’t been looking. After my last break up, I threw myself into my education and then my career. All of that was done without the support of a girlfriend, and now I’m financially much better off than I would have been if I was in a relationship.
    money
  2.  Because as far as experience goes, girlfriends cost money.
    gf money
  3. Being single for a while really does make you question what’s wrong with yourself and why no women have asked you out yet. Then you sit down and actually think about it and realise the list is actually quite long. Yet, there is still that inner confidence and hope that one day she’ll come along.
    hey girls
  4. You look like a roman coin, your hair is the same texture as a carpet, your thighs due to cycling are bigger than trees, you possess a pair of moobs, you can’t see shit without your glasses, you’re awkward, yet you still think you’re goddam sexy…smart is sexy girls.
    heygirl
  5. Oh, it’s your 2 month anniversary? Oh, you have someone who loves you? Oh, it’s a cute couple holiday photo, oh you’re engaged on Facebook…Nah I’m not jealous…Hahaha…hahah…hah…ha…sniffle…sobs…but seriously you should only celebrate yearly anniversaries. Two months!? I spend longer having a shit in the morning.
    medal
  6. Eventually, someone comes along who does take a chance on you. They’re really hot, and you’d definitely never expect them to take an interest in you. So you instantly think it’s a trap or some sick twisted game. Cupid! He’s turned into Jigsaw! He’s testing me! So you take it very cautiously.
    bewildered
  7. You get chatting, and it’s going really well, but you’re so out of the game when it comes to flirting. “You’re really hot!” …”Geez, I know! It’s 25c out there today!” …”FFS Tony. That’s not what I meant.” …”Oh…but I am hot due to the weather though…”
    oh i see
  8. This chick wants the D…
    do-you-want-to-have-sex-with-me
  9. Her answer…
    yxno
  10. Which is probably a good thing. I’ve been single for so long and haven’t had sex in so long that even the slightest touch…
    ejact
  11. You think it’s going well and then you realise you have very little in common. So much promise fizzles out.
    dsppntmnt
  12. But that’s okay because just when you think being single sucks, you see a break up on Facebook and your friend is getting back with their ex for the billionth time!
    drma
  13. Family parties are the worst. Especially when everyone, like your cousins, are all partnered up, and you’re just like…
    familyparty
  14. They tell you that you’re just too picky. Yeah because I have soooo many to choose from right?
    picky
  15. But then they instil confidence in you and tell you, you’d be a great boyfriend to some lucky girl. Damn right!
    bestfriend
  16. You find a girl that you like, you become friends, but you enter the friend zone and trying to get out of the friendzone is like…
    hula
  17. While other guys are hitting the gym to look as buff as possible, I’m just eating. I eat a lot. There is nothing wrong with eating a lot! I like to eat. Surely a girl would prefer a soft pillow than a rock hard abs. At least that’s what I’ll keep telling myself.
    candy for dinner
  18. So you finally find a girl to take you out of the island of single isolation.
    amy adams
  19. It happens in the movies, so it must happen in real life, right?
    taylor-prince
  20. You felt self-confident before, but now someone is attracted to you and actually loves you. What did your ex say “You’ll never find anyone as good as me?”
    diva
  21. But they have to meet the family first. Will they pass the interrogation?
    seal-of-approval2
  22. They do! You finally have a girlfriend! Your parents might finally get that Grandchild, it might actually stop the suspicion that you might be gay, hell might actually have frozen over. Your family and friends can’t believe it. PARTY TIME!
    dnc
But until then I’m still single……and I’m totally cool with that.
crybby_
Till next time!
Toe