The Day in the life of Tony Cliffe

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

Tag: review

2010-2019 the decade of change and achievement

2019…The end of a terrific year but also the end of what has been quite the decade! Looking back on the past decade it’s actually been quite the whirlwind. If my 2010 self was to read what I was to do and become in the next nine years, I don’t quite think he’d believe it. I’ve been on a journey of transformation, I’m a million miles away from that jaded and lost boy in 2010. 2010 me was I feel looking back, an outsider who never really fitted in. Present but vacant, slightly out of sync with everyone else. Someone who knew what they wanted to be but was not in a place where they could be that. I started the decade, lost.

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Some Happier 2010 times!

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Some Happier 2010 times!

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Some Happier 2010 times!

Its been well documented those who have followed me on this journey from day one about my disdain for sixth form and what went on in a particular classroom. This blog, while a million miles away from those early days of blog writing as a release and as a weapon, has its roots from the immaturity of sixth form. My passion for writing blogs was born out of that shitshow. There were many gems from Maricourt but there was a toxic group that I could not wait to leave behind.

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Life was better at Uni!

My life got significantly better when at the start of the decade I went to University. I had felt like I was hemmed in, in school. Learn hard, put the effort in, get the grades, get out. That’s what school was to me. One of my standout moments of this decade was and will always be that first-year residential field trip to Slapton in Feb of 2011. This decade I’ve had a few vital and pivotal moments where if I had chosen the other side of the coin, the other decision, life would be vastly different today. The first of that, was that February night on a cold, windswept Slapton beach. I still remember it vividly, the fresh sea breeze that tickled your face, the gentle and rhythmic pulse of the distant lighthouse casting a beam of light across the sand. Looking up and taking in a deep breath of air, exhaling and watching it disappear into the most unbelievably clear sky I had ever seen. It felt like the entire universe was out that night, the bluest of blue stars twinkled above like diamonds.

Before that night, I was ready to quit University. I had made up my mind, it wasn’t for me. I wasn’t challenged enough, I was constantly ill, I hated the commute. I was all but done. This first-year field trip was in my mind, a swansong. It just turned out to my surprise to be the start of an epic journey in academia. That night as we pulled up some driftwood and sat on large boulders, laughing and sharing stories into the night. I suddenly realised that with this group of people, we were all broken in some way and for the first time in my life, that wasn’t an issue. For the first time in such a long time, I had people around me who actually didn’t care about who you are or where in high school. They all had flaws as did I, and they didn’t care. They were human. I formed friendships that night that have lasted the sands of time. That field trip changed everything. I fell back in love with Geography because of that field trip, I realised that I could be who I wanted to be here, with these people.

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Sitting here now having completed a BSc, an MSc and recently a PhD, it seems crazy to me that I was so close to giving up all of that if it wasn’t for that goddamn beach and the chats that night. Not to forget Susan (you had to be there).

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Undergraduate years of 2010-2013 was a period of some crazy emotions. Once I committed to academic life, I found a place I could call home. I found something I was good at and oh boy it was one hell of a good time! Every day in Uni was a laugh with my Uni pals, Anthony, Alex, Mary, Hannah, Chloe, Stacey. The latter, well we all know how that particular episode of the decade turned out. I had fallen in love.  I let my walls down 100% again for someone for the first time in a few years and for those two years it was awe-inspiring, it was beautiful and it was terrifying all at the same time. As time has passed and the wounds have healed, I can look back on those times with a real warm glow. Now longer jaded by heartache and bitterness.  I owe her a lot for building the foundations of the person I am today. There are a lot of aspects of me today that define me that were unlocked by her. For one small example, cooking. I couldn’t cook beans on toast before I met her and would never venture outside of any dish that wasn’t made in the British isles! Yet with an Italian passion for food, that was unlocked in me. Food and cooking is a huge part of who I am now. I love to cook and I’m always cooking food for family and friends and dishes from all over the world!

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Then in 2013, as I was feeling on top of the world…it all came crashing down. The rug was whipped from under my feet. The breakup hit me out of the blue and knocked me for six for years! 2013-14 was brutal. I was depressed, everything was a struggle. Looking back now, I see why I struggled so much with it. As a very guarded person, I felt like I was betrayed when I let all of my walls down, the real emotional me was vulnerable and to then have that heart stood on in the fashion that she did was tough. Did it help that she got with the guy she was ‘just friends with at the party’ that I didn’t go to, two weeks after she broke it up out of the blue? No. No, it didn’t. Did it also help my recovery that we shared every class together and friendship group for that final year? No, that didn’t help either.

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Happier times in 2013

Truth be told though I was seething, I was angry, I was hurt. But actually, I was mad at myself. I am an achiever. It’s what I do, I set a goal and I will achieve it. I have a long list of honours, accolades and achievements. Yet, one had always evaded me. I would trade in all of my awards to just be loved by someone, to grow old with them and to have my own family. When she ended it, to me, it was a colossal failure on my part. It’s something that I did or didn’t do, it was my fault in some way is how I perceived it. I had a taste of that ultimate goal for it to no longer exist. It was tough.

2013 was by far the most challenging year of the decade for me. A week after I was hit by that out of the blue break up, I was informed that my eyes where 0.5 outside of the limit for becoming an Air Traffic Controller. A dream job that I had worked towards ever since I was little. My choices in school and even degree level were all geared up towards becoming an Air Traffic Controller. It’s all I ever wanted to do. In the space of 7 days, I had lost two dreams, out of the blue. I was once again, lost.

From 2010 to the start of 2013, I had discovered for the most part who I was as a person. I grew very self-assured of myself. 2013 knocked me right back to 2010. I didn’t know me anymore. I had spent years having such confidence in myself to looking in the mirror and not even recognising who I was. Every day was an effort. Academia became a lifeline again, amongst all of this dissertations had begun. The only way out of this hole I thought was to put everything into that dissertation. One last hurrah. Do well in this, get a good degree, build myself back up again, reinvent me again. I used all those emotions of anger and hurt and turned them into productivity. Which worked. I aced that dissertation and in the process fell in love with research. I was selected to go and present it at the biggest undergraduate conference in Plymouth. Backed by my supervisor and my friends, I didn’t think I was worthy but they believed. They pushed me to do it. From the back of that, I was selected to present that research in Parliament and came in the top 20 UK undergraduate researchers of the year. Not bad work for when I was at my lowest. That was the slow road to recovery.

Final year was a slog, but I finished with a 2:1. The goal was done. I had never felt prouder than that first graduation day, looking back at the certificate. It didn’t to me denote a degree, whenever I think back to my BSc days, it indicates all those made changes in my life, the soaring highs and greatest of lows. To me, it reminds me that I’m glad that I have that no matter how shit I feel, I have that inner stubbornness that just will never, ever, give up. No matter how much the odds are stacked against me. You pick yourself up, you keep working hard, you never give up.

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2014 and 15 were all about my Masters Things they never tell you about when starting a Masters Degree. Because I was still recovering from 2013 I don’t think at the time I really appreciated those years for what they were. A period of reflection, rebuilding, rebranding, regrowing. By the time our first residential to the desert in October came around, I saw the MSc as a new start. That summer I had clarity, I had dealt with a lot of stuff, I for the first time actually accepted me for me. I now knew what I wanted out of life and one of those things was to collect degrees. I loved research, I wanted to become a researcher. I wanted to help people in a way that I knew I could, via research. The MSc was academically very challenging but I adored that challenge. Being pushed every day intellectually was fun! It was such a great topic to study and my fellow classmates where legends. I feel really bad that we all never really stayed in touch but they were so perfect for that part of my life. I am grateful for every single one of them. That desert field trip without a doubt is the funniest field trip I have ever been on. God, I loved that course!2014…a year of rebuilding and success!

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2015 came another of those giant what-if moments, those crossroad decisions, a flip of a coin, a fork in the road of life. I’d finished my Masters, I’m now healed, I’m back to myself, I have the whole world ahead of me. Then the two jobs come at once. 29k 3 year contract in Nottingham with a global consultancy firm, or a 16k part-time tempory one year job as a research assistant. I was utterly torn between the logically me and the emotional me. Head and my Dad, wherein the consultancy job. No question. Financial security, job security, job progression, independence, moving out, new city. Yet, my heart wasn’t in it. I had fallen in love from Undergrad with research, but it was a lot of work, it didn’t pay well and there was no guarantee it would last longer than a year. I was conflicted, my parents were conflicted. Take the Nottingham job and I would be leaving home, I’d be leaving Liverpool, my life and I’d be on a career path in environmental consultancy.

On the other hand, take the RA job, stay at home but do something I was madly passionate about and really enjoyed but for pretty crap pay.

Then that talk at the river happened. Both of us, me and Chloe at a crossroads in life, both with massive decisions to make. Chloe, I have no doubt is my guardian angel. At the beach in Slapton, there during the hard times, there again at the river now a big life decision was to be made. My confidant, my guiding light, my soundboard. I summed Chloe up and the rest of my close friends up so well in this blog here:My dedication to the inner circle! After hours for the first time in a while, I had clarity over that decision. My mind was made up all because of her, I made the decision. I declined the consultancy job and for the first time ever the logical me went with my heart. I took the RA job. I turned onto the path of academia which has led me to where I am today.

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2015-2016 where the RA years (My 2016, a cracking year! ) (My Facebook status’ of the year and what a story it tells of 2015.) An incredibly rewarding, stressful, intense training I could ever receive being an RA in the department. I thought my development rate was staggering from BSc to MSc, but as an RA, I developed more in those years there than I had all the other years combined. I adored that job, as much as it was mental! It cemented to me that this is what I wanted to do as a career now. The research was home, I had found not where I expected to be but clearly where I was meant to be. I worked on a vast amount of projects, learnt so much and got to work with the most incredibly supportive colleagues a young RA could ever ask for! I was pushed to my limits and beyond in that job. It only became apparent when I started my PhD how much training I had unknowingly been through as the departments RA. I was a seasoned researcher soldier by the time the PhD wars came. I felt like a general when I walked into PhD life. To this day, those intense years where the best in terms of training for research and my career and it put me in a great position.

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Here we go again, three-year cycles in life, all going well and here comes the downer. Funding cuts across the University. RAs well we’re disposable. First to be cut was me. Here I am again, back at this familiar road. Find something I’m good at and I like and here comes something to take it away. Oddly, I was different this time. The disappointment didn’t come as a surprise, things were going too well so I was expecting this to occur. But more than that, after so many disappointments and setbacks in my life I was just like meh, okay, it’s another one, I’ll deal with it like I always do. No worries! I was gutted to be leaving the department but I also felt that maybe this was a blessing in disguise. A new chance to see this as rather than a setback, a new adventure, a new challenge. Since 2013 I’ve had the mindset of turning negatives into positives, even if that is only a small positive. I had learnt all that I could there, I couldn’t progress without a PhD. So PhD it is.

I’ve always been a firm believer that if you have the right attitude in life, if you work hard, then you build a door. If you do that, then life will give you opportunities and if you’ve worked hard and in the right way, then the opportunity will come and knock at that door that you’ve built. The day after I was told I was going to be unemployed, the PhD scholarship at LJMU was posted. My boss saw it, sent it to me. I quote “Jesus Tony, this PhD looks like it’s been written for you! Drones in fieldwork! You should apply”. There was an opportunity, knocking very loudly! I was so very nearly not going to apply until my work mum Sara knocked some sense into me (one of the very many unsung heroes of this decade for me! Thank you Sara!). I applied, did the interview, got the scholarship and the rest is history as they say!

2016-2019 and that’s where we end this decade. The PhD years. These past three years would never have happened without that decision way back in 2010 or that one in 2015. It’s a weird life when you think about it. If I had my way, I like to think I would have been an air traffic controller now, with a wife and maybe a kid. But life has a funny way of getting you where you need to be, not where you want to be. Here I am, in 2019, as a Doctor. I never thought or even entertained the thought that one day I would be Dr Cliffe, I’d be an editor of a Journal and a Senior Lecturer at 27 years old. Yet, for all of that journey, I am immensely proud that I am here. That I never gave up and that I feel I am where I’m meant to be right now. The past three years have undoubtedly been the best of the decade. I have so much love for my time on the PhD and the people who were in it My final day and my goodbye. I have grown again as a person to someone who I feel is the best and most rounded version of me there has ever been. The past three years have been the most intellectually challenging journey. It’s also been the most personally challenging as I’ve worked towards the highest academic qualification you can get. It’s been a fabulous time, especially all the friendships, relationships and travel that it brought me!

However, the past three years would not have been possible without my fellow PGRs, especially H105. They have been my rock throughout all of this! Friends that I know I will have forever! The battle of the Viva and my ode to H105  A perfect weekend: A wedding and Friendships Yet, they’re not alone in my thoughts as I look back on this decade. You see, for every fail and trust me I have 1000 fails to every one of my successes. You see, whether I’ve failed or I’ve achieved I’ve never been alone. I’ve had people in my life for those ten years who’ve been through everything, I’ve had people who’ve come and gone. Each time was leaving a piece of them with me that has changed me. People have left me with positives and some with lessons. I’ve had so many unsung heroes on this journey, so many people who when I lost faith, put their faith in me. I’ve had the most amazing mentors who backed me when I didn’t back myself, who pushed me beyond my perceived limits to see what I was truly capable of. This decade is littered with the most amazing, kind-hearted, dedicated, and loyal people I have ever met. I have had friends like Chloe, Emma, Hannah, Luke, Laura, Vic, Katie, the list goes on who have stood by me through thick and thin. Who has never waivered, who always believe in me and what I stand for. Without out, I wouldn’t be possible.

I feel as I end this decade that I am incredibly wealthy in terms of the company that I now keep. 2010 me was a lost boy who didn’t fit in. 2019 me is a man who has found a home, a family. I may not be where I thought I would be, but I’m where I feel I’m meant to be.

Let’s see what the new decade holds, 2010-2010 was the decade of achievement…I’m ready for the adventure of this new decade. What it will be called I guess I’ll find out in 10 years, but I am ready for it to be written!

 

Decade of Achievement

  • A – Levels
  • UK’s first parliamentary school speaker award winner
  • UK Good Citizen of the year award
  • BSc Geography
  • Novel published on Amazon
  • Top 20 UK undergraduate researchers (2013)
  • MSc Sustainability
  • Outstanding Academic Support staff overall winner 2016
  • Editor of IJSaP
  • 4 papers published
  • PhD
  • Driving Licence
  • Senior Lecturer
  • Deputy Chair of Ethics
  • Post Graduate Assessment Officer

 

Autumn is around the corner. My four likes and dislikes of this season.

The nights are now getting longer, and thus, the days are shorter. There is a noticeable coolness to the winds that flow in off the Atlantic now, the first detectable signs of change in the colours of the leaves. Autumn is just around the corner.

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For some, autumn brings people joy and cheer, a change in the season, those turning colours of the leaves a welcome sign to usher in the colder weather as a respite from the summer. Not that we’ve had a particularly good end to the summer! It’s felt more autumnal in August this year than it does in November! Autumn, or fall, if you like saying words wrong, if I had to rank it, I’d place it at number 3 on my list. Spring is by far my favourite season when everything is warming up, nature is coming alive, and there is an excitement for the summer ahead, the longer days, the hot weather, and days out in the sun. Beautiful! Autumn, however, don’t get me wrong has its perks, way more than winter does (god I hate winter!) but it’s not as good as spring or summer. So, before you can say pumpkin spice latte, autumn will be here. So here are my four not so favourite things about this season and my, to its credit, four things I do like about this season.

Dislikes

I’m aware that many of my dislikes for autumn are probably some of your favourite things about it. You’re wrong, but that’s fine, I can live with that. Oddly, some of my dislikes have an alter ego side to them and form the basis of some of my likes for this season. All will become clear, I promise!

  1. The Long Nights and the Weather

In at number one is my number one dislike of autumn. The shorter days and long nights. It does my Seasonal Affective Disorder no good at all! The long days of summer, I pine for, the bright blue azure skies and the twilight of what little darkness hours exist in the summer. Autumn that all changes. You get up in the dark and by the time you get home from work, it’s nearly dark. It makes me feel like I’m trapped in a lightless cardboard box. Grim. I’m the type of person who runs hot to touch, which means I always feel cold, so I dread the colder weather coming in. At least now I don’t look out of place wearing jumpers and gilets, so silver lining I guess! I love the weather, but I suppose you might have already figured that out if my social media posts are anything to go by. Sure, I love storms they’re exciting, especially thunderstorms but in autumn the heat and the energy in the atmosphere dissipates, the high pressure forms low pressure and we go from clear blue skies to occasional epic thunderstorms, to an endless conveyor belt off of the Atlantic of cold wind, torrential rain, and endless days of cloud. If you’re lucky it might be spiced up with some fog or as they say in Newfoundland, Canada, you’re blessed with a million-dollar day. Which basically means it’s a blessing when you get a sunny day.

Wind and endless rain and no blue skies makes S.A.D. worse. How anyone can enjoy cold, wet and grey weather is beyond me, I think you need to be sectioned. There is nothing fun about it at all, and I cannot fathom why anyone prefers that over warm blue skies!

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Sunset and raindrops

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  1. Everything is a variety of Pumpkin

I get it, a critical autumnal event is Halloween and the tradition of pumpkin picking and carving is I admit, a fun thing to do. Pumpkins are there to be carved, have a candle shoved inside of it for one night and then disposed of into the compost heap because that’s where these weird orange balls deserve to be. They smell horrific when you’re carving them, and they taste as good as they smell. Awful. In recent years and I can only imagine this is the U.K.’s attempt to become more mainstream America (we have kids graduating with cap and gowns now from Nursery now, so why the hell not, next we’ll be buying guns in our supermarkets and blaming video games for mass shootings) that autumn signals retailers to add Pumpkin Spice to ordinary things. Pumpkin does not belong in coffee, how dare you tarnish the wonders of that beautiful hot bean juice with that filth! A delicious blueberry muffin is replaced by a Pumpkin Muffin. Candles are sprinkled with Pumpkin spice, Pumpkin bread, Pumpkin, Pumpkin, Pumpkin! I don’t actually think anyone actually enjoys a Pumpkin spiced anything, they just say they do to look like they’re cool Autumn Hipsters. Sorry, I feel I may have needed to get that off my chest.

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Cliffe pumpkins

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  1. Excuses for public transport

Granted, hopefully, this year now that I’ve passed my test and will have a car that this won’t be such a bugbear of mine, but as the seasons change, I can hear that big fat book of public transport excuses opening with a thud. Autumn brings in the wonderful excuses for those who operate public transport, (not naming names or pointing the finger here, well known North West train company *cough*) to cover up for their lack of service providing.  “What shall it be today, John? The 16.45 is cancelled because we forgot to staff it”… “Meh. Autumn? Oh yeah! Leaves on the line! Remember, it’s the wrong type of leaves! Don’t forget to tell the passengers that!”

“So this week we’ve had, the wrong rain, the wrong ice, the wrong wind, the wrong frost and now the wrong leaves? They suspect nothing!”

Autumn just gives people an excuse to cancel things, cancel plans and gives everyone the perfect excuse, just blame it on the weather!

  1. The changing of the leaves

Number four is one of my likes for a different reason, but here I will address why I dislike it. I hate it because I find it so incredibly sad! Spring and summer are so full of life and autumn is a swan song for all the plants and animals. Some creatures only survive the summer before dying, and the leaves on those big old mighty Oak show off with their most dazzling and spectacular colours, all that pizazz just before they lose it all.

One reason I absolutely despise winter is that everything is so bare and dead. Lifeless trees, lifeless light and gloomy clouds. Eugh! I just always feel despondent in autumn when the leaves change, the exotic birds fly back home leaving our shores, and bird song which is so loud in summer is replaced by the odd chirp here and there. Depressing!

Likes

Admittedly, those four dislikes above used to be a lot more, but as I’ve grown older while autumn will always remain firmly in 3rd place, I have grown fonder over the years of it. So, here are some of my most liked things about the season.

  1. Photography

Mirror of the lake

A passion of mine is photography and autumn to me, is the best time of the year for it. Sure, summer you can get out more to photograph things, but often it’s the wrong type of light. Summer sun can often be too bright, too harsh, which ruins your contrasts in shots and it has a cool feeling to it. Plus, landscapes are often very monochromatic, they’re just blue and then bright green for the leaves. Autumn is full of colour, the sky changes to a different blue, the green of the trees changes to deep reds, oranges, purples and pinks and the light is softer. It gives a photographer a treasure trove of photographic opportunities.

Sunrise on the canal

I love autumn for the colours it gives you, while it does make me sad I take comfort in capturing natures beauty before it goes super bland in winter.

Fisherman on the Leeds Liverpool Canal

  1. The Sunsets and the night sky

In a similar vein to Number one, my favourite time of day is twilight, always has been. There is something extraordinary about everything being backlit and silhouetted against the sky. In autumn, twilight gets dragged out as the angle of the sun gets lower, and due to this, before nightfall in autumn often offers up the most spectacular of sunsets and sunrises. With colder, denser air and the low angle of the sun, more light rays get scattered, giving me one of my favourite sights, Mother Nature, at her most glorious. Autumn offers up the most amazing colours you could ever see in the sky, and that makes me happy! Long after the sun is set, the night sky often has a deep soft glow to it before turning purple and then black. Stunning.

Those of you know me well know that a big passion of mine is Astrophotography. Astrophotography for me starts to come into its own in autumn. Yes, technically winter is the most perfect time for it due to it being the clearest of skies in the atmosphere and the most exciting in terms of what to see, at least autumn offers some form of warmth. I can spend a good few hours outside in the autumn photographing the stars compared to maybe an hour or so in the winter.

Norwegian Winters night in the forest

In summer, there is often too much haze for clear night sky photography, not to mention that this far north that you may not know this, but in Liverpool, we don’t officially have night time from about Mid-June till September.

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We stay in Nautical and Astronomical Twilight, so it’s often not dark enough to photograph stars. While it may seem dark outside to you, the camera still looks like it’s almost day time. So hurray for night time, never hear me say that again in any other context!

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Caught a satellite tonight!

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  1. The Cosy Feeling, cold weather and warm jumpers

The weather, oh, we’ve been here before, right? Obsession alert! While often the weather is pants in autumn, it does usually offer up some of the clearest and bluest of skies. Not to mention those sunsets and star-studded skies I love so much. But, there is also something incredibly cosy and special about autumn that, as I’ve got older, I’ve grown to look forward to. While nothing will ever replace the feeling of warm sunshine and wind on my skin, I love wearing shorts and t-shirts! I must admit that I secretly look forward to wearing chunky knit jumpers again. I love wearing big thick boots, warm jeans, gloves, scarfs, mix and matching many blazers and coats in an outfit and above all, the cosiness of a beanie hat.

Plus, it’s the perfect excuse for me to go full Geographer and wear boots, fleece lined walking pants and various fleeces and waterproofs. Yes! Love the adventurer look!

There is something special about that nip in the air, that cold that stings your cheeks when you get inside, the smell of the fire crackling or the warm caress of the heating, the crunch of the frost underfoot and that no better feeling of when it is frosty outside or the wind and rain is howling against your window, and you look outside from the warmth of your bed. Bliss!

There is something also about autumn that brings the kid out in you. Piles of leaves on the floor are impossible not to kick, pumpkins have to be picked, and fireworks set off. Autumn still awakens that little kid in me, the one who knows that just around the corner is winter and winter means Christmas. Yay! Autumn is super cosy.

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Crunch of the frost

  1. The food

With colder weather means a better appetite. Throw out those salads because you no longer need a beach-ready body, you need a hibernation ready body! Jumpers and thick coats hide a multitude of sins and food is just way better in autumn and winter.

When it’s too hot, you turn your back on cosy and comforting foods for salads, B.B.Q.s and vegetables. In winter, there is nothing more comforting than a giant bowl of chunky soup and crusty bread to dip into it. Hearty meals like scouse, stew and pies become the go-to on a cold day. Drinks all suddenly appear to be mulled, and I get to drink my favourite autumn/winter drink, Hot Ribena.

Yaaaas! I’m ready for it! While summer isn’t over yet (did it ever really start? Am I right?!) There will still be the occasional hot spell for us to enjoy, but the inevitable is just around the corner. Autumn is nearly here, the long nights, the pumpkin spice and the big coat season is fast upon us!

Is Autumn your favourite season or is it your worst? Let me know in the comments and why!

 

My 2019 so far: January to July

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

January

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

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

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

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Wokkah!!!

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

 

February

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

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

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New plant for the bedroom!

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Love my Bonsai!

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

March:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Best mothers day card, ever.

April:

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

My favourite shot of the year!

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

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

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

May:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Ready for D-Day anniversary para drops

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June:

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

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Yaaaaaas!!!! #LFC

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

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

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

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

chloe

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

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

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What a day! Alpaca walking ❤

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Nice few days away with the fam

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July:

Graduation day arrived!!

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Time to graduate!

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Graduation photos have arrived!

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Mission Accomplished!

This family are awesome!

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Great afternoon with the fam!

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

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

 

 

 

A look back on 2018 part 2

July

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

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

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

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

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Selfie mode on the S9 plus is awesome!

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

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Moth traps set for tonight

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

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Front row flightline seats! Let's goooo!

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F35 is a bit loud!

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I still snigger at this. Lolz.

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

August

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

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

A summer of editing and writing

Amazing what painkillers and determination will get you.

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

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

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

September

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

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

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Mmmmmmm BBQ!

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And plenty of time catching up with the best people!

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Sunday impromptu walks! 😁

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

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Light pollution over Leeds at night.

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Finally, a few days off came. Happy times!

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Woo not in work for over a week! 😁

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

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

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

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I finally visited my favourite club!

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

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

October

October started off pretty well I’d say!

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

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One phd draft equals half a forest

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

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

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

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

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It's a bit cold here.

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

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

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Coffee views!

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And the Fjord, wow. They were stunning.

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😍

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

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

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

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

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Frozen in the rain but worth it!

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

And the Pumpkin of the year…

November

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

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#autumn🍁

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Remembrance Sunday help a poignant and special meaning this year.

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

This sums up editing a PhD thesis.

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

December

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

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Yearly christmas market selfie! 🎅

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

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

We finally got a new kitchen!

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Our new kitchen is done!

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

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Tree is finally up! Merry Cliffemas!

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

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

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

Until next year,

Toe

X

My look back at 2018 part one

 

 

Hey guys, 2018 well I’d give it a solid 7. The first half of the year was up there close to 10 but the second half of the year hasn’t been so great so brings it down to a 7 overall. I’ve had worse years, but I’ve had better ones that’s for sure. However, in this first blog, I want to look back with the help of my Instagram to talk through my year with some of my favourite images that have captured those moments this year. So let’s have a trip down memory lane!

January

For me, the picture above was one of the first ones I took in 2018, and it’s one of my favourites of the year. For Laura’s birthday, we made a snowy trip up to the Lake District and after battling snow and icy roads we decided to stop at the top of the valley, stand in the middle of the road to capture this image. It was a brilliant day and a great first trip of note in 2018. Even if I did have to run in the snow!

January wasn’t all play, sadly there was a lot of work too. By the end of January, I had analysed the first part of my PhD data, but that didn’t stop me going a little bit doolally.

February

By the time February came around work was well underway and the weather started to take a turn for the wintry. February is often one of my favourite months for photography, at least for star photography anyway. This year the full moon in February didn’t disappoint.

Of course, when it comes to wintry weather and merseyrail, they’re two things that never quite go together. This commute home took me a grand total of just over 3 and a half hours. It involved numerous cancelled trains and a 2-mile walk to then get a delayed train. Joys of commuting in winter.

When the weather abated it was time to get the bike out of the warmth of the house and head out onto the open road. It became a standard thing on Sunday to go out on our cycles together, this is one of many cycling selfies this year!

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Winter training continues in crosswinds!

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With the winter Olympics going on at the same time in Feb the office decided to get in on the action too with a closely fought sweepstake. Each day I would put the medal total on the large chart we made in the office, but after a close 2 weeks of competitive nature, Vic was the eventual winner of the 2018 PhD office Olympics!