The Day in the life of Tony Cliffe

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

Tag: Writing

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!

 

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!

 

 

Why do I write blogs? It’s a window to the emotional me!

For someone who is well known for their public speaking, I’m often pretty damn awful at conveying emotion to people in speech, at least my own emotion. Sure, I think back to my closing speech as head boy, an address full of emotion and I hoped at the time, inspiration. Inspiration for what was at the time, the next most significant step in our lives. I can recall numerous passionate speeches or talks I’ve given over the years to an audience of 2 up to 1000. I can always find the right words and execute them without bother, to be emotive in speech. Yet, ask me to talk about my feelings, and I can’t do it, I get lost for words.

But, I can write them.

I’ve always been a writer in some form or another, in fact, I was very young when I penned my first short story in primary school as part of a project about “what your parents do for a living”, needless to say, it wasn’t my finest work. Put yourself in the shoes of my primary school teachers who read with wide eyes a story about how “My Dad brings a Doll home called Annie and he jumps up and down on it.” My Dad is a senior paramedic of over 35 years and at the time way back then, was either doing advanced training himself or was training others and therefore would bring home the Resus Annie Doll to practice various medical procedures with tubes etc. etc. Innocent enough! Thankfully my teachers knew what job my Dad did and apparently it gave great amusement to the entire staff room for about a week!

I always loved writing little stories here and there for projects or assignments in English but never thought much of it until as part of our GCSE English coursework we had to write a story. My path to writing was down to one woman, Mrs Bygroves, my English teacher, who asked me to stay behind after class. It was her words of encouragement and telling me I had a gift for conveying the written word and that I should write stories that ignited a fire that had been simmering. The following year I published my first novel and then spent the next few years writing my second one for Amazon.

While a pilot or air traffic controller is always my dream job, to be an established author has always been the dream goal!

Writing stories, however, is a lot easier in some ways because you can base characters on people you know, or make them up! You can make things up, you can create worlds, and the emotion the characters portray is not me. It’s them. Blog writing, on the other hand, well, that’s a different kettle of fish altogether.

I started writing blogs way back in sixth form when I was backed into a corner, while I’m glad those days of the infamous blogs about the daily carryon of morons are well and truly over, it gave me a vessel to explain how I felt about people that I couldn’t express in any other form. People would message me and agree with my points and wait eagerly for the next instalment. Each post was me poking a hornet’s nest which fuelled more blogs and so the circle went on. Then I realised that two things were happening. (a.) I was getting things off my chest and thus feeling better and, (b.) people liked the honesty of it all, and I had so many private chats with people about similar things in their ‘friendship’ groups that they could relate to, or I started to add little nuggets about things outside of sixth form or advice about things that again people could relate to. I began to see that maybe my words could help as well as hurt. A dangerous at the time, combination!

My blogs moved away from the subject of others (thankfully) by time I left sixth form (thankfully that blog site was closed down years ago, and all such posts have since been long lost to the internet graveyards. A dark time indeed that was!) and I started to use it more positively, as a way to document my life, my highs, my lows, my travels and above all else, I hoped that someone would get at least one small thing from each blog that I pen. Be that to know you’re not alone if you’re going through something I went through, or maybe you might have tried that piece of advice I wrote about and it worked or even if I inspire you to go visit the places I’ve been.

Writing is to me, incredibly personal. While the birth of my blogs was born out of a crap toxic time, it was liberating to wear my heart on my sleeve and how vulnerable that can make you feel. In-person, I have many walls, and as a person who usually people just open up to me, I listen and then give logical, rational advice, I often end up getting to know a hell of a lot about you. However, I have that knack of you thinking you know me really well when actually you know the surface. That’s in part, down to a well-tested defence mechanism, at least until I trust you or you pass the Tony Test! Slowly those walls come down and you get to know the real me.

Writing blogs for me is always I see it as a little window into the real me. Little glimpses and access to who I am. Close friends and family know me and who I am, but many people see me in person, at least, as probably one of the most calmest, rational, logical and unemotional people you’ll ever meet. I do take pride in that part of myself. I don’t think I’d be doing myself a disservice if I asked my close friends to list the top 3 things they love about me, I would bet my life that they would say something along the lines of one of the points being “You tell it to me as it is. A spade is a spade. You have such clarity to cut through all the emotion of a problem and look at it rationally, logically and objectively. Then you’ll base your advice off that”. I do love how I can cut through all the emotion in a problem! Plus I love giving advice too!

People can often be put off at times at my seemingly outwardly blunt approach to problems, especially if you’re a very emotionally driven person. You very rarely see me overly joyous nor sad, or angry much in person. People can mistake that for being unemotional or as a nickname that has now stuck over the years The Robot or Tony-Bot as I’m effectually called by some! What people don’t realise is I am probably the most emotionally intense person you’ll ever meet, it’s just I have such strong control over them that outwardly you don’t see the range of emotions that go on inside. That’s when I did fall in love all those years ago it was a beautiful yet terrifying few years because that was an emotion that I couldn’t just keep inside and control of and it was like a floodgate! Scary yet awe-inspiring.

As I said, I often find it difficult to express words of how I feel in person. Not to loved ones or close friends, I’m actually a big soft gooey soppy romantic! They know that. But to those who are not in that inner circle which I’ve dropped walls for, to others I do come across as that stoic, driven, logic guy. Actually, I’m just a big marshmallow with a tough exterior wall!

So for me, writing blogs is a window into the emotional me, the guy who sits behind that exterior facing wall. Writing, therefore, is super personal for me because of every word, every emotion I’m feeling I put it into each sentence, I mean every word that I type.

These blogs are fun to write because they vary so much. The humorous ones where I get to let out that fun side of me and showcase my funnybone. The advice ones I love doing because I can use that big old Tony-Bot logic to give objective advice that may help someone. The travel ones satisfy my inner adventurer, and the emotive ones become my ultimate favourite ones.

The emotive blogs come in two forms, either happy or sad. Writing is a release for me. Some people talk to others, some drink, some have a big old cry. For me, I write. It clears my head, gets things off my chest. When I write happy emotive blogs be that dedications to people or writing about something that has happened be that an epic trip with friends or recalling something in my life it’s my heart bursting with love and joy on the page for everyone to share. Although I still get super nervous when I write about people because I never know how they’ll react. In-person no-one ever tells the other person how they perceive them, but in blogs you do. So I’m always nervous that I hope they appreciate my sentiments and how I see them! Always a relief when they message you with positive feedback, only a few times I’ve had to post edit the odd post. Oops!

Yet for me, the hardest to write and the hardest but most rewarding to read back are when life isn’t so great. I’ve never been on in these blogs or social media to only ever talk about the good stuff. This has always been about me as a person, the good and all the bad. I feel some of my best-written work has been those emotionally charged ones when either I’ve been seething with anger, or I’ve been typing through tears from being absolutely done in and heartbroken. Weirdly enough, they’re often my most read by people, either people enjoy reading my misfortune because of the event, or they appreciate that every word is dripping in emotion! Not sure which aha!

Too many people in modern-day life and especially on blogs and social media paint a perfect life, they’re wonderful, they’re doing this well. It’s false. A perfect life doesn’t exist. It’s irrational and illogical to think it’s true. I’ve documented some terrible personal lows through my blogs, eulogies of passed on relatives, discussions about leaving places and moving on, heartache words of falling out with a friend, to my emotions and recovery of that breakup which at the time ripped my heart into pieces and where I spent the best part of two years teetering on depression and my well-documented recovery of that process.

Life is a rollercoaster and we all go through shit in life. So when times are hard, I want people to read it and be like yeah he doesn’t have his shit together at all. He’s normal. And I also want people to read it and take solace if they’re going through shit too. Plus, as a side note, although annoyingly this is my 3rd blog site now and the other two where deleted without warning! That I look back at those blogs written as a document of my life. I read again all those happy memories in the happy blogs, and I see how far I’ve come from the sad ones.

Writing blogs is an excellent way for me to document things, get things off my chest. As a reader, I don’t know what you get from these blogs, various ramblings from a distinctly average, ordinary guy! I have no idea. I hope that you read them and at times laugh, sometimes cry, I hope you get inspired, comforted, or advice is taken on board.

So when I’m asked, why do I write blogs? I write for myself, a voice for that big old emotional me who sits inside the Tony-Bot. Thanks for reading!

P.S. check back in at the end of the week because speaking of emotion, I wrote a blog many years ago about how female friends had influenced my life. That sadly vanished when my old blog closed down and as its been years since I had that P.C. it’s now gone. It was one of my all-time favourite emotive dedication style blogs. So, this week I’m writing a different one but on similar lines. A dedication to those who broke down the walls.

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.

North Atlantic Adventure: Halifax, Canada

I Travel from Iceland to the Maritime city of Halifax, Nova Scotia to explore this rich  historic naval city and the wonders of the Nova Scotia coast to Peggy’s Cove.

The peace and quiet of the Icelandic countryside felt a million miles away from the hustle and bustle of Keflavik airport, in fact I’d go as far as saying organised chaos. Keflavik was never designed for this many passengers, as far as major international airports go…this is very much on the smaller size. Tourism has boomed in Iceland in recent years (it’s hard to see why it took so long!) and due to the connecting flights with Icelandair, Keflavik has swollen with passenger numbers. Throughout the day there is a constant pulse of passengers. From about 4 a.m. to 6 a.m. all of Icelandair and WoWair flights arrive across the Atlantic from North America flooding the terminal with thousands of passengers in those short hours. Those planes then carry on to Europe and then return before 3pm swelling the terminal again before leaving back across the Atlantic to North America between 4 and 6pm. It’s almost like a lung expanding and contracting as the day goes on. The issue is plain to see, while security was quick to go through well relatively. Travelling with all your camera equipment is a bloody hassle having to unpack it and then repack it after the x-ray machines, it never goes back in the way you packed it beforehand. What the issue is, is a distinct lack of seats. My flight was one of the very last to leave Iceland that day to head across the Atlantic to Halifax, Canada. That meant that by time I got to the departure lounge everyone else was waiting for their flights to North America which were about to board. Despite the cacophony of sound it was still exciting. Even if I did have to walk around for ages to find a seat.

Funky Icelandic Departure Lounge

Funky Icelandic Departure Lounge

You can’t go to your gate in Keflavik until it is called and if your flight is to the UK or North America which are both outside the Schengen free movement agreement you have to go through to the D-Gates. To get there you have to leave the Schengen area and go through passport control. I found myself a seat in what is a pretty nice terminal building despite how busy it is. I bought two sandwiches, some water and some Haribo gummy bears remember you get no food on this flight and its 4 and a bit hours long. After a wait my gate appeared and I headed quickly through passport control and I’m grateful to still be a part of the EU which allows me to use my chipped passport to go through the self-service control points. The queue for the non EU passport control was so big that I’m thankful that I’m getting my Irish Passport to travel on as to keep that privilege of quick access to EU countries. I watched a flight board from my gate and before long it was my turn, a quick bus ride to the plane, one last look at Iceland before I boarded my 757 to Halifax.

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Next stop Canada!

I couldn’t wait to arrive in Canada again. The Cliffe family have a lot of history with Canada and my bike is adorned with the Canadian flag next to my name. I fell in love with this country a long time ago and I’ve visited many places in Canada, all except the Maritimes which I was to tick off on this trip. Last year’s trip to Toronto and then Edmonton was such a great trip to go back to Canada after far too many years away. Canada and the family ties are really what my love for Canada is all about. Halifax, my first stop was fitting as during WW2 as Great Uncle Wal an engineer in the Merchant Navy would crisscross the Atlantic and in Montreal is where he met his wife. It’s really down to them two that the Cliffe family have both a UK and a Canadian split. Barb and Betsy, their daughters always kept in contact with my Dad and kept that bond across the pond close. As Barb has had kids and obviously my mum and dad had me and my sister I feel it’s great that the new generation keep as close a bond as possible. It felt like meeting them all again for the first time and in some cases it really was the first time I’d met Becky and Sarah and Bob and Robin when I went to Toronto last year. They could not have made their English cousin feel any more welcome! I was super excited to see them all at the end of the trip in Toronto again! They’re all awesome! I also love Canada, I love the way of life, the people and the scenery. It’s no secret. Part of this trip was to really look at could I move here and live here once the PhD is done. Halifax is a city that has a close tie to Liverpool and the UK and it seemed like a great first port of call for my adventure of the Maritimes!

My take-off from Iceland to Halifax

On long haul you never quite know who you’re going to be sat next to, of course I always book the window seat! It always pays to talk to your fellow neighbours on flights, last time flying back from Canada doing just that got me an upgrade to first class! I was fortunate enough to have two older ladies sitting next to me who I had a nice chat with across the Atlantic about their home city of Halifax which broke up the journey for a bit.

Taking off and waving goodbye to Iceland I headed out across the Atlantic, next stop Canada! I watched Death at a Funeral (the British original not the awful American remake) that brought back some memories of when I first watched that film! That life as a 17 year old seemed so long ago! I glanced away from the movie to see that we were flying over Greenland. Simply stunning place and I’m jealous my supervisor does research on the glaciers there, I keep dropping hints for me to take my UAV on research with him there but he’s yet to take my hints! Using the Wi-fi I live streamed our crossing over Greenland where icepacks gave way to Glaciers that fed into the sea. I thought it was pretty neat that I could live stream such an epic view! Again hurray for inflight Wi-Fi.

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Greenland from 38,000 feet

Before long the sun had caught up to us and after filling in the Customs Declaration landing card for Canada I took photographs of yet another truly stunning sunset that I would take on this trip. Everyone knows Sunrise and particularly Sunset are my favourite times of day. Specifically the civil twilight phase when it’s not quite dark but not quite light and the colours are so intense. Being so high up that moment lasts far longer than down on Earth and I savoured the view as my sleeping playlist played on my headphones. Perfect.

Evolution of a sunset from FL380

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After an hour in darkness I had arrived in Halifax, it felt so good to be back in Canada again! Icelandair were flawless yet again. The dreaded Jetlag did start to kick in but that was more about tiredness. After only a few hours’ sleep the night before chasing the Northern Lights and now being awake for 19 hours with still 2 hours to go before I would get to my hotel, I was starting to feel pretty tired. Going through boarder control was easy. The guy asked a few questions, saw that I was in Canada last year visiting family, he welcomed me back and with that stamp I was officially back in Canada again! Wahoo! I waited 45 minutes for my bag which was annoying as it meant I missed my pre-booked bus to the hotel. Halifax airport is a 45 minute drive away from the city itself so with this being 10pm at night in Canada the only way is via a taxi or a cheaper pre-booked bus. As I always plan for delays I had booked the last bus out at 11pm just in case there was a delay.

While waiting for said bus along with a few passengers the man at the ticket office comes out and asks “Does anybody speak French?” Odd question and I didn’t raise my hand. Whatever his issue was I doubt my C in GCSE French was going to be much good. I can count to 10, order a Cheese and Ham baguette and tell them about my weekends going to the bibliothèque but I don’t think that would help much. A woman however bravely said “I do…a little but I mean a little”. The guy produces an old French woman almost out of nowhere, not sure if he could summon her from thin air but she appeared and starts rattling off French and this poor Canadian good Samaritan was trying her best to understand. The older woman was getting irate with this poor girl only understanding parts of it “I think her flight is tomorrow and…something about her daughter…I think!”

That’s it. I couldn’t sit by and let three people struggle nor could my tired brain bare the sound of constant French. This old woman obviously had an issue and not a word of English in her understanding so I thought I would help out, although I kept my poor French to myself. “Sorry to interrupt, I couldn’t help but overhear…I have a translation app, it’s not word for word but it’ll help” I offer to the three of them. They agree and with Google Translation app working pretty well…well the odd word threw me “My daughter is with a chicken”. Maybe she was with a chicken I don’t know but google translated it as such. The bottom of the story was her flight was delayed so she missed her connection to the French Island of Saint-Pierre to visit her daughter and the next flight was tomorrow morning so she needed a hotel to stay in but all the airport hotels were full. The Canadian lady and myself searched online to find suitable and relatively cheap hotels. We left some numbers with the ticket guy as before long we had to board the bus. The Canadian lady stayed behind a little longer to use her broken French to make sure she knew what she had to do. While driving through the dead of night the Canadian lady phones her partner about the events “You’ll never believe what’s just happened. I haven’t used French for ages and I had to use it to help some old woman. Me and some nice British guy helped her”. I’m not sure if she knew I was on the bus or not but being described as a nice British guy is a nice way to start your trip in Canada. The bus dropped her off at the main train station after a 45 minute motorway trip, she catches my eye and thanks me again for helping out. “Not a problem my dear” I reply. “Thanks again, I love your accent”. I wouldn’t get tired of women saying that to me over here on this trip!

I was the last one on the minibus and I finally arrived at my hotel at 12 a.m. and I had been awake for 23 hours. I was shattered. The check-in was quick, the hotel and room was huge, I got a shower and then it was straight to bed. What a way to start a new location. The hotel in question was the 4 star Hampton Inn by Hilton in Halifax Downtown and cost me £232 for two nights.

By time morning came I was already up at 6.30 a.m. with my body still 4 hours ahead on Icelandic time. After a shower I went down for breakfast, packed my gear and off I went to explore the city of Halifax on foot. I only had a day here so I had planned to walk around the city in the morning and then I had booked to go on a tour to Peggy’s cove, the most photographed lighthouse in the world in the afternoon. The air was cool and crisp but at least it was sunny. I took a walk down to the waterfront which fun fact for you is the second largest ice-free harbour in the world, only Sydney is larger.

I was tired and needed coffee so headed to Tim Hortons Canada’s favourite coffee house. In my last blog I wrote about the whole drip/filter vs Espresso. Don’t get me wrong it’s nice but it’s not a patch on European coffee. I bought myself a cup of Dark roast which is a new blend by Tim Hortons which is their strongest blend and tries to somewhat emulate an espresso. Nowhere near but it was good enough and I loved the cups!

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Good old Tims with some cute 150th birthday cups!

I walked along the waterfront where it was peaceful and quiet, I watched a warship head out, a cruise ship arrive, I sat on a hammock and finished my coffee while the hum of traffic and the city skyscrapers loomed behind me. Again and not for the first time on this trip the city had a lovely vibe about it. Even walking through the concrete canyon of downtown Halifax felt laid back and chilled, despite its very steep hills at times. As usual I found myself walking up the highest point of the city Citadel hill to which Fort George stood. With this being Canada’s 150th birthday pretty much all of these attractions were free. I walked inside and wow what a place for free! From old guards, to one of the best military museums I have ever had the pleasure to walk through including a live cannon salute. One thing I had noticed is British Union flags all over the place along with the Scottish flag and a lot of people walking around in kilts. Halifax has such a close tie to Scotland (it sits within the province of Nova Scotia which translates to New Scotland) and the UK and actually a very strong link to Liverpool. This part of the world was the first for UK and Irish settlers to colonise and that history it seems lives strong in this part of the world. It didn’t feel like Canada at all, it felt like an extended part of the UK. It was lovely!

After walking around there and enjoying the views, I headed back into the city for my tour to Peggy’s cove. It was a five hour tour for what worked out as about £25. Bargain. I got on a giant Greyhound style bus and our tour guide was a very funny and full of puns old guy who loved his job. While boarding the bus he asked everyone’s name and where they came from. “Hi, Tony and Liverpool, England”….”Ah you know John then?” … “As in the Beatle who’s been dead for years? Yeah really well…good mates”. He laughed and so did the others behind me “Oh you Brits and your wit” he remarks with a laugh. I wasn’t trying to be witty I was being sarcastic as I was fed up of people asking if I knew the Beatles personally or the Queen! The drive out of the city for 50 minutes to Peggy’s cove was truly stunning and it did make me wish I could hire a car to explore more of it. There are so many lakes and rivers and forests in this part of the world, I’m sure he said there are 2000 fresh water lakes here alone! Cities are great but to me it’s always about the countryside and the wilderness. I passed so many lakes and tiny fishing ports that would have been so good to explore.

We arrived at Peggy’s cove. Just stunning. A typical Nova Scotia village. I was in love. I walked along the sea rocks, snapped away at the Lighthouse (I think going early morning would be best if you want to visit it without the hordes of tourists though) and I just sat, listening to the waves crash on the rocks by my feet, the blue waters meeting the blue sky. Amazing place to visit and I can see why this location is so highly photographed. You really should go!

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Peggy’s Cove

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Peggy's Cove Lighthouse

Most photographed lighthouse in the world! My one to add to the collection of images!

The 50 minute drive back went a different way and was full of again, jaw-dropping scenery and full of funny stories and information from our tour guide. By time I got back to Halifax it was close to 4 p.m. There are a lot of Irish bars and pubs and on TripAdvisor this was the best in town so I popped in for a Bushmills Whiskey (my second favourite Irish dram after Tulamore) and tried their Fish and Chips. Seafood is huge on this coast and I thought I’d try Fish and Chips in every location to see who wins the battle of the best one. Even their best was not a patch on good old British chip shop Fish and Chips but this one wasn’t bad. It came second on my top 3 list this trip!

I walked back up the hill to watch the sunset, walked another 4 miles around the city at night before calling it quits to come back to my hotel just before 8pm. I was short on sleep, I had walked 13 miles around the city and the delights of Peggy’s cove so before I knew it I was out like a light. Tomorrow I would catch a 2hr 30 minute flight up to the frozen north of St. John’s for three nights.

End Notes:

I would have liked in hindsight to stay an extra day in Halifax. Halifax is a wonderful city and while it’s small it has a rich history, especially a maritime one. There were so many museums I would have loved to have visited, especially the Pier 11 immigration one and the transport musuem but just didn’t have the time. Halifax waterfront is one of the best waterfronts I have ever seen in a city and that’s coming from someone who lives in Liverpool! They have really developed this amazing board walk around the waterfront and the trail is superb. I think Liverpool could certainly take a leaf out of their books! The city itself however is pretty generic high rise concrete canyon North American city. The city itself certainly lacked the quirky charms of my next two locations St. John’s and Charlottetown but it was nice to see a lot of brickwork highrise rather than the steal ones. What it lacked in character certainly made up for in its surroundings. A drive in this place outside of the city is breath taking and that drive and walk around Peggy’s cove is an absolute bucket list must! Stunning scenery and every picture is postcard or magazine worthy. I would definitely hire a car and explore around this place for an extra day or two if I had the time, however the tour for £25 was very good value for money! Peggy’s Cove is as beautiful in real life as it looks in pictures and I would love to get a sunset or a sunrise picture there.

I was glad I decided to make this my first stop back in Canada and my tour of the Atlantic coast. I had fully enjoyed my day in this city and I was super excited to head north to St. John’s, a place I’d wanted to visit for ages!

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North Atlantic Adventure: Iceland – Part Two

Today i travel to the South Coast of Iceland walking under waterfalls, walking by glaciers and black sands and then finishing the day off under an amazing Northern Lights display.

One of my motto’s for travelling is if you don’t feel absolutely knackered coming back from a holiday then it hasn’t really been a good one. I never get why people pay hundreds or even thousands of pounds to sit on a beach all day and do nothing. Nope that ain’t me! Out of the hotel by 8 a.m at the latest and I don’t get back in until 8 pm at the earliest. Today however I was to be out of the hotel at 8 a.m and not get back until 1 a.m the next day. Today was the day I was really looking forward to, today was the day that this whole adventure really began. Being in Iceland and Reykjavik was cool but I came for the scenery, I came for the Geography, I came for the adventure. There are so many tour operators in Iceland that it’s hard to decide who to choose. Han my resident Icelandic expert uses a company called Icelandic Guided Tours and she assured me that “While they’re more expensive than most companies they’re the best, they offer great trips and it’s a lot more personal because they only take a small number of people”. Han has never failed me with her advice and she didn’t this time either. While yes, they are one of the most expensive companies on the Island for just under £100 you got a 9 hour tour which in the grand scheme of things is still an amazing price! They do a lot of tours and in Iceland I wanted to do them all but today was only my real full day so I had to decide out of the main two which one to do. South Coast tour or the Golden Circle tour. I decided that while the Golden Circle sounds great and was £30 cheaper it visited a lot of touristy places such as the Blue Lagoon whereas the South coast tour offered waterfalls and glaciers. Errm absolutely! That is so me! So that’s the one I booked and so glad I did! If you have only a full day in Iceland please choose the South Coast tour, you will not be dissapointed! For more info visit here https://www.igtours.is/en/tours/south-coast-tour-by-mini-bus

The rain was hammering against the window of my hotel room and I was very glad I brought all of my fieldwork equipment and clothing with me. It was very geography fieldwork weather that’s for sure! 3 degrees and rain. My walking boots and waterproof walking trousers certainly got fully tested on this trip!

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Ready for 9 hours out in the Icelandic wilderness

The minibus picked me up at exactly 8.15 a.m and it turns out I was one of the last ones to be picked up from the city. The tour guide greeted me, an old rugged but cheery Icelandic chap called Oshsckah (Sounds a lot like Oscar but just imagine Sean Connery saying it) he shook my hand and welcomed me on-board. I was greeted by a family of Japanese tourists who all greeted me in Japanese while a man who was with them greeted me with a stern British accent “Good morning chap”. Not only did today already have the feeling of adventure now I had an Indiana Jones archaeologist on the trip, he wouldn’t have looked out of place with one of those white helmets on and looked an awful lot like Arthur Frooman from Eurotrip! I said hello back and saw that my go to seat on the minibus was free. Every minibus usually always has a single seat at the back over the wheel well. That’s my go to spot for fieldwork and room next to you for your bag. Always a win win. Plus it means I didn’t have to sit next to anyone which was perfectly fine by me!

We drove for another 10 minutes in silence to the edge of the city where we picked up our final two passengers, two older ladies from Canada. Oshsckah informed us that we will be driving for at least an hour until our next stop and we set off in silence. For a minute I thought it would be a weird hour sat in silence despite the views. However it turns out he was just connecting his microphone! He gave some really interesting stories and information as we drove towards the south coast of Iceland, we left the city far behind and the views changed from lava and basalt flows to steaming vents to the flat plains of the coast. You could be on another planet as far as I was concerned. This place was stunningly beautiful and desolate. Everywhere you looked just made you say wow. Having such awful weather only added to the sense of rugged adventure and exploration of such an alien world.

We drove through the first sign of civilisation in miles as we passed a service town and here is where we stopped for the toilet and some food. I hadn’t had breakfast yet or a coffee and as any explorer knows you can’t explore on an empty stomach or without a cup of Joe first! Little did I know that would be my last cup of espresso based coffee for two weeks. I love Canada but filter and drip coffee will never compare to European espresso based coffees. Drip and filter is weak! Considering Americano’s were invented by American G.I’s in world war one by adding water to espressos that the Italians served them you’d think it would translate back on the North American continent but no!

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Breakfast of champions

We were soon on our way again as I savoured the delights of an Icelandic Americano and before long the looming line of volcanoes appeared with their gushing waterfalls cascading along the sides, their mystical peaks surrounded by dense rain clouds, giving this place that very Icelandic feel along with the rendition of Jurassic Park in my head!

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Doo do doo doo DO Doo do doo doo DO doo dedo doo doo do dooo DE doo

He pulled over and we were greeted with the first highlight of the day, Eyjafjallajökull. Which is so much easier to type than it is to say! Egg-ya-ful…ah I give up, I just call it the famous 2010 volcano that stopped all European flights for a week. What an unexpected surprise! This wasn’t on the itinerary so I was over the moon! This for a Geographer is like one of the Holy Grail of places to visit! Such a beautiful volcano too.

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Eyjafjallajökull in all her beauty

After a few snaps it was back on the road for another half an hour drive before we pulled into our next stop the Skógafoss waterfall. I’m really glad I chose to visit Iceland in September because it’s yet to freeze over (although it was fecking cold) and you get the dark nights for the Northern Lights. Seeing waterfalls in action are always breath-taking, to walk right next to one even more so. Nothing makes me happier than being in a beautiful environment with stunning views and nothing but yourself and nature. I was fortunate to be lucky to have so many moments on this trip like that. I risked getting the camera drenched for a few shots but relied mostly on my waterproof Samsung for one of many selfies!

Skógafoss waterfall

Skógafoss waterfall

After being drenched by the waterfall (and that wasn’t going to be the only one today!) we headed to the most Southerly tip of Iceland, a town called Vic. Here we stayed for an hour and people went to get some food and some shopping. I dashed in for a sandwich and got some trinkets for the office. Trolls are huge in Iceland it’s a religion to them and they firmly believe that trolls look after you and keep you safe. I guess our equivalent to a guardian angel. I thought who needs a protective good luck troll more than my friends who are doing a PhD? So at least H105 is protected by 4 strong Icelandic trolls! Who no offence to the trolls…are incredibly fugly! While the rest of the tour sat inside warming up I ventured out onto the beach that was a short walk away from town. Nothing but me, the crashing Atlantic waves, the stunning fallen cliffs and the deep black beach. Walking on black sand felt like another planet. The fallen arches from the cliffs and the black sand beach looked like something out of Star Wars. A first order ship floating past would not have seemed out of place at all. Simply stunning.

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A planet i mean a village called Vic

After plenty of pictures it was back on the bus to our next stop, Reynisfjara which is basically the most famous black beach in Iceland. It was very busy here with Tourists and it’s no surprise why but as I just explored the black beach in Vic I was happy to spend my time just taking in the view with my own eyes rather than the camera lens for once…well besides this picture anyway!

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Standard i’m trying to look like a Geographer photo

After half an hour it was back on the bus and by now the rain had stopped and it looked like it might just clear up for once! As amazing as Iceland is I was sure it would be even better in the sunshine! The drives between these places were amazing within themselves. If I paid to just be driven around I still think it would have been good value for money. I can’t stress enough how beautiful and how happy this place made me feel. My mum loved Iceland when she went, Han fell in love with it and they both warned me that I would fall for its beautiful charms. They were right and it kept on giving as the day went on! After the black beach I traversed the Sólheimajökull glacier (another stunning place) and the sun appeared as I walked behind the Seljalandsfoss waterfall.

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Sólheimajökull Glacier

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I got utterly battered and soaked by the water but what an amazing experience to walk behind such a large waterfall. Getting wet was all part of the fun! To warm up I bought some Icelandic Soup which is basically lamb, carrot, onion and broccoli in a vegetable broth. It burnt all the way down and seriously fucked my tounge up because I ate it too quickly but damn it was good! I sat down on the bench looking out at the waterfall, miles away from home with a big smile on my face. Today had been…so me. Exploring and travelling is all about experiences and moments like today. I played over the things I’d seen and done today on the drive back to the city, still admiring the views.

It turned out a lot of people on this mini-bus were going on the Northern Lights tour tonight. I had told Oshsckah that I was going on the trip tonight and he assured me despite the weather, the forecast was a KP 6 a very strong storm so chances to see the Northern Lights were high and that having spoken to his colleagues the weather was to clear up for a few hours late tonight. It will go ahead he assured me. Sure enough an email come through to my phone confirming this. I was over joyed. I didn’t come to Iceland to specifically see the Northern Lights because I know how unpredictable they are but if I saw one of Mother Nature’s most beautiful gifts then of course I would be happy.

By time I got back to the hotel I didn’t have enough time to go out to eat so I ate my final cookie, got a quick shower to warm up and charged my camera gear ready for tonight. The rain began to fall again and despite the KP index still being 6 that excitement and hope began to slowly fade away. My weather apps said rain and overcast all night. I doubted my tour guides knowledge. On time I was picked up by a bigger minibus this time but again only holding around 20 people and again I was one of the last to be picked up due to the location of the hotel. I found a spare seat and off we went into the night. I can’t even begin to type our Northern Lights tour guides name but he was a lovely guy who gave a brilliant explanation of the Aurora Borealis and how to take pictures of them (I knew how to as I’d been practicing for weeks in my back garden on my technique so I was fully ready should they appear to capture them). He assured us all again that local knowledge it will clear and he was adamant that tonight would be a wonderful show. We drove for over 50 minutes away from the city and deep into the heart of the country, close to the airport. He pulled over and switched off the lights and told us he could see them. We all got off the bus and he pointed towards the sky.

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My first glimpse of the Northern Lights

There they were. Those charged particles racing across the sky. What a wonderful sight. I snapped away and bingo. I got an in focus shot of the lights. “Back on the bus guys”. I was like really!? But not to worry he said they’d get better and this was only a preview. We drove for a further 20 minutes away from any roads and down a dirt track. You could barely see your hand in front of your face as we stepped off the bus and I was glad I brought my torch! I looked up and stood mouth ajar. The stars were so clear and vibrant, I don’t think I’d ever seen so many stars. I was in awe as I looked towards the horizon and saw the snaking shimmering northern lights. It really does take your breath away. It’s hard to explain how it feels to see such raw natural beauty. I got to work taking pictures of them. They constantly changed, constantly giving new colours and new patterns, a dazzling free light show right over your head.

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It felt amazing to be in complete silence away from any civilisation, hundreds of miles from home, looking up at the night sky speckled with diamonds and mother nature’s wonderful gift of the Northern Lights over your head. What a truly spectacular experience. Not only did I get to see them, my luck continued as the KP 6 storm meant I got to see purples and reds and as the tour guide pointed out I was very lucky to witness and photograph the Angel. I’m not a religious guy by any means but there is something spiritual about nature and the northern lights. You feel connected, you feel at home, you feel energised. I feel very privileged and very fortunate to have seen such an amazing display. I know people go to Iceland 5 times and never see them. My mum and sister have been twice but only saw them static and a dull green. I was so lucky to see such a vibrant display and the very rare angel. In life I often find the universe gives me little wins from free upgrades to luck like that. I’m so glad my photo practice worked as I snapped away getting shot after shot to capture the memories.

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The Angel

Not everyone can see the colours in the sky and I was one of them. To me they were a grey waving cloud it was only on the back of the camera could I truly see their bright vibrant colours so I was so glad to have my camera gear with me. After a few hours the clear sky was replaced by advancing rain and cloud and we headed back onto the bus for the drive back to the city with tales of trolls and stories of the lights. Everyone was buzzing and today ranked up there with one of the most special and most amazing experiences of my life. From walking under waterfalls, to walking on glaciers to experiencing the Northern Lights, how could you top such a day?

 

I got back to my room at 1 a.m and I didn’t get to sleep till gone 3ish as I was still on cloud 9, how could you not be? When I woke up at 8 a.m (I allowed myself to break my out by 8 a.m rule for once) I repacked my bag, something I’d grow tired of doing eventually on this trip and I headed back out to explore the city before my bus picked me up at 1pm to take me to the airport for my late afternoon flight to Halifax, Canada. My next stop on this wonderful adventure. I walked for 8 miles around the city taking in the sights and going up the Hallgrímskirkja church, Iceland’s most famous landmark.

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Hallgrímskirkja

Again a travel tradition of mine. Go up the tallest thing there is to go up and enjoy the views. From the top I could take one last look at the fabulous city and the views. Before long I was on the bus to the airport with a heavy heart, something I’d grow used to on this trip. Each place from here on in was amazing and it was so hard to leave each place but each place left its mark on me. I vowed I’d return to this beautiful Island one day. Han was right…I would fall in love with this place!

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Bye bye Iceland! You are beautiful!

That sadness to leave was replaced by excitement as I checked my bag in, got immersed in the utter mental chaos of Keflavik airport and waited for my flight to my favourite country…next stop Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada!

Who Killed Mr Archer? Part Four: The Detective closes in on the Killer.

Mr Archer

Part: four – closing in on the killer

Eleanor took another look around the Archer’s home, she visited the stateroom and the kitchen and talked to the servers and the Chef. They all confirmed what Maxwell had told her except the two servers Paula and Gerrard mentioned another piece of the puzzle. “He wasn’t happy at all was Mr Archer. I came in at the end of dinner to clear the plates and he and his son were finishing an argument, they never saw eye to eye”. Eleanor discovered the fractious relationship between father and son, something any of them had failed to tell the two investigators. He was happy and content last night, that’s what his wife had told them this morning. Lie. Why did all three cover up the argument at diner? More questions to ask as she searched the grounds to talk to Michael. Her explorations took her to the outdoor gardens to where the bunting fluttered in the peaceful wind, an area that should have been full of guests, instead an eerie silence engulfed the area as if holding its breath for the truth to come out.

There he is! “Michael, can I have a word?”

“I’m busy looking after my Mum, if you want to talk you’re going to have to walk and do it” he was blunt and sarcastic. She instantly disliked this young man, an arrogance he no doubt picked up from his father.

“I believe you and your father had a fight last night?” she enquired to him, he just rolled his eyes “Father? Yeah some Father. An alcoholic who didn’t care about anyone but himself.”

Eleanor was taken aback by his response, “So what was the argument about?”

“Look Emma…El…”

“It’s Eleanor”

“Of course it is…Eleanor look, when you have a Father who does nothing but resent you for not wanting to look after the estate and see’s you as his problems at the bottom of a bottle, every day is an argument and a struggle!”

Eleanor pulled out her trusty notebook. “So you don’t want to take care of the family estate?”

He stopped in his tracks, the blazer blowing in the wind over his shoulder “I love Art and I love University. There is so much more to life than heritage and family entitlement. I can’t stand this place and feeling of being privileged. He never understood that and he never will. He just steam rolled everyone, he didn’t care what you thought unless it’s what he wanted” he began to walk again back inside the house “Eleanor I hated him but not enough to kill him. I have nothing to gain, I don’t want to take on this place. God knows what my mother saw in him.”

She offered a warm smile to Michael as Mrs Archer could be seen sitting down in one of the rooms out of the corner of her eye. “You’re close to your mother then?”

He took a deep breath as he fought back tears that had caught in his eyes, Eleanor noted the first real true emotion from him. “She’s my world. I don’t know what I’d do without her. She is nothing like him. He’s not my father. No father hits their son when they’ve had too many drinks. He is dead to me. If you’ll excuse me, I have to attend to my mother.”

With that he disappeared into the room with his mother and wrapped her up in a blanket. Eleanor closed her notebook and continued her walk around the house. She went in and out of rooms until she was back up the grand staircase and found herself on the top of the long carpeted hallway again. Maxwell was in and out of one of the far rooms cleaning still, trying to keep himself busy. To her right was a large office and she slipped inside to have a look.

Besides the book cases, the view of the gardens and hills beyond and the stack of papers and envelopes on the mahogany desk, it was like any other home office. All that was missing was a computer but she suspected Mr Archer was not one for technology. Instead in place of a computer was an empty bottle of Whiskey and a tumbler. So this is where he was before her went into the bath? She asked herself. She looked around trying to find any sign of a murder weapon or any hint that the murder had taken place. There was nothing. She looked in the draws and under the desk, nothing. She was starting to get frustrated with herself, too many questions and not enough answers. While on her hands and knees on the thick carpet something odd caught her eye under the desk. A lone white petal of a flower sat nestled in the strands of the carpet, standing out against the blood red. The smell of the flower was strong and stuck in the back of her throat as she coughed, banging her head on the desk above. There was no sign of any vase or flowers in the office and she hadn’t seen flowers in the house at all. Where did this come from? She looked under the pile of envelopes and what she saw stopped her in her tracks.

Half a mile away Detective Locke was questioning Jim and Julie Bradshaw in their home. Their estate was full of wild flower beds and meadows, a marsh and a lake to which a variety of wild birds and animals darted in and out. It wasn’t hard to see how a windfarm would ruin this idyllic location.

“Look, I didn’t kill him Detective. It was a heated argument and I know I shouldn’t have said I’d kill him but he was a very frustrating man to deal with! This is our livelihood!” Jim sat opposite Detective Locke, an exasperated look on his white grizzly bearded face. Jim and Julie where not like the Archer’s. They were very much at one with nature and any money they did have went into caring for animals. They were passionate about wild flowers and birds, enough to kill for? Julie spoke up for the first time in a while “Why would we kill him Detective? We were about to make a substantial profit from Mr Archer.” Jim shot his wife a wide eyed look “It was going to come out eventually Jim, we might as well tell him.”

Alec sat forward in his chair “go on”. Jim elected to answer this time “Yes we were opposed to the windfarm and we were very against it but he offered us a substantial amount that we couldn’t refuse. It’s enough to build our new bird sanctuary we’ve always wanted. Look, we’re not proud to be bought off but we have to survive! We have to look after the animals!”

Julie chipped in at the end “you may think of us as bad people Detective but we wouldn’t kill him. We’ve already compromised our morals enough” she took a long sip of her herbal tea before continuing “we were going to sign a contract and pick up the cheque at the event this afternoon. We wouldn’t kill him at least not before we got the money!” she laughed, her misplaced humour was not well received by Detective Locke. His gut believed them. “His assistant…Sarah, she came around last night to give us the final contracts. We were going to sign them and pick up our money today. Look here…” Julie fetched the signed contract from the table. They were telling the truth.

“What time did you say Sarah came around?” the cogs starting to work in his brain.

“8.30 for about an hour, I always water the plants in the greenhouse at 8 and it takes me half an hour to do. She arrived just as I was finishing.”

Alec’s phone rang, he excused himself and left the room as he took the call, it was Eleanor “Alec, hidden under the envelopes are death threat letters. I think it’s the Bradshaw’s but I don’t know how they could have got in to kill him”

“It’s not them” he replied bluntly. His famous brain working in overdrive. He knew who had killed him just not the how. “He bought them off. There is no way they were going to kill him Eleanor.”

“Who did then? Who would send the death threats from inside the house?” she still had something to learn in the Detective world and how to connect the dots. Eleanor provided the final clue. “They had an argument you know? The son and the Dad that night…I don’t know why but something else I found and I can’t get it out of my head. I’ll send you a picture. I’ll send over pictures of my notebook too, I had a look around”

Alec eyed the scene in front of him of the office and took a closer look at the petal that was stuck on the carpet. He zoomed in on his smartphone but not on the petal but another objected buried deep in the carpet under the desk. Bingo! That’s the murder weapon!

He called Eleanor back on the phone, asked her to do something for her and hung up with “gather them in the stateroom. I have the killer!” the excitement evident in his voice.

  • End of Part Four

Who killed Mr Archer? Part Two: Locke & Edgecroft investigate

Mr Archer

Part: Two – Locke & Edgecroft investigate

The office phone downstairs awoke Private Detective Alec Locke from his broken sleep. He never slept particularly well and certainly not around the start of June. Those early weeks in June always left him with the nightmares of what happened two years ago. Rolling over the digital clock on his bedside table blinked 10.05 a.m. one of the only furnishings inside his bedroom. Detective Locke was certainly not one for unnecessary things. If it didn’t serve a purpose or wasn’t some sort of efficient benefit to his day then he had no need for it. He rolled back into his bed and rubbed his eyes cursing the person who decided to phone on a Saturday morning. It was the only day of the week he cherished his sleep in, especially lately. They can wait he mused. If it’s important they’ll leave a message. He strained his ears as the answering machine let out a voice “Alec, morning mate. Yes I know you can hear me. Get out of bed you lazy bastard and pick up the phone, you’re going to want to take this case. Call me…actually I’ll email it. Have a look yourself”.

A surge of curiosity rippled through him, if he’s phoning on a Saturday then this must be a good case indeed. It’s been a while. The voice belonged to D.I Daniel McBride, his old police partner. Before leaving the force two years ago to become a Private Detective, D.I McBride and Locke were the two best detectives in this part of the world. They both joined the police academy at the same time and instantly their friendship grew. They both came through the ranks together and both became detectives, their differing styles complementing each other well. There was no case that wasn’t solved and they both got results, no matter the cost. The police force allowed them to bend the rules until one day the rules were bent too far. After the events of two years ago D.I McBride was one of the only few in the police department who didn’t hold any animosity towards him. Despite the local police force resenting Alec Locke there was no doubt he got results and was incredibly effective in his job. He passed every analytical test they could throw at him and would be so effective at how he would throw himself into cases. So much that it cost him his job and his wife. After leaving the police force by mutual consent and taking the rap for what happened to save McBride’s job he set up Locke Investigation Services. Like his police work, Locke got results and despite being a single 38 year old, his P.I work was ticking along well and he considered himself a success. A quiet arrogance was part of his charm. The local police would often, albeit reluctantly, give cases to him to solve and to do things that the police couldn’t and it was always McBride, his old pal, who would come to him and as always they were the cases that seemed unsolvable. Of course, this relationship went both ways, Detective Locke could access files that no other P.I could and the police force still respected the man and would turn a blind eye to some of this more colourful techniques.

What is it going to be this time he pondered as he recalled the last case McBride had given him “the hangman” as he slowly walked into the shower. That case was a particularly interesting case of a murder on May Day of a local councilman. He was found hanged in a barn that was completely empty. Nothing but the empty ground and the bare walls. At first it was deemed suicide but there was no way that he could have got to the heights that he did with nothing in the barn. The time of death all suspects were at the May Day celebrations and were all accounted for and had cast Iron alibis. A clever trick of using ice as a platform was used to kill him. The perfect crime with no trace. Another crime solved and another person behind bars. That buzz of justice still fuelled him every morning as did the cheque of reward that helped things to tick over.

After showering and changing into his normal attire, smart jeans and a Tweed jacket, he skipped breakfast and went straight for his morning coffee. Nothing could ever be done effectively without it.

Ping

An email popped through to his mobile device that was charging on the kitchen island.

Subject: Who killed Mr Archer?

Hi Alec, I know you’ll be up by now. I have a case for you that you’re going to want to look into. I’ve attached the statements, photograph and some witness files. Early indicators point to an accidental drowning, toxicology is being run now but I have a feeling all is not as it seems. Police are pretty satisfied it was accidental death. I think otherwise but it’s out of my hands. I suggest you read yesterday’s paper page 28. Also, the wife is convinced he was murdered. She’ll pay you to investigate it. I’m still here but we’re finishing up and we’ll be gone by afternoon, I told her you’d help. All the suspects are here. Address is the Glenfield Estate. See you then.
McBride

With a sip of his morning coffee he eyed the folded up local paper that was propped up against a fruit bowl. The local paper consisted more of local adverts than any noteworthy news, although he always analysed the letters to the editor page for fun. He would read their letters, usually some complaint about yobs or bin collections however most were about the proposed move of the Glenfield site potentially leasing their land for a windfarm. When he read the letters he would profile the authors, give them an identity, what job they did, what they liked and disliked. He was always spot on and always congratulated himself every time he met one of them in this village. Not that he actively went seeking any of the villagers. He wasn’t one for socialising if he didn’t have to. He once spotted a coded message in the letters section between two names who exchanged messages weekly about the state of the local Bowling Green. To anyone else it was a man and a woman who held opposing views on a trivial matter. If you looked hard enough however it was secret messages between two people having an affair. He still chuckled at how despite technology, some were still hell bent on some cloak and dagger fooling around. Especially as the woman using a pseudonym he identified as the Mayors wife. He wondered how long it would be until that was the next big scandal to rock the town of Plumston. Well, maybe page 28 might be the next headline.

Glenfield opens its doors to the public

The Glenfield estate opens its doors this weekend to the public for a big fundraiser event for various local charities. The entire estate will be open for public viewing for the first time in its history. Explore its exquisite grounds and house. Fundraising events will take place in the evening. Mr Archer said “I know there has been a lot of opposition to the potential plans about allowing a wind farm on our land but let me remind you that is just one option. The Archer family feel that by putting on this event we can reconnect with the community and work towards reducing the growing conflict in the village”. The estate will open up from 11 a.m. this Saturday.

A man who accidentally drowns before a big event, that’s questionable. His wife who’s adamant that he was murdered, plausible.

As the last drop of bitter black coffee was swallowed he was concerned that the number of potential suspects could be large. He’d met Mr Archer at a few events, a suave well to do man who had the persona of looking down on people. Alec knew that look all too well. Money and status was the only thing that he ever seemed to care about. Alec had met his wife at one of the events, the complete opposite to him and he wondered how she even put up with him. He knew they had a son not that they’d ever met or that he’d ever seen, in the two years that Alec had lived here.  He’d drove past their large walled estate plenty of times but had never seen it, until today anyway.

Getting into his dark blue Volkswagen Passat estate he pulled out of his driveway and headed in the direction of the Glenfield estate but not before picking a passenger up on the way.  The in car phone began to dial the number under Eleanor Edgecroft.

A concerned voice filled the space in the car “He-Hello Alec?”

“What are your plans for today?” he was never good at small talk, especially when he was on a case.

“Good morning to you too boss, I’m fine thanks, how are you?” Eleanor’s voice was chirpy and laced with sarcasm. She was more than used to his direct approach and knew he needed her for something. She waited for a moment for his non response before answering his question “It’s my little niece’s birthday today. I’m going to the par-” she was cut off by him.

“Great so you’re free then! We have a case I’ll be there in ten minutes” and he hung up, driving through the small town to her apartment.

The sense of adventure began to swell within her but also anger at his complete disregard for any of her plans. Her mother kept telling her that he wasn’t a good boss and she should be treated with more respect and that she could find another job. Despite his arrogance and to the point attitude he was the best boss she had ever had in her 28 years on this earth. Once you knew his quirks he was an excellent mentor and fair and nowhere else would she get these skills, let alone practice them. She didn’t want any other job. She’d always felt a sense of justice as a kid, a clear right and wrong, good and bad. She always wanted to be a police officer until in her early teens she discovered the world of criminal psychology and so set a course for a career in that industry. After a degree in Forensic Science she spent a few years working in different labs and travelling before starting a masters degree in applied criminal psychology. By the age of 26 she worked for a law firm before starting a PhD at the age of 27. She moved universities and moved to the area and was looking for some extra work to pay the bills when fortunately, a year into Locke Investigation Services an advert was placed for an Administrator. Alec had started to take more and more clients on from affairs, to missing people, to murders and was increasingly in need of another pair of hands to handle the paperwork. Eleanor saw it as an easy job to go for, file some papers, do some finances, deal with some clients then go home. A perfect job to help compliment the PhD. At the interview Alec was impressed and she was hired. It wasn’t before long that Alec noticed that she was wasted as an admin woman. She was incredibly quick at her job and whenever she wrote up interviews or case notes she would pass comment on what she thought. He quickly realised she held an excellent aptitude for detective work and started to involve her more and more in cases until eventually he saw her as a detective in the making, someone to train. He made it his mission to give her proper training so that she could for fill her unknown potential. Highly intelligent, thought outside of the box and was very much a people person. She could wangle her way into events and get information from people before they even realised they’d been probed for it. He saw her as a vital asset and it was nice to have another female around again in his life. He held a lot of respect for the young woman and he knew it wouldn’t be long before she would eventually leave for a top law firm or even to start her own. She certainly had the skills for that and he was pleased for her and equally impressed. Not that he gave her unwanted praise. He only praised her when it was needed, something she found annoying but when that praise did come, she knew it was earnt. He got a kick out of mentoring a new detective and she learnt from one of the best. The perfect mutual beneficial working partnership. Despite his flaws and she knew full well what happened two years after doing some detective work of her own. They had developed a solid friendly working relationship. Their differences complementing each other well.

He pulled up outside her ordinary one bedroom flat in the centre of the small town. It did its job for what she needed although he always passed comment on it. Her small petite figure slid into the car followed by her long locks of auburn hair.

“Where we off to then that stopped me from having a social life?” she shot a look across the car that could kill as she strapped herself in.

“How old is your Niece?” he enquired without a hint of remorse or any actual hint of caring for her answer.

“She turns one today” a large proud smile creased across her face.

“One!?”

“Errm yes…One!”

He laughed as he pulled out onto the street and started their journey through the country lanes to the Glenfield estate “A birthday party for a one year old? She’s not going to remember it! What’s the point?” he spat the words out in between laughs.

“Well I’d remember it! Plus we have this new technology called a camera which captures events, you know, so you can look back on them” she retorted.

“Really? I didn’t know that!” he could take as well as dish out sarcasm. Their back and forth he always saw as a mental sparring something he enjoyed, especially when someone was as good as him at it. “We’re off to the Glenfield estates, Mr Archer died. In the glovebox is an email from McBride and he’s included the first statements”.

“What did he die of?” she enquired as she fished the folder from the glove compartment, already her detective brain starting to get to work. Secretly she’d rather be spending the day doing detective work than go to a family party. She was more than fed up of the questions she would get from her Nan of why she was single at every family party. Alec spoke as she cast her eyes over the documents.

“Drowning apparently, pissed out of his skull they believe.”

“– and we’re going to this because?” more annoyance was present in her words. Called out from a family engagement to investigate a death of a self-entitled drunk man, not the usual cases she was used to working on.

“The wife, Catherine Archer is adamant that he was murdered by someone. The police are pretty content with accidental drowning. He was heavily intoxicated, took a bath and drowned. There are no marks on his body to indicate a struggle and no signs of foul play. According to his report all suspects had an alibi. Yet, McBride has a feeling it’s not all that it seems. He had a few enemies did Mr Archer.”

“And you suspect something is up too?”

“Well the wife is adamant that he was murdered and she’s paying for the investigation so it’s worth checking out.”

Before long they entered through the main gates of the Glenfield estate, the old house looming up in the distance along the gravelled road. Two police cars passed them on their way out as they snaked along the tree lined road. One car, a black unmarked BMW was parked in front of the house, the lions looking down as if protecting one of their cubs. A man appeared from the grand oak door as they approached, it was Detective McBride. No matter the weather he was always wearing his long beige coat and his tie always halfway down his chest. Alec always wondered why he even bothered to wear that thing at all.

“Alec, good to see you again” he held out a sincere hand as Alec stepped out of the car with a crunch of gravel under his feet. “How’ve you been?”

“Good to see you again Dan, not bad. How’s the kids?” The pair shared a strong handshake and a smile and Eleanor was amazed to see Alec so conversational. His question to him about how the kids were seemed genuine. So he can be normal. “So then, murder?” those short pleasantries were over and Alec was here to work.

McBride rubbed his hands over his stubble on his face “I think so. The wife is convinced anyway. Look Alec, you know the score. We’re chronically understaffed. Looks like an accident that’s good enough for us. I have a hunch but my hands are tied. I’ll send over the autopsy and the toxicology when I get it. Plus, if it is a murder I’m sure you’ll let me know.”

Alec knew full well the state of the force since his departure. He dreaded to think how many murders hadn’t been solved and just passed off as accidental deaths. That thought made a chill run up his back. If this was a murder he was going to go out of his way to prove it. “So the suspects then? What have you go for me?”

“They’re all in the reception room. The wife Catharine, Michael the son and Sarah the assistant. Time of Death looks to be around 8.30 to 9.30pm, Good luck!” the pair exchanged another handshake “we really need to stop meeting up at crime scenes Alec! If you need anything, call me.”

Alec and Eleanor watched as the black BMW drove off down the gravel lane leaving nothing but the distant hum of gravel on tires and a dust cloud. “Another case to solve. Let’s go” the excitement bubbling in Eleanor’s voice. The pair walked under the gaze of the lions above the door and entered the grand reception area of the house. A sprawling staircase greeted the both of them, the red worn carpet standing out against the dark wood panelled walls that were illuminated by antique gas lamps. The place had a sense of power, despite it being the home of the Archer’s this was unlike any home the pair had ever stepped foot into. To their left down a corridor muffled tears could be heard along with a woman’s voice. The pair followed in the direction of the noise until they came upon the reception room. The room was large, lined with books and a grand fireplace. Alec pondered how cosy it must feel in here on a cold dark winter’s stormy night. In front of him he got his first sight at his potential three main suspects. In the large arm chair was Catherine Archer, the wife. Her tears had made her make up run and her eyes were as red as the carpet on the staircase. She was well dressed in a designer green dress with a shawl, the gold jewellery glinting in the light. She was clutching a cup and saucer of tea that had long gone cold. Sitting on the arm of the chair was a young handsome slender man, Michael. Upon first inspection he didn’t seem too upset about his father dying. Both Alec and Eleanor had already made a mental note of that. On the far side of the room was a very pretty young blonde woman dressed in a pencil skirt and a white blouse, her glasses outlining her attractive features. She was quiet staring out of the window until she noticed the pair in the doorway. She was the first to spring up out of her seat and walk over to introduce herself to the pair.

She outstretched a well-manicured hand to the pair as Alec introduced himself “Detective Alec Locke and my associate Eleanor Edgecroft” he flashed his P.I badge at her not that she took any notice “we’re here to investigate the death of Mr Archer.”

“We’re very sorry for your loss” Eleanor interjected, trying to add a bit of humility into the situation.

“Thank you.” She was softly spoken and evidently still in shock at what had happened to Mr Archer. “I’m very sorry too, he was a good man. I’m Sarah…Sarah Rosedale”.

“Are you a family member?” Eleanor quizzed.

“I like to think I’m an honorary Archer but no I’m Mr Archer’s among many things on his estate, I’m primarily his assistant. My job is to help with the day to day running of things. But please – you need to talk to Catherine”.

She led the two towards his wife who was still sniffling into her cold tea. Her bloodshot eyes looked up at the pair “you need to find who killed my Husband. I don’t care what it costs. There was no way that was an accident.”

Locke took a seat on the small green leather couch in the centre of the room and pulled out his well-used notebook. Any major details or questions to follow up he would always make a note of. Eleanor slowly lowered herself down next to him after shutting the door. Now the investigation started.

“So, Mrs Archer…can you tell me where you were after 8.30pm last night?”

 

  • End of part two

Who killed Mr Archer? Part One: The murder of Mr Archer

 

Mr Archer

Part: One – The Murder of Mr Archer

The June warm sunshine cascaded over the grounds of the Glenfield estate in the heart of the Cotswolds. Surrounded by tall mighty Oak trees, horse paddocks and hectares of arable fields this idyllic English country estate could be traced back to the late 1700’s. After a fire had destroyed the main house in 1850 the estate was sold off to the Archer family for which it had remained ever since. Harold Archer restored the main grand house to its former glory in the late 1800’s with every stone in the long driveway to the Marble Lions that stood proudly above the main entrance door. The Archers had lived in this house ever since, passing it down from generation to generation to today’s owner, Mr George Archer.

“Are we all set my dear?” Mr Archer’s voice boomed over the rear courtyard as the multi-coloured buntings fluttered in the light breeze.

“Yes we are!” a chirpy voice replied with a beaming smile “It’s just what this place needs. Forget what everyone else thinks, it’s a great idea!” she finished her sentence as she poured a glass of champagne from a bottle that had been sitting on ice on one of the vintage tables that dotted around the courtyard, giving a delightful view of the manicured gardens and rolling hills beyond. She handed the glass to him with her ever present smile “This is for you Mr Archer”.

“I do love it when you call me that” he purred as he sipped on his champagne, the coolness of it a perfect tonic for the early evening heat. He weighed the glass in his hands with a small resigned sigh as a drop of condensation trickled down the glass “I wish everyone was as on board with this as you are Sarah. I see I received another less than happy letter today that you tried to keep hidden from me. Opening up this estate is what is needed to be done for this family.”

Her blonde flowing hair swayed behind her illuminated in the golden light as she placed a soft hand on his broad shoulder. She leaned in as she spoke delicately “It’ll go off without a hitch. I promise. Those death threats are just kids messing around. It’s nothing to worry about. I really think you should tell Catherine about them however, she deserves to know”.

“George! George!” a voice echoed behind the pair as they took a step away from each other. “There you are! Dinner is ready. Come along now you two!” the whirlwind of a woman to whose voice it belong to was Mrs Catherine Archer. The pair had been childhood sweethearts, got married at 18 and have lived together ever since, 39 years of marriage – a perfect model couple.

The pair made haste and walked through the house to the grand sitting room, the large glass windows allowed the setting suns light to pour in, the gold gilded picture frames of paintings of the English countryside sparkled as they took their seats around the oak dining room table.  There were four plates set for the evening meal, Mr Archer at the head of the table, Catherine his devoted wife to the left, an empty chair and plate to his right and Sarah the house maid. Well that was her official title not that anyone on the estate ever saw her as that. She had joined the estate 12 years ago as a young girl who despite her natural intelligence never got on with school. At 16 she left and became a cleaner at the estate before eventually becoming the woman who Mr Archer would eventually rely on to run the estate, his personal assistant. Well, run everything except the bills. That was always Mr Archer’s job. One of her first jobs on the estate besides her cleaning job to earn a little extra was to baby sit Michael, the Archer’s only son and the only male Archer left to carry on the family name. Something that Mr Archer was constantly anxious about. He cast a fore-long look in the direction of the empty plate as the house servers’ poured wine into their glasses, a deep red like the anger that was welling up inside of him.

“Where is that pathetic excuse of a son?” he demanded directing his question at nothing but his sons empty presence. He emptied his glass in one felled swoop as his wife looked down, in two minds. Dinner was served, Pheasant and roasted thyme with all the trimmings and a Rhubarb crumble for dessert. One of Mr Archer’s favourites. After all this was supposed to be a celebration, tomorrow was a big day for the estate. After idle chitchat and talk about tomorrows fund raiser and opening up the estate for the first time to the public, they had finished both courses and Mr Archer a few more glasses of wine. At the end of the meal as the servers were clearing away the plates, a young slender and well-dressed man appeared, his beige skinny fit chinos tucked into a pair of brown leather Chelsea boots, a smart polo shirt and a fitted blue blazer completing his look. “Shame I missed dinner” he snorted as he wandered into the room, an arrogant swagger backing up his words.

“You entitled little bastard!” his alcohol fuelled words spat out and echoed around the hall.

“George! Stop it!” his wife held out her hand across the table.

“Oh go on Father. Tell me something new that I haven’t heard before. Let me guess…I’m a shame to you or is it I’m the biggest disappointment of a son? That’s what you said to me this morning wasn’t it?” his words laced with sarcasm ticked the dial closer to explosion as Mr Archers fists slammed into the table as he stood up.

“You boy have no idea how much you do!”

“Whatever…Father” he shot a look in his direction before continuing “go on…have another drink. What is it? Your 20th one tonight?”

Catherine raised her voice “Michael, Enough!”

Sarah Rosedale pushed her chair back and spoke calmly, trying to defuse the tension that hung in the air. “Come on Michael. I have a job for you to do for tomorrow’s grand opening” she put an arm around him and walked him to the door. He shot one last look towards his father, the hatred clear to see.

Mr Archer took another glass of wine and finished that off without hesitation, a familiar sight that his wife had grown a costumed to lately. “Why don’t you go upstairs and relax, focus on tomorrow” her words laced with compassion.

“That son will be the death of me I tell you!” he pushed his chair back as he stood up “I don’t know where we went wrong Catherine. I’ll be in the study there are few admin things to sort out for tomorrow.”

“Good idea darling. I’ll do the staff meeting, you go and relax.” they shared an embrace before departing.

An hour had passed and one bottle of Whiskey had been emptied as Mr George Archer was slouched in his well-worn leather chair in his study. 10 prize winners for tomorrow’s event had just been licked and sealed and placed in his in tray for Sarah to pick up tomorrow. He shifted uneasily in his seat, the feeling of the whiskey taking over. There were three sharp knocks on the door as a wave of dizziness and drowsiness overcame him. The door opened to reveal a blurry figure as the room lurched from side to side, the alcohol was certainly more than he’d drank in a long time as it took effect. The stress of the fight, the death threats, what weighed on the outcome of tomorrow had all driven him over the edge. He could feel a hand lifting him up and a hand around his face but his eyes wouldn’t focus on the owner. The voice was distant and muffled by another sound, the sound of running water and then it went black.

In the middle of the night a blood curdling scream rippled through the Glenfield estate as Mrs Archer found her husband dead, under the water in the bath.

–          End of part One –

Life of a PhD student three months in.

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

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

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