Archive for the ‘Friends’ Category

Some charitable stuff

November 12th, 2011 No comments

As part of the AHS’s Non-Prophet Week activities I sponsored some of the current leadership team to do some wacky stuff. Jess, the Head of Membership sang me a song and Jenny, the President, drew me a picture. These are below:

Iris – Goo Goo Dolls Cover

"Just Say No" by Jenny Bartle

Weekend Away

October 11th, 2011 No comments

Having taken a few days off work to relax and catch up on some work that has been on my to do list for months, I found myself sat on a train at 9am on Saturday morning heading to Guildford to see my friend Jess.

Jess is currently head of membership at the AHS and a former president of Southampton Atheists. She is also a singer and lawyer-to-be (check out her YouTube page if you want some personal serenading for charity!)

I have been to Guildford a couple of times before, a few times back in the day when my friend Dom worked down South and more recently when I went to a Guildford Skeptics in the Pub meeting when I was down in the area for work.

I rocked up to Guildford station after a fairly event free trip down and Jess and I went for a wander. I was counting this weekend as a holiday, so first port of call was the tourist information centre for postcards and stamps! I also discovered that there isn’t an awful lot to do in Guildford that is touristy.

We hit the pub so I could write my postcard and accidentally found ourselves quaffing the local cider before lunch. Although the lunch issue was rectified with a trip to Sainsburys and then the bus ride out to the Manor house that Jess lives in. That’s right, the trainee lawyer that lives in manor house! I am definitely in the wrong career.

A few songs later (and half a bottle of single barrel Jack Daniels) we had some tea and then hit town for a night on the town Guildford style. We managed to avoid the students and cheesy music by heading to a piano bar with an over 21 policy at the weekends.

I haven’t really been to a piano bar before, so I was rather impressed with the live music (even if it was a little predictable in places) and the fact that I felt rather young in the presence of all the other professional partaking of a cocktail or two. What I wasn’t impressed with was the speed of bar service. I had to queue in excess of 10 mins at the bar every time, this meant pre-queuing was essential (i.e. we started queuing for the next drink before we had finished our first drink). Jess got happily drunk and started strutting her stuff on the dancefloor (with her trademark “arm up, dip the knee” move getting some admiring glances from our fellow partygoers).

The Sunday was rather more sedate, with a late breakfast followed by several hours of us putting the world to rights, I caught the train back to Leeds at around 4pm and after a long delay in Peterborough I got back in time to catch some TV before bed.

All in all a rather pleasant way to spend a weekend.

Birthday Wendy

September 11th, 2011 No comments

I am rapidly approaching my 27th birthday and as such I decided to do something to celebrate. With my actual birthday being on a weekday the consensus was we should do our partying at the weekend and as if by some twist of fate, our usual monthly gathering for The Wendy House happened to fall on a suitable Saturday for me to hijack it for my own purposes.

An almost record breaking 21 people rocked up for pre drinks at our flat and a pretty impressive 100% of those came to Wendy to party the night away.

It was a pretty alcohol fueled evening for me, so I will let these awful pictures tell the story.

Three of my favourite women - Sarann, Chris and Rosie!

It's guy love, between two guys

It's girl love, between two girls

Sexy Momma

Questival 2011

August 9th, 2011 2 comments

Questival is an annual festival that is put on by the AHS to celebrate the ideas of skepticism and rational thinking. Featuring speakers such as Julian Baggini and Michael Marshall and performers like Matt Parker and Jonny Berliner the weekend long event attracted young people from across the UK.

Having missed its predecessors in the Yorkshire Dales, it was with some excitement that I made my way to Tewkesbury, Gloucestershire to join forty other free thinkers. At this point I must add my sincerest thanks to David and Peter from the Bradford University Atheist and Humanist Society for sorting me out with a lift down from Leeds! I arrived a little after eleven in the evening on Friday to be greeted with some bean chili and a glass of Glenfiddich and rest of the Questivillains (the collective noun according to the organisers) partying like it was 1999. I had booked my spot at Questival quite late so I had turned up without a camping spot but quickly found an old friend from university who had some room in his tent and after I had dumped my stuff I quickly joined in the party.

The theme of the main shenanigans seemed to be worms (the sleepover classic of wriggling around in your sleeping bags pretending to be worms) and the quote of weekend was soon to follow:

Andrew is the egg, everyone sperm him!
- Mark Wonnacott

The drinking and conversing continued late into the night (and the next morning by all accounts) with topics ranging from whether Socrates was a figment of Plato’s imagination to whether Oli had comfortable thighs and ankles. I gave up to hit the sack just after midnight due to the fact I had been at work and travelling all day.

The mob was awoken early Saturday morning for a breakfast of sausages and bacon (and their vegetarian equivalents) that was incredibly welcome by those that had taken the partying too seriously the night before. The rest of us wanted to fuel up ready for a full day of events. We started off with a gentle stroll into Tewkesbury that involved a water crossing! The nearest bridge to cross the Avon was several miles away, so the Questival team had organised canoes to ferry the forty-odd people from one side to the other. Despite the inherent risks of putting many people in small, unstable canoes everyone made it without getting too wet and those of us that thought the crossing was hard work were in for a surprise when we were presented the most fiendishly difficult treasure hunt I have ever been faced with!

Questivillains in Tewkesbury during the treasure hunt.

Splitting into a number of teams we set about trying to solve numerical, general knowledge, observational and physical challenges to try and unlock the secret to the philosopher’s tome (the prize turned out to be a signed copy of Professor Grayling’s The Good Book). Unfortunately, the team I was in struggled to solve the final puzzle, so settled for second prize – that of getting to the pub early! We were slowly joined by the other teams and managed to quaff our fair share of some good ale and cider before setting off back to the festival site for an afternoon of speakers and performers.

Due to a scheduling incident, the weekend’s first speaker, Julian Baggini, failed to show up but the BHA’s faith school coordinator, and former AHS President, Richy Thompson, and skeptic and 10:23 founder, Michael Marshall, stepped into the breach to talk about campaigning from both a national and grass roots level. This was followed by a presentation by the founders of the fantastic Pod Delusion about skeptical landscape and how social and internet media are used to provide balance to the “crackpots”. The talk also laid the foundation for a special live recording of a Pod Delusion podcast which featured some great segments on epigenetics, cyber security, the STEM project and a wonderful summary of the energy industry’s portrayal in the media by an insider codenamed “Steve”. The evening was rounded off by the self-styled standup mathematician Matt Parker who did a meta-gig (a gig about his other gigs) that covered everything from his uncanny ability to predict barcodes, how many times we would need to shuffle a deck of cards to see every possible combination and other fun maths stuff. He had the room in stitches and if anyone gets the opportunity to go and see him then you should jump at it! Many of the attendees then hit the bar at the campsite and spent the night drinking and dancing and wondering if Gordon Swayze was just a figment of their imagination.

Sunday was a little less frantic as we started off with a leisurely breakfast followed by the rescheduled Julian Baggini talking about logical fallacies with reference to news and media stories. The talk struck the right balance between philosophical technicality and layman application. Despite being at a number of events where he has spoken, I have never actually heard Julian talk live. He is an engaging speaker with a real knack of selling logical argument and critical thinking. The early afternoon was then taken up with a variety of activities ranging from archery to sailing to making graven images of gods. The final act of the weekend was a musical performance from the simply brilliant Jonny Berliner whose quirky science and maths based songs had people gasping fro breath whilst tapping their feet. I bought his single and EP on the spot and he is definitely a name to look out for!

A busy year already

January 9th, 2011 3 comments

Opera North - Carmen

The second week of January is upon us and it seems my diary is filling up faster than I could ever have imagined. I have developed a very bad habit in recent years of making big plans and not really following through with them, with perhaps the exception of the trip to Europe I did last year.

To try and counter that, I am going to post up the things I have planned right now so that I will hopefully see them through. It will also remind me to blog about the events and give me a lot more to say in my review of 2011, rather than the the relatively dismal look back at 2010.

The first major highlight of 2011 I have already organised is a trip to opening night at Opera North’s production of Carmen with my friend Aislin. I really love the opera and have only really started up going to see them again since I met Aislin. It is really cool to have a friend that likes some of the more obscure hobbies that interest me like opera and ballet etc.

Carmen was a natural choice for me to go and see as it is one of my favourites. I have seen a couple of productions of it, although both times were amateur ones, so will be great to see a professional performance.

I am hoping to squeeze in a few more operas this year too following the success of Turn of the Screw last year and what I am sure is going to be an epic experience at Carmen. It will also be my very first opening night!

Dungeon Ghyll

Next up is a trip to Langdale with some of my family. Langdale is one of my favourite places int he whole world despite its relatively unglamorous reputation in comparison to the rest of the Lake District. For me though, the valley has everything I could possible want from a remote, relaxing holiday destination. It is quite simply a stunning part of the country, a long glacial valley with a few vllages spread out along the valley floor and walled by soe impressive hills. The valley is home to three of my top 5 Lake District pubs, the Old and New Dungeon Ghyll hotels and the Wainwright Inn.

February also sees Andrew’s stag night, which will be an interesting experience as it will be my first ever stag do. Andrew is getting married in Jamaica in March which i can’t afford to attend, so it is my intention to make sure he gets a fantastic send off! Whilst I am talking about Andy, I should probably plug his great football blog that is probably his one true love (sorry Laura).

Josh Ritter

I have two trips abroad planned for April this year. The first is to go an see a band I really like play live in Dublin. Josh Ritter is doing a few dates in Europe as part of his tour and Dublin was the cheapest place to go and see him play. The other two cities he is doing in British Isles are Edinburgh and London and at the moment, both of those places are more expensive to get to and stay over in than Dublin. So look out Emerald Isle, I am coming for a party.

I plan to head over to Dublin on a Thursday and stay until Sunday, hopefully getting in a tour of the Guinness brewery as well as maybe seeing some of the sights and sounds of one of Europe’s capital cities.

The second trip in April is a little more ambitious. I hope to go and visit a friend of mine who is currently working for the British government in New York City. I am hoping to get out there for a week or so around Easter time to take advantage of the bank holidays (meaning I have to take less annual leave from work). I have never been to the Big Apple before, other than layovers at the airports there. I am not usually a city fan and prefer countryside and remoteness over the hustle and bustle of one of the world’s most populous conurbations. However, it is one of those cities that is everyone’s must visit list and that includes me. I want to be able to say I have see Time square, visited central park and been up the Empire State building.

Yankee Stadium, New York

I am going in April so that I have a chance of catching a ball game at Yankee stadium but I haven’t actually checked the schedules to see if this is going to be possible.

Following that is not going to be easy, but I have plans to go on holiday to Malta at the start of summer with my mum. Normally I would never consider Malta as a holiday destination, but on seeing the photos and stories my mum and auntie told when they visited the island a couple of years ago I was instantly sold on the idea. Malta has a rich history, perhaps best known for its role in the second world war where the nation and its people were awarded the George Cross for resisting the axis powers.

Lincoln Cathedral

June sees the long awaited marriage of two good friends of mine, Bryony and Chris. They have been together for over five years and I don’t think anyone could imagine them not getting married. The ceremony is taking place at Lincoln Cathedral and I have the honour of being one of the ushers. I have been to quite a few weddings over the years, but this will be my first as a participant (of sorts) and the first of my generation of friends. Technically Laura and Andrew get married earlier, but as they will be in Jamaica and I will be in Leeds I don’t think it counts.

The final plans for 2011 are less entrenched than those above. I want to try and get back to Venice in the Autumn as I had such a fantastic time there last year and would love to spend a few more days there, perhaps an extended weekend. I aim to also spend more time in my role on the management board of the AHS as I feel that the next 18-24 months for the organisation could be key to its continued success.

2010 in Review

January 3rd, 2011 No comments

2010 started quietly for me on the blogging front, apart from my Twitter updates my first real blog post was about the 10:23 Homeopathy Overdose Project (which I was unfortunately unable to attend due to work commitments) and my strongly worded letter to David Cameron.

February was another quiet month on the blog front although I did spend a week in the Lakes and come hoem to find my house was flooded which left me without a PC for nearly a month.

March saw me foolishly making some long term plans about future living arrangements as well as celebrating’s 3rd birthday. I also gave up my car to cut down on costs and get ready for city centre living.

A good friend of mine was deported in April and threatened with death on his return to his native Pakistan. Leeds Atheist Society ran Reason Week 2010 and I started following Major League Soccer.

In May I spent a lot of time preparing for my speaking engagement at CWF’s Enquiry conference in Birmingham. I also split up with my partner and moved in with Chris and George.

June was world cup month, so the less said about it the better, but I was hardly in a celebrating mood following the events of the previous month.

I spent most of July running around the country with work, really throwing myself in to my job.

Blackpool started their Premier League campaign during August and I started to really get ready for my trip of a lifetime. The month finished with a really great weekend with Sarann at Solfest.

Eurotrip 2010 took up September. In three weeks Chris, Kieran, George and I took in Amsterdam, Luxembourg, Munich, Salzburg, Venice, Verona, St Gallen, Montreux, Monte Carlo and Jard-Sur-Mer. I also turned 26.

October was a catching up month. I was working a lot to pay off Europe and to make sure that I got my best ever performance review to date.

I was off around the country again in November. Taking in an audience with Greg Epstein and a load of gigs.

December saw me celebrate the success story of Blackpool FC’s season in the Premier League so far as well as the contribution made by their manager. I also found time to go and see Tim Minchin thank god for Sam’s Mum’s Cateracts.

As you can see, it has been a mixed bag of a year. Some real highs in the form of Eurotrip and the number of gigs I’ve managed to catch, but also some real lows.

I think 2011 might be OK, there are some things that I am already really excited about seeing how they pan out as well as some concrete plans to go to Dublin, Malta and maybe even back to Verona over the summer. I also have some great work to do with some of the organisations I support i.e. the AHS and BHA as well as continuing to build up my own career and developing some projects of my own.

Here’s to you 2011.

Travel bug

September 29th, 2010 No comments

So, well and truly biten by the travel bug since my return from Europe at the weekend, I have been looking with envy at all my friend’s travel plans. An old uni friend is heading off to West Africa for the best part of four months starting in October. She has started a blog to keep track of her progress so I recommend you all keep an eye on it and leave encouraging messages!


Bank Holiday Weekend

August 31st, 2010 No comments

This is likely to be my last major blog post before I head off on my road trip of Europe as I have loads of prep to do before we leave and I want to cover that prep in my first blog post from Europe (hopefully Amsterdam).

I am writing this post whilst on the train from Carlisle to Leeds on the famous Carlisle to Settle railway route, it is beautifully sunny outside and the scenery is really something to behold. I really do love the English countryside and I am lucky enough to have experiences some stunning scenery in my time.

The reason for me being on this particular train is the fact I have spent the last few days staying with Sarann and her family whilst enjoying Solfest, a music festival based on the Solway coast. For my long memoried readers, here is a post I made about the festival last time I went.

Solfest always manages to deliver when it comes to acts. For a small festival, I always manage to see a dozen or so really good acts, with maybe four of five that are really outstanding. This year was no different – acts like Alabama 3, James, Eat Static, Utah Saints, Magic Numbers, The Jam and The Damned all being pretty big names.

I particularly enjoyed the old school combination of The Jam and The Damned on the Sunday night, followed a really nice chilled set from The Magic Numbers.

The weekend was great as a little mini break from the pressures of clearing my desk ready for the Europe trip, as well as from the stress of planning and paying for the trip itself. Sarann’s dad makes a great host, and Sarann makes a better chef – even if most of the fare was vegan! I did manage to sneak in a couple of pasties and a sausage and hash brown butty.

All in all a great weekend and well worth the £89 ticket price.


August 19th, 2010 2 comments

For all those that didn’t know Kieran, Chris, George and I are heading to Europe for a three week road trip in September. In fact three weeks today, we will be doing stuff in Amsterdam that is probably unwise to post about on a public website!

Eurotrip the movie.

We are planning to take in ten countries in ten days before spending a week chilling out in a villa in the Bordeaux region of France. I intend to use the week recovering from some serious European madness.

The plan is to visit the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany, Austria, Italy, Switzerland, Monaco and France and to basically relive our student days living out of suitcases, eating rubbish and drinking unsafe quantities of alcohol.

As part of the trip, I am hoping to trial some new post types which will hopefully include some video and audio posts as well as the more traditional text and picture ones you are used to. Of course, any trip would not be a trip without constant updates of Twitter. if you want real time updates then either follow me or just search for the trips official hashtag (#ertrip2010).

Kieran Doesn't Know

Also, as Kieran is the sensible one amongst us, we are employing a “Kieran Doesn’t Know” theme (based on the Scotty Doesn’t Know song in the Eurotrip movie) to avoid his veto on some of our more extreme ideas. I would appreciate any mention of Kieran to be accompanied by some mental (or actual, if you prefer) singing of the Scotty Doesn’t Know song but replace “Scotty” with “Kieran”.

Any recommendations on places to see in or around the following cities (or the countries mentioned above) then feel free to contact me, or leave a comment. Cities we are hoping to visit: Amsterdam, Antwerp, Brugges, Nuremburg, Munich, Luxembourg City, Salzburg, Venice, Verona, Saint Gallen, Zurich, Lausanne and Monte Carlo.

End of a chapter

June 17th, 2010 No comments

Quite a lot of stuff has been happening over the last six weeks or so, I gave a presentation at Enquiry 2010, I moved in with Chris and George and Liz left me.

I will deal with the Liz situation first as it is the hardest one for me to write about and I am hoping that writing the second two bits will cheer me back up. About six weeks ago now Liz told me that she had had enough of being in a relationship and that she wanted to experience some of her life as a single woman so that she could really develop herself and come to terms with where she wants to be in life. I was gutted when she started to explain this to me as these ‘breaks’ are almost always permanent. The more she explained herself though, the more I came to understand where she was coming from. Liz has not been single since she was 17 and 7 years of solid back to back relationships is pretty intense. The way she argued her corner was something I respected too. She really sold the idea to me, that this was a key part i her growing as a person and that it was the right thing to do for me to let her go. In the back of my mind I thought that after a suitable length of time we would be able to rekindle the romance and get back together, but I was wrong. So very wrong.

We split up on a Sunday and by the following Saturday she was shacked up with another guy – John-George Salter (someone I considered a good friend until all this kicked off). After everything Liz had said to me, she had left me for another man. Apparently this had been obvious to everyone but me so i guess I didn’t know Liz as well as I thought. Her speech to me the week or so earlier had been a lie. The worst thing about all this? Well, Liz and John might have got together so quickly after we split up but they didn’t tell me about it for another three weeks!

I could probably go on spouting venom and vitriol about the situation – which has really thrown me off course if I am honest – but neither Liz or John or worth it. They are both small people with small minds and no grace, dignity or honour. I shall leave that at that.

The second major event over the last few weeks was Enquiry 2010, a two day conference in Birmingham run by the Chris Worfolk Foundation. I spoke on the need to reinvent the branding and marketing strategies of the atheist and humanist movements to better suit today’s marketplace. I will post the text of my speech soon.

The final big thing was moving house. Obviously I needed a new place after Liz moved in with John. Initially, I looked at Morley as it is close to work, relatively cheap and totally away from memories of Liz. However, as time ran out I still hadn’t found anywhere suitable Chris made me a offer I couldn’t refuse. He offered me the box room in his flat in the city centre. For many reasons I felt this was a great choice. First up, I get to live with Chris and George, which is going to be fun! Next was cost, it will work out really cheap to live with two other people. Finally, it means I am not on my own. I have a history of not dealing with personal issues particularly well and I think the inbuilt support network of flatmates will really help offset my traditional head in the sand approach to my own issues.