Posts Tagged ‘Friends’

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

AHS – Gateway to the World?

October 18th, 2011 No comments

Last Tuesday, I delivered a lecture to the Leeds Atheist Society on how getting involved with your local student society is more than just a social opportunity with a few interesting talks thrown in. In order to really get the most out of the experience, I suggested that members should look to involve themselves early and then progress through to the wider community – i.e, AHS, BHA etc.

The theme of my lecture was on what the AHS and the BHA have to offer to students and how the local atheist, humanist or secularist student society offers a real platform from which to really explore those opportunities.

The AHS offers a fantastic range of ways of building experience and developing the CV. From the Regional Development Officers who gain invaluabvle experience of networking, communication and team working through to the Executive with their exposure to leadership, risk management, strategic planning and public relations there are saleable skills there for the taking.

Being a part of any organisations, particularly on a voluntary basis, is not easy and requires a time and resource commitment. However, it is my experience that this is well worth the effort. Unluike traditional internships and work experience, there is real flexibility in how the time and resources are delivered and as the leadership stems from the internship style positions, rather than managed from a permanent employee, then individuals can mould their experience to fit their needs.

Having gone from being a member of a society, through to leading that society and then going on to found and lead the AHS as president, I have had the chance to see what those opportunities look like. I met Richard Dawkins, negotiated affiliations with national charities, led a local campaign to ban Halal and Kosher meat, debated professional speakers and made some long lasting friendships with people from across the UK and Republic of Ireland.

It is my opinion that organisations like the AHS offer far more value than they are given credit for and if any students are reading this, then they should strongly consider looking to get involved.

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

Final Tables

September 11th, 2011 No comments

Following on from my recent post about taking up live poker again, Chris and I headed to Alea last Sunday to play in a £15 freezeout tournament. The session started off with a little excitement as a colleague of mine from the AHS had just called in a panic to tell me she had missed her stop at Reading to change for Guildford and was almost in London. Now, to be fair, she hails from a land with no trains and where everyone has personal drivers so the whole public transport thing is a bit new to her, but it did mean that I started the night coming up with rail related jokes (and a little concern that she may end up travelling around the home counties for all eternity) rather than focusing on my game.

The first few hands were fairly tense affairs as a few players were in fold or shove mode despite us having relatively large starting stacks (10k with 25/50 blinds). I made some inroads early on and had trebled my starting stack by the first break by being quite aggressive and trying to force folds preflop or before the turn. I had to calm down after the break following a table move as the tournaments most aggressive player was sat to my left who was happy to shove all in with rags. Luckily for me, I managed to call his bluff when I hit my flush to his middle pair. This set me up nicely for my first live poker final table.

I started to play very defensively on the final table waiting for other players to knock each other out. Within an hour we were down to the final three, but with us all having even stacks we got bogged down in small pots and defensive plays. In the end I reraised a value bet with KQ suited and was not toally upset when they turned over A6. I flopped a straight and flush draw but they turned their Ace and it held. I was done in 3rd place for a £55 payout. Not bad for my first final table. Means my overall live career is in profit.

Back at the Table

August 30th, 2011 No comments

Over the past few weeks I have been slowly getting back into playing poker live. I played online quite a bit during my uni years and did relatively well. Not huge money, but it kept me in beer. I used to play in a regular home game in first year and most of my second year, but that petered out as people moved on. Live poker was something I wasn’t really exposed to outside of the aforementioned home games and the odd low stakes tourney at Gala Casino in Leeds.

With my flatmate Chris really getting into the game, I have been along to a few tourneys with him – first of all placing 2nd in his office game at Alea, dying on my arse at the Grosvenor freeroll (I went out in 121st place) and then finishing 4th at the Redtooth Poker League meet at the Fenton pub. Overall I am up around £50 but thats not really a fair reflection as only 2 of the games played for cash.

Live poker has a lot of advantages over the online version mainly centred around the fact you can see your opponents and get a feel of their mannerisms and hopefully get a tell. However, for me there is definitely a much greater feeling of involvement in a live game. Online I would play four or five tables at once (an advantage in some senses as you can make 5 times as much money) but I never really felt I was playing people. At the casino, or even in a home game, there is a greater social element that really brings the game alive for me.

I am hoping to play a few more Redhot Poker league matches at the Fenton over the coming weeks to see whether it is worth joining for the season, but I think that I will almost certainly me playing some tournaments at Grosvenor and Alea at weekends.

Though if my luck last night is anything to go by then I won’t be playing for long. Pushed with AJ under the gun four handed (I was all in with around 5x the big blind) got a caller with 22. Flopped the straight and then the 2s caught runner runner for quads!

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 day in the South Elmsall sun

April 10th, 2011 No comments

For the second Saturday in a row, Andrew and I headed to a non-league fixture in Yorkshire as part of his Yorkshire Football Weekends series of articles. Following on from our trip to Bradford last week, we headed to the small town of South Elmsall found on the Leeds to Doncaster line, just to the east of Wakefield. Frickley Athletic was the destination team, and their key match against against Chasetown FC was the fayre for the afternoon.

As we alighted the train at the small, yet busy, station we started looking for somewhere to sate out thirst on what was a very balmy afternoon. It was some disappointment that we discovered that the more central of South Elmsall’s drinking establishments were all closed. Andrew had secured an interview with one of the committee members for Frickley Athletic so we headed towards the stadium a little earlier than we would have hoped. Luckily, on arrival at the ground we were greeted with the sight of the club house, complete with bar. Whilst Andrew grilled the club’s representative, I quaffed some refreshing beer and watched the racing from Aintree.

The Tech5 Stadium itself is exactly what I imagined a non-league ground to look like. A small, uneven looking pitch, surrounded by a low wall, with open grass banks at each end with a small terrace along the far side of the field and a larger terraced stand along the nearside. The ground, which a mere five years ago had been declared unfit for the Conference North, was tidy and compact and felt a lot more engaging and atmospheric than the offerings from the Horsfall Stadium the previous week.

One of the real treats that the Tech5 Stadium had to offer was the excellent pie and peas. Of the three things that Mark Ainge, a committee member for the club, had highlighted this was the one ha was most right about. The other two, the Frickley centre forward Ashley Longstaff and the goalkeeper Ben Simpson did not quite live up the billing.

The game itself was a real battle of a game. Frickley started the afternoon in the relegation zone of the Evo-Stik Northern Premier League and Chasetown needed a win to keep their play-off hopes alive. There was a real tension around the ground and I have to admit that I had this down as an away victory before the kick off.

Frickley started the brighter, with the two strikers holding the ball up well as part of a 4-4-2 formation, though the midfield seemed there more for decoration that purpose as the ball regularly bypassed them whilst being sent long by the centre halves.

As the half wore on, it was clear that the physicality of the two teams was coming to the fore, with stray elbows flying all over the place. It was somewhat against the run of play when the Frickley ‘keeper lost a regulation high ball from a corner and watched as it sailed through his arms into the back of the net. However, the goal seemed to spur the home side on and they picked up the temp and the competition seemed to get even fiercer.

Frickley got their equalizer just on the stroke of half time. Chasetown failed to clear the ball from a corner and a low driven shot found its way into the back of the net. An excellent time to score.

The second half was far more open with both teams looking for the winner. Jack Watts, the home side’s foil for the bruising play of centre forward Ashley Longstaff, was proving a real handful with his clever flicks and runs. The lad has a real future in the game and perhaps will find his way to the higher echelons. He appeared to have the skills and composure to make it to the lower leagues if he wanted to. With only a handful of starts for the club, he managed to bag his first goal towards the end of the half causing a wave of relief and jubilation to sweep across the nearly 200 fans supporting the home team. It turned out to be the winning goal and the young forward is unlikely to score a more important goal this season.

Saturday Afternoons in West Yorkshire

April 4th, 2011 No comments

It has been a long time since I went to see a live football game so when Andrew at work offered me the chance to join him in on his Yorkshire Football Weekends, a plan to see a different Yorkshire club play each Saturday afternoon for the rest of the season, I jumped right on board. I really enjoy live sport in any guise and used to love my afternoons at Headingley when I was a member at Yorkshire Cricket Club.

Following a mad dash for the train due to some faulty ticket machines at Leeds station we eventually jumped on a train to Bradford where we were going to catch the bus up to Horsfall Park, the home of the once mighty Bradford Park Avenue AFC. The club now plays in the Evo-stik Northern Premier League – the 7th tier of English football’s pyramid – but once graced the higher echelons of the league structure, playing in the first and second divisions throughout the pre-war years.

We grabbed a few drinks in the local drinking establishment once we arrived at the stadium and enjoyed the second half of the Manchester United and West Ham game via Greek satellite. The remarkable finish to that game put us in just the right mood for the afternoon delights to follow.

Many people would question our choice to visit a non-league side in search of live football, but with tickets costing less than ten pounds and a really goof atmosphere where you really feel part of the club, I think that non-league is actually a really good way of getting into live football and I would recommend everybody to check out their local clubs.

The game itself was a bit of a thriller with Bradford Park Avenue finishing the first half with a four goal to one lead. The standard of football was actually really high, with some good first touches and a commitment to playing the football along the ground with short passes in the channels and some smart runs off the ball. The second half was a little more disappointing as the non-league fitness levels caught up with the players and the game started to break down and fall into long ball tennis in patches. We did see another two goals in the second half, including a free kick taken from outside the penalty area that was remarkably similar to the one Wayne Rooney had scored for Man Utd earlier int he day at Upton Park. The final score finished 5-2 to Bradford Park Avenue. You can check out a full match report at Andrew’s football website.

The afternoon was rounded off when we visited the same drinking establishment as earlier in the day only to find we had stumbled into the West Yorkshire Divisional meeting of the English Defence League. We scarpered pretty quickly!

Taylor Swift

April 2nd, 2011 No comments

My good friend Andrew got married earlier this month in Jamaica and, due to the costs involved in getting out there, I wasn’t able to go to his wedding in person. I felt quite bad about the fact I couldn’t share in their happy occasion so started to think about what I could do to make it up to him when I noticed that my work were offering box seats to go and see Taylor Swift perform live at Manchester’s MEN Arena. Andrew is a big Swift fan so I entered the competition (having had to Google the answer to the question) and lo and behold I won a pair of tickets.

I am not what anyone would call a Taylor Swift fan, prior to entering the competition I was only vaguely aware she existed, mainly through Andrew’s fanboy ranting, and had heard maybe one song. So it was with some trepidation that I boarded the train in Leeds heading for Manchester Victoria. Andrew made the trip a lot easier by bringing along a bottle of Wray and Nephew overproof rum which we mixed with some apple juice (not my choice, but was actually really good at hiding the killer after taste of overproof rum).

We rolled up the box at about half seven and settled into our free Spanish chicken and pasta meal and the free bar. There was a Scottish pop duo supporting Taylor that had some catchy melodies but were nothing I would write home about. The overwhelming sensation from the build up to the main event was how young a lot of the audience were. Andrew and I have a combined age in the mid fifties, so we were significantly older than most of the people there to watch the gig (ignoring their parents).

Taylor Swift was actually really good live. Not only is she quite beautiful, she can sing and dance and also plays guitar, piano and ukulele. Increasingly rare in the manufactured pop world, Taylor also writes some of her own material. Her songs are not brilliant, a little cliched in places and clearly aimed at the teen market she didn’t quite sell the sentiment of her songs to me. Where she excells, though, is in how she performs. Taylor is a master on stage. She had the audience eating from the palm of her hand and was literally conducting them to her tune. As a live act, Taylor ranks up along Muse and Marilyn Manson in her ability to manipulate and motivate an audience into going on the concert journey with her.