Posts Tagged ‘Holiday’

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.

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September 10th, 2010 4 comments

Rack of ribs I ate in Amsterdam, Holland

Following the relative peace and calm of day one of our trip to Europe, where I had time to blog about my day, have a nap and change my shirt before going out for dinner, today has been rather more busy. After consuming a rather charming full English breakfast for a modest fee, we left the sights and sounds of Amsterdam behind us and hit the road for day two of out trip.

It is probably worth mentioning here that I was the designated driver to kick start today’s proceedings, which meant navigating us through the streets of inner city Amsterdam and getting us safe and sound onto the motorway heading for Eindhoven. I have never driven in Europe in my life, never mind city centre driving, so it was all a bit of an experience. Luckily, Kieran has a VW Golf which is very similar to my old polo so I picked up the driving mechanics pretty quickly. The difficult bit wasn’t the driving on the right, or the fact the car was pretty much dead weight with all the gear we had packed in, but the fact I just couldn’t get my lane positioning right due to the driving position relative to the other road users. It took me the few kilometres of Amsterdam’s arterial routes to really get to grips with and then perhaps the next twenty or so kilometres of the motorway to put that into practice. However, after a little over an hour after setting off, I reckon I have the hang of this whole driving thing again. Although, we won’t mention the few near misses we encountered when negotiating a roundabout in Luxembourg!

Bar Cat, found on a bar on a coffee shop in Amsterdam, Holland

The drive to Eindhoven was pretty unremarkable in all fairness, although we knew that from the outset as we had consciously decided to try and make it pretty much to Belgium on the motorway then head off the beaten track for the rest of the day.

My driving stint ended a few kilometres north of Eindhoven when I swapped with Chris after filling the tank. Chris then took us into Belgium (where we posed for the obligatory photo) and through the Flemish region, again fairly uneventfully, until we hit the French region around Huy. We lunched at a Belgian supermarket before setting off again towards Luxembourg.

Arty picture I took in Luxembourg, Luxembourg

It was my turn again to drive when we set the sat-nav to Bastogne and headed for the national park. We had a few navigational hiccups involving filter lanes, 4-leaf clover junctions and an off piste search for a bathroom, but we made it to the Belgian/Luxembourg border pretty much unscathed. t was here that I decided to not see the car coming from our left when I pulled out onto a mini-roundabout. Luckily nothing happened apart from maybe turning a few of all our hairs grey and we could chalk it down to a experience and a few tweets at my expense.

The last stage of the journey was through mountainous north Luxembourg, which Kieran piloted without incident, where we took one of the most scenic routes I have had the pleasure of driving along. Definitely one of the high points of the trip so far.

We made it into Luxembourg a little after seven and by the time we were all checked in and had quaffed a beer or two the city was starting to be cloaked in darkness. I managed to get aa couple of snaps in of Notre Dame Cathedral and of the road leading up to the cathedral from our hotel, but the light was pretty bad by then and my Blackberry’s camera isn’t that great at night anyway.

The part of the city that overlooks the canal and leads down the rather steep cliff faces towards the canal itself is really rather something. Irt was beautifully eerie and romantic. The atmosphere, architecture and road layouts really made it something to behold. Definitely somewhere I would visit again with a special some one. Very, very romantic indeed! Pity I had to share the moment with Chris, George and Kieran!

Chris, George anf Kieran all trying to take a photo of a dark bridge at night. Luxembourg, Luxembourg

By 9pm we were all starving so started to look for somewhere to eat. it seems that Luxembourg is not a weekend city as almost every restaurant was shut or shutting. We eventually found a nice little Chinese place still serving where we ate heartily before heading back to the hotel.

Driving is tiring work, so we are all pretty shattered right now. It is after midnight local time at the moment and everyone else hit the sack a while ago. I am determined to try and get a post up every night of the trip, so please read and comment as it means I am more motivated to burn the candles at both ends to bring you my thoughts and experiences from the trip.

Tomorrow we are making the 500km trip to Munich via the Black Forest and we are planning to have left Luxembourg by around 9am, so not long for me to sleep now!

As always you can follow my thought and progress via my homepage or Twitter account, or the live tracking of our trip at Kieran’s site.


September 9th, 2010 No comments

Amsterdam, Holland

I am writing this post from my hotel room in Amsterdam! We made it to the first stop of our European odyssey alive and well. Which is no mean feat seeing as it’s been a while since any of us have driven on the continent and I have never driven on the wrong side of the road intentionally in my life.

We departed Leeds at about 4pm to drop Chris’ car off at his gran’s house and then we hit to road proper. With virtually no traffic on the M62 we made good time and got into Hull well in advance of the last check-in for the ferry (which was at 7.30). A combination of heavy traffic around the sea port and some ‘interesting’ driving from Kieran meant that we were early but not too early for our ship.

George, Kieran and Chris watching us dock at Rotterdam, Holland

Having safely negotiated the ramp maze to board the ferry, we unloaded our overnight stuff and decamped to our cabin. Now it has been a while since I have stayed in a cabin on a ferry (in fact it’s probably about ten years when I went from Portsmouth to Cherbourg) but even still I think they are a lot smaller than they used to be, especially after you have got the beds out of the ceiling and put the ladders etc up.

Once we were settled in we went for a wander around the various decks that were open to the public and set about making some kind of plan for dinner. In the end we plumped for the brasserie as there was no queue, the menu looked decent and not too expensive and eating in good restaurants whilst one of your party is wearing sandals (cough, Kieran, cough) is always fun. The food was good and a nice way to kick off the trip even if it did take forever for anything to arrive.

Once dinner was polished off, we hit the bar and the casino to while away some time, eventually hitting the sack a little aftder midnight.

The night went pretty smoothly for me considering I hate boats and hate being at sea. Apparently, though, there was some kind of medical emergency on board and a helicopter had to come and airlift a passenger to hospital. This, plus another boat being in our channel, meant we were about two and a half hours late docking at Rotterdam port.

Once we disembarked we hit the motorways of Holland (one of the few legs that we will be using the motorway network) and headed the eighty-odd kilometres to Amsterdam.

Crazy 4-story high waterfall attached to side of building in Amsterdam, Holland

I wasn’t sure what to expect from Amsterdam to be honest. I have no time for drugs such as cannabis, nor people that use it, so I did worry that I may not fit in or like the place too much. Luckily, Amsterdam offers far more than the teenage view of the city I had developed over the years. Most of Amsterdam is quaint and pretty with lots of nicw and quiet backstreets that I could happily wander around all day. Of course, a trip to Amsterdam wouldn’t be a trip to Amsterdam if you didn’t visit some of the seedier attractions. We spent some time ambling through the old town and the bohemian parts of Amsterdam before meandering through the red light district and newer parts of the city where I happened to bump into my brother. The pictures on this post are all just general views of he city as we wandered through.

It is about 6.30pm (local time – and all future time references are likely to be in local time) now and I am just bashing out this post before we head to dinner and our nocturnal adventures. Not sure how much of the nocturnal side of the city I really want to immerse myself in, but I have it on good authority that you can’t experience Amsterdam fully until you see it at night.

As always, you can follow my personal story on my website or via my Twitter account, or you can track our travels and keep up to date on the whole group is doing by visiting Kieran’s site.

2008: A Year in Review

January 4th, 2009 No comments

There is a saying that goes “another day, another dollar” and it seems only fitting that I begin my review of 2008 with a quote regarding time and money. 2008 has been a mixed bag of a year, like most years it cam with its ups and downs. The news stories of the year reflect this, with Team GB performing heroics in Beijing and then the economic issues of the last quarter. I hope the rest of this post reflects this theme.

Exams were the order of the day at the opening of 2008. never a good start. Although this particular bunch of exams went pretty well and helped set up a relatively successful second semester on my new course. A-Soc kicked off its second full year with its first event of 2008, the low turnout not indicating the successes to follow. January aslo saw Chris finally lose his virginity at Wendy House.

Darwin Day 2008 was supposed to be the highlight of February, but it got somewhat overshadowed by Sarann’s secret affair! The planning of Rationalist Week seems to get earlier and earlier and we officially kicked off the organisation of A-Soc’s flagship event on the 13th February. Somehow, I also managed to fit in a well deserved few days away with Liz in the lake District – you cannot beat walking, relaxing and real ale by the fire to wash away exam and coursework stress! The Union’s political machinations also culminated with me being dubbed “Norman the No! Man” due to my inability to sit back and watch debates go undebated, regardless of my actual view points.

One of the coups of 2008 came when Si finally succumbed to peer pressure and started blogging! In another blow for democracy, my decision to stand for Faith and Culture rep for the Union was rebuked as I was effectively blocked from standing (or voting). My main memory of March, however, was the setting up of Secular Portal, which would ultimately turn into my current project, the AHS.

Rationalist Week 2008. Need I say much more about how awesome April was? Except for everything that went wrong it was a great success! The icing on the cake was being elected president of A-Soc at the AGM. We managed to recruit a decent sized committee and really was the icing on the cake as far as the success of A-Soc in the first half of 2008.

it seems I didn’t blog about very much in May. Probably down to the exams etc that I was taking, along with recovering from April!

I started work with O2 at the beginning of June and spent most of the month training for my new role. I did manage to squeeze in a few social activities too, brewing my own ale for the SoC graduation reception was a particular highlight. I also went to see Avril Lavigne perform in Manchester, which was also pretty awesome. I also moved out of the house I had lived in for three of my four years at university.

Work and parties seemed to be the order of the day this month in 2008.

I’m going to stop splitting up the months for the second half of 2008 as I didn’t actually spend much time bloggine. Really, I worked near enough all summer – managing a day off for V Festival – either at O2 or putting together Intro Week for A-Soc.

Part of me thinks I should write here what happened in the couple of months I wasn’t blogging, but I feel that it wouldn’t do it justice. It wasn’t until December that I began blogging again, inspired by the relaunch of the site and our end of year festivities.

Hopefully, I will continue this new found blogging activity into 2009.

My marks out of ten for 2008 as a year, a good 7.

Langdale 2008

February 27th, 2008 1 comment

It occurred to me not so long ago that i hadn’t been on an actual real-life holiday since June 2005 when I went to Spain for a week. This is simply bad form.

This revelation led me to organise a short break to the Lake District with Liz last week. We were away for a week and it was a week well spent. I realise that I should have been at lectures and doing coursework but it is a sacrifice I would not hesitate to make again!

We had planned to be in the Lakes all week, but due to an issue with the kennels Liz and I had to stay in Kirkham for a couple of days to dog sit for my mother. At first I thought it would be a bit of a waste of time but it was actually quite relaxing to just chill out at home for a bit, especially since my mum had redecorated my room with new bed, new carpets etc etc.

We headed up to the Lakes on the Wendesday and spent a glorious few days basking in the miserable northern weather :P I should point out here that I love the Lake District, especially in Winter. I like the rain and wind and snow. We did some walking, some shopping and some general mooching – not to mention Liz’s FOUR jacuzzi baths!!

We were staying at the Langdale Estate ina lovely little chalet. I really love that part of the Lakes with its accessible walking and lively (relatively…) atmosphere.

More importantly I got new walking boots!

Back to school

January 22nd, 2008 No comments

The first day back to school or work, or in my case university, after a holiday or time-off is always an experience, Today was no different. My first day back to uni after the Christmas vacation went relatively smoothly. Three lectures (well two down one to go) soread out over eight hours, always a nightmare, and a theme throughout this semester’s timetable. I have few consecutive lectures which means that I am stuck in uni all day every day!

Started a new course in philosophy of religion and resumed courses in programming and economics. Same old same old mainly. Philosophy of religion looks like it might be interesting but I think I might get annoyed with the rather large Christian contingent that makes up my tutor group!

Got some feedback on my CR11 mock today, which looks promising. Got an ok 2:1, not as high as I had hoped but pretty good seeing as I struggled with one of the large questions on the paper. Marks for the coursework will be out soon too. It is always exciting to get marks back, unless you know you have done badly!

2007: A Year in Review

January 7th, 2008 1 comment

The Christmas festivities are over, the New Year hangovers have subsided and 2008 is nearly a week old. This seems like the perfect opportunity to take a look back at 2007 and the people, events and ideas that made it.

Christmas and New Year are always a time for reflection and nostalgia and this year was no different. My family was all together for the first time in a while, including some of the new additions. I had an enjoyable time with several highlights – firstly, I caught up with some old friends and relived some of those moments from my youth that I miss. I also had a good time Christmas Day as I actually felt part of the family for the first time in many years. The end of December was also a good time for me, I spent it with Liz and her family and really felt accepted.

Anyway, back to my review of the year.

January was an interesting month, fisrt it saw the blossoming of a new friendship, one that would lead to something quite special – although i didn’t know that at the time of course. This month saw the final plans for the new academic year’s housing plans and all the arguments that surrounded that decision. This is probably the time that I cemented my friendship with a number of people whom I now consider my closest allies.

January’s exam period was hard for me, not just for the obvious reasons, but because it saw the dawning in my mind that I had lost my passion in Materials Engineering, that the course was no longer the inspiration I required. I began to toy with the idea of leaving university, or at least changing course.

I don’t remember much of February apart from starting at McDonald’s and buying a new car. I also went to Langdale in the Lake District with my mum.

March was an interesting month, I saw Barenaked Ladies in concert in Leeds which was amazing, visited Sarann in the Lakes and most importantly I started this blog.

Now here is the definition of a rollercoaster ride. I reached some of the lowest points of my life but also touched some of the highest highs. I ran Rationalist Week, spent a week in a self-destructive spiral of drinking, partying and depression, I met a girl and fell in love.

May was a busy month. Liz and my relationship went from strength to strength, went to see Soweto Kinch and The Who live in concert and Blackpool won in the League One play-offs and got themselves promoted to the Championship.

Festivals were the order of the day/month for June. I went to Sunrise and Farmyard Party to work in a chip van with Sarann. I had a great time but it meant not seeing Liz for a lot of the month – the first real test for our relationship. I think we ended up stronger than ever! Chris ended up in hospital with a serious bout of appendicitis and I spent a lot of time helping Matt sort out his car.

July was quite boring compared to the surrounding months.I went to Workhouse in Wales, had minor computing issues and moved in with my new housemates – Sarann, Michelle, B and Chris.

Always a quiet month, with uni still a month away and the excitement of breaking up long since faded away. I spent most of the month taking stock and seeing what was what in my life. I did go to Solfest, however, which was definitely a personal highlight of the year!

I made only seven blog posts in September, which gives a good indication of how little I did. I did start a new course at university though and turned twenty-three – which also explains the lack of blogging! The combination of Fresher’s week and birthday celebrations will do that to a man.

A difficult month for me. A lot of things happened in my private life that left me somewhat adrift. I did get a new computer though, which is always nice!

November saw things pick up a bit with the A-Soc London trip, Atheist Week and the discovery of the Lancashire Hotpots! London was worth all the effort that I put into it, it turned out better than anyone had predicted and nothing really bad happened. Liz and I went from strength to strength and I even managed to find time to do some uni work!

A month of WoW and family. Not a lot to report on really, except what is already included at the top of this post. It was a good festive period all in all. I think it set me up for 2008 quite nicely.

Post #77

July 21st, 2007 2 comments

Today is the first day in a while where I don’t know what to do with myself. I don’t have a job to dread (I finished my work up at the university yesterday), I have no really pressing things on my to-do list and I don’t have any uni work or anything piled up. I am at a loose end. There is lots for me to do though, the house needs a really good tidying up, my network cable needs laying (I did the rest of the house last weekend, but managed to forget my room!!) and I need to start downloading all the updates to WoW following my re-install of Windows. Somehow, these things are not exciting me as much as they possibly should. What I really want to do is go into town and buy some Magic: The Gathering trading cards.

I was introduced to this game recently by Si and MC and it rocks! It’s basically a trading card game based around magic. Most of my readers will have heard of it and some will probably play it, but it’s new to me so I am still rather obsessed about it. What is it with fads?

Anyway, today is the first real day of my summer and it’s raining. If I believed in omens I would probably take this as a sign that my summer was going to suck! I mean everything and everyone has gone crazy recently. The last two weeks has stretched Kara, Si and my sanity to breaking point. George is really struggling with some personal issues and Sarann is in love again :P B and MC seem to be the only people on a level at the moment, though being loud about it!

Oh well, here is to a very relaxing and recharging summer. I need it.