2019 Recollection.

I have to start this blog post with an apology. An apology to who exactly I don’t know, but at the very least, to myself for not updating my blog as often as I said/hoped I would.

  • Starting the year off with good friends. Back in January, myself and two close friends decided on a winter hike up Ben Ledi. Unfortunately, when we arrived, snow was laid on pretty thick and it meant that our designated car parking space was inaccessible. Fortuitously, we went further along the road in search of accessible plains to park the car, and decided on a new hill further on from our original destination. Now, to this day, I don’t know the name of this hill/munro was, but what I do know is that, I was genuinely the happiest I had been in a long time. There was something so primal about it all. Blue skies, no wind (until the summit), thick snow up to your thighs and the camaraderie of being with friends made for a truly unforgettable experience. Not to mention the bottle of half opened red wine from Callum’s car at the top! *Update* just checked my diary and think it might have been Ben Lawyers, awesome!
  • Jumping ahead to March, some quality time was spent with my dad. Now, you can probably gather that I reside in Scotland and consider myself well traveled within, however, I had never been to Orkney. A place I had only really began to encounter in a previous job where we used to sell building materials to companies over there. I knew little of the place, apart from the fact that it was an island and involved a ferry to get to. As a result, me and my dad decided to dedicate a week long road trip to exploring our beautiful and largely un-visited country. If I remember correctly, we visited the likes of Brora, John o groat’s, Orkney, Wick, Thurso, Durness, Loch Inver, Ault Bea (my childhood holiday destination) and Fort William. A thoroughly good bit of time away with the old man. Check out some of my favourite photos from the trip.
  • On a personal note, taking part in my first ever 10km race up in Glenlivet with a close friend was an enjoyable experience. A PB for me also, hitting 10km in 51 minutes. I wonder if I can beat this in 2020… of course I can!
  • A lot of weddings in 2019! From Claire’s three best friends, to my two cousins. The most important being my cousin Craig’s wedding at Cringletie House in Peebles, Edinburgh. It was a lovely family experience. To see my cousin up there marrying the love of his life and seeing the connection between two different cultures was an amazing experience. It’s just a shame that a certain someone wasn’t there in person to witness it all. RIP Susan – gone but never forgotten.
  • Making a beeline for the bike come May time, myself and a friend took ourselves up the Bealach Na Ba, Scotland’s highest road. Rising to a feat of 626m from sea level in just 9.1km (reaching 20% at it’s steepest gradient) it truly is one of Britain’s hardest climbs on the bike. Amazing scenery throughout including; Applecross and Shieldaig.
  • A couple more notable cycling efforts were recorded on Strava throughout the summer too. A route I did on more than one occasion was an east coast cycle as far as Dunbar, stopping off for fish and chips at the end usually. There truly is nothing better than cycling long distances with/without company. Just enjoying the moment and the freedom. Think ‘Restless Natives’ only without wanting to hold up buses…
  • A feat I went head first into, without much prior warning was tackling Ben Nevis – and what an achievement it was. Camping out in a campsite near to Glencoe with two mates, a barbecue, alcohol and music. What’s not to love?
  • A couple of other events in 2019 will rightfully precede my last point. So, in no particular order; a trip to Malta with Richard for Glitch festival was quite something. I hadn’t been to Malta since 2016 when I went with my dad for a football trip and I was pleased to see that it hadn’t changed. Hot, hot, hot temperatures all round and some fantastic scenery. The food and music wasn’t bad either. Later on in 2019, I took part in another fortnight at sea as part of my RNR commitment. This was particularly nerve-wracking as unlike the year before, I was heading out on this venture on my own – the only reservist in among the full-timers. If it was to be anything like the year before, I was going to struggle. However, I was pleased to say that the experience was thoroughly worthwhile, I was working with some thoroughly decent guys and got to see and take part in things that I didn’t the year before. Oh and, a good write up/report has paved the way for potential promotion in the future. Again, one of my most proudest moments joining the RNR and feel honoured to play my part in it all. So much so, I have a Navy room in my house – dedicated to all things nautical. Sailor at heart ❤
  • Finally, after months of toing and froing (yes, those are real words) myself and my partner got ourselves a wee dog. So, everyone meet Harris. He’s a real bundle of joy (and energy!).

So there you have it. My recollection of 2019. As it stands, I am still in the same job I was at the start of the year but progress is being made on that front. More on that to come, however.

My next blog post will be looking forward to the future and what I want to achieve in 2020. I tend to keep reminding myself that life is like a book and you are the author of said book. What you call it, what you fill the chapters with and what content you want to express is entirely at your disposal.

Just make sure it’s hard to put down, eh?

Cheers

Vino

2018 – End of another Year…

31st of December 2018. Just another day right?

Be proud. I, like anyone else reading this right now, has been a part of something quite incredible. We have made it through to the end of yet another year. A year that only this generation will get to experience and nobody else. Quite an amazing thing to contemplate don’t you agree? Everything we collectively do as human-beings on this earth will be remembered by future generations to come, some good and some bad.
Your life matters and you have a purpose. Never lose sight of that.

Cherish each moment. Cherish each breath.

Conscious of the time, as it’s not long till I begin the night-shift of working in Ambulance Control and taking 999 calls from panic-stricken members of the public. My only advice? Use the service wisely. Don’t be a dick and please, drink responsibly.

Overall, 2018 has been a pretty good year for me. Constantly making progress in my personal life and the life I share with others.

After looking at my blog post from the same time last year, I am pleased to have ticked off some of the things I set out to achieve and then some.

  • Passing out as Royal Naval Reservist in March 2018. I had been worrying about this for ages due to the fear of the unknown. 2 weeks of getting up at 0530 and having to iron and fold your kit to immaculate standards, to having to pass the swimming test and running test. Could I do all this and everything else that gets thrown at you? 100% discipline, coordination with drill movements, taking control of the squad in different situations? Yes I could was the answer and I’ve never been prouder. As a result, drill nights have a purpose now and my training is productive. I’ve been on fire-fighting courses, damage-control exercises using state of the art equipment, learned how to evacuate a ship in case the proverbial s**t hits the fan, all culminating in time spent at sea and getting a real taste of life in the Royal Navy. It can only get better from here.
  • Our own home! Gone are the days of hauling the weekly shopping up three flights of stairs into our rented flat in Dunfermline. Granted, it was a cracking flat but it became a very isolating place for me especially due to the lack of garden for fresh air and views to clear the head. Now, we have this from our bedroom window…
  • Ticking off two more places that I can now say I’ve been to with seperate trips to Rome and Prague. Both stunning cities and Rome has to be one of the most interesting and beautiful places on the planet.
  • On the cycling front, nothing much to report on sadly! However, I did take part in the ‘Tour De Forth – Cash for Kids’ event around the Firth of Forth. Starting at Newbridge (Edinburgh Aiport grounds) and heading quite literally, around the Forth via the Forth road bridge and the Kincardine Bridge, it was certainly a challenging event, coming off the back of little or no training, to then tackling 97km (or 60 miles if you are that way inclined). I can vividly remember just how easy I thought it was up until we got to Boness on our way back. I felt like my energy levels were rapidly diminishing and at one point, had to stop due to sheer exhaustion. Learning point Blair, make sure you pack those gels and snacks next time!
  • It’s safe to say that I definitely did more running last year than cycling. My first big event took place in early June, as I embarked on the Black Rock ‘5’ event with a very close friend of mine in Kinghorn, Fife. A road race where you are quite literally, running against the tide and out across the sandy beaches until you reach the Black Rock whereby, you are greeted by a bagpiper and begin the energy sapping trawl back across those sandy dunes. 10 out of 10. Would do it again! I also took part in my first ever Spartan event in Perth along with two female colleagues from my reserve unit, Erin and Emma. A thoroughly good bonding experience and in an environment where I like to think I thrive in.
  • Unfortunately, I never did get the Firefighter job. After reaching the assessment day stage for the second year running (and this time passing the dreaded equipment assembly test) I failed the interview to what I felt at the time, was due to a poorly constructed answer. I know they will be recruiting again and so what’s the harm in applying for it again? I just need to practice memorising the competencies and how they would fit in certain scenarios.

I want to make 2019 a year of change for me. I want to finally knuckle down on a career path whether that be as a firefighter or as a technician with the ambulance service. I am already taking steps to prepare for the latter, embarking on a maths course to boost the grade and also in the process of arranging C1 driving lessons. Either way, for my own sanity and the sanity of others, I think without putting too much pressure on myself here, it would be advisable to get my own sh*t in order before I decide to make other commitments.

Keeping this blog updated more frequently is definitely on the agenda too. It frustrates me when I have loads of content in my head that I have to write it in the notes just to remind me of my ideas and viewpoints there and then, to then not having the time (or sometimes effort) to publish it.

You’ll be hearing from me soon.

All the best,

Vino

Everyone has a life story and how they rationalize it is up to them.

September 2010. I was 18 years old and fresh out of high school. Having become aware that I was now of legal drinking age (not that it really stopped me before) and now eligible to get a tattoo, I began scouring the internet on different designs on how to permanently, ink my body.

Question is, at that age, where do you start? What life experiences have you got to draw from that would give you enough inspiration to want to something carved on you for the rest of your life? After all, every tattoo tells a story, right?

During my late teens, I was just your typical teenager. Categorised at school by the type of music that you listened to and the area you were from. Hailing from Dalgety Bay, a small village in Scotland, I was quite fortunate to be surrounded by a good group of lads and lassies, who seemed to have a good reputation for ‘decent folk’. We were known for being good at football too!

There were of course: moshers, neds, emos, goths and relatively normal folk. I’m not kidding. These were genuine sub groups people used to associate themselves with at high school and it certainly showed in their dress sense. If you were sporting anything black or had your hair at a certain length, you were most likely going to be associated with the ‘moshers’. If you had rich parents who had no problems buying you the latest Rockport boots, Mckenzie jackets or Burberry caps, you would be grouped in with the neds. If you were poor, but were known to be a bit of a scrapper (Scottish term for having a thirst to fight) then that would also pass the entry requirements. The other sub-groups just required you to be a little different if I’m honest.

Me? I was friends with most of them. Naturally, I am socially engaging and had a great sense of humour and music – still do. This was because of my dad of course, and his love for all things rock. Things haven’t changed with him but my music tastes have evolved just like he always said they would do. I still listen to rock music and metal, just not so much and in my early twenties, I was getting into punk music. Nowadays, I’ll listen to anything from rock to indie, electro, techno and EDM to Classical music, cultural music and just about anything that isn’t mainstream pop/chart stuff. That will always be s***.

Perhaps my strangest music genre that in a way, did pave the way for my lifestyle growing up, was my love for all things German. That can be attributed to my love of history and Rammstein. An industrial metal band that originated in Berlin during the early nineties, and also, the band of the first CD I ever bought. There was just something about the harsh yet, so intelligently sounding accent that I loved. It led to me discovering more artists thanks to Last.FM (I have no idea if it still exists but hey, what a site) such as Böhse Onkelz and Die Toten Hosen. Both of which, I still listen to today.

Imagine listening to music that was sung in a language not akin to your mother tongue. Strange, eh? To this day, I still can’t even speak the language other than the very basic. However, I listen to the songs often enough and can sing nearly word for word, a couple of numbers from the three of them. I guess I’m persistent like that.

Getting onto the point of this post, my first tattoo came with much thought and deliberation. As an early teen, I often fantasized about getting the Rammstein logo somewhere on my calf, which was a Capital ‘R’ with a block like + behind it. Soon enough, I changed my mind and began wanting the logo of another band I liked at the time – Nine Inch Nails. I’m glad I was trying to see sense at the time by shortening it down to NIN but again, I didn’t fancy that splayed across my forearm. Another tattoo I considered in the same area were the words, ‘C’est la vie’. I remember being quite close to opting for this, but in the end went for something totally different – and in a more hidden location!

My first tattoo was a Celtic armband/clasp. My reason for getting it? I honestly just liked the style and intricacy of the knot work, and after looking at loads of different designs online, I thought it would look particularly good on my left bicep. Eight years on and I still love it as much as I did when I first got it. I feel I can justify getting it because of the Scottish/Celtic links and the rich heritage in which our ancestors passed on. At least, that’s what I tell people who are wanting a story behind it. It mainly is just down to the design.

 

Eight years on, and I’ve gained a plethora of life experience that I feel I can draw from, and a new-found sense of perspective through personal experience, lost friends and family members. You ever go to an airport and whilst you are sitting in the departure lounge waiting for your flight, just begin to people-watch? Looking at thousands of people just passing by, each with their own unique life story and purpose. We all do it and whilst it isn’t healthy to become jealous of others or compare yourselves to them, everyone has their own problems to deal with and that’s ok. Life isn’t always perfect and it’s up to you how you deal with it.

In the words of Sylvester Stallone, ‘Let me tell you something you already know. The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. It’s a very mean and nasty place and I don’t care how tough you are it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain’t about how hard ya hit. It’s about how hard you can get it and keep moving forward. How much you can take and keep moving forward.’

Over the last 4/5 years, I’ve sometimes struggled mentally. Nothing in the extreme, but I think a build up of not knowing what I wanted to do in life, self-confidence issues,  problems in the family relating to alcohol, the loss of close family members and a general sense of worry regarding others, has sometimes got me feeling down. I needed something to release that stress and worry and to make me feel like me again. I began to reach out to those closest to me and began pursuing a life of fitness and exercise. Before I knew it, I was living my life to that of a famous phrase – A healthy body is a healthy mind. In Latin, ‘Mens sana in corpore sano.’  To date, this has been my sole focus in life and one that does wonders for my physical and mental health.

At the end of the day, believing in yourself is an attitude. It’s a choice. In life, you need to realise that if you put your mind to it and stick to it, you can achieve anything you want.

Set yourself some goals. Smash them. Realise that you have a purpose in life.

Nightshift ramblings

Apologies in advance for this post. It might seem out of place compared to my normal content but I think it will be interesting to look back on it just in case I ever find myself working away from shifts or indeed, continue to work them!

It is currently 0115 on Sunday morning. I have 15 minutes of my ‘lunch’ break left, having just worked solidly since 1830 just to get a 30 minute break period. Shocked? Don’t be. It was my choice because unfortunately, that’s the life of working in an emergency control room. Things are a lot different than a normal job!

Yesterday (still feels like I should be saying today but technically it isn’t) was the hottest day of the year so far in Scotland and it truly was, awesome. There is nothing quite like the sun beating down on you, sunglasses on and with the tunes blaring. A cold one in your hand is an added bonus but sadly I was working the nightshift. Driving into work tonight was tough as the rays of the sun were still strong after 5pm. Here’s hoping it’s a sign of the summer!

Now for the ramble. There is something incredibly disorientating about these shifts because your body is knocked out of alignment with the circadian rhythm. What’s the circadian rhythm I hear you ask? Well, simply put, it is following the sun’s natural movements ie, rising early in the morning and going to sleep when it’s dark. On a nightshift, you are doing the opposite and it does affect people more than others. In order to prepare for this shift, I got home at about 0650 yesterday morning and was in bed sleeping, for 7am. Now I’m not going to lie, it wasn’t a sound sleep. In fact I was up at about 0930 needing the toilet, waking up feeling horrendously groggy. I then went back to sleep for about about 4/5 hours and that was it. In essence, I didn’t sleep all that well and I’m certainly feeling it now!

What bothers me the most is the inability to think straight. It affects my mood, my ability to hold a conversation and the ability to just feel like I can think logically. I feel like there is so many dates and important things I should be remembering but i feel as if I am missing out forgetting things. It’s really hard to describe other than it feels as if my head is a cloud. Bit of a nightmare really!!

Things that help get back to normality:

-fresh air

-strong coffee

-most importantly, rest!

Timeback shift tonight though. Finishing at 0230 as opposed to 0630 and that extra 4 hours can get you feeling back to normal. It’s just a shame I’m back to an 0630 finish on Monday night 😦

Prague next week though!

Goodbye S6, Hello S9 Plus!

Something that I have been trying to adapt to recently is Change. You hear about it all the time in job interviews for example, ‘Can you tell me about a time when you had to face change or make a change and how you adapted to it?’. Well this blog post is going to cover an element of ‘Change’ in it’s simplest of forms and that’s making the jump from my Samsung S6 to the brand new Samsung S9 Plus.

If I remember correctly, I decided to change from my even older phone, the then fantastic HTC Sensation (which was my first real experience of a decent phone camera) to the Samsung S6 (64gb) because the HTC’s camera had somehow retained watermarks inside the lens which made photos shoddy. I think there might have also been a deal with EE at the time too who have been fantastic as a network provider over the years. So, I think I got the S6 back in early 2016? Which sounds about right as it was a 24 month contract that I recently paid off at the end of last year. This time round, there was no real reason to upgrade other than fancying a change and justifying the extra cost because of recent successes in my own life. The S6 has been hands down, the best phone I ever owned and was in great condition because I treated it well.

However…

If there is something you have to hand it to Samsung for, is their exceptional advertising and the fact that they seem to walk the walk, and talk the talk. They say the new models feature a ‘Camera, reimagined’ which is a pretty bold claim. Let’s be honest, the S9 and S9 plus look like stunning phones and for the first time in my life, I’ve opted for the plus sized variation of the phone and for anyone that reads this, I would thoroughly recommend you do the same (if budget allows). Some of the features are incredible and I’m going to break them down for you.

  • Dual Cameras on the back of the S9 plus. This is the main reason I went for the Plus version because down the line I knew I’d feel like I was missing out if I opted for the S9! I use the phone camera a lot anyway when I’m out on my runs, cycles or nights out with friends etc. Both lenses are 12 megapixels, one of which is used for primary photographs, capturing some stunning imagery in low-light conditions as well as daylight. All thanks to interchangeable apertures (which I don’t really understand) but simply put, it’s to do with allowing more light into the field of view which in effect, means better clarity.
  • 128 GB as a standard feature with the option of adding up to 400 GB in expandable memory. Need I say more? It will certainly come in handy with all the photos I’ll be taking!
  • 6 GB of ram is pretty handy too for multi-tasking and general speed.
  • Intelligent Scan and the improved placement of the fingerprint scanner. Now, I truly believe the S6 had the best fingerprint scanner with it being on the prominent home button on the front of the phone, which is exactly the reason why I didn’t upgrade to the S8. A fingerprint scanner adjacent to a camera lens, really?  Anyway, if the scanner has to be moved from the front of the phone then I guess it’s in the next best location.

The rest of the features are a bit gimmicky to be honest. Super slow motion video is pretty cool, but I can’t imagine it will be getting used much and may even lose it’s appeal. The AR Emoji is a total waste of time and that won’t be getting used at all. Still, it’s an outstanding phone and I can’t wait to use it more and do a post on upcoming trips to Rome and Prague.

Now, as a fair send off to the best phone I’ve ever had, I believe it’s time to showcase some of my favourite pictures ever captured on my S6. Enjoy!

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2018 – I’m Coming For You!

I’m just about to begin a 12 hour night-shift in my job with the Ambulance Service and it’s probably going to be one of the busiest nights ever for the service as a whole. It is the first time in my life that I have missed out on the fun that Hogmanay entails, so it better go well! Having also missed out on Christmas Day and Boxing day through the joys of shift work, it would be nice for it to go smoothly as possible and allow me to enter the new year doing good.

*UPDATE* – Shift is over and from 12am until 4am, it was a total blur. So, so busy but good to be a part of something meaningful and providing assistance to those who need it most. Quite shocking at just some of the calls that come in though! Just because you’ve had too much to drink doesn’t mean an ambulance is going to take you home…

I shouldn’t moan. In August this year, I started my new role as an ‘Emergency Medical Dispatcher’ within Ambulance Control, dealing primarily with 999 calls as well as related enquiries from doctors, NHS staff and other emergency services. It’s a tough job but one that is very rewarding as in effect, I am helping to save lives until medical/emergency service professionals arrive on scene.  Whilst the shifts are challenging at times, they do offer a lot of time off (probably to catch up on sleep) but once that’s been recouped, I find myself with a lot more free time. Hence why I have been posting more on my Blog!

Given that I have more time on my own, I’ve been thinking more about what I want from life. I will be 26 years old in six months time and know that I am not getting any younger. Gone are those child-like years when nothing was an issue and you felt like you had all the time in the world to get things done. It’s different now and I’m just glad I realise that.

I’ve compiled a list of things that I would like to see accomplished in 2018 – one that I can reflect on and look at in moments of need and inspiration.

Let’s get cracking…

  • Hoping for some positive news to kickstart the year, I have re-applied for the role of a Firefighter, having narrowly missed out during the selection process last year. At that point, I was really stuck in a rut with my old job, working as a sales and customer service advisor for a decorative surfacing supplier – it really began to wear me down after 4 years of essentially, no progress in a career sense. So, I applied for the 2016 intake which through hard work, got me through to the final assessment day at a local Fire Station. Unfortunately though, and despite feeling prepared for it, I didn’t manage to complete a ‘manual dexterity test’ which consisted of building a certain object within a specific timeframe. This meant that I didn’t manage to get to the interview stage and that was me knocked back till the next attempt. Knowing how demoralising that day was and the effect it had on me, it did give me the kick up the arse I needed to push myself into a career I can see myself enjoying and progressing in. Hence why I took the job in the Ambulance Control centre, but I truly believe I owe it to myself to keep trying with the Fire Service as ultimately, it’s the main goal. We shall see!
  • Secondly, I have perhaps the most important two weeks of my life coming up as I seek to pass out as a Royal Naval Reservist and continue my part-time career with them. A thoroughly enjoyable experience so far, from when I first joined in May 2016. I have made many friends, done and seen a lot of things that most people wouldn’t normally get the chance to in a normal working life. Long may it continue and let’s hope I progress onto the next level! This will require grit, steeliness and a sense of pride in order to pass out, but I’m hopeful I can throw the cap so to speak!
  • Since moving out of the parent’s home for the first time earlier this year, myself and the girlfriend have gone from strength to strength and look to take our relationship to the next stage by hopefully, getting a mortgage and our own house. Location as yet unknown, but if I’ve learned anything in these last few months of living on our own, it’s taught me to appreciate the little things more and is truthfully, making me more domesticated. I know this because I get house-proud when the place is tidy and going to IKEA is classed as a day out. Plus, I love getting new things for the home & building furniture.
  • Depending on the above, getting a dog would be a brilliant addition and one that would definitely bring joy into our lives and encourage more walks etc. Not only that, it would give us more responsibilities and be a welcomed addition by both families.
  • Taking part in a marathon. Now, if you’ve read previous blog posts from me you will know that I do take fitness and running very seriously. Whether or not I’m at marathon level I don’t know, but it is something I’d love to do. Either that or a half marathon, in which there are openings for in Alloa in March. One week after my Confirmation Course though. Hmm, tough decision!
  • Staying on the theme of fitness, and one that might surprise you based on where I live, I would love to go hiking or climbing some of the famous mountains across Scotland. Schiehallion in Perthshire, is one I’ve had my eye on for a while. As well as Ben Nevis. Whatever. I just want to get a few under my belt!
  • It would be nice to lose a little weight. I’m not fat by any means, but I definitely feel like I’ve got a belly coming on. Especially after this festive period.  It also doesn’t help when you are in a sedentary position for hours on end in a control centre, with sweets and food surrounding you. Perhaps more willpower is required too!
  • 2015 was the last time that I went out on an endurance cycle, as I embarked from Crystal Palace to Blois in France, via Dover-Calais. Come to think of it, that was three years ago. Wow. I need an achievement like that again and whilst cycling through rural France in hot sunshine was utterly bliss, it would probably be more manageable doing a UK based route this time. I’ve got the gear for it, just need to set a date and hopefully some cycling buddies too!
  • Spend more time with the girlfriend. It’s been hard these past few months with me going on to working shifts for the first time in my life, and Claire reverting to the standard 8-hour shifts from 0800 till 1600 for the first time in hers. We constantly seem to be in the passing and although the time off is good for me, it is only good for me, not us. Therefore, more holiday considerations have to be made with city breaks, days out and possible holidays abroad. At the end of the day, if a relationship is going to work then it’s only going to be built on shared experiences.
  • Not really a resolution as such, but keeping the alcohol intake down is something I’ve been really good at. Firstly, it’s costly. Secondly, it can completely ruin the next day as you can’t drive, your brain can’t function in it’s normal manner and you cannot drive till later on. I have easily gone a month or two without drinking in 2017, perhaps I can keep it going for longer. Ultimately, it affects my mood and happiness and whilst the occasional drink with friends for special occasions is acceptable, it’s not essential.

So, there you have it. There is probably going to be a lot of changes this year and a lot to look forward to. Already I have a busy start to the new year with a lot going on. I hope I can update this quite soon with some good news relating to my first two resolutions, but I will also get round to doing a 2017 recap post with things I’ve done over the years.

Peace and Love,

Vino

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On the Road Again…

It was in 2010 when I went to my first ever German football match. The mighty Bayern Munich, a team that would thrive in years after and still do today. It was a home game for them at their undeniably impressive ‘Allianz Arena’ but I wasn’t there to see them, I was there to see this little club from the famous port city of Hamburg, St Pauli.

It wasn’t until the year before that they became known to me. One of my best mates actually came across them first, probably seeing their famous black and white skull shirts in the form of a ‘Totenkopf’ which is German for ‘Death Head’ essentially. Don’t worry, this isn’t some kind of Satanic Cult, it just so happens to be the famous logo for FC St Pauli, both officially and unofficially. A club that stands for so much good in the world, and one that born from the foundations of anti racism, anti-fascism, anti-homophobia and more. It was this which initially drew me in, it sounded cool at the time and despite the fact that I’m more grown up now (and a little more care-free) it’s still an awesome match-day experience.

Hamburg itself is the second largest city in Germany behind Berlin, and is home to the third largest port in Europe – behind Rotterdam and Antwerp. That in itself, can give you an idea of just how large it is but quite frankly, and despite the fact I’ve now been over six times, I still haven’t seen it all as most of the time is spent in the punky, graffiti-covered, cultural quarter of St Pauli. An area that is home not only to the football team who play at the equally impressive Millerntor Stadion, but also to one of the most famous party districts in Europe, the Reeperbahn. Perhaps made famous by the fact that the Beatles used to play there a lot in various clubs during the 1960’s, nowadays, it’s essentially sex tourism. I often compare it to Amsterdam but the alternative to weed is the extremely cheap beer – Astra. I used to like the stuff and the fact it comes in a wee brown bottle with a logo than features a red heart with an anchor in the middle of it, makes it fit in just nicely with the culture of a port city. For years, I have toyed with the idea of getting it’s logo tattooed on me somewhere.

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Minus the red background, that would look quite good on your wrist, no? I often think of getting it to remind me of my experiences in Hamburg, supporting a football team from another country – which not many get the chance to do. Also because it symbolises a love for all things nautical, again, something that continues to play a big part in my life to date.

Moving on to the city itself,  it’s what I imagine a lot of the other big German cities are like, awash with money and filled with loads of big buildings that look very modern. Sadly, I don’t have many photos of the Hamburg area as a whole, only a few as most of the time spent on these weekend getaways is in the St Pauli district.

 

Here is some photos of my most recent trip and time spent down at the port – to get there, take the S2 train to Landungsbrucken – also the stop you would get off  at if you wanted to check out the impressive indoor model museum (Minitaur Wunderland) & Hard Rock Cafe.

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I have had many a drunken night in Hamburg and there was no better hangover cure than a walk alongside the River Elbe! Incidentally, I also spent my 21st birthday on the river above, listening to Latina/Spanish music and partying on ‘Frau Heidi’s’ party boat. How did you spend your 21st birthday? I bet you it wasn’t in as unusual surroundings as mine was!

In most of the bars around St Pauli and the Reeperbahn, you’ll often find no bar that is free from graffiti or stickers. Interestingly enough, territory is marked in the form of stickers. When I say territory, it’s usually divided up by way of St Pauli fans, Hamburg SV fans and then the alternative left. I have many photos accumulated over the years of this…

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Moving on to the stadium itself now, and it has certainly changed a lot since I first took a trip to the Millerntor all those years ago!

This was what the stadium looked liked in 2010…

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Source: https://shop.11freunde.de/st-pauli-2010-sf-58.html

One of my own photos of the Gegengerade before the change took place…

Old Gegengerade 2011

More on this angle/viewpoint – We tended to always get tickets on the ‘Stehplatz’ (standing area) because 1) you can stand and watch football whereas you can’t in the UK and 2) it’s where the noisy and hardcore fans are (Ultras) which, has always been a fascination of mine.

The ‘Sudkurve’ as it’s known in it’s native language, is quite a spectacle to be honest. From flares to impressive flag displays and choreography,  it is the home of the ‘Sankt Pauli Ultras’ who are famous the world over. Quite a political lot, it’s still worth visiting and standing in if you ever get the chance!

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Back home in Scotland, and you will normally find me sat down watching Heart of Midlothian football club on a Saturday afternoon – the greatest team in Scotland of course – who are my main team, and have been ever since I was young. However, a match day experience to St Pauli doesn’t quite compare.

In the last photo above, the stand directly opposite houses the away fans. Normally kept in the far left of the stand, you will have noticed it looks a lot different to some of the photos earlier on in this post. It was rebuilt in the last couple of years (I think circa 2015 but don’t quote me on that). The new Gegengerade which is to the right of the photo above, was completed in 2013 and makes the stadium feel more complete.

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I’ve sat in this stand once before, and unfortunately, my memory was a little hazy! It had nothing to do with the beer though. Nope.

Perhaps the most interesting about this stadium, this club, who are famous for their staunch anti-nazi stance (which is perfectly acceptable of course) is the fact that in the background of these images, stands a World War Two anti-aircraft tower, known in German as ‘Flaktürme’. 

It was created in 1940 following an attack by the RAF which led to Hitler ordering the creation of three reinforced concrete block towers to protect some of the main cities from attack. Thankfully, the advance of the Soviets came on quite rapidly and they were soon surrendered. To this day, the one below, located at Heilengeistfeld (another train stop if you want to pay a visit) still stands and I believe operates as an office-block for some unknown entity, also hosting various techno club nights as well. Cool eh?

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Always struck me as being a massive conundrum for the footballing hierarchy and fans having this on their doorstep. I suppose it’s a bit of unwelcome history, and I believe that attempts to destroy it were futile, due to the fact that it was designed to withstand air attack and was after all, three metre thick concrete.

I don’t have many photos at all of the Reeperbahn (which for those of you that have been will probably know that’s a good thing) but that is where a lot of the pubs and clubs are. As mentioned earlier on in this post, there’s no denying that the Reeperbahn is famous for one thing and one thing only: Sex. Yes, the Beatles were often found to be playing there back in the 60’s, in the street just off the Reeperbahn known as the ‘Grose Freiheit’ but what will you find there? Sex shows and clubs. It is a port city after all…

If you are looking for a a tremendous footballing weekend away with the lads or perhaps the partner, then look no further than Hamburg. I’ve been going now since 2011 and there isn’t a match day experience that compares to it.

Running

Disclaimer: I thrive on fitness and exercise so please don’t be alarmed at just how seriously I appear to take it from this post.

For a large portion of my life growing up, I used to discount running as something I couldn’t do. Seriously. I didn’t have the stamina or the endurance for it and despite the fact that I was still hitting the gym, I guess I wasn’t doing enough cardio. My earliest memory of it was that I really struggled to master the breathing and quite simply, the desire to go on what seemed like meaningless jaunts around town. On the other hand though (and something I do owe my previous job for thanks to the cycle to work scheme) I was a keen cyclist from early 2013 and still enjoy today. My first road bike? A blue and white Orbea Aqva. A truly stunning bike that took me through my paces on my first ever cycling event through the valleys in North Berwick, heading into Dunbar. In terms of scenery, it’s exposed me to some truly wonderful sights throughout Scotland, England and abroad.

Enough about Cycling. Nothing makes me feel more powerful and determined than going running around an area, exploring it for what it has to offer whilst doing wonders for my fitness too. The best thing is, each and every run feels like an achievement.

I don’t know what the catalyst was. What I do know is that in late 2014, I got myself a Fitbit Surge which to this day, remains one of my most favoured pieces of tech that I own. It sits on my wrist on nearly every run or cycle I do, capturing the distance, route, calories burned and most importantly, the time. In preparation for joining the Navy reserves, I was constantly pushing and assessing myself on the baseline 1.5mile run that needs to be done in less than 11:09 minutes. My Strava profile (another gem found in the fitness game) is stacked full of these particular runs that I would often do in Dalgety Bay after work (or whenever I had free time really) because I found it was fantastic not only because I was reaching the minimum standard, but because I was constantly achieving – which I’ve learned in recent years is an awesome feeling.

Outwith these short but intense runs, I just love going on 10kms between my old town of Dalgety Bay and Aberdour. I mean, with views like this, who wouldn’t?

20171109_140427This was taken today (9/11/2017) and is one of the many reasons I miss this route. The build up to this particular section is as follows:

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20171109_140434At the end of this particular stretch is the entrance to another favourite place of mine, Braefoot. I won’t go into too much detail on that because quite frankly, it deserves a blog post of it’s own but here is the entrance anyway.

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Moving on from here, and you have another interesting part of the route featuring fields on either side, one side of which is usually filled with crops during the right season, and the other is filled with cows.

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No cows today though. Must have been pretty cold!

Moving on again and we have another memorable point en route as we make our way into Aberdour.

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The Underpass – or commonly known as, ‘graffiti tunnel’.

Moving on from here and we have familiar scenery akin to what we have already seen earlier.

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Except this is particularly nice as there is a stunning golf course on your right, with some equally stunning houses on your left (a friend hosted a garden party there once during Wimbledon, it was pretty spectacular).

Moving on quite a bit now (I’ve actually forgotten to take a photo of the Black Gate) which is normally a brief stopping point for myself and the guys as we deservedly try and catch our breathes but nonetheless, here is some of Aberdour.

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At the end of that field lies Silver Sands Beach. Again, without photos I can’t really do it justice but it really is worthy of it’s tourist award and for putting Aberdour on the map.

Now for a change in terrain…

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Now you can run down this (albeit with great care not to slip) but be warned, it’s a haven for shin splints!

The next section of the route is pretty stunning though. Just have a look at some of these views…

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And last but not least, perhaps the most challenging yet, most exhilarating part of the whole route, the mandatory sprint up Black Sands Hill.

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Now you can’t really tell from looking at the above picture, just how steep this actually is, but trust me. It’s like it’s never ending!

However, it’s an amazing sense of achievement once you get to the top and hey, there is a cracking wee pub that myself and friends have frequented over the years too. The Cedar Inn. Definitely worth a wee drink if your thirsty.

The route back to Dalgety Bay is quite nice too, especially if you are taking what’s known as the ‘Daffodil Walk’. Unfortunately, it’s not the right time of the year for them but here is a photo to encapsulate just now nice it is…

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So, there you have it. I have just opened up a major part of my life to you – one that helps me keep fit but also, stay mentally strong. I feel blessed to have this route on my doorstep and although I don’t live as close as I did when I stayed in Dalgety Bay, I’m not too far to do it all over again.

It’s nearly the end of another year…

Folks, I will be honest. I haven’t been on this much at all and despite having good intentions, I just haven’t found the time to keep this blog updated.

However, I write to you now, absolutely knackered having just come off working four 12 hour day shifts in a row. The best thing you might ask? I’m now on day 4 of having 7 days off. Yup, pure bliss and time to myself (although it’s not going to be wasted playing Fifa) as I know life is very different now.

On the 23rd of September this year, myself and the girlfriend moved into our first place together, leaving our childhood homes of Dalgety Bay and Larbert. It was an eventful move in day, with Claire’s dad having to hire a van to transport the more than adequate 2 seater sofa, pod chair and the tonne of clothes that she had amassed over the years. Me? 3-4 bags of clothes, a mattress, TV and a few other bits of bobs were my offerings. Oh, not forgetting my Sonos media player (which has now been taken over) which now offers me suggestions like Akon, Busted and….Drake. Ugh.

Since then, we’ve turned our rented flat into a home & it really is lovely. Not that we can do much with the paintwork etc (not that it needs done anyway) but it’ s still got a personal touch to it. It also smells amazing thanks to Claire’s addiction to Scentsy (scented wax melts, all the rage I believe) and sometimes I don’t know whether I’m coming home to a smell of the Caribbean sunset or Fresh Linen. Either way, it’s braw. Over the years, I’ve become quite the art lover and our new pad is also decked with some stunning Canvas pieces (I will add photos later) which really make it feel like unique and fits in with our plans of travelling and going on adventurous holidays. Wicked.

Moving onto Dunfermline itself,  I’ve got to admit I’ve come to love the place. Which is funny because I thought I would never be able to leave Dalgety Bay (more on that later) and it’s true, I still miss it. However, you have to move on at some stage and for all the stick Fife gets, Dunfermline is actually not a bad place to live. Particularly where we are, it is in close proximity to Pittencrieff Park – an ideal running spot but also somewhere you would have a nice picnic and not be disturbed – just a shame it’s not the weather for it just now!

So what’s next for me personally? Well, despite it being a common theme in nearly all of my blog posts, I really want to get my fitness up a notch and onto the next level. One, I love the freedom of running, cycling and hitting the gym. It’s a release from the hustle and bustle of modern day living, something you just need a break from. Two? I simply need to keep fit in keeping my place in the Reserves. On a more personal note, my relationship is going from strength to strength and moving in with someone like her has done wonders for my independence and I assume, hers. I’ve been cooking more, cleaning more and perhaps most of all, been more organised with things. Partly due to my girlfriend, but definitely attributed to my ongoing experiences in the RNR.

I hope to keep this update more often. I’ve certainly got the time to do so!

Vino

 

Out with the old and in with the new…

2017. Wow. That came along quickly?!

First of all, a happy new year to anyone who actually reads my blog. I know I haven’t posted much lately but it has been at the back of my mind for quite some time now, to actually keep this updated. I fully intend to use my blog, in later years, as some kind of reflection tool and way of keeping myself motivated.

2016 was quite a year for me in terms of memories. In no particular order:

  • Malta with my Dad watching Hearts take on Birkikara FC – Probably the most beautiful place I think I’ve ever been to and certainly one of the hottest! Shame about the result and the loss of my limited edition 1914 Hearts top (more on that later) but it was lovely to meet new friends from both clubs.
  • A nice weekend in October up in Pitlochry, along with the girlfriend, my sister and her boyfriend, my cousin and his girlfriend. We hired a guesthouse in the Blair Atholl estate and we played board games, visited the enchanted forest, went on long walks and generally, had a lovely time together. Great in terms of social bonding!
  • A nice trip for my birthday down in Cragwood country hotel in Lake Windermere, organised by the girlfriend. Another lovely trip in lovely surroundings!
  • Doing something extremely positive for my career by joining the reserves. One of the best decisions I’ve ever made and continues to be that way!

 

Onto some not so good memories (for what I can remember) and being knocked back for a career in the fire service as a wholetime firefighter. I made it through all of the online stages including; online application form which made the sift (8,000 people applied), online calculation test, situational judgement test which all led me to reach an assessment day. Fitness wise, we had to pass a bleep test which, although I’d never done one before, I was in great condition and managed it no bother. There was further tests to assess your aerobic fitness such as; ladder climbs, equipment carry shuttle runs etc. All passed. The only thing I didn’t pass was the equipment assembly task in the allocated time. That bothers me to this day because it meant that I wasn’t entitled to an interview at the end of the assessment day.

I wouldn’t be writing about this now and I wouldn’t continually knock myself if I passed and was about to begin a career as a firefighter. I mean, what 24 year old lad wouldn’t want such a refreshingly exciting career path that paid well and made you feel like you contributed to society?!

I’m writing this at the end of February and whilst things are stagnant in terms of a full-time career, things are going well with my relationship. So much so, we are beginning to look at houses which is definitely an exciting prospect, but furthers this feeling inside of me that I really, really, really need to get my head in check and knuckle down on a career path.