The little things

It’s strange what can bring a smile to the face of a weary commuter into the capital.

Having faced regular train delays getting both to and from London, I found myself on my usual train this morning staring out of the window. My usual routine of doing some work or listening to music interrupted, I gave myself the chance to just, look. How often do I forget to do that? It’s actually quite relaxing watching the world fly by.

As we sped past Slough, I glanced up at the dappled sky and watched as two swans gracefully flew over the train and I couldn’t help but smile. While sat in my office over looking the Thames, I forget about nature. The glass buildings and concrete jungle masking this beautiful, giant beast which continues to live no matter what. I’m starting to understand why so many of my fellow City workers go on retreats!

If you can spare 5 minutes from your day today, stare at the sky/grass/tree or whatever nature has to offer near you. Just appreciate the free anti-stress experience she offers us everyday. I think I’m going to try and make it a regular thing.

Have a lovely day everyone.

Hectic

It’s been a bit of a week. In fact, if I’m honest it’s been a bit of a year! I’m currently sat in my hotel room near Sheffield wondering where the last 6 months have gone.

For those who aren’t aware, I work full time in London, but also operate two small ‘businesses’ (actually it’s one, but there are two sides to it). The first is my Photography and the second is software development. The software side has been my baby for years and it’s the reason I’m ‘oop North’ this weekend.

I find myself, complete with iPad, phones, laptop, camera kit (you never know) and a rather pathetic array of clothes, in a recently refurbished hotel room attempting to work out how I approach tomorrow. In my previous work, I was always working away here, there or wherever and I always had a brief. I knew what to expect (ish) and I delivered the goods (if my ex-boss if reading this and has other ideas… I’m sorry). But this time is a bit of an unknown. The software relates to data collection in Sport and as such I need to ensure that next weekend, the iPads have good enough internet signal to do the business. I have armed myself with an array of goodies downloaded from the App Store which are hopefully going to tell me good news and snacks.

I managed to entertain myself briefly in the rather packed (and noisy) hotel bar this evening, enjoying my beer and burger. The diet is nowhere to be seen and that’s working fine for me right now. I’m at the end of the first week of my marathon training but so exhausted from everything that it’s had to be turned into a 15 week plan. Keep your fingers crossed for me!

Anyway, I’m quite excited about exploring this new part of the North. I normally skip straight past here and head for York! In fact, I think the last time I was in Sheffield, it was a day trip about 10 years ago!

Alone

Well, it’s been a considerable amount of time since I last penned a post. A lot has happened since then. I had my work trip to Rio and then got swept up in a million and one things that I didn’t really have much control over. It’s been a tough last few weeks and today, on the 2nd anniversary of losing my Grandfather, I’m finding myself in a generally reflective mood.

One of the things that has been on my mind for a few months now, is the subject of loneliness. At what point are we actually alone? The reason for this trail of thought is due to a man, probably in his 80’s who I used to pass everyday on my journey to work. He would be walking to, or already sitting, at the bus stop as I drove past. He was always on his own.

It made me sad to see him there like that. His walking cane rested against his left leg, his eyes bright and a small smile as he waited eagerly for the bus to arrive. But why? He could very well have been going shopping, or to visit his friend/loved one in hospital, or perhaps just going to meet someone for a coffee. But what if he had no one? What if this man, whom the years had painted with wrinkles and the sun had weathered his skin, was completely alone in this world.

That last point made me stop and think. He’s not alone. He may not realise it, but every day, even now, when I pass that bus stop I think of that man. If someone is thinking of us, are we ever truly alone? So I don’t know his address or even his name, but he’s in my thoughts and, were I a religious person, he would be in my prayers.

We all have times when the days, weeks, months and yes even years, may drag us down and we all feel that no one knows what we are going through. But why is it that no one understands? In my case, it’s purely because I take no time to let people in and allow them to get to know me. That is easily fixed in time. There is always someone who will understand. Be it a therapist, friend, lover, colleague or anonymous stranger (The Samaritans for example), there is always someone to turn to.

Sometimes we need that grounding, to be reminded that we aren’t alone. We all have to muddle through and carve out a path in life. Rich, poor, hungry, full, married, single. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that we take the time to make sure people know that they are never alone. When you next goto the shops or to work, take a look around you at the people you see everyday. Those cars that pass by every day. Those people on the train with you. The people and those cars may be nameless, but chances are that at least one of them will recognise you and notice if you’re not there.

I haven’t seen that man at the bus stop in a few months now. I hope that it’s purely a change in his routine and that nothing has happened to him. My office will be moving soon so I will never see him again, but I hope that he is happy and safe. It may seem a weird thing to say about someone I have never (and will never) meet, but it goes a long way to remind me that no matter what happens in life, there is always someone who recognises you and probably thinks of you.

And for as long as that goes on, I can never really say I’m alone.

Travels of 2014 – Trip 1b(?) – well it wasn’t for work and wasn’t abroad

Following my week in New York, I had a week off booked. This was my first week off since September last year, however I didn’t feel like I’d had any time off for a lot longer. Work has been hectic and with a lot of deadlines and difficult project work to complete. My week away from my mobile and laptop was to be spent tidying up the house and then taking a trip to the North to see some old friends.
Thursday morning I hopped on my train and headed up to Durham. Frankly this was a trip that I shouldn’t have bothered making. N, was due to meet me in Durham so that we could have a bite to eat, a drink and a catch up. He’s been working hard on building his own business and I did have a sneaky feeling that our catchup wouldn’t happen. Sure enough, at midday, he asked if I would be able to meet him a little further North. With a serious lack of funds due to waiting on expenses (and the fact that I was already travelling for 4 hours) I declined and we had to cancel. I was very disappointed, however understanding that he has been putting his heart and soul into trying to get his business going, I sadly conceded that there was nothing to be done or gained from being too upset.
However, emotional and still suffering the after effects of jet lag, I found myself, watery eyed, staring out of my train at London Kings Cross, contemplating what I could do with my short time in the Durham. In fact, I spent most of my journey trying to work out what to do. And there was a lot of journey. I left my house at 10.30am and at 3pm I was still sat on my train, just outside Grantham staring at the fields. At 5pm, I arrived at my hotel. Slightly worse for wear due to enjoying one too many glasses of wine.
Tired, emotional, tipsy and feeling generally rubbish, I headed for the hotel bar and had a meal there before retiring to bed early.
Friday morning I woke with excitement as I was to head to York to meet an old (and very close) friend. As I departed the hotel I looked across the River Weir and realised that my last trip to Durham had also been very short. It had centered around the building opposite, as I was there to train some staff joining the BBC (well, it had become Siemens) Technology team. It was at this point that I also remembered the steps that you have to take up to the train station.
After too many steps to count, a big hill and lots of regret over bringing spare shoes in my luggage, I arrived at the station. Frozen, hungry and a little hungover, I awaited the packed train heading to Manchester Airport, which would see me arrive at a slightly warmer York.
When I arrived, I walked through the City, aiming to locate my room for the night. My usual hotel choice had been spurned for this trip and I had booked myself and 3 friends (joining me on Saturday) into a pub in town.
The Roman Bath was a place that I had only ever walked past and glanced in before. It had been chosen primarily because it would allow one night stays on the weekend and secondly for its central location. When I arrived I was greeted in the most cheery and upbeat manner by Chris. His bright conversation and quick wit was welcomed after my dismal Thursday and I looked around to see several people enjoying a drink and food in the bar. I was shown to my room and I must confess to being pleasantly surprised. A small, but functional double room with an ensuite shower, TV, wardrobe and a proper key. None of this swipe card fun and games which usually results in being able to access your room at 3am and waking up everyone around you!
When I re-entered the bar later in the day, following a walk to my favourite Tea Room (Chloes, near the Last Drop Inn), I was greeted by Paul (who runs the Roman Bath), as if I were a regular. By this time of the evening, the place was buzzing, every table occupied by diners and drinkers. I had a swift half (of very good beer) and then proceeded to meet my friend, V, in the pub down the road.
The night was a lot of fun. We had a meal and then went back to our meeting place, where we sang along with the pianist (sorry Ali), before then heading to watch a band perform at the Golden Fleece. Much fun (and beer) was had but I must confess to being glad to get back to my room for some much needed sleep.
The room was perfect. Quiet, comfy bed and in the morning a good shower awaited me, followed by an even better full English breakfast.
Ready to start Saturday, I walked around York and then went to the train station to meet one of the party due in at 11.30. I ensured he could check into the hotel ok and then we took a walk to a pub to catch the Liverpool match. By this time, my other two friends were attempting to navigate their way into town from their parking position. This should have been fairly simple, however D, has never been the best with maps. Or directions. Or instructions.
Then, while we were in the pub, the heavens opened. It rained so hard that when my friends made it to the pub, D’s jeans were soaked through. They both looked like they had just stepped out of a power shower.
Once the game had finished, we agreed to take a walk back to our rooms so that we could all get changed (and that D and S could dry off/warm up!).
When we met up again we walked back to the pub in order to watch the Stevenage game (as D is a life long fan). The beer and company was brilliant… The football, not so much. V met us (once her hangover from the night before had settled down) and we went off in search of food. The rest of the night was brilliant. We talked about old times, old friends and faces that we hadn’t seen in years and of course caught up on some gossip.
We called it a night fairly early on and V headed home while we went back to the Roman Bath. We were just in time for a swift pint, so sat on the corner and continued our chats. It was at this point that I realised just how much some people have to deal with on a day to day basis.
S (who is D’s wife) went through a lot last year. My blog isn’t the place for detail, but I have the upmost respect and admiration for her. She’s a beautiful woman, tall, slim, blonde and walks with a confidence that few have. But every hour of every day she battles with anxiety and worry. So many people would hide away or let it drag them down, but she copes brilliantly. I’m so pleased and proud to be able to be considered her friend. I just hope that we all get to spend more time together soon. Never easy when you don’t live near to each other, but it’s a sign of true friendship when you can meet up after a few months (or years) and pick up where you left off.
As for D and S finding their car on Sunday morning, well… What should have been a 15 minute walk turned into nearly an hour. In the pouring rain. All due to D’s map reading ‘skills’.
It must be love.

Travels of 2014… Trip 1

New York, New York… Well, what can I say. The City is superb. this was my first ever visit to the US, let alone to NYC so I had no idea what to expect.
The apartment I was staying in was on the corner of 38th Street and 6th Avenue with a wonderful view of the New York scene. My first night in the apartment was pretty quiet as I was too tired to even eat, so I simply went to bed. The 6am alarm call was not well received, but I awoke, collected my things and headed out to the station, armed with directions. Sadly the directions weren’t entirely accurate and, after a slight detour, I arrived at Penn to meet my colleague.
Penn station was huge but surprisingly quiet (being used to London Kings Cross at 7.30am had prepared me well). We boarded the 7.39 (which made me smile – thinking of the Sheridan Smith drama of the other week) to Farmingdale and I was entertained to see that the buildings on Long Island were exactly as I expected.
We were joined on the train by a bright, intelligent New Zealander, M, who proceeded to talk me through the cab situation once we arrived at our station. The Checker cab company are something that I have never experienced in my life. You all pile into a cab, that Larry has sent you to, and the driver proceeds to drop you off in a (random?!) order. However you still pay the full fare. To say I was a very confused Brit, is an understatement. Still, 20 minutes later, we arrived at the office and I was soon settled into a desk with a coffee ready to start my training.
That evening, I got home at about 8.30 and by that time I had no will to go to a restaurant. I had been subjected to the mother of all ham sandwiches from a local deli (it was awesome but enough for 10), so I headed for Pret. I was greeted by a friendly American who served me and then said I should pop back as the manager was also from London. This did amuse me however I didn’t go back.
The days that followed were basically the same (although a slightly later train in the morning as my jet lag was kicking in) and I must confess that by the Wednesday I was craving vegetables and food that didn’t contain cheese.
I flew home on the Friday, but I had a couple of hours to kill (and to pack) so I decided to walk the few blocks up to Central Park. When I say few, I mean loads. It felt like miles. But it was worth it. The horses and carriages were waiting patiently as couples took the romantic jaunt around the park. I took the obligatory selfie with various high rise buildings behind me and then realised I needed to walk (at speed) back to the apartment and pack my case.
In my wisdom I decided that I should opt to go to the Airport (JFK) via public transport rather than paying the $80 for a cab. This was fine until I reached the steps at Jamaica. This was not a fun experience! The airtrain however, was a delight and once I’d worked out how to find the departure area, I was away. What I wasn’t prepared for, was having to kill over 2 hours in the tiny food court that is JFK Terminal 7. It’s safe to say that I was bored senseless.
The flight itself didn’t help my mood. The couple in front of me decided that the best thing for them, was to put their seats back for the entire flight. It was the red-eye so I expected people to sleep, but they insisted in keeping the seats back. I had no room to move. Luckily the woman and gentleman next to me were friendly and we had a nice chat about how their son was at university in Glasgow and about the town they were from in Azerbaijan.
At 5.30am we arrived over the West of England (a lot earlier than scheduled thanks to the tail wind) so after a lot of circling around Brighton and the South East, we eventually landed at 6.30. The rest of my morning was spent sleeping through my alarm and then driving back to Gloucestershire to see my family.
To those who think that travelling for work is glamourous… Think again. It’s fun and obviously I get to go to places that I would otherwise never go to, however sometimes, it’s just nice to come home.
Speaking of which, I’m off to Sweden on Monday….