On The Brighter Side

Hello ladies and gents. boys and girls, just pretty much anybody.

Well it’s been a difficult week or so; car accidents (don’t panic it was a very minor kerfuffle), sorting out my final days of work, and slowly resolving some issues from my past.  That is not what this post is about, in fact it’s quite the opposite.  Instead of wallowing in self pity, as is so easy to do in these situations, I’ve been trying to think about those elements that bring a smile to my face.

New Music, New Mood

One of the first things I consider a kick up the arse and gets me into a better mood is discovering a new band/songs that can completely alter how I’m feeling. This can be anything from listening to the upbeat and loud tones of ska bands like Reel Big Fish, to the sultry tones of a recent discovery Gregory Porter.

Reel Big Fish, hold specific significance for me as years ago I was going through some rough times and a friend introduced me to them.  The mixture of a rocking horn section and fun lyrics always brings a smile to my face even now.

The latter is a recent discovery for me; Gregory Pointer is a baritone jazz/soul singer based in Brooklyn and can lift my mood whether he’s singing a slow ballad or an upbeat swing track.  He’s been featured on Later with Jools Holland (another favourite of mine), is signed up to Blue Note Records, and always wears a modified flat cap which he refers to as his “Jazz hat”.

There are many other songs that cheer me up but it’s these two that really stick out in my mind at the moment.  Does anyone have this, and if so what songs/artists?

Friends and Family

This may sound like a pretty obvious one, but it’s taken me a long time to really appreciate the effect these can have on your mood.  The realisation only came to me recently when I hit a rather big low in my life, but these wonderful people have supported me and made me smile just when I needed it.  Now don’t go fetching the tissues and getting all soppy on me, this isn’t some Hugh Grant romcom, and besides this is meant to be a happy post.  So smile goddamn it!

The times I feel most at ease and happy are often when I’m spending time with my friends and family, be it just sat watching a film with my dad (my mum will instantly fall asleep within the opening credits), or going down the pub with my friends spending the night with good company and good drinks.

A Clean Swing

It’s a pretty simplistic feeling of satisfaction and achievement when you accomplish this one.  A clean, straight golf swing.  Golf is a past time that has become a great way for me to zone out and relax in the past few years.  My introduction to the sport came from my late Grandad, who over the years taught me how to hold a club to how to analyse my swing. The man was never in the game to become a pro, he just liked the feeling of getting out on a course and being able to hit a ball cleanly. I can fully appreciate this, there is something quite pure about hearing the ‘pop’ of a driver connecting with the ball and watching it fly straight to where you wanted it.

So this has just been a few little aspects of life that stop me from ever getting too down when it feels like everything is going wrong.

A table, a chair, a bowl of fruit and a violin; what else does a man need to be happy?

The First Grumble: Driving

Hello there again,

So, let’s be frank (no I’m not developing a secondary personality), as we get older we change – this is a universally accepted fact that I have no problem in facing.  Unfortunately though, I appear to be transforming in to a man that continually finds something to moan about. I seem to go from being care-free, enthusiastic and open-minded 20 year-old to an impatient and cynical OAP, when the hell did that happen?

In an attempt to slay this decrepit and slightly worrying turn in my mindset I have decided that I will make light of the situation and bother you all with my ramblings instead. Todays grumble is to do with the wonders of driving.  That’s right the beauty and misery that comes with owning a four-wheeled (in most cases at least) friend.

As part of the recent events in my life, and due to occupational commitments I am forced to do a lot of commuting too and from places.  Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy driving…. for the most part, there is just one major downfall: other motorists! I know that when you are learning being behind the wheel is terrifying but this soon disappears and you, providing you have a good instructor, transform into a competent driver.  This is not the end of learning to drive though, as many veterans of the road will tell you:

Instructors only teach you how to pass the test.You don’t know how to drive until you’re on your own!

My personal thanks to my father for those words of wisdom, and as much as I hate to admit it he was right.

I don’t know when it happens during the lifecycle on the road but there comes a time where even the safest and Highway Code abiding driver develops the memory-loss, forgetting some of the most basic rules in driving.  Now i’m generalising here quite a bit, so bare with me: I swear the first bulb to blow in a young drivers brain is the how an indicator works.  I cannot count the amount of times I have been behind/next to another motorist who has cut across lanes without a care in the world. I appreciate you probably know where you are going, but how about next time not assuming I can read your mind and indicate to let me know you’re going to career in front of me!

This then leads me to another pet peeve of mine; Lane Discipline.  More accurately though lane discipline on motorways/highways.  Let’s describe the scene: there are three lanes along a motorway, each lane consists of happy little motorists travelling at speeds they feel comfortable with. This is all fine and dandy, if all the motorists understood how to use the three lanes. The inside lane (near the hard shoulder) is often occupied by the big daddies of the road – the truckers and haulage drivers that more often than not know their place. These monstrous machines are then offset by the other end of the spectrum, the Sunday drivers – those happy to travel without a care in the world (or their surrounding motorists). The middle and outside lanes should then in theory be used for overtaking those who are travelling slower than yourself, a fairly reasonable theory.  This is not always the case though, there are two types of motorist that feed off upsetting the natural balance of the road and the fury of the cars around them. They are:  The Middle-Lane Layabouts, and Captain Flashypants!

The Middle-Lane Layabout

This particular villain says “To hell with modern convention, I’m going to drive solely in the middle lane, no matter what speed I am doing”. The dastardly menace will sit in the middle lanes of a highway despite travelling at a slower pace than that of the inside lane. These motorists amaze me at times, albeit through gritted teeth.

Captain Flashypants

We have all seen this kind of motorist on our journeys, be it as a passenger or a driver. This particular mutation transforms the humble motorist into a speed-hungry and impatient nuisance. He will race up behind you leaving just enough space so that the blinding glare of his headlights are in full view of your mirrors, but that’s just the start. If you haven’t moved out of the way at the first possible moment, he devastating power of his HIGHBEAMS! Flashing them incessantly at you, pounding your now blinded eyes with light, until you are forced into the slower lanes. Their sole focus is to get from A to B in the fastest time possible using whatever means they can to shave off the slightest of seconds.

As you can more then likely tell, these are my two biggest grumbles when it comes to driving.  Don’t get me wrong there are many others, but they are mere baby-grumps in comparison to the above terrors. Also, as I mentioned before, I still love driving despite these annoyances and I think becoming a motorist when I did helped develop me as a person.  So it’s not all doom and gloom out there on the roads.

For now I’ll bid you farewell, and drive off into the sunset – in the appropriate lane and indicating when required.

Grumble over.

Iain

A Change in Console

Hello there,

Recently I experienced the sudden shock of my Xbox 360 deciding that it no longer wanted to be a contributing part of my household. My once trusted friend went through the transformation often seen in children transforming into teenagers, bare with me on this; So for years my Xbox and me would be the best of friends, we would see each other pretty much everyday, play games, meet people, and generally have a symbiotic relationship (I maintain him and buy new games, he ensures he kept up to date and did as he was told).  Then the change happened, seemingly over night… Xbox would decide mid-game to stick his tongue out, resulting in that perfectly timed snipe that i’d been lining up for ages to be ruined and the game to shut down.  I tried talking to him nicely (you laugh, I actually did) and even gave him a good clean out, but this just made matters worse.  As the weeks went by my Xbox 360 evolved from just doing this during games, it would happen at anytime even when the system was off! So after a few weeks of deliberation I decided he had to go, to fix him would be too expensive and painful for both of us.  Oh got a bit too involved in that story there….

Basically, long story short, my Xbox 360 is no longer in the picture.  A sleeker and more up-to-date console is donning my entertainment unit, and his name is Playstation 4! Now I chose the PS4 as it seemed that Playstation had stayed true to their roots as a Console for Gamers, whereas I saw Microsoft (Xbox’s Daddy) was forcing me down a route of purchasing an all-in-one media hub that I just didn’t need.  Honestly I made the right choice, the User Interface is simple and easy to use, and even better isn’t covered in adverts like the Xbox 360 was, the games are fluid and fun, and the ability to share gameplay at the touch of the button is a nice feature.  Saying this I was a bit disappointed the range of launch titles available, the three games delivered in my bundle were Knack (Platformer/Puzzler), Need for Speed: Rivals (Racing), and Killzone 3: Shadow Fall (Shooter).  For those interested I will look into writing a short summary/review of these games in the coming weeks.  I know there are more and more games coming out as the weeks go by but to have only 3/4 games available on launch just left a slight sour taste in my mouth, but that could just be the Sherbet Lemons I’ve recently become addicted too recently as well.

Anyway, thanks for reading through my rambles and baring with me through the saga of the troublesome Xbox 360.

Catch you later,

Iain

From Boards to Consoles

Good Morning,

So a general interest of mine, and one of the main ways I like to just blow off steam and chillout , is gaming.  I always enjoying playing games, pretty much any game to be honest (as the title of this post suggests, see what I did there?).  I would not class myself as a hardcore gamer by any means; I straddle the boundary between the humble abode of a Casual Gamer, and the slightly more dedicated Core Gamer.

So what is a casual/core gamer? 

Well these terms basically cover those people who are interested in playing games (more frequently relating to Video Games) but do not spend obscene amounts of time in completing games, keeping up-to-date with the very latest releases, and generally incorporating gaming into their lifestyle.  Casual Gamers tend to play games for minimal periods of time, and do not wish to spend lots of time levelling-up characters to improve stats.  The Core Gamer takes things slightly more serious; They enjoy playing games and may have one or two core games they play frequently (mine currently is Killzone 3: Shadow Fall), but do not feel the need to be the best gamer all the time. These are the kind of gamers that will spend some time developing a character, but will not delve deep into the facts and stats of every aspect to create the perfect soldier.

I hope that makes some kind of sense for you all.  Basically, for me games are a form of escapism.  For a few hours I can chillout and immerse myself in a game where I can be a ancient being made of relics (PS4’s Knack), part of team taking down the Dire’s base (PC/Mac based, DOTA2), or simply spend some quality time playing cards with my family.

Best Laid Plans…..

So here goes, the first official post of 2014.

So as stated in the About Moi section, the goal of this year is to challenge myself and to look into doing activities that I’ve not done before (or perfect those that I have already started).  As part of this there are some wheels already in motion to accomplish my goal.  Just before last Christmas my two best friends, Gary and Ollie, shared with me a dream they had both had since they were teenagers.

The Challenge:

To buy a vehicle for approx. £250, preferably a convertible, and drive it to a selected destination.  In our case the choice location is Monaco, thats right the tax haven for the world’s billionaires and probably home to some of the most expensive cars in one country.

Proposed Date of Challenge:

Mid-April 2014, coincidentally near my birthday.

I have never done anything like this before so I really hope we pull it off. There are companies which you can signup with, that will plan your route, set you challenges, and generally provide you company, but for an added challenge we will plan everything ourselves and do it all off our own backs.  Gary has also decided that if we do purchase a convertible, that we will do the entire journey with the roof down NO MATTER WHAT! Hmmmm not to sure about that…

There are several other challenges coming up this year for me, from finding a new job (leaving current on at the end of the month), to training towards a 66 mile bike ride with my Dad. I will update and explain these ones in a later post, there you go that’s an incentive to come back and for me to keep posting.

Catch you later,

Iain