Friday, 14 July 2017

A RailSport Rundown

This past weekend the yearly Railsport Games took place, and this time they were held in Loughborough for the first time, having previously been held in Blackpool almost since their inception over 15 years ago. New sponsors Rail Media organised a quite spectacular weekend of sport which brought together entrants from a number of TOCs, FOCs, and railway stakeholders and sponsors.

As has been the case over the past few years under LOROL, Arriva Rail London sent athletes to take part in some of the events, having had extensive success in previous years for both the 5 a side football and darts competitions (singles and doubles). A change in venue and some questionably shaky dartboards (of which complaints were made with the organisers) were just a couple of factors that may have hindered the ARL athletes progress this time around though.

Former singles & doubles runner-up Alan Jessup-Peacock (Control Shift Manager) was drawn against ARL driver Paul Spreckley, Wayne Jones (Network Rail) and Gordon Trimby (Great Western Railway) in group one. Close matches were had by all members of the group, but the experience of the elder competitors from NR & GWR won out, with Alan only winning his game against Paul, who tragically lost all three of his group games.

Drivers Aninder Chana, John Morris and Jason Pearce all suffered similar fates, with both Chana and Morris just missing out on progressing from their groups by finishing third. Pearce finished second in his group (beating Morris in the process), but fell to eventual winner Derek Ralston (Mersey Rail) in the quarter finals.


In the doubles competition Alan & John were paired together in group 1, whilst Paul and Aninder were paired in group 2. Sadly, despite some fantastic scoring (Paul Spreckley hit a tasty maximum at one point), both pairs failed to progress through their groups

The ARL 5 a side football team got off to a shaky start, not helped by the fact some late injuries led to the squad being depleted. They lost their first game 3-2 against LUR Manchester, but soon responded with a hard-fought 5-4 victory over RSSB. The same scoreline was reversed against JACOBS in the next game, with ARL losing to a last minute goal.

A win was needed in the last game to progress from the group and make the quarter finals as ARL took on (eventual winners) Irish Rail 5’s. With just minutes to go ARL had taken a 4-3 lead, but some questionable officiating decisions from the referee (at least in the minds of ARL and those of us watching, as the Darts team were able to cheer the lads on at points), saw things take a turn for the worse. A last minute equaliser and then injury time winner for the Irish Rail team saw them end the ARL challenge to retain their title.

With Rail Media behind the games, it was a much bigger spectacle this time round, but understandably there were teething problems as well. Next year the games will be back and will hopefully see the return of winning ways for the Arriva Rail London team.

Saturday, 1 July 2017

Not Much Has Changed

So nearly 4 months ago I wrote a blog about work, about the reorg that was going on and what may lay ahead for myself and all those I work with. Since then my blogs have been consigned to verbalised ones, I've found it a hell of a lot easier (surprising myself) to waffle on for 15-20 minutes at a time rather than sit down and type out a page of words.

Anyway, time has passed and some of the changes have kicked in at work, but there's still a lot to do, more people to put into jobs and a hell of a lot more training to do, and I'm still in the job I was in at the start of all this. My mind hasn't changed, I'm not moving up the ladder, I'm still stepping down, but this won't be for another couple of months given how slow some things seem to be moving!

Morale at work is understandably low right now in places, there are a few high moments don't get me wrong, but there's plenty dragging people down, especially in the control room. Changes to teams and set-ups can do that, the uncertainty of how it will all end up is undoubtedly playing on peoples minds. Of course, doing the simple things wrong like paying people incorrectly isn't helping things along either....

I was sceptical when the new overlords took over, and haven't seen much to lighten my scepticism just yet, but I guess it is still early days. They've been running the show for around 9 months now and there is a long way to go yet, maybe when things are all settled, the new jobs are filled and the departments around the company aren't running with vacancy upon vacancy then the mood will change.

I can't be totally negative though, some of the new faces being brought in are encouraging and look like they will provide a much needed boost to the atmosphere around there, and it's good to see a number of people progressing and moving up as a part of the re-org, including 5 of the 6 in my team (which I feel quite proud of actually). Give it another 6-9 months and we'll see how it all falls.....

I keep saying that I need to get back to my blog writing with a bit more regularity, especially now that another football season is about to start and the Concord Rangers match-day programme will need another fresh bunch of words each week. So let this be the start of another bunch of blogs to pollute the tinterweb over the coming weeks!

Sunday, 5 March 2017

The 2 Year Itch?

A little over 2 years ago at work, myself, my boss, and our operational colleagues worked on and then implemented a reorganisation of the control room. Merging the two controls together, adapting the tasks and setting a new structure up which (we thought) would be ideal for when the company changed ownership at the end of 2017.

At the time, during the process of the reorg, my mind was all over the shop. Admittedly there was personal issues with the person I was seeing for two months of the time, but that aside, I was ready to step down from managing people and move into a job that was just a job. I thought long and hard about it and was very close to doing it, but a couple of conversations with my boss at the time led me to give this new managerial role that we'd created in the restructure a go.

During one of those conversations it was said that if after 6 months I wasn't happy, didn't like the job, he'd back me and let me drop back into the role I was originally planning on going for.

Well when the time came, that proviso wasn't needed as I came to enjoy the job, loved managing the team I had and over time had picked up a lot of additional operational knowledge which had been one of my concerns going in. I spoke to said boss about this too, and he said that the proviso was bollocks any way!

Fast forward two years, and we're going through an overhaul of the structure yet again. The big difference this time though is that it's being done by a new company in charge with their own ideas and challenges, by people who are essentially total strangers to how the business has operated for the past 7 years (even though they were part owners). There's also the fact that last time round, us within the control were a part of it, we led the changes, this time that isn't entirely the case.

And here's what I'm getting at, from what admittedly limited knowledge I currently have of the new structure, the same thoughts are kicking in from 2 years ago. Drop down, avoid the extra responsibility and putting my head further into the line of fire, avoid taking the chance of moving into a role I don't enjoy as much as I do now, and take a job I know I can do well, and that won't be the focus of the higher ups.

The boss that talked me round last time has moved on, funny enough just last week, and a big part of that is because of the new guys in charge, which doesn't set the greatest tone for what may be ahead. So I'm thinking about what comes next, we find out Tuesday how the new structure will look, so that's when the decisions will need to start being made. A lot of the jobs will probably just switch over, some will have to be reapplied for, we'll see how the pieces fall I guess....

Monday, 20 February 2017

A Quick Catch Up

So the last time I sat down to do any writing for myself it was mid december, and I was going on about taking life by the balls so to speak, questioning why people wait for the year to change or a date to arrive before making changes or taking chances. But don't worry, it won't be more of the self-righteous waffle this time round, I promise!

It's been a busy few months, plenty going on both family and work wise, and I'll be honest, it's been a lot easier over that time to talk into a microphone and podcast personally than take the time to write. But I need to keep going at it, I enjoy it and should make sure it continues, even if it is a load of waffle.

So for those that don't know, probably the biggest family thing for me over the past couple of months has been to do with my little sister, well maybe not so little now. She got married back in November, and on her birthday just before Christmas her & her husband dropped the bombshell that me and my two brothers are going to be uncles in August. Well pleased for her obviously, but I've already said I won't be changing any nappies or doing babysitting duties......

Of course, with this news comes various scans and medical checks, and after my sis had the first scan, mum stuck a picture of the scan on Facebook, the social media hub that seemingly half the world lives on (I make no complaints, I am on there a lot too). Of course mum, clearly being the Facebook pro that she is, didn't say which one of her children the scan belonged to. This prompted me, and one other brother, to get questioned as to whether it was ours! Thanks mum.....

Work, well things are all over the place really at the moment, the new guys took over back in November, and we're only starting to see the outlines of the new structure they want to implement throughout the company. There's high level reviews going on, consultation periods etc, so we won't see much happen for the next couple of months, but when the time comes, there'll be changes. We've already seen a big chunk of good guys leave, some people have handed in their notices, by the end of the year it'll be a very different company, for me I'm just keeping my head down and cracking on with it, see where the land lies as the story plays out.

Anyway, onwards and upwards as ever. The podcasts feel like they're going well, both the wrestling one and my personal one, with a fairly consistent listener base for both at the moment, the programme editing has going well this season too, the new laptop allowed me to do a bit more with it and I've put a lot more effort into it, hopefully that's been noticed by our admittedly limited readership!

The trips continue, the latest one being Berlin a few weeks ago, a cracking city with a fair amount to see, quite sombre in places which is understandable given the history. Next up is Barcelona in April, that's been on the list a while so it should be good, especially as the weather warms up. But for now that's me done. A quick blast of the written word to clear the mind helps!

Friday, 16 December 2016

Why Wait?

I have just one question, quite simply, why wait?

From as far back as late September we've seen plenty of Xmas adverts and sections in shops set up ready for people to buy their gifts and food for the festive season. It's the same every year, and seems to get earlier and earlier each time. Yes that bugs me, but that isn't the basis of this blog, that's coming now.....

Since about the same time as we started seeing the rumblings of Christmas and the festive period, I started to see stuff on social media from people proclaiming that 2017 will be their year, that 2016 has sucked and next year will be the one for them.

There's no denying that some events this year have been shit, a lot of people have been taken from us, there's been a number of atrocities across the world, then there's the fact that Brexit & Trump have divided opinions across the land. But then a lot of that can't be controlled by you and I, we have control of our own lives, making it our own and doing what we want to do with our time/money/effort.

And on that note, I don't get why the general feeling is to wait until a new year to make a change. That's just a number, another one added to the constant passing of time, events are different admittedly, a family member passing, dealing with a terminal illness, those can make you switch up your ideals and make a change, but the changing of a year? It's essentially the same as the passing of a minute, of another hour. And that prompts my question, why wait?

Why wait until the next year to get into gear and change things? Why wait until the next year to start putting effort in or making the most of the time we have? Don't get me wrong, I am no inspirational case, but I realised something a few years back, we don't have all the time in the word, we have to make the most of the time we have and work to do that.

For me, that's visiting new cities I've always wanted to go to, taking in experiences like my now repeated visits to New York, making sure that I have time for my friends and family, and that I work enough to make all that possible, hell it's even going to the gym to (slightly) improve my fitness. Did I wait for a new year to do that? No, I realised I had the ability to do it, that if I made the effort then I could make the most of the time I have, that thought didn't miraculously appear as the clock switched from 2015 into 2016!

So there it is, why wait? Why wait until there's a new year on the calendar to do what you want? Do it now, start the work now, make now worth enjoying rather than waiting for a distant date in the future. 2017 is your year? Bullshit, now is your time!

Thursday, 17 November 2016

New York, New York, New York

So, New York, the city that never sleeps, so good they named it twice etc, you've heard all the quotes and descriptors about the place over the years, but to me it's just the city I don't think I will ever get bored of seeing.

I've been there 5 times now, twice staying in Manhattan and for the last 3 times staying just across the state line in Newark, New Jersey (as it's closer to Metlife stadium, the home of the New York Jets), and I don't plan on ending this tradition any time soon (unless of course money or some other situation means I physically have to). Each time I've gone, I've seen or been to something different, and that's probably one of the key reasons why I keep going back, there is always something more, something still left to see and experience.

This time was no different, for example on the Saturday morning of this trip I went back to the site of the World Trade Centre memorial and visited the One World Observatory. This is floors 100-102 of One World Trade Centre, the first new building on the site of the old World Trade Centre. From this floor you get a full, uninterrupted 360 degree view of Manhattan, the surrounding boroughs and over the river to New Jersey, providing the weather is clear. Thankfully on this occasion it was, and the view was truly incredible, breathtaking even.

It's not just the things I see on these trips though, it's the people I meet and friendships I make, which have been due to, in a big part, the New York Jets. Ok so this season the team suck and are playing poorly, but that doesn't detract from the fans essentially being a family, and being a part of that is a hell of a feeling. The first two games it was the guys at the L7 tailgate, and in that second year it was the guys I was sitting with, Kyle, Brian & uncle Ken. On the day I arrived this year I caught up with Kyle, had a cracking steak dinner (one of those where you cook the filet mignon yourself on the crazy hot stone), and ended up drinking beer whilst taking part in a local quiz night (didn't win fuck all though).

It's not just the natives as such either, this year a couple of other guys were on a similar package to myself with Sports Travel Tours, and sharing first the New Jersey Devils game (Devils beat the Sabres 4-2) then the Jets tailgate and game (we lost 9-6) was great fun. Myself and one of the other guys also got a private tour of Metlife stadium, which was superb. Seeing the press box, all the (expensive) suites, and walking out on to the field & standing on the 50 yard line where those players I watch each week have stood countless times before was something very special.


It's not just New York that keeps bringing me back I guess, it's the whole package of the trip I have when I go, and this years visit was no different, hell just look at the pictures I stuck on FB! I plan on continuing to return to New York & New Jersey for a long time yet.

Monday, 26 September 2016

Through Thick & Thin

When you choose to follow a sport, or more specifically a team, you enter into some weird messed up kind of contract, one that allows you to be with them throughout a number of highs, but also condemns you to a lifetime of dealing with the lows, the struggles and the emotional frustrations of when things go wrong.

Me, I have a few sporting interests, and have 3 key teams that play a big part in the television I watch, the places I go, and the emotions I feel! It’s rare though that all three can leave you deflated at the same time, usually the benefit of having so many interests is that there’s usually one that will pick you back up!

This past weekend though it all happened at once, a tough loss for Concord Rangers on Saturday, a very poor defensive performance from West Ham leading to a 3-0 defeat at home on Sunday afternoon, then the weekend was topped off by probably the worst performance by a quarterback I’ve seen in my years following the Jets and the NFL as New York lost to Kansas City, turning the ball over 8 times, 6 of those being Ryan Fitzpatrick interceptions!

That last bit won’t mean much to those who don’t follow American football,  but those that do will know that it’s incredibly frustrating and understand my pain in that respect!

Anyway, as tough/disappointing/frustrating (delete as applicable) as the results this weekend have been for me, and as low as our teams can make us feel after a bad day/result, we keep going, we still cheer them on and back them in every way possible. We go again next week, wearing our replica kits/jerseys, singing the songs, cheering every kick, pass and score, and will continue to do so every week win lose or draw, as ultimately even at the lowest of lows, these teams that we pour our hearts into can give us the highest of highs at a moment’s notice.

For now, I’m waiting for that next high as every supporter is, but even through the lowest of the lows, those are still my teams, I may moan and whinge at the struggles, but I’ll back them through thick and thin!