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!

Sunday, 14 August 2016

Uprising 2016, An RPW Experience!

Over the last 3 & a half years I got back into watching wrestling, the main stuff like WWE, and more recently the independent UK stuff such as Southside Wrestling which were holding shows at the Circus Tavern in Purfleet. Sadly it appears that Southside won’t be coming back to this part of Essex, so I had to look elsewhere for my local(ish) wrestling fix.

That’s where this blog comes in, my brother Stephen bought him & I tickets to Uprising 2016, a show at Bethnal Greens York Hall run by a relatively big UK promotion called Revolution Pro Wrestling. This company have their own extensive roster, but bring in guests from the international promotions like Lucha Underground & NJPW for shows.

The opening match of the night was between two guys I wasn’t familiar with, but it happened to be a fantastic opener with a lot of high spots. New Zealander Jay White who wrestles in New Japan Pro Wrestling took on and beat UK cruiserweight Josh Bodom, although the match looked to be going the way of Bodom. Of course that’s part of the showcase of pro wrestling, being able to tell a story and sell it going a certain way, and then switching it round. Another example was the second match, Sha Samuels (with a picture of Dot Cotton on his trunks), took on Big Damo, who was a huge hairy bastard. Samuels, although an “East London bloke” was the heel, and took a beating for most of the match, but in typical heel fashion he won by nefarious means, choking out Damo with a scarf.

The next match wasn’t on the pre-announced card, as a tag team called the British Young Bloods came to the ring. Their first opponent was a guy called Ryan Smile, who I’d seen at Southside before. Back then Smile was in a stable called The Second City Collective (alongside Damien & Pete Dunne) and has been my favourite UK heel as a result, but tonight (and clearly recently) he was a babyface. His tag partner was a guest from the US in PJ Black, currently of Lucha Underground and previously of the WWE as Justin Gabriel.

Match of the night, and one of the best matches I’ve seen live, was next, as veteran Chris Hero took on “The Villain” Marty Scurll. York Hall was full of Villain shirts, highlighting his popularity amongst the UK fanbase. This match was back and forth, with some huge impact moves, clearly they had the crowd in the palm of their hands, the mark of a fantastic match. Hero took the victory after a piledriver form the top rope, but both guys can be proud of what they achieved in that ring.

The previously mentioned Pete Dunne then took on King Ricochet, who is known to most as Prince Puma from Lucha Underground. Heel vs Face, solid match that the fans enjoyed after a slow start, with Ricochet going over at the end. The Lucha Underground influence continued in the next match, as Jeff Cobb (known as “The Monster” Matanza in LU) took on Zack Sabre Jr (who WWE fans may have seen in the ongoing Cruiserweight Classic). Given the difference in styles this was a cracking match, which saw a bit of a heel turn for the usually over Sabre Jr. Whether it was planned or not, the crowd turned sharply on him as it neared the end of the match, as ZSJ was slapping Cobb desperate to put him down. I loved that though, the fans turning so quickly through something so simple.

The main event was Essex lad Will Ospreay vs Vader (from the old WCW/WWE days), which had some history behind the booking. Vader had been critical of Ospreay & Ricochet for their recent NJPW match which won plaudits across the world, saying it was ruining wrestling. So RPW booked the match, and there we were! The match was obviously limited by the very old Vader, but the crowd were on fire, Vader was booed from start to finish, and won after being the typical heel, smashing Ospreay through a table prior to the match starting, and getting help from Pete Dunne during the match (who wants the title Ospreay holds). Big things are coming for Ospreay though, I’ve seen him wrestle a few times now & he has star written all over him.

Some didn’t like the end of the match, didn’t like the booking, I get that, but much like my brother I get it and have no issue with it. Ultimately it was a fantastic event well put together by the guys at Revolution Pro Wrestling, and I will be going to an event of theirs again without hesitation.

Thursday, 11 August 2016

A Great British Beer Experience

Anyone that knows me is aware that I am a big whisky fan, it's my tipple of choice so to speak and I attend a number of tasting events over the year. But what you may not know is that I do love a good ale too, not to the level of my whisky fascination but I do enjoy tasting a range of beers that I've not tried before.

On that note, each year in August the Great British Beer Festival takes place at London's Olympia (Kensington), and I like to attend most years, think I've done 6 or 7 now. This past Wednesday I attended the 2016 event, and this is my run down of what I saw through the day. There are people much more seriously into beer/ale than me, so I am not trying to say that this blog will be incredibly detailed, but it's my usual waffle so you know what's coming in general!

When I go to the GBBF, I have a system that works for me, which straight away may sound odd but from talking to other people that attend the show there are a number of people who have their own ways of trying the range of beers. I'll visit every beer stand (I'm not there for the ciders & perrys) in no particular order, and at each stand I'll choose a beer to drink that has a name which stands out. The name may mean something to me (friends name, reference to a sports team etc), or it just may stand out as being totally out there and weird, either way that is how I select my drinks. Eventually I run out of standout names, but by then I've usually drunk a fair amount and there wont be long left in the day!

One of the strangest names I saw through the day was “Pressed Rat & Warthog”, from the Triple fff brewery. It was a 3.9% dark ale, went down a treat and stood out as the maddest name of the day! There was one that I think everyone could relate to as well called “Bad Day At The Office Pale Ale”, 4.5% and a cracking beer from a brewery up in Scotland. The Tiny Rebel brewery had their own little stand there, and had a range of beers that all stood out name-wise, but I had to pick just one. Names like Hadouken, Fugg Life and Loki all were on the list, but ultimately I went with a dark stout which had a taste of marshmallows in there, which was called Stay Puft (for those that don't know, it's a Ghostbusters reference) and was 5.2%.

Other ales that helped pass the day were Drunken Duck (I had to try it, my best friends mum has her own little bar in their place & she calls it the Drunken Duck), Hop Goes The Beagle, My Darling Lemontime, and Due South (I loved that old tv show). One stand had a beer called “Good Spanking”, but by the time I realised it was there, they'd run out. I was looking forward to asking the woman behind the bar for a Good Spanking, but in the end I tried Detention, another ale on the same stand which was decent enough.

Away from the drinking I spent a bit of time on the other stands, eating hotdogs and homemade sausage rolls, and spending money on the games like shut the box, tombola and skittles. I won a t-shirt and a couple of free beers, oh and I bought a whisky tumbler & a hip flask at the auction too (they hold 2 or 3 a day with alcohol related memorabilia etc).

The Great British Beer Festival is a great event, one I love attending and always enjoy, I would recommend it to anyone who likes a beer, I go on my own but most people go in a group & clearly have a great time! There's always people to talk to as well, I caught up with a guy I've not seen in 12 years (Simon Teece that's you pal), a whisky buddy & more, along with having conversations with a number of NFL fans who clocked my New York Jets jersey that I was wearing with pride.
Thanks for reading, if you've made it this far!

Thursday, 7 July 2016

Words Well Written About Writing!

So it's been a while since I got typing out a blog, I've been podcasting with the guys on The SmarkCast, and verbalising a blog type thing on soundcloud (which some of you may have listened to over the past few weeks). But earlier this week I was on another one of my holidays/trips, this time to Mallorca doing nothing except sit by the pool and chill out, I thought it was about time I got back to writing again.

The thing is, I'm going to be writing a hell of lot again over the coming months as football season is getting under way, so of course that means the matchday programme will be back in full swing. In each issue I always write a page worth of “editors notes”, pretty much the same as one of these blogs, but given that I've tried to make some improvements to the programme this year, I've given myself even more to write and get in it. Add that to the newsletter that we're now producing as a club every month (with additional ones in between) then I am not making it easy for myself on the writing front!

I still enjoy it though, getting my thoughts down on paper (or a computer screen as is the case here) is kind of therapeutic, much like the spoken stuff I do as well, just different ways to clear the mind of things, serious or not. I guess the only worry I have, and it's more of a passing concern than something I would actually fret over, is duplication, I don't want to spend loads of time writing something that I've already gone over in my spoken stuff over on soundcloud. Now I know those that read this may not listen to that, or vice versa, but I think on a personal level it's important not to be too repetitive. I mean, it's important not to be too repetitive........

That was too easy, and I know that leaving it in there when I publish this blog will actually leave me wishing I had taken it out, most of you know what I am like when it comes to the written word! If I make mistakes I want to be told, so that I can correct them, I hate making a mess of these things, even though I do them for free and for my own enjoyment/benefit. If I'm this bad now, imagine how I would be if I was writing something that I was actually paid for that went out to thousands of people!

Now my first bit of writing in a while has pretty much been about my writing, a fairly bland topic, almost a self-obsessed piece of writing if you will. But I see it as a way to ease myself back into the long and boring stuff, the detailed blogs that will undoubtedly be sprung your way over the coming months, and for that I warn you and apologise also in advance! Whilst there isn't much substance to this particular entry, I thank you for reading, those that have, and look forward to presenting more of my wares to you all!

Thursday, 9 June 2016

Madrid in a word, Magnificent

So it’s been just over a week since I returned from Madrid, another beautiful city I had the pleasure of ticking off of my ever changing and expending mental list of places I want to visit!

When I booked this trip up, I’d not quite realised that a) I was travelling out on a bank holiday so it would be busy, and b) it was the half term holidays so it would be busy. Heathrow was certainly busy when I got going, but it wasn’t an issue, as the time had got closer I’d come to terms with the fact it’d be chaos! What I didn’t bank on though was the flight out being incredibly uncomfortable and probably the worst I’ve had so far. Don’t get me wrong, I know the more I fly, the more likely I’ll encounter problems, but damn it was the bumpiest and most nail-biting take-off I’ve ever been a part of! I didn’t let that bring me down though, once I’d got off the plane and stretched my body back into shape all was well again!

I’ll be honest (as ever), I didn’t have much of a plan as to what to see in Madrid, I was purely playing it by ear, whereas in Rome & Bruges I had an idea of what I wanted to see. But things started to fall into place after I’d checked in and got on the metro to a station that I thought would be the right place to go to get food. It wasn’t, but after looking at Google Maps on my phone I realised that the Bernab—źu was literally just down the road, so off I went to see what it was like. I got there about 18:00, with an hour to go till the tours stopped, so I thought sod it, use the time effectively and get a tour in now. What a stadium it was!?! The tour was cheap, and you could walk round without a guide which was cool, taking in the presidents area, the dressing rooms, press area, pitch side area and the seemingly endless stream of trophies on show (including the Champions League that they’d won that past weekend).

After that it got me thinking that there was a second team in Madrid and that it’d be worth doing a tour round their stadium too if I could. And that was what I did, first thing the next day, smothered in suntan lotion as the sun was shining brightly, and wearing my West Ham shirt with pride (us English either choose our club or an England shirt on holiday without fail). Another great football stadium, but from what I learnt on the tour (this one guided), Atletico only have another season or so there before they move and it’s torn down, so I was glad I got to see it now.
The rest of the day (and the following one) I quite literally walked everywhere I could before my feet began to ache too much! There was so many palaces and historical buildings around the city that me and my camera were in our element! The food was beautiful too, along with incredible weather, it was another couple of days away that allowed me to switch off and get swept up in the enjoyment of it all.

I was walking through Parque de El Retiro (a beautiful place with a boating lake in the middle of it), and I got a little taste of home. I had stopped to look at my map, then I heard "Come on you Irons!".
A cheerful old chap & his wife had spotted me looking at the map & asked if I was lost (after the Irons shout). They were Essex raised but now reside in North London (and still go games), was a great little conversation about the club & the OS when it wasn't expected! A taste of home so far away

Anyway, Madrid was a lovely trip, I enjoyed wandering around the city and seeing the sites. It is a beautiful little city, not one I’d go to again though as I feel like I’ve seen most of what I can, but I would also recommend visiting it yourself if you get a chance. Next up for me is a switch off trip to Palma, Mallorca, to soak up the sun!