May 2017 - The Missing Blogs

May started with a challenge which I had not been looking forward to; mine and @geekyjames’ first Tough Mudder. For those that don’t know, Tough Mudder is an outdoor obstacle and endurance course, the ethos is to build camaraderie among participants in order to complete the obstacles, many of which are not possible without teamwork. We decided the previous year that we would book on to one and give it a try, as a kind of goal in which to train for. There are many ‘Mudders’ up and down the UK and indeed abroad too, but we chose Nottingham - I don’t exactly know why, probably because 1. Neither of us had been to Nottingham before, and 2. There is a BrewDog in Nottingham.

We decided the best approach would be to head up to Nottingham, stay overnight in a PremierInn, scout out the BrewDog and have one, maybe two beers. Most of this plan was perfect, except we had more than one or two beers. We ended up opting to get some wings in the UK’s only Hooters restaurant (it’s not the same as the US) and then crawled around the town as you do on a Friday night. BrewDog was fantastic, and we sampled the new LIVE East Coast Crush beer, which was absolutely amazing.

Brew Dog East Coast Crush, Nottingham

Brew Dog East Coast Crush, Nottingham

The following morning I was the opposite of being ready to run around a cold, muddy field, but we both got on with it! The course itself was good fun; we were in one of the first waves of people to use the newly built obstacles, which made it quite fun. I think I enjoyed the Block Ness Monster the most, a big pool of water with two spinning rectangular cylinders suspended above, the only way to get to the other side is to spin the cylinders by pulling and pushing from either side, a complete team effort. After completing the Mudder, we went and have a Burger King to reward ourselves and drove home.

Me, getting muddy during Tough Mudder Nottingham

Me, getting muddy during Tough Mudder Nottingham

Over the past four years, my car had developed a bit of a problem. It seemed to enjoy the oil being anywhere other than inside of the engine; this was very frustrating as it would cause leaks all over the driveway and needed regular top-ups. Lomas, my sister’s partner, very kindly offered to fix it and after an entire day of ripping it apart replaced the head gasket seal which was causing all the problems. Very grateful for his help, my crappy Peugeot continues to run like a dream, and now I can park it without having to put a baking tray under the engine! Thank you, Lomas!

My Peugeot's Messy Engine

My Peugeot's Messy Engine

May was clearly the month for fixing problems as no sooner was the car mended; I was the one being worked on. My wisdom teeth as with many young adults were causing all kinds of problems, becoming infected, sore, and pushing on my other teeth. I decided that it was time for them to go and so after some dentist visits and consultations a date was set for my first ever surgical procedure. Victoria and I headed up to London for what turned out to be a very, very long night, I think we got home at 4 am or something silly. The procedure itself went perfectly well, but dealing with the after effects was much less fun, I was on baby food for just under a week and had a chubby chipmunk face for just as long! Victoria was fantastic and looked after me very well indeed; as I write this, it is her turn to have them removed in just under a week’s time (Eeek!).

Me, waiting patiently at The Harley Street Clinic, London

Me, waiting patiently at The Harley Street Clinic, London

Fast forward a week or so and we treated ourselves to a less horrific trip to London, we stayed in the St Pancras Renaissance and saw Set it Off who were touring in the UK. The hotel is a staple favourite, can’t go wrong, not cheap but worth every penny. We had some delicious drinks in the Booking Hall bar and then had my first taste of solid food in a week at Five Guys. Set it Off were really good, very heavy, loud and we were certainly the eldest people there (kidding), they were not as good as that on time they were supporting Yellowcard, but what can I say!

Victoria at The Booking Hall, St Pancras Renaissance Hotel, London

Victoria at The Booking Hall, St Pancras Renaissance Hotel, London

The Year of Smart

By this time in the year I have usually defined my list of annual goals, the things that I want to achieve over the next 12 months. Last year was reasonably successful for goals, I achieved over half and they were all good and helpful, you can read about them here 2017 & The Missing Blogs, but I felt like I was constantly looking over my left shoulder (they’re written on the whiteboard behind my desk) in shame because I knew some were unachievable. This year needed to be different, something less regimented, something that is achievable and that can encourage me to push forward in a positive way.

@geekyjames suggested that I take a listen to a podcast called Cortex, specifically this episode: Cortex #62: 2018 Yearly Themes as the hosts, CGP Grey and Make Hurley talk about productivity and annual objectives. If you haven’t listened to this before I certainly recommend it, don’t let the 97 minute run time put you off, every minute is gold. During the episode the hosts discuss Annual Themes, the concept is that instead of setting a list of specific goals (i.e. a regimented list) a theme is used as a framework to encourage direction and positive productivity. Certainly, a todo list or goal list can still exist but the theme is used to make sure that everything aligns to the ultimate objective. The yearly theme concept also allows for flexibility, I knew in August of last year that some of my goals were realistically unachievable ,and I wrote them off instead of continuing to push forward. There’s an interesting Forbes article here about themes being used in a similar way.

With some thought and reflection, I decided that 2018 would be The Year of Smart. There are a number of reasons why but the most significant are listed below:

  1. Working in the wrong way. Towards the end of 2017, I was burning myself out with work, doing too many hours, working hard but not working smart. This was a really big problem that caused a great deal of stress and affected more than just my professional life, it was (and is) at the front of my mind to resolve in 2018.
  2. Doing things that don’t need to be done. This one is difficult to quantify, but I felt that I spent a lot of time completing tasks that had little benefit, both professionally and privately. This could be as simple as going to the office when I don’t need to go to the office or going diving just to increase my dive count.
  3. Goals with no direction. Another thing I want to fix is moving in too many directions at the same time. I’m very guilty of swapping from one trend to another often without reason, for example, some months I will write lots of posts on the blog, other months I have no interest in the blog at all. Trying to funnel focus into specific areas will hopefully help with that.

It’ll be interesting to see how this makes for a different year, I’m confident and hopeful for change and am looking forward to welcoming 2018. There are some fantastic occasions that lye within, as @tigziefc and I plan our wedding, as the dog grows up and as our careers move forward - I can’t wait.

@tigziefc and Dexter at Heligan

@tigziefc and Dexter at Heligan

April 2017 - The Missing Blogs

April was a reasonably quiet month, Victoria and I began to welcome the warmer weather in our still relatively new home, and we managed to continue the trend of visiting Cornwall as often as possible!

After moving into our home, it was quite apparent that the decking in the back garden needed to be sorted quite early on. The deck had somehow developed an uneven shape that led to it being bouncy in places while also being incredibly slippery when wet. With a little planning, we agreed to buy the necessary materials and re-install it. Doing so, was no small feat and it needed several family members assistance to rip out the old and lay the new. Blood, sweat and tears went into building the new decking, but as I write this ten months later, I'm pleased to say it still stands strong.

decking

Topes has become a bit of a birthday tradition for us and well, who's surprised...? The food is as good as it gets. Always a complete treat we had a fantastic birthday meal and enjoyed dressing up for the occasion.

No longer was our birthday over before we were back on the road to Cornwall, the weather by this time had certainly improved, and Kelly and I agreed it was about time to pull the boat out and get it wet. We spent the day messing around Fowey and took the dinghy all the way up to Golant, further up river than we'd taken the boat before.

Fowey.JPG

Getting up close and personal to the Lifeboat is, of course, something that can't be avoided... Fowey has a beautiful Trent class lifeboat.

Fowey_rnlb.JPG

As most will know, I am not a football fan, but an upcoming game with local Devon team Plymouth Argyle was not one to miss. They ended the match with a promotion to League 1 for 2017-18 and a 6-1 win over Newport. Oh, and there was a pitch invasion! Here's the BBC report.

Plymouth.JPG

To close out the month and in preparation for Egypt later in the year, I took my PADI Nitrox course with Southern Scuba. A surprisingly easy certification I would recommend to anyone.

March 2017 - The Missing Blogs

March was a much quieter month than the previous two, but the start of 2017’s scuba season. One of my annual goals was to gradually purchase all of my equipment for a Liveaboard diving trip to Egypt in September; I had before now been reluctant to buy too much to avoid getting things too quickly and then wishing I had purchased the more expensive or better equivalent the first-time around. The first thing this year was my diving computer, a very crucial piece of safety equipment this allows me to see my depth, dive time, gas mix and uses an algorithm to calculate how long and how deep I need to perform a safety stop. The watch I bought was the Sunnto Zoop Novo, only an entry-level computer (some cost more than a thousand pounds!) but perfectly adequate for the diving that I will be doing and can serve as a backup if I buy another in the future.

My Zoop Novo Diving Computer

My Zoop Novo Diving Computer

With my shiny new computer, it was time for the first dive of the year! I took a day trip with Southern Scuba to Vobster Quay in Somerset. Vobster is a disused stone quarry, now filled with freshwater and serves as an outdoor activity park for scuba divers, free divers and swimmers. It’s one of my favourite in-land diving spots, for £30 or so, you can have a good day out diving with almost no hassle getting in and out of the water, great for training and practice. Vobster has some very cool underwater attractions too, with planes, boats and even a set of 3-meter high fibreglass clowns!

Vobster Quay, Diving Centre

Vobster Quay, Diving Centre

Another one of 2017’s goals was to achieve my Prince2 Foundation and Practitioner certifications, work was very supportive of this and funded the course in London for a week. The course was run by QA and has to be one of the best training courses I had been on; the trainer knew the course back to front, was incredibly knowledgeable and was very easy to follow. Prince2 is a project management framework and while I’m no project manager having an understanding of the practices has already proven very valuable to progressing projects and working closely with project managers who follow the framework well. I would certainly recommend the course for anyone involved in projects within a technology team.

Towards the end of the month, we took a trip back to Cornwall (a somewhat popular destination this year!). Spending time with family, we visited the Annual Beer and Mussel Festival hosted at Rick Stein’s Cornish Arms pub. The festival was a lot of fun, we had some interesting live music and plenty of never-before-tasted beers! One beer I particularly liked (according to untapped) was White Cross IPA from Black Flag Brewery, who also produce Fang, which is an incredible beer..

Cornwall Beer and Mussel Festival

Cornwall Beer and Mussel Festival

Before heading home, we had some food in Mevagissey, only a short drive from home Mevagissey is picturesque working fishing port, it has some great pubs and restaurants too, but gets rather busy in the summer months. It also happens to be the place where last year I crossed Number 13 - Catch a fish off of The Bucket List (which I don’t seem to have blogged about), the catching a fish affair was all much simpler than I had anticipated. Just off of the harbour wall, there were swarms of Mackerel, who all seemed to want to jump on the hook, one chap was literally filling a bin bag full of the fish he was catching. We took the Mackerel home and cooked it on the BBQ – it was pretty good!

Mevagissey Harbour, Cornwall

Mevagissey Harbour, Cornwall