About Life

This is about me. My thoughts and the things I do. Let's talk About Life

Outdoor Living — July 11, 2016

Outdoor Living

Spending a few days in the open, sitting in the evening air chatting with friends and sleeping under the stars. 

I love camping and so do my boys. It’s something they’ve done since they were very small (youngest was 9 months old the first time he went) and something that I try to do at least once a year.


This year were returned to Forest Camping in Rendlesham Forest, Suffolk. A medium sized site set in the middle of the picturesque and ever changing forest, the site is perfect for the boys as the minute the tent is up they’re off in the forest building dens and creating tribes. It’s a fairly quiet site (even when busy) and obviously the locals are fairly used to having humans around.


Access to the forest is easy from the site, and there are a number of walking and cycling trails around the forest that are well signposted and allow you to take in the best of the forest. The UFO trail is a must as is tells the story of the 1980 UFO sighting and for those who enjoy geocaching there are plenty to find.

No camping trip would be complete without an obligatory shot of the tankard and the beer of the trip, which this time was Galway Bay Brewery’s ‘Diving Bell’, a salted caramel wee heavy that pulls off the salted caramel flavour perfectly and finishes with sticky, thick boozy feel.


Only downside of a camping trip is getting all the stuff back into the car at the end. Here’s to next time!

Forest Camping information and bookings here

A City That Thinks Tables Are For Dancing On… — June 28, 2016

A City That Thinks Tables Are For Dancing On…

…is a popular quote in Manchester. I had to ask to find out why and it turns out that the quote is attributed to DJ Mark Ratcliffe. More about the relevance to the quote later.

Recently I found myself in Manchester for a week due to a mixture of business and pleasure. If you want to find out about what I was doing for work, you can read the live blog that I wrote.

The pleasure side of things was (obviously) about beer. Arriving on a hot Monday and getting the work part out of the way, I needed a pint. A quick ask on Twitter and some recommendations were offered which, I was about to explore before I realise how close to the local Brewdog I was. In search of another to tick off the list I was making a beeline for the punks palace until I got waylaid by a familiar bronze tank in the doorway of a bar. I had stumbled upon the (somewhat famous) Alberts Schloss who were serving day old tank fresh Pilsner Urquell. Perfect for the hot weather I was soon onto my third pint of the easy drinking, smooth and floral Pilsner. 


Eventually making it to Brewdog (tick) I was happily sampling the latest incarnation of their west coast IPA, Black Hammer. Hop forward, piney and with a hint of roast, just the way a BIPA should be. Monday night was pretty good.

Tuesday and Wednesday were filled with work, although I did squeeze in another trip to Alberts and then a quick visit to the smooth, clinical lined No 1 Watson Street. The latter being fairly new to the Manchester craft bar scene and also offering ‘craft pizza’.

Thursday saw an evening visit to the Buxton Taphouse, a place that I have very much been planning a revisit to for a long time to enjoy a number of beers that I’ve been wanting to try for a while. The Taphouse being just on the outskirts of the tiny town and idilic in all sorts of ways. If I lived in Buxton, this would undoubtedly be my local.  


Following a Twitter exchange and a train back to Manchester I found myself drinking in the Beer Nouveau brewery with the ever passionate owner Steve sampling all sorts of heritage and ‘from the wood’ beers. Needless to say I staggered back to my apartment after.


Onto Friday and the ‘other’ reason why I have having a staycation in Manchester. The Manchester Beer Week was organised by good friend of mine Connor Murphy and featured all sorts of beery events across the city and suburbs of Manchester. The event was to have an official lunch party but before that we had the small matter of a tour around Heineken’s Manchester brewery. Hold your thoughts there. This was actually a special moment as Heineken don’t do this. They don’t show people around the brewery, they don’t do public tours but that had agreed to offer some tours as part of the MBW. “Don’t touch anything” we were told “an no photos”. I can barely describe the scale of what we saw. As the single point of production in the UK for our beloved Fosters, this place was MASSIVE. “If you drank 10 pints a day for the next 400 years you still wouldn’t empty this FV” we were told, stood underneath one of 17 of them. The thought of that much Louis above our heads was yes, a little daunting to say the least. Finishing the tor with the immense canning line, we were given goody bags (Fosters glasses and Bulmers – which the students in the next bar were wry happy to accept) we left, got caught in the first of many deluges of the weekend and continued our beer adventures.
Heading to the Marble Arch for the official launch party, the skies continuing with the odd shower (apparently not uncommon round these parts), spirits were high. The Marble Arch is a beautiful ‘traditional’ pub. Selling mostly marble beers, tonight the taps were adorned some of Manchester’s best, including two beers that had been produced for the MBW, J.W. Lees & Cloudwater collab, MCR Fold, a traditional bitter with a modern twist, and Manchester Brewing Co’s ‘Ten Boroughs’ a light, lemony citrus Pale Ale. More beers were had in Cafe Beermoth after including the amazing ‘Cloudberry Ice Cream IPA’ from Buxton & Omnipollo and the ridiculously drinkable ‘I’m Spartacus’ IPA from Torrside.


Hitting the beers hard on launch night might not have been the best idea considering that Connor had arranged a Brewers market for the Saturday and we needed to be back in Manchester by 7am. After helping to set up the market I took the chance to work my first shift behind the bar, with the effervescent character Becks and even despite the rain I enjoyed chatting to customers and serving their beer, making some recommendation along the way (obviously). Adorned in ‘team kit’ proudly wearing the t-shirt with the famous Mark Radcliffe quote. This helped to shift a few more shirts as by all accounts, Mr Radcliffe is somewhat of a local legend. I’ve a new found respect for market traders, it was a long, hard, wet day and when we finally arrived at Track Brewery for their joint party with Squawk Brewing at 10pm it was all we could do to finish our pints. 


My trip to Manchester concluded on the Sunday with a quick visit to the new Beer Merchants warehouse/tap room before a peaceful journey home.

It was my first time spending time in Manchester, exploring the city and cultures the each quarter offers. Connor did an amazing job of organising Manchester Beer Week, you can read more thoughts by Beers Manchester here.

A View From The Top — May 28, 2016

A View From The Top

Today was fun. It was my son’s 11th birthday yesterday and to celebrate he wanted to take a trip to London. The trip included a visit to Up At The O2 and also to The Shard.

Now I’m far from a fan of heights and he ‘selected’ me to accompany him over the O2. We checked in at the appointed time and after watching a short safety video we put on special shoes and safety harnesses. 

A final safety check, a couple of flights of stairs, the obligatory pose for the souvenir photograph, one final safety briefing and we were off.


Harnessed to a wire all of the time, our guide Sofia was friendly and knowledgeable. She was also reassuring as there was a slight wobble from our group as we started our ascent up the trampoline-like walkway. It really was the strangest of feelings as we bounced our way up one of London’s most iconic landmarks.

20 minutes later and we arrived at the top for some pretty stunning views.


The descent was just as thrilling as this time we bounced our way face down to the end and the compulsory exit via the gift shop. Although that being said the gift shop was very reasonably priced for a London attraction.


A short tube journey brought us to the next destination on the magical vertical tour, The Shard.

Two (very) quick lifts had us on the 68th floor in less than 2 minutes of walking through the airport-style security. It was a hazy day but even so the views from up here were magnificent. 


A couple of flights of stairs and we were (kind of) outside at the highest point that you can visit as a paying member of the public (only the window cleaners can go higher).


So, a day conquering my fears and one which my son thoroughly enjoyed and will give him many talking points with his friends. 

Tickets for Up At The O2 are available here and for The View from The Shard here. One point to note, children go free at The Shard during May 2016 half term.

On A Whim — May 24, 2016

On A Whim

A few weeks back, on a bit of a whim, I bought a ticket to the Copenhagen Beer Celebration. Thinking Copenhagen was actually closer than it was, the ticket purchase was followed by hurried bookings of trains, hotels and flights (apparently you can’t get the
Eurostar to Copenhagen – who knew?!?).

The day arrived and before I knew it the plane was touching down on Danish soil. After a short walk through the terminal I had managed to work out how to buy a train ticket and was sat on a train waiting to depart for the town centre.

I’m always amazed by public transport in other countries, trains in particular are practical and spacious, not to mention they seem to run on time! It took just 10 minutes from the airport to the town centre and upon exiting the station my sense of direction immediately let me down. Course corrected I headed off through the Copenhagen suburbs to find my Air B&B apartment (another first for me).

Greetings exchanged and bags dropped dropped off, google maps was put to use again to assist me in heading for my first port of call – Warpigs.

Warpigs is a brew pub jointly owned by Mikkeller & Three Flloyds. I arrived while the morning session at CBC was still in full flow so it was relatively empty. Beers purchased (a session IPA to quench the thirst and a sour IPA to quash it) I sat taking in the music (metal) and atmosphere of the place. It wasn’t long before I ran into the 3 Andy’s and even less time until Andy #1 placed a DIPA in my hands (at this point it was about 2pm in the afternoon, things has ‘messy’ written all over them). A couple more in Warpigs and then we headed off to join the queue to get into the ‘blue’ CBC session.

The queue itself, whilst daunting, took about 5 mins to clear and with minuscule glass in hand I was once again led astray by Andy #1 who was determined that my first beers of the festival were to be the Boneyard DIPA & TIPA. By all accounts I loved them…

To be honest, the rest of the session at CBC was a blur after this point, there were some UK beers, some other beers, a hotdog and a failed attempt to get a tattoo (they were fully booked). We ran into some Irish lads and the next thing I knew I was waking up in my apartment (impressed at how I had managed to navigate my way back there).

Realising it was still early, I got in touch with Andy #1 and plans were made for the evening. More navigation (cheers Google) and I made it to Fermentoren and joined the (very orderly) queue for the bar. Many beers were enjoyed with many good beer folk throughout the evening, and once again I managed to find my way back to the apartment.

Awaking early on the Saturday morning, my plan was to take in some of the city and do some of the touristy things. After breakfast. I was craving bacon, and thought I’d find it fairly easily in Denmark. Following breakfast in McDonald’s (!?!) I tried my best to work out the local transport and heading out on a train to Østerport to take in some of the tourist destinations. Heading down to the waterfront to see the little mermaid first, I then took a leisurely stroll along the waterfront heading back to the town centre.

Compared to the likes of say, London, everything was chilled and relaxed and I chose a waterfront cafe to pause at to enjoy a pot of coffee.

There seems to be a completely different culture to travel in Copenhagen. A lot of people were on bikes with their on dedicated roadways and even dedicated spaces on the train network for them. There also seemed to be a culture of using anyone’s bike as long as it’s not been padlocked. Says a lot for their approach to being generally more active when the local sports centre had more bikes than the eye could see and a climbing wall outside.

Finishing my walk back towards the station, I decided to finish my time in Copenhagen with a visit to one of the Mikkeller bars (one of the reasons I was there after all). Choosing the one closest to the station I was soon sat enjoying a Vesterbro Wit watching a sleepy Copenhagen come to life.


“This is the calm before the storm” one of the barmen told a punter “it’ll go nuts in here from about 2” (which is when the CBC morning session kicked out) – looks like I timed my visit just right. Just time for a Spontandryhop Citra and a Beer Geek Cocoa Shake before I headed back to the airport.

One thing I’m always embarrassed by when I go abroad is my lack of skills in a foreign language, and the ease at which other nations are able to switch to English. The girl at the till in the restaurant at the airport clearly knew I wasn’t understanding a word of her Danish but very easily switched to the most perfect English to serve me.

A short flight home, and within two hours of landing I was back on more familiar soil enjoying pints of cask beer at The Alehouse in Chelmsford with friends. But that’s a story for another day…

Just A Day — April 2, 2016

Just A Day

Today has been amazing.

I’ve been with my eldest on his own all weekend as my youngest is off on his first rugby tour, so I wanted to do stuff that I know he likes doing. 

The sun was out and it’s been warm, early hints of summer were in the air. We decided we wanted to go for a bike ride in Maldon, in particular there’s a dirt track in Promenade Park he wanted to ride. So having parked up in the local superstore we then had a lovely ride along the quayside and through the park to the track.

  

After this we decided to make the most of the beautiful weather and combine the day’s riding with another of our interests, geocaching. There’s a few outstanding caches in Maldon that we wanted to get and being on the bikes enables us a bit more flexibility to grab them. 

  
Upon riding back to the car, the weather was still with us and we decided rather than head home to make the most of the day. So a quick visit to the superstore and one impromptu picnic later we we ready to go again. A 3km ride along the river to Heybridge Basin followed where we enjoyed a well earned ice cream before making the ride back.

  
Today’s really been one of those days to appreciate the simple things and to also make the most of them. 

On The Up — March 31, 2016

On The Up

In my post earlier this week I was still reeling from what had been a pretty good Easter weekend.

The trend seems to have continued, I don’t know if it’s the lighter evenings, the decent weather or the beginning of the acceptance of “this is life now”.

It’s been pretty good this week, I’ve taken in Batman vs Superman (can’t be bothered with a review, but it’s worth a watch) had a bit of manscaping on the old beard and last night I had far more beers than I had planned after we were interviewed for another beer podcast.

The outlook for the weekend isn’t bad either…

Freshly groomed (ridiculous grin optional)
How Was Your Weekend? — March 28, 2016

How Was Your Weekend?

It’s been pretty good, thanks for asking. On Friday morning I wrote about how I was feeling pretty positive about the weekend ahead, which is an extension of me questioning whether I’m beginning the healing process. Part of me feels guilty for feeling ok, like I should be hurting all of the time but part of me feels ok right now. Here’s why… 

A nice trip to Colchester Zoo with my boys and the ex on Friday, the weather was great, we were all getting on, and it felt like a new normal. 

Photo courtesy of my son, who’s pictures are better than mine

I followed this up with a couple* of beers with an existing friend and (hopefully) a new one in Colchester. Both Martin & Michelle enjoy a beer, are easy to talk to, made me laugh and smile so much and also reminded me that things will get better for me. I’m grateful to those guys for making me see there will be a silver lining.

Saturday brought a hangover and a trip to Norwich with some of the guys from the bottle share that I’m involved in. Despite Greater Anglia’s best efforts to stop us from getting there (take your pick from their excuses), we eventually set of and following the few (compulsory) train beers arrived in Norwich just after lunch time. 

  
First stop was Virtuoso (also called something else but I couldn’t understand anyone) which was a 10 minute ** walk from the station. Seemed sensible to start with a 8.3% DIPA from Newcastle which was a little murky and (apparently I later found out) possibly past its best. Something to follow? Why not, and I went for a local brew, West Coast Pale from Redwell which was sherbety and refreshing and exactly what I needed. From here a short cab journey*** to The Fat Cat (apparently a very popular name for pubs in Norwich) for a round of beers that were far from what we wanted and to dull to mention. Another short walk to The Reindeer to meet up with local beer legend Nate and a couple of really decent dark beers before heading back into town.

  
Next up was The Mash Tun where the beer of choice was another a Redwell brew, their Pils which was being pulled through a randal infused with lemongrass and chilli. Refreshing with a slight burn on the finish but exactly what was needed as a pit stop.

  
Onto The Plough which was our first (and only) tap room of the day and home to Grain Brewery beers where I enjoyed another incredibly refreshing pale ale in their simply titled ‘pale’ before a bit of a detour from the main drag to hit up The Plasterers Arms for by far the biggest selection of beer so far and also some pretty amazing pizza. There was somewhere else after this (clearly memorable) before we finished at The Norwich Taphouse where I enjoyed Blacks of Kinsale’s ‘Model T’ stout on keg which was a welcome refresher. An amazing end to a great day in Norwich with friends.

  
Waking up on Sunday with less of a hangover than I imagined was a godsend and with my boys arriving for a few days after breakfast I had loads to look forward to. Spending the day geeking out with them on the sofa, catching up with The Flash and finishing by watching Back to the Future was a moment for some reflection on just how good the weekend has been. I’ve had pretty much the best of everything, and that’s making me revaluation about how I feel about life right now.

To finish the weekend, there’s been a trip to Base Jump which is a pretty impressive space in Rayleigh, Essex, full of trampolines and other such activities. This is the future of active children’s entertainment and allows my boys to have a good time and me to enjoy a coffee! Tonight will bring the recording of this week’s podcast which is a pretty great way to end a long weekend.

  
I’ve got a couple of days on my own now, and my spirits are lifted to the point where I’m currently not so worried about it. I’ve got enough to keep me busy and will be throwing in a trip to see Batman vs Superman so it can’t all be bad can it?

* It was more than we had planned
** Closer to 15. And mostly uphill.
*** Leaving a driver with a story about how he picked up a group of twatty Essex lads to share with his friends

Good Friday — March 25, 2016

Good Friday

So here’s a different feeling… I’m feeling ok. It’s 8.50am on Good Friday, I’m up, showered, coffeed, been and done the weekly shop and I’ve come home and baked a batch of delicious four seed flapjacks (recipe below).

I’m now sitting down with a cup of coffee enjoying said flapjacks and watching the TV.
Today is going to be great. I’m feeling positive, the sun is out, I’m off the the zoo with the boys and my ex (weird, but boys need to see we can co-exist) and then I’m meeting a friend for a couple of beers this evening.

It’s going to be a Good (Fri)day!

  

RECIPE: Four seed flapjacks

250g butter
175g muscavado sugar
600g oats
4tbls golden syrup 

2 handfuls sunflower seeds
1 handful pumpkin seeds
Small handful poppy seeds
Medium handful sesame seeds
Raisins (or other fruit of choice)


1. Pre-heat oven to 180
2. Melt butter sugar & syrup in a pan
3. Mix with dry ingredients
4. Put into a baking tray and pre-cut with a pizza slice
5. Bake for 12 mins (or longer dependent on preferred softness)

Letting It Out — March 24, 2016

Letting It Out

It’s been a few days since my last post (sounds like a confession…) but to be honest I’ve been struggling to find something to write about and I don’t just want to write for the sake of it.

Reviewing my first few posts about my life they all seem quite dark. That’s a consequence of where I’m at right now and I’m hoping in time I’ll be able to revisit them from a different place.

The fact is things are beginning to feel a tiny bit better. Yes, I’m still lonely, I dread doing back to an empty house, I miss my boys when they’re not around and I’m apprehensive of what the future holds. But I’m dealing with it, slowly.

Although, last night I came close to doing something that I would have regretted this morning. I was angry at my situation and the focus of that anger became my ex. Thanks to a last minute intervention by a friend the words ended up getting committed to my notes rather than the text message I was planning.

I’m reviewing where I’m at right now. Part of the reason for starting this blog was to get the ‘stuff’ that was in me out. To help me rationalise and process things. There are a couple of posts that are sitting in the drafts that are really personal to me and I don’t know if they’ll ever see the light of day but they’ve helped me to get the ‘stuff’ out.

So what next? I’m hoping to start lifting the time of the blogs, lighter thoughts, observational posts and more reviews of stuff. Let me know what you’d like to hear about and join me in thinking About Life.  

 

THOUGHTS: Daredevil Season 2 — March 22, 2016

THOUGHTS: Daredevil Season 2

Season 2 of Daredevil launched on Friday and it’s taken me a few days to get through all the episodes. I’m aware of people who took the day off or stayed up all night just to get through the 13 episodes in one sitting. I love it, but not that much.

From this point on, there are going to be some spoilers, so if you haven’t see it yet and want to, stop reading. Otherwise, enjoy my thoughts and let me know what you thought…

Picking up from where we left off, Daredevil continues to show how Netflix are interpreting Marvel’s darker side. It’s more violent, with more bad language and it’s generally just, darker.

It doesn’t take long for new characters to get introduced, the much awaited appearance of The Punisher and Elektra are both introduced in the first few episodes. Later on we’re reacquainted with some other favourites but I’m not going to spoil everything. I was quite surprised that both The Punisher’s and Elektra’s stories arced through the entire season, but neither felt dragged out and both intertwined well.

We get lots of guns, fighting, bloody ends and a simply jaw dropping fight sequence in episode 3. The bad guys at the start of the season are quickly dispensed to allow us to get on the the real bad guys that this season has for us.

There’s great balance of the main character’s ‘life’ stories as we see them continuing about their business and dealing with how their relationships with one another change through the course of the season.

It all comes together to a grand finale, although I was a little disappointed with the final episode (there was teasing of much more) and the end has clearly lined up a third season. Thoughts turn to whether we’ll see a Netflix take on The Punisher either in a film or a mini series of his own.

All in all, another very enjoyable Netflix/Marvel production with a nice nod in the final episode to Jessica Jones.

Daredevil season 2 is available on Netflix now