Birthday U2!

So, it was my birthday on Saturday, and at the start of this year I’d tried to buy a ticket to see U2 in Manchester on their eXPERIENCE + INNOCENCE tour, which fell on the same date, but within seconds of the tickets going on sale, they were already sold out which was really annoying since the only ones then available we being sold at massively inflated prices on secondary ticket sites – and I’d pretty much forgotten about it.

Then, first thing in the morning, I was looking on Twitter and saw a post from the Manchester Evening News linking to an article about the U2 gig later that day. I then remembered that someone had recently told me that with gigs like this, production ticket returns are often released for sale on the day of the gig, so I thought I’d quickly check on the Manchester Arena website, and I was able to buy a ticket at the price they originally went on sale!

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Holiday in Ireland

A couple of weeks ago I was on holiday in Ireland again, meeting up with mum and my niece and nephew. They’d already been there for a few days, and I set off really early on a Sunday morning to make a 9am sailing from Holyhead to Dublin, followed by a 3½ hour drive across the country to Mai & PJ’s house just outside Listowel.

The following morning – we took my mum’s hire car back to Shannon airport, with me following behind, so we could then carry on in just the one car.

We carried on northwards for a bit, before making a brief stop in County Clare’s main town, Ennis, and then carried on to the north west of the county, finally arriving at the Cliffs of Moher.

Cliffs of Moher.

They’re really stunning, and you can really sense the power of the sea crashing onto the rock a couple of hundred metres below. It was really windy, and it had been quite drizzly all morning, but it did dry up for us whilst there. It was a pretty strenuous walk up a load of steps to an old round tower overlooking the sea, and we carried on walking along the cliff top until we got to a little hut selling ice lollies (which of course we partook in!).

It was crazy seeing the amount of people who’d left the path to position themselves really precariously on the cliff edge to take a selfie – I’m not sure any photo, no matter how stunning, is worth potential death!

Afterwards we went into the visitor centre, which seems to be a giant cave inside the hill, and there were quite a few interactive things which Brandon & Chloe could have a go at. Even mum decided to try out the greenscreen selfie area, although the camera they use is really low quality and the keying wasn’t that great!

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Jess’ music video

I spent last Saturday with Jess Torry and loads of her friends making a music video! It was her birthday last month, but rather than have a regular birthday party, she had a music video party, which involved them all dancing and singing along to Justin Timberlake’s ‘September’ track from Trolls.

James directed and operated the main FS5 camera, and I had the Sony A7s on a gimble rig to get some smooth moving shots (although I’m not that practiced in using the gimble, so it was a bit of a steep learning curve!).

We filmed them in a nearby park, then in a cul-de-sac of an industrial estate, and finally back in their back garden where they performed in various bits of fancy dress.

It was quite chaotic at times, but the kids had a blast, and James even edited it overnight so that they could all watch it the next day!

USA Adventure

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I’m just recovering from an amazing (but exhausting!) 2 weeks travelling around America!

I decided earlier this year that with a major (and unwelcome) birthday coming up, I’d arrange to be out of the country for it, and so the planning for a trip to the States was begun! I spent ages working out the trip – flights, trains, coaches, hotels – and surprisingly, it all went really smoothly!

DAY ONE: Chicago

The journey started on the 6th October, when I flew out from Manchester to Chicago. We left the UK on the Saturday morning, and after an 8½ hour flight, got into Chicago O’Hare Airport early afternoon (the magic of time travel! 😉 )

Actually, the descent into Chicago was quite memorable because when you first come through the clouds, you see a cluster of skyscrapers by what looks like the sea, but of course is Lake Michigan, and then from that the city sprawls for miles upon miles. Also, I won’t forget it in a hurry because as we were dropping towards the runway, the plane suddenly started pulling up again, and we went into a massive circle pattern over the city – the pilot told us that air traffic control had accidentally put us on the shorter of the two runways, which wouldn’t have been long enough for our landing, so they aborted right at the last minute! For someone who’s not the greatest flier, that’s not really what you want to hear!

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Crazy few weeks!

It’s been a busy few weeks, but first off, me and James have been on TV these last few weeks!

I wrote a while back that we were doing all the graphics for Jo Brand’s new documentary series on Dave – ‘Jo Brand’s Big Splash‘, so back in May, we went down to London to be in the audience for the recording of the stand-up section of the series.

Well, the series started on Dave a few weeks ago, an we both make an appearance in audience cutaways at various points! And I’m pretty sure they used our laughs over the punchlines of different jokes!

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Some non-work-related stuff!

We’ve been working incredibly hard recently, pulling in some all-nighters for a couple of our jobs, but instead of going on about that, I’m going to blog about some non-work stuff I’ve done over the last few weeks!

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Most recently, this weekend I’ve been down in Bristol visiting Ali, and Helen also came down so we could have a bit of a mini uni-get-together!

I was originally planning to drive down there on Saturday morning, but I’ve been doing such long hours at work, and on Friday afternoon I was totally knackered after having had just 3 hours sleep in 3 days(!), so at the last minute I booked a train ticket down there instead!

I got into Bristol around lunchtime, and walked the short distance from Temple Meads to Ali’s house.  It’s interesting to see how much the area has changed over the years. When I first visited Ali there back in the 90s, it was a pretty run-down area, but now a lot of it’s been replaced by riverside bars and restaurants, and hotels and posh apartments – and Ali’s estate is right next to it!

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The year so far…

It’s been a while, so here’s a bit of a catch up!
Yesterday I went to Liverpool Cathedral to hear Rob Bell talk about his new book – ‘Love Wins‘. I’d seen him do a Q&A at Greenbelt last year, so was quite interested to hear him in person talk about his new book which has already caused a bit of controversy within the church.

It was quite bizarre because quite a few influential people were highly critical of it via Twitter, even before the book had actually been released, so I decided I’d rather make my own mind up, rather than listen to emotional ramblings from people who can come across a bit arrogant at times!

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I went with Tom Green from Vinelife, and met up with Dave Bateman (who’s now living in Liverpool), and I also bumped into Tim Follin and his wife who were both there too. The place was pretty packed, and it was really interesting to hear his thoughts, but even though I think some of the stuff he said was quite though-provoking, I’m not totally sure I agree with all the points he put across.

After he did his main talk bit, he was ‘interviewed’ by the host of the evening, but he wasn’t really very good at it and asked pretty rubbish questions.  And then they invited people from the audience to ask questions, but again I thought there were a lot of missed opportunities, and Tom went forward to ask a question, but they wrapped up just before he got a chance to which was a bit annoying!

I bought the book afterwards, and I want to read it myself to see what I reckon – I certainly think it’s good that he’s causing people to ask questions about it.

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A bit about April

The heading kind of gives away the content of this post!  It’s been a busy couple of weeks, with a weekend in Tamworth, a day at the beach, catching up with old friends, and a fancy dress party!

For Easter, I went down to Tamworth for the weekend, and it was nice to spend time with Brandon and Chloe again.  I was obviously down there a few weeks earlier for their birthday party, so I think they remembered me this time round!!

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I went with mum, Vikky and the twins to the Easter Service at ECC in Lichfield – it was weird going back there since the last time I was there was when I was 18 or 19 – nearly 20 years ago!  We got there pretty early because they were having a buffet breakfast before the service, and Brandon and Chloe managed to get quite a bit of the food down their smart clothes!  I guess that’s quite normal!  I said hello to a few people there who I remembered from when I was there years ago, and also chatted with Dave Bateman’s sister Helen who goes there, and actually works for them as a student worker!

Then on Easter Monday, I was back up north, and a group of us went over to Formby to spend the day at the beach!

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I’m a geek!

Last night I was at a Geek Party at Rob & Jenny Kay’s, where you had to go dressed as something inspired by geek chic! Now it may come as real surprise (since I am a bit of a self-confessed geek) that I was really struggling with a costume for the night, but with a couple of days to go, I suddenly hit on gold!

I decided to go as the ultimate geek – Mr Dave Bateman!

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To make this dream a reality, I wondered about the best way to go about it, even Googling to find out how to make an actual 3d head(!), but finally settled on printing his face onto some card to make an oversized mask, with a couple of eyeholes punched through his actual eyes!

It wasn’t the most comfortable thing to wear for the whole evening if I’m honest, but I really enjoyed how it slightly freaked people out as they talked to me!

When Dave himself finally arrived around 10 o’clock, I think he found it pretty strange to have a bobbing-head version of him staring right back!

And the mask proved so popular that everyone wanted to wear it!

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Check out the full set of photos from the party in my Facebook photo album.

So what else? Well, going back a couple of weekends, I was down in Tamworth for Brandon and Chloe’s 2nd birthday party!

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Birthday football!

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Yesterday was my birthday – something I’m generally not to keen to celebrate, but James insisted that he and Helen take me for a birthday lunch at Kro, so I couldn’t really make up an excuse to get out of it!

It was nice actually – I got to see Jess, who’d changed so much since the last time I’d seen her back in July at Soul Survivor. She looks so much more grown up, and she’s now trying to walk, although it’s more a case of manoeuvring herself around things that she can hold onto!

The food was good – I had a steak ciabatta and chips, and it was much better than my usual Morrisons sandwich – so thanks to the Torrys for a really nice birthday lunch!

Then in the evening, I went to Hillsborough with James to see Sheffield Wednesday take on Preston! He mentioned in the afternoon that there was a ‘friends for a fiver’ night, and wondered if I’d be up for it, so I said yes!

We left straight from work (which unfortunately meant I couldn’t get changed into warmer clothes, and it was quite a cold night!) but it took us a while to get over to Sheffield, so by the time we got to our seats, the game had already been going for about 5 minutes.

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Preston scored first after about 15 minutes, but Wednesday hit back with a goal not too long before the end of the first half. Then, not long into the second half, Preston scored again, and the score unfortunately didn’t change for the rest of the game. Wednesday had loads of chances, and it was really disappointing that they lost, but I could see that Preston were really lucky to get a win.

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Whodunnit?

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Dave, Dan, Jimmy, Ralph, Jason and Chris.

Well, another bank holiday yesterday – it only seems a few weeks since the last one!!

I went for a walk in the afternoon with some guys from Reach – we drove over to the Peak District and parked up by Derwent Reservoir, just off the Snake Pass. It’s actually where I went with Jamie a couple of years ago for my first bike ride in 16 years(!), and I’ve realised it’s certainly a lot quicker to go round on 2 wheels rather than walking!

We only did about 4 miles – we got quite a bit round one side of the reservoir, but soon realised that it would take us ages to get round the next one and back down to the car! So after examining if there was anywhere else where we could cross, we turned around and walked back pretty much the way we came.

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36

36 years old – rubbish!

Yep, it’s my birthday, and it’s not something I really want to celebrate! There’s nothing great about getting older – you’re basically running out of time to accomplish the things you always hoped you’d do, and the likelihood of them happening just gets less and less.

Anyway, in true tradition I’m spending my birthday working late in the office… we’ve got a job that needs to be finished for the morning, so I’ve got to stay until it’s done, and might be a few more hours yet.

To be fair, as a kind of birthday treat to myself, I’m off to see Delirious play in Liverpool on Wednesday night – it’s their last UK tour, so I’m hoping it’s a really good gig. I first saw them live back in 1995, and have seen them many times since then, so will be weird knowing it’ll probably be the last time.

Catch up

Quite a bit’s happened in the last few weeks, so I thought I’d better do a quick catch up and write about some of them… I’m manically busy with Preview stuff at the moment – got to try and get it all done for Monday because they need it for a presentation in New York, so that should be fun!

In my last post I mentioned that I had a ‘possibly interesting weekend ahead’… well I ended up in Wales at Cefn Lea for the Reach weekend away, which I suppose was interesting in a way! The last time I went on it was back in 2004, and there were quite a few people there who I hadn’t seen for ages, which was quite strange, but I guess in a way, I am glad I went on it, though it was pretty tough at times. I’m not sure what I was really expecting from it all, but maybe that’s something I need to reflect on over the coming weeks.

One cool thing about the weekend was that I managed to catch up with Russ (from uni and who I used to share a house with in Birmingham) on the Saturday night – he lives a few miles from Cefn Lea so popped over to say ‘hello’. We had a really good chat, and I can’t believe it’s about 3 years since we last met!

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Happy Birthday to me

Friday saw another year added to my age – woo! But more about that in a minute.

It’s been a full-on week with work, and there’s no sign of it slowing for the next couple of weeks at least… I’ll really appreciate some time off when it happens!

On the Thursday night after my last blog, I got back from a day’s filming in Bradford, and drove down to London with Rob so we could get to Docklands for our shoot at 9.30 on the Friday morning. Because Rob had been working late, we didn’t get to leave Manchester until about nine, and eventually got to our Travelodge at 1.30am! And then when we went to check in, we were told that they’d given away one of our rooms, so we’d have to share – so Rob had the double bed and I had the sofa! The trouble was, by now we were past our tiredness and couldn’t get to sleep so ended up talking until about four, which gave us less than four hours sleep before we had to get up!

The shoot went okay I think – it was a presenter in front of a greenscreen for a web tutorial I’m working on (although looking back at the rushes there are a few things I would probably have done a bit differently, but it’s a bit late now!) We got wrapped up by about three, but it took us about 2 hours just to get out of London and onto the motorway (although we did get to see most of the sights at the same time!) and then we didn’t get back home until about nine… so a very long couple of days! I managed to get a bit of a lie-in on the Saturday morning before heading over to James’ to finish off the cake animation we needed for Preview.

Sunday night I took a bit of a break and went out to see Rachael Kichenside perform at Oxjam which was being held at Joshua Brookes in town. I went on my own, but it was really good to hear her performing live with a full band. Was a pretty short set, but like I said, well worth hearing, and I stuck around to hear a couple of other artists as well.

Then this week, I had a final day at Leeds Bradford Airport on Monday (with a 6.30am start!), and the next couple of days saw us working again on Preview, firstly looking at the animation, and on Wednesday, after an early morning swim with James (aren’t we good!) we filmed a webcam interview which took a few attempts to get working smoothly, and then both headed over to Nottingham with Louise to interview one of the guys who’s created ‘Second Life’ – an online virtual world.

‘Preview’ shoot in Nottingham.

We were filming in an internet / LAN-gaming cafe, and there were some real geeks in there! I’m sure most of them were fine, but there were a couple who looked like they could do with getting out a bit more! There was one guy who managed to sit right in the back of the shot for half the interview, and we had to ask him to turn around because he was just staring at the camera, and then whenever he got up or sat down, it became obvious that he really could do with a belt, because you got to see more than you really wanted to!

Then Friday was my 34th birthday. To be honest, I usually wake up with the expectation of it being another crap one, so I wasn’t really planning on celebrating it… but unknown to me at this point, that wasn’t to be the case.

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Catching up…

Bit of a gap since my last blog, so had better write one now!

It’s been really busy with work. Me and James got the first Preview DVD completed in time (just!) and the response to it’s been really positive which is good. Now we’ve got to start thinking about how we’re going to do the next one!!

On Thursday I saw Jamie for the first time in about a year which was a bit weird. Good weird though I think. He was at a mountain bike shop in Cheadle whilst on his lunch break, so popped in briefly before heading off on a site visit. Like I said, the last time I saw him was a year ago at James and Helen’s wedding, though we chatted online back in November, and I was kind of worried it’d be really awkward, but it wasn’t too bad considering. I think we’re going to arrange to go out on a bike ride together when he’s got a free weekend sometime.

Then on Friday, I helped James move a tonne of stuff into his and Helen’s new house in Levenshulme. Helen was off on her sponsored bike-ride to Paris, and everyone else from Manchester was up in the North East at Helen Mason’s wedding. Their house is really nice – it’s the kind of house I wouldn’t mind having some day. It was so hot though – not ideal for moving furniture and boxes around, but we got it done, and grabbed takeaway and a DVD in the evening.

And last night I was over in Ramsbottom (middle-of-nowhere, north of Manchester!) for Rob Hallam’s birthday barbeque. Didn’t know too many people there other than Rob (although Ajay and Martin were also there)… though I did recognise one of the guests even though he was out of his normal costume – Kenny Baker, aka R2D2 from Star Wars!