Holidays 2019

I thought I’d post about my holidays this year – I’ve not done it sooner because I’ve been a bit pre-occupied with health stuff!

First off, over Easter I went camping with my sister’s family in Wales. We stayed at Abererch Sands, which is on the Llyn Peninsula, just between Pwllheli and Criccieth.

We all arrived at the campsite at lunchtime on the Thursday, and went on a part of the site where both caravans and tents could be pitched. It took me quite a while to get my tent up – I’d recently been getting tired really quickly (which I later discovered to be because of heart failure!), so I paced myself with it, and Brandon and Chloe occasionally broke away from playing frisbee to help a little bit when an extra pair of hands were needed. Vikky and Andy set up their caravan on one side of the field so they could plug into a heavy-duty electrical hook-up, whereas I pitched up on the opposite side, and made use of the electrical hook-up for tents. It was the first time I’d had electricity whilst camping, and it really does make a difference! I’d bought a small powered fridge to use for the week, plus a camping kettle which mean I could boil water much quicker than usual!

Continue reading →

Holiday in Ireland

A couple of weeks ago I was on holiday in Ireland again, meeting up with my mum plus 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!

Continue reading →

Orlando, New York and Aruba!

It was my sister’s wedding last month, and she’d decided to have a beach wedding in Aruba, so I decided that since I’d be travelling across the Atlantic, I’d also add a short USA holiday to it as well!

So I flew out to Orlando on the 6th October, leaving Manchester at lunchtime, arriving at 4.30pm local time. The queue through passport control was crazy – it took 2¼ hours to get through it, and then once my passport had been checked, I was then picked to have my suitcase examined! I eventually checked into my hotel – the ‘Holiday Inn & Suites Across From Universal Orlando’ – and it really was ‘across’, being just a 15 minute walk to the main entrance to the Universal theme parks!

After a long day of travelling, I went to bed pretty much straight away, and then woke up ridiculously early because of jet-lag! So annoying!

Anyway, I got myself breakfast from a nearby McDonalds, and then arrived at the theme park around 10.30am.

I entered the Islands of Adventure park and hit the rides straight away! I stayed there until about 2 o’clock, and after a bit of lunch, took the Hogwart’s Express from Hogsmeade to King’s Cross over in the the Universal Studios park. Generally, it was busier than when I visited in 2014, and the queues were longer, but I imagine no-where near as busy as it is in peak season!

Continue reading →

Edinburgh Fringe

I’ve just got had a knackering but brilliant few days up in Scotland at my first Edinburgh Fringe! I was basically there for 57 hours, getting home late last night, and in that time managed to take in a total of 13 shows! It was pretty intense!

I’d only decided last weekend to head up there, so the guys at Gag Reflex got me some complimentary tickets for some of the shows they were producing, and I then found some other show that still had tickets available that would fit around them.

Kate, Dean and Hannah in the Gag office.

Lee loves his spreadsheets.

Continue reading →

USA Adventure

dsc03648

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!

Continue reading →

Good times at Momentum 2011

A couple of weeks ago, I was camping down in Shepton Mallet for Momentum at the Bath & West Showground.  I went last year, after having taken a few years’ break, and thankfully this year the weathers was so much better! We had a bit of rain, but nothing like last years’ gales and flooding!

Dan, Joel, Me and Tom.

I pitched up camp with a small group from Reach, some of who I was with last year – Joel Pambakian and Tom Brown were both part of last year’s group – and there was also Golibé, Dan Butler, with special appearances over the weekend from Simon Bray and Tom Green (who actually ended up sleeping in my tent one of the nights!

Camped with us were various mates of the group, and they were really cool people! Right next to us were Rachel and Katie (who were the source of much entertainment over the week!), Kossy, and Golibé’s friend Andy.

We had pretty decent weather for most of the week – there was a bit of drizzly rain on one of the days, but we got to see quite a lot of sun! The main advantage of that is we all got to hang out together loads, so that was good. And the main meetings and after hours stuff was cool too.

Sugary Joel.

Continue reading →

America – YEAH!

Well, I’ve just got back from an amazing two weeks in the USA!

I’d never been there before, so when I got an invite to Emma McNeil’s (now Patterson!) wedding to Gerald in North Carolina, I decided that it’d be really cool to be there for that, and also to discover a bit of America at the same time!

I flew out from Manchester Airport on Tuesday 7th, and got on the plane around lunchtime, but not before being selected for a security check as I was boarding!  I guess it was because I was travelling on my own, but it’s funny how you start to feel guilty when you’ve not actually got anything to hide!  About 8 hours later I made it into Newark Airport – and it was really weird being able to see such iconic views as the Manhattan skyline and the Statue of Liberty as we came in to land!  After a bit of a delay waiting for my next flight to Greensboro, I finally boarded what can only be described as a coach with wings!  It was a 50-seater, small 2-engine plane, that was incredibly narrow with just 3 seats across, and an aisle separating one of those!  It was a bit of a bumpy journey – I’m not the most experienced flier, so it doesn’t take too much to make me a bit nervous! But we eventually landed safely at Greensboro airport quite late, although my awareness of time was a bit screwy due to the time difference!

img_0013

After getting through the airport, I met up with Emma and her mum, as well as her brother and his family who’d also just flown in, before picking up the car I was hiring for my time in North Carolina. It was a little automatic Chevrolet, and I then had to follow them back to her apartment on the other side of the city – which considering I’d only driven on the right-hand side once before in 1997, and this time it was also dark, it was quite an experience! I was actually quite relieved it was an automatic because it meant I didn’t have to worry about changing gear with the wrong hand!

Continue reading →

Summer 2010

Thought I’d better do a bit of a recap about what’s been going on over the summer, and I supposed the first thing I need to blog about is that we had a bit of a setback at work last month when we had a break-in at the office.

Basically, the whole top floor of our building was targeted, and the burglars broke into about 50 separate units in all! Most businesses had stuff stolen, but it seems like we were the worst hit, with us losing 3 iMacs and a Macbook Pro, plus all our filming kit comprising of a Sony EX3 and Z1, as well as a load of audio stuff as well.  It’s been a pretty horrible experience – luckily we’ve only lost a bit of work since they didn’t take our server or external hard drives, which would have destroyed us really since we hadn’t really got a decent back-up of all our work. But it’s just so gutting that you put so much time and effort into building the business to have some scum just take it away from you.

Anyway, we’re currently looking at options for what to do next – hopefully we’ve got a new office lined up because I really don’t want us to go back to our old one, because I think it might just happen again if they don’t sort out the security issues.  Should have a clearer idea of the future soon.

dscn5744

On to happier stuff… at the beginning of August, Rob and Clare got married in a field in Mellor (a small village not too far from Stockport), and I was one of the 12 ushers who were all dressed fully in white!

Continue reading →

Turkey

I’ve just got back from my first proper holiday in many years (I’m not counting Anglesey over new year!). Quite a few of my family were on holiday in Turkey staggered over a couple of weeks, so I managed to get some time off work and join them over there for a week.

I’d never been there before, but my mum and dad started going over there on and off for holidays about 10 years ago, and both my brother and sister had been there quite a few times as well.

Anyway, I headed over there from Manchester Airport with my cousin Sam and her husband Matt, and we got into Bodrum airport at about 5am, after having been awake since the morning before! Then it was onto a mini-bus for me, whilst Sam and Matt went onto a Thomas Cook coach (I’d booked with a small travel company, so my transfer was with a local company), and the journey from the airport to Altinkum seemed to take forever – the roads we pretty ropey, as was some of the driving! I eventually got to the apartments for 7.30am, and then crashed down for a few hours sleep.

Venturing out around lunchtime, the first thing I noticed was how much warmer it was than the weather I’d just come from! To the locals, it wasn’t hot at all, but to me, it was just about right!

Continue reading →

Loads of great music…

rainbow

Well, after seeing U2 last month (which was amazing by the way… have I mentioned that?!) I’ve experienced some more great bands in the last few weeks.

I went to Greenbelt over the August Bank Holiday weekend with Ali and her mates from Bristol. Because she was working on the set-up team, it meant we were able to camp a lot closer to the main area, which was much better than the last time I went, when we were camped so far away!

There was a great variety of music over the weekend: Athlete, Röyksopp, Sixpence None The Richer, Cornershop, yFriday, plus lots of smaller artists as well.

dscn4104

dsc04022

Also, I got to hear a bit of Rob Bell too, which was really interesting. I’ve got a few of his books, but I’ve yet to read them – that’s something I need to do when I get a bit more time! He was doing a Q&A session, so covered quite a few subjects. He did a couple of specific talks as well, but unfortunately I didn’t manage to get into those because the queues were so long that people got turned away. I need to get an MP3 of them!

Continue reading →

August catch-up

Thought I’d better do a bit of a catch-up…

It’s been a busy few weeks – we’ve had a lot on at work, which is obviously a good thing, but it would be nice to take a decent break at some point!

dsc03395

A few weeks ago, I went down to Soul Survivor North in Stafford as a day visitor. James and Helen had taken the Vinelife youth there for the week, so I met up with them as they were dishing up tea to a crowd of teenagers in very wet conditions! They’d taken Jess with them, which must have been interesting for them, but she seemed to be really enjoying herself, and I got to feed her a bowl of pasta which she wolfed down! It was just a shame the weather was so poor, because camping’s much better when the sun’s out!

It’s been a couple of years since I’ve been to Soul Survivor, when I was working down in Shepton Mallet venue doing visuals in the Underground venue. It actually felt a bit weird being there as a punter – you kind of can’t switch off from being aware of all the behind-the-scenes stuff that’s happening!

Then that weekend it was John and Carolyn’s wedding up in South Shields.

I won the prize of being the driver for the trip, so it was a full car that set off from Manchester at 7am on the Friday morning up to the North East. Me, Dave, John, Jimmy and Mike were all crammed into my Focus, but luckily we actually had a really clear run up there, and it was a good laugh!

Continue reading →

New Year on Anglesey

dsc02079

Well just got back from my first proper break in 5 years! A few of us spent New Year in a cottage on Anglesey – I went over there on the 27th and got back yesterday lunchtime.

dsc01785

It was great weather all week – pretty cold, but dry and mostly sunny, and our cottage couldn’t have been any closer to the sea! You just had to walk out of the garden gate, and within a few metres you were on the beach! I took my bike with me (which to my shame I haven’t ridden since I went out on it 2 years ago with Jamie!) and got on it twice, which is a good start for me(!) although where we were was very hilly, so probably not ideal for someone who hasn’t ridden for so long!

dscn3453

Altogether across the week there we 9 of us – me, Ajay, Rob, Clare, Tabitha, Steve, Leah, Dave and Danny, although me and Ajay were the only ones who stayed the whole week – the majority left on Thursday lunchtime.

Continue reading →

Well, that’s the summer done!

Wow – I can’t believe so much time has passed since I last blogged on here!

It’s been quite a busy summer – I’ve just got back home after being away working for a couple of weeks down at Soul Survivor. I spent 10 days in the Underground venue doing visuals for the venue, so spent most of the time either down the side of the stage or in our make-shift edit suite! This year I had Tom Steward helping me – it was pretty last minute because both Andy and Kate weren’t able to come this year – but I was really impressed at how quickly he picked it all up, and the stuff he was shooting on stage every night was brilliant.

Some of the video features we did can now be viewed on Youtube so check them out!

So we finished there on Thursday morning, and then I headed up to Bristol to meet up with Ali, and on Friday went with her and some of her friends to Greenbelt.

It’s the first time I’ve ever been to the festival, though obviously I’ve heard lots about it over the years! It’s very different to Soul Survivor – much more of an arts festival – and in some ways I found a lot of stuff really watered down, although there was a lot of passion for environmental issues and the like, which isn’t a bad thing. It’s quite a political event really, and the bands that appear are from a really wide spectrum – from Delirious and Matt Redman to Chas & Dave!! Not sure whether I’d go again, but I’m glad I checked it out.

Work news – me and James are now officially joint directors of doodledo MOTION Ltd which is pretty exciting! We got all the stuff finished for the BBC2 series ‘British Film Forever‘ though it went on a bit longer than we expected – we thought the edit would be finished at the end of July, but James was still having to render graphics whilst I was at Soul Survivor! It was a good job for us to do because it was quite high profile – they even advertised the programme on a big board with some of our graphics on the front of the BBC building on Oxford Road! I think all the stuff we did looked really good when seen in the context of the whole show, and it’s a good job to stick in our portfolio!

We’re now working on some titles and programme graphics for a ‘Vicar of Dibley’ special going out in October on UKTV Gold. It’s basically a showcase of the 40 funniest clips from the series with interviews from the cast and celebrity fans.

We went down to Tiger Aspect in London back in July to meet with the production team, and the meeting went really well, and hopefully we should be able to deliver some really good work. The plan is that we’re going to do background images for each of the interviews, plus animated stings to introduce each of the clips. There’s been talk of us doing some titles as well, but I’m not sure what’s happening with that yet… we’ll probably find out last minute!!

We’ve got some other work lined up as well, so hopefully we can make a real success of the new business. It’s going to be hard work, but I think me and James work really well together, and it’ll be good to focus our efforts in building the brand and expanding what we do. Watch this space!

Oh, and after a lot of phone calls and form filling, I managed to get my money back after the betting incidents… going to be checking my bank statements a lot more regularly from now on!

Wedding chaos!

I’m typing this at my mum’s house because I’m down in Tamworth today ahead of my sister’s wedding tomorrow, and it’s absolute madness! I’m kind of glad I’ve only been here for one day of it, because everyone’s stressed trying to get everything sorted in time! We had the rehearsal last night, and I hope I can remember what it is I’m supposed to do! I’m giving Vikky away so I’m walking down the aisle with her, and I have a moment where I have to say “I do”! I’m sure it will all be great tomorrow, but I realised some things are still last minute when we were helping Damien write his groom’s speech just a couple of hours ago!

Anyway, I guess I should post a quick update on all that’s happened in the last few weeks since I headed down for Soul Survivor. On the Tuesday, I went and visited Ali down in Bristol and it was really nice catching up with her again. We grabbed a pizza, chatted until late about loads of stuff, and I even tried to convert her into a Myspace junkie (but I seem to have failed with that!)

Wednesday lunchtime, and it was time to continue onto Shepton Mallet, where I met up with the 29 guys, and also with Kate who did the video stuff with me there last year. They’d moved us into a smaller venue this year, which was good because it helped make it look much fuller each night, although we were out of the way of the main venues a bit which I think meant some of the kids didn’t realise we were there until later in the week. Then for the second week, Kate had to leave because she was doing a course in London, so Andy Passey took over which worked really well. It was a great 2 weeks, and on the whole, the weather wasn’t too bad.

However, for the 3rd week, Soul Survivor was replaced by Momentum, which I was staying round for along with Andy, so we kept all the video and computer equipment in the room we’d been using as an edit suite, but put it all on the floor under the worktops to keep it out of the way of the Artshed guys who we were sharing it with.

That afternoon though, we had a major storm with torrential rain, and quite a lot of the site got flooded (although my tent was okay), but I kind of assumed the venue would be okay because it seemed above ground level. After the main meeting, I met up with Andy who’d been to the Passion For Your Name meeting in what was the Underground during the previous weeks, and he said that the water had flooded through from the back of there, right down under the stage!

Now panicking ever-so slightly, I headed off to site control who told me that the artshed had been ankle-deep in water, and the stewards had had to rescue stuff on floor level, but they weren’t aware of that storeroom! So me and Andy went down there, and we were so lucky, because right next to the storeroom was a fire-exit where the floor dipped down a bit, and basically the river had taken that route rather than flow into the storeroom! I then hastily moved all my stuff off the floor – no point taking chances!!

You can see all the photos I took here.

I got back to Manchester at 3am last Thursday morning, and it was so good being back in my own bed after spending 15 days living in a tent! Then on Saturday, I met up with Sa and we went round town looking for items for a ‘survival kit’ for Emma who’s leaving Manchester to study in Cardiff. The original plan was to try and find some Welsh items, but we struggled to find that much (surpringingly, in England!) so the main thrust of it is things to remind her of Manchester, including a beautiful postcard we found of Levenshulme’s high street – classy! Then on the evening, Jamie came and joined us and we all watched a DVD at Sarah’s. It was nice hanging out with them both again – it’s been a really long time since I’ve spent time with these guys, and it’s great to be able to do so again, after all that’s happened.

Anyway, I need to get off here to allow my sis to book a coach ticket to bring them back from the airport after their honeymoon… I’m driving them up to mine on Sunday afternoon ‘cos they’re flying from Manchester aiport early on Monday morning. Will post an update about the wedding later!

Change can be good…

I’m feeling totally knackered! But it’s kind of in a good way because I’ve just joined a gym up the road, and this afternoon I went there for about an hour and half with James, for what was probably the most intense exercise I’ve done for over a year! I’ve made a decision that I want to get myself really fit, and get my weight right down, so I’m going to have to put myself through some serious pain to achieve my goal!

But one thing I found by going today was that it’s so much better when you go with someone else because it kind of motivates you more, and when you think of quitting a particular exercise, you generally don’t because the other person is doing it with you! We’re both going to go again first thing tomorrow morning and do some swimming, so hopefully this is the start of me being able to make some major changes in my life.

I’m off down to Bristol tomorrow afternoon to visit Ali, then on Wednesday, I’ll travel a little bit further south to Shepton Mallet for Soul Survivor where I’m working on the Underground venue with the 29th Chapter again. I’ve not sorted out anything for it yet – and time’s running out! And I bought a new tent on Friday, so my old orange canvas tent is no more! I really could do with attempting to put it up before I leave just in case there’s anything missing!

The other thing that’s happened this week is that I’ve managed to catch up with Sarah who I haven’t really seen for the last 18 months, though we have chatted occassionally on messenger recently. We met up first last Sunday afternoon for coffee where we just filled in what we’d both been up to since we’d last spoken properly. Then we went round to Caroline’s in the evening and I also got to see Olivia who I hadn’t seen since she was just over 6 months old – and now she’s almost 2, and it’s amazing to see how quickly kids grow up! Then last night, we both went over to Bradford to Abundant Life because I’d been tipped of that Martin Smith from Delirious was leading there!! Not an ideal reason for going but hey! It’s been good though to start to rebuild our friendship, because I have really missed it over the last year or so… so all in all it’s been a pretty good week!