Sunday, 14 January 2018

A Trip To Tokyo

Tokyo, a city on the other side of the world, in a country with a culture and language incredibly different to that of ours here at home, and at the start of this year I had the pleasure to spend 5 days there.

The travel was a bit of a mission, as to avoid paying through the nose I chose a 2 hour stop in Moscow rather than a direct flight. Leaving Heathrow at 10:40 on January 2nd and finally hitting Tokyo at 11:30 on the 3rd, my body clock was gonna struggle! It's actually taken until now, a week later, to be back to normal (having come home to work a set of 4 nights).

That first day I did some walking around, getting the lay of the land so to speak and figuring out where I was in comparison to the Tokyo Dome for the next night (the pictures are all on FB). Joel and Mali arrived later that night and we all went for dinner, where I continued my tradition of eating local. Although eating tonkotsu ramen as a chopstick rookie was interesting.....

January 4th was the main reason I was in Tokyo, New Japan Pro Wrestling's Wrestle Kingdom 12 show at the Tokyo Dome, 6 hours of wrestling including a truly epic encounter between Kenny Omega and Chris Jericho (yes, he of WWE fame). I've discussed how awesome that experience was on our wrestling podcast “The Smarkcast”, found on soundcloud and itunes by the way, so I won't dwell on it here. Prior to the show, myself, Joel and Mali met up with Stuart and grabbed some yakitori, which I think the easiest way to explain it is mini meat kebabs. I tried pork tongue and pork heart, but drew the line at colon and rectal!

Then came the sightseeing, taking in the Tokyo Tower and a couple of the temples dotted around the city on the Friday, along with seeing the Shibuya Scramble up close and personal. It wasn't the warmest weather, but we had a decent day and I thoroughly enjoyed the Sushi we had for dinner that evening. The story of the day though was the earthquake warning that came through on all the the mobile phones around us. That particular warning was a false alarm, but there was no warning for the quake that woke me up at 1am that night. Surreal and unnerving is probably the best way to describe it, waking up to the whole room shaking sent my heart racing, and it took me an hour to calm down and get back to sleep!

It was more sightseeing on my final day there, seeing an area of Tokyo that was full of arcades, with classic retro games and plenty of new modern ones. Took me back a few years as I played crazy taxi for the first time in ages too! There were a few games that were a bit odd and different, and I was surprised to see a couple of fairly detailed train simulator games, with pretty accurate train cab layouts! After seeing more of the city it was dinner time, Yakiniku was the order of the day. It's essentially japanese BBQ, we were cooking our own meats over the grill in the middle of the table, some of which were absolutely outstanding.

Then came the long journey home, with another 2 hour stop off in Moscow, the first flight leaving Tokyo around 13:10 on the 7th, and landing back home at 21:30 that same day. The city of Tokyo was beautiful, different to any I'd been to before but just as impressive and memorable. There's plenty I didn't get to see out there, but I don't think I'll be heading back in a hurry. For me, Tokyo was a bucket list item, it's ticked off and I can say I've been, same as Wrestle Kingdom. But whilst I'll not be rushing back, that doesn't take anything away from what a great city it is, and if you ever get the chance to take that near 12 hour flight to Tokyo, I'd definitely recommend taking it and soaking up that unique and special culture full of friendly, helpful, welcoming people.

Also, I generally don't go on holiday with people, my trips are just that, my trips. Italy late last year was the exception to the rule, but meeting people I knew on this trip, having that buffer between my nerves and emotion and the local culture/people/food, really added something to whole experience. I've said it elsewhere, but I'll end this blog by saying it again. This trip wouldn't have been what it was if it wasn't for the people I shared it with, so thanks to Joel and his wife Mali, to Stuart and Saki, it was an amazing experience.

Thursday, 28 December 2017

2017: An Appreciation

We're fast approaching the end of 2017, when we see the endless run of people saying new year new me or people moaning about those saying new year new me! Either way, the new year is essentially just another number, life goes on as it has done for years before, it's just another set of dates to tick off of your calendar.

Of course, with the end of the year being nigh, it's easy to look back over the year that has passed by and reflect on what's happened, what you've experienced, and what you've learned. Whilst this year has been one of ups and downs, mainly it has been ups thankfully.

Before I rejoice in the highs though, I want to spare a thought for those that we've lost over the last 12 months. Whether it's loved ones, acquaintances or even those we idolise in the media, it's not easy handling loss. For me, my Aunt June passed away early in the year and I was a coffin bearer at her funeral. She was loved by many, is missed by many more, and the world is a worse place for her not being in it. Also, I would like to take this moment to send my love and wishes to the Compton family, who I still have a good relationship with after all these years! Joyce was a lovely woman, she was kind, funny, and treated me like one of her own, I always loved seeing her over the years that I was around your family, and whilst it's been a couple of months, my heart goes out to you all.

So 2017, a year where my penchant for travelling around the world (well mainly Europe) continued without hesitation. I left the country on 6 occasions, 7 if you include Doncaster which is like a different country at times, and gained a new experience/memory from each one. Berlin kicked off the year in February, with the history surrounding the wall and the wars that was very impactful. Barcelona a couple of months later was special too, although having the Freddie Mercury song playing in my head all trip showed how my mind works.

A week doing bugger all in Bulgaria was something new, lazing by the pool all day every day, and that will be something I plan on doing again in 2018 for sure. Taking inspiration from google maps I went to Vienna, which was incredibly picturesque, whilst Italy was its usual beautiful self in both Rome and Venice, the latter being one I will definitely return to! Then there was New York, and we all know how much I love that trip each year, even more so that I saw a Jets win!

Away from the trips I've been a busy bee here at home too. I visited Alexandra Palace twice, for snooker back in January and darts earlier this month, watched live test cricket at the Oval (albeit with a rain interruption or two), and went to the O2 for two boxing related events, those being Haye vs Bellew, and a meet & greet with the champ Anthony Joshua.

Theatre has played a part in my 2017 too, catching Wicked for the first time, which was awesome, and seeing Bat Out Of Hell the musical twice, something I am looking to see again now that it's coming back to the west end later in 2018. Add to that the Metallica & Impractical Jokers gigs, the usual whisky and beer festivals, and the countless Rev Pro UK wrestling shows, it's been a busy one.

Oh and not to forget the two Fullmetal Alchemist-inspired tattoos on my left forearm, the Star Wars Identities exhibit at The O2, and the Pink Floyd: Their Mortal Remains exhibit at the Victoria & Albert Museum.......

2017 also saw me sign my life away and join the Cineworld Unlimited club, mainly because the Empire cinema at Bas Vegas was changed to a Cineworld! I talk about my comic book movie fascination enough, and it's no surprise those films were some of my favourites over the year, I mean Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 and Thor Ragnarok were pretty fucking awesome. But it wasn't just those, Baby Driver was something truly unique, Power Rangers took me back to my childhood, both Transformers and Fast & Furious were delightfully OTT, and Star Wars: The Last Jedi, well that was special.

2017 was a year to remember, and given the start I have planned for 2018, that will be too. It's good to look back at the year that's just past, learn from mistakes, embrace the experiences and good times, and take that into the new year to ensure it's bigger and better than the last one.

I just want to round this blog up with a thank you, thank you to every single person that has been a part of my 2017. Whether the experience was positive or negative, whether it was a fleeting visit or you're someone that is with me for life, it's been one hell of a year and it wouldn't have been what it was if it wasn't for the people in it.

From my Jets crew in the US, the clan in Donny, the Concord/football family, my friends, every person I talk to on the various social media formats, to my siblings and incredible little niece, every single person has made my 2017 what it was, something I'll never forget. Thank you all.

Friday, 1 December 2017

A Month On

Its funny really how much can change in a short space of time. Think back to just over a month ago and the last blog I wrote, there was plenty of optimism and positivity when it came to life, love and work. Fast forward to the start of December and there's a few changes in mindset and direction that mean that things aren't as they once were. Things can change quite quickly when you think about it.

Don't get me wrong, my optimism and positivity hasn't totally left me, there's still plenty to look forward to over the next few months, especially the first couple of months of 2018. I mean there's Tokyo, and in turn Wrestle Kingdom 12 in the Tokyo Dome on January 4th, then there's Snooker at the Ally Pally with the old man, the day after that I'll be heading into London to see The Rat Pack Live from Las Vegas, and then in February I'll be heading back to Italy for another trip......

Italy is a country I have plenty of love for, from the bloodline ties to the fact that every time I've been there I've had a fantastic time and have always had a warm welcome from the locals. From the two times I've been to Rome, the recent visit to Venice, and the first time I went to Italy when me and mum went to Rimini/Riccione on a cycling holiday, Italy is a country I don't think I'll ever get bored of, and going back there next year will certainly not be the last time I do.

So this time it'll be Turin, home of Juventus and of course that fateful night for the England national side in the 1990 World Cup. I'll be taking in the city, the stadium that Juventus play in, and anything else that I may find during my 3 days there in the city.

Last time round I was quite optimistic about a few things, including the pending holiday with the girlfriend. Well as generally seems to be the case with me, you get too optimistic about something and it'll come crashing down around you. So I'm back to being on my own in that respect, I'll avoid the details as that's not for this time or place, but life goes on, and whilst I'm dealing with the emotional side of it all, I'm also doing what I can to embrace what's in front of me.

Anyway, for now, it's time to wrap this blog up and bring it to a close. Things may have changed in the month or so since the last time I sat down and wrote stuff about stuff, but ultimately, all that lay ahead of me a month or so ago still sits there on the horizon, just with a slightly different outlook. Thank you for taking the time to read this, sorry I've not sat down and written about Venice, but just ask me and I'll happily gush about that truly incredible city, I mean I talk about it enough on my podcast!

Thanks again for reading!

Sunday, 22 October 2017

Happy As Larry

The last time I sat down and actually typed something out that wasn't for the Concord programme, it was back at the start of July and things were still shifting around at work, the reorg was still in its early stages and I didn't have much confidence in what lay ahead for us there.

Well as October is just over a week away from ending for another year, I thought it would be good to sit back down and type out a load of old tosh once more. I've continued with the “blogcasts”, which tend to be 15/20 minutes of me waffling on about what's going on in life, and I stick them out on soundcloud (just search for BullJet, same online handle I have everywhere). They tend to now take the place of these posts, but I have to keep this going for my own sanity!

There's plenty to talk about, but concerning one of the key things, the NFL and more specifically the Jets, I have a separate blog planned, as that will be one that will go on......

I'm a happy guy right now, I think that's fairly obvious to those around me, a few choice changes and things look brighter all round. I think that actually plays a part in why I haven't written as many blogs in the last few months, it's easier (at least for me) to write about me and my life if things are shit or if I've got something substantial to moan about!

Work's going well, things are going well between myself and the girlfriend, we fly to Italy next week which is something I know we're both looking forward to, and I am officially a very proud uncle after my baby sister (she'll always be my baby sister, no matter how old we get) gave birth to a beautiful baby girl back in July.

Then there's the ongoing trips/holidays, Vienna was a beautiful city, plenty of incredible sights to see and I happened to go when the weather was impeccable, 3 days of beautiful sunshine with no clouds to be seen. I've had my now regular and traditional trip over to see the Jets play, another excellent weekend in NY/NJ, again with decent weather too. And I've got my upcoming trips to look forward to, within a week me and Lou fly to Rome for 3 nights there, then we fly to Venice for another 3 nights there. We'll be in Venice for my birthday too, which will be a great distraction I think from getting another year older!

Finally there's Tokyo, something that has only really got going over the last year. I'm heading out there to visit a city I've wanted to go to for years, but it was only this year that pushed me over the edge and got me to do it. I'm going over to watch Wrestle Kingdom 12, the biggest NJPW show of the year, and I'll be meeting my good friend and podcast buddy Joel over there too. I've only been watching NJPW since January this year too, which shows how quickly this has really got going.

Life's good, and it feels good to say that. I'm looking forward to all that lies ahead......

Friday, 4 August 2017

Here At Last...

So here we are at last, the football season begins in earnest tomorrow and the first kick of a ball in anger of the 2017/18 season will take place. For us at Concord Rangers we'll be opening the year against Wealdstone, a team that we've had a fair few run-ins with over the last 5 or 6 years.

Most memorable for me are the two fixtures at the Vale during our promotion season, the league game seeing our hosts essentially steal a victory after the Beachboys had played their backsides off having had a player sent off early on in the game. It was frustrating for sure, and the reaction of some of the locals left a lot to be desired at the time. But the gaffer at the time, some nobody named Danny Cowley (whatever happened to him?) said we'd be back in the playoffs and we'd turn them over. DC believed it, and when the playoffs came, so did everyone else.

It was a total reverse this time around, Concord were not at their best, the hosts were the better side for the majority of the game and took the lead with half hour to go. But this time, we stole the win, an equaliser with 2 minutes to go, and a winner in extra time sent Concord into the playoff final (and subsequently on to promotion).

That aside, with the new season comes a number of new faces, both personnel wise to the Concord Rangers team, and club wise to the National League South. We've brought in a mix of experience and hungry young talent, I could list all the new additions to the side but that's a paragraph in itself and to be honest you'll get to know them as you see them play for the Beachboys over the coming weeks.

I mentioned new teams to the league, these include Braintree Town, Chippenham, Gloucester City (who have been moved from the NLN), Havant & Waterlooville, and finally Bognor Regis. Some of these teams we've played before either in the NLS, the Essex Senior Cup or back in the Isthmian League, but as far as I can find (and please correct me if I'm wrong) we've not played Chippenham or Gloucester City before.

Flan, Glen and Ant have been working their socks off over the summer “break” to get the club ready both on and off the pitch for the 2017/18 season, the pitch looks great, the players are ready, the programme is (almost) ready for the first home game on Tuesday, the time is finally here. Last season was tough, but that's now in the past, 2017/18 is a new season and success is there for the taking. It's time to get behind the lads once again and cheer them on!

You Are My Concord!

Friday, 14 July 2017

A RailSport Rundown

This past weekend the yearly Railsport Games took place, and this time they were held in Loughborough for the first time, having previously been held in Blackpool almost since their inception over 15 years ago. New sponsors Rail Media organised a quite spectacular weekend of sport which brought together entrants from a number of TOCs, FOCs, and railway stakeholders and sponsors.

As has been the case over the past few years under LOROL, Arriva Rail London sent athletes to take part in some of the events, having had extensive success in previous years for both the 5 a side football and darts competitions (singles and doubles). A change in venue and some questionably shaky dartboards (of which complaints were made with the organisers) were just a couple of factors that may have hindered the ARL athletes progress this time around though.

Former singles & doubles runner-up Alan Jessup-Peacock (Control Shift Manager) was drawn against ARL driver Paul Spreckley, Wayne Jones (Network Rail) and Gordon Trimby (Great Western Railway) in group one. Close matches were had by all members of the group, but the experience of the elder competitors from NR & GWR won out, with Alan only winning his game against Paul, who tragically lost all three of his group games.

Drivers Aninder Chana, John Morris and Jason Pearce all suffered similar fates, with both Chana and Morris just missing out on progressing from their groups by finishing third. Pearce finished second in his group (beating Morris in the process), but fell to eventual winner Derek Ralston (Mersey Rail) in the quarter finals.

In the doubles competition Alan & John were paired together in group 1, whilst Paul and Aninder were paired in group 2. Sadly, despite some fantastic scoring (Paul Spreckley hit a tasty maximum at one point), both pairs failed to progress through their groups

The ARL 5 a side football team got off to a shaky start, not helped by the fact some late injuries led to the squad being depleted. They lost their first game 3-2 against LUR Manchester, but soon responded with a hard-fought 5-4 victory over RSSB. The same scoreline was reversed against JACOBS in the next game, with ARL losing to a last minute goal.

A win was needed in the last game to progress from the group and make the quarter finals as ARL took on (eventual winners) Irish Rail 5’s. With just minutes to go ARL had taken a 4-3 lead, but some questionable officiating decisions from the referee (at least in the minds of ARL and those of us watching, as the Darts team were able to cheer the lads on at points), saw things take a turn for the worse. A last minute equaliser and then injury time winner for the Irish Rail team saw them end the ARL challenge to retain their title.

With Rail Media behind the games, it was a much bigger spectacle this time round, but understandably there were teething problems as well. Next year the games will be back and will hopefully see the return of winning ways for the Arriva Rail London team.

Saturday, 1 July 2017

Not Much Has Changed

So nearly 4 months ago I wrote a blog about work, about the reorg that was going on and what may lay ahead for myself and all those I work with. Since then my blogs have been consigned to verbalised ones, I've found it a hell of a lot easier (surprising myself) to waffle on for 15-20 minutes at a time rather than sit down and type out a page of words.

Anyway, time has passed and some of the changes have kicked in at work, but there's still a lot to do, more people to put into jobs and a hell of a lot more training to do, and I'm still in the job I was in at the start of all this. My mind hasn't changed, I'm not moving up the ladder, I'm still stepping down, but this won't be for another couple of months given how slow some things seem to be moving!

Morale at work is understandably low right now in places, there are a few high moments don't get me wrong, but there's plenty dragging people down, especially in the control room. Changes to teams and set-ups can do that, the uncertainty of how it will all end up is undoubtedly playing on peoples minds. Of course, doing the simple things wrong like paying people incorrectly isn't helping things along either....

I was sceptical when the new overlords took over, and haven't seen much to lighten my scepticism just yet, but I guess it is still early days. They've been running the show for around 9 months now and there is a long way to go yet, maybe when things are all settled, the new jobs are filled and the departments around the company aren't running with vacancy upon vacancy then the mood will change.

I can't be totally negative though, some of the new faces being brought in are encouraging and look like they will provide a much needed boost to the atmosphere around there, and it's good to see a number of people progressing and moving up as a part of the re-org, including 5 of the 6 in my team (which I feel quite proud of actually). Give it another 6-9 months and we'll see how it all falls.....

I keep saying that I need to get back to my blog writing with a bit more regularity, especially now that another football season is about to start and the Concord Rangers match-day programme will need another fresh bunch of words each week. So let this be the start of another bunch of blogs to pollute the tinterweb over the coming weeks!