Friday, 16 December 2016

Why Wait?

I have just one question, quite simply, why wait?

From as far back as late September we've seen plenty of Xmas adverts and sections in shops set up ready for people to buy their gifts and food for the festive season. It's the same every year, and seems to get earlier and earlier each time. Yes that bugs me, but that isn't the basis of this blog, that's coming now.....

Since about the same time as we started seeing the rumblings of Christmas and the festive period, I started to see stuff on social media from people proclaiming that 2017 will be their year, that 2016 has sucked and next year will be the one for them.

There's no denying that some events this year have been shit, a lot of people have been taken from us, there's been a number of atrocities across the world, then there's the fact that Brexit & Trump have divided opinions across the land. But then a lot of that can't be controlled by you and I, we have control of our own lives, making it our own and doing what we want to do with our time/money/effort.

And on that note, I don't get why the general feeling is to wait until a new year to make a change. That's just a number, another one added to the constant passing of time, events are different admittedly, a family member passing, dealing with a terminal illness, those can make you switch up your ideals and make a change, but the changing of a year? It's essentially the same as the passing of a minute, of another hour. And that prompts my question, why wait?

Why wait until the next year to get into gear and change things? Why wait until the next year to start putting effort in or making the most of the time we have? Don't get me wrong, I am no inspirational case, but I realised something a few years back, we don't have all the time in the word, we have to make the most of the time we have and work to do that.

For me, that's visiting new cities I've always wanted to go to, taking in experiences like my now repeated visits to New York, making sure that I have time for my friends and family, and that I work enough to make all that possible, hell it's even going to the gym to (slightly) improve my fitness. Did I wait for a new year to do that? No, I realised I had the ability to do it, that if I made the effort then I could make the most of the time I have, that thought didn't miraculously appear as the clock switched from 2015 into 2016!

So there it is, why wait? Why wait until there's a new year on the calendar to do what you want? Do it now, start the work now, make now worth enjoying rather than waiting for a distant date in the future. 2017 is your year? Bullshit, now is your time!

Thursday, 17 November 2016

New York, New York, New York

So, New York, the city that never sleeps, so good they named it twice etc, you've heard all the quotes and descriptors about the place over the years, but to me it's just the city I don't think I will ever get bored of seeing.

I've been there 5 times now, twice staying in Manhattan and for the last 3 times staying just across the state line in Newark, New Jersey (as it's closer to Metlife stadium, the home of the New York Jets), and I don't plan on ending this tradition any time soon (unless of course money or some other situation means I physically have to). Each time I've gone, I've seen or been to something different, and that's probably one of the key reasons why I keep going back, there is always something more, something still left to see and experience.

This time was no different, for example on the Saturday morning of this trip I went back to the site of the World Trade Centre memorial and visited the One World Observatory. This is floors 100-102 of One World Trade Centre, the first new building on the site of the old World Trade Centre. From this floor you get a full, uninterrupted 360 degree view of Manhattan, the surrounding boroughs and over the river to New Jersey, providing the weather is clear. Thankfully on this occasion it was, and the view was truly incredible, breathtaking even.

It's not just the things I see on these trips though, it's the people I meet and friendships I make, which have been due to, in a big part, the New York Jets. Ok so this season the team suck and are playing poorly, but that doesn't detract from the fans essentially being a family, and being a part of that is a hell of a feeling. The first two games it was the guys at the L7 tailgate, and in that second year it was the guys I was sitting with, Kyle, Brian & uncle Ken. On the day I arrived this year I caught up with Kyle, had a cracking steak dinner (one of those where you cook the filet mignon yourself on the crazy hot stone), and ended up drinking beer whilst taking part in a local quiz night (didn't win fuck all though).

It's not just the natives as such either, this year a couple of other guys were on a similar package to myself with Sports Travel Tours, and sharing first the New Jersey Devils game (Devils beat the Sabres 4-2) then the Jets tailgate and game (we lost 9-6) was great fun. Myself and one of the other guys also got a private tour of Metlife stadium, which was superb. Seeing the press box, all the (expensive) suites, and walking out on to the field & standing on the 50 yard line where those players I watch each week have stood countless times before was something very special.


It's not just New York that keeps bringing me back I guess, it's the whole package of the trip I have when I go, and this years visit was no different, hell just look at the pictures I stuck on FB! I plan on continuing to return to New York & New Jersey for a long time yet.

Monday, 26 September 2016

Through Thick & Thin

When you choose to follow a sport, or more specifically a team, you enter into some weird messed up kind of contract, one that allows you to be with them throughout a number of highs, but also condemns you to a lifetime of dealing with the lows, the struggles and the emotional frustrations of when things go wrong.

Me, I have a few sporting interests, and have 3 key teams that play a big part in the television I watch, the places I go, and the emotions I feel! It’s rare though that all three can leave you deflated at the same time, usually the benefit of having so many interests is that there’s usually one that will pick you back up!

This past weekend though it all happened at once, a tough loss for Concord Rangers on Saturday, a very poor defensive performance from West Ham leading to a 3-0 defeat at home on Sunday afternoon, then the weekend was topped off by probably the worst performance by a quarterback I’ve seen in my years following the Jets and the NFL as New York lost to Kansas City, turning the ball over 8 times, 6 of those being Ryan Fitzpatrick interceptions!

That last bit won’t mean much to those who don’t follow American football,  but those that do will know that it’s incredibly frustrating and understand my pain in that respect!

Anyway, as tough/disappointing/frustrating (delete as applicable) as the results this weekend have been for me, and as low as our teams can make us feel after a bad day/result, we keep going, we still cheer them on and back them in every way possible. We go again next week, wearing our replica kits/jerseys, singing the songs, cheering every kick, pass and score, and will continue to do so every week win lose or draw, as ultimately even at the lowest of lows, these teams that we pour our hearts into can give us the highest of highs at a moment’s notice.

For now, I’m waiting for that next high as every supporter is, but even through the lowest of the lows, those are still my teams, I may moan and whinge at the struggles, but I’ll back them through thick and thin!

Sunday, 14 August 2016

Uprising 2016, An RPW Experience!

Over the last 3 & a half years I got back into watching wrestling, the main stuff like WWE, and more recently the independent UK stuff such as Southside Wrestling which were holding shows at the Circus Tavern in Purfleet. Sadly it appears that Southside won’t be coming back to this part of Essex, so I had to look elsewhere for my local(ish) wrestling fix.

That’s where this blog comes in, my brother Stephen bought him & I tickets to Uprising 2016, a show at Bethnal Greens York Hall run by a relatively big UK promotion called Revolution Pro Wrestling. This company have their own extensive roster, but bring in guests from the international promotions like Lucha Underground & NJPW for shows.

The opening match of the night was between two guys I wasn’t familiar with, but it happened to be a fantastic opener with a lot of high spots. New Zealander Jay White who wrestles in New Japan Pro Wrestling took on and beat UK cruiserweight Josh Bodom, although the match looked to be going the way of Bodom. Of course that’s part of the showcase of pro wrestling, being able to tell a story and sell it going a certain way, and then switching it round. Another example was the second match, Sha Samuels (with a picture of Dot Cotton on his trunks), took on Big Damo, who was a huge hairy bastard. Samuels, although an “East London bloke” was the heel, and took a beating for most of the match, but in typical heel fashion he won by nefarious means, choking out Damo with a scarf.


The next match wasn’t on the pre-announced card, as a tag team called the British Young Bloods came to the ring. Their first opponent was a guy called Ryan Smile, who I’d seen at Southside before. Back then Smile was in a stable called The Second City Collective (alongside Damien & Pete Dunne) and has been my favourite UK heel as a result, but tonight (and clearly recently) he was a babyface. His tag partner was a guest from the US in PJ Black, currently of Lucha Underground and previously of the WWE as Justin Gabriel.

Match of the night, and one of the best matches I’ve seen live, was next, as veteran Chris Hero took on “The Villain” Marty Scurll. York Hall was full of Villain shirts, highlighting his popularity amongst the UK fanbase. This match was back and forth, with some huge impact moves, clearly they had the crowd in the palm of their hands, the mark of a fantastic match. Hero took the victory after a piledriver form the top rope, but both guys can be proud of what they achieved in that ring.

The previously mentioned Pete Dunne then took on King Ricochet, who is known to most as Prince Puma from Lucha Underground. Heel vs Face, solid match that the fans enjoyed after a slow start, with Ricochet going over at the end. The Lucha Underground influence continued in the next match, as Jeff Cobb (known as “The Monster” Matanza in LU) took on Zack Sabre Jr (who WWE fans may have seen in the ongoing Cruiserweight Classic). Given the difference in styles this was a cracking match, which saw a bit of a heel turn for the usually over Sabre Jr. Whether it was planned or not, the crowd turned sharply on him as it neared the end of the match, as ZSJ was slapping Cobb desperate to put him down. I loved that though, the fans turning so quickly through something so simple.

The main event was Essex lad Will Ospreay vs Vader (from the old WCW/WWE days), which had some history behind the booking. Vader had been critical of Ospreay & Ricochet for their recent NJPW match which won plaudits across the world, saying it was ruining wrestling. So RPW booked the match, and there we were! The match was obviously limited by the very old Vader, but the crowd were on fire, Vader was booed from start to finish, and won after being the typical heel, smashing Ospreay through a table prior to the match starting, and getting help from Pete Dunne during the match (who wants the title Ospreay holds). Big things are coming for Ospreay though, I’ve seen him wrestle a few times now & he has star written all over him.


Some didn’t like the end of the match, didn’t like the booking, I get that, but much like my brother I get it and have no issue with it. Ultimately it was a fantastic event well put together by the guys at Revolution Pro Wrestling, and I will be going to an event of theirs again without hesitation.

Thursday, 11 August 2016

A Great British Beer Experience

Anyone that knows me is aware that I am a big whisky fan, it's my tipple of choice so to speak and I attend a number of tasting events over the year. But what you may not know is that I do love a good ale too, not to the level of my whisky fascination but I do enjoy tasting a range of beers that I've not tried before.

On that note, each year in August the Great British Beer Festival takes place at London's Olympia (Kensington), and I like to attend most years, think I've done 6 or 7 now. This past Wednesday I attended the 2016 event, and this is my run down of what I saw through the day. There are people much more seriously into beer/ale than me, so I am not trying to say that this blog will be incredibly detailed, but it's my usual waffle so you know what's coming in general!

When I go to the GBBF, I have a system that works for me, which straight away may sound odd but from talking to other people that attend the show there are a number of people who have their own ways of trying the range of beers. I'll visit every beer stand (I'm not there for the ciders & perrys) in no particular order, and at each stand I'll choose a beer to drink that has a name which stands out. The name may mean something to me (friends name, reference to a sports team etc), or it just may stand out as being totally out there and weird, either way that is how I select my drinks. Eventually I run out of standout names, but by then I've usually drunk a fair amount and there wont be long left in the day!

One of the strangest names I saw through the day was “Pressed Rat & Warthog”, from the Triple fff brewery. It was a 3.9% dark ale, went down a treat and stood out as the maddest name of the day! There was one that I think everyone could relate to as well called “Bad Day At The Office Pale Ale”, 4.5% and a cracking beer from a brewery up in Scotland. The Tiny Rebel brewery had their own little stand there, and had a range of beers that all stood out name-wise, but I had to pick just one. Names like Hadouken, Fugg Life and Loki all were on the list, but ultimately I went with a dark stout which had a taste of marshmallows in there, which was called Stay Puft (for those that don't know, it's a Ghostbusters reference) and was 5.2%.


Other ales that helped pass the day were Drunken Duck (I had to try it, my best friends mum has her own little bar in their place & she calls it the Drunken Duck), Hop Goes The Beagle, My Darling Lemontime, and Due South (I loved that old tv show). One stand had a beer called “Good Spanking”, but by the time I realised it was there, they'd run out. I was looking forward to asking the woman behind the bar for a Good Spanking, but in the end I tried Detention, another ale on the same stand which was decent enough.

Away from the drinking I spent a bit of time on the other stands, eating hotdogs and homemade sausage rolls, and spending money on the games like shut the box, tombola and skittles. I won a t-shirt and a couple of free beers, oh and I bought a whisky tumbler & a hip flask at the auction too (they hold 2 or 3 a day with alcohol related memorabilia etc).

The Great British Beer Festival is a great event, one I love attending and always enjoy, I would recommend it to anyone who likes a beer, I go on my own but most people go in a group & clearly have a great time! There's always people to talk to as well, I caught up with a guy I've not seen in 12 years (Simon Teece that's you pal), a whisky buddy & more, along with having conversations with a number of NFL fans who clocked my New York Jets jersey that I was wearing with pride.
Thanks for reading, if you've made it this far!

Thursday, 7 July 2016

Words Well Written About Writing!

So it's been a while since I got typing out a blog, I've been podcasting with the guys on The SmarkCast, and verbalising a blog type thing on soundcloud (which some of you may have listened to over the past few weeks). But earlier this week I was on another one of my holidays/trips, this time to Mallorca doing nothing except sit by the pool and chill out, I thought it was about time I got back to writing again.

The thing is, I'm going to be writing a hell of lot again over the coming months as football season is getting under way, so of course that means the matchday programme will be back in full swing. In each issue I always write a page worth of “editors notes”, pretty much the same as one of these blogs, but given that I've tried to make some improvements to the programme this year, I've given myself even more to write and get in it. Add that to the newsletter that we're now producing as a club every month (with additional ones in between) then I am not making it easy for myself on the writing front!

I still enjoy it though, getting my thoughts down on paper (or a computer screen as is the case here) is kind of therapeutic, much like the spoken stuff I do as well, just different ways to clear the mind of things, serious or not. I guess the only worry I have, and it's more of a passing concern than something I would actually fret over, is duplication, I don't want to spend loads of time writing something that I've already gone over in my spoken stuff over on soundcloud. Now I know those that read this may not listen to that, or vice versa, but I think on a personal level it's important not to be too repetitive. I mean, it's important not to be too repetitive........

That was too easy, and I know that leaving it in there when I publish this blog will actually leave me wishing I had taken it out, most of you know what I am like when it comes to the written word! If I make mistakes I want to be told, so that I can correct them, I hate making a mess of these things, even though I do them for free and for my own enjoyment/benefit. If I'm this bad now, imagine how I would be if I was writing something that I was actually paid for that went out to thousands of people!

Now my first bit of writing in a while has pretty much been about my writing, a fairly bland topic, almost a self-obsessed piece of writing if you will. But I see it as a way to ease myself back into the long and boring stuff, the detailed blogs that will undoubtedly be sprung your way over the coming months, and for that I warn you and apologise also in advance! Whilst there isn't much substance to this particular entry, I thank you for reading, those that have, and look forward to presenting more of my wares to you all!

Thursday, 9 June 2016

Madrid in a word, Magnificent

So it’s been just over a week since I returned from Madrid, another beautiful city I had the pleasure of ticking off of my ever changing and expending mental list of places I want to visit!

When I booked this trip up, I’d not quite realised that a) I was travelling out on a bank holiday so it would be busy, and b) it was the half term holidays so it would be busy. Heathrow was certainly busy when I got going, but it wasn’t an issue, as the time had got closer I’d come to terms with the fact it’d be chaos! What I didn’t bank on though was the flight out being incredibly uncomfortable and probably the worst I’ve had so far. Don’t get me wrong, I know the more I fly, the more likely I’ll encounter problems, but damn it was the bumpiest and most nail-biting take-off I’ve ever been a part of! I didn’t let that bring me down though, once I’d got off the plane and stretched my body back into shape all was well again!

I’ll be honest (as ever), I didn’t have much of a plan as to what to see in Madrid, I was purely playing it by ear, whereas in Rome & Bruges I had an idea of what I wanted to see. But things started to fall into place after I’d checked in and got on the metro to a station that I thought would be the right place to go to get food. It wasn’t, but after looking at Google Maps on my phone I realised that the Bernab—źu was literally just down the road, so off I went to see what it was like. I got there about 18:00, with an hour to go till the tours stopped, so I thought sod it, use the time effectively and get a tour in now. What a stadium it was!?! The tour was cheap, and you could walk round without a guide which was cool, taking in the presidents area, the dressing rooms, press area, pitch side area and the seemingly endless stream of trophies on show (including the Champions League that they’d won that past weekend).


After that it got me thinking that there was a second team in Madrid and that it’d be worth doing a tour round their stadium too if I could. And that was what I did, first thing the next day, smothered in suntan lotion as the sun was shining brightly, and wearing my West Ham shirt with pride (us English either choose our club or an England shirt on holiday without fail). Another great football stadium, but from what I learnt on the tour (this one guided), Atletico only have another season or so there before they move and it’s torn down, so I was glad I got to see it now.
The rest of the day (and the following one) I quite literally walked everywhere I could before my feet began to ache too much! There was so many palaces and historical buildings around the city that me and my camera were in our element! The food was beautiful too, along with incredible weather, it was another couple of days away that allowed me to switch off and get swept up in the enjoyment of it all.

I was walking through Parque de El Retiro (a beautiful place with a boating lake in the middle of it), and I got a little taste of home. I had stopped to look at my map, then I heard "Come on you Irons!".
A cheerful old chap & his wife had spotted me looking at the map & asked if I was lost (after the Irons shout). They were Essex raised but now reside in North London (and still go games), was a great little conversation about the club & the OS when it wasn't expected! A taste of home so far away


Anyway, Madrid was a lovely trip, I enjoyed wandering around the city and seeing the sites. It is a beautiful little city, not one I’d go to again though as I feel like I’ve seen most of what I can, but I would also recommend visiting it yourself if you get a chance. Next up for me is a switch off trip to Palma, Mallorca, to soak up the sun!

Tuesday, 10 May 2016

Waving Goodbye To The Boleyn

There has been, and will be over the coming weeks, a number of articles and blogs written about the last game at the Boleyn Ground, Upton Park, and the majority of them will be written by people much more experienced than I, and written in a much more professional style too. But I wanted to get my words down on paper, or at least the internet, as I know when that final whistle blows and the curtain comes down on that historic stadium, a part of me and every other West Ham fan will be gone forever.

Many people will write about their first visit to the stadium, about how they remember exactly who they saw and who they were with. Some will write about the legacy of the club, about the academy and the seemingly endless line of young England internationals that have walked through that tunnel to the pitch. Whilst others will simply bemoan the fact that we as a club are moving to a new stadium and leaving our home of 112 years behind. Me, well I do have plenty of memories of Upton Park, many that will live with me forever, and far too many to fit in one blog, but I wanted to share a couple of things that mean a lot to me.


My first visit to Upton Park wasn’t actually for a match surprisingly enough; I was late in the attendance stakes, no my first trip was with my dad, who drove me to the ground just so I could look at the place from the outside for the first time in person. I had my picture taken outside the East & West stands, and loved every moment of it. I still have those photos, and I’m wearing a dodgy old basketball jersey as the visit was a bit of a surprise as we were originally visiting my Nan who lived down the road, I’ll have to scan one or two so I can share them online.

I do still remember the first game I went to, I had been given a ticket one Christmas for the game a few days later (28th December 1998) and I went on my own (as generally became the norm for me over the years). West Ham at home to Coventry City, I remember it well as I was in the lower part of the Centenary Stand (now the Trevor Brooking stand) and saw Ian Wright and John Hartson score to give us a 2-0 win.

That was the first of many, and the following season I actually had a season ticket which was awesome. That year we went through the whole Manny Omoyinmi issue (cheers Harry), the emergence of Di Canio & his wonder goal (scored in front of the centenary stand where I was at the time) against Wimbledon. I’ve seen incredible victories and heartbreaking losses, shed tears and cheered so loud I got a bit light headed, and sung I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles countless times. I’ve met some superb people thanks to that club, some of which will remain a part of my life for a long time to come, I’ve met an idol (Julian Dicks) and shared in some special moments for people in my life at Upton Park.

I won’t be there for the last game, my final visit was a stadium tour just last week which sent chills down my spine, especially when walking out the tunnel to the pitch. I am glad I had the chance to say goodbye to the place, somewhere that holds countless memories for me and so many others. Some may think this is an overreaction, but any football fan who has seen their club move home will know the feelings West Ham fans have right now.


Thank you Upton Park, thank you Boleyn Ground, thank you West Ham United. It is the end of an era, but the beginning of a new and exciting chapter down the road at Stratford. It’s certainly been emotional, and watching that final game tonight won’t be easy, but I’ll belt out bubbles at home in honour of the Boleyn Ground tonight for sure. Come On You Irons!

Friday, 22 April 2016

Family, New York, And Talking About It

Last weekend I, along with my brothers and dad, went to Newcastle for my cousins wedding, it was an emotional occasion as it would be the first time all this side of the family would be together in one place since my Nans funeral last February.

It was a great celebration for Claire & Stevie on the day, even though our southern clan struggled at times to understand a word Stevie and his side were saying (the Geordie accent can be a tough one to get round). I enjoyed catching up with the family again, it gets said all the time but it’s sad really that a lot of the times we catch up are at weddings and funerals. There were a few standout moments of the weekend though for sure, the grooms speech got a lot of us choked up as he’d lost his mum recently, and also mentioned our Nan, so tears flowed from my aunts & a few of us. Speaking of my Nan, about 10 years ago we had a family photo taken for her, one of which was all the cousins together. The wedding was the perfect opportunity to get another one done, the professional one will come soon but my aunt captured one too, felt like a good touch and nod to Nan, and we know she’d have loved the photo.

Of course, you know what families are like at weddings, one of my aunts was on my case, why aren’t you with someone, why aren’t you married and having kids, you should have someone etc. Thankfully there’s not many weddings in this family so I don’t get that very often, but it’s not exactly easy explaining that actually you don’t need to find someone, and marriage isn’t something I want in life. Maybe there was a moment when I thought I’d do that for the right person if that’s what they really wanted, but that’s a once in a blue moon thing, even when you say it’s not something you want, there’s still too many people that think you have to have someone, get married, have kids etc to be happy in life!

Anyway, enough of that for now. Summer is coming, which means that the NFL schedule has been released ready for the start of the season at the end of August. With the schedule comes my plan for my next NY trip, and I’ve already gone through the guys at Sports Travel Tours and put my deposit down! It didn’t take long to get sorted, so a week after my 33rd birthday this year I’ll be back off to New York to see the Jets take on the LA Rams (formerly of St Louis)! These NY trips are fast becoming a tradition and a year wouldn’t be the same now without a jaunt over to the US for a game and a bit of touristy sight-seeing.

Sports on this side of the pond have been entertaining too, the lads at Concord Rangers won the Essex Senior Cup for the third time in as many seasons, and West Ham are fighting for a European spot as they it 6th in the league. Following the teams I do, being able to get along to the games I do, it’s because I’ve got the time, freedom, and money to do so, one of the reasons I am continuing to enjoy life and embrace the opportunities that are provided for me!

What’s next? Well the wrestling podcast continues to go well, still having a laugh each & every time we put it together. Actually that has prompted me to record my own little snippets and stick them online, almost verbalising a mini version of my blog (on Soundcloud, as BullJet, original I know). I sound like an idiot when I’m doing it, hence why I’ve not really publicised it, but it’s kind of cathartic, much like writing these are. Work is going well, usual blips but it could be worse. Other than that, life is life, I’m still smiling, hopefully you are too!

Tuesday, 5 April 2016

Whisky, Podcasts, and What's Next

Bit of a catch up this blog, not one specific topic but two main ones as noted by the title! Recently I attended Whisky Live, and subsequently wrote a lengthy blog about it. In said blog I also mentioned the Whisky Weekender, which took place this past weekend (run by the guys at The Whisky Lounge). Of course I attended and had a blast as always, catching up with some of the same people I'd seen just two weeks previous at Whisky Live. One difference though was that I took a long time friend along to what was her first whisky event.

Now she likes whisky, and going in to the event had a general idea as to the type of whisky she liked, as anyone who is slightly familiar with a dram would have. But as I've said before, these shows are about sampling new whiskies and finding out what other drams you like and enjoy. It was actually a proud moment seeing my friend try some rather different whiskies from what she was used to and finding out that she really enjoyed them. It was also good to see that some of those were ones I'd recommended, my taste in whisky isn't too shabby! The “marmite of whisky” Balcones was one standout, along with the new “Quiet Man” Irish blend, and The One, a blend released from the new Lakes Distillery (which is on the list to visit eventually).

This past weekend, whilst full of lovely whisky for me, was also a rather important one in the wrestling world, being that on Sunday night it was Wrestlemania, the biggest event of the year that WWE (the company we all knew back in the day as WWF) put on. Now I'm not going to sit here and write a bucket load of stuff about wrestling, but recently I've had more than one reason to watch it (other than general enjoyment). Back in December, myself, my two brothers and a couple of mates went to a wrestling show at Wembley arena, beforehand at a restaurant we sat around a table and talked a lot of wrestling, to which one mate suggested we should put together a podcast. 3 months later and after much discussion, we finally got off our arses and started recording one, and at the time of writing we're 4 episodes in and regularly notching up around 75-80 listens per show. If you like wrestling, or know anyone that does, our podcast is at Soundcloud.com/thesmarkcast, and we also have a Facebook page & twitter account!


Nothing like a bit of shameless self promotion eh? Other than that, things are going fairly well in general. Looking forward to the NFL schedule being released later this month, as then I can organise my next trip to New York (Kyle, Brian, guys I'm sure I owe you a beer or two when I get over there), and the month after that I am hoping to book a trip to Vegas for next year with friends which should be a blast too. Plus there's the Great British Beer festival in August, another whisky event in October, and any other trip that I decide to book before then (thinking Barcelona next as the summer approaches).

I could write a bunch more about football (what a season for West Ham eh? And Concord are flying....), the countless tv shows I'm watching (series 2 of Daredevil is awesome by the way), the books I've read recently (yes I read), my emotional state (relatively solid), my family (a pain as always but I love them), but then I would end up boring you more than I already have! Thanks for reading, it's always appreciated.

Thursday, 24 March 2016

Love A Whisky Or Three

Those that know me, know I enjoy a whisky or two, ok maybe more than two, and over the years I have been to a number of whisky tasting events. There's plenty that go on during the year, with three main ones that take place in London. There's the big one, The Whisky Show, in October, The Whisky Weekender in a couple of weeks, and most recently there was Whisky Live (this year I will be attending, and possibly writing about, all three)

I first attended a Whisky Live event many moons ago, back in 2008 if I remember right, and since then I've attended every London event except for 3 years ago when I was ill. Needless to say I am familiar with the set-up and how the event has changed over the years. The first one I went to was in Westminster, the Royal Horticultural Halls to be precise, then the next couple of years the event moved to a bigger space at the Hurlingham Club in west London, before switching to the Honourable Artillery Company near Old Street where it remains to this day.

So on to this years event, not sure whether there were less tickets on sale or just that less people showed, but it didn't seem as busy as it has done in previous years. The venue is a small one compared to other events, so it's easily crowded, but it didn't seem as much this year. That didn't detract from the drams on offer though obviously! Coming to these shows more often you tend to bump into exhibitors you've met a number of times before, so you gravitate towards them and get to try some truly special whisky. That was the case on this day, as I sought out Dave Worthington aka WhiskyDiscovery (who took the picture below), and the Maverick Drinks stand.


The Reference Series, taking a whisky and exploring exactly what effect cask/age etc has on it, is a whisky geeks dream. Reference III is a blinding blended malt (yes a blend!), and I sampled all the versions that Dave had on the stand. The most I've spent on a bottle previously is £200, there's a chance I may break that for one of these (over £200 a pop). The truly special one though was The Lost Distilleries Blend, featuring whisky from closed distilleries such as Port Ellen, Caperdonich, Mosstowie, Glenisla, Glenlochy and Imperial Scotch malt whiskies as well as grain from Port Dundas. This was £350 a bottle, which was shocking, as a whisky from each lost distillery in the blend could cost much more than that!

Also on that stand was an award winner, The Golden Age Blend whisky, which had an age statement attached of 40 years. Those that know whisky know that a blend displaying an age statement has to display the age of the youngest whisky in there, so the ones in this blend were a lot older than me! Only 210 bottles were made, which is understandable given the age of the whiskies, but again this is only £350, which is incredibly cheap given what's in there. Trying drams like this are why I go to these shows, I catch up with old whisky pals (not saying you're old Dave) and get to try whisky that I would never normally have.

Some of the other whiskies I was able to enjoy on the day included a sherry cask Amrut (Indian whisky), a number of independent bottlings from Murray McDavid (which before this show I had never heard of), a cracking Elements of Islay bottling (on the recommendation of Billy/Cowfish), and some excellent Irish whisky from Dunville's. The regular greats were there too, Nikka, Teeling (love their grain whisky, and loved the free hat), Glen Moray and Compass Box. At the end of the day I bought 3 bottles, the Elements of Islay bottling, the sherried Amrut, and one of the early Reference Series bottlings.

If you enjoy whisky, even as a passing interest, I'd recommend taking in one of these shows/events to get you started. You get to meet some great people with an incredible knowledge of whisky, they are friendly and will happily take you through any questions you have about it. No matter how many times you go, you will always learn something new and try a different whisky, trust me on that one!

Sunday, 28 February 2016

If You Choose Not To Decide, You Still Have Made A Choice

Life is a wonderful thing, and it's amazing when you look at it how so many seemingly small decisions can end up having long lasting and almost life changing consequences.

I look at a few key moments actually that have played a part in putting me where I am today and having some of the experiences that I have over the past few years. I know I've mentioned it before, but one tweet suggesting I go watch Concord Rangers was essentially the start of what has been a 6 year journey as part of a club I now see as family. Back then, I would never have even had a thought that a) I would fall in love with the club as much as I did, b) I would become good friends with the players & people around it, and c) that I'd end up being a committee member and editor of the matchday programme. The experiences that have come my way can essentially all be traced back to going to that first game.

It hasn't stopped there though, the team is on the verge of their 4th cup final in as many years (Ryman, then 2 Essex Senior Cups), holding their own in a league not far off the pro game, and the club continues to expand and progress with all the community work they are doing. There's a bright future on the horizon for Concord Rangers and those that are a part of it, however we got to be there.

I went to New York back in 2002, and brought home a New York Jets towel, just as a bit of NY merchandise really. If I didn't pick up that green & white towel, which I still have to this day, would I have chosen a different team to follow when I got into the NFL? Probably, or I may not have even have got hooked on the sport like I eventually did. Small decision, but ultimately it led me on a road which has taken me back to New York two more times to see the Jets live at their home stadium (and meet the team owner), I've been to countless NFL games at Wembley (including to see the Jets last year), and I have met some fantastic people on both sides of the pond thanks to a mutual love of and enjoyment of the Jets or the NFL in general. Again, it's not stopping either, I plan on visiting NY again this year to catch another game, meet up with some of the friends I've made over the last two years, and hopefully meet some more.

Small decisions that you don't think about too much at the time can set you on a path that can bring a lot of opportunities and experiences. Even with work it goes all the way back to being too lazy to find anything for work experience back at school. So I asked my mum, who at the time worked at Fenchurch Street station, if I could go work with her for 2 weeks. Easy enough, no effort in finding businesses or roles that matched what I wanted to do with my life, because I didn't know even then. There was timing involved later on though, as I finished school just as a part time job came up, the manager knew me, so it was easy enough to get into that job and settle in. 16 years later I'm still on the railway, doing a job I enjoy with a number of decent people and getting a decent wage for it. Obviously there's been tough times and I've had to work hard over the years to change roles and move upwards, but I wouldn't be in the place I am today if it wasn't for these decisions way back when.

Why am I being all reflective and thoughtful about all this? Well I was thinking about it all, one of those moments where you wonder how you got here, what decisions led you to this stage in life. I overthink things sometimes, so waffling on here allows me to clear the head a bit!

Am I talking bollocks? Maybe, but the thing is that, even if I do say so myself, this makes sense. The decisions you make through life, no matter how insignificant they may be at the time, will set you on an unknown path which could ultimately lead to some of the most impressive, enjoyable and interesting experiences there is, from the places you may visit, the people you meet, the relationships you form, the things you do, it all started from a simple, 5 second thought of a decision way back when. They say life is what you make it, well yeah, thanks to the decisions and choices you make.

Friday, 19 February 2016

Beautiful Bruges, Where Next?

I'm writing this just over 24 hours after returning home from a couple of days in Bruges, a couple of days away where I could chill out, take in the sights and clear my head of any issues that have been bugging me recently (all work, so nothing too major).

Bruges, for those that don't know, is a city in Belgium, about an hour by train from Brussels, and overall about 3 hours journey from London via the Eurostar. It's one that has a rich and diverse heritage, with various influences that have shaped its style over its history (Flanders/Flemish, French, Dutch etc). Up until this past week, all I'd seen of Bruges was pictures on the tv, and mostly from the film "In Bruges" (one I'd highly recommend you watch too), but that was enough for it to be high on my list of cities to visit and experience.

(As a background, early last year I made a mental list of cities I wished to visit and see now that I have a) the time, b) the money and c) the motivation. Rome, thanks to the Italian blood in the far reaches of my family amongst other things, was the first on my list, and I had the distinct pleasure of going there last July. My list includes a bucketload of other places, and continually changes in number, but it's something I look forward to adding to in the future)

Back to Bruges, and from a visual standpoint the city is beautiful. You can see the influence from the different cultures over the years in the buildings that line each and every cobbled street, from the buildings that house the seemingly endless chocolate shops, to the belfry (Belfort, 366 steps to the top and I climbed it, was very out of breath at the top) and buildings on Markt Square, to the equally impressive churches across the city. Then there's the canals that run through the city, which sparkled under the winter/spring sun that I had the pleasure of experiencing (no rain or snow till I was leaving thankfully), and the four windmills that sit on the outskirts of the city were impressive also.

I like my food, that's fairly obvious when you take a look at me, I mean you don't get a figure like this by saying no to extra helpings! One of the things I am trying to do when I visit these cities/places is eat the local food, try more grub and not just resort to the same standard English dishes that it would be easy to hold on to. There was no shortage of eateries, plenty of resturants & "tea-rooms" around the city to sample, so I made sure that the four meals I ate were a) all different, and b) all in different establishments. As I start to travel more, and as I get older, I realise the importance of taking as much in as possible, you never know if you'll be back again, so enjoy the experiences! Anyway, the food, a Flemish Stew made with one of the many outstanding local beers (too many to list) was very moreish, I could have had that every meal, and the Brussels Witlof was a chicory & ham dish baked in a cheese type sauce, that was new but very enjoyable!

So as a whole the trip was fantastic, I am glad I went to Bruges, glad I can now tick it off my mental list of cities to visit, and glad I had a chance to chill out, think about all things life and prepare for what awaited me when I returned! Work can be a pain in the arse, especially at the moment, but otherwise things are good, football, life, family, I'm in a "happy place" and long may that continue. Next up on the list, hopefully not as long a gap between Rome & Bruges, is either Paris (where I went as a 21 year old, & I want to return to really take it in this time) or Barcelona, but that may well change next month knowing me! Things are good, so I'm enjoying it while I can!

Saturday, 23 January 2016

It's Officially Wrestlemania Season

Wrestling, sports entertainment, something that continues to polarise opinions across the world, but remains one of the most watched regular episodic programmes on television. And this time of year is its most important, the Road To Wrestlemania from this Sundays Royal Rumble through to the biggest event the company puts on at the end of March/beginning of April, Wrestlemania.

So with the biggest, and possibly most profitable period for the company in full swing, it would be the perfect time to put out their best product on their main shows (Raw). However if anything, regular viewers would have noticed that the main event product just isn’t provoking the entertainment and excitement that this season should to bring fans in. A big reason for that, at least in my opinion, is that much of the storyline is what we’ve seen before, it’s the same old thing, and the characters that are doing it just don’t provoke the same emotion as the first time we saw it (see Stone Cold Steve Austin compared to Roman Reigns).

There is an original and popular 1 hour weekly show that the WWE currently produce which in my humble opinion regularly trounces the 3-hour behemoth that is Monday Night Raw, and that’s their developmental brand NXT. Developmental is no new thing, but the way NXT is used and promoted is far different to what OVW and other brands were for WWE rookies. It is its own brand, its own part of the WWE universe, with its own fans that have made this brand the success that it now is. The stars are learning the ropes, trying out their characters in front of a live, highly opinionated audience, and putting on some of the best matches in the company right now. With established “indie” stars coming in as well to add validity to the brand, it continues to grow and take over.

The success of these talented guys is there for all to see, with last years Wrestlemania being full of NXT alumni, every match save for one featuring guys who have made the step up. The progress is continuing too, with guys like Tyler Breeze, Adrian Neville and Kevin Owens making the successful transition to the main stage. Their matches are always some of the best on the card, but they can only do so much, the booking on RAW sees the same old storylines come our way, whilst NXT these guys appear original and give fans a fresh look on the business. Supposedly RAW & Smackdown, well the guys behind it, are realising this, but that remains to be seen in the end product. The main roster shows need something fresh, need something new and need to have the guts to take chances and follow it through to the (hopeful) payoff.      

The WWE must know this, and have seemingly (as we still have no official confirmation on the shows) gone all out to mix things up by bringing in some of Japans biggest current stars to the WWE ranks, including one of the best wrestlers in recent years in AJ Styles. Now Vince McMahon has brought in big names from other companies before, and with the WWE being the only real name in town since the demise of both ECW & WCW, Vince’s ego has been known to keep him from pushing them to the top. It remains to be seen if a) these guys have actually been signed up, and b) if they’ll be used in the most appropriate way for their respective star powers.

It could all be a big work by the WWE guys, and the fans could be left disappointed yet again, but it’s the Road To Wrestlemania season, there’s always hope that something big will happen to get the fans buzzing again and wanting to watch every show without fail. Either way, there’s one big bright light for WWE right now, and that’s NXT, if you’re a wrestling fan then quite simply you should be watching it.  

Wednesday, 6 January 2016

My New York Jets Journey (So Far)

It's been a while since I've posted on this blog, which is a shame really as it means that the writing I have been doing has been elsewhere, mainly the Concord Rangers matchday programme. With the obsession I have ensuring that a different article goes into each programme, it’s easy to forget that I used to write these blogs purely because I enjoyed doing so, not out of any sort of responsibility!

Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoy the writing, rambling on about my opinions and thoughts so that the few people that buy a Concord programme get to read them, but there’s something about doing these blogs that just made it easy for me to write! Anyway, I’m back to waffle on about the NFL, and there’s not much call for that in a football programme!

In 2002 I went to New York for the first time, did the whole sightseeing thing, and as one of a number of souvenirs I bought a bath towel, a green one emblazoned with a New York sports team emblem. At the time it was just as souvenir, nothing else, it was only around a year later when I realised what it represented, and even then I had no idea what would lay ahead as a result.

So in 2003 I caught highlights of an NFL game on Sky for the first time, I remember it having a pretty close ending, and I thought maybe there’s something to this game. Soon after I bought an old preowned Madden game for my PS2, it helped me understand the game I’d watched, and I had a much better idea as to how the whole thing went together. Of course, once I realised this was something I enjoyed, I needed to pick a team to follow, and that’s where the towel comes back. It was a New York Jets towel, at the time it was just a souvenir, but I thought I’ve already got something associated with a team, so that would be the team I follow.

As the years went on, I got a much better understanding of the game, my attachment to the team grew, watching more games and getting much more of a passion for the whole thing. I also soon realised that whilst the Jets weren’t the worst team around, they provided a hell of a lot of ups & downs over the seasons.

Now, all these years later, the New York Jets are one of the three main sports teams I follow, they provide a rollercoaster of emotions much like any sport & team. The passion I have for the team is something that has seen me jump and scream for joy, and most recently sit in solemn silence after a very tough loss. I’ve been lucky enough to see the Jets live 3 times, twice over at Metlife stadium and once here at Wembley, all of which increased my passion and love for the team and my fellow Jets fans. The people I met in NY either at the tailgate (always representing L7!) or at the games themselves, have all become like an extended family. Pretty sure it was Brian Signorella (pictured being carried by me and Kyle) who said it best to me last year, once you put on that green & white, you’re family!



This season was one of rebuilding for the Jets, after a 4 win year last season things had to improve under new coach Todd Bowles, and improve they did. 10 wins came the Jets way (2 of which I saw live), and numerous franchise records were broken by QB Ryan Fitzpatrick (Fitzmagic) and WR Brandon Marshall, but as great as it was, the biggest and most emotional moment came on the last weekend of the season. Needing to beat the Buffalo Bills (led by former Jets coach Rex Ryan) to reach the playoffs for the first time in 5 years, the Jets crumbled, couldn’t get control of the game and ended up losing in heartbreaking fashion, ripping the playoff opportunity from our grasp.

The loss hurt for so many reasons, but there’s plenty of reason for optimism going forward too. This team improved massively from the previous season, looked a threat on offence and turned over some decent teams. We’ve a young HC who is learning & improving, along with a lot of young, talented players who will be impacting this league for many years to come. My New York Jets journey/story isn’t a long one, but it’s been a great one so far, having met some incredible people (including the team owner!) and I look forward to seeing where it takes me, the team and every other Jets fan in the future!

To Talk, Or To Write? A Bloggers Return!

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