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!

To Talk, Or To Write? A Bloggers Return!

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