Tuesday, December 21, 2010

So this is what it feels like to have horseshoes up your ass

Holy luck of the draw! As I write this I’m sitting past security waiting for my flight at Heathrow airport. The past few days have been absolute insanity for people here. The majority of flights have been cancelled or severely delayed, and the terminal looks like a posh refugee camp. Heathrow is allowing 1/3 of flights to depart today, and Delta is running 4 of its 7 flights and I’m fortunate to be on one of those 4. Plus, as it stands now my flight is completely on time. If all goes well the next obstacle will be connecting through Minneapolis (which contrary to what one friend thought, is not the home of Superman). 

I can’t believe it was over 4 months ago that I sat in Calgary airport writing a blog post about the adventures ahead. This has easily been the quickest 4 months of my entire life. In some ways I feel I should have done more, but at the same time I’ve done quite a bit. Since arriving in the UK I’ve:

-          Run 2 half marathons 
-          Started my MA and so far my marks are looking got for a 1st
-          Had a song played on BBC Radio Wales
-          Finalized the line up (well, almost) for Panda...I love those boys
-          Recorded an EP
-          Play our first live gig with Panda
-          Started learning a new language
-          Discovered a passion for cheese and chips, and invented my own version (the double layer C&C)
-          Gained at least 5 pounds (see the last point)
-          Landed a decent job with really awesome people
-          Spent 3 weekends in London
-          Learned the art of epic procrastination
-          Spent way, way, way too much money

All in all its been a good autumn...now on to Christmas!!!!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Sorry blog, it's not you it's me.

Oh my poor neglected blog. How typical is this. You fall in love, it's all intense and then you just lose interest or something better comes along. Sigh. I promise to try to be more attentive.

 It's almost been a full month since my last post, which means it's been almost a full month since the Cardiff half. Holy crap time flies. Since then I've gone to a music festival in Cardiff, spent a weekend in London, went on a day trip to Bath, became a tiny bit more fluent in Welsh (or rhygl yn Gymraeg), completed my first history paper in 6 years, recruited a bassist and another guitarist for Panda, worked a bit, fired someone for the first time, eaten my weight in cheese and chips, and finally gone on about 4 runs. That's it in a nut shell.

Other than the trips to cities most people have heard of I've done most of these activities from a small city called Swansea, nestled against the ocean in South Wales. Most people have never heard of the place unless they have family from here or they’ve been to Wales before. I’m not entirely sure how I feel about Swansea. It’s quite rough around the edges, but it also has it’s charms. The city centre lacks character because most of it was bombed away during WWII. In addition you can still see the after effects of Thatcherism on the area, plus the fallout from recent economic downturn has also left its mark. On more than one occasion I’ve felt that the city really has no soul. That being said, the area I live in does have a bit more personality. The Uplands is a quaint pseudo-bohemian neighbourhood that was once quite posh. The area boasts the house Dylan Thomas was born in, as well as live music venues that smell of urine and ale, and a few really nice little cafes. There are remnants of its former glory tucked in and around the brothels, solicitors, Indian take aways’ and social services. It’s that sort of place.

The residence I live in is university housing for international grad students. The facades are majestic Victorian town homes, which you walk right through to access the modest but comfortable student apartments, which were built much more recently. It’s quiet and clean, and because it’s not swarming with undergrads it’s usually fairly peaceful.

Ty Beck Student Residence

To give the city some credit, it does have some amazing scenery. I live about 10 minutes from the beach, which runs right down to the Mumbles. In addition, I get to walk through another beautiful feature of the city – Singleton Park. Beautiful as it may be, it’s also dangerous. A student was mugged in broad daylight a couple of weeks ago, and because there’s no regular bus service to the Uplands we all have to walk through the park after dark, and the city has yet to replace most of the burnt out lights.

Singleton Park

Singleton Park

That basically sums up Swansea. It’s rough and ugly with breathtaking scenery. It completely lacks character in some area but has loads in others. I don’t think I’d every live here permanently, but it’s not a bad place to spend a year.

Monday, October 18, 2010

And I Ra-a-an...

Thank you Flock of Seagulls for providing me with the only title could come up with today.
Well, my 2010 half marathons are all done and dusted...unless I come across another one before the weather turns absolutely miserable. I have to say, this last one yesterday in Cardiff was my least favourite but in all fairness it did produce my best time.  

The course itself was beautiful, but the 14,999 other runners trying to race through the fairly narrow streets and park pathways of Cardiff were not. The race officially started at 9am, but it took close to 7 minutes before I crossed the start line. We wove our way through central Cardiff, cheek by jowl into Bute Park along what was a walking path that would normally fit four people walking side by side, not rows of runners, elbows up, jostling for a better position. Fortunately the grass was soft in most places so we could spill over on to it. How I didn’t end up with a shiner from a rogue elbow or a rolled ankle is beyond me. There were also a lot of slower runners who placed themselves at the front of the pack, which was frustrating given the fact that it was far too crowded to pass people easily. It’s called race etiquette people.  

There were a couple of cool views of the masses of runners, such as when we came around a bend and followed a football field. I could see the 5,500 runners in front of me snaking along the path at a steady cadence. It made me think of what it must have looked like to be inside the ranks of an infantry marching to battle. That was the only novelty of the crowd. There were simply too many people to make it enjoyable.

The other cruel factor of the race was the misleading finish line. After running our way though beautiful Caridiff bay we passed the 11 mile mark. I looked at my watch and saw my time so far was 1hour 40 minutes, so I knew if I just kept up my pace I’d finish in under 2 hours, which was my ultimate goal. Rounding a curve I could see the Millennium Centre in its splendid glory standing right by where the finish line was. As we approached I could see the inflated red arch of the finish growing larger as I approached. I pushed myself as hard as I could. My legs were heavy, my left  IT band felt like snapping, my stomach felt like heaving, my airways were constricting, but the finish line was so close! Then the course took us straight past the finish line on the opposite side of the road and onwards for what seemed like an eternity (probably about ½ a mile) before we finally u-turned and ran back up to the finish. I think I swore under my breath about 5 times. Whoever thought that up must not be a runner.

After the finish line I sucked on my inhaler until my airways opened enough for me to inhale properly, and I grabbed my medal, cried a little and drank a latte...the caffeine is good for preventing lactic acid build up. It works. Trust me. 

I think the moral of the story is, run a race that’s not fun to run. The Calgary half was nice because I enjoyed running through the familiar streets of my childhood home, which I see less and less of each year. Time: 2 hours 15 minutes, with an injury. The Wales half took me through stunning coastal scenery, ancient villages and beautiful, bucolic farmland. Time: 2 hours 10 minutes. I couldn’t wait for the Cardiff half to be over. Time: 1 hour 57 minutes and 46 seconds.  

Thank you to Dad, Gwion, Llinos, Gruff, Marni, Iris & William, Rhian, Sean, Katerina and Pete for sponsoring me!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Neis Cwrdd a Chi NHS!!!

Translation: Nice to meet you National Health Service. 

This is a record, even for me...and unfortunately I'm not talking about half marathon finish times. 2 weeks, two rounds of antibiotics for two completely unrelated infections. I'm thinking I may need to slow down just a touch. Work, music, school, socializing and running seem to be catching up with me. I should probably also lay off that ubiquitous and odious South Walian delicacy...cheese and chips. Ugh. I’ve eaten my weight in greasy, curd laden spuds in the past fortnight. Granted, it did prove to be an excellent carbing up meal, but really. I’m not running an ultimate.

According to the wonderful marathon-running doctor at the university medical centre, it’s not uncommon to catch something after a half or full run, so that made me feel a bit better for coming down with a sinus infection within 48 hours of crossing the finish line. That doesn’t explain the latest bug, which I won’t spell out but only allude to by saying cranberry helps and hurts. I’m only ranting about my tragedies in the hope that someone out there will be moved enough by my pathetic state to donate towards the charity I’m trying to support this coming Sunday...hint, hint ;) 

On a positive note, classes are now underway! 8 hours of Welsh lessons and I can officially call someone an idiot, say I’m taking the dog for a walk and ask you for your phone number and where you’re going for a meal tonight. All very useful ;) (Twpsyn; Dwi’n mynd i ci am dro;  Beth yw’ch rhif ffon? Ble wyt ti’n mynd i bryd o fwyd heno?). I’ve also attended one history seminar, which was very basic and informal, but full of potentially interesting people. However, the evening prior to this I attended a small video link seminar during which time two senior members of faculty from my department did that infamous slumbering head bob.  I’m hoping this indiscretion on their parts buys me a bit of credit when my turn comes, because given my recent schedule and current condition it’s only a matter of time.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Bit of an epic week

I’d have to say that this past week has been an eventful one, and fortunately everything except the cold that kicked in this afternoon has been quite positive.

1.       I’m gainfully employed. On Thursday whilst preparing for a job fair I received a call from Arch Anglez with an offer of a part time position in their central office. They have several beauty counters in Debenhams and Boots around England and Wales and need help with their daily operations. They’re really nice people, the pay isn’t rock bottom and it’s a cool company. I started the job today, and so far it seems like a decent gig.

2.       First proper electric practice with the band. We plugged the Panda in and things are sounding pretty fantastic. We rehearsed in an old former church on the grounds of a defunct mental hospital in Carmarthen (BC isn’t alone apparently). The inside is elaborately decorated with brickwork apparently done by former inmates. It looks more like a tube station than a church, except for the dusty pews and old pipe organ. Musically, it’s so great to hear songs written over the past year come to life, hear with the boys have been working on and what they bring to the material that’s already there. We all left feeling pretty exhilarated. Now we just need a proper singer and a bassist...my vocals certainly won’t do!

3.       I moved into residence, albeit one day late thanks to some bad chicken eaten by my chauffeur. Fortunately his lovely parents drove me there the following day. Operation De-Dormify is now nearly complete thanks to a new area rug, mirrors and drapes. Only 3 of the 6 rooms in my flat are occupied, but both occupants are very sweet.

4.       And last but not least I ran my second half marathon in record time, which isn’t that difficult when the first one was run with an injury and on very little sleep. There were only about 100 runners and the run started with a samba-led parade from Pembroke castle, down the high street to the start line and took us along stunning coastline, lovely rolling hedge-rowed farmland, ancient castles and wooded groves. The downhill bits led to angry IT band that made me almost drop out halfway, but a bit of a walk and a lucky dose of Don’t Stop Me Now by Queen from one of the Race Marshall’s car stereos helped.

This coming week will include registering for my courses, working, band artwork, a Pink Floyd and hearing a song I wrote played for the first time on BBC Radio Cymru (C2)

That, in a wordy nutshell, is that....aaaaaaaaaand scene.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Prologue Continues

Oh, how I hate job hunting. Over the past week I’ve submitted at least 3 dozen resumes, most of which were for jobs I had absolutely no interest in. The economy in Swansea is apparently more crap than I had anticipated. It makes me feel a little at home seeing a thriving retail centre filled with a handful of destitute unemployed, possibly homeless people. Ah, urban decay. That being said, I did just leave an interview for a job that I would define as decent, to possibly a good gig. We’ll see what they say when they call with their final decision, but I have as good a feeling as I could about it.

So the job hunt has been more or less ‘meh.’ So what else have I been up to whilst in Wales...other than eating too much that is? Well, I’ve been fortunate to have enough time to pursue two of my current passions. I’ve been training for my next half marathon this coming Sunday...and by running I mean two 6 mile runs and plenty of carbing up. The other bit of funness has been getting Sleepy Panda Club up and running. Gruff and I have spent a couple of good solid days refining and polishing songs, audition singers and jamming with the boys. Things are starting to come together...hopefully we’ll have some audio samples on MySpace soon.

The agenda for the rest of the week: Run, secure a job, and move into my dorm!

Monday, September 13, 2010

So far so good

I’ve been away from Canada for less than a week, and I’ve got to say the transition has been super easy and more than a little fun. Classes haven’t started yet, and I won’t move into my dorm for two more weeks, so really I’ve been on a glorified vacation that starts to end today. In the next hour I’ll be attending a registration for my intro to Welsh course, which will be meeting two mornings a week for who knows how long. Following that I’m going to hit the pavement and look for a part time job in Swansea...the more mundane and simple the better. Although I waited tables for 5 years, and worked retail for a short while after high school my years in post secondary support have cast a rose-coloured veil over the reality of such jobs and I currently have a romantic idea of working in a coffee shop or boutique. We’ll see how I feel about that if and when it happens!

Prior to arriving in Wales yesterday I spent three fantastic days in London doing a bunch of stuff that I’ve wanted to do but never had the chance on any of my previous trips. I arrived on Thursday and settled into my hostel after a mandatory trip to Marks and Spencers to stock up on salads. After a short nap I dusted myself off and headed out to meet my expat friends Jess and Heather in Shoreditch. It was Heather’s birthday and she arranged a gathering for her massive mob of friends at a neat little foosball bar. I’m sure I was far from articulate, and my foosball skills were atrocious, but I did manage to last until around 11pm before the feeling of being on a jet lag rollercoaster caught up to me and I headed home.

Friday I walked an epic 11 miles around London. I started near Regents Park and walked to Westminster Abbey (and refused to pay £15 to get in when going to a service is free), then crossed the Thames and walked the South Bank to Borough Market. OMG I heart Borough Market! It’s a food lover’s paradise. Local and imported meats, raw French cheeses, decadent baked goods, ready-made delicacies (such as the boiled potatoes topped with oozing freshly broiled cheese scraped directly off of a massive wheel of cheese, served with a side of gherkins) and stalls serving local beer and cider, and imported prosecco in takeaway cups. These lunchtime indulgences motivated me to keep walking, so I continued back across London Bridge towards St. Pauls. Again, refusing to pay to look around I carried on my way back up to Camden to enjoy the array of seedy and trendy shops and stalls at the Stables Market. I then met up with my local friends Philip and Juliana for a delicious Lebanese meal and a wonderful visit.

Saturday started with a nice sleep in an intense visit to the Imperial War Museum. I highly recommend this to everyone. I spent my time in two of the most powerful exhibits I have ever seen. The Holocaust exhibit alone is well worth the trip to Lambeth. It’s one of the most concise and extensive portrayals of the atrocities of WWII that I’ve ever seen. I spent 2 hours in it and made it about ¾ of the way through before overload set in and I had to leave. Outside the exhibit was the entrance to a 30 minute film about war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity...because the Holocaust apparently wasn’t enough I decided to give it a go. Wow. Disturbing, horrific and powerful. Well worth a view if you can handle the cold, harsh realities of what humans continually do to each other. I left the museum and thanked my lucky stars that I was born when and where I was. This day fittingly wrapped up with the highly acclaimed, and in my opinion overrated play Warhorse. The staging and puppetry were amazing, and made the show, but the story was a bit weak, most of the characters were one dimensional (save one German officer), some of the acting was surprisingly weak for a West End show, and it dragged on...sort of like this blog post!  

My London adventures wrapped up on Sunday when I boarded the train at Paddington for Wales. Now the next leg of my journey begins.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Here I go again...

To quote the poetic words of Whitesnake, “Here I go again on my own.” I’m sitting by myself in the post-security food court at YYC waiting for my overpriced, delayed charter flight to the UK...and I’ve just given myself a lovely mental picture Tawny Kitaen rolling around on the nose of the aircraft...but I digress.

I said goodbye to the last and most important people last night (that would be my family) and thanks to a 2.5 hour flight delay I got to say goodbye to them all again today. Saying goodbye over a meal (my family does everything over a meal) meant that also I also had the opportunity to enjoy one last Canadian breakfast, however I instinctively ordered tea and ham rather than coffee and streaky bacon. In hindsight I probably should have taken the opportunity to indulge in our delicious North American heart attack inducing version of bacon and some good all-you-can-drink coffee, but I’m sure I can learn to enjoy different fatty or caffeinated indulgences over there. The other added bonus of being delayed is it gave me time to get my new presumably fraud-free Visa card in the mail at the 11th hour...not that I should use it much whilst on leave from job.  

Anyway, my epically overweight luggage is checked and I’m $400 poorer thanks to it, but at least I get to enjoy all the added benefits of flying “Premium” class. Yay! A warm wet facecloth and some generic wine...but that’s the price you pay when you insist on taking all your shoes overseas on a discount airline. My luggage weighs 10kg less than I do. I’m just impressed that I can lift it all myself...now to find a UK chiropractor.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Prairie Purgatory

By purgatory I don’t mean anything derogatory, although some may argue that time spent in Calgary is a form of punishment. For me I'm simply in a self-inflicted limbo. I’ve packed up my life, said goodbye and returned ‘home’ while I await my imminent departure to the UK. If Catholic purgatory were potentially as pleasant as Calgary purgatory then I’d happily convert and commit some venial sins. The days ahead promise to be full reconnecting with family and friends, relaxing, and hopefully relieving some of my parents’ burden by helping out a bit. It’s not a bad way to segue into my new life…but first I need to figure out a way to make my luggage lighter…perhaps my physicist brother can come up with a way to temporarily convert my belongings into some weightless substance, or perhaps he can invent the first anti-gravity suitcase.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

I forgot I'd have to say goodbye

So here I am in the last 2 days of gainful employment before heading off to my UK post grad adventures and it's starting to sink in: I'm leaving for a long time. I have to say goodbye to a lot of people, a routine and a lifestyle I've grown to really like. This less than profound realization comes after I've already said goodbye to some very dear friends. I almost feel a little guilty because this time next month I'll be immersed in a new world and a new life with new people...I almost feel unfaithful!

Today's the day of my farewell lunch, where I'll say goodbye to some of the people I've worked with for the past 5 years. I've trained my super wonderful fantastic replacement and I'm pretty sure life here will continue (and possibly be more productive) without me. Granted they'll be hard pressed to find someone else to bring in a regular supply of fruit filled scones, but I think I'll miss them more than they'll miss my baking. They're good people.

Of course I also have to say goodbye to the people who filled my spare time with adventures and giggles - the people who make my life fun, whose company I enjoy, and who listen to my rants and stupid jokes. I'm going to have to find new people to do random things with, eat with, drink with...the list goes on.

So, I thought I'd make a list of some of the people and things in BC that I'll miss...and to which I'll hopefully return in just over 1 year's time.

In no particular order:

- After work drinks with the girls
- Living blocks away from Bikram yoga, botiques, a wine bar, several coffee shops and a boardwalk perfect for running...the 'hood' is not so bad...for those of you who judge
- Walking and talking with Kelly
- Being Marni's 'wife'
- Hosting dinner parties too big for my tiny place...they're 'cozy'
- Sharing an office with other actors
- Random adventures with Erin
- Epic conversations over pad thai with Kristy
- Allan's silly quacking and mispronouncation of my name
- My co workers and all their friendly quirks and charms
- International cullinary adventures
- The Pacific Ocean, the mountains, the weather
- Getting out of the burbs and into the city to catch up with friends
- Good venues with great bands
- The mossy, earthy smell of the rainforest we live in
- Not ever getting around to hiking all the trails and mountains, but knowing that they're there anyway
- Sushi

...and that's just a start