Friday, 20 December 2013

Yes

The pieces all fell into place.

I honestly don't think I've ever been that nervous before watching someone complete a puzzle. I think the best part was watching each section come to life because they all related to something amazing.

The life partnered Penguins, the Tofu Cute logo that she loves so much, photos of our various adventures or even the little foal. I don't know why I started calling her foal, it just kind of happened one day but I'm glad it did.

There's no words to describe what it felt like.

I just knew that, for all my planning and preparation, if I didn't deliver this line perfectly then somehow the moment would be lost.

I'd hidden the "Marry Me" piece in my pocket and, as she neared the end, I could sense the disappointment that stemmed from this incompletion. She placed the penultimate piece in the puzzle and looked up at me exclaiming sadly that there was a piece missing.

This was it.

It all came down to this moment. All of it.

I looked at her for a second before I managed to say "You're my missing piece" and as I did this, placed the final piece of the puzzle, completing the picture.

I reached in my pocket and pulled out the ring box and all at once was engulfed by a tsunami of emotion. The funny thing was, I'm not sure if she ever actually said yes. She just looked at the ring, looked at me, cried and held on.

But then, that was all I really needed.


Tuesday, 5 November 2013

The Realest Reasons

Late Autumn/Early Winter is always one of my favourite times of the year.

I'll leave the confines of the office at quarter to five and begin the trek home just as the street lights begin to switch on.

I love the melancholy coziness of walking home in the dark. I love feeling the light in my front room pulling me in from the cold like some kind of vanilla lighthouse.

I love how the first cup of tea , upon getting home, seems to illuminate both the temperature of my hands and the smile on my face in equal measures.

It's just a glorious little time.

It's also a time when I seem at my most reflective for some reason. I couldn't begin to explain why. There's nothing logical about how or why my processes begin to change when the evenings draw in. I'm always looking backwards at the adventures I've been on and the things that I've seen. I don't feel it's anything negative, incidentally, I just love replaying adventures in my mind when it's dark and rainy.

10 days ago I undertook an journey that I must have done hundreds of times over the last few years but one that always seems to awaken my senses as it nears completion. I hopped on the Manchester Piccadilly train and awaited the familiar rush of adrenaline as it shuddered into life.

This time, however, everything felt different.

As I gazed out of the window of the empty carriage I became aware of just how grey everything seemed. Maybe it was just the stark contrast from the lamp on my table, which made the journey seem way more pleasant if truth be told, but there was something special about this scene. The journey went by in a flash as I was truly transfixed by my passage through the wastes of industry and the hustle of city life.

It wasn't until much later in the day that the realisation of the situation dawned fully on me. Yes, it was a Saturday. Yes, I was in a town that was not my own. Yes, I was in a hotel room on my own playing videogames, messaging my lovely girlfriend and drinking tea.

That, however, was where the similarities seemed to end. The rain ceased after a while, and I opened the curtains in my room to let some natural light in.

I could truly see for miles and, as I struggled to take it all in, my head began to pulse with ideas and notions.

What if it all ended? Everything. All of it. Not just me but you. Everything we've ever dreamed of. Stopped dead. Gone in the blink of an eye. No sense of foreboding. No fear of the unknown. Someone pulled the plug. No feedback or thanks for the memories. No goodbyes. No regrets. Nothing. Just nothing.

It was at that point that the magnitude of it all hit me. I knew why I was here. I knew why today meant so much to me and I knew exactly why it had happened this way.

I finished my cup of tea, put on some suitably motivational music and began my preparations.



It was everything I ever thought it would be but so many things I thought it would never be.
Maybe because I never thought it would get this far but then, why shouldn't it?

I don't make a point of talking about judging fights at work. I don't do it for them.

It's the kind of bullshit you'd expect from that guy in your office who gets a black eye, probably accidentally, and starts conversations about it. The kind of guy who wears a rash guard to swim in and uses hashtags like #smash, #beastmode and #foodporn.

The realest reason to do anything is because you want to.

That sounds way too simple to be constructive but it really isn't. This culture makes anything available in an instant. It's like an 80's Christmas everyday but without as much Toffifee. That's good in a lot of respects but it's bad because it's way too easy not to appreciate anything. If you don't take your time to look back, then it's impossible to see how many steps you've taken and it's way too easy to make mistakes.

"A delayed game is eventually good, a bad game is a bad game forever." - Shigeru Miyamoto

It doesn't have to be now.
It may be next week.
It may be next year.
It doesn't mean you want it any less.
It doesn't mean you're not as passionate about it as anyone else.

Believe me.

When you get what you've been dreaming about since the start; the fact that you've waited so long and worked so hard to make it happen, becomes the most important part about the whole experience.

Until next time, remember that there's no reason it can't be you.
Take Care
Speak Soon
Ben



Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Half a world away

There's a real order to life.

There's no escaping it but embracing it fully leaves little to the imagination. The blessing of introspective thought is one that few creatures are bestowed with but it only too often leads to our undoing. If we truly took a second to contemplate what was actually happening then how much of this would we even do?

How many meetings would we sit through? How many walks to the photocopier would we take? How many times would we tolerate dealing with people we'd much rather not deal with?

If we sat back and contemplated the sands of time and our flight through space, without both reason or direction, then would anything matter? Maybe it wouldn't, but without the experiences that make up our time on this vessel, you could make a much clearer argument for an apathetic white flag.

It's the experiences and the people we share that with, that define our path through this endless maze. It's those who we choose to spend our time with that amplify that which our hearts and heads would tell us.

The real problem lies in the daily grind and how this affects our ability to see the sparkle of diamonds through tired, weary eyes.

I've always said that these writings exist as a template for anyone who wants to achieve anything. A set of instructions to those who don't know if their hopes and dreams will ever amount to anything. So often I talk about the adventures undertaken, the voyages through the night and the constant sense of motion without mentioning the one person who I couldn't live without.

My lovely girlfriend Alison "Vanille" Leese.

I gave her the nickname after Oerba Dia Vanille from Final Fantasy XIII which I was heavily immersed in when I met her.

I met Alison in a place that isn't open anymore. The second place we met at has only just re-opened, after shutting down, and maybe that says as much about the modern economy as it does about our respective tastes in venues.

There's too many life lessons to give from that first meeting but, if I'm pressed for one, I'd go with the following.

 
"If you ever meet a girl who understands that Ravishing Rick Rude is the only way an 80's gentleman should look, it's written in the stars."


 

As this blurry train ride gets faster and faster and the lines between what matters and what doesn't become too white to make out, I'm comforted by thoughts.

The one thing that keeps me going whenever I feel like I'm not sure what to do next.

The one thing that makes me smile when I'm walking home in the rain and I've forgotten my umbrella.

The one thing that will always make me want to be the best I can be.

The one thing that makes me happy when I get lost in myself is the one thing that makes me realize that I'm the luckiest man alive. 

Every cup of tea, every slice of toast, every time you've worn my clothes, every time you've beaten me on a videogame (more than I'd like to admit) and every time you've somehow picked the winners in fights before they've even started.

Adventures are daunting but coming home makes perfect, blissful sense.

Speak soon people
Never take anything for granted
Stay happy
More words soon
Ben 










Sunday, 11 August 2013

The Post Completion Malaise

It's been ages hasn't it.

It's not to say that I've had no ideas or inspiration, but the last few months really have been a haze of so many different things.

I've been on at least 6 picnics I think, there's nothing quite so blissful. Finishing work and strolling home under the summer sunshine before grabbing the car and heading out to the hills.

It's the little things sometimes, like stacking a sandwich gazing up at the clouds that make me appreciate everything.

Our schedule is ours.
We choose the paths we want to take.
Time is our only dictator.
We have time to waste, but it's never a waste when your decisions turn the hands.

I've also been fortunate enough to get myself to a lot of shows in the past few months which is always a joy.

This year I've worked 14 events, thanks as always to everyone involved for the opportunities, and I've judged 162 fights, only 8 behind my total for the entire of 2012.

Are there still goals with judging? Always or I wouldn't continue to do it. That's the genius of gaming in some respects; most of the time you're only limited by the boundaries you set yourself.

I once beat Ghosts and Goblins on one credit but didn't do the repeat run on the same credit. It legitimately took me weeks to get my technique down, and even though I felt like the king of the world for a time, I still could have taken it further.

Judging is exactly like that for me. It's a science. It's not based on any kind of organic feeling or emotional connection, it's solely based on a process. A process that I love because it lets me separate myself from everything and see only what's happening in front of me. It's strange to think that the mind even has that ability. The power to fine-tune every sense available to a single point. There's nothing else. Not you. Not me. Not anything.

The focus only shifts as colours clash and fade and kinetic energy is duly rewarded; changing from one form to another but never stopping to look back at how it arrived at points. Only when it's over do I truly get a sense of completion. My eyes scan the documentation, my brain calculates the numbers and my pen transcribes the results.

What then? Is that the end? It's only the end if you want it to be the end.

Is there one way to tell someone you love them? One way to walk to work? One way to help somebody you care about? Of course not. There's always improvements and finding ways to make myself better at this whole process is what motivates me to never stop learning.





Just because the game finished doesn't mean you have to stop.

It's only the end if you don't want to do it again.
The post credit malaise only serves to make me think how I could have done things better.
There's no such thing as the perfect game, despite what Billy Mitchell may say.


I take a deep breath, the lights fall low, the music starts again and it begins.

I'll never stop doing this.
As long as I have breath in my body I'll want to do this.
I'll want to settle scores, to interpret chaos, to stand up and offer a concrete conclusion.

Besides, ceremony means nothing right?

Thanks for taking the time.
It won't be this long again.
Take care
Ben

Saturday, 15 June 2013

The Weight of Expectations

I'm not usually one for writing about food that isn't Toblerone so a few disclaimers before I start.

1) This piece will not contain any Instagram style pictures of food. That's so fucking obvious.
2) This piece will not contain the hashtag - Foodporn. That's really false advertising.
3) This hasn't been written to tell you to do anything.

That done I'll explain how this merry little escapade started.

One of the best things about my girlfriend, that I can share on here anyhow, is that she loves pro wrestling like I do. That's what bought us together in the first place as it happens. One weekend last year when I was away working for Cage Warriors, she hooked up Netflix through my PS3. Not just any Netflix you understand, the American one.

We spent the next month watching nothing but pro wrestling documentaries, which was pretty amazing truth be told, but longer term the service is something that I've really grown to appreciate. The categories might be niche sometimes but there's so much quality viewing on there that it really does pay for itself.

Anyhow, how does this relate to this story? Quite simply with this.




We watched this documentary a few weeks back and, although it's a bit preachy in places, I was really fascinated by the principle of it.

It's basically about an Australian gentleman called Joe Cross who loses 82lbs in 60 days on a Juice Fast. He drinks nothing but fruit and vegetable juices for 60 days and he meets some people along the way who he encourages to do the same.

Now when I watched this I wasn't overweight. I hadn't been technically over a healthy BMI since about 2001 when I got my first desk job but I was aware that I wasn't eating enough fruit and vegetables. I walk about 4 miles a day, I'm 6 foot 3, have never smoked and haven't drank for about 3 years just for details.

The whole idea of it all interested me so much, especially when he talked about reprogramming your taste buds to like more green foods. Alison was also interested in trying this concept out luckily so we bought a juicer, a load of fruit and veg and embarked on our own 5 day adventure.

As I sit here on Saturday I can honestly say I do feel very different. Rather than rambling on for ages about specifics and anecdotes however, here's what happened in an easily digestible form, if you see what I did there.

Findings

  • I started at 183lbs on Sunday night and when I weighed myself on Friday morning I was 172lbs.
  • I walked 2 miles to work and 2 miles home every night apart from Friday night
  • I drank 2 vegetable juices a day (300ml) (7am and 5pm) and 2 fruit juices a day (300ml) (12pm and 8pm)
  • I drank 4 litres of water a day including a 200ml of warm water to start the day
  • Fruits were Apples, Oranges, Pineapples, Lemons and Bananas
  • Vegetables were Courgettes, Carrots, Spinach, Celery, Beetroot and Mixed Greens.
  • Monday was brutal. I had a searing headache from not drinking tea and was hungry nearly all day
  • Tuesday night I went to bed at 8:30pm and slept for 10.5 hours
  • By Wednesday I was fine. My body was used to it. Not to say I wasn't hungry a bit but it was manageable
  • My sense of taste has definitely changed in the short term. I've clearly become used to the new flavours
  • My skin, hair, eyes and teeth all feel better 
  • Alison's lost 7lbs and is repeating the original 5 day plan for which I'm really proud of her
Any society is only three square meals away from revolution - Leon Trotsky

There's one other thing.
I knew early doors I didn't want to fight when I started training.

It never appealed to me and I was happy with that. It didn't stop me wanting to train though which was good because my love for the sport of mma was enriched by this new practical knowledge. I see so many fighters at different shows now I seldom think about the massive amounts preparation that goes into each fight. I'm not comparing what I did to a weight cut because it wasn't. Primarily because I wasn't getting beaten up savagely twice a day as well as working a day job.

It's not my intention to draw those comparisons, but for the first two days of this process I've never been so consistently hungry in my entire life. I couldn't focus on anything but wanting to eat and found myself tired, lethargic and generally feeling like garbage.

Fighters always get my respect because I realise that they possess something that most don't. It's not only the ability to put yourself in clear and present danger, it's everything that goes along with it. It's the myriad of training requirements, the day to day grind magnified massively, the sacrifices but more than this it's doing this when your body is crying out for sustenance.

Every time a fighter steps on the scales and hits a weight they don't walk around at they got my respect, but now it's way more respect than ever before.
 
If you are interested in anything to do with Juice fasting then go here incidentally but if you're not then don't worry, I'll be talking about Shining Force, Knightmare or some crazy mma adventure again before too long.

Thanks again for taking the time
Ben

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Ninety days around the world

Click this, it'll make sense I promise
When you get off a train that you've been on for a long time, you nearly always take a few quick steps. That's not the tough bit though, not the tough bit at all.

The tough bit is adjusting to the fact that you're no longer traveling at speed. You stumble as your head struggles to fathom why the trees are no longer just a blur of emerald and why there's no constant rush of noise.

A simple realization hit me on Sunday as I sat on the train holding my Megadrive bag filled with clothes, presents and a Toblerone.

This is really happening isn't it.
This is a thing.

A while ago myself and Dave Lethaby interviewed Jeremy Horn, back when we were part of the mma media fraternity, for Yourmma Radio.

It was fascinating to hear about the stories from the NHB days; how he'd turn up with no idea about who he was fighting, and end up winning by sub inevitably.

My favourite part though was when Horn was shortlisted for fighter of the year and he was puzzled by this. By his own admission he was a guy "fighting in tents and hockey arenas in the cornfields", not looking for mass approval or recognition.

His manager asked him how many fights he'd had that year and the total, certainly by today's standards, was incredibly in the region of thirty. His manager then asked how many that he had lost to which Horn simply replied, "None of them."

Sometimes it really does take a reminder from an outside party or a set of specific circumstances to be the catalyst for an unbelievable moment of clarity.

If life was obvious then the shooting star moment would have been as the bus pulled out of the Saitama Super Arena or as the frantic Brazilian crowd at Arena Jaragua exploded but it wasn't.

It was sitting alone on the Sunday train from Manchester Picadilly stopping at Stockport, Stoke-on-Trent, Milton Keynes Central and London Euston as I listened this song.


It hit me all at once. I got chills and all the hairs stood up on my arms and the back of my neck. It wasn't just the song. It was everything. This is everything. It found me.

94 fights in 90 days? 

It doesn't seem real does it.
It was though.
It was more real than a million words on this page could tell you.

I've got a bit of a break for the next few weeks before this all begins again so, until the next time we speak, take care of yourselves and remember to be nice to the ones you love. Simple I know, but too easy to forget sometimes.

Ben




Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Forty Seven Post-it Notes

Train rides
Goodbyes
Rain clouds
Desert heat
Familiar faces
Burned out places
Check in
Check out
Sunglasses
Suitcases
Notepad
Always notepad
E-mails
Don't forget
Can't be late
Films I've seen
Times between
House lights down
Faces fading
Noise subsiding
Focus absolute
Kinetic barrage
Shorthand
Shorthand
Shorthand
Victory

Every single one of you make all of this possible.
You shouldn't overlook it.
You shouldn't ever forget it.

Jesus it's been a hectic few weeks.

Come say hello and make small talk about Super Nintendo games and give me advice about which area in your locale sells the best tea.

I'm used to being sleepy but never grow tired of being tired.

Every day this happens is another day I'll always look back on with a warm heart and a head full of memories.

There doesn't have to be a message in any of this other than make calenders but don't wish the days full of nothing.

Take good care of yourself.
Speak soon
Real soon
Never soon enough
Ben

Thursday, 11 April 2013

The Death Schedule

Masters of Doom is one of the best things I've ever read.

I can't remember how I originally got my copy, I think someone must have bought it for me as some kind of gift.

They could never have realized that, all these years later, it would still be the compass that guides me through so much uncertainty. It's the book that coined the phrase, The Death Schedule.

Carmack and Romero both use it at different points in their careers to describe frantic all night sessions of work to finish a huge sprawling task. Every description of one of these marathons is charged by the notion that striving to achieve is so colossal, that a lack of sleep/food/light are mere distractions.

I like to think of times where I've slogged on for hours to complete something I've been massively motivated and excited to finish such as a piece of writing, the Mag'har grind or Ghosts n Goblins. There's always a sense of bleary eyed adrenaline as you push harder towards the finish line because every single motion you take, brings something intangible closer. Afterwards, usually after a day of catching up on sleep, the magnitude of achievement really sets in.

The next six weeks will see me work five mma shows in a variety of different countries and it's already all I can think about.

That's the key. You put yourself through such a torturous physical schedule because you love what you do. That's why it's not like any other deadline that you get at work; ticking boxes for the comfortably middle class. Whatever you do is driven by the fact that you want to be the best at it. Why not you? Why not me? Why can't we find something that we're the best at? It's not even for the sense of self gratification or bragging rights. It's so, if only for a moment, the face we see staring back has no questions; no what ifs or if onlys.

If you don't love what you do then keeping to a horrific schedule will break you eventually. It's human nature.   If what you wreck yourself for is a passion then your body and mind will find ways to cope. You'll walk in to work and listlessly gaze at walls while being addressed, grab lifts home and fall asleep in traffic and often lose yourself completely mid sentence.

These are the after effects of any schedule but the difference between passion and necessity is scars become badges. We proudly display the effects of sleep deprivation, crippling jet lag, time away from loved ones and what seems like a life time of traveling for all to see. This is who we are. We do what we have to do to allows us the things that really make us happy.

I'll speak to you good people soon I hope
Take care
Ben

Saturday, 23 March 2013

A Wish

Jet lag finally left me at the start of this week. In a funny kind of way I was sad to see it go.

It was to say the least an inconvenience. I frequently felt like I was still walking when I'd just stopped, but there was more to it than that.

I'd not get dizzy for a while and quickly assume that was it, only to be hit once again with that strange feeling of motion without motion.

It all reminded me of the sense of the incredible that I'd experienced.

Walking alone down the streets in Japan at night was one of the most serene experiences of my adult life.

My Ipod, as it does, seemed to fire a line of perfection straight to my brain and only chose songs that were either beautiful, sad or both.

It wasn't until it picked me a song from one of my favourite videogames of all time that I really got a sense of something so special it pretty much pinned me to the spot.



If you read this very often you'll get why I play old videogames so much. There's no purer test. Modern games simply can't compare in so many different ways. The internet was simultaneously the best and worst thing ever happen to videogaming. It opened up the world but it killed our imagination.

Secret of Mana is still a game I refuse to consult the internet for because I've played it that many times I don't really need to but more to the point I don't want to. I turn off my laptop and play it on a day when I've got time to myself and that's all I have to think about.

The particular piece of music above comes at a real turning point in the story where the party have to negotiate an icy forest in order to progress. It's the first time in many ways that you get a real sense of group harmony. The lady, I always called her Mina for some reason, is still looking for Dyluck. The sprite is still angry at everyone and leaning new spells and our intrepid hero has no idea why fate has chosen him to save the world.

The Crystal Forest is truly one of the most magical points of the entire story. The party throw themselves into the task with a remarkable zeal and true serenity of the accompanying score acts a perfect counterbalance to this new found determination. It sings a perfect 16 bit lullaby, reminding us that however focused or driven we may be, the realisation of true beauty is always empowering.

I played this game first when I was around 15 and I'd borrowed it from a friend at school. These agreements always came with a set of terms and the primary was simply that I'd only got a week before my friend wanted the game back. My studies, as they did frequently back then, took a back seat to this all encompassing world as I vanquished a never ending army of monsters every evening that week in February.

My progress was good but simply not good enough, however, and I found myself stuck fast on the last dungeon in the game on Thursday evening with my return date set at the following morning. I waited until my parents had gone to sleep and silently powered up my trusty Super Nintendo. Sitting steadfast in my chair, I was determined to give it one last effort.

This was easily looking like my finest attempt but it seemingly wasn't to be and the final boss crushed both my party and my dreams in one fell swoop. I retreated to bed with my head still full of questions regarding just what could have happened if I'd have saved the world.

For some reason the next morning I woke up super early and realised I had time for one last effort but I'd not saved my game from last night and had to begin in the Crystal Forest. I turned the sound on low and immediately was enthralled by the haunting melodies that I'd somehow heard but never listened to.

I sat and imagined other worlds and places and wondered how real any of them were? I thought about destinations all over this planet and others and thought of people just like me looking up at the same sky but seeing stars. I lost track of how long this lasted but it clearly lasted long enough to thwart my chances of a resolution.

As I resigned myself to another day of school and sadly the thought of returning the game, I drew open the curtains and the results left me almost without breath. There had been a severe snowfall over night and the main road I could just make out from the distance was white as a sheet and jam packed with non moving cars.

This couldn't happen today could it?

I sprinted downstairs and powered up the nearest radio to listen intently to the school closures with the vain hope of hearing mine there but, alas, as the gleeful presenter reached the end of his list it was nowhere to be heard.

I was broken. This was crueler than anything I had words for. I drank my tea and began my cereal before a noise from the kitchen once again caught my attention. The presenter was reading a list of further cancellations and as I walked in I heard him utter the words, "St Thomas More RC High School is closed for the day due to the snow to both pupils and staff."

I couldn't believe it. I looked at my mum who instantly reboiled the kettle, it was obvious what I was going to ask I like to think, and I quickly began changing into casual clothes for the day's inevitable gaming marathon. Mother Nature had come to my rescue and, although not a great believer in fate, I felt that this was the universe reaching out and sending me a message.

I beat the game later in the day, she did find Dyluck eventually but it's a complicated story, however more than the snowy paradise of a lost Friday , I always seem to cling on to the daydream I had. Every single time I hear that music I'm transported back to that day when I tried to comprehend the scope of something so vast that it's impossible to even begin.

Walking through down the streets of Japan that night I clutched my recently purchased tea bags and milk to my side as I made my way back to the hotel. I was exhausted but as the familiar tones of the Crystal Forest began echoing through my head I felt compelled to stare upwards for what seemed like a lifetime.

Those same stars I'd wondered about seemed closer than ever.
The mystical lands lay beneath my feet and any dream suddenly felt possible.

There's no way we'll ever know everything; it's foolish to approach this logically. It's never wrong to dream about such complexities however, to swim in vast oceans of the unfathomable or to picture somewhere that seems a million miles away.

That moment was my wish and for those few minutes of Crystal clarity, nothing else even registered.

Speak soon
Take care
I'll never let you down
Ben


Wednesday, 6 March 2013

There's a line drawn in the sand, I'm working up the will to cross it


It's a hard thing to leave any deeply routine life, even if you hate it - John Steinbeck

There's a few reasons why I wanted to write this today. I've had a big rush of things to say and, spurred on by watching videos of people making videos for the sake of making videos, I'm aware of the importance of self reflection.

I've had a lot of time to think over the past few days, what with travelling quite a lot, and I've reached a few important conclusions.

I'm officially retiring from the world of MMA Journalism.

In all honesty this isn't that big an announcement as it seems because I've not been writing online much since last July but I've been continuing my endeavors in print with Fighters Only. I've had some truly amazing experiences and would like to thank everyone for their support. It's been nothing short of incredible but the time has come to put it behind me and move forward. No more Ben "The Pen", to be fair I was getting sick of that anyway!

Secondly, I wanted to say thank you to everyone who helped me out, not only while I was away, but at any point on this crazy journey. There's way too many of you to mention but you know who you are, all of you.

Everyone who helped me out in any way this past weekend, however, I'm eternally in your debt. You all made what was a fairly insane experience, perfect. I couldn't have asked for a better time and the serenity I felt eating a shrimp burger and chatting with some really cool people made everything slow down a little bit which was perfect.

Rather than write a huge meandering blog about my travels this time, however, I thought I'd pin up a series of videos and images that sum up exactly my experiences.









Speak soon,
Take Care
Ben 



Sunday, 20 January 2013

The Perfect Snow Day


Thursday 17th January

All week I'd read the weather report. It changed on a daily basis from light snow to moderate snow, from be aware to be prepared.

Monday had bought us a flurry of snow that sadly retreated by mid morning. The promise of a hallowed snow day was hastily vanquished by the midday sun which almost seemed to taunt our grey building somehow.

I continued with the day to day ridiculousness of my usual job throughout the week but secretly hoped that the snow that we'd been promised for the end of the week would come back with a vengeance.

I finished the paperwork I'd put aside that afternoon as I wandered down the corridor, I noticed just how dark it had become.

The novelty of walking home in the dark had worn off but the last few days had been a reprise and the pitch black January sky took me aback as I prepared to make my way home.

Still, at least it wasn't raining.

The door opened to the unforgiving outside world and I looked up into the lamppost by the office to see nothing but thick snow falling at a rate of knots.

I steeled myself for the two mile jaunt and arranged my scarf about my head so I looked a little like the Iron Sheik, at least I was dry though.

It took a little longer than usual to get home but the snow didn't relent the whole time and my one saving grace, as I kicked my shoes off and Alison made me a cup of tea, was that the house was so snug that I instantly warmed up.

I lost track of the evening in a haze of trash television, pro wrestling and bagels but before I went to bed I looked quickly out of the window. I was disappointed not to see a snowy serenity akin to Dragonblight and sighed as I resigned myself to another snow day that didn't quite happen.

Friday 18th January

As the familiar tones of the alarm pulled me out of a blissful sleep without a second thought, I immediately remembered about the promise of snow. The Met Office had given a red warning in some areas (expect serious disruption) and I imagined just what that would mean for those stranded as I crawled out of bed.

There was more of a generous dusting of snow than I remembered the night before but nothing like the day after tomorrow that I was expecting. It was over. My dreams of a blissful day under a selection of blankets, playing Super Nintendo and eating crumpets were shattered and I moodily ate my honey hoops with an air of resignation.

I'd got myself ready in record time somehow and I wished my sleeping girlfriend a good day, she wasn't at work through her own good planning, but as I opened the door a sight greeted me that literally took my breath away.

The snow was falling hard and fast all around and I quickly retreated into the warmth temporarily as I grabbed a hat and a scarf. We're not meant to be adventurers anymore, society doesn't need us to be. There's not much left to discover. We live in a bubble in a lot of ways, ensconced by the luxury that the advances in technology afford us. This however, was as close to an adventure as I was going to get for a while.

As I trekked to work with a suitably huge soundtrack of videogame music from the 1990s, I was first aware of how much snow was falling by the main roads which were becoming whiter by the second.

Even the canal had frozen over and I hurried onwards to the sanctity of the office to find shelter from this unlikely storm.

I got to the office and was greeted by a few faithful sorts and we quickly swapped stories about our respective voyages.

The phone never stopped ringing at first as people called in to cancel whatever appointments they had booked.

The first e-mail that I received was one from head office. That was usually serious but this one simply told us about other branches that had been shut because of the severity of the weather.

I had 18 people booked in to see me at 10am but only 4 were able to make the trip; a poor turnout even by the usual standards. We'd originally been told that, if we had to leave to avoid being snowed in but weren't officially told to leave, we'd have to sacrifice annual leave because we'd not been instructed to leave, if that makes sense. It doesn't I know. I may be wrong but that's how it was explained to us.

This seemed like merely details though, because this snow flurry was passing the litmus test which usually weeds out most other would be snow days. It showed no signs of relenting, the roads were becoming covered in snow and the traffic past our office, one of the busiest roads in Stoke, was grinding to a halt.

I walked down the corridor to the office where my brother was located to ask if he needed a hand with anything. I sat writing envelopes to people for about 15 minutes while we all talked about sledging. This felt very real. These letters were taking forever.

This was to contact people who weren't able to be contacted by phone. Then it hit me all at once. This was it. There was going to be an announcement and it came almost instantly as the thought had left my head.

"We've been told if you've made plans for your afternoon clients then you're free to try and get home. You've made it in today so you won't be required to use annual leave for the rest of the day."

It was around 11:20 and my weekend had already started. I wished a safe journey to my friends and colleagues and began on my second snowy adventure of the day.

The door opened into the outside world and the blustery conditions intensified as I prepared to re walk the steps I had trodden only hours before. As I set out into the tundra I glanced back at the grey building that it felt like I'd just escaped from. The snow had given it a curious visage that attracted my glance but, not wanting to waste any time, I strode forward purposefully.

The traffic had stopped, thanks to a lorry that couldn't get up a hill, and I wondered about all the people this snow had disrupted.

I stopped off at the Co-op on my way to pick up some crumpets, crisps, milk and a few other snow day essentials but they soon grew heavy as I tackled the final hill across the canal.

This walk seemed longer than I remembered but my Ipod played a blinder by selecting some truly magical videogame classics. Link wouldn't get stuck up this hill, that was for sure.

Alison opened the front door as I made it up the steps. She immediately dipped into the bag to retrieve some Hula Hoops before ushering me into the warmth. That, as they say, was that.

The perfect start to the most perfect snow day I think I've ever had.

The last few days have been spent eating grilled bread products, making snowmen, shopping, playing videogames and drinking tea; everything a perfect snow day should contain really.

Usually there's a big point to writing whatever I'm writing but today, I just want to put this down so I never forget how much fun I had. I never want to take anything for granted but we live in a culture that promises us the world if we can wait another few days. We bypass the now in exchange for a brighter future but at what price?

Never forget the now.
You'll never relive it.

Take care
Ben



Friday, 11 January 2013

It was there. I was there. We were all there.

As I walked to work, accompanied by the rainy winter chill, I stared onwards for a bit longer than normal when I got to the end of the burned out road. 

The modern age affords us more and more luxuries on a daily basis but one that we take for granted is music.

What started as an intimate art form between groups of the like minded has quickly become yet another air bound currency. 

Why shouldn’t we be able to listen to the complete works of everything and anyone whilst traversing wastelands to our various 9-5 haunts?

There’s very little consequence to skipping eras that changed millions just to get what we want a little quicker. It’s hard to believe that anything could be more temporal than the throwaway culture that envelops us on a daily basis.

As the thought of strolling down another cold road became a grim reality I stopped for a brief second as warm sounding synthesiser bypassed my ears and swam straight into attention.

It was there. I was there. We were all there.
I stared up into the rain as beauty resonated and a voice negotiated me through empty rooms and corridors with an almost surgical clarity and precision.

I've got my life in a suitcase,
I'm ready to run, run, run away..
I've got no time, 'cause I'm always trying to run, run, run away
'Cause everyday in here feels like it's only a game.
I've got my life in a suitcase, a suitcase, a suitcase...
I could have stood there forever.

If you live at 100 miles an hour, you lose the sensation of speed that you craved all along.

For every time I drove across the country in the middle of the night, every story I listened to for the fourteenth time, every cliché I saw ticked and every heart I saw broken. Every shirt that was three sizes too small and every ego that was three hundred sizes too big. It all became worth it; every single second of it.

Saturday, 5 January 2013

Cage Warriors 51 - The Lost Vikings


29 shows.

That's unreal isn't it?

The crazy thing is that it's not even the most I've ever done in a year but it's undoubtedly the biggest. I did 34 shows in 2011 but I was writing a lot more. It's not that I don't write as much now but it's different.

I realised quite quickly that, when I started judging a lot more fights, there'd be a clear conflict of interest if I wrote in the way I loved writing. It's not to say I still don't have opinions but there's a time and a place for voicing them and a certain fashion.

Fighters Only is a perfect avenue for me to write about video gaming and other such things because of the angles I can take.

The 29th show this year was Cage Warriors 51 in Dublin on New Year's Eve. The last Dublin show was pretty nuts for several different reasons.

Fights were insane, venue was awesome but the crowd were some of the most passionate mma fans that I've seen for a very long time. Conor McGregor's sprint into the audience after he subbed Dave Hill was anarchy and I got another sense of that collective adrenaline from the moment the first bell rang for this show.

It was awesome to be back at the Helix and, after a day that involved watching War Games whilst falling asleep and eating Toblerone,  I was ready to judge some fights.

  • No Thin Lizzy? Really? I thought that was a law? I thought that, if you put on an mma show in Ireland, they did a draw backstage if nobody was planning to walk out to Thin Lizzy. 
  • There were lots of people talking about fighter of the year in 2012 for Cage Warriors but has there been a more consistent CWFC performer than Paul Redmond? TKO'd a tough as nails Yuri Malko, subbed Lewis Long then got a sub on NYE with a rolling toehold against an unbeaten prospect. It doesn't get much better than that. A very impressive trio of victories.
  • Jesse Taylor at middleweight is a real handful. It's only ELITE 185ers who are getting past him. Khalidov, Lombard, Rockhold, Leites are all top drawer at that weight class. If you can't stop that grinding wrestling style then it's a very long night for anyone stepping in there with JT Money.
  • You can't beat a bit of screaming Scandi metalcore to truly confuse an Irish crowd. 
  • One thing that divides the great from the good is the ability to get a win despite not performing to full ability on the night. Props to James Brum for that win against a tough opponent.
  • Another flawless night from the three men in charge inside the cage. Take a bow Messrs Mitchell, Hall and Goddard. Consistently high level refereeing has been a hallmark of the show this year.
  • Curry and Chips at Cage Warriors finally happened. After 10 months of negotiation I was preparing my scorecards and this happened. It was well worth the wait, believe me. 
The Lost Vikings

There was only one way that I could finish this epistle and that was to talk about the performance of Conor McGregor.

I worked out the other day that I judged 170 fights (which included 11 as a shadow judge in Nottingham) in 2012.

It's unbelievably fitting that the final fight that I judged in 2012 featured the greatest performance of the entire year and maybe the best performance I've ever seen live. Here's the video. If you haven't seen it then you're in the minority because it's done huge numbers on most of the big sites.

McGregor spoke about his training at Mjolnir in Iceland as giving him a different approach to the mental aspect of the sport and that has the potential to turn the young Irishman from a first class prospect into a world beater. There's nothing at the moment stopping me from thinking that Conor couldn't turn into a massive global star.

The trademark snarling aggression hadn't been diluted but rather focused into a much more efficient form of destruction. Big show potential? It now seems about when rather than if.

Why The Lost Vikings by the way? Isn't it obvious?



Take Care
Ben