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