Friday, 25 December 2015

2015 - AKA Bye Bye 30s.... Hello New Life

Good Morrow everyone,

I hope your festivities over Christmas have been happy, fun, stress free and very merry.... If they weren't and or you spent the holidays alone, just think of it as essentially an extended period of Sundays, well it used to be when shops were closed for 2 days at least.  So it's not that special and the New Year will be better and bring a fresh start.

Anyway....

As years go, 2015 has been the most eventful one for me, I think, in my whole life.

Attending interviews for university

Getting offers

Planning and researching where to live

Attaining my maths

Accepting an offer to Northumbria Uni

A mini holiday, viewing and signing a tenancy on a flat

Packing up and saying goodbye to my old life in Kent

Starting my new life in the Newcastle upon Tyne

Starting uni life and being challenged out of my comfort zone weekly (group and solo presentations, speaking within large groups of people I didn't know)

Beginnings of new friendships (ones I can see being very long term)

Going on a placement (which I enjoyed so much that I'm going to volunteer with them) and then being asked whether I wanted to apply for a new full time position at said placement

I have even tentatively put myself out there and been on my first date since my late 20s. (It was a enjoyable and relaxing date and intellectually we got on great, but it was a non starter as far as any romance goes).  A nice way to get me back on the horse so to speak.

I turned 40 a week ago, something I honestly never envisaged through my dark days of agoraphobia and depression, well I never thought I'd have done any of this either.  For the first time since my my pre teen years I can say that I am really happy and excited for the next 12 months and beyond.  I did have a bit of a dip of loneliness and depression and feeling lost in late October to early November, but that was just a small dip, and nothing like my old pattern of being down, particularly at this time of year.

For anyone who is going through tough times all I can say is that you are stronger and far more resilient than you realise, I know this because you are still here in this world.  Keep going, try different strategies and get as much help and support from where ever and from anyone you can, because you can make it out to the other side.  I am not saying it's easy, hell it took me over 20 years with lots of going a little bit forwards and then backwards, sometimes further, but you can do it, happiness know matter how or big small is in sight,

I am excited and ready to accept new opportunities and challenges that come my way, so bring on the New Year.

May your 2016 be the start of better things, be more awesome than 2015 and be filled with happiness, fun and a little exhilaration.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!


Monday, 21 December 2015

My Top 20 Albums of 2015

For me It's been a good year of new albums from some of my favourite bands, discovering new ones and reassessing bands I previously dismissed and or didn't like.  The order of this list does change from day to day, dependent upon how I feel, but these are my favourites of 2015



1). Lamb of God - VII Sturm Und Drang

This is darker in tone than previous albums, but it's hardly surprising given vocalist Randy Blythe's last few years and his manslaughter charge for the death of a fan at one of the gigs in the Czech Republic, which he was rightly exonerated of.  I used to think Blythe was a bit of a prick, but since his quitting drinking and voluntarily giving himself up to face the charge, which he didn't have to do as there is no extradition treaty between the US and Czech Republic, he really gained my respect.

This is something different and a change of pace of the band, and one of my favourites from the album



Chelsea Wolfe - Abyss

I'd never heard of her or her music until a few months ago.  It was on an instagram post by Randy Blythe of Lamb of God who mentioned how he and his wife were raving about this album, so I thought I'd check it, well I'm always on the look out for new bands/artists and anything a bit different.  It's a beautifully dark, heavy, haunting and dream like album.  If someone asked me sum up her sound, then I'd say she is similar ish to the lovely Natasha Khan, aka Bat For Lashes.  Chelsea Wolfe is my favourite new artist and I have already bought her previous album Pain is Beauty.




Ghost B.C - Meloria

This is a band I kind of ignored the past few years, only giving them a go, again, a few months ago after my good friend Casey was raving about this album, it's fantastic.



Royal Thunder - Crooked Doors

A terrific debut album from this 70s influenced rock band



Skindred - Volume

The boys are really back on form after Kill The Power, which while I liked wasn't as great as Union Black.



Puscifer - Money Shot

One of the side projects of Tool front man Maynard James Keenan.  A terrific album, now can we bloody well have that sodding new Tool album we've been waiting years for.



Fear Factory - Genexus

Back to their brutal killer riff best.



Trivium - Silence In The Snow

I've found Trivium to be rather hit and miss with their output, fortunately I really liked this one, with it's cool riffs and catchy tunes.



Halestorm - Into The Wild Life

I think this is my favourite of their albums to date.



Dead Sara - Pleased To Meet You

Singer Emily Armstrong has a terrific voice, which has a Janis Joplin quality to it.  This, their second album, is an equal to the awesome debut.  If I have not dreamt it, I think you'll have heard this on a telly advert.



Clutch - Psychic Warfare

More awesomeness from Clutch



Faith No More - Sol Invictus

After a 16 year wait for one of the best bands of the late 80s - 90s we have an album, which while not reaching the heights of the pure classics Angel Dust or The Real Thing, is a great return.



Coheed and Cambria - The Colour Before The Sun

This is another band who I just couldn't get into when they first came on the scene.  This has happened a few times in the past with bands I at first hated, but on re-evaluation absolutely love.  This is a great album.



Slayer - Repentless

For me, Slayer hadn't produced an album I liked since the brutally aggressive and plain rifftastic God Hates Us All from 2001.  Finally they're back on form.



Chris Cornell - Higher Truth

One of my favourite singers, I think he's produced his best solo album to date, particularly after the last 2 which I wasn't a fan of. Hopefully we'll be getting another new Soundgarden album sometime next year.



The Arcs - Yours Dreamily

The debut album from Dan Auerbach's, of The Black Keys, side project.  I love The Black Keys and this is just as as great as any of their albums.



Disturbed - Immortalized

Nothing revolutionary from Disturbed, but this is a strong return from them after a few year hiatus.



Local H - Hey Killer

A band a came across while browsing through Spotify.  A terrific rock band.



Coal Chamber - Rivals

I was never really a fan of Coal Chamber back when Nu Metal was all dominant of the Metal scene back in mid 90s - 2000s, however, after becoming a fan of vocalist Dez Fafara's post Coal Chamber band Devildriver, I re-evaluated them after my friend Casey recommended the album to me.  It's a terrific comeback album.  As great as this is, now I await Devildriver's new album in the New Year.



Refused - Freedom

This Hardcore band have been around for 22 years and this is the first album of theirs I have listened to and it's terrific.




A few other albums of note..

Dead Soul - The Sheltering Sky
Baroness - Purple (Only just released and only listened to once, so may have been in my top 20 if released earlier)
Gentleman's Pistols - Hustler's Row
Heart Of A Coward - Deliverence
Marilyn Manson - The Pale Emperor
Sevendust - Kill The Flaw
The Sword - High Country
Wilson - Right To Rise
Tesseract - Polaris
Vision of Disorder - Razed To The Ground

Thursday, 17 December 2015

First semester finished and time to relax. Yeah right! :D

Hello from a balmy Newcastle!

I have made it to December and the end of my first semester at Northumbria uni and my social work degree.  So far I have enjoyed being on the course.  The modules have been interesting, the lecturers are are really good and even though I may not like it in the moment, being challenged to step outside of my comfort has been good for me, something which I hope to like doing more.

A couple of really inspiring things have happened in the second half of this semester....

In my last post I mentioned that I was going to be going on a 5 day placement with a charity called P.R.O.P.S.  well, it was a terrific week.  They had a very organised week planned which gave me experiences across pretty much everything they do.  I got to sit in on group CRAFT sessions, one to one CRAFT sessions, initial assessments, go out on a couple of appointments on the young carers side, sat in on a team meeting and went to substance  misuse recovery centre, where I went to their group lunch and then participated in a singing class they have (very much outside my comfort zone) and then sat in on a SMART recovery group.  The team at PROPS were very welcoming and made me feel a part of the team.  They are really inspiring people and will be volunteering with them in the New Year.  A couple weeks after I went to a resilience workshop they held for the carers they support and I was asked whether I would be interested in applying for a new full time position being created.  After not being in a working environment for over 10 years it was a really big confidence boost to find out I was thought of in that way.

Back at uni I found out I had one of the better shadow placements, because many hadn't been very well organised or the client group some of the charities were not areas some of my friends want to work in once qualified or they just weren't given enough to do and or that was felt relevant.  For anyone reading this who is going into their first placement, just go in with an open mind and make the best of it, even a not great experience can be a good one, because it gives you the opportunity to think about how they can do things better and or at the very least you definitely know that is a client group you wouldn't want to work with.

The other inspiring thing happened on our penultimate skills day which was presented by SSWN social work students from Salford University who came to talk to us about the way they have changed and organised their social work society.  They wanted theirs to become a network, one which has student support across all years and social work programmes, where advice and support is shared so to integrate and have a unified programme rather than each year and course being separate from one another.  The other thing that they are doing is far more ambitious and what really clicked with me, not that mutual student support didn't, where they want to try and change the very negative perception that the profession of social work has with the general public (the only stories from the media about social work are ones about failures, for example, tragedies such as Baby Peter Connelly)

(social work isn't just child protection, have a read HERE)

What they are doing at Student Social Work Network is essentially taking social work back into the community.  Their first 2 projects are organising rucksacks to distribute to the homeless living on the streets in Manchester and the other collected and drove a couple of minibuses full of supplies to the refugee camps in Calais.  Salford have already widened their network to Manchester Metropolitan Uni and after the presentation, at least 30 of my year are planning to take over our, frankly rubbish, Social Work society and turn it into a network and link up with Salford and MMU.  Once we at Northumbria have set ours up, we will go to at least one other uni and persuade them to join.  The aim is to widen this model across all universities with social work programmes, so there can be a bigger voice and greater community action.  A first collaboration between Salford, MMU and Northumbria will be to raise money to purchase caravans to take to the refugee camps in Calais, so that some families will have somewhere warm and dry to sleep.

I will keep you up to date as things progress.

Well that's it, Christmas break is here. HA!  I still have a essay to plan and write and a workbook to do and do battle with that arsehole Mr Procrastination. :D

Anyhoo....  I will wish you all a happy and merry Christmas!


Thursday, 29 October 2015

First half of Semester 1 report.

Howdy do everyone!

I have survived the first six weeks of university and here I am sitting in bed at 8:25pm on Thursday evening writing this, totally living the hedonistic rock 'n' roll uni life style..... haha.. yeah the nearest I get to that is the music I am listening to right now, one of my favourite albums of the year from the totally back on form Fear Factory.



This one a little softer..



Ok enough about that and now I have made your ears bleed, I will carry on.

Yeah... so I have made it to the first half term of  my first year.... and I am really enjoying it.  Ok, the amount of reading we have to do I have found a little overwhelming and I so need to get better at note taking and just knowing which pieces of information I should be drawing out from what I am reading, because I have that panic tendency to want to write it all out.  Hopefully I will develop these skills and more as I go along, though I imagine some of this development will come from being fed up and having little time, so will form strategies to make things easier on myself.  So apart from the study stuff, it is going well.  We have some terrific lecturers, there's a good mix of ages in my year and there are about 80 odd people, still not spoken to all of them, though I am making friendships with quite a few, ones which I think will last for many many years after uni.

There one thing that I can say with certainty and that is I will most definitely be a far more confident person after these next 3 years.  I have never been someone who was comfortable speaking in front of groups of people... well I have had to start getting over that pretty quickly.  In our freshers/induction week we had to do group presentations and since we have done a few more individual ones, only a few minutes, but they feel like an eternity.  Next semester we have a pass or fail one where we have to present for about 10 minutes.  The most personally challenging thing I have had to do so far was to record on to DVD me being interviewer and then interviewee, obviously with someone else, which was then watched with the rest of a class of 20 ish for feedback purposes.  I hate hearing a recording of my voice, let alone also seeing my ugly mug on a large screen with others!  I have to say that my class mates made it feel a lot less painful than I thought it was going to be.  Not something I am chomping at the bit to do again, but it's something we have to learn if we are going to be really good social workers.

I have become one of the student reps for my year, apart from being something good on the CV, I wanted to be someone putting my years opinions forward to the uni.

Oh next week we have a first shadow placement week.  I will be with an organisation called

P.R.O.P.S   - Positive Response to Overcoming Problems of Substance misuse

They visited on our skills day last Thursday and they are a terrific charity,  I am really looking forward to going.  



Now that I am settled at uni, I have to start to get a life outside and separate.  I have to break my old man hermit ways and get myself a new social circle and have some down time fun.  Hopefully I will have something to say on this soon.

Anyway... that is it for now.... Laters :)



Sunday, 6 September 2015

Living in and loving Newcastle upon Tyne

Hello all :) 


Since my last post I made my move north and have been living here in Newcastle for two weeks. I am a very happy thin man/boy. After just a couple days I felt settled into my new flat and my local area of High Heaton. In fact I feel more than only settled, I feel at home here and I love it. Mum has been staying with me to have a bit of a holiday away from Kent. It's been nice exploring and getting to know the wider area with someone. From where I live pretty much everything is only twenty minutes away, the city centre, the coast and the countryside. How cool is that. :)


It's one week until fresher's/induction week and then lectures proper, begin on the 21st September. Excited for uni to start. I will keep you posted of my progress as a social work student and old man of the course. :D

Sunday, 16 August 2015

Happy

Shortest blog entry.

I'm a recovering agoraphobic!  So I have finally been able to change the blog title.  :)

Happy and excited. :)



A Belated Update

Hello Everyone,

It's been a a while since my last blog post and one in which I made pronouncements about regular updates and photos.  I totally failed on the those promises didn't I. :D

Many of you know what has been happening in my life since the last post, but some do not.  So I will try and do a brief round up.

The trip to Scotland was mostly fantastic.  It is a stunning country, some where I would like to live one day.  I met some awesome friends, who I had known only online up to that point, and their lovely families.  We stayed in Arbroath for a week.  It was here where the not so good part of the trip happened.  Given we were in Arbroath, my good friend and local to the area suggested I should try an Arbroath Smokie, for those that don't know what that is, it's a smoked fish.  I wanted to and did and it was lovely.... Well it was until a couple hours later when I began to feel really really ill.  I suffer with IBS and for some strange reason my body no longer tolerates white fish.  To cap it off, we were due to move on to Hamilton, Glasgow, the very next day and the day after meet friends and the next 3 following days, uni open days at Edinburgh, Strathclyde and Glasgow Caledonian.  Luckily I recovered enough to not miss anything.


Arbroath Harbour

Arbroath Harbour

Lunan Bay

Dundee Law

Kirkmichael

Loch Lomond

View from Dundee Law, looking over The Tay.

Blairgowrie

From Arbroath we visited the open day at Dundee university, which I loved and a uni I wanted to study at.  We did brief visits to Aberdeen, Blairgowrie, Lunan Bay and Broughty Ferry.

After a five day stay Hamilton, we moved on to Whitley Bay for 3 days, so I could visit Northumbria university for an independent tour.  This almost didn't go to plan, because the the drive belt in my car decided to break as were driving back from the open day at Glasgow Caledonian.  The AA couldn't fix the problem by the side of the road, but fortunately there was a large garage directly opposite the flat we were staying in.  Unfortunately it took them all day to get the part, making us very late to get to the caravan we were booked to stay in, in Whitley.  It did work out ok, just a little stress.  Northumbria uni has terrific campuses and Newcastle is a lovely city.

Whitley Bay

The final three days of our two and half week trip, we stayed in the very pretty city of York.  From here we visited York Uni and Leeds Uni, both independent tours.  York is definitely a city I will go back and make a proper visit, but the uni wasn't for me.  Leeds is a nice city and I really liked the uni and campus.

A few pics around York Minster





I visited a few other universities before I decided which five I would eventually apply to.  I saw Nottingham Uni, the biggest campus I have seen, stunning but too big, Uni of Sussex, Portsmouth Uni, Uni of Kent and Uni of East Anglia, which gave me the first opportunity to meet my great friend of nearly eight years now, Casey Douglass.  I will give a small plug for him and his blog, because he is a talented writer, so go check it out.

Me and Casey


After careful consideration and checking with the admissions departments to ensure I met the academic requirements, before I put my application in to UCAS, I eventually chose Uni of Dundee, Northumbria Uni, Nottingham Uni, Uni of East Anglia and Leeds Uni as my five.  I spent a couple of months honing my personal statement with the help of a very good friend with the editing, as it has a very specific line and character limit to fit on the application.  I sent it in a week before the January 15th deadline.  I didn't wait too long until I had replies.  Uni of east Anglia was a no.  I think it was my lack of voluntary experience within the social care sector.  My first positive response was from Northumbria, offering me to attend a written test and interview.  I felt I did badly in the written test, but well in the interview.  I had an offer of an interview and written test at Leeds uni.  This time I felt the written test went better than the interview.  On the way home from Leeds I had my first conditional offer of a place at Northumbria Uni.  I felt so happy.  I also had an interview, written test and group test at Nottingham Uni.  The written test and group test went ok, but the interview went terribly badly, I knew as soon as I walked out once it was finished, that I wouldn't get an offer, though honestly, I don't think I would have made it my insurance choice, let alone firm choice.  I did also get an offer with Leeds Uni.  The sods at Dundee took months to respond and it was a "you don't meet the academic criteria." even though I checked with them first.  Gits.

Anyway, I thought about it for a while and I decided to make Northumbria my firm choice and Leeds my insurance choice.  I really loved Newcastle, the course and the Coach Lane campus I would be studying at.  I travelled to Newcastle, with my friend, the one who helped with editing my personal statement, for ten days in June to find a new home.  The first few we viewed, in the mostly student area, Heaton, were bloody appalling.  Then in the space of 30 mins I saw three I was very happy to live in,  My favourite and the one I have an initial twelve month tenancy is great.  Practically round the corner from uni, two off road parking spaces, a back garden, 2 double bed rooms and all on a quiet professional renters and owners street.  Oh and I have already made friends with one of my weeks away uni class mates and got to meet while on the flat hunting trip. 

I had my place confirmed, a couple weeks back and now in the process of packing up my stuff for my move to my new home for the next three years at least,  

Phase 1 on my new life is coming to an end..... This time next week I shall be living in the North East and starting Phase 2. :)