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.


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.


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!