Another Long Week

Well it’s Friday again, and I’m on the train down to Nottingham. I have some time now to myself, to think, to reflect, and to write an entry for my blog!
This week was very intensive. I did an all-nighter Sunday night, and another Tuesday night. I racked up more than 80 working hours this last week, so effectively did two weeks work in one. This whole last month I’ve been averaging 60 hours a week.
It’s pay day today though, and I’ve got a rather large pay packet coming to me, so I’m happy. ^_^ The drinks are definitely on me tonight!!
I’ve been doing some really excellent work recently, and because of it I’ve got another promotion. I’m now the design authority for the Enterprise Project Management system I am producing, which means a lot more authority and responsibility. Hopefully another pay rise too; I’m talking to the boss about that next week.
So we are now examining the next phase of functionality. I’m writing documentation and getting everything ready for security auditing. We have to comply with BS779 because of the restricted and secret information that is being held on the system. We are entering an exciting stage of the project and I’m really looking forward to getting onto the next lot of functionality.
But enough about work. According to Nikkie I am now officially the best boyfriend in the world. Because I’ve been so busy this last week I haven’t been able to call her as much as I would like. She has been really busy too, doing her neurology placement in a hospital in Boston. She’s been feeling a little sad that we have both been too busy to keep in better contract, so to cheer her up I got a dozen red roses delivered to the ward she was working on in the hospital . She said she got such a shock when they arrived, and has had a massive grin on her face ever since. I’ve had a massive grin of my face all day too knowing about the surprise she would get. I can’t wait to get to Nottingham and see her.
In other news I talked to mum and Fragma last night for about an hour each. It’s the first time I talked to either of them on the phone since I got back from Australia! I know! How bad of a son/friend am I!! Mum had a lot of news to tell, and we chatted for ages. She told me that she had received a thing from the University of Queensland saying that I had been admitted to the Dean’s Honour Roll for my Bachelor of Business Management, which I thought was a scream. I hardly use my Engineering degree, let alone my Business one. I guess it’s good to put on my CV, but I still think of it as a bit of a joke considering the amount of work I put into it. Mum said she lost the lapel pin that came with it, but I told her not to worry. I’m never going to wear it.
After speaking to mum I called Fragma at work. He works harder than I do the crazy man! Nikkie reckons it is all his fault that I am working this hard. She says he is a bad influence on me :). We chatted about all my friends back home, what they are up to, what new things that have been happening. We also chatted the normal bollocks that we do. It was great to talk to him again. I’ve got to stop being so slack and call my friends back home more. I think I’ve only called Ads and Wulfen once or twice each, and Fragma only a few more times than that. I left some really great friends behind in Aus and I really need to start making more of an effort to keep in touch.
With that thought in mind I’m going to finish this blog entry here and spend my remaining battery power writing emails all of those friends of mine who have been slipping away recently. Expect an email soon guys!

It’s Midday on Sunday and I am on the train back up to Liverpool. I just said goodbye to Nikkie, gave her a great big hug, jumped on the train just as it was about to pull away, sat down and booted up my laptop. I’ve got to go into the office this afternoon to do some out of production maintenance work on the system. Geoff just called and one of the nodes on our SQL cluster has failed, so it might be a long night to get things back up and running properly again. The big advantage of having a high available infrastructure, with a backend SQL cluster is that you can afford to have and entire node fail and the system can keep on running.
So I’m sitting here thinking to myself, I have a very fucking cool life. I’m hacking together solutions for a living. I feel sort of akin to Randy Waterhouse in Cryptonomicon minus the WWII intrigue and global politics. I’m not jetting around the world setting up a data haven like he is, but when I step back and think about it, what I’m doing is pretty damn awesome.
I’ve spent the last week putting the finishing touches on a system that has been rolled out on a UK Ministry of Defence contract. It’s my system, running on Geoff’s infrastructure. It is dual redundant, highly available and scalable. It is totally secure, isolated from the outside world and is designed to meet JSP 480, which is the UK’s standard for networks that are going to contain restricted and secret documents. It’s an amazing piece of work and I’m really lucky to have had a chance to work on it.
I work hard on that during the week, and then I jet on down to hang out with my tall, blonde half-Dutch goddess for the weekend. I’ve got my trusty laptop at my side, akin to a pistol on my hip or a sword on my back. We’re going 3G now, so with the VPN software we are using I can jump on our secure network from anywhere and do some work. I’m a wandering samurai, a roaming hacker, a specialist doing an important job. And you know what; they actually pay me stupid amounts of money to do it as well!!!
Ok that may all be a really idealistic look at what I do, and totally glosses over the mundane, boring work that needs to be done to get everything working, but sitting here reviewing the last, hectic seven weeks I think it’s about time to get idealistic. I’ve done a really great job, and it’s moments like this which make it all worth it, which make you wake up and realise how bloody good you have it, how lucky you are to be living in such an exciting world. Not only living in that world, but playing a really cool part in it as well! Now that I’ve had time to reflect on it all I really can’t believe how lucky I am.

I’m free to be whatever I, whatever I choose, and I’ll sing the blues if I want.
I’m free to say whatever I, whatever I like, if it’s wrong or right, it’s alright.
Free, to be whatever you, whatever you say, if it comes my way it’s alright.

Written while listening to Whatever by Oasis.

Shopping and Reunions

So Saturday Nikkie took me shopping in Nottingham. I really needed some new winter clothes. Since I hadn’t bought anything new for myself in ages I decided to spurge and spend a hell of a lot of money. I figure that I’m working full time now and I’m earning good money, so I shouldn’t look like a shabby student anymore. It is about time to scrub up and care about what I look like a little more. So Nikkie took think as a sign to go to all the posh shops! I bought jumpers from FCUK and shirts from Ted Baker. I’m generally clueless about labels and which some things are better than others, however after trying on some of the stuff in Ted Baker I understood why it was so expensive. This was really, really good quality stuff. I promptly spent £95 there without even thinking about it.
So anyway I bought a whole new posh wardrobe and now fit the image of a well paid professional. I feel a whole lot better about myself too, I didn’t realise that good clothes made this much difference.
Saturday night the old Church Avenue gang got back together for the first time since April. Bruce, Ben, Graeme, Nikkie, Viki and I all met up at the Pitcher and Piano and promptly slipped right back into where we left off 4 months ago. Everyone had stories to tell and we had a great time catching up. As I was now a big successful working man it fell to me to buy a bottle of champagne for us to celebrate our reunion with. We all got drunk and happy and I was struck with how much I had missed all of them.
I’m heading back down to Notts next Friday, so we’ll all go out together again, and it will be just like old times.

Counting Down!

Well I’m on the train down to Nottingham… again! Lately it seems like the only time I get to write entries is when I’m on the train. Train travel provides you with a kind of peaceful solitude that allows one time for reflection and contemplation. I’ve got a lot to reflect upon, and so much more to come that I need to contemplate.
Three more sleeps to go before I am on my way home. It’s so exciting. I really can’t wait. I’ve finished work for the week. Got all my tasks done, and now I’m free! I’m going down to Nottingham to meet up with Nikkie, go out on the town, convince her to leave some shoes and handbags behind, and then we are going to pack up her car and drive up to Liverpool tomorrow.
Things have gone so fast recently. Everything has come at once, and now I am rushed to finalise everything before I go away. I went to my cousins last night, had a few drinks and a nice dinner and talked about how jammy I am. I was also laden down with presents to bring back with me. Between all of Nikkie’s stuff and my cousin’s presents I barely have any room for anything of my own. I want to have lots of left over space too, because I plan on brining as much stuff as possible back over with me. I am coming home this trip, but I don’t know whether it is my home anymore. There is so little of me left there now, and there will be even less soon. I’ve started accumulating stuff, but it’s not in Brisbane, it’s in my flat in Liverpool. I’ve got furniture, plate sets and towel sets and bed linen. I’ve started painting the place, making it exactly how I (or rather we, as Nikkie has a big say in it) want it. It’s starting to feel like my very own place now; I’ve put my touch onto it.
I’m becoming an adult, all grown up and responsible. I own bed linen! I mean come on! I’m earning a living, going on a business trip, organising my finances. It’s scary and yet exciting at the same time. Anyway enough rambling. This will probably be the last entry I post before I am over in Aus! Man I need to start getting organised. I haven’t even thought about packing yet!

Early Morning

So I’ve been slack again at writing entries. Nikkie wrote a thesis guest entry last time. She is such a sweetie. I’m writing this on the train back up from Nottingham to Liverpool, early Monday morning. It’s been a full on last two weeks. Nikkie finished her exams last week, went to Amsterdam with Jade, and then stayed with me last weekend and all last week. At lot has happened, but I’ll just go over it briefly, because I’ve been awake since 5am, and I want to catch a quick nap on the train before I have to go to work.
Last Saturday Nikkie, Graeme and I went to help out a Netball tournament that Lisa from work organised to support Breast Cancer research. We had to time matches, ring bells and announce things over the PA system. No very exciting, but it gave us all a lot of time to chat and catch up.
Saturday night Ben came down and we all went into town. I had only been out in Liverpool once before with Ads, and that was a random Tuesday night, and Nikkie had never been, so we both looked forward to a big party night. This was Ben and Graeme’s territory, so we let them lead us from bar to bar, club to club, and we got progressively drunker as the night wore on. It was a fantastic night out, the music was great, the atmosphere was pumping, we all had a great time. We ended up getting the night bus back to my place, well it didn’t quite stop at my door, which meant that we needed to walk home a little way. Somewhere along the way we “lost” Ben. We were going to go looking for him, but instead just fell asleep. All of a sudden it was 10am the next morning and he still wasn’t there. Nikkie, crazy girl, put her on running gear and set out to look for him, fearing that he was in a gutter somewhere. She only got halfway down the street before discovering him, curled up asleep in the back of his car.
We then went to back to bed and slept into 3pm.
The rest of the week went really fast. Work was busy, really busy, and I often has to stay late. Nikkie was absolutely fantastic and cleaned my flat and sorted out all of my stuff, and make my place civilised. It wasn’t that I was particularly disorganised, I just hadn’t had the time to sort everything out. I’m really lucky to have found her, she is wonderful. Thursday night I played a 4 hour club game a cricket. Paul my boss was in Bulgaria, so he asked me to fill in his place. I haven’t played cricket since highschool, and my eye wasn’t in at all, but I played pretty well and had a great time. I didn’t have proper whites though, and so played in shorts. My knees were shredded by the end because I was making diving saves, and my legs killed me the next day from all the running around I did.
Nikkie over the course of the week, while I was at work, did lots of physio work, lots of pottering, lots of walking on the beach, and spent lots of time watching the fourth season of 24! Over the course of the week she watched the first 20 episodes, catching up with me, and then together we watch the final four. WOW! What a fantastic series, it was absolutely awesome!
Saturday we drove back down to Nottingham. Nikkie’s parents came up on Sunday, we all went out for lunch, and now, come Monday morning, I’m on the train, heading back to Liverpool, ready to start another week.
I’m going to sleep now.

These little piggies went to Amsterdam

This is Nikkie. Michael asked me to do a guest entry so here goes…
The physiotherapy course is so hectic that this is the first time in a year that we have been privileged enough to have been given a week off while all the other students are busy celebrating the arrival of an 18 week summer holiday. I grabbed the opportunity to whisk Jade, my best friend and housemate, off to Amsterdam for a wild night out to celebrate her 21st birthday. Before our adventure could commence, we had to endure painstaking revision and an exam which took place on the Wednesday morning (1st June) at 8.45am.
Jade and I were both very nervous for the practical exam as you never have enough time to think and appear a fool if you don’t have the answers at the drop of a hat. The exam consists of a case scenario, 15 minutes thinking time and then joining the examiners to discuss all the relevant anatomy and clinical reasoning to arrive at an appropriate diagnosis. Next, you discuss a management plan and have to demonstrate 2 treatment techniques on a model. Finally, after what seems like forever, you document everything done with the patient, including treatment dosage, gained consent, safety tests, advice given and when you would next like to see them. Jade and I were given the same scenario of a patient with tension headaches so we came out of the exam intrigued as to what treatment we had each given. Luckily, we both appeared to administer the same treatment for similar reasons, so with that out of the way we left to get ready for our trip!
I drove, for the first time, up to Liverpool. We arrived, after a relatively stress free journey to the city but as we approached Michael’s flat, things became slightly more traumatic. At this point it is fairly relevant to mention that Michael has lived in Liverpool for 5 weeks but still appears to walk around with his eyes closed, hence the reason he (and Graeme) will be blamed for getting us lost! We ended up travelling around a roundabout 5 times until they could meet us there and take us the right way!
So, we eventually arrived at the flat, piled our belongings up the 3 flights of stairs and headed out for some lunch in a typical English café. The boys left shortly to return to work and us girls took the opportunity for some light shopping before our lift to the airport. Jade and I are both fanatical about fashion and the idea of retro and vintage clothing delights us! As a result, spotting 4 charity shops to rummage through determined the activities of the following few hours. At around 5pm, the boys had finished work for the day and we hopped in the car, laden with plastic bags full of vintage 1940’s purses, tops, scarves and the odd few bits including a wooden elephant names Widnes! So much for the light shopping trip!
Graeme and Michael dropped Jade and I off at Liverpool’s John Lennon airport and I managed to shop as soon as we got there, buying a fantastic golden yellow leather handbag. We boarded the plane at 7pm and by 11pm were sat in a bar in Amsterdam.
An exam at 8.45am in a British university, and barring in Amsterdam by 11pm – I love Europe!
Staying in a cheap hostel in the red light district ensured we were surrounded by lots of young people. We quickly re-applied some lip-gloss and changed our shoes to heels and headed out. Passing the local chippy, we were unable to resist the classic Dutch chips and mayo. I got back into the swing of the language and was soon chatting to the chip-shop man only having slight difficulty understanding the Amsterdam dialect, which is very different to that I am used to. Once our appetites had been satisfied, we followed the crowds past some very sexy and virtually naked women in doorways to a bar for a beer. Soon after our arrival we began chatting to the barman who, much to our disgust, told us we were not in a ‘green’ café, although smoking in there was permitted. We rushed off to find somewhere selling pre-rolled joints, as neither of us were in any fit state to start rolling ourselves. On the recommendation of the guy behind the counter, whom I now realise we should never have trusted, we bought 4 joints for the equivalent of about £10. Back in the previous bar we lit up and began to chat to a bunch of Aussie men. It amazed me how many Australians there were in Amsterdam, most travelling Europe after uni. Mindless chit chat revealed that these particular guys were all living in London as teachers although one had flown in from Sydney that afternoon. They were a laugh and bought us a couple of drinks so we decided to stick with them for a while. By about 1am, we had broken off and un-surprisingly only two guys remained. We visited a few more bars, smoked and drunk a bit more while playing cards in a chilled bar. The lads knew where our hostel was, as they were in the same one, so we began our walk home. We were halfway there when Jade was cornered by one of the lads and had to apologise that he must have got the wrong idea from her. Realising that he was not going to get anywhere with her that night, he swiftly left. The other guy, however, was more persistent and we had to team up to get rid of him, which we eventually did by hiding in our dorm!
Although I had shared a dorm with mates on camping trips ( I was in the scouts) and on school trips, nothing quite prepared me for this. It was a dorm of 20 beds and great fun. We sat up a while chatting crap due to our stoned and drunken state when we over heard a couple arguing over a guy having been in a peep show instead of meeting up with his girl! I’m sure this would have still amused me sober but we were both having serious difficulty in resisting laughter and continued to listen to the bickering trying to work out whether the guy’s story was genuine or he had in-fact been in a sex show as his lady was stating! By about 3am we got ready for bed and fell into light, interrupted sleep.
We awoke at 8am with the sun streaming into the room and the dorm already half empty. After showering and attempting to make ourselves look remotely human we wandered downstairs for a full English breakfast, and a mug of incredibly strong tea. Our persistent friend from the previous night pulled up a chair questioning us about where and when we were leaving Amsterdam. Making quick excuses and ensuring we were sufficiently dosed up with caffeine we walked in the direction of the main shopping street – Kalver straat. I had been to Amsterdam previously with relatives living nearby so was slightly more orientated than the average tourist and we found Kalver straat fairly quickly. We shopped, had some lunch in the Vroom and Dressmann restaurant, a definite must for a cheap detoxifying meal, and shopped some more. After a few more trips to the cash-point and laden with bags, we returned to the red light district for some major vintage shopping. I got a pair of ankle height grey slouch boots which I had been on the hunt for ages. All in all, we spent over £200 of our student overdrafts on clothes and accessories, all very worthwhile! After all, you spend what money you actually have, and then the bank decides to give you more! No, I don’t always have such a lax attitude to money but do find it very hard to resist a bargain!
By 5pm we were exhausted and grabbed our bags from the station lockers and returned to Schipol airport for a ‘maccy D’s’ (Mcdonalds) and to catch our flight home. We landed back in Liverpool at 10pm and were greeted by the boys who drove us back to Michael’s flat. Shattered from our adventure we went to bed and slept soundly.
The following morning, Michael strolled into work at 10am and Jade left to rush back to Manchester to grab fresh clothes for a night out with some old friends in Newcastle! I, on the other hand, pottered around the flat with my eyes half closed all day trying to recover from abusing my body so much.
The next few days have consisted of more pottering and trying to get Michael’s hole of a flat slightly more liveable! I have cleaned, washed, tidied and sorted but this is the first and last time I will do, so he will have to become domesticated from now on! We did a very ‘grown-up’ shop of cleaning products yesterday evening which Michael clearly needed some guidance on – he was shocked to discover that bathroom and kitchen cleaner were different! My work here is definitely challenging!
On Saturday night we visited Liverpool’s night life which I definitely felt was something else! I felt like I was in Ibiza, obviously without the gorgeous weather, it was very surreal. We sat in a square outside surrounded by bars and a very concentrated amount of gorgeous people. The women were all slim, verging on the border of too slim, had all been bronzed, either by a bottle or some hard work on a sun bed, and were made up with very expensive looking clothing. Graeme, Ben and Michael, un-surprisingly, were in awe of them all, [Editor’s Note: I was more in awe of my fantastic girlfriend of course!- Wigs], as was I, but my eye was placed more on enjoying the surrounding fashion statements. I must state though, the women were some of the best I have ever seen, obviously not including celebs, models etc, only with the downside of the Liverpudlian accent! The men were incredibly well groomed and also in expensive clothing. The music was brilliant, Michael said that it was much like the dance music ‘back home’. Being out with the lads I had to keep up with the pace of drinking which, with a reputation of a lightweight I did quite well, going drink for drink with them. Overall, Liverpool was a great night out, expensive but great.
Our trek home left much to be desired. We caught the night bus home after waiting for a taxi for over an hr. On the walk home from the bus stop we got separated losing Ben, our other scouser housemate who had come home for the summer, and fell asleep with him not having returned to the flat. We woke with a startle the next morning realising Ben was still not home. I dressed hurriedly, on a bad hangover, to jog around and try and find him. Michael eventually got him on his mobile at the same time as I came across him asleep in the back of his car! Safe, but still very very pissed he came up to the flat to sleep off the alcohol. I went for a 20minute run along the beach and came back when Michael and I decided to return to bed till 3pm. Another crazy but fantastic night out.
To think that a year ago, I was still in Newark Hall, had only known Michael 6 months, was a fresher and living a very dependant life shows how much things can change. Life is fantastic but it has been hard to get to this point; I considered dropping the physiotherapy course during the harder times, Michael moved 3 hrs away from Nottingham just when we finally got together, I moved house and Graeme’s changed university course. The summer is only a month away, I have one more outpatients placement to get through and then I will be back in Liverpool living and working here for 6 weeks. Third year will be here sooner than later and then I’ll be a qualified physiotherapist and will have to become even slightly responsible! On second thoughts, I’ll delay that as long as I can, go travelling, live a little before pinning myself to a 9-5 job. The end of university is so close, yet so far. I’m only two thirds through it and things have changed so much since arriving in September as a fresher.
Change is good. Hard but good.

Glorious Saturday Afternoon

It’s amazing to think how much has happened this last year. Exactly one year and one day ago today was the Summer Party 2004 to mark the end of the University year and the official start to student summer (you can read all about what we got up to this time last year in this entry). Well now is Summer Party 2005, and the lot of us, older and wiser, went down early with a disposal BBQ, lots of meat and beer, and camped out on the downs in the glorious sun, and sat off listening to music and having a great time. Karl Kennedy from Neighbours was the “special mystery guest” and he was there with his band playing covers of oasis songs. It was a glorious afternoon. We didn’t stay for the whole night (having learnt what a disappointment that was last year), but instead lazed around in the sun having a great time. It’s still light out now as I am writing this, and it’s wonderfully warm.
So we were talking about how much we had all changed since last year and everyone (excluding me the old, responsible, working man) was amazed to think that this time next year they would be finished uni. The topic jumped back and forward between the past and the future. Where everyone thought they would be heading after Uni, where was the best place we travelled to last summer, what was everyone’s plans for this summer, when did we all meet each other originally. Maybe because I am such and old man, and am still looking at it from a semi-outsider perspective, but it was startling to me how much everyone had changed and grown up in the last year. We were playing spot the first years, and I couldn’t fathom that everyone with me was a first year just a year ago. They seemed so different. We all grown and change constantly through life, but I think that one of the most pivotal periods is your life is that first year after highschool, when you leave the security of school and enter the real world. I feel lucky to have been privileged enough to be a part of that year for all of my friends here. They are such fantastic people, fantastic friends, and I’ve really missed them all these past couple of months when we’ve been apart.
I’ve been lucky like that all through life now that I think about it. Other that a few rare instances I’ve always had fantastic friends who I get on well with and trust and respect. They have provided support, comfort, jokes and fun. I can just sit and hang out with them all day doing nothing much at all, I can travel to exotic places with them, I can rant and vent to them when I’m stressed, I can rant and rave to them when I’m in love. My friends have been there for me, with me, though so much. I miss you guys, wherever you are in the world. Friends in the US I’ve never met personally but whom I’ve told everything to. Friends back in Aus that I left behind. Friends here in my new home, who I don’t get to see enough of.
Don’t walk behind me, I may not lead. Don’t walk in front of me, I may not follow. Just walk beside me and be my friend. – Albert Camus
Thanks again for The Fall Al. It really meant a lot to me.
Written while lying on Nikkie’s bed, while she studies for her final physio exam, listening to her sing along to U2’s greatest hits. Nikkie is my closest confidant, a fantastic, thoughtful, caring, and wonderful friend. I love her more than the world. I am the luckiest.