Everything You Thought blog! (What’s the deal?)

Just under a year ago I decided to take the plunge and jump head first into blogging. I set up a blog because I’ve always enjoyed writing and reading blogs, and for a couple of months I posted daily (if you want a trip down memory lane, check it out). I started out writing about whatever had gone on that day, how I was feeling, or what was on my mind, and I loved it. At first.

I fell into a new job, which despite seeming promising as I sat with contract before me (not my dream job, but putting that BSc to good use and paying as well as someone freshly graduated could possibly ask for), presented long and thankless working days, expectated to work far beyond the contracted hours for no overtime pay, beside tired and grumpy colleagues living in constant terror of being fired. I was back living between my parents’ homes in the town all my closest friends have left (it’s too expensive to live in on a starting salary, so unless you’re happy living at home you’ve got to fly the nest). I became exhausted and demoralised. It became increasingly difficult to find something new to write about every day as I had when I started (my intention was to write a “daily vlog” – yes, I love watching those on youtube – style blog). This only served to make me aware that I was working more and more, and living less and less. Things got in the way and I’d miss a post, then have to write two the next day. It became stressful. It sucked.

I now find myself, around a year later, in a similar position, but this time I’m doing it right: I’ve recently been through some selection interviews and am hoping to start a new job, but I’ve taken my time applying to hundreds of dream jobs, ones could imagine enjoying and would like to try (no more taking any old thing), and only in locations I’d like to live; and I really want to blog again, but am setting realistic goals this time and have a focus in mind this time (I’m not doing anyone else’s shtik, but my own thing). I still love listening to and making music, taking photos, watching movies, reading, exploring, skateboarding, but a lot has changed, too. I’ve taken time to travel, spending the last four months abroad taking photos and giving myself a real holiday; I’ve taken the time to visit and catch up with my extended family and some old friends living abroad, many of whom I hadn’t seen for years; and I’ve finally knuckled down and polished off my debut EP, going ahead and releasing it independently earlier this summer (more about that later).

My plan for the blog is to focus on the things I love the most: music, photography, film, skateboarding, and science. This isn’t to say I won’t talk about anything else, but most things in my life relate to one of these five topics in one way or another. My plan is to post on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, plus an audio podcast on Saturdays. This should permit me the time to produce quality posts even once I’m working full-time again, and to avoid falling into the trap of trying to think of something completely new to write about each day.

So, I’m back, and here to stay!
See you on Wednesday,

X.

The “Everything You Thought blog show” (Podcast)!

I have decided to venture into the world of audio podcasting as an extension to the posts I will be writing here, so give me a listen, get involved (leave a comment!), and get to know me!

Find episodes here:
https://anchor.fm/everythingyouthought

here:
https://itunes.apple.com/gb/podcast/the-eyt-blog-show/id1288753571?mt=2

or here:
https://play.google.com/music/m/Ier2mb7nzj4n7ykz5vdo5l34ttu?t%3DThe_EYT_Blog_Show%26pcampaignid%3DMKT-na-a 

Until next time!

X.

Don’t wake me this time.

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Today, I did the same thing I do every working day: I woke up (slightly earlier than I’d have liked), ate a quick but nutritious breakfast, and went to work. Some 9 hours later I left the lab, grabbed my skateboard and shoes from the boot of my car, and went for a skate. These after-work skates clear my head like nothing else can; it’s me and the board, and nothing else – not that I have a choice, if I want to stay on my feet anyway… It’s a ritual that has quickly become essential. I do it everyday after work, come what may – I’ve skated in the pouring rain, on ice, and in near total darkness amongst other potential hindrances. Today I worked up such a sweat that I soon found myself wearing only the t-shirt I had on under my work clothes, despite it being a nippy 5°C.

Sometimes my session alone isn’t enough to satisfy my skateboarding needs, however, and today was one of those days. The cure today came in the form of Polar Skate Co.’s I like it here in my mind. Don’t wake me this time. The movie (which you can watch in its entirety here: https://polarskateco.com/theatre/ – though I own a physical copy nevertheless, worth owning [in my opinion anyway] for its packaging’s aesthetic alone) is a genuinely unique project work of art.

As much an art film as it is a skate video, Pontus Alv’s brainchild mixes early avant-garde (especially surrealist/dada) cinema, cartoons, and artistic shots of landscapes – amongst other tidbits – with the skating itself. The whole project is gloriously lo-fi, combining aged-looking grainy shots (in both black-and-white and colour) and higher quality shots (after all, this is in fact a skate film made between 2011 and 2015) with visual effects and transitions reminiscent of 1970 TV (as is the project’s 4:3 aspect ratio). Even the soundtrack, between the occasional philosophical monologue, includes songs from some of the skate classics of yesteryear…

Oh, and the skating’s good too. Check it out.

X.

Slam!

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Today, as I do everyday, I pulled my skateboard and spare shoes out of the boot of my car for a skate after work. The site has a plethora of brilliant skate spots, and it feels great to work up a sweat and get some fresh air in my lungs after a long day in the laboratory.

But today I want to talk about one aspect of skateboarding in particular: falling. For a long time I haven’t fallen off my board – not because I am brilliant, but because I had stopped pushing myself. When you do the same few tricks enough you both land them more consistently and learn how to land on your feet (once sufficiently familiar with a trick you can feel when a trick isn’t quite right and can kick the board away in time to land safely).

Having recently received official confirmation that I’ll be graduating my Master’s degree with a distinction, starting a new job, and with my first serious solo EP coming along nicely, my confidence is at an all time high. As a result, I am throwing myself at new tricks like never before. And honestly I have never had more fun on a board. The only downside to this approach to skating is that following a fairly lengthy hiatus (since bailing to avoid a bus when bombing down a road a couple of years ago) I have had a few proper slams again. In fact I did just that both yesterday and today.

Yesterday was rainy and wet, and an under-rotated hardflip put me on my back after landing “primo” (with the board on its side), whereas today I simply misjudged a backside 50-50 on a ledge and before I knew it was on the ground again. Falling is inevitable if you push your limits. Sometimes it pays to take the leap and commit, and sometimes you end up on the ground, but crucially you are still progressing and moving forward; sometimes knowing what went wrong leading to a crash leads to a breakthrough realisation that helps you figure out how to land a trick better than you ever could have worked out if it weren’t for that lesson, courtesy of the school of hard knocks.

And that’s just life. Of course, you could never try anything at all and therefore never fail, but what satisfaction would that bring? Whatever you do, whatever your dream, stick at it and work as hard as you can. If you should fall, dust yourself off, learn from your mistakes, and get back at it like never before.

X.

No more bad days.

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This morning the sun came out, and it even stayed dry. England hasn’t seen this bright a day for a long time, so obviously I headed out to the local skatepark to make the most of the weather. The photograph with this post is actually from around a month ago – I forgot my tripod today so couldn’t get a good photo – and unfortunately doesn’t nearly do today’s weather justice (though it was taken at the same skatepark, if nothing else!).

Today’s efforts were mostly focused on manual pad, ledge, and rail tricks, and I had one of those sessions where things seem to just work – the cherry on top of an already glorious morning. The park wasn’t completely deserted either for a change (though the others there were riding scooters, but you can’t always have it all). The only negative this morning was that I had intended on trying to fastplant over the larger ledge from the manny pad (which I have always thought would look awesome), but completely forgot once I was at the park. But there’s always tomorrow…

The session’s highlight came in the form of an epiphany on my skate home. I realised the only difference between today and any other of late is that the skies were clearer than they have been for a while: I had nothing special planned for the day; temperatures have actually continued to drop, despite the brightness of the day; and there were more job applications waiting to be done when I got home. It occurred to me that I had essentially chosen to be happy, and justified it with a minuscule factor that is completely out of my control anyway. But there needn’t be a justification for feeling good, and I have vowed from now on to cut out the middleman and choose to be happy just because.

After all, nothing makes a day good like having a good day.

 

X.

Longhill.

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This morning, as I have been doing most mornings, I hopped in my car and drove down to my favourite skatepark to start my day with a session. I feel a lot better physically and mentally if I can fill my lungs with fresh air and get the blood pumping around my body first thing, and there’s nothing quite like an adrenaline and endorphin rush to help get a day off to a good start. And then there’s the skateboarding itself. Going out to skate when I wake up has been a habit for some time now, but by obliging myself to head over to a proper skatepark (see above photo), rather than cruising around whilst running errands or casually practicing flatland tricks, I have found myself feeling more inspired and motivated, and have seen a significant progression in my abilities as a result. What’s more, a skatepark provides a perfect surface and varied obstacles to learn on – which obviously helps too.

I am more conflicted, however, when it comes to the emotional aspects of my routine: the greatest downside to my morning skate routine is also one of its greatest assets – that I am always alone. Now, this does have its benefits: there is no pressure to perform, no one can get in my way, and there are no distractions to name but a few. In fact, being alone means that if I’m at the skatepark for two hours, I skate for two hours (often returning home drenched in sweat). Now for the negatives… Perhaps I’m suffering from a case of the grass seeming greener on the other side, but when things go wrong and I am struggling to land a certain trick, or sometimes just too scared to try something new, there is never anyone there who might shed some light on what I might improve to land something or offer some words of encouragement. And when things go well it’s even worse: after a good session I always feel a little disappointed that no one was there to witness what I did well – I think it’s every skateboarder’s dream to be the person whose trick is met by boards banging on the floor, a cheer, and a sea of high-fives and fist bumps. Instead, my tricks are met by silence.

I doubt anyone could put the feeling better than Christopher McCandless: “Happiness only real when shared”.

 

X.

Poker face.

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Today was a pretty relaxed day, partially by choice and partially due to the weather; the rain has been torrential and unrelenting. I won’t complain though, having travelled around so much lately it’s been nice to just stay in for a change, and I’ve managed to get a few bits and pieces done into the bargain.

Between updating my CV and Résumé I have been able to work on some songwriting, catch up on some quality reading time, and get some maintenance work on my skateboard done: cleaning the bearings (which got wet and locked up), brushing down the griptape, changing my trucks’ bushings, and swapping in some new wheels. The biggest downside to the weather is that even if the rain stops at some point overnight the skatepark will likely still be wet tomorrow, which may seem insignificant to a non-skater but believe me slippery ramps and rusty bearings are a nightmare. But, this is England and unless you are lucky enough to be near an indoor skatepark (which for me is an hour’s drive without traffic) at a certain point in the year you either skate on wet ground, or don’t skate at all.

I also tried something completely new to me today: online poker. Since my early teenage years I have played a lot of poker with friends and on the computer (though against AI rather than online), practising as much (and as many poker variants) as possible, devouring books and online resources on the topic (my favourite being the High Stakes Poker podcast). And it is no secret to those who’ve known me as an adult that I am partial to the occasional trip to a casino (though blackjack is my preferred game; quick, relatively cheap, and one in which skill can make a difference – unlike pure luck games such as roulette or craps, which have never appealed to me).

If I were more interested in the money than the game I may have explored online poker sooner, but the truth is that I am not. What I enjoy most about poker is calculating probabilities and trying to read my opponents’ body language to figure out where I stand in a hand. I’m not much excited by the risk of financial loss (which is of course the most likely outcome – there are more losers than winners at any table or tournament), and I’m not motivated enough by the promise of a large payout (which, save for an elite few, is highly unlikely anyway). What inspired the decision to give it a shot today was an advert promising free cash to play without a deposit (which turned out, of course, to be loaded with terms and conditions). Upon reading that the company also offers a “play money” (free-to-play) mode – much better suited to my needs – I downloaded the software straight away and got stuck in.

I played two sit and go games. In the first I reached the final two before more or less throwing the game (finishing second), satisfied with having made my target of a prize winning position, and won the second outright. I did enjoy the games, and can see myself returning for a quick game or two every now and then, but I won’t be playing for real money online any time soon. If I’m going to pay to play, I’ll pay for the casino experience: a real dealer, real cards on a felt table, and the ability to play the game as it is played best – reading your opponents’ tells and getting a feel for where you stand beyond the values on the cards. But until my next casino visit I’ll gladly take the free practice.

X.

Battle scars: what skateboarding means to me.

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In life, everyone finds things they enjoy doing. I, like many others, enjoy doing a range of different things, with the extent to which I am likely to do any particular one of them on a given day generally subject to my energy levels, mood, the weather, and a host of other internal and external factors. Two activities stand out for me in that I never tire of doing either and am so fond of doing both that after day without either I always feel slightly unfulfilled. Those two things are music and skateboarding, and today I’m going to focus on the latter.

I can still remember the first board I ever owned, at six years old: an old-school shaped deck complete with tail bone and rails, large soft cruiser-style wheels, and plastic trucks. I rode that board until it was literally falling apart. I was hooked. My first proper ‘popsicle’ skateboard, with metal trucks this time, came shortly after, from a skate shop in Worthing on the south coast of England; a ¾ size as I was still too small to manage a full size deck. This time rather than just cruising around I took to skateparks for the first time, learning the ropes at a park exclusively composed of mini ramps not ten minutes from my house, inspired by VHS tapes of the X-Games that I would watch and re-watch until I knew my favourite lines by heart.

Since, I have ridden every board I possibly could: skateboards, cruisers, longboards, snowskates, snowboards, and surfboards. This love affair has been one of few constants in my life, spanning 16 years – a relationship eclipsed only by my best friend, who’s been by my side for over 19 years – and yet I simply never tire of it. In fact, this morning I bounced out of bed at 8am and hopped in the car to explore a new skatepark (which inexplicably has no lights, hence the early start to make the most of the trip; the sun currently sets around ten past four).

So why do I enjoy pushing myself around on a small plank of wood (well, technically several plies of wood) so much? Skateboarding frees me. Whether flying down a hill, dodging pedestrians on a busy street or cars on a road, carving a bowl, or doing tricks, I feel totally liberated. I couldn’t care less about any trends: I don’t ride a wide board despite my large feet (7.75s just work for me), my trucks are so loose I get wheel bite (even when riding park and vert), and my wheels softer than most. I’ll wear whatever I want, go wherever I want, and do whatever I want. I’m all about old school tricks, carving, powerslides, and goofing around, and I love it. When I feel good, skating makes me feel great, and if I am feeling sad or stressed, skating frees me. Not a bad thought even enters my mind. In fact, I hardly think at all: it’s the wind in my hair, it’s movement, it’s emotion. Every time I touch a skateboard I push my limits – faster, higher, further, smoother, cleaner, more aesthetic; there’s always something to work on – and when you’re pushing your limits you are forced to be totally focused. And in those moments, nothing else matters.

Sure, I am no pro. I can’t do the most technical tricks, or the biggest gaps. But that’s not why I do it, and it never will be.

X.