Tag Archives: Edinburgh

For All The Cows: I’m back here I guess…

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Three tins of Red Stripe*, a failed bet (sorry, bets) and awaiting news of a job I have diminishing hope of getting and I’m just about in prime territory for writing. Yeah, throw in a Friday night alone with Radio 6, 4od and frozen pizza and I have all the ingredients for a semi-structured, completely unrelated to anything I’ve just listed, blog entry. All I need now is to post pictures of my dinner and I’ll be near enough suicide. So where do I go from here? Well since my last post was about Belgian beer and I’ve gotten as far as Jamaican lager then I can’t envision much progress. Still, at least that’s somewhere to go from. Will I try to meet somewhere half way? Will I stop asking myself rhetorical questions? Will I ever buy any other frozen pizza other than Ristorante? You bet your arse I won’t.

Travel on the mind.

Literally the view from my laptop.

Literally the view from my laptop.

On the 3rd of November it will be five years to the day that I packed my not so little backpack, pushed back the tears and left Aberdeen to travel for the first time. I wouldn’t have thought that particular day in the calendar would mean that much to me but in all honesty, I’ve been thinking about it a lot recently. My better half and I will be in Paris that weekend and being the sentimental guy I sometimes am, I would like to celebrate it by visiting the Eiffel tower and cracking open a bottle of wine. Now, I’ve been back in Scotland for a year and half now and even been back in Aberdeen for five months of those five but I can honestly say that there is hardly a day goes by where I don’t think of leaving again. And although I have thought and done in the past, I will just have to sit on such thoughts this time around – at least for the time being. I’ll be writing a sick inducing nostalgic entry for the third so if you can’t get enough self vanity, set your reminder for then.

Work to be done.

I started a new job in April which I am really enjoying as a Support Worker, working with homeless adults in supported accommodation. Ironically, I could do with some support myself but I must have failed to mention that at the interview. Regardless, I’m really enjoying it and sincerely think it’s the right job for me. Problem being, I’m only contracted part-time so find myself running around Edinburgh covering shifts in other projects to pay the rent. I realize the importance of a good reference now and finally realize that I need some balance in my life as well as the start of something serious on the job front. Although I’ve worked for a lot of places, in truth, a two-year old could draw all over paper with a green crayon and still create a more credible CV than mine. Time to buckle down and earn a reference/experience in something other than Head Cappuccino Making and Executive Chip Fryer. Although do look out for those jobs on Gumtree. I heard Glasgow is seeking skilled chip fryers for the Commonwealth games.

Needless to say, I am going and I’m tailor made for that role. I’ve retired from track and field.

I Could probably predict the future…

With the other half pegged down for a two-year contract at work and settled now in Edinburgh, it gives me time to focus on my job. I’m hopeful to land a full-time position within the company and would be unfortunate/have no one to blame but myself if I didn’t nail it down. We have been reading off of different pages when it comes to future plans thus far but have amicably agreed that if we were to travel extensively again, it would have to tie in with some sort of job prospects related to what we’re doing now. Hypothetically, I could walk around Bondi beach, offering housing support to backpackers that have spent their last cent but in that will never happen – I hate doing paperwork in the sun…

Realistically one of four thing’s are likely to happen: We end up moving back to Germany; We move down South to London; We travel then use a working visa abroad – i.e.- Canada; We stay in Edinburgh for longer. Simple! Next stop, a house and children and a five door car, but only if I still get to watch wrestling – that’s the deal. Who said life was complicated?

What else is new?

  • Remember I went to college because I thought it would be important to come back to education? Overall it was a waste of fucking time but I did get a grade out of it. I failed Higher German (poor attendance, terrible class structure and a really bad teacher that looked nothing like Cameron Diaz) but I passed Higher English and got an A. In all honesty, it was a great class even though I was the older student who sat at the back hungover and looked like a perv. The problem being with college is that I wanted to do nothing with it, therefore, there was not really any point of me being there. I didn’t want to get into University like most of my class or gain extra highers. I just wanted to do something I enjoyed and be rewarded for it even if it meant I had to work less. So waste of fucking time? Well yes but you know what, I needed it. I thought some sort of study would be good for me and, on reflection, it was. Reading The Great Gatsby over and over, being forced to write for hours and turkey burgers on paper plates – I had no idea what I was missing.
  • After a five-year absence I will be coming home for Christmas: I’ve not been in the country the last five years so it’s not as if I’m the selfish, ungrateful son who has turned his back on his family but still, five years is long enough. Expect a night out on the cards for my birthday on the 27th. I thank the both of you in advance for turning up and you both looked splendid in your new cardigans.

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  • Leaving my worst South African accent at the door, I flew over to Johanesburg in August for my cousin’s wedding. It’s probably something that I’ll go into another time but it was quite a humbling experience spending time with family who you rarely see but who love you so much and are so happy to see you. I was well looked after and truly welcomed with open arms. Being a large chunk of my dad’s heritage, it was a long overdue trip but was incredibly worthwhile.
  • My phone’s knackered – Angry birds? I’m fucking raging.
  • Oh and I ate this. Impressed? Didn’t think so.

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*Make that five.

 

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For All The Cows: 2012 – A Year In Review.

The year the world was meant to end was also the year I came back to Scotland, with the intentions of getting my act together. Achieved? Well, no, not really: 2012 was a bit of a mixed bag but exciting none the less. I managed to pack in some travel as well as set up base somewhere new: Edinburgh, to which for a change, I still reside:

January:

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Petra and I had been travelling three months prior and had just finished a rain sodden trip through Malaysia. With the beach in mind, we skipped the last part of our travel in Borneo, and made our way for the guaranteed sun of Thailand: The majority of January was spent lying on the beach in beautiful Koh Lanta, eating food and reading my first book over 500 pages: A milestone in itself (Yeah, I know…)

February:

845We would be saying goodbye to our trip in Singapore, which seemed fitting since we started our trip in another awe inspiring city: New York: The last couple of days were spent catching up with an old friend, reflecting on the success of the trip as a whole, and getting in some last minute cheap but delicious eats and feel good sunshine. We love the food in Asia, and my year long Winter plumage can attest to that.                                                                                           

March:

Although back home with a bang, March held it’s own excitement: I had moved into a hostel in the P1270013centre of Edinburgh – sleeping in an eight man dorm room – whilst I looked for a job and a flat; Petra remained in Germany until further notice. It was slim pickings across the board, and luck was certainly not on my side. It began to sink in that, for now, the travel dream was over: It was becoming disheartening in the capital. After a couple of weeks of searching, my luck was to change and I had found a place in Leith. Not just any old place: A place that was perfect for me and more importantly, perfect for Petra. The next stage of my life was about to begin.

April:

DSCF5578The flat situation was sorted and Petra had flown over: We were settling in fine, and for me – at least – the job front was turning out okay as well: I started to work at a seafood restaurant, in the heart of the city centre called ‘The Mussel Inn’. I wasn’t too happy that I was back to doing what I had always done but for the moment, paying the rent came as a priority. I fitted in fine, albeit, a bit slow off the mark: It had been a while since I had worked in somewhere as busy and my head was still on the beach in Thailand.

May:

The year began on a high but was slowly turning on it’s head: Petra was finding it hard to pin down 923work (even interviews…) and she was becoming increasingly unhappy, having a knock on effect on me. But after weeks of hearing nothing, her luck was to change and an offer from Amazon came in: Not the best of positions but a job none the less and with a good company: A job that was badly needed; A job that was welcomed with open arms; And a job that would essentially settle us in Edinburgh.

June:

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It was the start of the Summer with nothing much worth of note: I continued to work anti-social hours whilst Petra settled in to the ‘nine to five’ working life. No money for a Summer holiday but I was starting to think about what I would do in the coming months: Would I go back to long overdue study or begin to search for a job with career prospects?

July:

A weekend off from an ever-increasingly busy restaurant was on the cards, so I decided to head down to leeds-131London to visit friends: Managing to find some sun and and a club on the Friday night, I went a little too hard and was a complete write off for all of Saturday, falling asleep in the graveyard next to Borough market and going back to bed shortly after. Buying a drink for a fiver and only eating the ice cubes says it all…

August:

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It was festival time in Edinburgh, and as well as Petra’s, it was also my first. The city is transformed from being littered with rage inducing tourists to being littered with rage inducing tourists coupled with punch-bag-worthy hipsters. Still, it was fantastic: Our first proper introduction to what Edinburgh can offer, and we loved it. Highlights included Richard Herring: Talking C**k, The Boy With Tape On His Face and seeing one of my heroes Mick Foley in the flesh: You know how they say you should never meet your heroes? Well, that stood true for me. Under whelmed summed that experience up, not helped by a rowdy, under appreciative crowd.

September:

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After much deliberation I had decided to meet somewhere in the middle of work and education and took the plunge to go back to college part-time to study Higher English and Higher German, as well as a short course on a Thursday evening studying Journalism at Edinburgh Uni. Let’s take the good first: Study keeps my brain ticking over, I’m genuinely interested in the topics I’m studying despite no plans for University, and it keeps me away from work for three days a week. The negative? Sitting on the bus for two hours, not receiving a bursary and slumming it with the teenagers who are more interested in their smart phones than education. Oh, and the food is terrible.

September was also the month that Petra found a great job at Edinburgh Napier University: A job with great prospects and a job that will continue her education in Scotland. She finds it hard work but ultimately rewarding; She is doing well and deserves it.

October:

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Another weekend away, accept this time I took Petra with me. In fact, Petra picked the destination: Barcelona. A weekend that had promised torrential rain, instead remained dry throughout the day and soaking throughout the night so I guess luck was on our side. A beautiful city with a lot to offer and a much needed break from the capital. Prosecco you say? Yeah, a bit too much…

November:

A month of pure procrastinating. My job patience is wearing thin, my German class sucks big time and IWhen reading this book, I actually found a red paper clip on the floor of the train. What's the chances? (No don't be silly. Of course I'm not going to talk about the actual book...) have little to no time to do much out with both of those things. What time I do have is spent with recyclable bags at Tesco, attempting to write with little to no motivation and blasting music into my ears as loud as I can to forget how pissed off I am with everything. But hey, such is life…

December:

2012-12-27 21.08.35I jumped at the opportunity to come back to Germany with Petra to celebrate Christmas with her family, making it the fifth year in a row I’ve been away from Aberdeen for the holidays. Do I feel good about that? No not really. But it’s just sort of panned out that way…

As it is, I’m enjoying the pure ‘down-time’ here and it gives me time to re-charge, re focus and even get around to doing a bit of writing: Something to which I have little time for. Yesterday, I celebrated my twenty-seventh birthday by throwing up repeatedly and relaxing at a thermal spa. I was welcomed back by a birthday cake/s: The first I’ve been given in years. Please excuse the word order in the photo: We are in Germany after all…

So what does 2013 hold? Honestly, I don’t know. Petra and I will continue to live in Edinburgh as her job demands this but I have no problem conforming to that: I love it there. As for my own personal development? I wish I could tell you the answer. I desperately need to do something different with my life, and I have to push that forward in the New Year as opposed to just crossing my fingers and hoping for the best. It’s only a matter of time for me. However now, more than ever, it’s important I use that time wisely.

Oh, and how did I see in 2012? By dressing in drag of course…

Take it easy folks and all the best for 2013.

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Hostel Review: Caledonian Backpackers, Edinburgh

Edinburgh is a city that has its fair share of tourists from all over the world and a good chunk of them are backpackers. The backpacker crowd tend to come in and out of the city en-route else where, skipping past the likes of Dundee, Glasgow and my home town Aberdeen – the road to the highlands via the West Coast is well trodden. Due to the steady number of tourists all year round and the crazy demand for any mattress over the summer, the city is dusted with great, affordable hostels that could rival any capital city around the world.

I was looking for a base in the city centre of Edinburgh to live out of until I found work and a place to stay. I had no problems booking for three nights at short notice  and even less extending my stay for a total of two weeks. I stayed in an 8 person mixed dorm but there are privates available and if you are really stuck a thirty eight person dorm!  – the price will go up over the weekend.

Upon arriving I was greeted by a friendly dread-locked girl that gave me the run down. Checking in was quick and painless despite me arriving a month ahead of time (Whoops). However a quick play with the computer and I was found a bed with no hassle at all, although mistakes like that may leave you without one in the Summer.

The interior of the building is smeared with different colourful and playful murals, that make the place look like students broke in over night. But it works: it was nice to see a six foot Totoro outside my door every morning and with the building itself being vintage and converted in places it doesn’t feel out of place.

The 1st floor is the heart beat of this busy hostel: The stunning, bright, quiet and clean ‘Caterpillar Room’ is the perfect retreat after a day flat hunting; wooden decks scattered in bean bags where you can stretch out and waste the night on your laptop. There is also a well stocked and reasonably priced bar next door with pool tables, Nintendo Wii, storage lockers, books and board games, comfy sofas and anything else you may need. The bean bag cinema room is also a welcome addition with a huge widescreen, great sound and a built in movie system. Awesome. A spacious kitchen and computer access is also available on this floor.

The Caterpillar Room

The rooms are nothing special but provide lockers (you can buy a lock at reception), spacious and the hostel provides you with two pillows! That may not sound like a big deal but for someone that has stayed in a lot of hostels it’s a welcome bonus and backpackers appreciate things like that. The two rooms I stayed in during my two week stay had only two power outlets. This is a problem when you have various people needing to charge up but it can be forgiven for the plentiful outlets on the 1st floor. Still – extension chords would come in handy…

The showers and toilets were kept clean and tidy. I didn’t have to cue once for either but I understand there is a shortage on the higher floors.

The Bar/common room

Breakfast is free and superb for the price of the hostel. Served until midday if you were out late the night before, you can have Muesli, white and brown toast, juice, coffee and plenty of spreads. Generous as some of the cheaper hostels can cut back drastically on what they offer in the mornings.

The reception is 24 hours and requires a flash of your room card to get in. You can also sign in guests if you want to drink at the bar.

My only real complaint about this hostel was the staff. Apart from the odd exception they all seemed miserable and looked like they hated being there. Perhaps they only work for accommodation? I can only speculate. Atmosphere and energy are a big part of any hostel stay and Caledonians lacked both. Nothing really brought the guests together like some of the other bigger hostels try to do, and it was far too easy to disappear between your headphones. At times it was hard to get the staffs attention and at others they just gave the impression they couldn’t be bothered. Poor and a disappointing for such a great hostel.

The Good

Location – Situated at the corner of Queens ferry at the castle end of Princes Street; you can even get a sneaky view of said castle at some windows of the hostel. Bus lines, bars and restaurants are steps away and it is next door to the awesome Wannaburger; the name says it all. I wanna’d and had too many of them.

Price – Absolute bargain. I’m sure it will rise over the Summer but at a tenner at off peak times it’s a steal.

Facilities – Free and decent wi-fi, nice little bar and all the mod cons you would expect from a good hostel.

Free Breakfast – Good variety and no dishes to clean up.

The size – Plenty of space to roam and decent sized rooms.

The Bad

The staff – I feel horrible writing this as the only fault as nobody was offensive at all. Just a bit of enthusiasm, effort and a smile would have pushed my opinion of Caledonian Backpackers from a great hostel to an excellent one. That’s all it takes.

 The Verdict

Caledonian Backpackers: Practical and central hostel in the heart of Edinburgh with great facilities.

8/10


For All The Cows – An Update To The Update…

In case you’re still remotely interested in the revolving door that is my life, I’m back on the scene with blog number 100. Okay, so it’s not going to be the special entry I had planned but I’ve been away a long time! So folks this is simply a blog to say hello and a little catch up. I did say in my last entry that there is more writing to come from me and there will be; mostly spanning from my recent travels. But for now I’ll just fill you in on the news, trying not to make this too painful of a read.

Onwards…

For those of you that have lost track of exactly what I’m doing:

Firstly – I’m not in the slightest surprised.

And secondly – I have no fucking idea either.

Things haven’t changed that much since my last entry. I may not be in Germany any more but I knew then what I know now and everything is still going as planned. But Without wanting to add another week onto the months, I’ll crack on.

Much like opening the door to a cupboard that’s been used as storage for far too long; I have no fucking idea what’s going to come pouring out.

So where the hell am I now and how long am I here for?

Jesus Christ; Even I can’t conjure up interest any more…

Well I’m in Scotland! Edinburgh to be more specific. Literally with nowhere to live and no job. But I do smell relatively good and judging by the bounce of my beer gut when I stride down the stairs I still eat well.

I’ve been back in Scotland for two weeks and down at the capital for one of those looking for a place to live and shortly a job as I am very near to being out of money. Looking at flats has been a mixed bag of frustration, disappointment and time wasting. I’m living at a hostel at the moment, abusing the free morning coffee and killing time by feeling sorry for myself and willing for the phone to ring. My ‘refresh page’ finger is getting a good work out though and who says you can’t eat chips twice in a day?

Basically this is what my life has come down to; Talking to strange men in 8 bedroom dorms and listening to couples fucking in the shower. But it’s only temporary and it’s nothing I’m not used to. I have no doubt my life will come together but It could take weeks rather than days. I’m in dire need of some structure in my life and I’m not talking waiting in line for the shower.

Is this going the way of a ramble? Better get it out the way then…

These past three years have been the best of my life; Seeing the world and having experiences that I couldn’t of imagined before leaving Scotland. It’s hard to really put into words how much travel has done for me as a person. To put it simply: I’m a different person now then when I was before I left.

When I was on the road I was tested in so many different ways I hadn’t experienced back home that I soon developed a mental toughness in which I could call upon when needed. I began to realize that nothing is too hard to achieve with a bit of persistence, patience and drive. However I was also aware that all three of these things didn’t stick around with me for long. I secretly developed anxieties and fears about how I would adapt upon returning.I knew that the lifestyle I was living had to end somewhere and at sometime. But you know, I wouldn’t change that much of what I’ve done over the last three years and I’m happy with the majority of choices I made. But in a sense I’ve only been killing time and delaying the inevitable. I was happy with that for a long time but lately I have started to think of the future; something to which I’ve been so dismissive with in the past.

I’m putting some serious thought into career goals and earning real money. Money has never been that big of an issue for me. I have seen the world on minimum wage and had the most amazing of experiences. Experiences that people with double the income, of all ages and from all walks of life shared with me.

Fit's ah this shite for? JUST DEE IT!

Leaving was about getting the best out of myself and seeing where my strengths lied. And although It was a pretty unorthodox way of learning life lessons, I wouldn’t change it for anything.

I have met some of my favourite people whilst being away and learned things I wouldn’t have If I had stayed in Aberdeen.

But it all boils down to this: I’m home and it’s now time to move forward in a completely different way to which I am used to.

I can still fuck up and I still have plenty of time, but I now have to make some important decisions.

For the third time in three years I am back to the very beginning. I may not have anything to show for it in the traditional sense. No career, no money, no further education, not even possessions apart from this laptop I’m typing on but I’ve still achieved.

I’ve worked hard at something you can’t touch, feel or see but Inside I have a lot to show for it. I feel personal achievement in that I know where my strengths lie. It’s just about using them.

You know, before I left I didn’t believe in myself or push myself hard enough. I was jealous of my friends for studying and hated students based purely on not being one.

I’m back to square one in another city but have I ever really been further? At this moment in time, this could quite possibly be the best place to be. Square one isn’t that scary. I can go in any direction.


How was your trip?

Great and went surprisingly well. As I said I’ll be writing all about over the coming months so I’ll just touch on it briefly. One of the reasons I’ve not been updating is because I didn’t have my laptop on the road. These thing’s tend to fall off of boats, go missing from trains and end up as 21st century coffee tables in a flat in Bangkok.

On the grand scale of things the trip was a success with only minor hiccups (not counting the Qantas strike fiasco we got stuck in the middle of) and even on the tight budget we had, we had a great and balanced experience.

I had always wondered how couples managed to get through spending 24 hours attached to each other whilst traveling and I still don’t have the answer. A lot of couples have fallen a part on the road but others have been brought closer together. I prepared for both scenarios by learning how to share my toys and studying how to cover up a murder. Fortunately I didn’t need the latter and we both came out of it unscaved.  The whole experience  can be quite intense and at times can really put a strain on your relationship. But to be honest I was fairly confident Petra and I would get on well otherwise I wouldn’t have even suggested the trip. I was concerned about us driving each other mental though. I can’t stand my own company most of the time so how was I going to deal with hers 24/7 and how the fuck could anyone put up with me for that long? But I needed not worry as it was perfectly fine and we got on great. Couple of minor tiffs due to the stresses of travel and what not but we are stronger now than we were before. Just to make you sick in your mouth a little here’s a picture of the annoying happy couple looking like a couple dildos from Ann Summers:

Proper Condom Use

Future Plans?

Well after some real thought and consideration, I have my heart set on studying. I just can’t do hospitality for much longer. My heart isn’t in it anymore. The reality is this: If you want to make real money you will have to become a qualified chef or own your own business and I want to do neither. You can get great tips though if you’re in the right place. I’ve made plenty over the years. But I can’t work like that forever. Hopping from place to place is incredibly tedious for me now but I will probably have to do it until I start studying. At the moment, I can’t afford to be picky. Based on my experiences, there is little reward in this business for a job you work very hard at. The bottom line is I can’t see my future involving hospitality even though I know I’d be damn good at it. It’s looked after me well but it’s time to move on.

I have to try my hand at something else.

I still want to be a writer in some shape or form but this is where I really need the help. I can’t be any more specific than the sentence I’ve just typed. Also I’m pretty naïve to the business and where I can fit in. I need all the advice I can get.

Hence why this morning I took a visit to the Careers advisor to assess my situation. And realistically, I’m going to end up doing either open university, an access course via the University Of Edinburgh or higher education at college with the option of Uni on completion. The woman was friendly and helpful enough for someone that must of seen all sorts of creatures sat in front of her desk. She tried to get me to partake in online personality tests and career assessments. I declined. I already know my strengths and weaknesses; For me it comes down to motivation and desire and not lack of ability. I just need to pin point what I want to learn.

Do you know what you’ll be doing ten years from now? Do any of us? I might even be back in Germany in a year or two so that blurs the lines even more.

You know what? Fuck it. I’ll just dig up dinosaurs like I said I’d do when Jurassic Park came out…

Dig up baby dinosaurs. That's my ten year plan.

Anyway folks I’m sorry for the ramblings but that’s all I can muster at the moment? As I said there will be some creative writing pieces coming up in the next few months as well as a travel blog. Keep an eye out.

A Sincere Thank You.

 Since I’m back in the country for the foreseeable future I’d like to thank a few people for their continued support over the past three years. It’s nice to know that I’m appreciated as a friend and a family member and I want to show my appreciation back.

Thank you to my parents for always thinking of me and being proud of whatever decision I’ve made.

My grandparents and especially my grandmother for her constant kind words and encouragement.

Petra for the way you are and continue to be. I love you.

My sister and the rest of my family for being proud of a brother/nephew they never see. We will spend some time together soon!

Holly for giving me a place to live when It was important I lived alone. Thank you for the room.

Paul for never changing, always keeping in touch and making time for me. Best buds min!

Stew for the constant laughs.

Andy and Wilson. You will always be my friends despite not seeing much of one another lately.

Josh for constantly being positive and a pleasure to be around. Thanks for the place to live and for always being a selfless friend.

The rest of the James family (and Merlin!) for your kindness and hospitality.

Rob for letting me crash on your couch when I literally had nowhere to go and no money. Nothing is ever a problem for you.

Scotty for keeping me company on the bench! 😉

Reno and the rest of Annerley football club for making me feel like a star when I can’t play football for shit. One of the greatest times of my life and I’ll never forget the club.

Mitch and Ainsley for helping me settle into Brisbane and being the reason I came there in the first place. Get off crutches mate!

Adam for giving me a job in Germany when I really needed it badly. I wasn’t going to go away otherwise!

And to everyone else I’ve had the pleasure of meeting, traveling and working with over the past three years.

The adventure ends now but another is about to begin.

Thank you all.

Darren.

Serious stuff? Time for the silly face.