Tuesday, 28 June 2011

First Rubik's Cube Solved!

Last year Jon (my boss at Switch) brought in a Rubik's Cube. He was able to complete in in a pretty impressive time, regardless of how much I tried to scramble it. It reminded me of how I used to have Rubik's Cubes, and was never able to complete one.

I decided I shouldn't let it defeat me, and added it to my 100 things to do list. The day I added it to my list, this photo was taken:

With Jon's help I was able to get the bottom layer, and understand the concept of the next few layers. Over a year later, I finally completed my first cube! Now to learn to do it in under 2 minutes...

45) Go to John O'Groats

As I started to travel more around Europe while I was at University I started to realise how little of England I have seen. It is such a small country with so much variety that I felt like I should have gone more places. For those who are unfamiliar with the UK, John O'Groats is the opposite to Lands End. Lands End to John O'Groats is the furthest two points, the former I had already been to during holidays to Cornwall.

My mom and dad shared this sentiment too, thankfully (as it costs much more in petrol to drive to John O'Groats than to fly to a few European countries). We decided that on the bank holiday, May 6th - May 9th, we will drive up to the furthest point in Scotland.

Along the way we passed though the Lake District. I have never been here before, but I can honestly say it was more beautiful than any place I have seen before. The rolling hills, and small-but-prominent green mountains made the whole area look like a painting.

It was really nice stopping in one small village to get a coffee. They told me that the coffee shop we were in was one that they went to during their honeymoon a long time ago, so I took the opportunity to take a photograph of them outside it. Just around the corner we went into an old fashioned sweetshop and bought sweets that are hard to find now.

We then stopped at another lake only a few miles away where mom surprised many onlookers by feeling the swans with her hand (they aren't overly vicious but many people are scared of them biting their fingers, and apparently they can break bones with their wings).

We were going to stop overnight in Carlisle, but I was quite eager to get to Scotland early in the morning, as Ben Nevis is on the route. I had planned to try and convince my parents to climb Ben Nevis with me, as it is on my 100 things to do list. My mom was really supportive of me, anxious to help me complete my list. 

I took over driving in Carlisle as my dad had started to get tired. It was the first time driving my parents car, and they were worried as they think I drive too fast. I think they thought I did okay, even though the annoying Sat Nav kept beeping every time I went a couple of miles over the speed limit. 

I eventually arrived at Fort William, the town next to Ben Nevis (and on the way to John O Groats), and thankfully far from Glasgow, which I was less than impressed with. We didn't have anywhere to stay, since it was bank holiday and everywhere was either full or costing too much money, so we put the seats in the back of the car down and slept in there. It was very, very uncomfortable (though not as bad as the boxing day that I slept in the car after getting drunk).

In the morning we woke up early and set off towards Ben Nevis, the highest mountain in UK. I will be posting about climbing Ben Nevis separately, so I won't mention much here.

After Ben Nevis, and a victory meal, with aching feet I drove on towards Loch Ness. I've wanted to see Loch Ness for a while, after seeing a film about it years ago. On the way we stopped the car for a couple of photo opportunities. Most of the route was alongside the sea, which looked amazing with small gates fencing sheep in, with large drops down the cliffs to the sea.

When we got to Loch Ness we drove around the loch, which was huge, and then stopped at the hotel for the night.

In the morning dad took over the driving and drove up to John O'Groats. I was excited to see what it looked like. A while ago I had a dream where I was in Scotland, and I had a vivid image of it being green fields, a small, quiet road, then a cliff with a drop into the water.

We arrived at John O'Groats a few hours later, and after seeing the 'worlds smallest street' (which I didn't understand), and arguing with my dad about which bit you are meant to go to (which I was wrong), we got out of the car and had a look out at the ocean. As you can expect, there wasn't much there, it is more the 'being there', which was very valuable. We had a photo taken next to a sign that had the distance to Lands End, and Halesowen (which they had wrote on for us).

The John O'Groats bit itself I wasn't especially amazed with, but then we drove along this winding road (unusual, as there was nothing stopping it being straight) and stopped the car next to a lighthouse at the tip of the country. This place looked exactly like the place in my dreams. There was a green field, with a white fence stopping to the risk of falling down the cliff into the water. It was a really tranquil place, and it was nice walking along the cliff.

After admiring that area we set off back to Loch Ness, but on the way we went to the most northern point of Scotland, and also a beach just to wander along (as the weather was surprisingly hot).

In the morning we started driving home. We decided to go through the Yorkshire Dales, which was a slight detour but was really nice to see. It has loads of hills, and sheep scattered around with walls made out of piled rocks.

It was a very memorable and enjoyable short break with my family, and I am really grateful that we went. 

Sunday, 26 June 2011

Birth Whisky: Engaged

On the 7th of January I ordered my 'Birth Whisky'. This was a whisky that was put in the barrel in the Summer I was born, and matured for 21 years before being bottled. I bought it with the intention of having a small glass at every significant event.

On the 12 of June I got engaged to the beautiful Brandi Vogstad. I had taken some of the whisky with me with the intention of having it when I did, but I decided I wanted to have it at home with my family, thus the delay with the post. There hasn't been a chance to have it, and time is getting on, so while I still feel like I am celebrating the engagement I will have it now. By now, I mean it is next to me while I type this, on a hot summer Sunday afternoon.

Oh wow. That is effing strong!!! My stomach is burning. But it is nice. My stomach is still burning.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Billund, Denmark: My Memoirs

During a day at University in 2008, I saw a deal on Ryanair to get flights for 1p. I didn't believe this deal, I asked Mike to give me a number, when he did I counted down the list of airports, and landed on 'Billund'. I then booked 4 return flights, 1p each way, for a total of 8p.

In November 2008, Me, Mike, Craig and Adam went to Billund. A place in Denmark that is famous for producing Lego, and having a Legoland (that is closed in November), and nothing else. It was an amazing few days. Here are my memoirs:

- Landing at the airport, realising I hadn't looked at where the hotel was. Laughing at how it was pretty much on the runway, with nothing else even close to it.

- Taking a long walk into town, that pretty much had one supermarket, and no visible pub.

- Turning around and seeing Mike starting to get up, looking around hoping nobody had seen him fall flat. Strapping his wrist up for the rest of the holiday after badly hurting it.

- Those lovely, lovely burgers. What the hell do they put on them!? "We do good pizza, you English, you only eat the burgers".

- Walking through the forest with Craig after buying alcohol. Almost sh*tting myself when I saw some dark figures sitting on a playground in the middle of the woods.

- Climbing over a fence to try and get out of the forest. Walking down a path, then getting confused after seeing a huge Lego block, then another, then realising we had accidentally broken into the Legoland factory part.

- Seeing a man in the factory thing, then walking over while calling to him for a way out. Then realising how much of a Chav I must have looked, tresspassing, while carring a bottle of vodka and shouting.

- Going into a nearby, bigger town. All the girls being ridiculously attractive. Then seeing the scariest man I've ever seen, with a crazy tattoo all down his face.

- The first photograph of Captain Vestman.

- Man games, including Mike setting fire to his sock, where it just spreads across then quickly goes out... I was amazed. Trying to head-butt the top of the door frame... It takes a lot of balls, and Seeing who would have made the best wrestler back in the day... Craig won.

- Rating the pornography playing cards by favourite. Developing an in-depth rating system, by placing poker chips of different value next to which we prefer, then eliminating the lowest each time.

- Trying to dive through the hotel window, then getting told off by a man upstairs.

- Drunkenly going out into the freezing Danish winter topless. All of us doing an acapella with Craig taking the lead.

- Showing my agility by flipping onto the top bunk of the bed (see video) then everyone else trying.

- Craig getting really, really drunk and falling asleep standing against the sink. A few hours later there was a huge bang and he was on the floor, looking like he had been shot.

- Starting to go to sleep. Adam turned the heated floor in the bathroom off, causing Craig to wake up, still really drunk. I opened my eyes to see him stumble out of the bathroom, accidentally run his arm over the table knocking everything off, including an open 2l coke bottle, into Mikes bag.

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Engagement; She said Yes!

I first started talking to Brandi on 20SB in March, 2010. We quickly started speaking for hours and hours, literally every day. She got her first mention (kind of) on my blog in October 2010.

In February this year we decided to meet each other face to face. It could have potentially been the most awkward 3 weeks ever, but instead I instantly loved her loads, so much so that I knew I wanted to spend my whole life with her. Quickly after the holiday I booked a two week vacation to see her in Vancouver, and she had decided she would come to Birmingham in September for a few months.

I would never normally move things this fast, but I had thought there is no point waiting if I know exactly what I want. I knew I wanted to propose, but couldn't decide whether I should do it when she comes to see me in England, or when I go to see her in Vancouver. All I knew is that I did want to do it.

I decided that since I'd planned on doing it regardless, I wanted to do it in her country, so she could celebrate with friends and family, instead of having to just make a phone call. I could live with having people think that I might have rushed it too much, if it meant that it would make things more perfect for her.

On the 4th of June I flew to Vancouver, with the ring in my bag. I knew exactly how I would propose, and that I would do it at the start of the second week of being there. We had planned to spend that weekend at Ucluelet, on Vancouver Island, a stunningly beautiful part of British Columbia.

On Sunday afternoon we hiked along a forest path, that followed a cliff overlooking the sea. I scouted the perfect spot. I had gotten a bit worried, since there were loads of nice views, but none of them were exactly how I pictured, until one spot. The picture doesn't really do it justice. I think I was too nervous to take a good one.

On mine and Brandi's first date we went Geocaching, so I told her that I had read that there was a Geocache in that location. While she went looking for it I quickly placed a box near a bench. I called her over and said I remembered it was meant to be near a bench, and waited for her to look.

She found the box instantly, and I became really, nervous. She gave me the box to open. I took the lid off the box, revealing a ring box. She didn't look like she had clue'd in yet, until I got down on one knee, revealing the ring, and asked her to marry me. 

She looked really shocked, but I could tell she was happy, so I was relieved, though still eager to hear her answer. The 'yes' eventually came. We hugged and kissed for ages, until another couple came along who I asked to take a photo for us.

You can see the ring box on the bench.

And of course... Captain Vestman was present.

When I get home I will crack open the Birth Whiskey for my first taste.

Monday, 6 June 2011

Brazil, Buzuis & Sao Paulo: My Memoirs, Part III

In March I went to Brazil. After an amazing time in the Amazon, we spent a few days in Buzious, before moving on to Rio De Janerio. We then stayed in Sao Paulo for a couple of nights ready for our flight home. I have combined the Buzious and Sao Paulo as they were short stays. Here are my memoirs.


- Wandering around Buzious, a beautiful 'beach paradise' town, and not being able to pronounce it the entire holiday.

- Waking up early to go and kayak in the Buzious sea.

- Walking from beach to beach by climbing along the rocks. Going for the one epic walk around the side, including a 4ft jump (up about 1ft) with a huge drop into rocks and rough sea. Then jumping on a cactus and getting needles deep in my foot.

- Trying to climb up the hill but the grass got higher than my head and I had to eventually turn around in fear of being bitten by a snake.

- Meeting two Israli guys and two Argentinian girls, and having a good night drinking in Buzious with them and talking to the Israli guy for a while about his opinion of Palestinians.

- Completing 80 on my 100 things to do list, build a big card tower.

- Nobody in the entire country realising that I didn't speak Portugese, so would instead just talk louder and faster. Now I know how it feels.

Sao Paulo

- Arriving in Sao Paulo, and after struggling with the language for nearly two weeks without any help, two people jumped to our aid to direct us around the unground, helping with tickets and stuff. Nice people.

- Thinking the one guy was possibly gay, but then he completely out of place put in that he has a girlfriend. I realised that he must think that WE were the gay ones, so I quickly, out of place, said that I had one too.

- Sao Paulo being ridiculously built up. Even the outskirts that we were in had huge towers every block.

- Going to an 'English Pub' (complete with a red phone box entrance) in Sao Paulo, that actually closed at 7. They have no idea about English Pubs.

- Having an Argentinian steak, and trying to explain how I wanted it cooked, using my fingers. It came out and was perfect, and a huge slab of meat.

Saturday, 4 June 2011

I'm Flying to Brandi

I am currently on a flight to Vancouver in Canada to see Brandi. I can't wait!! Eeep! It will be the best two weeks ever.

I had planned to fly over and stay in August, but I am incapable of being away from her for that long, so I pushed it forward to June, and I am very excited!

I shall make the usual memoirs post.

This is us when she came over in February.

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Brazil, Rio De Janeiro: My Memoirs, Part II

In March I went to Brazil. After going to the Amazon we set off to Buzious for a couple of days before going to Rio De Janeiro, and onwards to Sao Paulo. Here are my memoirs.

- Getting to the train station and trying to find a bus to Copacabana. All the Brazilian people kept saying things in Portuguese and I couldn't understand where to go. A really nice guy selling lollipops, wearing a hat with a propeller on it helped me find which bus I needed.

- Finding the really, really cheap food place on arrival, and finding out it was actually nice. Especially the crazy black beans.

- Having a wander around Copacabana. Walking along the beach, then looking between two tall hotels and seeing the Christ The Redeemer statue towering above the city, between the clouds. Walking a bit further along and seeing some favellas between two hotels. Such amazing sights.

- Jogging along Copacabana beach to complete 7 on my 100 things to do list.

- Walking along the two main beaches hoping to get a better photo of the Favellas, which just seemed to be becoming a worse and worse photo.

- Going out with Gemma, Bruno and Jas, Irish bar. Taking the tube on the way, but everybody going on the wrong escalator, and trying to run back up to the top. After getting to the top I watched everyone looking like they were sprinting on the spot. Gemma got ahead of the crowd, but fell just before the top, and without giving up hope, tried crawling up the steps... then eventually giving up.

- Getting tickets, or 'commanders' in the bars, and the staff marking off what drink you've had, so you pay at the end. I was terrified of losing it.

- The Irish bar. Bruno turning crazy for a few moments and telling everyone we were going to get killed by the Brazilians. Andy buying me a shot, before I knew what was happening the bar staff were ringing a bell until I drank it. Talking to a guy in the toilets using my best Portuguese, as he nodded... only to later find out he was from New York and had no idea what I was doing.

- Doing capoiera with Bruno in the streets. That guy could move.

- Searching the streets at 4:30am looking for a burger.

- Going to see Christ the Redeemer. Getting there at 2pm, but having tickets for 5:30pm. Having a beautiful view of Rio lit up at night, then suddenly being hit by tiredness and being unable to do anything.

- Swimming in the sea and getting owned by every wave. Such big, strong waves!

- Going to the really good Samba club in Lapa. Being amazed at how many people are partying in the streets. Watching the musicians play, then having a bit of a dance.