Monday, 15 April 2013

25) Live a day blind

Yesterday, on Sunday the 14th of April, I decided to live blind for the day.

I've wanted to try this for a while. I thought it would be interesting, and for a lack of a better expression, eye-opening to "see the world" as a blind person does. I have a bit of a fear of being blind, and thought that this could slightly help. So just before bed on the Saturday I turned on my phone accessibility and put on my blind fold.

The morning

Using my phone

Thankfully in my sleepy morning daze I remembered what I was doing and didn't instantly take it off. I lay in bed at 9am trying to unlock my phone for about 10 minutes. Android's accessibility controls are really powerful, I was impressed. Even being blind for a day I was able to open up a Reddit app and hear some of the top links, with Android reading out the headlines, and the articles if I clicked through.

After using my phone for a while I got dressed (I felt around for my jogging bottoms, and a t-shirt that I thought could match), and got dressed. 


The next part was a little harder. I hadn't thought, but it is a very risky thing for a blind person to stand-up-pee. Even trying is a disaster waiting to happen. I decided to enjoy the luxury of a sit-down-pee, though it didn't feel natural.

I then tried to bush my teeth. This was much more difficult than I'd thought it would be. I put my finger on my toothbrush to try and feel how much toothpaste was going on. I couldn't feel any... so I squeezed the tube lower. I still couldn't feel any, so squeezed more. Somewhere along the way the toothpaste sneaked out and I ended up covering my hand and toothbrush with way too much toothpaste.

The keen-eyed may notice I haven't mentioned showering. Don't judge me.


For breakfast I got a glass of squash (for people who aren't lucky enough to know the joys of squash, it is highly concentrated juice that you add water), and I impressed myself with how I didn't make it overly strong.. but it was all guesswork. I felt around the cupboards for cereal, and although mostly successful  there was quite a bit too much milk.

The afternoon


Before I started being blind I downloaded a game designed especially for the vision impaired, called "BlindSide". It is a game set in a 3d world, except you play it using only noises. I thought it could be fun. Actually getting to the game was another matter. 

I turned on my laptop, sat for a while waiting for the start up sound, and then realised I hadn't turned on my laptop. I pressed the power button harder, and heard the familiar ticking of the hard-drive. I waited a few moments before attempting to put in my password. This proved very difficult, as there were no sound cues. I tried typing the password in, guessing where the keys were (I never look at the keyboard, so it shouldn't have been hard). But.. this didn't work. I tried a few more times, before deciding to feel around the keyboard for the letters, and try doing it slowly. This also didn't work.

Eventually I called Brandi down (she was painting) to put in my password, and she told me it was on the desktop screen. I dunno if I had put it in correct, and it didn't play the welcome sound, or it was hibernating and opened up on the desktop... but either way, without her I'd probably have had to give up.

The day before I started this I tried Windows accessibility things. Turns out they pretty much have none. I read about a program for blind people, but it costs £1000.

Brandi helped me open the game, and I played for a while. I had to find my way around a room using the ticking of a clock, a dripping tap, and TV static. In the game everybody wakes up blind, and there are monsters eating people. It was actually really difficult.

Moving around the house

Using noise cues in the game got me thinking that if I was blind it would probably be useful to have a different clock in each room of the house. I expect using them you could know exactly where in each room you were.

Navigating the house wasn't overly difficult. I didn't bump into many things, and didn't have to wave my hands around too much. The rug came in useful for knowing when I was close to the coffee table. The most difficult part was putting glasses of water on the coffee table... it made me nervous about reaching around for the mouse, or anything else.

Watching TV & Audio books

Later on Brandi put the TV on. I "watched" a program, and could mostly tell what was happening, so it wasn't too bad. One thing I hadn't really considered is that, being blind, at least for me, I would have my eyes covered/closed most of the time... this inevitably lead to me sleeping constantly. I couldn't help it. I'm like it all the time. However awake I am, if I close my eyes and lie down I will sleep. So, whilst watching the program, I found myself waking up at some point.

Brandi went back to painting, but before she did she put on a stand up comedy (I felt this could be the most appropriate viewing for me). I wanted to watch Dimitri Martin, but he is quite visual, so I settled for George Carlin... as I'd heard he was good. Turns out he wasn't, he just shouted about things and pretended to be angry, and regardless of what he said, people cried with laughter. I found myself waking up after maybe listening to just 10 minutes.

I went to get some crisps, but realised I couldn't see the flavours.

I tried to listen to an audio book, but found myself waking up after not even making it through the first chapter.

Going for a walk

With all the sleeping I had done, I thought I should go for a walk, to get rid of some of the built up energy, and to see how difficult it would be.

Brandi was my guide for it, and we walked around the block. I put on sunglasses, as I didn't want to be seen walking around with a blind fold.

I didn't trip once, so I was quite pleased. I tried to grasp where I was at times, but struggled, though I could hear things around me well. At one point in the walk, Brandi was shocked at how much they had cut the trees away from a passage. Obviously, I couldn't see it, but I have a picture built up in my head, so I might go there later to see if it looks like I expect.

The evening

Phone second attempt

Throughout the day I had received a few messages on my phone, so I attempted to reply. The Swype keyboard that I use didn't even slightly work, so I switched to the default Android one. I think I replied to the messages quite well. By this point I was a pro at unlocking my phone, and though typing messages was slow, I could hear when I made a mistake, and erase it.

Annoyingly, WhatsApp doesn't label their send button (when you put your finger over buttons it gives a description, if the developers decide put it in).

Most people could probably use the speech to text things, but apparently I talk like a retard and phones can never understand what I say.


For dinner we had pizza! It was quite interesting to eat, as I couldn't see how much I had eaten, so I didn't know when to stop. Apparently it takes your body some time to realise you are full, so you use your eyes to have more of an indication. I didn't count how many pieces I had eaten, so eventually Brandi told me to stop.


Being blind is difficult. So much of the world is made for people with vision, and though the vision impaired charities argue that the potential market loss for not catering for the disability is high, many don't.

Personally, I think all areas should try to, even if it doesn't lead to profits. People should see it as important to try and make products and applications accessible to people who already have a difficult time. Netflix, for example, doesn't have any audio-descriptive videos, many Android apps don't properly label buttons, and Windows accessibility was terrible.

As a developer it has made me more aware of people blind people would interact with things, and I will bear that in mind in future.

All in all the day didn't go too badly. It made me realise some things, and although I would never want to be blind, I don't think I would see my life as being over if I was.

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Being Vegan

On 18th February I decided to try being vegan, after having some chicken that I didn't really enjoy. I had set the dates to be 13th March until 10th April, but with the flight delays after Belgium, and still having chocolate left over I decided to postpone it until the weekend, and started on Saturday 16th March.

Immediately after starting I remembered the BBQ ribs, popcorn chicken and faggots that I had bought a few weeks earlier.

I started out by going shopping to try and find vegan alternatives to the things that I eat. It wasn't too difficult at first. I swapped milk for almond milk (which was actually quite nice with cereal), and swapped butter for vegan vegetable oil (which tasted the same).

I was most surprised that when looking at the ingredients of two similar products, one would have 3-4 ingredients, the other would have a load, which seemed unnecessary (one of which always seemed to be something from an animal). It opened my eyes slightly on the qualities of different food, and made me question why one would need so many less-natural ingredients.

On the Sunday Brandi cooked vegan brownies. This was needed, as the main problem I had predicted was that I would struggle with chocolate. I snack quite a lot, and didn't think I'd be able to stop. To counter this I bought oat crackers and peanut butter. Both vegan.

As for food throughout the week, I had pasta (wheat germ) and beans on toast, and on another day I made a vegetarian Thai red curry, and Brandi made a quinoa recipe. I struggled not having chocolate, and though it was a nice gesture that Brandi had made the brownies, they were quite obviously vegan. The closest I could get to chocolate/snacks were breakfast cereal and ginger nut biscuits (though apparently some bourbon biscuits are vegan).

I'll cut to the end of the story, so I don't deceive. I gave up on the following Saturday.

Throughout the first week I felt like I was doing fine, but would occasionally feel like I wanted to stop, because I wasn't enjoying any food. I then started to feel like I wasn't getting any protein (I can only eat so many nuts, and I don't like tofu).

I had considered stopping a couple of times, but had told myself that the only reason I want to stop is because of chocolate and unhealthy food, and that should be a reason for me to continue. I had had dreams where I was in a chip shop, and asked if there was anything vegan, then realised as I was asking that I was eating breaded chicken.

On the Friday I went for a meal with my family. I phoned the pub/restaurant beforehand to ask if there is anything on the menu for vegans. The person on the phone had no idea, and went and asked the waiters who also had no idea. I think they might not know what vegan means.

When I got there I had to make the decision between chips (potentially not vegan) or vegetarian tagine (which I am certain was vegan). I went for the tagine, which wasn't very nice at all. There was nothing I could have for dessert, and to make things worse my niece left a whole cookie cheesecake, right in front of me. I somehow managed to resist, angrily.

That weekend I was babysitting Logan, Charlie, and Savannah. I had my usual almond milk breakfast cereal, but things went wrong lunch time. Brandi and Savannah made a load of peanut butter cookies, and the children was having potato waffles (which I love, and which contain skimmed-milk extract). I gave in, and had cookies and waffles. I felt guilty, and it didn't taste nice because of that. Eating non-vegan things for the next few days didn't feel right.

Although I only managed a week, I am still quite pleased. It doesn't sound very difficult, but it was, and a majority of what I eat is vegetarian. The life of a vegan is difficult, and I wouldn't like it. Food is an important part of life, and it made unenjoyable. I am sure that if you force yourself for long enough you eventually can, but I'm not willing to.

In just 7 days my body shape slightly changed (my tummy isn't as big, and my boobs are less boob-like), and I lost 5 pounds. Take that dieters!

On Sunday night I had a big bowl of BBQ ribs... which I didn't enjoy.

Sunday, 31 March 2013

Belgium, Bruges: My Memoirs

On the third of March, me, Brandi, Liam, Laura, Leigh, and Neil flew to Belgium. Here are my memoirs.

- The 3 Scouse girls on the plane with curlers in their hair and drawn on eyebrows (...a 'fashion' thing). I hoped people in Beligum wouldn't judge England on that.

- Trying to find the big metal thing (later learned the name was the Atomium), but it was raining and horrible, so we gave up and had waffles and Haagendazs crème brulee ice cream.

- Being really, really impressed by how beautiful Bruges looked. Also, the apartment we stayed in is probably the nicest we've had on one of these breaks.

- Spending £67 on alcohol at a corner shop, which barely lasted the night, then trekking far to pick up a Chinese (accidental detour included).

- Got really drunk playing ring of fire. Leigh, for the first time in his life, managed to rhyme something in the rhyme round, even though it was by accident.. "It was very hot...", "it was very what?".

- Egg cup shots (couldn't find the glasses). Leigh, getting the short straw, having to do a shot off the plate.

- Not remembering much about the night, but little flashes. Left the appartment around 3, tried to go to a club though they were all closed, got talking to two guys from Bruges. Went back to their place, sat on the bed, stroking a cat, smoking weed and listening to Belgium rap.

- Everybody hanging hard the next day. I made a full 'English' breakfast at 5pm. It was disgusting. The bacon was weird, the sausage was weird, the beans were weird, and the only thing that shouldn't go wrong was the eggs, but they were weird too. Turns out it was because we used "Raison sugar milk", which was tragic.

- Woke up earlier ghdnext day so we could see the city. Got tandem bikes... Leigh and Neil were terrible on them so swapped.

- Tried to cycle to Damme, which looked like a nice village. Ended going in the very opposite direction. I went into a strange 'local' pub to ask if they could point where we are on the map. The first two men I went over to stared at me like I just pissed in their pint. Eventually two of the other people in the small pub got talking to me and helped me. Turned out we were way off the map to the south. No idea how it went so wrong.

- Cycled in the right direction. The wind was against us. It rained, snowed, and everybody wanted to kill themselves. Eventually, when we couldn't see the village in the distance, we gave up.

- I took the coldest "Vestman picture" so far. Colder than at the top of the mountain in Whistler.

- Took the bikes back as the snow came down more. Went straight into a restaurant and had a nice traditional Belgium meal. Some kind of meat with ale sauce. And tomato soup. The tomato soup was awesome.

- Spent more money on chocolate, waffles and hot chocolate than alcohol all weekend.

- Had a Bicky Burger!! I needed to have one after keep seeing Bicky Crisps! BICKY CRISP!

- Wandered around the city fairly late to get pictures, since we hadn't properly seen places. It was hard not to fall in all the snow.

The rest of the story isn't suitable for bullet form... and from now on will commence in paragraphs.

On the Tuesday morning we woke up early to get to the station in time for the 5:55am train to Brussels. Surprisingly we arrived there on time, after dragging ourselves through the snow. Our first problem (key word being first, not only) was that the machine didn't accept Liam's bank card, and the desks weren't open until 6am. I eventually got someone to help us, but he had computer problems, and it was starting to look like we weren't going to be able to get on the train. We managed to just minutes before it left.

Annoyingly all the trains were running slow and late because of the snow. We were getting slightly nervous as time went on. We arrived at Charleroi train station about an hour before the flight leaves, which we thought could be enough time... until we found out the station was 10km from the airport... and because of the snow there were no buses or shuttles running.

We walked around trying to figure out how to get there. We found a taxi rink that had a load of people waiting, without any sign of a taxi. We walked to hotels to see if they could call one to there, but no luck.

Eventually we stood at the taxi rink, but as it came to be 20 mins before the flight we though we needed to take action. What happened then was the least British thing I have done. We left the queue, and proceeded to walk past everybody. My thoughts were that we could walk down the road, around the corner and get a taxi... but not 10 metres from the front of the queue a taxi pulled up and rolled his window down.

I asked him if we could go to the airport, and out of the corner of my eye I saw a hoard of people come running over. We tried to get in, but forgetting people driving on the other side of the road, we were on the wrong side of the doors. Before we could get around people had started trying to pile in. I had almost given up hope... until the taxi driver got out, and started shouting telling people to get out and that he is taking us. I felt relieved, but very guilty as we walked through people, receiving death-stares.

We arrived at the airport 5 minutes before the plane was due to take off. We rushed through the gate, hoping there would still be a chance to get on. At this point it still hadn't clicked how the snow had pretty much taken the country to a standstill. We saw two people that were on our flight here waiting, so I went over and asked if they were flying back to Manchester. He told me that he is, but that he was supposed to be on yesterdays flight, and that it looks like today's flight is also cancelled.

This lead to the worst 24 hours I've had in Belgium, ever.

Ryanair announced the flight was cancelled, without any further details. We stood in a queue to talk to the airport customer services, but the queue was the length of the whole airport. In the hours that we waited one airport woman came over and gave us a print out, and said that our best bet is to go back to our house, fill in the form and post it to Ryanair to try and get another flight. Post. Who the hell would post something, and how long would that take!? We stayed in the queue.

When finally getting to the end (no thanks to some people, who thought that they could demand that a flight would leave later that evening for them), and was told that we can try and book in for the next day, and that we would need to find a hotel, and hopefully Ryanair would give us the money back.

Most hotels were taken by this point, apart from a really expensive, really terrible hotel that I can only imagine is where businessmen go to commit suicide.

We were cold, demoralised, and spent a load of money on burgers just so we could sit somewhere that could fit us all, and had internet. The hotel thought they could charge something like 12 euros for an hour of internet. On the evening we went for Italian food, which was nice, until we passed a man without socks, covered in orange peel, and injecting heroin into his fingers. That pretty much sums up Charleroi.

On Wednesday we woke up early to go back to the airport. I didn't expect we would be leaving the country that day, as the weather was no different to the day before. After a bit of an argument with taxi drivers we arrived at the airport. When we got there it was the same story... one by one flights were being cancelled or delayed by hours. I could picture us spending the rest of the day in the airport, and the night at the hotel... until they called for us to line up and board the plane.

I have never been so happy to get on a plane!

Sunday, 17 March 2013

Battleshots aka Battleships Drinking Game for Android

Walking along the Croatian sea-front back in September lead me, Mike, Craig and Liam to have discussion about programming. This isn't a rare occurrence (we are quite the cool group). The course the conversation took was about how we all would like to start developing something as a group, that the first thing we should make should be a Battleshots Android app, and that we should call ourselves "Turquoise Pterodactyl" (turquoise after Captain Vestman's vest, and Pterodactyl after the ... never mind).

For those who don't know, Battleshots is an awesome drinking game. The way it is supposed to be played is based on Battleships, but where you get hit, you drink a shot. When we were in Bulgaria I suggested we play it one of the nights, but I changed the rules slightly. Instead of being a 1 on 1 game, I created a shared board that everybody uses, but everybody keeps their own separate board to show their ships. This way you can hit 4 people at once (including yourself if you choose).

On return, development quickly started. Neither me, Liam, or Mike had any experience with Android development, but luckily Craig had dabbled in the past.

Without going into too much detail about the development, we all pitched in early on, creating objects and test classes. Craig did a big chunk of the work by creating the graphics, and figuring out how to get the phone to show them. I worked on the objects, a few of the menus, and some of the camera/picture functionality.

The areas I am most interested in with projects like this is looking at the competition, marketing, coming up with ideas, etc. I did a bit of research up front about who the competitors are, how many downloads they have, etc.

It was a good learning experience, and now I feel comfortable enough to make apps for people now.

As for Battleshots, it turned out pretty awesome. I went to work trying to market it to different places (which I need to continue), and to date we have 784 total installs - which is well ahead of the competition. Of those people more than half still have it installed. It also has an average rating of 4.8 stars (out of 5).

It didn't all go without a hitch though. A couple of weeks ago we had an email from somebody who had trademarked "Battleshots" (which in my mind is stupid, because it's an obvious take on Battleships). Since trademark battles are never easy we decided to just change the name to "Battleships drinking game". It turned out to be a blessing in disguise. We show up top for Battleshots searches, and now we show up really high for the much more common "Battleships".

If you have an Android phone, and want to get drunk... you can download it here:

Monday, 18 February 2013

A Month of Veganism: The Background

Today at lunch time I was hungry as I hadn't brought any food to work. I went to the supermarket to pick up some groceries, and I also brought some freshly cooked, hot BBQ chicken. To cut a long story short, I didn't really enjoy it, and decided I would be vegan for a month.

As I am going to Brussels at the start of March, and would no-doubt want to eat meat there (or more, wouldn't want to try and figure out how to ask "is this for vegans?"), I decided I would start on the return from there. That would also give me some time to prepare.

Prepare. I thought that could be quite important with such a change to my lifestyle (for a month - though I should probably note at this point that a month will be 4 weeks, but will be referred to as a month as it's easier to say, and makes it sound like I'm doing it very slightly longer than I am).

For initial preparation I took to the interwebs, and did what any budding vegan would do (pun intended), and searched Google for "how to be vegan". The second link contained a "How to Become a Vegan: 10 steps". This sounded perfect.

I took a look at the first step...

I couldn't ask for a better step 1! I knew exactly why I wanted to become a vegan (for a month). For that reason, I decided to take this as a reminder.

Also... I think vegans are meant to have super powers or something. I'm not sure how factual that is though, so don't quote me on it.

I had pretty much done this by accident. I went to the doctors about a car crash I had, and she didn't seem to care very much. She certainly didn't say I was anaemic, so I think I've covered this step.

This is something that sounds time consuming. I decided I would look on the back of my multipack of Snickers.

I didn't see anything on the back that specifically said "for vegans"... so I assumed that they must have forgot. Which causes a bit of a problem... what do I do when food packaging has forgot? I consulted the interwebs again.

The Internet has told me that Snickers are not actually vegan... and it wasn't an oversight by the packaging manufacturers. I'm not actually sure if this is true, but I will give them the benefit of the doubt, as it does say that it has milk fat in it.

I decided I would eat the last of the Snickers bars, just in case I forget over the next month, and only realise one day into my vegan attempt.

Recruit a friend... that shouldn't be too difficult. The first person I asked was my friend Adam. Instant win!

As for step 5... this made me lose all respect for the webpage, so I closed it.

After completing 5 steps exceptionally well (which allows one to conclude that I would probably have completed the last 5 steps with a similar level of ease), I feel I am prepared to be a vegan. My veganism will commence on the 13th of March, and conclude on the 4th April.

Friday, 25 January 2013


As I briefly mentioned in the "year in review", we are having a baby!

For the last 2 weeks we have been in Canada telling Brandi's family and friends, and we even went with her mom to get a scan done! It looks like a little baby!

I'm very excited, and surprisingly, it was planned! So... maybe this will become one of those pregnancy blogs, then one of the many parenting blogs, and then the tired old bitter person blog.

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

New Years 2013 Resolutions

Like last year, I am going to look at my previous resolutions and see how they went, and then make new ones for this year.

Just before the clock stuck 12 last night, Leigh asked me if I have any resolutions. Usually in the run up to 01/01 I have spent a lot of time thinking about the year, and what I need to improve upon. This year I hadn't. Maybe this time around I am a lot happier with the position I am in. Although I am, I usually feel quite happy, so I'm not quite sure why less thought has been put into it.

Last years resolutions:

1) Find out who my friends are and be loyal to them
For the first time in many years I think I have stuck to this. It is hard to hold onto friendships, and I often find myself clinging onto something that, though no fault of either person, has just faded away. There are people I want to see a lot more, but the friends that will stick around are the ones that you don't have to see once every two weeks, and even if you see just once every 6 months, you will be as close as ever. This year I've gotten really close with the guys I usually go on holiday with, which is nice. They are a good group... no venom, which is too common in many groups.

2) Try and further my knowledge in all areas
For the first half of the year I did a lot of reading (articles, etc) and felt like I had a good understanding of many things. Since September I've been a lot busier, and this had kind of slipped. I would quite like to find some RSS feeds from interesting websites and get back into reading more.

3) Notice when something is just my ego speaking, and learn to ignore it
Not sure how this went. Maybe people will think I'm quite egotistical. Possibly I am, and although I don't think throughout the year I would have gotten less, I often realise when I say something that may sound it (though I think only if interpreted that way).

4) Start caring about my appearance again

This didn't happen. Yesterday I went to drop something off to a car dealership in baggy tracksuit bottoms, and an oversized hoody covered in a mix of pasta sauce and milk. I put my hood up, just for effect.

This years resolutions:

1) Start being more confident and friendly
When I meet somebody for the first time I often feel quite shy, and maybe come across like I don't want to talk to them, which isn't a great first impression. Something Kristofer said when I was in Sweden stuck with me, about meeting people for the first time, and I am going to try and be more like that. Not only will I seem nicer, I think it is needed for my career.

2) Continue 'reading' audiobooks
I go in phases with audiobooks. I spend a lot of time driving, and a lot of that time is spent singing along to the same songs, when there are hundreds of years of books that I am ignoring. I love reading them, but it can be an effort getting into a new one right after the last, but this year I am going to try and force myself to almost right away (maybe a day or two of singing in between).

3) Get back into shape and stop looking like a hobo
Yep... I'm becoming one of those people who make the "get into shape" or "look good" resolution year after year. But now I think it's more important. At work I wear the same jumper day after day, and I am starting to get fat. This must change.

4) Try and finish some projects
Too many times I start things and don't finish them (eg, the damn website I've been saying I'm going to do). I've also started thinking I want to make a game again (I say again, I last felt like it when I first got into programming when I was 10). We'll see how this goes...

2012 Year In Review

The last few years have been better and better. Each year I have thought "next year cannot be as eventful as this one". And, while this year has been extremely eventful, for reasons that I will reveal at the end of this post, I think 2013 will be more so.

I woke up on January 1st at 4pm. It was already dark, and I was in a cold, damp house with nothing to eat. What's worse, my car was parked 3 miles away, I had a hang over, no coat, uncomfortable shoes, and I was hungry. I didn't mind too much, the night before was a lot of fun, and after picking up my car I treated myself to a free Domino's pizza (that I got from complaining about the previous one I had).

The rest of the month was mostly lazing around. Brandi had left mid-December from her long stay in England. I had moved back in with my parents who were good company and made it so I wasn't eating beans on toast every night (and it's always nice to be around my nephew and nieces who are always over there). Aside from moving the last of my things from mine and Brandi's first place, and pranking Dave at work January was pretty uneventful.

February picked up a lot faster. With the wedding was only two months away we were in the final-ish stages of preparation. I said 'we', but in honesty Brandi did most of it (and did it well). I was still moping around which gave me time to finally cross off "108) Learn to do Rubik's Cubes in under 2 minutes".

I had started to get restless in my career again. I had only been at SCH for a year, the first 6 months I really enjoyed, but I felt the last 6 months I hadn't progressed in any way. I felt as if I probably wouldn't progress. They have many people there who join, and stay for decades without really climbing the ladder, and that just isn't me. I think these feelings were started by all the life changes, and realising that I will need a lot of money, and if I let myself stay in the position I am I will never live comfortably.

At the end of the month, me and the 'cru' went to Plovdiv in Bulgaria!
For the weeks leading into March me and Brandi had decided we need to buy a house, and as soon as possible. It all happened quite quickly actually. Brandi had linked me a few places to see, and during a snowy day my mom and dad took me over. We didn't like any that much, and my expectations for what we could afford were lowered.

The next week decided to go and view more. There was about 6 places we saw online, and one place that had only just gone on the market, and hadn't yet been put up on anything. That place was amazing. After seeing it I had no interest while looking around the others. It was cheaper than the other places and much, much nicer. My mom encouraged me to put in an offer right away, in case somebody beats me to it... so I did, and it was accepted, and we went for a victory meal!

The next couple of weeks were stressful. I've heard it takes about 6 weeks to get a house through.... but I needed to do it in 2-3, or we would have to pay the stamp duty. I ended up calling most days to make sure it was progressing well.

On the 25th of March I picked up the house keys.

April was quite the life changing month! The end of an era... the era being "me not being married". Not so much the end of an era, because it's not like I was single before... but it is a definitive ending. If I had to choose a more realistic ending it would have been first meeting Brandi, but regardless... the last month of me ticking the box on the form that says "single".

The month started with my Stag Party. After getting hammered the first night, the second night was pretty painful... having to keep drinking shots while hungover, and not getting properly drunk off them, so still feeling self-conscious about looking like a dick. I think the problem is that my desire to talk to people in a club plummeted 100% from July 2010 to April 2012. I probably seem slightly antisocial, but it is the one main change I have noticed about myself. But anyway.. it was really nice to have the old guys together again (Neil, Joe, Leigh). We probably see each other as a group less than once a year now.

Later in April was the big event of the year... the Wedding in Mexico! Such a great time, and lots of reminiscing has gone on since! This is somewhat the ending of my "being young", and moving into a new chapter of my life. And, regardless of my not wanting to get old, it isn't something that I'm upset about!

With April ending the last chapter, May certainly didn't begin the next. After the wedding I went back home, to my mom and dads spare room, and waited for Brandi's visa to be accepted. If I am still using the chapter metaphor, May is like a load of pages between the last and the next. To pass the month I arranged Duke of Pwn, originally as a get together with Joe and Neil, though they both ended up backing out (though Joe came on the second day)... regardless, it was a great weekend with Leigh and Liam.

May wasn't all sitting around waiting. Somehow, the visa that was supposed to take months (especially considering the immigration rules were changing any second, forcing loads of people to quickly put in applications) was accepted in a few days!! Happy times! Though, it was accepted so quickly that Brandi hadn't prepared to come. But, using the knowledge, the flights were booked for the 16th of June.

The 16th of June came. The house was prepared. I had even bought a mattress (and looked gay with Dave as he had gone looking for one with me). I picked Brandi up from the airport (on time this time too!!) and excitedly drove her back so she could see our new house. She loved it, and, as far as I am aware, still does!

The transition of properly living together wasn't easy, it was easier than easy. It came entirely naturally. Aside from her not hugging me in bed ever, and would rather opt to wear many layers of pyjamas and say "its too hot to cuddle", all is great!!

So, the new "chapter" (last time saying it now) in my life had started. A married man, living with his wife. And I think I certainly look it seriously. That month at work I demanded a pay-rise, as my salary was getting to the point that I actually couldn't properly support us both. Brandi had applied to be a nurse, and we were waiting for all that to come through (in which case it would be fine), but I didn't want to rely on something I could not control.

July was our first 'summer' together, and well, we had very different interpretations of how it went. When I say we, I mean me and the rest of the country. My memories of the summer (even right at the end, so it hasn't fogged with time) was that it was dry, warm and happy... but apparently it wasn't.

Quite a lot happened. As always it was my birthday; a quarter of the way to 100. Me and Brandi went to our first festival, 2000 Trees, which was extremely wet and muddy. As for my 100 things to do list, which I hadn't been too good with this year, we found the found final geocache, crossing off number 113. And also, it was my sisters wedding to an awesome guy!

Between July and August I did a 30 day photo challenge, where I took a photo every day (week 1, week 2, week 3, week 4). I attribute this to my memories of the summer, as it made me look around for nice things to photgraph. Also, the olympics had started, so the whole country has in high morale.

We had our first Summer Playstation Night, which the kids loved. Brandi is very good for the Playstation nights... she plans a load of games and activities we can do, though she doesn't like them staying up late playing the Playstation after, but that is the origin of the night so it will stay.

From the start of the summer, a great guy I met in Germany (who lives near me in UK) had been walking from John O Groats to Lands End, the entire length of the country, raising money for charity. Brandi and I met him in Bristol, and I did a Morph suit walk with him to raise awareness.

The summer promptly disappeared in September. It felt a bit like "back to reality" (probably not for everybody else, who hated the summer weather). At work I had been waiting for a pay rise for 2 months. I had been told I would definitely get one... but after 2 months of waiting I was getting impatient. Then, one morning the news broke that the company that I made the website for (an online retailer) had been sold to a huge American company for hundreds of millions (after they looked to sell due to the success over the year), and instead of it being like "thanks a lot for your part in it", they said that whilst I have no product I'm currently developing (with that being sold), they can't justify a pay-rise. Obviously then, I promptly handed in my notice, but instead of looking for a new job, I started a company.

Starting a company, and contracting is something I'd been considering doing for a while. I'd researched it, and it just looked like work cheat-mode. I was slightly nervous about the future though, because it could all fail. I've always been very fortunate in life, but perhaps this would be the time I wasn't?

Before the end of the September, me Liam, Laura, Craig, Charlotte and Mike went to Croatia! Since Brandi had moved here we had started seeing that group a lot more often, which was nice, as they are all really nice.

In October I finally left SCH (my job) to become properly "self employed". I wasn't bitter about leaving, as the people directly above me were very nice and fair, but I don't think much about the people above them, or the company in general any more.

Thankfully, I was given a contract by a large company right away. I was then also offered a contract by a former company... so for a week in October I worked 3 different jobs. I felt a lot more mature, especially in a working sense, but the lack of time meant I had to give up my little hobby of my subreddit (which had over 20,000 subscribers).

Both October and November flew by. I was working... very hard. Contracting is a lot of work. Especially being split between two places. Each time I go into a place there are a load of things stacked up for me to do, so there wasn't a free second. Also, it is entirely different to being permanent. In a permanent job they don't seem to mind you not knowing something, and allow you to grow with the company... but as a contractor they are looking for a professional to sort everything out, and I was supposed to be that person. Daunting. Though, I think I did well under all the pressure.

Money was getting extremely tough by the end of November. I hadn't been paid since leaving SCH, and up until that point we were leaking money everywhere. We couldn't really afford to do a lot, but I didn't mind at all because I knew that it shouldn't be far into the future that we would be comfortable, and we should enjoy the (hopefully) last time of having to watch every penny.

December was a massive month. Work wise (start with the small news), Peugeot asked me to stay for up to another year, which somewhat stabilises our financial situation. With a new company we decided to get rid of the old Ka and get a brand new car (didn't necessarily want a brand new one, but it actually seem to make more sense financially).

The big news came in the form of.... well... Me and Brandi had decided that we were about ready to have a baby. I've felt like I could be a good dad for a while now, but financially I wanted to make sure we were okay. We started trying in October, and then on the first of December we found out that Brandi was pregnant! We haven't actually announced it to anybody yet (other than some family and close friends), but I thought that nobody would read this far down my blog, so please, if you actually did read down this far, do not tell anybody! The news will come shortly). I probably shouldn't even write it here, but when I look back at these yearly posts, it would annoy me too much for it to be missing such an important thing.

Anyway, obviously, we are both massively excited about it. Actually, as I sit writing this now, Brandi is telling me to get dressed because the midwife will be here any second.

Right... back to December. Christmas was awesome, as usual. The focus has changed from getting loads of presents (which I still do!) to enjoying being with the family, going to the cinema, playing board games, etc. Neil came over on the night (my moms favourite new tradition) and we played Balderdash and I drank Mount Gay Rum.

New years was also awesome My first one with Brandi. We went to a Murder Mystery night at this really nice hotel, along with Ash, Liam, Laura, and Leigh. It was done excellently. I will write a post about it later. Needless to say, I chose the wrong person, along with most people except Ash.

So... that is the year! And a really good one. I have been forced into 'maturity', but not quite kicking and screaming, and I suppose not quite forced! The next year will be really interesting, and hopefully awesome!