Category Archives: Family and Friends

First Football Away Trip

This Saturday me and my friends Chris & Steve continued the traditional attendance to watch our teams Leeds and Birmingham play each other. This time around it was slightly more special as both Oli and Luke (Chris and Steves sons) were attending their first ever away match to watch their team Birmingham play.

After the previous meeting this season in Birmingham, which saw our sides battle out a 1-1 draw both our sides have had differing seasons. My beloved Leeds United just can’t buy a win and find ourselves one place above the relegation zone. Birmingham City on the other hand are the “form side” and with a new management team in place are up to the dizzy heights of 12th. Not bad considering they were all set to struggle yet again after their dramatic last day escape act at Bolton last season.

We met up at Leicester services and despite arriving safely had the first drama of the day. I’d sat in the car far too long with the heating and radio on and because of this drained the battery. What followed were comical scenes as we tried to jump start a power steered car around a car park on the M1. At the second time of trying we got there and were all relieved as my car whirred into action.

The drive up was equally dramatic with various periods of black skies throwing down sleet and snow as we got further North. At one point we saw the clearest rainbow and almost passed the end of it. It was so clear you could even make out the Indigo band, sadly no gold pot was to be seen.

With the car finally Parked up we wandered down a familiar path to me with some new additions, each footstep closer the buzz of anticipation grew. A quick stop at Greigs provided us with cheap food and hot drinks to keep us going.

As we arrived at Elland Road I showed Oli and Luke around our club shop which in comparison to Birminghams is about ten times the size. We had a walk around the outside of the ground, saw the Billy Bremner statue and had our photo taken outside the stand of the ground.

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As we peered through the gap from inside out to the ground the snow was hammering down. A bitter cold swirl of air felt as we pondered finding our seats. We were welcomed by wet seats despite being under cover, the wind can be cruel. A quick dry with our hats and coats and we were ready. The anticipation evident with just under 24,000 fans sat down following their prematch ritual be it a beer or a pie, or both.

The game was frantic from the off and despite an early penalty given to Birmingham which was duly converted by Caddis, Leeds were always dangerous. As the first half came to an end Leeds were knocking on the door and a cross looked to have been bundled in by Belusci only to see it somehow clawed away off the line by Randalph. Oli and Luke did well, I know how difficult it is not cheering when my team has scored, they were unmoved.

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The second half saw both sides hit the woodwork and debatable decisions not go the right way. Three penalty calls were all turned away as the tension grew. As the game headed into the last five minutes Luke Murphy was the saviour. He maintained his cool and steered the ball home on the half volley from just inside the penalty area.

A draw was a fair result and one that keeps Leeds United unbeaten against Birmingham City over the last two seasons. Everybody enjoyed themselves which at the end of the day is what it’s all about.

Luke and Oli both ticked off a big achievement from the life list and I look forward to having them both back next season. That is if we can hang onto our status in the Championship this season!

MOT

Mark

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2014

Sitting down in our local Tap House me and my fiancée were enjoying The Mills Winter Ale. The background, a buzzing atmosphere as many chatted away. It wasn’t long before we asked each other the standard New Years Eve question.

Now before I go into it, I must add that this was the first time since we’ve been together that neither of us were struck down with a cold and we were away from our house on New Years Eve.

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The question?…. “What are my highlights of 2014”

Immediately I dismissed it as a pretty standard year, 2014 appeared quiet and a lot calmer to that of previous years. It wasn’t until I thought a little harder about the question that it became apparent that 2014 has had its fair share of positives and some sad chapters as well.

In a year that saw a fantastic family wedding, an intimate In The Woods festival, camping trips and glamping in York, a birthday weekend away in Canterbury and many disappointing sporting woes from my beloved Leeds United it was hard to really answer this question with so much going on.

For those of you who have followed my blog since I started it in 2013, I’m hopeful that you’ve started to paint a picture of me and my life. I will always share what I feel comfortable with sharing and it’s because of this I feel that my followers understand how valuable I rate life. I will therefore answer this question honestly.

One of my main highlights of 2014 involved me and my fiancée moving into our first house together in February. I initially moved in with Lisa when I left Stratford and despite having a lovely place together then we made a decision to get a bigger place with our own garden. We have certainly benefitted from this and have spent most of the sunny days out in the garden cooking BBQs, growing plants and encouraging wildlife in to enjoy it with us. We have done many jobs to make this house our own and have just agreed an additional 2 year extension to our contract which is fantastic news.

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The bird feeder was one of my Christmas Pressies and despite the return of our resident scatty Wood Pigeon, it’s clear he isn’t afraid of heights and is giving it a go. Unfortunately he is just a bit too big to use the feeders. The scattered seed on the grass from other birds is his reward.

On a professional level 2014 saw me secure the biggest promotion to date in my working career. I became a Branch Manager in August and have been responsible in ensuring the Branch has finished the year in an excellent position. I work for a Builders Merchants and 2014 has seen the Banbury depot succeed at its highest level in recent history. Five months into my new job and I am fully aware of the numerous challenges that await, however it’s important at times like these to enjoy the successes and ensure I benefit from the welcome festive break. Time to recharge these batteries!

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With my new job I enjoyed my first Managers Christmas party and was very fortunate to be treated to a weekend around Cheltenham Races. It gave me the perfect excuse to get smartened up in a year that saw my fiancée improve my style and construct a far more fashionable wardrobe for me!

It is from this that 2014 sadly saw the passing away of one of my biggest influences in my professional career. In 2000 I started working in the Building Industry for a company called Underground Supplies. I was interviewed by the MD, a gentleman by the name of Andrew Bygate. I recall the meeting I had with the Recruitment Agency prior to this interview as if it only happened yesterday.

The lady at the Recruitment Agency advised me that Andrew was a positive man who admired forward thinking and driven individuals. I arrived with this in mind and following the interview Andrew simply said to me that he would be back in touch via the agency to let me know if I was successful. It was at this point I simply asked Andrew for the job. He looked at me, slightly perplexed by my forward nature before smiling and simply saying “ok then, the job is yours, well done”.

This was the start of nearly a decade working with Andy (Andrew was far too formal, once I started working for him!) Andy was diagnosed with a Brain Tumour in 2006 and undertook the biggest fight and challenge in his personal life. Andy fought hard and carried this on throughout 2014. Unfortunately Andy lost this battle in late 2014 but fought so bravely and inspired many people who crossed paths with him, this included me. Thank you Andy for inspiring me to succeed and play a major part in where I find myself today.

2014 saw one of my biggest personal challenges and one that me and Lisa were able to complete together. We had more than a few personal battles to overcome but on a bright dry day in Wales, we climbed and descended Mount Snowdon. If ever there was a challenge and one that needed team work of the highest order then this was it. Towards the end of the decent my legs packed in and I needed some heat pads and assisted stretches to keep me intact until the end. The important thing is we got through it and loved the breathtaking views and experience we shared together.

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So as we head into 2015 another book starts, one thing which is pretty certain is that we will be asking ourselves this same question again on future New Years Eves.

All I can say is I hope my readers and followers can take a moment to reflect and look back on 2014. It’s always nice when you can recall some stand out memories. Have a great 2015 and I look forward to sharing some more moments with you as I head into a big year!

Mark

Apologies for the Quiet

I must apologise to my followers for this moment of silence. I know there isn’t a need to do this, however I want to. I am extremely proud to have over 80 followers and I feel the very reason you followed me has been put on hold, well this has ended tonight.

As I appear from the shadows it is at the time of year the world we live in takes on a festive holiday filled feeling. So what have I been up to and how is 2014 concluding as we head into the final throes of the year.

I’ve had some fantastic weekends and day trips away with my fiancé which included a fun weekend exploring Leeds for a family members birthday. Leeds is a fantastic city and one that we both love. Who knows what the future holds with regards to this awesome city….

Last Tuesday we went to London and visited the Tower of London Poppies. We tried to go a fortnight ago but couldn’t quite battle our way through the crowds. This time around we were able to walk right around the tower and saw some amazing sights.

I have a couple of my favourite photos below:-
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I witnessed Northampton Saints lose against Exeter last Friday which was slightly surreal. It’s the first time I’ve seen them lose and now the disappointment that Leeds United provide has been mirrored at Saints.

Towcester Mill has had a handful of visits as the nights draw in, it’s very cozy inside. It’s a shame we can’t quite enjoy the long evenings in the amazing gardens. It’s a good job the Winter Beers are on tap, there will be some reviews coming up soon!

Our hedgehog who became our fourth family member has gone into hibernation. I do have a photo from last month below as he made the most of our feeding station. We also seem to have a new kitten who visits our garden. It’s all go round our neighbourhood!

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So what does the rest of November hold? Firstly it’s a certain special persons birthday. I can’t say anymore as it will spoil the amazing plans I’m rapidly compiling as next weekend approaches.

Work is going very well. I am into the fourth month of my new job and so far so good. I’ve always wanted to be a Branch Manager, now I have it, I won’t be letting go of it!

Ummmm oh and my Dad ran his first half marathon. He is running 2 more and his first Marathon as he raises money for Cancer. Please check out his sponsorship page and if you feel generous then please send him a message or even better a donation.

https://www.justgiving.com/Paul-Barrow3/

Phew! I promise I’ll write again soon! It’s far too hard trying to fill so much in one blog post!

Mark

My Blog is 1 Year Old – Happy Birthday

A year ago I decided to start my blog, over 80 posts, 5,000 views and 70 followers later I have never felt more accomplished than I do right now.

I must once again place my thanks on record to my friend Jaki Jelley whose similar minded approach to her blog gave me the final push I needed to start my own. So what has happened this year and have my random ramblings really entertained my readers or drove you to despair? I’d personally like to think it’s been a mixed ride with many different topics covered.

So what have been my highlights? Well this year I’ve written about Leeds United on quite a few occasions, I am still hopeful that I will get a piece published by one of the fans pages this season. I’ve had some fun adventures and holiday trips with my awesome fiancé, mainly involving the tent.

I’ve written about my travels, gardening and nature stories including our ever so near attempts to get a blue tit nesting in our garden right through to creating a hotel for our bee to lay it’s eggs in. I’ve cooked pickled Beetroot, attempted to grow tomatoes and even written up a couple of my favourite recipes.

I’ve managed to get an article on the Autumn Towcester Beer Festival published on the about my area website and have written further blogs about my love for local ales. There have been some exciting pieces on Music Festivals including the surreal In The Woods Festival.

I’d like to thank you all for taking that little bit of time out of your busy days to read my blog and I promise that this second year will see even more stories from my crazy world and the life I lead.

On one final note I’d like to share some awesome news with you all. I secured my promotion at work and have finally become a Branch Manager. This is something I’ve wanted these last three years and from the beginning of August I’ll finally be there. This is a big deal for me and I am so proud of myself and also would like to place on record my thanks for the support my fiancé has given me throughout my career.

So as we embark on another adventure this weekend in Snowdonia, I can already feel my next piece formulating together in my head. Here is to the future and the exciting times it promises to bring.

Thank you.

DarcyB

A time to reflect on the positives

Firstly as I write this blog I’m Suffering from the latest cold that is going around. It’s been a few days now but the positive thing is that I’m still alive but not so kicking, however as I sit up in bed trying to rid myself of the suffering it certainly gives you time to reflect.

Somebody once told me that we spend only a short amount of time on planet earth as it is. Because of this, it’s equally important to remember that when you are not feeling your best, that you must still be grateful to be here on earth. It’s so very very true, as I grab another man sized balm tissue and drink my umpteenth Lemsip all I’m thinking about are the positives.

It’s been just over a week since I last wrote on here. Most of my last posts had been Leeds United related, this time around I’d like to bring it back round to me and what has been going on in my life.

After a month of upheaval which included painting, decorating, tipping, diying, car transporting, selling furniture and using a carpet cleaner for the first time we’ve finally moved house. We made the decision a couple of months ago which now allows us to lead a more grown up lifestyle. We now have a garage and our own garden which is pretty freaking awesome. It has been certainly worth it as we now find ourselves unpacking the last few boxes.

I may not be the most naturally DIY skilled person but my efforts in putting up our wooden blinds have given me a sense of pride. Despite my requirement of taking good care when opening and closing them, they are still very much in place……. still!

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It’s easy to let the negatives take over your life. In a week which has seen my car require some bodywork repairs to breaking down halfway off the drive, you must try and draw those crumbs of comforts from the places they hide. My car problems have helped me bond more with our new neighbors (who helped me jump start it) in the rain, as well as allowed me to have one of the best conversations I’ve had with my fiancées Dad.

The blessings are when you realise it could have been so much worse. The indications suggested a leaky Power Steering hose and faulty Pump which would’ve cost over £800 to repair. The diagnosis discovered it was a faulty Alternator which is far less, life can be good like that.

Finally as I sign off from this blog I’d like to mention the Winter Olympics. They have been truly fascinating to watch. It’s evident to see that Team GB have continued on from where London 2012 signed off. Already assured of equalling our highest medal tally of 4 is an amazingly proud achievement. Let’s hope our Curlers and Speed Skaters get what they truly deserve this week. Life is certainly full of positives….. (as I grab yet another tissue)

DarcyB

A Festive Message

Thank you to those who have taken the time to read my Blog this year. Some of you may have seen my constant plugs on Twitter or Facebook. Some of you may have seen my page featured as I tried my hardest to gain visitors. If that still doesn’t include you, then maybe just maybe you stumbled upon it by complete accident. Either way it doesn’t matter one little bit how you found my blog, the important thing to me is that you did.

I’ve been writing on here for just under 5 months and am quite honestly enjoying it beyond my expectations. I’m one of those people who frankly enjoys writing. It gives me a sense of pride and joy to think somebody else is reading something that I’ve written. A blog is quite a personal thing, yet not in the same sense as a diary, I think you all get what I’m saying.

So as we head into the Christmas Break, I’d like to wish all of my followers (49 so far) and readers a very very peaceful and enjoyable festive break. It has become very obvious to me these last few days that it’s imperative to let those around you know how important they are to you. I lost a very good friend of mine last week and I’d like to think he knew exactly how much he meant to me.

Of course it’s a time to eat, drink and be merry whilst keeping warm, however it’s also essential to think about those not so fortunate that are in our lives. This isn’t a generic statement, it’s a fact. To those out there that have touched my life so far who are facing more challenges than most, I’m thinking of you.

So what now? Let’s just stay safe, follow Santa on Google maps and enjoy this wonderful time of the year. I’ll be looking forward to what the last few days of 2013 bring to me and the excitement that next year promises.

Happy Christmas to you all.

DarcyB

Party Perfection

This weekend has been a truly wonderful opportunity to share time with family and our closest friends. Since our Engagement in August whilst away on holiday in Cornwall, we have been blessed by the amazing people we share our lives with. We set a date for our Engagement Party soon after the proposal in Cornwall which was this Saturday.

It’s safe to say that time sneaks past us when we are least observant and it was exactly the same in this instance. We are both extremely busy with our jobs and since my relocation to Bedford it’s certainly made the time spent at home during the week shrink. It is at this moment I’d like to place on record in writing on my little blog a massive, sorry I mean a MASSIVE thank you to my wonderful fiancé for working her socks off in preparation and launching this fantastic party of celebration.

Now I’m a typical guy, not in the sense of being lazy and unaware of the urgency of certain situations, but in a more traditional sense. I mean I’m always there to wash up after dinner and in the rare instances I’m back before dusk, I’ll get some dinner on to help share the responsibility. I’m talking about the inability to gauge time and understand the order and detail required to make things go smoothly and without any trouble. It’s because of my fiancé, I must go on record again to thank her for undertaking all of these things on top of her workload which borders on excessive most days of the week. It is because of this tireless effort and commitment our party was the success it was.

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The weather was on our side and despite a worrying blanket of thick grey cloud in the early afternoon we were treated to a pleasant warm sunny day. We opted for an open house format of party, which in its name gave a simple and non time constrained day. The beauty with this is you are able to control the flow and keep a steady number of people with you throughout the day. This is great in theory, but as we are pretty awesome* people, the number actually increased as the day went on! 😉

* Self proclaimed by me.

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All the detail was beautiful, from the disposable cameras right through to the decorations we had acquired from random events during our busy year. The carefully selected play list of party tracks and songs right through to the ever filled food buffet.

We are looking forward to developing our cameras in the next couple of weeks and seeing what delightful moments have being captured. If it’s like past events, I’m sure there will be the usual one of me looking slightly perplexed and bemused by the situation.

A party is only as good as the people who attend them and it is because of this that I’d like to thank every single one of you. In fact as I write this blog in my speak I should say we both want to thank you for joining us. There were some amazing scenes of our families meeting each other for the first time and the opportunity for our friends to meet each other too. Obviously there were those unable to join us but wished they could. We would also like to thank you for being thoughtful and supportive with your kind wishes, we will be seeing you all very soon.

So what did I learn from co hosting a party on the day? Well I learnt that frozen mini pizzas do not take 15 mins at 180c (Waitrose we will be in touch!) and while Salad is healthy, people prefer couscous instead. I’ve also learnt that it pays dividends to have an Xbox 360 and a wireless network. The children aged between 2 and 14 were more than preoccupied with this and I couldn’t have been prouder with the fact there were no tears all day. I learnt that Pacman is still cool and that despite no one actually playing Scrabble, that there were one or two of the children inquisitively asking about playing the game! I’ve also discovered that our Bathroom now has it’s own fan club!

So once again I’d like to thank you all, you made our special day well and truly special. It was an absolute pleasure to invite you into our home. Oh and before I conclude this blog, I’d like to also thank a couple of people.

Firstly I’d like to thank Amanda from All Seasons Kitchen. The cake you made was an absolute treasure-trove of sweet chocolate delights. Everybody loved it and we were not surprised to be left with only a couple of slices at the end of the night. Please check out her web page to see what else she is able to create at:-
http://www.allseasonskitchen.co.uk

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And finally I’d like to thank our friends at Whittlebury Brewery for supplying us with a lovely 18 pint pack of Old Tun. My fiancée certainly knows how to spoil me and it was because of the quick delivery of this that we were able to enjoy it. Very reasonably priced we finished it off within a day and it went down a storm. We have both been invited to visit their brewery which is something we will be accepting. Once again, please check out their site, it’s a great place to see what they do at:- http://www.whittleburybrewery.com

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The frustrations of not being able to get Glastonbury Tickets this morning have well and truly evaporated due to all of you that made this so very amazing!

DarcyB