Blog Archives

You get out of it what you put into it

Heading into June I can’t help but beam with a big smile as the hard work put into the garden is finally starting to give back. In early Spring we were blessed with the Daffodils and these were followed by the Purple Tulips at the end of April. This was their first appearance since I planted the bulbs in the Winter. I’d even decorated the garden with Plum Slate Chippings and these were pushed aside as the bulbs revealed their green tips.

   
 

We have been truly blessed by the wildlife that have used our garden as their Kitchen. The birds didn’t take residence in our nesting boxes however we are now starting to see their babies feed. Last week we had the baby Starlings join us which is quite fitting as we love Game of Thrones!! 

We created a hotel for our Solitary Bee and are pleased to announce the babies survived and emerged from their little tunnels. This was put back out in the same place last month and this week the same bee has returned to start this years batch. On closer inspection we actually have two bees both using the homemade hotel. This is pretty exciting, I love it when nature appreciates what humans try and do to assist in their lives.

   
 

At the beginning of May we dug up the worst part of the lawn and lay some new turf. It was one of the most knackering of Bank Holiday Weekends experienced but that was purely down to the Clay. The benefits of this hard work are now clear especially as I gave it the first cut, this means it is actually growing! We spent the best part preparing the ground with sharp sand, ground purifier, feed, and fertiliser with top soil. The photo below shows it from before we started to the first lay right through to its first cut.

   
   

The BBQ’s have started and we even bought the Chiminea that I’ve been desperately after. These are the moments that you truly enjoy what you have. As I reflect back to the title of this post it’s clear for all to see. Understand that the hard work you put in to whatever you do in life, will eventually pay back. As I walk around the garden I think back to the work put into it over those many hours. 

   
 

Right before I wander back out into the Sun we are currently enjoying I must apologise for the long absence. If truth be told I’m finding life is very busy right now but please be assured I will still be writing and when I get the moment to write then I’ll be here again.

Thanks

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

Snowdonia Long Weekend

Following on from my blog written 1085 Metres above sea level on the summit of Mount Snowdon, I have been gathering my thoughts. On what was a truly amazing adventure we had the pleasure of enjoying one of the most picturesque of places visited to date.

The drive to our campsite was beautiful. As soon as we passed the Welsh border, we were greeted with winding roads offering some beautiful views. Mountains, open rivers, streams and fields full of nature on show setting a lovely background story to what lay waiting for us.
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Cae Du is a beautiful campsite, very neatly presented within a border of the Snowdonia Mountains. This campsite offered spacious pitches and a well stocked shop. The prices were good value considering the remoteness of this site. The facilities on this well maintained site included basic toilets open 24 hours with more modern and newer washing facilities open between 7am-10pm. The views all around the site were breathtaking and there were some lovely parts we walked around on the site including a secluded mountain stream.

Saturday was our judgement day as we climbed Mount Snowdon. Following on from my previous blog, I can confirm the decent was far more demanding than I thought it would be. My fiancé had to strap a heat pack to my calf and help me carry our numerous stretches to aid my tight calfs and sore ankles. Despite the aches I am still feeling, I wouldn’t have swapped this experience for anything.

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On Sunday we headed to the local village called Beddgelert. This village was so beautiful and the walk from our campsite took around ten minutes. This is a very lovely place and the walk into the village took us along a rocky river which was overlooked by some very attractive houses. One snap shot of this walk seemed to take us back to Greece, this picture is below.

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We had a walk around the shops and bought a couple of pieces from a craft shop. There was a lovely ice cream parlor where we sampled some delightful flavours. I had a strawberry, melon and Cointreau Ice cream which was amazing. We spent some time chilling at one of the local pubs and watched the world pass by as we rested our achy legs and bodies.

There is a sad local story to this village which played a huge part in the naming of Beddgelert. My story is very rough and if I’ve missed anything I do apologise. A prince dating back to the 1300s lived in this village and he had a loyal dog as his pet. One day he came home to find his empty sons cot covered in blood, the prince feared the worst and slayed his faithful companion Gelert. The prince frantic over the death of his air to the throne was in despair. It wasn’t until he searched the house that he found his son unscathed and the blood was from a wolf that had tried to attack him. The wolf was killed by his loyal dog Gelert. It is said that after this event the prince never smiled again. Gelerts grave remains to be seen today, the photo below shows his grave as well as a statue of Gelert.

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We had a couple of meals in Beddgelert which were decent and enjoyed the lovely feeling this village gave us. The streams were beautiful and the sunshine lit up all the flowers and bright colours around the streets. This is a place we will visit again and one little treat we didn’t expect to find. The final night at our campsite was chilled and we played a couple of games of Scrabble before settling down. The rain was heavy and kept us awake but by the time it settled it gave us time to get some sleep ahead of our journey home tomorrow.

Before we got on our way home we decided to visit a place called Portmeirion to have a walk around the coastlines or that’s what we thought it would entail. Our adventurous streak got the better of us and once we walked around the streets with brightly coloured painted houses and pools filled with piercing blue water we found ourselves thrown into our own adventure.

Portmeirion is spanned over 70 acres and whilst most of it is mapped, we decided the sign pointing to a Ghost Garden was too much of a temptation to resist. Off the map and past the Dog Cemetery we were trying to find, we found ourselves clambering through Rainforests filled with bright plants, loud wildlife and areas that not even the most local of residents had passed.

We finally got stuck as we were presented with a steep sandy bank down around 30 feet of cliffs. We managed to clamber down safely and the walk led us down to the beach. Fortunately the sea was out and we could enjoy a lovely albeit lengthy walk back to the village centre. It was one adventure, one we didn’t expect to participate in, however it was bloody good fun.

Portmeirion turns out to be quite a famous place with many tv programs filmed there. These include The Prisoner and Doctor Who. It certainly offers a lot and we did enjoy some lovely cake in their cafe. It is very quaint and a strange thing is that some of the buildings have windows painted on them, now that is weird!

The drive back was pretty boring in comparison to the amazing long weekend we experienced. Snowdonia we will be back. 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

What would you choose?

Imagine a world where choosing what you do is restricted. Lets say in a lifetime you were limited and could only do a certain number of things. For the sake of this scenario and to make it more interesting this wouldn’t include the decisions you make in your working life nor the things we do by habit i.e sleeping and eating. I am talking about the things that make our life pleasant and enjoyable, the life changing choices that give our life meaning and direction. So picture this, what if the system had crashed and you were told you had to make your choices. There are half a dozen choices and decisions remaining. These could be taken at any time during your life, but they would need to be specific. Some hard decisions and choices to be made one would say, I’d think that was a slight understatement.

So what would I choose if placed in this fictional and totally unlikely situation? Here goes…….

1. Get Married – I’m very lucky that I’m engaged to the person I know was meant for me. You could say this makes this decision easier, however Marriage is something I strongly believe in and one of the choices I’d choose.

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2. Live In Australia – It’s an amazing country and somewhere I’m very lucky to have spent 2008 living in. This is certainly a choice I’d happily make and once the right point arrived in my life I’d be on that plane ready.

3. Arrange that Dinner Party – I’ve always wanted to have a dinner party with people who are famous and be in a situation where I could just chill with them over dinner. They would have to be alive (no time travel) and I’d choose Derren Brown, Jimmy Carr, Ricky Gervais and Stephen Fry. Hilarious banter awaits!

4. Space Travel – it’s something I’d love to do and it fascinates me. I’d love to be in a spaceship and see our planet from space. I’m not talking about living on Mars but having the chance to travel into space would be worth using one of my choices up for.

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5. Experience Glastonbury – One festival I’m desperate to say I’ve done and to experience its magical atmosphere. Sadly the way in which you can apply and purchase tickets for this festival will never improve so because of this I’m using one of my valuable choices to ensure it happens.

And finally……

6. Start a Family – Family is so very important to me and even though this is a strange scenario to be in, I’d feel guilty for depriving others from having the same choices. I’m a family person and because of this I’d be so determined to start another generation of my family. I’d love to experience a family unit and because of this, that would be my final choice.

Wow, that was actually quite enlightening and certainly puts the fact that we have every opportunity to live our lives the way we want into perspective. I’m certainly going to continue enjoying what I do and make the most of every day I have. You never know when the system may crash one day!

PS – I’m totally aware that this has many flaws in it and my hopes of becoming a film writer have finally been written off!

DarcyB