Category Archives: Life

The West is already great.

Currently, upon entering Plymouth train station, you are welcomed with a poster campaign that celebrates Network Rail’s success in re-opening the railway line at Dawlish. The line at Dawlish was destroyed by storms on February 5, and was shut until the beginning of April. Engineers from Network Rail’s ‘Orange Army’ had to practically rebuild the sea wall upon which the line runs; it had all cost at least £15 million.

Originally hailing from Dawlish myself, I knew how much disruption this caused. During the storms, parts of the town centre were damaged and/or under water, and families had to be evacuated from their homes. The damage was extensive. Yet, Dawlish bounced back. It is a tight-knit, resolute town and soon enough, things were back to normal.

As such, I was grateful when Network Rail re-opened the line. Not only did it affect my journey, the rail-line is also a big part of Dawlish. I can also understand why Network Rail are celebrating. It was a herculean effort. It could have taken a lot longer, but the swift manner in which they restored normal business was a triumph.

However, there is a fine line between celebrating success, and being patronising.

For example,  First Great Western’s poster says it is ‘Building a Greater West’. Of course, it is celebrating Network Rail’s success, but I also can’t help but take it a little personally. We do need better infrastructure, I admit. However, it is almost as if the poster is implying that we, the West, need to be made ‘greater’.

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The West already is great! Go down to Cornwall. It is a beautiful part of the world, whether you’re in the Eden Project or on the beaches of Newquay. In Devon, you have Plymouth, where you can visit the Hoe, or HMNB Devonport, which is one of only three operating naval bases used by the Royal Navy. You have the English Riviera in Torquay, Brixham and Paignton. There is also the city of Exeter, which is full of history and is also home to one of the best universities in the land.  If that doesn’t take your fancy, then why not take an adventure of Dartmoor for a breath of fresh air, and take in its amazing landscape? You also have the picturesque, seaside town of Dawlish, which is just fantastic. Indeed, I am biased. Although, if you go down to Dawlish in August, you’ve got the Dawlish Carnival Week, and also the Dawlish Airshow.

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When David Cameron visited Dawlish on the re-opening of the line, he said that South-West England was “open once again” (BBC News).

I don’t believe that we were ever closed.

In sum, I love my hometown, and I love the West. I am thankful that the rail-line was restored so quickly. But, does the West need to be made greater? I’d say it already is great. There are those who won’t share my opinion; those who think the West is a backward place, and that it is just full of fields and pitchforks.

 

However, I love this place, for it is my home.

 

 

 

Christmas will come early.

Normally, when I get to this time of year, I begin to feel a little sad and melancholy. Indeed, you would have thought that this is due to the sense of doom that comes with the exam period. However, there is a deeper sense of grief lying within me that is always triggered when the football season nears its end. Come the end of the season, there is normally a two-and-a-half month break from the sport I love. Of course, there is always Cricket to keep me going, but nothing quite beats following Football, or discussing the latest results with your mates, speculating on who is going to win the Premier League, and more importantly, rushing home from work to catch Gary Lineker on Match of the Day. June and July are empty months without these happening.

 

However, this Summer I am saved, for no such pain of separation will be inflicted this year. The 2014 World Cup starts in Brazil on June 12th, and I can’t wait. Not only because it will provide a shelter from the unrelenting world of academia, but also because football will be on TV almost every night for an entire month. To say that I am already a little excited would be an understatement. I am like a little boy, counting down the days to Christmas. My World Cup sticker album is already coming on a treat. Croatia is near enough completed.

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As an England fan, I’m not expecting that we will win it. Nevertheless, I am always hopeful and progression from the group stage will be a real achievement. The reduced pressure on England’s squad may even help to boost their performances. I just hope that Roy Hodgson will take a look at including some of England’s star performers in the Premier League this year (Lallana, Shaw and Barkley to name a few), rather than reverting back to out-of-form players of old.

 

Who do I think will win it? It surely has to be Brazil. I also secretly admire Germany. Others would disagree; I would invite anyone to try and convince me as to why it wouldn’t be either of these two. Still, why would my opinion matter?

 

Still, it is thanks to the World Cup that I’m not at all sad about the end of the football season and I’m sure that other football fans share my excitement. Roll on the end of exams, and more importantly, roll on June 12th, when Christmas will come early.

 

 

Image: FIFA

From Zero to Hero

I was having a session of deep thought earlier, and as such, I thought I would share it with the world… if there is anyone out there, that is. Indeed, while procrastinating from uni work, I came across this quote:

 

Failure is the key to success; each mistake teaches us something‘. – Morihei Ueshiba

 

I couldn’t agree more with this quote. Everybody has a down moment every now and then. We all make mistakes; to err is human, after all. I’ve had several of these moments in my 21 years. It could happen when you’re playing in goal for your local football team, when you make an absolute howler and end up conceding a goal, much to the disarray of your team-mates (this occurred almost every week in my youth). It may even happen at school, college or university, when a piece of your work, that you thought was ace, comes back with a really bad grade. Even in the relationships in our life, sometimes we just completely bugger it up.

 

These are times in which we find things difficult. However, success is never so far removed, no matter how bad things get. We are not defined by our failures or wrongdoings, we are defined by how we bounce back from them. As long as you keep trying, then you will save a penalty one day. You will get that A* at school, or even that First at university. Confidence and self-belief will always bring out the best in us, and help us go from zero to hero.

 

Apologies for my session of deep thought. Apologies for the goalkeeper analogy as well… That one is quite personal to me.

The place where we all return to.

The place where we all return.

Travelling to Paris for New Year’s Eve was a superb experience. Lots of photos were taken, lots of landmarks were marvelled at. However, one particular spot that caught my eye was this one by the River Seine, not far down from Notre Dame. In amongst a line of market stalls was this small commemorative plaque, saying: ‘On the 20th of August, 1944, Peacekeeper René Sitterlin died here for the liberation of Paris‘.

Without reading too much into the history of what happened, you already know that this is a special spot. This spot, commemorating a man who gave his life for his country, will hold a special place in his family’s heart, will remind some people about how times were less prosperous, and will also act as a reminder to his compatriots about just how much they owe to him and all the others who died in the line of service.

As such, this spot got me thinking. It made me think about how we all have a spot somewhere. It does not necessarily have to be a ‘favourite’ spot as such, but a spot where we stop and think about life. It might not have a plaque like above, it may not even be dedicated to someone special, but it is still our spot. We may go there to remember family, relive memories with friends, or simply just to think things through. Nevertheless, we go there because that place means something to us, and we go there to feel at peace.

My spot is a beach, about a mile away from my hometown. I find that while I am there, I always manage to think things through and put life into perspective. I have not been back there for a while, and I regret that. However, I still think of that place, and I plan on returning soon.

Do not misread me, I am not trying to equate a beach with a place where a man has died for his country. But what I am trying to say, is that we all have the place we return to when life takes a turn for the worse, as I do to that beach, and as I am sure that Mr. Sitterlin’s family do to this spot above.

Change is for life, not just for New Year.

Change is for life, not just for New Year.

It is that time of year again. People are getting festive, Christmas cheer is creeping in, people (myself included) are running around trying to get ready for the festive season. Isn’t it all exciting?

However, you’ll also know that it is that time of year when you log into Facebook or Twitter and see people gearing up for the change of their lives. Indeed, you’ll log in and see people tweeting or writing statuses about the New Year, and what resolutions they have got planned. ‘New Year, New Start’ is the normal one. Another one that I saw recently was: ‘I can’t wait for 2014, I’m going to sort myself out and start again’… need I quote any further?

However, while I recognise that New Year’s resolutions are quite worthwhile and people really strive to achieve them – and to them, congratulations – why wait until the New Year to start working towards such aims?  Why would you wait until after the New Year to make a fresh start if you think that you need to ‘sort yourself out and start again’ that badly?

Change is for life, not just for New Year. What if you suddenly arrive at an epiphany half way through 2014 and you realise that things need to change again? Are you going to wait right the way up until 2015, just so you can say, ‘New Year, New Start’ all over again? You don’t have to wait for change and it doesn’t always have to be clichéd.

Why wait until the New Year? What is the worst that could happen?