Back from the Dead!

Well, not really but every so often I like to be dramatic. Picture that as a jump into the spotlight with jazz hands. Yup, I went there, I included the jazz hands. Deal with it.

So where have I been? Nowhere in particular, I’m sorry to say but a lot has been going on and that’s meant a reshuffle of my priorities. Now, this whole blog is for a couple of reasons. I like to write, and this is an easy way to do something I enjoy. Whether it’s talking about books, stories or other things, it helps keep my writing skills sharp. I’ve developed a style and it’s a big part of me even beyond the blog.

Second, hopefully other writers or interested parties finds it useful – at least sometimes! I hope, through my experiences, I can help you, or others, get started or overcome hurdles that I face too. Writers are solitary creatures. We’re weird and crazy and a little bit eccentric at the best of times but that doesn’t mean we aren’t, or shouldn’t be, connected to the world around us. At least, I think so.

Finally, it’s a vent – and that’s important. We all need to get things out there at times, it can make everyone feel better. Sometimes it’s a long rant, others a more structured post or it can even be creative.

So, that being said, what have I been doing to keep me away for so long?

The book

Outside of work, this is what is taking up a lot of my time. I’m working on the 4th draft at the moment and, honestly, I’m happy with the progress being made – if not the time it’s taking me. I feel like the story is getting stronger with each revision, the world is growing and there’s enough in there to get teeth into, even if it’s not the longest sci-fi book in the world.

I go through phases of productivity and I’m lacking that right now. I stare at pages and my mind won’t focus. I’ve tried working on other stories or free writing, but nothing is coming. I’ve gone back to my games to distract me and I think it helps.

I need a solid block of time to finish the thing. I can’t continue doing an hour here, 30 minutes there – I lose the flow. So, there’s an opportunity coming my way to do that. Late summer will see me spend a full month getting this sorted. I’m hoping by the time this block of time comes, I’ll be working on the 5th draft.

Ideally, I want it finished by the end of the year so I can start submitting. And to start work on book two – of which I already have a full plan ready. Maybe I’ll try writing the 3rd book’s plan…

The day job

So, the opportunity.

I had already decided that I needed time to work on my book but supporting myself financially was always going to be a concern. I live alone, it’s not the cheapest option but it’s done me well. Work offered voluntary redundancy and I applied. After talking it over with my manager, it was approved and I will be finishing my current role at the end of July, just short of 2 years in the role.

Time wasn’t the only factor. The redundancy has a good pay-out and will give me the means to live without working for a while so I can sort the book out. Get some good progress done and advance a goal that I’ve been working towards for as long as I can remember.

I’ve turned down other jobs in the process of making this decision but there are longer implications to this too. It’s all a little scary but I’m feeling calm, hopefully and even excited for what lies beyond the next couple of months.

Future plans

So, what does this mean for me after July? Well, after almost 8 years here, I’m leaving Manchester. Not necessarily for good, but at least for a couple of years. Maybe more. I’ll be heading to Newcastle to live with the parents for six months or so. I’m going to finish the damned book and maybe start the next one (I’m a sucker for punishment, it seems). I’ve covered this above.

After that, going into 2018, I’ll hopefully be heading to Australia. Some of you know I’ve been talking about this for years, seriously trying to save for the last year or two and failing miserably. This opportunity gives me the money I said I needed to do this. And hopefully a little more. The family is very understanding of my plans and while it’s always been a dream, it’s time to make it happen. After my book.

I feel like I need a change. I need to travel, go somewhere else and see what I can find. Grab some adventures and experiences. I’m stuck in a rut here and I’m nowhere near ready for relationships or houses or stuff like that. Maybe an early midlife crisis? I pulled the longest grey hair from my head this weekend. Scary. Anyway, I digress.

I’ll be looking to build some freelance work up for that time at home and maybe beyond – content and social media primarily but also social advertising, PPC, SEO and such. I know it. I can do it, time to make a living from it. Get in touch if you know of anything or have any questions about it – I’ll try and help.

For now, more regular blogs incoming.

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My First Trip to Budapest, but Definitely Not the Last

HELLO!

I’ve been quiet lately. Some of you will know that I went to Budapest in February. I took a lot of pictures and had a lot to say but then life. It’s an excuse I keep using. My bad.

Despite it all, I like blogging. And those pictures will waste away on Facebook if I don’t use some of them here so let’s not waste any time. We’ll get the boring bits out of the way first and then look at more interesting things later.

I joined a group of friends and we flew from Manchester to Budapest. Direct flights each way and they took less than two hours. There wasn’t much leg room on our RyanAir flight but even a tall git like myself didn’t feel too much like a canned sardine.

Note: you can take TWO carry-on bags with RyanAir. I did not realise this and checked my small suitcase into the hold – that was £50 unnecessarily spent. It meant I didn’t have to carry it, so bonus. Also, I travelled the lightest with that case weighing in at 6.6 kg. Go me…shame on the others.

One of the streets in Budapest

One of the streets in Budapest

The flights were pretty cheap and so was our accommodation – I just went with the flow, much easier. We stayed in Nova Apartments, close to everything. I walked everywhere. No buses used throughout – the only transportation used was the metro once and a beer bike but more on that later.

A different look, a different atmosphere

One thing I love about going somewhere new is you just don’t know what to expect. I took a lot of pictures of the streets and buildings because you just don’t see that style here in the UK – even in the quaint little villages.

I spent plenty of time each day just walking, stopping for coffee or beer regularly, and exploring. With a map in one pocket and a smartphone in the other, I was confident enough of getting back or to a meeting point if needed. There was even a cool little indoor corridor with shops, stalls and eateries. Picked up a little souvenir there!

One of the views of Budapest from Buda Castle

One of the views of Budapest from Buda Castle

The views from Buda Castle, though. They were fantastic. We were lucky with the weather. Yes, it was cold but it was clear and sunny throughout. Brilliant. I took a lot of pictures going up, and it was a long climb!

Széchenyi Thermal Baths

The Széchenyi Thermal Baths was definitely one of the highlights of the trip. Thanks to some good planning, we went to this place after our beer bike tour – more on that later – and it was the right choice. All the stress and tension just evaporated in the water.

Széchenyi Thermal Baths at night

Széchenyi Thermal Baths at night

There are other thermal baths in the area but these were the ones to go to, as I’d been told by others and one of the group who had been to Budapest many times.

We went in when it was daylight but it was dark when we left. The baths are outdoor, surrounded by the building which is ring-shaped. The air temperature was just over 0 degrees but the water temp 35ish degrees. The steam came and went. While you might think your head would be cold, it doesn’t work like that. A science-focused person would explain it.

Heroes Square

Heroes Square

The worst thing was getting out. It was bitterly cold – especially when wet – but the changing rooms had heated floors so you run inside and warm up. In the summer, I can imagine this is less of an issue.

If you ever go to Budapest. Go here. Above all else, it’s great. The place is close to Heroes Square, which is a sight itself.

Szimpla Kert

Another of the highlights for me was Szimpla Kert – a ruin bar. There are a number of ruin bars in Budapest and all are different, but, basically, this is the original. It’s full of everything you can think of, which some people would call junk, I guess. Fools.

Inside Szimpla Kert

Inside Szimpla Kert

There’s a real sense of character in this place. A long hallway with rooms to either side with seats and bars and quirky things. Different lighting styles and tones and it should’t work at all but it…does. Really well. There’s a cool area out the back too with more seats and what looked like a BBQ space. I’d love to explore it in the day time. Next time.

I could write a whole blog post and/or story about this place. Anything I say won’t do it justice – just go and check it out.

It. Is. Awesome.

Out back at Szimpla Kert

Out back at Szimpla Kert

Quality without stupid costs

I tried a couple of local dishes and foods out there, some nice and some I didn’t get on with so well. That’s fine, it’s part of the trip. Some of it was really nice – pork with a tangy sauce and donut shaped bread thing with a creamy yoghurt sauce. Can’t for the life of me remember the name but yummy. Try it.

We didn’t go for posh food but nor did we eat badly. There were good options and bad throughout but we balanced the beer with plenty of food. It helped keep us going. Overall, for the quality of the food and drink we had, it was worth the price and keep in mind it’s cheaper than here in the UK. The same meal and drink, on average, would cost about a third more. Did I splurge a little? Sure, who wouldn’t.

Some of the quirks

The beginning of the climb up to Buda Castle

The beginning of the climb up to Buda Castle

It felt a little 90’s when we got there. Some of the clothing played a part in this – I saw more than a couple of shell suit jacket things. Google it and be glad you don’t remember wearing them. The music was also part of it. There was new music (Ed Seeran every. Single. Morning.) but they did like the older stuff. It worked for me.

We went on a beer bike ride and Holy Crap was it hard. I mean, we had beer so that was good but the whole contraption was heavy and took a lot of effort to pedal. It was a good laugh – or good to laugh at those pedalling until the time came to switch. We went down a side lane alongside the main road but had to pull over to let traffic past. We got some strange looks along the way. Going to the Thermal Baths after this was a good plan.

Possibly THE BEST pizza I've ever had!

Possibly THE BEST pizza I’ve ever had!

PIZZA! I have had one of the best pizzas ever in Budapest. Seriously, I would happily fly over, go to this pub (Pointer Pub FYI), eat a pizza (as big and bigger than a car wheel!) then fly home. Totally worth it. It wasn’t a pizza place, it wasn’t a small local – it was a sports pub. Nice staff and we watched the Six Nations there. The pizza was supposed to be a snack but it definitely impacted on the evening meal. No regrets though, so good!

Even better, everyone is really nice and friendly. That makes everything better.

Too long; didn’t read

Good food. Friendly people. Stunning buildings and views. Cheap cheap cheap. I’d recommend it to solo travellers or groups of friends. Go and explore, see the sights, and do things you couldn’t at home. Money comes and goes, friends won’t always be there for you and a house will belong to someone else one day. The only thing we truly own is our memories and experiences. Creating them shouldn’t be a chore. Enjoy it.

In the end, what else is life for?