Seven years in Birmingham

The view from my desk

It’s been seven years and a few weeks since I moved from Manchester to Birmingham. Why is this number significant? Because seven years is also the amount of time I spent in Manchester, from May 2003 to April 2010, and I want to now compare these two chapters in my life. As you get older time passes more quickly and so, needless to say, my seven years in Birmingham seem shorter than my seven years in Manchester, despite having achieved so much more in the same space of time.

I enjoyed my time in Manchester and I didn’t want to leave when I did. Circumstances at the time kind of forced my hand, however, having made a few poor choices during those years, both professionally and personally. I was out of work at the time of moving and living with a very good friend after I stopped being able to pay my mortgage. One day he turned to me and said that he was moving to Birmingham to work on a project. I was welcome to tag along if I wanted, but otherwise I’d have to sort myself out.

Nice-but-dull house in Sutton Coldfield

I wasn’t in much of a position to do anything but “tag along”, so, reluctantly, I did just that. I moved down to a shared house in Sutton Coldfield, and as nice as the house and the area was, it was very different to what I was used to; I went from city centre Manchester with all its life and convenience to a sleepy family-orientated suburb of a strange city which I did not know at all. I didn’t have my own transport and I felt very miserable and isolated from my friends and my life in Manchester.

Within three months of moving down I landed a job in the city centre. At the time this position felt like a huge step backward for me, and for the first nine months I saw it and treated it only as a stop-gap until something better came along, or a chance to move back to Manchester came my way. This negative attitude didn’t help me either perform particularly well at the job or start to build my new life in Birmingham; I convinced myself that it was all temporary and so I didn’t give it the care and attention that it deserved.

But then, in the spring of 2011, things started to change and get better for me. The company helped me deal with some issues and gave me more responsibility. I had also started to build a network through the company I worked for, both personal and professional, and I found it to be much warmer and more supportive than any previous network I had earlier in life. Manchester wasn’t unfriendly, but it was more ruthless, professionally and personally, and I never really flourished there in either regard. This time it felt different, and it was different.

Alpha Tower (my office is 2 floors down from the top)

It turned out that, in the end, this “stop-gap” of a job which I had so reluctantly taken after so reluctantly having moved, was the best thing that ever happened to me. I’m still working for that company, seven years later. I’m well-respected and I sit on its Board of Directors and I have roles in the parent company which bought it during 2016. None of this came overnight, certainly not, and nor should it have; it hasn’t come without lots of hard work and proving myself, but I’ve done it, and I’m happier than I have ever been before.

The company gave me structure, support, aspiration and challenge. I was lucky in that I was able to grow with the company. I was its 12th employee and now there are around 80 of us, and I think had I joined the company when it was 80-strong instead of 12 then I probably would have drowned.

But I didn’t drown. Instead, I grew, and I made a difference, both to the company and myself. Through this company I have met some of the most important people I have ever met or ever will meet in my life and the value of that is simple incalculable and not something I ever could have imagined I would be blessed with when I so reluctantly left my old life in Manchester behind.

View from apartment on New Street

In late 2011 I was able to move from Sutton Coldfield and into the city centre of Birmingham in a place of my own, back into a setting with which I was much more comfortable, and one which I at that point then fully embraced and appreciated, not only because Birmingham wasn’t strange to me any more by then, but also because I dearly missed city life whilst I was out in the suburbs and I wasn’t going to take it for granted any more. I was arguably a little spoilt in Manchester, in many respects, and didn’t realise or appreciate what I had.

Jewellery Quarter apartment building on Warstone Lane

In early 2014, after a couple of years of living on the convenient but noisy New Street, I then moved to the quieter and fashionable Jewellery Quarter area (ironically enough just down the road from the office I first worked in with my company) and I’ve been living here ever since. It’s a nice quiet area at night but still only a 15 minute walk to work and the city centre. It was a bit down-at-heal in 2010 when I worked here but has undergone significant gentrification in the years since. My plan is to spend another three years living in the same place before purchasing a suitable house somewhere, probably outside the city centre, but that will be on my terms and by then I will be ready for it! I know I can’t spend the rest of my life in the city centre.

One thing is for certain. I’ve spent longer in Birmingham now than I did in Manchester, but I have absolutely no intention of closing this chapter any time soon. I know and appreciate this city much better than I ever did Manchester. It and the people I have met here have given me the right opportunities and its helped me get me to where I want to be, with firm structure and plans for taking that even further.

It’s not just work, of course it’s not, and although work is responsible for facilitating many friendships I have made I’ve also built a life outside work. I’ve met new and amazing friends, with many of whom I celebrated my 40th birthday party in the Jewellery Quarter.

I’ve not mentioned any names in this post. It’s not that certain individuals aren’t important to me, they know all too well how important they are to me and they don’t need to be told, and so they don’t need to be named in public. Needless to say they have been instrumental in enriching my life over past the seven years, whether they act in personal, professional, or both those capacities.

I’ve also become physically fit, much fitter than I ever was during my 20s and 30s, something for which I failed to form the required habit for so long, something which I somewhat regret now (but not that much, I’m still enjoying it!). It’s not just about looking good, the fitness is a major contributing factor to my well-being, self-confidence and performance at work. I wish I had done it 20 years ago.

Even the country’s politics are going my way after being dominated the other way during my time in Manchester, what more could I ask for?!

Thank you for reading :)


Selfish smoker in cigarette projectile incident

When are smokers just going to fuck off? I was walking into the station this morning, following a woman that was smoking, which was unpleasant enough. But when she reached the door, after having taken a few desperate last puffs, she flicked her bastard cigarette, which was still lit, behind her and it hit me.

Excuse me!” I exclaimed, “you threw a fag at me!“. I didn’t hear what she then said because I had my iPod turned up loud, but from the expression on her face, her hand gestures and her body language I surmised that she considered it to be my fault. I told her that she was selfish and careless before walking off, since to stick around and argue it further would have probably been fruitless and would have caused me to miss my train.

Seriously, when are smokers going to fucking realise that everyone fucking hates them, take all the fucking hints that are now being rammed down their throats, and give up their despicable, bastard habit? Smoking should be banned from ALL public places, restricted only to private residences. I won’t be happy until smoking is considered more taboo and reprehensible than pedophilia.


The Amazing Eat Properly and Exercise Diet Plan

As regular readers and pretty much anyone who’s seen me in the flesh at any point over the past year will know, I’ve lost an incredible amount of weight in the thirteen months from the middle of November 2006 until now. I’m delighted to announce that in that time I have lost 3st 12lbs (54lbs total, 24.5kg), so just short of 4 stone. I’m really very happy about this; I look very different to how I looked last Christmas and I feel as good as I look.

Observe the following chart by way of illustration. Note that I only started to keep daily weight and body fat records in April, so the first half of the chart is very linear. I knew what I weighed in the middle of November 2006 but have no intermediate data between then and April.

Weight loss since November 2006

Weight loss since November 2006

As you can see I am now very comfortably within healthy ranges for both weight and body fat after previously suffering dramatic excess in both regards. So what’s the secret? As I’ve said before, there really is no rocket science or witchcraft involved. It’s a simple question of eating properly (not “dieting”, as such) and getting regular and effective exercise. It really does work!

My diet is low carbohydrate, low fat, low sugar and high protein. My metabolic type dictates this and it transpires that it’s not actually that necessary for my diet to be low fat, it just so happens that I don’t particularly like fatty foods. The important aspects are that it must be low-carb and that the number of calories ingested in a daily basis must not exceed the resting metabolic rate plus whatever exercise I may do. I avoid foods such as bread, rice, pasta and cereals as these all have high amounts of carbohydrates.

I eat lots of fruit (apples and bananas in particular), meat, eggs, some vegetables (because although I know they’re good for me I’ve never been that mad on them) and I stick to calorie free versions of fizzy drinks (Diet Coke and Coke Zero in particular) when I’m not drinking water. I’ve also cut back on the alcohol, usually restricting it only to weekends and never binge drinking or getting drunk.

My anal attention to detail regarding the gathering, storage and processing of statistics has allowed me to conduct reasonable calculations relating to how I have lost the weight. I keep an accurate record of physical activity, including gym activity and walking. I do a lot of walking since I have no car, live in a city and make extensive use of public transport, so its impact on my fitness is considerable.

I record my physical activities in terms of the estimated number of calories used, which can be reasonably accurately calculated. When doing cardio work in the gym the cardio machines actually tell you how many calories you burn, so that’s easy. For weights and resistance work I use a rough estimate of 2 calories per repetition, which averages out over light reps and heavy reps. Then for walking I calculate the calories based on a reasonable estimation of 300 calories per hour at a normal pace. Research on the Internet suggests that all these estimations are reasonable.

So, during the period in question I have used a total of 62,455 calories through exercise. I also know that I have lost 54lbs in weight. It’s an established fact that 1lb of fat equates to approximately 3,500 calories (that is, to lose 1lb of body fat, one’s body must burn 3,500 calories). 54lbs therefore equates to 189,000 calories, that is, I have created a calorie deficiency of 189,000 over 13 months in order to lose 54lbs of weight.

If I’ve burnt 62,455 calories through exercise then that leaves 126,545 calories lost through eating properly (because “dieting” really is the wrong term). From these figures I’m therefore able to extrapolate the following chart, showing the proportionate methods of weight loss and the number of pounds lost through each method:

Lb loss per activity

Lb loss per activity

My plans for the new year is to not lose any more weight but to concentrate fully on reducing my body fat. I need to maintain my weight, and even put some back on, but keep reducing my body fat by concentrating more on the resistance training and less on the cardio. The eating habits will stay pretty much the same although I will likely have to eat even more protein than I already am.

Yay me, frankly. I’ve worked hard for this an I deserve it. I look good and I feel good and I seem to get a lot more attention these days because of it!


Smoking ban in public places and workplaces

It’s really not come quickly enough, but it’s finally here. As from 6.00am tomorrow morning smoking will be banned in enclosed public places and workplaces in England, following the successful examples already set in Scotland, Wales and a number of other EU countries. I have four words: Thank fuck for that.

No longer will have I have to put up with that revolting smell on my clothes or have smoke blown in my face or endure burns on my arms and shoulders from careless cunts waving their fucking burning cancer sticks around. The irony of this is that I’m going out tonight, on the last night when smoking in a nightclub will be legal, and I’ll bet that people will be smoking more than usual in order to mark the occasion. Still, I’ll be happy in the knowledge that it’ll be the last ever time I have to put up with it.

The jury’s still out on whether or not the smoking ban in other parts of the UK has contributed to an increase in the number of people kicking the habit, but frankly I don’t give a fuck about that, all I care about is that they don’t smoke around me. It’s up to them whether or not they give up, they know the risks, they’re not state secrets. Nobody needs to smoke.

It’s a revolting habit and the only reason why it’s not banned outright is purely because the government would to have to make up the duty revenue lost elsewhere, so smokers can continue to pay their cancer tax as far as I’m concerned, so long as I don’t have to deal with their fucking selfishness in public. Indeed, the only area in which the new law falls short is pavements; it’s still legal to smoke on the pavement, and there’s nothing worse than following a smoker along the pavement who’s blowing smoke over their shoulder.

What I did find amusing, however, was the story that I heard the other day about how designated outdoor “smoking shelters” are now illegal, since they are technically enclosed public spaces and therefore it’s illegal to smoke in them. Where they exist they’re mostly being dismantled, thus forcing the smokers that previously used them to smoke exposed to the elements.

One of the better decisions taken by New Labour and finally implemented under Brown’s New New Labour. More like that please.


Health and Safety idiots

These days, we live in a culture where health and safety is considered to be of paramount importance above all else. Everything is secured and sanitised in order that the possibility of danger is kept to an absolute minimum, and for the most part, this is entirely correct. However, often health and safety rules, regulations and restrictions, dreamt up and put in place by well meaning lawmakers and council officials, are impractical, expensive and inconvenient. Nonetheless, they are forced upon us by these health and safety Nazis under the principle that “it’s for our own good” and that we need to be protected from danger (including ourselves) at all times.

Fine. It’s inconvenient and annoying but the principles are at the end of the day difficult to argue with, so I have to accept it. But there’s one area in which this culture of health and safety seems to be completely ineffectual, and I want to know why. I can’t speak for other places, although I suspect it’s much the same, but in Manchester there’s another annoying “culture”: Stupid pedestrians.

Why are the health and safety handwringers not doing anything to stop people from wandering out in the middle of the road without looking? Where is the council worker with his clipboard and his rulebook when there’s a mother with her push-chair standing between two opposing lanes of traffic waiting to cross the road 50 yards away from a pedestrian crossing? Where is the fat-pensioned civil servant from the Health & Safety Executive when the group of drunken tarts from the University with all their skin hanging out choose to walk along the double yellow lines of Oxford Road in the small hours of the morning instead of the empty pavement? Where is the patronising government advertising campaign that many people quite clearly need to tell them the purpose of and difference between the red man and the green man at traffic light crossings?

Stupid pedestrian culture is clearly very very dangerous, much more dangerous than not having a contrasting border around your electrical sockets, or having your kitchen worksurfaces above a certain maximum height, or not recording every single little bruise and graze in a fucking “accident book”. And yet, nothing is done about it. Why?

I know why. The question was rhetorical. It’s one thing to create rules, regulations and restrictions, it’s quite another to enforce them upon the unwashed masses. Controlling the public as they walk through the streets will be seen as an infringement on civil liberties, and the civil liberties/human rights handwringers can wring their hands a lot harder than any health and safety handwringer could possibly ever dream of doing.

It’s still not right though, and it fucking pisses me off.