What’s In The Bag? 2018 Edition

So, I’ve began thinking of ideas for blog posts so that at least I’m writing 2 or 3 times a year rather than once or twice every 2 years. An example of a blog post I thought that I quite like is “What’s In The Bag?” posts I’ve seen doing the round. It’s interesting to see how people’s bags and rucksacks develop over time, so I thought I’d do mine. Here’s my bag, and what’s currently in it – as well as it numbered so you can easily follow below. Or I think easy to follow – my graphics skills aren’t the best!

  1. Wiwa OnePack – This was a fairly ill advised kickstarter, but it came through and it’s decent. A roomy backback which is easy to carry and two major compartments, one fairly roomy main backpack designed for 2 or 3 night stays (I will disagree mind), and a “work” area for laptops and notebooks. It is an okay backpack, slightly soured by how long it took, but it’s okay.
  2. 2015 Macbook Pro – Love, love, love this machine! Absolute beast and runs along quite nicely. Still only 3 years old and whilst I covered it with stickers it’s still chugging along without any problems. I wish the hard drive was bigger though. Charger is beginning to get the same issue all chargers for the Mac seem to suffer.
  3. World Civilization Laptop Sleeve – Because I’m forever dreaming of going away and this is a useful laptop sleeve.
  4. PROGRESS Wrestling Tote Bag – always need to be representing my fellow ultras.
  5. 7dayshop Aero Freedom Noise Cancelling Bluetooth Headphones – My hearing is poor, and I like the Noise Cancelling aspect. It’s pretty decent in noise cancelling, compared to earphones.
  6. Clas Ohlson USB Double Charging Plug & EU Plug Adapter – after a trip to Italy where I forgot all my plugs and adapters, I’ve made a reason to always carry these two items in my bag, so I’m not without power.
  7. Puridea Phone Power Bank – A decent sized (10000mAh) charger. It’s slightly too big for my liking, but it can fit in my bag and not take up too much room.
  8. Small Notebooks – Used for small note taking, such as – for example – when I’m giving a talk (I used one for my WP Leeds talk recently).
  9. Nifty Kitchen Bento Box – Love this little Bento Box! I’d highly recommend anybody to get a Bento Box. I cook for 2 and now eat a delicious lunch the next day. It’s expensive for a lunchbox, but it’s save me more money in return.
  10. WordCamp Manchester 2015 Tote Bag – as you can never have enough tote bags, this was from WordCamp Manchester 2015, one I helped organise.
  11. Business Cards Holders – Holding business cards for Winwar Media as well as stickers for Winwar & WP Email Capture.
  12. LFC Notebook – Used for taking meeting notes, more long form writing that I need to do occasionally.
  13. Intelligent Change Productivity Planner – I’ve started using this to plan my days. It’s pretty good but I’m still getting the hang of it. Will let you know how it goes but it’s working with my Pomodoro technique, though one task every day may just be “Small Work jobs on my Remember The Milk list”
  14. (Above 12) Belkin Boost Up Wireless Charger – I thought this was a fad, as was the Treasure Truck, but I bought this on The Amazon Treasure Truck and it was a good purchase. Just makes my life easier. Can be temperamental at times though.
  15. (Above 13) Small Tin full of USB Cables & Bits and Bobs – I bought the tin in Dublin, as on my flight to Dublin I broke my USB cable, leaving me in trouble for a week stay there. This keeps the cables safe and secure. This does contain the Volutz Charging USB Cables, which are the best USB cables I’ve ever owned, so tough!

Anyway, that’s what’s in my bag, what’s in yours? Leave them in the comments!

Parties And Belgrade

“How have you enjoyed your stay here? Well I hope you come back again, but if not, I do hope you come back to Belgrade. You are always welcome here.”

Those were the parting words of the receptionist of Hotel Inn Belgrade as I left after a week in the Serbian capital. It felt like it summed up my stay in the Serbian capital. People are really friendly here. Like bordering on the “Why are you being so nice?” friendly. It was bordering on the unnerving and it was for the first day, but eventually you find a city full of warm, hospitible people who want to sell their city to you so you tell everybody about them.

Mission, accomplished.

I arrived early afternoon, and then immediately I went on a Belgrade Walking Tour, which was fascinating as well as slightly drunken due to the spirit given towards the end of the tour (thanks Godaddy for sponsoring!). After a bit of food (unfortunately I cannot remember the name of the place I attended) the night was capped off at the absolutely fabulous Samo Pivo, a craft beer bar located in an underpass. This was a real gem of a place and I was sad I only went once during my time in Belgrade. From the underpass you are lead to an outside terrace with a fascinating view of the city.

The second day I spent looking through the Nikola Tesla Museum as well as The Serbian National Bank, both fun little distractions and diversions. The evening was eventually resulted in food at Ambar, with their “All you can eat for 2990 Dinar” (about £20), we had a great filling meal that went on for hours, with many beers. Top. Notch. I cannot remember what it was, but there was an absolutely delicious hazelnut butter that was to die for. I cannot remember anything else about it, but it was superb, as was much of the food there.

The next day saw the kick off of the World Cup, and I ended up in another cracking bar – Berlin Monroe. Located off a car park in the old town, this craft beer bar has a great staff, friendly service and a superb selection of Serbian craft beers. No food is served, but there’s a pizza place nearby that does massive pizzas for not much money.

The rest of the holiday was spent mainly at the aforementioned WordCamp Europe, which you can read more about that if you so desire here. But here you are after pictures aren’t you? Here’s some of my top snaps from the trip.

Race to 100 err…103 grounds complete

Bloody England.

And Bloody Wales.

And Bloody Worcester City.

So I have been embarking on a trip to see as many football teams play in as many stadiums as possible. I had hoped to reach 100 by the end of the season, and I did! I thought I’d did it on a Tuesday in mid April when I went through the turnstiles at Deepdale (home of Preston North End), ticking off my 100th ground.

Or so I thought.

Turns out, like all brilliant minds do every now and again, I had miscalculated. I had seen 100 different teams playing at various stadiums. However, I’d actually ticked off a fair few already.

Let me explain using my beloved Wales.

Ask me if I seen Wales play at home, then I would say “Yes”. I had. However I’d seen them play in two different venues that they call “Home”: The Millenium Stadium & Cardiff City Stadium. Same applies to England (Old Trafford & Wembley) and Worcester City (St George’s Lane & Aggborough). Like Phileas Fogg, I’d well and truly screwed up my calculations and actually achieved more than I thought.

So in actual fact, my 100th ground – Ramsbottom United vs Colwyn Bay – was completed on a cold Spring evening in Late March, making Preston, Blackpool, and my trip to bloody Genoa rather redundant.

Oh well.

All in all, I feel a weird sense of pride with my achievement. It’s means nothing, didn’t make me healthier, didn’t raise money for a charity or even do something for somebody. It was selfish, it was selfish bloody minded stubbornness for something that impressed only me and a few other people. I don’t think I’d even put it on my Tinder bio.

But I don’t care, as for this journey, there has been a weird solace for me within a WhatsApp group. Two of my friends from university heard about the challenge and decided to go for their own challenge related to it. One of which was to hit 100, another was to hit 50. If absolutely nothing else, as I hurtle to my mid 30’s, I’m glad that I’ve managed to reclaim and spend some quality time with two great friends. That has been what has made the last 6 or so month’s special.

I’ve not decided if I’m continuing to 200, or 250, or whatever. This isn’t swimming: the next 100 will probably be harder, but I’ve paired with one of my friends and we’ve started a little instagram account for groundhopping. You can see it here at @ystbah. Please give us a follow!

Anyway, now onto some stats!

  • Most Northerly ground – Firhill, Glasgow (Partick Thistle)
  • Most Easterly & Southerly ground – GSP Stadium, Nicosia (Cyprus)
  • Most Westerly ground – Giants Stadium, New York (New York Red Bulls)
  • I’ve watched football matches in 13 different countries: Andorra, Belgium, Cyprus, England, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Republic of Ireland, Scotland, Switzerland, United States and Wales.
  • I’ve watched football at 59% of the teams in the Evostik Divison 1 North, my most populous league.
  • I’ve seen football played in 23 competitions: European Championships, World Cup Qualifications, European Championship Qualifications, Champions League, Europa League, Premier League, Championship, League 1, League 2, Conference North, Evostik Premiership, Evostik Division 1 North, Evostik Division 1 South, North West Counties Premier League, FA Cup, League Cup, FA Trophy, League of Wales, Cymru Alliance, League of Ireland, Scottish Premiership, Bundesliga & Serie A.

Anyway, here’s a map!

Anyway, if you have any questions or anything, I’m opening the comments up to an unofficial AMA, if you have any questions for my escapades, leave them in the comments!

The Genova Project

As the developer of a popular email list building plugin for WordPress, I usually spout how email marketing works really well, it was just before Christmas that I experienced it first hand.

I was feeling a bit down before Christmas. I had used up all my holiday and it was wet, cold and miserable. An easyjet email said "We're now flying from Manchester to Genoa in late March". "Au contraire!", I said, "am flying from Manchester to Genoa in late March". Bish bash bosh, done. I've something to look forward to, and come late March (last week), I was ready for my trip to Genoa. Much, much needed.

I arrived in Genoa late on Thursday on a comfortable flight, and whilst I arrived successfully, I had a problem with the ticket machine. First tip: The ticket machine didn't take €20 notes and the cash machine only dispenses in €20 notes. I ended up changing the €6 bus to the centre to a €40 taxi unfortunately, and I only realised after getting into the taxi I that there was a shop there, d'oh! I could have changed €20 for a €1 bottle of water and change for the bus. Ah well. Live and learn.

Rest of the short break was incredible though, and my thoughts (obviously) quickly turned to food. I ended up going to the wonderful Pasta Street, a reasonably priced eatery with a Carbonara to die for. After deliberately getting lost on the way back to the hotel and finding a wine bar for a nightcap I had a relatively early night.

I'm so glad I had an early night as on my second day I was off to Portofino, which is a UNESCO world heritage site. It's an hour or so away by train or 20 minutes by boat….I didn't have a boat. Leaving early was a great idea as I arrived just before lunch, and the clouds were beginning to turn a deep dark grey. I managed to avoid the weather though and walked to the lighthouse and back. My only regret? I wish I done it 10 years ago, when I still lived in Wales and hill walks were a normal occurrance.

Lunch was Pasta and Pesto (one of the Genovan specialities, along with Foccaccia) at Ristorante da I Gemelli di Paolo & Matteo Portofino. Food was okay but the view more than made up for it, overlooking the touristy harbour and the waves cooly rocking the shore.

After an ice cream and souvenir shopping I headed to Santa Margherita Ligure, a larger port and fishing town about 15 minutes away. I headed there for a leisurely stroll along the promenade (the rain was still holding out but threatening), and a cheeky Peroni. It was a pretty place but I wouldn't drive here – the bus from Santa Margherita Ligure to Portofino was borderline lethal, and I apologised to a small lass who's head met my shoulder after a hard brake.

The evening out was spent having a decent meal (surprise surprise) before relaxing in a funky little dive bar called Alla Goccia Chupiteria. It wasn't a late one, as my Saturday was huge.

Saturday was meant to be a day spent worshipping the Italian religion of football, but unfortunately it wasn't to be. My original plan was to go to the Genoa Football Museum, Genova vs SPAL in Serie A, and then Juventus vs Milan on the telly box. Unfortunately, the Genoa Football Museum was shut. Instead I consoled myself by going to Galeone Neptune – which is a huge Galleon Pirate Ship (replica) used on films. I had a great time, even if Trip Advisor says it's not worth it. I feel it is probably my love for Sea of Thieves which what appealed to me, but I had a great hour or so dicking about on the boat like I was a child again.

I then went to eat in Eataly, which was a decent group of restaurants located on the harbour. I had Clam Spaghetti which was amazing, and then headed to Genoa vs SPAL for the football – which you can read about here on my football instagram account – You're Supposed to Be At Home. Give it a follow!

The evening was spent trying to find somewhere that showed the Juventus/AC Milan game, but I was surprised very few bars had TV's with football on. It was strange. Instead I ended up at the wonderful 28 Erbe, chatting to the locals, people watching, having a few beers and ruing the fact I found my favourite bar on the last day of my holiday.

The final day was spent back in Eataly having some more gorgeous fish, as well as spending a short while walking around the pretty Palazzi dei Rolli, before getting a flight back home.

So what of Genoa then? Well, I loved the food and drink, I don't think I ate a bad meal in 3 days. I wish I had one more day to visit – 4 days I feel is enough to see all the wonderful city had to offer, and I wish I had been a bit quicker on the uptake of various attractions such as the massive aquarium. I also now fly up stairs and hills after dealing with the hilly nature of the city for a few days, but I had a great time. I was on the first flight to the city from Manchester, but if you're on one of the later ones – do it.

Thirty-Four

This weekend I turn thirty-four.

It’s been quite a weird year. Thirty-three wasn’t a great year, starting off incredibly rubbish due to losing Bonnie and going through a breakup. July was when things started improving, thanks to some cool people coming into my life, and also reconnecting with some old ones (mainly the Manchester SEO crowd thanks to events like Media Poker), and although since about October 2017 I was pretty much waiting for the year to be over.

2018 has started well, I feel more focused, and more driven. I think the waiting for the year to end wasn’t necessarily the best course of action, but I’ve definitely got a plan for 2018 going forward. It’s going well so far too. Yes, this is vagueblogging. More will hopefully be revealed soon.

Regarding the things I love, I travelled to a new country for the first time whilst being 33 (Ireland). My Germanophile nature was fed further as a long weekend in Köln was spent following my love of professional wrestling, as well as falling in love with Berlin in November. I also took my main holiday in the UK for the first time since 2012 with a week spent in London and Brighton. I played a bunch of new games and my time playing video games has creeped up. Gym has taken a hit, but I’m walking a lot more these days. I also think I drink less, and eat slightly better.

Now, suggested by Nichola Stott, here is the first of what I hope will be an ongoing series, here is my life-by-life comparison with Reese Witherspoon.


Rhys (With a Spoon)
Rhys (With a Spoon)

Reese Witherspoon
Age Nearly 34 Nearly 42
Oscars (Nominated) 0 1
Books Written 1 0
Marriages 0 2
Children 0 3
WordPress Plugins Written 10 0

I'm not sure how much further I can compare my life to Reese Witherspoon, so if you have any suggestions, leave them in the comments!

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