Sep. 18th, 2017 11:27 pm
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[personal profile] lupestripe
I've been learning to play guitar now for seven weeks, finally realising a lifelong dream after being inspired by Ash from the movie 'Sing'. During that time, I have been surprisingly disciplined, with me using the hour after I get back from the gym when I am drying off after my shower to practice. This has seen me practice at least three times a week, and in actual fact I have managed to squeeze a few extra sessions in too.

It's going quite well so far. I've started to memorise where the frets and strings are, and can change between a handful of chords pretty seemlessly, which is a significant improvement on where I was. I can play a handful of songs too, with Rocksmith helping me, and my target of being reasonably competent by Christmas is still looking realistic. The best thing about it though is that I am enjoying it, and have a target of playing on the stage at EF next year with some friends. That would be awesome.

I do struggle to stick with things, but the fact I've done this for nearly two months bodes well. I just hope I can keep improving.


Sep. 10th, 2017 10:01 pm
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[personal profile] lupestripe
The Leeds International Beer Festival is always one of the highlights of the year and this time around proved the same, with us tasting 30 beers over the course of two highly charged evenings.

I got to the queue very early on Friday, and thus found myself very near the front. In a shock, Wolfie was already on his way in, and joined me some twenty minutes later. Granted, he pushed in line, but there was a bloke in front of us who had pushed in too. Anyway, this meant we were amongst the first to be served and we got a prime spot on one of the scaffolding balconies underneath the main entrance of the Town Hall. Sadly, they had taken all the tables away this year and replaced them with deckchairs, but the weather was warm and it was pleasant sitting outside.

Our first beers were six of the seven from this year's International Rainbow Project, with some definitely being stronger than the others. They were all rare one-time only brews though so it was worth having a sample. After this, we opted to go international, with us trying Sweet Water, the only American brewery of which we hadn't heard there. It was around this time that I noticed the Sierra Nevada guys were doing a tasting of Narwahl, a rare beer we had not had at the brewery, so we popped along for a guzzle. Only a handful knew what this was, and it wasn't that well-advertised, so as Wolfie was playing on one of the retro arcade machines, the chappie came over again to top up our glasses.

We sampled some excellent food across the two days - Piggy Smalls hot dogs and poutine living in the memory - but the burger we had at the end of Friday wasn't the greatest. Wolfie was feeling a little ill by this point and so for the first time ever, we left the Festival early. It was about an hour early but I was pretty pissed off about it, wanting to try a few more brews. In hindsight it was for the best though as Wolfie really was quite sick when we got home. I don't think it was the beer though, rather the lack of food as his work meant he hadn't had chance to eat much before coming out.

With time to kill during the day on Saturday, I managed to get a quick trip to the gym in. We also headed into town slightly early as we needed to pick up an International Driving Permit for a forthcoming holiday. Only Leeds City Centre Post Office issues them apparently, so we had to get it sorted. Here I decided to weight a number of things on their scales - Wolfie's credit card was heavier than their pen - which amused the staff somewhat. Then, with a little time to kill, we headed to BrewDog North Street for a beer. It was a shame that BrewDog weren't at the beer festival and I noted they were at Beavertown's Expo in London, which makes me wonder how committed they now are to local craft beer. It's been a year of disappointments with them really, what with them selling out too, and my love for them has definitely waned.

Back in the queue for the beer festival, we bumped into three charming beer drinkers, all of whom looked like teenagers. They were very knowledgeable though and we had a good half hour of beery discussion as we waited. Towards the end, an old chap walked up saying he was filming a documentary on his phone, and said he had asked all the ladies what real ale is, and he couldn't get an answer from them. Our new friend put him in his place, but he was a bit strange. Anyway, we were soon let in, and decided to focus on UK breweries - although we did have a cheeky Spontan or two from the excellent Mikkeller. We had aimed to have low strengths but every brewery I went to, when I asked them to recommend the rarer beers they had on, always pointed to the higher value ABV ones. There were a number of breweries I had not tried before there - Left Handed Giant, Legitimate Industries, Mondo, Tempest, Elusive and Odyssey - to name them, and it was good experiencing their excellent work. It was quite a chatty affair and I got speaking to a number of their staff, who all claimed how delighted they were to have come. I also got chatting to two gentlemen in the toilets who were talking about Middlesbrough and its environs while having a pee, while our friends at Raynville were there again too and it was great catching up with them. Indeed, the whole evening was rather friendly and it was sad to leave at the end, although probably for the best due to the state of inebriation I was in. It didn't hit me until I got home, but then it was particularly bad. Not good at all.

Today was largely a recovery day, although we did go into Leeds to meet Tonks and Cosmo. They wanted taking through the fursuit walk for next week's meet, while we also took the opportunity to search for new venues too. They were very receptive and we have come up with some very interesting ideas for the future of the meet, so I'm looking forward to what these may hold. We also grabbed a couple of drinks too, ending in Head of Steam as Tonks wanted some Kwak. After this, they headed up to Trinity while we went to new restaurant Georges on the Headrow. Self-styled British cuisine with a twist, this is one of the most exquisite restaurants in the city. We had a cod dog - a battered fish hot dog with mushy pea filling - with stilton chips and by God were they delicious. Heavenly even, and at just £9.99, fantastic value. Their range of balsamic vinegars were to die for too and the whole set-up was first rate. Definitely one to come back to.

Brexit Means Ex-Brit

Sep. 6th, 2017 10:58 pm
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[personal profile] lupestripe
My hopes weren't particularly high this week as MPs returned to Parliament after the Summer recess, but even I didn't expect the last 48 hours to be so disheartening. It is clear that any humility that the General Election result last June had on the Tories has since dissipated, with the hardest of hard Brexits back on the agenda. Their sheer arrogance regarding their lack of accommodation for the 48% is bitter enough, but with every poll I have seen suggesting the British public prefers maintaining membership of the Single Market over immigration controls, I am not convinced this 'will of the people' shtick holds water any more. Not that this would bother them of course, their mendacity has been evident since the vote took place, but the sheer flagrancy of their duplicity has dissolved any trust I have in the British political system and I no longer believe that my own Government has my interests in mind. Indeed I think precisely the opposite and riseable language such as 'betrayal' and 'Remoaners', which was used in Parliament on Tuesday despite the knowledge that so many livelihoods will be affected by this, only adds to the sense that they just don't give a fuck. Their lack of empathy is disgusting and if my country doesn't give a fuck about me, then I don't see why I should give a fuck about my country. I am genuinely surprised by my depth of feeling on this, but then this whole sorry mess is totally self-inflicted. Blaming the EU butters no parsnips with me.

This strength of feeling was only enhanced yesterday evening with the leaked document on the potential post-Brexit immigration system in the Guardian. While this has yet to be signed off by ministers, this document was far worse than I had dared imagine and would pretty much put us out of business. Working in translation - with a strong need to have UK-based staff using specialist audio and video equipment - we have taken advantage of EU free movement rules to build a strong international team. They have worked symbiotically with our UK staff, with our ability to fulfil foreign language requirements almost invariably securing work in English too. This has enabled us to build our company, particularly over the last five years, boosting employment for both British nationals and Europeans.

All of this has now been threatened. Having dealt with the Home Office when trying to recruit non-EU staff on a permanent basis two years ago, the thought of having to go through this time-consuming and torturous procedure for every non-British employee would involve such huge levels of bureaucracy that it almost wouldn't be worth doing. It would certainly make things a lot more costly for us, reducing our competitiveness, yet we would have no option but to do it (and probably pay for the privilege too). The fact is that British nationals do not have the skills we need and never will - translation needs to be done by native speakers and even if it wasn't, how many Brits speak fluent Romanian or Bulgarian? - yet will our needs be considered above more profitable 'highly skilled' industries such as finance or tech? I highly doubt it. We'd likely slip through the cracks.

The EU nationals we currently employ are concerned about their rights and daren't plan their futures (thus affecting our own) while it is looking increasingly likely we won't be able to recruit the staff we need post-2019 based on the aforementioned system. The fact that it has been explicitly stated that the Government, rather than the employer, will decide on business need is a gross intrusion on our freedoms in itself but the inability to have a flexible workforce will invariably mean we will lose out on contracts to European competitors. This would reduce investment in the UK. We employ a number of freelance staff, and as self-employed workers it's highly likely they won't be allowed into the country at all, while I don't see any highly skilled worker coming to the UK for only 3-5 years when they can go to any other European company indefinitely. Why would they? As a result, where would we get the staff we need?

The second kicking came today, this time through the Labour Party. Their proposal to ban gambling sponsorship in football, combined with the triennial review of the industry due next month, will result in significant new restrictions on betting companies, which form the majority of our clients. As we provide value added services to them, it is possible that these may be cut, thus adversely affecting the company. Gambling seems to be the latest boogieman, with sustained media campaigns against the industry distorting the truth behind the statistics. Granted there are issues, particularly regarding FOBTs, but they have been somewhat exaggerated and the number of jobs under threat by these new laws is not something which should be considered lightly. Still, as we have seen with Brexit, if the media are on a crusade then they will continue to battle until they get what they want, which again results in a feeling of powerlessness over the politics of your own country.

All of this combined suggests that both major parties are not interested in the future of our business and are adopting policies which would actually harm us. We employ around 400 people, contribute a huge chunk to the local economy and have strong links with the local universities, offering placements and work experience to those who approach us. However, it is clear that our concerns are of no interest to those in power.

Consequently, having spoken to Wolfie, we have decided we will leave the UK in 2018 unless something drastic changes. I see this as being unlikely. I am still hoping to open a branch office for my company within the EU, which would enable me to live and work in a member state. My bosses have been lukewarm about the proposal thus far, but at least have been willing to listen, and I feel the immigration document has highlighted the need to consider this further. I really would like to do this - particularly as it would represent the next step regarding career progression - but I understand if my employers decide against it. However, I do think it would be advantageous for them too. Either way, I will be leaving the UK next year and although I do hope it will be with my current company, if it isn't then so be it. I haven't been happy here for some time and I am sick of feeling like this. It has always been my dream to live in Europe and with the door closing, it's time to act. It's earlier than I would have liked, but it is what it is. I just hope I'm not too late.

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