Kyle's Blog
Welcome to my zone

Dec
19

If you read one of my earlier posts, you will be aware that I moved to Berlin. I’ve been here for pretty much a month now, and like any great transition, it’s had its highs and lows.

So I arrived late on 16th November at Berlin Schönefeld Airport, where I waited for Katja to come meet me (she landed at Tegel an hour before me and  therefore made her way to meet up with me). Naturally, we headed straight for what would be our home for the following two weeks. It’s a flat in the Neukölln region of Berlin, and it belongs to a very nice former lecturer of mine, whom some of you may know of. Anyway, the flat was in very good condition, and had everything we could want from a temporary place to stay.

Despite this, we couldn’t rest on our laurels, and soon had to intensify our search for a more permanent accommodation. In the first week we had a few viewings, some of which were potenitally good, but not ideal, where others were simply out of the question. For instance, one was just 2 rooms, a bathroom and a kitchen – absolutely no furniture, the walls were unpainted, and the floors needed replacing. It needed renovating, which wasn’t possible for us on our budget. Anyway, in the second week we had luck. Katja went and viewed a flat in Lichtenberg (in the former GDR part of Berlin), which was fully furnished (internet too) and not too expensive. It was only a Zwischenmiete (temporary renting)  though, but it will last until 30.05.10 at least with the possibility of an extension. We wasted no time in agreeing on it and signing the contract.

On  moving in it became apparent that the flat wasn’t quite as perfect as first thought, but it was nothing that couldn’t be improved with a couple of trips to Ikea and some elbow grease. Well, with the exception of the fridge (if you can call it that). Basically the fridge is a fridge-freezer combo, but the fridge compartment doesn’t work at all. However, the freezer is warm enough to act as a fridge and thus not cold enough to be a freezer, so we’re using that as our fridge and just not buying any frozen foods (not that we would buy much anyway). So the flat is now looking very presentable and homely thanks to our hard work.

Unsere Wohnung

Typical of Germany, the burocracy has been a challenge. It’s been a common theme since we’ve been here that authorities contradict one another. For example, within the first couple of days we went to the Ausländerbehörde (Foreign Authority) to find some clarity in the matters surrounding residency and work permits. We waited there for about an hour and they told both Katja and I, fully knowing that we were from Latvia and the UK respectively, that we would NOT require neither of these documents for we are EU citizens. However, a couple of weeks later, we got round to visiting the Agentur für Arbeit (Job Centre) where I had no problems. Katja on the other hand was told that because she was from Latvia, she would need a work permit. Therefore, she had to go back to the Foreign Authority and request a work permit, which can take up  to 2 months… She was also told she couldn’t even look for work in that time, but this was again contradicted by another branch of the Job Centre, who said she could  only look for specialist jobs (i.e. those that are relevant to her degree of study, and not jobs like waitress or cleaner). Luckily registering our address at the Bürgeramt (Citizen Centre) wasn’t so complicated, though I wouldn’t say it was smooth.

As far as work is concerned, it’s been more encouraging than it was for me in England, which is something. However, it’s not enough and although I’ve had a decent amount of interviews (and a trial day), none of them have amounted to anything for one reason or another. It was perhaps a mistake of mine to go for Praktika (internships) as many of these a very low-paid, if paid at all, which was the stumbling block in some of my interviews. Although we have nothing concrete employment-wise, I’m still confident that one of us can find a job before it becomes too late. I always have something on the go, like for instance an internet gaming company approached me yesterday about a position working in customer service where I would be the first point of contact for English-speaking customers. The job also involves some translation, which will be invaluable as it’s ultimately what I’d like to do as a career. More importantly, it pays! Fingers crossed it works out.

Aside from the burocracy, the flat hunting, and job searching, we have found a bit of time to enjoy this wonderful city we find ourselves in. I’ve never lived in a capital city. I mean, Southampton is the biggest town/city that I’ve lived in. In a city like Berlin, there is always something exciting going on, and often in many parts of the city. I mean, it’s Christmas time and Berlin’s tourist attractions are literally drowning in Weihnachtsmärkte (Christmas markets), which is great. Last night we went to one of the Christmas markets on Alexanderplatz inbetween the Fernsehturm (TV Tower) and the Rotes Rathaus (Red Townhall) to drink some Glühwein (Mulled wine) with the couple we are renting the flat from. They are also a multicultural couple like Katja and myself – an Egyptian called Ahmed and his Ukrainian girlfriend, who strangely enough is also called Katja… Anyway, it was nice despite the bitterly cold conditions. I think it was about -14°C!

Berlin Wall Memorial at Alexanderplatz with Christmas markets in the background

That brings me nicely onto the weather. The British do love talking about the weather and I’m not different. Actually the weather wasn’t so bad up until the last week or so. We had our first spot of snow last Saturday and things have just become colder and colder.

It’s Christmas in less than a week, and I’m expecting a Christmas distinctly different from the one I’m used to. It’s my first Christmas away from my family, so it will be strange. However, it will be nice for me and Katja to share Christmas together and will be very exciting to spend this festive period in such a city like Berlin. As I mentioned previously, there is always something going on here.

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Nov
12

The other day I came to realise how big 2009 has been for new music. By “new music”, I mean newly released albums, not necessarily new artists (though there have been a notable couple). Anyway, as we are coming to the close of 2009, I decided it would be nice to take a look back on some of the musical works that have mattered to me this year. Evidently, not all the albums that have influenced me are likely to have influenced you, the reader, and vice versa, but I hope you find this interesting nonetheless.

(N.B. Albums are listed in chronological order of their respective UK release dates)

Album: Relapse
Artist: Eminem
Release Date: 15.05.2009

2009 started slowly for music, hence the lack of any (IMHO) worthwhile album release until mid-May to comment upon. It’s therefore fitting that the first album to be reviewed is one that Eminem fans have been waiting 5 years for, ever since the release of Encore in 2004. The obvious question is whether this album was worth the wait. For me, the answer is ‘no’, but that doesn’t necessarily mean Eminem has failed. I think it was an album that really promised much, but didn’t quite deliver. At first unimpressed by the album’s first single release, ‘We Made You’, the song did grow on me. The second single, ‘Beautiful’, was by far the best track, which makes me wonder why Eminem wastes so many album minutes with his tacky comical raps, when his more meaningful songs are in my opinion the most lasting. You ask someone to name as many Eminem songs as they can, and I’m sure ‘Stan’ would be one of the first mentioned. As an album, it’s not a classic, but it does contain a gem or two.

Album: West Ryder Pauper Lunatic Asylum
Artist: Kasabian
Release Date: 05.06.2009

Kasabian are one of those bands that will never create anything memorable, but they do have a knack of producing music worth listening to. This most recent release is much like their previous two in the sense that it doesn’t quite deliver as an album, but does boast some real quality songs. Tracks that fall into this category are ‘Underdog’ (initially known as the music from the Kaka advert), ‘Where Did All The Love Go?’ and the very cool ‘Fire’. My favourite song however, is the jumpy ‘Vlad The Impaler’, the video for which stars comedian Noel Fielding. The song provides something new and original, with its relentless drum beat and rough vocals.

Album: The E.N.D (The Energy Never Dies)
Artist: Black Eyed Peas
Release Date: 09.06.2009

I can’t say I was a fan of Black Eyed Peas up until this album, though I must admit I quite liked ‘Let’s Get Retarded’/’Let’s Get It Started’. When the first single to be taken from this two-disc album, ‘Boom Boom Pow’, hit the music channels, I was relatively unmoved. However, the more I heard the song, the more it grew on me. The song is presented as if it were being mixed by a DJ at a club, and I like this idea. I decided to give the album a go on the basis of this song, and I was pleasantly surprised. The highlight for me however, is a remix of the song ‘Don’t Phunk With My Heart’, renamed ‘Don’t Phunk Around’. There is a strong jazzy influence that works really well, and is probably my favourite song off the album. They also remix ‘Pump It’ (‘Pump It Harder’), ‘Let’s Get Retarded’ (‘Let’s Get Re-Started’) and ‘Shut Up’ (‘Shut the Phunk Up’), which are all worth a listen.

Album: Octahedron
Artist: The Mars Volta
Release Date: 22.06.2009

Anyone who knows me will know that I love The Mars Volta. I just can’t get enough of their weird and wonderful ways. They are not a band that likes to rest on their laurels, which explains their constantly evolving nature, and also explains why, only 16 months after their previous release, The Bedlam In Goliath, they are already pushing out a new album. Lead singer, Cedric Bixler-Zavala, stated that this album would be their version of an acoustic album:

“We know how people can be so linear in their way of thinking, so when they hear the new album, they’re going to say, ‘This is not an acoustic album! There’s electricity throughout it!’ But it’s our version. That’s what our band does — celebrate mutations. It’s our version of what we consider an acoustic album.”

This considered, it’s really no surprise to find that only two songs (of eight) fall under that category. In spite of this, the album definitely has another atmosphere to it, which they seem to accomplish with every CD they’ve produce. One of the many reasons I’m in awe of them. This album definitely has a strong sense of eeriness about it. Though this element has hardly been vacant in previous works, it appears to me to be more potent in this case. The album also demonstrates the use of a lot of synthesizers, which introduce, as well as end many of the songs. Notable songs are: ‘Since We’ve Been Wrong’ – a delicately crafted song until midway through when the drums explode in, yet the song still somehow maintains it’s intricacy; ‘Teflon’ – carried by a simple yet powerful drumbeat, this song is probably the creepiest in terms of lyrics as we hear about tyres stacked up around a body whilst on fire, and if that wasn’t enough, we get an insight into life as a terrorist; ‘Desperate Graves’ – a song which can be described as a frantic masterpiece, displaying a soaring beat dressed with some very melodic guitar work, but the highlight is the interlude, which manifests some truly powerful vocal work; ‘Luciforms’ – after 1:38mins of synth, this final song begins and soon reaches the chorus, the guitar in which can only be described as frenzied. Then, halfway through the song, it goes up a gear, as the drums pick up and more musical facets are introduced, climaxing with a long, yet insane guitar solo. Beautiful.

Album: Black Clouds and Silver Linings
Artist: Dream Theater
Release Date: 23.06.2009

This provides exactly what you’d expect from a Dream Theater album. Complex riffs, frequent shifts in tempo and mood. The special edition of this album actually boast three discs. The first being the actual album, plain and simple, the second is a concoction of cover songs, and the third disc contains instrumental versions of songs from disc one. My personal favourite is disc two, with the most noteworthy songs being a medley of Queen songs (‘Tenement Funster’, ‘Flick Of The Wrist’ and ‘Lily Of The Valley’), Dixie Dregs’ ‘Odyssey’ and ‘Larks’ Tongues In Aspic, Part Two’ by the magnificent King Crimson. On the whole, the album is a worthwhile listen for any fan of Dream Theaters music, but nothing more.

Album: Lungs
Artist: Florence And The Machine
Release Date: 06.07.2009

In my opinion the best debut album to surface this year, and certainly one of the overall best albums of 2009 in its own right. I first encountered Florence And The Machine when they performed a song on Jonathan Ross’ talk show earlier this year and I was instantly intrigued, but nothing more. Then I saw the video for the same song, ‘Rabbit Heart (Raise It Up)’, and knew I had to hear more. I wasn’t disappointed. From beginning to end, Lungs grips you with powerful vocals, mesmeric drumbeats and a harp! Nobody can contest the fact that this album demonstrates originality, and aside from the tracks released as singles, still impresses,  particularly with the hypnotic ‘Drumming’ and the dreamy ‘Between Two Lungs’ to name but a few.

Album: Conditions
Artist: The Temper Trap
Release Date: 10.08.2009

If anyone isn’t familiar with the band nor album, they may well be familiar with their only hit to date. The song ‘Sweet Disposition’ was used in a Sky Sports advert promoting the start of the 09/10 Premier League season – the one with Mourinho saying the word ‘Special’ a lot. Anyway, maybe it was because of this advert, but I came to really like the song, so I took a chance on the album. I would describe their style Sigur Rós but with more guitars. They definitely show the kind of melodic vocals you would associate with Sigur Rós, though the lyrics are definitely more comprehensible. It’s a decent album and I would definitely recommend it.

Album: Catch 22
Artist: Tinchy Stryder
Release Date: 17.08.2009

I’m not sure what genre this album would fall under – hip hop, rap, grime – but regardless of that, it would probably be the best album of that genre of 2009. However, that isn’t to say that it’s perfect. Tinchy Stryder has a very simple but effective style, but the downside of that, is that it means many of his songs sound quite similar. This also isn’t helped by the fact that there are a massive 18 tracks on the album, which I feel is a little excessive. What is actually Tinchy’s second full-length album, Catch 22, does however possess a few songs that really stand out. Singles ‘Number 1’ (featuring Dappy) and ‘You’re Not Alone’ are the obvious ones, but ‘Warning’ and ‘Shake Me are also worthwhile tracks. Tinchy seems to have what it takes to succeed in the music industry and I can only see him going from strength to strength.

Album: Humbug
Artist: Arctic Monkeys
Release Date: 21.08.2009

I’m certainly not the biggest Arctic Monkeys fan, but they are definitely well worth a listen. Their third studio album, Humbug, has lived up to this, but not exceeded it. Like their two preceding albums, Humbug isn’t the most consistent. By this, I mean that it’s rather ‘hit and miss’. ‘Crying Lightning’ is one of the highlights with it’s boorish bass and reverberating guitars, along with album-opener ‘My Propeller’, ‘Dangerous Animals’ and my personal favourite, ‘Pretty Visitors’. The other songs are rather indistinctive, which is disappointing. It would appear that the Arctic Monkeys popularity may actually begin to wane, which would have been unthinkable three or four years ago.

Album: The Blueprint 3
Artist: Jay-Z
Release Date: 17.08.2009

I never really ‘got’ Jay-Z in the past, but I recently listened to a bit of his older stuff to see what all the fuss was about. Anyway, I can see why he’s so popular, but in my opinion, there only seems to be 2 or 3 decent songs per album. His most recent release has done nothing to change this. I do however really love ‘D.O.A (Death Of Auto-Tune)’, which has a strong jazz influence, ‘Empire States Of Mind’, which features Alicia Keys, and ‘Young Forever’, a cover of Alphaville’s ‘Forever Young’ and features Mr Hudson. Moreover, the album boasts collaborations with Kanye West, Rihanna, Timbaland and The Neptunes, which is one of the main reasons for my disappointment. Ultimately, I expected more.

Album: The Resistance
Artist: Muse
Release Date: 14.09.2009

Strangely enough I wasn’t awaiting this latest album of Muse as impatiently as I have done in the case of their previous releases. I think this could mainly be due to the way Muse leaked songs on their official website in the weeks leading up to the official release. It’s as if this only served to dilute the anticipation of the album, and had a detrimental effect on my own personal excitement. All that aside, the album is very well put together. For me, it is distinctly different to their earlier albums, and thus satisfies what I ultimately want from a Muse album. I think my favoruites would have to be ‘Resistance’, ‘Undisclosed Desires’, ‘Unnatural Selection’ and ‘MK ULTRA’. Not to forget the three-part song, ‘Exogenesis:  Symphony’, neither, which displays a very strong classical influence and takes the rough form of a classical piece, which I find so refreshing. As an album, I would say it is one of their best, even though I feel its songs, on their own merit, are perhaps not the most withstanding.

Album: Herald Moth
Artist: InMe
Release Date: 14.09.2009

When InMe first came onto the scene way back in 2002 (I think), for me, they could do no wrong. I’ve seen them live on several occasions, but I lost much of my interest in them after bassist, Joe Morgan, left the band. I still listened to their last album, Daydream Anonymous, which was their first post-Morgan, but it wasn’t the same. I didn’t even realise their most recent  release, Herald Moth, was out until a friend asked me my thoughts on it. Anyway, I got round to listening to it recently, and was quite impressed. They’ve acquired a new band member, who I’m assuming is on rhythm guitar, and it seems to have worked, because their latest album does deliver. It’s not quite a return to their earlier stuff, but they do seem to have incorporated it in a way that was perhaps missing from their Daydream Anonymous. Particular mentions have to go to ‘The Art Of Moderation’, ‘Ferocity In Desire’, ‘Happy To Disappoint You’ and ‘You Won’t Hear From Me Again’, which in my opinion are the stand-out tracks on the album.

Album: Tongue N’ Cheek
Artist: Dizzee Rascal
Release Date: 21.09.2009

I never really realised this before, but many of these hip hop album seem to be quite hit and miss. This is no coincidence, and Tongue N’ Cheek is much the same. It has a few amazing tracks. I was skeptical about ‘Bonkers’ when I heard it the first few times, but it grew on me massively. This song is in its element though, when it’s being belted out at a club, much like another song off the album, ‘Holiday’. For me, this song is all about the last minute or so. The rest of the song is rather insignificant in comparison. It’s hard not to jump up and down when the dance part of the song kicks in. The other notable song has a strong reggae influence and is called ‘Can’t Tek No More’. Ultimately, the album is worth a listen, but it’s not one I will go back to in the future.

Album: Liebe ist für alle da
Artist: Rammstein
Release Date: 16.10.2009

Any fan of Rammstein will know of the long wait that has been endured since 2005’s Rosenrot, but Rammstein have finally returned and it was well worth the wait. However, it personally didn’t seem like this would be the case after hearing one of the songs, ‘Pussy’, which is exactly what it sounds like. Basically, I didn’t have high expectations for the album after hearing this song. The album begins in typical Rammstein fashion – a quiet, melodic intro that is soon interrupted by a brash chaos encapsulated by the shouted “RAMM!…..STEIN!…..” This opening song, Rammleid, really sets the album off like a timebomb. There are so many strong songs that follow. ‘Waidmanns Heil’ is an excellent fast-paced track that probably boasts my favourite lyrics from the album (“Auf dem Lande, Auf dem Meer, Lauert das Verderben, Die Kreatur muss sterben!”), while my personal favourite, ‘Wiener Blut’, is an awesome song that regularly jumps between loud and quiet, fast and slow. The most notable aspect of this album though, is the originality of it. Past Rammstein albums have tended to be quite rigid, but there definitely is a distinct impression with Liebe ist für alle da that they are pushing boundaries. This can be seen in the song ‘Haifisch’, for instance. Im Großen und Ganzen, ein sehr gutes Album.

Album: Only Revolutions
Artist: Biffy Clyro
Release Date 09.11.2009

I do like a bit of Biffy. Given that this album has only been in the shops for three days now, it’s hard to give a well-informed opinion. I will try nonetheless. Having heard some songs from Only Revolutions prior to its release, I will concentrate on these. ‘Mountains’ has been around for ages, and wasn’t actually intended for this album, but it’s there. Aside from the chorus, which I find a little ‘poppy’, it’s a decent song. I like the odd rhythm in the verse and the piano solo midway through adds an extra dimension to the song. ‘That Golden Rule’ is a definite contender for my favourite song off the album. I love the hectic nature of the song, which suddenly melts away come the chorus. The highlight of the song though, is the ending. It begins like the quiet before the storm, as the suspenseful drums soon give way to an excellently heavy guitar/string sequence. As for ‘The Captain’, the less said the better. I wasn’t impressed by it at all. As for the rest of the album, generally speaking, it has its moments, but I don’t think it will be enough to replicate the kind of success Biffy experienced with Puzzle.

Well, I hope this was in some way helpful/interesting. It took me a while, but I did enjoy writing it. I hope you have enjoyed reading it.

Nov
02

It’s November, and I see this as a good opportunity to look ahead to what is a big month in my life. Only two weeks remain of British residence and I’m really looking forward to embarking upon this ‘new chapter’. This also means I only have 14 days left to really push forward with job applications and arranging  permanent accommodation, which I have been doing for the past few weeks. Thusfar it has gone well in the sense that I have much reason to be optimistic. There appears to be plenty of jobs about and I’ve enough responses to give me hope. I’m also certain that we will find a flat that will suit us. We do at least have somewhere to stay for the first two weeks we are there however. We’re renting a flat – the keys for which arrived today – which actually belongs to a former lecturer of mine.

To be honest, it’s a shame we won’t be in Berlin sooner. For instance, this Thursday U2 are playing a free concert at the Brandenburg Gate. Not only this, but the MTV Europe Music Awards 2009 are also taking place on this day. Likewise it would have been nice to have been a part of the celebrations in Berlin on the 9th November 2009 – the 20 year anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Me at the Berlin Wall (Feb '08)

Even so, as much as I would really look forward to such events, they all pale in comparison to finally seeing Katja again. It’s hard to believe that I haven’t seen her in almost 5 months. It’s a long time to wait, but it will all be worth it in the end. I guess our whole relationship, which will be 1 year 9 months old come this Friday, has been all about waiting for the time when we’ll finally be living together. Similarly, I suppose you could look at the visits we’ve payed one another as ways of making the wait for this time easier (though certainly not easy).

Katja and I in Riga (Sept '08)

I would be lying if I were to say that I wasn’t at all anxious about this change. Nobody knows what the future holds, and there is always a chance, be it big or small, that something may not go to plan. In spite of this, I’m absolutely confident that I am making the right decision. My relationship with Katja has already shown that it can withstand difficult situations that I’m sure would trouble many marraiges. I know we can and will make it work.

Oct
24

Evidently, I’m pretty pleased with Chelsea’s most recent performances. Following a 4-0 victory over Atlético Madrid in midweek, Chelsea put 5 past a poor Blackburn Rovers side. I’m by no means getting complacent, and realise that Atlético are a club in turmoil, and Blackburn have shown no real form away from home, but I am happy to see that we are now showing a ruthlessness in front of goal, that has perhaps evaded us in the past. We’ve shown glimpses: Under Mourinho we did enjoy the odd goal fest, but an efficient, controlled display was often preferred, while Scolari’s Chelsea showed much flair against the smaller teams, but lacked an incisiveness when confronted by a well organised team, and a ‘big 4’ team in particular.

Now that we are roughly 10 games into the season, I think I’ll use this opportunity to primarily look at Chelsea’s season so far, and also to make any other observations regarding the Premiership and the Champions League.

As I hinted, Chelsea have retained their typical efficiency, which was restored by Guus Hiddink during his temporary tenure last season, whilst implementing the kind of flair that is sure to please Roman Abramovich. So what has the most recent manager of Chelsea, Carlo Ancelotti, done right? It’s easy to look back on Scolari’s reign and simply compare it with Ancelotti’s, but I think it’s more subtle than that. I think the crucial difference here is much more than just a change in formation or mentality. I’m obviously just speculating, but it seems that the situation behind the scenes is much more settled now than before. Ancelotti, the former boss of an ageing AC Milan side, has a wealth of experience working with veteran footballers and big personalities. He appears quite happy to take the back seat at times, but despite that, the players know that he is the man in charge. I don’t know what exactly Scolari did wrong, but he obviously lost the backing of some influential players, which was the beginning of the end for him.

Carlo Ancelotti following his move to Chelsea FC

Chelsea’s season has seen 8 wins and 2 defeats in the league, 3 wins from 3 in the Champions League and a place in the 4th round of the League Cup. Uncharacteristically Chelsea have by their standards struggled away from home this season, which is contrary to their form last season, in which Chelsea’s failings generally came at Stamford Bridge. I believe that the Wigan defeat was a one-off, although last week’s defeat to Aston Villa was a different story. A lot has been made of Chelsea’s defending of set pieces, much of which is simply hot air to fill the back pages. Yes, Chelsea were punished for making mistakes in defending corners, but they were individual errors, and won’t occur every week. Villa have scored the majority of their goals this season from set pieces, which is also notable.

As much as these defeats are disappointing, they are more than compensated by the victories over Liverpool and Tottenham. Continuing in the vain set by Hiddink, Chelsea are once again getting the better of their biggest rivals, which was our main downfall under Scolari. However, Chelsea fans shouldn’t get carried away. Spurs aren’t quite good enough to be labelled as a huge rival, and Liverpool are going through such a rough patch, that you can’t allow yourself to get too carried away by victory over a team lacking in confidence and direction.

All that said, Chelsea are in a very strong position, but the next 6 weeks could be crucial in the making (or breaking) of Chelsea’s Premiership season. With fixtures against Manchester United, Arsenal and Manchester City, Chelsea will certainly have to maintain this form and get some positive results against their main title contenders. Beyond these 6 weeks, it’s hard to say what will happen. The African players will be missing for 4 or 5 league games in the new year, and it’s unknown as yet whether Chelsea will actually be permitted to do any business in the transfer market come January. I personally think that Chelsea could cope for 4 or 5 games without their African players, providing the rest of the players remain injury-free. The main concern will be the Defensive Midfield and Centre Forward positions. Ballack or Belletti will have to do a job in the holding role, while I am hopeful that Franco Di Santo’s time on loan will give him the experience he needs to effectively partner Nicolas Anelka up front. Of course we shouldn’t forget Daniel Sturridge neither.

Apart from Liverpool’s notable tribulations, the Premier League Table is shaping up as expected. The only other notable surprise is to see Stoke are flying high in 9th, while West Ham struggle to get out of the relegation zone, though I doubt this will be the case come 9th May 2010.

Turning attention to the Champions League, the outcome of the group stages never usually springs any real surprises, and I feel that this year will be no different. However, we have already had some real shock results: AC Milan 0-1 FC Zurich, Atlético Madrid 0-0 APOEL Nicosia,  Inter Milan 2-2 Dynamo Kiev etc. But none of these results are quite as unlikely as FC Barcelona 1-2 Rubin Kazan. I still cannot believe the current Spanish and European Champions lost at home to anyone, nevermind a team like Rubin. That isn’t to say that the Russian Champions have no pedigree, but many people probably hadn’t even heard of them before this season’s Champions League draw, and yet they accomplished something that absolutely nobody could have predicted.

Aleksandr Ryazantsev celebrates Rubin Kazan's opener at the Nou Camp

We are already around a quarter of the way through the 09/10 football season, but it certainly looks like living up to all the expectation. I’ve barely mentioned the big spenders of this Summer, Manchester City and Real Madrid, but I think we’re yet to see the best (or worst) of them. Who knows what will happen next in the world of football, all I know is that I, along with many other football fans, can’t wait to find out.

Oct
15

Although new to WordPress, I’m not new to the concept of blogging. I kept a blog on LiveJournal for a couple of years, but that became rather neglected during my time in Germany, and could never be recovered.

It always seems to be the case that I start up a blog whilst in a period of transition. Maybe this is merely down to coincidence, but I guess it does makes sense. At times when everything around you (and/or within you) is changing, it becomes more of a necessity to write your thoughts and experiences down.

This occasion is no different, and the main inspiration here is my impending emigration to Germany. I see this as a good way to keep friends and family informed of my experiences. Also, I’m aware that certain friends of mine also have rough plans to move overseas, and I hope that this gives them some insight into what it takes to overcome such a huge change.

Saying that, I will try not to let this resemble some kind of ‘Emmigration for Dummies’ handbook. I shall also use this as a means to publicise any thoughts and opinions on a whole number of other subjects, such as Football, Music, Film and Television.

Most of the people who will take an interest in my blog are likely to know me. Therefore to simply describe myself in an arbitrary way would be neither interesting nor necessary. To those of you who don’t know me though, don’t be shy. You are more than welcome here and I’m sure you’ll have a better idea of the kind of person I am as you read through my blog.

So, without further ado, I propose a toast to the birth of my new blog!

*Clink*