Plan To Succeed

Euro 2016 kicks off in France tomorrow (Friday June 10), and despite a warning against travel from the UK Foreign Office, I’ll be on plane to Marseilles at the same time France take on Romania in the opening game – how rufty-tufty, devil-may-care is that of me and my mates?  OK not very, Marseilles is hardly Aleppo but I haven’t been anywhere truly exciting for a while so I’ll go along with the risk assessment of this trip to try to stimulate some adrenaline.

In reality, I’m sure it will all go off along the same lines as when a similar group travelled to Germany for the World Cup, or to Majorca to watch the South Africa World Cup in the sun, or when I travelled alone to the Brazil World Cup.

In essence, a bit of watching football in stadia, a lot of watching football on TV in bars, and some soaking up the atmosphere of one of the world’s greatest sporting events.  Oh and sightseeing of museums and stuff.  Did I mention that?  No?  That’s because I won’t be doing it.  I’ll happily take in the sights of Marseilles if I happen to pass them as we wend our way around the city, but I won’t be looking at old pots and paintings.  I’d rather see life in Marseilles as it is now – living history in the open, not behind glass.

I also intend to spend the trip doing some filming – mobile journalism as it’s now called.  A strange name implying the journalism we used to do was static.  I can assure you it wasn’t.  Anyway I’ll be filming bits and pieces, talking to people, posting some video to YouTube and possibly some live broadcasts on Periscope or Facebook Live.  Get me, aren’t I the hip virtual  pensioner!  If you’re interested in following our trip on video the Barefoot Bohemian YouTube channel can be found here –

It would be great if you subscribed but I suppose that depends on whether you like what you see and want to see any more.

But for now, I thought I should drag this blog, kicking and screaming, back from the assorted ramblings I’ve ended up posting to a post more in line with the intended theme of the blog.  In truth, I probably need to do this if I’m ever going to encourage more than a small group of followers to sign up for email notifications and to read the blog regularly.  (If you know anyone who might appreciate either my earlier ramblings or the more considered location-neutral lifestyle scribblings then please pass this on and encourage them to sign up for the email alerts so they don’t miss a post. Please promote this all you can.  Thanks).

I am going to share with you the system we have used to travel to the World Cup in Germany in 2006 and to the Euros this year.  It’s tried and tested, works well, is relatively inexpensive and, while requiring a little luck, it does provide some flexibility if your luck does not hold.  So far, our’s has held pretty well.

So having decided you would like to attend an event like the World Cup or the Euros, then the first piece of advice is to decide that a couple of years before the event. Tickets go on sale 12-18 months before, and while there are ticket deals right up to the start of the tournament, in reality, these are very limited, either for games nobody wants to see; in remote stadia; for seats which might as well be facing away from the pitch; or for corporate deals which will bleed you dry.

Next, try to gather together a small group – a maximum of about six otherwise getting tables in restaurants without reserving becomes a pain.  This also increases the enjoyment, provides constant companionship, on-hand punditry, and greatly increases the chances of getting tickets.

Then decide how long you want to spend there and at what stage of the competition.  This affects your choice of venues, the number of available games, the cost of tickets – and possibly the chances of seeing England!  I would recommend going for about a week during the group stages because the games are cheaper, there are more of them – three a day, every day – and there are more venues to chose from.

Then take a look at where the games are being held and match them against airports used by the budget airlines.  So for Euro 2016 we considered the sunnier locations of Nice and Marseilles, eventually opting for Marseilles because the accommodation was likely to be cheaper – although Nice is a relatively short train journey away if necessary (this relates to my earlier comment about luck – of which more later). Also, select a place which will have plenty of bars with TVs showing the games, good restaurants and some things to do when there’s no football.  In France, this means in the mornings because the games are at 1500, 1800 and 2100 during the group stages.

I should add that for the Germany World Cup we drove and selected three venues, moving between them as the week progressed.  This meant we saw more places but less football due to the travelling.  Your choice.

Then select your travel dates to maximise the number of available games at your chosen stadium and get your flights booked before any tickets are made available – and this will also mean, before your chosen team has even qualified.  This keeps down the cost because most people will be waiting to see where their team is playing.  Our flights were about £150 return.

Next, book some accommodation of your choice – we have two apartments in Marseilles for five people, although they sleep 8, at a cost of £30 a night each. Booking early should mean you have a decent selection and range of places to stay.

Then when the tickets are made available everyone applies for multiple tickets for the games at your chosen venue at the time you will be there.

At the Germany World Cup the organisers insisted on passport numbers for each ticket application which meant you could only apply for one ticket per person per game as the tickets were issued with your name and passport number.  This is a pain but does not stop ticket touts and it’s relatively easy to pick up tickets for most games – although high-profile teams mean higher prices.  Nobody ever checks the passport against the ticket.  Can you imagine the delays at the turnstiles?  I imagine it would only become relevant if two people were claiming the same seat because someone had a fake ticket.  At the Euros we could apply for four tickets per game, so we did.

At this stage, you are entering a ballot for tickets for games that are still only identified as A2 v A4, or G1 v G3 because not all the teams have qualified and the draw has therefore not yet taken place.  This is where luck plays a part because it’s a ballot and so there is no guarantee of success but with five or six people each applying for four tickets for two or three games, the chances of getting some tickets are increased.  There is usually a later release after the draw if you don’t get any first time round.   We all applied for two games and ended up with 10 tickets for one game and four for the other.  Therefore, we had 5 spare tickets for one game and were a ticket short for the other.

The next event is you will know who has qualified and the draw will take place.  At this stage A2 v A4 becomes France v Albania, or whatever.  This is the next element of luck.  It turns out our two games in Marseilles are England v Russia on Saturday (June 11) and France v Albania on Wednesday (June 15).  Stroke of luck eh?  Better still, the game for which we have five spare tickets …. is the England game!  How hard will it be to sell those? In fact, we have already swapped one for our ‘missing’ France v Albania ticket so all five of us will see both games.

If there were better games in nearby Nice we could easily have applied for those in the second ballot, or used our Marseilles tickets to swap. That’s why the choice of venue matters.

So what if you don’t get a ticket, in either ballot or from someone selling off surplus tickets,  I hear you ask, and should you travel without a ticket?  Well there is always the chance of getting a ticket from someone on the day but you will probably pay more than face value, risk buying a fake ticket and may fall foul of the law – but it’s undeniably possible and relatively easy.  I’d also make a distinction between travelling for a one-off match or travelling for a tournament. I would probably not travel without a ticket just for a single game but this post is about travelling to a tournament. The chances of getting tickets are higher, there are more games to choose from, there are more games to watch on TV and you still get to experience the atmosphere with other football fans.

But this whole approach is predicated on how much you enjoy watching the particular sport involved. I have previously travelled to Majorca to watch the World Cup in South Africa, clearly with no chance of getting a ticket. Why?  Because I had a week with nothing else to do but watch three games of football a day, without work or anything else getting in the way. And I did it with friends, in the sunshine,  in a location with plenty of restaurants and bars which would definitely be showing the games given the Spanish love of football. So if you have that mindset the worst case scenario becomes a week away in the sun, with your friends, watching football, and enjoying the fan zones and general atmosphere of a city hosting a major sporting event, which believe me, beats the hell out of watching the games at home.  How bad can that be?

Good Luck
The Barefoot Bohemian

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Do You Talk To Yourself?

“Hi. How are you?  Good to see you. Come in.”

‘Yes – welcome to my world. You can come inside but please don’t stay too long.
‘You see, I’m not really lonely but I am glad of the company. Although all of a sudden I’ll wish you weren’t here, because you’ll be stopping me doing all the things I wasn’t doing anyway, and I’ll want to be alone – until you’re no longer there when I’ll wonder why I wanted you to go.
‘So do your best to make yourself as comfortable as you can while you’re here, because you’re not staying long.’

“Please take a seat.  Can I get you a drink?”

‘You might need one if you’re going to survive your visit. You see, mine is a world of wants and don’t wants, of likes and dislikes, of caring and not caring – just like the real world, I suppose, except in mine they all apply at the same time.
‘You’re unlucky to have caught me in because all week I have been looking forward to going out tonight, but now I’m looking for an excuse not to go.
‘You could be that excuse and then I can secretly blame you for preventing me going where I’ve been looking forward to going all week.
‘In fact for weeks I had been hoping I’d be invited, and I was so pleased they asked me.  Now I don’t really want to go.  Unlucky you, because that’s your fault. Well it’s not really, but it is now.
‘Aren’t you going to ask me how I feel?  I expect that, feel cheated if I don’t get it, so I really hope you’re going to ask.
‘You are?
‘Good, that gives me a chance to tell you I’m fine.’

“I’m good thanks.”

‘See how quick I did that – almost instantaneous and automatic. Practice, you see.
‘What? You’re just going to accept that?  You can’t tell how false it was?  You can’t sense the insincerity?You’re not going to ask if I’m sure?
‘Nevermind,  I would only have got more insistent and defensive, so probably as well not to ask and to accept the OK, or is it KO for Knocked Out?
‘If you’re going to stick around perhaps we should go for a walk.  My body needs the exercise, but my mind hasn’t the energy, so let’s just stay here.
‘I’ve been here all day anyway – listening to my own voice.  I never stop talking to myself.   Sometimes I wish I’d shut up but then I’m the only person I trust, because I’m the only person who knows how I feel and what’s best for me. It’s simpler that way – safer.
‘To be honest I’m enjoying your visit more than I thought I would, but that’s when I’m most likely to want  you to leave – except I won’t actually ask you to leave because that would be rude and you’d think it odd.  So I’ll behave like I’m enjoying your company – which I am – but I’ll feel like it’s hard work because everything is.
‘You see, before I asked you to leave I’d have to decide that was the best thing to do, which is why you can be assured I won’t ask you because I’m paralysed by my inability to make a decision about myself. I can make them for you, and believe me my advice is pretty good, well it used to be, now I’m not so sure.
‘Today’s been a funny day, or do I mean sad – they can be the same thing.
‘Yesterday I had things to do and I was looking forward to doing them. But then it was so hard to drag myself out of bed to do those things that I no longer wanted to do.  That’s why I was looking forward to today because I knew I had nothing I had to do.  A whole day where I could please myself and do what I wanted, when I wanted.  But it was so hard to drag myself out of bed on a day when I didn’t have anything I wanted to do.  Which is funny – or sad – because I now feel I’ve wasted the day.  I feel guilty about all the things I could have done, all the things I should have done, all the things which have remained undone.  And I can’t do them tomorrow because I have something I have to do tomorrow.
‘They are all piling up now.  Things that have to be done.  Who’s going to do them?  It has to be me.  There’s only me but when do I have time to do them?
‘You still here?  Enjoying my company, my ready wit, my quick and sometimes sharp tongue?
‘So can you see why I’m all the company I need?  I’m the life and soul of the party.  Everyone can see that.  It’s obvious.  I’ve always been much less confident than I appear which is why I appear so confident and sociable.
‘I really think it’s time you were going now.  This is becoming hard work and I have things not to do.
‘Ah you’ve taken the hint.’

“Really? You have to go so soon?  Sure you don’t want another drink?
“No? Oh ok then.  Well thanks for coming. I really enjoyed it.  Made a change.  Call anytime.”

‘You’re always welcome for a little while.  For as long as I can cope with it.

“Cheers.  Bye. Take care.  See you soon.”

‘Thank God that’s over. What am I not going to do now?  I should really have gone to that event I’ve been looking forward to all week.
‘But I just can’t face it now.’

This week is Mental Health Awareness Week.

Please seek help if you need it and listen properly to others if you don’t.

The Barefoot Bohemian

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Second Best Is Good Enough

The other day I received a flyer through my door.  It was from a local estate agent telling me they had sold a house.  “Well look at you, cupcake, aren’t you doing well for yourself.”  Isn’t that your entire reason for existing?  What next?  An email from the chippy when they sell a particularly well battered cod, or a text from the barber when another shaved head hits the streets?

It seems we are living in an age where we are all expected to broadcast our achievements from the nearest rooftop – and the louder the better.  We have an abundance of self-publicity tools at our disposal.  Social media and mobile technology have added to the good old fashioned leaflet, to make self publicity so much easier to deliver.  Once the province of stars with agents, now anyone with access to the internet can promote their achievements – however trivial or inconsequential.  And not only can we do it, we’re encouraged to do it, and thanks to our American cousins who seem to take to this much more easily and comfortably than us more restrained Brits, we’re expected to do it in the most strident terms possible.  The more superlatives we can get in there the better – the best, the fastest, the cheapest, the most successful etc.   I’m reminded of a visit to Dubai many years ago when a colleague and I were talking about the Emirate’s obsession with everything having to be the tallest, biggest, most expensive etc. and I swear we looked out of the taxi window and saw a supermarket called SafestWay.  You can’t beat that – or can you?  So as a result, we’re all awesome and we should tell everyone as often as possible until we all start believing it.

Well guess what?  I’ve never been awesome and I very much doubt I’m going to find something now that would merit that description of my achievements.  I’ve never been the best at anything – even when I’m on my own I often struggle to even be the best that I can be.  However good I am at something I know there are anywhere from thousands to millions of people who are better.  And I’m fine with that.  You hear people say how unfortunate a particular sportsman or woman was to be born in the era of another more successful sports star.  What?  To be born at a time when someone else was better?  Welcome to our world.  I’m reminded of how Jackie Charlton (an old footballer to our younger readers) must have felt to have won the old first division and a couple of European trophies with Leeds United, to have been capped more than 30 times for England and to have been part of the World Cup winning side we just will not stop going on about however long ago it was.  And yet Jackie wasn’t even the best footballer in his family.

Another common dismissive comment is ’First is first and second is nowhere’ or ’Nobody ever remembers who was second’.  It may be true that most people can not remember who were runners up in the Champions League Final in 2000, but I bet the Valencia fans can, especially as they were beaten on penalties in the final again the following year – and at that stage they had no idea Gary Neville was on his way to oversee their demise.

If you are the one who is second, third or even 300th in a big enough event, you’ll remember it because it matters to you and so it should, but feeling pressured into declaring the result somehow diminishes it a little.  Just completing a marathon is tough enough without feeling obliged to divulge your time – mainly to people who have little idea of what constitutes a good time for a below average plodder who’s getting on in years.  They may have an idea of the World Record time or the expected time for the winner but believe me that’s about as useful as getting concerned about your child who seems to be falling behind in achievements when compared to Mozart who wrote his first symphony at eight.

The London Marathon is a good example with only one winner but thousands of people who will remember the experience and will take pride in doing their best, however poor that is in comparison to thousands of others.  And I’d have no problem with them taking to social media to announce their achievement if they want to – although I’d think a leaflet through my door would be a little odd and somewhat excessive.  They just shouldn’t feel they are obliged to do so.  Their achievement is no less because they don’t tell as many people as possible.  After all, who is listening to all this self promotion?  Does anyone notice any more? Or does the attention only go to those who shout loudest and longest?  Perhaps noting has really changed other than the quantity of the shouting.  Good Luck to all runners – whatever your time – but I did it in …….

The Barefoot Bohemian

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Regrets – I Have A Few

Recently I attended the funeral of an old college friend.  ‘Old’ if mid-50s qualifies for that epithet, ‘college’ because that’s undoubtedly where we met but ‘friend’ – what exactly does that mean?

We were certainly friends at college.  We shared a house, spent all our weekdays in the same classes – normally siting next to each other – and found ourselves drinking together every night and every weekend.

But then college finished and we all went our separate ways to work for newspapers all over the UK.  There were a couple of reunions, and in recent years, an attempt to organise a Christmas lunch for those within travelling distance of London.  The fact that this year it was not held until February speaks volumes about the event – and our organisational skills.

So all in all, I have probably seen my ‘friend’ twice, possibly three times, in almost 40 years.  Not surprisingly I knew almost nothing about him, his wife, his family, his job, his interests, hobbies or the kind of man he’d become after he stopped being the twenty-year-old journalism student I knew.  But yet his death hit me quite hard, and it seems to have had a similar effect on the rest of our group.

True, he was ’the first of the gang to die’ and we all got a nasty taste of our own mortality, and he was also a thoroughly nice bloke – at college and by all accounts throughout the rest of his life.  But for me, it was something more.  It was the realisation we’d all missed the opportunity to build on what we had at college.  We’d been far too quick to throw it all away in pursuit of our careers, even though it was a shared career in journalism – apart from one guy who became an air traffic controller (don’t ask).  We’d severed friendships and relationships in search of other friendships and relationships.  We’d dismissed common experiences and shared memories without a second thought, and yet almost 40 years on, four of us spent a couple of hours at the wake remembering and re-living those experiences to the best of our failing memories. And perhaps the most surprising thing of all was just how easily we could all joke, tease, insult and talk to each other as if we’d been together every day since college.  There was no strangeness, no awkward silences or periods where we weren’t sure how someone would react to a bad taste comment.  We were all still friends and apparently always had been, despite the separation

I always used to tell myself that the lyrics of ‘My Way’ would be an appropriate epitaph for my life, and to an extent, I think they still are.  But I’m becoming more troubled with the lines:

‘Regrets, I’ve had a few;
But then again, too few to mention.’

The number of regrets may not be huge, but I’m beginning to wonder if the scale of them might be. Have I always prioritised the right things?  Have I spent enough time trying to see the other side of the argument, to see things from other people’s perspective?  Have I made enough time for others?  Have I worked hard enough on friendships and relationships?

I’m not going to tear apart my life here and now – this is already an incredible amount of soul-searching and sharing for an ordinary guy who has been brought up on the northern version of the Nike motto – ‘Just Git On Wi It’.  But I am going to reflect on one thing which has been troubling me since I sat in that packed church to say a final farewell to a guy I’d effectively said goodbye to almost 40 years earlier – and never looked back.  We were all taken by how full the church was, with people who’ve shared his life in many different ways.  And I appreciate the funerals of younger people tend to be better attended than those of older people, due to how much more shocking those deaths often are and also the diminishing number of friends and colleagues around to attend the funerals of octogenarians.  But nevertheless, it made me speculate on how many people would attend my funeral, and I have to conclude I don’t think it would be anywhere near that many.  Not that I’m too bothered by the attendance of an event I don’t even want to be at myself, but it made me evaluate my friendships.

I know a lot of people from all over the world, but like all journalists with a bulging contacts book, how many have I worked to convert from acquaintances to friends?  Not enough!  I never attended either of the two college reunions (if I’m honest I’m not even sure how many there have been) and I only attended a few of the Christmas lunches.  I’m know I was working abroad for some of the lunches, but I can no longer remember why I couldn’t attend the others, or any of the reunions.  What about all the other social events I didn’t attend?  What about the quick coffee, the quiet drink, the short chat in the corridor?  What about remembering to ask how someone was feeling?  What about inquiring about a sick partner or child?  I’m sure I had a good reason – it just doesn’t seem like too good a reason now.

The Barefoot Bohemian.

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It’s A Goal!

I’m a big believer in beliefs and in setting goals.  I’m also a big fan of making lists. In fact I could probably make a list of ten reasons why you should have beliefs and goals.  Or ten reasons why making lists is a good idea.

I’m not necessarily talking about religious or spiritual beliefs, although some of my comments would apply to those beliefs too.  And I’m not talking about those lists which exist more for the existence of the list than to help us remember something, or to make our day more efficient.  You know the kind of lists I mean:

  1. Wake up
  2. Get out of bed
  3. Clean teeth
  4. etc etc

Brilliant! Five minutes into the day and three items ticked off already.  Fortunate the first one was achieved or the day would probably not have turned out quite as productive.

The beliefs and goals I’m talking about are the things you think, the things you tell yourself, regardless of whether you would openly admit to believing them.

How do you speak to yourself and what sort of things are you saying?  Those are two very important questions which you’ve probably never considered before. You hear the things you say to yourself more than the things you hear from anyone else – including nagging partners – because you can keep repeating things to yourself long after others have stopped talking, in your sleep at times.

If you are constantly telling yourself you won’t be able to do something there’s a wealth of evidence to prove you’ll be right – you won’t.  That doesn’t mean just repeating something as a mantra will automatically make it happen but it’s more likely to.  See my comments about positivity in my last post – Ashes to Ashes.

It’s also more likely to happen if you make yourself accountable, tell a friend or family member about your goal, write it down, set a deadline for it to be completed or if it’s a long term project, set progress milestones.  These are all common, and well-known techniques for project management which can be applied to our lives.  But thought should also be given to the kind of targets or goals you’re setting yourself.

For Christmas 2013 I wanted – and was bought because I’m a luck boy – a Nike Fuelband.  That’s a bracelet which monitors your movement throughout the day and gives you a score based on your activity levels.  It can prompt you to move if you’ve been inactive for too long and you can set a daily goal which is your target for the day.  (Other similar devices are available :-))  It doesn’t get you fitter but it’s a painless kick up the backside to remind you to move.

What was interesting to me about using the device in the context of goals and targets was that if you do something like play golf or run, you are almost certain to hit a daily target of 3500 (don’t worry what the units are – they are a Nike creation).  However, if you’re not able to do any sport that day, or are travelling for most of the day, it’s difficult.  There have been many days I’ve found myself running up and down stairs at 2300 or walking round and round airports to get the last few points to hit my target.

The dilemma is where do you set the target?  Set it too low and it doesn’t really push you to achieve – so it’s not really an incentive.  Set it too high and you are certain to fail on some days.  What I found as my streak of days of achieving my target grew into months was that the target had become the main goal, not the activity which led to it.  And so after about six months I reduced the target to 3200.  This made it slightly easier to hit on non-sporty days but believe me it’s still a reasonable target.  As a result I managed to complete a year of hitting my target everyday.

I accept I am a little obsessive about some things – I prefer to call it driven – but the goal of getting a full 365 days of my target simply took over from all the other purposes of the device.  For the record I still wear it and try to hit my target but I’m not stressed is I fall short some days when normal life takes over and makes exercise difficult.

A similar example of the process taking over from the purpose and resulting in me feeling trapped is my approach to the lottery.  I have been doing the lottery since it started – you’ve got to be in it to win it, right?  How else is my life going to change into the hedonistic ideal I’m fantasising about?  And I’ve used the same numbers.  I know them off by heart and it makes renewing my entry very simple.  But now I can’t stop because I would know if those numbers came up and I hadn’t entered that week.  How gutted would I be to see my 14 million to one chance disappear because I took a break or saved a couple of pounds?  A perfect client for Camelot.

You may think these are very ‘first world problems’  and I’d be the first to agree but I’ve used them because I think they are typical of the kind of things we can get ourselves trapped in, as well as some far more important things.

Do we continue going to this society or this club because we’ve been going every month without missing for x number or months or years?  I’m sure there are similar examples in your life.  But what if we simply did what we wanted, without adding the pressure of habit then we’d have more time and we could use the positive benefits of habit for other things to create real worthwhile change in our lives.  I think it’s important to keep sight of the purpose – the destination – and don’t let the process or journey become the main goal.  Sure you need to enjoy the journey and not simply be fixated on the destination but we need a clear idea of where we’re trying to get to, or who knows where we’ll end up.

It’s about making manageable changes, slowly and constantly, because then it’s sustainable.  I hear people say they are going to start a positive habit and instead of saying they are going to do it five minutes a day, or do it three times a week – which is manageable and sustainable – they go at it like a bull in china shop and try to do 30 minutes a day or do it for 6-7 days a week.  And then they are surprised when they lose steam and give up after a short period.  Diets fall foul of similar pitfalls – but you know my thoughts on diets too.

So in my experience the lists and goals which work for people are when they break up their long term goal into daily or weekly targets which are achievable but not easy, they write them on a list to keep track of their achievements and they make themselves accountable in some way to achieve the goals.  But perhaps most importantly is they make sure the daily or weekly list is not overwhelming, and if they achieve it sooner one day then they reward themselves rather than adding more tasks for the day.  And if one day or week there are some unachieved goals, that’s not a failure.  Simply rewrite your list for the next day or week to accommodate those tasks.  It’s important for you to see achievement and progress however small because it’s those small incremental steps that lead to real change.  As World Record endurance athlete Stu Mittleman said:

“I never ran 1000 miles.  I could never have done that.  I ran one mile 1000 times.”

Good Luck
The Barefoot Bohemian.

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