On The Road Again

A recent sunset over the tracks

A recent sunset over the tracks

I have to start off by giving credit where credit is due: the weather has been really quite good the last two weeks! I know we’ve had our differences in the past, the weather and I, but it really has been lovely. Granted it’s still March, so I wouldn’t recommend getting the lounge chairs and tanning oil out quite yet, but it has been dry and relatively warm.

After the long and wet beginning to the year, I find myself feeling guilty if I don’t get out and enjoy the beautiful days that come along. So, in the last couple of weeks, I have managed to get out on my bike a couple of times and explore the English countryside.

CYCLE LOVE

I have an interesting relationship with my bike. In a way, it’s just like a significant other. I have come to rely on it for so much; to go shopping, to take me to the train station, etc… It’s how I get around. Like any relationship, when life gets busy and you are focused on other things in the world, it’s easy to take a relationship for granted…or in some cases, even resent it.

The bike was starting to get creaky, gears were slipping, brakes were wearing, and so on. Also, being on a bike when it’s cold and wet, only exacerbates those two undesirables. On a bike, the cold air is always colder, and you manage to hit about 500% more raindrops than you would walking. So, yes, I was starting to resent my bike.

Fortunately, the sun came out and I had a desire to get as far away from my apartment as I could, as cheaply as possible. The best option, of course, was to take my bike out. So, I oiled up the chains, tightened up the breaks and set off one day last week, in a generally Southern direction. I didn’t have an agenda or a specific route, so whenever I came to a crossroads, I made an instinctive decision and went with it…usually this was the side road that looked less traveled (not because of how poetic that sounds, but more because there’s less traffic…or both).

Over the Berkshire countryside on my escapade

Over the Berkshire countryside on my escapade

More countryside

More countryside

I came across a couple of interesting places and just generally enjoyed the lovely weather and countryside. But more importantly – and as weird as it sounds – I fell in love with cycling again. Quality, intimate time spent together can really help a relationship. Of course, we still have to do the mundane things together, like getting groceries, but now its with a mutual appreciation. So, now I’m going to become a marriage counselor…

Maybe not.

Anyway…

WIGHT IS THE NEW GREEN

This new “bike love” coupled with the travel bug which I mentioned I had caught in my last post inspired me to get out again as soon as possible.

Do you ever hear a random, sometimes nonchalant comment about something, or someplace and it just captures your imagination? It happens to me all the time. It happened to me with the Isle of Wight about 6 months ago, and it has stuck in my mind since. As you may have guessed, that was to be the stage for my next lap of the Tour de Sean.

On St. Patrick’s Day, I awoke early – roughly the time I had been accustomed to going to bed on that Feast in recent years – and made the early trip down to Southampton on the train, where I then boarded a Ferry over to the Isle of Wight.

By 10:15 I was on the Island ready to go! When I was planning my trip I wasn’t sure where I was going to go. Should I go across the Island? A half loop? Oh decisions, decisions. Anyway, I saw that there was a bike route more or less around the Island that looked manageable. I estimated that it would be a little bit over 50 miles round trip and if I got tired or it was late, I could just cut across to shorten the trip. For reference, 50 miles is a good 10-15 miles more than I’ve gone out to do in one day. I was confident it was completely manageable, but knew it would be tiring.

As it turns out, I hit the 50 mile marker about 3/4′s of the way around the Island. Oops, don’t ask me for estimates.

The trouble was, I was torn between following the signs for the bike route – which were slightly sporadic in the first place – and finding an adventure down some side street. I also felt this centrifugal force pulling me out towards the coast as well. So, more often than not, when the signs pointed me inland I would take the opposite road staying along the coast. It’s an Island at the end of the day isn’t it…How lost could I get?

It turns out that I did a bit of hiking as well…through a jungle…with my bike on my back. Essentially, I got lost.

Luckily, there was no one around, so I didn’t have to compromise my manhood and ask for directions.

All this shenanigans was due to road closures. When you are on a bike, you automatically turn into a bit of an anarchist. You’re not restricted to the dullness of pedestrian life, but off the sidewalks road signs when inconvenient don’t really mean that much either.

Someone recently posted on facebook “pedestrians don’t like drivers, and drivers don’t like pedestrians, but everybody hates cyclists” (or something to that effect) and I would admit there’s some truth in that.

But I digress. The point is; however, no matter how many “Road Closed” signs I read, I still refused to turn around. I would think, “surely there must be some way through for an innocent biker like me?”

In some cases there was such a path, but not everytime; not this time! So cruising down a quiet wooded road (3 road closed signs later), I finally get to a point where the road is closed! Like severely closed; steep rise to a cliff on one side and a steep wooded hill on the other. It was probably about 2 miles back that I saw the last major turn off and turning back is like admitting defeat, which I am too stubborn to admit.

surveyed the situation and saw a little footpath just down the hill to the left that looked like it might just meander parellel to the road for a little while. So, I thought, why not follow that and pop back up in a few hundred yards and find the road again.

What exactly does "closed" mean?

What exactly does “closed” mean?

Perhaps not the best idea.

I muddled down the path for a while, sometimes carrying my bike over my head and kept going up to check for the road…which apparently wasn’t closed, but had rather disappeared. I guess they just didn’t have any “ROAD DISAPPEARED” signs on hand. In any case, it became apparent that there was some serious landslides in the area and that was the reason for the missing road.

Again, instead of turning back, I stubbornly pushed through this thickening jungle on this treacherous landslide, feeling all but lost – but smiling at the thought of my lunacy. Eventually, but not without a few moans of desperation, the road did appear again. It was easily the most difficult half mile on the trip.

I still have no idea if it saved any time or not, but it makes for a good story.

The rest of the loop went smoothly. I made a nice stop at a pleasant Benedictine Abbey called Quarr Abbey and saw a number of nice beaches and quaint waterside towns rising up from the water. I won’t bore you with anymore details at this point, but pictures are below.

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All in all, I ended up cycling 70 miles!

There is something therapeutic and almost spiritual about cruising along on your bike on an empty road. They way you can swiftly move forward, all on your own power; while simultaneously leaving difficulties behind and attacking new ground. Sure, you face challenging hills that can slow your pace, make you huff and puff, and wear you down; but if you keep pushing, you get to the top and it’s a brilliant moment of achievement!

More often than not, you are awarded with a brilliant view of the valleys below; behind you can see what you have already achieved and before you the horizon presents a new challenge. Then on top of that, you get to go down the other side and that feeling of momentum and pace with which you move, with almost no effort makes you appreciate all the hard work that has come before.

The road ends up leveling off at times as well, with only gradual and steady ups and downs. I actually find these times the most productive. You aren’t setting records, but you are consistent, mile after mile chalking down a steady pace. It’s during these intervals that you are building up the resolve to attack the next challenge, the next mountain; with its beautiful views and the wonderful sense of accomplishment that makes life worth living.

And that was my St. Patrick’s Day this year. Wight was my green.

Apparently, it was a White St. Patrick's Day back in Virginia as well!

Apparently, it was a White St. Patrick’s Day back in Virginia as well!

ON THE PITCH AGAIN

I meant to write more about this, but got so excited writing about my biking adventures that I lost track. I’ll give you a brief rundown. I’ve played 4 games with Thatcham Town in the last 2 weeks. It all started pretty abysmally with 2 poor losses, in which we didn’t play well at all. Then finally, we managed to turn things around in the third game and won 3-1 after a very good second half performance. In the last game, we ended up losing again to the 2nd place team in the league, this time only 1-0. It was a tight encounter though and a much better performance all around. It was certainly not a step back from our solid victory earlier in the week.

I have been playing well, but definitely improving every game. The 6 weeks off definitely made me a bit rusty. However, after an injury to a teammate in the second game, I have been playing in a less favored position at defense. While I’m still playing well there, its not as fun as playing a more attacking role. For now as long as the team continues to improve form, I’m happy to do a job there. I even managed to get our Man of the Match award in the last game, which was nice, but you would always prefer a win.

Just like being back out on the bike, it’s great to be getting back out on the pitch. I’m slowly falling in love again. I’m still down in the valley, trudging along through the flats, trying to make it to the mountain. It will be a long challenging journey to the top I am sure, but it will be worth it!

You might say I came to a road closure and had to get off my bike and carry it through a jungle recently, but the most important thing is that I’m back on it again and moving forward.

Until next time, Go head first!

Peace,

Seano

PS: Yes, for those wondering, I was extremely saddle sore at the end of the day!

Not Sure Where I’m Going, But This Is Where I’ve Been

For some reason I feel the need to start this post with an explanation for my long absence. Instead, I’ll go ahead and just say I was on sabbatical, or maybe since it’s winter, I’ll say I was hibernating. Anyway, that’s irrelevant and I have more interesting things to tell you about.

I have plenty to report from the last six or seven weeks. It’s been a flurry of travel, hoping, waiting, anticipating, and most of the time, just generally failing. For simplicity’s sake, I’ll give you the chronological rundown.

In mid-January, I found myself going on a footballing adventure to the small Mediterranean island of Cyprus. I say “found myself” as if one day I woke up and poof I was playing in Cyprus, which while romantic, is not true at all. I had been considering and planning this trip since back in the fall. Essentially, it was through an agency who brought over about 22 players to Cyprus on a 4-5 day trial with the hope of being scouted by some of the teams in the Cypriot League.

To make a long story short, I’m back in England.

Though I was slightly disappointed not to get picked up by a team in Cyprus, the experience was good. I thought I played well over the days we were there, but as luck would have it, I played mostly as a defender and the teams were primarily looking for central midfielders and strikers. Having said that, any experience has value and I also met new people to connect and work with in the future. My one regret is that I didn’t get to see much of Cyprus. It was strictly a business trip and so there was no time for sightseeing.  Oh well, I’ll just have to go back.

Back in England, I was missing nothing except flooding of biblical proportions. This flooding and rain persisted through much of January and February. During that time, my Dad forwarded me this article; “UK floods: January rain breaks records in parts of England“, with his condolences and that pretty much summed it all up. Sometimes life is just soggy.

The rain inevitably led to muddy football pitches throughout the country and thus a myraid of cancelled games in January and early February. Unfortunately, the pitches weren’t the only thing getting bogged down and muddy throughout these damp weeks.

I continued my merry-go-round adventure in non-league football, by deciding to take the opportunity to move back to Thatcham Town from Fleet Town. If you remember, I had played a few games at Thatcham back in late Autumn. However, my transfer back to Thatcham was caught up in the mire of paperwork and petty bureaucracy. Essentially, I was told I would have to wait 4-5 weeks to make the switch.

Understandably, Fleet was not willing to waive the waiting period that would let me go to Thatcham (a direct competitor of theirs). Fleet was also annoyed with me for undermining them and deciding to leave without consulting them first. I shamlessly admit that it was because they were able to offer me more money…footballers, we’re all the same! Oh, and not to mention, that it’s far more convenient, since it’s only 10 minutes away as opposed to an hour and a half on the train.

Ok, I’m done venting, thanks for that. In the end, the break-up appears to have been beneficial for both parties, because they’ve won 2 games of their last 4 since I left. You may remember, this is the team I kept losing with back around Christmas.

Moving on…

Barring any unforeseen consequences, I will finally be playing with Thatcham Town this Saturday. It’s been about 6 weeks since I played a proper game and I’m itching to get back to it! In the meantime, I’ve continued the monotonous, dull, and unrewarding work of training on my own. The countless hours of kicking a ball against the wall, shooting on an empty net, and forcing yourself through sprints, will hopefully begin to pay off.

If you’re starting to feel bad for me, then thanks, I’ve done my job as an attention seeking writer – Woe is me!

But in reality, you don’t have to feel bad at all. I’ve had some fun as well, and this break from games has given me other opportunities to grow and enjoy life.

One of the side effects of my Cyprus trip was that I was stricken with a bad case of the travel bug. As luck would have it, my sister Grace just happened to be travelling around Italy at the time; just before she started a semester of study in Rome. My dear Mother, who always has the best ideas, suggested we meet and spend a few days together. I jumped on this, like a trampoline, and that was it; Grace had her favorite brother as a travel companion!

My Mom also has this knack for finding really interesting and fabulous people; people throughout the world who are willing to put us up in their homes. They are willing to do this, even after they find out that there are copious amounts of us O’Reilly’s; any of whom might just show up at anytime. (The caveat, of course, is that they can show up at our place anytime as well). One of these people happened to live in Torino (Turin), Italy, so that was to be the setting of our adventure.

Torino is in Northern Italy, and was originally founded as a Roman City. For years it was the seat of political power in the region and in the country. It also is well known for it’s history in the automobile industry, most notably as the home of Fiat and Alfa Romeo. Recently, you may also remember that it hosted the 2006 Winter Olympics. While it has lost some of it’s political and industrial power since the World Wars, it is still considered the third most important city in Italy, and is full of respected educational institutions.

Torino is also home to the famous religious relic, known as the Shroud of Turin – the cloth said to have been used to wrap Jesus in his tomb. While it was not on display, we visited the chapel that holds it to pay our homage. Turin is also home to, and current resting place of, Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati, who was an athletic and humble young man. I find him a great role model and his case is being pushed for canonization (sainthood). I have praying to him specifically for help in my football pursuits and so it was a pleasant coincidence for me personally to get to visit his grave. Grace and I enjoyed our time there very much, and the family we stayed with were great hosts and we hope they will soon visit us in America as well.

I've also been trying to draw...this is my best effort at Torino, with the Alps in the background.

I’ve also been trying to draw…this is my best effort at Torino, with the Alps in the background.

I got a remarkably strong sense that people of Torino were very proud of their city and its history, which gave it a distinct and genuine character. If you get the opportunity to visit, I would definitely recommend it, the city is seeped in history and set beautifully at the foot of The Alps.

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However, even three and a half days in Torino, didn’t satisfy my appetite for travel, so I decided to follow Grace down to Rome for a quick visit to The Eternal City. Another sister, Cecilia, was already in Rome as she has been pursing post-graduate studies there since the summer. My stay in Rome was short and sweet, but was long enough for the city to grab hold of me and I could feel it tugging me back for a closer look even as I left. Rarely do things or places live up to expectations built up by others, but in Rome, they certainly did. I certainly intend to go back to immerse myself deeper into its grandeur, its warmth, its charm, and its mystery.

I have to say as well, it was a blast to share this experience with Grace. It is rare in such a big family to spend long periods with only one sibling at a time, so it was a blessing to do so with Grace. Unlike times as children where we were sworn enemies, we got on quite swimmingly! :) Probably more due to her patience than mine.

Once I got back to England – rainy, damp England, I am always obliged to add – I had a busy week as I had signed up to start my coaching qualifications. So, for a week, I was commuting an hour and a half on the train to learn how to coach. I am done with all of the theory work, but now have to go out and do practical hours. So, I will be coaching at local clubs in the area in the coming months in preparation for my final assessment.

Me after 6 days in a row of getting up at 6am. Such a softie.

Me after 6 days in a row of getting up at 6am. Such a softie.

To be honest, the theory part was terribly boring at times. When you’ve been around the game for a long time, most of the stuff you inherently know. On top of that, passing your assessment is all about “checking boxes” as our instructor said, which means you have to do certain things very deliberately every time. The instructor made the comparison to passing your driving test, where you have to dramatically put on your seat belt, then wiggle all the mirrors, so as to be sure they instructor knows what you are doing. Then once you get your license, it’s pedal to the metal!

Essentially, this starting level qualification does not promote creativity itself, but sets up opportunities to get to a good platform with which you can develop your creativity. In the end, you still learn things about yourself if you are open to your own self-development. For instance, I am not very good at getting my point across concisely and effectively in verbal communication. But you probably knew that already if you’ve ever talked to me for a significant period of time :) .

Thanks for bearing with me, I know I’ve just tried to cram nearly two months of information into one post. The important thing to note is that even though I’m failing, I’m also lucky enough to be living a little. There’s other stuff I probably missed as well, but we’ll save that for another rainy day – that way it’ll be soon.

As I begin playing again, I am hoping to be inspired to blog more regularly. After all, it makes more sense to write about football on a blog titled “Head First Football”. God willing, the next time you hear from me, I’ll have some positive news from on the field.

Until then, go head first!

Peace,

Seano

PS: Hope you like the new layout…thought it was time for a change. Let me know what you think.

See How Far We’ve Come!

Happy New Year Everyone. Since I had my most laid back New Years in quite a while, I had some time to actually reflect on my past year. 2013 was a year full of challenges and trials.

When I say that, I don’t want you to feel bad for me. My challenges and trials are all first world problems. I never struggled to find a meal, get a roof over my head, or maintain good health. In other words, all my basic needs were bountifully met…and more! What I mean is that I spent most of 2013 confused, unsure, and in a near constant state of restless uncertainty.

Life, eh?

But, don’t worry, that’s not what I’m going to focus on in this blog. I think I’ve spent my last three or four blogs trying to make you feel bad for me and I’m sure you’re more sick of it than I am. No, today I’m looking back to see how far we’ve come; to wonder at the progress we make while we stumble along in the dark.

MOMENTS OF CERTAINTY:

To begin with, I’ll share with you two moments, or rather periods, in the year that offered me clarity and a sense of peace. These were experiences that I knew were right during their occurrence. Hindsight usually gives us this clarity for most events in our life, but it is a rare and wonderful when we get a chance to live in the moment with complete certainty.

The first of these blessings, was my mission trip to St. Lucia all the way back in May. I never really wrote about it here on the blog, but to put it bluntly, it was one of the best experiences of my life.

It’s hard to sum it up, but the biggest factor, I believe,  was that I had to let go of my own selfishness. I had to let go of my own self-serving pursuits and desires, my own insecurities and failings, my own confusion and uncertainty and simply show love. Shedding that burden, so that I could be free and open to aid the needs, desires, insecurities, failings, confusion, and uncertainty of those children we were there to serve.

The best part was that I got to use soccer, the sport I love, as a starting point. It was a very important and timely reminder that soccer is a gift to me, which, like all great gifts is better shared. When you are pursuing a sport professionally it is easy to get lost in the politics; the lies, the cheating, the money, the seedy dealings, and the desire for glory. In St. Lucia, those things were stripped away and it was a gift again, a gift that offers a sense of human connection and healthy, creative interaction.

I’ll admit; however, that I am far from the perfect missionary – very far. There were 16 other people in the mission group who helped carry me along in the process. I knew one of them beforehand, but the experience brought us all together in the most incredible way. I can’t even begin to describe how wonderful these people all are. It was as though each person had a role to play during the week that made them irreplaceable. If you have ever seen the Italian Job, or any of the Ocean’s movies, our group was similar to those groups involved in the big heists. Each one of us was hand-picked by the leader (aka: God) for our strengths, and in spite of our weaknesses, to do his work and share his love.

I really could go on and on here, because the more I write the more I’m reminded of how many precious blessings the trip endowed upon me. For the purpose of this post; however, the important thing is that I knew that it was right. That, alone, made it one of the highlights of my perplexing year.

Secondly, the other event that highlighted my year with a sense of assurance was my return to Virginia in September for a very close friend’s wedding.

When I left home in early July to return to the UK, I wasn’t sure where life would take me in the next few months. The process of finding a new team and eventually moving down South threw me into a bit of turmoil. If I’m honest, it was the lowest point in my time here. I had no idea what I was doing and nothing felt right. I was trying to make a mark with the new team I had just committed to, trying to find a place to live, and all sorts of other nonsense.

Then, there was a moment of clarity, and I knew I had to get back despite all the other things on my mind. I returned for a week and had a wonderful and peaceful time; not only with my friends at the wedding, but also with my family. I probably did more visiting and relaxing with friends and family in that week in September than I did in 6-7 weeks at home in the summer.

I can’t explain it, but the wedding seemed to represent a momentous shift in my life. I’ve had close friends marry before, but it didn’t have the same effect. Maybe it was the nature of my friendship with Dan? I don’t know, but it was powerful and a very memorable part of my year. I look forward to my continued friendship with Dan and Katie long into their married life!

Without a doubt, this past year, I felt the most alive during the week in St. Lucia and the week at home for that wedding. Those times alone would make a life worth living.

THE UN-REMARKABLES:

The best part about writing your own blog is that you can make things up. So, this next section is a look back at a few things from the past year that were relatively unremarkable at the time of happening, but with hindsight prove quite impressive…or at least offer some reassurance.

I call these the un-remarkables. It is the college student who looks back and realizes that they have already finished their freshman year. It is the builder who looks back and realizes they’ve built not just buildings, but a neighborhood. It is the doctor who looks back and realizes it’s not just about the major surgeries, which are remarkable, but also the hundreds of broken arms that he mended. It is the mother that feeds her teenage son everyday in an un-remarkable, yet loving manner, but then realizes how remarkably he has grown this past year. The un-remarkables are essentially the building blocks of our remarkable experiences!

From a soccer perspective, I look back at one unremarkable game after another (not to say I didn’t enjoy them, but they weren’t big, exciting games -making them by definition, unremarkable) and realize that I’ve already played nearly 3 times as many games half-way through this season, than I did in all of last season. So, despite no spectacular breakthroughs there has been a steady improvement on that front that I hadn’t realized.

It is unremarkable when one of my teammates gives me a ride to or from practice. My cousins inviting me over for Sunday dinner is unremarkable. It is unremarkable when one of my siblings sends me a funny email, or card. The kind wishes from a friend are unremarkable. These things are incredibly kind, generous and worthy of utmost gratitude, but usually unremarkable in everyday life. But then I look back and realize that without all these unremarkables, 2013 would have been unremarkable, but it wasn’t.

Never underestimate the power of the unremarkables!

BLOG

Another one of my un-remarkables for the year is that, as a blogger, I’ve realized that I’ve written nearly a books worth of posts in the past year! A book! Really? Me? I ask?

Remarkable!

In celebration and just for fun, I am going to briefly list my 5 favorite posts from the past year (I might cheat a little and dip into 2012). I know this post was long enough, but if you have time to breeze over them again, go ahead! From there, I would really love your feedback. If there was a post that you remember particularly enjoying, I would love to know…and maybe why? One of the most rewarding and fascinating things about writing is finding out how different people respond and relate to different ideas.

So, without further ado, here are my fabulous 5…in no particular order.

  • Chapter 1: Wraps up my first year in England: living the dream, one mistake at a time.
  • Grounds and Grounds: Frankly, I’m adding this one because my Dad always mentioned it, when complementing my writing. It’s about wandering around Yorkshire last year trying to find my feet. It is from 2012, but is a good look back at where I was and what I was doing.
  • Give a Man a Cookie…: I just really enjoyed writing this one. It may not be the best piece of writing, but kind of got me excited about writing my blog again, when I had been struggling to write it this year.
  • Politics and Fandom: This is my most controversial piece, which isn’t hard because I basically just write about myself, which is egotistical, but at least not controversial. Anyway, it was right after Obama was elected for his second term and it remarks on the some of the things that politics can learn from sports…or shouldn’t.
  • Begin Again: This was about my trip up to Edinburgh in the Spring. This post is a good reminder to me of the wonder and beauty of the traveling experience. Something I, regretfully, forget to appreciate sometimes in the midst of life.

Long may the story continue!

May 2014 be full of joy and peace for you all.

Go head first!

Seano

Dedications: This post is dedicated to my dear friends Dan and Katie Lucas as well as all the wonderful people who made the St. Lucia trip so incredible. You have truly made my year, and my life, remarkable.

 

Far From Home, Alone

Let me take the time to wish you all a very Merry Christmas. What a wonderful holiday it is! I love Christmas, but every year in the lead up, I have my fair share of scrooge moments. The pressure of expectation is so high and it can be overwhelming. It’s all a flurry beforehand, but then the day comes and I get a sudden rush of peace and joy. It is my belief that this, the spirit of Christmas, is a grace flowing directly from the Infant Jesus.

The Infant Jesus - the source of our Christmas Joy

The Infant Jesus – the source of our Christmas Joy

In recent years, that beauty, peace, joy and simplicity that only a baby can bring to us has captivated my Christmas prayer and meditation. Being away from home again this year, meant that the Christ-child has also been a wonderful source of comfort and support for me over the Holiday.

Fortunately, despite the title of this post, I didn’t have to spend Christmas proper completely on my own. I was able to make the trip back up the Yorkshire for a couple of days to stay with my English family; the Inglehearn’s. Once again, they opened their doors to me with fantastic generosity. They’ve really created a home away from home for me since I’ve been in England and I can’t thank them enough!

One of the funnest things about the holiday was my transportation. Seeing as it was my 25th birthday on Christmas Eve, I did the one thing that I couldn’t do prior to becoming a quarter century old; namely, rent a car! (Technically, I could have actually rented a car before, but not without exorbitant additional insurance rates). In any event, it was one of two firsts that I experienced over the holiday. It was also the first time I had driven in England and thus the wrong side of the road. I’m a survivor.

Driving on the left side of the road was a little unnerving at first, but I got used to it pretty quickly. Since I do ride my bike on the roads quite often, I was familiar with the feeling. However, it is different in a car. For one thing, driving from the right side of the car makes you feel like you have a giant tumor on the left side of your body, which you constantly have to keep out of people’s way. This giant tumor also had a way of making me drift well over to the left side of the lane which I inhabited.

I also learned, or rather was reminded, that my left hand is pretty useless. Shifting gears was slightly challenging for the hand that usually only moves to pick my nose or scratch my…yea, anyway. But after 500+ miles, I did eventually get the hang of it and really quite enjoyed driving again.

The best part of it all was that I managed a nice free upgrade – I called it the Birthday upgrade – and was driving around in an Audi. Far cooler that a little Ford Geo, or similar economy car, that I was expecting. Needless to say, I was a little bummed having to return it. Back to the ol’ bicycle for me!

My Birthday Upgrade

My Birthday Upgrade

Didn't want to give it back :(

Didn’t want to give it back :(

So, on my Birthday, I drove up to Yorkshire, with a few accidental detours (the accents on the English road signs were hard to understand) and arrived late afternoon. I was greeted with love and cheer, and proceeded to go upstairs and get on my laptop – I know so rude – so that I could skype home and get some Birthday affirmation from across the great blue beyond. The family – minus Cecilia, who was flying home from Italy – lined up on the screen and sang me a beautiful rendition of Happy Birthday…I know, I know, a beautiful rendition of that song never ACTUALLY occurs, but the sentiment was beautiful as always.

Had to share this!

Had to share this!

Nothing like a good Bday Card from a close friend!

Nothing like a good Bday Card from a close friend!

After all the Birthday love that evening, including the Inglehearn’s traditional and delicious Chocolate Malteser cake, it was time to get ready for the real celebration! I, thus, went to a lovely midnight mass at the local parish and this is when I was graced with the true peace and joy of Christmas once again. Then, as I love to do, I unabashedly sang along to the recessional hymn, “Hark, The Herald Angels Sing”, and the peace diminished momentarily for everyone else…but I loved it!

The traditional Malteser Cake - full of goodness

The traditional Malteser Cake – There’s was much better…and personalized, but you get the idea

Then I stayed up really late after Midnight Mass because it was still technically my Birthday back home and I didn’t want to miss any of it. Alas, another benefit of being here, my Birthday and Christmas are 29 hours long! New Years might be rough…

Christmas Day, Allison, my English Mum, had to work – God bless her soul – and so the family didn’t do much in the way of wild Christmas celebrations. So, I drove my nice ride over to another nearby cousin’s house and was hosted to a fantastic meal by the lovely Anne Mary, and her ever enjoyable husband Garry. The lamb, the ham, the turkey, the potatoes, the everything was delectable and I can honestly say it was the best meal I’ve had since I arrived this year! I even had room for a big piece of black forest gateau cake…oh the indulgence of me.

I can make room for this

I can make room for this

Once again, I got to skype with home that evening (morning at home) and wish all a very Merry Christmas! It is always fun to witness the impressive fiasco that is gift-giving time in the O’Reilly household.

Classic!

Classic!

I found this and could help but share it. So bad, that it would definitely be used at our dinner table.

I found this and could help but share it. It’s so bad that it would definitely be used at our dinner table.

I, unfortunately, had to leave the Inglehearn’s early on the 26th – known as Boxing Day in the UK – to head back down South for a game. Sadly, I made the 5+ hour drive, only to arrive to a cancelled game. Thankfully, the Christmas spirit gave me enough joy to get through that disappointment.

The 26th is also my sister Grace’s Birthday! While my Birthday is pleasantly eclipsed by the build up to Christmas, hers is overshadowed by the Christmas hangover. Everyone is perfectly content to wish her a Happy Birthday and wish her the best, just as long as they don’t have to get up off the couch. She never complains though, and takes the well wishes with genuine excitement and cheerfulness, just as long as she doesn’t have to get up off the couch. I love you Grace ;) Happy 21st!

That, my friends, is the story of my 2013 Christmas spent Far From Home, Alone. Not literally, thanks to the generosity of the Inglehearns, but it makes for a good title. If I had made it home for Christmas, the title wouldn’t have been much different, as I would have been Far From Home Alone.

In the meantime, I did play another game, and no, nothing has changed, I’m still a loser. We lost 2-0 to a team called Mangotsfield. On a positive note, at least we are not called Mangotsfield.

All the best to you all as you end this year and begin another. Here’s to you – hiccup – keep going head first into 2014!

May the Infant Jesus, give you peace and joy all the year long.

Seano

Loser

A loser. That’s me. The footballer, Sean O’Reilly, is a loser.

Yea, come on, at least be relaxed!

Yea, come on, at least be relaxed!

This is not me wallowing in self-pity. This is not me trying to create a metaphor for my current status in life. This is me telling you a fact; a truth. When you lose, you are a loser.

My point exactly

My point exactly

This is good, after all, the first step is admitting that you have a problem.

The second reason that this is good is that you have to be playing to lose. So, yes, I’ve played quite a few games in the last month. Since I last touched base, I have played in 6 games with Fleet Town, the team I am currently playing with. 4 of these were regular league games and 2 were cup games.

To make a long story short; we have lost all of them.

To make that short story long; I’ll drag you through the mud, sweat and tears and give you the rundown on each game as honestly as I can manage. The Manager at Fleet Town, Craig, usually writes a few notes on the game, which I will include links to as well.

Fleet vs Bishop’s Cleeve 0-2 Loss

After the first match I played with Fleet, where we tied 0-0, things were looking up. We had stopped the bleeding from the run of losses and things seemed to be looking up. Bishop’s Cleeve is near us at the bottom of the table, so it was a realistic chance for us to get a win, especially since we were playing at home.

This was not to be the case. Things just didn’t click for us and we didn’t play well at all. They scored on either side of half-time to take all of the spoils.

Fleet vs AFC Totton: Cup Game – 3-3 at end of extra time (lost 5-3 on penalty kicks)

This game was in one of the many local cups that we compete in. If I’m honest, I don’t know much about this one, except that we aren’t in it any more. AFC Totton occupies a similar position to us in the league higher above us. This turned out to be quite an exciting game, but we were once again left wanting. I would argue that throughout we were even the better team on the day.

Testwood Stadium - Home of AFC Totton

Testwood Stadium – Home of AFC Totton

We ended up finally scoring midway through the second half with a lovely headed goal. We kept this lead until the dwindling minutes of the game, at which point Totton got a late corner kick and scored from it. The 90 minutes ended 1-1, and this sent the game into extra time, two 15 minute periods.

Totton was the first to score in the first period of extra time. We kept fighting; however, and managed to claw one back to score early in the second period. The game was at 2-2. With minutes left we then received a penalty, from a foul on the edge of box. We duly disposed this and it looked like we were set to win. But when you are down in the dumps, things just don’t go your way. They went straight down and got another corner kick. Yes, they scored it, with essentially the last kick of extra time.

They eventually went on to win 5-3 on the penalty kicks as we missed our 4th (no, thankfully it wasn’t me). A devastating loss, which we threw away twice in the final minutes.

Fleet vs Wimborne Town 1-2 Loss 

The Cuthbury - Home of Wimborne Town

The Cuthbury – Home of Wimborne Town

Despite the long, hard fought loss at Totton a few days before, we were off to a good start away to Wimborne in the league. We had chances in the first half, but came in to the break 0-0. Unfortunately, we started off the 2nd half about as poorly as possible, giving up 2 goals in the first ten minutes. Both their goals were well taken, but could have been avoided with better defending. We fought hard and managed to pull one back, but it was too little too late. We were left to rue our missed chances.

This particular pitch was incredibly slanted from one side to the other. This pic was taken with the camera horizontal.

This particular pitch was incredibly slanted. This pic was taken with the camera horizontal.

Fleet vs Clevedon Town 2-3 Loss

The Hand Stadium - Home of Clevedon Town

The Hand Stadium – Home of Clevedon Town

Once again we were on the road – on a rare Monday night game – for a winnable game against a bottom half side: Clevedon Town. We were very good in the opening minutes but lost the edge and gave up 3 first half goals. All the goals came from our own mistakes and/or lack of focus, which was all the more frustrating.  We did manage to pull one back in the first half and thus came in to the break 3-1. In the second half, we were probably the better side and proved that with another goal. Yet again, we weren’t able to dig ourselves out of the hole we had dug for ourselves.

Fleet vs Tiverton Town 0-3 Loss

I won’t say much about this game except that we were beaten soundly. They were a good side for this level and dominated most of proceedings from the get go. Their second goal, in particular, was very well created. We fought and toiled, but lost this one fair and square. These games happen from time to time, but when you are already in a slump, it’s all the more humiliating and discouraging.

Fleet vs Reading Town 0-1 Loss

After the game against Tiverton, this one was a proper slap in the face. It was in another small tournament and this time we were playing a team in the league below us. We dominated nearly the entire game, but gave up a goal in the first half which we couldn’t overturn. I’ll come right out and take the blame for this goal. I managed to completely miss-time a header, which landed at the feet of an opponent who was then free to send his teammate through on goal for the finish.

On this muddy, dreary, and wet Tuesday evening, we managed to hit the post 3 times and miss a penalty kick. We were, once again, the losers.

I don’t even have a cheeky joke or clever metaphor to help explain the situation I, and the team, are in at the moment. We are loser’s.

We’ve all heard about the “winning mentality” in sports. It’s hard to put a finger on what causes this. There is no certain set of ingredients that you can write out and put into practice that will make it magically develop. In a similar way – and it’s hard to admit – losing can also become a mentality. Not in the sense that a team or a person wants to lose, or enjoys it. It just creeps up on you and before you know it you are in a hole and at a disadvantage to all of your opponents. Again, there is no simple ingredient to fix this dilemma; you can work harder, think longer, or get angrier, but it won’t guarantee a turn around. Getting out of this hole is one of the most difficult things to do in sport and in life.

Christmas gift ideas...

Christmas gift ideas…

What I will say is that you start to learn quite a bit about yourself in such times. What you learn is not always pleasant, but it’s always worth knowing.

To put a positive spin on all this, it has been nice to play consistently. I have played every minute of every game in midfield. I finally feel like I am fully game fit and my decision making and effectiveness is getting better every game. This is, surprisingly, the longest run of games that I have played since I came over to England. It would be much better to be winning, but it’s much better to be playing than not.

After all, action begets action.

I am confident the winning will come.

On another positive note, it’s almost Christmas, which is full of joy and excitement! I will be heading up to Yorkshire for a few days to enjoy the holiday with the Inglehearn cousins, before I get right back to playing and winning – God willing!

Peace and love to you all this Christmas season!

Celebrate head first.

Until next time,

Peace,

Seano

PS: Hope to get a Christmas post out next week so stay posted.