I thought it might be prudent to do a brief blog about my recent UK trip. I kept a personal journal as I travelled (as I usually do) and my Facebook chums were kept up to date with my various shenanigans thanks to my new "smart-phone"; (I must say, they are handy little buggers, even if it cost me a fortune on 'pay-as-you-go'.) but I thought it would be apt to give a brief rundown of my adventures on this ol' blog of mine too. I shall keep it as brief as possible.
Firstly, the flight over wasn't too bad as I managed to sleep through most of it – thank you Diazepam!
I arrived at Heathrow and caught a taxi to the hotel. Being the naïve chap I am, I wasn’t aware how far the airport was from the city, so the £70+ went from my budget immediately. However, it was reasonably worth it. The cabbie was brilliant. London cab drivers are so much better than any I have experienced anywhere else because they know everything and he gave me lots of advice about where to go and what to do etc.
Whilst in London, I bought a posh umbrella from James and Sons and went to visit Kirsty MacColl's memorial bench...
...saw two plays (‘Death and the Maiden’ & ‘The Ladykillers’), caught up with a number of old friends, broke my glasses and spent a few hours lost on the underground.
Note to all. Don’t go to Vision Express; go to Specsavers. At the former, they think 10-15 working days is "express". Specsavers fixed my specs in an hour.
I was staying at the Churchill Hyatt and, to be frank, I do not really understand what ‘5 star’ means any more. No pool, self-service at breakfast and any other services were extra charges. So technically, I am simply paying a vast amount for a double bed and a bath. Bit rude. Still, I won the travel vouchers, so it’s not a major issue.
And it was a nice hotel...
And I do love a deep bubble bath!
I also went and did the Doctor Who Experience which was a bit of fun. My two favourite things about the exhibition were; seeing the RTD-era TARDIS interior and, when I got to the eighties’ TARDIS interior, one young girl said to her friend; "This is better than the current one!" - She was absolutely right, of course.
Friends I met in London: Peter, Jae, Matt, Nicole, Iain and John.
Next stop, Bournemouth.
I used to live in Bournemouth and had not visited for about ten years, so it was imperative that I caught up with some other old friends including my old employers who now have a brand new café and it’s fantastic.
If you're ever in the vicinity, go to Flirt!
I stayed in a charming little guesthouse ("Bamboo") near my old lodgings and had a lovely time playing with the squirrels in the park.
Friends I met in Bournemouth: Kathy, Rob, Peter, Mark, Nasreen, Rhys (and Joanne!)
Then to Bristol!
I stayed at Jamie & Kevin’s abode for two nights and it was very relaxing. They are very accommodating fellows and they have been great friends to me for many years. Bless ‘em. We just had a relaxing time pottering about, playing games and catching up.
Whilst drinking mulled wine whilst out shopping, I took a sneaky photo of a hottie. Gosh, I'm bad!
Onwards to Cardiff. This was to be my "quiet time" as I didn’t have anyone to catch up with there, however, I was streaming with cold, so that dampened my spirits somewhat. I stayed at Jolyon’s Hotel in Cardiff Bay (right by Roald Dahl Plass)
...and I enjoyed wandering about despite the snot. The hotel was lovely and one of the main members of staff was called Steve and he was brilliant and rather attractive.
Next to Bridgend where I caught up with my dear friend Rhian and I got to meet her fiancé Blake, who got my seal of approval (I am sure he’ll be pleased to know that!)
I would have liked to have spent more time with Rhian, but my schedule was tight.
Rhian and I always have such a laugh together.
Swansea next! Well, to be rather imprecise, a small town just outside, but the name escapes me and even if I know, I’d probably spell it wrong. Here I spent the night with more old friends; Greg, Delyth and their lovely daughter Ifanna.
Greg and I go back a few years and I have a soft spot for him. He’s such a decent and gentle soul. He also has a lovely family. Bless ‘em!
I took this photo of Ifanna for two reasons.
1) she looked so cute
2) she reminded me of Don't Look Now
Then, on the 23rd, I had to get back to Derbyshire. Thankfully, my mate John (whom I met up with in London) is a good mate to know for many reasons, but his ability to sort out cheap tickets through his job is an absolute blessing. He told me where I could get all the best deals. (Thanks again, John – you legend!)
The trip from Swansea to Matlock was a very long one, but the time passed relatively quickly. It was just odd that there was no dining car or trolley on the long journey, so I was starving when I got home to Mum and Mac’s place. Luckily, she made me a mug of tea, a bacon sandwich and had some mince pies ready. Bliss.
The next few days were dedicated to family. Whilst in Derbyshire, I did not get around to seeing as many people as I had originally intended. Mainly because I was still streaming with cold, but also, I just wanted to spend time with my family. Seriously, if anyone gives me a hard time about that, I might get a little bit grumpy with them.
I had to see my dear friend Alison as she is one of the best people in the universe. I spent time with Dad and Mandy and I also got to see Auntie Sarah and Uncle Ian. Uncle Bill and Auntie Sue also visited on Boxing day and Granny also spent time with us for a while until it was time for me to head south again.
The highlight was Christmas day though. It was just me, my brother Matt, Mum and Mac. The first time just the four of us had spent Christmas together alone. It was like old times. Lovely food, great gifts, a superb atmosphere and jolly times.
Before the end of the year, I did manage to squeeze in a visit to my mate Dean’s place. He’s another old college friend who always goes out of his way for me and he has a heart of gold (despite his acerbic exterior! Don’t deny it, Dean!)
New Year’s Eve was a silly affair with a load of Mum’s friends and I eating, drinking and playing daft games.
However, once again, I have decided to give up alcohol. I lasted 29 months last time – let’s see how I manage this time.
So, after my happy time at home, it was time to head south. I went to Brighton and stayed at MyHotel in Jubilee Street. I stayed there last time and really enjoyed it, so was happy to go again.
I caught up with my lovely and talented friend Marc the first night and the following day, I saw my lovely and talented friend Emily.
By this point, I was becoming quite melancholic as I didn’t want to return to Australia.
My final day, I headed back to London. I had most of the day to kill until my late flight out, so I left my bags at Victoria station and went for a wonder. I went to Soho square (as I had done on my first day in London) to sit on Kirsty MacColl’s memorial bench...
...looking less happy than before... I had a quiet lunch at one of those Gourmet Burger Kitchen places and then, joy of joys, I found a cinema showing an exclusive preview of The Artist, which I had been longing to see. I adored it! As soon as it was over, I rushed to HMV to buy the soundtrack (which I am listening to as I type this!)
MY kind of film…
Speaking of entertainment; TV highlights over Christmas included new AbFab (better than I’d expected, to be frank), Downton Abbey hitting every emotional note pitch-perfectly and Darcey Bussell Dances Hollywood - a superb documentary in which she retrained her body to tap dance instead of ballet. She did numbers from old Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire movies – gold!
For me, Doctor Who just continues to decline in the writing. This Christmas special was anything but special. I thought it was dire. If you’re going to hire Bill Bailey, bloody well use him. *sigh*
Anyway… back to the plot.
I headed to Heathrow on the train and waited as there were some delays.
As I was walking through that elevated corridor (I’m sure it has a name, but I never know what it’s called!) towards the plane, I was so tempted to turn around and head straight back up North. I thought; ”Would it matter if I didn’t go back to work?”, “I could pay off my debts from England, right?” and stuff like that.
The one thought that got me on that damned plane was my beautiful cat, Fizzgig.
I cannot deny it. I know where my heart belongs.
Bring on that windfall…
On a lighter note:
Each time I go back to Blighty, I notice some changes or oddities. This time I noticed three major things;
1) The TV is getting worse and worse. Well, to be fair, there’s just more of it. But how many shopping channels to the plebs need? Still, when there was quality programming on, it was certainly better than Aussie TV (sorry Australian friends, but it’s the truth and cannot be denied!)
2) Hats with ears. Everywhere you go. There are hats with friggin’ ears! Who wants to look like an animal in the winter months? I wanted to buy a nice warm hat for the winter, but I don’t want animal ears on my head! What a retarded fashion.
3) An abundance of German markets. In just about every major town or city I went to, there were these strips of wooden sheds in rows selling crafty/Christmassy/German things. I have to admit, I did like ‘em!
One other thing. What is it with taps these days? Why can’t they be clearly labelled ‘hot’ and ‘cold’? Modern chrome taps either have nothing on them or, at best, a teensy-weensy red or blue dot. Now, my eyesight is bad at the best of times, but when I’m in the shower, I AM NOT WEARING MY GLASSES, so I have to lean in close and squint. The same goes for the writing on the shampoo and conditioner bottles in hotel bathrooms. Too small for my crappy eyes.
So, that was my holiday.
Jet lag is being a pain in the arse so my body clock is all over the shop. The weirdest thing is waking up and not knowing which country I am in or whether I have to catch a train or plane or not. Confusing…
I didn’t keep it very brief after all, did I?
Some more photos:
I really like my mum's kitchen.
...and she always has a lovely tree at Christmas!