Journal – October-November 2007

My Nan smiling, as she sits in her armchair holding her 100th birthday card from the Queen

Welcome to another set of journal entries. October was fairly quiet, but I did meet a friend in Exeter, which was nice. Then I’ve had a couple of nice trips away during November, visiting my Nan in London for her 100th birthday, and then a friend at Bournemouth University for his much younger birthday!

I took lots of photos on my new Nokia 6300 phone while I was in London, a selection of which you’ll see below, along with an unusual photo of me from Bournemouth too. So I hope you like them, and that you enjoy this latest selection of entries overall!

Monday October 8, 2007

A slightly later entry this week, because I spent the weekend with AB in Exeter. We watched the 2 Rugby World Cup quarter final matches that day, the first in the Hog’s Head pub (where we saw England beat Australia) then the other one in the Golden Lion (France beat the favourites New Zealand). In between we got a Chinese takeaway for our tea and had that at her flat.

While we were in the latter pub, a group of girls and guys came in, and it looked like they were having an Ann Summers party or something like that, as they were talking about the sex toys they were playing with, and they got one of the guys to wear a dress, which we all got a chuckle out of. He was a good sport to let them do that.

On Sunday we had a roast lunch in town, then had a wander around the shops before I came home. I got a bunch of cards that myself and my parents needed – Mum and Dad’s anniversary, and birthday cards for Dad, Nan, Aunt and my best mate. I got those in the new Clintons store in the newly-opened Princesshay, just off the High Street. And it does look good, there’s plenty of nice shops there. Virgin Megastores are there – soon to be renamed as Zavvi after being sold off to the management – as are Debenhams, and there’s also a tasty looking store called Hotel Chocolat. I didn’t get anything in there, although I was tempted!

There isn’t anything special to mention at home or work. And the news over the past week has mainly been about the latest Royal Mail strikes. Two 48-hour walkouts have been taking place – last Thursday and Friday, and this Monday and Tuesday. Given that the weekend doesn’t present much post anyway, it’s effectively a week of strikes. And there will be more rolling strikes every Monday until negotiations reach a satisfactory conclusion, if they ever do. But some businesses are getting fed up and switching to other delivery companies where they can.

That’s it for the start of this month though. Not long to go until Christmas either – it’s obvious that it isn’t far away thanks to the shops and the TV, as per usual. But I won’t worry about that yet, not until December!

Sunday October 14, 2007

It’s been another quiet week, so there isn’t a lot to mention. But it was Mum and Dad’s anniversary this week, so we had some chocolates delivered from Cadbury’s – eventually, as they arrived a day late. Turns out the couriers misdirected it at their sorting office, but at least we got them. As for me, I’ve been watching Season 6 of 24 on DVD, and it’s brilliant as always.

In the news, the Royal Mail strikes ended on Wednesday, although unofficial strikes carried on in some areas after that. Apparently, the union might be close to reaching a deal now, but nobody can be certain whether the strikes are ending or not. Elsewhere, a new memorial has been set up for all those who have died doing military service for our country. And in Paris, the jury in the Diana inquest have been tracing her final journey and seeing where her car crashed.

The better news, though, is that England have had another couple of of sporting victories this weekend – our footballers beat Estonia 3-0 in the Euro 2008 qualifiers, and our rugby team are in the World Cup final after beating France! They’ll play either South Africa or Argentina, who play their semi-final today.

Sunday October 28, 2007

Life’s still ticking over much as normal, with nothing too fascinating to report, which is why I’ve left this entry for two weeks rather than one.

Mum and Dad did well on the Premium Bonds, getting £250 between them this month! So I put the cheques into the bank for them yesterday, which is handy for Dad’s birthday really. For Nan’s birthday, incidentally, we don’t need to send off for her telegram – it turns out the Pensions Service does that automatically for you. A representative visited Nan the other week to tell her that, and to see if she needed any help with anything.

In the news, there have been wildfires in California, causing over 500,000 people, including celebrities, to evacuate their homes. It’s not uncommon for fires to start out there, given the dry conditions they face sometimes, but they still think some may have been started by arson. If that is the case, let’s hope they catch the people who did it. It is a catastrophe, with so many homes destroyed.

In the media at home, ITV have been in trouble for their handling of phone-ins in the never-ending revelations – Ant & Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway, for instance, didn’t select contestants at random, but on factors like geographical convenience, and how good they might be on screen. The duo are donating profits from their next series to charity to make up for it. The BBC has also been in the news, as it is announcing budget and job cuts, because it didn’t get the license fee rise it felt it wanted.

And in sport, England reached the Rugby World Cup final again – but we lost this time, so didn’t retain the trophy. South Africa now hold the title. And Lewis Hamilton had problems during the last Grand Prix, meaning he missed out on the World Championship crown. Still, for a rookie’s first season, he’s done extremely well.

And to be honest, that’s pretty much it. There isn’t a lot happening at the moment. In a couple of weeks time, we’ll be going up to Nan’s for her birthday, then the following weekend I’m seeing my best mate for his. So there’ll be a bit more to report then.

Sunday November 4, 2007

Where has the year gone?! Halloween’s now passed, and it’s Bonfire Night tomorrow, so we’ve had a few fireworks going off around here. Not as many as I might have expected though.

Anyway, we’ve got our pay rise at work now! 2.5% has been agreed, which will go on to this month’s pay, and later we’ll get backpay for the previous months of the year too. So I’m not going to complain about that, even if there will be a bit of extra tax to pay as well of course!

At home I got the DVDs I ordered recently, including Queen Rock Montreal (plus the CD), which I’ve watched and listened to already, and it’s brilliant! I also got Die Hard 4.0, and the Christmas Specials for The Two Ronnies.

There are plenty more DVDs coming out soon as well, including Series 3 of Doctor Who of course. But I’m not going to order any more straightaway, in case they come while we’re away in London next weekend. We go up to Waterloo on Friday and come back on Monday.

In the news this week, the police have been found guilty of endangering the public over the shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes (the man mistaken for a suicide bomber after the 7/7 attacks), while Heather Mills has been giving media interviews about her divorce court proceedings with Paul McCartney. And one strange story is that a Mum cremated her son – only to find it wasn’t him, as he was still alive elsewhere! She had identified him, but it turns out him and the homeless guy who it really was are remarkably similar. That must have been a massive shock for her to say the least!

Anyway, that’s all I can think of for now. I’ll be in London this time next week for Nan’s 100th, so that’ll be interesting. It’s been a while since we were last up there.

Monday November 12, 2007

We’re back from our weekend at Nan’s for her 100th birthday, and we had a nice time. She got plenty of cards and presents from people, including family, neighbours, and even the doctors from the surgery on the corner. She was quite surprised so many had bothered! She got her card from the Queen too, which looks wonderful. It’s not a telegram like the Queen used to send – but she did still get a telegram, from Peter Hain, the Secretary of State for Work & Pensions. So that was a nice surprise, which none of us had expected.

Mum and Dad stayed in with Nan over the weekend, but my aunt took me out on Saturday and Sunday. On Saturday, we went and had a walk around Central London – as it was the day of the Lord Mayor’s Show, we could actually walk in the roads! We’d missed the parade of course, though we saw a bit on the telly in the morning. But we see some Morris dancers keeping the crowd entertained, and we watched a comedian doing some juggling in Covent Garden.

We also walked past the shops in Regent Street, Oxford Street, etc, looking at all their displays, which look great as always. Hamleys were doing Doctor Who, Debenhams had lots of moving teddy bears getting things ready for Christmas, and Selfridges had lots of things covered in diamonds, including a mini! Ok, they’re probably false diamonds, but it still looked very good. We also had a look inside the Apple store, which is very big and spacious. They were showing off their new iPhone of course, among other things. Then we had a drink – my aunt having tea, while I had hot chocolate – before we made our way to the Tube station. Before we got there though, we managed to watch some of the fireworks for the new Lord Mayor from one of the side streets, which was good.

When we got back to Nan’s that evening, there were 4 other people there, who it turns out are cousins of ours. One of them is Nan’s sister’s daughter – or something like that, I don’t remember for sure. Whoever they were, they had come all the way from Wales to say hello to Nan on her birthday, which was nice of them. It was sort of interesting listening to the conversations, although also boring because I didn’t know any of them!

Anyway, on Sunday, my uncle came out with my aunt and I. This was Remembrance Sunday of course, so we went and had a look at the Cenotaph, and all the crosses displayed outside Westminster Abbey for everyone killed in conflicts. It’s amazing to think that we wouldn’t be here – and I wouldn’t be writing this – without people like them. After that, we had a walk through the park, feeding the squirrels and birds, before then getting some fries from McDonald’s and taking a walk down the South Bank, stopping for a drink (I had hot chocolate again) on the way. Then we came home.

I also took some pictures and video with my new mobile phone that day, as well as of Nan and her items from the Queen and Peter Hain. So once I get the cable to upload them to my computer, it should be interesting to see how they’ve come out. I showed Nan the pictures I took of her on the phone and she really liked them, so I’m going to try and get them printed for her and laminated at work. Shouldn’t be a problem.

Coming home today proved to be interesting, as our train from Waterloo turned out to be cancelled! Because of emergency engineering work at Wimbledon, all West of England trains were starting from Basingstoke. So my aunt helped us to find the next Basingstoke train (which was already in, luckily), and helped us get on it. Only thing is – she didn’t have time to get off again! So she ended up coming to Basingstoke with us!

The train conductor was very nice though. When my aunt explained the situation, he graciously said that she didn’t have to pay, as she didn’t mean to be there. And on our request, he also rang ahead to Basingstoke. So when we got there, a nice woman called Sharon helped us all to find the next train – which went all the way home, and is probably the one we would have got anyway if it had started at Waterloo. Once we were on our way on that, Sharon then helped my aunt to get a train back to Waterloo, explaining to the guard that she shouldn’t have to pay, and he was fine with that. On the journey, the guard even told her that if anyone gives her grief at the ticket barrier for not having a ticket, that she should just stand aside and wait for him, as he had to get off and go that way anyway. Although as it turns out from talking to her on the phone, there were no people at the barrier anyway.

So we got home alright, as did my aunt. She had used my mobile to leave a message on her answering machine for my uncle, but he didn’t end up listening to it. He came home, saw she wasn’t around and went out again! He hadn’t come into Waterloo station with us anyway – he had some bits and pieces to do, so just dropped us off and went.

And that’s about it really, a nice little weekend away. Nan was very happy we’d come down. It was a tiring weekend for her, but a good one. London’s very busy these days as well, it took us an hour and a half to get to Nan’s from Waterloo station. The traffic is horrendous, and there are lots of traffic lights and one way streets to get your head around. Nan’s road is one way, for instance, so you have to go up one of the streets next to it from the main road to be able to go around and come down it from the other end. And the weather wasn’t too bad, it stayed nice and dry. There were lots of fireworks around over the weekend too, for some reason. 

I also got something unexpected this weekend. Mum was looking for some earrings before we went up there, and found a signet ring of her Dad’s that had been left to her when he died 21 years ago. It was for Mum to give to me, so that was handy. It’s 9 carat gold with a diamond in the middle. It looks really nice, so I’ve been wearing it all weekend. You never have to take it off either, not even for washing or showering, as the water just helps to keep it clean and shiny.

There hasn’t been a lot to report from the rest of the week though. Work was pretty quiet before I went away, and nothing much was happening at home. The news hasn’t been that interesting either. On our way to Waterloo today, however, we saw a big cloud of black smoke billowing up from somewhere – turns out that it was one of the warehouses due to be demolished for the Olympic site in Stratford, and it had gone up in flames!

So that’s about it. The rest of this week will be confusing – tomorrow will seem like Monday I’m sure! And then on Friday, I’m off to see a couple of friends in Bournemouth for another long weekend, for my best mate’s birthday. So that’ll be fun as well.

Monday November 19, 2007

I’ve just got back from my weekend in Bournemouth with S and P at the university, for the former’s birthday. It was a nice few days away, even if we didn’t ultimately do an awful lot! But then, why should we? It’s nice just to relax and chat with your friends.

On Friday night, we went up to Dylan’s (the student bar), where they were having Slave and Date auctions – the former are people who will do things for you, and the latter consists of people who will go out on a date with you. S successfully bid for one of the girls, and their date is at an Italian restaurant next week.

After getting up late on Saturday, we had lunch mid-afternoon in a sandwich bar in the town. S wanted us to try something called a Torpedo with bacon, but as they didn’t have any left we had bacon and sausage baguettes instead, which were just as nice. After that, we bought some fudge from the stall outside Debenhams, but didn’t stay in town any longer – the weather was bad, so we couldn’t do crazy golf. We then got a bus to a bowling alley, but had to give up on that activity too, as the waiting time for a lane was potentially up to 2 hours!

That evening, S cooked chicken tikka masala for us, which was very nice. Then we went up to Dylan’s again, for their Game Show night. This consisted of little games like Countdown, Catchphrase, Family Fortunes, The Generation Game (the conveyor belt part) and Play Your Cards Right, so that was fun to watch. They also had a Smirnoff promotion on – buy a Smirnoff vodka and Dr Pepper, and you get a token to let you “Spin and Win”. This just involved pressing a button on a Smirnoff display board that made a light flash around a wheel. Wherever it stopped was the prize you got.

So we all had a few goes – after all, Smirnoff and Dr Pepper is nice – and it’s obvious that Smirnoff rig the wheel! The majority of our prizes were from the “Dress Up Your Drink” section, from which we could choose from a flashing ice cube (which does look pretty cool), a glowing straw (which has something inside that, when cracked to induce the chemical reaction, makes it glow a little), a furry straw (has foil strands like hair on one end), and an umbrella. I ended up with the cube and both straws, while S got all 4! We did get a couple of other things though – S got the opportunity to request any song from the DJ (he wisely chose Sweet Child O’ Mine by Guns ‘N’ Roses), while I ended up with a red wig! I have pictures of us all wearing that on my mobile phone now. It’s only a cheap party wig though, the hair does keep falling out!

Yesterday we didn’t end up doing much. We had burgers for lunch at Dylan’s – although they were actually in baguettes, because there were no baps left. Still nice though. With the weather again being terrible, we decided not to go out anywhere in the afternoon, so we just lazed around back at the flat. We ended up killing a few hours by playing Trivial Pursuit, before getting some Chinese food from the local takeaway, and then watching a film called The Specialist starring Sylvester Stallone, which is ok but not particularly great.

Today the weather was absolutely atrocious to start with – rain, thunder and even hail, which made the ground look white with ice in many places outside. And because we weren’t able to get a bus into town for lunch (to give us enough time before S had to come back for a lecture), we bought some food from the student shop on campus and had that instead. P & I then got a taxi to the railway station, where I saw him off before going to catch my coach. The journey home was fine too. Exeter High Street and Princesshay have their lights up, I noticed, as I walked past them to get my train home from Exeter.

S & P are both doing fine anyway. And I’ve been chatting to a few other school friends as well recently. A couple of them are keen for folk from our school to go on the Facebook site, but I can’t be bothered to be honest. Why should I when I have email and MSN Messenger to keep in touch with them as it is? Besides, having tried MySpace out briefly, and Bolt in the past, I’m not particularly bothered about the whole social networking thing.

Back home, I’ve got a bunch of new DVDs that I ordered, including The Fast Show: The Ultimate collection, the Dad’s Army Christmas Specials, Harry Potter & The Order Of The Phoenix (the 5th film), and Doctor Who: Series 3. So I’ve certainly got plenty to watch! We’ve also won £10 on the lottery, and Mum’s got a few cheques on the Premium Bonds yet again! So we’re all doing pretty well!

So tomorrow it’s back to work as usual. We’ve finally got our 2.475% pay rise now, for which arrears back to April will be paid in December, which is a nice early Christmas present. I won’t be having many more holidays for a little while now though, considering I’ve only got 3 days left on my card up until the end of March! Not that it matters – I can still use flexitime if need be as well. One of my colleagues will be off for 6 weeks shortly following surgery on her foot though, so we’ll have to cover for her a bit.

And that’s about it. There isn’t much to mention in the news, other than bird flu has reared its head again recently, giving the media something to panic about once more. But I haven’t paid a lot of attention to the news otherwise, with all the travelling I’ve been doing! Everything’s back to normal for a while now though. Christmas is the next thing to look forward to, and that’s not far away!

Sunday November 25, 2007

I haven’t been doing much this week, as I’ve been ill. I seem to have picked up some sort of throat infection while I was away – it could simply have been because of the weather I guess – so that’s kept me off work most of the week. I did go in on Tuesday, with a little bit of a sore throat, but thought nothing of it. But then I was nearly sick twice that night, and felt like crap on Wednesday, so just stayed in bed asleep most of the day! I don’t think I got a lot of sleep at S’s flat on the floor anyway, so I needed to catch up on it.

I was up and about on Thursday, but still didn’t feel well enough to go into work. I didn’t go into work on Friday either, but popped down to the pharmacy to get some medicine for myself. Anyway, I’m feeling better today, albeit still not quite 100%, but I reckon I might be able to return to work tomorrow. We’ll have to see. At least I was in work for a colleague’s cream cakes order for their birthday on Tuesday, so I didn’t miss those!

The news this week has been taken up by 2 main stories. First, England lost against Croatia 3-2 in the football, meaning we’ve failed to qualify for Euro 2008. Of course that’s going to have a big impact on all the fans, and for all the money that’s lost from England not being there. It’s not often we don’t get into big international competitions, so it really makes headlines when it happens. The big consequence, though, was the sacking of the manager, Steve McLaren, and Terry Venables, his deputy. Steve did make some odd decisions about who to pick and the formation for the game, changing the strategy a bit from the norm, as I understand it. So the FA will now be thinking hard as to who they pick next to lead the team. Of course, the players are to blame for the loss too, but ultimately the responsibility lies with the manager.

The other big story is that 2 CDs have gone missing from Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs (HMRC). What was on them? Oh nothing – just the names, addresses, dates of birth and bank account details of 25 million child benefit claimants, that’s all! They were sent to the Audit Commission by a junior employee, unencrypted (although it was password protected), using unrecorded delivery. Not the wisest thing to do! There’s no reason to suspect criminals have got hold of it, if the discs have even left the building, but that still doesn’t stop it being an enormous cock-up.

Nothing else I can think of though. Hopefully I’ll be back to normal next week. Although, knowing my luck, I’ll probably get a winter cold then!

Author: Glen

Love London, love a laugh, love life. Visually impaired blogger, culture vulture & accessibility advocate, with aniridia & nystagmus, posting about my experiences & adventures.

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