Journal – December 2008


Welcome to the end of another year with this latest instalment of journal entries. This month began with a trip to Bristol, as a visually impaired friend of mine was visiting the city for a training course, and his employer had offered to pay for someone to go along and help him out. So he kindly invited me. It was a nice little trip away, and we were pleasantly surprised by the accommodation we were given, which I’ve included a few photos of. Then after that there’s Christmas of course. So I hope you enjoy!

Monday December 1, 2008

Things have been pretty quiet again lately, but I thought I’d do a quick update before I go away with my best mate for a few days. Work has mainly been about getting the bus stop posters done, as they’ve kept coming in, and my manager returned from his holiday to Australia. We’ve got our Christmas dinner on December 19th, which should be nice.

As for home, we’ve had a good clear out thanks to Dad getting a skip, so I filled up a couple of black bags too. I used Dad’s shredder – I’m intending to get one of my own now – to destroy all sorts of old paperwork, from university, banking, careers stuff, etc. And we’ve taken apart my old computer, in order to take the hard drive out so we can destroy it. So that’s freed up a bit of room here and there. We’ve kept my old computer’s flat screen monitor though, just in case!

I’ve also got plenty of new DVDs to watch – as well as the extras on Doctor Who: Series 4, I’ve got 24: Redemption, the complete Mr Bean collection,  and a whole bunch of stand-up comedy DVDs to get through (Lee Evans: Big, Dara O Briain Talks Funny, Russell Howard Live & Rowan Atkinson Live). So they’ll all keep me going for a while. Plus I still have to finish the Bond films in my collection, and I’ve just got the deluxe edition of Casino Royale (the first of the Daniel Craig films), which has far more extras than the first version did!

And that’s it really. I’ve had today off work, as there didn’t seem much point in going in just for one day this week. So I’ve just lazed around. The next few days with my best mate should be interesting though!

Sunday December 7, 2008

I’m back from my trip now, and it was a good week. On Tuesday I went up to Exeter. AB was having a Christmas dinner – well, a carvery to be precise – with her bowling friends, so S and I went to KFC for lunch, as it is a tradition we like to keep up! We then got a bus to the hospital for his eye appointment. They will have to operate to sort out his cataract, but they’ll have to be very careful because of the fluid that’s still in there from the retina operation he had a number of years back.

After that – and we were there a good couple of hours because they were running behind – we popped into the Guildhall Shopping Centre to do our other tradition, buying scratchcards. We each won on our first go – he got £1 and I got £2 – and then we both won again after using those winnings to get extra cards! He got £2 this time, but I got £20! I was quite amazed! We stopped there of course – quit while you’re ahead and all that! We met up with AB again after that, but we didn’t do anything special for the rest of the evening, other than having a takeaway from Pizza Hut back at her place.

And so, on Wednesday, S and I caught the train to Bristol. I put a few of my things in his case just to make it easier, especially as his had wheels on! The train journey was fine, and I read a few of his notes to him on the hour-long journey.

And then we went to the apartments, or what we thought were the apartments! Premier Apartments, however, had no record of us! It got sorted pretty quickly though. It turns out there was a lack of communication to S from his employer – or BPP to be precise, as they run the courses on his employer’s behalf. So, although Premier Apartments are used for people doing those courses, it’s often only just as an overflow if they can’t go elsewhere.

We were in fact staying in the Portland Apartments, and a concierge – a wonderfully friendly, cheerful guy – came and picked us up and took us there. And our jaws dropped when we entered apartment 28 a short while later. Spacious is perhaps an understatement! It’s massive!

As you walk in, you see the huge open plan living area, which includes a dining table, a couple of sofas, and a Freeview TV and DVD player, as well as a kitchen. A bathroom with shower is just next door on the ground floor.

Spacious lounge area in a white-walled apartment, with spot lighting in the ceiling. A low, square glass table sits on a white rug in the centre of the space. Around it are a flat-screen TV on a low stand below a large framed picture on the wall, a 2-seater sofa, a 3-seater sofa, and 2 adjacent windows through which the lit windows of other apartments can be seen.

Kitchen area in a white-walled apartment, and spot lighting in the ceiling. The white kitchen units are along one wall. On the left, a big metal oven has a cupboard above and below it. To its right, a metal worktop has a microwave, sink, kettle and toaster. Below it are 5 cupboards and a set of drawers, while above are 6 cupboards. And on the far right is a tall fridge freezer. A large square wood-coloured unit, with 3 shelves on the side facing us, sits in the middle of the kitchen area, separate from the main units, with a hob visible on the top on the far side nearest the kitchen units.

And then upstairs are the two bedrooms. Again, they’re big, each with a double bed, with very comfortable sheeting. I let S have the one with the ensuite bathroom (which included a bath unlike the downstairs room that I used), and his room had more closet space than mine. But they were identical other than that. And the windows from the bedrooms actually look out over the living room below!

Bedroom in a white-walled apartment. The double-bed has white sheeting and pillows. 3 different coloured square cushions sit together in front of the pillows, while 3 different sized towels are folded and placed on a dark blanket covering the bottom half of the bed. A bedside table with 3 drawers sits on each side of the bed, each with a lamp on top with a square lampshade. On the wall above the bed is a large picture of grass or leafy plants in front of a sunset.

So we were, understandably, very impressed. According to the leaflets we found, a two-bed apartment costs £115 per night, or £135 for a deluxe two-bed apartment, although we never found out what the difference between a normal and a deluxe apartment was! So thank god my friend’s employer was paying!

We went out for a bit of a wander that evening, to see if we could find a corner shop (we found a Co-op and a Spar nearby) as well as places to eat. There was no point getting stuff in to cook for just two nights, so we just got in milk, cereal and orange juice. Coffee had already been provided – as had a full bottle of Chardonnay in the fridge, incidentally, but we didn’t drink it, as we weren’t sure if it was for us, or left there by the previous inhabitants for some reason. Anyway, we settled on an Irish pub called O’Neills for our tea, which was very nice. And then, by the time we got back, it was time for bed that night.

On Thursday morning I took S down to the BPP Centre. Thanks to the map provided in our apartment, it wasn’t difficult to get to. And so, while he went in for his Law and Ethics course (for the Tax qualification he’s working towards), I went for a wander around Bristol, in particular to the shops at Broadmead and Cabot Circus. And there are a lot of shops, so I was quite content looking around them on both Thursday and Friday. I did try walking to a few other places as well, but there was nothing particularly fascinating. Still, I was fine – it was only two days after all, and it was good exercise! And I also bought a few things, including Christmas cards.

I did meet S for lunch on both days too – and both times we went to the café right next door to BPP called the Café On The Square. It’s a lovely place – the staff are very friendly and helpful, telling us what was available, the music they played in the background was good, and the food was delicious. We both had a double chicken breast fillet burger and chips on Thursday – and you get a lovely big chicken breast for your money, along with bacon and cheese on top. It was so nice that S had it again on Friday, but I resisted temptation and went for the lasagne instead that time, which was still very tasty!

And on Thursday night, our meal was at a place called Nando’s, that specialises in Peri Peri Chicken (it’s a Portuguese sauce, and you can choose how hot you like it done). And that tasted good too! Their cheesecake that we had for pudding was also very nice. Nando’s wasn’t cheap though, but hopefully S’s allowance from his employer will at least cover most of it.

After his course finished on Friday, S & I headed back to Exeter, with another easy train journey, where we met both AB & AL, as her boyfriend was down for the weekend. It took us a while to find somewhere to eat that night, because most places were fully booked (for Christmas dinners mainly). But we did find a pizza place on Cathedral Green, so we went in there, and that was nice enough. That evening we went to The Globe, where they were having a karaoke night, so S & I went into the pool room and had a few games there. Which I won, of course!

On Saturday, we missed the morning completely (no surprises there), and after lunch at McDonald’s, the four of us went for a quick game of bowling. S won easily, but we all got scores of over 100. Then we went back to AB’s place to watch the Sunderland football game. Well, S & AL watched it mainly – AB either looked at the internet or had a lie down in her room, while I sat back and listened to my iPod. We watched Harry Hill’s TV Burp and Have I Got News For You after that though, which was more interesting for me, then we got in fish and chips and had that before going to bed.

Then today we got up about noon again, and AL & I got a taxi to the station together just before 2pm, as our trains were about the same time. Although this is after I’d taken S down to KFC so he could get a takeaway to eat, before he got a taxi to the airport later. I waited until I got home before I had my lunch.

And that’s pretty much it. It was a good week, especially those nice couple of days in Bristol, and it was lovely to see S again, naturally.

Friday December 26, 2008

There hasn’t been lots to report since my trip to Bristol. Work’s still ticking over fine, with the various bus stop posters and other bits and pieces keeping us going. We had our Christmas dinner at Ocean Drive last Friday, which everyone agreed was very nice, better than last year there, so we’ll probably be going there next year too!

This was just a short working week, as it ended with a half-day on Christmas Eve, effectively giving us a 4-and-a-half day weekend! I’m back next week, but we’re off on New Year’s Day and we’ll probably leave early the other days, as not much will be happening.

As for Dad’s workplace, they’re having financial difficulties because of the credit crunch, so he might have to reduce his hours this coming year. So we’ll have to wait and see what happens on that front. If he can hang on until he retires in just under 2 years time, he should be alright.

As for home, I did a bit of Christmas shopping in Torquay last weekend, getting a few bits and pieces, mainly food of course. And the sales are going mad now. There were tons on the web yesterday, even though the shops on the high street weren’t open of course. So I’ll probably be shopping again imminently, to see what bargains are out there on Christmas food and other things. And talking of food, I’ve got a chocolate layered madeira cake, which is delicious!

But we’re continuing to lose big shops as well. Both Woolworths and Zavvi (formerly Virgin Megastores) have gone under recently. Zavvi went mainly because the Woolworths entertainment arm provided Zavvi with all their CD, DVDs, etc, so once Woolies went into administration, it was only a matter of time. So I don’t know what will replace our nearest Woolworths in Paignton, or who else will go. They haven’t been the only 2 recently anyway. We already know Rossiters is closing in January, which is a great shame, it’s a lovely store.

Anyway, yesterday we had a very nice Christmas dinner of course, having got a lovely big fresh turkey. And as for presents, Dad and I got a fleece and some handkerchiefs each from my Nan, Aunt & Uncle (we had sent them plants). The fleeces are nice and warm, but as Dad doesn’t really wear them, I got both! Mum got some underwear and slippers from them, and they also sent a small Marks & Spencer’s hamper for us all to share. As for Mum and Dad’s presents from me, I’ll buy them some audiobooks, but I’m waiting to find out what they want. I’ve made a list of the complete, unabridged books they have on CD (only about 30 of them so far), so they’ll pick the next few soon I’m sure.

The rest of the day was just spent relaxing really, and watching TV in the evening. Doctor Who: The Next Doctor was great, as was Wallace & Gromit: A Matter Of Loaf & Death, plus there was a Blackadder documentary (Blackadder Rides Again) and an extended Christmas special of Have I Got News For You. All of which are BBC shows you’ll notice – and in the overnight ratings, the BBC nabbed the top 9 places! Poor ITV, but they didn’t really have anything to compete with all that, especially Doctor Who and Wallace & Gromit. It was the latter that got the top spot, with Doctor Who only a couple of places behind.

As for the news, a lot of that has been about the recession, which will probably continue well into 2009, perhaps for the whole year the way people are talking. There are other little stories as well, but nothing too fascinating or bigger than that. So I’ll leave it there for now. Today’s going to be another quiet day, and the weekend will also be pretty lazy too – and I’m certainly not complaining about that!

Wednesday December 31, 2008

And so 2008 draws to a close. An interesting year, and a good one. Perhaps not always the most eventful as far as work and home life goes, but then it’s nice to have a relatively relaxing time of it. It just means that I haven’t had tons to write about in here, hence my entries have been more spaced out. But, that said, it’s had a number of fun and interesting moments too!

Work has been very quiet this week, with us finishing at 4pm the past couple of days (and 3:30pm today). Friday, after the Bank Holiday, will be equally quiet no doubt. So there isn’t much to report on at work or home.

As for the news, the most prominent people recognised in the New Year Honours list are our Olympians – every medallist has been honoured in some way, and Chris Hoy (the cyclist who got 3 gold medals at the Beijing games this year) has been knighted. He was also the BBC Sports Personality Of The Year. Another person of note is Ellie Simmonds, the Paralympic swimmer who also won medals this summer, and has now become the youngest ever person to be honoured, getting an MBE at the age of just 14! Well done her!

So on that pleasant note, 2008 is done and dusted. Here’s to 2009, let’s see what it brings!

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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