So here we go with another year – hopefully my final one in Devon, as we feel determined to make the move to London happen now after all the delays.
But to start with, 2016 has got off to a fun start, because I’ve visited my best mate in Guernsey again, the first time I’ve seen him since I was Best Man at his wedding last September. These are my first journal entries since that event, as there was nothing else of interest to write about for the last few months of 2015.
So I hope you enjoy reading about my little holiday – including an awkward bus trip, the latest Star Wars film and a games night, among other things – plus a few other updates.
Friday January 1, 2016
It’s been a while since my last entry, as there hasn’t been much to report on since SM & TM’s wedding. So this is going to be a quick catch-up entry before I get into the year ahead, as I can update a few things.
Christmas Day was enjoyable of course, with plenty of relaxation and over-indulgence. Mum and I each got a dressing gown from my Aunt and Uncle, and a smelly diffuser that you put some sticks in and place on the shelf, which has a nice aroma to it. Then we just watched TV for the rest of the night.
We also celebrated Christmas at work of course. We had a lovely Christmas dinner at the Beefeater in Belgrave Road in Torquay, and some of us went on elsewhere for drinks afterwards. It was a late dinner on this occasion, starting at 4:30pm, so by the time we’d gone out for drinks as well, I ended up getting the last bus home, so I got back about midnight.
Then on Christmas Eve, we had a draw with wine and biscuits, enough for one prize for everyone, and I got a bottle of Chardonnay. Our manager then bought fish and chips for us all to share, before sending us all home for a half-day extra holiday, as we tend to do on Christmas Eve. Mum and I were going to have the Chardonnay with our Christmas dinner, but it turned out to have a cork, not a bottle top, and we couldn’t find a corkscrew, so that’ll have to wait until we can get one. We don’t want to waste it.
Other than Christmas, I also enjoyed sorting out the photos and videos from SM’s wedding too. I ended up putting together a DVD for him, 2 discs in fact, with various extras – trailers, the messages from our school friends, the video I shot on my Guernsey trip back in 2001, clips of SM in the news I’d grabbed off some websites a few years ago, and some music videos. That was fun to put together, and he and TM seemed to like it. She’s staying with him for Christmas, then they’re going to spend new year with her parents in the UK. And I’m about to go over and stay with SM in a few days time, back in Guernsey now he’s moved to his Nan’s old place, so that’ll be good.
Finally, the most significant thing is regarding our move to London. Our builder has been pretty much impossible to get hold of. He promised to come around in October to discuss the next options for the roof, but never did. He told us he’d just moved house to Torquay, and helped his son get his own place, so things were rather chaotic for him. But he still hasn’t got back in touch with us since, other than sending us a Christmas card.
We don’t know his new address or phone number, and he hasn’t showed much eagerness in coming round to do the roof, or the other little jobs we want doing (e.g. the back door can’t be locked right now, because we can’t lift the handle up). We gave him a year’s grace after his wife died to get back on track again, but the fact it’s taken over another year since, and in this past year he’s only attempted the roof once, is very frustrating.
So we’re going to push ahead with the London move regardless now. If we can get away without doing the roof, we will, but if we have to get that and other little jobs done, we’ll just get someone else in. If our builder does come round in the new year to talk about work, then we’re going to set a deadline on it – if it’s going to take too long, then we’ll get someone else instead. We can’t keep waiting indefinitely like this. It’s coming up to the 5th year anniversary of Dad’s death, and we still haven’t moved, and it’s going to get to a point where it’s too late for Mum if we’re not careful. We have to go, we’ve waited long enough.
So that’s the plan for 2016 – to move whatever happens. We’re both looking forward to it, and we’re both very keen for it to happen. So hopefully, fingers crossed, we’ll be there by this time next year, and hopefully sooner than that!
Tuesday January 5, 2016
I’m back in Guernsey once again, for a visit that should be less frantic than the wedding last year of course!
My flight today was on time, and SM met me at the airport as usual. After having a nice time visiting his wife TM’s family in the UK, he had assumed he was coming back on Monday – which is why I’d booked to go over on Tuesday. But then SM got a text from Flybe shortly after the start of the year, reminding him when his flight was. He assumes that he must have booked the Tuesday because it was cheaper. It meant that he had to spend Monday on his own while TM was at work, though he did have her parents’ dog to look after. And thankfully on Tuesday SM’s flight got in about 4 hours before mine. So he was able to get the bus home to drop his stuff off and sort a few things out, before coming to get me. SM and I didn’t have to get the bus back to his place though. Luckily his cousin SP had just finished work nearby, so was able to give us a lift back. He didn’t stay with us, he just dropped us off.
SM’s now living in his gran’s old house, which is a big place, so he’s sharing it with his sister & her husband. SM has most of the downstairs area, and there’s a lot of room there. As you come through the front door, the large lounge is through the door on the left, while the door on the right leads to what is going to be their study and exercise room, where he keeps his desk and CCTV, as well as his CDs & DVDs. The exercise bike would normally be in there, but it’s been moved out to make room for the mattress that I’m sleeping on.
If you continue straight down the hallway, at the very end are three rooms – the bathroom (with a shower, a sink and the washing machine), a separate toilet room, and SM’s bedroom (which is very big, with mirrors on the wardrobes, a separate big wooden closet, and a door to the back garden).
Alternatively, if you go through the lounge, or if you follow the hallway round to the left before you get to the bathroom, you come to the kitchen. It’s not huge, but it’s big enough for what SM needs, with a fridge, freezer, gas oven and cooker, microwave and larder. There’s a big cupboard in the hallway just before you get to the kitchen as well, and opposite that is a small alcove (with another door to the garden) where the coat hooks are found. The exercise bike is being stored there while I’m staying.
The study room I’m staying in has another door on the opposite wall, which takes you through to his sister’s part of the house (via her kitchen). We didn’t go through it, but she used it when she wanted to talk to us a few times. I don’t know if they have any more rooms on the ground floor – I suspect they probably have a lounge there at least – but most of their activity seemed to be on the top floor.
This isn’t SM’s permanent home now. His sister is hoping to sell it at some point, though they’ve been having trouble finding a buyer. When they do sell it, however, SM will then have to find somewhere else. By then, though, his wife TM might be over. The sale of her flat in the UK was finally completed on Friday, much to her and SM’s relief, understandably. So she’s now living with her parents again, and will soon be looking for work in Guernsey. Finding a job shouldn’t be too difficult given her experience and qualifications, so hopefully that’ll work out well. Hopefully she’ll be able to do telephone interviews for at least the first round, so she hasn’t got to keep going over to Guernsey too much. And she’ll have to give her current employer 2 months notice of course. So it’s going to be a few months before she can move to the island.
Anyway, this evening I tried some ginger ale that SM had, which I think his parents had left behind while they were visiting over Christmas, and that was very nice. I’d never had it before. Then we called for a takeaway delivery from Dial A Pizza Guernsey for our tea, getting a Hawaiian pizza of course, and a Chicken Tikka pizza as well. They were ok, though not great. They filled a hole though, so we weren’t hungry afterwards. Then we watched The Fast & The Furious on TV – a film I’d never seen before, but it was fun – with a can of Strongbow each to drink.
Wednesday January 6, 2016
Not much to report today. We got the bus into town, so SM could sign on at the Job Centre and get some shopping in the Co-op. Then we had turkey ham sandwiches for lunch back at his place. During the afternoon, we then made a big box of Victor’s Pear Cider that he’d been given for Christmas – you essentially pour in a sachet of yeast and lots of water, and then leave it to distill for 48 hours. Other than that, we had a very lazy afternoon, before SM cooked peppered steak, mash and veg for tea, followed by Christmas pudding, all of which was very nice. We then watched Home Alone 2 and Live At The Apollo on TV to finish off the evening.
Thursday January 7, 2016
We got up after 10am today, as we didn’t need to be anywhere by a particular time (SM had to leave for the Job Centre around that time yesterday). So we just had a lazy morning, and a light lunch consisting of a very nice bacon sandwich and an apple. We then went into town, where we got a couple of scratch cards as is our tradition (SM won £20) and had hot chocolate at Dix Neuf.
We then tried to get the bus to the cinema to see the new Star Wars film (Episode 7 – The Force Awakens). SM has been to the Mallard Cinema before, but not on the bus on his own. So he asked if we could be notified when we got there. But the bus driver forgot, so when we figured out something was wrong and asked if we’d passed it, we were a fair way beyond it.
The driver gave us a couple of excuses for that. The first was the fact that I was there, and he assumed I could see as I wasn’t holding a cane like SM. That didn’t make sense, however, because if we hadn’t needed the help, we wouldn’t have asked for it in the first place!
Then he said that because he often gets lots of people, especially tourists, asking to be told about certain stops, it is hard for him to keep track, and it would have been better for us to ask another passenger who was going that way to let us know when the stop was. In a way that makes sense, because he probably does get a lot of queries like that. However, he’d had none since we got on the bus, and there were very few people on it. And it isn’t very practical to ask every passenger on the bus if they’re going at least as far as you. But more importantly, if the bus driver knew that was a common issue, why didn’t he tell us that when we asked him to remind us to begin with?
He did arrange for a rendezvous with a bus going the other way, and transferred us on to it without any extra charge. But by the time we got back in the vicinity of the cinema, we would have missed at least half an hour of the film. So we gave up and continued back into town instead, and we weren’t very happy about that. A few people we told afterwards said we ought to complain about it, so SM might do so at some point. It wasn’t very helpful behaviour from the bus driver, that’s for sure.
So instead we went to Harvey’s Bar, near SM’s old flat, and had a couple of Strongbows in there. Then we went to Dix Neuf for our tea, where I had a double burger and fries, followed by sticky toffee pudding and ice cream, all of which was delicious. We then went home after that, and watched a couple of new episodes of Brooklyn Nine-Nine – not a show I could get into in a big way, but it’s ok. Then we went to bed just after 10pm. Early perhaps, but there was nothing on TV to watch, and we were tired anyway after spending about 2 hours travelling on the bus earlier.
Friday January 8, 2016
Again we had a lazy morning today, getting up late and having sandwiches for lunch. Then we went bowling in the afternoon, winning 1 game each then having a Strongbow at the bar there. Then we went for fish and chips, at the same place I’d gone with SM and TM shortly before their wedding rehearsal. This time, SM had jumbo battered sausage, and I had jumbo cod. Then we went up to Harvey’s Bar for the meat draw – where one of my numbers came out first, so I got the beef joint for SM that he’d wanted. And we chatted to a few of SM’s friends there too while the draw was going on.
We stayed at the pub after that to watch the Exeter v Liverpool FA Cup match – which was quite good, and surprisingly ended up 2-2. So that means there’s going to be a replay – although that will be at home to Liverpool then, and they’ll probably field a slightly better team. So it’s very unlikely Exeter will get through, but just having that extra match will bring in quite a bit of extra money for them.
Saturday January 9, 2016
After having a quick bacon baguette in town for our lunch, we attempted to go and see Star Wars: The Force Awakens again today – and this time we succeeded. As we’d been alerted to where the cinema was on the way back the other day, we knew it was shortly after the airport stop, so we found it this time.
We had to stand outside in the cold for about 20 minutes, as the box office didn’t open until 1pm. The whole Mallard Complex is pretty big, as there’s a restaurant and hairdressers and all sorts of other stuff, but the cinema itself is quite small. We got ourselves a drink (Diet Coke for SM and Cherry Coke for me) and some sweetened popcorn rather than salted, then went in to watch the film.
And it was good – nothing groundbreaking, but a fun way to spend a couple of hours. It’s effectively relaunching the series, introducing new characters and leaving various doors open to be explored in future instalments, while still connecting it to the original films with quite a few well-known characters involved.
After that, we then went for a curry with a group of SM’s friends – JP (SP’s wife), CT & PT, SA, and a couple of people I didn’t know. SP couldn’t go himself, because he’s got a serious indigestion problem at the moment. Apparently a sphincter muscle linking his gullet to his stomach isn’t closing properly, which is causing some of the stomach acid to come through, and that’s making it very painful to eat. He can eat a little bit at a time, but it can be very painful. Apparently he’s going to need surgery to fix that, so hopefully that can be sorted out soon. Anyway, it was a nice meal – I had lamb tikka masala madras, with egg fried rice and garlic naan.
We all joined SP back at his and JP’s house for some card games though (the kids having been put to bed earlier). Not for real money, obviously, just for chips that SP had. We started with 3 Card Brag, which is relatively simple, as with only 3 cards there aren’t so many possible hands you can have.
Then we played a new game SP had invented, which is tentatively named Threes. Each player gets 3 cards dealt to them, and a card is placed in between each pair of players as well. The remaining cards are then placed in the middle face down, with the top one then turned over to create a face-up pile. On each player’s go, they then look at the 3 cards they were dealt, and pick up the cards that were placed to their left and right, between them and their neighbouring player. Then they have to pick either the face-up card from the centre of the table, or the top face-down card next to it.
That gives the player 6 cards. If they have a set of 3, they must put it down in front of them. For the number cards, this means 3 of the same value. For picture cards (Jacks, Queens, Kings and Aces), it’s any combination of them (e.g. if you had a Jack, Queen and King, that would be a set). At the end of the game, you get scored for each set you have – unless it’s a set of 3 three’s, which is the set you don’t want as it gives you negative points. On top of that, if you have the 4th card for a set, they can steal it off you to get the points (so if you have 3 eights, and someone has the 4th one, they can take it. That only works for the number cards – for the face cards, they can only be stolen by a joker (unless all 3 face cards are the same I think, e.g. 3 Jacks and you have the 4th Jack).
Once a player’s go is over, they choose one card to place on the face-up pile, and two more to place on their left and right in between them and the players next to them, so they’re left with 3 cards again. It takes a bit of getting used to, and needs a little more refinement perhaps, but it worked well enough and was good fun.
While we were doing all of that, we had various snacks to eat – including Chocolate Buttons, Celebrations, Revels, mince pies and Christmas cake. SP had also come around to SM’s house to pick up our cider before we went out for the meal, so we had some of that too – poured over ice as recommended in the instructions. And it was very nice, it came out well. So it was a very enjoyable night all in all, and SP drove us back to SM’s place just after midnight.
Sunday January 10, 2016
After having a cheese sandwich for lunch, we went out for a walk along the beach with JM, her husband and their 2 kids. We also bumped into SP’s parents along the way, which was nice. After the walk, SM and I then went to SP’s house again, as he’d agreed to cook the beef joint we won the other day. That wasn’t quite ready when we got there, so we sat in the lounge and had a bit more cider to drink, while their kids played in their princess outfits. I seem to have been adopted by them as part of the family in a way, as they were calling me Uncle Glen by the time they went to bed!
The butcher had advised SM to slow-roast the beef joint at 140 degrees celsius, but hadn’t said for how long. And someone else had suggested it should go in for 25 minutes per half kilo plus an extra 25 minutes. But that wasn’t enough to cook it, as SP informed us when he was seeing if it was done. So the children had their tea first while SP turned the temperature up in the oven to get it done faster. So we did get our tea in the end. And it was nice, but the beef was a bit tough and chewy, so next time SM gets a joint he’ll have to get more information as to how to cook it. But it was still a good meal.
We relaxed back in SP’s lounge again after that, while JP struggled to get the kids to bed. We had a bit of Viennetta each, and then played a fun game of Guernsey Monopoly – meaning all the properties and cards are Guernsey related. We played using some ‘quick’ rules that were in the box, although it still took us a couple of hours to finish (JP won). SP then drove us back to SM’s house after that, taking the cider back with us and a couple of mince pies they had left, and again it was getting on for midnight by then.
Monday January 11, 2016
Today we went into town and had a pub lunch, which would keep me going for my journey home. Because we had a few hours to kill, we went for starters, mains and dessert – so I had tomato soup (which came with a roll and butter), lasagne and chips, and fudge cake with strawberry sauce, cream and ice cream. SM had some brie for his starter, chicken pie for the main course, and an ice cream sundae for afters. And we had a couple of glasses of Pepsi each as well. So that was all very nice, and very filling.
After that, we went to HMV, as SM had a couple of gift cards from Christmas to use. He got the complete box set of Only Fools And Horses (which was on sale for just £34.99), and the complete box set of Not Going Out (starring Lee Mack). Well, the latter is almost complete – it probably doesn’t contain the Christmas special we’ve just had, but it appears to contain everything else. It’s a box set I’ll probably end up getting myself, though I might wait to see if they do one with the latest Christmas Special included as well. We then went to the Co-op, as SM needed to get a couple of things there too, and then to another shop called Supermarché, where SM got some ice cube trays (which he can use to make ice for his cider).
After that, we got the bus to the airport so SM could see me off. The flight was fine, no problems there. I had to wait about half an hour for the bus into town, but once I’d got that and walked to the train station, I was dead on time for the train home. So I got back about 8:45pm. My flight had left at 5:35pm, so it didn’t take me long to get home altogether.
I don’t know when I’ll pop over to see SM next, but I imagine an opportunity will come up later in the year. Hopefully by the end of the year I’ll be able to fly from London City Airport instead of Exeter, if we’ve managed to move by then. Mum’s still very keen to do so, as am I, so we’re going to do our best to make it happen for sure. In the meantime, it’s back to work as normal, but at least I have another 3-day week ahead now, like the one I had between Christmas and New Year, so that’s good.
Tuesday January 12, 2016
Today I took Mum to the dentist, as she’d been booked in for a cleaning. It turned out she needed a filling replaced as well – though just on the outside face of her tooth, so no drilling was required. Then we did a bit of shopping and made our way home. So I’ve had a nice lazy afternoon since then.
The news over the past couple of days has been dominated by the death of David Bowie at the age of 69. That follows the death of Lemmy shortly after Christmas (the lead singer from Motörhead), and then Ed ‘Stewpot’ Stewart during the week I was away (the radio DJ who presented Junior Choice, among other things).
Bowie got tons more coverage than either of those two, however, because he was such a hugely talented and innovative person who had a massive impact on the creative industries – not just music, but he was involved in fashion and films too. I’m not a huge fan of his music myself – I like his greatest hits, but I wouldn’t rush out to buy his albums – and yet it’s always been clear how talented he is, and how much of an impact he’s had on many people’s lives. So the mass coverage on the news hasn’t been surprising, nor is it undeserved. Another legend’s gone, no doubt about that.