But I'm only a man doing what I can. I'll go forth, with these words in my hand, in my hand.
22.08.2011 - 16.09.2011 15 °C
Home - Reading - Hertfordshire - Wedding - Bristol - London - Bangkok
Wow, and I thought it was going to be relaxing being back in the UK – how wrong I was!
After all the shenanigans in Bournemouth for the stag do, I finally got back to Mum and Dad’s down on the South coast to spend some time at “home”. It was great to be able to get some washing done and have some home cooking, oh and be with Mum and Dad of course.
Got a chance to head back out on the mountain bikes with Chaz and Chris just north of Petersfield for a night ride. Absolutely love riding that bike, but was annoyed to find that the rear hub had quite a lot of play in it so had to take it slightly easy. Managed to get a puncture while in the dark which wasn’t quite what we needed, but the beer at the pub on the way home was.
At the weekend we headed over to Fratton Park to see Pompey vs. Cardiff, my mate Welshy was supposed to join us but it turned out his misses had other plans – so we managed to sell the ticket to another friend of Mum and Dad’s. We met up with Stewart (Dad’s mate) down at the Rose in June for a couple of beers before heading to the ground. I hadn’t been to Fratton Park for a while and was excited to see our new Norwegian midfielder Erik Huseklepp in action – after Mum and Dad had rated him so highly after the previous game. Although he was quite snappy, Cardiff were good at shunning him off the ball and he never really made an impact. It was quite a poor game, but both teams started playing in the last 20 minutes and Cardiff got a beaut of a goal against play. Shortly after Kanu got subbed on, much to every ones delight, and sneaked a header into Cardiff’s net. End score was 1-1, we were unlucky not to get a winner.
After the game I got a lift over to Jon’s place to meet some of the guys (including Welshy who had been let out for the night), have some dinner and a few drinks before making our way down to Gun Wharf. It was an odd sensation to be back on the old hunting ground, especially talking to people who were younger than me with kids and husbands! We decided to confirm all our job titles; Welshy was a porn director, I was a Dolphin trainer and Jon was a postman (can't remember Chaz and Steve's titles) – needless to say it didn’t impress all that much.
Welshy shows off the guns
Thanks to Jon (Mojito’s) and Welshy (Tequila) the rest of the night is a blur, apart from assisting a fascinated Welshy on to the ferry (“I can’t believe we’re getting a ferry home”) and getting the cab driver to stop for Welshy to have a chunder. We didn’t stir until about 1pm on Sunday, and we had a smashing fry up which I pulled together.
We had a bit of car swapping to do before getting a lift from Welshy’s lady friend, Sally up to Wokingham. I got dropped off at Tom (Pizza Hut champ - previously mentioned) and Ash's where I got treated to a fantastic meal which Tom dubbed down "Just something I chucked in the oven." It turned out Tom had had quite a big weekend already so was as enthusiastic for another night out as me and Welshy were. However on arriving at The Monks Retreat (Weatherspoons which was our local when we all lived in Reading) and met up with all the crew from our Hewlett Packard days we soon got back in the mood (think it had something to do with 2 pitches of cocktail for £10). Was great to be all together again, such a wicked group of people to know. We hit Reading pretty hard, before slowly hibernating under our different rocks.
Tom and I decided Jager Bombs will be the best first drink to have
Next day was made complete; Tom, Ash,Welshy, Sally and I met up at Weatherspoons for a fry up ("You're never going need that much ketchup" - don't judge a man by the amount of Ketchup he puts on his plate, but by the amount he leaves on his plate - none). Once we were done with Breakfast we went and visited JR, Jo and their gorgeous little baby who is only 9 months old. We then had a couple of errands to run before returning back to Tom's for a lazy afternoon/evening with Welshy & Sally; grazing on junk food and watching films. It was a fantastic feeling being around people who had to be up for work the next day - and all I had to do was jump on a train to my Uncles.
Jo kindly picked me up from Ware train station and took me straight to a swimming pool (I needed my fix of exercise after a boozy weekend) - turns out Ware has a Lido and the chilly weather didn't put me off. After an hour of swimming I got picked up by Mark (my Uncle) in his DB9 (I'd been waiting years for him to pick me up in that beautiful car!) and shot back to his and Jo's house for a fantastic Roast dinner with Amy (my cousin) and Andy (her boyfriend). Have to say it was some of the best roast beef I've had in a long time - and that wasn't just because I'd been in South East Asia, it was delicious. It's also brilliant eating round at Mark and Jo's house because they use a lot of table ware which used to be my Grandma's (Mark's Mum); it's great to see it all being used.
The next day I had a relaxing morning with Jo, reading a book Mark had recommended (In To Thin Air - all about an Everest climb in 1996), before Jo kindly drove me over to Bishops Stortford where my brother and sister in law live. During the morning I had had a call with Chaz (whose wedding it was that weekend), the rehearsal was on Friday and me being an Usher I apparently needed to be there. Cheers for the warning - I was scheduled in for painting at David's all of Friday, not returning until Friday evening. I was a few hours early into Bishops Stortford so I found the cinema and watched the new Planet of the Apes film, which I'd give a 6 out of 10 rating. After the film I went to the pub at the bottom of David and Caz's road and was joined almost immediately by David.
Before we even got back to the house I could see the scaffolding holding the house up - coming to the end of a huge loft conversion; new set of stairs and a bedroom with an en-suite. Caz arrived home after us and we settled down for some dinner before Dad arrived. The next day we were up early to begin painting the new bedroom and the walls up the stair well. The three of us pretty much blitz the whole area and even one of the builders said he wouldn't employ us - "You've got more paint on yourselves and the floor". But by the end of the day we had got through way more than we had expected and David treated us with some beers.
Friday morning we were up early again and did the third and final coat of paint, and then David got us and the builders Fish & Chips (Cod is expensive!) We had everything completed as David wanted it so me and Dad then shot straight down to Stanstead House (the venue for the Wedding) for the rehearsal. Turned out we were an hour early, so we had a mooch around the grounds (stunning place - very English) and then found Chaz's parents, his sister Vicky and brother in law Steve. Jackie (Chaz's Mum) was stacking up the two fantastic Wedding cakes (one Chocolate - Chaz's choice - and one traditional).
After a little while Chaz, Fiona and all the others arrived for a quick run through of the next days proceedings. After all this was completed I got a lift back to the Phelans house and then went to ASK restaurant (where I worked for 2 years during my collage days) for a nice meal with Chaz's parents, Chaz, Vicky and Steve. I was then kindly gifted the sofa as a bed - think I was lucky to get anything at all as Chaz announced Friday afternoon to Jackie "It's OK that Jon, Poli and Alan stay over tonight isn't it?"!
The next day was the wedding, so Jon and I took a trip to Sainsbury's and bought a load of food in for a fry up breakfast - we then took over Jackie's kitchen for the full works; Sausages, bacon, hash browns, tomato's, mushrooms, eggs, toast, beans. It was a breakfast to be proud of.
What a Fry up!
We then all had showers and tried our hired suits on for the first time (it was lucky they fit!), we drove to the B&B, checked in and then grabbed a taxi to Stanstead House. We all had our print out's of duties for the day, listed by Fiona; this included "2pm: Greet guests and hand out order of service "Good Afternoon. Bride or Groom? Would you like an order of service?""!!! Steve, James and I practised our lines while the guests arrived.
Chaz and I get dressed up
Jon, Chaz and I larking about before everyone has arrived
Was getting nervous now
Before the Bride arrives - James, me, Chaz, Jon and Steve
The place looked fantastic and Fiona looked stunning as she walked up the isle; a beautiful white dress which took up the whole of the isle. I was sat in the 2nd row by the isle, ready to get out easily to perform my reading (an extract from Captain Corelli's Mandolin. Turns out I was first up, but I had to calculate a large step over/round Fiona's dress. I knew the reading off by heart but still had a print out in front of me; I was honoured to be asked to be Usher at the Wedding, let alone do a reading. It went well and I could then enjoy the rest of the proceedings.
The ceremony went very well; in the end it was Fiona who messed up her lines - "I give you this wing ...I mean Ring"! It was a very surreal feeling watching one of my best mates getting married, he's the first out of us guys to take the step and if the night out in Gun Wharf the weekend before hadn't made me feel old then this certainly did.
Fiona and Chaz pose for a photo
Chaz and Fiona being decorated with confetti
Once the ceremony was complete we all shuffled through into the dining areas for Afternoon tea and cake - very English indeed. We then listened and laughed at the speeches; Chaz had been quite nervous about his speech the night before and the morning of the wedding - but it was brilliant. He had me in tears of laughter at his delivery of his speech "When I met Fiona she had short hair, which I liked a lot. I asked if she'd like to meet me outside of work, so I took her to Subway." Jon's best man speech was good as well, although in my opinion he held far too much stuff back about Chaz.
Poli and I doing our Chinese tourist poses
All the Ushers and Bridesmaids with the happy couple
Early evening other guests began to arrive, including my parents and the casino tables were set up for Roulette and Black Jack. There was also a silhouette-ist - I've never seen anything like it before, but basically you sit sideways to this lady who then cuts (with scissors) the outline of your profile. It was loads better than it sounds, and was incredibly accurate. Later on a ploughman's buffet was presented and we attacked it in great force - loads of cheese and pate; delicious!
Everyone together outside Stanstead House
Jon, Chaz and I
Hey, look! It's me :s
It was a slightly different wedding because there was no dancing or music in the evening, but actually it worked really well - you could properly socialise with people and no one got too battered. The evening came to a close around 10:30 when Chaz and Fiona left, and Mum and Dad kindly gave Poli, Jon and I a lift back to our B&B.
The next day we made our way over to Phelan HQ for a huge BBQ, it had rained in the morning but by the afternoon the sun was out and we all got to sit outside and hear Chaz and Patrick (Chaz's Dad) play a number of Beatles tracks. Come 4pm Chaz and Fiona's taxi arrived to whisk them off on their Honeymoon to China and Bali, so we all got to wave them off. Poli, Jon, Chris and I stuck around for the majority of the afternoon, polishing off more the meat from the BBQ - it was awesome.
Chaz and Patrick in full swing
When I got home, Mum and I zipped over on the ferry to Gun Wharf to watch the latest and final Harry Potter. The film was brilliant, loads better than I expected it would be - makes me want to read all the books again. That night I also put my dear mountain bike up for sale on ebay, it's a lush bike which I've had some great rides on - but it's stupid to have it stuck in my parents garage while I'm abroad.
One of the photo's from my ebay advert
On Monday, I took the bike to the bike shop to have it serviced before I sell it. Then I drove the Yaris up to Bristol to see my Gran. It was great that she let me stay over the night, especially as I had only called up in the morning to ask her! She's absolutely hilarious and we had a nice time - going down to her local pub for a meal and then relaxed back at her house talking until I was almost passing out about 10pm. The next day we got up and June (Grandma's friend) came up to the house, before making our way back to the pub for a big lunch (Pie and Chips).
Sadly I had to leave after lunch because I was suddenly rushed for time seeing other people before travelling again. So I drove over to Morden (Where Jon lives) and parked the car at his and then made my way up to Pimlico where Simon and Rachel live. Simon whisked up a tasty stir fry for us and we watched a shaky England take on Wales (1-0).
The next day I met up with my old house mate Julia for lunch near Baker Street, it was nice to have a catch up with her and hear what she's up to now. Hopefully she'll be making her way out to Australia for New Years Eve. In the afternoon I zipped in and out of I.T. shops in Tottenham Court Road, bargaining down on the best deals for a little Netbook- I managed to get a little Samsung, with a RAM upgrade with about £100 off the asking price! It's a nippy little thing for how much it cost, but as it was the last one I had no choice on colour; this thing is metallic blue so looks like the colour of a Chav's car.
I then went over to meet an old uni mate of mine Noj; he now works for an Advertising agency in London, based just behind the Tate Modern. He passed me through security and we made it up to the floor with meeting rooms on; this place was awesome - it had a Foosball table, a ping pong table and a pool table. So we played some pool and Foosball while catching up and then I had to get over to Clapham to meet another old uni friend, Sarah. We went to a number of different pubs, catching up - Sarah wants to get away traveling so wanted a little advice. She's been wanting to get away from her job for a number of months now - and keeps putting the date back that she'll leave, currently it's set on January; but I bet her it would be later than that. It can be a daunting thing moving away from work and traveling, but once it's in your head and you know what you want to do you have to just do it.
That night I stopped over at Jon's place and then on the Thursday I went to Elephant and Castle to spend a few days with Larna - as she was back from Disney for 10 days. I took her to Yo Sushi (she'd never had it before) and we pigged out; Larna was a bit apprehensive but in general enjoyed it. We then stumbled on a pub/club which had 50% drinks between 5-8pm, so destroyed a number of pitchers of cocktail and saw a live band do a number of covers before leaving around 10:30.
Larna with her easy to use chop sticks inside Yo Sushi
On the Friday we got the tube up to Camden and had a Weatherspoons fry up next to the lock, we had a walk down the canal trying to find the famous Robbo / Banksy graffiti, but couldn't find it anywhere. We mooched around the market and shops; Larna bought some wicked Nike high tops and then we went down to Oxford Street and Covent Garden. After all the walking about that day we chose to order a dominoes and ate like pigs in the hotel room.
Small Weatherspoons breakfast next to Camden Lock
It was about time I got some new trainers
It was the weekend of the Thames Festival, so we made our way straight to the BFI IMAX to watch a free film - "Under The Sea" before getting to South Bank. We watched some fantastic guys doing circus tricks, then moved our way down to the OXO tower to watch some hilarious Korean clowns (juggling and beat boxing). Festivals are brilliant because if you have a good eye you can get so much free stuff - so Larna and I had a little competition of who could get the most. I was already 1 up because I had some fish from a Polish stall, it then went 2-1 as we both got some Polish cookies. At the OXO tower we both got some Whiskey 3-2. We then got down to the Barclays stage in front of the Tate Modern where we grabbed a beer and watched "Mowgli" a rated lyricist - I had high hopes, but live he wasn't so good - I'd like to hear some of his records though. We then crossed Southwark bridge which was closed off to traffic and instead was made in to a huge food festival - this year was fish themed. We managed to grab some free cake, but I got extra cookies so the score went 5-3. Larna then got some chocolate somehow so she pulled it slightly back to 5-4, before we conceded that we couldn't get anything else - I won.
At the BFI IMAX
Circus act outside the National Theatre
Mental Korean Clowns
Larna and I with our free cake on Southwark Bridge
From Southwark bridge we hopped on some Boris bikes and cycled back to the hotel to get ready for the evening. That evening we got the tube down to Morden to spend the evening with Jon and Poli who had cooked up a gorgeous Thai meal of Red Curry, Papaya Salad and Salmon Rice.
Sunday morning Larna and I met up with my parents at the IMAX to watch another free film "In To The Wild", narrated by Morgan Freeman. We then walked over the Thames and to a pub Dad had found on his iPhone; beautiful little pub where we had a beer before meeting up with David and Caz for lunch to celebrate Mum's Birthday. I'd found a nice little Italian called Satori's, the menu didn't look all that good at first but when our choice's arrived we were pleasantly surprised. Us guys chose a selection of Italian meat for starter, and they couldn't get more meat on the plate if they tried!
You meet up with the oldies and what do they do? Spend all their time texting their friends!
After our lunch we found another pub and met up with Simon and Rachel and Rachel's parents (who had had lunch together to celebrate Rachel's Mum's Birthday). It was nice to be with all the family together again laughing and joking over drinks. Once we had all parted Larna and I walked over Millennium bridge and down to the Barclay's stage where we saw GhostPoet, an artist I had heard of because he was a runner up for the Mercury Prize Award; I had already bought his album but hadn't listened to it. He was excellent live, but the weather wasn't - it stormed down and being the gentleman I am, Larna had my jacket so I was left soaking wet in a TM Lewin shirt! It was well worth it though as the music was fantastic. Once the performance was over we got changed and then headed back to South Bank to watch the fantastic fireworks they put on to end the festival, followed by a few drinks in a pub at Covent Garden.
Larna and I getting soaking wet while watching Ghostpoet
Ghostpoet in action
Fireworks over the Thames
Monday morning Larna and I got Boris bikes again and cycled round London (weather was beautiful), because it is free for the first 30 minutes of your cycle if you put the bike back in a docking station, wait for 3 minutes and then check it out again it is free! So every half an hour we were peddling like mad to find a docking station. Larna and I parted and then I drove back home and watched the final count down to my the auction for my bike on ebay. It went for £745 which I was very happy about, seeing as I got it for £1,000 (in the sale) and had had 1 and a half years of good use out it. Just goes to show if you look after your stuff it will keep going for years, so even now as it gets sold on to the next person - it looks pretty much brand new.
Tuesday and Wednesday were mostly spent packing and organising my new netbook with music etc. However I got treated to some fantastic food back home. On Tuesday Mum rustled up a delicious Roast Beef; Beef, home made Yorkshire pudding, crunchy roast potatoes, carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, parsnips and thick thick gravy! This was all followed by Mum's Summer Fruits pudding - mouth watering stuff. On Wednesday, for lunch Mum put together a wicked beef casserole which filled me up ready for my flight that evening.
Mum nibbling at our starters in the kitchen!
Oh my lord look at that beef!
Heaven on a plate
Heaven in a bowl
Mum and Dad drove me up to Heathrow where we had a coffee and then said our goodbyes. My BA flight all went well and surprisingly I managed to get a good 4 hours sleep. The films were good, I watched Senna - a brilliant documentary on the F1 driver Ayrton Senna; would recommend this film to anyone (even if you're not interested in F1), The Bridesmaids - which was recommended to me (by a girl) as "the female version of the Hangover", well it's not, apart from a couple of funny moments it's a chick flick. I arrived at 3pm Thai time and made my way over to the standard hotel near Khao San road and had a night out with Rick, Beth and Joe who I had met in Cambodia.
I had a LONG lay in this morning, jet lag means that when I got up at 3pm today it was only 9am in the UK. Had a dip in the pool and just written this at a free wifi spot in an Indian Restaurant. Now in the process of working out how (and if) I'm going to get down to Bali. Back on the road again, love it.