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Festive Ills & Wishes

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Christmas TreeAitCHOO.
AaaaCHOOO.
Aichooooooooo.
It was like a germ-riddled version of Four Weddings and a Funeral‘s notoriously sweary opening scene. Several tissues later, we agreed we may as well get up.

And so began the family’s Christmas morning, 2009. Mum is nearly over her cold, my dad’s is just starting, and I am still enduring a flu-based week of hell. Only Michelle has escaped, but trapped in with three germ-filled family members means it’s surely only a matter of time.

This year, we’re at my mum and dad’s for the first Christmas in years. They’ve put on a fantastic spread already, it’s more like a hotel. “Free Internet, too”, my mum generously pointed out.

Looking through Twitter this morning, it’s clear that Christmas magic is still around for many friends and family. Hope you all have a great time, eat a lot and fall asleep mid-afternoon, dreaming of mince pies and diets. 🙂

Moving In – The Aftermath

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I take it back. There are two things that are great about moving house at Christmas. moved.jpgFirstly, it’s the ultimate way to keep in trim while loading your body with turkey and chocolate. For the two weeks after we moved, there were endless tasks to be done – informing all the companies and friends of our new address, buying essential domestic stuff, putting up pictures, mistakenly knocking holes in the wall, desperately trying to cover them up before anyone noticed, that kind of thing. It’s a veritable workout every day. And secondly, the sales are on. On the strength of this, various things have arrived throughout the last few weeks – a fridge, meaning that we don’t have to suffer the mini-fridge any longer; a tumble dryer, meaning there won’t be clothes draped around everywhere; a bed and mattress, meaning that we can sleep (and what a bed it is, too); curtains for the entire place; and, for vanity’s sake, a surround sound system and a new piano. Amusingly – or not – this has all coincided with Revenue and Customs deciding they’ve forgotten to tax me sufficiently – and adding £500 to my tax bill for the next couple of months. Better stay in for a month, I guess…!
So, the house is very nearly done. We’re still after a dishwasher, and then there’s the garden to consider. Honestly, this house-buying malarkey is a task and a half. But, in a couple of weeks, we’ll be ready to announce an event that people have been asking about ever since we announced we were moving – the house-warming! As we’ve all grown up, maybe we’ll have Spritzers and canapés instead of beer tubes, silly hats and pizza. Probably not, though…

Saddam Shame

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So, Saddam’s dead then, which will surely come as a shock if you’ve been living under a large rock this Christmas. But, in these cases, it’s always worth looking beyond the headlines. Robert Fisk has two articles showing the emerging murky facts about the execution. In “Our complicity dies with him,” Fisk notes that the many secrets Saddam Hussein had about the West’s business dealings with Iraq are gone forever. which is handy for George and Tony. In “A dictator created then destroyed by America“, he points out that “Osama bin Laden will certainly rejoice, along with Bush and Blair.” And finally, for those that wondered why the “official” execution video had no sound, IraqSlogger describes the common-sense and divisive conclusions you can draw from the timing of the execution and the soundtrack on the new sneaky mobile phone video of the execution. Nothing’s as it seems, is it? Happy New Year, Iraq!

All Moved In!

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I’m not entirely sure you should be allowed to move house over Christmas.
movinghouse.jpgFirstly, there’s the financial absurdity. December is an expensive month anyway, without having to hire vans, feed helping friends, pay solicitors and start a lifelong mortgage. Then there’s the sheer organisation needed – for me, organising my morning’s breakfast is a bit of a struggle. So, here’s how Christmas went, Wibbler-style.
Moments after I wrote the last entry on here, the computer was switched off. NTL are not renowned for their efficiency – as a former post highlighted – and I resigned myself to defeat when they told me of a 2 week delay in transferring the services to our new pad. The delay horrified me, as you can imagine. So I employed a tactic straight from the annals of MoneySavingExpert.com. I claimed that Sky could install it in a week, and I wondered what NTL would be able to offer instead? Cue slight panic at the other end, culminating in 3 months of free NTL bills as an “apology”. I’m going to have to start lying more, I reckon…
So, back to the Big Computer Switch Off. Comprehensively tangled wires fought to say outside the packing boxes, and it was while I was grappling with them that Nick turned up.
Nick had very kindly taken a day off work to help clear our complete tip of a flat. The first thing we needed was a van, and off we trundled to Apex Van Rental in Burpham, only to find I’d forgotten a vital piece of identification. “You’re one of *those*, aren’t you,” said the woman on reception, clearly indicating that I needed a few more brain cells. Nick burst out laughing, while I nodded and sheepishly got back in Nick’s car, tail between my hefty legs. Eventually, we found the ID and got our mitts on an enormous van for only £25 a day. Bit of a bargain, I thought, especially as I’m bound to wreck it before sunset.
Slowly, throughout the morning, Michelle, Nick and I made a human chain down the two flights of stairs, piling the van high. Well, fairly high – it seems all our worldly wealth can be contained in half a van, which is a tad depressing. At 11am, a call came through that started a bodily wave of relief – the sale had been completed. We’d legally gained a house, and a whole load of never-ending debt. Woo!
At 2pm, after much-needed Domino’s pizzas – Texas Barbeque and Pepperoni Passion, since you ask – we set sail for the new house. There, waiting for us, was the previous owner, keys in hand and eager to show us how the house worked. And then… and then. The previous owner walked into the distance, and we all looked around in wonder. It was a great moment, and we took it in.
Only for about 5 minutes, mind you. We’d barely had time to investigate the garden before half of Michelle’s family breezed in with advice and cleaning products, giving the house a good once-over. They were closely followed by DFS, who with spectacular timing had managed to deliver on the very day ot the move. After we’d made them take the sofa covers off and put the wooden sofa feet on, a strong smell of leather rose from the seats. Then Sarah and Michelle’s sisters rocked up, plus her aunt, niece and nephew. It was like Piccadilly Circus.
The rest of the day was a bit of a blur, if I’m honest. I slowly became less and less excited – and more and more tired – as the trips backwards and forwards from the van and the flat took their toll. Michelle and I slumped into bed at 12.30am. The lights of the large Esporta gym over the road flooded the front bedroom as we dozed off – who needs a gym when you can have a workout like this?

We’re outta here

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Well, today’s the day. I probably should have mentioned it before – but Michelle and I have bought a house, and we’re moving today – which kinda explains why I haven’t even stopped to post over here recently. Just before Christmas, which as you can imagine adds a certain urgency to the thing. We’ll still be in Guildford, but in our own pad, with a garden – which I’ll have to pave over, obviously – and a shed, which will be my new alcohol-based bar. There’s SO MUCH to do, and so little time…
I’m sure, after I’ve recovered from box-moving and paid a few visits to the chiropractor to be told off for not lifting boxes correctly, I’ll fill you in. However, there may be a slight delay – the ever-efficient NTL cannot reconnect us to phones, TV or internet until 27th December, the little buggers…

Love is in the air…

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The text message came through at 11.30, ruining my attempts at bedding down for some sleep. “Oh no,” I thought, remembering the incessant phone calls at 1.30am the night before. “It’s another drunken message from Simon H telling me how much he’s sunk down his throat.” I blearily reached across to my bedside table and tried to focus on the message. It was from Elli.
“I’m engaged!”, it read to my utter astonishment. “Yes, really!” she finished, to counter any accusations that she might be joking. That woke me up with a start, and I immediately tried calling her. In fact, I tried for the next thirty minutes, but her phone reception defeated my chances of a congratulatory message.
So, this morning, I ambled into work (yep, I know its a shocker during the Christmas holidays…) and decided to forward Elli’s message to the rest of my phonebook and then call her. As I was tapping away at the phone keypad, my colleague Kate came in the office. “Oh, how are you, nice Christmas?” I asked innocently. “YES!” she replied, and immediately flashed her hands are me. In fact, what was actually flashing was the enormous rock on her engagement finger. “Dear God!” I said, “Not you as well!”. Any available females in the office immediately crowded round her and cooed at the ring while Kate recounted how, where and when her fiance asked her to marry him.
I’d barely recovered from the shock before I pressed “Send” on my Elli-based text message. Almost immediately, a text message came back, this time from David B, who I’d only seen on Christmas Eve. And this message, my dear readers, was the kicker – the one that sent me into a spin.
“Strange story,” the message said. “So did I.”
So, two close friends and a colleague have all got engaged in the last couple of days. Serious, hearty congratulations obviously goes to all of them (I give good rates for Best Man speeches, by the way) – but seriously, is someone trying to tell me something?

Stuffed as a Turkey

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Merry Christmas all – did you get so many good presents that you’ve no idea which to use first? Did you eat so much that your overriding resolution is to diet as soon as possible? Did you drink so much that your head is pleading for mercy? If yes, your last three days were striking similar to mine and you are now researching the effects of garcinia cambogia. Christmas Eve was filled with a visit to Annie’s house and then Wetherspoons in Haslemere with Elli, Mel, David B and others. Michelle, meanwhile was getting on very well with her sister, friends and no small amount of alcohol in Guildford.
Christmas morning was filled with excited ripping open of presents, although Michelle needed a bit more sleep and a couple more paracetamol before she was fully excited about her presents. Christmas afternoon was spent giving presents to parents and relatives, listening to the Queen’s speech (and slagging off Jamie Oliver for giving an Alternative Message), eating turkey and cake and generally catching up with family news. One downside to living away from my mum and dad means there’s always news to catch up on…
And then there was the visit to Nick’s house on Boxing Day. His girlfriend Sarah’s parents are well-known for their enormous spreads at special occasions, and this turned out to be no different. We started by exchanging presents – and were immediately shamed by Nick and Sarah’s generosity. Then it was the turn of our second Christmas lunch. It was a whopper. The plate was heaving with turkey, sprouts, carrots, mashed potatoes, roast potato, stuffing and many more things, piled high. Even more astonishingly, I almost finished it, albeit after thirty minutes of munching…
Michelle, bless her, has been working solidly all through Christmas, and the day after Boxing Day was no exception. Actually, it was a slight exception – she was due to start work at 4.30am. Next‘s Christmas sales are renowned, and as she works there as Office Manager she needed to be there early to count the money. Amazingly, as we arrived at the store at 4.15am in temperatures on -2c, there were PEOPLE QUEUEING. I’ve no idea why they thought getting up early in the freezing cold after a weekend of debauchery was a good idea… although it cheered me up to point and laugh as I drove by in my warm car.
And finally yesterday was Michelle’s family Christmas. Another truckload of delicious food and millions (well, three) children running around having Christmas-based fun. We were all exhausted by the end, and as we arrived him Michelle crept into bed. Even I didn’t manage to stay up much past eleven.
So, I’m fit to burst. In an attempt to eat less and more healthily, I’ve brought my breakfast cereal in to have for lunch. unfortunately, there’s a large box of Terry’s Chocolate Orange Sensations on my desk – and it would be a waste to ignore them, wouldn’t it?

A Month in a nutshell

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“I’ll be there in twenty minutes.”
“Great, I’ll put the dinner in.”
Sounding unnervingly like a married couple, I arranged to pop over to Nick’s parents house for a bite to eat, some serious TV watching and a bit of computer troubleshooting – something I seem to do a lot of nowadays. And as I travelled over to Pyrford last night, my mind wandered to the last month’s frenetic events.
Not, of course, that any remaining readers of this blog will know about them. My postings have sunk to an all time low, and the combination of minimal time and a lack of motivation have landed me here – 25 days after my last post.
So, back to the car journey, and mind-wanderings. One of the most adventurous days last month was the trip to Silverstone. Simon B phoned at the ungodly hour of 7.30 (I never even knew he got up that early) to ask if I wanted to go to Silverstone for some corporate hospitality at the Touring Car Championships. And the mode of transport to and from the event? A BMW M3. It was, of course, a formality as questions go and by 8.30am I was taking control of the vehicular beast, charging up the A3, M25 and M40 to Silverstone. It was an awesome car, making me feel completely in control and far superior to anyone else on the road. My experience in it went some way to explaining why BMW drivers drive the way they do. Only some way, mind.
The day at Silverstone was entertaining and, crucially, entirely free. Jensen Button was in the corporate box next to us, his Porsche Carrera outside causing all sorts of sycophantic excitement. There are pictures, which if you’re lucky I may put up before 2012.
Most of the month has been consumed with daily trips to Amersham in Buckinghamshire. Not for pleasure – although it seems a very picturesque place – but for business. I won’t bore you with what my job entails, but suffice to say that the client we were visiting had placed an order with us that was forty times the normal size. So, for me, it was an endless carousel of installing, consulting and 7 days of solid training. I was little more than a wreck by the end of it, although this was mainly due to the travelling – a thirty minute trip on the M25 turned into a 2 hour journey from hell every morning and night.
Michelle has not been without excitement, however. She had all four wisdom teeth out, and my arrival to her hospital bed with flowers and a bunch of unamusing jokes failed to cut the ice as she said there, as white as a sheet and unable to speak. The following week of near silence was unnerving, and it was a relief when I heard the dulcet tones of complaint about the clothes I’d left on the floor again.
Whipsnade Zoo was also graced with a visit a few weeks ago – and gave me a chance to see the elephant Michelle adopted for me at Christmas! For those who don’t know, I love elephants. It’s possibly to do with their large floppy ears or enormous clumpy feet – I don’t know. What I do know, however, is that they don’t grow very fast.
I was expecting my elephant to be an enormous, triumphant beast of a thing, but he was still a mere stripling. I suppose living a long time means that you are smaller for longer – something I’ve never had to experience…
Last Wednesday Michelle, Jac, Debs and I went to see Rob Thomas (ex-Matchbox Twenty) at the Astoria in London. The night was in the clutches of the considerable heatwave and the inside of the venue was akin to standing in a sauna for a couple of hours. The gig was as good as we had hoped – and Glasswerk have a review here.
Michelle and I have also made trips to Paul D’s for a barbeque (and a snoop around his brother’s new house – seven doors down from the doorstep where Jill Dando was shot, I was at pains to point out) and Jac’s new house in Harrow for some technical help and a very spicy Indian. We’ve shopped at Gunwharf Quays, dined at Italian restaurants and ate at a very nice pub for my mum’s birthday. It’s been, frankly, a hell of a month and I’ve rewarded myself with two weeks off. I’m currently lounging around in a dressing gown doing nothing except watching the Lions rugby tour and Wimbledon, which is a rare treat. Michelle is off working in Oxfordshire this week, leaving me to fend for myself. How does the washing machine work? How do I cook anything other than a pizza? I’m not sure I’ll make it through the week…