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Open Mike with Chris Evans. Oh, and Sparky.

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“Open Mike tonight if you’re around.”
For the last few years, the Cranley Hotel has played host to Sparky, Open Mike extraordinaire. As labouriously detailed in Sparky – The Final Encore (with flash goodness too!), his songs light up a darkened room, raise the roof and could bring a tear to a glass eye, all at the same time. He semi-retired from singing over a year ago, but his fanbase demanded more. Much more. So he’s become an unofficially regular feature back at the hotel, and his text message was enticing. The idea of a night listening to his songs battled with a strong desire to do absolutely nothing. Another text message, 2 hours later, instantly made up my mind.
“Currently sitting about 2 foot from Chris Evans.”
Shunta was at the hotel watching Sparky, and by sheer coincidence so was Chris Evans, presenter, broadcaster and millionaire good-time guy. The chance of Open Mike and a celebrity appearance was too much, and Michelle and I rushed out the door. We were eager as beavers.
Unlike my car. The flashing tyre light has been on for a number of days, and like a buffoon I’d ignored it. My car was plainly peeved, choosing this moment to throw a tyre-based strop, flashing a big red warning light and forcing me to stop.
And so it was that while friends and Mr Evans were living it up in Cranleigh, Michelle and I were sat at the side of the road in Guildford, pumping air into my right rear tyre. Luckily, within twenty minutes we were back on the road, and steaming towards the hotel. We rocked up at 9pm, just in time to see the last dregs of a Chris Evans-sponsored sambuca bottle draining into the mouth of Shunta. They were all plainly drunk, and my original plan to drink little and drive home went out of the window as quickly as a defenestrated slipper. We drank, listened and clapped along with Chris and his small entourage, who was plainly as taken with Sparky as we are. He was also plainly very drunk.
Shunta was on good form, fresh from a rather vicious barbers. His off-the-cuff suggestion for a made up song – titled “I wasn’t born here, I’m just here for the cheese” – was one of my favourite moments of the night. A bit later, eyeing up Mr Evans, he hatched a plan. “If you can sleep with him,” he asked his fiance Lucy, pointing at our celebrity, “we’ll be quids in.” Lucy agreed, the game girl, and after a quick touch-up of makeup, managed to get a seat at his table. She had stiff competition, mind, from Chris’s girlfriend. And worse luck was to come – his girlfriend was plainly so drunk that there was nothing for it but to leave. We managed not to be too disappointed and continued well into the night with song, dance and The Only Gay Eskimo.
So now, thanks to Sparky and Shunta, I can now say that I’ve been drinking with Chris Evans. The evening was also a winner for Sparky, not just because of his sensational singing (ably backed up, by the way, by Shaun, who appears to be getting worryingly good). Chris Evans was impressed enough to invite him to host nights at a pub he’s about to buy in Chiddingfold. It’s a small step to stardom, Sparky…

Metaphorical Buns.

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There’s a dawning realisation that I’m getting on a bit. Or at the very least my friends are. In the nicest possible way.
The first culture shock came about a year ago, when Simon H announced he’d impregnated his girlfriend Lucy and that a sprog was most definitely in the offing. That sprog, James, is now growing up fast and Simon’s even gone and bought a grey Mondeo Estate – a sure sign that he’s settling down fast.

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This from a guy who two years ago had a drunken urge to put his foot through a skylight in the dead of night – and had to be rushed to hospital in the early hours before he was drained of his remaining blood. Ahhh, those were the days…
But the real kicker came last week, when I pottered up to Bermondsey to see some friends, one of which had birthday drinks planned. I’d met them on my work placement at Sun Microsystems six years ago and had been firm, if sometimes distant, friends ever since. And as I sat down and chinwagged endlessly, I found that things were definitely moving on. Mark and his girlfriend had decided to buy a house together, Kiich and a girlfriend I didn’t even know he had were buying a house together, and Chris and his girlfriend were more than content nesting their abode near Fulham. And so, reeling from everyone’s news of settling down, I asked after another friend David S and his wife. To my amazement, David had shoved a small bun in his wife Ange, with their baby due very soon.
The final straw came yesterday afternoon with an email from Milly, who by coincidence had married Alex, another of the ex-Sun gang, a year ago. She apologised for the delay is getting back to me – and then knocked me for six with her excuse. “Our news is that… we are having a baby, still not really used to the idea but very pleased!”
Congratulations, of course, to Ange and Milly – but Jesus Iceskating Christ, what is happening?!

All Moved In

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You wouldn’t believe the amount of effort the last couple of weeks has been. Unless, of course, you’ve moved into a second-floor flat – in which you’ll be familiar with lugging tens of huge, heavy boxes up through three doors (one of which inconveniently self-locks just as you approach) and two flights of stairs. There were no visits to the gym last week, I can assure you – and there was no need.
Both Michelle and I, staying in our houses for the last night, were awake at 5am, full of excitement and trepidation for the week ahead. By 7am I was washed and dressed, and by 8 in the morning it was time for the boxes. Eight large cardboard boxes, full to the brim with my worldly possessions, were patiently waiting to be boarded into my car. I managed five of the buggers before my legs gave way and the boot space was fully… well, full. The car swung violently and slowly round the corners, struggling under its cargo, and the boxes piled high in the back ensured that I could only see forwards – a problem, as you can imagine. I was surprised to make it to Guildford without being flagged down by a friendly policeman – but at 12pm, we descended on the flat.
The previous occupants – a tall Norwegian man and his immensely giggly girlfriend – were there to greet us, handing over the keys and leaving a forwarding address. Within ten minutes, they were gone – and the flat was ours. After a few days of busily packing, I thought, this was the ideal time to sit down and have a nice glass of orange juice.
Except there was no orange juice – in fact there was nothing at all. So there was nothing for it – I could almost hear those blasted boxes waiting to be caringly lugged up two flights of stairs.
Michelle, her mum and I managed to empty the car, and I even managed a second load that day. And a further load the next day – I had no idea I had so much stuff. And after a week of moving, shifting, cleaning (mostly thanks to TidyTn, a cleaning Co.) and sleeping, we are fully moved in. The first big shop was as expensive as it was momentous – the final price was as much a shock as the growing realisation that we were now officially “responsible adults”. We had to buy our own washing powder, peas and beans. There was no adding to mum’s shopping list anymore. As we toured the aisles before finally reaching the checkout, trolley lurching under the weight, I decided that this revelation wasn’t at all worrying. We could cope. We had money. We had a flat. We were sorted.
Already a few friends have been round. Simon H has visited twice, once with his girlfriend Lucy and son James (who, I’m pleased to report, was only sick once over our new sofa) – and Nick and Sarah came round for nibbles, drinks and fun last Saturday.
So here we are. Settled. Ensconced. Knackered. But very pleased and eagerly awaiting some more visits from friends. Takeaways, shops, friends and the heart of Guildford are a short walk away, and I finally have a parking space! A big loads of thanks to Michelle’s mum and sisters for the help and the biscuits. Here are some snaps of the flat to whet your appetite.

James Hunter Has Arrived

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“Lucy’s waters have broken. Will keep you posted.”
The text message we had all been waiting for woke Michelle and I at 7:42 this morning. Jac’s message, moments later –

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“Look, Simon, he’s got your chins…”
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“The floodgates are open” – had me in fits of giggles, and I abandoned all hope of returning to sleep. It was a bittersweet moment – of course, the excitement and exhilaration of Simon H and Lucy having their baby was amazing, but it was coupled with an immense sense of loss as my ?5 bet on a Monday birth had been found wanting.
I paced around Michelle’s house, wondering when I was going to get a call, wondering if I would get a visit in before I went back home. Thirty minutes later, I was still pacing. No news, I hoped, was good news, so I pottered off to the gym for an hour.
I came back. Still no news. Then, at 2.30pm, Jac phoned. “JAMES HUNTER!” he exclaimed, and I breathed a sigh of relief, slumped back in my chair and resumed playing with my newly-acquired XBOX.
And so it was that James Hunter was born (all 9.9lbs of him), at 2.05pm, to an emotional and extremely tired Lucy and Simon. Congratulations of the highest order, and I wish you all the happiness in the world. And James, make sure you give them hell, there’s a good lad…