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Toby McCombe arrives

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Toby McCombe

Toby McCombe

“At 6.22 today,” a text message informed me yesterday morning, “Toby Oliver McCombe was born. Baby and mum are fine.”

You know, it was only a few years ago when Nick and I were constantly out dancing the night away, drinking fine beer and regretting it the next morning. Now, he’s married, settled down – and has now become a dad!

Congratulations to Nick and Sarah – you are awesome. We’ll be visiting very soon…

Suits and Housewarmings

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Saturday was a busy day which rolled into a drunken night. My best man duties entailed me driving to Epsom with Nick, his brother and dad for suit fittings. Handily, it proved a good opportunity to test out the Lexus. We discovered that rear leg room was an issue (“I can’t feel my legs anymore”, Nick’s dad exclaimed halfway through the journey) and that most of the controls were unnecessarily complicated. And I can certainly vouch for the build quality of the rear bumper, which was tested to destruction by a Ford Fiesta that missed my plethora of brakelights and plowed into the back of me. Epsom is not a place I’d recommend driving round on a Saturday afternoon…
Nick had a set idea of the kind of get-up he’d be wearing at his wedding. A red waistcoat, apparently, was a must – and there was a red and gold theme that had to considered. I never knew weddings were so complicated. After a good hour and a half choosing the waistcoats (eventually settling on one that has to be ordered in, bless him) and half an hour verifying the choices with the wife-to-be, we burst out into the dazzling sunlight of the unseasonally warm weather.
Sadly, I was expecting to be back about an hour earlier to plan for the first party in our new house – it was more of an apology party for not organising a housewarming sooner. Michelle and I had prepared the legendary party bags earlier in the week, and she and Sarah had gone shopping in the early afternoon for food-based essentials. Jac and Shaun had turned up early to watch the Grand National. Jac had managed to win money for the last four years, and he wasn’t going to miss this one. News filtered through while we were suit fitting that his horse had fallen, much to the secret joy of everyone around. When I arrived back at the house the food had been lovingly prepared and they were all playing cricket in the garden. The garden, however, isn’t quite as big as a cricket pitch. Jac and Shaun’s competitive edge saw the softball regularly ending up in both neighbours’ gardens, with one of them eventually offering to leave their garden gate open so we could pop over whenever the ball strayed. “Can we put a fielder in there too?” Nick enquired, pushing the boundaries of neighbourly conduct.
As the sun set, 20 people came through the front door and joined in the revelry. We’d decided on a barbeque, but forgot that fact that I’m useless at them. Nick and Sarah eventually had to take over as the arrival of guests and drinking eventually took its toll on my concentration. Shaun and Michelle found some strings for my guitar and managed to plug away at it through the drunken haze for a good hour or so. The newly-installed Nintendo Wii and Xbox360 were put to full use (an enthusiastic punch from Shunta on Wii Boxing managed to break a ceiling light) and a lot of us managed to stay up until the early hours drinking, laughing and strumming.
The next morning, however, was not so enjoyable…

Liver Damage

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We don’t have many excuses for a lad’s night out these days. I’m buying a house (more on that in another post, I’m sure), Nick’s getting married, and Jac’s working all the hours god sends him. But last Friday, we managed it – and with it came the realisation that we’re definitely getting on a bit.

We didn’t rush out to the bars and clubs, which is the first indication that something has changed. We “stayed in for a couple”, conscious of our wallets and bank balances. After several bottle of lager and sessions on the XBox 360, we left and headed straight for McDonalds, eager for a piece of cow to line our stomachs with. Jac looked a little out of place amongst the gold hooped earrings and shell suits, so we rapidly left and found the first bar of the night. In fact, it was TGI Fridays, as Nick was eager to try a fun cocktail and wasn’t taking no for an answer. I tried to be cool and had a Mojito – apparently the “in” drink according the to the bible Heat. I’m not too good at being cool – I got bits of crushed mint leaves stuck in my teeth. A good look, I think you’ll agree.

All £4.70 of Mojito went down in a flash. I’d been looking forward to the night for a while, and I was downing drinks like George Best. Next stop was Lloyds Bar, a posher version of Wetherspoons. Well, I say posher – essentially the only difference is music and big screens. The drinks were cheap, and Jac – ever the spendthrift with rounds – immediately sensed his moment had come. After buying the drinks, he positioned himself under the stairs to the upper floor, so he could ogle the female legs and short skirts that went up. “I’m single,” he reminded us.
Then, the biggest decision of the night, and one which I’m sure every drinking person in Guildford was asking – which nightclub to go to? Harpers – which used to be called The Drink until its owner planted his ego on the name – was the safe option. Completely overpriced, but the music in the Voodoo Lounge section was always good. When Nick and I were little – I was 19, he was 26 – we would always go to the other nightclub in town, Cinderellas. Now renamed Time, the club is and was a tiny shoebox, but in those halcyon days we visited several times a week. It became our local club – we knew the doormen, the people inside, and everyone was our age. We haven’t been for years, mainly because it’s a good while away from the main bars. If we went to Time and it was rubbish, that would be it for the night. So, inevitably, we chose the safest router, and headed for Harpers.

It was the worst decision of the night. £10 to get in, and there was no one there. The drinks were £4.70 each. We were floored by our bad luck. But it did give us the option we all secretly wanted – a visit to Time.

We wandered up the hill to the club, and instantly felt a whole lot better. Good music, friendly faces, and plenty of women for Jac to get his teeth into, as it were.

There were several highlights. In the middle of a popular R’n’B song, Jac and Nick dissolved in tears as I loudly asked the DJ if he had Inspector Gadget. He couldn’t have looked less impressed if I’d asked him to shove a hot poker in an unfortunate place. Jac attracted a large young lady, who he managed run away from several times during the night, while Nick reminisced on the good old days and threw a few stylish shapes on the dancefloor.

After I successfully made Jac and Nick stay until 3am, we meandered into the Kebab House, ordering the last kebabs of the night. We even managed have another XBox session before finally giving in at 4.30. It was a good night. We’re not that old yet…

New Year, New Shock

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Happy New Year! Time is cracking on and no mistake. 27 years old, and my close friends and I have all decided a night in with drink, food and games is a better and cheaper alternative than going to a crowded, high-charging pub or nightclub. Actually, the “cheaper” part was a false dawn – Michelle and I invited people round and then proceded to stock up with food and drink until the fridge overflowed. Jac, Debbie, Nick and Sarah popped round, and together we eat, drank, played Buzz and sped our way into 2005. Selfishly, Nick and Sarah stole the show. They announced that they were now officially engaged – a fact I’d almost ruined earlier in the day when I spied them looking furtive in a Guildford jewellers. This is a big moment, Ladies and Gentleman – Nick and I used to trawl Guildford nightly for about a year back in my Sun Microsystem-employed days, and the final marital nail and been planted in that coffin.
(pause for sigh)
So congratulations to both of them, and for goodness sake don’t let any more of you get engaged…

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?

Great Balls of Pain

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“Would the birthday group please stay behind – the rest of you can go off and get changed.”
The words hit my ears like a juggernaut. We – Michelle, Lucy, Simon H, Jac, Shaun, Nick and I – had been fighting it out in the paintball battlefield somewhere in Horsley for the best part of five hours. Earlier in the month, Michelle had had the brainwave while trying to think of a birthday present for me, and knew that I’d loved paintballing when I’d been before. We’d arrived on time that morning – well, nearly. Jac had had “a hell of a night” and managed to arrive still drunk, still with most of the clothes he had on the night before and “unable to remember much before Junction 11 of the M25”. Still, it provided amusement for the rest of the group, if not for any policemen reading this…
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Flatwarming in St Luke’s Square

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Housewarmings are always worrying things. Or so I’ve heard. This was the first housewarming I’ve ever given – in fact the first party and, as the email invites said, one bedroom flats don’t lend themselves to large parties.
However, last Saturday we managed to fit 16 people into a space no larger than two small elephants. Michelle and I had prepared the party essentials – one large bowl of twin-layer vodka jelly,

party.gif

six vodka lollies and a party bag full of goodies for each visitor. I’d even bought a couple of party CDs to get us in the mood and invited “mystery guests” as a surprise bonus. But as 7.30 approached, I found myself subconsciously pacing. Would people come? Would they enjoy it? Would any of them be on time?
And then, in a sign of good things to come, the most regularly tardy friend I have and his girlfriend rocked up early. Nick and Sarah, in a reward for their timekeeping, quickly bagged the two best seats in the house and within one hour there were 16 of us downing drinks, drinking jelly, sucking on lollies, bouncing party-bagged bouncy balls and generally having a veritable mountain of fun. Old friends had rocked up to oohs and ahhs from the rest of the crowd, our next door neighbour seemed to be in deep conversation with most of the party until the early hours and at 3am, after finishing the night with a bout of XBOX action, we reflected on a cracking night. The clearup the next morning was particularly gruelling, mind you.
Well done to Nick, who managed the dual offence of wearing a
salmon-coloured shirt AND breaking our freezer door. Well done also to
Shunta, who managed to unhelpfully shove jelly down Michelle’s
trousers, hide hundreds of yellow Post It notes around the room (which, by the way, we are still finding) and set off the building’s burglar alarm at 2am. And thank you to everyone who came, and managed to turn 16 people in an 6×6 metre room into a possibility.
It would be unfair of me to finish without mentioning a couple of things. Firstly, congratulations to everyone for their efforts at the silly hat competition. Jac, as usual, excelled with a home-grown creation of a hat made up of hats; while other brought ski hats, a chicken hat, a Geordie hat, a Guinness hat and many others.
The second thing to mention is that, as my mother has already found, the pictures are up.

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 – The Homecoming

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So, Michelle and I trotted off to meet James Hunter last night, and lo and behold I got mushy. Only for 30 seconds, of course – I’m a man, and I’m hard. The whole family were there, and our presents of baby clothes and champagne went down suitably well. James was awake/asleep/crying alternately throughout the night, as proper 1 day old babies should, and pictures were still being taken every minute or so. Everyone wanted a turn holding the little bugger – everyone apart from myself, who has an inherent fear of dropping babies on their heads. “Maybe, if he’s lucky, I’ll give him a fireman’s lift when he’s seven,” I surmised.
Nick and Jac are joining us for a second visit on Friday, before a swift meal at a local restaurant. How jolly grown up we all are nowadays…
P.S. Simon H has posted photos of James here. Some highlights:
Photo 44 – The Missus and I.
Photo 11 – The emotional dad and his less emotional brother Shaun.
Photo 27 – Shaun and Kate – in a pose I imagine Kate will regret.
Photo 36 – “Thank God that’s over…”
Photo 51 – Simon H’s receding hairline makes a cameo appearance.