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I’m still not liking London…

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“Is that your car?” the unkempt lady asked, hiding a smirk.
I groaned. Over the past hour, I had been sitting beside my car, waiting for a van to turn up and release me from my pain.
Why, you ask, couldn’t I just drive off? Well, I’m afraid to say I was well and truly clamped, rumbled for parking in the wrong place at the wrong time. Sure, I could blame it on my colleague Adrian (pictured), who directed me to the space in the first place – but really I should have learnt by now not to rely on him. “The left side of the road was for Pay and Display parking, the right side for Residents Only,” I explained to the bored helpdesk woman at the Camden Parking Office. To emphasise the point, I finished with “It was a genuine mistake!” – but then realised that they’d probably heard that many, many times before, and cut my losses. The lady took 115 pounds from my credit card before telling me (I’m sure with a smirk) that the “clamping team” would take between 1 and 4 hours to turn up. clamped.jpgThis, as you can imagine, was not welcome news. “Why,” I asked, feeling my blood boil, “does it take you up to four hours to arrive, when it only took to 10 minutes to find my car and clamp it?” The woman clearly had her answer ready. “Because, Sir, it will make sure you don’t do it again.” The phone call ended.
I had no answer to her illogical logic. I also had no choice but to sit there for the next hour, watching people go by, pointing and smirking at the cheery green clamp on my tyre. I tried my best to disown the car, creeping off into a nice little garden opposite and sitting on a park bench, but after a while I decided it was more important not to miss the Parking van. I rested on the car, watching the world go by.
It was a couple of minutes later that the unkempt lady bowled up. Very short, with crooked teeth and even more crooked hair, she wandered over and stared at my car. “I’m not a drug addict, you know,” she stated, which immediately made me suspect her of being one. “Not a hooker either, but you can probably tell that,” she continued. “I’ve been beaten up by my husband in Bournemouth. Ran up here to get away, and now I have no money to get back.” Ah, I thought, there’s the money shot. She’s after funds for her next drinking session. I stared up the road, willing the Parking van to arrive as soon as possible. “Have you got eight pounds twenty pence?”.
Now, I’m not a regular London visitor. Could she be genuine, I wondered? She said she’d been to the social services but they wouldn’t help as she had no identification. Same with the Police, apparently. I interrogated her on all the possible avenues she could pick other than me, partly to work out what she was about and partly so that she couldn’t get any further before the van turned up. I explained I had no money to give her.
She looked at my car. “Maybe you could give me a lift?”
Well, this I had no answer to, other than being rude. Thankfully, my van in white armour turned up right on queue, careering round the corner and screeching to a halt beside my stricken car. Within thirty seconds the clamp was off, and it only took another 5 seconds before I was in my car, revving the engine and screeching off, eager to avoid the woman’s glare. I could hear her expletive-filled screams a couple of hundred metres down the road. As I looked in the mirror, I could see her take out a mobile phone and put it against her ear.
I think we can safely assume she was lying.

Bon Jovi – F*** it, Let’s Play

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Bon Jovi are gods. Well, more or less. Michelle, Jac, Nick and I ventured into London’s Hyde Park yesterday for a Bon Jovi gig, and we couldn’t have picked a better day. Michelle and I were up first, booking into our hotel by 11.30am and taking a long walk through Kensington Gardens, to the Hyde Park venue. And you’ll be amazed to hear I’ve found the first bit of London I like. The Royal Parks, as they’re called, are very nice indeed, and you forget you’re ever in London for a while. Which, I suppose, is probably why it’s so nice.
It was about this time that Jac, nursing an almighty hangover, managed to catch a train from Watford. He’d woken up, as ever on a Saturday or Sunday morning, fully clothed, unable to remember much of the night, and feeling really rather rough. After stumbling out of his flat, a swift haircut ensued, after which he hauled himself to mile or so to the train station, onto the train carriage, and headed for London, on a line that went in completely the other direction, straight past his flat.
Michelle and I had, by this point, managed to find the place, and marked our position in the growing queue. It was 1pm, the sun was beating down, slowly grilling us, and without shade we decided we may as well get a tan. We didn’t reckon, of course, on sunburn. 1 hour later, we were hurting and thirsty, and radioed ahead to Jac for drinks. He arrived at 2, and we set about the mind-numbingly slow queueing process. Ahead of us, we could see the stage, and at the top we could see a scrolling messageboard, inviting us to text our messages so they could be scrolled along the large screen. So, seizing a good opportunity and a waste of 25p, I texted “Let Us In”. In the boredom of the queue, the point when the message scrolled across in huge letters was far and away the most amusing thing we had done, and we whooped loudly for joy, shouting, “oh, oh, oh, THERE IT IS”. Everyone, including Michelle, stared at us, quite possibly hoping they would stand nowhere near us when were were eventually let in. You’ll be pleased to know that I also advertised to the 92,000 people sitting there…
We burst into the ground at 4pm, and managed a very decent spot near the front of the crowd. Very quickly, we were surrounded by the rest of the queue, and from that moment on, we realised we would not be able to move until the end. No drink-getting, no food-buying, not even a visit to the little boys room. We were stuck.
We were still stuck an hour and a half later. And still waiting for the band to start up. Legs gave way, and the sun burned the living daylights out of any available skin.
You may have noticed that I haven’t mentioned Nick yet. That’s more or less because he was incredibly late. His, and his friend Mel’s, plan was to come up at 2.30pm, find Hyde Park, find us, and start queueing. The plan, sadly, went a little pear-shaped. He managed to turn up 15 minutes before the support band started, and gave up fighting through the crowd about twenty minutes later. We never saw him.
And then Bon Jovi came on. All was forgiven as song after song rained down on us – Living on a Prayer, Bad Medicine, Lay Your Hands On Me, You Give Love A Bad Name, One Wild Night, Bounce, they were all there. So we didn’t get too bogged down in their sheer brilliance, towards the end they played classic tracks from other bands – Lola and Twist And Shout, amongst others. They also played Status Quo’s Rockin’ All Over The World – Jac was in pure ecstacy, in contrast to the many foreigners in the audience around us, who merely looked at each other, shrugging their shoulders repeatedly.
It was a perfect gig, and as the sun set with hardly a cloud in the sky, it dawned on us that this was a very special place to be on that Saturday night. Even Jon Bon Jovi couldn’t get enough – 3 hours and 3 encores later, he was still going, strumming away in front of 92,000 in the Royal Park, ignoring the supposed finish time by at least half an hour.
We all left feeling exhausted and burnt; but also in the knowledge that, for those 3 hours, we were the biggest Bon Jovi fans in the world. We’d come for entertainment, and by golly we’d got it. Roll on next year. And Nick – I think a little earlier would be good…

Course Ended

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Well, my course is over, and my head is nearly exploding with facts and figures. I waved goodbye to my hotel yesterday night, after an eventful few days. After the chaos of the power cut, I assumed there would be nothing that annoyed me more. However, I was plainly wrong. The second day heralded the arrival of two man occupying either side of my room. One was an ex-army soldier, and the other was a rather plump middle-aged businessman, who managed to cough every thirty seconds. That night, as i settled down and turned off my light, I hoped the coughing had ceased. It had. Lovely, I thought. I closed my eyes, and started to drift off.
SnnnooOOOORRRRREEEE, the businessman said.
SnNNNNNNOOOORRREEE, the businessman repeated.
Half and hour later, I gave up and turned the light on again. 11.53pm. Must be some news on TV, I thought, so I turned it on. Then, from the other side, a watery sound slowly started, as if someone was poured a lot of water into a sink. Utter horror crossed my face as I realised what it was: not to be outdone, the ex-soldier was steadily urinating into the CENTRE of the loo, making the loudest sound possible. It was as if he was showing off.
At 1.30, after 3 loo visits from the ex-soldier, I decided to admit defeat and bury my head under the pillow. The ex-soldier could drain his python all night long; the businessman could snore for England as far as I was concerned – I could hear a thing.
I woke up the next morning to find that my entire head was numb. Blasted pillow. As I trundled down to breakfast, I noticed two door knockers outside the restaurant. I picked them up and brought them into the dining area – an action I now regret, as the entire giggling restaurant staff now know me as the “Man with Two Knockers”.
The general idea of my stay is that the bill is picked up by my company, but any newspapers or drinks I buy, I should pay for. That’s fair, I thought, it should only be about 4 pounds. I approached the desk to check out with a fiver in my hand.
“That’ll be 112 pounds and 20 pence please sir,” the polite lady informed me. Oh, I thought. “I have a fiver, will that do?” I enquired. The lady asked if I have enjoyed the 3 bottles of wine to a total of 110 pounds I had consumed the previous evening. No, I replied, before examining the bill and explaining the simple rules of decimal points and division. After reds faces all round, the bill was modified to 4 pounds 13 pence, and I was on my merry way.
I’ll miss the place…

Barclays 1

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And I thought NTL were bad.
Barclays really are Class A goons. Over the past few weeks, their inescapably incompetant skills have left me speechless. After they bungled my Graduate Loan to such an extent that they took ?750 out of my account one morning, I fired off a letter detailing everything thats happened so far – with the more than capable overseeing eyes of Jac and my parents (here it is – letter 1). Then, astonishingly, they sent me another letter, from THE VERY PERSON I addressed the first letter to. It claimed I had defaulted on my loan, and that I would be taken to court, with interest being charged at 18 pence a day. Bah humbug. Off went the second letter (here it is – Letter 2). I even included my charges to date, and told them I was charging them interest at 40 pence a day. That should do it.

Bath Trip

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Well, that WAS a fun weekend, all in all! Just come back from a three day jaunt to Bath, where we stayed in a cracking hotel, Dorian House and consumed enormous quantities of champagne (See?). With all the buildings looking exactly the same, and the truly awful one-way system, I managed to get lost just the twice, a vast improvement on previous visits. Well done me. We wined and dined at two restaurants (here’s number two) and finally managed on the third and final day to see the Roman Baths, which are, surprisingly, far more interesting than being just a luke-warm pool of water in the town centre. The whole city was NAMED after it, for crying out loud… The height of amusement came on our visit to the Moon and Sixpence restaurant, a distinctly posh place. during our starter, the lights dimmed dramatically, which we presumed was to heighten the romantic atmosphere, only for Michelle to pipe up rather loudly, “Anyone got 50p for the meter?” Splendid!

Holiday Report 25/1

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12pm – The smell of roasting flesh signals a return indoors after only an hour today. I make a mental note (always a problem, that) to put my clock/thermometer thing outside and take a picture as proof.
2pm – I cleverly mistake pesos for dollars and bring the equivalent of 25 pence for my hours internet access, which the attendant looks at in disgust. I send Michelle packing for more money while I lounge around.
Drinks Knocked Over = 3