Personal Stories - 3/55 - wibbler.com

Shunta on the beat

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Hearty congratulations to Simon Hunter, who after a good long effort has managed to become a street-pounding policeman! This, of course, completes the total change from a drunken, funny loon to a married Mondeo-driving policeman and father-of-one. Utterly astounding, but very well done old chum…

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…

Trading In

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The time has come for a new company car. My three-year stint with the Peugeot 407 comes to an end in August, and as it takes an unfathomably lengthy time to order a car, I have to settle on one about now. The Peugeot 407, I have to say, was a revelation. Okay, so it’s not the coolest car in existence, but my requirements were a bit different three years ago. My job dictated that I needed a car for sitting in endless traffic jams with, and one that had a load of buttons and gadgets. It’s been reliable, it’s big enough to support my ample frame, and unlike the Audis and BMWs it manages to cram a whole lot of extras in for a reasonable cost. The built-in satellite navigation has been a revelation – at least until recently, when the lack of updates and a scratched CD has caused minor frustration.
So, what next? After the “family car”, I’m looking for a more sporty number. There are two rules to my company car choice – it must be a diesel (thanks to company car tax) and it must have a decent-sized boot. These two rules, cunningly, rule out most of the funky cars. Top of my list, I think, is the Lexus IS200. For some reason, I’ve always wanted a Lexus – again, I think it’s to do with all the gadgets. I managed to wangle one to test over the weekend, and it’s frankly looking awesome. It’s small enough for Michelle to drive back home when I get too drunk at the pub, and has enough buttons to kill a few hours in traffic jams. Second and third place go to the Audi A4 and VW Golf. Anyone have any other recommendations?

Pinocchio Jac

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jacnose-sm.jpgJac had another birthday the other week, and his colleagues helpfully made him a Happy Birthday self-portrait. And there it is, to the right. If you click on it, you can see the full horror – as he said, “Look at the size of that nose! I was drunk.” As if, ladies and gentlemen, being drunk increases nose size…

All hooked up, nowhere to go…

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So, the aftermath of The Engagement announcement was enjoyable! Most people said it was about time, others were amazed that I’d started settling down, and Jac tried to guess the event from my mysterious non-committal “I have news” email to him. “Before looking at the answer,” he wittered on, “let’s take the following facts into mind: Valentine’s Day has just passed, you spent the weekend in Bath, you have bought a house together, you’ve been with Michelle for longer than I have been with all my girlfriends put together. You must be engaged. SPLENDID. Now, let’s just check…”
And the rest of the people? Well, amusingly some seemed to be using my commitment-phobia as justification that they shouldn’t settle down themselves. That’s pulled the rug, hasn’t it.. 😉
Still, what I didn’t realise is that as soon as an engagement is announced, everyone asks, “Do you have a date for the wedding?”. God knows I’m not the best planner in the world, and of course the answer is “no”. However, to get a date, you need to know a venue, and to get a venue you need to know what kind of wedding you want. I may well be using my friend and Event Manager Extraordinaire Paul D regularly, and my Best Man status at Nick’s wedding in October will be a useful learning ground. Where on earth do you start, though? Confetti.co.uk seems as good a place as any. And, as many will know, my decision-making is legendarily lengthy – so any advice from you guys would be great…

Ghostly Performance

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It’s not every day that you can go and see old school friends play music in front of fans and TV cameras. But that day came yesterday, when I trundled along to watch Ghosts play at London’s Hospital club, a mysterious but fittingly white building in Covent Garden. The performance was being filmed for AOL Music, and only a few people were invited, which made it all the more enticing. I’d brought along Elli, who had know idea who Ghosts were and who i’d hoped to convert to a fan. We managed to meet in Leicester Square – despite the delayed trains doing all they could to ruin it – and I followed Elli the few hundred yards over to Covent Garden. I discovered, much to my annoyance, that it’s another area of London that’s actually quite nice. Dammit.
We arrived unfeasibly early, and sat in a nearby bar having a cocktail while the clock ticked round to 6.30. After we’d got in and had ourselves ticked off on the guest list, we were ushered to another room, which looked like an art gallery. On the walls were photographic portraits, and as we had time to kill we walked around looking for all the world like art connoisseurs. Gradually, the room filled up with people, and after we’d stared at the portraits for far too long we were taken through to the performance stage.
It was an almost entirely black, large room, with one side set up with microphones, speakers and instruments and the other with the lighting crew and a white line on the floor – which we were told to stand behind. Camera crews were swinging their large wheeled cameras around, practising for the main event. After a few sound checks and excited whoops from the crowd, the place went silent.
“Ladies and Gentlemen, please welcome… GHOSTS!” The small crowd erupted in claps and cheers, and then the moment I’d been eagerly waiting for – the members of Ghosts rocked up through the curtains at the back of the stage.
It was a strange feeling – these were guys I’d known for years, at least one of them since I was seven years old. Unlike everyone else in the crowd, I couldn’t picture them at all as pop stars – I still remember them on the sports field, or at the back of the class in lessons. And yet here they were, about to do something a lot of people dream of…
Simon and Robbie, the singer and bassist, seemed to notice me – standing head and shoulders above the rest of the crowd, bang in the middle, I was hard to miss I imagine. I was tempted to wave, but they all evidently had their hands full – and if they decided to wave back there’d probably have been a camera retake to deal with. I contented myself with giving them all knowing smiles and taking pictures (which are here) and a couple of rubbish videos when I could. (Seems another person in the crowd was busy with the camera trigger too).
After their seven song set – plus two more for retakes – the session was over. They then embarked on a meet and greet for the crowd, and I was going to slip away – eager to not appear like a groupie – until I caught the eye of Robbie. He greeted me with a big smile, talked about the success they were having and how exhausting it all was – they all looked knackered, having been in Paris that morning for promotion and flying back for this gig and two rehearsals in the afternoon. “Any groupies?”, I asked. “Not yet – but I’m working on it…” Robbie said with a knowing wink. I managed to catch up with all of them on the set, and hung around a bit to watch the fans asking for autographs taking pictures and telling Simon how many gigs they’d been to so far. The AOL cameras were still filming, taking it all in. It was a little surreal, and I could sense that all the band wanted to do was sit down and zone out after a long day. As Elli and I made our way through to leave, Simon told us to follow him upstairs. We ended up in their dressing room, complete a suitable enormous flat screen television – “we’ve no idea how to work it, it’s beyond me,” said Mark – sofas, a beer fridge and mirrored washbasins. And there we sat for about half an hour, reminiscing with them all. It was great to catch up with them, and also great to find that they haven’t changed a bit from the nice guys they always were…

Old Alumni Part 2 – Alex Cameron

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Alex Cameron and I first met at college. He was a fun andAlex_Profile_small.jpg unconventional dude, with unkempt hair, a loud voice, a quick wit and
a tendency to go that one step further than everyone else. At one
memorable party, while we were busy drinking and telling Charlotte
Vaughan how nice her house was, he was busy removing all the internal
doors from the entire place and hiding them, before moving downstairs
and exploding an egg in their microwave. He was that kinda guy.
We left college, went our slightly separate ways, and I
occasionally met up and talked with him about computers and old
friends. Then, a couple of years ago, he burst onto the scene –
starting a Mayfair-based company (Digital TX) and harbouring an
incredible idea that could take on the likes of Sky and Virgin Media.
It was always going to be tricky, but if anyone could do it, Alex
could with his enthusiasm, knowledge and downright audacity. He gave
speeches, consultancy, advice, the whole works. He began to know
everybody. He, frankly, was on his way to a dang good future, and he
wasn’t shy of letting everyone notice.
And then, last week, I received an email from him titled “The Offer Of
A Lifetime”. Ominous, I thought. He was over in America, getting finance for his company, and someone had offered him a job. Not just any job, mind you – it’s an absolute
stonker. He’s been offered a multi-million pound deal as a “director… for the newly formed Digital Hollywood consortium”, as he put it. After I’d read the email, a couple of swearwords of admiration passed my lips. If anyone deserves to be obscenely rich, Alex does…
I remember saying at college that Alex, despite finding him a great guy, would end up either incredibly successful or face down in a ditch, such was the wild but brilliant antics. Thankfully, it seems the right path has prevailed! The culture shock of piles of money and success can often bring about that nasty second option – although I think Alex is level-headed enough to cope. Go get ’em, Alex!

Iraq: four years of freedom

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The irrepressible Tim over at Bloggerheads has asked people what they were doing online on 20th March 2003 (the eve of the invasion of Iraq by people who thought they knew better…). Happily, he’s chosen me among others as his first group of taggers! So here goes…

Well, I posted a little anecdote about an Iraqi blogger dodging bombs and that my dad was glued to the television. He LOVES war. In another life, I’m pretty sure he’ll have been a commander of some enormous infantry division or something. And my other post on that day pointed out that underhand goings-on at the EU didn’t stop to make way for the war effort. And over the following days, there were various Saddam-based jokes, like that tasteless host I am….

So, what did you post on 20 March, 2003 (or as near to the day as possible):
Minor9th
Jonola14
Plasticbag.org
John Dale
King’s blog

Doesn’t have to be a blog entry; it could easily be anywhere on the internet.

The Matrix

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Jac’s never been one for skipping lightly over decisions. Yesterday, he was offered a new job, one which offered yet more options for him to ponder over. After debating them to himself over MSN with me, he came up with a solution: “I might do a spreadsheet listing the positives and the negatives, with a Spearman’s rank coefficient weighting matrix“.
Will someone please become his girlfriend before he implodes?

All Spliced Up

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There are big stages in life that you always look back on. ringading.jpg
Your first day at school; your first kiss; your first job; your first house. Hell, even my first deep-fried Mars bar, down on the Portsmouth seafront, is a moment deeply-imprinted on my brain. As was the queasy feeling the next morning…
Well, on Saturday Michelle and I added another much more important snapshot to our pile of memories. In the depths of Bath, in our favourite hotel, Michelle followed a fun paper-based trail I’d made around the hotel room, eventually reaching one with a very important question. And now, after nearly 6 years – and after Michelle had checked to see if I was joking – we’re engaged!
ENGAGED, for goodness sake.
For Michelle, it was the end of a long wait, bless her. And she has waited very well indeed. She’s currently at work, looking for someone to notice the ring.
For me – well, those that know me will testify to my commitment-phobia and lack of urgency and this was, frankly, a pretty large step.
For us, it’s the next stage in a fun fun life – even if the first thing most people have said is “about bloody time”… 😉