Personal Stories - 5/55 -

Becki gets married!

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Way back in 2001, I met a couple of small twins who darted around, danced the night away and “did the twin thing” in nightclubs up and down Guildford. Five years later, I’m about to buy a house with one of them, and the other is married. Last Saturday, Becki got hitched to Glyn in a ceremony in St Johns Church, Guildford. I was tasked with videoing it – which was surprising, as my efforts at filming their brother’s wedding a few years back didn’t take into consideration the closeness of my mouth and the microphone, leaving my “witty” and ill-considered commentary all over the soundtrack. I managed to keep quiet for this one though, and managed to use all my filming skills to capture the moment. The reception was held at Sutton Green Golf Club, and I remember very little after about 8pm – although I can remember the speeches were very good and my wallet was very well used…
So, congratulations Becki and Glyn! I’m sure there’ll be some pictures up soon…

Rocking Rickshaws

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I woke up at 6.30am, as usual, and demanded my presents. I was now 28, after all, and the frightening closeness to the big 3-0 had to have a silver lining somewhere. Michelle had been teasing me for the best part of two weeks about her plans, and as it turned out she’d pulled out all the stops and get us tickets to the We Will Rock You musical in London. This was doubly brave for her, as she’s not keen on visiting London these days in case she gets blown up….
Naturally, I was excited. We travelled up just after lunch, and ambled round the sights of central London. After initially thinking the Dominion Theatre was in Leicester Square – which was entirely wrong but did enable us to get a meal meal at TGI Fridays into the bargain – we found the theatre, with its huge gold statue of Freddie Mercury glistening outside the entrance. There was a real buzz outside, and inside people we rushing upstairs, downstairs and across the foyer, bundled with sweets, drinks and lightsticks to wave during the performance. We forced our way through to the main theatre – past the poor souls queueing for ages to get their tickets – sat in a seat at the back middle of the auditorium.
And, from there, we sat – increasingly mesmerised at the antics on stage. Michelle and I had forgotten how good musicals were – and this one is no exception. It’s not your standard musical – and it doesn’t chart the musical life of Queen or Freddie Mercury either. It has it’s own imaginary story, based around Queen songs. And it is VERY good indeed. On a chilly Thursday night, after 6 years of twice-daily performances, they still managed to get the entire audience on their feet, chanted, laughing, dancing and singing along with the cast.
I can’t imagine how the cast manage to do the same thing every day for years like that. One of the cast had been there since it first started in 2000 – although I later learned that they do swop roles, which I suppose is something. And I imagine the cash incentive is a bit of a factor…
Anyway, after these musings, Michelle and I stepped out into the chilly night, eagerly peering round for a taxi. But there, shining it in eccentric brilliance, was a far better form of transport. Ladies and Gentleman, before us was a rickshaw. With a man on the front, eager searching for punters. Most people stayed clear, not wishing to be seen on a glorified bicycle – but it was exactly what I was after. I dragged Michelle into the two-seater “cab”, and sat down. The “driver” peered in and took a long look at me. I was wondering whether I’d have to pay a surcharge for my ample frame, but he relented, hoped on and cycled for all he was worth to Waterloo train station. Luckily, there were no hills, and he managed to get there with the minimum of fuss – although we had time to wave to astonished onlookers and text most of my phone book with the words, “Currently on a rickshaw”. Sorry about that…
So, another cracking birthday, thanks to Michelle. When I got to work the following Monday to boast it turned out my boss had seen it four time “and counting”. Show off.

Naval-gazing Karma.

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I’m getting stares. A waitress has just said, “look, he’s sitting there with his imaginary friends. “A Birdhouse In Your Soul” – a wacky favourite of mine – is playing around the restaurant.

Ladies and gentlefolk, I am in Chester, in a very nice hotel just on the outskirts of the town – and there’s a reason they’re staring. I have brought my laptop to the table, in an fine example of geekery. In fairness, I do have online work to do, and the wireless internet isn’t working in my room. I could have caused a stink about it, of course. Just like I could have kicked up a fuss at the petrol attendant for charging me for someone else’s petrol earlier today. I could have torn a strip out off a colleague who managed to stand on an important certificate I’d dropped at the office. And I could have had some serious words about my company expecting me to come in to work for the entire weekend a few weeks ago.

But I’ve always been calm, been a little laid back. And I’ve found, certainly recently, that calmness is definitely the way forward. By not complaining about my weekend of work, I’ve been rewarded with a bonus and a letter of thanks from the Managing Director. As a reward for not kicking off at a colleague, I’ve managed to get a fresh printout of the certificate and a mention that I was “a nice chap”. By going along with the mis-charged petrol, I managed to get the petrol free (as it’s a company car, they WILL be pleased with me). And finally, by accepting that problems happen, my internet charge is being refunded, I’m moving rooms and, as I join in the mocking of my geekiness at the table this evening, the staff have said how nice it is to have “someone who’s not angry at everything.”

As I said in a slightly drunken stupor to someone the other day, life’s too short to get shirty with people. Problem’s happen. Some people get lucky, others don’t. You’ve only got one life – spread the love while you can.

And so endeth the sermon for this week.

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…

Jacked it in.

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Single workaholic male, 27, WLTM frisky female with GSOH willing to put up with poor-quality jokes, unpredictable wind and enjoys being called “bird”. Apply here.

“Let’s keep it melancholy.”

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Jac and I have been following the band Easyworld since we were young. Well, younger. When they split, we mourned a little. then David Ford, the lead singer, went solo, and we cheered up a little bit. He is a musical genius, able to play almost any instrument you can think of, and write lyrics that are painfully incisive. Here are some of Easyworld’s videos, and some of David’s own stuff (his own site is
Anyway, that’s enough of the promotion, I want to boast. David’s been touring Australia and America, and was offering a one-night-only show in London. Tickets sold out before I’d even had the chance to log on and find them. Then he moved to a larger venue – again they were sold out before I got back from work that day. So, clutching at straws, I emailed Jac, who has made some usual friends while trying to get into the music industry. “Can you get some tickets?” I asked him, resigned to the fact there was almost certainly no chance.
And then, an email from Jac. “I am amazing,”, it started, which was no surprise – he’s become a One Man Publicity Machine of late. Yes, yes, I muttered, why this time? “I have got tickets for David Ford tonight.”
As I entered The Borderline venue that night, I had to admit that for once Jac was amazing. Here we were at a sold out gig, with two free guest tickets. Ford’s supporting act were the surprisingly good Angus and Julia Stone, a brother and sister who had travelled from Australia to break themselves in over here. And then, sweet lord, it was David Ford, telling everyone who cheered to “keep it melancholy, alright?” It was the first time I’d seen him live, and he was better than I’d even imagined. Using everything he could lay his hands on to make musical sounds, he was a one man band with a difference, proving that music can be everywhere and that he actually didn’t need any other band members at all. Jac’s musical review is here. Word has it he’s doing well in America at the moment – let’s hope he doesn’t stay over there. He’s a bit of a secret on the music scene at the moment, and perversly I’d quite like him to stay that way…
And then the train drivers went on strike, meaning that I spent an uncomfortable 90 minutes in the back of a taxi with two Guildford-based indians who could barely speak English. It was worth it, though…

Barbeques, spoons and backs.

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There are some friends that are always going to be there for support, advice and, most important of all, barbeques. paul D hosts one at least once a year, and yesterday’s was no exception. Even Jac turned up, hobbling around uttering “I’ve got a bad back” to everyone within earshot. The highlight for me was a game of spoons, which Paul’s girlfriend Liz kept winning, and which drew to a climax when Jac, ever the competitor, tried to grab a spoon so aggresively that his fold-up chair buckles, allowing him to collapse disastrously into a nicely warm – and now nicely dented – barbeque uttering “OOOOW, MY BAAAACK.” I had tears in my eyes, and they weren’t in sympathy…

A journey to nowhere

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There are very few places in the UK that haven’t been touched by
technology. But at 4.30am on Monday morning, I started
travelling towards one of them.
Most parts of west Wales can best be described as remote, and the previous night I swotted up on the location – a place called Aberporth, which would be far better named as Nowhere. Here it is.
The first two hours of the trip to Nowhere were a pleasure, with barely any cars on the road – who in their right mind would be up at that time on a Monday morning, eh? – but it was when I crossed over the Severn Bridge (who, to my horror, had upped their toll charge and wiped me out of cash for my morning paper) and climbed into the Brecon Beacons that the journey slowed to a crawl. There was no doubting the picturesque landscape that I was able to fully take in as I slowly creeped up the hills and dales behind an enormous truck. It took
thirty minutes to find a suitable place to overtake, and it took all my rallying skills to achieve the move.
The company I was visiting was deep in a virtually uninhabited village. There were no signs, no road names – and after using the navigational services of two local tradesmen and a map I found the offices down a small dirt track.
And it was there that I spent two days talking about the wonders of the company I work for, how we could help them – and no doubt save the world at the same time. The exaggerated hyperbole that comes out of my mouth is really top-notch nowadays. I’m fairly sure I could sell ice to an eskimo.
In between the two days, I stayed in an enormous room at an enormous hotel in the middle – again – of nowhere. There was no mobile phone reception, and very well hidden internet access, meaning that for the first time in years I had to make my own entertainment. I went shopping in a place called Cardigan – where, according to a cheery shop assistant, the sweaters apparently don’t come from – and read half a book. It was actually surprisingly liberating to be free from technology. My friend Simon B lives in a mobile-free zone near Guildford, and purposely hasn’t installed a landline. His home time is free from interruptions. I can’t wait to try it.
Despite the no-contact revelation, however, it was good to get back into the land of the living. But to my horror, on the very day I got back to the office another company a few miles from Aberporth we looking for my services. I didn’t think it was possible to have more than one company operating out of there. Looks like my no-contact experience is about to get another showing…

Television saves lives

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I’ve never been into taking holidays very much, which tends to infuriate the hell out of Michelle. I’m in the minority, of course – most people love to get away to sunnier climes, forgetting their troubles while the dips various toes to warm seaside water. I don’t have many troubles, though, and so I’m more than happy to sit and while away my days working and playing in and around Guildford. I do travel a lot for work nowadays, which means I’m even less likely to want to go away on my time off – which again doesn’t help Michelle’s hankering for all things sunny. So, I agreed to a holiday this year for a week or two. We selected a destination, a five-star hotel and organised some time off work.
Luckily, we jacked in the holiday idea and bought an enormous 40inch television instead. And why, you ask, is that lucky? Well, we’d booked a nice hotel in Antalya, Turkey – where it seems Turkish bombers have been quite happy to sow their seeds recently

Musical Cathartics

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When it comes to music, I’m not fussy. I like all types and genres, from classical to rap, to electronica and indie. Pachelbel, Eminem, Daft Punk and Fall Out Boy all feature in my eclectic musical collection.
There are a few musical quirks in the wibbler back catalogue that I’m surprisingly unashamed to admit, however. I never fail to get groans whenever I want to put a Meatloaf CD on. Michelle was made to listen to a whole album once, bless her. I remember buying a CD of his back in 1994, then watching the videos, and deciding that on top of the clever lyrics and music, he at least deserves respect for treating all his songs and videos like feature productions. The songs contain outrageously overblown guitar riffs, while the videos house all sorts of Hollywood-style shots and actions. He is larger than life, and isn’t ashamed of it.
The other one that should seem a little embarrassing is Fatboy Slim. For some reason, I’ve got the impression that he’s a sort of chav hero, someone I really should know better than enjoy music from. But the first time I hear most of his songs, I’ve no idea they’re his – but that doesn’t stop me tapping away and singing along. It’s actually a bit of a shock when I find they’re Fatboy Slim’s musical numbers. It’s happened with songs like Praise You, Weapon of Choice, The Joker, and now today with That Old Pair of Jeans (here’s an archive of videos, if you’re interested).
And like Meatloaf, the videos seem to be more “off the wall” than the standard ones plastered over MTV. They seem to point out that music and rhythm is everywhere, whatever you do. I remember Praise You was just a home video of a group breakdancing. Weapon of Choice was a constant stream of Christopher Walken dancing. And with That Old Pair of Jeans, the main video is of a man juggling. It’s certainly impressive, and has spawned a whole series of copycat videos, many of them almost as good. If you’ve got a spare half an hour, have a peek at them
Anyway, here’s the video (archived here):

And here’s one of the best copycat ones: