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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…

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?

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,


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.

Missing In Action; Presumed Busy

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You may be thinking that the lack of posts on shows the dull, slow-paced life I must be having. Quite the opposite, in fact, and that means very little time to post the wonderful, action packed events that have graced the last few weeks. For example, there was:-
– the paintball expedition, where I sustained bruises that were still coming out a week later;
– the visit to Fright Night at Thorpe Park, which entailed 2 visits to the wettest ride in the park, long queues for every other ride and even longer queues to get out of the car park;
– the leaving meal of my old boss at The Pier, which resulted in my first visit to chilly Oxford and a series of particularly appalling renditions at karaoke;
– the designing/building of part of the Fat Face website, done and dusted in little over a week;
– the designing of two other sites in under two weeks;
– the Grand Get Together with 16 of my nearest and dearest, all congregating in Zizzi’s restaurant in Guildford, on a table designed for 12 people;
– A visit to Nick’s house with Sarah and Michelle for a night of drinks, games and pre-birthday presents;
– A knees up with Nick last Friday in Guildford, where we cobbled together an ingenous business plan in a drunken haze.
– Visits to the gym four times a week with Michelle, with a view to turning my body into slightly more of a temple;
And last, but not least – Boris Johnson. Boris Boris Boris. He’s been in the news a lot lately for better or worse, and Boriswatch has been inundated with visitors – an average of 5000 a day for the last two weeks. And then last Friday in a hail of media fire, he was sacked. Cue calls from Sky News and the BBC, asking for comments and interviews – and it all came to a head yesterday, with your humble host popping up to the House of Commons for a lunch date with the great man himself.
So what I propose is this. I’ll blog a selection of these events over the next week of so, and you sit there with the patience of a saint. Sound reasonable?

Michelle’s 24!

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Michelle (and, of course, Becki) was turning twenty-four, and that was a promising excuse for a knees up. What’s more, Jac, Debbie, Nick and Sarah all were booked to turn up, an occurance rarer than a turnip in winter. So off we went to Bar Med on Saturday night for a flask or seven of ale. Before the drink took hold, discussion was held on Shrek 2 (VERY amusing, I recommend a visit), and the lateness of most of the rest of the group. We contented ourselves with a new discovery – plastic shotglasses filled with “intense” flavoured vodka. 3 shots later, and Jac and I were wincing in agony at the vaguely “Tequila and Lime”-flavoured concoction.

The night descended into a haze. We managed to get to The Drink nightclub, where we boogied until 1am, and then our increasing years took their toll, returning us home in the early hours. A splendid night.

One week and a wedding in the Isle of Wight

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Not a few days after I handed my notice into my employers, I pottered off for a week’s holiday on the Isle of Wight. This was no ordinary trip, mind – it was Michelle’s
brother’s wedding, and Sarah was the lucky bride. Matt and Sarah have been
an item for years, and as I uttered the morning after the wedding day, it
was nice of them “to put us out of our misery” and get married.
Michelle and I planned ahead. Well, Michelle planned – I followed. We stayed
the night before at my house, a short drive away from the ferry terminal.
Michelle made sure everything was packed and we planned to go shopping
midday-ish, before setting sail late afternoon for the Isle. All was
As ever, the plans were in shreds by 9am. My car tax was due, and in sheer
horror I discovered that all the documents I needed were out of date. Cue me
doing a good impression of a blue-arsed fly, beetling off to the nearest
garage and demanding an MOT in the next 4 hours. Which, to their eternal
credit, they did – and we finally set off for the glorious Isle.
The ferry port conveniently sits abreast of a large shopping arcade, and we took full advantage. We
pottered, ambled, supped tea and failed to buy a single thing. By 4pm, the ferry
was docking, it was raining, and we were wet. The Alsation of Time was drooling impatiently
at our heels. We headed for the port.
The trip across water was uneventful. We alighted at Fishbourne, and made
straight to our multi-bedroomed house in Ventnor. I don’t know if you’ve ever been to the Isle of Wight
– if you haven’t, I’ll give you some advice. Don’t drive. It is without doubt
the most frustrating experience I have ever encountered – and that includes
parking in Guildford on a Saturday afternoon. Despite the island being a
goodly 10 miles across, even a small trip requires military planning. A
combination of large bends, tiny roads and an “older generation” of retired
folk means you are constantly wishing for the open road, a place to open the
throttle and roar off to the beach.
We arrived at the house in the early evening – although a closer description
may be “mansion”. The house was enormous, and amply fitted the 10 people
that eventually filled it. Once the bags were in, attention swung to
our empty stomachs and Michelle and I were quickly packed off to the local fish
and chip shop.
Only, there wasn’t one. At least, not one that was open. So, after half an hour of searching, we ordered the true cuisine of your average seaside town. We ordered a chinese meal.
Once back, we filled our stomachs until we couldn’t move. We were knackered. Bed was calling.
Day Two on the Isle, and the weather was dire. Michelle’s aunt and uncle
turned up (after crashing into a lovely couple’s car at the ferry port), Becki – Michelle’s sister – and Glyn turned up (with Glyn thoroughly enjoying his second week “on this bloody island”), Olly and I found salvation in a food shopping trip and several hundred games of Jenga, and we all hoped for better weather tomorrow – the Grand Wedding Day.
Day Three – and the weather was worse. Nerves a-jangling, we were worryingly
on time as we set off. Everything was going well. Too well.
As it turned out, there was nothing to fret about. The wedding was a
cracking affair, with the nervous groom and best man buzzing around making
sure nothing went wrong, and yours truly at the helm of the video camera,
doing – even if I say so myself – a fine job. It was my first time at taking
a video and I duly made the classic amateur mistake – talking loudly while
filming. Matt and Sarah now have a lovely video, marred only my constant
“witty” banter. Ah well…
The wedding party went long into the night, and was a highly enjoyable
affair. Excellent speeches were given, troughs of wine were drunk, incoherent songs were sung, aged men were falling over – all in all your typical wedding, but a very special one. Congratulations to the bride and groom, Mr and Mrs Cooke. It feels odd just writing that.
True to form, the sun came out in force in the days after the wedding, and we sweltered by the beach. We took a trip to Alum Bay, which, for a small island, was astonishingly far away from our house. The Bay is noted for it’s coloured sands – however, that is not what I will forever remember it for. For Alum Bay hosts the most dangerous rides I have ever witnessed. The first is cunningly disguised as a merry-go-round. However, for anyone above 5 foot, it should really be known as the Bollock-Breaker. The stirrups for the model horses are plainly made for leprechauns, and waves of nausea flood over you, rendering you numb as you ride up and down, up and down, essentially resting very firmly on your crown jewels.
This, however, was nothing – the Alum Bay Cliff Ride should frankly be banned. A Cliff Ride sounds enticing – you can ride down the cliff, take in the view, sample the sea air. The reality is this – you are sitting in one of two metal chairs, the entire thing hanging from a thin wire, as you rapidly plunge over a two hundred foot cliff, open to all the windy elements and facing a fall of gigantic proportions if you so much as scratch your right armpit. You’re not even strapped in, for God’s sake. And, to top it all, I had the pleasure of sitting next to Olly, who found it highly amusing to bounce up and down several times, turning a possible fall to my death into a near certainty. It was all I could do to hang on to his arm for dear life, thinking over and over to myself “if I’m going, he’s bloody coming with me”.
As it happened, I survived. Just.
The last remaining days were spent playing ball in the garden, becoming ultimate masters of Jenga, and consuming vast quantities of food in seafront pubs. There were several young’uns with us, and Joe in particular took delight in the Chicken Teddy Bears on one of the pub menus (“they’re teddy bears in the shape of chickens, Joe”).
And so the sun came down on our week on the island. The Isle of Wight is a strange place – it’s not until the sun comes out that you see what all the fuss is about. We were sad to go.

Another Day, Another Birthday

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“There is still no cure for the common birthday.”
John Glenn
Nick’s girlfriend Sarah was next to be ticked off the March birthday list. It was decided that a bout of bowling might be a good start, something Michelle and I have never really got the hang of. The night was going as expected – my score was rock bottom of the leader board. Noting the Miles Per Hour gauge on each bowling lane, and factoring in my incredibly poor skittle aiming, I hit on pure comedy gold. “The player with the fastest bowl wins!” I bellowed, and with that battle commenced. Competitive cries of “slowcoach” and “loser” bandied about, and somehow I still managed to lose. Stomachs rumbling, we bundled out for a meal, on the way remembering to give the “electric shock” machine a go. We eventually left crying with laughter, re-enacting Nick’s contorted face of pain as he held on to the electric conductors. Poor fool.
And on we went to the Yellow River Caf?. An hour later, and full to our brims, all of us waddled back to Sarah’s house to settle down with drinks, song and revelry. I was tremendously excited, and spent the rest of the night constructing devilish cocktails.
Finally, the hazy but highly enjoyable Saturday night came to an end. Night had fallen, and so had I, many times over imaginary objects. Sensing it was time to go, Michelle and I called a taxi. It only occurred to us after we’d actually set off for home that we had no money to offer the poor man. We ordered him to stop at the first available cash machine. “Sorry – out of order”, announced the infernal thing, rapidly flashing the message as if boasting at its lack of forethought.
So, it was back into the taxi, and on to the next hole in the wall. I approached it, confident that this one would allow me into its financial bowels and relieve it of ?20. “This cash machine is unable to dispense cash at this time.” I’m ashamed to say I kicked the bloody thing in sheer frustation. The taxi meter was clicking away louder than ever when I returned to the car.
Eventually, 15 minutes after we set off on a 3 minute journey, we were dropped off at a working cash machine. Not wishing to push our luck, we bade the driver goodnight and stumbled homeward.