Wales -

A journey to nowhere

Posted by | Uncategorized | One Comment

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…

The Fat Labour’s sung

Posted by | Uncategorized | One Comment

It’s all over. Labour, inevitably, has managed to hold on to its lead. Give it credit though – they tried hard. For instance, the overseas army and navy soldiers – the great majority of whom do not know why the hell they’re out there and wouldn’t be supporting Labour – *accidently* didn’t receive their postal voting slips until it was too late. And when John Humphries, editor of the BBC today programme, went to vote he found that his vote had already been cast. By someone else. Mariella Frostrup phoned the show and said the same had happened to her. Presumably this didn’t just happen to them in particular. And in a final insult to all who may think this election is fair to all, a tally of the votes so far cast shows that in fact Labour came second polling 35,906 votes fewer than the Tories. but the way the system is balanced, Labour still win with a large majority. As Richard from Manchester said on the BBC page ‘Labour victory: Your reaction‘, “Scotland has its parliament, Wales its Assembly yet they are in effect deciding who governs England. Time for an English parliament on the same basis as the Scots.”
As ever, Boris Johnson’s columns hit the nail on the head. “If Labour is re-elected,” he warned three weeks ago, “it will be with the help of one of the most gerrymandered systems in the western world.”
But still, there’s no need to be overly bitter. The reduced majority means that at least the government can’t railroad their proposals through, and at least another term of Labour will mean we’ll definitely want to see the back of them next time…

Morning Wreckage

Posted by | Uncategorized | 2 Comments

“Aren’t you cold?” I asked, shivering in the cold, misty morning, patiently waiting for an ambulance.
“No, I’m from Wales”, he replied. “We ski in the summer.”
Before us was a considerable vehicular mangle, the result of a car collision mere moments before at the crossroads on the A325 in Surrey. A car in the opposing lane had wanted to turn right, slowed, got rammed from behind by the following car, and was pushed into the Peugeot 206 travelling in front of me. I managed with deft control to swerve into a friendly bush, nudging the 206 as I went past. That touch meant that I was now officially involved – and here we were, waiting for what resulted in 3 ambulances and 4 police cars. The driver most seriously injured was wafting in and out of consciousness, crying “why today, why today?” to anyone within earshot. His car’s front end was virtually nonexistant, concertinaed by one of the cars. He had the appearance of a professional wrestler – bald headed, well built, and a worrying taste in clothes. It turned out he was on his way to a motorcycling test (which finally explained his astonishing leather-clad get-up) and that this was the worst possible moment to have a crash.
Is there any good time to have a crash, I pondered as my eyes tracked over to the second driver. He had merely being trying to turn right, the poor blighter, a fact he was repeating ad nauseam. He was an older, slighter figure, lazily dressed and seemingly unaffected by the crash despite being sandwiched between two cars like a burger in a bap. The third figure, skulking by his shell of a car, was the perpetrator – the student driver who had failed to notice the slowing car in front and had inadvertently delayed a budding motorcyclists’ dreams. Steam was rising, and oil trickling, from his Rover and it was obvious that it would join the other two cars in the Farnham car dump, never to be rammed into a car again.
And then, of course, there was my car – my wonderful new car. Now slightly damaged at the front end. The light cluster was pushed in, the scrapes from the earlier nudge and prickly bush were evident down the right flank, and the bonnet had acquired a curve not unlike that of a squatting dog. It was still drivable, thankfully, and I was eager to be off, held back only by the interviewing policeman who was ambling over to me. He took my details in an inordinately cheery manner, remarking at the satellite navigation and mentioning at length that he wanted a Peugeot 407 too. Finally he asked me to take a breath test. “Have you taken one of these before?”, he enquired, and I smiled as I relayed the seven times I had previously been asked the same question. “Red!” he said, “you’re over the limit!” Shock and bewilderment contorted my face in equal measure, as my mind relayed the events of the last twenty-four hours. Toothpaste, fish and chips, blackcurrant cordial – that’s all I’d had since lunchtime yesterday afternoon. “Whhrrr…?” I responded desperately. “Only joking!” he remarked. I savaged him under my breath.
The crash scene got smaller and smaller in my rear view mirror as I drove away down the road. Now there’s the hire car and the repair garage to sort out. There are distinct advantages to a company car.

A Secret Trip to Bath

Posted by | Uncategorized | No Comments

The plan was going better than I had hoped. I surged off the M25 slip road and coasted into 6th gear, sweeping past the slow-moving lorry as the rain pattered more and more urgently on the windscreen.
I decided to chance it. “Wouldn’t it be nice if we went away right now for the weekend?” I remarked nonchalantly.
“Yes, it would,” Michelle agreed, looking confusingly at the big navigation screen in front of her, “but we’re going to Paul’s barbeque – he wouldn’t be too happy!”
A mischievous grin spread across my face. “He won’t know.”
“What? Why?”
“Because we’re not going to Paul’s.”
And so it was that for the first time in three and a half years I had managed to put the wind up Michelle, as it were. For the only time in memory, I have been able to keep something a secret from her for a month and a half, and I was proud. As I detailed the lengths I had gone to, and how everyone knew but her, my mind strayed to poor Paul and his girlfriend Liz. Paul and I had planned this event for the last month, only for Paul to have to pull out at the last moment. Never mind – we were off for a lazy weekend hotel stay in Bath, and nothing could stop us.
There is a curious certainty about travelling west of London – that the closer you get to Wales, the more rain you’ll find. This was our 3rd visit to Dorian House in the heart of Bath and my ninth visit to that area of the country – and without exception every trip has been marred by storms, wind and rain. Undaunted, we ploughed on.
We arrived at nine in the evening, and immediately set about ordering a taxi to the nearest Indian. The Eastern Eye, an enormous place in an old Roman banqueting hall, calmed our troubled stomachs and thoughts turned to the next couple of days. Paul, an event manager through and through, had been phoning and emailing regularly over the last few weeks with thoughts on what we should do – a trip to the zoo, and Comedy Walk around Bath, the obligatory visit to the Roman Baths – but without him there was little motivation to move outside our comfort zone. We settled on rising late the next morning, and shopping until the early evening.
And we stuck well to our plan. The exasperated phonecall from the hotel manager at 11am – “we really need to clean your room now, if you wouldn’t mind” – made me think that it was as good a time as any to haul my great carcass out of bed. Feeling energetic, we walked the 1 mile into town, stopping off on route to marvel at new “Japanese-style” apartments overlooking the whole of Bath – “just ?200,000 for a one bedroom home, sir” the saleman informed us, apparently without batting an eyelid. As we landed on familiar High Street territory, The Gadget Shop jumped out at us.
One hour later, having discussed at length with a female assistant the merits of a huge, phallic-shaped vibrating massager – “it gets into all your nooks and crannies” – we emerged with 3 items. One was the massager, and the other two…. well, they’ll be kept secret until the next party. But lunch was looming and after Michelle was attacked by a couple of friendly crows we found the appropriately-named Yum Yum Thai.
By then it was three o’clock and we were waning. Stocking up with edible goodies from Marks and Spencer sounded like a good plan and half an hour later we were at the checkout, about to hail a bus home. The bus came, we clambered aboard with multiple bags, and let the good man drive us up the hill.
And that, pretty much, was that. The hotel was as good as ever, Bath was as enjoyable as ever, and next time, god dammit, Paul and Liz are coming with us. You hear?

3 Year Anniversary – Bath again

Posted by | Uncategorized | 2 Comments

“We wander for distraction, but we travel for fulfillment.”
Hilaire Belloc
Two years ago, to celebrate out first anniversary, Michelle and I pootled off to take in the delights of Bath, braving all the jokes about “needing to wash” and “I should have a shower with a nice showerhead instead” from ‘amusing’ friends. Bath is a very picturesque place, with cracking restaurants, interesting museums and a shedload of shops. The trip was so blooming enjoyable we did it again last weekend, jokes and all.
The trip down was pleasant enough, but served to confirm one of my long-held geographical theories – the closer to Wales you get, the worse the weather becomes. After we sped through the rain (and a surprisingly-named town of Pennsylvania, causing Nick to ask “just how far have you gone?!” on a call from his romantic hotel in the New Forest), we arrived at the hotel at around 5 in the afternoon, after just the one wrong turning. We entered our room – and what a room it was. The majestic four-poster bed was accompanied by a side order of 12 deep red roses and champagne on ice. Marvellous.
Sadly we only had an hour to admire them before our stomachs marched us off to the Eastern Eye, a huge Indian restaurant in the town centre. It was essentially one big room, about 40 foot high and seemingly many miles long. It had been some sort of famous market area in the 1800’s apparently, famed throughout Bath, with ornate details on the walls and three glass domes set into the roof. I can only wonder at the protests that must have taken place when it emerged that it was turning into an Indian restaurant, of all things. Still, the setting was fantastic, with the food equally so, despite the dish I chose rendering my entire mouth numb for at least an hour.
By the time we’d finished there was nothing to do but get back to the hotel and sleep.
For following day we visited the Moon and Sixpence, and classy restaurant near the Roman Baths. Still suffering from the Indian the previous night, we barely managed a main course, and decided a window-shopping trip was in order to work the food off. We ventured into a nearby shopping arcade, and found a camera shop. A quick look at the digital cameras and Michelle was on a mission to buy one. After asking the assistants advice for a full 30 minutes, we nipped along to a cheaper shop and bought one, immediately debunking my schoolday retail theory that if you put in the hours, you’ll get the sale. Poor man.
And then, not to be outdone, I decided I was going to get a new mobile phone. And, in true geek fashion, I plumped for an O2 XDAII. As soon as my good friend from Phones4U gets me a hefty discount, it’ll be mine…
We left the next morning – back to Surrey, back to work. Ah well, we thought as Pennsylvania disappeared into the hazy distance – we’ll be back again…