I was born in England and have spent all of my life in this green and pleasant land. However, there are still many places I have yet to visit and enjoy. (Do not worry dearest reader, I shall not be breaking into one of the lesser known mid nineties soft rock/pop songs by Elton John). While many glamorous destinations abroad are on my list, I still have a great deal of exploring to do on these shores. (Maybe I should be brave enough to publish a list one day!) Back in December at the annual Christmas meal with friends, newly qualified driver Ben mentioned the fact that he would like to go on a weekend road trip. For some reason, we decided to travel as far as possible within our own English border. The city of Newcastle was chosen as the party destination for a long weekend. Now we just had to select the date mutually acceptable to all members of the party group. The final obstacle was gaining clearance from our other halves (this was turning into a stag weekend without the wedding or groom!) Easier said than done, in some cases! The event was initially billed as Foxy’s 30th birthday (even though it was taking place a week afterwards). This had to be changed to Kev’s 32nd in order for Fox to obtain permission from his otherwise to green light this lads weekend!
I have never been to the North East, let alone the city of Newcastle-upon-Type. My earliest memory of the city are from the late 1980s school educational television series Geordie Racer. The theme tune was extremely memorable and catchy (ideal when your viewing public are six to seven years old). A year later I started watching a new television show again on the BBC but on this occasion aimed at a slighter older audience. My sisters and I were probably a little young for Byker Grove but it was good fun and a change from some of the contemporary shows on at the time. You must appreciate that as a family, we did not watch Eastenders at this point in our lives. We were fully committed to The Bill on ITV, backed up by our Dad who had always been a fan of the Metropolitan Police drama.
Fast forward over fifteen years and the next time I would consider the city was during the British football movie Goal! released in 2005. I went to see the movie with my friend and colleague Chris at the FilmWorks Maidenhead (as it was then, it is now an Odeon). We were the only two people in the cinema as the film was about to start but were joined by three other guys as the trailers started. The movie was poor but it did give me an understand of how important football is in the North East and what St. James’ Park means to the Geordie boys and girls. It was the first time I saw the city on film in any level of detail. While the film (and the subsequent two sequels) were both disappointing, I gave the director and production team credit for selecting Newcastle as the football club to set their story, rather than the Hollywood desire to follow Manchester United, Chelsea, Liverpool and even to a certain degree Manchester City. Set the film where football is part of the people’s blood.
My manager at the time, Nic had mentioned a trip up to the city he had experienced. A local had been hit by a train, but instead of going to hospital for urgent medical attention, he had decided to go out on the sauce in the city. There was no chance he was going to miss a drink with the lads. Proof, if it was ever needed that us southern softies have no chance among real men of the North East.
There are plenty of famous Geordies and plenty more infamous ones. I will focus my attention on just two. Firstly we have Paul Gascoigne, probably one of the most gifted football players of his generation and it is such a shame his career never hit some of the heights of his true potential (particularly on the international stage). However, he will forever be loved as a son of this city, regardless of his off field battles. In 1990, the year Gazzamania well and truly landed after tears in Turin, everything Paul touched turned to gold. He even appeared on Top Of The Pops.
Do you remember ITV’s Popstars – The Rivals? This was the show that bought us (among other talents) a fresh faced Cheryl Cole, who successfully became part of the reality TV band, Girls Aloud. Little did we know then what the future held for this girl from Southshields. Ultimately you knew very early on that she would branch out with her own solo career and media work, purely because she acted as the spokeperson for the band. Ultimately this has been proven right, as her career as overshadow that of all her band mates. Plus, on two fronts she beats Gazza, she is much better looking and has a much better singing voice. For some reason, at least once a week in the gym since January, they have played Call My Name and I have instantly started thinking of my Boys On Tour Weekend in May, even though it was months away! I have long been a believer that life is not worth living if you have nothing to look forward to.
What am I most looking forward to this weekend? Well it is the first long weekend away with the lads in a considerable amount of time. We have all become rather busy in our own day-to-day rat race lives and rarely meet up as often as we used to. I probably hold the most guilt in this respect and make no excuses that I am my own worst enemy. The last such ‘showpiece’ event was probably Pav’s Stag Weekend in Berlin, which is almost two years ago. It will be great to spend time with them all and create some more memories. I look back at the last few years and some of the best times have been nights out with these group of guys. There is constant entertainment and the ride will be non-stop from the moment I clock off at the office at noon on Friday until I finally say goodbye too early to even contemplate right now, on Sunday morning. My next adventure will not take me home to Slough to rest and recover but instead back into the capital for a concert by Mrs. Jay-Z.
As expected, additional dates were added for the Mrs Carter Show World Tour starring Beyoncé. Therefore it was a case of deja vu for myself and colleague Priyam on Friday morning. I was keen to make sure I secured tickets on this second priority sale, even if that meant skipping breakfast all together. I knew the process now, so made sure I logged in early and waiting impatiently in the Virtual Waiting Room. All my details were already in-putted (although surprised they could not save my information from the previous day) At 9:30am sharp, I was through and booked tickets almost immediately for six people. Priyam had logged into the site, a minute after me, but was left waiting in the waiting room. The opportunity to purchase tickets never materialised. I, on the other hand, spent almost six hundred pounds in a world record twenty seconds. My colleagues were shocked at how quickly I navigated the site and took the best tickets available in my price category. Seating may not be perfect, but I would rather be there at the O2 Arena, than be watching on television.
My dilemma now is that I find myself some four hundred miles on Tyneside on the day of the concert and will need to make my way back down South, rather sharp-ish. I cannot rely on my friends, so may have to book a flight back. This may sound drastic but the reality is that a weekend with the lads, will never go according to plan. It would be unfair of me to force the rest of the group to leave the city early around 1pm sharp to ensure I make it to London in time for Beyoncé. I thought I was getting too old for these ultimate adventure weekends. Perhaps not, perhaps this is one last through of the dice. I do enjoy the thrill of trying to fit too much into a weekend. Thankfully, there is a Bank Holiday Monday to cushion the bump back to reality that would have been Monday morning.
Racking my brain and my blog archives, I have discovered that there is a precedent for such an event. Way back in July 2007, I was in Wrexham, visiting my dear friend David Jones and had to rush back on Sunday morning to ensure I got home to Wycombe, so I could take my sisters to Wembley Stadium for Concert for Diana. Six years ago, I believe I had the energy for a two hundred mile drive and then train trip to Wembley. Unsure of how I will cope with a flight, after a heavy weekend with the boys and travelling into Greenwich. Oh well, time will tell people!
I would never consider myself a big Beyoncé
Knowles Carter fan, but generally I enjoy her output. I have seen her perform live, almost seven years ago at Earls Court, for the World Music Awards (she even performed my favourite song at the time, Irreplaceable from her second studio album, B Day). It was perhaps her performance at Glastonbury a few years ago, which made me think, I need to see this woman perform live at her own concert (not just an awards show) where she is fully in control of the entire experience. Soon after I made this statement, she fell pregnant and it would be at least two years before I would be able to see her perform, if she ever embarked on a world tour again. It is not like she really needs the money, married to a multimillionaire hip-hop artist in his own right.
Only recently did I discover that my colleague and friend Harps Virk is probably the biggest Beyoncé Knowles fan this side of the pond. In fact, we were both at the World Music Awards almost seven years ago! Harps was towards the end of the catwalk part of the stage, whereas I had been standing quite close to the front of the stage at the start of the catwalk. Such a small world we live in, that I would not only be working with this guy, but he also happens to live in the same town as me (Slough for the uninitiated).
How do you prove your worthiness as a fan? People do this in many different ways, some set up fan sites, as shrines to their beloved movie star or musician. Others convert their bedrooms or even living rooms to a living museum to their idol. Having been a fan of MJ for many years, I know fans whom have gone to such extremes and beyond. Harps is no exception, having a high quality mug made of the former Destiny’s Child singer (can I still say former when they are making a comeback, unsure of the group’s current status).
He says, he also has a life size card board cut out in his bedroom. I have yet to see photographic evidence of this, but surely that would put in him a league of his own in Beyoncé fandom. I mean, he even goes to the extreme of only pausing a Destiny’s Child music video (playing via YouTube application on my Nexus 7) when B is on the screen! (I do not want to have Kelly on my screen, was the remark made). So here we are on Thursday morning at 8:46am, waiting impatiently to get our hands on my some tickets for the Miss Carter World Tour. Breakfast can wait for a change but I do look forward to my victory cup of tea shortly! Talk amongst yourselves, I could be a while!
After almost two hours of waiting, I end up with nothing. Watching as other fans across the UK bag their tickets and proclaim their joy on the social network that is Twitter. I used the hashtag mrscarterworldtour and many of the tweets I have retweeted into my time line, if you are so inclined. My colleague Priyam got into the site but was only able to purchase a single ticket. Nobody wants to see Beyoncé on their own. She closed her Internet Explorer window and I did pretty much the same a few minutes later after received this error message, multiple times.
Two years ago, a colleague in the office was growing a moustache in November. This work mate, was not just your average work shy acquittance, whom you would simply forget, the moment you leave that employer, but a semi professional ice hockey player Shane Moore. I have always wanted to take part in the annual event and raise some money for a great cause. After my successful facial hair experiment from mid December to late January I feel I am fully prepared for the challenge ahead. A colleague at my current workplace, sent out a mail to all the male members of the team to find anyone willing to join him, in the challenge. I did not have time to respond, but tonight, while watching TV, I made the suggested to my wife. Her response? An instant – yes! I should go for it and at the same time raise a great deal of money for charity. So I headed over to the official website and created my donation page. I will try and post regular updates on my blog so you can watch my progress and I can keep sending out regular reminders for all my friends and family to donate.
I have created a FlickR page where I will upload high resolution photos of my progress every few days.