Posts tagged: Birmingham

Timing Is Everything

Just back from a fantastic weekend in Birmingham. I know, for some readers that phrase alone, sounds like something completely crazy. Sure Birmingham does have a few negative aspects (a few which I will touch on in this post) but the City is much improved and this was my first visit since late August 2007. A great deal changes in three years. Before I get to the Birmingham segment of my Rock & Roll Weekend, let me start with my Friday working day and then my antics after the close of “play”. Friday is a critical day for me at work and I made a major effort to get into the office for 7:15am, to ensure I could kick off all the processes required for an extremely important report. I wanted to leave at 4pm (although the reality was, I could only leave once the report was ready and released!). Around 4:11pm, I finally was shutting down my laptop and could look forward to the weekend. The pressure had been intense but I had not let it phase me. Instead, I had just focused on the task (or rather multiple tasks) at hand, one at a time. I have to be honest though, it was the thought of the weekend that was keeping me sane! It was going to be great. A complete contrast to my feelings at 07:26am when I quickly updated my Facebook status before cracking on with work.

On the drive home, I blasted the stereo. I could relax, unwind and focus on all the things I had planned for the next few days. You know me though, this was not going to be just your average weekend. I had places to go, people to see and things to do. I got home around 5:30pm and quickly got changed, showered and my Mum gave me a lift to the train station. (There was no freak traffic event in Wycombe, like on Friday 11th June when I ended up jumping out of my Mum’s 308 and rushing into town on foot.) I bought my ticket and headed to the platform, I was perfectly on schedule, I had planned to catch the 18:25 (only two stops before the final destination of London Marylebone). I plugged myself into my Zen and zoned out, I was on my way! I text Niko to let him know I was still coming. It was supposed to be very different, I would normally have been working from home and headed into town on the bus around 5pm or 5:30pm at the very latest. Never mind, those were minor details. I was on my train, I had my music and I was on my way into London. I text Niko to let him know I was on the way and should make it to the pub in time for around 7:30pm. He response was just two words: “Good lad”. At Marylebone, I had to queue at the cashpoint before finally heading onto the tube. I had considered walking around to Baker Street, but then realised I had planned my Oyster Top-Up for the Marylebone Underground station, so that was not going to work. I made my way down the stairs (the escalator is being repaired or refurbished). I took the Bakerloo Line to Baker Street (one stop, I know extremely lazy) and then the caught the first Circle Line train to Liverpool Street. It was here I had originally planned to catch a District Line to Mile End and then the new(ish) London Overground to Haggerston and then walk over to Engelfied Road. This plan was broken, when then train driver explained the District Line was part suspended all the way to Barking. I had to take another option. Coming out of Liverpool Street, into a busy, but pleasantly sunny Friday evening in London. The pubs around the station were spilling out into the streets and after I got some bearings I decided what mode of transport to take now. I called Niko to get the bus number that would take me to the pub. He had sent it across as a message on Facebook to all those attending the affect but I had forgotten the number. It was 145 and I rushed around the bus station (which is adjacent to the train station itself but could not find any sign with that number or heading in the direction I wanted to go. I asked a few people but they were as helpful as a tin of sardines, so I made the executive decision to get a taxi. Although I made a circuit of one of the office blocks, searching for a taxi but they were all already taken. Eventually I find a guy with a free cab and showed him my Google Map print out and he told me it would be between £12 – £15 depending on traffic. The fare came to £8.80, as we had a clear run, unheard of on a Friday night but he still needed to consult my map to ensure he got to the right place. I thought all black cabs had to have an extensive knowledge of not just the main streets but these little hidden gems as well. I arrived and headed up stairs. It must have been coming up to 8pm as I said hello to Niko, gave him my card and started to be introduced to his friends. Then it was time for a well earned drink or two!

Rupa, Dani & Niko

Whenever I go out with Niko, he tends to show me parts of London that are off the beaten track. Although when I started speaking to his friends, they thought I deserved a medal, going from being in my office in Swindon around 4pm, and then being in North London (technically N1) before 8pm. Most of them were locals and the most tedious journey had been two stops on the East London Line.

I had been completely out the picture in terms of the World Cup Quarter Finals, not listening to the radio on my drive from work, or putting on the FM frequency on my Zen. I had asked my taxi driver, but he could only tell me that Holland had beaten Brazil which was a surprise. At The Talbot, the projector had been showing the Uruguay – Ghana match as I had walked it, the first half had been goalless up to that point. After some delicious food (it was a help yourself buffet, rather than the sit down and order individual meals as I had expected and it worked a treat). The projector was switched back on and they showed the penalties, although as I was outside on the terrace, I could not see the screen and let Niko’s friends relay the successful or failure of the penalty taker to me. It was a little while later I decided to call my old work colleague and football nut (he is now player manager of Henley YMCA) to get a full update on the football. He did not pick up his iPhone, but at 23:53 he text me to apologise and ask, “What’s up?”. I immediately called him. At this point in the evening, we had already been told to go downstairs, lack of space, meant we went outside but we then told due to residents, we would have to go inside and use the rear garden area.

It was here that I started to actually take some more photos and noted that Katherine (Niko’s gorgeous girlfriend) had changed into more comfortable flip flops from her rather impressive high heeled stilettos. Girls, will be girls, so they had to get me take a few photographs to explain that this was very much a case of practicality over fashion.

Lan examines that high heel!Lan, Katherine & One Designer Shoe

As we were about to be thrown out of the pub, Niko invited me back around to his flat a minute’s walk around the corner for the after party! It was at this moment I decided to call Chris back and get a full update on the football. Some analysis, not just the name of the goalscorers but details of talking points in the games. This conversation was perhaps the only thing that was going to keep me going until sometime on Saturday afternoon. (The next opportunity I would have to sit down and catch highlights either on TV or PC.). It was great to hear from him again and I was glad he was better after a spout of bad health (although his friends do say his is stuck together with sticky tape).
At the after party, Niko’s brother Toby and his girlfriend Rupa, gave them their present. A photo of Pete Doherty kissing some other band member. I am sorry, I have to confess my lack of musical knowledge in this area, but am sure someone will point out who the guitar player is. (Just leave a comment!)

Present UnwrappingPete Doherty

Niko’s parents, whom live in Chorleywood, up the road from High Wycombe, so offered me a ride home. Otherwise, my Friday night would have ended quite prematurely at 11pm (my last train home was at midnight ten, but I needed to get to Marylebone from deep North London, perhaps another taxi ride). I had a really great time and it was great to meet Niko’s family and friends. He has always been good fun, particularly when we worked together. There are plenty of stories I could upload to this blog but I will leave them for another time.

We left around 1:30am and drove through London (which as you can expect at that time on a Friday night at the height of summer, was extremely busy. I fell asleep, it had been a long tiring day and I knew that tomorrow was another adventure (I was already almost two hours into the day). Niko’s Mum woke me up, asking for directions as we got to Handy Cross and I directed them to the bus stop closest to my house, thanked them gratefully for the lift and then headed home. It was around 2:15am and my weekend had just began.

I woke up around 8:30am on Saturday morning, I was buzzing. It was a mixture of a great Friday night and the promise of a weekend in Birmingham, meeting old friends and perhaps even catching a few moments of the World Cup action. My friend had originally planned to pick me up around 10:30am, and I was all set for this,b ut they were delayed, so were going to pick me up around 11am instead. While I watched, I put the Chris Brown MJ Tribute from the BET Awards (which had been screened Stateside the previous weekend). It was an amazing tribute and surprisingly different. I have had the privilege to see Chris perform Thriller at the World Music Awards back in November 2006. You can see how much he has improved as a performer and entertainer. Sure, I agree that he has done some bad things, but seeing him be so emotional when attempting to sing Man In The Mirror, I can only hope he is trying to make that change.

I had two albums for our drive up to the Midlands, I had got out from the garage (while getting my Cystal XBox) Teg’s a-ha H&D (Headline & Deadlines) Collection. This was one of the first albums that Pav had burnt for me, a personalised greatest hits of the Norwegian trio and included all the case artwork. My other album was a mixture of new songs I had recently heard on the radio and had been playing pretty much non-stop in my car. The drive up the M40 was uneventful, we stopped at Warwick services to get some water and I bought the T3 magazine. It was at this time, we decided that I should take over the driving, although maybe I made the decision more myself. The weather was amazing and apart from the humming from the roof rack (which was costing us an increase of two percent in fuel) I was enjoying the journey.  We put on Drake – Find Your Love and Nicki Minaj – Your Love (which takes a sample of Annie Lennox’s No More I Love You’s). We got to Birmingham just before 1pm, and after dropping of my friend I headed to find Sippy’s yard! I had my sister’s TomTom with me and knew from earlier Google Map searches that I would only have to travel a few miles.

As I entered the area, I came to the realisation that this was very much an Asian heartland, with the takeaways, corner shops and ethnic stores. It reminded a little of Green Street. No, not that Green Street in East London (which I have never been to) but Green Street in High Wycombe, which is the defacto Asian area in my home town. There were cars parked either side of the road and it was very difficult to get down the roads, so being the courteous driver I am, I let other drivers pass by first before attempting to head down. In only one instance did I get a wave of a hand or the nod of the head (the international driver’s code for thank you). As I headed down St. Paul’s Road, I called Sippy. He walked out of his house and met me outside the park. There was a massive community event taking place and the whole area was heaving. I had parked the car up at the end of the the road and followed Sippy to his gate and then he stayed there to ensure I could get in when bringing the car back down the road. Once I parked outside Sippy’s house, I took a long sigh of relief. Then I realised, that perhaps in a few hours I would have to go through the whole thing again!

When was the last time I saw Sippy? Well we tried to remember but it was sometime in late May 2004. In those interviewing six years, Sippy had got married and had a baby girl. It was great to see him again and we shared a Pepsi, (for the record Sippy had a Diet Pepsi) and I handed over the Crystal XBox, to a very happy new owner. Then it was down to the business at hand, transferring some avi files. I got Sippy to transfer over the MTV Movie Awards so he too could see Les Grossman save the awards ceremony. After it was time for some serious work, so we had both the MacBook Pro and iMac burning some DVDs. It was a geek paradise, as you will be able to tell from the photos over on FlickR. It will only be a small percentage of readers and I’m afraid to say the majority of them will be male that will be interested in the contents of Sippy’s network cupboard.

It was great to catch up with my old Uni friend. It had been too long, but then we do tend to get very busy in our own lives and forget some of our friends that in reality are not actually that far away (eighty odd miles). It was just a shame his wife and daughter Zahra were not around, as I was really looking forward to meeting them. However, you can imagne how stupid people must consider this blog post. The hottest day of the year, but instead of being outside enjoying the sunshine, I am inside getting copies of movies. Our time was soon up, I had only been granted a window of a few hours as Sippy had important places to be. I was thankfully for any time, particularly after a gap of over six years. Before I went, I had to work out how to take a self timer photo. The first two attempts I didn’t press hard enough on the shutter release (yes I know I’m sure you have heard it all before!) but third time lucky, I got the shot!

Teg & Sippy

It was coming to quarter to 3pm, as I left Sippy and headed onto the busy streets of Birmingham. I was taken a slightly different route by TomTom, so ended up driving through ford. (Yes the irony, a battered old Ford Focus, driving through a ford). There was a young girl, perhaps about four on the bridge with her Dad and she waved as I drove through the river, so I slowed the car down and waved at her as I then made my way up the bank back onto the main road. I got my bearings instantly and parked up before knocking on the door of my friend’s house.

To my surprise, they were watching the football and as I walked into the lounge, Germany scored! However, it was when I sat down on the sofa, I realised that even though there was a Sky+HD set-top box on, the channel was BBC1 SD, so I got them to change the channel to BBC HD and began to watch my first World Cup match in high definition. (Okay, there was one HD screen at Yates for England Germany the previous weekend, but I had been watching the big projector, so that does not count!)

After some delicious food, prepared by our hostess, I was able to settle down to the football. The man of the house had arrived and the ladies made themselves scarce (into the garden). Match 59 of this World Cup was turning out to be a classic. Germany turning over Argentina as if they were not there. Could it be an all European affair for the final?

We left pretty much at the final whistle and drove into the City Centre, first to New Street to drop off some friends at the stage (whom just made their train by the skin of their teeth, obviously they had not read my recent train related blog post.) We then drove around to our hotel, the Holiday Inn Express which was on a one way system, but eventually we navigated to the car park. After checking in, we decided to go into town for a bit before grabbing some food.

As we entered by Tesco Metro to grab some desert and drinks, Spain scored against Paraguay. Luckily there were big screens showing the game live (only SD mind). I saw the replay and realised it was David Villa, top scorer now and odds on for the Golden Boot you would say.

Today was rather a relaxing day actually, a relatively late ish start after breakfast, heading into the Bull Ring, getting some clothes shopping done. I was surprised at how busy the shopping centre was at 11am, just as it had opened. Primark too, had been very busy during the “browsing” time, from 10:30am, even though the tills would not be active for another half an hour. While in H&M trying on cheapish sunglasses, I heard a beautiful song. I took note of just one word from the song, which I believed was the title. Listening to the song when I got home, I realised that this song was special. You get these songs from time to time (or maybe I just look too deep into the songs I listen to and it is all in my head). It was a song I felt was written for me, for my particular circumstances. This is not the first time, I have noted this and written about it on my blog. (With the band Sister Hazel from an entry from early April 2003.) The song is by Charice featuring I.Y.A.Z. and the title is Pyramid. (Check it out on YouTube. Oh and yes, she will be appearing as a guest star in the next season of Glee. I better get a wiggle on and watch the season finale.)

A light lunch at Bella Italia before cruising back down to Wycombe. I got home around 4pm. Rather than collapse on the sofa as I should have done (I could not have in any case, as both my sisters Julie and Natalie were lying on the sofas). I headed straight out to hoover my car and then give it a quick jet wash before, re-fuel and then get back home to relax. It had been a wonderful weekend and I was actually looking forward to the reality of work tomorrow morning.

Four walls and love, packin’ more than enough
Holding on to one another, be the cover when it’s rough
Mother nature or disaster
Won’t stop our happy ever after

Sunday 4th December 2005

What a night! But the day begins in the mid afternoon. I was hoping to leave at 3pm, but left exactly thirty minutes later. I had only refuelled on Friday, so my trip mileage counter was reset and showing only 2.5, as I pulled out of my drive. As I had given myself so much time to make to our second city, I was not in a hurry. I was going to cruise at 70, and listen to my favourite a-ha songs and enjoy the drive. The sun was slowly setting in the distance, as I got onto the M40, which although not busy was quite steady. I put my foot down to beat the first few weekend drivers and lorries. I had my live version of Take On Me playing and then Everybody Wants to Rule the World by Tears for Fears. After a while I wondered how Arsenal were doing against Bolton, so switched over to FiveLive. To my horror, we were two nil down and had put on a poor show. Although on any other Saturday evening, that would have dapended my spirits, instead I looked forward to the concert. Switching back to the CD changer as the NEC drew ever closer. It was 16:45 exactly as I pulled up into the parking space on a cold, damp winter night. It has been raining earlier throughout the day, so the ground was a slush of wet leaves and grass. My mileage counter read 88.2 miles as I stepped out of the car, I took a deep breath. My Saturday night adventure was just about to begin.

As my sister was coming from Nottingham, after finding the venue, I headed down the road to Birmingham New Street. I arrived just after 5.30pm, but would be waiting just under an hour before my young sister would arrive. Then we literally had three minutes to grab some food before jumping on the Virgin Train to London Euston, which would stop at Birmingham International. The journey took eleven minutes and gave us time to quickly catch up and grab some food. Then, it was rushing off the train to join the rest of the crowds heading towards the Arena. We picked up a programme, which while rather light, gave details of this UK tour, which goes hand in hand with their latest studio album (eight, that is correct!) I have only heard the first single from the new album, but went over to Amazon this morning to order my copy. I think it will be a case of taking some time to listen to the material, to see whether or not it grows on me. This was my first concert, so I was apprehensive of many things. Would we have good seats? What there be a good mixed crowd? Would they play my favourite songs? Would it be mad rush on the roads going home?

As we made our way into the arena, avoiding the temptation to buy any merchandise, I was impressed with the seating area. Then absolutely chuffed to be quite near the front, with a great view of the stage. Booking early, (15th April to be exact!) does have benefits. (Having just gone back and read that entry, I feel a sense of great relief of going for it!) However, when we found our seats, someone was sitting (quite innocently in my sister’s seat!) and as usual, I got talking. More on that later.

The supporting act was a fellow Norwegian folk singer, Ana Brun. I can only describe her as a poor man’s KT Tunstall. While I quite enjoy folk music, there is a time and a place, and the audience did eventually have enough and were glad when she exited the stage for the main act. There is only so much slow emotional music you can listen to on a Saturday night. The lights dimmed and the audience rose to their feet as a-ha appeared on stage. Then the lights eluminated the arena.

As expected, they opend with Celine, the first single from the new album and overall it is an enjoyable, uplifting radio friendly pop song. I have to be careful with my use of the world pop. A-ha have grown up and their sound has matured from the electronic synth of the 1980s into a more guitar based light rock. I will publish a full set list later, but one of my favourite a-ha songs was played a few songs in. It is called Weight Of The Wind, from their second album, Scoundrel Days.

Of course, when they played their signature tunes, ‘Take On Me’, ‘Hunting High & Low’ and ‘The Sun Always Shines On TV’ they got the whole crowd going. However, some of the other tracks, including heavier rock version of The Living Daylights and Stay On These Roads impressed the hardcore fan base. Overall, a great evening and a great way to spend my first Saturday night in December. I will try and post some more photos later in the week and include more feedback, particularly when I receive the new album. For the time being, I will leave you with some strange and wonderful trivia, which I am sure you will not know. Which artist has played to the highest number of paying people? Who holds the unofficial record for holding the longest note in a song? Answers on a postcard.

Friday 15th April 2005

As yet another Friday disappears across the horizon, maybe just maybe this entry will bring with it something different. The day went as expected. Work was busy, at times hectic but overall straightforward. Throughout this week, I have woken up with acute but not heavy headaches and this morning was no different. Hoping a shower would help shake it off and give me some relief I spent longer in the bathroom than normal. It did little to help and by the time I got into the car, the pain was there, throbbing in the background. Knowing I would find it difficult to concentrate the moment I walked into the office. Grabbing my bag I, got out some tablets and decided to take one, holding another in reserve for later in the morning. One was enough, giving some relief from the pain and enabling me to face the devil for the day. Not sure about your work days, but mine tend to fly past. Mornings can be slow, up to 11am, but by then something is happening and various tasks that need to be completed. Then, by the time lunch time comes around the office is a buzz with colleagues making haste with bundles of paperwork. Then, the afternoon long and drawn, stares at us, as we watch the clocking, wanting the minutes to pass by just that little bit brisker. The phones pick up, so you are then constantly busy with various support calls until the end of the day, but by then the office has become quite a lonely place and there are only a handful of colleagues still milling around. Then, the dash for the car park to see only a handful of cars remaining, with a few managers working late. Then heading home, on a short, uneventful journey to arrive home in time for Hollyoaks.

As I began writing this entry, WinAmp was playing my Audio collection in the background, as normal. I just dump a decade into the play list and let the random shuffle take over. The song flicked over to Take On Me. But not the original by teen pinups a-ha but the Metro Club Extended Mix by A1. Just as if scripted by some top drawer Hollywood director, my Dad walked into my room and told me that they were on a UK tour, later this year and that I should book tickets immediately, in order not to be disappointed. My mind stopped and I considered that perhaps this truly was my last chance. While a-ha are one of my favourite bands (I have all but one of their albums) I have yet to see them live. In December 1998, they reformed for Nobel Peace Prize ceremony concert and I should have been there. Sure it was in Norway, but it was at the time my interest in the band was at it’s peak, and I had a large network of international a-ha fans, whom I had made contact with over the past few months. While I could be forgiven to let that opportunity to see a-ha live slip, there are no excuses for my next mistake. A few years later, a-ha had produced a new studio album for the first time in almost ten years and were once again touring. In October 2002, their tour bought them to England, namely Wembley Arena. On this occasion I got as far as going to book a ticket online, but every attempt I made, I reconsidered and decided to either wait or perhaps have something more important going on. As it would transpire, the weekend of the concert, I would find myself in Wrexham, spending the weekend renewing my long term friendship with DJ. So yet again, I found myself with the opportunity to see one of my favourite bands live in the UK. The choice of venue was important, I had Wednesday local trip to Wembley or a Saturday night in the Midlands. I opted for the earlier weekend date, purely for the ability to make a weekend out of the concert and spend time shopping at the BullRing or locality. So the two tickets are booked. Now, the next big questions, who do I take with me?

I am constantly surprised and inspired by the regular response I get for this blog. Comments tend to be quite thin on the ground generally and most postings are undeserving of any feedback. Yet a band of loyal readers feel it important to comment on what I have said and give their own fifty pence. It is not always my own selfish ego that makes me come back and write on this web site. It is more and more about the people who read and enjoy reading this site that make me strive to continue.

Monday 3rd January 2005

I had planned today for the best part of the past two weeks giving rise to an excellent opportunity to get out of the house and make most of my last day of leisure. Returning to work tomorrow morning, and with that a return to reality, routine. The chosen destination was the Midlands, because of the splendor which is the BullRing shopping complex. First setting foot on the mall on Saturday 29th May last year, I was amazed at the sheer size, in comparison to the main shopping centres I know locally. (Namely Oracle and Centre MK. I know towards the end of May I gave assurances of giving some review of Britain’s second city and Europe’s largest shopping development. This was my opportunity to repay that debt, while generating some more financial debt for myself in the process.

Pre booking my tickets on the last day of 2004, meant I was prepared for the journey. Hoping to make use of Chiltern Railways fantastic Just £15 offer. As usual the restrictions placed upon the usage, meant it was only valid after 11am on a this bank holiday the train would be leaving High Wycombe at quarter past midday. Completely unpractical for a shopping trip, so I opted for conventional cheap day return which worked out to be £7.50. This was not just another day of window shopping, the purpose of my trip was to get a winter jacket. Not the doorman security bomber jacket variety, yet something more elegant and classy affair. Wearable both everyday over my suit but also when out on a the tiles (even if this will be quite a rarity).

Apart from buying the ticket, there was little preparation that needed to be carried out. I planned to leave Wycombe around 8am and get back by 7.30pm at the latest, in order to not miss the out my daily fix. With the timing and day set, it was a case of just getting my things together the night before. I packed my DAB Portable Digital Radio to see exactly how practical it is on the road. There was the small task of locating all my PINs for my credit cards in order to actually verify the purchase of goods. Reference to my entry from Wednesday 15th December will shed some light on my views on this new anti fraudscheme. Yet I feel forced by the banking community to adopt a procedure for which I have little confidence. Maybe in practice I will find the system much more robust. Time will tell.

Waking early, I forced myself out of my bed, with no signs of light outside. Getting ready quickly, my sister gave me a lift to the station. Getting there just before 8am, I had a short wait for my train heading North. Considering purchasing a newspaper, I decided against doing so. It would be filled with images and more reports from the Asia Pacific. This is not to come across as heartless for the plight of millions, just not today. Today, was a day away from the reality of the disaster. Time for myself. I knew, there would be points throughout the day when I would be reminded of the fact, I should be grateful for how lucky I am and my circumstances. Therefore, I chose to listen to the radio, just for some music to pass the time before my Clubman arrived on platform two. Unfortunately, I was not just in a black spot but in a blackout area. Possibly due to the same reason that mobile coverage is so bad in a town forged in between two valleys. So, defeated I backed away the device and continued to wait for my train. The town was dead, as was the station with a few early birds scurry to catch the train to London. Two other passengers were waiting for my train, and had come to sit down. Both reading tabloids of some descriptions, which I tried my best to avoid the headlines and concentrate on the platform clock, ticking away. The station announcer, gave the news I had been waiting for, my train was about to arrive, so with a smile I looked eagerly down the track, across into the distance. A journey, I used to make on a daily basis. Upon boarding the train I was again attempted to listen to the radio, hoping for a more successful outing that on the station platform. Disappoint was the only result, no station was audible. It was not until we were on the outskirts of the town, that I started getting a distinguishable signal. My first choice was to find a station playing back to back pop music, thinking it would not take long to find. I was wrong, so I decided to listen to BBC Asian Network but yet again there was nothing appealing to be heard. So, against my better judgment, I tuned into the Breakfast on Five Live knowing all to well what the main subject of discussion. However, the tone was light hearted, almost jovial reflecting my mood on this last day of my Christmas break. What was more surprising or rather refreshing was that they discussed a subject that I would experience for first hand later in the day. Apparently, I am not the only doubter of the effectiveness of the new system and more importantly there are the concerns over the transfer of liability. The show was followed by Richard Bacon sitting in for Victoria Derbyshire. This focused directly on the crisis, but more so on the magnificentresponse of the British people. With some high profiled guests, the discussion moved more towards whether there were more worthy causes both at home and abroad, which do not receive the blanket media coverage. Africa was seen as a shining example of a continent ravaged by war and corruption that need the aid to stand on its own feet. Although the talk was rich with stirring arguments, I decided that I needed to relax more and let other being deal with the outside world, even if just for one day. The British countryside was rolling by my window, green, warm and bright. Today was going to be a good day. Even though the day had started out quite chilly, it felt quite mild. The journey was going well, and my carriage slowly had a few more passengers, as we cut across Banbury and Warwick. It was at this point, I decided to listen to music again, and randomly scrolled down the available stations. Switching over to Core and hearing a great song. Now rap is not one of my favourite genres of music but the artist is even less favoured. Many of peer group would disagree, but I am deeply offended by his music, image and general outrageous outlook on life. The only song, I have in my collection is ‘Stan’, but that is more to do with the soothing calm vocals of Dido thank anything else. On this occasion, I was forced to listen because of the sampled a rarely heard but much loved song from the late 1980s. It came to my attention in early November on PopJustice but unfortunately they are still processing their Archive for September to December 2004. I will link to the article in due course, but I have to give credit to changing to context of the song, to such a topical subject of war (among other others)

Drawing close to Birmingham, I had to make a decision. Either disembark at Moor Street or the next final stop, Snow Hill. As we pulled in towards the city, the train came to a stop for a few minutes, and I could make out the strange silver elephant, sticking out against the backdrop of the city landscape. I decided it was best to take off at the first opportunity and suffer the consequences. I quickly packed away my radio and headed out, with what seemed the majority of the crowd off the train. It was a mild Monday morning, with little traffic outside. Although I did not feel sleep, I was blind to the architecture surrounding me, mainly because I was trying to get some bearings, look at the street signs and follow the other pedestrians. I turned around to be shocked to see the Selfridges building, to my left. Within a ten second walk from the station, I was in the middle of the BullRing complex, I never knew that it would be such a stepping stone away and had envisaged a struggle to get there. The day was panning out to be better than expected. The next stop was to head over to the main city terminal. Apparently the 1854 original was compared to Grand Central station in New York. Personally, I doubt it. I got there just as Nav was coming into the station, so I only had to wait a few minutes before he arrived. Before the rush set in we headed across to the centrepiece of the day, with a newly constructed BullRing link, which connects the station with the shopping centre. Our adventure was just about to begin.

When I had met Nav last Wednesday, he was sporting a black wool overcoat. This was exactly what I was looking for, or had been looking for since September. Just with work and everything, had been unable to get around to making the purchase. By putting it off, I waited until the January sales to find the ideal garment. So, now in Birmingham, I was sure I would be able to find what I was looking for. Preferably I wanted a designer name, but that was not essential, the feel and look was more important. The jacket had to forefill to important criteria. Be wearable in everyday work mode, on top of my suit but also be suitable to wear on a night out on the town. Our first stop was the flagship store of the BullRing and the newest of only four department stores in England. The city centre was still quiet, as we headed to Selfridges. Looking around at the sale items, I was extremely disappointed with the quality of the merchandise on display. I understand that the store want to attract a certain breed of clientele but is it really to arrange the shop floor in such a way to provide their ‘unrivaled shopping experience’. To myself personally, there is clutter and no order to the presentation. Plus, with many big brand names wanting prime spots across the floors and play top dollar for the privilege, you feel bombarded by the name, rather than the product. No which is truly more important? The one jacket we did spot, was priced £572 reduced from £1000. Sorry but that is just slightly out of my price range. Disappointed and surprised by the lack of jackets available, we headed out to search around the rest of the shops.

Our journey how takes the roll call of a standard High Street in any medium sized British town. Next, River Island, GAP, FCUK and USC. All not quite having, what I was looking for. Sure most of them stocked winter jackets but the style and image was just not for me. Can you really see me wearing a hooded jacket? Please. Debenhams did have a fantastic Thomas Nash jacket with a minor flaw. It was not long enough to wear over a suit. However, I kept the jacket in mind, hoping to return if something more suitable could not be found. Nav suggested we change tack and look to support the independent retailer. So, once again, we tried several shops in the BullRing with the aim of finding a jacket. The first store we went into was a small shop selling suits with a few winter jackets at the front of the store on sale. Although the jackets seemed ideal, the one I wanted, in a dark blue was just slightly too big. Even having my suit on underneath, I could not justify the purchase. We looked around at the other jackets, but the sizes just increased to copy with the larger man on the street. It was at this point, having spent a good solid two hours searching that we ventured outside of the shopping complex, to New Street. We headed into Burton first but there was nothing there, apart from a small selection on a rack on the first floor. All highly unsuitable. Heading back into the street, we headed back towards the station, noticing the increase volume of pedestrians. The people of Birmingham were slowly waking up on this Bank Holiday. It was then I saw the store, labeled simply ‘kf’, we headed in to be greeted by a smartly presented Asian man, about our age. This at first seemed like a good sign but we were to be disappointed. Heading towards the back of the store, I noticed the some jackets hang up. Standing next to them, was another salesman. Again, Asian, but how do I put this, less appealing to the eye. The first jacket, was a deep purple colour and by Lambretta. Thankfully it was the right size, but just note the right cut. Nav pointed out the jacket behind and picked it up. We were duly informed by the employee that this was ‘by a different company’, in his rather light brummie accent. These were not at all the appropriate way of dealing with a customer and he seemed to just not quite be bothered. I was surprised that the next words out of his mouth were more constructive, offering me to try on the jacket in the changing rooms. I declined and headed over to the mirror and put on the jacket. It felt comfortable and once glance in the mirror reassured me that this was the jacket I wanted to get. When it comes to buying things, I become quite decisive once I have picked up the perfect item. Unlike women, who still tend to fuss, or consider the big dilemma of do I have the right shoes and handbag to go with this, I just tend to go with instinct. If it feels right, and more importantly if the price is right, I will make that purchase. Sure, the jacket was not some major designer label, but that is not a big issue for me. I would much rather be wearing something comfortable and suitable. Nav, in his own way was advising me against making a rash purchase there and then, but rather to ask for the jacket to be kept for an hour or so, while we continued to shop around. My feeling was we had wasted enough time looking around and I was conscious of the fact that I had dragged my friend around all these stores for nothing. Taking off the jacket, I headed back to the sales assistant. I thought the fact that I informed him I was willing to make a purchase. No joy, this did not change a thing, the poor customer service continued. Perhaps the research is true and poor management is to blame. Who knows? But to be honest, I completely detest the cut of his jib. On his own personal blog, Nav takes the discussion one step further by using rather strong language to describe our experience in this store. So if you are offended by such words, look away now. Purchasing the jacket on my credit card, I was looking forward to entering in my pin instead of having to sign the conventional authorisation slip. To my disappointment, although a chip and pin terminal was available, I was requested to sign to verify the transaction. Then, to make matters worse, I was given a useless bag for my purchase. Those stupid plastic carrier bags, which have the rope attached to close the top. I am sure I could find a much more suitable use for this piece of string.

It was lunchtime and I was hungry. However, I was not in the mood for the traditional fast food. We headed over to Pavilion Central and their Food Court on the top floor. Busy, with long queues we walked around and decided it was best to head further out of town to find somewhere less rushed to have lunch. Then Nav suggestion Subway and I agreed. I remember seeing a branch somewhere, but could not remember exactly, so headed back in the direction of New Street station. It was just outside, underneath the may walk way between the street and train station. This was the first time I had been to the fresh eating establishment since the summer and I was looking forward to it, for some strange reason. One of the few places you can go, not spend a fortune on food and leave reasonably full.

When I met up again with Nav later that afternoon, we still had few hours grace before both of our trains departed back home. While working in Swindon, Nav had told me of his religious lunchtime routine. He would head over to the local Greggs. The dream was taking shape. A extra strong coffee would be purchased along with a large custard slice. Then, returning to the office, he would scoff this down, with the beading eye of his manager just a metre away. Having created such a delicious picture, I too wanted to have a piece of this dream. Going back into the BullRing we searched frantically for the local in store branch. It was some distance away and once got our bearings we headed across to the lower floor. To our disappointment, all the custard slices had sold out and none of the alternatives seemed at all appealing. So we had to make another decision. With less than an hour to go, I suggested we grab a cup of tea or coffee (I am strict drinking of tea only!) The first outlet had been Costa, but we opted to head outside to Borders bookshop for something less crowded and actually read some books at the same time. Outside stands the magnificent Saint Martins Church in contrast to the contemporary shopping centre which almost overshadows it. Opposite was the Spiral cafe from our Italian coffee loving friends. It was at this point in the early evening, I was able to stop and take stock of the day. What I had seen, experienced and the thought of going back to work tomorrow began to hit home, as the sun had set across the city skyline. The conversation took very much a similar route, with the future, jobs and what our careers hold coming to the surface. I was glad to have met up with Nav, particularly as I see so little of him these days, with his life firmly set in Leicester and Lincolnshire. Hoping that the time would not pass us by I kept looking at my watch, almost erratically, not wanting to miss my train home. This must have distracted my ex-house mate to death but it had to be done.

Before we left, I wanted to ‘record’ the moment and as I had not bought along my digital camera, my camera phone was the second best option. Taking photographs of the Christmas Tree and Selfridges building. I will upload them later this week, but be warned the quality will be of substandard. With the customary handshake, I said goodbye to Nav and headed to Moor Street station. My last words to him, was I was looking forward to reading his blog entry on the days events. He promised that something would be put something together by at least Tuesday night. With that I headed for the journey home.

It has taken me several evenings to write this blog entry and I still have not completely finished, so will offer the final part, the train journey home later in the week. When I checked my credit card slips when I got home and looked again at the bag my jacket had been placed in, I was shocked. The store from which I had made this most significant of purchases, was called, Kensington Freak. Is someone, somewhere trying to tell me something?

Sunday 6th June 2004

The 40th President of the United States, passed away yesterday. A strong symbol of 1980s America. The news was overshadowed, by the 60th anniversary of the D-Day landings. I have been enjoying some of the coverage on the BBC. History is one of my favourite subjects, and the Second World War, is the greatest topic for me. What makes the events more significant to me personally, is that eleven years ago, I was in Normandy with my middle school. I have dug out some photographs, I just need to find the time to scan them in and upload them to the website. There are some interesting photographs, as I have images of Pegasus Bridge. The site of the first moments of liberation on 6th June 1944. I also have an postcard, autographed by Major John Howard, who was in charge of the operation to secure the bridge. That was the location of the celebrations and ceremony yesterday afternoon. Today, it was the time of the great American war cemetery in Coalville. I also have some photographs of this peaceful place, overlooking Omaha beach. The final resting place for some 9,000 US service man. Again, I will try and scan some images in and upload them as soon as I can. For the time being, I recommend you go the fantastic BBC D-Daywebsite.

Let us never forget the price these young men and women paid for us. For our tomorrow they gave their today. We must remain grateful for their sacrifice and pray that never again should a time come, when such great sacrifices have to be made again. As I left the NEC on Saturday afternoon, over a week ago, I headed to the railway station. On my way there, I saw some veterans from the Battle Of Britain seeking small donations for their charity. I gave some money, the little change I had on me, to hear a voice behind me say to these old men, “People quickly forget the great things, ordinary men, like you did for us,”. I turned around to find out who had said this, but it was too late, he was gone. I smiled, as I was given a badge, feeling somewhat proud. Proud to know that the sacrifices of others, strangers in a generation nearing their end, have not gone unnoticed or unobserved.

My journey back to Leicester that Saturday evening was via the 330 coach, to Nottingham. When I eventually found the correct coach, (there were two going to Nottingham, but only one stopping at Leicester) there were only a few spaces left. So I grabbed the first seat I could and sat down next to a guy, around my age. He was listening to his CD walkman, and I could hear the distant sound of Vindaloo by Fat Les over his earphones. Instantly my thoughts drifted to Euro 2004. It had completely slipped my mind, that here were on the verge of another classic international
tournament. The build up is so different to the World Cup two years ago. Perhaps because it lacks the global appeal. I know certain people who, although have no strong interest in football, will watch the World Cup religiously. When it comes to the European Championships, however, they do not bat an eyelid. Never mind. There loss at the end of the day. So many great players being showcased! However, I really had an urge to discuss England’s chances with the passenger sitting next to me. I then made the initial judgment, that he was being highly antisocial and did not want to talk. I promised myself, the moment he stopped listening to his music, I would speak to him. That opportunity came, just as the coach was pulling off the M69 and into Leicester. I soon discovered I was sitting next to Andy Guilder. Someone who again, is making those sacrifices in his own way to help those who have drifted from the righteous path. To my surprised he too keeps his own journal, in the form of his website, AGuilder. I even get a mention, if rather brief during an update last month. My blog is having a major impact in my life even letting new people find out more about my life. I just hope that future brings with it more happiness, not just for me, but for all the new people that have recently walked into my life.

In the past 12 months I have made more friends that I could ever have imagined. Now that I am back in Wycombe, I see a need to reconnect with my old college and schoolfriends. This is not going to be an easy task, but at least I will try and see what sort of reception I get. Maybe even some have been keeping ‘tabs’ on me via this blog. Then again, knowing my friends, maybe not.

Sunday 9th November 2003

Just a quick update, it’s nearly 11pm and I’m badly in need of some rest. I was at the Classic Car Show in Birmingham today. I have uploaded some photographs to the Photos page for you to enjoy. I hope to write up a more in depth web blog in the next few days.

Tuesday 4th November 2003

I was discussing the DMU television commercial with my housemates, and was informed that the University of Warwick has a very similar advert. However, a quick crawl around the web via Google has not provided me with any answers. However, I was able to find a great site which catalogues television commercials from Europe and the US. Visit4info is a great site, as it enable the consumers to give feedback to the advertisers on what we like and don’t like and which advertisements make an impact, and those that do not. Out of sheer curiosity, I went to search for ‘De Montfort University’ and to my surprise, up popped the result for the commercial I was trying to describe yesterday. To view the ad, you need to have Quick Time installed. Click here to view the commercial. Let me know what you think, particularly your views on the ‘other candidates’ and their response to Thompson from De Montfort University. I wonder if I will have a similar experience when going for interviews in the summer?

I have been a member of the DeLorean Owners Club, for over two years and on Sunday, I attend my second show. The Classic Motor Show takes place over the coming weekend, Saturday 8th and Sunday 9th November at the NEC Birmingham. I am looking forward to it, and catching up with several friends I made in Belfast in May 2001. I will be taking my digicam, so expect loads of photographs to be uploaded next week.

Friday 16th August 2002

What a week! Personally, I am glad that it is over, but Monday morning will be staring us in the face before we blink. But I should not be putting a dampener on things! Its Friday! Its the weekend! ;o) So overall, the week flew by. There was various reasons for this. I was extremely busy, I had music to keep me going. Plus also I posted some messages on forums to get advice and guidance. Although, I had hated the Radio 1 Breakfast Show. It has suddenly reinvented itself with Scott Mills at the helm. I have enjoyed his humour, choice of music and general chit chat. A great feature, has been the Bootie Call, which has had me smiling on my way to work! But Sara Cox, is back on Tuesday, so I only have one more show to enjoy on Monday.

With regards, to the website, you may have noticed that the recent photographs added to the Photos page have failed to load. I looked into this during the week but
could only deduce that I had reached my web space limit. I will compress the files down and try and upload them now. Hopefully, the will be visible from today onwards.
I haven’t really added much else, a few extra links. But perhaps over the weekend, I may find some inspiration from somewhere and get working on it.

The Premiership starts tomorrow, and I am looking forward to it! Arsenal playing Birmingham City on Sunday afternoon, plus Aston Villa versus Liverpool, the lunchtime
game. Fantastic! It is a shame that the ITV programme has to be on at 10.30pm. I just hope it can be better quality than last season. I remember watching the first
programme, how quickly the time passes. One year rolls into the next.

The King of Rock & Roll, Elvis Presley, passed away 25 years ago today. It is amazing how that I would be born four years later, but this one man, would have achieved a godlike status, even before his death.

This will not be my only update over the weekend, I will try to get on again by Sunday. Enjoy your weekend, but save yourself for the Bank Holiday weekend that is
just around the corner.

WordPress Themes