A very busy weekend for my last complete weekend in Newbury, so much so that I spent a great deal of it outside the town. It was Sachin’s 30th birthday on Friday and he had arranged a night out on Saturday in Leicester and invited me a long with many other old Uni pals. I could not turn him down. I only got around to booking my hotel on the Tuesday evening (29th September) but was keen to go to Leicester as I had not been there since January 2008. Even then it had been a pop over to friends of the family rather than a venture into the city centre. It was all change now, The Shires had gone and been replaced by High Cross, the new expanded shopping centre with designer stores and a large John Lewis. There were numerous things that would have changed which I would only notice after walking around the city. I left Newbury around 10.30am, but had to meet up with a friend in Twyford. I was back on the road at midday and heading up the A404, then M40 to Leicester. My original planned route had to be changed due to junction closures, so I took the A43 across to Northampton and then the M1 north to Junction 21. I was running out of fuel (what is new) but this extended journey meant I would not make it to my University city without re-fueling (as much as I would try). So in the end I had to stop at Watford Gap to put in a few pounds to complete the final leg of my journey.
I got to Leicester around 2pm and found my hotel eventually. It was tuck away just behind a flyover. The Hotel Campanile was relatively new, like much of Leicester. The city has been re-generated in the years that have passed since I left. I parked up and went to check in, it was 14:32 and I had lots to do before the evening kicked in. I dumped my stuff in my rather modest room. It was clean, had a television, even a sofa bed in the corner and a mod-con showerroom. I called Ash but he was out on the golf course, so headed into town, hoping to meet up with Bhavna. However, she had text me during my journey (just as I had been finding the hotel) and cancelled on me. I was annoyed and set her an text to signal my frustration as I walked into the city centre. So much had changed, as I made my way towards the Clocktower. There was a Polish market taking place and the city centre was mobbed, as you would suspect for a Saturday afternoon. I headed to the new Highcross shopping centre and try to spot the differences from the Shires as I had known it. It had changed a great deal and the extension was impressive, I took my time walking around taking it, although just wondered past the entrance of John Lewis, the temptation to go in was not great enough. I then popped into HSBC (which had moved) and got in line to pay in some cash before heading to Welford Road to get my haircut. I went to Hair by Minesh, the same place I had got my haircut during my student days. However, his salon was being refurbished, so he had moved a few doors down. For a split second I thought he had gone out of business. He finished cutting a customer’s hair and then caught up with me. Although it took a while for him to remember my name, but to his credit he did without any prompting from me. After I got my haircut, I headed back into the city centre to grab some food. I also needed some hairgel, so went to Boots and got a wrap. I ate as I walked back to the hotel and then had a few hours to kill before I had to head back through my University campus.
The wifi at the hotel had only become free three days earlier, so I was in luck. I logged on using my E65 and updated both my Twitter and Facebook. It was good to have a net connection, I thought I would have to do without until Sunday afternoon. However the battery on my Nokia mobile was dying and to conserve it a little (I had not remembered to pack my charger) I switched it off while I got ready. I had quite a lot to do, considering. Once ready I noticed that the poor Wild Wild West was on ITV1 of the limited channels that were available on the hotel network. I was hungry now and as I had not heard from Ash, I headed into town get some food on my own. Due to lack of time, I just headed to Burker King, my diet was going to suffer this weekend but that was one of the downsides of being back in your University City. After having my food, I would not go as far to describe it as a meal, I headed through to campus. I took the old route, I used to take all the time which uses the subway to go past my former school building, James Went which was demolished a few years ago. You can imagine my surprise to find the subway entrance blocked with construction work. I had to take the crossing above crowd and saw the building that is replacing James Went take shape. Although it was difficult to see everything, in the darkness. I walked around and down The Gateway and the Union came into view. Memories of my final year came flooding back. It felt very strange walking back down this road, after three years here as a student from the turn of the century to 2004. As I got to the Glo Bar (which was called Russells when I was a student here) I saw birthday boy Sachin appear at the door and greeted him with a hug plus his birthday card. We headed to the cashpoint and the night could begin.
It was a great night out, it always is when I go back up to Leicester and see my friends. I took nearly 200 photographs and the best I have uploaded to a fresh FlickR set. As with all events with Sachin and Rish, there was dancing to Bollywood and MJ, most of which I captured in still images although perhaps video footage would have been better. A lot of old school songs were played and garage from the early years from when we started University. It was good fun. My ex-housemate Jaymin arrived and I also bumped into my friend Reema and her friend Jags. Overall a great night had by all. We had planned to disappear into town around midnight but Sachin convinced us to stay until the end. Jaymin then dropped the girls home before we stopped by JBS on Narborough Road for purely nostalgic reasons. It was many a time spent there after a night out. Jaymin then dropped me back to my hotel before driving back home to Redditch.
As I walked into reception, there was a crowd of about five people having a heated debate about something after a night out. I smiled at the female security guard on the front desk and jumped in the lift to the third floor. As I got to my bed, I looked at the time on my phone. It was 03:03am. Five minutes later, I updated both my Facebook and Twitter status again. Rather than go straight to sleep, I got changed, and grabbed my camera to review all the photos before finally crashing out some forty minutes later. I was very tired and could not keep my eyes open much longer.
I woke up around 7.37am and got ready. I wanted to get back to Newbury as soon as I can, as I had so much to fit in before my friend arrived later this afternoon. I checked out at 8:32am and drove to Fosse Park. Unfortunately, yet another fast food establishment (which for the purposes of this blog will remain anonymous). After a quick breakfast and well earned and necessary cup of tea I headed to the petrol station to get some diesel. The air line was out of order so I had to drive around and find the air line at the Sainsbury’s (the other side of the park) to check my tyre pressures before hitting the motorway in the beautiful Sunday morning sunshine. A great weekend so far and so much more to look forward to.
I landed back in Newbury just after 11am, signalling my arrival with a tweet. I had about an hour to wait before my friend arrived, so cleared the flat a little and then jumped on the computer to transfered the photos from the camera. It was nice to actually have something planned for Sunday, as usually the day just flows by without much being done. Sure, I would watch a movie or catch up on paper work but from time to time
As I was soon to depart Newbury, this was my last Sunday in the town. It was apparent to me that I had not visited one of the main tourist points of the town, the hidden gem that is Shaw House, so I decided to go on Sunday afternoon. A pleasant way to spend away a few hours but it was not what I expected at all. The place was dead. We had a look around and were given some insightful information by the guides but the lack of other people made the place feel rather bare. We quickly decided that we should just go back to the flat as the venture out had turned into a bit of a disaster. Well perhaps more so for them and their planned family day under the title of Treemendous! Suppose it does not matter how many millions you spend rennovating a building, unless you get the punters through the door.
Back at the flat, it was time to catch up on some television with a nice cup of tea before X-Factor and then food! I have to say with X Factor I have only taken a passing interest, as my weekends have always clashed with the show, so I have only caught bits and pieces. It was good to watch who made it into the live shows though, although in typical ITV fashion, the show is drawn our and they pull on every emotional heart string possible to make it even more compelling. Before you know it the weekend is out and the working week kicks off again. However, for a change, I held the cards. It was my last week in the job and I was looking forward to a key moment on Friday afternoon. Leaving the building and never ever having to come back.