Posts tagged: Wrexham

Duty Calls (Once Again)

For various reasons, I left for Wrexham as the clocked ticked rapidly towards 7pm. I should have been in the Welsh town already, if I had left work at 4pm, as I had originally planned, when I booked Guy Fawkes Night as holiday. Instead, I had just joined the A40, leaving Uxbridge and had an ETA of way past 10pm. It was going to be a long drive and it just started to lightly rain.

I thought back to the last time I was on this journey (albeit on a train). While October 2008, feels like a long time ago, I remember it very well, things were very different. I was a month into my new job and had just moved into my new flat in Newbury. I was at a point in my life, when I thought things could not really get any better. The irony is that two years later, I am the happiest I have ever been and on the verge of moving out from home once again (and hopefully on a permanent basis). I had caught the Wrexham & Shropshire train up to Wrexham General that day, as I had wanted to check out the journey and take a break from the car. Dave lives directly next to the station, so it was very convenient. The only challenge, was trekking into London Marylebone before boarding the non stop train heading to Wales.

Why had I opted for the car on this occasion? Mainly for the convenience of being able to dictate my own time of departure and arrival. Plus, last minute changes had meant I worked from home on Thursday before an important meeting in Uxbridge after which I could finally hit the motorway. I enjoy long journeys but for a change, I was rather unprepared. There was no recent album to listen to, instead I had to make do for KISS until I got out of range and then a mixture of FiveLive and TalkSport on the medium wave. My route was M40 –> M42 –> M5 (which takes me to the west of Birmingham and past Wolverhampton) and then finally join the M6. This lasts minutes, as I then exit onto the final motorway of the night, the M54. Michelle had called and was keeping me company on the telephone, as I made my way through the dark. Once the road switches down to dual carriageway A-roads, the street lighting is limited to the roundabouts. My target had always been to get to Wrexham before 10pm, so I could catch Eastenders on BBC Three. I made, it but only with minutes to spare. I pulled up at the gates and called Dave, he took an age to answer his mobile. I parked up and then got out to give my friend a big hug! It had been a long long time, seven hundred and thirty-five days to be exact or two years and five days. Time flies when one of your best friends lives in a different country. I grabbed my things and headed up to the flat apartment, it was eerie how little had changed on the outside. Inside however, I was greeted by Lisa and new arrival but now eight months young – Jayden.

Teg & Jayden

It was great to finally meet him after all this anticipation, photos on Facebook and MMS sent by proud father Dave. Then it was a quick catch up before watching Eastenders as pre-planned on BBC Three. We then decided to watch The Social Network, it was rather late after we had watched about an hour of the movie (2:30am), so we decided to call it a night and watch the remainder on Friday.

A great movie even if it paints a rather negative picture of the Facebook founder co-founder. While I agree a certain amount of arrogance is a good thing, Mark comes across as a bit of a loser. I suppose that is the point, he was, a social outcast and he used the computer and Internet as a way of building friends and expressing himself. How much of this was his own idea, I do not think we will ever find out. However, I feel the influence of Shane Parker (played perfectly by Justin Timberlake) undermines Zuckerberg from being his own, self made man. The reality is, the website was a group effort even though Mark takes most of the credit. The legal wranglings are interesting, if not somewhat difficult to understand fully – the movie flashes back and forth from the present to past. It was great fun and I would highly recommend you watch it – even if you are not a fan or user of Facebook. It gives you a real insight into how you go from an idea that takes over the world. While there will continue to be debate as to how much of the story is based on reality, I take great comfort from the fact that what is actually quite a geeky story can actually be written and directed in such a fashion that the it is actually only about one man’s desire to be accepted by a woman.

Friday was Dave’s birthday and I was woken up by Jayden crawling across to me in the living room. Dave opened his presents and then after breakfast we got ready for the day. We headed over to meet Dave’s Dad at The Wrexham Golf Club around 11am. I drove over, as it was only a ten minute drive the other side of the town. It was great to see him again, although it was only a short flying stop as he was busy working in the kitchen. (I hate to disturb people while they are working). He was busy preparing breakfast for the golf club members and after a quick meet and greet, we headed back to the flat. We caught the end of the movie and then planned what to do for the rest of the day. We headed into town to meet up with Dave’s Mum. She was in Gregg’s with a friend and we meet up with her later and headed to Starbucks in Eagles Meadow. Once again, it was just a brief catch up over hot chocolate. Jayden proving to be the main attraction to his grandmother. We took a little trip into Boots. I was impressed by the blue-tooth connectivity of the photo kiosk machines, Dave was able to transfer a photo from his Blackberry onto the device for printing (instantly). The transfer across was very quick, I never knew that these machines now had wireless connections, I always thought you had to put in the memory card or USB stick. How times have changed!

We headed back to the apartment in the rain, with a brief stop to say hello to Lisa’s Mum at the chip shop. We were at the house for a few hours before heading out to Nando’s (in the same shopping centre) at 6pm. A nice relaxed meal for the birthday boy before we headed back to the flat for desert. (Oh and of course the final trip of the week to Albert Square). We decided what to do for the evening, we could play FIFA 11, watch some other movies or perhaps even go out. We opted to watch District 9, but with the volume down low (Jayden was a sleep in his pushchair) the movie was difficult to follow and I was slowly drifting off to sleep. We did have a quick go on FIFA, after all it was my birthday gift to Dave, so it would be criminal to let the weekend go by without a match. Crystal Palace versus Arsenal. I know why I do not play computer games any more – they have got extremely difficult and I say that as a religious FIFA addict (albeit from the last decade). I lost 3-0 but it could have been much worse. At around 11pm, the rock stars that we are, we decided to call it a night and I went to sleep.

Saturday was rather a relaxed day too. I got up around 10am and after getting ready we headed to the local shop (which was a good fifteen minute walk away to get the morning papers). We took Jayden to give him some fresh air, plus Lisa was having a lie in.

David has already asked me to carry out one duty which was a life long honour, but this latest request is a life time responsibility. As we made our way to the Spar, he asked if I would be God father to Jayden. Of course, I said yes! Not too sure if I am ready for another human life to be trusted in my sole hands but nevertheless, I am willing to learn the ropes and go for it. Plus, I am pretty sure, I will be on the road to fatherhood at some point in the not too distant future.

Saturday afternoon we went into town to have a few drinks but forgot the rugby was on, so the Welsh army were out in force. We are neither rugby fans or Welsh, so just found a quiet corner in the Ironworks to have a chat. It was the first time all weekend we could chat without having Lisa and/or baby Jayden in the background vying for attention. We moved on further into town to the Wynstay Hotel. A random started speaking to me about the Wales – South Africa game, the Cymru were not doing very well apparently. I tried to dip out of the small talk as quickly as possible. After Dave suffered a daylight robbery at the bar, we had our drinks and headed back to the flat to catch up on the football and get another round of FIFA in before the fireworks display.

Jayden

We were going to drive down to the local display but left a little later than anticipated. Jayden did not settle in the car and started crying a few minutes down the road and did not stop. The car however, was stuck in traffic and after a few minutes, we decided to turn back and head back to the flat. The little man, just did not like the dark or the back seat of the car. On the up side, it meant we could order a pizza takeaway and catch The X Factor performances. My weekend was nearly over and I had the long drive home to endure but at least there was the Arsenal Newcastle game to look forward to on television on the other side.

I had a great weekend, it was great to see David and Lisa after almost two years and finally meet Jayden in the flesh. As usual the time went too quickly and I spent too much of the time sleeping (tired from the driving or the needs of a modern day parent with a baby). Hopefully I will see the Jones family together sometime before the summer! :)

Tuesday 4th November 2008

My weekend began on Thursday evening. The plan came together very well and just as I had envisaged. All my luggage (quite a bit considering) was stacked in the lounge, I had some food while watching ‘that’ episode of Eastenders (it was 30th October). I was set and planned to leave as soon as my favourite soap came to a close. It was a few trips to pack the car and then finally I was on the way home, but my final destination was not High Wycombe, it was Wrexham, North Wales.

Luggage

All weekends need a soundtrack and my officially kicked off at 20:57, I had been skipping around on the CD in my car and it started on Disturbia by Rihanna. My weekend could begin and it was a great feeling. I was looking forward to seeing Dave and Lisa again and just kicking back for a few days. But as all plans go, there was a few issues. My original time of departure had been first thing on the first train (10:17am) but I had to take my car over to Amersham Audi, to get the brake light system looked at, so I had to catch the next service, some three hours later. Which gave me a landing time of 17:28 in Wrexham and not 14:28 as I had originally hoped. Never mind, a minor complaint and mainly due to the fact that the stealer, I mean dealer could not fit me in on Saturday morning (then my Dad would have taken it in for me!) I was not going to let it get in the way of what was going to be a fantastic weekend. So on Friday morning (Halloween, my Alpine stereo has a screen saver for four days and this is one, so a witch flies across the screen whenever you switch on the device) in the glorious sunshine I headed over to Amersham. Rather than sit in the waiting area and watch Sky News, I took a browse around and headed straight for the R8.

Audi R8

A great opportunity to wind up Dave, so I sent him the above picture as an MMS, with the text, “While I was waiting, I put in an order for my next car. Black or silver? What you think?”. I was surprised to get a reply so quickly, I thought DJ would have been asleep. He had taken the day off as well. The car was ready around 8.30am and I headed back home. I forgot that it was half term (no wonder the roads were so clear) and found my sister on the sofa, watching various shows on the Disney Channel. I attempted to move the Sky broadband router from the lounge back into my old room but forgot that I had all the spare adsl filters back at my flat, so that plan hit the buffers almost before it started. I packed up my bag, sorted out a few things and then decided it better to head off to town. It would mean I would have a wait (of nearly an hour) at Marylebone but I wanted to be there and relax rather than rush there. I took the bus into town and as I had time on my side headed to WHSmith. I needed to get some stamps but thought I would also pick up a computer magazine to read for the journey. I opted for Personal Computer World for the cover and cover alone. It had a feature on how to install Linux. (MightyMouse must be cheering in the aisle as he reads this). My family laptop is dying and to extend the life I was already planning to install a brew of Linux, so this magazine feature had been a bit of a godsend (although I am sure I could have coped without it). So the next time I am back in Wycombe (in three weeks or so, my weekend job will include two things – install Linux on laptop and upgrade XBox to be able to handle the latest iPlayer script / plugin). I need to get back on track, sorry. I then walked up to Wycombe station, bought a ticket from the machine and went straight to platform one, there was a train waiting and it was leaving in a few minutes. It was 11:02am, I was on my way.

I suspect you are wondering why I took a train into London rather than to Banbury and then onward to Wrexham. Well I wanted to take the most direct route and I had agreed with Dave that we would try out the service as soon as it went live (earlier this year). I did not want to be changing multiple trains, I wanted to get on a train, sit back, plug in my Zen and relax. Sure, driving would have taken less time but the cost of diesel and wear on my car, plus the tiredness of the journey would take their toll. I just liked the idea of taking the back seat for a change and letting someone else drive. Plus, the station is next door and I mean right next door to Dave’s apartment. There is no big trek or taxi to jump into. I walk around the corner and I am there.

Marylebone Station

While I was waiting, I stepped outside and for a moment considering walking to Piccadilly Circus to see my friend Ricki and perhaps even grab some lunch. Instead, I opted to just take a seat in the station concourse and wait. I had started sending texts to Twitter from late last night and thought I would continue for the rest of my journey. I left Dave know about the site, so he could read my updates too. It was easier to text a tweet rather than text individual friends. My first text from Friday morning is the start of the marathon, several other messages to read from that point across the weekend. I spotted Dennis Wise on the concourse, he had a chat with some people and a photograph with a Chiltern Railways employee. He went into WHSmith before disappearing to catch his train. He made a donation into the Breast Cancer Awareness bucket and one of the two girls went crazy. Calm down dear, he’s is not that famous! Just after 1pm, when I had been waiting for over an hour, we were given the platform number and I headed to the barrier. My ticket was scanned (a printed barcode) and I was allowed through. I found a good seat, put my bag on the rack by the door and got comfortable. I text Dave and then settled down to enjoy music on my Zen.

This was my first long train journey since April last year, (Sunday 15th April to be exact!). Back then I had my work laptop and was blogging my weekend ‘offline’ and the entry was pretty much ready to upload by the time I got home. This time around, there was no laptop. I had bought along my A5 Pukka Pad but forgotten a pen, so had to just make mental notes. I would write everything up or as much as I could remember when I got to Dave’s apartment. I sent a tweet whenever we stopped at a station and although I tried to have a little sleep, I could not really drift off. I was excited to see my friend again. Rather than bore you with the details, those really interested in my journey, can go and read the tweets over on my Twitter page.

It was dark as we approached Wrexham General, I had got up early, grabbed my bag and headed for the door. However, I had chosen to stand by the wrong door, the opposite side to the platform. Never mind. As I got out of the train, I was looking out for Dave but could not see him. Then he appeared from the other side of the pillar and with a warm smile, came over and gave me a big hug! He grabbed my bag and we headed for the exit. No barriers, no ticket inspectors, we walked up the stairs across over the track and then down to the other platform, where Lisa was waiting. It was bitterly cold.

We walked back to their apartment, it is literally next door and then we took the lift up to the second floor. Last time around, they lived in flat 127, they had now moved all the way to flat 128. A very nice flat, sorry I mean apartment Dave. Much bigger than their old one bedroom flat. I was shown my living quarters for the weekend, where I dumped my bags before heading to crash out on the living room. I had arrived, it was coming up to 6pm and I was completely shattered. However, the night was young and we had plenty to catch up.

Lisa is a big soap fan, so we watched Home & Away on FiveR, then Emmerdale followed by Coronation Street on ITV1. At 8pm it was time for Eastenders which is the one soap I watch now (since dropping Hollyoaks from my viewing schedule back in June this year). After a nice dinner, we got down to business. I had to get my collection of music videos working on the glorious 50″ plasma screen. I thought it would be a case of streaming directly from the Compaq laptop to the TV but Dave does not have the necessary leads, so we had to go down the wireless route via the XBox 360. Please note that I have never done this before but a little help from Google, I got something sorted (but not until much later in the evening). I let Dave struggle for a least twenty minutes before I took over and sorted it out. Without Windows Media Centre on the laptop the option is to enable media streaming in Windows Media Player 11. I got this working eventually but I had to fight with Norton 360. I was quite proud of myself when I eventually got it working and could watch Keri Hilson’s new video, “Return The Favour” featuring music maestro producer, Timbaland. However that was not the end of my tasks, I also had to teach Dave how to burn a DVD using his recently purchased Roxio Easy CD/DVD Creator package. The software had already been installed without any problems but just would not work. Or rather more accurately, Dave could not make it work but I got it going. We got registered it and enabled the software and away we went. The test burn was The Spiderwick Chronicles and it worked a treat. Next job people? Oh that would wait until tomorrow.

Dave had borrowed Casino Royale DVD from a friend and I was keen for us to watch before going to see the sequel at the cinema on Saturday evening. However with all these jobs being undertaken by yours truly, it was not until 11.40pm that we put the movie on. It looked fabulous on the Samsung television and with the lights off, it did feel like we were in our own private cinema. Lisa, with work tomorrow, had gone to bed, so it was just the boys awake. It was perhaps the worse time to watch a Bond film and at a low volume, it was easy to get lost and not fully understand the plot. We gave up early, around 1.20am and promised to pick it up early afternoon before we headed over to the Odeon at Plas Coch Retail Park. I went to bed (or rather my air mattress and drifted off within minutes).

My alarm went off at some point in the morning but I switched it off and went back to sleep. I got up around 10am and Dave was already awake, on the sofa, uploading photographs to Facebook. He had asked me to bring up my media card reader and that then he would finally be able to upload photographs from the mini reunion. Yes people, the reunion which took place exactly a year ago (on the date of this blog post). He had done this and I took a look over breakfast. I also decided to take some photographs, particularly the view from the window of the Wrexham skyline.

Wrexham Skyline

This was an opportunity to play some of the music videos, loud. By loud I mean knocking up the surround sound. We listened to T-Pain – Buy You A Drank and then Lollipop by Lil’ Wayne. While we had been watching Soccer Am on Sky 1 earlier, I had just asked Dave out of curiosity which family this Samsung belonged to. I expected him to have the name at his fingertips, he did not, so had to check on Amazon. It was there he discovered that the television had FreeView built in. (Well it was clear to see from the box itself, it had a small DVB logo on the bottom left. We switched through the sources, found DTV and tuned it in. Not all the channels were picked up but it was good to have come through with successfully completed job for the weekend. While Dave was getting ready, I put on the Return The Favour video again and snapped some pictures. (Little did I know that these would make up the bulk images from my weekend!). We then headed into town, to take a look around, mainly at the new shopping centre, Eagles Meadow. The main purpose of the trip was to get Dave his birthday present. But more on that later. The town had changed a considerable amount since my last visit back in July last year.

Many of the shops had closed and moved to the new shopping complex but it was still not even half full. To get there you walk to the end of the main street, take a left and there is the entrance. Via a bridge, you go through to the main complex. We went for a walk around upstairs into the ten pin bowling alley and just to have a look around. It was surprisingly busy, very busy in fact. They had performers and people dressed up, it was the opening weekend after all, it had only just opened the previous day. It had slowly started to rain as we headed back to into town, we stopped by at Covent Garden flower shop (where Lisa works). Then we decided to find somewhere to grab some lunch. Walking past the bus station, one option was The Big Fat Cat Cafe. After walking around past a few other pubs I decided it best to head back to the Fat Cat. The football was on, Everton versus Fulham (a goalless draw anyone?). Dave got the drinks in and I got some food and it was a pleasant way to waste away an hour in the early afternoon. We planned the rest of the day and evening.

Back to the flat, watch the final part of Casino Royale, head out to the Odeon to catch Quantum Of Solace, then back to the flat for some grub and The X Factor before heading into town. Not a bad Saturday night if you ask me. It pretty much went to plan. We headed over to the cinema at 4.30pm. I had a craving for Peanut M&Ms, so we had to stop at Sainsbury’s so I got get a back. They were on offer, so I bought a bag for Dave too! We then headed to the cinema. As Dave bought the popcorn we were informed by the server that Arsenal had lost to Stoke 2-1, it had been 1-0 on Sky Sports News as we left the house. The only dampener on my weekend but a big blow to our title challenge. More on that later. It had just struck 5pm by the time we were shown to our seats. The trailers were about to start. I was looking forward to the main feature.

I left the cinema disappointed. The story lacked substance, there was no big twist, nothing to keep you on the edge of your seat. The action sequences were great, particularly the chase scene at the opening but the story was just poor. I wanted a crazy megalomaniac, hell bent on world domination. I wanted more typical Bond girls and not admin girls from the Foreign Office. Casino Royale was much better, but Quantum is more of the same but a few levels down on the movie richter scale. It is only for the die hard Bond fans and I am sure even those will feel rather short changed by this episode.

We walked back to the flat and then were given the surprise news. The twins (Paul’s daughters) were coming over as Paul and Wendy were off out. Lisa had quite happily offered to baby sit, (fifth weekend in a row?). Lisa’s friend Sadie was ove and we just about to see the first performance of the night on The X Factor. It was Austin, his journey would come to an end, a few short hours later. We had a nice dinner, prepared by Lisa and then after watching The X Factor decided to head into town. Paul and Wendy arrived with the twins, Priya and Essence. They were both scared of me, so around 9.30pm, we headed into town.

On Dave’s advice we headed firstly to the Nag’s Head, there was a TV in the corner, so we sat down on the comfy sofas and saw the result from The X Factor. I then wanted to check out a bar up the road but by the time we got there it was closed (it was gone 11pm). We had limited options now in terms of late licence, so we opted for Bar Barracuda. It was rammed and eventually we made it to the bar. We sat in the backroom watching the TV. The DJ was only playing that he had the video for. One video to appear reminds me of Dave’s Dad. The song is Something Good ’08 by Utah Saints. You can guess which of the two men at the bar I am referring to. The video is a classic, I particularly like the end when you see MC Hammer appear to ‘claim’ the rights to The Running Man. Pure genius. The last song to play before we left was Disturbia. The song that started my weekend, would also bring it to a close.

Men At The Bar

We had to stop at Dave’s favourite kebab takeaway for a bite to eat before heading back to the flat. Sadie was just leaving as we got there and the twins were asleep in the lounge. A was tired and went to my room, it was going to be a tiring journey back to Wycombe and eventually Newbury tomorrow. I got up just before 9am and wanted Dave to check the Wrexham & Shropshire website and confirm my train time. My apprehenshions had been proved right, due to rail works my train was at 9.55am and no the 10:35am, I had originally thought. I rushed to get ready, had a shower, got changed and was ready to go. Dave took a while but thankfully as the station is only next door we did not have far to go. I was nervous that we may have missed it but, no worry. On the platform stood, the InterCity train, named after David J. Lloyd. I got on the train a few minutes before it departed. Although there had been a group of people waiting to be let on board. In my bag I found Lisa’s Harrod’s pen she had lent me and showed it to Dave through the window. I got out my pad and began writing up notes from the weekend that would eventually end up on this blog. I gave a salute to Dave as the train finally started rolling. It was a few minutes after 10am and it would be over four hours before I was back in London, five before I was back in Wycombe and over eight before I was back in my flat in Newbury. It quite early on in the journey, I realised something was missing. We had not decided upon our weekend track. Last year it had been Buy U A Drank by T-Pain. (On a side note, just discovered a smooth lounge cover by Jesse McCarthy. I know it sounds insane, but it is actually very good, head over YouTube!) So this year, what was the song going to be? Well it was an easy decision for me, but I had to text Dave and get confirmation. He was thinking exactly the same. Lollipop by Lil Wayne. We had blasted the song on the TV on Saturday morning, plus I had heard it several times and even watched the music video on my Zen on the journey up and down the line. It was set then, the weekend anthem perhaps is a little over extravagant. We hardly did any crazy clubbing (there are no urban clubs in Wrexham) and remember we are both nearly 27 now. Old men whom both prefer to be home in time for Match Of The Day and nice cup of tea! (Two sugars please…)

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Monday 2nd July 2007

A one hundred per cent certified rock and roll weekend. So here I am, on Monday evening, trying to put together something interesting to say about the past three days. So much to cover and the pressure of time raging against me as always. (Along with Pav and Chris anticipating the next entry.) So here I go, trying to cover the misadventures of the past seventy two hours. Before the story begins, you need a quick background recap. My car is at the garage. Nothing too serious, just the colour for the driver’s rear side quarter does not match the rest of the car. So on Monday last week, it was picked up and I was given a deep red 06 reg Fiat Punto (Mark 2 B) Active with a measly 1.2 engine. It was not so much of an issue on Tuesday or Wednesday but when I realised that my car would not be ready for Friday, I was gutted. One of the main reasons for my trip to Wrexham, was to show Dave my new ride. There was a moment, when I was seriously considering canceling the weekend. Having planned this trip months ago, I thought it unfair not to go. Plus, it was back in September that I last saw my friend. So, I headed out of my estate at 9:03am, knowing all to well that perhaps the biggest object I would miss would not be the two litre turbo diesel engine but the awesome sound system.

I tuned the radio into Kiss and as I came to a stop at my first roundabout, the opening few notes of Umbrella filled the car. My weekend could begin, in some strange way. After all, I was not on my way to the office and it was the last Friday of June. As I hit the motorway, I realised it was going to be a longer journey than normal. It was almost a case of back to the future, my last trip to this part of the world was in May 2003 for Dave’s wedding in my Punto. More than four years have passed since then and I feel so different from that person. Before I go off on some silly tangent, let me focus on the story. My courtesy car was happy at 70, but any more and it groaned with displeasure. I was not in a major hurry but wanted to get to North Wales by midday. I had my Tom Tom 510 with me and it was predicting a few minutes after 12pm. The first major issue was having to switch from the London based urban radio station to BBC Radio One. The signal drops the moment you cut through the chalk cliffs of Oxfordshire. It was Chris Moyles and I listened to his interview with the Spice Girls along with his selection of music but it was not long before Jo Whiley was on air. She would keep me company for the rest of the drive. My next major concern, now that the music was in some way dealt with, was fuel. I had put in £12 in the other day, with the thought of getting back into my beautiful German automobile by Thursday. Thankfully, the on board computer has been vastly improved so you get details on the mileage you can cover before needed to refuel. The distance is around 180 miles and the computer reported 160 miles as I left but this fluctuated up and down slightly as I was on the motorway, but I opted to get as far as I could. If the truth be known, I am confident I could have made it all the way without stopping for fuel but I had to. Particularly when the computer stop displaying miles and replaced them with dashes! The drive was steady, not really that busy, until you hit the M42 and M6 interchanges. Then once you are past the heart of Birmingham you get a clear run onto the M54, when it the motorway becomes a dual carriage way and you are about an hour or so away from your destination. I stopped for fuel at the Welcome Break services at Telford. I was hoping for a BP station but had to with my old employers, Royal Dutch Shell. I put in £32 thinking I had filled the tank but finding it was only three quarters full. Enough for the weekend, or so I hoped. I was back on the road and listening again to Radio One. The rain came down in a strong torrent and I was battling to see ahead of me. After about ten minutes, the rain past and the road once again was clear. The journey is unique for me, I am so used to people living close to the motorway or at least a few main roads from a motorway. As the M54 ends and becomes the A5, you are on dual carriage roads for a good few miles before switching to single carriageway roads that cut through the green landscape.

I got into Wrexham just before 12pm. I went right past Dave’s apartment complex, as I was concentrating on where the TomTom. The maps had not been updated, as the area had turned into a circle one way system. I drove around and parked up at the new retail centre and called my friend, I then called my Dad to let him know I had arrived safely. He came over a few minutes later and I jumped out the car to go and meet him. I had arrived. However, I had a bucket load of things to do before the weekend could officially begin. He jumped in my so called ‘ride’ and we drove around to his apartment. Well actually I got in the wrong lane first, heading out of Wrexham but turned around at the entrance to the railway station. We then saw Dave’s Mum’s 106 parked up in their spot, so I parked up further down the road. We then grabbed my things and entered for the flat. I was impressed, very impressed. I had not expected this. Gower Homes are behind the complex of luxury apartments here at Caxton Place. The only minor inconvenience was having my car park directly outside Dave’s bedroom window but having to walk around to get inside. However, I could live with that plus, I am not that lazy yet. His place is on the second floor so we jumped in the lift and headed up. The corner flat in group of floor. I was surprised at how spacious it was for a one bedroom flat in close to a town centre. The plot had been disused when I was last up here, over four years ago. I quickly grabbed my laptop and started to get some work done. So much had to be done before I could relax.

I do not want to bore anyone with the details of the work that needed to be done but there are some social and personal items that needed to be crossed off the todo list, so I will do my best to cover everything. All of these things had been bubbling in my head, since I had been on the M40. First thing, I logged into Swift Cover rang the windscreen helpline. I was impressed with how helpful and courtious the young lady on the phone was. She took all my details, my location and said the RAC Windscreen workshop would call me. Although at the end she noted that on her system, she was taking bookings from Tuesday onwards. I knew that if a mobile unit could not come to me, I would have to drive and get it fixed somewhere. I noted down my reference number and then moved onto doing the work that needed to be done. In the background, I had FireFox running, logged into the FA website, queuing to get tickets for England versus Germany at Wembley in August. I got the work done and sent it down the line but had to keep a low profile, as MSN Messenger had signed me in. I remained offline, I did not want to give an impression to the wide world, that I was available to chat. The queue for the tickets eventually came down, as I enjoyed a nice cup of tea made by Dave. I eventually got into the online ticket shop, or so I hoped. I entered my user creditentials but the site crashed, two more attempts but then I was thrown to the back of the queue and had to start again. Dave wanted to go into town and I said I would try again later in the afternoon. I put my phone on general profile (something I rarely ever do) and we walked into town. There was gentle rain but nothing too trastic as we walked the few minutes to the town centre. It is literally a case of negiotating a T junction and you are there. We headed to Dave’s shop. I better change that or he will get big headed, the store he works at. It is the high street jeweler HM Samuel. We were not here for long, I just said hello to his colleagues and manager and we headed around the town. Lisa was at the travel agent booking their next holiday. They had been home three days after their most recent trip to Bulgaria and would return in May. By this time, it was around 1.30pm and I called home to speak to my Dad and explain the situation with the windscreen. I few minutes later, I would miss the call from RAC Auto Windscreens in Chester and could only call them back once I got back to Dave’s apartment, as the reference number was stored on my laptop. Great! My memory of events is patchy, even with notes, plus the constant chatting on MSN to my friends. Lisa’s niece, Katlin was also out and forced Dave to take her to Eccelston Bakery so she could by some carrot cake. Once everything was confirmed at Going Places we headed back to the apartment for lunch. I called the windscreen fitters and booked an appointment for first thing Saturday morning. They were based at Sealands Industrial Estate, just outside Chester. Early start tomorrow Dave I said, as he served up the food.

It was nice to sit down for a meal for change and relax. The whole afternoon and evening was clear ahead of us and we could do whatever we wanted. So, what did we do? Katlin played on the 360. A mixture of games, including a downloaded version of the original Paper Boy (the SNES version I believe). A game which Mighty Mouse had running on his Treo a few years back. It was strange to see such outdated graphics but with Katlin using a wireless control. It was like we had stepped into the early 1990s. After she got bored, she played Bejeweled, which you may recognise if you have ever played the game on MSN. Katlin then played some other arcade games which were just single player demos that DJ had downloaded from XBox Market Place with his Microsoft Points. Then, having got bored for video games, she started to watch Pocohutas II on Disney Channel before her granddad arrived to sweep her away. I had by this time switched my attention to Dave’s antique laptop.

It was a Dell Lattitude CPt, manufactured in May 1998, so ancient by modern technology standards. I tried my best to breathe new life into the machine but it was an uphill struggle. I removed unneccessary programs, fonts and other utilities. I also increased the size of the swap file and tidied up what I could. It was slighty faster but not much better so my only diagnosis was to advise to purchase a new one. Has to be done. We tried to sign Dave up onto FaceBook but IE 6 crashed. I had been telling him about the social networking site all day and shown him a few profile pages on my work laptop.

Lisa had the remote in her hand and it was the soap hour. She watched a variety, Home & Away, (twice, back to back with a screening on Five Life) Coronation Street and then finally my favourite Eastenders. After this, we decided what to do for the evening, I thought we might go to the cinema but we opted to stay in and watch the Premiere on Sky Movies. It was Lucky Number Slevin. It was a great movie but unfortunately I stopped watching towards the end, or rather paying little attention. Shame really because that was, from what patches I saw the best part of the movie. Never mind, I will catch it again in the near future. I cannot think what the distraction was, may have been looking at something online. I feel asleep on my air matteress around 1am, knowing all to well that there was a busy day ahead with yet another early start.

Dave

I over estimated, as I usually do in these circumstances. I was up at quarter to eight and wanted to be at the Sealands Industrial Park by 8.30am, to be the first car fitted with a new windscreen. As it panned out, we left Wrexham at 8.30am and did not get to Chester until just before 9am. The completion time jumped from an hour to ninety minutes, most likely as they had a BMW Z3 in the workshop already. Dave and I headed to the retail park the other side of the main road, in the rain. We were reminising about school, all those old faces. David kept throwing names at me and we would check out FaceBook later that evening. We headed first to PC World, just to get in from the wet. The whole retail park was dead, with just a few cars in each of the car parks. I was surprised at how friendly staff at PC World were. Perhaps they are trying to convince us that they are exactly like those actors from the television adverts. We had a look around, at laptops, some desktop machines and digital cameras. Then we slowly headed for the exit. We then walked around the complex, to find a Cineworld around the corner. Dave then thought we could pop into Next for a while, just to kill the time. We did, but there was little to see and all the shop assistance were just congreatated in the entrance area gossiping away. After Next, we went over to TK Maxx and then Soccer World. I bought some football boots, in anticipation of my fitness course which starts next Thursday. I am quite nervous about the whole thing actually and not looking forward to the stupid tests I will have to complete. However, I cannot moan too much, it is free and run by my friend Christopher Williams. Dave of course picked out the flashy gold, bright blue or white designs. I wanted something less “look at me” and more quiet and reserved to reflect my character as a person (but not footballer, as I could never be described as one of those). I chose a pair of black Nike boots with a white swoosh. I will take a photo and upload at some point. I also bought some football socks but opted out of shinguards. By this time it was approaching 10.20am, so we headed back to the car, it was still raining. With the car repaired we decided what to do. Should we go back to Wrexham or should we go into the city centre. I opted for the latter. I had wanted to come to Chester for a long time, one reason being that it is the location for the soap Hollyoaks (even though it is actually filmed in the Wirral). We parked in the multistorey car park at 10.50am and walked to the shopping centre. It was still raining. The place was extremely busy as it was Roman Day at Chester Racecourse. As you can imagine many people, dressed in their smart suits and over elaborate dresses were out in force across the town. Shame the weather had let them down. We went to get some lunch, after browsing a few shops. Dave pointed out the most expensive cereal on the planet. A box of Oreos retailing for some £7. Who would buy them? They seriously cannot be that good, can they? We headed out onto the High Street. We thought we would pop into Weatherspoons but it was packed and it was perhaps only 11.30am. We then opted for Yates around the corner, it was not as busy but still a long queue at the park. We got a table, ordered some food and waited. Just like when I was in the Yates in Leicester back on February 18th they played music from 2003, the year I was on placement and ironically the last time I had been up to Wreham to see Dave. It was strange watching all these old music videos be played on the screen. Lunch was very good, but the pub was packed by now, we had beated the rush but only just. Nice to have a leisurely meal with an old friend and just chat about old times, memories, the silly things, the stupid things. This was perhaps my favourite moment from the whole weekend. I wish I saw David more regularly than I do, but we cannot make fun of the 360 mile distance, particularly as Dave is still yet to put on those L plates. We speak on the phone regularly but it is not the same as seeing someone in the flesh.

There was only one way out of the multistorey car park (back down the way we came) but I decided to drive right to the top, onto the roof then turn around and drive back down. Stupid fool. Killed a few minutes of time and got my money’s worth o £5.90 for three hours parking. As we pulled out onto the main road (it was 12:58pm) and picked up radio reception, the station was playing “Umbrella”. I put the volume up on the factory fitted stereo. Pitiful performance but it would do the job. I commented to Dave how much better any music would have sounded in my A3. Such a shame things worked out the way they did. We got back to Wrexham at 1.30pm and it was time to jump on the laptop quickly before having a few rounds of Pro Evo 6 on the X360. David beat me in two of our three matches, Arsenal versus Barcelona, the other matching being a 1-1 draw. I surprised myself by scoring a magical Henry goal out of nothing from just outside the area. It was nice to play computer games again, as it must be several years since I last played any, let alone against someone else. Forza 2 was next with a run around the North Loop, but I was beaten well and truly by a good thirty seconds or so. Dave then had to go back to work to deal with an emergency and I opted to walk around the shops do a little bit of shopping before heading back to the flat and waiting for Lisa. Saturday had turned out to be extremely wet, particularly here in Wrexham. A few minutes later, Lisa arrived with her Dad and sister with the shopping from ASDA. They had left Katlin in the car and she wanted to get home for tea. After packing everything away, we sat down and watched Third Watch on FX. I was getting into, but decided to rest my head on the arm rest and then feel asleep. When I woke up, it was quarter to seven, Dave had come back to the flat and was a sleep on the sofa infront of me. My Dad had called me several times on my mobile and Dave had picked up the phone, exampled I was asleep and that I would call back later. I called back but my parents were out shopping, so I would call them after Doctor Who. I was looking forward to the finale of series three.

I was disappointed a little with the ending, not the story of how the Master was defeated but his actual death. Such a shame, because he has / was always the best foe for the Doctor. As usually, most aspects of the way the TimeLord is able to turn around an impossible situation is so far fetched perhaps even the youngest of viewers would see through it. Nevertheless, it was a nice touch to go back in time just as Uncle Sam is shot and return the planet to some sense of normalty. Captain Jack returns to Cardiff, which means Torchwood Series Two still has a ruthless leader in charge. Is it bad for me to say, I am looking forward more to the return of TW than Doctor Who Christmas Special (or Series Four). I suppose, I am growing up and realising that all I am watching is an amazing children entertainment show.

I thought we might go down to the ‘pictures’ (as they refer to it in this part of the world) but the local Odeon had last showing of 9pm. (Can you believe that for a Saturday evening?) There was nothing I really wanted to watch, so we opted to go out. I was not really in the mood if I am honest. A trip down to a bar would have been fine, but we ended up in Envy. I came here back in October 2002, but it had been renovated since then. The nightclub actually consists of two areas, Envy which is over 25′s only and Liquid which is the bigger main part of the club and for over 18s. However, as we came into Envy our hands are stamped and we have unrestricted access to the Liquid area. This being the first weekend of the smoking ban in England, it was a surprise for me to find a ‘Smoking Terrace’. One guy refused to put out his cigerette in Liquid and was thrown out by one of the bouncers. The joys of late night life in a town centre. The DJ in Envy was absolutely pants, not even attempting to mix tracks. While I can fully appreciate he is playing more commericial material for the crowd, a little talent on the decks would have been nice. Upstairs, the DJ was playing a good variety of dance tunes, but again absolutely no thought in terms of mixing tracks. The venue slowly filled up and before long was packed. After a few drinks and trips around both dance floors, I left my friends alone and went for a wonder. I spotted one of Dave’s work colleagues all dressed up in black and white strips, with whistles and baseball caps. I then headed down to let him know but by the time we got back upstairs, the group had dispersed. It was nearly 1am, time to go I think.

Monday 5th May 2003

My dear friend, Mr. David Jones, has finally taking the plunge and if I may be so bold to use a Welsh, or rather Wrexham saying, “applied the handbrake”. To those of you, unaware of the meaning behind this, he got married on Saturday. I must say, that this being my first experience of a Christian wedding, being thrown into the deep end (just a tad!) by being Best Man. It was a day, I won’t forgot for a long, long time. The church, St. Paul’s was set, high up in the Welsh valleys and you look across and down into the town of Wrexham. Breathtaking stuff, and indeed a very surreal experience. Mr. Jones, is the last person, we would have thought would be taking such a step, at a tender age of 21. Who, am I, to stand in the way of one man’s happiness. Happiness is such a unique commodity and one, when we find, we should endeavour to hold on to, regardless of others view of such things. After all, we should remember, to not allow anyone to come in between our happiness.

I wish Dave and Lisa the best for the future and do hope they build on the happiness they have found and find nothing but success lights the way.

Photographs to be uploaded to the photos page, within the coming week.

Not much to report really. My weekend mileage, was considerably lower than last weekend, clocking up a total of 400 miles, which was in fact reasonable.

Music wise, I was keen to watch the Q Music channel, which was having a Q Mix week. Having already downloaded the classic, mix of Bee Gees – Staying Alive, Britney Spears – Slave For You and Shakria – Wherever, Whenever, last year. I was keen to hear some of the latest mixes that had been produced. I was keeping my eye on the play list, at the bottom of the screen to see what the channel had to offer. To my surprise, there was Craig David versus Survivor. Well the latter artists’ song was an easy guess, “Eye Of The Tiger”, but I was searching through my head on which tune, would be fighting the soundtrack classic. I didn’t need to think for long, the next song to came on, was the one in question and it was Fill Me In. My mind flew back to October 1999, when this song was in the charts. Such a different time in my life. I was in college, I was driving for the first time and life was considerably different. How times and circumstances change. The song however, still holds something special place in my heart, if not for the time and place, but more for the people whom were so much a part of my life then.

Another, so called comeback. No, comeback is not the correct word. Return, return of an amazing dance artist. Sonique, whom I recall watching live at Party In The Park, back in 2000, which was my first year at the event in aid of the Prince’s trust, organised by London’s Hit Radio station, Capital FM. Her song, “Can’t Make Up My Mind” will be one of the anthems for the car this week. Looks, like I need to go back to the drawing board with the Club Mix MP3 CD.

What has been learned in the past month, is that looking back, although does so much for your soul, it does little for your heart and therefore we must do our utmost to keep looking forward, and indeed keep on moving….

Sunday 27th April 2003

Taking into account the amount of mileage, I do purely for work purposes, you would think that I would have some sense, to keep my “Social, Domestic and Pleasure”
mileage, to a bare minimum. Having a hectic weekend planned, and having a tight (very tight) schedule, I was looking at matching my weekly commuting mileage (over 600 miles) with the journey I had planned from Friday through to today! :)

As I parked up outside Dave’s flat in Wrexham, my trip computer, ticked over to 300 miles EXACTLY! It was Friday 25th April, 20:30. As I cruised and pulled into my drive, a few hours ago, my mileage had reached 601 exactly! I think, I will need a week to recover from my driving, let alone anything else.

Great to see Dave, again. Had the fitting for my ‘threads’. “Looking quite FLY”, as DJ would say. Getting me extremely nervous now, particularly, as the big day is less than a week away. It was were I stayed Friday night and spent the evening reminiscing about the past, present and future. Then, after the fitting on Saturday morning, it was a quick pub lunch, down the local. I also saw the kick off to Bolton versus Arsenal, before I had to jump back onto the motorway, for the next part of my superman mission! :) The missions you do, when you suddenly become BEST MAN! :)

Then, off to MK, for the third time. What can I say? An experience? Again, this was a works do, organised by the Social Coordinator, (Under 30′s division) so when you see him, please tell him, to sort things out, so they run a lot more smoother. We can’t have everyone’s vehicle being ticketed, by those lovely MK traffic wardens. Its such a disappointment.

The only other disappointment, was the venue. (Well our intended venue, was to be Oceania) Unfortunately, the dress codes for some places, seems to have hit the roof. You even have to be labelled up correctly. “We don’t do Rockports!” was the explanation, from the bouncer. I felt close to saying something like, “Is it coz Is BLACK?” But hay, you have to get the dress-code correct, yourself. A collar, which I thought, took you from casual, to smart. But unfortunately, you need to have the right labels as well. So does that mean, if you haven’t got your Happy Shopper threads on, they just won’t let you in. You never know, they might start saying that if your glasses aren’t the correct label, you got no chance either. Do I see a case for discrimination coming along?

Hero worship? Well there are loads of heroes out there in our small little worlds. But for me, there are certain people you just worship, and look up to. Even if its just because of their extended knowledge on OMS. Jase, nice to see you out in MK, its a shame, you didn’t get me a drink, but don’t worry, I won’t hold it against you. I hope that you still have my business card! :)

Audio wise, I’ve ‘burnt’ my club mix MP3 CD, and also another to my Pure Pop collection. When did I get into Boy bands? Well, there was only 1 song, from 1999, that got me into the ‘genre’. “I Want It That Way”, by the Backstreet Boys. Being their first, slow song, I suddenly became a semi-fan, while my sisters had been raving about them since 1997. Just my chance, I downloaded that song for my Pure Pop MP3 CD (disc 2 of 2) and found a rare re-mix. The song and score are exactly the same, the lyrics are slightly different and of-course there is a heavy bass line! :) This put into my head, the fact that I needed a Pure Pop album, “The Boyz Strike Back”. Then they all started coming out the woodwork, New Kids on the Block, Take That, Boyzone, to recent great boy bands such as 5ive and Blue.

Don’t expect any further updates to this sight for the coming weeks, I’ve had to schedule this update in my diary. (In between all the directions to Wrexham, MK and High Wycombe!) Take care of yourself and I’m sure I will have a massive update from the big weekend, yet to come! :)

Oh yeah, I’ve forgotten to mention something. I had the full DEMO, of the Fiat Stilo Abarth on Friday! I haven’t even been for a test drive yet, but it looks like the Honda Civic Type-R, has been blown out the water. Unless the “Power Of Dreams” can suddenly give me enough gadgets to run a business from within my car. :) Thanks to Dave and the MAIN man, Baz.

Thought of the week comes courtesy of birthday boy, Mr. Eddie Standen: “Image and no substance”, we will endeavour to not live up to this, cliché!

Sunday 13th October 2002

How are you all? I hope you all had a fantastic weekend. I got back from Wrexham at around 3pm this afternoon. I had a great time. It was lovely to see Dave again,
spend the weekend with him and reminisce about old times. The drive up on Friday night was quite a trek. I left Wycombe, at 7pm and got into Wrexham at 10.30pm, so I made good time, with the 170 mile journey. Driving at night is a different game compared to driving in the day. It was raining quite heavily when I joined the M6
from the M42 and it continued to get worse as I headed onto the M54 for the final part of the journey. The final stretch takes you on the A5 which is mainly dual
carriageway. I was not 100% confident that I was heading in the right direction because there are no signs for Wrexham, until you are about 20 miles away.

England, as always, left it late to beat Slovakia on Saturday evening. It was great to see Owen get on the score sheet. The first half was a diabolical
performance, no matter how bad the pitch was, we can’t expect an England to play so badly. With our world class midfield, we seemed lost at sea, and the Slovakian team played as a unit almost around us. Luckily, in the second half, we played how we should for the whole match, with hunger, with that bite, with that roar of the Three Lions. Looking forward to Wednesday’s qualifier against Macedonia. Hopefully Erickson with play an attacking formation, with the firepower we need upfront.

I enjoyed my weekend away, it gave me the time and space that I have longed for, in several weeks. It was great to be away from all the hassles at home and spend time with a friend whom I’ve know for most of my life. He hasn’t changed, he’s still the same Dave I knew at Primary school. That is something that we should always remember. Nobody ever changes, no matter how distant they grow (or go!) from you. Essentially, they remain exactly the same person they have always been. Their environment and circumstances will change, that is inevitable, but this has a small bearing on them as a person. Of course, people adjust from the challenges placed in front of them, remember that you will always be you. Nobody, nothing and no one can ever, or will ever change that. I suppose that is the lesson, that I have learnt from the weekend. That change isn’t such a big issue as people continue to make out. Change occurs around us, but never within.

I took several photographs, which I will soon develop and then scan so they can be uploaded to my photos page. I’ll try and get something together! I am just sorting out through some albums (both past and present) and I’ll try and get them scanned this week too! There should be some new pages appearing soon, once I get the HTML code looked at.

Well I wish you all the best for the coming week. I’ll try and do a more website orientated news bulletin later in the week (most likely Wednesday!) As always, please
please keep e-mailing me. I love to hear from you and reply to every e-mail I receive. :)

What words of wisdom to leave you with on this Sunday evening? There is a song that got a considerable amount of airplay in the week and always was played in
Liquid, the club I went to on Saturday night. A classic song, with a very romantic verse:

“Now nothing can change what YOU mean to Me…
There’s a lot that I could say
Just hold Me now…

Cause our LOVE with LIGHT the WAY….”

May you too find love…and let it light the way… Take care for now.

Saturday 29th September 2002

The month quickly draws to an end. Amazing, time is passing by so quickly. The days passed into the weeks and then the months. Not much to report with regards to the website. I have been busy sorting out photographs that I would like to upload, this is taking much longer than expected. I know that I have neglected my England
page and therefore, I will be working on bringing that up to standard over the coming week. This will be my only update this week, and I may be too busy next weekend to have a chance to look at the site. I’m off to Wrexham from Friday 11th October until Sunday 13th October, so I will not be able to give any update that weekend. I will however, try and find time during the course of the week to add my usual comments. Of course, please get in touch via e-mail or the various message clients I use, to let me know what you think of the site.

The week at work, was hectic. I was extremely busy with many things going on, and my work programme continuing to increase. I have completed several tasks, but I have been many more to undertake. On a personal level, I have been very strong, or attempted to be very strong this week. I think, to a certain extend I achieved his,
but by Friday the energy I had, was being drained by the demands of my work and the pressures of the predicament I face. I have the support of many people, and they give me HOPE. Hope that I’m not being naïve by following my heart, by going with my instinct. This coming week should be a test for my instincts. I know that if I can think of nothing but the goal I’m trying to achieve, and do everything, with this in the forefront my mind, I will do nothing but win. As usual, only time will tell.

Perhaps with time I can too find answers. Answers to questions which will shape the next handful of days. I know that many believe I’m being foolish, chasing a lost pipedream. But I think, if I don’t give this the time, money it deserves, I will look back at my life thinking what could possibly have been. Hopefully, I will not be
reminiscing but enjoying the fruits of my labour. Achieve, I will……..!

Looking forward to next week, Scott Mills is back on the BBC Radio 1 Breakfast Show, sitting in for Sara Cox. I am especially looking forward to Bootie Call. Take care for now. I hope you have a fantastic week, and you too achieve.

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