I heard about the march at the start of the year and conveniently planned to be in Wycombe on the proposed day of the march. Unsure why Slough in particular was chosen but there was a heavy police presence around Salt Hill Park as I drove down Stoke Poges Lane heading to the M4 and out of the Slough around 10:30am on Saturday.
Once in the comfort of my parents house and a good twenty two miles away from Slough, I caught up with events on Twitter and later watched uploaded footage on YouTube
It is a shame they had to protest in the town I now call home, but I was glad to see a large contingent of offices from Thames Valley Police and other local constabularies plus a great counter protest from anti fascists. To be frank what was the point, particularly with such a small turnout on a weekend in a relatively small town. I can only think it was chosen due to the proximity to London. While I am sure the EDL leaders made a point to highlight the diversity in the town and the fact that white population are now in the minority here. Speaking to the owner of 2 Geezers, the barber shop I use, located on the High Street, there were more anti protestors than actual EDL protesters. The police decided to close the road in the afternoon, so most businesses just shut up shop at 3pm and went home.
Last year when I joined the annual Movember movement for the first time, the decision was at the eleventh hour. I decided to join around 30th October, mere days before the start of November. Roll forward twelve months and this year I am better prepared and taking part with fifteen colleagues. Generation donations to “CA Mouchas” has raised almost £500 before the start of the month, which is pretty good going but to date I am yet to get off the mark. Therefore the begging begins now and where else to start than my personal blog!
You can check out my achievements from last year over on FlickR. I got Michelle to take photos every few days rather than on a daily basis but I ended up looking like a call centre worker from Bangalore (according to my friends Pav and Sippy).
You can go and make a donation on my MoBro page. Although the clever people behind the site will already have e-mailed all my donors from last year with a gentle prod to donate to me again this year. I have also downloaded the official app, which I am trying to use to provide regular updates and photos. The aim is to go for the Hulk Hogan look of the early 1990s but we shall see. The more important target is to raise more money than last year, so anything over £225 will be a big difference to this wonderful cause.
Update – my final total was £320 so I beat my total from last year by almost £100! Thanks to everybody who donated to my page, I really appreciate every penny you gave in support of this fantastic cause. However, I have decided to take a break from Movember for 2014 and possibly for 2015 also. I will be donating to friends MoBro attempts but not partaking myself, after two successful consecutive years raising over £540!
Back in July my friends planned a trip down to the seaside to visit the O2 Academy in Bournemouth. The dance venue, formerly known as The Opera House was hosting the final night of Slinky before the global dance brand closed its doors for good. While the date for the first weekend in October, seemed like an age away, I put my name down as one hundred percent confirmed. While I would perhaps not have planned for a weekend away, I decided to book a cheap hotel and kill two birds with one stone by also seeing my old school mate Steve and his ten month old son Theo. Extended the social gathering to a full day allowing me to catch up with my mate who I had not seen for over two years. The last time I was in Bournemouth was on Wednesday 15th April 2009, when I drove down to watch the Champions League Quarter Final second leg of Arsenal v Villareal.
How time flies, it was over seven years ago since I was last at this venue, seeing Dutch DJ Tiesto perform in early August 2006. The place has been completely refurbished since my last visit and the upstairs balcony now only accessible to those with a VIP bracelet. Back in my carefree single days, the weekend I recall being mega packed with clubbing in Bournemouth on Friday night and then driving straight up to Leicester for my friend Sachin’s engagement party. That was just the way I rolled back in the day. Driving to all locations when now I would prefer to catch the train. I caught the train down to Bournemouth, using the time to catch up on my podcasts and two episodes of Eastenders on the BBC iPlayer I had pre-downloaded onto my Nexus 7 (2012). How times have changed indeed!
A great night had by all. I wish I could say, that I stayed out until I was thrown out of the club at 5am. The reality is that was never going to happen. Being now, such an old timer, I lasted until 2:30am with my friend Paul, when we decided to leave and head back to our respective hotels. I believe the hardcore few, including Kevin stayed until closing time.
Believe it or not this was my first time at Royal Windsor Racecourse. My new employers had arranged a social night out and kindly invited me along. (I had been a last minute addition but thankfully they had a few spare spaces.) It bought back memories of going to Newmarket while on placement over ten years ago, when my employer (a medium sized law firm) at the time arranged a similar event. On that occasion it was Jools Holland performing up in the Grandstand but now Toploader in the paddock at the rear. (How the mighty have fallen…)
My colleague, Sam took a quick photograph with her iPhone which I have uploaded to share with everybody on FlickR.
Beyoncé Gisselle Knowles-Carter, even the full name oozes show business sex appeal. This is the exact phrase I used when partaking in some twitter banter with my colleagues Priyam and Imogen at Microsoft. There were 48 sleeps to go until the Mrs Carter Show World Tour starring Beyoncé would be ending its six day run at the O2, Greenwich Peninsular, London. We would be there along with almost twenty thousand others.
Let me first underline my disappointment that I was not attending this concert with my dearest colleague Harps. He is probably the biggest Beyoncé fan I know but he had not been able to secure tickets. In fact, his plans for the entire Bank Holiday weekend were up in the air. Not only was it is birthday weekend (28 years young now?) but it was also his last day with the company. Talk about planning your exit!
My own plans were a logistic nightmare to resolve. I was going to be over three hundred miles on a boys weekend in Newcastle. I could not rely on them driving me back to Reading in time for the evening show, (plus I would still need to get myself from Reading to the other side of London) so had booked a flight back. With hindsight, it probably would have made sense to book the flight up there, as we had a catalogue of issues which ended with me having to book a last minute train instead.
I got up early on Sunday morning, got ready and headed out the hotel at 8am sharp. In the early hours of Sunday morning, security had been called to Pav and Ben’s room due to noise and the boys told to go to sleep. I had sneaked off to bed a few minutes before the reprimand and saved myself the embarrassment although with all the hotel rooms booked under my name I perhaps should have been worried. I headed back to the station and got the Metro. I bought a ticket which cost about three pounds and worked out my route to Newcastle International Airport. The tube in the North East was relatively busy for a Sunday morning with people heading to work around the city. As I made my way out into the suburbs and beyond, the number of passengers tailed off with just a few of us left for the final stop at the terminal. I made my way to the check-in kiosk and put in my credit card to verify my identification. It was at this point my Barclaycard was eaten by the machine. In a mild panic, I headed to the information desk to a helpful chap to explain what had happened. It was only then I realised why my card had been eaten by the kiosk. In my haste to make this booking, I had made a minor typo on my surname, “Tegal” instead of “Tegala”. Was this going to cause a problem on a domestic flight? Thankfully the airport employee went to check and it was not going to cause any problems whatsoever. He retrieved my card for me and waited to ensure I printed my boarding pass before wishing me a safe flight back to London. I now had plenty of time to kill before my flight. I wanted to get something to eat first of all before killing time listening to music and using my tablet. Priyam had a countdown running on her iPhone 5 and she had sent me a screenshot of the image, which I promptly uploaded to FlickR and created a quick post onto my blog. Probably the ideal moment to have used Tumblr for such an update. (I joined the service towards the end of the month)
Now I had several hours to kill before my flight, so decided to make use of my tablet as much as possible. I read the news, caught up on some blogs, checked my social media and was listening to my mp3 player at the same time. While I had some breakfast and a extra large mug of tea, Beyoncé’s Sweet Dreams came on either the radio or internal PA system. In some nine hours time we would be watching the superstar before a sold out crowd. Until then I had quite a long journey via plane, train and tube to the venue.
My flight was less than an hour but taking into account boarding and disembarking and taxiing to and from the terminals, as well as being stacked to land over Heathrow it was perhaps nearer to two hours in total travel time. I had to wait several minutes for my luggage to arrive at the carousel. I had opted to put it in the hold to make life easier while around Newcastle airport and not having a bag to worry about or carry around. I was then making my second trip by train. I caught the Heathrow Express to Terminal Four and from here got the slower Heathrow Connect to London Paddington. An American got onto the train near me and was asking me why it was so busy on a Sunday afternoon. I explained to him that it was a Bank Holiday Weekend and we had an extra day off (Monday). He nodded and sat down, busy with his smartphone checking up on work or perhaps his weekend plans.
Once at Paddington, I had to wait for Michelle, whom had caught the slow train from Slough. Once she arrived, we would make our way to our hotel in Strafford before grabbing a quick bite to eat in Westfield and heading straight over to the O2. We got there early because, as usual I was over eager. To the point I accidentally joined the VIP security queue at the entrance only to be directed by the security guard to the next queue for standard ticket holders. We made our way up the escalators, got a drink and headed for our seats. The guy at the snack kiosk had informed us that Beyoncé appears around 8pm and James somebody was the support act. We took our seats and waited for our friends to arrive.
Priyam with her twin brother Dipen, fellow MS employee Imogen and Priyam’s friend Kavita arrived casually just before 8pm. They had been for food at one of the restaurants in the complex and planned to head back into the West End after the show.
What can I say? This was an awesome show. Beyoncé was full of so much energy, passion, enthusiasm and gave such a wonderful performance, I am lost for words on how to actually describe the experience. The whole show surpassed my expectations. The constant costume changes, the high tempo dance moves, the band playing at full pelt, a group of dancers at the top of their game. A personal highlight was when Beyoncé came across to the middle of the audience to perform Love On Top – one of my favourite songs.
There is always the anti climax as you leave the O2 at the end of a gig. The realisation that the event you had waited for several months for, was over and you need something new to look forward to. I should have gone with Priyam and friends to Leicester Square where they bumped into Beyoncé’s backing dancers out for the evening to celebrate their final date in London. Michelle and I had headed back to our hotel but had to stop off at the only fast food restaurant open in East London for a bite to eat. I was surprised at the amount of people around at 1am in the morning, including a group of guys roller blading in the old shopping centre. With the security guard doing nothing to even acknowledge their existence.
Probably with hindsight, I should not have gone to the gym on Thursday night and instead focused on packing for my weekend away with the boys in Newcastle. Being the keen gym bunny that I am now, I decided I would pack straight after dinner on Thursday evening. Say around 8:30 – 8:45pm. During the course of eating, I noticed a slight headache start and decided the best course of action was to lie in bed for a few minutes, let the headache pass and then crack on with the packing. The next moment I woke up and looked across at my alarm clock, it was 00:35. I swore, a rather pathetic way to release the tension. I would now have to pack at 4am in the morning in a rush.
Let me first fill you in on events throughout the week. Firstly Geoff had pulled on late on Tuesday evening, so we left with just six travelers by car for Friday morning. Too many for one car, too few for two cars. Pav looked at renting a seven seater for the weekend and split the cost of rental and fuel. However trying to rent a large vehicle just prior to a Bank Holiday Weekend was just a no no! If a vehicle was available nearby, the costs were just astronomical. A decision had to be made and somebody had to take the hit. I decided to take the train up which would be funded by my friends. While it perhaps would have made sense to get the direct service from Reading to Newcastle, I opted to get a ticket from Slough via London’s Kings Cross. The reason for this was cost, travelling into London was cheaper and gave me a more realistic arrival time of just before 6pm. Originally when planning this holiday, I was going to take the Friday off to get a four day mini break but as Pav was working half day, I opted to just take the afternoon off (more on this later). It made sense, I would be in Reading at the office anyway and just be able to catch the TVP bus back into town, jump in the car with Pav and boys (the Fox brothers) and hit the road.
I had reset my alarm (ancient smartphone) for 4am and reluctantly got out of bed to pack. I had quite a deal to do but thankfully had made a list earlier in the week. Using this as a reference point, I quickly and more importantly quietly, as to not to wake up Michelle, grabbed my travel bag and clothes from the bedroom and packed everything in the lounge. I put on the laptop to transfer over The Big Bang Theory episode from my server over to my Nexus 7 for the journey. I rushed through my list and then grabbed a quick bite to eat before jumping in the shower. As I was packing away my toiletries, Michelle woke up and kindly made me some sandwiches for the train journey into work, to fuel me for my three hundred mile and almost six hour (including waiting time) trek up to the North East.
I got to work at the usual time but was planning on leaving at midday sharp. Our Director sent out an e-mail to the entire department, giving everybody the afternoon off! Fantastic news but I was slightly annoyed as I had already booked the time off and would have to reverse my holiday to get the time back when I got back in the office on Tuesday. I charged up my gadgets in preparation for my adventure. It was going to be a very long afternoon but at least the sun was shining and I could put on my sunglasses. This among many other simple pleasures in my life. I said goodbye to Harps who was leaving and the rest of my colleagues were off to Frankie & Benny’s up the road for lunch and drinks. I was missing out for a change but cared little. The party tonight was going to be in Newcastle.
It did feel rather strange to be leaving work so early on a Friday afternoon. I was all set as I waited for TVP bus to take me into Reading town centre. From here I planned to catch a direct service to London Paddington. Strictly speaking I should have used a service which stopped at Slough (as per the terms and conditions of my permit to travel i.e. my train ticket). I had plenty of time on my hands. As I made my way up the escalator I got a call from Kevin. He had just landed at Heathrow airport and wanted to know the cost of a ticket up to Newcastle. When I checked earlier in the morning, the price had gone up to £120. Kevin had been delayed by six hours at Dubai airport after his connecting flight from Thailand had disappeared off the radar. It was always going to be tight for him to arrive early on Friday morning prior to us getting on the road. I had received a text message from both Pav and Kevin while I had been sound asleep of these additional obstacles. Kevin had asked if the car group could swing by Terminal 3 to pick him up at 2pm. This was unlikely now, as the road trip gang had decided to get onto the motorway by 11am, if not earlier. Kevin would have to make his own plans, however with all his luggage to carry around, he would have quite a struggle on the train to Newcastle, even if he caught a direct service. The price had rocketed to £160 (on the day tickets are notoriously expensive in this country for our Victorian infrastructure). He would go home, rest and catch the train up in the morning with an ETA of around 2:30pm. My train journey into London was uneventful and the service ran on time. From Paddington I caught the tube to Kings Cross via the District Line. This was the first time I had been at the redeveloped Kings Cross station. Last time I was here was in my final year at University when I caught the train from Leicester to London and then train from Marylebone back to Wycombe. I had some time on my hands, so grabbed a sandwich from Boots and then waited by a screen for my train to be called. I was yards away from Platform 9 and 3/4. The marketing people will never miss a trick to create a tourist attraction within a busy train station concourse. Want to know more, check out the full disclosure from London blogger extraordinaireDiamond Geezer
The station was busy with crowds of people making an early get away for the Bank Holiday Weekend. Plus those heading to business meetings in the afternoon, school kids, college students heading either home for the long weekend or off away with friends for the long weekend. I checked my mobile phone to get updates from Twitter and Facebook and my Yahoo! mail account to kill some time after eating my sandwiches. Shortly before my train was due to depart, an announcement was made. Platform 8, so I headed along with a group of other passengers to the platform. The ticket barrier was up, so I put my ticket away while making my way down the platform to my carriage. It was a long walk towards the front of the train to my carriage. I was near the door at least but found other people in my seat, so sat in an adjacent seat, after putting my luggage on the rack. Once we finally got going, I put on the latest episode of The Big Bang Theory on my tablet to enjoy. Episode 22 from Series 6, imaginatively entitled as always, The Proton Resurgence. However that only killed 24 odd minutes of my journey, I still had over five hours of travel (including one train change) before I reached my final destination. I opted to listen to my mp3 player and switch my tablet of. I needed to conserve power until I reached the hotel as that would be my first opportunity to charge. I was tweeting on a regular basis with updates on my current location and progress on my estimated time of arrival for Newcastle. I was also texting Foxy, to get updates on their progress in Pav’s M3. Bear in mind they left Reading around 10:30am and were north of Oxford an hour and ten minutes after this time. I meanwhile had not even left my office. They were taking a good lead and even my journey to London was a detour of sorts. I believe the cost of a direct train from Reading would have been far too expensive at this time in proceedings. So by the time I was waiting for my train at Kings Cross they were already 166 miles ahead which in journey time was ten minutes within the three hour mark. I was hoping to catch them up but it was going to be tight and if my service had been direct, perhaps I would have been beaten them to the hotel. By the time I got to Doncaster to change, they were within an hour of the city. They checked in around 5pm and I would not make it to hotel until almost an hour later. It was great to see everyone waiting in the lobby. Now the weekend could truly begin in earnest. It was time to switch off the mobile (after I had checked into my room and spoken to the wife and my family back in Wycombe briefly). A break from the online world and social media in general. Time to see if the nightlife in Newcastle really is as good as I have been let to believe.