Category: Holiday

Decembeard

Let me take you back just over three years, my first Christmas at Microsoft, I had booked off extended time over the holidays. My last day coincided with the Christmas night out in Reading, Thursday 15th December. It had just panned out that way with the Operations Team going out for a few drinks and exchanging Secret Santa gifts in Yates on Friar Street. It felt good to be working for a team that took these annual traditions seriously, even though I would have preferred the exchange to have taken place in the office. (Who wants to carry around a Christmas gift all night). In any case, it was a double celebration for me as I would not be back in the office until Monday 2nd January 2012. More than two weeks off, I was going to make the most of my time away, including New Year celebrations across the border in Edinburgh.

While trying not to give away too much information about my personal hygiene regime, I tend to shave Monday to Thursday mornings only. Allowing for a more casual rugged looked on Fridays, the dress down day in most modern offices. However, with the extended time off, I decided to stop shaving and for the first time in my life, grow a beard. The results were mixed to say the least. Some people loved it, others (including my dearest wife) not so much).

As if a long weekend break to the Scottish capital was not enough, a few days later I was off on a ski trip to Austria. I have to let you know the response received once I appeared to meet up with the extended group of friends at Gatwick Airport on the Saturday afternoon of our flight. (I had given a lift to Geoff and Foxy). Emily’s direct question to Geoff was, “Who is this tramp you have brought along with you?”. Now I can understand the reason for this negative feedback, their beard was hardly maintained to any satisfactory standard, either by myself or a barber. It had been a spontaneous decision, born out of the fact that I had no need to keep a professional appearance, I would not be at work for over two weeks. I wanted to see what it would be like to have a beard, particularly as my Dad has had a beard of varied length over the years. (Quite the fashion statement in the 1970s with his signature long hair, not sure if he was modelling himself on Des O’Connor or somebody else).

The response when back in the office on 16th January was again mixed, with many of my colleagues unable to recognise me under the hairy forest. Some people said it suited me, others were not too sure, preferring the clean smooth Andrew they had grown used to for the past four months. The experiment did not last that long, after five working days in the office, the beard was removed on Sunday 22nd January and in the process, I took five years off my life. The only evidence of the beard was on my train photo pass (which I have kept as a momento) and the photographs taken by my friends on the ski trip in Mayrhofen.

Easit Pass

On Thursday last week, as it was the day of our Christmas Lunch at CA, I decided to not shave again and after seven days growth, thought it be good to take before and after photographs and let the blog reading public decide. Should not be hard, as I have about three readers in total.

Bearded Man

Clean Shaven

About two days ago, I had reached the itchy phase and was constantly scratching my face, which is not a great habit to get into, trust me. My ex-MS colleague, Harps had recommended a barbers down Wexham Road that he uses, which would be the best place to go to keep my beard trimmed and tidy. We shall see. I may decide to grow the hair again, later in the year. Although feedback has been mixed, some colleagues love it, other colleagues, friends and even my dearest wife, believe I look much better rocking the clean shaven look. Plus it does make me look younger. Having said that on Friday evening, I was requested ID by the door staff at Browns in Windsor. Now, I know I have baby face features but there is no way I look less than twenty-one, even with the stubble.

Women Glow, Men Plunder

Several months ago I was told by my colleague Samantha, that she was off to travel and work in New Zealand. This did not come as a complete surprise, I had noted a guide book to the Southern Hemisphere country on her Instagram feed, several days earlier. She had actually been afraid I might mention something inadvertently at lunchtime, so decided to tell me on a walk to the Manor after lunch one afternoon. Jealous is not the word, I was beyond envious that she was heading off to a completely different continent but most importantly with no coherent plan. It was a leap of faith which many of us fear to take!

Since joining CA, I would have described Sam as the closest friend I have made in the office. Mostly for our shared love for US televisions shows and movies. I mentioned Suits and she re-watched the first series and then watched the second season in almost tandem with me and we spent many a lunch hour discussing Harvey, Mike, Rachel and Louis. This weekend past, she has been binging on Glee (from season one) and I have confirmed privately that I too am a closet GLEEK!

While she would not describe herself as major office personality within our team she was a keen social butterfly, always organising Friday night drinks and other events such as leading our volunteer day! I will miss her warm presence in the office and beaming smile. Although we never directly worked with each other I know she was a dedicated member of the Operations Team.

In the middle of February she was considering starting a blog to record all her adventures and I was pleased to offer my fifty pence of advice! By the end of the weekend, she had started StarTrekkingWithKodakKirky (what a mouthful!!).

I hope Sam will think of me, among others stuck in Ditton Park, Datchet updating reports while she starts a new life Down Under. I wish her the utmost good luck and part of me wishes I could be just as courageous. Maybe in another lifetime!

Fog On The Tyne

I was born in England and have spent all of my life in this green and pleasant land. However, there are still many places I have yet to visit and enjoy. (Do not worry dearest reader, I shall not be breaking into one of the lesser known mid nineties soft rock/pop songs by Elton John). While many glamorous destinations abroad are on my list, I still have a great deal of exploring to do on these shores. (Maybe I should be brave enough to publish a list one day!) Back in December at the annual Christmas meal with friends, newly qualified driver Ben mentioned the fact that he would like to go on a weekend road trip. For some reason, we decided to travel as far as possible within our own English border. The city of Newcastle was chosen as the party destination for a long weekend. Now we just had to select the date mutually acceptable to all members of the party group. The final obstacle was gaining clearance from our other halves (this was turning into a stag weekend without the wedding or groom!) Easier said than done, in some cases! The event was initially billed as Foxy’s 30th birthday (even though it was taking place a week afterwards). This had to be changed to Kev’s 32nd in order for Fox to obtain permission from his otherwise to green light this lads weekend!

I have never been to the North East, let alone the city of Newcastle-upon-Type. My earliest memory of the city are from the late 1980s school educational television series Geordie Racer. The theme tune was extremely memorable and catchy (ideal when your viewing public are six to seven years old). A year later I started watching a new television show again on the BBC but on this occasion aimed at a slighter older audience. My sisters and I were probably a little young for Byker Grove but it was good fun and a change from some of the contemporary shows on at the time. You must appreciate that as a family, we did not watch Eastenders at this point in our lives. We were fully committed to The Bill on ITV, backed up by our Dad who had always been a fan of the Metropolitan Police drama.

Fast forward over fifteen years and the next time I would consider the city was during the British football movie Goal! released in 2005. I went to see the movie with my friend and colleague Chris at the FilmWorks Maidenhead (as it was then, it is now an Odeon). We were the only two people in the cinema as the film was about to start but were joined by three other guys as the trailers started. The movie was poor but it did give me an understand of how important football is in the North East and what St. James’ Park means to the Geordie boys and girls. It was the first time I saw the city on film in any level of detail. While the film (and the subsequent two sequels) were both disappointing, I gave the director and production team credit for selecting Newcastle as the football club to set their story, rather than the Hollywood desire to follow Manchester United, Chelsea, Liverpool and even to a certain degree Manchester City. Set the film where football is part of the people’s blood.

My manager at the time, Nic had mentioned a trip up to the city he had experienced. A local had been hit by a train, but instead of going to hospital for urgent medical attention, he had decided to go out on the sauce in the city. There was no chance he was going to miss a drink with the lads. Proof, if it was ever needed that us southern softies have no chance among real men of the North East.

There are plenty of famous Geordies and plenty more infamous ones. I will focus my attention on just two. Firstly we have Paul Gascoigne, probably one of the most gifted football players of his generation and it is such a shame his career never hit some of the heights of his true potential (particularly on the international stage). However, he will forever be loved as a son of this city, regardless of his off field battles. In 1990, the year Gazzamania well and truly landed after tears in Turin, everything Paul touched turned to gold. He even appeared on Top Of The Pops.

Do you remember ITV’s Popstars – The Rivals? This was the show that bought us (among other talents) a fresh faced Cheryl Cole, who successfully became part of the reality TV band, Girls Aloud. Little did we know then what the future held for this girl from Southshields. Ultimately you knew very early on that she would branch out with her own solo career and media work, purely because she acted as the spokeperson for the band. Ultimately this has been proven right, as her career as overshadow that of all her band mates. Plus, on two fronts she beats Gazza, she is much better looking and has a much better singing voice. For some reason, at least once a week in the gym since January, they have played Call My Name and I have instantly started thinking of my Boys On Tour Weekend in May, even though it was months away! I have long been a believer that life is not worth living if you have nothing to look forward to.

What am I most looking forward to this weekend? Well it is the first long weekend away with the lads in a considerable amount of time. We have all become rather busy in our own day-to-day rat race lives and rarely meet up as often as we used to. I probably hold the most guilt in this respect and make no excuses that I am my own worst enemy. The last such ‘showpiece’ event was probably Pav’s Stag Weekend in Berlin, which is almost two years ago. It will be great to spend time with them all and create some more memories. I look back at the last few years and some of the best times have been nights out with these group of guys. There is constant entertainment and the ride will be non-stop from the moment I clock off at the office at noon on Friday until I finally say goodbye too early to even contemplate right now, on Sunday morning. My next adventure will not take me home to Slough to rest and recover but instead back into the capital for a concert by Mrs. Jay-Z.

Angel of the North

Return To The Alps

The last time I was on a ski slope was Friday 16th January 2009 and I did not believe I would be back so soon (if at all). A great deal has occurred in the 1087 days (or 2 years 11 months and 23 days) since my last group ski trip. My friends would probably say that they are pleased I have returned to the slopes. Personally I am perhaps looking forward to touching down at Gatwick (injury free, God willing) on 14th January more than anything else. (Although a week off work so soon after two weeks off for the Christmas break are not something to be frowned upon)

This could have been very different. If I had gone on that first ski trip with school way back in 1994, I may now have been an accomplished skier (or boarder) rather than a complete waste of space on the piste as I am now. The ‘statue’ as I am called by my friends (in particular Emily) or perhaps now the portly statue with all the weight I have put on in the almost three year break from the slopes. Perhaps the biggest criticism I received while on my first ski trip in Kitzbuhel back in January 2008 was, after a four days of lessons (not to include several hours of lessons at Escape MK) was as follows. “You are not really skiing!” Thank you so much for that great piece of positive feedback on a sport based ninety nine percent on confidence and a mere one percent on technique.

You are probably wondered why am I going all the way to Austria for a ski trip if I am not a big fan (or even accomplished) skier. The social aspect of the trip is perhaps the defining part of the holiday. This year the group is different (no Paul S or Mel or Ben) so we have new members in the form of Joe, Paul and Kate. The rest remain the usual suspects. The dynamics between t_dogg and The Prof will be interesting to say the least and you have to refer to Pav’s Stag do in Berlin, last year as a preview to this, the main event.

Based on previous trips, and particularly 2009 in Tignes, I have decided to very much play it safe this year. There will be no mistaking red runs for blue runs based on the name (Bluet not Blue A). I will keep myself occupied on the nursery slopes wherever they may be. Although Pav continues to remind me that Mayrhofen is an extreme resort. I will discover that for myself within the space of a few hours. While some may find it boring to complete the same basic run on repeated occasions, being a routine person I quite enjoy the monotony of such a day. My biggest regret from previous ski holidays has always been about ruining other people’s holidays. This is something I do not wish to repeat, there was Geoff chasing me down to the main gondola in Austria back in 2008 and then Emily moments away from raising the alarm to mountain rescue in France in 2009 (while, it should be noted, the rest of my so-called friends had a drink and joked at my demise on the mountain). My dearest wife was quick to respond to my thoughts, “Make sure you still have a good time, it is your holiday as well Teg!”. This of course is true but at times I have felt I am a burden on my friends for my lack of both skill but also winter sports experience. Being in a foreign country and not being able to say more than please and thank you does not help either (but that is a common sentiment with the British abroad). I do try I confess but I am sure most people in most places around the resort will speak English. Although it will be hilarious to watch t_dogg with his spoken English with a German accent once again!

With so many events taking place over Christmas and heading up to Edinburgh for Hogmanay (blog post and photos to be uploaded the moment I get back from holiday) this ski holiday has kind of crept up on me. There are mixed feelings here, meaning I have to rush around to get everything ready tonight, pack, ensure I have all the important items at my disposal (passports, Euros). On the other hand there is no long countdown waiting for the holiday to arrive, as has been the case with the 16th December. (Hardly Olympic standard but since starting my new job I have worked all the way up to my Christmas break from mid August).

One thing for certain, on my return I shall be blocking Pavneet Singh Khural on G-Chat (on Google Mail). He has already been a pain, chasing up this specific posting onto my blog. Even leaving off topic comments on my Facebook status updates throughout Christmas and New Year. The PBE (the preview blog entry is written before any major events I go on with my group of friends (Reading Festival as an example). In recent months, due mainly to my lack of time I have been unable to write these up, as by the time I get to blog, the event has already taken place and writing from a historical perspective is not easy, even if at times it does require a Orwellian style of journalism.

I must end by looking on the bright side. While most of my relatives, friends, colleagues and even complete strangers, head back to work after the Christmas break, they face the January blues. I will do, but I have just delayed them quite purposefully by heading to the Alps for a week with my friends. I wish you well, until I return. I will try to update Twitter and Facebook from time to time, should I find an internet cafe somewhere in the resort. Although the temptation to go fully cold turkey is actually quite appealing, even for me!

Made In England

I’m back, I landed at Heathrow at 10:40am this morning, nearly an hour before I was scheduled to on my Air India Flight 187 from Amritsar. I had an amazing two weeks (twelve days) but am glad to be back home. The feeling I had when I made my way out of the plane (rushing past slow dawdlers ahead of me) to Passport Control and then the baggage carrousel, can only be felt when I know I am back in England. A quick summary of my movements for the past thirty six hours:

  • Friday 23rd January 2010 – 6:35pm (IST) – Wagah Border – Watching the B.S.F. complete the daily “Lowering Of The Flags” ceremony
  • Saturday 24th July 2010 – 6:35am (IST) – Amritsar Airport – On board flight AI187, a Boeing 777-300, taxing towards the runway
  • Saturday 24th July 2010 – 6:35pm (BST) – High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire – Uploading photos onto my computer from my epic trip!

I will try my best to put together a blog post for every day of my trip and put all the photographs (over 700!) onto FlickR. Right now though, I really need to get some sleep! I had about ninety minutes sleep last night (or should I say this morning).

India

Perhaps My Palace In The Sky

This might surprise you, but this was my first trip on an Air India flight. Previously we have always flown British Airways and on one occasion United Airlines. Then again, we have always flown to New Delhi. This was not just a change of airline but a change of destination. Direct to the Punjab and the city of Amritsar, home of The Golden Temple. We flew out on a Boeing 777-300 and were seated in the middle set of seats (Row 36 D-E-F). Perhaps I should pick up the story, from the moment we went through security.

Those lovely people at Heathrow opened a new security check in desk (not sure what the exact terminology is) so we actually made excellent progress through security. Until they wanted to check in my sister’s Julie’s bag. She had forgotten to take any liquids out of her hand luggage, so now had the embarrassment of security staff, getting her to empty the entire contents of the bag, to find two tubs of Vicks Vapor Rub at the bottom. These were then placed in plastic bags, and the bag re-screened before we were finally able to go. The new terminal building is a marketing man’s (or woman’s) dream. They navigate you around via the Duty Free Shops, rather than the most direct route through. We were boarding from Gate 23 and were surprised, when we got to the gate and sorted out our hand luggage that there was no queue. All was revealed when we made our way into the departure lounge, it was full with standing room only. For a change everyone was on time and eager to get on board this flight. Being a Sunday afternoon, I suppose made it much easier to organise everybody. We stood in the corner and just talked for a while, as we waited to board the flight. Eventually we were called and in the queue before we had our boarding pass I was having a conversation with youngest sister. “You better be good Julie!”. He response was perhaps typical for a sixteen year old, “Yeah, and you better be good!”. Rather annoyed at this tone being taken with me, I raised my voice (perhaps in hindsight a level too high for an airport departure lounge, “Why do I need to be good? I’m twenty years old!”. From the moment the first words came out of my voice, everyone (and I mean every single person in the lounge) turned around and looked at us and in particularly me and some women gave a look of disgust. I doubt everyone knew what I had said. My sister, smirked and grabbed my arm, “A little too loud, Andrew paa”. Maybe, but I was just getting in the holiday mood! Two weeks off work. I was excited but a little apprehensive too, but was trying my best to hide it all.

Do you enjoy flying? I love it. I think it has a great deal to do with the fact my parents threw me on a play at a very young age. I took my first international flight at the tender age of two in 1984. Ever since I have enjoyed the experience of flying, particularly take off. Okay for landing I can be a ever so jumpy (but not the nervous wreck like my friend Paul). I have a preference for an window seat but never mind I would cope without. In the end, a window would not be required. I was surprised by the amount of tech in economy class. This was the level of luxury you would expect only in Business or First Class. Each seat had a (web based) media player system. This provided not only movies (in Hindi, English and various other regional languages) but music videos, music, television shows, comedy shows. There were two geeky elements that really appealed to me. Firstly being able to monitor the exact location of the plane by GPS and some amazing mapping software (but not quite Google Maps / Earth) but never the less not bad. Just a big shame that this function was not working on any of our three screens. Secondly, we come to the on board cameras. Yes, two cameras – one mounted in the nose cone and the other on the under carriage. Although they were only operationally at selected times in the flight, it enabled me to watch the takeover (and subsequent landing) from the same viewpoint as pilot. This was awesome!

I did not watch any movies, I listened to my Sony Walkman MP3 player for a while (I could charge it thanks to the USB port built into the media player screen) and then started to read the book, my sister Samantha had given to me. My holiday book so to speak. The memoirs of a young Canadian kid who crossed the border and did pretty well in the Sunshine State. I enjoyed the flight, but then I enjoy flying generally. My Mum went to sleep for a while, my sister listened to her iPod and also went to sleep for a while. I rested a little, but I would hardly call it quality sleep at 60,000 ft.

Trying to occupy myself, I watched some music videos on the media player. They was nothing really recent, the hits of Westlife (from their most recent album) or Latest Pop hits which included 50 Cent – Baby By Me, which I am sure is several months old (if not almost a year). This did not help, so I switched back to my own MP3 player. This lasted for a few hours, by which time I had listened to all my favourite tracks and I switched back to reading my book. I wondered if the blog post I had schedule to upload at the time we were taxing on the runway at Heathrow would have uploaded. (The reality was it had not and I would have to upload it manually when I next got to a Internet connection).

The plane landed around 3am, India Standard Time (IST). The captain gave us some details after we had touched down on the tarmac in Amritsar. The outside temperature is 30 degrees Celsius with a humidity of around 40%. I recall the temperature in London had been the same around midday in London on Friday (9th July). If it was this hot in the middle of the night, how hot would it get in the day? Once the plane came to a standstill, we grabbed our things and waited to be escorted off the flight. The doors were opened at the back and we walked down into the heat. We were finally in India, my Mum was back home. I noticed a warm glow from her face, as we boarded the coach to take us the short distance to the terminal building.

India is a very bureaucratic country, I am surprised anything gets done at all. (Is this a legacy of British rule?) Our boarding cards were checked as we entered the terminal building by a policeman. We then were in a long queue waiting for to clear immigration. This was a small airport, still under construction. I could see a large group of people waiting just beyond the immigration desks, behind a glass barrier. I was itching to know the final score of the World Cup. I was quite confident that Spain would have become World Champions. By the time we were called to the desk, I asked the immigration official (after I had a chance to test out my Punjabi with a this civil servant but nevertheless native speaker) but he did not know the score. The flight had come in, he had work to do, rather than check on the score of the biggest sporting event on the planet. After clearing immigration (our documents were checked again before we had to wait at the luggage carousel. There were only two and another flight did arrive shortly after us. Now was the long wait, over an hour in fact for our luggage to arrive. I just guess the crowd staff are at skeleton levels at that time in the morning. Hopefully once this becomes a fully operational international hub, such waits will be a thing of the past. Once we got our bags, we headed through customs out into the arrivals area. I rushed to a small screen (14″) hanging up on the wall. It was showing some rolling news channel. On the ticker, it gave the score Spain 1 – 0 Netherlands. I had at least one piece of information from the World Cup Final. We headed out into the heat of the street to be greeted by Mataji and her husband. I had arrived, the next part of my adventure could begin.

Back To The Motherland

As you read this post, I will hopefully be taking off on an Air India flight for a two week holiday back to India. It has probably been the worst kept secret of all time in our household. My Mum and youngest sister Julie, did not know that I was actually going until I pulled up at check-in with some luggage. The aim of this blog post is to put together my thoughts and feelings prior to my trip. I was last on the sub continent in 2001 and I believe a great deal will have changed in almost a decade. If I am honest, I knew I would have go at some stage or other and putting it off all these years (in place of ski holidays or lads weekends in Germany) does make it slightly harder. I am not sure why.

I do not have an identity crisis, as some would perhaps lead you to believe. I just have very liberal views on certain subjects. Many have been formed from my Dad, whom generally does not get these things wrong. However, everything is matter of opinion and personal preference. My view has always been that your loyalties should lie with the country of your birth. My Dad would always add to this that you would play for the England football/cricket/kabaddi/rugby/tiddlywinks/ team and not Indian. I have always agreed. Therefore I have only ever worn the England shirt and refuse to wear any other national shirts (or foreign clubs sides for that matter). Whereas my sisters, will be more than happy to lounge about the house watching the Indian cricket team wearing their bright blue tops with the gold star of the BCCI. (Although it is interesting that an Indian actually played for the England Cricket team during the 1890s.)

In recent months, I have tried my best to appreciate everything I have and be less about chasing the next piece of materialism. This consumerism, that has been bred by the big corporations is not a good thing and I suppose I should bare some responsibility working for one of these blue chip companies, but the reality is, that is pays the bills and I cannot really hide from that. I revisited (in my mind at least) some of the scenes from Slumdog Millionaire, and realised that I am not one to get angry, stressed or even depressed at the insignificant battles I face every day. At the end of the day, I have a warm house I call a home, family and friends that love me and a lifestyle of comfort that many people dream of. I have summarised this into an phrase, perhaps not the most ideal, because it is already trademarked and in regular use by a global electronics manufacturer, but I do not care. LG – Life’s Good. When you look at it, yes it is. After several months towards the backend of last year, when I did not know where my life was actually going, I find myself in a very happy place.

While I am sure someone will soon come along and rain on my parade, I will do my utmost, to ensure the fire is only out for a short time (or not at all, if possible). I am trying to focus on even the small things that make me happy. Even if that means, just wearing my sunglasses, having on my lovely blue jacket and blasting Get Back by Ludacris in the car.

Okay, I know what you are thinking, where is this all going Teg? Well I believe that going back to the motherland is the completion of the process to truly appreciate my life and my world of plenty. You can never truly understand anything unless you walk a few miles in the shoes / flip flops of someone else, and although I doubt I will be doing that literally, I will get a taste for what life in rural India truly can be like. I am going to do my best to note down all my experiences on paper and upload as many photos to FlickR as possible. In fact, I had to rush into town this afternoon to pick up a 2gb xD card, as my 4gb Compact Flash II card could not be ready by my antique photographic equipment (2005 is light years old apparently). I am all set for this adventure and unlike in 2001 (which was a year before I started blogging) I promise to actually “record” what happens and share with the world my experiences and the life lessons I will surely learn over the course of the next twelve days or so.

Breaking The News

I was getting rather anxious waiting for my sisters to arrive to pick me up. It was nearly 9:34am on Sunday 11th July. I should have left for Heathrow Terminal 3 by now. My Mum and sister Julie were already there with my Dad and probably wondering why they had not checked in just yet. I filled my time by watching music videos on both Sky+ and on demand via XBMC. I thought it would be good to take some photographs of my late grandparents. We have their photos hung up on the living room wall with a garland. My Mum had replaced these with new ones, she was going deposit the old into the Ganges while in India.
GijgiBoreji

Eventually my sisters did arrive, but it took several phone calls from myself and my Dad.. They had my luggage in their car, so it was just a few moments, while Natalie picked up some papers in the house and we were on our way onto the M40 in the sunshine. This was turning into a rush and everything I had not wanted it to be, but I was on my way and grateful. My sisters had just come back that morning from a wedding in London and were rather the worse for a wear for few hours of sleep in a hotel. The festivities had gone late into the night or rather more accurately well into the small hours of the morning. My sister put her foot down in the Golf and we were made up for all the time we had lost with all the delays. We were listening to KISS 100 in the background but more on that in a second.

Samantha, gave me some words of warning, just before we got onto the M25. “Make sure you do not get hitched to someone from over there!” I smiled, “Well I might have some news on that a bit later”. There were two big shouts from both my sisters and then the interrogations began but I tried to remain as tight lipped as possible. I would reveal all at the airport and more specifically in the Costa Coffee upstairs in the departures terminal. Then a very familiar tune came on the radio and I put the volume up. This was a moment I wanted to treasure, not just for the fleeting few moments, or just the rest of my holiday but forever. (Hence to write it up in such exaggerated detail on my blog). We all joined in for the chorus, this song has become something of a summer anthem and it was further underlined by three Tegala siblings trying to sing along to the London urban radio station at the top of their voices.

Jason Derülo

As we pulled into Heathrow, I saw the new Terminal Three building for the first time, my sisters were going to park the car (perhaps even use valet parking) while I grabbed my bags out of the boot, found a trolley and dashed to entrance gate number three. I skated past other holiday makers, rushing to get to Entrance E. My Mum and sister Julie were rather shocked to see me rushing along with my bags packed. What was this? Yes, I explained I was also coming on holiday with them. Their faces, particularly my Mum’s was a picture! If I had a camera, I should have taken a photo then, but the next photo opportunity was not too far away.

We checked in, although I had to wait to find my Dad with one half of the paperwork. There was no queue, and we actually were able to get past a few people who were queuing for alternative flights on alternative airlines. (In the wrong place and asking for assistance) My sisters arrived through the door, having parked the Golf to cheers, hugs, smiles and laughter. It was at this point my youngest sister, overcome by joy started crying. My sisters and Mum tried their best to console her, but she was smiling through the tears. This was a moment I had been playing through my head for months. I never knew it was going to pan out like this, with me rushing to the airport and making it just, only just.

We headed up the escalator to the Costa Coffee shop. (Those of you familiar with Terminal Three, will know it is to the right as you exit the escalator, we were right at the back of the terminal building). We found some seats and my Dad asked Julie to get the drinks, everyone (bar Natalie) ordering a beverage. I had been waiting for this moment since March (Mother’s Day in fact) and here I was. My sisters already half knew the news, so it was my time to deliver. I explained I had found someone. This someone, is Michelle. I gave some of the details and was interrogated further by my Mum and sisters. My Dad sat quietly in the background enjoying his cappuccino. Before leaving my E65 at home, I blue-toothed across an image of Michelle to my sister Julie’s Blackberry clone, a Samsung Omnia Pro B7330. This would be the image that everyone would be shown in India. It was a photograph taken on Michelle’s Nokia, while at her school sometime in late October. I had sent her roses and a colleague had taken a photograph of her holding the bouquet. I did not have any other images of Michelle on my phone and if I could find an net cafe, I could always show images on Facebook or better still FlickR. It was done! I hugged my Mum and told her how great I felt that the burden had been lifted from my shoulders and to just reinforce the point, I grabbed my Mum by the shoulders and gave her a slight shake! She gave me a warm hug back and I felt much better. There was congratulations all around and words of encouragement from my Dad (sitting in the far corner, diagonally opposite me). My sister then rang Dipesh, put him on speaker phone to let him also know the news. I felt much better and yes I had gone through with it and broken the news. (Michelle had told me the previous night that she didn’t think I would have the guts to go through with it. Well here is the proof, I did!)
Mum & AndrewDad
Now you know officially so to speak. The “friend” I have been referring to in rather cryptic blog posts since September is Michelle. I may mention her in more detail (with her express permission of course) but for the time being, I had a flight to catch and an adventure to prepare myself for. It had gone midday, and it was time to make our way to security. We said our goodbyes to my sisters, Samantha, Natalie and my Dad, before we joined the queue. Waving goodbye to my family, I thought about the family I would be soon meeting all those miles away on the subcontinent. Nine years down, my time had finally come.

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