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.


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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