A quick roundup before the festivities begin, although I bet if you will be reading this several days after the big day. I wanted to mention my shopping trip to Milton Keynes on Monday. It has become a tradition, to go Christmas shopping with my friend around the twenty something of December. We have been to various places but Milton Keynes the most. I say tradition but it only goes back as far as 2002. That year we went to Milton Keynes, then Oxford in 2003, Milton Keynes again in 2004 and Aylesbury in 2005 and back to Milton Keynes in the past two years. You will remember 2006 for the thick fog but I will remember for the Nightmare before Christmas. Overall MK has featured four out of our six previous Christmas shopping trips together. The town has everything (well practically everything) under one roof. Unlike previous years I did not have a lot to get and it was perhaps the first time we would not be venturing into the HMV store. The main reason for this is I had ordered my sister’s computer online last week and it arrived as scheduled yesterday. The rest of my gifts were minor in size, well almost.
My friend had just driven down from Derbyshire the previous night (Sunday 21st) so we had opted to head out later than my usual 8am start. I got over to his house around 11am and we left a little while later. The trip over to Milton Keynes was straight forward, and by sticking to cross-country route we made excellent time. We parked outside Xscape and walked across to grab some lunch in the Theatre District. We opted for The Slug & Lettuce, had a light lunch and drink and then headed into the cauldron. The town was very busy but somehow we made our way through from John Lewis down to Marks & Spencer and back again. We were looking for an Argos store but discovered it was not in the centre. We got all the bits we needed, included a trip into Woolworths for potentially the last time. It was a shame to see the shelves so bare but there is no time for nostalgia in business. We left around 3.30pm and headed back to the car and put in the postcode for the IKEA store. It was located a little drive away close to junction 14 of the M1. This was my first trip into an IKEA store and I did not really know what to expect. I realised it was very big from the drive down. It is based on an industrial estate, close to where they are currently building the new Arena:MK. I was hoping to pick up a chest of drawers for my flat, the one piece of furniture missing. We headed upstairs (two escalators) and then were in the show room. However, the design is very clever, you are taken on a journey through the store, with a clear bright blue walkway with arrows. This ensure you walk through all the departments before getting to the checkout. We found what we were looking for and eventually I settled on a particular design. We grabbed the ticket from the showroom piece and then headed to the self service area. I forgot to pick up a trolley, so had to come back to the start of the self service area to collect one and then we managed to both pick up the flat pack box and place it on the trolley and then queue at the till. It was quite busy but only three tills open (perhaps four at a push). Eventually we got served and then went through down the lift to place the bulky item into the car. (The back seat had to go down.) That was my first IKEA experience and I am glad to say I will not be back again for a while. Or perhaps I am tempting fate a little.
Afterwards, we headed across the roundabout to the Argos Xtra store, which was on a retail park with a Next store among others. It was rather small for an out of town change, I had been in bigger stores in city centres (Leicester for example). We headed for a catalogue and found what we needed and check the computer to see if the items were in stock. Both of my items were available but also reduced. Plus, I was going to use up all my Nectar points! Job done, a pretty much stress free shopping trip. Well I perhaps that thought popped into my head a little too soon. We were stuck in traffic for about fifteen minutes trying to get out of the car park. Eventually we got out and headed back to Oxfordshire.
Tonight went into town with my sister, Samantha, her friend Kirsty and Dipesh. I wanted to check out the new pub that had replaced the Hog’s Head. Although at the time I could not remember the name. The new name is William Robert Loosely. The last time I had been in this pub it had been the evening of my 18th birthday, so late November 1998. Ten years had past and I felt very much older, particularly with so many people that looked around seventeen to nineteen. The place was packed but we found a table upstairs. It was just for a quick Christmas Eve drink but even with my Santa hat, most other people in the pub had not made an effort. Afterwards we headed further into town, I had recommended The Falcon (another from the Wetherspoons chain) after seeing the long queue at The Litten Tree. Dipesh was not impressed with the clientelle leaving the pub and considering how busy it was, we headed across the road to The Antelope. Once again, a first for me. Many of my old school friends now frequent this establishment (many whom have then posted photographs onto Facebook for it to appear on my news feed). It was not really my type of place but fair enough, I was happy to stick around for a while. We headed outside and found a table free. The people here looked generally older and I felt a bit better to be with my own peer group. Plus they had made a much better effort in terms of Christmas. After our drinks we headed back to the car parked in Eden and drove home. Parking had been free (as Kirsty had pointed out the moment we had driven into the town centre). When I got home, it was time for a cup of tea before catching a bit of television before then finally going to bed.
Merry Christmas to all my visitors, both new and old. All the best for 2009 and may it bring you both success and happiness.