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.


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.

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