Sunday 20th January 2008

A break from the normal programming. I thought I would give a quick round out on what I have been getting up to since my return from holiday. The holiday blog posts will continue shortly. On Thursday 17th, I traveled up to Sheffield for my sister, Natalie’s graduation ceremony. As she was only able to get two tickets (and a third which became available on the day), Samantha, Dips and I had to watch from the auditorium, in the basement the SU building. It was a relatively quick ceremony with quite a small group, which was taking place across campus in a big hall. After watching Natalie get up and collect her certificate, we went upstairs to Coffee Republic for a cup of tea and some chocolate cake. Then we had to go upstairs to the photography area and wait for the rest of the family to arrive. While waiting, we picked up the local student paper. There was an article about Hard Kaur who had performed recently at the union. Very clever name for an Asian artist, she looked a little like Preeti from Eastenders. My Mum, Dad, Natalie and Julie arrived and we went to have our photos taken. Then it was time for some lunch. Back to Las Iguanas. We had been there over a year ago, on my last trip to the city. After lunch, we took some photographs outside one of the grand buildings, before jumping in the car and heading to Leicester. My sister drove, with me directing with the help of TomTom (I had only loaded the latest software the previous night). We left Sheffield around 5pm and got stuck in a little traffic on the M1 southbound (animals in the road apparently but it was northbound suffering). We listened to Radio 1, as we had worn out the CD I had burnt for the trip. Scott Mills and Chappers were calling up local and regional newspapers with stupid celebrity sightings and gossip, seeing how long they could keep the newspaper employee on the phone for. We got into Leicester around 6pm, beating both my sister, Natalie and my parents. After a light snack, it was back onto the road around 8.30pm for the drive back home to Wycombe. Samantha was originally gonna drive but for some reason I found myself at the controls. We took the standard, M69, A46 and M40 route and made good time, the roads were relatively clear. My memory will be hearing the news about the crash landing at Heathrow that lunchtime and an airport worker commenting on the near disaster. Do you get medals the size of kitchen utensils? On the journey up, I heard a song on Radio One played by Jo Whiley, it was quite funky. We had been switching between FM and CD so did not catch the full song, just the final trail but my sister, was quick to point out the artist and title. Work by Kelly Rowland she informed me. Is it the remix? I was pretty sure it was, but could not confirm until I got home. Sure enough, I download the original and it was atrocious! It is another case of the remix being far far far better than the original. I commented on such an occurrence toward the back end of December 2004. I downloaded the remix and then also the video and was playing it on continuous loop most of Friday. The song is so infectious and I love the desi style (tabla?) drums! It must be hard living in the shadow of a former band mate. How many people can name the any other of the Supremes apart from Diana Ross? However, I respect Kelly for continuing to produce music and perform, many lesser souls would have given up and let B, take the mantle all for herself. My favourite song prior to this was Can’t Nobody but I also liked the slower ballad, “Train On The Track“. The conclusion is indeed, very simple. If you are going to ever release a single, let Freemasons do the official remix. They will only make the song better and in this case, take dead wood and make it certified chart topping material! Can a dance band of producers really be the saviours of popular music? Back in early September, I watched the pilot episode for a new spin of series based on the Terminator movies. It was recommended (and provided in a care package) by Pav and he informed me on MSN this week that they second episode had aired Stateside. On Wednesday night I downloaded the torrent, planning to watch it on Friday night, which I did. What can I say? Very good, enjoyable, entertaining stuff but not as much action as in the pilot but I am willing to be patient and wait for the story to unfold. Summer Glau is inspired casting and she pulls of the emotional demeanor of a cyborg effortlessly. I look forward to next week’s episode. It is nice to have something to fill the gap while the Writer’s strike continues. Oh, well there is also Torchwood back on Wednesday evenings but hardly anything in comparison to The Sarah Connor Chronicles. Last thing I must mention is my favourite soap. When we got back late on Thursday evening, it was gone half past ten, so the BBC Three option had gone. However, now I have the option of iPlayer. I wanted to watch the streamed version but for some reason it was not working in IE7, so I had download the software and then queue the episode to download too. It did not take that long, maybe twenty minutes but I was annoyed because I did not want to have that bloatware on my PC again, only to then uninstall after I have watched this episode. Anyway, that is not the reason I am writing this up on my blog. I have already mentioned the great ability of iPlayer. It was the content of the show. A new minor character, a bully called Tegs, terrorising the Square and abusing Dot Cotton. The funny thing is, I am usually the one receiving such an SMS rather than sending one!

Tegs Text

It beats the appearence of my nickname on a cardboard box in Hollyoaks over two years ago. Day 3 – Sunday 6th January I got up later than I had intended and ended up rushing down to breakfast with Foxy and Geoff. I got changed, grabbed my skis, put my boots on and headed out to the adult ski school. I had to be there between 9.30-45am, but I was pushing it. Once I was directed to the right place, I met my instructor, Hans and joined his group. (The same name as local hero, Hans Hinterseer). There were eleven people in total and quite a mixed bunch. A Russian German speaking family of three, (Dad, Mum & daughter). Fifteen year old dare devil Frederick from South Africa, Sheila from Ireland and Marco from Romania. We began with the basics, many of the things I had learnt already at the Snowdome but it was important to pay attention and learn. Within a few minutes we were making short slides down the slope. Let me explain that the location is a small kind of bowl at the bottom of the nursery slope. It is relatively flat and the incline at the top section was not very steep at all. After successfully mastering the snowplough we move onto basic turns before heading to the nearby restaurant for lunch. It gave me a chance to speak to Freddy and Sheila and get to know a little more about them. After lunch, we headed back to the slope. Marco, Freddy and myself were keen to get a bit more practice in, so we trekked up the slope, to a midway point and sloped down a few times. Hans appeared with the rest of the group, we practiced our snowplough a couple of times and then headed over to the main learning area. It was quite a big slope, relatively steep sandwiched between the children area. We had to take the drag or rope lift up to top. This is the most difficult type of lift to use (although Marc did say later on our holiday that the t-bar lift was the main suspect). You put your skis parallel, put your poles in the left hand and grabbed the lift with your free right hand. Although on our first few attempts we did not have poles to worry about. Eventually I held on, with both hands mind and made it up to the top. Here we started to actually learn to ski. We traversed across the slope, going from snowplough into a turn, then traversing (skis parallel) diagonally across and then repeating the process at the other end. It was hard, but my confidence was quite high, so I made a good few attempts but always found myself heading towards the fence (with the children flying around on the side). In fact, Hans said on one occasion, “Andrew, you really like that fence!” after I had found myself almost stuck there for the third time. About three or four more runs down, it was the end of the lessons. I thanked Hans (in German) for his time and he recommended that I spend sometime improving my position. I had the tendency to lean back and hence crash. I needed to stand up straighter and lean forward. Of course, I completely ignored this advice by hanging around with Freddy. We went up on the t-bar lift (something Hans had said we were not ready for) and go up to the top. Once I got there, instead of heading down the main slope (where I had spent most of the previous afternoon on my behind) I followed Freddy underneath the bridge and then panicked at the sheer drop only to crash. I was laughing to myself, I picked myself up, got going again, only to crash again. Eventually I got around the corner and back onto the beginners area. I had stupidly thought that by going under the bridge, I would be taken to the top of the learner slope, and not a red run which linked the two together. Freddy was waiting for me and we made our way down together. I tried one more time to get onto the rope lift, but I crashed, so I decided that I had had enough and called it a day, it must have been approaching 4pm. However, I was confident. I felt good. I would tackle the slope again before my lesson at 9.30am. I got back to the hotel, got showered and changed and waited for the others. Minutes later they appeared and we then went down to the bar before grabbing dinner. My plan had been to go into town to get some postcards but had been told by the owner, that as it was a Sunday most of the shops would be closed. The postcards home and to the office would have to wait, for now. After dinner, we settled down for a quiet night in, most of which was spent in the bar. We took out a board game, Abalone. As the instructions were in German, we or rather Foxy asked the waitress to translate for us and explain the rules. Which she did very well, considering her English was not brilliant. The contestants were ready, Geoff versus t_dogg. During the match, additional rules were created to ensure the swift conclusion of any given game. (There was no point allowing moves to be constantly repeated) It was a closely fought contest but “das victor” was the Fox. As the game took so long, our champion decided to retire for the evening and not take on another challenger, even though we had all decided that the winner would say on. I suppose Foxy wanted to keep the undefeated mantle for the night. During the evening, I suffered a heart attack due to the level of entertainment and had to rush outside for some air. The T was on top form and I was suffering, badly. I do not know what would have happened if I had stayed in the bar with that animal. We went back up to our rooms and it must have been around 9.30pm or so. I put on the television, so we could watch something before drifting off to sleep. Foxy chose Spiderman 2 as it was the ‘best of a bad bunch’, however we only watched for a twenty minutes or so before deciding to switch the television off and go to sleep. I checked my N73 before switching it off. It was 10pm exactly. Early to bed and early to rise? Day 4 – Monday 7th January We had agreed to get up early and meet for breakfast at 8am and we did. The plan was to head out onto the slopes as soon as possible. Adele, Mel and myself were heading for the nursery slope as I wanted to get some practice in before my lesson and Mel wanted to conquer her new found fear of skiing. Not sure why, she had skiied ten years ago and according to her older sister, was more than capable at the dry slope in Bracknell. For some reason she had just frozen when at the top of the mountain on Sunday, so we decided it was good if she went on the nursery slope to gain some confidence. I however was on some strange trip. I was determined to get to the top and come down. However, I was deluded. I had convinced myself I was much better than I actual was. So here I was at the top, but as we set off I crashed. I got up and made a little more progress then crashed again. My last attempt was rather feeble, so I took off my skis and walked down, knowing I was late for my lesson now and keeping my group as well as Hans waiting. As I expected, I got a bit of telling off for attempting to ski down from there and keeping everyone waiting, which was fair enough. My confidence had taken a bit of a knock. We treked behind the restaurant, through a road and around the back to a quite little slope. A very easy blue run we were informed. We had a little practice at the bottom on our turns before taking the button lift up to the top. We made a few runs down in stages but it was clear I was not up to the pace and on our second run down the slope, Hans made it quite clear I was going to be moved groups. He spoke to another instructor, and I was subsequently moved to Duncan’s group. English guy who supported Bolton. His group was also around eleven with three if not four South Africans and a few English and Irish people. After a few runs it was time for lunch, so we had to rush across back to our meeting point in the morning. This was interesting. Firstly we had to negiogiate the button lift and then it was just a long run across to the fence. There you take your skis off, cross the road, put them back on and ski up to the restaurant. For a few seconds, I began to appreciate the true feeling of freedom that skiing brings. I felt a bit of a rush skiing down the slope, but perhaps the best moment was seeing my new instructor, Duncan, take the downhill stance (I am unsure of the exact technical name) but you crouch forward and have your poles at your sides inbetween your arms, to reduce the amount of resistance and give maximum speed. He disappeared into the distance as I coulding down the hill at my own pace. Lunch was interesting. I sat with my group and found myself surrounded by three South African ladies, telling me all about the difficult times ahead for their country. It made me realise that for all the problems back home in England, things were not as bad as in other parts of the world. I mean, having to make the decision to send your children away for the prospect of a better life must be a difficult decision. I did not really have much to say in response, so just listened intently. Back to the same slope and button lift after lunch for more runs and practice. My confidence was restored a little but once again I through away a good opportunity. Heather and her sister, (Helen I believe) were going to stay and practice at the end of the lesson but I opted to go back to the hotel change. I wanted to head into town. (Post cards were required). So, back at the hotel, Adele, Mel, Paul and myself decided to go into town. I bought four post cards from the local souvenir shop along with some stamps. We then walked around to the Billa supermarket (although Pav would find a Spar the opposite side of time) to get some munchies and drinks. I was under strict instruction from the t_dogg and got him just what he wanted. We headed back to the hotel in time for dinner. The beauty of a cold climate is the balcony can become a very good fridge. During dinner it was a agreed that we would put on our t-shirts. The t_dogg took a little persauding but did eventually fall into line. After supper we headed up to the penthouse suite (Mel, Adele & Paul’s room – 32) as it was the biggest of the three. We had a few drinks while listening to the dance music from Paul’s iPod.

GeoffT-DoggLady Poole & K Rule Teg

We proposed a few rules. Firstly a kitty was created, with everyone giving €20 to Adele who was put in charge. A drinking rule was also proposed by the t_dogg and agreed by all. When the penulatimate drinker in the group finishes, the final drinker has ten seconds to down the drink. We headed into town but not before we asked one of the guests to grab a photo of us lined up against the main entrance. Pav has the picture on his Facebook profile. We headed first to the bar we had been to in town on the Saturday night. I am trying to remember the name and scouting various websites with Kitzbuhel nightlife guides but have yet to find the bar. We got a punter at the bar to take a group photograph.

Cheese Everyone!

From here we moved over to Highways. However it was absolutely dead, the cloak room was free before 9pm. I forgot how early it was. Strange but skiing all day and then getting back to the hotel as it gets dark, you tend to lose all sense of time. We stayed here for a few drinks, including the legendary Jägermeister. We then headed to the other side of town to Flannigans. It was reasonably busy and we decided to spend the rest of the evening here. The music was quite good and the drinks were cheap. It was at this point in the night we were treated to a party trick from the T! (Footage courtesy of Pav’s digicam, I apologise in advance that it is so dark.)

While most would think the story would end there, no it does not. We left Flanningans at 12am, closing time and treked back to the hotel. When we got inside, Pav went behind the bar to get a glass. A Coca-Cola glass, I tabbed him on the shoulder but as he turned around, glass in hand, I somehow smashed the the glass with my hand, cutting my finger in the process. To this day, I still do not know how I did it or for that matter why. I had to rush upstairs to get a plaster, when Geoff and Foxy found out what had happened, they rushed downstairs to help with the clean up operation. We popped into the penthouse suite for a few minutes but everyone was quite tired, so we decided to call it a night and headed off to sleep. I remember falling asleep listening to my Zen.

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