Monday, 18 January 2016

The Big Yin and Boozy Afternoons

This time next week, I will have had my birthday and I will be another year nearer to my half-century.  It’s odd, as when I was a teenager, 50 seemed so old, but now that I am (rapidly) approaching it, it doesn’t seem that old.

However, although my birthday is this week, my birthday present, which I mentioned in my last entry, was last week.  Emma and I were both off on Friday, so at lunchtime we made our way up to London and to the hotel that we had booked into.  The St Paul’s Hotel is on Hammersmith Road and despite its location so close to a busy road, once you are inside, you could be miles from the city.

The building itself is Grade II listed and is quite historic having been a school, attended by, among others, Field Marshall Bernard Montgomery.  Needless to say it was both very nice and very comfortable.

We had decided to have an easy dinner, so we made or way further down the Hammersmith Road to Olympia and to the Pizza Express.  Then we jumped in a taxi and made our way to the Hammersmith Apollo, arriving about thirty minutes prior to Billy getting on stage.

I had last seen Billy Connolly when he performed his Jock’s Rap Tour.  I thought that this was in about 1986, but having googled it, it appears that it would have been 1982 or 1983!  He was hilarious and I ached for several days afterwards, I’d laughed so much.  He was also a very energetic performer, although nowhere near as energetic as Lee Evans, leaping all over the stage.

So on Friday it was quite sad to see Billy walk onto the stage at dead on 8pm.  It was very obvious that he has Parkinson’s disease, or as he said ‘I have Parkinson’s disease, although I wish the fucker had kept it to himself’, as he had the classic Parkinsonian gait.  However, that said, although his body is not in the best shape, his mind clearly is.  When he left the stage two hours later, I for one had laughed so hard on occasions that, like when playing Cards Against Humanity, I thought that my eyeballs would pop out.  Emma and I then strolled slowly back to the hotel, which took about 15 minutes.

The following morning, we were awake bright and early and after a very enjoyable Continental breakfast, we headed back to Hammersmith and jumped on a tube to Bond Street.  The reason for this trip was that I had bought Emma a bracelet from Tiffany’s for Christmas, but had got the measurement wrong and it was too small, so needed exchanging for one the correct size.

After the exchange had been done, we then headed up into Oxford Street and to the Pandora store that is there, where Emma was able to get another charm for the charm bracelet that’s she’s had for some time.

And then it all went downhill.  We jumped back on the tube at Marble Arch and made our way to Ravenscourt Park where we met up with an old school friend of mine, Tony, and his better half, Christine.  I’d last seen them both when Tony had organised tickets to go and see AC/DC at Wembley in July of last year.  The idea was that we would meet up for lunch and a couple of drinks prior to Emma and I making our way home.

Tony and Christine took us to their local, the Cross Keys where we had a very pleasant lunch followed by more pints and prosecco than we had intended, with Emma and I having a very enjoyable afternoon/evening and not leaving until nearly 7pm.

Sunday was just chilled, although we did take Alf (Emma’s dog) out for a good walk, but it prepared us for the return to the routine of work today.  Although, as my birthday is Friday, both Emma and I have taken annual leave and so we’re only working a four day week this week, with another three-day weekend at the end.  Hurrah!

Friday, 1 January 2016

Happy New Year!

So that's it all over for another year. Christmas has been and gone, and 2015 has also gone. And not only was I not 'Bah! Humbug!' but it was actually a really good Christmas, in fact, I think possibly one of the best that I've ever had.

Christmas day did start early, not because of an excited Emma, but because I very stupidly forgot to turn off my alarm and it went off at 0630.  This year it was the biggest number for Christmas that I've ever had as in addition to myself, Emma and her son, there was also both my sons, Kinga, who is No. 2 son's girlfriend, Emma's sister and brother-in-law and her two nieces, making ten in total, although the last four didn't arrive until late morning as they normally live in Wales and stayed in a local hotel.

After getting up and having coffee and breakfast, it was present opening.  I was very spoilt, getting a nice watch, some books, some new aftershave and various smellies.  Then the serious business of getting lunch ready began, with all hands on deck.

What was also nice was that Maggie visited with her boyfriend, which is the first time that I've had all three of my children in one place since the Army v Navy rugby last May.  She didn't stay long enough for me as she was having lunch at her boyfriend's mother's house and they left after about 45 minutes.

Lunch was great, with the traditional turkey and all the trimmings, as well as beef and gammon, all washed down with some nice wine, followed by Christmas pudding, which I'd covered in brandy and set fire to, and cream.

As I'd said, it was all hands on deck, with Drew and Kinga acting as Emma's sous chefs, as I don't think that it would have been fair or possible for Emma to produce such a fabulous meal for so many on her own.

Following lunch, unlike last year when Emma and I fell asleep on the sofa, it was silly games time.  Whilst Emma and I cleared up and got the dishwasher working overtime, everyone played a board game.  And then things got really out of hand when we started playing a game of Cards Against Humanity.

I don't know if you've ever played this game, I hadn't until this time, but it is definitely not suitable for children!  This was a little awkward, as Emma's nieces are fourteen and sixteen, but they definitely entered into the spirit of the VERY black humour that was needed for the game!  I confess that there was one point where I laughed so hard I did think that my eyeballs were going to pop out!

Boxing Day was again very laid back and relaxed.  I had to take Drew and Kinga home as they had to get back for the cats, but we decided to try an experiment.  Alf, Emma's dog, hadn't seen the cats since they'd been very small kittens, so we decided that he could come with us to see how he got on with them, the plan being that if it went well, then Emma would be able to come over to mine more and bring Alf.

When we got there, the cats were definitely not impressed and let it be known with much hissing and making themselves big.  However, they soon let Alf know who was boss and gave him a couple of bats to the snout when he got too close.

Once I got back, Emma and I took Alf for a walk in the woods near where she lives, getting back just before Emma's sister, brother-in-law and nieces arrived.

After a nice lunch, Alec headed off to his girlfriend's in Hertfordshire and the rest of us watched Ted 2, before having a very competitive (as far as Emma and her sister were concerned) game of Monopoly.

On the Sunday, Sadly Emma's son had to work, but her family again came over for lunch, bringing their Rottweiler with them, which Emma, me and one of her nieces took out for a walk in the woods with Alf.  Then, after lunch, Emma's family headed off for the long journey back to Wales and Emma and I watched Minions before her son got home.

It was then almost back to normal routine, at least for Emma, as she was working on both the Bank Holiday Monday, but also the Tuesday, so I took the opportunity to head home and sort out my personal admin on the Monday, before returning to Emma's on the Tuesday.

We were both off on the Wednesday, but with good reason as we were attending the wedding of a friend in Tunbridge Wells.  The wedding took place in one of the local hotels in The Pantiles.  The ceremony was very nice, as was the meal after, but we didn't stay late as Emma was working the following day, which was New Year's Eve.

For me, New Year's Eve was a very quiet day, as both Emma and her son, Ant, were working, so I was left with just Alf for company.  But at least I was able to take Alf for a walk before picking Ant up from work and having the place ready for when Emma got home.

The actual New Year itself was very subdued.  Unfortunately, it was less so for Alf who freaks whenever fireworks are set off, and there were a lot of fireworks!  We saw in the New Year by watching the firework display from London on the TV whilst drinking a glass of Prosecco.  However, as Emma was working a long day today, we were in bed and asleep by 1230.

So that's it first day of 2016 and first post of the New Year.  January is not too busy a month, although Maggie is 18 in less than three weeks and my birthday is two days after hers.  And I'm getting my birthday present a week before my actual birthday when we see Billy Connolly at the Hammersmith Apollo on the 15th.  Can't wait!