Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Bournemouth and Southampton

On Friday 10th June we said goodbye to Rei and James and headed off to visit Ade, Meg and Freya in Chandler's Ford (near Southampton) for the weekend before heading off to Birmingham.

We got up early and drove accross South London towards Barnes (where Elaine worked before Christmas last year). The traffic was TERRIBLE! I hate driving in London! 90 minutes to travel 14 miles! That's why I always use the train/tube when I'm there normally.

Eventually we hit the M4 and headed off on a slight detour to the South African shop in Maidenhead! Only off the plane for 48 hours and Elaine was already craving koeksisters and Fanta Grape!

As Ade and Meg were working all day I decided to show Elaine the delights of the English seaside at Bournemouth, especially as it was so warm and sunny in London. We got ourselves down to the M3 and a little over an hour later we arrived on the English Riviera!

Predictably the wind was blowing at somewhere near galeforce and the sun was obscured from view by large dark clouds. Nevertheless we were at the seaside and we British are brought up from a young age to tolerate such beach conditions! We set off for a walk along a mile or so of beach from the cliffs to the pier. Bracing! It brought back many happy memories of childhood summer holidays to see small children shivering with cold as they ran into the sea, watched by far more sensible adults sitting on deck chairs wearing hats and jumpers, not to protect themselves from the sun but from hypothermia!

The hardest task though was trying to explain to Elaine exactly what beach huts are used for! There were hundreds lining the beach and some were being used, giving us the opportunity to peek inside. As far as I can tell they are for storing chairs, making tea, getting changed and sitting around in! If anybody knows better please let us know as Elaine is still intrigued and somewhat sceptical as to why anyone would want to pay £30,000 for a garden shed next to a beach!

We returned to the car after an hour of good excercise and decided to drive along the coast towards Poole and visit the exclusive area of Sandbanks, apparently the fourth most expensive real estate on the planet! Poole Harbour seem to be a very popular place for kite surfing, though it looks a little colder than it did when we saw our last example in SA!

After a nice afternoon looking at properties that we couldn't afford it was time to head off to meet up with Ade, Meg and Freya at their home in Chandler's Ford.

It is always great to catch up with the Marks family and this weekend was no exception as usual great food, wine and company were enjoyed by all and it was fantastic to hold full conversations with little Freya who is now very grown up!

Ade and I did our usual trick of staying up late talking rubbish and drinking red wine. We always pay for this the following day!

Saturday saw us visit the Romsey Beggar's Fair and despite the rain we all had a thouroughly enjoyable day, especially Freya who enjoyed splashing in the puddles in her pink polka dot wellies!

Another first for Elaine was the sight of a side (apparently this is the correct collective noun) of Morris Men. If you don't know what they do just follow the link, I can't even begin to explain!!!!!!

Ade and I cooked a gourmet meal once we got home and a slightly earlier night meant that we could take full advantage of the fine weather to go picking berries the folowing day, yet another first for Elaine! Armed with punnets of raspberries, tayberries, loganberries and red currants we headed off for some lunch before Elaine and I had to say goodbye and make our way back to Birmingham.

Thanks for another fabulous weekend Meg and Ade!

Time for an update!

Once again it has been a while since we last wrote to you all!

We're not sure where the time has gone to be honest but let's see if we can remember some of what we've been up to. Well as we've already said Elaine landed safely on 8th June and I managed to get to London that night to meet up with her.

The following day we hit London town, heading off to Camden Town with Reinette whilst poor old James went off to work. Believe it or not it was a lovely sunny day and we thouroughly enjoyed a traditional extended pub lunch with a few pints of Magners!

After a few enjoyable hours we tried to get on the tube back to Kings Cross but couldn't due to some problem or other at the station. We decided to get the bus from round the corner but that let us down too! Eventually we made our way back to the tube to find that the problems were now sorted afterall!

At 'The Cross' we all made ourway to meet up with my mate and former colleague John Cole at the world famous (well in our world anyway) Skinners Arms. It's always good to catch up with John and whichever ex MML men are there and we enjoyed a few sociable beers before it was time for rei to head off and for Elaine and I to take John for a beer nearer to Charing Cross and his train home!

Sometime later we were heading solo on the South Bank being entertained by a rather large purple inflatable cow lying on its back surrounded by trees with red polka dot trunks!! Good stuff that Magners!

Finally we made our way through to one of our favourite parts of London, Borough Market for one last drink at another great pub, The Market Porter before catching our train back to Sydenham from London Bridge.

All in all a fairly boozy and fun day in the capital!

Thursday, 16 July 2009

Time to catch up

Elaine has already been back in the UK for a week now and we really don't know where the time has gone. Let's hope that things slow down a bit over the next few months so that we can get on with the wedding plans!

Elaine landed at Heathrow very early on 8th July while I was on a train heading north to Glasgow to graduate from the BSc in Railway Operations that National Express Group had kindly paid for me to complete!

Once Elaine had experienced with the usual stress of dealing with Border Control (30 minutes apparently) she headed off to meet up with Reinette at Victoria Station, I know that she was looking forward to this as they had not seen each other for 4 months since Rei came back to the UK. The plan was for Elaine to stay overnight with Rei and James while I was in Glasgow and for me to head down the following day.

Glasgow was great, a few beers with my old colleague Nicko and his wife Tracy, a near two hour session of clapping and droning and a reception afterwards courtesy of the Institution of Railway Operators to toast our success. A particularly nice touch was the presence of a man wearing a skirt who was piping us out of the venue by strangling a cat!

Elaine didn't know it but Rei and I had hatched a plan! I was going to get the last train from Glasgow at 1840hrs to arrive back at my house in Birmingham by about 2330hrs. Then I was going to jump in my car and drive to London to avoid having to sit in the traffic the following morning and to give Elaine a big surprise!

Amazingly everything went to plan, despite nearly missing my connecting train at Carlisle, and at just after two o'clock in the morning Rei let me in and I went upstairs to Elaine's room. I was using my mobile phone to provide some light but this probably scared Elaine even more as she woke with a scream! Surprise! It was great to see her again and even though we had only been apart for two weeks I'd really missed her.

I was shattered after being awake for 20 hours and travelling 1200kms by train and car and fell asleep within 30 seconds!