70s 80s 90s 00s art music books movies beer mates cars bars clubs travel scuba fishkeeping dogs photography filmmaking writing natural synthetic chemical animal vegetable mineral houseplants sculpture LEGO star wars fear and loathing in birmingham united kingdom

24 September 2006

This Is Tranquility Base

Since we last met, I've celebrated my uncle and aunt's 40th wedding anniversary (not to mention my uncle's 80th year), before jetting to Grand Cayman for a fortnight's holiday that felt like a month, got back on Wednesday, had two job offers since then, been to London to my old radio wife's wedding party last night, and am now collapsed back in Birmingham like some tired dog. But I feel so chilled out, even tiredness is fabulous.

I'll be regaling you at some length on the Cayman holiday, but that won't be now. You can, however, jump to my YouTube account (search for user hunterswalsh - get to my channel page - and check out Cayman Daze and Scuba Diving Grand Cayman North Shore Wall). Suffice it to mention the following highlights: amazing weather, great tropical storms, white sand beaches (empty), excellent diving (rays, sharks, barracuda, turtles, dolphins), excellent snorkelling (10 nurse sharks at once! more rays, turtles, barracuda, etc - and right off the beach!), okeyish food (Cayman largely caters for the American market - note use of word 'largely'), fantastic accommodation, great locals, lovely society, superb ramshackle 'pirate' bars all along the coast...)

We arrived back pretty knackered on Wednesday late afternoon. The flight routes via Nassau in The Bahamas, and you only get a little carton of orange juice between Grand Cayman and there. We got on the plane at Owen Roberts Airport in Cayman at 1715hrs. We took off at 1800. We landed at Nassau at 1915. We took off again from Nassau at 1830. So, over four hours (I haven't adjusted the local times - it's all the same time from Cayman) without any food at all. I'm sure most people hadn't eaten since lunchtime. Not really very good for British Airways, to be honest, and while we're in the area, the crew changes for the transatlantic hop to Heathrow: all I can honestly say is that they clearly use the local Caribbean legs for the trainee staff. The ones who can't handle giving out more than a single carton of OJ per gasping passenger. Quite rude too, some of them: we'd asked a female member of cabin staff for a paracetamol for the good lady's headache. She returned, with two tablets, and a consent form, which she had to sign saying that she was taking them for her headache.

"Blimey, what's all the paperwork for?!" I teased.
"It's to ensure that she knows what she's taking, and why she's taking them," came the response.
"But - for a headache?" I prodded.
"Some people take them for other reasons, sir," came the curt, purse-lipped response.
I couldn't resist.
"Do they take them to get high?"
I started chuckling inside.
"No, some people take them thinking that it works the same way as aspirin for DVT - deep vein thrombosis," she pressed in revealing.

I wondered so hard why the mysterious 'other reasons' had even been mentioned. Just skip to the end, honey. You are not the keeper of deeply secret knowledge. We were fed once the professionals joined us as we left Nassau (and it was actually very passable - unlike the good lady's vegetarian option - that's two aeroplane meals that have disappointed her), watched Mission Impossible III (actually not bad for mindless stunts, shooting, guns and shit - strange cameo from Simon Pegg, though), before drifting off onto into a pitching, rolling sea of warm and cold air currents and clouds passing us at 600 miles per hour.

Thankfully England was sunny as we disembarked bang on time at 1100 hrs on Wednesday. We sorted the suitcases with no hassles at all, and were out and back at the car for midday. We were back at the London flat by 1300 and left at 1430, to avoid the traffic in the capital, but knowing we'd probably get it all the way back. Which we did: eventually, around 1630, we dropped our bags in the flat and collapsed. The good lady went home after an hour (I'm sure she'd had quite enough of me, too, these last 14 days) - her work stuff was there, and she was back at the fun factory on Thursday morning. I sat around here and unpacked, opened post, threw most of it away, and generally mooched in a waking dead mode until sleep overtook me.

Thursday I woke late, and met the good lady for lunch at 1330. We ate at Cafe Rouge - I had seriously missed their baguette poulet - and then bumped into some ex-colleagues on my way back home, who were made to suffer a brief pictureshow and videoreel of the holiday. They hate me, now.

Mid-afternoon found me back on the bike and exploring another canal route out of Birmingham city centre, this time the Birmingham-Wolverhampton line, which is replete with several old, unused canal paths and loops. Great fun to explore. I was amazed to find that I'd cycled 15 kilometres once I'd got back and checked on Google Earth. If keeping fit can be as much fun as this, I'm up for it. Just don't expect me to run around like some hamster in a wheel in a gym full of body-nazis. Danke schoen.

Once I'd showered and changed, I headed to Mum's for dinner - one of her gorgeous steaks, with baked potato, and pan-roasted vine tomatoes and sugar snap peas. Mmm. Don't forget to drench those steaks in Martini Rosso before serving... now, that's a taste that will always remind me of Mum cooking when I was a kid. We had a lovely time, she loved the chocolate rum fudge from Cayman (as did I), I sorted her PC out a bit (not a tricky one), and headed back to Brum.

Tommy came over for 10pm and we headed to O'Neills on Broad Street. Strange experience in there. The lights came up for last orders at - actually - 1055pm. Now, you and I know that, in English licensing law, a drinking-up time of 30 minutes is the maximum time allowed to finish up and leave. Oddly, at about 10-past eleven - just 15 minutes since the call - a female security guard (what a nice place Birmingham is, they need day-glo gorillas on every pub door) approaches, asks us to finish up and leave.

"What about drinking up time?" we chirrupped.
"There's no such thing in this pub. It's at the landlord's discretion."
"Forgive me, but it's not. It's the law. 30 minutes. And only 15 have elapsed."
"Would you drink up and leave, please," she repeats, before approaching another group with her message of doom.

So, we sit there, nursing our pints at a very slow rate. At least ten minutes elapse. We've had the best of drinking up time. As we leave, I approach the barman.

"Excuse me, mate, do you know the licensing laws in England?"
"Erm...mmm...I...er..." he fumbles. The chap is clearly Eastern European, which I don't hold against him, but which didn't quite immediately qualify him for a discussion of the statutes in the UK on licensing.
"They stipulate 30 minutes of drinking-up time. Now, you called time late - at 5-to-eleven. We were asked to leave at 10 past, when we had until 25-past, which is 30 minutes after 5-to-eleven, which is when time was called."

The power-crazed porky cow is back in my face.
"You, outside, now, or I'll bar you for life!" she spits
"Sorry, you're going to bar me for life for having a conversation with the barman?" I enquire.
"Yes I am. Get out now, or you're barred."
"I might be barred, but at least I'm not wrong. 30 minutes. Look it up, love."
And we leave. Tsk. Country's gone to the dogs. Or if not gone, very much scampering playfully, tongue lolling stupidly to the side, towards the great, concrete dogpound.

I woke late again on Friday, and started getting all the loose ends tied up for the London flat rental, and generally getting all the outstanding stuff covered off. With some amazing luck, I managed to cancel the big bill for mooring in Penarth marina. The day before we went down to London, I'd got a letter from Penarth Quays presenting me with a bill for £800. Which rather surprised me.

I had indeed applied for moorings, and I had given the start of October as the commencement date - but, since that communication from me, I'd had no response from the place, and rather thought that some form of confirmation might be sent to me, before billing me. Anyway, apparently not. I decided to give them a call, and spoke to the marina manager. He'd been wondering where the boat was.

I explained the situtation: that I'd applied for the berthing in early August, after getting the boat into the hands of Peters in Mallorca at the end of July. I thought a couple of months would be a reasonable time in which to get an 18-foot speedboat back to England on a trailer. Not so. I've been fobbed off with lots of excuses, the main one being 'preparations for Southampton Boat Show'. That finished today. They can expect a chivvying call from me tomorrow.

Anyway, the chappie at Penarth was a top bloke: he's cancelled the whole shebang, with me chalked up for moorings 'at some point to be announced'. So: no £800 bill, for now. That's for six months. This is gonna be a pricey business, boat-keeping. As my old man always said: it's not the cost of purchase, it's the maintenance. One to bear in mind when getting married, chaps.

Friday night found me back at Penny Black's with the old-work crew, bidding 'farewell' to someone lovely who's moving across the office to another department. That was good, nice to see everyone, give Dan his pressie, and so on. Great chat with Steve, as usual. A nice, healthy pizza and salad combo and we headed for the sack, ready for our trip to London tomorrow, where we would witness a Parkerson party, which are not for the faint-of-heart.

I need to rest before I even begin that one.


Post a Comment

<< Home