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Mar. 28th, 2016


Older & Wiser

So I discovered LJ after a long absence. I forgot ALL about it. I had purged myself of all my old paper diaries as they were too cringe-worthy to keep around. I thought everything was gone, which was slightly upsetting, but wholly necessary. Those diaries were not healthy to keep around, they didn't represent any girl that ever really existed, just a girl's mixed up impression of a girl who existed (me). I can't even remember what made me remember LJ the other day, it struck me at work and I miraculously managed to log myself in. This involved reactivating my old 'chelseaintheuk' email address and then resetting the account names and passwords so there were several levels that failure could have ensued. I have had a lovely walk down memory lane reading through old entries, some still cringe-tastic.

Time has passed. I am now 35 - almost 36. I am a Mum, to nearly 2 year olds. I now have a real job. I own a house and the cars and a cat (Jezebel, who is curled up next to me right now). I have suddenly turned middle aged, when did this happen? Some things have not changed though. I am stuck in the past and still listen to mostly the same music. I am still grappling with a love/hate relationship with health and fitness : I am right now on the "hate" side. I still worry about things. I still can't "relax". I still consider things too much. I still wish I could find the time and motivation to write more.

So let's see if I do write more? I have started now, at 3:21am on Easter Sunday while Mark, Marc and the kids are away in Ballarat. I have signed up to be part of a mentoring program and in our training we had a session on 'self care plans'. Some of the ladies spoke about their journalling as part of their self care plan and I was envious that I still didn't make time to write. Let's see how long this effort lasts.

Sep. 2nd, 2004


BRMB (Baby)

Lunch break at work today. I just ate a massive turkey salad baguette. I think I'm turning. I now say cob instead of roll. I get confused with how to pronounce garage. I'm not sure as to the correct way to say macho anymore. I went to the hostel in London and thought all the Aussie people in there sounded like they had such strong accents. I don't want to be one of those tossers who come back with a crap accent. Mum and Dad think I've got one. I guess you can't help it. I remember last time missing hearing the British accents around me when I got home. I really like the diversity of it.

Jul. 22nd, 2004



We had a fantastic time in Paris. I think it has to be my favourite city so far, but then that’s like picking your favourite song because every place has something special about it in a different way.

Our coach was due to leave Cannock which is about 10 minutes away at 4.35am! We weren’t that organised really, packed on Thursday night and then we couldn’t decide whether or not to try and sleep. In the end, we had a few hours sleep and when the alarm went off at 3.45am it seemed like we’d only just closed our eyes 5 minutes ago. The taxi came and Mark chatted away to the driver while I was still in a semi-trance state. We ended up getting to the coach station at about 4.20 and the coach pulled up not long after. We only had one more local stop to make before we left, which was pleasing to know. Later we found out people has been on the coach since a little before midnight as they had been picked up from Bangor, which is very far north Wales. I think it’s worse when you are making the pick-ups and it takes ages yet it still feels like you’re not getting anywhere. At the last pick-up point in Tamworth, two ladies had forgotten their passports so we had to wait there about 45 minutes for someone to drive back and get them. There’s always one! Incidentally, these two ladies were the last on the coach at every single stop we made.

We finally got on the road, drove down to the white cliffs of Dover again, it’s becoming a familiar sight! I love going on the ferry though across the Channel. It was about midday when we crossed but we lost another hour with the time difference. We first had a drink in the bar, then we had a walk around the decks outside. We looked in the duty free shop and then had a meal in the restaurant. I don’t think I’d ever travel through the Channel Tunnel again after going on the ferry.

Mark and I basically slept the whole time on the coach and it seemed a fair bit bigger than the one we’re travelled to Brussels and Bruges in. I only knew that because my knees weren’t hitting the chair in front this time. We’d had luck with the weather and left the rain and clouds (in the summertime) behind in England. The weather in Paris was absolutely beautiful. The sun was out and it was gorgeous.

We arrived at the Hotel Ibis (one of many in a chain) on the outskirts of Paris at about 5pm and checked in to our room which was quite nice. The location left a lot to be desired, it was on a motorway with absolutely nothing directly around it except another hotel. That proved to be inconsequential though as the only time we were at the hotel was literally to sleep! We only had about 40 minutes to freshen up before we were whisked away for our evening meal. It was incredible seeing everyone from the coach after they’d had a wash and got their glad rags on. We all looked like entirely different from the tired, scruffy, disheveled group that got off.

The first evening we had booked to have the meal with the tour group and then we were going on our ‘Paris Illuminations’ tour around the city. We were driven in to Paris to the restaurant and got our first glimpse of the city. It was still light, and we drove past the Stadium where hordes of people were filtering through the doors for some football match that none of us knew anything about. The coach dropped us off around the corner to the restaurant which was on Rue de Louise. We walked down and across a bridge over the River Seine and we were presented with one of the best views of the Notre Dame. It was absolutely beautiful and we were all quite impressed, the cameras came out. I think my camera was permanently in my hand because nearly everything was worthy of a photo. I had to control myself in the end!

We walked into a lovely quaint restaurant. Funnily enough, it had Tudor style beams which I thought was a deliberate attempt to make the English feel more at home! It’s a well known fact that some English go abroad to places such as Spain and never leave the English pubs that have been built specifically for that market. I guess it’s the same with Westernised people overseas flocking to McDonalds and other familiar names because they know what they’re going to get. The staff were lovely. We started with a kind of wine flavoured with blackcurrant liquor. Then we had a bowl of French Onion soup and crusty bread. Mark loved this especially, it had some kind of cheese in it which formed a layer over the soup. The next dish we’d selected was a Pork with Tarragon sauce served with vegetables and chunky potato chips which was also lovely. Mark finished off with a cheese board and I had profiteroles for dessert. The wine flowed freely and we got a nice chance to relax into the atmosphere of Paris. We were seated at a table with an older couple and a 19 year old with her Nan. Her friend was supposed to be accompanying her but fell through with the money at the last minute. Her Nan was lovely, and we spoke to these a fair bit throughout the trip as they were right across the aisle from us on the coach. We called her ‘The Nan’ and the wine was certainly flowing quickly into her particular glass. After we’d left the restaurant and were on our night tour of the Paris by lights, The Nan was asleep for nearly all of it! Head back in the chair, mouth wide open, she’d certainly enjoyed the wine!

The tour of Paris illuminated at night was beautiful. Mark said he thought it was his favourite part. I can see why he loved it so much, I think it’s the fact that it’s the first time you see everything and the way it’s lit up is spectacular. We drove up past the Latin Quarter, past the Louvre which astounded us at the size, the Oblisque, the Champ Elysees, the Opera House, the Arc de Triomphe, the Madeline, the Notre Dame, the Musee d’Orsay and Place de la Concorde among others. The tour guide was full of information about the area and it was interesting listening to his commentary. It was all stunning, but all the while poking over the top of the buildings was the Eiffel Tower which I think everyone was dying to see. We were let out of the coach at the Trocadero and when we rounded the corner, everyone was speechless because it looked so beautiful. The lights were shimmering up and down the Eiffel Tower and I think it was bigger than I imagined. They had cordoned off a section where we were because they were filming for a British show called Holby City, so we’ll have to keep our eyes open for that episode just to say, “We were there!”. It was quite late by this point, but the city was still buzzing. I think everyone on our coach was quite tired from the long day of travelling, especially those who’d been picked up from Wales! We travelled back to the hotel and arrived a little after midnight.
Breakfast the next morning was continental style, I lapped up the croissants and Mark got stuck into the cold meats and cheeses that he loves. It was lovely sitting outside eating breakie and the day was shaping up to be beautiful again. We were on the coach again and driving back into Paris by 8.30am. We had the day tour of Paris first. The first drop off point was the Notre Dame and we had an hour to stroll around the gardens and to take in the sights. We went inside and it was quite impressive inside. I think though Mark and I have clocked up a lot of churches now on our travels so it may not have had the same impact because we’ve seen lots before. The gardens were lovely and I loved the outside of the building with the famous gargoyles peering down at you.

After being given a tour of the main sights, we were given a bit over 4 hours free time which seemed like nothing. From other people’s recommendations, we decided to spend our free time at the Louvre. I would have liked to go up the Eiffel tower, but I thought we’d probably spend half our time in a line and that would be a waste when you’re on such a tight schedule. We were dropped at the Opera House and told we were to be back at 4.30. The tour guide told us to have a wander in the Department store called La Fayettes. We went in and up the escalators to see the lovely glass dome inside and then continued up to get the roof top view which was lovely. Back on the street, we were in front of a taxi rank and decided to cab it to the Louvre. Mark got in and said “The Louvre si vous plait” to which the taxi driver looked baffled. We then were grabbing the map and trying to find The Louvre on the map. So we pointed, felt like complete idiots but managed to make it there and kept saying “Merci, Merci” when we got out.

Walking around the grounds of the Louvre, you still don’t get any idea of how big it is inside. I remember the tour guide giving us some statistics on how there is 11 miles of corridors and that if you spent 30 seconds looking at every exhibit in there, you’d need in excess of 3 weeks (24 hours a day!). We walked to the glass pyramid building which is the entrance and joined the small queue. I think we’d both become paranoid about the masses of tourists and everyone had warned us we’d have to queue – for a long time – for everything. But pleasantly, we got into the exhibits quite quickly. Of course, even though there is so much in there, our first item on the agenda was to see the Mona Lisa. To get there, we walked past all the Italian and Renaissance paintings which were unbelievably impressive. It all came to a bottleneck and again, we had a small line to join to filter through to see the Mona Lisa. It was great to see such a famous painting but unfortunately, with the crowds of people there, you felt like you couldn’t stand there for too long.

We stayed there for a few hours and looked at the Ancient Greek exhibits and the Egyptian exhibits. Due to building restrictions, they can only extend the building down, rather than adding further extensions or storeys. So you go down and down into the depths of the building. It gets slowly colder and colder as you go further down. Some of the Egyptian exhibitions were fascinating, the hieroglyphics which dated back centuries before Christ. You almost can’t believe you’re looking at something so old. I think in order to appreciate it fully, you’d have to do your tour a little at a time. I think you tend to gloss over so many amazing things because you’re spoilt for choice. Everything in there is remarkable in itself but because there’s so much in there you don’t have time to appreciate everything properly. After a few hours, we resurfaced and had a walk around the grounds in the sun.
From where we were standing at the Louvre, you could see in a straight line the Oblisque and then down the Champ Elysees to the Arc de Triomphe. The sun was beating down on us and we were really hot, so we got an icecream and sat down on the grass in the gardens. Not two minutes later, an environmental attendant was gesturing at us to stand up. The city was so clean because of these guys in their green outfits. Apparently the gardens were out of bounds at this particular point in time. We sat under a tree instead and the attendant cycled off to continue to clean the city up.
By this time, we walked back up to the direction of the Opera House, past some shops and the Joan of Arc statue. We had a half an hour to spare before the coach was due and sat down for a drink in one of the cafes. The food looked great in there, particularly all the salads. It was lovely being able to sit down and watch all the people go by and relax for half an hour. The day had been quite busy!

We went back to the coach a bit early, being paranoid they would drive off without us! It was about 4.20 and the coach was supposed to leave at 4.30. We hopped on, the tour guide did the count and confirmed we were all there so we left to go to dinner. We’d nearly arrived at the restaurant when someone mentioned the ladies sitting in front of us to the tour operator, who did a recount and realised he’d miscounted the amount going for dinner. So we drove back to the opera house which took about 15 minutes, so we’d pulled up there at about 4.50, 20 minutes after the agreed time.

They were nowhere to be seen and wouldn’t have known the address of the restaurant because we hadn’t been told. Another tour operator for the same company rang ours to say the two missing ladies had approached him and he’d put them in a taxi with the address of the restaurant. So we left again expecting to see them there.

We went to a different restaurant in the same area as we’d been the previous night. When we arrived, the missing ladies weren’t anywhere to be see. We carried on and were seated. The tour operator by now was looking quite worried as he chain smoked his cigarettes, after all it was entirely his mistake for leaving early and miscounting the numbers. We were served our wine flavoured with blackcurrant and then our starter which was a bacon and goat cheese salad which was beautiful. About half an hour later, the missing ladies came traipsing down the stairs puffed, red and angry looking. The tour operator went over to sedate them and explain what had happened. They still weren’t impressed and were the ringleaders of the ensuing hate campaign against the tour operator. It was understandable, they’d been ditched even though they turned up at the meeting point on time. They’d then proceeded to find another tour operator with the same company (up there for thinking!) who put them in a taxi and told the driver where to go. The taxi driver then took them for an unplanned tour of the city and apparently was yelling at them in French and throwing the street directory at them because presumably he didn’t know where they were going. They then got out because they recognised where we’d eaten the night before and went back to the same restaurant to ask them if they knew where we’d been. The lovely woman escorted them to the restaurant we were at – end of saga. So you can probably understand why they weren’t impressed with the tour operator.

Back to the meal – our main course was duck, vegetables and scallop potatoes, followed by a dessert of chocolate mousse. The dinner was lovely, the unlimited wine was also on offer again. The volume in the room increased and increased and increased! The Nan was on our table again, killing the red wine. She’d drank about 2/3 of a bottle, had about half an inch left in her glass and then chose to pour water in it “to water it down a bit”. We loved The Nan! Everyone was having a great time in the restaurant, I think we were all in need of a bit of unwinding after the busy day.

Back on the bus (no rest for the wicked) and we were off to Montmartre and the Sacre Coeur. We drove through the red light district, past the Moulin Rouge with it’s great big windmill on top and parked up. Another word on the tour operator – he was very informative but his advice was also very precautionary. I suppose it’s your job to alert people to certain dangers when you’re a tour guide. So he started on his spiel about how rife the pick pocketing trade is in Montmartre. He recounted stories of people having watches stolen off their arms while their arms hung out their car windows and stories of gangs made up of 6 year old kids terrorizing the innocent tourists. By the time we got out, I think the whole coach was gripping their possessions so tightly they were losing circulation in their hands! I was also paranoid and kept reinforcing the tour guides advice for Mark to put his hand in the pocket and hold his wallet.
We walked up to the furnicular railway which we hopped on to the top of the hill. The Sacre Coeur was perched on the hill top and looked amazing. Once we were up the top, the view was spectacular. We carried on walking up the winding road and around to the artist’s quarters. There was a little square with the artists all set up. Some of the work they were doing was amazing. I think this was one of my favourite parts of the trip, the night was lovely and it was a fantastic atmosphere up there (apart from the undercurrent of pick pocketers!). We watched one artist do a caricature of some poor bloke. People were all standing around laughing at it, it was truly hideous. I don’t know who’d be brave enough to get one done!! One artist we saw was amazing and he was painting a small girl, spending so long with his charcoal on just the eyes which looked real. We strolled around looking at their work. One lady came up to me and said she wanted to paint my picture because of my plaits (yeah right!) but I was contemplating it as well, just the price was too much. I managed to get it done for a good price though, so sat down and she began. I was sitting there and doing a strange smile while she was looking at me and then back at her page. It was very strange, I kept looking away and then she’d signal for me to carry on looking at her. I think I felt uncomfortable staring at a stranger. Then as she carried on, I got more and more worried I’d hate it. I kept looking at Mark to get reassurance but he was giving me nothing. Then I thought at least none of the passers by were standing there in hysterics at how ridiculous the painting would be. My mind was in over drive! But in the end, I liked my portrait. There’s a resemblance but it’s debatable as to how much the picture looks like me. Mark and I think it looks like me but the mouth is a bit off. Robbie thinks “it looks more like Chelsea than it looks like Mark” but that’s all he was willing to concede.

We walked across to the Sacre Coeur and had a look inside. It was like a sauna in there and quite crowded, so we were only in there briefly. We took some photos of the beautiful view over Paris and stood on the steps taking it all in. We kept walking down the steps and it was a fantastic atmosphere with people spread all over the grass having drinks. We were coming down the steps and these blokes were trying to flog their African cotton bracelets. They started with this ring of cotton that fits over your finger and all they’re trying to do is get you to agree for them to “show you something”. So we ploughed through them and they’re trying everything, I kept saying “no thanks” and they keep trying to slip this thing on your finger all the while. Mark paused for a bit by mistake and no sooner did he stop than the bloke’s got this bit of cotton on his finger and madly threading it over itself. Mark’s trying to get out of it, and the bloke was desperately trying to keep us talking so he could finish the bracelet. He was about ¾ finished when Mark had to forcibly take it off his finger and carry on walking with the excuse that our coach was leaving.

We got back to the coach and a woman approached us asking us if we lived in Cheslyn Hay. They’d seen our address tag on our bag and they ended up living in the next street! After we got talking, we found out they used to run the pub Mark’s mum worked in year ago. They remembered Mark and from that point on, the woman walked past us on the coach and said things like, “Ahh, Carol’s babby”. They made me laugh in an irritated sort of way. Adding on to the hate campaign about the tour guide, they were complaining that we didn’t have enough time in Montmartre and “why would they dump us in Paris for 4 hours, what is there to do in Paris for 4 hours?” Mark and I just nodded looking sympathetic but were both in stitches later over it. I think some people just love to complain for the sake of it. You’ll never please everyone, but really, what IS there to do in Paris for 4 hours?

We were all back at the coach in time, except for 6 people. So we had to hang around for a half an hour while they wandered back. So consequently, we missed our scheduled Seine River Cruise – later on in the questionnaire which rates the trip, this also became the tour guide’s fault according to most as a result of the hate campaign. I think they also pinned the Kennedy assassination on the tour guide. Anyway, we had to get on the next scheduled cruise down the river. It went for a little over an hour and include a commentary. It was a gorgeous night for it and we saw all the sights beautifully lit up again. I think it was the perfect way to wrap up the Paris trip.

We drove down the Champ Elysees to pick up some of the people who didn’t join the optional excursion. All the seating for the following days Tour de France was lining the street. Trying to navigate around the roundabout at the Arc de Triomphe was the most impossible thing I’ve ever seen. I’ve never seen such controlled chaos. Lanes and lanes of traffic around this roundabout and cars just moving from the very inside lane cutting everyone else off. It was ridiculous. Our coach driver, Christine was a fantastic driver and I think everyone recognised her skill when she got our massive coach around that unscathed.

Again, we got back to the hotel after midnight and we absolutely exhausted. The time had gone so quickly and we had to pack all our stuff up because we were leaving the next day early. We got up early for breakfast again and brought out luggage down to the coach. After breakfast, we left quite early to get to Versailles. We arrived and had a few hours to look around. The coach driver in his ever negative spirit implied we’d spend hours in the queue if we tried to go in. Mark and I took our chances and all together it probably took us just under 20 minutes to get through all the ticketing. The Palace itself was unbelievable. It was so extravagant inside. It took our breath away. It was quite busy inside with lots of tours taking place. The Hall of Battles was our favourite with the battle paintings lining the walls. It was spectacular and hard to believe it began as a hunting cottage.

We walked up to the local market in the town of Versailles and looked around the fresh fruit, which was all displayed impeccably. It all looked so fresh. There were cheeses, crusty bread, cooked chickens and baby potatoes. Everything looked fantastic. Back at the coach, we had our encounter with the Lucky Lucky Men. They basically sell watches, hand bags, post cards, Eiffel Tower key rings, etc for cheap. They’re relentless but not in a nasty way. They’re smiling, have great sales lines. For instance, we were saying no to the watches, then to entice us, one said, “10 year guarantee” which we started laughing at, then he joined in laughing as well. We said “no no no” to the watches and the key rings, but then Mark asked if they had any wallets. So our Lucky Lucky Man yells at his mate and then he came over with the wallets. I got our remaining change which was about 4 euros and haggled them down from 10 euros to 4. Then I got roped into buying a watch for 5 euros. Saying roped in, it’s actually quite a nice watch, I’ve got it on now!

It turned into a frenzy and all the Lucky Lucky Men were madly waving their handbags and postcards at us trying to get us to buy. We left Versailles with our newly purchased bargains. Of course the eternal whingers on the coach were complaining about the Lucky Lucky Men, but we liked them. You can’t complain at a watch for 5 Euros!

The coach pulled away and we made our way home. Mark and I slept most of the way home and got back about 11pm. We had an absolutely fantastic time. It was the ideal way to be introduced to a gorgeous city, one that we’d both love to revisit.

Jul. 21st, 2004


(no subject)

Hi everyone,

Well I was expecting to have sent you all a little round up of my week away at the Glastonbury festival but it seems that I’m only up to the second day about 1500 words later and I can’t see me getting round to finishing that before I go away to Paris on Friday. So I thought I’d write to say hello. Glastonbury will come later, I wanted to make sure I wrote an email about everything we did so I’d not forget all the details in years to come.

I’ve been quite busy with the eBay malarkey lately every night. So basically, I am at a computer all day at work and then when I get home, Mark and I have to be there for a good while sorting out ebay. This involves making up listings for the items, scheduling the listings, answering the countless (and I do mean countless) questions related to the items, sending invoices, chasing payment, packing the items and then keeping all the records together. It is time consuming, but it is worth it. Mark first came up with the idea of selling Snap On (the top brand in mechanic tools and automotive accessories) stuff on ebay. The Snap On merchandise is only available through Snap On dealers who are mobile and visit various garages in their designated areas. So it is quite a task for someone not in the trade to get their hands on any of it. We are primarily selling these seat covers (more like protective covers for mechanics) and the blokes with the hotted up cars are going crazy for them. I almost felt bad the other night because someone bid £43.80 for one of these seat covers and it’s BLATANTLY not worth anywhere near that price!!

So apart from ebay and work, we’ve been (again on the computer) searching for the best prices for Mark’s flight to Australia. When we were originally trying to work out a date for Mark to come back, Mark’s friend Robbie was over. Mark said, ‘Fancy coming to Australia?’ as a bit of a throw away line. I don’t think Mark ever truly thought there was a hope that one of his best mates would come for a holiday with him. To our surprise though, Rob took it on board and decided it’s the perfect time for him to go on a working holiday to Australia. I think it’ll be great for both of them to have each other there. Fiona and Marty mentioned to me that their housemate moves out in August I think. So I’ve organised for Rob to move in with Fiona and Marty.

After much hunting around on the internet, we found the best price with Emirates. All the cheap flights seemed to be coming up with Emirates. I told Rob and Mark about my experiences flying with them and I had an old menu with all the drinks and meals in there. I think they were getting excited about flying with them when they looked at the menu and the information on the website. So we took our quotes down to the big travel hypermarkets in Walsall and both places couldn’t even come close to the price we had listed. Their advice was to go home and book is ASAP. So we got home and went back to book it and the fares had gone after only a day. That brought it all back to the beginning and we had to trawl the internet again for best price deals. It’s not so straight forward though because lots of airlines list the fares without tax and the conditions of the tickets are difficult to find. In the end, the best price came up for British Airways which was a bit of a shock. I think it baffled the boys because they had suddenly just assumed they were going to be flying with Emirates.

The next day, Mark’s friend Deano came over for the first time in months and months. We told him we were booking the tickets and the dilemma as to whether to fly with British Airways. I think I wasn’t much help because I’ve only flown with Emirates so I can’t compare it to anything. Toby who I’d spoken to had flown with everyone but Emirates, so it still is difficult to compare. Deano has travelled extensively and said hands down to pay the extra 20 pound for Emirates. He said with a flight that long you want the best. That was great advice and made the choice easier. So we found the flight we wanted and then rang Flight Centre (who actually don’t have the monopoly on the flight market!) and they beat the price. Mark and Rob leave Birmingham on November 30, stop at Dubai, Singapore and then arrive in Melbourne. They’ve booked two months after I fly home to allow them both to get a bit more money together.

We have been quite boring lately, looking for flights, getting travel insurance quotes, doing ebay, but it’s all for a good cause. It’s Wednesday today and we have to pack tonight for Mark’s birthday present, the trip to Paris. We’ll both be off to work Thursday and then we have to be in Cannock at 4.35am Friday morning. It’s probably the worst time possible! Not even enough to push for staying up, far too early to constitute an early rise. It will be great though, but I’m guessing very busy as the final stage of the Tour de France is in Paris on the Sunday we leave. There will surely be a great atmosphere there though.

Apart from that, we’re trying to cram in all the things we were planning to do. We still have the trip to Penzance (Cornwall) for the ‘Ghost Hunting Experience’ which was a birthday present. I want to drive up the M6 one weekend past the lochs in Scotland. We also want to go to either Barcelona or Prague. It’s quite good because I no longer need a special visa to enter since they joined the EU.

I am finishing up work on the 17th of September here at Walsall Housing Group and they are all saying Mark should marry me so I can stop longer and carry on working there. My reply is that my Mum would have a heart attack if I came home married! They will be sad to see me go and I’ve enjoyed my time working here as well. I leave England September 28 at this stage, but will probably change the date to September 30 which is when my visa expires. That’s about it from me.

Lots of love to you all,

Jun. 16th, 2004


(no subject)

This is devastating . . .


This is the progress of my Ben Harper tickets on ebay. Would you bid for them? They're not even at 1 pound yet....

Apr. 26th, 2004


Steal My Kisses

Ben Harper. June. Birmingham.

I'm there.

Jan. 31st, 2004


(no subject)

Hi everyone,

It's Saturday morning here and I've got some spare time because Mark's at work. I usually take advantage of the sleep in on Saturday mornings but that became impossible this morning. Mark leaves at about 8.45am and from that time on, all the whole Close heard was him constantly trying to get his car to start. It took about 10 minutes, I think he flooded the engine. Continual turning over of the engine, not the best to try and sleep to. So I then watched a bit of bad morning telly and have since been looking a bit on the internet.

Work is going quite well at the moment. My role has far progressed from filing now. I'm still working in the department which repairs all the council houses in the area. I mainly look after all the administration with the 200 or so properties in the stock which have been in such a bad state that they're sitting there empty not earning any rental money. Since rent from the tenants is the only revenue, it's vital to turn these properties around and get work done on them to meet the standards required. It's quite difficult though based on the area the properties are in. One of our areas is well known for being the red light district. Lots of prostitution, drug dealing, general anti social behaviour. For example, in one estate when people turn their lights on at night time they often get bricks thrown through their windows. It's strange because you drive 10 minutes away and find yourself in beautiful areas. Programs are being run to try and change perception of the area so people will actually want to live there. So I find it quite interesting in terms of the whole process whereby programs are being created to try and enhance the life opportunities of people on no or low incomes.

The people in the office are lovely. There's around 45 tradesmen in our trust and in the next few weeks I'll be standing in for one of the repair assistants who coordinate all the repairs. The guy has found a new post as Equality and Diversity Officer within the council so I'm undertaking his role until someone else is found to replace him. It's a little daunting as I'll have to deal with the tenants directly, many of which don't speak much English. It'll be nice for a change though and it's always good to develop better skills.

We had a motivational morning at Bescot Stadium the other morning with work which was good to see the football ground of the local Walsall team. It was very much like something you'd see in the Office, although not the kind of speech David Brent would deliver. There was no 'Simply the Best' ringing in our ears at the end. It was really interesting because two men came to speak from different housing groups; one based in the UK and one based in the USA. They spoke about programs they offer their tenants to try and enhance their opportunities. It's strange because the area ties in really well with some of my sociology courses on social policy.

In other news, Mark and I are laying low and trying to save some money. We've booked a holiday to Brussells and Bruges for a few days in March which was an absolute bargain and we're both really looking forward to that.

The weather we've been experiencing here in the past week has come from the Arctic. It was so cold, about -15 in the day with the wind chill factor. The snow came pouring down on Wednesday and the gritters were on the roads putting salt down so they'd remain driveable. The only problem was the snow came so thick and fast and then the temperature dropped that much in such a short amount of time that the salt and grit and snow all froze making the roads like an ice rink. When we drove home Wednesday night it took about an hour as opposed to 20 minutes. We saw three accidents on the way home because the cars were sliding about everywhere. It was lethal and people trying to commute from Birmingham took up to 6 hours to try and get home. All the kids were out throwing snow balls.

Apart from that, we've been watching a show called 'I'm A Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here' where c-list celebrities are put in the Australian 'jungle' and have to do a series of tasks. It's hilarious because they portray Australia as crawling and infested with deadly spiders and snakes. Peter Andre is on there and he is an embarassment to the whole country of Australia. Enough said.

Anyway, keep the emails coming. I love hearing about what's going on.

Lots of love to you all,

Sep. 30th, 2002



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