So, for my actual birthday I was in work. Thus I didn't open any presents until after I got back home...
The day was ordinary enough. I received four cards from colleagues over the course of the day and went out to treat everyone to some Krispy Kreme doughnuts at lunchtime (bought 12 and cut them in half...), which went down exceptionally well. We should definitely put together a doughnut kitty. :D
On getting back we invited Lisa up for some wine and presents were opened.
Paul got me a teddy bear dressed as a zebra (heh) and two DS games (Contact, which is a strange RPG-type thing, and Hotel Dusk, a film noir style mystery game which is reminiscent of the old point-and-click puzzle games you used to get in the mid-90s. I miss those games...) Lisa gave me one of her dotty paintings (pink with white and multi-coloured dots on oval canvass), from her mad burst of creativity whilst unemployed, and has said I can commission another in whatever colours I want. :D My mum and David got me lots of lovely Lush stuff (woo!) and then subsequently bought us a lovely meal (more later), and Paul's mum and Noel got me some perfume and a butterfly-shaped necklace set with garnets.
The meal was at Ponte di Legno, an Italian restaurant in Moseley which we'd heard good things about. WOW. For starters, I had an aubergine dish, and everyone else had the seafood. The portion sizes were insane. Mine was about the size of a main course and contained aubergine with tomato sauce and LOTS of mozzarella. Lovely.
I can't remember all the mains, but I had a chicken and mushroom based dish whilst Paul had the mixed fish pasta. It all sounded delicious and in the end I went for a 'safe' main after having an experimental starter. ;)
We couldn't finish our food. I'm talking Mr Creosote levels of 'couldn't finish'. The portion sizes were that big.
It was all delicious, though. Mmmm.
On Saturday morning I got up early(ish) and went to Acocks Green on the bus to deliver some flattened boxes to Gaynor, as she's moving house. Since I'd traipsed all the way over there she bought me a coffee and we had a bit of a natter / gossip, then I got the bus home again. Eventually. The first three buses that went past were only going as far as the garage so I was waiting ages.
On the bus I rang Paul to ask if he wanted to meet up before going to the pub. It transpired the network was down at work, so we met a lot earlier than intended. Got to the Briar around 2.00, I think, and had food (at that stage I'd only had three biscuits and a piece of bread and butter for breakfast...), and waited for people to arrive.
People arrived in the form of Lorna, Derek, Lloyd and Ben, then later Alison and Denise. Lisa was going to join us but by 8.30 I was knackered and we had to go home, so we bought some more doughnuts on the way home and shared them with Lisa when we got back...
I can't remember much of Sunday but I imagine it involved very little. ;)
I then had possibly the least productive week ever. On Monday I was asleep until the late morning and spent the day trying out my new DS games (which I'd already done to some extent on Sunday) and watching television... Tuesday was much of the same because I woke up with a headache which persisted most of the day, popped out at lunchtime to get some bits from Iceland, and subsequently decreed the weather too foul to go out again, thus missing choir. Bad, I know.
Wednesday was somewhat more productive. I cleaned the kitchen and dusted in the bedroom, and copied some CDs for Katie. I did make a start on the accompanying "liner notes" letter but then realised it was 5.00pm and I'd not eaten any lunch, so stopped. Finally managed to finish that last night.
On Thursday evening I met Paul after work and we went to the cinema to see The Imaginarium of Dr Parnassus, which was quite entertaining. Highly confusing and beautifully shot, but most of it has now fallen out of my brain. Perhaps the bizarrest thing was that I'd had a dream that morning about a shopping centre which almost exactly resembled one of the two in the film, or may well have been a combination of both, which was very odd indeed. I shall put further thoughts between horizontal lines so the spoiler-phobic can avoid them...
Anyway, I enjoyed the film. I didn't go in with ridiculously high expectations (Heath Ledger's last film, etc.) and I think perhaps that's why I enjoyed it more than others seem to have done. I went in for the pretty (i.e. Johnny Depp :P), and in that respect, it delivered. The imaginarium sequences were typical Gilliam, and the London sequences looked beautifully derelict. The dancing policemen were very Python-esque (something of a WTF moment, though) and the different 'faces' of Ledger's character, Tony, didn't jar in the slightest, which I think was helped by the inclusion of the scene at the start where the drunken man also has a different face when he goes in.
Ledger's accent wobbled somewhere in the middle of Australian and Cockney, and Depp is forever cursed with his Cockney accent sounding like a sober Jack Sparrow (heh), but no complaints about anyone else. Depp, Jude Law and Colin Farrell all mimicked Ledger's mannerisms perfectly, which helped with making the 'faces' less foreign for the character.
I was also pleasantly surprised by Lily Cole being a passable actress, and it was nice to see Christopher Plummer playing a less sober role (literally!). Also enjoyed Tom Waits as the Devil. :)
Next film on the list is 9, which opens on Wednesday. :) I'm also keen to see Fantastic Mr. Fox because it's stop-motion, but I think it can wait until the Sky Movies release. And I want to see Up after reading about it in Empire, as it sounds good... Then, of course, there's the now-traditional Hallowe'en fare of Saw VI, as the Saw films are the only horror movies I'll see in the cinema apart from foreign ones with limited release...
Right then. Now for the London write-up.
Firstly, the coach fiasco.
We were booked onto the 11.30 coach from Birmingham, to arrive at 14.20 and thus give us plenty of time to get to the hotel for our 15.00 check-in.
So, at 11.30 our coach arrived. The driver sat in the bay with the doors closed for about five minutes, then drove off again without any explanation (doing a 16-point turn in the process to reverse out of the bay). Apparently he went back to Bearwood to pick some people up, as when he arrived there was no-one there, but on the way out again he saw a group of people at the bus stop. He informed the information desk staff that he would board the coach at Digbeth before going back to Bearwood. In fact, he did nothing of the sort, instead driving off and leaving 30+ passengers standing around in a confused state.
It's bad enough that he apparently didn't hang around Bearwood long enough to see if people arrived to get on the coach (and considering that he was either picking up at the tiny bus station or on Hagley Road, there's not many places said passengers could be...), but to tell the coach station staff one thing and then do the opposite is just ridiculous.
One angry woman went to the info desk and kicked off, swearing and shouting and abusing big words (Paul was there and she apparently said, "You should have had the audacity to tell us!" - er, not quite). The woman on the help desk said she'd get us all on the next coach, the 12.00pm, which would get us there quicker than waiting for our AWOL 11.30 coach. Another woman burst into tears so she was obviously trying to keep an appointment, and the helpdesk lady tried to get her on a train instead. The entire bloody thing was a shambles.
So we all ended up on the 12.00pm coach. It stopped briefly at a service station for about five minutes for no apparent reason, where the angry woman from before went to have a go at the driver. He explained whatever we were doing and she stomped back to her seat saying "You should tell us then, innit..."
We finally got to London around 3.15 thanks to hitting traffic on the motorway and in the city, but anyway, at least we got there. Needless to say, National Express have a ranty email coming their way; that driver deserves a disciplinary.
We found the hotel with no trouble. Embarrasingly, it wasn't until we returned a few minutes later that we found the en suite, which we previously thought did not exist and were gearing up to use the shared facilities down the hall. *head-->desk* So much for being intelligent, observant adults. ;)
The coach nonsense didn't give us much time to do anything, so after a brief wander to find some drinks (ended up spending stupid money in a restaurant as there was nowhere else), we got changed and went straight back out again. I was wearing my orange/brown/turquoise corduroy suit with a turquoise shirt, and because the trousers are too long had opted to wear my pointy ankle boots from Shelleys, which have just enough of a heel on them to not ruin the backs of my trousers.
Heh, bad plan. Within about five minutes (the walk to the Tube station), my injured foot (which I broke in March) was complaining vehemently about my toes being squished together. My little toes were also rubbing uncomfortably, and by the end of the night I could feel one of them rubbing my ankle. Thankfully I have no blisters to show for it, but my feet were still not happy on Saturday, either, when the pain had transferred to my right arch.
As a result, the walk to the restaurant was bloody torturous, as was standing around outside the pub opposite the theatre, and even sitting down for the show didn't help my cause. It also meant we missed out on a stage-door lurkage, which was rather a shame, because I couldn't stand up for very long. At one point we half-decided to go back to the hotel so I could change into my trainers and go out again, but by then it was 11.00pm anyway and there'd only be an hour before all the pubs started closing, so we just gave up and went back. Ah well.
Er, I'm going to do my show write-up in a separate entry, as this is long enough already and I don't want it to get lost in the general update. So that will come later. ;)
Okay, so, we got back to the hotel and pretty much went straight to bed. Initially I'd thought, after sitting down briefly on the bed, that it was going to soft and comfy... at least until we got under the duvet and discovered it to be the Lumpiest Bed in the Universe. The mattress probably was soft at some point in its life, but general wear and tear meant that the metal supports for the springs kept jabbing us, and it was almost impossible to find somewhere comfortable to lie. In addition, I had opened the window when we came in because the heating was on and the room was so hot, except then I closed it shortly before nodding off (briefly) because I was cold... so when I woke up again at who-knows-what time, it was bloody boiling. I was sleeping against the wall and so couldn't be bothered to clamber to the end of the bed to open it again, and hence suffered in silence.
Also, Paul had the beginnings of a cold which eventually kicked in on Monday, and was snoring like a bloody ogre, which meant that I probably got about three hours sleep in total.
The breakfast in the hotel comprised cornflakes with room-temperature milk and some toast. We didn't wait for the toast, instead opting to go and buy something more substantial elsewhere. So we won't be staying there again. The bathroom, however, was better than the B&B near Kings Cross (where we stayed last time), so that's one good thing. We booked through a website full of other cheap B&B's, so probably next time we'll go for one that doesn't include breakfast but has a higher star rating. There are plenty to choose from, so maybe we'll find a good one eventually. ;)
We eventually found breakfast near Drury Lane in a cafe, followed by a trip to Cafe Nero for me to get some live-giving elixir - presumably the only reason I stayed awake on Saturday. After that we watched a French street artist do some comedy escapology (I have the footage of him escaping, which will be posted somewhere...) and wandered around aimlessly for a bit. Got a birthday present for Paul's mum from Covent Garden market, and had a drink in a pub before getting back on the Tube and heading towards Oxford Street.
We didn't go the entire length because that would be epic, but did wander about half an hour down and back again. At this point we spotted a shop with a 50% off sale on leather coats and jackets, and probably should have kept on walking...
I came away with a red jacket, which was £140. After that we did a bit more wandering and Paul decided he wanted one, too, so we went back and the man in the shop knocked another £20 off the coat Paul chose, a smart three-quarter length weathered-looking coat, so that was also £140. So much for not spending any more money on the credit card. :P
I shall take photographs of them later, anyway.
We stopped off in a pub for quite a while and played on the games machine. Paul randomly bought me some Jamesons whisky to try (the quest continues), which actually wasn't too bad.
It was then about 3.30pm so we decided to find some food (McDonalds) and make our way back to the hotel, collect the suitcase, and head back to Victoria. The maccies on Oxford Street was rammed, so we went to get the case first and eventually found the one in the Victoria shopping complex (which had moved since last time), resulting in something of a rush to get to the coach and having to eat our burgers when we'd sat down. Despite the 'no hot food' rule, the driver didn't seem to care. :P
Thankfully there was no trouble whatsoever getting back home. I did manage to injury myself, however, when Paul wanted to have a nap and we were swapping seats. The driver must have been changing lanes or something because the coach swerved and I lost my balance, and fell onto the plastic armrest on the seat. I have a mahoosive bruise on the back of my thigh and it hurt to buggery at the time of doing it. OW.
Oh, I mentioned in my bullet-pointed write-up earlier that Southerners are wusses. I had taken a scarf with me in case I was cold of the evening on Friday, and it was actually incredibly mild down in London. It rained on the Saturday, but even so, if I could have fit my coat into the case, I would have done, because it really wasn't needed. Southerners are wusses because I saw lots of Londoners wandering around in scarves and winter coats despite the fact it wasn't remotely cold. Wimps. :P
Sooo, that was London. As I said, show write-up coming later.
As for Sunday, I was aching for most of the day thanks to my injury, so didn't do very much at all. Unpacked the case, did some washing, watched my 'stories', and not much else.
This entry has taken two days to get written thanks to lots of typing yesterday, but at least last night I managed to finish Katie's CD letter and hopefully I can get that posted this afternoon. I now need to knuckle down and finish my Christmas decorations, as I was hoping to get another one at least midway finished during my week off and somewhat failed due to the horrible distraction that is daytime television and DS games.
Photos of Christmas decorations coming soon, also.
Right, that's more than enough. Over and out.