Travels of 2014 – Trip 1b(?) – well it wasn’t for work and wasn’t abroad

Following my week in New York, I had a week off booked. This was my first week off since September last year, however I didn’t feel like I’d had any time off for a lot longer. Work has been hectic and with a lot of deadlines and difficult project work to complete. My week away from my mobile and laptop was to be spent tidying up the house and then taking a trip to the North to see some old friends.
Thursday morning I hopped on my train and headed up to Durham. Frankly this was a trip that I shouldn’t have bothered making. N, was due to meet me in Durham so that we could have a bite to eat, a drink and a catch up. He’s been working hard on building his own business and I did have a sneaky feeling that our catchup wouldn’t happen. Sure enough, at midday, he asked if I would be able to meet him a little further North. With a serious lack of funds due to waiting on expenses (and the fact that I was already travelling for 4 hours) I declined and we had to cancel. I was very disappointed, however understanding that he has been putting his heart and soul into trying to get his business going, I sadly conceded that there was nothing to be done or gained from being too upset.
However, emotional and still suffering the after effects of jet lag, I found myself, watery eyed, staring out of my train at London Kings Cross, contemplating what I could do with my short time in the Durham. In fact, I spent most of my journey trying to work out what to do. And there was a lot of journey. I left my house at 10.30am and at 3pm I was still sat on my train, just outside Grantham staring at the fields. At 5pm, I arrived at my hotel. Slightly worse for wear due to enjoying one too many glasses of wine.
Tired, emotional, tipsy and feeling generally rubbish, I headed for the hotel bar and had a meal there before retiring to bed early.
Friday morning I woke with excitement as I was to head to York to meet an old (and very close) friend. As I departed the hotel I looked across the River Weir and realised that my last trip to Durham had also been very short. It had centered around the building opposite, as I was there to train some staff joining the BBC (well, it had become Siemens) Technology team. It was at this point that I also remembered the steps that you have to take up to the train station.
After too many steps to count, a big hill and lots of regret over bringing spare shoes in my luggage, I arrived at the station. Frozen, hungry and a little hungover, I awaited the packed train heading to Manchester Airport, which would see me arrive at a slightly warmer York.
When I arrived, I walked through the City, aiming to locate my room for the night. My usual hotel choice had been spurned for this trip and I had booked myself and 3 friends (joining me on Saturday) into a pub in town.
The Roman Bath was a place that I had only ever walked past and glanced in before. It had been chosen primarily because it would allow one night stays on the weekend and secondly for its central location. When I arrived I was greeted in the most cheery and upbeat manner by Chris. His bright conversation and quick wit was welcomed after my dismal Thursday and I looked around to see several people enjoying a drink and food in the bar. I was shown to my room and I must confess to being pleasantly surprised. A small, but functional double room with an ensuite shower, TV, wardrobe and a proper key. None of this swipe card fun and games which usually results in being able to access your room at 3am and waking up everyone around you!
When I re-entered the bar later in the day, following a walk to my favourite Tea Room (Chloes, near the Last Drop Inn), I was greeted by Paul (who runs the Roman Bath), as if I were a regular. By this time of the evening, the place was buzzing, every table occupied by diners and drinkers. I had a swift half (of very good beer) and then proceeded to meet my friend, V, in the pub down the road.
The night was a lot of fun. We had a meal and then went back to our meeting place, where we sang along with the pianist (sorry Ali), before then heading to watch a band perform at the Golden Fleece. Much fun (and beer) was had but I must confess to being glad to get back to my room for some much needed sleep.
The room was perfect. Quiet, comfy bed and in the morning a good shower awaited me, followed by an even better full English breakfast.
Ready to start Saturday, I walked around York and then went to the train station to meet one of the party due in at 11.30. I ensured he could check into the hotel ok and then we took a walk to a pub to catch the Liverpool match. By this time, my other two friends were attempting to navigate their way into town from their parking position. This should have been fairly simple, however D, has never been the best with maps. Or directions. Or instructions.
Then, while we were in the pub, the heavens opened. It rained so hard that when my friends made it to the pub, D’s jeans were soaked through. They both looked like they had just stepped out of a power shower.
Once the game had finished, we agreed to take a walk back to our rooms so that we could all get changed (and that D and S could dry off/warm up!).
When we met up again we walked back to the pub in order to watch the Stevenage game (as D is a life long fan). The beer and company was brilliant… The football, not so much. V met us (once her hangover from the night before had settled down) and we went off in search of food. The rest of the night was brilliant. We talked about old times, old friends and faces that we hadn’t seen in years and of course caught up on some gossip.
We called it a night fairly early on and V headed home while we went back to the Roman Bath. We were just in time for a swift pint, so sat on the corner and continued our chats. It was at this point that I realised just how much some people have to deal with on a day to day basis.
S (who is D’s wife) went through a lot last year. My blog isn’t the place for detail, but I have the upmost respect and admiration for her. She’s a beautiful woman, tall, slim, blonde and walks with a confidence that few have. But every hour of every day she battles with anxiety and worry. So many people would hide away or let it drag them down, but she copes brilliantly. I’m so pleased and proud to be able to be considered her friend. I just hope that we all get to spend more time together soon. Never easy when you don’t live near to each other, but it’s a sign of true friendship when you can meet up after a few months (or years) and pick up where you left off.
As for D and S finding their car on Sunday morning, well… What should have been a 15 minute walk turned into nearly an hour. In the pouring rain. All due to D’s map reading ‘skills’.
It must be love.

Travels of 2014… Trip 1

New York, New York… Well, what can I say. The City is superb. this was my first ever visit to the US, let alone to NYC so I had no idea what to expect.
The apartment I was staying in was on the corner of 38th Street and 6th Avenue with a wonderful view of the New York scene. My first night in the apartment was pretty quiet as I was too tired to even eat, so I simply went to bed. The 6am alarm call was not well received, but I awoke, collected my things and headed out to the station, armed with directions. Sadly the directions weren’t entirely accurate and, after a slight detour, I arrived at Penn to meet my colleague.
Penn station was huge but surprisingly quiet (being used to London Kings Cross at 7.30am had prepared me well). We boarded the 7.39 (which made me smile – thinking of the Sheridan Smith drama of the other week) to Farmingdale and I was entertained to see that the buildings on Long Island were exactly as I expected.
We were joined on the train by a bright, intelligent New Zealander, M, who proceeded to talk me through the cab situation once we arrived at our station. The Checker cab company are something that I have never experienced in my life. You all pile into a cab, that Larry has sent you to, and the driver proceeds to drop you off in a (random?!) order. However you still pay the full fare. To say I was a very confused Brit, is an understatement. Still, 20 minutes later, we arrived at the office and I was soon settled into a desk with a coffee ready to start my training.
That evening, I got home at about 8.30 and by that time I had no will to go to a restaurant. I had been subjected to the mother of all ham sandwiches from a local deli (it was awesome but enough for 10), so I headed for Pret. I was greeted by a friendly American who served me and then said I should pop back as the manager was also from London. This did amuse me however I didn’t go back.
The days that followed were basically the same (although a slightly later train in the morning as my jet lag was kicking in) and I must confess that by the Wednesday I was craving vegetables and food that didn’t contain cheese.
I flew home on the Friday, but I had a couple of hours to kill (and to pack) so I decided to walk the few blocks up to Central Park. When I say few, I mean loads. It felt like miles. But it was worth it. The horses and carriages were waiting patiently as couples took the romantic jaunt around the park. I took the obligatory selfie with various high rise buildings behind me and then realised I needed to walk (at speed) back to the apartment and pack my case.
In my wisdom I decided that I should opt to go to the Airport (JFK) via public transport rather than paying the $80 for a cab. This was fine until I reached the steps at Jamaica. This was not a fun experience! The airtrain however, was a delight and once I’d worked out how to find the departure area, I was away. What I wasn’t prepared for, was having to kill over 2 hours in the tiny food court that is JFK Terminal 7. It’s safe to say that I was bored senseless.
The flight itself didn’t help my mood. The couple in front of me decided that the best thing for them, was to put their seats back for the entire flight. It was the red-eye so I expected people to sleep, but they insisted in keeping the seats back. I had no room to move. Luckily the woman and gentleman next to me were friendly and we had a nice chat about how their son was at university in Glasgow and about the town they were from in Azerbaijan.
At 5.30am we arrived over the West of England (a lot earlier than scheduled thanks to the tail wind) so after a lot of circling around Brighton and the South East, we eventually landed at 6.30. The rest of my morning was spent sleeping through my alarm and then driving back to Gloucestershire to see my family.
To those who think that travelling for work is glamourous… Think again. It’s fun and obviously I get to go to places that I would otherwise never go to, however sometimes, it’s just nice to come home.
Speaking of which, I’m off to Sweden on Monday….

8 hours to contemplate…

(Written on Sunday 12th while flying to New York City)

There are some things in life which surprise us. There are others which make us sad. Most days however are ‘generic’. Those days where you know what will happen and how you will feel by the end. For most of us those days are the ones that we are paid for, the days we go to work, our ‘9 to 5’.

What if we mixed that up? Do you remember that feeling as you walked through the school gates on a Monday morning? That feeling of dread (you’ve forgotten to do your homework), excitement (at seeing all your friends) and the possibility of seeing that one special person who is yet to be yours?

You may think that those days are at an end… or maybe you still feel this way about the start of your week (in which case I salute you and hope you never lose it)… but what about getting those days back? If you are married or in a relationship, I’m not talking about having an affair, I just mean, how about you start looking at the life around you with those child-like eyes that you once had.

As I type this, I am on a plane heading for New York, looking forward to a week that contains… well I don’t know what! A week full of new things, of excitement, new people, new things to learn. A bit like attending school all over again.

But you don’t need to jump on a plane and fly 8 hours to get a new perspective on life. I have had a pretty ‘childlike’ view on the world since the start of 2014 and frankly, I am a lot more positive and happy for it.

Don’t get me wrong, I still have a lot of responsibilities and I haven’t just abandoned them, but I am looking at life in a much simpler way. Last year was very stressful and sadly I took it out on those that I cared about the most, friends, family and certain colleagues that I have come to admire over the years.

This year, is about remembering what life is about. What is the point in worrying about tomorrow when you have to get through today? And if today is your last, wouldn’t you want to make it the best day of all?

Take a chance to look up, to look into the eyes of that man/woman you love (whether they know or not) and most of all don’t take a second of the time you spend with loved ones for granted. Not because it might be your last, but because it creates the beautiful memories that will see you through the darkest times in life. And no matter what or who you are, there will be dark times.

Lets face it, it doesn’t matter how positive you are, there will always be a time when all you want is to curl up in a ball and for the world to stop.

I’m chasing the sunset as I write this. It’s the most extraordinary experience… my flight departed at around 4.30pm GMT and yet, nearly 4 hours into the flight, I am still looking at a beautiful red sunset. It’s times like this that remind you how amazing the world we live in is.

It’s a wonderful feeling to know that everything I have been through has brought me here. I don’t just mean to seat 43A on this flight, but I mean to those friends I have and the work I do.

How many of you regret? If you regret a person or a situation, remember this, if you’d never met them or never been in that situation, you wouldn’t now know the people you know and have the friendships you have today.

Even when I look back to some of my darkest times, I just look to the fun and laughter that I have shared since and I know that this life is the one I was mean’t to have. I wouldn’t change a thing or a person.

Right… New York City… What memories will you create?