Amazing Wedding, Awful Hotel… Part 1

This is the first chance I’ve had to write about my experiences last weekend. It’s been a busy week but if I’m completely honest it is mainly to do with the fact that I found an amazingly addictive free game on the Apple App Store and have been glued to my iPad every night after the kids have gone to bed. Anyway, moving on, this post will be split into more than one due to the eventful weekend we had and how much I’ve got to cover. I don’t want to bore you too much so apologies if I do, I just want to share my experience in full…

Last weekend we went to Manchester to attend a wedding. It was a bit more special to us than just a wedding though as it was Holly’s cousin that was getting married and she had asked if our little Laura could be her flower girl. This meant that she got to wear a beautiful dress and walk down the aisle with the bridesmaids. It was also the first wedding I’ve been to in over 10 years, apart from my own, of course.

So, Friday came and with the car packed with suits, dresses and all things to make us look beautiful, we set off. The journey was a bit crap as we hit some traffic on the way which added about half an hour on and it absolutely chucked it down for most of the ride. Anyone in the UK will know that this was inevitable as the weather over the last month or so has been abysmal here what with flooding and torrential downpour all over the country. Spray on the motorway is horrible, it’s worse than driving in fog and your lights don’t do a thing. We did eventually get to Manchester and amazingly it had stopped raining by then.

The hotel we were staying at didn’t have a car park of its own so we were instructed to drive straight to a multi-story nearby which the hotel offered a discount for. They advised us it was a 5 minute walk to get to the hotel. This was only true if your name was Usain Bolt. We had two young kids, a pushchair, 2 suits and a dress inside a dress cover, two luggage bags and our coats. It did not take 5 minutes. I had to stop to rest a couple of times and by the time we got to the hotel I thought my arms were going to fall off, they actually felt like they were floating up slightly when I put the bags down. When we got to the entrance of the hotel we were greeted by about ten steps. Wonderful, just wonderful, I thought. I just about had enough strength left in my arms to help Holly lift the pushchair up the steps and into the lobby, oh how I envied Laura sat so snuggly in her pushchair!

While stood in the queue waiting to check in Holly looked at me with that ‘look at what I’m looking at but not too obviously so it’s clear that we are looking’ kind of look. I’m not sure if you know what I’m talking about or even if such a look exists but if not, Holly just invented it. I casually looked around to find what she was getting at when I started noticing that there were a lot of people dressed in women’s clothes, with women’s hair and women’s makeup… but they were not women. This was confirmed when the “woman” in front of us got to the reception desk and spoke in a deeper voice than me. It was doubly confirmed when the receptionist finished their conversation with “Thank you, sir”. Now, I’m not prejudiced, the fact that I was surrounded by transvestites really didn’t bother me. All I was thinking was, are we in the right hotel? I’ve never seen so many transvestites in my life! There must be a convention on or something that has attracted them all.

From then on is when our hotel experience started to go downhill…

Initially, there was confusion over the room booking. We asked for a family room with a double bed, a single bed and a cot. This had to be checked in the office out the back rather than on the computer in front of the receptionist. After much toing and froing the receptionist finally gave us the key card to a room and asked us to pay. As this was part of a block booking for the wedding the rates were reduced but we still had to pay £200; £100 per night. I did wonder how much their normal rates were.

Our room was on the 4th floor. The lifts were out of order. This meant that we had to either wait in another queue for the one service lift at the other end of the hotel or use the stairs. Holly’s family were gathered in the hotel bar just off the lobby so we congregated with them first to delay our dilemma. The mother-in-law offered to watch Liam and Laura while we took our stuff up to our room. I don’t like lifts at the best of times and neither does Holly so we opted for the stairs. It was actually more challenging than we first thought but we did eventually make it to our floor. We entered the room and saw a double bed and a single bed but no cot for Laura. We were just about to ring down when someone knocked the door and brought a travel cot in. That was the first issue sorted.

Next was the room layout. There were three steps in the middle of the room so the one end of the room was slightly higher. Not the best idea when you have a 16 month old toddler. The double bed was on the lower half, near the door and the bathroom, while the single bed was on the upper half, next to the windows. Is this really what they call a family room? We thought that seeing as we wouldn’t be spending much time in the room we’d put up with it, the windows did have locks on them and only opened so far.


It was only when leaving the room and walking back to the stairs that I noticed how nice it looked when peering down. Now, don’t be fooled by the luxuriousness of these stairs and the chandelier. It’s just an illusion to make you think it’s a lovely hotel when you first walk in!

We went back downstairs and mingled with Holly’s family for an hour or so before dinner. We had planned to go to the hotel restaurant for dinner; they served a carvery or you could choose from a menu, or so we thought. This was not the case. When we got there it turned out it was just a carvery. I don’t particularly like roast dinners and considering we would most likely be eating one (or similar) at the wedding the following day I really didn’t fancy one that night. The only other option was the pizzeria (that wasn’t really a pizzeria) next to the restaurant. I love pizza, but Holly doesn’t, however, she was nice enough to agree to go there so we left the restaurant hall.

This was one of the biggest mistakes we made all weekend…

There were two couples sat eating when we walked in so it was very quiet. The waiter had gone into the kitchen as we walked in so we chose a table and sat down. The waiter finally came back out so I went over to ask for a highchair for Laura. Even though he’d been in the kitchen for about 5 minutes, knowing we were waiting, when I said “Excuse me”, he asked me to wait a minute before walking over to the till and writing something on a little piece of paper. Only after that did he acknowledge me. He brought over the highchair but the tray, which Laura has to eat from, was disgustingly dirty. I thought, it’s ok, he’ll wipe that in a minute. But he didn’t. I had to ask for a cloth so we could clean the highchair.

Next came the food, they didn’t have a children’s menu so I ordered a large pizza, just cheese and tomato, with garlic bread and nachos as sides to share with the kids. Holly found a steak on the menu (which made it not really a pizzeria) so she ordered that. While waiting for the food the kids got a bit restless. After all, they were hungry and tired, and they’d spent a rather long time in the car that day. We tried our best to keep them quiet when really I wanted to the join in with their whining. The waiter brought the food out and at first it looked and smelt amazing. It did not taste that way. I really can’t express how bad this food tasted; I would rather have eaten ten carvery’s that this shit. The nachos were just about ok, I mean you can’t really go wrong with tortilla chips, but the cheese on them was tasteless and like rubber. The garlic bread was like eating a scouring pad and the pizza was very similar in that it was like someone had mixed washing up liquid in with the tomato sauce. I couldn’t understand how it tasted so bad. Holly’s was no better because her thick cut fries weren’t cooked enough and were hard in the middle while the steak was extremely gristly. It was so bad that even the kids didn’t really touch anything other some of the nachos. However, I was so hungry and tired that I just rammed it in and tried to ignore the taste. I didn’t have the strength to complain and with the kids moaning I just wanted to get back to the room and have some sleep.

The meal cost us £34, it still hurts to even say that.

The kids were asleep in no time and Holly relaxed on the bed reading on her Kindle. I took this opportunity to pop to Tesco and grab a bottle of wine. I then made use of the one good thing our room had, a spa bath. I filled it with water and added some of the kids’ bubble bath as this is all we had with us. I poured a glass of wine and sunk into the bath before hitting the ‘On’ switch. It took a while and made some funny noises then suddenly the bubbles started and it was so bloody loud. Luckily it didn’t wake the kids up; I think they were too exhausted. After about 10-15 minutes I had to turn it off as the bubbles were starting to flow over the edge. Nevertheless, it was the best part of the day and helped me relax enough to get some beauty sleep in before the wedding.

To be continued…

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Work Experience

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First of all, what another ridiculously busy week. We did some more gardening at the weekend and I dug another path before filling it with bark! We decided not to dig the semi-circle we discussed last week as this may have been too much bark for one garden.

I also borrowed a friends petrol strimmer and had some fun with that, what a beast! When I first went to use it, however, the throttle didn’t work didn’t work so I couldn’t use it. Now, I don’t know what’s got in to me recently because I’m usually crap with any form of manual labour, especially fixing things like this, I usually just ring my dad. This time, though, I decided to take it apart and see what was the matter and believe it or not (in fact, I still don’t believe it) I fixed it!! The best part is that the strimmer has different tools to put on the end so I also borrowed the hedge trimmer attachment. This was extremely dangerous but very cool. I managed to chop our conifers into a square(ish) shape without hurting anybody or even losing a body part.

Anyway, enough of my garden and on to work. As you can probably guess from the title coupled with the fact that I’m too old to do work experience myself, this week we have had a lovely young adolescent male join our team to do some “work experience”. This is usually something that neither the 15 year old student that is forced in to it and the willing employer that has taken them on, don’t particularly want to do. Well, in my experience this is the case and it isn’t the first time we’ve done it. To be honest, though, our office is actually a pretty good place to go on work experience if you like IT as we cover almost every aspect you can think of. We are also first line, second line, and even advanced technical support rolled in to one!

So Monday morning came and when I got to work I learnt that my manager, Steve, wasn’t going to be in that day, he had an ill child to take care of and was “working” from home. Brilliant, this left the 4 of us to come up with a work plan and give our school boy something to do without the direction of a manager. Saying that, most of the things we do are without the direction of a manager (I hope he doesn’t read this!). So at 9:30, the lad arrives and introduces himself as Alex. But I’m not going to call him Alex. I’m going to call him Axel. This is mainly because of the extremely long hair that spouted from his head but also because of his rock ‘n’ roll personality that was filled with angst.

The first thing we got him to do was build a laptop (as in installing Windows and our corporate apps, not physically making one!). We always set this task for a work experience bod as it’s a good but basic IT experience and usually takes the best part of a day to do. Not Axel, though, he was still working on it mid morning on Tuesday. Anyway, going back to Monday, my colleague, Warren, asked Axel on at least four occasions whether he’d like to come with him and do something (IT related, of course). I managed to witness two of these instances…

Warren: “Axel, there’s a problem with the MFD* on the first floor. Do you want to come upstairs with me and take a look?”
Axel: “Er, I’m ok, I’ll just wait down here.”
*an MFD is a Multi Function Device or basically a printer/scanner/photocopier

Warren: “Axel, I’ve got to install some more memory in someone’s computer as it’s running really slow. Do you want to come with me?”
Axel: “Er, where is it?”
Warren: “It’s just over at our offices next door, literally a 1-2 minute walk.”
Axel: “Er, no I’m ok, it’s a bit cold outside. I’ll just wait here.”

I was speechless, I mean shouldn’t a 15 year old boy on work experience do what he is told/asked? I felt like saying “Axel, when somebody asks you if you’d like to go and do something, they are politely saying ‘come with me, we are going to do this’, it’s not really a negotiation”. Luckily my manager said exactly this when he came back on Tuesday… Obviously Steve was filled in with what Axel was like so he tried it himself; he told Axel that he had to go next door to let an engineer in to the server room to install a new phone line and asked if he’d like to go with him. Surprisingly enough, Axel didn’t want to and replied with “Er, no I’m ok, it’s raining outside, I’ll just wait here”.

When Steve got back, he had a chat with Axel. He asked him what he’d like to get out of work experience. “Er,” was his reply. To be fair to the kid, he did admit that there was nothing left on the work experience list that he wanted to do so he was practically “pushed” into doing this. So Steve asked if their was any aspect of IT that he was interested in and Axel said that he liked learning about the insides of computers and how they work. This was instantly shot down with the fact he declined the offer from Warren to open up a computer and put some more RAM in it. The next question was what did Axel wanted to do in life, what career did he want to pursue. The answer to this was shocking. He said…

“I don’t know. I don’t really want to prepare myself and learn about something if when I start a job, it’s not what I want to do.”

Isn’t that basically a scapegoat for everything, for school even?!? This kid clearly didn’t have a future in mind… In the end, Steve basically told him to go home and think about what he wanted to get out of this experience and what he wanted to achieve. Then, to come back the next day with the appropriate enthusiasm and willingness to do things or not bother coming back.

Today was the next day. At 9:05 this morning, Steve got a call from HR. They had received a call from Axel’s mum saying that he came home a bit stressed last night and this morning he’s got a headache so he wont be coming in, I’m guessing that it will be a 3 day headache and that he won’t be back all week.

You may be thinking that we were a little harsh on the kid but what were we supposed to do? I mean, I’m happy to help someone who wants to learn and get a good experience from something but when you have a boy like Axel who just doesn’t want to do anything while on work experience (or with his life for that matter) then it’s best all around that we don’t waste each others time…

Anyway, I’m glad to say that I have this Friday off work as we are going to a wedding in Manchester. It’s a bit of a drive to go to a wedding but seeing as we’ve had to pay for two nights in a hotel, I’m hoping it will be a good weekend!

What a Week (and a half)!

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What a bloody week, indeed! I feel I’ve neglected my blog over the past week and seeing as I’m new to blogging, it’s not a very good start. Every night I’ve thought I really need to write another post, but I’ve either been too busy or absolutely exhausted!

Firstly there was our living room… As you may know from my ‘From Fish to Sofa’ post, we recently ordered a new sofa. Our new sofa is considerably larger than our current sofa. This meant we had to rearrange our living room. This included the fireplace. Luckily, our fireplace is an all-in-one electric fire so if you remove the two screws for either side the whole fireplace, surround and all, simply lifts away from the wall. That was the easy part. The problem is the gaping whole left in the wall behind it from when it was a real fire. We are still to resolve this issue!

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We also had to move our TV to another wall which meant moving our Sky box. The leads from the satellite dish were nowhere near long enough to go around the two doors that were now between them and the new location for the TV. Sky themselves charge a ridiculous amount to relocate your Sky box so this was not an option. Instead, I found an extension kit on trusty old Amazon for a mere £8.99. This was perfect as it came with an 10m twin cable (required to record one thing and watch another), 4 male plugs for either end, a male to male connector to connect the two leads together and even 10 twin cable clips to secure it to the wall. It was perfect; it was more than enough length and it hasn’t effected the signal or quality at all. After I had accomplished all this I was feeling rather manly, I’m not used to dong manual work so it was rather satisfying. So with our TV, current sofa and fireplace in a different place it looks like a different living room, and much bigger I must add. We now eagerly await the arrival of our sofa. Only another 4 weeks to go! I think I could make one quicker on my own!

The next project was the garden. We have a very long garden and we have a terrible habit of tidying it up and then leaving it for months rather than keeping on top if it. It had been months since we sorted it out so it was starting to resemble a jungle. Now this is how manly I am, Holly cut the grass and pulled out all the weeds from the borders around the garden while I stayed in and watched the kids! We eventually decided that we both needed to crack on so the mother-in-law kindly had the kids for us and then we went to the local DIY store and picked up lots of bark (or wood chips, whatever takes your fancy). When we got back we moved the huge trampoline, in order to cut the grass under it, and placed it over the part of the path that is broken. The path runs straight up the length of the garden, and is cracked and loose near the house which isn’t very good for our little people. Seeing the trampoline over the broken part of the path gave us a brilliant idea… Let’s leave it there and dig a path around it!

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On that note, and still feeling rather manly from my DIY work in the living room, I impulsively rammed the shovel into the grass and started digging a semi-circular path around the trampoline and back to the part of concrete path that is still ok. I really got stuck in and managed to finish it within a few hours (trust me, this is amazing for an IT geek like me, a real accomplishment)! We then filled it with some of the bark we bought and stepped back… It looked bloody brilliant! I was really chuffed with all my hard work! Knowing my newly found skill, we have now decided to create a complete semi-circle (rather than just a path) over the other side of the garden to put our table and chairs on. I think I will do this in a few weeks!

While the above two tasks were rather tiring and physical, the thing that has exhausted me the most this week is completing my wedding anniversary present for Holly. Previously I have either created a photo book online or written a poem (in fact, that’s it as there have only been 2!). This time I went one better and wrote a complete song. I’ve tried making songs before but I have never managed to fully complete one, I usually record one verse, maybe a chorus, then move on to something else. This time, however, I was determined to finish it and finish it I did.20120705-221912.jpg

It was our 3rd wedding anniversary yesterday (yes, independence day, ironic I know) and after staying up late for numerous nights and nearly waking the kids up from singing at the top of my voice to record it, I finally showed Holly. She loved it, or at least loved the fact that somebody had written her a song! I’m really pleased with it as it means I’ve finally finished a song…

So with all of the above, plus the massive, time critical project at work that was unknowingly dropped on us last week (I’m not even going in to that), the last week and a half has been extremely productive but equally exhausting.