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…


Hospital Visit


This post needs a little bit of history before I start…

Back in January this year, Liam fell rather ill with a water infection. The doctor told us that they are rare in children and could be related to the fact that he holds his wee in for as long as possible; I suppose when you are 3 there is always something better to do than go to the toilet! While the doctor was performing his checks, which finally led to Liam’s water infection being diagnosed, he heard a heart murmur when listening to his chest. This was the first we had ever heard of this, it had never been picked up before. The doctor suggested it could be because of the high temperature; Liam was burning up and we had to keep him dosed up on paracetamol to keep the fever down. Therefore, we were advised to take Liam back once he had finished his antibiotics and was completely well again. (I can’t remember the name of the doctor as he was a locum doctor and we haven’t seen him since. However, I’d to thank him for discovering the murmur and advising us to come back)

A few weeks later when everything had cleared up and Liam’s temperature was back to normal, we took him back. The murmur was still there and just as loud. We were then referred to the hospital (not our local hospital, of course, as they can’t deal with anything there, not even sure why it’s still open…). The appointment finally came through the post and was on 15th March. So we took him to hospital and Dr Harry went through some more thorough checks (Dr Harry was a woman, by the way). She also wrote a brilliant report back to Liam’s GP with what she found.

Firstly, we advised Harry of the only persistent symptom that may be loosely related; Liam seems to cough a lot if he runs around for a long time or does more physical play (jumping, dancing, etc.) than usual. He has been prescribed an inhaler in the past for suspected asthma but this has never helped. Anyway, the main paragraph in the report which sums up Harry’s checks is below (and may mean more to a medical person!)…

“Liam looked very well on examination. He was pink and well perfused. There were no dysmorphic features. His blood pressure was 114/68. His heart rate was 112. There were no signs of respiratory distress and his chest was clear. Heart sounds were normal with a grade 3/6 systolic murmur, loudest at the left sternal edge but audible all over the precordium and radiating to the back. There were no palpable thrills and he was not heard to cough in clinic. The apex beat was normally located. His peripheral pulses were normal and there was no clubbing. Femoral pulses were palpable with no radial femoral delay. His abdomen was soft with no masses felt.”

They also performed a standard 12 lead ECG which was normal and Harry did reassure us that there are no signs or symptoms to suggest an underlying heart problem. However, while the report was positive, the bit that stood out was that Liam did indeed have a heart murmur and as a parent this was still worrying. We were then referred to the cardiology clinic and therefore had to wait for another appointment through the post. This did come through fairly quickly although the appointment wasn’t until 25th June.


So, yesterday, we went back to the hospital. Unfortunately, I can’t remember the name of the doctor we saw this time even though it was only 24 hours ago (I’m not very good with names!). Anyway, he listened to Liam’s heart but said that he couldn’t hear the murmur so he got Liam to lie down and listened again, there it was. Next the doctor moved on to the ultrasound and a look at Liam’s heart.

I have to add to Liam was so brave and was very well behaved. He lay there completely still, occasionally looking at us with a smile, and chuckling saying, “that tickles”, when the doctor moved the transducer over any ticklish areas.

After about 10 minutes of looking at the ultrasound of Liam’s heart (which probably felt like a life time to Liam) the doctor concluded his findings… As he suspected from the sound of the murmur, there appears to be a narrowing of the pulmonary artery which takes blood to the lungs. Again, he did reassure us not to worry because there are no other symptoms and Liam is otherwise healthy. But he’s our son, of course we are going to worry! I later wondered if this explains Liam’s coughing but unfortunately not in time to mention to the doctor. The doctor then advised that he would be referring Liam to the nearest children’s hospital where they have better machines and equipment to look at his heart more closely to either confirm his findings or write them out.

So we have now got to wait for a third appointment to come through the post, but no matter how fast it arrives it will never be quick enough. Nothing ever is when it makes you worry like that. I suppose we have got to take the doctors advise and not worry about it because they are right; Liam is otherwise very healthy!

Lastly, while on the subject of hospitals, my (older) brother spent most of last night at one although I didn’t find out until this morning. I haven’t got time to go in to the history with my brother now and this post is already too long so it will have to wait for rainy day. Anyway, he was beaten up last night and got it pretty bad as he came out with a broken shoulder (ouch!). Today they checked him over and said he is going to need it wired as it will not heal on it’s own.

He has now also got to wait for an appointment through the post!

Impulse Buying… From Fish to Sofa


Well it all started on Saturday…

Liam’s goldfish, Sonic, fell ill. He was drifting around on his side and looked like he was gasping for air. I know that sounds silly for a fish but it’s the only way I can describe it. I went to our local aquatics shop to explain the issue and they said it sounds like he’s oxygen starved. The pond weed in Sonic’s tank obviously wasn’t enough. I don’t like to see anything suffer so I was happy to buy the air pump that was recommended even though it did seem complete overkill for a tiny plastic goldfish tank.

While I was there, however, I got a good look at all the tropical fish and how beautiful they are. This just brought back memories of when I was a little boy and we had a fish tank at home. Mind you, back then, who didn’t? I then thought it would be a brilliant idea to have a fish tank of my own again and fill it with lots of these stunning tropical fish.

I took the pump and my brilliant idea of buying a fish tank home with me presented both to Holly. The pump was fine, she loves animals more than me so was happy to try anything to keep Sonic alive. I was then pleasantly surprised when she thought my idea of buying a fish tank was ‘cute’. So much so, in fact, that she said we had enough savings to go and look at buying one!

So, yesterday we went looking for a fish tank. We both agreed on keeping tropical fish, despite the added expense of a water heater, because the fish are far better looking (no, not in a weird fish-fettish kind of way). We then found out that you have to let your new tropical fish tank settle for a week before adding any fish to it. This put me off a little as when I want something on impulse, I usually want it now. The thought of having an empty fish tank in our living room for a week was not very appealing. Therefore, we bought Liam a new goldfish (which he later called, Knuckles!) and decided to go away and think about it first.

After thinking about it for a while, we realised that we didn’t really have anything suitable to put the tank on and the tanks that come with a cabinet/stand are considerably more expensive. So we went to a local pet ‘Superstore’, as you may call it; basically they sell everything to do with every pet you can think of. There they sold smaller but more desirable fish tanks. The one that grabbed me instantly was the Fluval Chi. If you’ve never heard of or seen this tank then you need to…

It is truly beautiful and would look stunning in any modern living room. I had my heart set on this and was ready to buy it until the lovely shop assistant asked me, “Do you have any cats?”.
“Err, yes we have a cat. Why?”, I replied, not realising that this tank was about to be taken from me before I’d even had it.
“Because it doesn’t come with a lid, it has an open top.”
“Ah, I didn’t realise that”, I said, thinking more about what the kids would put in it more than what the cat would fish out.
She then said something that made me wonder why she was working in the aquatics section of a pet shop as she clearly had no regard for the lives of little fish. “It would be a rather expensive toy”!
What’s worse is that she said it with a smirk on her face. An expensive toy? Maybe it’s just me, but it’s not nice to think of my cat pulling fish out of the tank to either play with on the floor until they’re dead or eat them. I’m not sure which is worse but I wouldn’t class either scenario as a toy for my cat.

So with me feeling depressed, we left the pet shop without a fish tank. However, we still had some savings to spend! Now, a sensible person would go home and keep the savings for another day or something they genuinely needed, but not us of course! Instead we moved on to an even bigger shop, a huge department store that sells literally everything you can think of. I was determined to go home with something for my living room, whether it be a new lamp, a new ornament, a new picture or something cool and futuristic looking that’s lights up blue!

Unfortunately, because they sell absolutely everything, we wandered upstairs and stumbled into the furniture section. It was there that Holly spotted a lovely corner sofa and a matching swivel chair. She ran over and sat in the chair with Liam before spinning round in the huge, comfy looking arm chair.
“SOLD!”, she shouted with a massive smile on her face as if completely forgetting where she was for a second.
To be fair it was pretty awesome and the grin on Liam’s face told me that he enjoyed it too. It was at this point that I felt the smile growing on my face before I too forgot where I was and ran over (leaving Laura behind sat in the trolley) shouting, “let me have a go!”.
After remembering I was 26 and surrounded by strangers I stood up and composed myself. Unfortunately, our living room was nowhere near big enough to house a corner sofa that size with the spinning chair, and it would look a bit odd on its own. So, yet again, we left empty handed.

Once home, however, we both started looking on the Internet for a nice corner sofa that was small enough to fit in our living room without overcrowding it but big enough for a family of 4 to comfortably sit on. We did manage to find a suitable candidate, and it really was a nice sofa, so at 22:30 last night I was on the phone placing the order. Can you believe that this company is so desperate their phone lines are open 24 hours a day? And can you believe that we were so desperate to get a new sofa that we were on the phone ordering one at nearly 11 o’clock on a Sunday night?

So there you have it! That’s how we ended up going from spending £100-£200 on a fish tank to spending nearly £2000 on a new sofa. I suppose Holly has wanted a corner sofa for some time now and our current sofa is a bit stained and starting to fall apart so I guess it was more sensible than buying a fish tank, just considerably more expensive!!

Getting Used to Blogging… I’ll Get There in the End!

Today my man flu is still in full swing. In fact, my nose is worse. My wife, Holly, seemed to be convinced that it was hay fever and made me take antihistamines, which surprisingly enough… did absolutely nothing! This did make me feel temporarily better as it proved that she is not always right. Just most of the time! I soon deteriorated when I remembered that I was still suffering from man flu and it was nothing to do with the pollen floating around in the atmosphere.

Work was a bit better, however, as I was able to lock myself away in an unused room with the excuse that I don’t want to infect everyone else. The fact we all work in an open office made my boss happy to oblige. This meant peace and quiet, no phones or people popping in with computer problems and I could actually get a lot of work done even though I felt ill.

I popped home during lunch to see the family because the kids are also a bit poorly and my 4 year old son, Liam, had his first visit to the ‘big’ school that he’ll be starting at in September. Luckily, the nursery is on the same site and literally next door so it wasn’t too much of a change for him and he said he loved it. He had to go back to nursery in the afternoon too so it was a long day for him as he’s only used to half days.

My 15 month old daughter, Laura, however, was not so happy. She was sat in her highchair, having thrown her lunch all over the floor, and was now crying. No, not crying; whingeing and moaning, loudly, with a face full of snot. I picked her up and she stopped. After Liam had gone to nursery I had a short 15 minute playtime with Laura, the usual stuff; tickling, throwing her about, chasing her around, and she was happy and laughing. After being back at work for 30 minutes I get a text message from Holly…

“What the hell is wrong with this child?”

To which I reply, “She wants me!”

My poorly little girl wants her daddy. At first this made me smile but unfortunately I was stuck at work and Holly would have to persevere. I suggested taking her out for walk so she would hopefully fall asleep in her pushchair. Almost an hour and a half later I get another text telling me that she has finally gone to sleep!

I love my family more than anything, but I don’t think I could cope with being a househusband! I don’t know how Holly does it. Coming to work is like an escape for me, and even though sometimes I feel like putting my head in my hands and crying, or smashing something (or someone!) up depending on the day I’ve had, I’d still rather be there than at home all day.

Once I did finally get home, all was ok again but it was about to change… We have a small tactic we play with Liam where we say we are going to beat him at doing something when he doesn’t want to do it. Whether this be running up the stairs to bed, going to nursery, or going to the toilet. This evening it was eating our dinner. I was, of course, the winner; Holly came in a close second while Laura came third (although half of her dinner was on the floor). This meant that Liam was going to be last. What a mistake it was to point out this fact. We had to listen to half an hour of screaming and arguing that Laura was the loser and he was the winner. I think we need to revise this tactic and use it wisely in the future!

Luckily, however, by bed time he had calmed down and did go straight to sleep. Laura did not! I tried walking her to the shop but she sat bolt upright in her pushchair and refused to go to sleep. I did get a tub of Ben & Jerry’s out of it though so it wasn’t all bad! She has now finally gone to sleep and with the way I’m feeling, I’m going next.

So that was my second post, rather long and detailed when reading it back but I’m sure I’ll get better with time!

Good night…