Sunday, 2 December 2012

All of the Lights...

...and a shit on the floor!

Everyone who know me well - or knows me at all - will also know how I feel about this time of year. It's quite obvious that I still get overly excited about Christmas and anything and everything to do with it. As far as the festive period goes, I won't ever grow up; and why should I?

This is the first proper Christmas at my work and I think that the full extent of my Christmas lunacy kicked in for everyone there at about the beginning of November when I started counting down to the 'Big Day'. We've got our Christmas do coming up this Wednesday and this year I won't feel the need to hold back so much, as last year's Christmas party was held on my third or fourth day on the job, so I was understandably a little withdrawn. This year, I'm going for it! We're also going to be holding a Secret Santa, for which I put together a big, Christmas wrapping paper covered box for everyone to drop their secret presents into. I named that part of the office our 'Present Point'.

Out of work, festivities have already gotten underway. Stacey and I have already watched a few Christmas movies; the first two Santa Clause movies with Mr. Xmas himself, Tim Allen and The Holiday which didn't seem like the most Christmassy of films, but nevertheless was a great watch. And now that it's actually December and the first couple of doors of my Spiderman advent calendar have been opened, it's free reign to watch as many Christmas movies as possible.Oh! Oh! And I've also been reading Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol on my Kindle. I think it's safe to say that I'm 95% in the Christmas spirit - all that's left is to put up our tree (happening later on this very day) and we're set.

All of the Lights, All of the Lights!

The true kick-off event for Christmas in my little world is the switching on of the lights in my little town. It's become a kind of tradition over the last few years that the last weekend of November is the town's Christmas festival, where one of the car parks in the centre of town becomes a funfair for the entire weekend; Friday night thru Sunday, ending with the switching on of the lights down the High Street and a decent fireworks display. 

The funfair this year had been moved to a bigger car park which meant more rides. We had Waltzers and a Vortex (like the one in Thorpe Park) and a mammoth catapult type ride named Oxygen. A few friends went on Oxygen (which doesn't actually catapult you) and with Stacey and little sister Popster rode on the several rides including the Waltzers. The final ride of my Friday night was a nasty little thing called Extreme which I can only describe as a smaller version of the Samurai ride at Thorpe Park... Smaller, but a lot faster and much more violent! I have never been made to feel sick from a ride, until Extreme. It was a bit horrid, although I did enjoy it while we were in flight as it threw you and span you around so much that you really had no idea where you were. In a morbid way, I quite enjoyed experiencing what some wimps out there must feel like after going on regular theme park rides.

On the 'Frog Jump' Ride

The Sunday light-switching on ceremony (for lack of a tackier word) was a bit drawn out due to the fact that a Take That tribute band were shoved on the crowds, repeatedly. That's right, we didn't even get a Z-list celebrity, but a bloody tribute act. Not only did they play an hour-long set to kick things off (an hour in the pub for me), but after the lights were turned on, they came back on for another forty-five minute set before the fireworks display. At least there were no real issues with the lights this year as for probably the first time ever, they all came on exactly when they were meant to! I just don't understand why our council tax was spent on subjecting us to the torture that is Fake That.

Hard Rockin' in a Winter Wonderland

Last night we celebrated Stacey's upcoming Silver Birthday. That's right, my girl is getting old. She'll be a quarter of a century old! Back in August I booked a table for eighteen - which would eventually get bumped up to nineteen - at London's Hard Rock Cafe near Hyde Park. Due to the location, a few of us went up during the afternoon and had a wander through the intense crowding of Hyde Park's Winter Wonderland.

We all had ourselves a warm, festive and alcoholic drink, be that mulled wine or an amaretto latte and Jason and Nick managed to pack away a foot-long hotdog each just hours before our mega three-course meal at Hard Rock. The Winter Wonderland was pretty awesome and could only have been better if it was just a  little less crowded. I'm not trying to sound like an old fuddy-duddy, but the amount of people was ridiculous. It was like being herded like cattle. 

There were some pretty good rides there, some of which had been in town the weekend before, such as versions of Oxygen and Vortex. Stacey and I rode on the Vortex ride in Hyde Park and boy was it a much more extreme version of Thorpe Parks. It was a lot smaller than the ride at the theme park, as the circle of seat was a lot tighter. However, this went much higher in that it damn near swung all the way round and upside down. It also spun a lot more than the one at Thorpe Park does. And to cap it off, just as it slowed down to a finish, a countdown begun at the end of which we were sent flying into the air yet again! I loved it!

I'd like to go back to the Wonderland, preferably when it's less busy (if that is ever the case) as it was extremely festive and is what I imagine somewhere like Canada to be like with these little cabin-like pubs and all-round Winter fun. There was also a 'Maggie's Farm Burgers' stall which is funny only due to the fact that our friend Chris inexplicably calls Stacey 'Maggie'. It's something to do with the Lizzie McGuire film coming out when we all worked at Woolworths together and... to be honest I have no idea.

As we walked out of the park and started heading across to the Hard Rock Cafe, we had to go down into a subway to cross one of the roads. This was definitely the low-point of the day as when we were climbing down the staircase, the stairs switched direction and in the corner of the stairwell was a shit. I'm not talking a solid dog poo. No, this was a human shit. All sludgy and, gees even the thought of it... it was proper gag-worthy! Of course I spent the rest of night paranoid that I might have trodden in a  bit of it. It was extremely gross and the whole of the subway tunnel absolutely reeked of it. All of us were retching except for the Birthday Girl who hadn't smelt a thing and hadn't seen it either. I wonder what that says about her?

THERE  WAS A SHIT ON THE FLOOR - I still can't stop moaning on about it! I mean, it was a shit... and it was on the floor! A shit on the floor!

As if the shit on the floor hadn't stressed me out enough (I do have a sort of OCD when it comes to cleanliness after all), the stress of making sure everything went to plan caused me to go a little grey. There were to be nineteen of us in all and the Hard Rock wouldn't seat us until everyone was there as the queue for people just turning up out of the blue for a meal was over two hours long, so they need to make sure they're using all tables and seats at all times. A couple of people were running late, understandably with trains and such, but it did get to me a little. I got a little worried that they might cancel our table and all sorts. Eventually we managed to get seated and everything was fine. Things always have a way of working out in the end; I just need to remember that. 

The food in Hard Rock was great and we were sat near some memorabilia of Big Audio Dynamite who I'd never heard of, but were fronted by Mick Jones of The Clash. The coolest thing that I saw in the restaurant though was the famous guitar of Ozzy Osbourne's guitarist Zakk Wylde.

That's Nick and John trying to rock out just below shot

We had specially made menu's with our food options and the name of the event at the top 'Stacey's 25th Birthday celebration' which was pretty cool. We all took a menu home as a memento of the evening. After three courses and several drinks had been put away by all (Jason also managed to pack in two hot fudge sundaes on top of his dinner and the aforementioned foot-long hotdog), we moved on across the road to the Hard Rock Shop and as we'd been a big party booking, got to have access the Rock Vault for free. The Rock Vault was incredible as it contained all kinds of rare rock treats. We had a couple of guides down with us, telling us about all of the artifacts and a few Hard Rock stories. It was interesting to hear that despite all of the famous instruments and clothing in the vault, the most expensive thing in the room was a scrap of paper. It wasn't any old scrap of paper though as it was the very piece of former-tree that John Lennon had written the lyrics to Imagine on. It was worth over £400,000!

I also mentioned to one of the guides about how I loved getting to see Zakk Wylde's guitar up in the restaurant, to which he told me a story about how earlier in the year Zakk had come in to the restaurant very drunk and had tried to take his guitar back. He had been escorted out the restaurant (no messin'!) and that is why that particular guitar is now encased in glass, whereas every other guitar in the place is out on clear - and reachable - display.

After leaving Hard Rock, we took a nighttime stroll through Green park and then down The Mall. Unfortunately we weren't invited into Buckingham Palace for night-cap, but made our way over to Leicester Square. We stopped in All Bar One, it was rather busy and so we did the usual thing we all seem to do in big groups and thought we'd move on to find somewhere less busy. It's London on a Saturday night, let's face it there would've been nowhere less busy, but still we trudged along, looked in a few places and... wound up back in All Bar One. We got ourselves a drink each and sat at a couple of tables outside on an early December night in Leicester Square telling stories and having a laugh. I enjoyed and hope that everyone else (especially my birthday girl) did too; even if it was a wee bit nippy.

It was then time to head home as we were freezing our bits off and of course the night wouldn't have been complete without a train cancellation due to 'irreparable damage' - thanks South Eastern, as always thank you very much!

And I would like to finish with a sincere thanks to all of you that spent your time and money on coming up to London with us. Thanks a million, I hope you enjoyed it as much as Stacey did.