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Friday, July 2

Tales From The Other Side Of The Bar

I started my new job properly on Tuesday evening, at Y. Thanfully I managed to avoid the Tube strike by about half an hour, and was able to get their on time. Getting anywhere on time is a good achievement for me, so I'm quite pleased that I was able to do it on my first day at a new job. Make a good impression, and all that.

mY (see earlier post) wasn't there, since there was the Pub of the Year awards in Birmingham or something, but her lovely assistant amY (assistant manager at Y, not Amy...) was able to show me the ropes. She'd been there since 6.30 in the morning, which in anyone's books is a fucking long day's work, so she disappeared upstairs to her apartment pretty swiftly, leaving me to my own devices.

I prefer working that way, exploring my way round the bar and its many intricacies. Operating the till would be the one thing that immediately springs to mind when considering ways in which this pub is different from my old one. As I've said before, I've been used to adding all of the numbers up in my head before asking for the money, but now I just hit the buttons on the till which correspond to each drink. Less room for mistakes, I guess, but less interesting.

I have to say that I thoroughly enjoyed myself for the 5 1/2 hours that I was there. It was a lot quieter than it apparently usually is, due to the Tube strike that evening, but I still had enough to do to keep me occupied for most of the evening. A few people were there who were evidently regulars, and I chatted away with them between serving other customers.

They all seemed like really nice, cool people, and I'm quite content to chat away with them most nights I'm there. One is a typical Essex-boy, loud, brash and up for a laugh. He's really good to crack a joke with, and has a similar sense of humour to mine.

Another was a Geordie lass who now lives down here. She was telling me and S, the Essex guy, about when she used to work back in Newcastle as a host for wedding receptions on a moored ship. There was this one hilarious story of how her boss, an Italian, mafia-esque guy, scared the shit out of a student they'd caught ripping something off the walls. He took him to a room, got a bouncer to stand guard, and then came back in with a water pistol that looked very real, before proceeding to ham up his "mafia" performance ("you disreshpectin' me?", etc).

He had to keep leaving the room to avoid laughing and giving the game away, and whilst he was out, the bouncer was laying it on thick, saying how the boss was crazy and dangerous. Finally, as the boss left the room in what seemed like an absolute rage, the bouncer said to the guy that he wasn't getting involved, but didn't want anybody shot on his watch, so the guy should just run.

A, the Geordie storyteller, said that she'd never seen anyone move so fast, and that the guy ran as fast as he could all the way down the pier and along the quayside until he was out of sight of the boat.

That's a fucking genius way to deal with someone, and absolutely hilarious. What made it even better was that the Italian boss had a big scar running from his forehead, down the side of his nose and across his cheek. Can you imagine someone like that going crazy at you, whilst holding what looks like a pistol? Fuck that for a game of soldiers.

As the night drew to a close, and the pub got emptier and emptier, I found myself chatting to a genteel old guy for a half hour or so. He was telling me about his trips to the West coast of Ireland, and how different it is from London. We also talked about the smoking ban they have over there (remember, I'm a vehemnent anti-smoker), and how even bar staff can be fined 2000 if someone sparks up whilst they are working. Shit, I knew that barstaff can be fined for serving underage drinkers, but it's not that high, as far as I know. 2000 for letting someone smoke in your pub?! That's a lot of overtime to pay that off.

----------------

Meh, I've lost my train of thought. I'll write some more once I get back from work tonight, my 3rd shift in 4 days. My parents will be proud...

I still expect them to nag though.

Tomorrow Is Another Day

Yep, I haven't posted for a few days, again, but I am fully determined to catch up tomorrow. I would do it now, but it's 2am, I'm tired, and I have good reason to be up at a reasonable hour tomorrow.

That'd be because I have 2 things coming through the post that are very important. The first is my exam results for this year. I checked online earlier today, and know that I've passed (yay for me), but I have to wait until tomorrow to know how well I did in each of the 4 modules I sat. Remember last year how I was ecstatic at passing, but then thoroughly deflated the next day with my marks? Stay tuned for a repeat performance.

The second, and much more important package I'm expecting is one that I have to sign for, since it is quite valuable monetarily (sp?). Can you tell what it is yet? Yep, my Dad has got me an iPod! Yay for him.

I will post more tomorrow, including the highlights of my first two shifts at my new job (in summary: brilliant) and all of the usual crap that has been happening.

In the meantime, can I suggest checking out Brandi's blog, since she has written an incredible amount recently, and all concerning much more interesting events than I've experienced in the past week. Go, now!

Monday, June 28

Apologies For The Recent Past

I've come to the conclusion that the last few weeks' worth of posts have been very boring. I've come to this conclusion without anyone pointing out to me, and I'm noticing it even as I've been writing today's posts.

I seem to be writing a purely diary-esque blog at the moment. It's going along the lines of "I did this, then I did this, then I did this, and then I did this." It's getting a little repetitive to write, and I'm sure it's getting that way to read.

The only reason I can think of for this is that I am currently in a good period of my life. I'm happy, genuinely. I have no worries that plague me day and night, I'm not scared of anything that is going to happen or hasn't happened. I am quite simply happy with my life at this point in time.

Yes, there are things that could be better, or different, but there's a lot that could be very much worse. I'm content with my surroundings, I'm content with the people that are in in my life, and most importantly, I'm content with myself. I actually like me.

I know that I've gone through some shit times, in the past year, in my life as a whole. This happens to not be one of those times. I'm on a high point in my life, enjoying everything that is happening, and looking forward to what is going to happen.

Some people would be scared or at least apprehensive at moving to a different country to live, not knowing a single person there. I'm not. I can hardly wait to get out there, because it's going to be a different experience. I want a new challenge, a new set of circumstances to find myself in, and new situations to be involved in. It's going to be fantastic.

All of this leads to the fact that this makes for uninteresting reading for you and writing for me. I find my best writing comes when I'm low, when I'm upset, angry or depressed. I express myself here and get things out of my system. When I'm as happy as I am now, I don't have anything to vent, save for a few minor gripes (smokers!!!).

Of course I'm going to continue to post, but let me just state here that I'm aware that I may be becoming boring to read at the moment. I'm sorry, but if payment for being happy in my life is a lack of creativity or impetus to write, I'll take being happy 9 times out of 10.

However, if anyone wants to piss me off in order to make for more interesting reading, the email is rob[at]gooneruk[dot]com...

Aimless Weekend

So here I was, all set for the weekend, but with fuck all to do. To be honest, that's been the case for not only the past few weekends, but also for most weekdays. Although I've had the two overarching tasks of getting a job and getting myself sorted for the move to Germany, there hasn't been too much to do on a daily basis.

I guess this is why I struggle to get out of bed at a reasonable hour. There just seems like no point in doing so, because anything that does need doing can be done in the afternoon, or even late at night. 24-hour internet banking, automated bill payments, watching DVDs, tidying my room, even going to the supermarket, can all be done in the evening or at night. Why should I bother getting up at 9am every day for no reason? Added to this is the fact that morning TV is crap, whereas in the afternoons Wimbledon is on...

So anyway, I didn't get out of bed on Saturday until my usual midday slot, and even then it was a struggle. Bed manufacturers should stop making them so damn comfortable, if only for people like me.

I headed into the living room, where a few of my housemates were watching something like CD:UK or some other kid's crap Saturday morning TV (although we were all addicted when we were kids, right?). They told me that they were planning to go out and play football in the afternoon, and asked if I was up for it too.

Of course I was up for it, I'm always up for a kickabout! We eventually left the house a few hours later (we're worse than a group of women going for a night out, I swear), and headed to Golder's Hill Park, which is too far away. It's about a 20 minute walk, all uphill, and you're knackered before you've even got to the grass. Well, you are if you're as unfit as we are!

We played a bit of 60 Seconds (like Headers & Volleys, but with a time limit and slightly different rules. Maybe I'll write them up sometime), and then 4 other guys turned up, asking if we fancied a match. Matches are always a good laugh, and they're better for keeping getting fit than 60 Seconds, so we agreed.

They obviously thought that they were shit-hot, and that they would beat us easily, but we absolutely whipped them. They were all older than us, probably in their mid-20s, but they seemed to play like we did back at school. You know what I mean, cheering every single goal, calling each other by the names on the back of their shirts ("Totti", etc), and religiously keeping score.

Well, I say religiously, but I really mean adding 2 every time they scored, and every so often subtracting 1 from our score. Sad, to be honest. Nevertheless, by the end we won by a score somewhere around 27-20, even if the true gap was much wider than that. Not that I'm fussed, of course!

It was a great workout, running the length of the field every 30 seconds. I was fucked by the end of it though, with a sore back and heavy legs. I was in so much pain as we walked home (why is it so far?!?!), but there seem to have been no lasting repurcussions. I wasn't the only one suffering: we were all moaning about various aches and throbbing as we walked back, and we all collapsed in the living room within 30 seconds of getting into the house.

A quick shower washed away most of the aches and pains (not to mention the mud), but I was still knackered. A trip to the supermarket was definitely not in the offing, because I didn't fancy walking anywhere at all, so I had to throw together some crap dinner whilst the football was on. I'm not a huge fan of pasta with sauce every day, but I guess it will have to do. Come to think of it, that's also what I had last night, even though I'd been to the supermarket and had bought loads of food. I guess I'm never pleased.

No-one was up for any kind of a night out, especially me, so we sat in and watched the football (Holland v Sweden) and a crap film instead. And I truly mean crap. Anaconda ring a bell in anyone's Worst Films Ever list? Dear God was that an awful film. I'm glad I wasn't really watching it, since I was playing Champ (again) on my laptop. I'm getting very good at that game, and my Cardiff City team are performing well above what is expected of them. I have too much spare time on my hands.

After Anaconda, the Glastonbury highlights were on. My housemates were in raptures about McCartney, but I've never been able to see the fascination with his or The Beatles' music. I truly can't stand it, and get bored very quickly by it. Does this make me a heathen, or merely uninformed? Yes, I know that The Beatles created pop music, etc, etc (if it can be shown conclusively that a chain of causation exists between The Beatles and Steps, then The Beatles truly deserve to be confined to the deepest depths of hell for all eternity), but they're just not very good.

All of their songs sound the same, and are so cheery / pop that they become annoying. I know that my musical tastes are very different, but at least with other bands I can understand why they were so popular, or appreciate the quality of their music. With The Beatles, I can do neither. But anyway, rant over.

Basement Jaxx, on the other hand, were great. One of my housemates, I forget who, questioned how the Jaxx could attract such a big crowd when Macca was playing the Pyramid stage at the same time. Pete said something like "it's for all of the dance fans, like Rob", which I couldn't agree with more! Given the choice between Paul McCartney and Basement Jaxx, I'd see the latter every single time. Hell, I'd rather see nothing than McCartney.

The same type of choice would have happened on the Sunday too. It would have been a toss-up between Morrissey followed by Muse, or Orbital's LAST EVER GIG. Erm, no contest. Orbital, without doubt, especially since it was their last gig. The footage they showed of it on Sunday made it look as if it would have been the correct decision. I'm not a huge Orbital fan, but the stuff I've heard by them, I like. Mellow, trancey and dancey does me just fine.

Sunday was a complete and utter washout, especially the daytime bit. Most of my housemates were out during the afternoon, so I managed to watch a DVD that had been sitting on my desk for over a week. I was quite impressed by One Hour Photo, with the pace of the film appealing to me most. I liked the contrast between the overarching slow structure and the the two instances of explosive speed.

The two scenes I'm talking about are Sy's nightmare and the concluding scene in the hotel. Both hit you with a rush of activity that is completely at odds with the melancholy nature of the rest of the film, and they grab your attention immediately.

Robin Williams takes a good role, one which is apparently similar to his other recent role in a thriller, in Insomnia. I need to see that film, as it had good reviews and is directed by the guy who did Memento, which is incidentally a masterpiece of narrative and editing. Note to self, find the Easter Egg on the Memento DVD which allows you to watch the entire film in chronological sequence. If you don't know about this, Eeggs.com will sort you out.

In the evening, despite promising to write something here, I ended up playing Champ on the laptop again, as well as watching some more Glastonbury. At one point I was listening to music on headphones from the laptop, since my housemates had Jazz FM on in the living room. If there's one genre of music which I hate more than any other, it's jazz.

I just don't get how anyone can listen to it. Call me unappreciative of the skill involved, or whatever, but it's fucking shit! There was no way I could cope with an hour of that before the Glastonbury highlights show, so I had to grab some headphones from my room and fire up MusicMatch on the laptop. Thank fuck I transferred over all of my mp3s on Saturday!

One of my housemates had got back from his home-home that evening, and had brought back with him a board game called Absolute Balderdash. We were at a loss for things to do, so we decided to play that for a little while.

What a great game! I don't know if you know it, but it's similar to Call My Bluff. One person selects a game card and a category, and reads out one of the following: a word; a person's name; an acronym; a film title; or the first part of a law. All of the other players then have to write what they think either the word means, what the person is 'famous' for, what the acronym stands for, the film's synopsis, or the end of the sentence containing the law.

The card-reader also writes down the real answer (from the card), and collects the answers from everyone else. He then shuffles the answers and reads each one out. Each other player must then say what they think the real answer is.

You score points by guessing the correct answer, and also for other people thinking your 'answer' is the correct one. You move round the board by the number of points you get each round. The winner is the first one to the finish, funnily enough.

Of course, I was the winner. I rule.

It's a great game, and can get very silly. Some of the real answers are even more ridiculous than anything anyone makes up. One that I can remember from last night was a guy who patented a decoy shaped like a cow for hunters to hide in and get close to deer. Genius.

That took us into the early hours of Monday, and that's about it for a wasteful but ultimately enjoyable weekend. I need something to occupy me, or at least to occupy my time. Hopefully the pub should provide that.

Working that is, not drinking. Although...

Not An Imaginative Title

OK, so I got thoroughly distracted by various things yesterday, and didn't get round to finishing my writing on the events of Friday and the weekend. For all of those who waited, rapt in anticipation, I apologise. For those of you who weren't that fussed, good apathy. Anyway, on with the show:

Friday
'Twas with great pain and suffering that I woke up at 11 to switch my alarm off and get out of bed. I hate waking up to an alarm clock, but on Friday I had good reason to do so: the possibility of a job.

A job that I desperately needed, both for financial reasons and for preventing nagging from my parents. Oh, and the nagging by my own conscience. I do have a conscience, contrary to popular belief, and there are times when I actually listen to it. Getting a job is one of those times.

I had to be at Y (see this earlier post for the explanation) for 1 o'clock to do a trial shift there, before I could be offered the job officially. Once again, I dressed up relatively smartly (suit trousers, black shoes, plain white t-shirt), and I managed to get there on time, which is always a good thing to do on your first day. It'll all go downhill from here though.

mY was there, as was her assistant (I'm struggling to think of another acronym), and they showed me round the bar and its various workings. I was then left to serve customers as per usual, and to find my way in the job, with mY watching me as she went about serving customers as well.

I managed to cock up just about everything I touched, including the glorious mistake of mishearing "soda and lime" as "cider and lime". Cue one wasted pint of cider. Oops. I also fucked up on the till a couple of times, and always had to ask which button to push when certain drinks were ordered.

I'm used to an old-style till, you see? The ones with just numbers and a Subtotal button. I'm great at mental arithmetic (if I may say so myself), and in my old pub we had to tot up the rounds in our heads as we poured the drinks. I always found that way really easy, and it had the added bonus of knowing the price of drinks if someone asked.

With this new till, each drink has its own button, or is buried in a submenu. You don't need to learn the prices of the drinks, and you can't give the price of the round to the customer until you've gone to the till and typed it all in. I find this system a little awkward, but in theory it should lead to fewer mistakes, although also a slightly longer serving time per customer.

But whatever, it's not a major thing, just a minor irritation that I blow out of proportion, as per usual.

Thnakfully, I haven't lost my pint-pouring skills (yes, I know it's not rocket science!), and I can still do a fucking good pint of Guiness. It amazes me how often I see a pint of Guiness being poured and so much of it being wasted. If you pour it properly, you shouldn't spill a drop of it. Amateurs.

After about an hour there, mY came over to me and asked me how I found it. I said something along the lines of really enjoying it, even though I probably made 50-thousand mistakes. She then offered me the job officially, which I was over the moon to accept!

Thank fuck for that, I've finally got me a job! No more hunting around the web for various crap temping jobs left, right and centre. I hate having to register at a website with practically your entire CV, just so you can apply for one crappy office temp job. Fucking money-grabbing circular websites!

I left the pub after that, and was heading back to the Tube station at Goodge St when I remembered that I needed a cable for my computer, to connect my laptop to my desktop. I had about 45GB of files to transfer over (music, films, Simpsons episodes, photos, etc), and it would have taken a very long time to do it with a CD-RW. Not that I actually had a CD-RW disc anywhere, come to think of it.

Just as I was heading towards one of the numerous computer shops in the area, I overheard a snippet of a conversation between two of the campest guys you ever did hear. The guy who I heard talking was of Central European origin, judging by his accent, and was a big, big guy. The sentence I overheard (and I wish I heard the rest of the conversation!) was:
It's sooooo difficult sex shopping during lunch...

Pure vocal gold. I really wish I'd been walking in the same direction as them, so that I could hear the reply, or even the justification, but I only heard that as I walked past them on a busy corner of Goodge St. It's these moments that we should treasure...

I got the cable pretty sharpish, from a computer exchange mart on Tottenham Court Road, and had to hotfoot it out of there before I spent a fortune on cheap DVDs. So inviting, and oh-so cheap! But no, I've got a financial crisis to worry about. I can't afford to spend money on frivolous things. Well, that's what my conscience keeps telling me. Sometimes I listen.

I was fucking well hot and sweaty by the time I got home (it's a surprisingly long walk from Hampstead tube station to my house, and the sun was blazing down), so it was straight into shorts and t-shirt for the rest of the day. I'm such a child of the sun, I take every opportunity to wear shorts rather than jeans. My knees aren't too knobbly, which is a good thing...

After a little bit of hassle, I managed to get the small home network up and running, and started transferring files across. Unfortunately, this resulted in there only being 1.4GB of space left on the laptop's hard disk, despite it having a 55GB capacity. I think I may need to get one of the extra attachable hard drives for it, since I've still got a hell of a lot of my CDs to rip, as well as a fair few DVDs. With any luck my Dad will volunteer to pay for it! Not that I'm using him, of course.

I actually chatted to my Dad online for a little while later that evening, with the added joys of webcams. That was after he downloaded and installed MSN Messenger, which seemed to throw him somewhat. He's a very techno-savvy guy, almost as good as myself (ahem), but the concept of an instant messaging program seemed to be completely alien to him. Never mind, he got there eventually.

He told me that he had in fact bought himself the same laptop as he got me, but he'd had his for a few months, and hadn't told my Mum yet. Legend. He keeps it in Hong Kong, and calls it a "HK toy". The mind boggles as to what other HK toys he has. My money's on another snazzy piece of technology, but I can't quite decide what.

He told me that he was off shopping that afternoon (it already being Saturday on that side of the planet), with the main aim of buying an iPod for my good self. Excellent news! I think may love him even more with that news. Not that I need material things in order to found my love upon...

I'm actually coming round to the idea of using the headphones supplied with iPods, even though I've previously said I wouldn't. My reasoning is based purely on space concerns. My current headphones are the "sport" ones, with a solid band that goes round the back of your neck. I love them to bits, because they're very comfortable and also damn loud, but they are a little awkward to carry around. With in-ear buds, you can just drop them in your pocket. Solid band headphones are obviously a little more difficult.

The big problem here is that my ears have a weird shape that usually means in-ear buds either fall out constantly or give me some serious pain. I have sticky-out ears, and designers evidently don't give people like me much thought when designing. The minorities count too, don't you know?! So I guess I'm stuck with my bigger headphones, unless Apple have somehow come up with another fantastic design that includes my ear shape...

I watched Bo Selecta again (still funny), and was browsing through my site statistics when I stumbled across a referrer that I hadn't noticed before. I checked the site out (as I always do), to find Brambled Rambling, a blog by a twenty-something New Yorker who has a fascination for English guys. I found her MSN address, and added her to my friends, with the intention of thanking her for the link when I saw her online.

She was online straight away, and what started as a quick thank-you turned into an hour-long conversation about anything and everything, from Linux v Windows to her fascination with British guys, via the whole concept of blogging. It was a pleasure, and I'd again like to say thanks for the link. Go have a read of her blog, it's worth the visit.

And that was pretty much it for Friday, save for doing a little bit more work on the design of the blog. No, I haven't changed it yet, but I have the design sorted on my hard drive. I just need to take some photos and do some editing, and it'll be ready. If only my camera's batteries weren't flat...

Apologies

Yeah, so I didn't get round to posting. Dinner, football, Champ, Glastonbury and Balderdash got in the way. I should be able to finish it off tomorrow, if I remember and can make the time to do so...

Sunday, June 27

And Now For Something Completely Different...

With apologies to Monty Python.

I'll finish off my catching up a little later. Right now, I'm hungry and need dinner. This obviously takes precedence over blogging...

Shouldn't Have Left It So Long

I need to remember that when I don't post for a few days, it takes me forever to catch up with everything that's been going on. Thankfully, the last few days have been fairly uneventful, even if they have kept me too busy to post.

So, without further ado:

Wednesday
I'm trying desperately to think of anything of note that happened on Wednesday, and absolutely nothing is coming to mind. I think I watched the football in the evening, although I'll be damned if I can remember what the game was (Czech Republic v Germany, perhaps?).

I guess nothing interesting could have happened, to be honest!

Thursday
Now Thursday I can remember!

I got a phone call from my Mum on her mobile at lunchtime, telling me that she and my sister hadn't managed to get their flight to America that day, and were staying in a hotel at Heathrow that night before trying again on Friday. Basically, would I like to come down and see them?

I was of course up for it, becuase I hadn't seen either of them for a good couple of months, but Heathrow is a hell of a long tube ride from my house in North London. Nevertheless, I decided to go see them, and packed a backpack with my CD player, a couple of CDs (my iPod can't get here soon enough!), a book and a magazine.

Dear God did that tube ride take absolutely forever?! I actually forgot to put my CD player on, so engrossed was I in the latest issue of DVD Review. I managed to read nearly every single word in that magazine during the journey, which is a lot of text and should show just how long the journey was...

The only bad thing was that only one DVD caught my eye from all of the month's releases: a special edition of Ichi The Killer, which includes the manga film that the recent live-action version was based on. Ultra-violent Japanese cinema? Yes please.

The journey actually got even longer when I got to the airport, since my Mum's hotel just outside of its boundaries, meaning a taxi was required to get over to it. I got so very lost trying to find the taxi rank.

You'd think, or at least I thought, that the taxi rank would be at the bus station right in the middle of the airport. Wrong. I then wandered through Terminal 1 and evetually found the queue for taxis just outside a random exit. Another 10 minutes was spent queueing, only to be advised when I got to the front that I'd be better off going to another bus stop to get a 'Hotel Hoppa' (note the trendy, friendly spelling), since it would be much cheaper than a taxi.

Fair enough, cheap is good, especially when I'm paying. I found that bus stop pretty easily, and followed the signs which told me I could buy a ticket out by the stop itself, rather than in the waiting lounge area. There was indeed a ticket machine there, and it was 3 for a ticket.

I, of course, only had 2 and some coppers on me, and the credit card bit of the machine was out of order. No worries, I thought, since I'd seen some other people get on different Hotel Hoppas and paying the driver directly. Easy!

Cue my bus turning up, and the driver refusing to take my 10 note, since he had no change. Very, very annoying. He told me to go back to the desk in the waiting lounge and buy a ticket there. More queueing followed, and I eventually clutched my ticket as I walked back out to the actual bus stop.

The bus had obviously gone by this point, and it took at least 4 songs before the next one turned up. I'd remembered my CD player by this point, and I find it easier to count songs than keep track of time. I managed to get on this bus, but had to stand, as it was full up. Not that I mind standing, I've got used to busy buses and tubes in the last couple of years.

Two guys who were also standing got off at the first hotel, and the gap they left behind showed that there were in fact loads of empty seats towards the rear of the bus. They had evidently decided to just stand towards the front, and their sheer bulk prevented me from seeing past and spotting the empty seats. I hate people who do that to me. What was wrong with them sitting down, or at least telling me that there were empty seats behind them, if I wanted to sit down?!

Sorry, but small things like that can annoy me somewhat.

I eventually made it to the hotel, a mere 2 hours and 20 minutes after I left my house. Not bad...

My Mum and sister were there waiting for me, and I had a beer in my hand within minutes of arriving. Not a bad result. We chatted for a while about this and that, mostly about the flight that they'd missed, and their chances for tomorrow.

I should pause here to explain why they had in fact missed their flight, because it isn't an especially common occurrence. My Dad works for an airline, which means he can get ultra-cheap tickets for most flights. Unfortunately, these tickets are what they call "standby tickets", since you are not guaranteed a seat on a given flight on a given day.

Instead, the tickets are valid for that route for a given period (3 months, I believe), and they day you choose to attempt to travel is up to you. You go to the airport that day, as per usual, and go to the check-in desk. They weigh your suitcases, as normal, attach the tags, but don't take them from you straight away. Instead, you have to wait around until an hour before take-off, and then go to an office where the remaining seats are allocated to anyone who has standby tickets.

This is because there is always the distinct possibility of someone turning up just before take-off with money for a full-price ticket and needing to get on the plane. It makes more sense (for the airline) to take that passenger than one with a heavily discounted standby ticket.

On Thursday, my Mum and sister were the unlucky ones who didn't get on the plane, and were thus a little upset and disappointed by the time I got to them that afternoon. They were also being very pessimistic about their chances of getting on the flight on Friday. Wrongly pessimistic, it turned out, because they did indeed get on that flight without any problems.

As I said, we chatted about this and that for a while, before going into the hotel's restaurant for dinner. I couldn't help but keep thinking of the second series of I'm Alan Partridge, the one where he lives in a Travelodge. This hotel was just so much like that, only without the Geordie barman.

The food was surprisingly good, if a little limited in choice. Basically, you could have a buffet or a choice of 3 steaks. I'm a man (grr, neanderthal), so of course it was a steak (oh, and I wasn't paying...), but the buffet looked pretty terrible, to be perfectly frank. I'll give them their dues though, the steak was cooked very well, and had some tasty chips with it. Now if only the waitresses could understand what you were saying to them...

It was now time for the England game, and I had to resign myself to watching it in the hotel, since there was no chance I was going to be able to make it home in time to watch it. The hotel had a big screen in the bar area, but I wasn't overly in the mood for watching it with a load of Geordie, beer-swilling builders, so we went upstairs to my Mum's room to watch it there.

I'm going to gloss over most of it, but suffice it to say I came very close to hitting my head on the ceiling when I leapt up after Lampard's equaliser in the 116th minute. For the penalty shoot-out (dammit, even writing those words makes me shudder at the memory), we went downstairs to the bar area to watch it, purely for the atmosphere.

You've never heard so much loud swearing in one place in your life! The elderly, middle class couple who arrived halfway through looked very scared as they walked through the throng. Of course, being England, we lost, and I was heartbroken. There was this absolute dumbstruck silence when Portugal's keeper scored the winning penalty, with everyone seemingly exhausted and exasperated. How could we lose AGAIN?!

By this time I had to leave to go home, since it was gone 10.30, and I couldn't chance missing the last tube. It's a very, very long walk into Central London from Heathrow...

I couldn't be arsed waiting for the Hoppa bus to arrive, if it ever would, so I hailed a taxi back across to Terminal 1 and the tube station. The cab driver didn't say a word, which is fucking weird for a black cab driver. Usually they don't shut up.

Even though this was the first stop for the Tube, and the fact that it was nearly 11 at night, it was fucking well full up. I managed to get a seat, but my carriage was full of Korean teenagers and a few American elderly couples. I just switched on my CD player to some loud metal music and completely switched off from the world. I do that very, very easily, almost to the point of looking completely blank and retarded to any onlooker.

When I got home, all of my housemates were in the same dumbstruck and gutted look as I was, still reeling in shock at the football. I was too tired to do anything, and went straight to bed. It's amazing how sitting down on your ass for hours, doing nothing except listening to music and reading can knacker you out so.

Oh, and one final thing: since I was going to bed at 1am, I had the novel experience of my room being dark as I lay there, falling asleep. For the past week or so, I haven't made it to bed before 3.30 in the morning, by which time the sky has a blue tint, and my room has enough light to see things quite clearly. I need to sort my sleeping habits out!
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