Thursday, June 26, 2008
The following is the story of my trip to Australia in the Summer to see Thomas and Kath.
It is a story of self discovery for me and was a real eye opener in terms of what life is all about and what I want and need for myself.
I wrote this blog in a couple of notepads as I went along so what you are reading is exactly how I felt at the time and is written very much 'in the moment'.
It was a trip of a lifetime for me and I tried to squeeze in as much as I could when I was there and with 10 flights in 18 days and many 18 hour days it was exhausting and exhilarating at the same time. In many of the pictures I look completely knackered and that is because I was, but I would not have changed a moment of it.
I have split it into daily blogs as too much happened to document in one entry.
Are you sitting comfortably? Then I'll begin...
Day 1 - 26th June
After a few months of working very hard doing lots of overtime shifts and two months of constant nighshifts to finance my trip to Oz and my other holidays, it was time to head down under.
I had came off of a nightshift, had a few hours sleep and then went to see my Mum's paintings that are on display in the library. Then bought a few bits and pieces that I would require for the trip.
I spent the evening getting organised and it was well after 1am before my head hit the pillow and I lapsed into a coma.
At 4.45, I was dragged kicking and screaming out of the land of nod by my alarm, phone alarm and house phone all ringing at the same time. I turned off both of the alarms and answered the alarm call from BT and grunted a thankyou to the poor sod on the other end of the line who had the unenviable job of waking up grumpy bastards like me!
I ate breakfast, showered and then called a taxi take me to the airport.
The driver was a nice fella and when I told him where I was off to, he revealed that he loved Aussie Rules Football and that he followed Hawthorn. He was delighted when I revealed to him that I was going straight to a Hawthorn game as soon as I stepped off the plane in Melbourne! I promised him that I would give them my support and told him that Thomas was a fan too.
When I arrived at BA check-in, I immediately sensed that there was a problem when the girl behind the desk asked if I was staff and she looked perplexed when I informed her that I was not.
She spoke to one of her colleagues and then told me that the flight had been overbooked. 'I have a flight to catch to Melbourne from Heathrow at 1230, so what does that mean exactly?' I asked with a sinking feeling in my stomach. She disappeared for 5 minutes and when she returned she assured me that all was well and I would be able to board my flight.
Thank God, I thought. Dodged a bullet there! She then asked me for my visa. 'Pardon?' said I. 'You do have a visa, don't you?' she asked as the sinking feeling returned. I sheepishly told her that I did not.
What a fanny I am! I have been so busy lately that I had completely forgot to get one organised.
I called Thomas and after he agreed that I was indeed a fanny, he reassured me that I could buy a visa at the BA desk.
The girl behind the desk returned to help me and thank God that because of her professionalism ten minutes later I had purchased a visa and was now good to go.
The flight to Heathrow was uneventful and I arrived at the infamous Terminal 5 with several hours to kill before my next flight. A couple of coffees in Costa later and it was time to board my Quantas flight.
I ended up sitting beside a lovely Mother and Daughter who were returning to Melbourne after a 2 month trip round Europe. Nice people but they had as much trouble understanding my accent as I had understanding theirs so after a cuple of hours of speaking much slower than I am used to, I decided to watch a movie and a couple of episodes of the Simpsons from the in-flight entertainment menu.
The Quantas flight attendants did a great job of looking after us with frequent food and wine and I spent my time reading and listening to music.
Eleven hours and 6, 000 miles later I arrived in Hong kong.
Day 1 and the first part of my journey was over....
Wednesday, June 25, 2008
As you are all very much aware I am currently the best skier in the world, bar none, but I have been 'keen' to try snowboarding for a while now and Ryan was more than happy to have the opportunity to laugh at his old man.
He came over at lunchtime on Saturday and after we had eaten some lunch, we headed up to Bellahouston.
The centre was almost deserted, probably due to the crappy weather, which was good for us.
After deciding that I was 'goofy' and telling a small white lie to the man issuing the snowboard, "yes, I have snowboarded before, but I am still at beginner level". We headed outside and Ryan showed me how to fasten the bindings and gave me a brief tutorial on the art of 'boarding.
I managed to pick it up quite easily, despite falling over on numerous occassions with Ryan giving helpful hints in between laughing at me.
We moved onto the bigger slope, with Ryan continuing to snowboard effortlessly, while I had all the grace of a new-born fowl.
However, after a few runs down the big slope, I kind of got into it and as I have learned at skiing, sometimes you just need to go for it, which I did as you can see from the video clip below...
However, pride comes before a fall and my God, did I hurt my pride.
I started at the top again and decided just to let rip on the way down. It was going great until I reached the bottom and went over a bump. I flew into the air and just could not correct my posture and landed square on my ass. I heard a 'crack' as I landed and lay groaning for several minutes, knowing that I had done some damage.
I told Ryan that my snowboarding fun was finished for the day and hobbled into the clubhouse to ease my injured derierre into a soft seat.
We got changed back into our civvies and headed home.
When I got home, a look in the mirror revealed the damage that I had managed to do to myself.
Those of you who don't want to see a pcture of my bruised ass, please stop reading now.
You have been warned...
We ordered some chinese food and I booked tickets to go to the cinema that night to see The Happening. The food arrived just in time to watch Doctor Who then we watched the footie before heading over to the showcase just after 9.00.
The film was pretty good and it was cool just to spend time with my boy and eat popcorn while watching a good flick.
We were back at my flat just before midnight and had a good laugh watching Ace Ventura before I bailed out just after one o'clock and left him to watch the end of the film, but I advised him to go to bed soon as we had an early start the next day.
The alarm went off at 7.45 the next morning and after dragging sleeping beauty out of his pit we got ready and had some breakfast before Jim and Stewart picked us up.
Stewart and Jim were running the 10k and I was participating in the half marathon with Jim hoping to run it in under 50 minutes, Stewart was hopefull of a 42 minute run and I was remaining ever optomistic for the 'holy grail' of under 1 hour and 45 minutes for the half marathon.
I am in really good shape just now, but eating a chinese meal, large popcorn, large pepsi and staying up late before a big run is not recommended, so I was not going to bust a gut on this one.
We arrived with 5 minutes to spare and I told Ryan where to meet us at the end of the race, and that the other two would be finished an hour before me, then we headed off to begin the run.
Not a bad crowd had turned out, with most taking part in the 10k rather than the half marathon. However, it is not a patch on the Glasgow Half Marathon, which unfortunately I wont make this year as I will be cycling in Switzerland.
I managed to keep up with Stewart for the first couple of miles before he disappeared into the distance when I stopped for a water break. Flagged a bit around 5 to 7 miles as I trudged round the soulless town that is East Kilbride but a nice lycra clad bum of cute blonde made me refocus and I ran with her for a few miles at a fare old pace.
By the time I got to 10 miles I realised that I was making good progress. Dare I dream the impossible dream that I would break the 1 hour 45 and set a new personal best? One thing was for sure. My sore ass was feeling it as every step hurt just a little bit more.
Nevertheless, I romped home in a new pesonal best time of 1 hour, 41 minutes and 10 seconds!!! A full seven minutes off my previous best time, so I am chuffed to bits.
Stewart was a bit disheartened with his run being a minute outside his target time and Jim had a respectable time too. Ryan just looked totally unimpressed with our efforts!
So that is you up to date for now on what I have been up to.
I am off to Australia tomorrow to stay with Kath for a three week holiday of skiing, surfing, sky diving, binge drinking etc.
Expect a blog entry to end all blog entries for that one!
See you on the other side...
Sunday, June 15, 2008
Belinda, Claire and Margaret turned up to offer support, however they were probably there since they were at a loose end as the running club had been cancelled due to the event
We all met up, completely missed the warm up, posed for a picture and did the obligatory wait in the queue for the bogging portaloo and made it to the start line with seconds to spare.
The run itself was one that I had run before with BMF through Bellahouston and then snaking through Pollock Park before we returned to the finish line at Bellahouston.
I finished first out of our lot in a respectable 45 minutes and 17 seconds, hotly pursued by Jim and Stewart and followed by the others shortly afterwards.
We collected our medals and goody bags and munched on our Tunnock's Caramel Wafers as we chatted about the race, before heading for home. We were meeting up a few hours later for lunch as organised by Stewart.
The venue was Blas in the West End, right opposite Kelvingrove Museum. An excellent choice as the food was superb.
Thursday, June 12, 2008
Hello, Blog fans!
Just thought that I would give you all a quick update on what I have been up to and what is up and coming.
Concentrated on me recently for a change and I am enjoying living life to the max just now, however even I must admit that I am doing a bit too much of everything. There just are not enough hours in the day and work continues to interfere with my social life!
I have made a couple of new friends over the last few months. Got pretty close with Susie and that's cool. No romance, just good friends. She's a kind of female version of me. God help her!
May was very, very busy with a month of nightshifts, two weeks anual leave of which I worked several shifts in HDU, ward 23 and theatre recovery, lots of BMF classes and spending time with my friends.
I postponed my planned cycle from John O'Groats to Land's End until next year so that I could do lots of bank shifts and earn some money. I'm kind of kicking the arse out of things this year by having four holidays abroad, but I deserve it.
June is just manic!
Ten nightshifts, 2 dayshifts, 8 driving lessons, 10k run on Sunday and East Kilbride Half Marathon next Sunday, I moved to my new flat last weekend which I am totally chuffed with, and of course the biggy - Im off to Australia in a couple of weeks!
I really can't begin to say just how much I am looking forward to going down under to see Thomas and Kath.
Here is my itinerary so far...
Friday 27th June - Arrive in Melbourne at 1930 and go straight to the AFL: Hawthorn vs. West Coast.
Saturday 28th June - Drive to Grampians
Sunday 29th June - Drive to Princeton / Twelve Apostles
Monday 30th June - Great Ocean Road To Torquay. Surfing at Apollo Bay / Bell's Beach. Skydive in Torquay.Drive Home
Tuesday 1st July - TBA
Wednesday 2nd July - TBA
Thursday 3rd July - TBA
Friday 4th July - Fly to Sydney (arrive at 1015). Sydney Harbour Bridge Climb (1545)
Saturday 5th July - Australian JBO
Sunday 6th July - Australin JBO
Fly back to Melbourne (2145)
Monday 7th July - TBA
Tuesday 8th July - TBA
Wednesday 9th July - TBA
Thursday 10th July - Yarra Valley Wine Tour
Friday 11th July - Skiing in Hotham
Saturday 12th July - Skiing in Hotham
Sunday 13th July - Fly home (2250)
Also, there is the cycle trip in Switzerland in September and then the JBO to Spain in October and next year's skiing trip is currently being organised by Del. A week in a chalet with my friends, it's going to be good!
Life is pretty good just now and I am fortunate to be doing all the things that I am.
You will like this, it made me laugh.
All of you who think I am a total geek, then please check out the link below. I have been Top Trumped by another Star Trek Fan Bob!!!
Saturday, May 31, 2008
Normally to celebrate me clocking up another year, we go camping to Loch Lomond, however I wanted to do things a little bit differently this time and broke with tradition to do other things rather than get eaten alive by midges, 'borrow' firewood and binge drink round the camp fire.
Something a bit more energetic was called for and that was to come first of all in the shape of a 10k run in Greenock with Jim Arthur and Stewart from BMF.
We headed down around midday and after getting lost several times along the way, we found the destination which bizzarely was a house in the middle of an estate. We payed our £5 to register and joined the other 50-odd people who were taking part.
The organiser explained that the course would start at a lampost and end at a bus stop accross the road. Not exactly of the kind of grand send off that I am used to at the Glasgow Half Marathon, but it was ok.
As you can see from the 'before' picture below, we were bright eyed and bushy tailed at the start of the race, however with temperature in the mid 70's and the sun blazing down, we would not be looking as fresh for very long.
At exactly 2.00 we were off round the course with me trying my best to keep up with the Bellahouston Harriers, but a third of the way into it they were beginning to pass me. I am probably fitter than I have been for a long time just now, but I just could not catch the buggers!
After the half was stage I decided to take my foot off the gas to try and pace Jim so that he would get a better time. Stewart was running with him giving him lots of encouragement to help him along.
My contribution was to let him get as close as 10 feet away from me then shout at him to 'come on, hurry up'. After doing this several times I could see the hate in Jim's eyes!
Anyway, I finished in a respectable 48 miutes dead with Jim and Stewart finishing just behind me.
We headed back to the house for some water, juice and some 'light' refreshment (see below).
And as you can see from the 'after' picture below, we were not looking quite as fresh after running for an hour in the heat.
Jim suggested that we head to the Uplawmoor Hotel for acouple of beers and 45 minutes later we were sitting in the beer garden with pints of Stella for Jim and I and a coke for the driver, Stewart.
As we sat there, Ginger Baws and Nippy Sweetie rang from Australia to wish me happy birthday and it gave Jim a chance to chat to them to as he hadnt spoken to them since they left.
Stewart was kind enough to drop me off at home around 6.30 and I had a bit of a mad dash to get ready to go out that night.
My friend, Susie was taking me out for dinner, then on to see her Sister in concert and then onto her other friends birthday party for a while.
She picked me up at 7.30 and we headed up to La Tasca at Silverburn to share some Tapas. Thorougly enjoyable, but the service was a bit slow. Does it really take 10 minutes to pour a diet coke? I don't think so!
We left around 9.15 to make our way up to Barrowlands for her Sister coming on stage at 10.00. Princess Drama Queen got us there in plenty of time and it was into the Barrowlands to meet all her family and friends for the first time, with the exception of her Mum who I already knew.
They all seem like I nice bunch and her Mum had me laughing by chatting away to me and exclaiming that there were 'loads of lesbians in tonight!'
Susie's Sister, Jill came on stage just after 10.00. I had only previously seen clips that Susie had shown me from Youtube of her Sister singing with her group Speedway, but she was really good. See video clip below.
I particularly liked her cover of Apologise (by One Republic). Really cool.
I met her hot Sisters Jill and Diane after the show :) before we said our goodbyes and headed off to our next venue, Parkhead where Susies's friend was celebrating her 30th birthday.
Her pal works on River Titty and even though I don't watch it, I recognised a few faces and it was nice to see that even soap stars can be drunken fannies just like me and my mates!!!
The party went on until just after 1.00 and then we headed for home with Susie dropping me off not long before 2.00.
I had a really good birthday doing something a bit different, which was cool. However, it had been a long day and I was glad to climb into bed.
I contemplated briefly going to the running club but decided to have along lie instead.
After all, a man of my age needs his sleep!!!
Sunday, April 27, 2008
Del and Estelle had very kindly invited Jim and I to stay at there new home whilst we were over in Switzerfrance on what has now become our annual ski trip to the Alps.
A four hour drive down to Liverpool airport lay ahead when Jim picked me up. This turned into almost a six hour drive as we got lost and ended up in Manchester and Jim's car was running on fuel vapours as we arrived at the airport with not very much time left until check in closed.
We made it, just. However, no harm was done and a short time later we were airborn, playing cards with Jim ordering two double vodkas, a beer and munchies each!
Del met us at the airport and by 9.00 were at his beautiful new house to be greeted by Estelle and given a quick tour. Sam and Lea had long since went to bed so we would have to wait until the next day to see them.
Del had a beer machine in his kitchen which took a bit of a battering as we chatted away before finally going to bed at 1.00 for a nice early start in the morning.
The next morning we were up at 6.00. After a quick breakfast we were on our way to Engelbert and a couple of hours later we were in the gondola to Stand and straight on to a red run down to Trubsee.
We carried on doing various red runs for a couple of hours before stopping for lunch at Trubsee and of course, a couple of beers too. After studying our piste map we decided to take the cable car over to Jochpass for some more red runs.
It was time for my trusty Action Cam to be strapped to my baldy head to get some interactive skiing footage for your pleasure! Please see below...
To finish the day off, I suggested that we head up to one of the highest points at Jochstock. As we got higher up in the cable car the weather really closed in to the point where we could not see the ground or even the cable car in front of us and suddenly it did not seem like such a good idea!
We need not have worried as the run was pretty straightforward and none of us died, which is always a bonus!
After returning our hired skis and having a lecture from Uncle Del about why we should invest in our own skis, we headed back to Del's place for a couple of hours sleep before heading out.
We ended up in some of Del's haunts in Switzerland including the Piano Bar and Reilly's which were pretty good, but only spoiled by the fact that the Swiss have not banned smoking in bars yet. I had forgotten how bad it is having to stand in a smoke filled bar. It is awful! Thank God that we do not have to put up with that shit in this country any longer.
The three tired bunnies were home for 2 am and rolled into bed for a nice long lie in the morning. That is except for Del who would be up bright and early to change dirty nappies. Nae luck, Del!!!
Friday was just a big lazy day and I was glad about the decision to have a day off skiing, even though I had initially been disappointed that we would only be skiing on two days. However, it was a victory for common sense!
Del, Estelle, Jim, myself and the kids went for a long walk, including a trip to the swing park for Sam to have some fun. We then headed into the town and it was good to see some familiar sites from when I had last been there for Del's wedding.
It was slightly disappointing to see that 'Jakie's Corner' had gone. Mind you, after our exploits when we were there, the town mayor had probably called for urgent action to stop it happening again! http://startrekfanbob.blogspot.com/2005_05_01_archive.html
We then headed over the newly constructed bridge into Germany. Del and I chatted about recent events and my friend, Le Dobber gave me lots of advice as only Del can! However, he did make a lot of sense and I guess he isnt as much as a big arsehole as he seems! Sometimes!!!
Back at the house, Del informed Estelle that we were going out again tonight. I missed it, but Jim informed me that Mr Stevenson would have some serious making up to do to Mrs Stevenson!
So off we headed into France this time, with Del taking us to some nice bars where fortunately, this time a smoking ban was in effect. Much more civilised! We did not stay out too late as we had an even earlier start the next day and further to drive to get to the ski resort.
Saturday morning was a 5.30 start and after the three of us had breakfast we were on our way to pick up Kevin. It was good to see the big baldy twat. I like Kevin. Even though he can come across as big loud-mouthed arsehole, he is actually a really nice guy.
Today's weather was much better for skiing. Not a cloud in the sky with the sun doing its best to heat us up. The drive to Flumserberg took a couple of hours and as soon as we arrived it was straight into the hire shop for skis.
Jim and I were in and out within 15 minutes however, Kevin was misdirected by a shop employee and got stuck in a queue behind a large group of people who walked in behind Jim and I. An hour later a very, very unhappy Kevin emerged from the shop, threw down his skis and berated the shop staff whilst the three of us supressed our laughter!
Anyway, after Kev's dummy was returned to his pram, we made our way up from Tannenheim. First of all in the gondola and then in the cable cars until we reached Prodkamm.
Del had told me that Kevin was an accomplished skier, but even I was suprised at how nimble the big guy was as he left us trailing on the way down the red runs. As you all know, I am the best skier in the world and even I had trouble keeping up with him!
The scenery was breathtaking! I thought it was a lot more picturesque than Morzine trip last year. I donned my action cam again and went interactive with my fellow skiers.
One of my favourite things about skiing here is the ability to actually ski right to the bar, take your skis off and order a cold, frosty one. Its fantastic! Of course, we used this facility to the max during the day.
For lunch we made our way up to Maschgenkamm which had spectacular views which we enjoyed while we were dining. I bulked up with a massive bowl of pasta bolognese, chips, a pastry, beer, coke and some water. Its hungry work being the best skier in the world, dontchya know!
We were going to need our strength, post-lunch as we decided to attempt a black run. I have done little bits of black runs before, but skiing one in its entirety was new for me. Kevin probably had the good sense to say, thanks, but no thanks!
I'll sum it up briefly by saying it was very hard, very steep, very fast and at times, very scary. You can see for yourself below in the video clip from my action-cam, which has been heavily edited using Window's Movie Maker to remove most of the times we all fell on our asses!
Ten minutes later and we were at the bottom and I was totally chuffed with myself. It was good to feel alive!
Kevin rejoined us and we completed one more fast red together before Del decided that he had had enough fun for one day. Jim, Kevin and I got one more red under our belts before retiring for the day.
We arranged to meet up in Del's favourite Irish bar, in Germany that night before going our seperate ways. Pizza was ordered and after a beer or two, we were showered and hot to trot.
We walked the short distance into Germany to the Irish theme bar. The only Irish theme that I could see was that it sold Guinness, nevertheless it was good. Apart from being in another country that had not yet had the sense to ban smoking in bars. Del explained to me that cigarettes are so cheap over there that everyone smokes. I just do not get it.Kevin and his girlfriend joined us shortly after we arrived and we drank and chatted before fatique set in and it was time to head home. We said our goodbyes before walking home.
The next morning was Easter Sunday and Sam had been up early to hunt for eggs, which he had found long before Jim and I emerged from our pits.
Today was a day of waiting for our flight which was not until the afternoon, so we watched Manchester United play in the Premiership and chilled before it was time to go.
Hugs and kisses for Estelle and the kids and then we were off. Del drove us to the airport and after checking in we browsed the duty free shop with Jim desperately looking for tat for presents.
By 8.00 we were back in Liverpool and after retrieving the car, we had the urgent, outstanding problem of finding a petrol station PDQ!
After 20 minutes of driving around aimlessly we finally found one and then were on our way up North, with no wrong turns this time Jim managed to get me home for around midnight.
A top few days away, great skiing and in the company of people I care a lot about.
Just a wee footnote. I have removed the comments facility from my blog as some ignoramous was leaving comments anonymously, which I think is the height of ignorance.
You can of course get in touch to pass comment, criticise my storytelling/skiing abilities and generaly tell me what a fantastic guy I am at my email address.
The people that matter know it!
Monday, April 07, 2008
He wanted to go karting again and so off we went to Clydebank on the train around 1.00 arriving with a little time to spare before we hit the track.
The good thing about going there at the weekend is that you are garaunteed to have more people to race against and that was the case as nine of us clambered into the karts for our two sessions of twenty laps around the track.
As is always the case, Ryan left me for dust leaving me to battle against the drivers of my calibre. I might be coming along nicely with my two driving lessons a week on the roads, however, I think it would take considerably more karting sessions before I would be able to beat my boy! Never mind.
As we left the karting, I realised what a nice day it was. Cold, but the sun was trying it's best to heat us up and so I suggested to Ryan that we head down to Balloch to get some fresh air in our lungs.
Half an hour later we were strolling through Balloch Park. It gave the two of us a really good chance to chat and put the world to rights.
Ryan is growing up so fast and often says things that make me realise that in many ways he is wise beyond his years. Sunday was no exception when he said something to me in particular that had me in tears. Albiet, not that hard to do these days...
I am so incredibly lucky to still have him in my life after splitting up with Fiona and I truly, truly count my blessings. It scares me how much I love him. To see him grow, evolve and have such a zest for life makes me incredibly proud that I have played a big part in his life.
Now as he is slowly but surely becoming an adult our relationship is changing. We talk with each other on a different level and I love it.
I have the easier job to be honest, with Fiona having the short end of the stick and putting up with all the teenage stuff. I hope that she realises that it is a challenge that she won't be facing alone even though I am not there.
Anyway, so eventually we found ourselves at the four monkey puzzle trees in the park and so we got a nice lady who was out walking her dog to take a picture in front of one of the baby ones before slowly walking back to the Balloch House Hotel.
I tried to convince him that the Tullie Inn would be a better option for food but he was not having it. So after some slow service from a terrible waitress who thought that smiling was illegal and slamming your meals and drinks on the table was part of the job (no tip for you, love), we tucked into our meals of Sea Bass for me and gammon steak for Ryan. Followed by a nice dessert of chocolate fudge cake and ice cream. Fortunately I have lost some weight recently!
We were going to go for another walk after dinner if we had time, however the train to Glasgow was just arriving so we decided to head for home.
Some good banter with each other on the train and a sing-a-long to some music topped off a perfect day.
Ryan, I know that you read this from time and even though I tell you often and I told you several times on Sunday, I just want to say it again, I love you much, much more than you will ever know and it means the world to me when you say it to me too.
Monday, February 18, 2008
ALL EVENTS WERE DOCUMENTED BY ME IN MY LITTLE NOTEPAD AT THE TIME AND THEREFORE FOR THE MOST PART ARE PRETTY ACCURATE.
I, OF COURSE HAVE RESERVED THE RIGHT TO EMBELISH ALL STORIES AND LEAVE OUT IMPORTANT DETAILS AS I SAW FIT.
I DISCOVERED THAT I COULD UPLOAD VIDEOS STRAIGHT TO MY BLOG RATHER THAN THROUGH YOUTUBE, SO GET THE POPCORN OUT FOR THIS ONE.
HOPE YOU ENJOY!!!
Our annual Jolly Boy's Outing (JBO) was heading to Eastern Europe again. This time our destination was Latvia's capital city, Riga and all the usual suspects were in attendance with the exception of Hammey who could not make it. However, we had some new blood in the shape of Frank Phinn's Bother, Gary and Del's work colleague, Manfi.
With the imminent departure of Thomas who was emigrating to Australia with Kath, the decision had been made to turn the JBO into a stag weekend in his honour-even though he wasn't getting married! This was a closely guarded secret with Gingerbaws not supposed to find out until we reached Riga.
Jim Arthur had organised the obligatiory T-shirts emblazoned with 'Gingerman Goes To Oz' on the front and a Superman style 'G' and with our stag names on the back. All for the bargain price of ONLY £33 each!
Wearing your pants outside your trousers was optional!
Therefore the full list of dobbers in attendance were:
- Me - Sir Wanksalot.
- Thomas - Boaby Muncher.
- James Arthur - Bitch Slave
- Del - Le Dobber
- James Snelling - Portrush Pig
- Kevin - Gobshite
- Frank Phinn - Fatty Phinn
- Gary Phinn - Dug Baws
- James H - Emperor Tim
- Manfred - Swiss Piss
I had spent the evening in Dumbarton with Susan in a growing state of boyhood excitement at the upcoming weekend and she was, no doubt, probably glad to see the back of me when Jim and Thomas arrived to pick me up at 11.30.We chatted briefly outside Susan's house but as we were being devoured by midges we said our goodbyes and headed off. Thomas had bagsied the front seat beside Jim, however being in the back of the car wasn't such a bad thing as I managed to get a couple of hours kip on the way down.
We arrived at Liverpool's John Lennon airport at 0400 and made our way to the bar for a fry up breakfast and our first beer of the day. Gary appeared and joined us as we waited for the plane to embark.
We were getting worried that Snelling had not made it as the time to board the plane arrived, and after some urgent texting from Thomas we discovered that the Portrush Pig was a step ahead of us and was already sitting on the plane.
We easily found the big guy on the plane (well he is kind of hard to miss) and pretty soon after take off the drinking began in earnest in what was going to be a very long day.
Ryanair, who we were flying with were shite! Their lumenescent blue and yellow livery was giving me a headache. They made Sleezyjet look posh, but that's what happens when you decide to do it cheap and cheerful I suppose.
A few hours later and we had touched down in Riga and upon turning on our mobile phones Thomas announced that Del and Co's flight had been cancelled due to bad weather and there was a possibility that they might not be joining us at all. However, as more details came in, it turned out that they would be flying in from Zurich instead, which meant the Scottish lads would have a drinking headstart.
By 1200 our group had arrived at the Reval hotel, which was lovely and after dumping our stuff in our rooms we made our way to the hotel bar and ordered vodka and Red Bulls all round to kick-start the drinking.
The Switzer- France boys arrived about an hour later and after a quick catch-up, a couple of drinks and the first slaggings of the day everyone headed to their rooms for a shower and to adorn their stag T-shirts and some of us put their kilts on too.Thomas was delighted to be having a surprise stag weekend. Unfortunately we had an early casualty. Gary had fallen asleep in his room and in totally unacceptable stag protocol, would not be joining us for the evening.
Anyway, the weekend stag rules and punishments for breaking them were announced. They were:
- Own names not allowed - individuals to be addressed only by stag names on back of T-shirts. Failure to do so means you have to drink '2 fingers of beer'.
- There would be two referees for the weekend (Boaby Muncher not allowed to be one of them) who would have yellow and red cards to inflict punishments as they saw fit.
- Yellow card - 2 fingers of beer.
- Red card - down drink in one.
- Argue with ref's decision - down drink in one.
- If two ref's disagree on punishment then group has a vote on punishment.
- If person moans about punishment - they must suck on baby's dummy until told otherwise.
The decision was made that we should stand up one by one and announce our stag names in a loud and clear voice with a cheer going up from the group as each person took the floor and more or less shouted their names out. The staff in the hotel looked less than impressed.
It was time to venture out and so we made our way into the streets of Riga. we did not have a tour guide this year as we had previously at Del's stag, we were just going to have to wing it this time.
We found a nice bar in the square of the old town and sat outside for a beer. I was getting dog's abuse for wearing white trainers with my kilt and was subsequently red carded. Silly punishments were being handed out by the refs for the slightest 'crimes' and every time that a yellow card offence was committed the group sang 'two fingerrrrrssss' to the tune of 'Goldfinger'. Fannies!
It was warm and sunny in the square as we moved from bar to bar, happily ripping the pish out of each other as we went. A local approached me and asked to take a picture of the back of my Sir Wanksalot T-shirt, God only knows why but it looks like I had become a local tourist attraction!
Gobshite beat me over the head repeatedly with a menu in one pub, much to my annoyance - a sure sign that we were all starting to get pished and the day was still young.
Some food was needed in an attempt to soak up some of the alcohol, so we ended up in a place called Steitu Haoss. Can't say that I honestly remember what the food was like or if it was any good, but it filled a space.
We then moved onto a wine bar where, much to our amusement, Gary had woken from his slumber and had decided to join us to much abuse and then we were onto an Irish theme bar which was pretty good too.
After frequenting several more 'establishments' we ended up in a club which, much to our delight had a table football and a mini tournament was soon underway.
We stayed there for a couple of hours before deciding to head back to the hotel which had a very smart rooftop bar called the Skyline Bar. We met another stag party from England and after a bit of banter we challenged them to a wrestling match.
However, the bouncers who were obviously sensing trouble quickly intervened to stop the contest before it had even began. I think we would have taken them, but we'll never know...
It was after 0200 by now and people were dropping like flies. I had been drinking for 21 hours by now and the sensible thing to do would have been to go to bed, but that wasn't going to happen.
The die-hards amongst us, Thomas, Del, Emperor Tim and I went down to the hotel casino while everyone else rolled back to their rooms in drunken stupours.
Thomas and Del gambled a little and lost a little bit too, I think. I had enough sense to realise that I was a bit to pished to have any chance of gambling and winning and therefore Emperor Tim and I just watched the proceedings. When Del took a picture with his camera and was immediately surrounded by burly bouncers who made him delete it, it was definently time to leave.
We made our way back to the rooms and outside mine and Jim's room, Del and Thomas discovered that there was an ice cube dispensing machine on the wall and came up with the ingenious idea that we should 'rush' Jim as he slept and throw ice cubes at him.
I thought that this was taking things a bit too far, however once the decision had been made to do it, I happily joined in grabbing as many ice cubes as I could. I opened the door and the three of us jumped on top of an unconcious Jim Arthur and rub ice cubes all over him.
Jim was not happy!
I woke at 1200 and did not feel too bad, but then again I was still pished. After a shower, Jim and I headed to McDonalds for some breakfast and I had the best McD's that I have ever had. It actually tasted nice!
The plan today was to go quad biking and Jim decided that he needed a new jacket for it so we trudged around for the best part of an hour to eventually return to the first shop we looked in to buy one that he had saw there.
Back at the hotel, the group had gathered in the bar and were decidedly less boisterous than they had been the night before with some more than others looking decidedly fragile!
We were picked up from the hotel at 2.00 for the half hour drive to our destination. When we got there a dozen bright yellow quadbikes were lined up and ready to go. You could see a glint in everyone's eyes.
The man in charge explained that he would get the BBQ going while we were on the quadbikes and that we should just help ourselves to bottles of beer. Drinking beer while driving a quadbike? What could possibly go wrong?
Everyone wisely decided to curtail their drinking until after their turn on the quads. Next he produced disclaimers for all of us to sign basically saying that any accidents or death were not his fault, which was reassuring.
The BBQ was started while we were given a quick tutorial on how to drive the quadbikes. Unfortunately since there were so many of us we were split into two groups with the first group of Del, Thomas, Gary, Frank and James H going first 'on safari' for twenty minutes before returning for a couple of laps around the dirt track.
It did not take long to figure out that there was not too much skill involved in driving a quadbike - accelerate, brake and try not to fall off - that's about it!
We raced each other off into the countryside with the young lad pulling us up several times when we were getting a bit too boisterous with our driving. We were screaming along as fast as we could with the exception of the Portrush Pig who's severe weight disadvantage meant that he could not keep up with us. We had to stop several times to wait for him to catch up with us, which caused much hilarity.
There were a group of locals camping in the forest who had a camp fire going and were swigging away on their booze. They shouted a bit of Latvian abuse as passed them so we stopped a safe distance away and let Piggy catch up. We did not want to leave him there incase they ate him!
After that it was plain sailing as we zoomed back to base and had a couple of laps around the dirt track before pulling over to join the others for some dodgy BBQ food.
After a short break it was time for some racing around the track. I was loving it and was getting a bit gallus when I set the fastest lap time of 21.46 seconds and made the mistake of thinking that I was Lewis Hamilton when in fact, I was more like Ozzy Osbourne.
I took great plessure in lapping as many people as I could. However, it was almost inevitable that I was going to come a cropper. Which I did.
As I screamed round for the umpteenth time, thinking to myself that another couple of laps would do it before I retired gracefully, I took the last corner a bit too sharply and in a split second I felt myself summersaulting through the air. I landed in a heap with my right hand taking the brunt of the impact and as the quadbike landed upside down on top of me, the brake lever gouged deeply into my left leg.
I lay there for what seemed a long time but probably wasn't, knowing that I had done some damage but I was unsure how bad it was. I looked up to see Kevin running towards me and the look on his face told me that it must have been bad. Del and James pulled over to see if I was ok, but despite me saying that I was, the blood running down my leg told a different story.
Kev told me later that the guys had thought for a couple of laps that I was going to come off and when I finally did the guy in charge just startred to laugh in a 'you signed the disclaimer, so tough shit if you are dead' kind of way.
The guys righted the quadbike for me and advised me to retire 'gracefully', but being the fanny that I am I climbed back on and after a few careful laps I opened up the throttle and proceeded to set a new lap time of 20.89 seconds!
When I finally gave up I got some first-aid from which consisted of hydrogen peroxide poured into my open leg wound. It didn't have any noticeable effect except bleaching some of the hairs on my leg a few shades lighter.
We headed back to the hotel and after a quick shower we were out again. The streets were a lot quiter tonight as it was a public holiday and finding in decent bars that were open was hard work. However, we eventually found one that sold food too and had a half decent meal before moving on.
We used a technique that we had learned last night of going into strip bars where the first drink is free (but you are expected to pay the girls to dance with you) and then leaving as quickly as possible before the bouncers (or the strippers) decided to kick seven shades of shit out of us.
Eventually we ended up in the Skybar again and drank as we chatted, acted like dobbers and watched a beautiful sunset over the city. Meanwhile, Fatty Phinn lapsed into a drink induced coma in his chair and being the good mates that we are we ripped the absolue pish out of him making him dance in time to the music, ably assisted by his Brother as he sat there blissfully unaware.
Elsewhere, things were getting a bit out of hand with Jim and Thomas spitting drinks over each other. It was never going to have a happy ending and when Jim poured a Long Island Iced Tea over Thomas and Thomas responded by ripping Jim's brand new shirt off him, a line had been crossed.
Jim dissapeared and I informed Thomas that Jim didn't look very happy and had went back to his room to change. We went to find him but he was nowhere to be found so we returned to the Skyline Bar to find Jim sitting there with a clean, unripped shirt on. He played down the whole incident saying that he wasn't pissed off. I wasn't convinced as I know that I would have been.
We made our way down to the Voodoo Club, the hotel's nightclub and soon realised that the place was full of prostitutes and their Russian Mafiaesq -type pimps. A wide berth was made of them so that we didn't end up sleeping with the fishes so we just danced away and drank somemore before getting to bed around 0300.
I woke up at 1000 with an aching head and an extremely sore finger from the day before's crash. The finger next to my pinky on my right hand was swollen and bent to one side. The guys were convinced that it was broken but an x-ray when I got back home said that it wasn't.
Thomas, Del and James Snelling arrived to give technical support as we tried to transfer yesterday's quadbike Action Cam video footage to my Creative player so that we could watch it on the TV in the hotel room.
Thomas asked if I had brought the AV cable for the Action Cam so that we could just watch it straight from the camera without all the hastle of transferring it. I had not and they were quick to tell me that I was a fanny because of it.
We left it transferring and went to McD's for breakfast and then to the local market to buy gifts before returning to the hotel room to watch the now transferred quadbike footage. There was laughter all round at the Portrush Pig's slowness, however everyone agreed that it would have been even funnier if I had still had the camera rolling when I crashed!
We headed downstairs to be picked up for todays event - paintballing!
We were driven to the outskirts of the city to a dissused factory that had derelict car wrecks scattered around covered in multi coloured paint from past battles.
We were issued with army style boilersuits and safety masks before being given a safety briefing and had the rules explained to us. There would be two minute games and when you were shot you had to raise your hand to let everyone know that you were out of the game.
The first game began and quickly turned to farce as a dangerous mix of excitement and testosterone made of my team shoot each other rather than the enemy team.
It was bloody sore when I was shot and I quickly regreted only wearing shorts and a shirt under my boilersuit. I made a mental note to myself that if I ever did this again I would wear something with a bit of padding for protection.
Early on, I was shot on the exact same spot on the inside of my thigh, a couple of inches from my manhood. This had me clenching my butt-cheeks in fear for the rest of our time there.
Buying ammunition was as cheap as chips and we all reloaded a couple of times with multi-coloured bullets in between battles. Jim must have been loving watching us running around like twats from his vantage point as he had a great view of some comic moments including Dug Baws falling over barrels as he ran arond like Rambo! (see clip below)
I had my Action Cam on again for some font line footage. The thought that having a video camera strapped to my safety helmet would make me a more conspicous target was lost on me. Click below to see the same clip as above filmed from the Action Cam (and hear me screaming like a little girl when I got shot in the ass!)
We headed back to the hotel and recounted our war stories over a beer. After a quick shower we headed into town with Thomas being made to wear the 'Beverly Hills 90210, Jason Priestly' stag T-shirt. We had dinner in a place called the Amsterdam Bar, but the food was awful.
A good venue needed to be found for the JBO Kangaroo Court and so we made our way to Dickens Bar which was basically meant to be a traditional style English pub, only it was in Latvia! It even had a dartboard, so after a few games of darts and too many 'Bullseye' jokes to list here, the court was in session.
Punishment pints were ordered from the bar and Zambucha shots to get us warmed up. Gobshite had been taking notes over the last few days of peoples crimes and misdemeanors and charges were read out one at a time with the chant of 'GUILTY!' coming from all of us as each charge, no matter how ridiculous , was announced by Judge Gobshite. Pints of beer were downed in one, by the guilty ones i.e., everyone.
The dissapointing meal from earlier on had left everyone hungry and so we went to TGI Fridays. The staff were not very happy about serving us in our inebriated state until we ordered one of everything from the food menu and suddenly we were made to feel very welcome!
The staff were glad to see the back of us as we moved elsewhere and we found ourselves back in the square again. Thomas still had his Jason Preistly T-shirt on and the hunt was on to find a replacement as tradition dictates that the stag T-shirt must be swapped for a new one, the more outrageous and ridiculous looking, the better.
We weren't dissapointed as, after a lot of negotiating, Thomas managed to persuade a young barmaid to swap her tiny pink top for our Jason Preistly one. Looking suitably stupid, Thomas rejoined us to a huge cheer.
An American called Billy Bob hooked onto us and bought us all a beer and we chatted away with him for a while. Meanwhile Emperor Tim was challenging locals to an arm wrestling contest, which he lost.
Sensing that things could easily go pear shaped we headed back to the hotel at 0130. A few gave up and went to bed while the remaining knobheads (including myself) carried on until 0330.
When it was time to go back to our rooms we were too tired even to storm the room and get Jim Arthur with ice cubes again...
Jim's alarm went off at 0730 and boy, did I feel rough when I awoke.
After showering, we headed to the hotel restaraunt and tried to eat something substantial before the long journey home.
We said our goodbyes to the Switzerfrancers and headed to the airport to the longest check-in queue that I have ever seen. We eventually boarded the plane and settled down to 'enjoy' the flight with ever increasing hangovers.
Back in Liverpool, we picked up the car and headed back up the road, stopping just before Carslile for a late lunch. Jim had sensibly stopped drinking quite early on, the previous night and luckily for us, was feeling ok for the drive. Thomas and I just wanted it to be over.
As we crossed the border from England to Scotland, the sun emerged from the gloom and shone brightly.
It was good to be home!
Click on the link below to view all the pictures from the JBO