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Michael’s Travel Diary

Wednesday, 31 Oct 2007

Location: Isle of Wight, England

MapBack again – finally….

So, it is time again to fill you all in, and there is a bit of filling to do!

Firstly… Rugby World Cup Final weekend. As much as every English person that I know harassed me, I stuck with supporting whoever the Poms were up against. The fact that it was South Africa meant that I had even less chance of being persuaded by their remarks that ranged from pleading to chiding. On the Saturday evening I headed back to the mainland (a developing pattern I must say) and arrived at 21 Malmesbury Road. Potter met me there, then the two of us with Stef and Sue (who moved into my old room) headed down to the Walkabout to watch the game.

Well, that didn’t work so well. Even at 530 pm, with the game start still 2 and a half hours away, the wait for a drink at the bar was stupidly long, there were no jugs left, only pints, so there was no stocking up for the game, and the crowd was huge. There was only one way that the night was gonna go there, and it was gonna get even more crowded, more frustrating, and less comfortable. We finished our beers and headed down towards Ocean Village and the Cork and Bottle where we met Stroudy and Carrie (who’s birthday it was) and a few of the other from football came through as well. The place was crowded, but we had a couple of tables to mill around and a handful of seats to go around between us.

As for the game, well that was a bit overrated. The Springboks got up early, and the Poms never looked like threatening – and the video decision about the English ‘try’ was spot on. The foot was in touch, much to the disappointment of almost EVRYONE in the pub. It wasn’t long after the game ended (the pub had turned the TV off before the trophy presentation which was pretty weak) and the pub started clearing out. Was a pretty cool night, and THANK GOD I don’t have to hear about England being World Champions again for another four years.

The next morning I headed off to Southampton University Sports Grounds to catch up with the boys from the football club and get ready for the exhibition match between ourselves and a combined Sussex/Brighton team. Admittedly, the team was more Brighton than it was Sussex who knocked us out of the semi’s at the end of last season. We were out on one of the back sports pitches, with rugby, soccer, hockey and a whole host of other sports going on around us, being played between the University of Southampton and Southampton Solent University. The day was beautiful, our homemade scoreboard in good working order, and the crowd as big as it has ever been – even if they were looking at the other sports! Hahaha.

It turned out to be one of the most fun games I had been a part of all year, with all the players getting a really good run in a number of different positions. Not only that, I was able to spend more time on the bench in one game that I did all last season, which meant it was much easier to get a feel for moving players into different positions and actually coach the game. There were two big surprises for the game, firstly when Tom showed up at quarter time, straight off a plane from Scotland, before heading back to Oz a day later, and Canneaux, who had just finished playing 80 minutes of rugby on the pitch next to us. Highlight of the game had to be the comment from Potter at the start of the second half where he felt it necessary to say “Come on guys, this is where all our pre-season training will pay off”. Given we’d had all of 2 training sessions, no one really knows what he was expecting, but the guys did look pretty good out there, even if a bit unfit, and we won 78-26. A beer at the ground after the game and a few beers at the Walkabout afterwards with a feed rounded out the weekend.

The following week was spent trying to recover for most of it. Seems like I had come down sick after the weekend, and spent last week for the most part sick blowing my nose. The temperature is continuing to drop which I am sure didn’t help (it is 3 degrees outside at 10 pm as I write this). We headed down to the Pier View on Tuesday night for Iona’s (the new graduate at work) welcome drinks, checked out the local gym on Wednesday and had swim there (joined up tonight) and spent the rest of the week really chilling out trying to get healthy again.

Well, that all came crashing down last weekend! Friday after work I headed to Southampton to pick up my tickets for the NFL game on the Sunday at Wembley. The tickets were delivered to the Isle of Wight, but weren’t left as no one was home. The number on the delivery slip wasn’t right, and by the time I’d tracked the office down on Friday they said that the earliest they could deliver it was Monday. When I said it was tickets to an event on Sunday and I’d pick them up, they said, ‘you do realize that we are on the mainland’. At that point I reminded them – the event is Sunday, I ain’t waiting till Monday for the tickets.

I made it to the parcel collection which was a half hour train ride out from Southampton, and then finally made it back into Southampton a while after 6 pm. Having every intention of heading back to the island for the night, I made the mistake of dropping into the Walkabout to have a quick couple drinks with Potter and Stroudy before catching the ferry home – well it was on the way! Well, that seemed to work – not. Anyway, had a great night at the Walkabout, and then moved up to Junk which was interesting. They had a guy playing live percussion drums in time with the house music and it added a very different mix to the tunes. Not bad at all.

After spending the night on the couch at Potters place, I got up in the morning and made a return trip to the island. A quick shower, a very short snooze and then back to the mainland to catch up with Potter and head into London. By 530 pm and we in London and headed to Kings Cross to meat up with Tony who lived at the house with Sarah whom I dosed with when I first got to London. We stayed at the Kings Cross Pool Hall for a few hours, and by the time we left, after a dozen or so games of pool, Tony’s mate from university, Victor, had shown up, as had one of Potters friends from back home, Monique.

We left the pool hall and headed to Camden to meet up with Andy Scales, and ended up in some back water pub out in the beer garden. From what had started as just Potter and I heading into London, now grew into an Entourage of about a dozen people as every new person that came along seemed to invite others as well. Something from nothing – a really good night. As the night at the pub drew on, it was clear they were looking at shutting soon so we hoped to head out and make the most of the extra hour of the night due to the end of daylight savings. Unfortunately, it seemed everywhere else had the same idea, so the only place in Camden we could find was some out of the way night club, that wanted a 5er to get in. Oh well, why not… except that we were the only people in there.

Somehow, that only lasted about 10 minutes, and suddenly it appeared as every black person in Camden was in the club as it bumped out some made hip-hop tracks. I was loving it… some of the others not so much perhaps! We were told that the club would stay open till 4 am, but by 230 am (after the clock change) the lights came on and called it a night – if only it was so easy. Potter, Monique and I headed on the night bus to go from Camden to Fullham (where Monique lives) but Monique and I came to the conclusion about 20 minutes down the road we were headed in the wrong direction and jumped off the bus. Wrong move! We were in fact headed the right direction and waited a full hour for the next one to come through. Finally, just before 5 am we made it back to the house and Potter and I crashed on the couches.

Unfortunately, Sunday morning saw Potter uncomfortable on the short couch and demanding a ‘live while I’m alive, sleep while I am dead’ attitude, and by 930 am we were on the road headed to Kentish Town. Why? To partake in a tradition that is almost 30 years old, and seems as though any Aussie who’s ever been to London has taken part in – The Church on Sunday. Held at the Forum, The Church is open from noon till 330 pm, and is held in a theatre with a light smattering of sawdust on the wooden floor to absorb anything that may spill onto the ground and make it slippery. And in this place, it could be anything! What a classy establishment! Haha.

Beer tickets are sold in the line at the front of the church (and it was long by 1130 am, lucky we’d arrived 10 minutes earlier before it was too long), and then traded in for cans of beer or mixed spirits. Each ticket was worth any three drinks behind the bar, which are handed over in a plastic bag, commonly tied to your belt. Potter and I, both visiting The Church for the first time, sat most of the time we were there on the front of the stage staring in wonder. Great bogan sing-along songs were played while people chugged beer, and eventually a man with his guitar jumped on stage and did a few comic numbers. Following this entertainment (which the guy called Potter and I old – think he was referring more to me) the exotic dancer came on stage. How any self respecting person would ever strip on the stage in front of what must have been 2,500 Sunday afternoon revelers is beyond me, but I can only assume the job has a large asking price. It was at that stage Potter and I bailed, laughing all the way out the front doors!

Once outside at 2 pm, earlier, than the 330 pm closing time, we grabbed a couple beers, and a kebab, for the road. There were more important things to do with this Sunday than The Church, though for some, it is also a religion.

We jumped on the tube and headed towards Wembley Stadium for the International Series NFL match between Miami and New York Giants, in what was the first ever regular season NFL match played outside of North America. In lovely London Underground fashion, the Metropolitan line, which runs directly to Wembley, was experiencing huge delays, and everyone was being re-routed into London, only to come back out the Jubilee line. A bit before 4 pm we arrived at the ground, and I have to admit it was a pretty cool sight as we came off the train. The crowd, with so many NFL jersey’s on, were streaming into the stadium. We headed straight into the ground to see where we were sitting and were suitably impressed.

At 36 rows from the front on the lower level, we had an awesome view. The Giants were out on the ground with the special teams warming up. Before the game Potter and I wandered around and caught up with Benny Warren briefly and then sat down to watch the pre-game entertainment, lead by The Feeling playing a couple of songs and the Miami Dolphins cheerleaders out on the field.

Whilst it was awesome to have seen another NFL game, and to be witness to the first game outside of North America, it wasn’t much of a spectacle. The game wasn’t that exciting, and the atmosphere just wasn’t anything compared to the games in the states. It probably didn’t help that the rain started dumping down in the second quarter, and the roof didn’t close. There was rumors that it was malfunctioning, and I can only assume that is the only reason they didn’t close it. The roof would have probably increased the atmosphere, kept the rain old and the fans dry and warmer, and more than anything, kept the ground and game dry, and allowed for more passing game to take place.

Luckily, with just 2 minutes left, the Dolphins scored their first touchdown of the match to bring them within 13-10 (with the conversion) and attempted an on-side kick. Unfortunately it failed miserably, sailing out of bounds untouched and the Giants took the ball, and with the Dolphins having used all their time outs, kneeled out the game. After the first knee, Potter and I bailed, before doubling back for a souvenir to take with us – photos to come!

From the game (which I must say saw more Urlacher jerseys than anyone else, aside from Giants and Dolphins) we jumped on the tube and headed into Piccadilly Circus to head to the Sports Café. There we watched the next run of NFL matches beamed in from the states, had a beer and late feed, and then finally pushed off for Waterloo to catch the train home. Unfortunately with engineering works on the train line back to Southampton, the normal 80 minute ride took over two hours and it was past 1 am by the time we made it ‘home’. For the third night in a row, I was crashing on a couch, this time back at Potters. It made for a rough Monday morning at work, but it was a pretty cool weekend none the less!

So what else is going on? Portugal next weekend, and I have booked a trip to Ljubljana in Slovenia for the weekend 15th-17th of December as well. I am definitely looking forward to that. I signed up to the local gym this afternoon, so am looking to get back into the old swing of things again soon. I signed the contract on the new rental place tonight, and move in next Monday, maybe luckily enough to get in over the weekend and start moving stuff in, depending if the girl in there now has here stuff out early.

I am also about to embark on the whole Movember thing. There are a bunch of people (somewhere between 20 & 30 I’d say) from work joining me and GKN has agreed to match every pound raised (which goes to Prostate Cancer Research) with a donation to a charity of their choice. So it is all looking good to go for that.

If you would like to help out by making a donation:
To sponsor my Mo (moustache) and fight against prostate cancer please go to http://www.movember.com/uk/donate enter my registration number which is 95325 and your credit card details. Or you can sponsor me by cheque made payable to "The Prostate Cancer Charity" clearly marking the donation as being for my Registration Number: 95325. Please mail cheques to: The Prostate Cancer Charity, ATT: Movember, First Floor, Cambridge House, 100 Cambridge Grove, Hammersmith, London W6 0LE.

Till the next time - cheers all!