All entries for December 2004

December 18, 2004

Ten Days In

Another copied and pasted email, sent Friday 17th December:

Good evening one and all…

Well, Friday night sure does appear to be turning into my "email night" – you lucky things, you. Despite receiving some personal replies to my previous mail (thank you!) I thought I would write another group update. I've no excuse except to admit that it's because I'm lazy…

To be honest I can't really remember what I've been doing (that old age catching up with me again) each day during the last week, and disappointing though it must be for you not to receive a detailed day-by-day account of my life, I will attempt to pick out some highlights…

The highlight of the past week would have to be Monday night's splendiferous outing to Bingo. Now, I'm not going to pretend that the ordeal was entirely initiated by my Grandma – after all, it was me who (oh so stupidly) switched on the 'Community Channel' on the TV and consequently saw and laughed at the Bingo advert (which appeared after the one about residents not being allowed to put up any signs or flags other than the US flag…dammit that "I ♥ Jason Donovan" plaque that sneaked into my suitcase will have to remain hidden). At which point, eyes drawn to the TV screen to discover the source of my amusement, Grandma's exclamation of joy could be heard for miles. Astonishingly enough, Mum wasn't too keen on the idea at first but Grandma and I (by which point she had me under her Bingo spell – assuring me of much enjoyment and not to mention great wealth to come) gradually convinced her of the prospective delightful evening that was to be had (hello passive tense!) and she relented. So, Monday night it was. The fun was due to start at 7pm, so we left, of course, at 6.30pm – the clubhouse, a good five minute walk away, being our destination. So we arrived five minutes later and, faced with a room of people with a combined average age of around 75, I knew we were in the wrong place. I mean, where were the "trendy" flashing lights, the "hip" music and the "happening" young people like on the Gala advert? However as I turned to leave one of the OAPs (no not Grandma or Grandad) grabbed my arm and those of my family's (said multiple-armed OAP must've been well-practised at this sort of thing) and ushered us over to an empty table. We were presented with multi-coloured bingo booklets (and the collection box shortly after) and, dabbers poised, the game began at 7pm sharpish. We encountered some early confusion for my poor hard-of-hearing Grandad, who marked every number containing a 2 as if it were a 3 (ie. 52 was 53, etc.), resulting in my Grandma having to check his paper as well as her own. After the first few rounds (6 per game) when none of us had won a dime, we were beginning to despair – but then out of blue came an embarrassed voice: "Bingo!". After getting over the initial shock of realising that the voice belonged to my Mum (mainly shock due to her admittance of 'having bingo'), I then had to encourage (force) her to go and collect her winnings. It turned out that two other people had called at the same time so she had to share the, ahem, 'jackpot', and as a result ended up with a whole $3. Then she won again – $8 this time though! She was thrilled. Well, she must have been, she keeps telling people about it – in between fits of laughter and "don't ask" looks… so all-in-all a good evening was had by all – it was highly amusing if nothing else!

Other highlights seem to pale into insignificance in comparison to Monday night's shenanigans…what dares to follow? As I mentioned, I can't exactly remember what I've been doing from one day to the next (must lay off the vodka…), but the main activities have been shopping (many bargains found and purchased – thank you lovely HSBC credit card people – there seems to be a sale here every other day!), swimming, going to the gym (or rather, timidly entering the gym room hoping that nobody's there, and, upon encountering the old man that likes to talk to me about Jesus and the meaning of Christmas, hopping on (and quickly off again) the treadmill, then looking at and wishing I knew how to use the rest of the equipment before leaving ashamedly…(try that sentence auf Deutsch if you dare!!)) and sunbathing (when the sun deigns to make an appearance). Apparently I now look 'healthy' and am taking that (somewhat hopefully) to mean I have one of those elusive healthy glows…which will undoubtedly fade without a trace within about 10 minutes of landing at Heathrow the week after next (if past experience is anything to go by – "Oh you went abroad? Was it somewhere cold?...Florida?! My, you don't look as though you've been to Florida…" Gee, thanks.).

And that's that. The summary of my first ten days in Florida. Notice the lack of mention of uni work…

Happy holidays! x

Arrival Update

Below is a group email that I sent out to some of my friends on Friday 10th December. I've decided that since I can't be bothered to update my blog with original ideas/words at the moment, I thought I would copy and paste, change the odd word here and there and ta-da! What do you know, I have a blog entry. Ingenious, oder?...

NB: Please bear in mind whilst reading this that my Grandparents do in fact mean the world to me…they just provide such entertaining things to write about that I can't resist :-)

Well hello [hell-low] there, how are you today?

As you may have gathered by now, I made it. In the literal sense of the word anyway – not sure about my mental state and consequently my sanity, but I'm trying to claw my way back from the depths of ARGH!! (that's me after explaining how to work the entertainment system on board for the 15th time…more on that later, it's riveting, please try to contain your excitement and refrain from scrolling down before reading the rest of this wonderful entry).

As far as I'm aware I did actually tell you where I was going, and probably a lot of random other information too, but perchance you lost concentration for a crucial second, I'm in Naples, Florida. I arrived on Wednesday and am here until December 28th (arrive UK Dec 29th). I'm here with my Mum and the Grandparents (hereafter referred to as G&G). Mum was already in America so it was just the three of us making our (traumatic) way over on Wed. My mobile phone works here and after a day or two of refusing to send texts, it's now temperamentally sending them, so if you're lucky enough you may receive one at some point (probably at some unearthly hour cos I keep forgetting the time difference) but for the time being this will have to suffice – not only can I write much more (what luck!), but it has the added bonus of being free :-) .

So, Wednesday 8th December 2004. What a day. We were up at 0430, at Grandma's insistence, to be ready for the collecting taxi's arrival at 0630. Yes people, two hours to get ready. Needless to say we were all gathered in the hall downstairs, coats and shoes on, by 6am. Fortunately the taxi arrived 15mins early. Well, fortunately for us anyway – any hopes the taxi driver had of sitting quietly for a quarter of an hour to maybe eat some breakfast or have a drink were thoroughly dashed thanks to Grandma's vigilant lookout at the wide open front door – we were out there like a shot, suitcases loaded and us strapped in almost before the guy could introduce himself (and indeed confirm that he was there for us…luckily he was, who knows where we could've ended up?). The journey from home to Heathrow was pretty uneventful, except for Grandma's realisation that she'd forgotten to remove the metal spoon from her handbag (don't you just hate it when that happens?) and consequent continuous worry about whether she'd be allowed it in her hand luggage on the plane or whether she should just [whispered] "leave it in his car" – Grandma, the taxi driver can hear you. Please stop. Arrival at Heathrow and check-in were fairly smooth, although we had booked assistance which was a bit of a pain but eventually two guys turned up with two wheelchairs and by shouting "mass murderer coming through" we managed to successfully skip to the front of every queue and board the plane without too much hassle. Nice. What followed however, wasn't. We were due to take off at 1115. We didn't leave until 1400. The 2h45m inbetween? Spent sat on the plane at the gate – there was an inconsistency regarding the cargo weight figures on the paperwork, which at first we were told would only take half an hour to rectify. Which turned into an extra hour. And another. During this time there was nothing to do but wait – the entertainment system wouldn't work until the engines were turned on and the engines weren't going to be turned on because they had to unload all the baggage and cargo, then reload the baggage. Unfortunately there were no trucks available to unload the baggage onto so everything took twice as long. Bonus – free drinks! All Virgin-branded of course, but free nonetheless. So we nabbed a few of those. When we eventually took off I couldn't wait to get started on the films – I'd read the in-flight magazine (about 5 times over…) and it said there were 52 films to choose from, TV series (Friends, Little Britain, etc.), games, music and more. I discovered "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" was one of the 52 films on offer, so for me there was no contest (I'd been wanting to see it for ages). The system consisted of individual screens integrated into the seat-back in front, and a remote control/telephone in the arm rest. Despite a crew demo, a written instruction leaflet and step-by-step on-screen instructions, I anticipated some comprehension problems with the system for G&G, so I attempted to set them up with something to keep them quiet in the hope that I would be able to watch my film in peace…who was I kidding?!

"Fliss, I can't hear anything." – plug your headphones in.
"Fliss, it's too loud." – yep, you're leaning on the increase volume button.
"Fliss, mine only offers four films." – try clicking on page two.
"Fliss, mine's broken, it's stuck on this page." – how about "next"?
"Fliss, it's in Japanese." – no joke!! The startup page gave two options, English or Japanese – a tough one, I know.

So, having learnt from the Eternal Sunshine mistake, I proceeded to put on the Snow Patrol album and pretend to be asleep. Obviously I was "woken" every 10 minutes or so to answer some query or another, but I could deal with that. Until I actually did fall asleep, then it was less amusing (although how amusing was it in the first place?!). Anyway I/we (they – only just) survived and eventually arrived in Miami at around 1130 GMT. We once again got to skip the (horrendous) queues what with having the old folks in wheelchairs, so that was handy – getting into this country would've been a nightmare otherwise, it would've taken hours. We had to get fingerprinted and have photos taken (just what you feel like after a 9hr flight – hate to think what I looked like!), and the luggage had to be put on scanners and such like. Wouldn't have packed such a heavy case if I'd realised how many times I'd have to lift the darn thing…yeah right, like I'll ever travel light! Five pairs of flip-flops are definitely essential in my opinion…

So, it's Friday evening and guess what, it's raining! I should've written this earlier, when I could've said it was hot and sunny, but in actual fact it's been raining all afternoon and the forecast is for cool weekend weather. Though cool here still feels warm to me so one can't complain :-) I haven't been swimming yet but am planning a trip to the pool tomorrow morning, assuming the rain has stopped. Failing that there's a clubhouse with a gym room which I've convinced myself I'll use (we'll see) so there's plenty to keep me from doing any uni work…

December 07, 2004

Dear Blog, Please Don't Hate Me

What can I say? There's simply no excuse for my recent behaviour, I won't patronise you by attempting to justify it. I know I've been distant but I'll make it up to you, I promise. It's not like I haven't been thinking about you. I know, I know, thinking's not good enough, you want my words. My wise, wise words of wisdom. Oh go on then, if you insist…

Right now I'm toasty warm sitting at home on the sofa, feet up on the coffee table, a box of Ferrero Rocher by my side…and Countdown on the TV. My Grandma is sitting to the right of me.

"Come on Ben, you're slipping m'duck!"

No, that's not the cry of my Grandma calling to our pet duck, Ben, as he attempts a waddle too far and almost slips down the stairs…we don't have a pet duck. And he's not called Ben. Nor is it the cry of my Grandma calling to my Grandad as he falls asleep in the armchair nearby, his head resting on his arm which is gradually, slowly but surely, slipping off the arm of the chair. My Grandad isn't called Ben either. In fact, it's the cry of my Grandma calling to encourage Ben, one of the Countdown contestants. Oh Ben, if only you knew how much support you have. Not that it would make a jot of difference of course – you're prerecorded, you can't hear us through the TV anyway and look, you've just lost.

"Oh well, he's going off travelling round the world with his girlfriend now anyway. Look, that's her, in the audience."

I'm think I'm going mad. Do I need to know what Ben is intending to do with the remains of his Countdown-losing life and who with? How will he pick himself up after such a blow? Do I care? Does anyone care?!

Don't get me wrong, I actually quite like Countdown. When I can hear it, that is. Like most people, I like quite a few tv programmes. When I can hear them. When it's not essential to discuss every detail of each character's/contestant's/presenter's life during the programme. I have three more weeks of this – I don't hold out much hope for my sanity.

(NB: Just to clarify – I do love my Grandparents really! To bits! It's just that putting my patience to the test seems to be a main feature of our time together…wish me luck :-) )

December 2004

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