Sunday, 30 September 2012

So Far, So Near........

I have been excited all this week for 2 reasons.................well actually 3 reasons. Firstly, the league season for The Tudor Arms had reached its climax and the championship decider was to be played on Friday night. Then on Saturday Aicha and I had tickets to The Stockholm Beer & Whiskey Festival. Then thirdly, but most importantly, it was now under a week until we get the keys to the new apartment!!!

Unfortunately Friday night did not go to plan for The Tudor Arms. A win would have secured the title and it was looking like it was our night when we took the lead early in the second half. But with less than 7 minutes remaining Ursvik equalized. A draw would give the advantage in the title race back to Ursvik, as they would be champions providing they won their final match. But worst was to follow as with 3 minutes remaining Ursvik scored a second goal and effectively ended our title chances. It was a cruel blow to everyone and it was very tough to take considering we had been literally minutes away from victory. Still, that's football! I have to say that Ursvik were worthy winners and if we were to lose to anybody I'm glad it was to them. It didn't make the defeat any easier to take but as I said before we have had a tremendous season and we should all be proud to have achieved what we did. After the match the players all went back at the Pol Hem pub in Fridhemsplan where we discussed all the 'ifs' and 'buts' from the game.......................but after a few drinks the mood picked up and everyone was laughing and joking again!

Saturday morning I woke up with a slight hangover but what made me feel better was knowing that Aicha was suffering too so I wasn't the only one!! Aicha had been out on Friday night with Calle's sister Sara and cocktails were the main weapon of choice!! Although I'm not sure if it was the cocktails that were causing her headaches or the fact that her bank balance had taken a considerable battering..........................cocktails are not exactly cheap in Sweden!! To make ourselves feel better I suggested that we eat lunch out at an 'all you can eat' restaurant. My hangover food is sushi so we headed to a Mongolian place we knew in the city.....................it was just what we needed!!

After lunch we headed to the Beer & Whiskey Festival which our friend Josephine had arranged tickets for. Josephine works for Heineken and she had many of her brands featured at the festival so she was able to get us the tickets. We got there around 4pm and it was already packed! There were two halls in the building, both of which were full of stalls. Although it was called 'The Beer & Whiskey Festival', there were lots of other things being sold, such as liquors, liquorice and cheese.

I had never been to one of these events before but the routine was pretty straight forward. When you arrive you are given a beer glass and whiskey glass then you just go around trying all the beers and whiskey!! Each beer taster cost around £2 but for that you got about a third of a pint. The first hall we walked around just sold mainly beer, which was fine for me but not so much for Aicha so after a couple of tasters we headed to the other hall.....................which turned out to be much better! The other hall was less crowded and had much more variety. It also had places to sit like in a regular bar which the other hall did not. For us that was a big plus as we were both still quite tired from the previous night!! Aicha did manage to get a couple of pictures though.....................


 



We had arranged to hook up with our friend Tom and his work colleagues around 6pm, which we did manage to do, but after sinking some Mojitos, Amaretto and a few more beers we were knackered so we decided to head home. I really enjoyed the afternoon there and I would definitely go again if it comes back next year. I think we would go on a weekday though as the only downside to it was that it was so busy. Both Aicha and I can feel a bit uncomfortable when there are too many people around so next time we will go on the Friday.

As mentioned we will soon be picking up the keys to the new apartment and today we have been shopping for all of the things we need to decorate. We don't need to do too much work the place other than painting and wall papering. We will be putting feature walls in both the lounge and our bedroom so we spent today collecting all the equipment we needed. I haven't wall papered before but I've seen it done and I'm sure it can't be too difficult!!


It feels that everything is falling into place now. My job is going really well and in 5 days time we officially take ownership of our new home! I estimate that it will take us the best part of a week to get the work done but we have both taken Friday off work so most of it should be done by the end of next weekend. Our aim is to move in the following weekend, which is when all of our furniture is being delivered.

It seems so close now but its been a long time coming. We had our offer accepted at the beginning of June so it has been over 4 months of waiting. So far, so near....................

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Calle's Birthday & Football Focus

Last weekend was our friend Calle's 30th birthday and to commemorate this milestone in his life he decided to host a birthday party at Norrmälärstrands Bar in town on the Saturday night. Aicha and Calle go back a long way as they used to work together and since I have moved here to Sweden I have got to know him quite well.....................plus the guy can drink!!

We arrived at the party around 7:30pm and it turned out that most of the guests had already been drinking since around 3pm so everyone was pretty merry!! I had met Calle's brother Jimmie and his sister Sara before but other than them and his friend Richard I did not know anyone. Still, I never really knew anyone when I moved here and that never stopped me!! It was another opportunity to make some new friends!!

We had a sit down meal first of all, which consisted of beef steak and potato wedges, then once we had eaten there was normal tradition of singing 'happy birthday'. Since moving to Sweden I have been involved in several birthday celebrations and I am now fully up to speed with how to sing happy birthday in swedish..................or so I thought! I was happily singing along then from out of nowhere came a second and third verse!! This really threw me as I felt quite good about myself having sung correctly the first verse but I had no idea that there was more to the song!! It reminded me of when I found out the our National Anthem had six verses!!

Once the happy birthdays were sung and the customary speeches were out of way, it was time to mingle. Whilst Aicha was catching up with some old faces I was busy working the room trying to strike up a conversation. Most of the blokes I spoke to were die hard football fans so it was actually quite easy to make conversation!! I really enjoyed the party and I got to meet some really cool guys. Ever so often whilst we were talking I was handed a shot by someone which over the course of the evening turned into about 5 or 6!! I even bought a round of shots myself at one point!! Downing shots is not something I would normally do but I couldn't let these swedish blokes think I'm a pussy so I necked them thus not to lose face!

I regretted it the next morning though as I had the worst hangover I've had in a long time!! The strange thing was that when we left the party around midnight I don't remember feeling that drunk! The Sunday morning though was horrendous! I couldn't eat or drink anything through the fear of being sick..................which I was a few times!! I had the worst headache imaginable .....................which was made worse by Aicha telling me that she felt 'as right as rain'! We were having Aicha's cousin Samir over for dinner that afternoon and I was really worried that I would be in no fit state to eat! Luckily for me I started feeling better around dinner time, so I was able to join the dinner table with no problems..................abeit somewhat sheepish!!

I was also quite concerned about playing football for The Tudor Arms, as we had a very important match that day! Fortunately for me it was an evening kickoff so I by the time the match came around I was back to normal...................had kick off been any earlier than 5pm I would have been screwed!!

The match was an important one because there are only two games left in the season (including this one) and we can still win the league if other results go in our favour. Going into the game we were level on points with the top team Ursvik, having played a game more, but we lying in second place by way of goal difference. Every game for us at the moment is like a cup final and this was made even more so by Ursvik being held to a 2-2 draw earlier in the day. This meant that if we won then we would go top of the league by 2 points going into the last game. The last game of the season is tomorrow night against.................yep, you guess it! Ursvik!!

The fact that Ursvik had dropped 2 points would have meant nothing if we did not get the win we needed to take it to it to the final game. I knew before the game that Ursvik had drawn but the manager told me not to tell my team-mates as he did not want to put more pressure on them. It was a good move by him actually because we eventually won the game 5-2, but the result wasn't quite as convincing as the scoreline suggests because 3 of our goals were scored in the last 10 minutes!!. We were behind twice and conceeded a late penalty when we were narrowly leading 3-2. Luckily for us they produced a shocking penalty which I was able to save with ease!!

After the match the manager informed the team of the Ursvik score, which had everyone chomping at the bit. This now means that if we win tomorrow night then we are champions, no matter what result they get in their final game. If we draw then they can pip us to the title in the last game so we have to win to make sure. It feels much better knowing that your fate now rests in your own hands rather than having to rely on ther teams to do you a favour. I am a winner and I am proper fired up for this game tomorrow! I can't wait play! I have won many trophies playing in England but it will mean a lot to win a trophy in my first season here.

Win or lose it has been a fantastic season. The Tudor Arms have never won this league throughout their entire 40 year history so to come this close is an achievement in itself. I'm sure whatever the result we will all be out for a few beers after.................but no shots!!!!

C'MON THE TUDOR!!!!!

Saturday, 15 September 2012

Gothenburg

Another weekend, another journey! This time it was to Gothenburg with the missus. Before the summer we had a pencilled down a few places that we intended to visit and Gothenburg was on the list. I think now we have ticked off everything with the exception of Kolmården Wildlife Park, which hopefully we will get to see before the winter comes. If not we can always push it back to next year, although we are intending to go to The States in the spring so it may have to go on the 'back burner' for a while!

We left by train for Gothenburg early Friday morning and the journey took approximately 4 hours. The portable DVD player which I got for my birthday came in very handy! We arrived around midday and booked straight into our hotel, which was located above the train station..............again very handy! We dropped the bags off then headed out to explore the city. We walked to a place called 'Avenyn' (The Avenue), which is probably the most famous street in Gothenburg and is bang in the middle of everything. Most big cities have a street like this...................it's about half a mile long and littered with bars, clubs and restaurants! There is also a series of canals flowing through city, which were quite picturesque.............




After eating lunch we walked around for a few more hours then headed back to hotel to chill out before the evening activities began. We decided to eat dinner at an Italian restaurant but before we dined we headed to a little cocktail bar called 'Drinks 22' for a few......erm......cocktails! Aicha was on the Cosmopolitans and I had a little something of I do not know what! It was very nice though! 




After dinner we went on a bit of a pub crawl and ended up quite tipsy by the end of the night. By the time we hit the last bar of the evening I was on the Jack Daniels so it was no surprise really that I decided to throw my money into the fruit machines! But surprisingly within 10 minutes of putting in a 50 kronor (that's about a fiver to you English folk) I was up 400! To collect you winnings its not like back home where the coins drop out the bottom. Here you are given a receipt which you cash at the bar. I cashed out and bought a few more drinks, although unsurprisingly it wasn't long before I was skint again, as I put most of my winnings into another machine and lost!! Mental note kids..............'Always quit whilst your ahead!'.

The next day we decided to go to 'Liseberg', which is a theme park located in the centre of the city. Before that though we decided to go to place called 'Gothia Towers' for lunch (and cocktails!). The restaurant was on the top floor of the building and had a great view of the city. Not only did we read that they had great views from the restaurant, we also read that their deluxe prawn sandwiches were awesome so we ordered one to share. Unfortunately it did not live up to expectation as the sandwich mainly consisted of mayonnaise (although the prawns did well to conceal that fact!). The cocktails we had were nice though. The drink I ordered was a Japanese take on a long island iced tea. Very tasty indeed! I can't remember if Aicha enjoyed her cocktail or not but I do know that she did not enjoy being asked to pay to collect her coat from the cloakroom!! When we arrived at the restaurant the guy at the entrance told us that coats where not allowed in the restaurant and that Aicha could put hers in the cloakroom. Not at any point did he mention that she would have to pay 20 kronor for the privilege! How can a place have a rule against having coats then charge you for it?? If we chose to put our coats in the cloakroom then fine charge us but charging for having to put our coats in there? They can do one!...................which is exactly what Aicha told them to do!!







After lunch we headed to Liseberg which was across the road from 'Gothia Towers'. Now Aicha is not a great thrill seeker like me and does not go on the fast rides...................but that wasn't going to stop me so I ordered the full day pass at the entrance which allows you to go on everything! The first thing we went on was the big ferris wheel. At the top you could see over the whole park. The thing I noticed was that unlike the theme parks back home which are built on a flat piece of land, this place was built on a hill! After that Aicha and I went our separate ways for a while whilst I began queuing for the thrill rides. As this was a Saturday the queues were quite long, so whilst I was queuing Aicha spent her time going around the games machines trying to win chocolate!! She won about 3 large packs in the end I think!!

I didn't manage to go on everything as it was far too busy but I just about got my moneys worth I think. The highlight for me was a ride called 'Atmos Fear', which is one of those rides where you are slowly taken up a tall spire then dropped from the top. This thing was about 200 feet tall and I remember thinking as I got about half way up 'why the hell did I do this??'!!! Once it dropped, the fall seemed to last forever but I had the most amazing buzz afterwards!! I got a few pictures from the day, can you guess which one of me was taken on 'Atmos Fear'.................?




At around 4:30pm we decided to leave Liseberg and head back towards the hotel. That particular weekend there was a music festival in Gothenburg, with several famous Swedish artists playing free concerts all across the city. Aicha had seen on a poster that the Swedish hiphop artist 'Timbuktu' was playing close to our hotel at 6pm, so we decided to go along to watch. I had never heard of this guy but apparently he has quite a big following in Sweden and has had lots of success. Loads of people came out to see him and I have to say he was pretty good! We only stayed for about an hour as we hadn't eaten and were quite tired but we had a good time there none the less..........

  


On Sunday it was time to go home. We checked out the hotel at around 11:30am and headed down to the train station to see if we could take an earlier train back to Stockholm, as the tickets we had were for 4:30pm. Unfortunately for us the tickets could not be transferred so we had to wait it out. Whilst I didn't relish the idea of having to kill four hours, it did mean I was able to watch the Italian Grand Prix in a bar......................and it was a belter!! Not sure if Aicha would agree though!!

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

I now pronounce you Mr & Mrs Davis!

Last weekend I was back in the UK to attend the wedding of my good friend James as his best man. I flew in on the Thursday night, with the wedding taking place the following day at 2:30pm. Being in Sweden I wasn't able to attend the stag party or the wedding rehearsal so I had a lot to catch up on. Therefore James suggested that we meet for a few beers once I landed to discuss the things that I had missed. This felt like a good idea at the time...................but 6 pints and 2 sambucas later, I wish I had just gone straight home for a cup of tea!

The morning of the wedding I was feeling quite ropey and suffice to say so was James! The only cure for this was to head for Wheelies cafe for a full english and a strong coffee, and it was there that we discussed my duties for the day................


Other than the usual best man requirements I was also in charge of looking after the music for the first dance and collecting sponsorship money from the guests (which I will explain more about later). The previous night we had gone over the content of James' speech and there were a few things that we needed to revise...................I say revise but it was more about getting it down on paper as he pretty much made it up on the spot!! I had already written my best man speech, which as you know needs to be both poignant and funny as you are effectively the 'headline act'. I was happy with my speech but for some of my jokes to work I needed to make sure that James did not mention certain things in his speech.....................basically I had to make sure that he did not steal my 'thunder'!!

After breakfast it was then onto his parents house to write up his speech on the computer and change for the big day. I had been back to the UK at Easter and it was during that trip that I had been measured up for my suit. I was hoping that I had not put on any weight since then as I would not have time to amend anything.....................but luckily for me I hadn't!! In fact I think must have lost a few pounds because the waistcoat was a bit on the baggy side! Still, it didn't seem to matter as I thought we both look pretty smart once we arrived at the church................


We arrived at the church at around 2pm so there was a bit of waiting around before things got under way. I used this time to go through a few things with the vicar, like where I had to stand that sort of thing because James' had forgotten!! He also took me through what I had to do with rings, which were to be brought in on a pillow by James' son Hadyn. It was my job during the service to untie the rings from the pillow and then place them on the vicar's bible once he gave me the nod. It sounds pretty straight forward but at my brother's wedding I nearly dropped them on the floor, so during the service that was all I could think about!! Thankfully the wedding service went off without a hitch and I managed to perform my duties to the letter...............despite having extremely sweaty palms!! All the girls looked amazing too, especially the blushing bride!!

The reception was held at Barnsgate Manor in Uckfield, which was about a 40 minute drive away. As you can imagine I was pretty anxious about the speech but after a couple of glasses of Bucks Fizz and a pint I felt quite relaxed. Before the speeches we of course had the meal which was really nice. We had parma ham with melon to start followed by chicken in white wine sauce then a choice of fruit salad or eton mess for desert................I went for the fruit salad thus to get my five a day!!

By the time we got around to the speeches it was almost time for the evening party to begin. First up was Jemma's dad Jim who gave a very touching speech as you would expect from the father of the bride. Then came James whose speech was both very funny and very emotional, as he touched on his son Hadyn's battle with Leukaemia a few years back. I could see he was getting choked up as he spoke and he did very well to hold it together. By that point a few of the guests were crying, which added further pressure on me as would have follow on from what was obviously a very sensitive subject. Luckily enough my opening joke was timed to perfection and thankfully people were laughing again! The speech went great and I even got some big laughs where I didn't expect any......................although there was the odd occasion where I was expecting a laugh and got nothing!!

I didn't bring my camera but luckily my mate Simon did and he managed to get a few shots of the day. Simon and his girlfriend Daphne were responsible for making the cake, which I think you'll agree looked awesome.......!!












After my speech I had the honour of going around to all the guests to ask for sponsorship as James' will be running the London Marathon next April to raise money for cancer research. We thought that as most of his friends and family would be there it would be a good opportunity to get the ball rolling. I did my best to hassle as many people as possible and we ended getting a total of £400!

After the speeches it was downstairs for the evening do. My brothers Adam and Chris were there, plus my sister in law Jay and my other close friends Mark and Olivier. We had a really good time, of which most of mine was spent throwing shapes on the dance floor!! It was a shame it all had to end as I was having so much fun, but like all good things they can't go on forever! We left around midnight and fortunately for me Mark was driving so I was able to get a lift. I hadn't actually planned how I was getting home so that was a bonus! I was told actually that there was a guest who had brought a tent with him and was going to sleep in the grounds of Barnsgate Manor!! I might have had to top'n'tail with him if I didn't manage to get a lift!!

I woke up on the Saturday morning feeling a little hungover as could be expected. I had arranged to take my mum out for lunch at the Harvester so I necked a few cups of coffee first thing to perk myself up. By the time we went out for lunch I still felt a bit ropey but after a mixed grill I felt much better! Unlike my last trip back home I hadn't made any other plans for the weekend, which was great as all I wanted to for the rest of my time there was relax at home with my family..........................and that is exactly what I did!!