Sunday, 15 September 2013

Sussex by the sea

A trip back to the UK felt long overdue. Whilst I felt bad leaving my heavily pregnant wife at home I couldn't wait to see my friends and family, especially my niece and nephews. Once again I would be staying with my friends Chris and Julie, although this time I would be there for 10 days. On paper it seems like I would have plenty of time to relax but even though I would be visiting for longer this time, my days were just as busy as if I was in town for only a weekend! As people knew I was back for the whole week, everyone it seemed wanted to meet up with me, which was a nice feeling. Because I had so many people to see I had to literally create an agenda! It was like one of those things a PA would create for a CEO, complete with dates and times! My sister Charlotte was the first to call me a sad twat for turning up with an agenda and rightly so! To be honest though it was the best thing I could have done, as my short term memory is not the greatest and I did not want to forget anyone................which I have done in the past!

Charlotte was the first person I met up with when I arrived. I especially wanted to meet up with her as I felt that we never spend enough time together when I visit. We met up around 5pm on the Friday afternoon and spent a good 3 hours talking relationships, work and life in general. We ended up having a great night! The beer and wine was definitely flowing................

There was definitely no expense spared. Trust me, once you have lived in Sweden you will drink like a King when you come back to the mother land! £3.80 a pint is like happy hour for me! Once we left the pub we headed to a curry house (as you do) then finally we ended up in a karaoke bar, where I did my customary rendition of Stevie Wonder's 'Superstition'. Classic stuff! What I didn't know was that Charlotte had secretly filmed me singing and then posted on Facebook! Luckily there was a large crowd between me and the camera so you couldn't really see me but I sounded ok! We had a blast and I think it was the first time that just the two of us has been out together. We were quite sozzled by the end the of the night and both ended up with hangovers but it was well worth it!

The following morning I met some old pals of mine at Sussex University for a game of footy. Playing football whilst being hungover has never been a problem for fact it is one of the best hangover cures there is in my opinion! Saturday morning footy was a regular occurrence for me prior to moving to Sweden and I made a promise to myself that I would play the next time I was over. It was also an opportunity for me to play out on pitch rather than my usual position of goalkeeper. It had been a while since I played on pitch and it showed during the first 15 minutes, as I struggled to keep up with the pace of the game but after a while I started to find my touch. Once I scored my first goal the floodgates soon opened! My team went on to win 9-3, with me notching five of which was scored from the halfway line! I was quite proud of that one!

Later in the day I met up my brother Adam and some pals at a local pub to watch Liverpool open the Premiership campaign against Stoke City then it was on to the wedding reception of my friends Joe and Celia in the evening. I didn't attend the wedding itself but I was told everything went accordingly to plan. She said 'I do' so it could not have gone too bad! I have known Joe for a very long time so I was pleased that it went well for him. He has found a good girl in Celia and I wish them all the best for the future.

I was especially looking forward to the reception as not only would I get to enjoy the wedding party but many of my close friends would be there, some of whom I had not seen for a very long time. I also hadn't seen my brother Chris or his girlfriend Jenni since arriving back either so this would be the first time I would see them as well. The evening was a great crack and I was able to catch up with many old faces, just as I had hoped to do. The great thing about seeing my old friends is that every time I see them it feels like I only saw them yesterday!

One of the other fun things about the evening was the photo booth that Joe and Celia hired for guests take photos of themselves for the guest book. Once in the booth there are four pictures taken, which are then merged together in one photograph like a postcard. They also had several fancy dress costumes for the guests to wear as well! The photos were printed instantly so you could put them straight in the guest book, plus you get to keep one for yourself. I thought this was a great idea! Some of the pictures were classic! I am a sucker for fancy dress however on this occasion I decided against it, as I just wanted take a good photo with my brothers. The end result was quite comical anyway! We placed the photo in the guest book with the message "LOVE ALWAYS, THE BISHES XXX". We gave the best two pictures from our copy to my mum and Charlotte. I kept the other two. I'll leave it up to you to decide whether or not I got the short straw.............

The following day we all descended to my mums house for a BBQ. This was the first time I got to see my nephews Charlie, Max, Bradley and Ollie since I got back and it was great spending time with them. It was also the chance for me to present Charlie and Ollie with the birthday gifts that I bought them in New York. At first they were reluctant to wear them but eventually they succumbed to the pressure............

On the Monday I popped over to see my older brother Ryan and his family but most of my time during the early part of the week was spent shopping! I did manage to get in another game of football on the Tuesday evening however this time it was with my old work colleagues from EDF Energy. Again my team won and again I scored 5 goals! 10 goals in 2 games.................someone needs to give Roy Hodgson my number!

On the Wednesday I met with my sister Jo and her daughter Emilia at the local park, where we spent the afternoon having a picnic. We had a lovely time and it was awesome spending time with Emilia as it gave me a little taste of what fatherhood may be like! I managed to get some great pictures of the day too............

The following evening I was invited to an open mic night at The Farm pub in town. My close family friend Shane was playing with his band 'Two & Eight' and as I hadn't heard them play before so I made sure I would be there. His mum Mandy and his brother would also be going so this was again another opportunity for me to see some familiar faces. I was quite impressed with the band actually. They write all their own stuff and some of the songs were pretty good..................however later on in the evening someone got up and sung 'Suspicious Minds' Elvis style and that stole the show for me! Once again it was a great evening and after the pub we all ended up back at Mandy's place. As these pictures will show, it turned into one messy night!

I had to follow this up with another night out the next day with my old work colleagues. I suffer big time from hangovers these days. I'm not as young as I once was so I was not looking forward to the prospect of another night at the pub. As the day went on I slowly began to feel more like my usual self and when the time came around to do it all over again, I was ready. Before I headed out, my sister Jo popped by the house with Emilia to say goodbye. My friend Chris is a drummer in a band and in his dining room he has an electronic drum kit, and I couldn't resist putting Emilia in the hot seat...............

That evening I met with my old work colleagues and as I suspected it turned into another heavy night. We started off the evening at a pub close to where I was staying then worked our way further into town. By the end of the evening we found ourselves back in the same karaoke bar that my sister and I had been to the week before! 'Superstition' made another appearance but this time it didn't end up on Facebook! By the end it was just myself and my friend Matt still standing.....................still standing but acting like wallies!!

I had once again put my name down to play football at Sussex University on the Saturday morning but when the time came to get up I was dead to the world. Two nights out in a row is something my body couldn't handle! My friend Paul came round to the house to pick me up at 9:15am but Chris had to tell him that I wasn't available! I eventually rolled out of bed at 11am and the first thing I did was text Paul to apologise. Luckily he saw the funny side but I felt bad for not turning up.

That day I had a ticket to watch Brighton & Hove Albion Vs Burnley with my brothers Adam, Chris and Adam's former boss John. My brothers company has four tickets for the corporate area known as The 1901 Club. It was quality! We were able to spend time in the corporate bar area before and after the game, where there are no queues for the toilets or for the bar. The only catch is that you have to wear a shirt and shoes which I had no problem with! The atmosphere was buzzing! I'd forgotten how much I enjoy going to watch The Albion. There were the same old chants coming from the North end and the crowd really got behind the team. Brighton went on to win the game 2-0 and deservedly so. What a way to spend a Saturday afternoon!

That night I had arranged a night out with my brothers and my closest pals to celebrate my birthday, which had been a few weeks earlier. It was my friend Olivier's birthday that day as well so it was a double celebration. I was still feeling ropey from the previous day but this was the night I had looked forward to the most as it is very rare that we all get together and there was no way I was going to miss it. Initially we had planned to go to a comedy club but that turned out to be a bit expensive so we decided instead to just hit a few bars in town. My friend Chris was playing with his band The Lanes that night so we decided to pop by for the gig. It was at the gig that my brother Chris had one of the moments which women usually dread....................finding out that someone is wearing the exact same thing you are!!

After the gig we headed to a bar, which an old school friend of ours is the manager of. As we were old friends we had every intention of getting in for free by name dropping him to the bouncer. This didn't get us anywhere at first but luckily enough the bouncer recognised me and my brothers from our local pub in Portslade as he used to work there so he let us in for free anyway! Once we were inside it was like a reunion party! I saw so many old faces it was amazing! The music was awesome too and we ended up staying there for the best part of evening. 

When we did eventually leave we bumped into a superhero stag party on the way out. I could resist getting a few pictures, especially of the joker as he looked nuts! The only one who was missing was Batman.................apparently he was around the corner with a girl dressed as Wonder Woman! Nice work Bruce!

On the Sunday afternoon it was back to my mums for another BBQ and to say my goodbyes to everyone, as I was back on the plane to Sweden the following day. This would be the last time I would be there without any children in tow, so it was important for me to get some quality time in with my friends before my life changes forever! I definitely enjoyed the nights out (which my friend Chris kept referring to as 'living the dream') but I also definitely know that 3 nights out in a row is something I am not built to do anymore................although I did give it a good go!

My focus now is on my wife and daughter. Its not long to go now until she arrives so it's time to start preparing............

Sunday, 1 September 2013

Mum's the word.

Since returning from the US my time has mostly been spent working and sorting things out for the arrival of our first born. Work has been quite challenging since I got back as most my colleagues have been away on holiday so I've had to pick up most of the work load. Most people in Sweden take their annual vacation all at once during the summer so the office is basically deserted for 4-5 weeks. It's kind of nice, as it is very quiet, but there is still work to be done and there is nobody around to help lighten the work load! I really can't see the point in taking all of your holiday at once unless you have kids, as they are off school during the summer holidays. With the exception of this year, I have never taken more than 2 weeks off at once, as I don't like the idea of having to wait 11 months for another break. I still have some days to take so I'm going to use them visiting the UK before the baby comes!

With the birth our daughter now less than 3 months away, we are now beginning to acquire quite a lot of things in preparation for her arrival. We bought a lot of baby clothes when we're in the US and we have now purchased a stroller and bedside crib. The crib was quite a bargain. It is one of those where you can adjust the height of it so you can stand it right next to the bed. The side panel slides down so when she cries you can just reach over and settle her down without actually getting up! Sounds quite lazy I know, and the chances are that you will have to get up to change her anyway!

The stroller on the other hand was not quite as cheap. In fact I paid less for my first 2 cars! I won't say how much it was but lets just say you could have a very good time in Ibiza with the amount we forked out!   Still, I am very pleased with it! We also received a lot of baby clothes from Aicha's family which was very much appreciated. Below are just some if the things we have got so far..........

At the beginning of August we were visited by my mum and her partner Martin for the weekend. It was great having them here and I was especially pleased that they came during the summer. My mum had only been here once before and that was just before Christmas, along with my sister Charlotte. Back then there was snow on the ground and the temperature was in double figures below zero. Its great if you love the snow but Stockholm has so much more on offer during the summer............which is what I wanted my mother to experience this time around. The first thing I did was show off our newly furnished balcony. Last time she saw it it looked like a freezer box! She seemed quite impressed but it wasn't long before she started pruning the flowers and tidying up the place!

On the Saturday we decided to take a trip to Vaxholm, which is a small island within the archilpelago. The weather was ideal for a boat trip and it was the perfect way for my mum to see more of what Stockholm had to offer. Onboard the boat there was a traditional swedish buffet and we were lucky enough the grab the last table. The journey itself was a 3 hour round trip so there was plenty of time to eat and drink as much as we could!

The next day we did some more sight-seeing around the city. This was more for Martins benefit as this was his first visit to Stockholm and I wanted him to see as much of it as possible. We took a similar route around the city as we did when my mum first visited back in December, but as we planned to do a lot of walking, Aicha decided to stay at home. My mum decided this would be a good opportunity to interigate me about what we going to name our daughter. Aicha and I have now agreed on a name but we have also agreed that we would not tell anyone until she is born...................not even our parents. My mum said when she first arrived that she would get it out of me somehow but I'm proud to say that I didn't buckle under the pressure nor did I fall for any of her tricks! Mum's the word!

That evening my mum treated us to dinner a at restaurant in the city. It was a nice way to end their visit, which I hoped they enjoyed. I really loved having them to stay and I hope it won't be too long before they visit again. I especially enjoy showing people around the city, as I like to give people as glimpse as to why I moved here. My mum was able to capture some of these glimpses along the way.................

The following day my mum and Martin left for England and it was back to business as usual. The second half of my football season kicked off the following Friday and I couldn't wait to get back into action. The last game we had played was back in June, just prior to our USA trip, and that game ended in a 0-0 draw but it was a game we should have won. The first back was against the same opponents as in the last game so it was a good opportunity to set the record straight.

We started the game well and found ourselves 2-0 ahead early on. However, 10 minutes before halftime we had a player sent off and the game then shifted into their favour. For the next 20 minutes we were really under pressure but we kept our discipline and dealt with everything they threw at us. Then, against the run of play, we scored a 3rd goal and suddenly their heads started to drop. The game then swung back into our favour and following a sending off from their team, we went on to score to 2 more goals making it a rout.

After the thoroughly convincing 5-0 thrashing, it felt only right that we should celebrate our victory at the local pub with a few beers!

Next on the agenda was my trip to the UK. Aicha did not want to travel so late into her pregnancy so this time I was going it alone. In my head I was thinking of it as a swansong before the baby arrives, but if I'm honest I just wanted to see my friends and family. Usually when I go back to the UK I only stay for 3-4 days but on this occasion I would be going there for 10 days. The reason being is that 3-4 days never seems long enough. In fact it doesn't feel like a break as you are spending most of your time running around trying to catch up with everyone. If anything it can be quite stressful!

This time I plan to I won't be able to for much longer!