Summer in the city

Summertime in Sydney equals long hot sleepless nights, the wurring of a worn out fan in a dark lounge room. The smell of aloe vera as it soothes sunburnt skin. Summer in London – What’s that? Is it the sun?…Yes, yes it is. Drop everything – go to a park somewhere, anywhere. Cider..yeah cider…I  feel like a cider. What’s everyone else doing? – gee I hope what I’m doing is making the most of the sun…Let’s go to the pub – in the beer garden yeah beer and sun, and a barbecue…inspired.

The sun is an enigma, a shining beacon of hope with drug like effects on the population of Britain, we crave it and bask in all it’s glory when it chooses to deign us with its presence. The rain was like natures way of cleaning the dirty streets of London in preparation for the sun. Once you add a dash of sun the streets gleam and sparkle like new. The grass is green and lush and the roses are still in full bloom from Spring which completes the picture. The days are long and parks all over London fill with people and their dogs and everything feels fresh. You can smell barbeques and hear the laughter of friends old and new. My onesie has been firmly packed away and although I’ve only just shaved my legs I’m not yet ready to wear shorts – it’s still more like spring at the moment. The urban foxes are out in full force, I call them urban foxes because they’re not like the ones in the country, they are well fed and will stare you down if you approach them in the street. The learner drivers can also be found on any given day bunny hopping down our street. The Crowborough cats (As I have playfully nicknamed them) are out too. For some reason Crowborough road right by our house seems to be the residence of all the friendly cats. For some reason every cat that you meet on that road is really affectionate and friendly to the point where they will follow you down the street. I wonder whether the residents are just really good to their cats on that street or whether that street is where all the friendly cats in London meet. In fact we were having a barbecue one evening before Roxanne left and this cat just strolls in like it owns the place and pretty much took over. Between us we realised that it was the same cat that has made itself known to us on Crowborough Road weeks before.

Since then he’s gotten cheeky and sneaks in when people come home. I was making honeycomb in the kitchen one night for Glen’s birthday present and the next thing I knew Leo (his name on the tag) is there mewing at me for food and watching my every move. Carolyn put him out and 5 minutes later he’s back in again meowing at us.

I’ve been working overtime over the last month to make up for my sickness and lack of sick pay last month. Even so I don’t want to miss out on social occasions and found myself at Sally’s straight after work one evening for drinks. Too poor to get drunk I literally had two drinks, sober we decided to stage drunken photo’s…well I was fairly sober anyway I can’t speak for the others. Had so much fun making it look like the four of us were at some drunken wild party when really it was more like  mid-week bored shenanigans.

Work is  busy and travel is tiring. We play these silly briefing games each morning before work – one such game involved us going around the circle and taking turns making dinosaur noises and everyone has to guess what type of dinosaur we were ie: Land, Water, or air.

Speaking of awkward group moments – I went to another ‘Assessment day’ for Merlin for a job working on the London eye cruises and again was forced to complete ridiculous group tasks while the managers  took notes with their clipboards based on some sort of inexplicable criteria. How one would be able to judge suitability for a job based on those exercises is beyond me. So after getting the automated rejection email I asked for feedback and still haven’t heard anything.

For a change I got to experience my birthday in summer – so naturally I chose an indoor activity! For my birthday weekend it was to be Madame Tussauds and the Alton towers ghost hunt that was planned through work which I had been looking forward to for months. Having watched Most Haunted back in Australia I loved the idea of setting out on my own little ghost adventure, the fact that it’s a haunted theme park made it even more fascinating.

The plan for my birthday weekend was to drive up to Alton Towers straight from work to the ghost hunt that evening until the early hours of  the morning – then head back to the Travelodge for a few hours sleep before hitting up the theme park, then after a full day in the theme park travel back to London. Then the next day meet everyone at Madame Tussauds for a touristy day out and then perhaps drinks afterwards.

What actually happened…

We left work at 4:30pm on the Friday after getting permission as it was for a work function. We set off, excited to be leaving after a busy day in the office and anxious to get through the peak hour traffic and onto Staffordshire. As we got further and further out of London it started becoming more rural. I knew that Staffordshire was a fair way out but the amount of time it took us to get there in traffic made it feel like we were travelling cross-country in our quest to leave greater London. We took the exit to Alton Towers it wasn’t until then that it felt like this place was out in the middle of nowhere. The road became a lot narrower and windy and almost never-ending. And the thick smell of cow began infiltrating the car. As we weaved our way down those long narrow roads the leafy trees that were once just another element in the picturesque landscape were slowly becoming menacing as the sun was setting. It was beginning to feel like we were approaching the first act of a horror film excitement and nerves were building the closer we got to the towers. We arrived in the village we were staying in just outside of Alton towers, it was tiny. In fact we couldn’t see any shops or hotels or anything and according to the GPS we were 2 minutes away from the Travelodge. So you can imagine our panic when it was directing us down a dirt road only to find we were on a farm and had come to a farmhouse with a small river that was cutting through the road. Amy and I just looked at each other thinking this is not the Travelodge!?! Luckily after taking a U-turn we managed to pull into a nearby pub only to learn that we weren’t far at all. We checked in hurriedly and freshened up before setting out to the towers. The temperature had dropped and night had fallen. Much to our relief the other groups were a lot later than us so there was a lot of waiting around before we proceeded to the towers which only served to make the atmosphere even more tense.

We finally entered only to find that these ghost hunters that were running the evening were very serious paranormal investigators and had set up camera’s in a few highly active rooms, including sensors and had a whole host of paranormal equipment for us to use in our quest. We even had a spirit medium along for the ride. Approaching the towers it was amazingly creepy and what I imagined to be a fully fitted out castle was beautiful yet unoccupied ruins. We all met in the freezing cold chapel and funnily enough I was quite calm. Although I did make Mo accompany us to the toilet – partially because it was dark and I didn’t know where I was going though. Being a wuss I thought I would be nervous the entire time but I was more excited and really intrigued. The place has an awful lot of history and is said to be cursed – that mixed with the fact that it is a huge theme park which has thousands of visitors every year with these imposing towers watching over everything in the dark in stark contrast to the fun and frivolity of the rides during the daylight hours.

Legend has it that one of the original owners of the towers many years ago upset a traveller when he refused to help them just outside his property. They cursed him saying that for every branch that falls off the huge old oak tree a member of his family shall die. That night there was a huge storm and one of the branches fell – one of his family members died suddenly and mysteriously. Riddled with fear he chained up the entire tree to prevent any more branches from falling – that tree still stands there today chained up just outside the property.

I had a chance to use some dowsing rods which were meant to pick up spiritual activity. We had handheld sensors, and this crazy creepy radio frequency sensor that was meant to pick up spirit voices and other hand-held sensors that were meant to flash if there are spirits present.  We crowded into the one of the rooms with a mysterious white ring on the floor and ‘called out’ for spirits. Spurred on by the whir of our instruments (we later found out that mobile phones can set them off) we pushed on to the kitchen which was supposedly known for high activity. The funny thing is we’d ask for the spirits to throw a stone and then huddle together and say ‘Holy fuck please don’t throw a stone at us’ We moved from room to room with only the light of torches guiding our way. We all congregated in the stone archway in the garden and heard a door slam in the towers and supposedly there were children running around us according to the medium. The medium said if anyone felt anything unusual to speak up. I said I had a foot cramp and everyone laughed at me. We had a séance in the chapel and heard a little knock on the table and freaked ourselves out, that and the banqueting hall had a menacing feel to it.

Tired and cold and laughing at ourselves for standing in a circle trying to commune with ghosts at 4am in the freezing cold in the dark, we decided to retire for the evening. The next morning the boys went to the theme park – as it was a weekend during the school holidays and the new smiler ride was open..and we were tired. We decided to call  it a day and headed back for London.

My birthday was a beautiful day I woke up to an amazing birthday video made by my old friends at home. And it was honestly was one of the nicest presents I’ve ever received. If I ever feel lonely or sad here again I’ll watch it back and be reminded again of home.

Later that day we went to Madame Tussauds and afterwards headed to a dodgy pub. I don’t know whether it was the sudden heat or all the running around I have been doing lately but I was so tired.  We bought ice cream and Emma and I sat on the roof in the sun – I love long lazy sunny days, I don’t get many of those anymore I miss carefree days. My head is always plotting my next move to make the most of my time here so it’s hard to completely let go and relax.

About a month and a half ago we had two new housemates move into one of our rooms in the house. We were all excited by the prospect of new housemates. They dumped their suitcases in the room and left – and have been elusive ever since. We assumed that maybe they were just a little intimidated – not that we are mean, we are a very nice household and reasonably close knit. One day a parcel came for one of them and Larry answered the door – as he didn’t know their names he told the postman that no one by that name lives here! One day we had a barbeque and invited them along they declined and made up some excuse and ordered food in. I answered the door to the delivery guy and realised that the food was for them and got excited because it was an excuse for me to go and knock on their forever closed door and speak with them finally and  break the ice. They said all of two words to me and that was it. Rumour has it that there are three of them living in the room instead of two which would explain why they are so secretive, it’s weird to think if I ever bump into them in the hallway or in the kitchen it’s a bit like bumping into someone on the street that you haven’t spoken to in ages and not knowing where to look. I have a new room mate Jess and it feels like she’s an oldie here and they’re the newbies! It’s getting beyond a joke considering I cant even remember their names and one of them I’ve literally only seen once so wouldn’t even be able to point out in a police lineup. And yet they are under the same roof as us.

As I mentioned in my last blog I have started making an effort to see more things in London I haven’t yet seen. I met up with Georgia in her hood. We checked out little Venice in North London; nothing like Venice but still really quaint and lovely.

We sat in a pub by the canals and drank a pint then headed for Cricklewood which is meant to be the Irish village of London. Headed into a small local Irish pub and all the locals (all Irish) turned to look at us when we walked in western movie style. We sat and chatted with a couple of guys from Tipperary then headed off to a Jamaican pub where we were the only white people. I drank rum punch and was quite drunk by this stage and think I was rambling about god knows what  to poor Georgia so I hope she enjoyed herself as much as I did.

The travel time to and from work drains me so much now that I am desperately looking for something closer to home. I’m a lot happier and more settled then what I was months ago but I’m still looking for that all important balance. I’m constantly looking for work and its become a mini addiction. I’m even cheeky enough to look for jobs in between taking calls at work. I know it’s bad but my mind is set and I can’t really rest until I’ve done what I’ve set out to do.I don’t 100 per cent know what my next move is yet, I’m still feeling around in the dark at the moment. Maybe I’ll get a tan…who am I kidding I can’t even get sunburnt over here!

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