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Friday, 8 July 2016

Another 6 week Catch-Up!

Wow time has run away with me once again and somehow it is over another 6 weeks since I last blogged, it's July, and we are now passed the longest day of the year! How did that happen!?

Once again the last 6 weeks have been pretty hectic as seems to have been the theme lately, so I do have quite a lot to fill you in on so please to bear with me once again! 

Firstly I want to take you back to where my last blog post left off which was in mid May! On the Mon of this week my hubby and I went up to London to see his favourite band the Manic Street Preachers at The Royal Albert Hall, being that he had the week off and I had the day off we decided to make a day of it by go sightseeing and taking a visit to Sealife London. Which despite the fact that we only live an hour or so out of the city we have never actually done before! So we were lucky that the day that went turned out to be a gloriously warm and sunny day, meaning that we really did get to see London at its best! Below you can see just some of the pics that I took that day!    

Firstly as soon as we came out of Westminster tube station we saw Big Ben and the Houses Of Parliament standing in all their impressive glory. We then took the short walk over to the Thames Embankment and crossed Westminster Bridge were we saw vendors selling London merchandise, a man playing Bag Pipes in traditional Scottish dress, a man playing an Accordion with a cute little dog wearing a hat! Plus a "Queen's Guard" in full traditional dress, handing out Fish and Chip leaflets.   

As you can see above the view off of the bridge was gorgeous with the Thames, London Eye, and City Cruise Ferries all in full view!

Once on the other side of the bridge we made our way as planned to Sealife London, which is quite literally at the other end of the of the bridge!

I didn't realise prior to trip just quite how close together a lot of the main tourist attractions are in London, with the Eye, London Dungeons, Sealife London, and the Shrek experience which is currently running all being in a row. The other thing that also struck me was just how clean this part of London was compared to other parts that I have visited it the past.

Below you can see some of the many photos I took at the Sealife Aquarium, all of which were taken on my phone as you are not allowed to use the flash there for the welfare of the animals.

As you first walk in they have a glass floor with a shark tank that lies beneath, as you can see above left!

The shark tank that you can see above is the biggest tank in Europe and can be viewed across all of the floors of the Aquarium! We also watched a shark talk whilst we were there and I was very impressed at both the knowledge of the speaker, who you could tell cared and spoke very passionately about the sharks, and with how hard the Aquarium works for and with conservationists. We also found out that all of their sharks were born in captivity and a lot have been acquired from people who originally had them as pets!

Above right you can see what is called a "Guitar Fish," which is a fish that has evolved to be part shark and part Ray! All of the sharks at the aquarium were also named, but I can't remember what this one was called!

Above you can see the Terrapins who liked to pose a lot!

There was also the big Alligator that you can see above left, who did not move an inch from this position the whole time we were watching!

All in all we had a lovely time there and I especially felt like a little kid in a sweet shop as I love places like this, plus it had probably been a good 18 years since I last visited a Sealife Aquarium!

It was also good to spend some quality time with the hubby as we don't do things like that often, so whilst we were there we bought some souvenir photos that they take against their green screens as you go around. We got two, one where we look like we are riding a shark through the ocean, and one where we look like we are being eaten by an Alligator! I also had fun in the gift shop where I spent a good half hour deciding which Sealife key ring's that I wanted to buy! So all in all I would highly recommend!

By the time that we left the Sealife Aquarium it was already almost time for us to start making our way to the gig! Had we a bit more time we would probably have gone to some of the other attractions along the embankment too, but we didn't end up getting to London as early as we originally intended too! This was partly because we got up a bit late and partly because we had issues parking at the station and ended up having to divert to park at the hubby's work instead. We did however have some time to chill out along the embankment and soak up the sun and the atmosphere as you can see below!

Whilst there I spotted the rather striking Double Decker Bus that you can see above left, which was selling frozen yogurt. Plus the very convincing street performer above right, who was such a convincing statue that for some time we struggled to tell if it was real or not!

After having some chillout time we began to make our way to the Royal Albert Hall by going back to Westminster station, getting the tube to Green Park, and then traipsing through the streets of London to Kensington Gore. In hindsight as we discovered on the way back it would have probably been quicker to have got off at South Kensington Station and to have walked from there, but we weren't in any rush and again it meant that we got see see yet another side of London that we hadn't seen before and this was the posh part! I mean there is a lot of money in London anyway but you could see just how much there was around here from the buildings, to the cars, to the parents picking their children up from private schools, to the Lamborghini garage that we passed.

Sitting opposite this we came across a lone beggar that most people were just passing in their suits, who was so overwhelmingly grateful when we stopped to give him our loose change. It must have only been a few pound worth or so, but he couldn't believe his luck looking at me and uttering "this all for me, thank you senorita!"

So in that moment we very much saw the juxtaposition of two worlds that were so close together but that also couldn't have been further apart. I know that that is the world that we live in and that there will always be rich and poor, but there really is something so not right about it!

Anyway after this we continued on our way until we reached the Royal Albert Hall, and what a magnificent building it was too as you can see below left! Then below right is the memorial statue of Prince Albert which is situated opposite the Royal Albert Hall on Kensington Green.             

Once in the building we had some time to kill as we were not to bothered about seeing the supporting band that were playing, so we decided to go exploring the numerous levels of the gorgeous building and it really was stunning! 

The Main Auditorium sits up from the ground floor and is situated in the middle of the building but you can walk all the way around the edge of each of the levels, which are covered in images of the numerous different events that have taken place there over the years and celebrities that have performed there. There are also a number of flashy bars, a restaurant, grand looking dark wood staircases joining each level, and a number of very smartly dressed staff in red overcoats. To be honest it looked way to posh a place to be holding a rock gig! 

As you can see above the Main Auditorium was just as grand as the rest of the building! Once in there we also managed to locate my Auntie and her friend who were also there and are big Manics fans too!

We have seen the Manics a number of times before but it was amazing to see them in a place like that, and as you can see from the pics above we had a pretty good spot too! They then also finished the gig by covering everyone in confetti! It was a lovely effect but I did feel sorry for whoever was going to have to clear it up, especially as it was traipsed throughout the building as everyone left! But we all had a fab time and ended up getting the last train back, which was so slow that we didn't end up getting back until 2:00am and I still had to drive at the other end! Needless to say that work was a little painful the next day but it was worth it!

Fast forward a week and we sadly had the funeral of the friend that I mentioned in my last post, who had been tragically hit by a car back in April at the age of only 30. It was obviously a hard day for all of us and not least his family, but it went was well as could be expected.

There was a huge turnout at the Crematorium and then even more so after at the wake, where we shared happy memories whilst watching a slideshow of his life.

It may have been cut short, but it was clear just how loved he was and just how much he had packed into the time that he had. One of the most fitting parts of the ceremony I found was that some of his work colleges bought single rainbow coloured roses, which were given to his parents after the funeral. That for me was the perfect symbol of who he was a bright, colourful and beautiful character, with a wicked sense of humor and an unforgettable laugh! It all still seems pretty unreal that he is gone from all of our lives, and there may always be unanswered questions as to exactly what happened, but one thing is sure and that is that he won't every be forgotten by any of us!   

The day after the funeral was the start of the May Bank Holiday! I was working for most of it as usual, but I did have the Sunday off for my cousins 21st Birthday!

To celebrate he had an afternoon tea party at his home with garden games and plenty of cake as requested! He's Autistic so struggles with some elements of such social occasions, but he had a few friends around as well as family and thoroughly enjoyed playing on the Playstation with them, opening his presents, and carrying out his favorite past time of eating plenty of party food and birthday cake! We were however on strict instructions from him not to sing Happy Birthday!

It was a lovely afternoon which again was accompanied by some equally lovely weather. The day was then finished off back at my parents, where there was a street party being held throughout the day and into the evening to celebrate the Bank Holiday.

Fast forward another week and on the first Friday of June we had another big birthday to celebrate, this time for my Uncle's 50th!

To celebrate his wife had organized a family party in a function room at a local pub/restaurant near their home in Bognor, where there was a DJ lots of party dancing and lots of catch-ups with family that we don't get to see very often!

Below you can see the birthday cakes from both my Cousin and Uncles birthday's! The 50th one on the left was made by my very talented cousin, who decorated it with many of my Uncle's favourite things including; Star Trek, computers, and a Keyboard!

The next day I had a rare Sat off so I made the most of it by traveling down to Chichester with my mum to see my Nan, as I don't really get a chance to see her unless I have a weekend off!

We spent a lovely day out shopping in Chichester and whilst there we had a yummy fried breakfast, plus I had a huge hot chocolate complete with whipped cream and marshmallow in our favourite cafe!

This then led onto Sunday which was the beginning of my week off! Then from the Weds to the following Mon of that week I attended Download Festival, which you may have seen from my posts in the past is a festival that I attend on pretty much a yearly basis! It's always one of my most anticipated weeks of the year as it's like a holiday to me, I love it so much and it's one of my favorite places to be! It also feels like home away from home because I have been so many times, and I always have an amazing time with friends and this year was no different!

So on the Weds one of my friends drove us up as usual to its location at Donnington Park Race course in the East Midlands. We had a good journey up which took about 3 hours, and met up with some of our friends that were going at local restaurant near to the site. This included the girls that we met the previous year, who I mentioned in last year's post. It was lovely to see them again after a year apart and for others within the group to meet them for the first time!

We arrived on site to bright sunshine which was lucky as it had poured it down for most of the week before, which you don't want before you have even set up your camp! Luckily we didn't have to queue to get in for hours like we did last year, but the site was much busier much earlier that it had been at the same time on any of the previous years! This meant that the campsite that we intended to camp in was already full, as were quite a lot of others! So we ended up having to traipse around quite a lot with all of our stuff to find a place that would be big enough for all eight of us to camp, plus the other five that were due to arrive later! But we got there in the end and one gazebo, six tents, plus another trip to the car and back later we were all set up!

Below you can see the lovely sunshine that we arrived to, and the beautiful sunsets that we had appearing over our camp by the time that we had finally set up!

We had a couple more of the group join us later on Weds evening, which were the sister and boyfriend of another of our group. Before they arrived we had blown up balloons, put up a little kid's pirate tent as a joke, and put up banners to celebrate the sisters 30th birthday! We then proceed to stay up until the early hours celebrating in the onsite rock club tent, which was named the "Dog House."

The lovely weather continued through to Thursday, so we spent most of the day chilling on the campsite enjoying it as the actual festival didn't start until the Friday. Dare I say it but it was almost too warm and very muggy! We also had the last three of the group turn up that day, who consisted of two guys that we had met a few years previous and a friend of a couple of the others within the group, which took our completed camp to 13 people! Last year only three of us went and we met other people whilst we were there, and previous to that the most we had ever been with was 6, so we over doubled our camp this year! Below you can see that we didn't have a cloud in the sky on Thursday!

On Thursday night we threw a Pre-Hen Night for my best friend who is getting married in October, which is something that was also done for me before I got married back in 201. This time however we dressed up in black dresses as if we were going out on the town, complete with sashes and wellies! I also got her a veil to wear and we went out into the campsite village doing dare cards, and again partied in the rock club until the early hours!       

Friday bought the first day of the festival and by this point it was still very muggy, but the weather had gone hazy. Below you can see the first view that we had of main stage when we entered the arena!

A few hours later we could see that the rain was heading in as expected! Below you can see the impending clouds heading our way! The image on the left shows the clouds behind the Download Dog sculpture, which you could climb inside and have your photo in! It was a huge metal sculpture especially made for this year's event, and it took the organisers over two months to construct!

Then the rain came and when it came it chucked it! Just a shower they said, but it pelted it with tropical sized rain drops for a good 3 hours, so we got soaked through for the first time. It also delayed one of the first big bands coming onto the Main Stage due to the fact that as the rain was heading in the direction, so all of the cameras and equipment had to be covered. Luckily it was still warm but by the time that the rain had finally finished I was pouring water out of my wellies where it had run down my socks, and my fingers were so shriveled that the skin started to peel off of them! It didn't dampen our spirits though! After all we have never had a Download without rain! Below you can see that once the rain started that it didn't take long for the grass to start turning to mud!

Luckily we managed to dry off a little when one of the bands what we wanted to see so happened to be playing in one of the tents, and by the time that they had finished playing it had stopped raining ready for the headlining act of the evening!

That night we went back to our tents to change out of our wet clothes and then proceeded to dance ourselves dry in the rock club once again! We also bumped into a few people that we had met in pretty much the same place within the rock club the year before, which was lovely and we ended up going off to the campsite fairground and into the "Fun House" with them. 

Sat came and we managed to get through until late afternoon before the heavens opened! But at this point I had been getting messages throughout the day from worried family and friends making sure that we were OK. This was because they had seen a picture that was going around on Facebook of tents buried in water, which had been posted by someone art Download. It was however a fake and I reassured them that it wasn't even taken at Download! It was actually a stock image that had been taken from the internet at Glastonbury a few years previously!

However once the heavens did open we got soaked through again for the second time that weekend! But you can see below that it didn't dampen anyone's spirits!   

The photos below were taken on Sat night, the pic on the left shows the Download wheel and the one on the right shows one of the arena sculpture lit up.

At this point it was chucking it for Saturday's headlining, act which was Black Sabbath. A lot of people headed back to their tents at this point, but we persevered and sheltered by the "Download Dog" sculpture. There were also rivers of water trickling down the hill to the Main Stage at this time it was raining so much!

That night we headed back to camp and did what we usually did, got changed and partied in the "Dog House" again. Below you can see that they had confetti cannons in there that night!

By the time that we woke up on Sunday morning it was raining again! But being that we were all dry in our tents at this point we didn't really want to go out, but luckily none of the bands that we wanted to see were playing until the afternoon so we just chilled and stayed put, by which time it thankfully wasn't raining! Below you can see a couple of the bands that we saw on Sunday. The pic on the left is a band from America whose lead singer is so scared of flying that they got a boat all the way here just so they could play Download! 

We did end up getting soaked again at the arena later in the day, but luckily it wasn't as prolonged as previous days thankfully! Below you can see just how muddy the arena was come Sunday afternoon!

But by the time that Sunday's headlining and closing act Iron Maiden came on stage that evening, we almost managed to get a sunset as you can see below.

Below left you can see the crowd of 85,000 people gathered to see Iron Maiden, and to the right Iron Maiden doing their thing!

Below you can see that they had the most amazing stage set, complete with a huge moving robot which you can see below right!

All in all it was a fab way to end off yet another epic year at Download, which once again went by far too quickly!

Come the Monday it was sadly time for us all to head home! Luckily it wasn't raining for us to pack up, but we nearly ended up having trouble getting out of the car park due to the mud! So we had to push the cars a little to get them moving through the muddy tracks, but once they were going we were fine unlike some that had to be towed out by tractors!

It did however take us an hour and a half to queue getting out of the car park, due to the fact that people kept pushing in higher up! I'm sure it took those that left later took much longer to get out though as there was a massive queue of cars behind us by the time that we got out, plus it was raining!

We then faced further problems once off of the site due to the fact that the M1 (which is the motorway just by Download) had been shut, because of what turned out to be a nearly 24 hour standoff with a guy that had got onto the motorway! Due to this we had to be diverted up to Birmingham and back down again, but once we were past the diversions we had a pretty smooth journey which took about 4 or so hours once we were out of the car park.

Below you can see that during my time on site wellies got well and truly Download fied and were not quite as shiny as they were when I got there, or when I first posted them a few months back! It wasn't the wettest or muddiest year that we had ever had, but  there was still plenty of both!

Whilst I was unpacking my stuff when I got back, I found that one of the many bugs that that had been around our tents had made its way all the way home with me in my bag! I don't know what sort of bug it was or how he made it back without being squashed, but he was safely relocated outside to his new home in the South of England!

I think that my hubby also missed me whilst I was away, as he bought me some lovely bunny pj's as a welcome home present which is very unlike him! Below you can see pics of my little bug friend and my pj's!

Once I was unpacked and back to reality I also realised that as usual I was a little battered and bruised from where my five days camping had taken its toll, as you can see below!

Left to right: A friction burn on my shoulder from carrying all of our stuff, a blister which formed through my precautionary Compeed blister plasters! My bruised leg from falling up a couple of steps just after I got home! I have no idea how the bruises on my arm appeared, and on the far right you can see my bruised and my very swollen feet and ankles that I ended up with due to the fact that wellies are not designed to be worn for 5 days solid! The best part of getting back from Download though is having your first bath for 5 days! Make that two to get rid of all of the mud!

On the plus side I didn't burn this year and invested in some P20 50+, once use and extra waterproof sun cream that was recommended to me by a friend after my normal 50+ failed me last year! I am pleased to say that it worked and I too would recommend it if like me you burn easily! But on the downside it turned out that I came back with more than just the usual bruises and blisters from Download this year, and ended up being quite ill for the first time ever after Download! So maybe I am getting to old for this!

I was already loosing my voice the day I got back but by that night I realized that something was wrong with the roof of my mouth, as it was swollen and really painful to eat! Paired with this I also had my bottom wisdom tooth coming though, so I was in a lot of pain with that as well.

It became apparent quite quickly after this that solid foods were no longer an option, and so I ended up on a diet of soup and milkshakes. I also needed to constantly top myself up with paracetamol and Ibuprofen, and in the mornings and evenings it was so painful that I was driven to tears at times.

I thought that possibly my tonsils might have been swollen but knowing that it was probably my own fault I didn't want to waste the time of going to a doctor unless I really had too, and managed to get some mouth and throat numbing lozenges to get me through the four days of work that I had!

Luckily my voice came back after a few days as it is not particularly useful having a job where you need to talk if you can't, but over a week later I was still in a lot of pain and still not able to eat solid foods. I also had to phone in sick at work which I never do, so I gave in and went to the doctors.

On seeing the doctor it turned out that the two big bumps that I had across the top of my moth were blisters that then had multiple ulcers on them, but that my tonsils were fine. He said that it could have happened anyway regardless of Download but that it was probably a combination of being rundown, my wisdom tooth coming through, and partying a little too hard. He prescribed an antibiotic throat spray and advised that Corsadil mouthwash may also help and luckily it has gradually been clearing up since.

In the end ended I was unable to eat solids for 10 days and then it was just soft foods for another 4-5 days on top of that. Even now my pallet is still a little irritated, but I am pretty much back to normal!

I have never had anything like it before so it was very random, but below you can see the concoction of drugs I had to take, and what my fridge looked like once I was back!     

Despite all of this though I wouldn't have changed going to Download at all! I said it before in last year's post that the place that I feel most alive is at Download, it's just an amazing experience that I love and in my opinion can't be matched. Yes I may in hindsight have partied a little too hard celebrating Hen Nights and 30th birthdays, but I had the most amazing time with the most amazing people. After all life is for living and it only happens once, which I have had one too many reminders of this year! So I fully intend to live it to the full!

That nearly brings you up to date with everything that has been going on here now! That is all accept for last weekend when we celebrated my Great Uncle's 80th birthday, which was set in a lovely function room in a hotel towards Farnham.

Being that it was a little way from us my sister drove, but this place was literally in the middle of nowhere! At numerous points during the journey we ended up down single track roads and thought that we had taken a wrong turn, but we got there in the end!

The hotel was gorgeous and set by a huge pond. We enjoyed a lovely three course sit down meal, and there was also a gorgeous cake that had been made for him. Family and friends came from far and wide to celebrate and it was lovely to catch up with the wider family that we don't get to see that often, especially our many second cousins.

Luckily the weather just about held out too! We did have one heavy downpour whilst we were eating, but were able to spend lots of time outside besides that!

This seems to have been the trend with the weather here since I have got back from Download, it has been very mild and basically like April showers every day! One minute it's chucking it and the next there is bright sunshine again! We also had a rather impressive storm the other week with lighting that was insanely bright, so I'm not really sure what is going on with our summer at the moment!

Below you can see some of the pics that I took from our day at the hotel.

I hope that I find you all well and I do apologise for the fact that this was such another long and wordy diary style blog post!  Hopefully from here on in they should get much shorter than they have been of late as everything is calming down here socially, just as everything is about to go crazy at work with the schools breaking up very soon!

On the Bobby front I am also hoping to finally get back into producing more work now that the decorating is pretty much done. I am also still planning on the project launch of the framed prints that I mentioned a few or so posts back, which I was hoping to have been out by now but I have been having problems sourcing packaging for them. However I think that I have something on the horizon now!

Thanks again for showing your support and bearing with me, it really is appreciated as always. x  

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