Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Chester Part 1...


And a good evening to you from across the Pond after another GREAT DAY in the Mother Country – what a weekend! We had SUCH a blast up in Chester, so let’s get you right into the mix:

Thursday: Quick run, quick ride, and a rhino in rhinestones

The work day was good, as always, and I was able to squeeze in a run (and a shower, fret not!) before catching the train up to Chester. I ran a 5K for time on the treadmill, turning in a 24:30. Honestly, whilst it’s nowhere near close to some of my best times, it’s the fastest I’ve logged a 5K in 2010 and certainly a good feeling for me. I ran for time twice last week, both turning in times I was pleased with. Now let’s hope we can keep the weight off (no comments Dinger – pregnant wookie my ass…) and keep grinding the seconds down.

The train up to Chester was good, although I couldn’t really focus on my book. Truth be told, it was an exhausting week, and I just wanted to listen to some music and tune out. My muffin puffin, however, was an ANIMAL, working for 2 straight hours on hierarchy maintenance (insert Hitman and Big Cat saying, “Sam – why can’t you be a little more like your wife and actually DO something for a change).

Lord G picked us up at the station, where we were greeted by…wait for it…wait for it – an Elvis Rhino! Yazz – tell me that doesn’t warm your heart? There are currently 70 Rhino’s in Chester right now, each one decorated and sponsored by a company. They are going to be auctioned off in September to raise cash for rhinos in the wild. Hitman – I need to chat with you about securing another air crate – after all, I’m planning to buy three…

We met Mr. Goodyer’s lady Melissa and rolled back to the Station House on Station Lane, where we chatted for a bit before crashing at the PHAT PAD we were staying at around half twelve (that would be 12:30 AM to my US readers).

Friday: Timmy T with Curry? I must be in Heaven!

So Friday morning was the triumphant return to the Chester Business Park. There, glistening on the hill and shining more brightly than Wayne Manor outside Gotham City, sat the pinnacle of European Credit Commerce – MBNA Phase 1. It looked just as I remembered – fountain running and all. Only this time someone else was driving vs. Sammy spinning all over the parking lot in his diesel propelled Sherman Tank.

It was SO GREAT to see everyone, and we spent the first few minutes catching up with folks before settling in to the day’s activities. I caught Fish & Chips with Lord and worked away until about 5:30, at which point we rolled back to the house to drop off our bags. And THAT, my dear friends, is when things got interesting…

So we show up, key in hand, walk to the door, and insert the key that has CLEARLY WORKED Thursday night and Friday morning into the lock. NOTHING. No turn. No twist. No fit. NOTHING. To Mark’s credit, he’s VERY calm. And then the rain comes…

So Mark and I spend the next 20 minutes trying to BREAK INTO this house. This includes checking every window and trying to put little sticks through the key holes in an effort to knock the locks open. I am now FIRMLY convinced that I need to be an upright citizen for the rest of my days, as between my inability to break into houses and my propensity for failing those anti-money laundering tests, clearly I SUCK at crime.

Ultimately a lock smith was required, who came out and informed us that the house had an ILLEGAL LOCK on it which was going to break at some point. Rather inconveniently for us, it chose Friday as the day to depart for the afterlife. Oh well, at least we eventually got in, by virtue of a locksmith with a BIG hammer.

And on a side note, what is interesting is that Mark called the guy, said he was house-sitting but couldn’t get in, and the locksmith showed up and opened the door – NO QUESTIONS ASKED. Can you imagine if you tried to pull that stunt in the states? Price – just let me know when you’re going on vacation again – I need a nice bike…

Once it was all ultimately sorted, we rolled over to a pub called the Nag’s head. This joint was GREAT – a pub turned Thai joint that still served…wait for it….wait for it…TIMMY TAYLOR LANDLORD, BABY!!!!!! Curry and Timmy – could life get any better?

We spent the evening there with some of Mark’s hockey (field not ice) mates, chatting about everything and carrying on like the proper jokers we are. We then rolled over to the Bird in Hand, a local country pub near to the house, where I had (of course!) a final ceremonial Cheshire Cat, followed by a new brewery – Tatson’s. I am happy to report that they make a VERY fine ale. We then headed back to the house and crashed, as we knew there was a BIG day on the horizon…

Saturday: Gamblin’ with the Guv’nah

Saturday morning started the way you hope all of them will – with someone else cookin’ breakfast and makin’ coffee! We rolled downstairs to find Mark and Melissa prepping the coffee and the food, which included a new first for Sammy – his fist ever “dippy egg!”

So, a little back story on this – a common breakfast meal in the UK is “chucky eggs and soldiers.” However, truth be told I never really had ANY IDEA what that meant. I mean, come on – what the HELL is a chucky egg?

Well, as fate would have it, it’s a hard boiled egg that you cut the top off and then dip slices of bread (the soldiers) into. I had heard this called differently before – the famous “dippy egg.” Granted, when I said that, Goodyer looked at me and said,” Dippy Egg? Are you 4 years old?” all the same, it was guuuuuuuuuuuuuuud. Check out muffin puffin in action.

After that, it was over to the city, where we entered the palace of Guv’nah Andrew Harwood. Andrew is another mate and work colleague of ours, and he and his gal Jo invited us over for a pre-race drink. And so, an hour before game time, the six of us were toasting champagne and GORGING on the spread of olives, pizza, pasties, and quiche laid out before us. I was back in proper American (Yank) fashion, eating everything not bolted to the ground. After all, my body knew what was coming on Sunday, and it was DESPERATE to store up some energy.

Their place was GREAT, complete with a view of the canal and the 14,000 ducks and swans that inhabit the waters. They came round a few times during our stay, as Andrew tends to enjoy feeding the critters (as Jo put it: “He’s fed me once today – he’s fed them FOUR!”).

Of course, there was a slight hiccup during our stay. As we were about to depart, I decided to run to the bathroom. The main bathroom was at the top of the stairs, and as I entered, I noticed there was some tile flooring boxed up and some of the woodwork missing around the toilet. Not thinking much of this, I preceded to do what I needed to do (#1, mind you), finishing and reaching for the handle, only to realize suddenly that the handle wasn’t actually a handle. In fact, the handle was nowhere to be seen. You know what else was nowhere to be seen? RUNNING WATER. That’s right – out of 3 options in the condo, Taylor had picked the ONE JOHN that was broken. Harwood was gracious about it. Personally, I would have thrown me over the balcony.

And then, tweed “geography teacher” sportscoat on, Harwood in his tie, Lord in his sports coat, and our women smokin’ hot, we rolled to the featured event of the day – The Chester Races. Thanks to some fancy footwork by Harwood, we’d secured County Stand seats, which were WAY nicer than the seats Puma, Muffin, and I occupied in 2007. And as we queued to get into the track, I gotta tell ya – the people watching was FAAAAAAAAAAAAANTASTIC.

Picture TONS of blokes in their finest suits, complete with ladies on their arms clad in ALL MANNER of dresses – the hats, the shoes, and the dresses (or noticeable lack thereof) was more exciting than the Bulls Gap Street Festival, Speed Street, and London’s Rubber Ball all rolled together. Add in all the hen parties, regulars with their serious looks and determined to make “serious money,” and a veritable OCEAN of humanity (it was a sellout), and you’ve got a recipe for a guuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuud afternoon.

We rolled into the track just in time to place bets on the first race. It should be noted that Jo liked the name of the 33/1 long shot “Great Charm.” The conversation went something like this:

Jo: “Andrew – I like that one. Let’s put 5 quid on it.”

Andrew: “No – that is a long shot in a race with many favorites. It has no chance.”

Jo: “How about just 3 quid?”

Andrew: “Don’t do that – you would absolutely be throwing your money away.”

2 minutes later, Great Charm is in the winner’s circle and Jo is telling Andrew that he’ll be funding her next shopping spree…it was AWESOME.

After that race, we walked through the underground tunnel, popping out on the infield, known as the Paddock. We spent the rest of the day there, drinking Pimm’s & Lemonade (the girls) and going through more than a few pints (the boys). I particularly liked when Harwood, having observed the crowd’s at the bar, suggested that “it would be far more efficient if we doubled up and had 2 pints at a time (Mum – you’ll be happy to know that I only opted for 1…).

The races themselves were BRILLIANT. JT was EN FUEGO. Seriously – this gal won THREE RACES IN A ROW, including hitting Cosmic Moon for an 85 quid win! She did so good, in fact, that she canceled me out, and I didn’t win SQUAT. In fact, the only time I ever collected money ALL DAY was when one of my horses scratched and I got a refund. But hey – as our pastor said, “Our sorrows are halved and our joys doubled.” Way to go, Pumpkin!

Once the races were over, we rolled back to Harwood’s to DEMOLISH the rest of the food before rolling over to the second featured event of the evening – a party at one of Mark’s mate’s houses. And let me tell you – this was some guuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuud eatin’…

So Mark’s buddy DL has this GREAT house near downtown. Even better, his wife is AMONG THE GREATEST CHEFS EVER. Before we walked in, Mark said, “I expect there will be some food here.” About 2 seconds later, I walked into a kitchen containing enough food to feed the Red Army for a month – WOW. Needless to say, I luuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuved me some Chicken Kebabs (the sticky toffee pudding and white chocolate cheesecake – BOTH slices I had – were also delish).

The funniest moment was when I entered and responded to some random question, only to hear 2 ladies across the table speaking about me in whispered tones. The phrase “I think I detect a colonial accent there” was definitely heard. Bond. Sam Bond.

We stayed there until almost midnight, and it was GREAT. Good food, good people, plenty of laughs, good food…a PERFECT day in Chester.
I think that's enough for tonight. We'll pick up the rest of it tomorrow.
Okay, that's all the news that's fit to print. Chat tomorrow!
Sam and Jenny

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