What happens in Vegas

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

So it turns out what happens in Vegas doesn't stay in Vegas after all. Or, in my case, what doesn't happen in Vegas happens in the United Kingdom instead. Less glamourous, more appropriate. Let's spin back to the beginning.

It starts with a boy. Of course it does, it always does. Unless it starts with a girl, which it very well could do, we live in a free and happy world after all. But in this case, it was one of the male species that stood at the beginning with me. Contrary to popular belief, it never started in Vegas at all. We only say this because it simply sounds cooler – and also because there are no such novelty items such as duvet covers and gimmicky sayings that go hand-in-hand with the equally awesome but less flashy San Francisco. This Californian coastal gem is where the seed was really sown.

It was nothing major. A smile, a greeting, a swapping of names, a quick chat. A confession of my age and a slack-jawed wide-eyed look in reply – I love it when that happens. After all, I'm a sucker for getting IDed and even more of a sucker for getting deliriously overjoyed about it. A four hour eastbound drive calls for a lot of conversation between two people but between six English speaking participants, time flies like there's a thousand tomorrows. Sparks bounce back and forth, undetected. We stop at an American supermarket, or whatever they call them. We all spend elongated moments perusing the chilled liquor aisle, marvelling at all the exotic types of alcohol. Mostly the beers, but the cheap and almost nasty alcopops sang out at us too. The boxed and canned Mangorita, with it's cleverly playful name, kind of like a neon sign. This guy was stood at my side, giving the Mangorita the same side eye that I was, when I turned to him and said, “Do you want to go halves on a box of these?” And he nodded and replied, “Hell yeah.” We topped up our tropical stash with Mooseheads and Newcastle Brown Ale and added them to the swelling cocktail; of everybody else's drinks in the shared coolerbox. This, folks, was roadtripping at it's finest.

Our beverages depleted slowly over a couple of days, but it was after the epic 9 hour drive from Yosemite to Las Vegas and our arrival into sweltering 38 degree heat that really quenched everybody's thirst. That and the promise of a wild night on the strip, limousine partybus transport guaranteed. Two hours later, all showered, suited and booted, we found ourselves all raving in a moving vehicle, downing champagne and shots of Fireball – it's warm cinnamon tones sliding down throats and begging for liquid company. We drank until the Fireball was gone, until the champagne was gone and until the partybus dropped us in the midst of Planet Vegas. That's the only way I can describe this casino city in the middle of the desert – it is wholly existent entirely on it's own. Just like a suckerpunch below the ribcage and just like the heat when stepping out of an air-conditioned building, Vegas is unignorable. The lights and the sounds are a drug all on their own; you could easily spend all evening walking around without spending a dime just soaking it all in and still feel drunk from it all.

Then it suddenly went from multiple manically happy roadtrippers to just us two in the blink of an eye. The guy and the girl, alcoholically-induced hand-holding guaranteed. We meandered across to a crowd on the pavement, gathering before the Bellagio Fountain, awaiting it's next grand performance. Little sparks flew between two bodies stood side-by-side, arm-in-arm as the music started up. The water and the lights, mesmerising every pair of eyes in the audience. Hundreds of people lost in the beauty and the wonder of it all and we two, lost in the very first kiss of the night. Of our life. The magic and the moment. A story unfolding before our very eyes. The start of everything that has happened up until now.

Whatever happens, we'll always have our happy beginning.

Six hours in Edinburgh

Thursday, 21 May 2015

At the weekend - at the end of my first week working in the busiest store in my area in the local shopping centre, no less - Phil and I took ourselves off on a little daytrip to Edinburgh. That's right, we managed to turn visiting a city no less than 200 miles away into a single day. How did we do it?

The answer to your question was: we didn't actually do much. Firstly, the main motivator for the voyage was to see his Mum for her birthday, who herself was visiting Edinburgh with his Dad on a much deserved longer trip. Once we'd subtracted the travel time that ate heavily into our day (6 hours in total was spent on trains that fine Saturday, I'll have you know) we were left with around the same time to meander around the beauty that is Edinburgh. So we headed straight for the Castle, without arguments.

I have been to Edinburgh before back in 2012 on a long weekendy kind of trip, which is still not enough time to dedicate to this spectacular and historical Scottish city, a fact that was highlighted by not even being able to cram in enough time to see the wonderful castle. So I was mega excited to be standing in line, waiting to pay the entrance fees. They don't come cheap at £16.50 for an adult (and add on an extra £3 for an audio set to guide you around the castle grounds) but if you happen to know somebody with an English Heritage membership or other such programs, the discounts add up and make it worth it. They recommend that you give at least two hours of your time to wandering around the grounds, but I could have easily spent a whole day there. We arrived just in time for the One O'Clock Gun - and boy, is that blast loud! Legend has it that the Scots went for one blast instead of the traditional twelve at 12pm, simply to save money.

The castle stands at the very top of the Royal Mile, a pedestrianised street that leads down from the castle to the Scottish Parliament buildings. This also makes for some impressive views across the city! After our time spent at the castle, we took a stroll down the mile, taking in all the sights and stalls selling Scottish marble and plenty of free samples of tablet to boot. Before we knew it, it was time to go home. We'll be back this summer, Edinburgh! We promise!

So far, so good

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Ten days since I landed in Manchester like a startled baby Bambi. Ten days since I hit the city wide-eyed and wondering what was in store for me. I've searched high and low for the perfect place to live, checked out eateries and drinking holes, pounded the pavements and parks for little secrets, and basically had the opportunity to balance my busy working life with enough downtime and chilling to make my soul very happy. I've also made several observations since moving to Manchester that I thought important to document forever.
3 Things I Have Learnt In Moving To Manchester

One. You can forget your coat; it's just not done to be soft about the cold. With temperatures slightly cooler than 'dahn sahf' (a whole 2 degrees in latitude to be almost exact) rain and grey skies are the norm and generally considered to be cardigan weather. Nobody bothers with coats on a night out – that £1 would be better spent investing in your beer jacket anyway! As for the sunny end of the spectrum, anything over 15 degrees celsius is something to be celebrated and will definitely invite a ritual performed where everybody gets their arms and legs out and pollutes the air with the sweet smells of charcoal and barbecued meat. Standard summer, really.

Two. Everything is cheaper. Like, I'm not even kidding folks – this is not just one of those throwaway statement of a reason that' s there for the hell of it. Please observes these comparisons I have happened upon so far:
                                                 London                                           Manchester
A bus ride                              £1.40 on Oystercard                   £1 on the Magicbus
Rent                                       £575 (& that's in zone 6!)           £325 (25 minute bus ride from centre)
Randomly, a tea at CN     £1.85 in, £1.75 out                      £1.75 in, £1.65 out (don't ask me why!)
Lunch & drink at a cafe   Like, £1,000 & one kidney         £5, standard

Literally, my life has become a perpetual price comparison but for once in my life, I'm coming up better off and I rather like it!

Three. This is by far the biggest discovery that I have made in moving my entire life 200 miles northwest, and perhaps my biggest entire life discovery so far in my little life. I can fit my complete existence into the confines of a teeny tiny tincan car. If you know me well enough you will agree that this is somewhat of a mean feat. All my worldly shite in a Peugeot 107 and not only did it all fit, but that beaut of a little red rocket car managed to cart it on a 4 hour drive up several motorways at no less than 70 miles per hour without even a hitch. I did manage to shift a lot of crap from my life in the weeks leading up to moving and I'll admit, most of it was work-related or clothes that I hadn't worn for three years. I could still do with getting shot of a good 10-15% more of what I now own. But it's all cool because I managed to cram what I own into my car so elegantly that I had perfect rear and side mirror views and both blind spots absolutely clear. Dadworth, be proud! Not only has the whole packing process highlighted how much stuff I don't actually need to lead a normal existence, the unpacking process has too – or more like, the lack of unpacking. Basically, I have proved that I can survive on a thousand different combinations of the same couple of clothing items day in day out and that, my friends, is goals. Or whatever the kids say.

For the last 10 days I have stayed in Phil's student digs with two awesome female flatmates but I'm super excited to have finally just found a room of my own. I couldn't have had it better really in terms of price, location, fab housemates, clean premises and just about everything! It was the first place (out of many, I have to add) that I walked into, took a deep breath and thought, “This is the one...” and I've fidgeted excitedly with crossed fingers and toes ever since to hear from the live-in landlady, “We think you will make a great addition to the house.”

So far Manchester, so good.

The first four days

Sunday, 10 May 2015

I'm here. I've done it. I've packed up all of my belongings into their designated boxes and bags, I've shipped them in my tiny Peugeot 107 and made the four hour motorway madness drive to Manchester. I've even made it Facebook Official - I now live in the north. Or 'oop north' as all my friends and family prefer me to quip.

I'm currently looking for somewhere to call home for the next few little whiles. The south of Manchester is where I'm at and what I know best; ye olde faithful university corridor will hardly let me down. The thought of being on Europe's busiest £1 bus network and just a few minute's walk from the tastiness that is Curry Mile fills me with such joy, not to mention being close to the lovely city centre and being closer still to the people I already know up here. I had a few days of just chilling out after my mental working weeks that led up to my move but now I'm on it like Sonic, zipping e-mails left, right and centre on Spare Room Dot Com, looking for that little space that I can call my own.

Every now and then, that little sock-in-the-guts feeling of 'I'm never going home' hits me. And where even is home at the moment? I'm in a limbo of nothingness: my belongings stacked neatly against the bedroom wall of somebody else's house, my fixed address anything but. I'm a postal nightmare. But home will always be East London - an area of the country that I haven't resided in for the best part of 10 years. That little district that I was so eager to flee from as a young'un, but now I look at with fondness. Many things have changed in East London what with all the recent Olympic development and the momentum that has continued with that, and I guess in a way there's a lot that reminds me of home in Manchester. Maybe that's why I feel so damn comfortable here?

Yesterday, in a bid to clear my mind and my soul and stretch my legs more than my Surrey life ever could (which, if you know the amount of stairs it hosted at work and home, is quite a lot) I joined Phil and the University Of Manchester Hiking Club for a trip out to the Peak District. On this grey and drizzly day, we headed out in our copious amounts of waterproof layers in search of the summit of Win Hill. Our little hike took us from Hope railway station in the midst of the Derbyshire countryside on an undulating path out to the Ladybower Reservoir, via a packed lunch stop surrounded by future Christmas trees. We then dug deep and rediscovered our hardcore to tackle the extreme elevation up to the peak of Win Hill. It was tough but ever so worth it. That moment when you summit and you take a deep breath and suddenly feel so clear and 'with it' with everything, is incomparable to anything else. I will definitely be making regular hikes a part of my summer repertoire. Maybe you should too? Who says it has to be grim oop North anyway? Bring on the summer.

It's hard to know exactly what to say about how I feel on the matter, when it's a fact that hasn't entirely sunken in yet. At the moment, I feel like I'm up for a usual kind of stay. A little holiday, maybe, apart from I've packed all of my belongings (bar the kitchen sink). I thank my lucky stars that it's at least an area of the country I've become quite familiar with since autumn last year; I'm completely without that alien-esque feeling you get when discovering a city for the very first time. Yes, there are many areas of this glorious city that I haven't even begun to come across yet, but I'm certain that I'm going to have a good time finding out. I feel positive and confident, I feel nervously excited for what may come, I feel wonderful and weird and wired. And best of all, I feel like I've already shaken off that shattered feeling that Surrey left me with towards the end. It's like turning to a crisp white blank page in a well-loved and worn-out notebook. I'm ready for a fresh start, my new beginning.