Box Hill Japanese Car Show London Eye & Blue Man Group Wales Isle of Wight
Japanese Tuning Show 2007 8th Open Tae Kwon-Do International World Championships Japanese Auto Extravaganza 2007 Angela's Funeral
Stomp Menorca Ran Out Of Petrol Paignton Zoo & Plymouth

During 2007, my relationship with Marie flourished and we went on a week long holiday with each other at the end of August and also enjoyed a few weekends away too, including Wales, Isle of Wight, Norfolk and Plymouth. We celebrated our one year anniversary together on 11/11/2007 and went to Southsea and visited the Spinnaker Tower.

I continued my weekly Tae Kwon-Do training and on 05/03/2007 I sustained my first visible injury. Whilst feeling physically exhausted, I received a kick to my face which split open my upper lip. I was surprised that my front teeth were still in-situ after the impact. There was blood everywhere and my instructor advised me to get it stitched up in hospital. I went to the Crawley Hospital walk-in centre where they chose to glue it, steristrip it, bandage it and give me my first tetanus booster since 1993. On 14/11/2007 I did my first grading since 1995 and it went quite smoothly with no major errors. There were a few minor areas which I knew weren't perfect during the grading including forgetting to kihap on my first counter attack in the 3-step sparring and my walking stances could have been longer. At the beginning of the next lesson I was given the relieving news that I passed the grading and I also received my new green belt too. It took a lot of preparation with the help of Marie during the weeks before the grading by learning the Korean terminology from the TAGB syllabus. I am extremely grateful for her assistance. I was extremely nervous / anxious during the week before the grading and hated the pressure I was under, I was really stressed. But once I got started in the grading, my mind switched off and I performed quite well.

I persisted with my soup diet and also started running once a week after work to compliment my Tae Kwon-Do. I did this for a couple of months from September but stopped when the weather got colder and evenings got darker. I started running again at the end of February 2008.

My eBay fest continued and I made a profit of 322 throughout the year, including selling car magazines, car books and other stuff I no longer wanted. This year's collection of 20 pence coins totalled 110.60.

Box Hill Japanese Car Show (3rd March):

The was the first time I had attended the regular Japanese car show held at Box Hill, Surrey. This one was organised by the Toyota MR2 Owners Club / MR2OC, but was open to owners of all makes of Japanese cars. After washing my car, I arrived at the meet between 11:30 - 12:00 and soon discovered that I should have arrived earlier as the main car park was jam packed. So, along with many others, I had to park along the side of the quiet road leading up Box Hill, away from the main attraction. In the car park, there was probably less than 100 cars on show, so was a much smaller event than others which I have attended at other sites. After walking around a couple of times, I left after about 30 - 45 minutes so it was the shortest amount of time I have spent at a Japanese car show. If there was room to park my car in the car park, I would have stayed longer.

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London Eye & Blue Man Group (31st March):

Me, Marie and two of her friends (Amy & her boyfriend Ian) went on a day trip to London, partly as a present to Ian who had his birthday during the week. Our first stop was The London Eye. Our four tickets had been pre-booked so we cut out most of the queue. On the slow gyration of The London Eye we saw impressive views of London, including the Houses Of Parliament, Big Ben Clock Tower, Downing Street and the British Telecom Tower in the distance. From there, we had lunch in Covent Garden before having a wander around shops including Leicester Square.

Our main event of the day was seeing the Blue Man Group at the New London Theatre starting in the early evening. The show was fantastic and we were lucky enough to have a very good seating position a few rows back from the stage. It's difficult to describe the show as I reckon it's quite unique. It's not exactly a musical or a play, but more of a slightly surreal performance of innovative sound & vision with humour mixed in. I would definitely like to see them again. After the performance, there was a photo opportunity in the foyer where members of the audience were given the chance to have their photos taken with individual members of The Blue Man Group. We had our photo taken too. From there, we enjoyed a meal in China Town. The restaurant we dined in was the largest restaurant I had been in which consisted of 3 large floors. After our sizeable meal, we made our way to the Tube station at Piccadilly Circus to return to Waterloo station. As it was night time, our experience of the Tube that day wasn't an uncomfortable one for which it has a reputation of having.

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Wales (5th May - 6th May):

After buying some alcoholic beverages and snacks at Tescos, Marie & I left the supermarket at 15:40 and made our way to Cardiff. Unfortunately, the journey of 170 miles took over four hours due to a crash which blocked the M4 and the expected wrong turns I took when I got to Cardiff. The crash probably didn't block the motorway, it was likely that the knob heads working for the Highways Agency thought it would be a good idea to close off more lanes than necessary. Crossing the Severn Bridge cost 5.10, it was largest bridge I have seen before.

I started introducing the alcohol to my system shortly after arriving at James's home opposite Cardiff's Millennium Stadium. By the time the seven of us left to go out to a club after playing Street Fighter 2 on a games console, I was quite drunk and was nearly sick while walking to the town centre. Cardiff town centre was heaving, with lots of bars and a lot busier than Crawley would have been. We got a taxi to The Point where it was Bogiez night which was a mixture of metal & rock (it wasn't my scene). The place was full of freaks with spiky hair. While there, I only had one drink 'cos I was already pissed and subsequently dozed off.

Afterwards, while walking back to the town centre for a kebab, I pushed James into some bushes. He and his Brothers then got revenge and deposited myself into some bushes too. At one point, Rima started talking to a stranger who looked like he was suffering from the adverse effects of excessive alcohol consumption. He confirmed this by throwing up over Rima's shoes, which she wasn't pleased about at all.

The following day, we went shopping and stopped off at a pancake shop where I chose the filling of cheese, ham & pineapple. As expected, the girls with us were attracted to the clothes shops and I bought some socks for Marie from Topshop. Marie & I left Cardiff at 17:30 and the journey home was much quicker, taking only 2 hours, 45 minutes with no hold ups.

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Isle of Wight (25th May - 28th May):

Marie & I decided to have a short break together on the Isle of Wight over the bank holiday weekend. Due to a road closure, we had to take a detour on our way to Southampton. We managed to get on the ferry just in time, only 10 minutes before its scheduled departure at 21:00, which was a relief. I persuaded Marie to take her car 'cos I was a bit worried about my larger car getting damaged in the confines of the ferry.

We arrived at East Cowes at about 22:00 then drove to Sandringham Hotel which is based on the seafront in Sandown. We chose to have sandwiches left for us in our room that night due to us missing the evening dinner 'cos of our expected late arrival. The room with adjoining bathroom was basic but sufficient for our needs. The evening meals were alright, but nothing special. Our fumbling waiter was quite pleasant, I found him amusing.

Unfortunately, crappy weather was forecast for Sunday & Monday so we chose to make the most of the OK weather and get most of the stuff we wanted to get done on the Saturday. On Saturday morning, we went to Black Gang Chine, which turned out to be very kiddy orientated, which we knew it was going to be but we wanted to reminisce. We still enjoyed it though. We had separately both previously been there, I visited 19 years ago with my Dad at the end of August / beginning of September 1988. I took along photos taken of me as a kid nearly two decades ago and I gave Marie the task of taking photos of myself in the same position. The position of some of the exhibits differed slightly to what was in my photos as some had moved and some of them had been given a new lick of paint too.

Later we then visited The Needles Park. I had also been here when I was younger. We went down to the beach via the chair lift and visited a couple of the attractions in the park including glass making and candy making demonstrations, both of which were interesting.

As expected, on Sunday it rained, just about all day long. We braved the elements and had a walk around the small number of shops in Sandown then had lunch on the pier. I also had a rather nostalgic play of the arcade game Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. It was probably 16 years ago since I last played the game.

After leaving the hotel on Monday at about 11:00, we went to Waltzing Waters in Ryde which is a water and lighting special effects show. The pictures on their web site don't really do it justice. Afterwards, the evil side of me had the idea that it would be amusing if someone was to squirt lots of washing up liquid into the display between performances, that would be very funny and I do wonder if anyone has done that yet. While killing time waiting for the ferry departure in the afternoon, we gave up trying to find somewhere to eat near the ferry port in East Cowes so we shared a nourishing meal of a Terry's Chocolate Orange while sitting in Marie's car.

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Japanese Tuning Show 2007 (3rd June):

During April, I nominated my car to be entered into the Autoglym Top Jap Car Concours Competition held at Silverstone. To nominate my car, I had to email photographs and its technical specification to the organiser of the competition. A week after the closing date in May, I was elated when I received an email informing me my car had been selected as a finalist for the show. By being selected as a finalist, I was given two free entry tickets to the show which was a good thing seeing as entry to the show was 15 each.

When my Dad & I arrived at the show, we gave my car a bit of a clean to get it looking perfect. It was pretty much clean beforehand as it had recently had a wash & wax in preparation for the show. I think there were about 15 other cars in the competition parking area. During the day, there was track action, including racing and drifting. Unfortunately, while coming off a parade lap of the circuit, an old Nissan 240Z Super Samurai suffered an engine bay fire next to the competition parking area. The Nissan clubs were out in force as there were loads of 350Zs and 300ZXs at the show. A yellow / gold Nissan 300ZX caught my eye, I adored the colour but I am not too fond of the body kit.

My car didn't win which wasn't surprising seeing as some of the cars in the competition had thousands and thousands of pounds spent on them. My Dad spoke to an owner of a Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 6 and I think he said he had spent over 60,000 on modifications on his car. I think a red Subaru Imprezza was the winner which had a mirror placed at an angle under the rear of the car showing how spotless it was underneath too! There was a photo of it in the August edition of Japanese Performance magazine with the rear end of my car in the background. I wasn't expecting the weather to be as good as it was and subsequently got rather sun burnt and had to have the next day off of work due to feeling rather ill and burnt. My face was peeling during the following week.

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8th Open Tae Kwon-Do International World Championships (1st July):

Microsoft AutoRoute's estimated journey time for the 150 miles trip was 2 hours, 14 minutes. Unfortunately, due to driving south for 10 miles after leaving the M42, instead of north into Birmingham, the journey took 3 hours. My Dad & I arrived at Birmingham's National Indoor Arena at about 10:30 and I parked my car next to a rather nice Maserati. I then got pissed off with the site's parking system. The first parking ticket machine I went to wasn't working. I found another two but found out that the fucking things wouldn't accept 2 coins or give change either, which thoroughly pissed me off, so I had to get change from the NIA's Box Office. The whole fiasco took 20 minutes of my time which I would have rather of spent inside watching the Tae Kwon-Do. As I already knew, entry to the event wasn't cheap at 25 per ticket. As I paid for my Dad's entry, including petrol & parking, it was costing me about 100 to attend the event.

The arena floor was split into 26 areas, so there was a lot going on at the same time. When we got in, the competitors were doing their patterns, which was a relief as I didn't want to miss the sparring which commenced later on. I saw Ruth James, one of my instructors, do a pattern, she did look good, but unfortunately didn't win anything. Some of the sparring got quite heated and I could see the Argentineans were getting a bit carried away. The medics were put into use throughout the event and I saw one competitor being stretchered off. Strangely, there didn't seem to be as many Koreans present as I expected. During one of the boy's black belt sparring matches, one of the competitors quickly gave up and refused to continue. Tut, tut, he obviously didn't take notice of the third & fourth tenants of Tae Kwon-Do - perseverance & indomitable spirit. Towards the end, I spoke to some members of the Crawley club and found out that we did win some medals / trophies.

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Japanese Auto Extravaganza 2007 (21st July):

Due to having great difficulty finding the East of England Showground in Peterborough after leaving the M11, I arrived there slightly later than expected at 09:30. Even though I had been here twice before, I still managed to get lost and I wasn't the only one as there were other Japanese cars looking rather lost in an otherwise deserted business estate. It would seem that by the lack of signage, the local authorities do not want people to be aware of the existence of the showground. I was in an absolutely foul mood when I parked my car on the Prelude UK plot. As with last year's event, weather was not a good point, which put a slight dampener on the event (no pun intended). There were a few more fifth generation Honda Preludes on the Prelude UK plot than there was the previous year. When a space became available, I moved my car from the second row to the front row next to a black Type-S which I had parked next to the previous year. Presumably, because of the weather, the event wasn't as busy as previous years and I noted the unfortunate absence of the Subaru SVX club, but there were still hundreds of cars on show.

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Angela's Funeral (23rd August):

The death and funeral of a relative can't be described as a highlight, but it was a memorable moment. My Aunt, Angela Flatt, unfortunately died at the age of 46 in East Surrey Hospital on 17/08/2007 following a spontaneous subarachnoid haemorrhage. I hadn't seen her for years due to family conflicts, but I spoke to her eldest Daughter Georgina in a local night club during July last year. During better times, I joined Angela and her family on a holiday at Pontin's in Camber Sands during the eighties. My Cousin Vicki contacted me and informed me of the tragic news and gave me contact details for Tracie (the youngest Daughter of Angela), for my Dad to contact her regarding the funeral.

Being at the funeral felt rather awkward due to the family conflicts, but we were made to feel welcome by some family members including Vicki, her Mum Kathleen and Sister Diane. The last time I had seen Vicki was probably 1991 or 1992 but I still easily recognised her. I also spoke to Warren, my Cousin who was in the same class as me in secondary school. He seems to be doing well and is expected to become a father shortly. It was obvious by the amount of people that turned up, that Angela was a popular, highly respected person which was reflected in local newspaper articles in the Crawley Observer and Crawley News. It's a massive shame that the family has been divided and I didn't get to know Angela and her family more in the past.

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Stomp (30th August):

This was a birthday treat for Jenna, Marie's Sister, who was celebrating her 18th birthday. Members of Marie's family (Mum, Dad, Sister, Uncle and his partner), Jenna's boyfriend Gavin and myself had a day out in London with the main attraction being going to see Stomp. Before the show, on our way to Covent Garden to have a wander around the shops and something to eat, we had our photo taken by the The London Eye, unfortunately, Marie's Mum was taking the photo so isn't in it with us nor was Miles whom we met up with later on.

It's not easy to describe Stomp, it's sort of an energetic musical, but has no singing or any speech at all. The performers use a range of instruments to create the music and rhythm, including stuff like dustbin lids and brooms. Clever, surprisingly effective and entertaining. Being above stage level, we had quite a good view of the performance. Afterwards, we spotted one of the performers sitting by a rear entrance having a cigarette and we were able to get his autograph on one of the show's programmes / leaflets.

We then headed to T.G.I. Friday's in Covent Garden for drinks and dinner where I enjoyed some very nice non-alcoholic cocktails. I highly recommend "Andre the Peachlifter". The time was on my mind as Marie and I had to get up early the next day to catch our flight to Menorca.

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Menorca (31st August - 7th September):

Marie and I got back to my house later than desired after our trip to London, subsequently I got no sleep whatsoever before being collected by a taxi to take us to Gatwick Airport for our holiday together. While the coach was taking us to Menorca Mar, our apartment complex, in Cala'n Bosch, I felt like a zombie due to being awake for over 24 hours. It didn't take me long to drop off to sleep once we got in to our room, so most of our first day on holiday was pretty much wasted by me catching up on some much needed sleep.

Our apartment was quite nice, consisting of four separate areas, The bedroom was large with two single beds pushed next to each other and a large wall mounted fan. The lounge area had a table & chairs (I placed all my birthday cards on the table), sofa, two matching armchairs and a large wall mounted fan, like the one in the bedroom, but this one didn't work. The bathroom had a shower in the bath, but the toilet flush didn't work properly due to a dodgy top mounted flush button. Marie later figured out that if the button was pressed with the top of the toilet tank off, it then worked. The kitchen was small and functional, we only used the fridge. Our patio area was kitted with ordinary white plastic garden table & chairs, access was via a large sliding window / door in our lounge. I prefered to use the lounge's more comfortable armchairs on the patio rather than the white plastic chairs which we were supposed to use. Menorca Mar, our apartment complex had a very large swimming pool which looked very nice, especially in photos.

This holiday was quite different to previous holidays I had been on in recent years. Excluding family holidays with my parents, my previous holidays were all with friends and generally lots of alcohol was involved. This holiday was just Marie and myself and we didn't feel the need to go out on bar crawls consuming loads of cocktails. I didn't get drunk even once on this holiday, I consumed hardly any alcohol.

Our apartment complex was a few minutes walk from the sea, but unfortunately the beach was rocky and was not suitable for relaxing on. The town centre with marina, many bars and popular picturesque beaches was about a 15 - 20 minutes walk away and we visited there on 03/09/2007. A couple of days later, we visited the local water park, but it was a bit windy on that day so the water was very cold. The place was no way as large as the water parks I had visited while in Kos and Corfu. Unfortunately, Marie managed to get a bit sun burnt.

On our final full day in Menorca, we went on an excursion which was a tour of the island's main attractions. The first stop was at a church located on Mont Toro which is the highest peak on the island then we went on to have a wander around Port de Fornells which was a quiet seaside village. From there, the coach took us to Cala'n Porter where we had a complementary drink in Cova d'en Xoroi which are caves carved into the coast's rock face which have partly been converted into a bar / nightclub. We were then taken to Cala Galdana where we had lunch and Marie bought some presents for friends & family. We were then taken to see an equestrian show at Son Martorellet then onto some sort of large shop selling many leather goods which I didn't see much point in. On our final day, after having lunch, we took a few photos of ourselves on the rocky seafront.

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Ran Out Of Petrol (9th November):

On this day, my car ran out of petrol. This was the first time (and hopefully last time) it has ever happened to me. Yes, I'm a silly billy. It was parked outside my home, so luckily I wasn't driving along a road at the time. I started my car's engine then got out to clear off some leaves off of the car. Shortly afterwards, the revs dropped and engine died. This worried me. I got in the car and while trying to restart the engine, I realised that it had ran out of petrol. Fortunately, there's a petrol station only five minutes walk away from my house. I had to buy a petrol can (4.99) and put 5 litres of Total 95 RON petrol in it. It was the first time I had used 95 RON petrol in my car as I always use Shell V-Power and Optimax before that, I have also used BP's Ultimate once or twice. Once I emptied the petrol can's contents into my car's petrol tank, my car started up without any problems. I then went straight to my local Shell petrol station and filled up with Shell V-Power. Subsequently, I was a little late getting to work that morning.

In my defence though, circumstances were different that week and the previous week as my place of work was at Crawley Hospital in my home town instead of East Surrey Hospital in Redhill. My usual daily 26 miles round trip taking about between 30 - 40 minutes each way had been drastically shortened to 3.5 miles (taking the long route) taking about 10 minutes each way in slow moving traffic. I knew the shorter trip was less fuel efficient, but I underestimated by how much. Under normal driving, I can drive 50 miles with my fuel low warning light illuminated. But this time, I was only able to drive 35 miles with the light on before it died, 15 miles less than usual. It was this that caught me out.

Oh well, you haven't lived until your car has run out of petrol.

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Paignton Zoo & Plymouth (17th November - 18th November):

Marie & I wanted a weekend break and after consideration chose to go to Devon to see an old friend Carol Harbour which I had been meaning to do for a while. Via the motorways, we went straight to Paignton Zoo south of Torquay, which was recommended by a fellow Prelude UK member and arrived there at about midday, just in time as my bladder was about to burst. We both quite enjoyed the zoo, there were many animals including lions, tigers, monkeys, gorillas, leopards, elephants, camels, giraffes, zebras, goats, baboons, meerkats, porcupines, crocodiles and snakes. Unfortunately, there was a sad moment when we saw a dead baby baboon with presumably its mother mourning over its dead body. There was a sign by the enclosure from the management stating that they are aware and it is a part of the normal grieving process of the mother. In one area, there was a rope bridge which we had fun on where Marie tried her best to make me lose my balance while walking across it.

We left the zoo at about 16:00 and drove to our hotel room at the Premier Inn in Plymouth. We had our dinner in the Beefeater restaurant next door to the hotel, where I made two fantastic discoveries - Kopparberg Pear Cider and maple pork ribs with bourbon & black barbecue sauce.

After visiting Sainsbury's the following afternoon, we went to see Carol & Bob in Stoke, Plymouth and enjoyed reminiscing over old times and Tiny Computers where we used to work. We also thoroughly enjoyed the homemade dinner at their house. We took the cross country route home, mainly via the A303, instead of the motorways, it's more direct but slower. We had hoped to have stopped off at Stonehenge, but unfortunately it was too dark when we got there so had to give it a miss.

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