|Three Birthdays In One Weekend||Ferraris at Horsham on Good Friday||Peterborough & March Easter Weekend||Italian Car Day|
|Dirty Dancing||Japanese Auto & Performance Car Show - South||JapShow 2008||London Pride Parade + Wayne & Miles's Civil Partnership|
|Crete Holiday||Japanese Auto Extravaganza 2008||JapShow Finale 2008||Tae Kwon-Do Grading|
|Tae Kwon-Do South East Championships||Marie's New Car|
My relationship with Marie continued throughout 2008 and we enjoyed a weekend away in Cambridgeshire during March and went on our second summer holiday together during August. We are planning to get a place together but that wish is being delayed due to difficulty in me finding a new job in the area we would like to move to.
My soup diet continued and my once per week running sessions which I started in 2007 started up again in February but later tailed off and became rather infrequent because I found them quite boring and didn't feel I was getting enough benefit from them as I had hoped. However, I continued to attend weekly Tae Kwon-Do lessons and passed another grading during October.
2008 heralded my 30th birthday. I felt that entering my 30s was nothing to celebrate, so didn't. However, I went to an oriental buffet restaurant with Marie's family, which I always enjoy. The restaurant is named AM Restaurant and Marie & I like to call it "Adam & Marie's Restaurant". I never grumble when chicken satay is present. While at the restaurant, I was presented with probably one of the best ever birthday presents I had ever had. To find out about it, you'll have to wait until next year!
My eBay fest continued and I made a profit of £145.99 throughout the year, which was less than previous years, but I was happy to convert stuff which I no longer wanted into money. This year's collection of 20 pence coins totalled £117.40.
During the early Saturday afternoon, I let Marie give my hair blonde highlights using a kit which we bought from Tescos. On the Saturday, it was the 60th birthday of Sue, Marie's Aunt who lives in Selsey. She had a big birthday party in a golf club, which was probably halfway between Selsey and Chichester. There was a live band in our hall performing songs from the 60s and 70s. I decided I would be drinking alcohol that night and subsequently got a little bit drunk.
On the Sunday it was the birthdays of Marie's Mum Lynne and one of the kids which Marie nannies for named Danni. In the afternoon, we went to Danni's 10th birthday party at Laser Run which I was quite looking forward to as I've always wanted to go to a Laser Run (yes, I'm a big kid). There was just under 20 of us, split into two teams. Apart from Marie, Danni's Dad (Andy) and myself, all participants were school kids of roughly Danni's age. We each had a laser gun connected to a slip over vest with sensors on the front and back which detect shots from the laser guns of the opponents. If shot, an alert would sound and the shot person's laser gun would not operate for about 5 seconds. Andy & I were on a mission to shoot each other as much as possible. We had 3 games of about 10 minutes each with drink breaks in between. When exiting the play area, the staff downloaded the scores which were stored on each laser gun, into a computer for us all to see on a large screen. At one point, Marie received quite a knock when a stupid girl ran down a ramp without looking, straight into the side of Marie. I didn't see it, but I heard the collision. Strangely, the young girl didn't seem hurt, but Marie was still in pain over a week later. After the games, we sat in a party room with music on where the kids ate party food. Marie & I chose not to eat because we were going out for a meal later.
In the evening, Marie & I joined other family members at the The Hatchgate to celebrate Lynne's birthday. This is a restaurant with a very unusual menu. The last time we visited during January, I ate crocodile steak with chunky Cajun sauce for my main course and also sampled ostrich steak, camel steak and wild boar steak which I had never tasted before. Other dishes which I sampled on that day which I had already tasted before included swordfish and sea bass. This time, for my main course I had kangaroo steak and Marie had shark, which she didn't like so I ended up eating most of her main course as well. I also tasted a piece of Beryl's Kudu steak.
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Marie & I went to Horsham town centre so I could admire a collection of Ferraris. After paying to park in the multi-storey car park where I usually park, I realised I had just wasted my money because it was free to park on bank holidays, which quite pissed me off! There were probably about 20 Ferraris in total, ranging from 70's icons to modern day cars such as the F430 and 612 Scaglietti. My personal favourites were the 308, 328 and Testarossa.
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Marie & I wanted a weekend away so I chose Peterborough as the first half of our break. Between 1989 to 1992, I lived in a town called March in Cambridgeshire. Peterborough is a large city only 20 miles away, which I visited only a few times during my childhood while living in the area. We left early in the morning as I estimated the journey would take over 2 hours. Over the last few years, I had driven to Peterborough a few times to attend the annual Japanese Auto Extravaganza car shows held during the summer. Unfortunately, it was quite cold this weekend and it even snowed, including during the out journey and while in the town centre.
After parking at Queensgate Shopping Centre, we had a slow walk around the indoor shopping centre and the shops outside too. I bought a small rechargeable LED torch, which recharges in a car's 12 volt cigarette lighter socket. I was very impressed with it because it is quite compact and doesn't look out of place when in-situ inside the car. I was also over the moon when I found a £1 shop selling engine spray degreaser (yes, how sad). In the past I didn't have trouble buying the stuff but over the last year or so, I hadn't found anywhere selling the stuff cheap and I refused to pay anything over £1 for a spray can seeing as I mainly used it to degrease my oil drain pan after oil changes. Why spend about £5 on a spray can in Halfords where I can buy 5 for the same price in a £1 shop, especially when it is used for a very unimportant task? I stocked up with about 5 cans. After having lunch in MacDonald's, to my delight, it started snowing!
After our shopping trip, we booked in at an "Express By Holiday Inn" which overlooked the East Of England Showground where the Japanese Auto Extravaganza car shows were held. In the evening, we went back to Peterborough for dinner. After driving around in circles for half hour, we finally managed to find somewhere to park then headed to The Grain Barge. This is a Chinese restaurant on a boat docked on a river. Me, my parents and my Dad's friend Tony had eaten here once probably around 1992 and thought it was great, which is why I singled this restaurant out for tonight. The food and service was good, but not as good as I remembered it. But that might be partly because I have had loads of Chinese meals since over the last 16 years and a Chinese meal would have to be something very special for it to be regarded as very good.
The following morning, I woke up to a blanket of snow outside, which I was very pleased with. Here is a photo I took with my mobile phone which I owned at the time. After removing the snow off of my car, our next destination was March, where I spent over 2 and a half years of my childhood. We walked through the town centre and all the way along West End, the long street I lived in which partly follows the River Nene. We stopped outside number 22, the approximately 400 years old house I used to live in, so Marie could take a photo. As I have been unfortunate enough to reside in Crawley for the past 16 years, I enjoyed the idyllic views and relatively peaceful environment I was in. We both agreed we would like to return sometime when the weather was warmer.
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My Dad & I arrived at about 10:30 at Italian Car Day at Brooklands in the hope that it would be better than the last time we went there. We last went to the event on 10/09/2006 and it was a big disappointment compared to the event I went to on my own in May 2005. This was because today's event, like the May 2005 event was organised by Auto Italia magazine, whereas the September 2006 event wasn't.
I was in heaven, surrounded by fantastic Italian sports cars. The highlights for me were the Lancia Stratoses, Ferrari 288 GTO (spiritual forerunner to the F40), Ferrari Enzo, Ferrari F40, Ferrari F50, Lamborghini Diablos, Lamborghini Countaches, Lamborghini Murciélago and an MG Metro 6R4 (not Italian, but still rather special). Sorry, I'm not sure of the correct pleural spellings of some of those cars.
My Dad liked the few examples of the rare Alfa Romeo SZ which were on show, but I've never been a big fan of them. I was intrigued to discover a white Ferrari 208 GTS, which is fundamentally a Ferrari 308 with a small, by Ferrari standards, 1991 cc (2 litre) V8 engine. I never knew such a car existed until then. It seems rather sacrilegious to have a such a relatively small underpowered engine in a Ferrari. There was a small collection of Fiat X1/9 / Bertone X/19 cars, I've always had a soft spot for those small Italian 2 seater sports cars, and nearly bought one years ago. As with previous events, there was a hill run competition where the cars had to speed up the Brooklands Test Hill as quickly as possible from a standing start.
Even in the public car park, there were some flashy non-Italian cars including a Ford GT, Ultima GTR, and, of course, my own Honda Prelude 2.2VTi.
Here are some more photos which were taken on the day.
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Me, Marie, Marie's Sister Jenna, Marie's Mum Lynne and some of Lynne's friends went to see the live musical Dirty Dancing in London. After getting off the train at Waterloo Station we headed towards the theatre but stopped off at a Ha Ha Bar & Grill for dinner. From there, we had to hurriedly make our way to the Aldwych Theatre to get there by 19:30.
The show was quite enjoyable and I managed to recognise some parts from the film, which I hadn't seen for many years. I didn't notice any acting hiccups and it seemed to go smoothly. For me, the best song was the relatively little known "Kellerman's Anthem" by The Emile Bergstein Chorale. It's a strange song, which I quite like and people think I'm weird for liking it.
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Japanese Auto & Performance Car Show - South (JAPS) was a car show held at Knebworth Park in Stevenage, Hertfordshire. I missed out going to an alternative Japanese car show during the previous month due to poor weather. I had spent about 5 hours during the previous day at Marie's house washing and waxing my car in preparation for the show. Marie & I arrived at the event at around 10:40 and joined a short queue to gain entry to the park. The was a combined event at the park, half were Japanese cars and the other half were classic cars. There were probably a lot more classic cars on show that Japanese cars. As I arrived early, there were not many other Hondas in the Honda parking area and not many more turned up later during the day. I was parked with two CRXs, a 4th generation Prelude, a 3rd generation Prelude and a rather tatty chaved up Civic Coupé.
There were types of show & shine competitions throughout the day where people's cars would be judged in their separate manufacturer categories and I chose to enter my car. Without trying to sound big headed, seeing the quality of some of the Hondas I was parked with, I didn't think it would be difficult to win! When the Hondas were called up, I parked my car in the competition area, where it was joined by only four other Hondas (a red 4th generation Prelude, a red CRX, a black CRX and a white 3rd generation Prelude). I was interviewed on microphone by the show's commentator which I was a little nervous about, but once I got started blabbering on about my car, I was fine. Unsurprisingly, my car was declared winner in the Honda category and I was awarded a mounted wooden plaque. Unfortunately, the picture on the plaque is of a third generation CRX / Civic Del Sol. Oh well. Later, a nice new shape grey Accord and a fantastic red Honda NSX-T parked in the Honda area (I adore the Honda NSX). If the NSX arrived earlier and entered into the competition, I doubt my car would have won. The individual winners in the separate manufacturer categories were later recalled to the competition area so that the overall winner could be declared. Including my car, there were 8 or 9 cars in the final. My car didn't win, but I wasn't despondent due to seeing the competition my relatively stock car was up against and I was happy that my car was declared best Honda. I think an orange 3rd generation Mazda RX-7 was declared overall winner.
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Only a week after JAPS, Marie & I attended JapShow held at Santa Pod Raceway in Bedfordshire whilst suffering from chest infection, probably caught at JAPS the previous weekend. I washed my car during the evening before, but didn't dry it off because of rain. My bed side alarm woke up Marie & I at the very early time of 05:00 and we left home at about 06:25. With the help of Marie's Tom Tom sat nav, the journey of 112 miles took a couple of hours.
When we arrived, the problems started. I planned to park my car on the allotted Prelude UK club plot, but it wasn't planned well before the date. Later I found out that the proper procedure is that vehicle passes are sent out by Santa Pod Raceway to the individual car clubs for them to be distributed to their attending members in advance. Unfortunately this didn't happen so when I arrived with no vehicle pass in my windscreen, the marshal directing vehicles assumed I was a spectator and directed me into a muddy car park. After realising there had been a cock up, I went back to the entrance gate and waited at the office for 10 minutes. The ladies working inside didn't have my pass and suggested it was probably on the Prelude UK club plot. So I had to drive back to the visitors parking area, walk to the Prelude UK club plot, get my vehicle pass, walk back to the car then drive to the Prelude UK club plot with vehicle pass (so the marshals would allow me access).
The Prelude UK club plot was very muddy, almost swamp like in parts and it was extremely windy too. Subsequently, my car's tyres and wheel arches were caked in mud, which wasn't ideal seeing as it was at a car show. I spent about 2 hours cleaning my car with my synthetic shammy leather and bucket of water and used a screwdriver to pick the mud out of the tyre treads. There were about 30 Preludes in the allotted 45 car plot, only 3 of which were 5th generation Preludes including mine, a black Type-S and a blue 2.2VTi. There was 1 3rd generation Prelude and the rest were 4th generation Preludes.
Whilst sitting inside my car hiding from the strong winds outside, we heard the very noisy Fireforce Jet Car, capable of 270 MPH. At first I didn't know what the noise was. I wondered if it was an earthquake or a bomb! The noise was extraordinarily out of this world causing my car's central rear view mirror to vibrate even though I was parked some distance from the drag strip. It also set off some car alarms.
Marie & I watched some drag racing then walked around the other car clubs. I spotted an absolutely immaculate 1st generation Honda Prelude in silver. It was an old W registration, so registered between August 1980 to July 1981. Considering it was 26-27 years old, it was in pristine condition. We then had lunch at the café before watching the drifting with the associated tyre smoke wafting from the car's wheel arches.
When back at my car, we heard the jet powered car again and I ran to the strip to see it in action. I got there a few seconds before it launched and managed to catch it on video using my digital camera. I think it done the 1/4 mile in 6 seconds, which is very fast! I heard someone say it reached 230 something MPH.
We left the event at about 15:30. Coincidently, I saw Karl James, one of my Tae Kwon-Do instructors, in his Audi A4 estate on the M1 and gave him a wave (what a small world we live in). As expected, the roads were busier on the way home than in the morning and we got home at about 18:00. I was a little bit sun burnt but didn't feel it at the time because of strong winds.
The Prelude UK competition results were announced the next day (Monday). My car was runner up for the best original bodywork to a blue 5th generation Prelude (even though it had rust and mine doesn't) and joint runner up, with a black Prelude Type-S, for best original car overall.
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This day was to celebrate the civil partnership of Marie's Uncle Wayne to his long term partner Miles. They tied the knot in a registry office a couple of weeks prior to this day, but on this day were the actual celebrations. We (Marie, her parents, both of her Sisters Kerrie & Jenna, Kerrie's Daughter Leah, Jenna's boyfriend Gavin and myself) got a train to Waterloo Station and used the London Underground to take us near to our rendezvous point of Baker Street where the London Pride Parade of 2008 was gathering.
The London Pride Parade is a celebration of the gay & lesbian community and this year's fancy dress theme was fairytales, myths & legends. Wayne & Miles had an open top double decker bus hired for that day for friends & family. The fancy dress theme onboard was Pirates. The bus had been decorated before we got there. I wore a horizontally striped T-shirt which was probably more sailor like that pirate, along with a bandana, eye patch and I was wielding a (plastic) cutlass too. My socks, belt and bandana all had the skull & crossbones symbol on them. Most of what I was wearing was bought for me by Marie the previous day. Others on the bus did make more of an effort with their fancy dress and were quite impressive with a number of Jack Sparrow wannabes. I felt a bit underdressed for the occasion.
The start time of 13:00 was delayed by about half hour, I heard someone say that "we are waiting for Boris". I assume Boris, meant Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London who was gracing the event with his presence. Once we got moving, the parade probably took an hour or two. Unfortunately, I don't think the bus driver's clutch control was good, especially as a lot of us were unsteady while standing up and moving around on the bus. The event was very lively, colourful and had an absolutely fantastic atmosphere. Some of the costumes people were wearing were quite eye catching.
After the parade, the bus had to be stripped of its decorations and then we converged on a pub for a few drinks. Before leaving the pub, we all got changed into our evening clothes in the downstairs toilets, ready for the civil partnership ceremony being held on a boat on the River Thames. I wore a bright yellow YSL corduroy shirt, known as my "up chuck" shirt to Marie & Jenna.
We were due to board the boat at 19:00 but there was a mix up on what pier we were supposed to be at so there was a slight delay while the group we were in made our way from our meeting point to Westminster Pier. After everyone boarded the boat (probably about 40 of us in total), the boat moved off and the civil ceremony commenced. The civil ceremony consisted of a slightly weird looking speaker making her speech (she didn't seem to have a neck), the newlyweds made their vows, a close friend of theirs read out lines of one of their favourite songs and Lynne, Marie's Mum, read out a poem she had prepared which was warmly received by everyone. Miles informed Wayne in front of everyone of their forthcoming honeymoon which he had booked. Wayne knew they were going away, but the destinations had been kept a secret up until then. It was announced they were going to Hong Kong, China and Thailand for about two weeks in total. It's difficult to put what I'm trying to say into words, but the ceremony created quite a touching ambiance. Wayne was in tears of happiness (not boo hoo'ing, but his eyes were watery), which is understandable, and a few others were too.
Afterwards, food was available downstairs (the boat had two floors). Marie and I chose to wait for the queue to die down before getting our food. Later on, I got a little bit drunk, mainly on Magners Cider.
Here are some photos which were taken throughout the day.
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During June, Marie & I chose Crete as the destination for our holiday this year and booked a one week holiday through Thomas Cook at a cost of £410 each.
On the Friday afternoon of our flight out, Marie had fun transferring some stuff from her luggage to mine in an attempt to comply with the 15kg luggage weight limit. When at Gatwick Airport, after discovering our flight had been rescheduled from 21:10 to 22:20, we ate dinner then sampled perfumes / after shaves in the large duty-free shop I usually visit when flying from Gatwick.
The flight of 3 hours, 20 minutes on the Boeing 737-800 was a bit bumpy and we were sat one row forward from the rear of the plane. Marie paid to watch a movie called Mad Money, whereas I didn't bother as it didn't appeal to me. Even though we already ate dinner at the airport, we were given free in-flight meals. This was a surprise because we chose not to pay for the meal when booking the holiday in the travel agents. I wonder if those people who did choose to pay for the meal got refunds?
We were transferred from the airport in Crete to our destination of the Sun and Sea Apartments in Hersonissos via a 15-20 minutes taxi journey which we shared with a father and Daughter. Then our problems started. There was no one at our holiday apartment complex to greet us and direct us to our room. We walked around the site and I ran up the street to see if I could find out some information. Everyone was asleep and I couldn't find any kind of reception area or contact telephone number for the management. Other than sleeping by the pool on the sun loungers, there was nothing else to do other than phone the Thomas Cook emergency number using my mobile phone, which I did at 03:06 GMT. They phoned me back and directed me to a notice board located by the pool. On there, there was a note for us saying our room number was 201, I could easily remember that as it is the official top speed of the great Ferrari F40!
Our room was smallish, but sufficient for our needs. However, the bathroom was extremely small, I reckon my car's boot has more space. We had two balconies which was nice, one of which had a view of the swimming pool.
After a shorter than desired sleep, we attended the induction talk at 13:00, held by our holiday rep Scott, who looked very much like one on Marie's Cousins. We chose to pay for the optional extras of air conditioning (the unit was already in the room and we were given the remote control so we could operate it) and the key to the safe. After this we went and did a bit of shopping at the local supermarket across the road from the apartment complex then returned and paid for 3 excursions which came to €180 each (approximately £150 each). After a power nap, we had dinner and cocktails at the apartment complex followed by star gazing on the pool side sun loungers and a phone call to my parents at home.
On the Sunday, we had a long walk through the town to the harbour. I say long because it felt long in the extremely hot weather. At the harbour, we had a freshly squeezed orange juice each in a bar / café overlooking the sea. My feet were quite sore and it seemed my feet were not agreeing with the Geckos (cheap Croc imitations) I was wearing and a small blister had developed on each foot. Subsequently I bought a cheap pair of ankle height socks which had an immediate relieving effect and walking was much less painful from here on. It was probably the best €1.50 I had ever spent.
At about 20:30 we went to the barbecue being held at our apartment complex for the fee of €13 each, where we enjoyed nice lamb souvlakis (Greek lamb kebabs). Later on, all the residents were dancing around the pool and just about everyone ended up in the pool, which we were forewarned about. I didn't plan on getting wet, so Marie & I sat on the sun loungers watching the fun. After changing my mind, I rushed back up to the room and got changed. As soon as I got back down, the apartment complex manager, Giorgos Papadakis, and his sidekick, grabbed me and said "Let us help you" before throwing me in the pool. A short while later while walking back to Marie's sun lounger, a blonde girl grabbed my arm and swung me back in again. She tried it again later on during the night, but I managed to push her in instead. Sadly, Marie couldn't join in the fun as she was suffering the tail end of an ear infection for which had been given antibiotics by her GP, which was unfortunate timing.
On Monday we checked out the local Star Beach and Water Park. We didn't stay long and promptly went back to our apartment complex because it was a lot cheaper and much quieter. While sun bathing, Marie got talking to a fellow resident who gave Marie her life story. Amusingly, a chav kid who was a member of a chav family who were unfortunately staying at the apartment complex banged his head on the floor while diving into the pool and was bleeding. He was taken to hospital where he was X-rayed and given 7 stitches.
We were picked up by coach at 18:25 to take us on our Greek themed night, which was one of the excursions we paid for. We had a brief wander around a quaint village before going into the main event, which consisted of live Greek music, singing & dancing. In the bottom left corner of that dancing photo, you may have noticed a man dressed as a women, who was sitting at our table! Here's a clearer photo of him/her. There were a few hundred of us at the event and a lady sitting on the opposite side of our table to us looked odd, as if she had a congenital syndrome of some sort. Throughout the evening we had free food and drinks. I took the opportunity to consume lots of free wine and got quite pissed by our leaving time of 22:30. After the coach dropped us off at our apartment complex, I drank a bottle of banana colada drink. I then told Giorgos Papadakis (manager of the apartment complex) what sort of cocktails I liked and gave a White Russian as an example. He then made me two cocktails - an Orgasm and a Brazilian night. After finishing the drinks on our pool side balcony, I was very drunk, the room was spinning and I was sick in a bucket beside the bed. Apparently I later passed out.
The next morning, unsurprisingly I woke up with a hangover consisting of a headache and nausea, so I went back to sleep for a couple of hours and then woke up feeling much better. After a bowl of Special K breakfast cereals, I emptied the bucket of sick then relaxed / sun bathed by the swimming pool for a few hours. To our delight, the chav family departed.
In the evening we walked up a quiet road to a quaint local village named Koutouloufari which had lots of bars / taverns. We chose "Steki" as our restaurant for the night. The food was alright, staff were friendly but the service was slow.
On Wednesday we were picked up by coach at 08:20 for the 1.5 hour trip (with other pickups) to a port where we boarded a boat destined for Chrissi Island where we arrived at about 11:30. Chrissi Island is the southern most point in Europe. After queuing in the restaurant for five minutes only to be told that there were no pork burgers left, we made the 5 minute walk from the port / harbour side of the small island to the other side where the much positively talked about Golden Beach was. Golden beach was very nice and very popular but we reckoned the beach back on the other side was just as good and less busy so walked back. To us, Golden Beach didn't live up to its hype. We paid €10 for 2 sun loungers under an umbrella and I wished planet Earth would become stationary for a while as it seemed we had to reposition the umbrella every half hour to keep the strong sun off of us. I briefly paddled in the sea and enjoyed the crystal clear water and golden sand.
On the return coach journey, we saw some fantastic scenery along winding mountain roads. I was thinking I would love to drive my Prelude on these roads. That evening we ate at Crystel Sports Café & Restaurant. I think they can include the word "Sport" in their title because they have lots of wide flat screen TVs unfortunately showing football. I had a pork souvlaki with peanut satay sauce (I absolutely love peanut satay sauce). Fortunately, the chef made too much peanut satay sauce so Marie had a free portion of sauce with her food.
Thursday was our last full day in Crete and was the day of our "Land Rover Great Adventure" excursion run by Safari Club Crete, usually referred to as "Jeep Safari". There was probably about 4 or 5 other Land Rovers in our little convoy on our pre-determined Lassithi Route. Including the driver, there was 9 of us in our Land Rover Discovery - 1 passenger next to the driver, 3 in a row behind and 2 inward facing seats in the rear seating 2 passengers each. Simon was our driver for the day who originally came from the UK but now lives in Crete and is very knowledgeable about Crete and its history. A couple who were in the vehicle with us were local to me, the lady coincidently came from Crawley. The rest of the passengers were made up of a family from Derby and the father of the children looked very familiar. It took me a while to work it out, but I eventually came to the conclusion that he was Siôn Jenkins, the foster parent of Billie-Jo Jenkins who was murdered in 1997. Siôn Jenkins was originally convicted for the murder of Billie-Jo Jenkins but was later declared not guilty following a second appeal. I was convinced that the man sitting with us was Siôn Jenkins but I have since checked out photos of him on the internet and now believe it wasn't him after all, but someone who looked very similar.
The first stop was to observe some Griffin Vultures nesting in cliffs. A telescope was brought along so we could all have a more detailed look.
The next stop was at a scenic viewpoint overlooking the Bay of Mirabello before stopping off at Katharo for a drink and to listen to a talk about fossils of abnormally small animals which lived in the area many years ago. From here we made a couple of stops at Goat Valley where we got the opportunity to feed wild goats. The first herd of goats we encountered were used to people so weren't too scared of us and fed from us. Some even jumped up on the Land Rover's bonnets and roofs in order to be fed, which I found surprising. The second herd of goats were more wild and we were told they can be aggressive so we weren't allowed out of the vehicles to feed them. I found the goat encounter quite fascinating. Also, did you know that goats were capable of either climbing up or jumping up into tress? On our journey, we managed to spot a goat standing in a tree!
As a apart of the excursion, we were given a barbeque lunch at Agios Kostantinos. It was during lunch that I came to the incorrect conclusion that the man with us was Siôn Jenkins and relayed my suspicions to Marie. Lunch consisted of numerous starter dishes, a choice of 3 main dishes plus 2 vegetarian dishes and unlimited water & wine.
After lunch we went to Lasinthos, described as an Eco Park or Eco Village, which consisted of pot making, honey making, black & white photographs, a mock church, aromatic plants and a small zoo. It was a bit boring. I took the opportunity to buy some souvenirs for friends and family, including a bottle opener made out of a large wooden carving of a penis which was for my friend Rima.
Our penultimate stop was at the Zeus Cave / Dictaean Cave at Psychro, where mythology states that Zeus, the father of all gods, was born. To get to the entrance to the cave, we had the choice of two routes to ascend - 1) long easy gentle slope or 2) short more direct steep route. We chose option 1 for going up and option 2 for coming down. When going down into the cave, it was quite cold inside and the contrast of temperature to the outside was quite surprising. With its stalactites & stalagmites the cave was reminiscent of the caves at Cheddar Gorge and Wookey Hole in Somerset.
After having a much needed drink we headed off to our next stop of the village of Krassi, which featured a 2000 years old Plane tree and a source of natural spring water. It is said that the tree never loses all of its leaves and it is where Zeuss consummated his relationship with Europa.
Throughout all of the day's journey, I was amazed at the view of the scenery, I had seen the best views I had ever seen. Some of the roads we travelled along were very bumpy and twisty, which any normal car would not mechanically survive. During the coach trip on the previous day, I enjoyed the view of the scenery from the coach, but on this day I was actually in the scenery.
We arrived back at our hotel at about 18:00 and paid Giorgos Papadakis €20 so we could keep our room for an extra day, otherwise we would have had to vacate our room early the next day before being collected in the afternoon so would have been without a room for a few hours. This way there was less of a rush the next day and we had somewhere safe to keep our belongings. In the evening, we had a meal across the road to our apartment complex and got pissed off with the very slow service we were receiving. We chose to forego dessert due to the slow service.
On our final day, after a lie in, we didn't do much. We took some final photographs of our room before being picked up by the coach at 16:30.
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This year's event was relocated from the allegedly "soulless" East of England Showground in Peterborough to Mersea Island in Essex. But in my opinion, there was nothing wrong with the previous events at Peterborough. Mersea Island, near Colchester is not accessible 100% of the time due to the access road flooding when the tide is in, hence "island". This was a 3 day event between 29/08 - 31/08, with early arrivers turning up late on Thursday 28/08, camping overnight and throughout the weekend. I chose to attend just on the Saturday. As it would be an early start (gates opened at 07:00 and a long drive), I chose to book a hotel room local to the event to allow for more sleep. I ended up booking a room for Marie & I in a Holiday Inn Express located in Ipswich for £49.95. This turned out to be a bit of a blonde decision because I should have booked a hotel located on the way to Mersea Island, rather than miles past it northwards, so I ended up doing many unnecessary miles. Also, at 25 miles, the hotel wasn't as close as I expected, oh well.
After a 06:30 breakfast, we left the hotel shortly after 07:00, arrived at JAE before 08:00, paid the £30 entrance fee (£15 each) and parked my car on the Lude Behaviour plot where we were promptly greeted by fellow members of the club. The temperature was a little nippy on arrival so I put my jacket on while giving my car a quick going over with a bucket of water and synthetic shammy leather (I had already gave it a proper wash & coat of wax during the previous week along with vacuuming out of the interior).
During the day, Marie & I wandered around the event a couple of times, which as always, consisted of hundreds of cars. I don't think this event was as big as the previous year's held at Peterborough, but there was still loads of cars on show. I remember reading that the organisers of the event received many complaints on the internet based JAE discussion forum about the new chosen location and I do agree that it being in the corner of England wasn't really a thoughtful location seeing as it is supposed to be a national event. I think I remember reading that some clubs decided to snub the event by not attending, so maybe that's why the numbers seemed to be down. Anyway, Mersea Island is actually just under 40 miles closer to me than Peterborough's East of England Showground, so I'm not personally bothered! The actual site was quite good, ample space and being on the seafront was a bonus too (it was a very large field by the coast with a small hill, probably man height, blocking the view of the sea).
This year, there seemed to be more focus on team events / competitions with stuff going on like inter-club football matches and tug-of-war competitions. On the Lude Behaviour plot, there was one 3rd generation Prelude, about eight 4th generation Preludes and, including mine, three 5th generation Preludes. The other two 5th generation Preludes were both dark blue 2.0 litre non VTEC models. Elsewhere in the event, I spotted just two or three other 5th generation Preludes. Marie & I were made to feel very welcome by Mark and other Lude Behaviour club members. Mark was a forum Moderator at the time who was organising the layout of the Lude Behaviour plot.
As it was also Marie's Sister's birthday on the same day, we left a bit earlier than we would have done. We planned to leave at about 17:00 but due to chatting to other club members, we left about half an hour later than planned.
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Dave Rose, AKA "Old Git" a former member of Lude Behaviour kindly sent me my Lude Behaviour club stand pass in the post, so there was none of the poorly organised shenanigans I experienced parking on the Prelude UK club stand a few months ago. I had previously met Dave and his 4th generation Prelude with its glitter / sparkle paintwork at JAE 2008 during August.
At this event, I decided in advance that I would take my car for 2 or 3 runs on the Santa Pod Raceway drag strip. After cleaning my car during the previous evening (but didn't dry it off because it started raining), I removed all unnecessary clutter from my car to make it lighter in a bid to optimise its performance.
The location of Santa Pod Raceway isn't well signposted, so I had difficulty finding it, even though I had been there a few months ago (with the assistance of Marie's Tom Tom sat nav). After satisfyingly unleashing VTEC through overtaking a long queue of slow moving cars along a long straight road local to Santa Pod Raceway (and in the process waking up Marie by letting out a triumphant "Booh Yeah" who was sleeping in the back) we arrived somewhere between 08:30 – 09:00. It was a cold, damp and windy morning with not many cars there. The weather forecast on TV the previous night forecast rain after 13:00. Santa Pod Raceway management delayed opening of the drag strip because of the threatening weather. I still can't understand their reluctance. If they were worried that it might rain, it's all the better reason to get the show underway before it rains and make the most of it! The organisers eventually opened the drag strip to the competitors and I paid my £20 fee for unlimited runs.
My first run was at 10:04 and I was up against a black Honda Civic Type-R EP3 which I think had slick tyres on. After getting slightly carried away burning rubber warming my tyres up in the wet area a few meters before the start line, I slowly edged to the starting position. In no time at all, the lights went green and we were off. My car had very little traction on the wet track, its wheels span all the way through 1st and 2nd gears up to 60 MPH, where I finally gained traction. Subsequently, the result was disappointing – 17.0700 seconds for the 1/4 mile @ 83.92 MPH and the hot hatch beat me by miles. The time was not quick, but I wasn't despondent as it was my first ever bash at it and I knew my car was capable of quicker times if it was able to put its power down cleanly without spinning its wheels on the wet track.
I had 6 or 7 runs in total, a bit more than the planned 2 or 3! As the morning progressed, the queue was getting longer and longer after each run. After crossing the finish line each time, there is no way to immediately ascertain the results as the large LED timing board is then behind you, in view of the spectators. To get around this, I had to phone Marie on her mobile phone to find out how well (or how not well) I did each time.
Other cars I went up against included a Nissan Skyline R33, Mitsubishi Colt, Subaru Imprezza and a Honda Prelude Type-S. I also had 1 or 2 solo runs. The most enjoyable run was going up against the white Honda Prelude Type-S, whose owner I chatted to while queuing next to each other before our drag race. He hadn't had the car very long and as far as he knew, the only performance modification it had was a 5Zigen exhaust (which was considerably louder than my car's standard exhaust under full throttle). Throughout our brief drag race, our cars were pretty much neck-a-neck, however his Japanese spec 217 BHP car managed to finish about half a car length ahead of my UK spec 197 BHP car. My last run was at 11:38 after which I parked my car with the other Honda Preludes on the Lude Behaviour club stand then went to find Marie & my Dad in the spectators stand.
I then realised how nasty the strong wind and cold temperature were and felt sorry for my two companions sitting in the grand stand exposed to the elements. I was told by members of Lude Behaviour that the times of all cars were down on their normal times due to the strong head wind and wet track, which was a little relieving to me in the knowledge that my times weren't great that day. The best time I could muster was 16.0659 seconds @ 85.82 MPH, which isn't too bad but I know that 5th generation Honda Preludes are capable of getting into the mid 15s @ over 90 MPH. Also, if I had used more revs by letting the rev needle venture a little past the red line, I would have got better times. Instead, I was changing gear right at the 7,400 RPM red line where in retrospect I should have been changing up a gear at around 7,800 - 8,000 RPM, but I did inadvertently hit the rev limiter on one occasion. I wasn't giving it 110% which I didn't realise at the time. Although I didn't do as well as I had hoped, I really enjoyed taking part in the event and felt that by thrashing my car up the strip, I had got it out of my system.
Me, Marie & my Dad had lunch in the restaurant then went out and watched the drag racing. My Dad informed me that my car was performing better than the Mazda MX-5s (not surprisingly), Toyota MR2s and even some Nissan Skylines (surprisingly). I doubt those Nissan Skylines I was getting better times than were the GT-R variant and were probably a little unwell too. After less than 30 minutes I decided I had had enough as it was too cold and windy and chose to head off home. I didn't realise how strong the wind was while sat in my cosy car during the drag racing.
I paid for a few professional photos burnt onto a CD of me launching my car off the line and collected my printed time slips. On returning to my car, I saw that my car's usually shiny exhaust tips were covered in thick black carbon deposits. I topped up the engine oil as I'm sure the oil level would have dropped a bit due to what the engine had been put through earlier. Unfortunately, I also discovered that the morning's fun had also taken its toll on my car's clutch as it was not as sharp or instant as it was prior to the event, but it was OK to use in normal driving. I also used up surprisingly more petrol than I thought I would have done and had to stop off for petrol on the way home as a precautionary measure. Prior to the event, I purposely didn't fill up the petrol tank to maximum in a bid to save weight by not carrying unnecessary fuel.
Here are some photos of my car on the day.
Sadly, the following February, Dave Rose was killed while driving his Toyota Soarer, which was his Prelude replacement. He was a respected car enthusiast and there was a very large turnout of car club members at his send off.
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As it had been a year since my last grading I thought it was time for my next grading and Karl, my instructor, agreed I was ready.
As with the build up to my grading last year, I felt very very stressed. With the help of Marie, I learnt my Korean terminology from the syllabus but I didn't have as much to learn as last time. The reason for this is that last year's grading was my first grading at TAGB and first grading since 1995 so had to learn all the terminology up to green belt all in one go. I repeatedly listened to my terminology CD during car journeys and I also ripped the relevant bits to MP3s so I could brain wash myself with those specific bits at while at work. I must have listened to them hundreds of times and it was driving me mad.
The grading went OK but I wouldn't say it was perfect. Afterwards I realised that as with my drag racing at JapShow Finale, I wasn't giving it 110%. While standing inline during the grading, watching a higher grade perform his pattern made me realise that I had not put enough effort in, it was like I had been in a little world of my own and should have woken up to the fact that – this is it, I'm doing my grading, not just going through a warm up. I wasn't using enough power or strength in my moves. Karl, corrected me a couple of times during the grading, firstly my feet were not together at the beginning of Won-Hyo and I was using the wrong arm when doing circular blocks.
I made no mistakes in the theory section at the end of the grading. Before the grading started, I offered £10 to the black belts who were to be asking me the theory questions, if they were to let me know in advance what questions they were going to ask me, but they declined.
At the end of the grading I was satisfied that I had done well enough to pass and was subsequently given the relieving news of my pass at the beginning of the next lesson during the following week.
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At the annual Tae Kwon-Do South East Championships held at Burgess Hill, I chose to perform a pattern instead of sparring. I can't stand the nervous tension associated with sparring in competitions. I selected Won-Hyo as my chosen pattern rather than my new current pattern Yul-Gok as I had only just learnt the basics of the pattern so wasn't confident enough performing it at competition level.
I arrived at The Triangle Leisure Centre at about 10:00 which was the event's starting time. Not long after I got inside, the competitors of men's patterns from white/yellow belt to green belt were summoned to our specific area in the sports hall. There were about 20 competitors competing against each other in the category we were in. After I registered, I practiced Won-Hyo twice before sitting down with the rest of the competitors waiting for our turn. I wished I arrived earlier so I would have had more time to warm up and practice. When my time came, I performed Won-Hyo quite well, but I believe that my second warm up practice I had done minutes before was actually better than my performance in front of the panel of 3 judges! I didn't make any major mistakes, but my stances probably could have been a bit longer and I think I opened one of my hands too early during the third twin forearm block. Marie recorded most of my pattern using my digital camera but she was at one end of the sports hall and I was at the other so my camera was on full zoom and the view was slightly obscured. As I expected, unfortunately I didn't win anything. Oh well. Afterwards, I joined Marie sitting in the seats spectating the event. I reckon the quality of sparring was better there than it was at the 8th Open Tae Kwon-Do International World Championships I went to on 01/07/2007 at the Birmingham NIA. The Crawley students put up a fantastic fight in the tag team sparring. Rather deservingly, the Crawley Tae Kwon-Do club were declared overall champions of the event for the fourth consecutive year!
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Marie had been wanting a new car for over a year. Her Volkswagen Golf had a few minor issues, wasn't as reliable as she had hoped and having just a 1.4 litre engine, was underpowered too. Previously, we had been out and test drove 2 new shape Seat Leons, including a 1.9 diesel and a new shape Honda Civic 1.8 VTEC. She liked the Leon more than the Civic and really wanted a Seat Leon FR. Her main gripe with the Civic being its lack of rear passenger space and rear quarter visibility which is terrible. She also considered a new shape Audi A3 and new shape Volkswagen Golf GTi. I tried to persuade her to consider a Toyota Corolla T-Sport, but based on its appearance, she wasn't impressed by the car at all.
During the last Sunday in November, we went to a local Seat dealer to look at a Seat Leon Stylance and noticed an 06 reg Seat Leon FR TDi with 6-speed manual transmission in Emocion Red on sale. She took it for a test drive the next day and subsequently paid the deposit and agreed on a finance deal after researching alternative deals on the internet.
Marie is very happy with her new car and I quite like it too. It looks very nice, much better than the lower spec models, with its sporty looking bumpers and 17" alloy wheels. The interior is top notch too, with fantastic looking and supportive seats (much better than those in my Honda Prelude) and a sporty looking steering wheel garnished with an FR badge as well as the gear knob. One feature her car has which I would like for my car are electric folding wing mirrors. These were an option of Japanese spec Honda Preludes but sadly were not available to UK spec Preludes. Performance from its 168 BHP turbo diesel engine is quite good too and it can hold it's own compared to most other cars on the road, even though it's no match for VTEC! Handling is surprisingly good too, although the suspension does seem a bit firm at times. I suppose it's party piece is its combination of both performance and fuel economy. Some petrol powered cars may beat it performance wise, but they won't be as fuel efficient.
After she got the car, I briefly developed a rather large soft spot for the range topping Seat Leon Cupra K1 in Candy White. I just love the "scoopy" body kit, as Marie & I refer to it as. Its output of 240 BHP is attractive too. I was surprised to learn that this 240 BHP comes from a 2.0 litre turbocharged engine. I originally assumed it would share the same engine as its close relative, the Volkswagen Golf R32, which also generates about 240 BHP, but does so from a much larger 3.2 V6 non turbocharged engine.
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