Adam Bird


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Friday, 19 December 2008

An Executive Baptism

Priestfield Stadium

Being the son of a fanatical football fan means that more than likely, it's a case of when you start going rather than if. In Oliver's case it was always inevitable, although I hadn't planned on it being so soon.

The plan had been to mention football as much as possible and tell him everything about the Gills and put it off until he was five years old so that I could build up the anticipation and excitement. On his fifth birthday he would go to his first Gills game - as a mascot, making his Gills debut by leading the side out at the hallowed turf of Priestfield.

As always with best intentions and perfectly laid plans, they go awry in amongst a set of strange circumstances. When Gillingham drew Stockport at home in the FA Cup second round it wasn't exactly a tie that caught the imagination, but a home game I would not have wanted to miss.

I had decided to go for the pay on the day option, not imagining a sell out by any means! But as the game drew closer I became aware of a problem. I couldn't get a babysitter! All the people in the world who normally help me out, where either abroad, pole dancing in London, or getting ready to join the pole dancers later that evening!

Luckily, Reaso had a plan! His Dad owns one of the executive boxes and just so happened to have room for one man and a baby. Now knowing that a) I had my five year plan and b) Oliver can be a monster I wasn't initially enthused by the idea, but I think Reaso was so I felt bad letting him and the Gills down! Oliver was therefore about to be baptised at Priestfield for his very first Gillingham game at only 710 days old.

In the end, after all the fuss and tribulations Oliver nearly missed all of the fun! With the drive down to the ground Oliver had fallen asleep and I was worried that he would sleep all the way through! But like typical Bird, he woke up when the smell of the pre-match meal arrived!

Once Oliver had settled into his new surroundings and had met everyone who was currently sat around the table, as apart from Reaso, they were all complete strangers to him. I put his coat, hat, scarf and gloves back on and took him outside the glass box for a real feel of the pre-match atmosphere.

Now, how I imagined it, when Oliver was five, and saw the hallowed turf and the four stands that house the Gills congregation, he would look up at me with tears in his eyes and say "Daddy, this is the best place in the world, it is amazing", or something along those lines. As it was, Oliver said the word "football", pointed and ran away up entire the length of the Medway stand and amused himself by slamming all the seats down and letting them fly back up again.

Despite Oliver's apparent early ignorance, he managed to sit and enjoy himself watching the teams come out and the crowd cheering early encouragement, but after ten minutes or so he had seen enough and wanted to climb the steps, or run up the Medway stand again, or take his hat, gloves, scarf and coat off, or sit on someone else's lap (for 30 seconds) or go back inside the box before coming back out again!

Priestfield, and probably any football stadium isn't really suitable for a two year old toddler, but the blessing was in having the executive box and the comfort of having somewhere warm in which Oliver could run around, play with his toys in quiet whilst the rest of ground gets on with it. Many thanks should go to Mike and the rest of the Dockyard Blue's for allowing us to encroach upon you - and Oliver, when he grows up will surely be as appreciative as I.

And so, Oliver's baptism wasn't the event that I had in mind, but it was a significant moment for me as a fanatical football supporting father! There is a positive, which I believe Oliver's presence had influence over, which was the result! Had he not been there, we would surely have lost, never had the chance to win the replay, and never have played Aston Villa on the television!

For the Record

Oliver's first Gillingham match

Date: 29th November 2008

Against: Stockport County, FA Cup, 2nd Round.

Gillingham lineup: Simon Royce, Barry Fuller, Garry Richards, Simon King, John Nutter, Andy Barcham (78 Mark McCammon, 90 Andy Pugh), Curtis Weston, Mark Bentley, Albert Jarrett, Adam Miller (64 Gary Mulligan), Simeon Jackson. Subs not used: Alan Julian, Leigh Mills, Stuart Lewis, Connor Essam.

Stockport County lineup: Owain Fon Williams, Johnny Mullins, Dominic Blizzard, Jim McNulty, Anthony Pilkington, Jason Taylor (46 Gary Dicker), James Tunnicliffe, Stephen Gleeson, Matty McNeil (67 Peter Thompson), Leon McSweeney, Craig Davies (46 Tommy Rowe). Subs not used: Michael Rose, Peter Thompson, Carl Baker, Paul Turnbull, Lloyd Rigby.

Result: 0-0

Attendance: 4,419

Monday, 27 October 2008

Not Alone in the Forest


"Exactly 100 years ago today, HMS Alert and HMS Discovery sailed past Plymouth on their way from Portsmouth on an Arctic exploration mission which was to keep their crews away from home for nearly a year and five months.

One of the members of this expedition, led by Captain Sir George Strong Nares, was a Newton Abbot man, Mr Henry Winser, who was picked as ship's carpenter for the team at the age of 24 because of his strong constitution.

The expedition suffered many hardships and accomplished much, reaching 30 miles nearer the North Pole than any previous arctic explorers, but still fell 400 miles short of its target.

The "Advertiser" of November 4th, 1876, summed up that the venture had demonstrated "that to reach the Pole is an utterly impracticable undertaking... deemed not to be accomplished by human energy."

Henry Winser was believed to have been one of the sledge party which spent 70 days on the ice in conditions so rugged that it could only advance only a mile a day towards its goal, the North Pole.

The Party suffered intensely from frost-bite and scurvy, to which four of his team-mates succumbed.

When a bear suddenly sprung at one of the men, Henry Winser with quick reactions, instantly killed the animal before it could injure his colleagues.

On his return to Newton Abbot, one of the many trophies which Henry Winser brought with him was a bearskin - believed to have been this bear's and in later years residents recalled that he used to walk through the streets dressed in the bearskin."

The above was an extract from a newspaper article written in 1974, the subject, Henry Winser, was my second Great Grandfather.

Stories like these have been part of family lore for as long as I can remember. I first read this newspaper article back in the early 90's on a visit to my Great Uncle George's house in Newton Abbot. At the time, it seemed a bit far fetched and the significance, well it didn't register very highly.

In 2004 we had a visit from Australia, a lady named Jennifer Keast came and visited my Nan. She brought with her a gift, a research documenting our family tree. Jennifer Keast, as it turns out is my second cousin, once removed.

For some reason it was only last week in which I was able to read the full document and inside it, were details of family members reaching way back into the early 1600's. As well as a full list of facts and figures was a recollection, small stories about the people contained within the lists and where they had come from, it began:

"John Blackstone is recorded as having married an Anne at Tormoham, Torre - Torquay in 1650. Torre was a small village built around an abbey that had been founded in 1196 and rebuilt in 1555. The occupation and actual residence of this John is not known but it is most likely that he was a fisherman of Teignmouth who traded with or delivered goods to the abbey. It is possible that he took the goods produced by the abbey, raw wool and cider, to the continent and returned with wine, cloth and luxury foods such as olives, oil and fruit. Sailing to France or Holland was fairly risky at this time as piracy, both officially sanctioned by the throne and by boat owners trying to make ends meet, was very common."

John Blackstone, as it transpires is my 9th Great Grandfather.

Continuing on through the recollections, and the people contained within and the lives in which they led make interesting and intriguing reading. Members of the family who became judges at Crufts, or worked within the walls of Buckingham Palace. How a certain Francis Allchin, known as "Nibbs" for being a 'player' when he visited Devon coming down from London in a Daimler and ending up marrying an American heiress, and living out his days on the proceeds of her estate.

Stories which are true and need to be recorded, not for any historical importance, but the continuation of the family tale. When Oliver asks me, where did George, my middle name come from? I can say, your Grandfather, a naval man who was born in Hastings in 1922, he was one of nine and he sailed the world and drank whisky in every port. He had an uncle named George as well, and there has been at least one George in every generation since way back when.

I have found much and yet covered very little, I have made connections with other descendants from different branches, the Uglows, the Tripletts, the Allchins, the Winsers, the Symons, the Furneauxs, the Kinsmen, and they are just the people on my Dad's Mother's side! I still need to add the Birds, the Simmonds, the Buckmaster's the Kent's and the Arthurs and whatever other names I manage to uncover.

And yet, from what Jennifer Keast started I have managed to continue, adding more names and people, places, records of births, deaths and marriages. My Geni account currently states, you have 390 blood relatives, 103 inlaws, 29 inlaw trees, 68 ancestors and 1 descendant. You are also connected to 1, 182 people on Geni.

Genealogy is not about the ghosts in the closet, it is a recording of people, their relationships and their movements. Looking back at our ancestors is incredible rewarding and unbelievable frustrating. For every dead end there is surprising story, like the brother of distant grandmother whom married four times, to four wives all going by the name of Elizabeth. The notes written by the person researching this particular chap wrote "It appears as if Richard Triplett was a serial killer whom married women going by the name Elizabeth only to kill them".

There are of course many stories which go untold, and in which you can read just by looking at the figures. A couple whom had five girls before they finally managed to conceive a boy. He carried his father's name, and yet six months later he died. His uncle born a son the following year and named his son after his deceased nephew.

As I keep travelling on this journey back through time and make many more new discoveries I hope to share as much as I can within the walls of this blog and revamp the family page to include a little more than just the photos of my nearest and dearest. As Geni, the website I use to join all the branches says - "We are all connected". My family tree may seem a little more like a forest, but at least I am not alone.

Sunday, 12 October 2008

More than A Simple Act of Violence

Washington DC

Earlier this year I wrote about a book I had read, A Quiet Belief in Angels, by Roger Ellory and how, since then, I had purchased all his previous works and had been enchanted by the epic worlds his creations had surrounded me. Last week his sixth book, A Simple Act of Violence was released and I eagerly visited Waterstones to get my copy.

Roger Ellory doesn't write simple novels. They are vast in scope and character and although they share a similar theme, human nature, human relationships and the analysis of human behaviour against all odds, they are all vastly different.

The synopsis for A Simple Act of Violence, provided by Amazon:

"Washington, embroiled in the mid-term elections, did not want to hear about serial killings. But when the newspapers reported a fourth murder, when they gave the killer a name and details of his horrendous crimes, there were few people that could ignore it. Detective Robert Miller is assigned to the case. He and his partner begin the task of correlating and cross-referencing the details of each crime scene. Rapidly things begin to complicate. The victims do not officially exist. Their personal details do not register on any known systems. The harder Miller works, the less it makes sense. And as Miller unearths ever more disturbing facts, he starts to face truths so far-removed from his own reality that he begins to fear for his life. This is a novel about trust, loyalty, and beliefs that are so ingrained which, when challenged, they leave people with nothing. Vast in scope, A SIMPLE ACT OF VIOLENCE is an expose of the brutality of covert operations, the power of greed and the insidious nature of corruption. It is also a story of love and trust that somehow managed to survive the very worst that the world could throw at it."
A thriller novel, normally formulaic with the classic question of "Who did it?" concluding with a twist and the grand unveiling of the perpetrator by the novels chief protagonist. A Simple Act of Violence couldn't be further from the norm, and instead of "Who", we are as readers, left with an elusive answer to the question "Why?"

I don't particularly want to go too much into the "why", as I wouldn't want to spoil any potential readers journey of discovery, but I was left intrigued... Indeed I will, one night soon, be spending an evening with Google looking back at some of the events mentioned within the novel and gaining a further understanding of some of the historical context in which the book's foundations are built upon.

It must be remembered that this is a work of fiction, and the author has once again provided us with a story based upon fictitious characters, based upon selective real events in history and there is indeed nothing to suggest otherwise.

However, there is no smoke without fire and call it what you will, a conspiracy theory, or the revelation of fact, this novel isn't about the murder of a group of people, it is about human history and how effectively we are all puppets upon strings and those in power act as our puppet masters, often with catastrophic effects.

Ultimately, the beauty of a good novel often lays after you have closed the back cover and you have finished the journey the author wished to take you upon. It lingers, stays in the mind and leaves you asking questions, or leaves you wanting more.

Normally I finish a book on the way home from work and start afresh with a new one the following night. I finished A Simple Act of Violence on Wednesday and haven't yet been able to pick up a new book and get past the first page.

A Quiet Belief in Angels left me dreamy and longing to visit a place that only existed in one man's mind. A Quiet Vendetta, my personal favourite left me missing someone who I felt was a long lost friend, whom I wanted too write to and invite around the house to reminisce about days gone by.

With A Simple Act of Violence I was left wondering about us, as people. It may just be coincidence with the current state of world affairs, and how the fact that we can spend our days working hard and yet our fates lie within the hands of bankers and politicians. Do we really hold our destiny in our own hands, and if not, what can we really do about it?

If drawing a response from your audience is the benchmark in which an author wishes to be judged, then Ellory is guilty as charged in this particular case. Don't take my word for it, there are plenty of people available on Amazon whom have also felt compelled to write glowing praise for a supremely talented author.

Amazon Links:

Thursday, 2 October 2008

The Beginning of a New Era


In amongst the confetti and champagne that has flowed freely over the past two years, and looks set to continue at least until our own marriage in 2010, Saturday night marks the dawn of a new era. Mummy of the group Stephanie hits the big three-0.

Although her birthday isn't until the 13th of October, current times amidst the credit crunch and close proximity in dates to sister in law Nadine and her best friend Kelly, both of which also hit the special landmark around the same time, sees a triple celebration as the three glam girls mark the occasion with a party to end all parties.

I have a fear of hitting 30, due mostly to my own memories of when Dad celebrated his. A surprise BBQ at the house arranged by mum was not at all welcomed as Dad spent the whole day in a birthday depression rather than buoyant celebration. Being an impressionable eleven year old at the time wondering what on earth was so terrible about being 30. Was that the age that in which terrible thing began to happen like when you were 14 and supposed to come out in spots, or 16 and you had to leave home and get a job?

As is, thirty is an age to celebrate, you have survived the difficulties and life defining moments that make you who you are. You can look back with fondness at the mistakes you have made and realise that yes, you have made them, but so has everyone else and more than likely the next time you won't make them again. The friendships you have are for life and not just for current school term or holiday period. You have a young family or or planning to start one soon, or in some cases, you are married, or about to set of on a life together with that special person. In short, hitting 30 is a marking of a rebirth, except this time, you know who you are and where you are going.

With Stephanie being the mother hen of our little group, she has the privilege of experiencing this first, with Carly to come next year and most of us boys in my own defining year, 2010.

I would like to wish both Kelly and Nadine all the best birthday wishes, and of course, Stephanie whom a double extra super special treble congratulations goes to her! If you are coming on Saturday evening at the Old Gravesendians Rugby Club, bring your dancing shoes and champagne corks as we celebrate three great girls becoming three fine ladies.

Saturday, 6 September 2008

Fantasy Football Bedroom (Photo Diary)

Football Bedroom

During the summer of 2008, Mummy and Daddy decorated Daddy's old bedroom from when he was a boy, ready for you so that you had somewhere bigger to play. You had been sleeping in the nursery, which was Auntie Jessica's old room and Mummy and Daddy thought that we may need to keep the nursery for the future in case a brother or sister came along.

Daddy wanted to make you a Gillingham Football Club room, but Mummy was worried that you would grow up and not like football! I said that she was crazy, all boys take after their Daddy's! We had both seen a brilliant football bedroom idea in a book called, Creative Spaces for Kids so decided to model your new bedroom on that, complete with a changing bench and football goal built into the fireplace. Daddy decided to take the idea further and wanted astroturf instead of carpet! Although he did get carried away, he knew when to stop, the floodlight and advertising hoarding ideas he had were sensibly scrapped!!!

Mummy and Daddy took photos all the way through the project so that you would be able to see how your room was made. Daddy was really suprised by the red as he had only ever known the room to be a various shade of blue!

Football Bedroom

Image: We used it as a spare room/storage space

Football Bedroom

Image: And it was ALWAYS ever Blue

Football Bedroom

Image: An alcove, space for a changing bench

Football Bedroom

Image: Fireplace, remove that and put in a goal!

Football Bedroom

Image: Fill in all the holes

Football Bedroom

Image: Fireplace - GONE

Football Bedroom

Image: Wood Cladding, finished

Football Bedroom

Image: Uncle Stuart popped around to plaster

Football Bedroom

Image: And the next day to finish off

Football Bedroom

Image: Before Daddy painted everything white

Football Bedroom

Image: Then added some COLOUR

Football Bedroom

Image: Which was a total shock to the system!

Football Bedroom

Image: Adding a little football detail

Football Bedroom

Image: And a football light-shade

Football Bedroom

Image: There's you climbing your new bench!

Football Bedroom

Image: A few accessories

Football Bedroom

Image: Astroturf arrives!

Football Bedroom

Image: More Astroturf

Football Bedroom

Image: Your new football bed

Football Bedroom

Image: The other side

Football Bedroom

Image: A look at the changing bench

Football Bedroom

Image: Footballs everywhere!

Football Bedroom

Image: Ready to play!

Football Bedroom

Image: The goal finally installed!

Football Bedroom

Image: You having fun in your new room at last!

Tuesday, 2 September 2008

24 : Exile


With the American Screen writers strike hitting at the back end of 2007/ beginning of 2008 many tv shows were unable to film due to lack of scripts. It has had an effect across a lot of television exports, no more so than 24 which was just about to air series 7 when the strike hit.

Not wanting to have a gap inbetween shows the creators of 24 decided to postpone series 7 a full calendar year, much to the annoyance of huge 24 fans like myself.

However, they haven't been sitting there twiddling their thumbs, instead they have been 'making the best series' they can, and as a special treat filming a two hour prequel which will air on Sky One sometime in November.

The following is a teaser trailor of the prequel, named "24 : Exile"

Jack's back, and I for one cannot wait!

Monday, 11 August 2008

Perpetual Runner Up Strikes Gold

Runner Up

It maybe a long standing joke amongst our circle of friends that Stuart never wins anything and always finishes runner up, although he knows that isn't exactly true. This weekend sees him marrying his long term beau, Aimee, a partnership in which he has always been a winner.

Although we were in the same year at school, it wasn't until our GCSE year that Stuart and I became friends outside of school and Stuart started coming to occasional Gillingham games with me.

Becoming friends with Stuart was a defining point in terms of the basis of our group dynamics. If I hadn't have become friends with Stuart, I wouldn't have become as good friends with Gareth, nor introduced to Mark, Reaso or Will.

Like me, with Steph, Stuart met Aimee at a fairly young age. The exact circumstances on their meeting are a little frosty, but I think it was through a friend of the golf club, Darren, whose sister, Sarah had a stunningly beautiful best friend called Aimee, or at least that's what was said at the time.

The comparison with Stephanie and I, and how being together through our defining years, from teenager to adult is also evident with Stuart and Aimee. You are brought up by your parents, with your parents morals and values, but your are moulded and sculptured by the relationship you are in. You can see the influence that both of them have upon each other and how they have built a solid partnership based upon love, trust and devotion to each other.

If the other person in your life is a massive inspiration and helps nurture you, your friends too have an important role. Like Will whose single minded determination to succeed has got him where he is now, Stuart shares that attribute in having a goal and moving heaven and earth to get there, nevermore so than his two year quest to become a fireman.

For me, having friends around that are that way minded is something to look up to, just as Aimee's ability to support Stuart in his dreams, no matter how dangerous they are, or what repercussions that they could have back upon her should be respected and acknowledged.

Although being a fireman has it's potential pitfalls, it does have it's benefits in the shape of four days off after a four day working week. Stuart is unable to sit still for no longer than 30 seconds and so to fill the time productively has taken up plastering. With this, combined with Stuarts work ethic and the unwavering ability to want to help anyone and everyone (another trait shared with Aimee) has meant that half the people in Gravesend now have shiny new walls, including yours truly! Oliver wanted me to say thank you, he cannot wait to see how long it lasts when he starts kicking a ball up against your hard work when the goal is finally installed!

So apart from the fact that Stuart has a relationship most of us would be jealous of with a women most of us would like to be with and has a job that is social one of the most desirable (who wouldn't like to have women baring their chests at you when driving past in your uniform?) is it really any wonder that he comes second best in a game of tiddlywinks, go-karting or apple bobbing?

Stephanie, Oliver and I wish you both the very best as Mr and Mrs Wickens, we hope that your day is as special as it deserves to be. Stuart, take it easy on the lager tops mate. I know that you can drink four pints by the time I have finished my first, but you also spray when you talk after a few beers and we haven't got an umbrella for the speeches!

Friday, 1 August 2008

One Hundred Not Out

Previous Ramblings

Millions of people are blogging just as you read this, for millions of different reasons. It may be about their favourite football club, Formula One team, sport, political party, sharing technical knowledge or for business. They may be like me and use it as a place to keep family up to date with their personal goings on.

My blog started on July 20th 2006, and this is my 100th post! I have written much about nothing, from the Gills, to various goings on in the footballing planet, the story of Stephs pregnancy and the experiences we have had as a new family. I have shared books that I have read and paid tributes to friends and wished them luck as they have entered marriage. Stories have been told about trips I have made and exposed secrets of stag weekends abroad.

All in all, it has been a pleasure to write such random ramblings and long may it continue. Thank you to everyone who has posted a comment or told me personally that they have enjoyed, cried or laughed at my mutterings. It means a lot and long may it continue!

For the record, here are my previous 99 posts:

Tuesday, 29 July 2008

Beating the Birthday Blues

I am not much of a birthday fan, I really don't know why. They contain all the things that I enjoy and love; beer, presents, champagne, chocolate, cake, clowns, balloons and bouncy castles. But on Saturday I 'celebrated' my twenty-eight birthday and wasn't in the mood to shout it from the rooftops.

In the build up to my 'big day', Stephanie asked me on a daily basis whether I wanted to have a BBQ and get everybody around. In all honesty, no I never, it would mean drawing more attention to the fact that I was another year older. It would also mean getting drunk, which I wouldn't have minded but have been doing a lot of that recently and so wanted to do something a bit different.

I have no idea where my fear of ageing comes from. It is a fact of life, as soon as we enter the world we are a moment older than we were just now. I wouldn't say that I sit and dwell upon my mortality, but for me an annual birthday is a reminder that your one step closer to your maker than you were before.

Having a birthday on 26th July does have it's benefits. More often than not the weather is glorious. When your a kid your birthday is ALWAYS in the school holidays so you never have to suffer a birthday beating, or some other playground ritual. Instead you get to have magical days out at the beach with your grandparents, or go to theme parks with your Mum, Dad and Sister, the kind of day I wanted instead.

By having a day out, like the one I enjoyed when I was younger I was hoping that I would be able to roll back the years and not feel quite so old. It would also be a role reversal with me as the grown up ensuring that the children had the best possible time, which I don't mind at all.

Having Oliver has changed our possibilities when it comes to taking a family trip. No longer can we plan adrenaline based escapades to Thorpe Park to be swung, looped and spun to the extreme. Instead, something a little more sedate and family friendly is called for. Both Stephanie and I have been to Chessington World of Adventures hundreds of times, so I wanted to go somewhere different and thought that Legoland Windsor would be perfect for a little adventurer Oliver's size.

With Jessica and James in London celebrating their first wedding anniversary, we decided to take Indigo with us so that Mum and Dad only had the three kids to look after instead of the four! It actually helped us out massively having an extra child with us as it meant neither Stephanie and I would be standing around whilst the other took Oliver on a ride.

Although Legoland is probably the most 'family friendly' theme park in the UK, it wasn't quite the right place for Oliver and Indigo. By about 4cm's! They had a great time on the rides that they were able to go on, but there was only about five or so. Once your 0.9m tall, the world is your oyster and you can go on nearly everything. It didn't matter too much, there is still plenty to do if you are vertically challenged. From splashing around in the waterworks to sitting in a Lego 'imaginarium' playing with the bricks you will never be bored.

Both Stephanie and I hope that Oliver and Indigo had a great day, but for me it was a case of mission accomplished, in more ways than one. As we queued up for a boat ride the ride operator shouted out to everybody, explaining that it was a young girl's 7th birthday and wanted everyone in the queue to sing her happy birthday. We all did, with gusto, making that little girl's day. (I did feel a little pang of jealousy and was going to let the rider operator know it was also my birthday too, but he had gone by the time we had reached where he was standing!) But by being a witness at that particularly moment, brought home to me just why it was I didn't like birthday's anymore.

It's not the getting old that is the problem, it's just the not being young anymore. Seeing that little girl's smile on her face, big as a plate, reminded me of when birthday's used to be full of surprises, the day seemed to last forever and everything felt magical. You would wake up at the end of the bed and presents used to be sitting there, just for you, not your smelly younger sister. It was your day, doing all the things that you liked best.

Anyone for Musical Chairs?

Monday, 14 July 2008

The Famous Five

When we were growing up, I doubt very much whether Mum and Dad ever imagined a scenario whereby they would have five grand-children with the possibility of more on the way. On Friday, with the birth of Elijah, Jessica's fourth and probably final child that scenario became a reality.

Stephanie and I are really happy for both Jessica and James, and indeed the girls too for finally having the boy that they both craved. Thinking from a personal point of view, I am particularly glad as it means Oliver will grow up with some male company on the Bird side of the family, and takes off some of the pressure on Stephanie and I when we get around to Baby Bird MrkII.

If Jessica had another girl, and Baby Bird MrkII was also a female, poor Oliver would be surrounded by women and be bossed around incessantly, eventually driving him loopy. As it is, Oliver will have Elijah to play football with and climb trees etc, allowing Stephanie and I to pray for a girl, giving us the "perfect" nuclear family.

Having any child is special, but for a male to produce a son carries a little more weight on your emotions. When Oliver was born I was overjoyed at being a father and all the rest of it, but knowing that the Bird family name was to be carried on an extra generation was a big thing for me and it appears to be the same for James too. In fact he has already gone through the list of things that he wishes to pass on when the time comes!

Now that James has someone to pass on the Shovelar legacy and has a heir to the throne. He has admitted that it is highly unlikely that he will be fathering anymore children at anytime soon. If the Famous Five is to become the Secret Seven the ball lies firmly in my court!

Monday, 30 June 2008

Brilliant Brilliant Budapest


It used to be, or so I am constantly reminded Stag parties consisted of a curry in the local town, followed by a bar crawl and maybe a stripper chucked in for good measure. With the opening up of cheap flight routes across Europe Stag parties are now weekend affairs and life experiences - none more so than the weekend away to Budapest.

Best man for the occasion Mark, declared that Groom to be Stuart should not know where we were heading for his stag weekend and so we were all sworn to secrecy, succeeding where most thought we would fail. I was so determined not to be the one to let the cat out of the bag that I even went as far as telling Stuart I was just as much in the dark as he was.

Flying from Luton helped us massively in our task, as driving around the M25 at three thirty in the morning, past the M11 junction missing Stanstead threw Stuart even further off the scent. It wasn't until arriving at the check-in desk that the mystery was finally solved. Even then it wasn't quite clear cut.

Presented with two options "Lisbon or Budapest" Stuart was still uncertain. Reaso nobaly offered him a clue "it's what I am", meaning fat Budha, which offered us yet another early chuckle. Not quite as funny as when the penny finally dropped for Stuart and he asked with all seriousness "where is it?" If he didn't know then he certainly does now!

Flying with EasyJet is as they say, no thrills. It is also even less of a thrill when you lose in the random seating lottery and end up next to Dan and G'ry. Two guys who are early pace setters when it comes to alcoholic beverages. The flight to Budapest was only two hours long, my plan was nice and simple, two hours to catch up on some sleep. Which I did, for ten seconds until Dan and G'ry ended my aspirations with a series of punches and flicked earlobes. I was then forced to consume an unhealthy amount of aeroplane lager and being rather competitive I made sure that I had finished mine long before they did.

Feeling pretty ropey for the first few hours didn't really give me much of an opportunity to take in our surroundings, but I was aware that we were located rather centrally, and within the Pest side of the river Danube which dissects the city into two. Our accommodation, Hotel Baross was actually rather nice, very comfortable and in an around some rather hardcore building work, which was never actually a problem for us.

Happily for Stuart, and indeed the rest of us, Foordy, rather conspicuous in his absence so far was waiting to surprise Stuart on arrival, lying prone upon his bed without a stitch to cover his modesty. Apparently Foordy had some business to attend to in France prior to the weekend and so made his way North to Munich and caught the overnight train to Budapest. Upon arrival at the Keleti International Railway station Foordy jumped into a cab and was driven the 100 yards to our hotel!

If Foordy's bare backside wasn't a surprise for Stuart then the costume in which Mark had arranged for him to spend the day wearing certainly was. A bright yellow luminous jockey outfit, fully kitted out with a cap and adorned with black polka dots. It even came complete with a teddy bear horse which was configured to fit the body to give the impression one was actually riding it. It is publicly accepted that Stuart doesn't win anything and always finishes in second place so the jockey outfit itself was finished off with a couple of number '2's for good measure!

We wasn't due to meet up with our guide until the evening, so we had a whole day of leisure to ourselves. We soon became acquainted with a bar directly beneath our hotel where we enjoyed the first of many of the day's beers. I was still struggling from the plane but managed to slow myself down in amongst the madness that was going on around me!

Before long we were getting too familiar with our surroundings and so headed off down into Budapest for a little exploration and discovery. After walking for fifteen minutes or so, with bemused locals looking at the loud group of Englishmen in the company of a jockey riding a horse we felt it was about time for another pint.

After the third bar or so we found a delightful basement bar which was nice and dark, just perfect for me to find myself a secluded corner and take a well earned nap! I really couldn't say how long I was asleep for, but I appreciated being left alone for however long it was! Still, I wasn't the only one struggling and I was soon woken as we made our way back to the hotel for a quick shower and getting ready for the night ahead.

The first night was awesome, the power nap did me a world of good and I was ready to start over. We headed for a restaurant for our first proper taste of Hungarian cuisine. There were some nice sounding food on the menu but I had a typically bad choice. Still it wasn't going to be the food that made our evening. The banter and laughter at the table coupled with the speeches and singing was held in a great atmosphere. The locals sitting nearby never once took offence and seemed to take it in their stride.

After we had eaten we were taken on a bar crawl by our guide, whose name was also Adam. The first bar we went to was a strange affair, walking along a typical Hungarian backstreet with old buildings either side you would never have guessed that a bar was even there. Even when we entered it was like going into a decrepit old house that was badly looked after with graffiti on the walls and broken bicycles by the wayside.

The guide explained that it was a former factory, although he never elaborated on what was produced there. It consisteed of several rooms off either side of a wide entrance way but we headed out the back into a courtyard to the bar which was undercover to the side. Quirky fittings and strange things in strange places made up the decor of the building, for example benches built into the wall six feet in the air, a car in the middle of the courtyard used as a table and chairs as well as plastic bins turned upside down used as lampshades.

Our next stop was even stranger, we were heading towards a 'Gentleman's' Club but the walk was a long one, so we stopped off en route. The entrance to the bar was akin to the old Lord Street car park, except it never smelt of urine. It was dark, dingy and exposed concrete brickwork made the place seem worse than it was. We were taken up to the top of the building, which was a supermarket, on top was an open air bar with a view of the square below. Except you couldn't really see over the walls of the side giving the place a further surreal atmosphere.

I have watched films set in Eastern Europe and seen warehouses with hard techno music being pumped out and set with a real industrial ambiance, that's what the open air bar reminded me of and the reason why I loved it so much.

Our stay however wasn't long enough, but nowhere ever is on a whistle stop bar crawl. After another short walk we found ourselves in a 'Gentleman's' Club, which is exactly what this place was. I had read on the Internet about tourists ending up in strip clubs in Hungary and being forced to pay £300 bar bills for imaginative drinks and for things that they quite clearly never intended. Being owned by Englishmen there was none of the intimidating atmosphere I had imagined and instead found myself having quite a pleasant time.

Still, it had been a long, long day and we had more than enough excitement so most people decided to head off for home. My power nap from earlier had seen me regain a second wind and I had heard about a couple of nightclubs further down the road which I was keen to explore. Along with me came Stuart, Gavin, Juggy, Telbow and Lucky. Now normally this list would have included Will's name. I don't want to rub it in too much, but when someone says "I GUARANTEE that I will be the last man standing" you don't expect them to be the first in bed!

The decision to make a walk to the nightclub described earlier by Adam our guide was probably the best decision I made over the whole weekend. We had walked quite some distance to look for a bridge that spanned the Danube, over which would be a nightclub, when it started to rain. Rather than run for shelter or the nearest taxi taking us home, we carried on going getting slightly wetter until we finally relented and found a taxi to take us that last mile.

We were taken to the club entrance and I was expecting to pay a hefty entrance fee, but it was like a park area where you just strolled in and onto a dance floor spanned by buildings containing seating areas and bars. The rain had picked up by this point and as we made it to the dance floor which was pumping out hardcore Ibiza classics the heavens finally opened with a chorus of thunderclaps and lightning.

Being rather worse for wear after the barcrawl drinking we were in drunken heaven. Pulling some serious shapes as the virtually empty dancefloor filled with water. Stuart and I decided to remove our shirts and add them to the shape pulling exercises which were getting more elaborate as the rain continued to fall. We were all looking up at the sky as it was lit up by the lightning on the banks of the Buda side of the Danube and thinking it was the greatest place in the world. It was certainly an experience I won't ever forget, nor was the conversation we had with the Hungarian Porn producer who invited us back to his place for a drug fuelled orgy with his porno buddies!

All good things must come to an end and at the conclusion of the thunderstorm, when the sun came up and we were kicked out at 7am in the morning, we headed back to the Hotel Baross with smiles on our faces and muttering just how good the night was!

I was looking forward to my bed and having a long nap to prepare for the busy day two. G'ry and Mark however had other plans. Not able to get in his own room due to a mix up over keys, Mark shared with G'ry hoping that Stuart would find him when he got back. Unable to wake either G'ry or Mark from their slumber, and Stuart without access to his room we were forced to sleep on the floor of Telbow and Luckys room which was slightly less uncomfortable than I thought it would be.

Nevertheless, no rest for the wicked. Stuart who is not the deepest sleeper in the world woke us all up at 10pm and we went in search for breakfast fully dressed in our still we clothes from the night before. We found Mark and G'ry who were rather amused at our sleeping arrangements and the fact that they were both dead to the world when we attempted to wake them.

We were due for our stag weekend activity which I knew beforehand was going to be shooting handguns at a local shooting range. I didn't particularly want to drink anyway that morning still feeling awful from the night before, and certainly didn't want anything to jeopardise my handing of what ultimately turned out to be some serious weaponry.

When we arrived at the shooting club I was surprised by it's location, and underground bunker set deep inside a hill. We were given a safety lecture which was obeyed impeccably. None of us were under no illusions as to how dangerous the weapons we were handling actually were, MCM - .22 LCR handgun, CZ Grand - .22 LCR handgun, Glock - 9mm bad boy handgun, Taurus - .38 special handgun and Colt King Cobra - .357 Magnum, a total of 60 rounds.

The only non participant was Will who staged his own one man pacifist crusade, who was practically joined by G'ry, whom despite having a target as long as this blog failed to hit any of his 60 rounds within the middle 'black' zone.

The .357 Magnum was one powerful weapon, I was watching the others who went before me as they struggled with the recoil. I thought that I would end up on my backside, but once I was in there with my earmuffs and safety glasses I was even more concerned. I took an age to fire my first shot gently pulling the trigger in anticipation. No doubt about it, my arms were shaking with fear which made for inaccuracy when I finally pulled the trigger. With one of the guns the spent shells were firing out backwards, one even hitting me on the nose.

One of my favourite set of books is the Jack Reacher series by Lee Child, and Reacher's weapon of choice is a Glock and so I have read a lot about them. Having one in your hand is a totally different experience and trying to follow the advice Reacher provides through his stories is nigh on impossible.

Once we had all (minus Will) finished, we had a couple of photo opportunities with some AK47s and other machine guns whilst the organisers calculated the score. The script was followed to the letter as it was announced Telbow was the winner, Gavin was in 3rd place and Stuart the perennial runner up finished... 2nd! On the podium they were given a shot each, a selection of Hungarian drinks called 'Unicum' which we would be seeing plenty of later that evening.

We had the afternoon after shooting to ourselves so it was back to a few more bars to wind out the afternoon. On our return to the hotel we passed a female tramp who was asleep on a step in a rather large doorway, comparable if you like to the Angelsea centre in Gravesend. I passed her whilst walking back with Dan, but the rest of the group were further behind us. It transpired that Stuart had also spotted her, indeed you couldn't help but not. She looked as if she was dressed ready for the 80's roller disco up in London complete with bright pink leg warmers. Once Stuart had seen her, he decided to lay down next to her mimicking her prone state. How gutted I was to have missed it as it was one of the funniest things to have happened all weekend!

From the outrageously funny to something else completely different.

We had been quite efficient in our preparing for the night ahead with no delay in getting ourselves ready. We had met up with Szilvia, our rep for the evening and our mission was to walk to the tram stop, take a quick tram ride to a restaurant which was booked for us for the evening.

However, things took a slight turn for the worse when a couple of the boys stopped off at the cashpoint. I had heard sirens in the background and took absolute no notice of it. We were in a huddle waiting for Foordy who was the last person to get money out of the bank. The next thing I know a Policeman is running past me and over to Foordy. Grabs him by the shoulder, moves him away from the cashpoint and asks him to put his hands up.

At first we all thought it was a bizarre joke, what had Foordy done that warranted the involvement of the police? Next thing I know we are surrounded by 40 to 50 policemen with more arriving. We were all demanded by various officers to walk up against the wall of the McDonalds which held the cashpoint within it's walls. I am standing up against the window with my hands held up and outwards, shaking like a leaf.

We were all systematically searched and instructed to empty our pockets on request. All I had in mine was a packet of cigarettes, a lighter and a wad of Hungarian Forints. The amount of people who had stopped by to watch was staggering. The people looking back at us through the window in which we were lined up were reminiscent of visitors looking at exhibits in a zoo.

It was still a little unclear about what the police were actually after, but with much translating between the police who spoke no English and Szilvia our guide it transpired that the bank had informed the police of someone using a cloned credit card at the machine.

As Foordy was the last one to use the cash machine the Police wanted to ensure that the names on his cards matched his identification, except that he never had any on him. He was whisked away in a police car with the sirens blaring back to the hotel in order to "free himself" from any wrong doing.

In the meantime the rest of us were still being searched, I was searched on three occasions by two different policeman and I hadn't even used the cashpoint. Some of the boys had brought out their whole wallets, which in Reaso's case meant his gym membership card. The police not knowing which cards were for what looked rather bemused at Reaso's man boobs as he gestured weight lifting when asked what this particular card was for.

Confusion still reigned and for all us that never carried our ID with us were forced, despite whether we had used the cash machine or not to get in a police car and take a flashing blue light ride back to the hotel. If being poked and prodded about by a bunch of overly aggressive policeman and searched unknowingly what for wasn't scary enough, the resulting ride back in the police car was simply terrifying! Weaving in and out of the traffic, wrong side of the road, riding bumper to bumper with the police car in front and slamming on the brakes to a stop.

Back at the hotel with identification sorted and us finally being "free men" all that was left was to fill out statement cards. These were written in Hungarian and we had no clue at all what we were supposed to write. We were communicating by radio to Szilvia who was still outside the McDonalds with the other guys. I used Stuarts filled out statement sheet as a guide as to what I needed to write. How I didn't laugh when I read that his phone number was "123456" and that he lived at "1 The Street, Town Road, England" I will never know!

It was for a moment a very scary experience, the unknown element and forceful nature of the police didn't help matters, but we decided that it actually enhanced our stay rather than diminished it. So with a typical British attitude we walked back to the bar, met up, had a laugh about what had happened and hit right back on the beers.

If you hadn't known beforehand what we had been through and had seen us at the dinner table you would never have guessed. With much singing and hilarity we enjoyed a great meal which included twenty six individual speeches and twice as many rounds of applause. Champagne was ordered and sprayed around, drunk in merriment. The Hungarian waiters were patient with us and joined in with some of the games and laughter. We were very loud and never once did they complain, which we all had a lot of time for!

Having missed out the night before on the nightclub outside the boys were keen on reliving our experience. We were taken to another club, still on the Pest side of the Danube but with the exact same set up. Walk through a public park type space onto a dance floor, with buildings dotted around for the bars and seating areas and the same hardcore Ibiza dance music applied! I don't think that we even stopped off for a drink and just threw ourselves on the dancefloor into some more shape shifting patterns.

Will, who famously missed the night before tried to make up for it by trying to tell me how good he was feeling and how gutted he still was and how he wanted it to thunderstorm all at once which came out as "Good thunder wicked awesome gutted" instead.

Things started to get a little messy after a while, G'ry had bumped into another stag who was dressed up wearing a Borat mankini and G'ry decided that he wanted to wear it. The other stag was quite accomodating, so they both started to strip, both of them ending up stark naked in the middle of the club, people stopped dancing to watch, make mobile movies and take photos. G'ry picked up the mankini, put it in one leg, then the other, realised that it was too rolled up and couldn't be bothered to fight with it. In the end, the two guys ended up butt naked all for no reason!

My night was close to being over by this point and it has started to go real hazy, but it started off by having a drinking session at the bar. Having a moment alone with the stag and father of the stag I felt obliged to buy them both a drink. Having heard of the mysterious "Unicum" before I arrived in Budapest I felt that this would be the most suitable beverage.

Having just finished our shots and all three of us simultaneously gagging Will walks over and wants to know just what the hell we are gagging about. Once we had recovered and explained Will then buys a round, including another my way. The same scenario occured again, but this time Lucky walks over and wants to know what the hell we are gagging about! Lucky downed his shot before waiting 3 seconds and returning it to the floor followed by his evening meal and most probably some of his earlier breakfast.

I don't know what happened next, I really don't. I can hazard and guess but it isn't pleasant reading. I think I went and found myself somewhere to sit, but ended up passed out as when I woke up disorientated before having a "Lucky" moment. It was bright as daylight and there was nobody around. I really cannot remember where I was or what happened. My first memory after waking up is walked back to the hotel, but where I walked back from I really couldn't say, my sixth direction sense really kicking in and helping me out.

I arrived back at the hotel and went back to my room. Knocked on the door but once again no answer. Mark found me asleep in the hallway outside my bedroom door a little while later and put me in a bed in one of the rooms.

I cannot say that was my greatest ever moment, not by a long way, anything could have happened to me, maybe anything did happen? It was hardly very fair on any of the guys who could have been walking around all night looking for me, as it was nobody realised I had gone missing! Getting drunk and having a great time is normal, getting totally hammered and blacking out God knows isn't.

The final day was spent feeling sorry for myself and trying to work out just where I had spent those missing moments of my life. I wasn't in any state to spend the day in another series of bars drinking more alcholol so went with Foordy, Dan, Will, Jimmy H, Stuart and Jimbo to the Spa. Jimbo had suggested it long before we went as a suggested time filler on the last day, but I think he sold it wrong into something sounding quite homosexual. But nevertheless, it was nothing but and it would have been a great end to the weekend had we all gone.

Budapest has a lot of Turkish influence, culturally, architectually and also in the cuisine. This was particularly evident at the Turkish built spa. Three large pools surrounded by a beautiful building containing plungepools, jacuzzi's, sauna's and steamrooms. We spent the day hopping in and out of them all having a chillout and a laugh at the same time. Especially at the expense of some of the local men who had no shame walking around potbellied and naked, or incredibly hairy with bits hanging out the sides of their speedo's!

One of the pools had a large donut shaped ring area which you were able to swim around with the help of a rapid current which turned up and down in force throughout the course of the day. It was mental being whizzed and thrown around into people and trying to get out of the current which was nearly impossible when the rapids were at full pelt.

It was whilst here that Jimmy H offered one of the lines of the holiday when asked why he was standing at the side like a big girls blouse, he replied "it's too cold, I am more of a Jacuzzi man myself".

Although that one had me in tears, it wasn't the first and even though it was late on in the day it certainly wasn't the last. It was an awesome part of the subplot to the weekend, the jokes, banter, camadarie and pisstaking.

The biggest part of the camadarie was the question "Do you vote for A Reason?", "No? Why? Do you disaG'ry?" Which may sound a little bizarre, and trust me it was. I still don't fully understand it and I am writing about it. Basically, in simple terms, we had to vote for a favourite, Reaso or G'ry, each of which had a campaign manager and a campaign song.

"Love me for a Reason", or "Gry'wind" were sung out randomly throughout the course of the weekend, whilst Will was adding "Vote G'ry" to the chalk boards of bars, and carrying handmade posters and billboards in an attempt to gather "voters". Probably the funniest attempt of gathering a voter was when a passing guy on rollerblades skated by. He wasn't exactly skating slowly but Will turned and ran after him nearly 200 yards away down the road before the skater finally stopped and wondered just what the hell this mad Englishman wanted!

The modern day rule tends to be "What goes on tour, stays on tour" and I am a firm believer in that. But I am also a firm believer in sharing the love and seeing as so many Stag weekends are being arranged right now I want someone else to know about Budapest and the great time that we have all had.

It was a weekend aimed at providing the Stag with one final night of freedom before he gets tied down to married life. It wasn't like that. We had about six married men on that weekend away and each one of them will have come home after having an equally amazing time as Stuart just did. It is about enjoying time together with the lads, being lads, doing lad things and doing it all with a smile on our faces.

We have been back four days and that smile is still there.


Friday, 20 June 2008

Communications with Land Securities

In an attempt to open communications with the people behind the Ebbsfleet Landmark I was provided with contact details for Land Securities by a fellow blogger who shares similar opinions to me.

I list below the transcript of our email correspondence (so far) in the belief that by sharing this information other people can learn more about their take on the project and have a further understanding of what's being planned.

Good afternoon,

I am writing in the hope that this email is one of many concerns voiced regarding the five shortlisted designs for the Ebbsfleet Landmark.

Upon hearing of the idea initially I was led to believe that the landmark was being developed for the residents of Ebbsfleet as a vocal point, a place that made them feel "at home". I asked myself the question - How can you build something for somebody who isn't even there yet? Surely the people of Gravesend, Northfleet, Swanscome and the local area, the people who have been there for years need to feel at home and a sense of pride in this just as the people who are being encouraged to move to the area?

My second worry was that the money being spent on the Landmark, from £2m - £10 million, depending on what sources you believe. Now being a resident of Gravesend I thought that even the lowest figure, £2m is an astronomical price to pay when you consider that many parts of Gravesend, Northfleet, Swanscombe etc are suffering from real neglect and would benefit hugely from this money instead. Although I understand that Land Securities is non government and so doesn't have a say in where the council spend their money, it is still I believe a valid concern.

However opposed to the landmark I was before the 5 shortlisted designs were put forward, is nothing to how I feel now that they have been announced.

Each and everyone of the five designs is so far removed from anything that resembles the local history, culture, asthetics, environment and indeed it appears from my point of view and many people that I have spoken to that the artists have got this inappropriately wrong.

I urge you to reconsider the proposals and invite local people to have a larger say in the final design and help chosing a final landmark. I personally believe that this is unrequired right now and so a best case scenario would be for the idea to be shelved all together and regenerated later once the Ebbsfleet residents are settled and more familiar with how the community has bedded in. But this is probably unrealistic and so it is important for me to stress the importance on getting the design right, not just for the local area, but on a national level too.

I know that Graham Hampsheir ( has proposed a design that was overlooked by the people who are organising this and although I don't beleive that this is the right choice either, having believed that the artist has taken the "angel of the south" too literally and that the landmark shouldn't necessarily be synchronised with that of the north. However the final landmark, once complete should fit in harmony with it's surroundings, be considerate to the local history and have as much input from the local people as possible,

I realise that these designs are being showcased at Bluewater, but this is nothing more than a publicity stunt, saying "here are the designs, one of these will blight your landscape shortly". Nobody who visits the display gets to vote and more importantly nobody gets to say "No I don't want any of these".

Thank you very much for taking the time to read this email (I hope) and would certainly appreciate a response. I hope that common sense prevails, but I am a realist and understand that most likely you are to receive a few letters/emails of complaint and will carry on regardless.

Adam Bird

Dear Mr Bird,

Thank you for your email dated 10th June which was forwarded to me by Suzanne Kemmenoe from Land Securities. Firstly, apologies for the delay in responding to your email. Since the launch of the landmark proposals, we have received a large number of enquiries and it has taken some time to respond to each one individually.

We worked closely with our panel of art advisors to invite artists to submit proposals who we felt would be able to respond imagainatively to the history of the site and the changes that are planned to take place at Ebbsfleet Valley, as well as having experience of creating artworks in the public realm. It was by no means out of intention to overlook a locally based artist such as Graham Hampsheir, in fact at least two of the artists on the shortlist have strong personal connections to the local area.

Each of the artists responded to a detailed brief linked closely to the site and the specific indentity of Ebbsfleet Valley/ We appointed a historic advisor, Christoph Bull, head of Dartford Library, who helped us to brief the artists and we believe that each of the proposals very much relates to the identity of the site. More information about how the artists have interpreted Springhead's history and contemporary identity can be found on the website:

With regards to your concerns about the money being spent, £2mn is a lot of money, but Ebbsfleet is an important location with impressive plans. Already Land Securities is commited to a huge amount of 'planning gain' contribution for local facilities and this additional amount, contributed by various organisations, was felt to be necessary to ensure the appropriate level of quality and scale for such an important place.

We are in full support of local people having their say in the landmark and we are keen to hear people's comments on the proposals, which is why we are holding an exhibition of all the artist's models at Bluewater shopping centre. In addition, we also have an exhibition display at the offices of both Gravesham and Dartford Borough Council, where you are invited to 'Have Your Say' with the comments cards that we have provided. Finally, for those that are not able to visit any of these three venues, we also have a section on our website where you are able to feedback your comments. All of the feedback will be analysed and will be considered by the Selection Panel when the final decision is being made.

Yours sincerely

Managing Director

Good Afternoon,

Thank you very much for your response - a typical "corporate" reply, which gives a lot of information but doesn't really provide much in reply. Your opinion that each of the five designs relating to the identity of the site really proves how far from touch you really are with the local people.

My suggestion to you would be to ballot every household in Gravesham and surrounding areas with a list of the five designs and a further option that says "none of above". I can almost certainly assure you that most will tick and reply with the latter.

I will endeavour to continue supporting the petition ( that calls for a more transparent communication process between the local people and yourselves. I am 100% not convinced that whatever responses you receive, whatever your findings are - one of the five designs will be chosen regardless. Ultimately at a detrimental cost to the local people.


Adam Bird

Dear Mr Bird

Thank you for your prompt response to my letter. I am sorry that you found it inadequate and that you think that I am out of touch. Whilst you have a right to have such opinions, your reply indicates that I may be somewhat more open-minded than you. Now there's a thought that you might like to consider.

We await with great interest the outcome of the unprecedented consultation that is taking place at Bluewater (and via the two town halls and the web).

Yours Sincerly

Managing Director

Mr Jordan,

Whilst you personally may be open minded and I believe also that I am open minded to many things, the situation regarding the Ebbsfleet Landmark is nothing to do with how liberal minded either of us are. This isn't about you and I, this is about the people of Gravesham, Kent and even the UK vs the Ebbslfeet Landmark.

I live in the area and have always done, my family too. I am sure that you aren't and therefore not so personally affected by what happens in the local area.

My point still remains and is backed up by hundreds of forums around Kent and the UK that the five shortlisted ideas are not in keeping with the local area, culturally, historically and aesthetically. I would even go as far as to say that they are not appropriate on a National Level where there are many examples of art and sculpture givine the UK a portfolio to be proud of.

It is all very well having showcases at Bluewater and the website, but it is a matter of procedure. The landmark will go ahead anyway. Invite a broad range mixture of people from varying backgrounds to sit on the judging panel and let them have a say.

Best regards

Adam Bird


I still feel that the "public consultation" phase that is currently being undertaken is just a matter of procedure and policy. I also never meant that Mr Jordan personally was 'out of touch', it appears that the artists who five designs have been shortlisted clearly are!

Please post any comments on your thoughts about this, or view the facebook group for the contact details for Land Securities.

Monday, 16 June 2008

A Massive Thank You to Stuart & Amy

For claiming the anonimously sent vouchers! Proof that a) at least one person visits the website b) online marketing/advertising is the future and c) blondes live up to the stereotype!

A Massive Thank You to ?????

Just a quick posting to thank everyone who came to our party on Saturday evening and we hope that everyone had a great time! Both Stephanie and I have been overwhelmed by the gifts that we have received and we hope to send out individual thank you's shortly. The reason for this post is an SOS! Someone sent Stephanie and I some Next vouchers and we don't know who they are from! If you were at Bluewater Next on Thursday 12th June at roughly 6.50pm, can you let us know who you are so we can give you a big hug like everyone else?

Thursday, 12 June 2008

Peace and Quiet

It has been very quiet in the blogging stakes since the 22nd May when I wrote "10 conclusions for the European Cup Final". Things should hopefully pick up again shortly with our engagement party this Saturday night, and Stuarts stag weekend at the end of the month.

Although the European Championships have been on over the past week I cannot say that I have been entirely enthusiastic about the whole affair. The games that I have managed to sit and watch have been tepid affairs, and I seem to flick over or walk out the room just as a goal is scored.

The pick of the teams after the first round of matches has been Portugal, Holland and Spain. Of those three I would like to see Spain go all the way, purely because of the Liverpool connection and the fact that I dislike Ronaldo (verging on hatred) about the way that he seems to be treating Manchester United with contempt over the whole Real Madrid saga. Finally, Holland, very pleasing on the eye to watch, play amazing football, but whatever they achieve it seems that they are constantly being compared to the great teams of years gone by, which starts to get annoying after a while.

With the domestic pre-season being very quiet so far, and to be honest rather depressing from a Gillingham point of view with relegation to League Two. I am sure come August I will be chomping at the bit again and proclaiming our title credentials!

So to our engagement party this Saturday. With luck we should have a good number, a lot of people haven't been able to make it for various reasons, but that's the way things go! We have had some posters made with the date of the wedding printed on them so people don't have any excuse for missing out on the wedding.

Stephanie has been working hard on all the arrangements, making sure a DJ is booked, buffet is prepared and that the hall is decorated in a purple fashion to match her dress for the night. I have even played along nicely and will be wearing a matching shirt on Saturday to incorporate myself into Stephanie's 'theme'. However, one thing that has eluded us so far is a song in which to dance to. Personally I think that this is a wedding thing, but apparently not...! Steph has been watching re-runs of Top of the Pops and scouring the Internet for "the one" but so far no luck.

I don't really know why we haven't got a stand out song, it must have just passed us by. For one of Steph's birthdays at the beginning of our relationship I took her to London to see Whistle Down the Wind and we kind of adopted "No Matter What" by Boyzone, but I hate the song now. Not that it holds bad memories or anything. But Boyzone?!!

The best thing about music, is it captures a specific time in your life, for me Oasis and Live Forever, Rock N Roll Star and the whole Definitely Maybe will always be about me at the end of my school days, heading off into life without a care in the world. It's the same with most music, you listen to a track that is a year old, it takes you back to a specific memory and gives it an element of extra clarity.

So, if anything I don't think having a slow romantic ballad that we like the words to would be a suitable choice for this occasion. I think something that encapsulated a moment from our relationship that brings both of us happy memories, whether it is "It's Like That" by Run DMC (the number one single when we got together!) or something totally different, it doesn't matter as long as it fits.

Whichever way it turns out, we hope to have a great night, and hope that everyone who comes does too! Hopefully the blog postings will pick up again over the next few weeks and some new photos added to the site as well. See you all on Saturday!

Thursday, 22 May 2008

10 Conclusions from Yesterday's European Cup Final

After yesterdays post looking ahead towards last night's European Cup Final I thought it would be only fair to keep the same format in summarising the event.

1) I would not like to be John Terry this morning. Good job I am not a betting man! I would have bet big money on him scoring as he walked up to that penalty spot. He was distraught after that, and you can hardly blame him. The 2008 European Cup, ten years down the line will be remembered for John Terry's miss if anything else.
2) Ronaldo confirmed that he is an arrogant muppet. Just what the hell was he doing with his penalty kick? If anyone deserved to be in John Terry's shoes last night it was him for the way he ran, stopped, jiggled and missed his penalty.
3) I must have had a premonition about Drogba, deserved to go. Shame it wasn't earlier. For a man of his size and stature he doesn't half throw himself about easy.
4) Manchester United should have been out of sight by half time.
5) Chelsea should have won it after ninety minutes.
6) Both teams were even during extra time.
7) The future looks good for Manchester United, will they have to wait so long before they win the trophy again?
8) Whereas Chelsea, could be an interesting summer. New manager, players leaving - will wait and see.
9) It was a much improved spectacle compared to the FA Cup final last year. Thank You.
10) But there was still too much hype and it was never going to live up to that.

Wednesday, 21 May 2008

10 Wishes for Tonights Champion League Final

Tonight sees the very first European Cup final featuring two english sides in what is quite possibly the most overhyped game ever in the history of football. Yes, it is good that two english sides are playing, but does anyone remember last years FA Cup final, which was quite possibly the most boring game ever?

Here are ten things that I hope to see in tonights game:

1) Chelsea lose
2) Drogba gets sent off in the first minute and walks off crying
3) That I am still awake before the end of the first half
4) Ronaldo takes his premier league form onto the 'big stage'
5) There is more than one goal
6) The winning goal is scored by Englishman
7) Someone mentions that 'massive' Chelsea couldn't sell all their tickets
8) It doesn't go to extra time and penalties (except if it is a 4-4 draw)
9) If Chelsea win there is a blackout so we don't get to see the celebrations
10) Avram Grant and Alex Ferguson have a punch up on the touchline

Monday, 19 May 2008

A Big Day at Little Silver

It seems as if we have been catching up for lost time. No sooner had we announced our engagement just a month later we have booked a venue and set a date for our 'Big Day'. We will be getting married at the Little Silver Country Hotel on September 11th 2010 at 2pm!

During the saga that was my proposal of marriage I assumed that Stephanie would want to get married abroad, a European destination such as Cyprus, Greece or Turkey. I had actually told people when asked that this would be the plan! It surprised me therefore that she wanted a slightly more traditional wedding at home surrounded by her nearest and dearest.

In the week that followed our proposal I hit Google with vengeance and our postman seriously considered retirement due to bad back having been forced to deliver brochure upon brochure advertising wedding venues across the UK and Ireland! Admittedly I did go overboard looking at stately homes and medieval castles fit for people with larger budgets than ourselves.

Even so, we were shocked that even the more humble venues charged extortionate prices and we sweated slightly that our proposed 2010 date may be set back to 2020 just to accommodate the prices that they were charging!

Still, we figured that we had time on our hands and with Stephanie bringing in some extra money from Slimming World our task should be a little easier in meeting a budget that is achievable for the pair of us, even if it is at the expense of what the Slimming World role was originally for - more time off work and more time at home with Oliver.

Stephanie had the unenviable task of filtering through my mountain of brochures, looking through and selecting the ones that appealed to her, ready for us to make arrangements to view.

Over the course of four weekends in May we would be visiting four venues, appointments set up randomly with no order or preference. Having visited Salomons in Tonbridge Wells and admired the building and the grounds, which were spectacular, set upon a hill with a view over the South Downs. We decided that it wasn't really for us as the room set up was complicated and people would be here there and everywhere, when ideally we want people all in the same room and cutting shapes on the dance floor!

Last weekend we visited Little Silver Country Hotel, and from the brochure we both admitted on the journey down that we had high expectations. We were on our own this time, without Steph's parents, but we had Oliver with us, which proved to be a blessing, as on arrival we were met by a gentlemen who introduced himself as Oliver and the first 'sign' was illuminated.

Having been given the grand tour and shown wedding photo albums as to other people day at the Little Silver it was clear to me that this was the place that Stephanie wanted to get married. Seeing her getting misty eyed in the bridal suite and lumpy throaty in the main reception hall I figured that she was quite impressed!

As Oliver, the proprietor busied himself with putting together some estimates for us to take away and look over Stephanie and I had a brief conversation that reaffirmed both of our thoughts, which were that the place ticked all of our boxes and that this was the place that Stephanie wants to get married.

We both felt that the venue offered homely comfort, and that although it is a hotel it offers us the exclusivity we wanted. The Kent Hall, where our wedding breakfast will be held (and ceremony in case of inclement weather) offers a unique setting in it's octagonal shape, and bar within the same room layout. Being a family run enterprise and the first impressions we got from Oliver were highly impressionable with sensible advice and 'nothing is too much effort' attitude.

Both Will and Reaso told us that we will know when we go somewhere whether or not it is the 'right' place, and both their words rang true. It was confirmed to both of us yesterday as we visited Chilstern Park Hotel and a Ramada Hotel on the outskirts of Leeds that we were making the right choice. Both venues yesterday were lovely in there own right, but, like Solomons, there were question marks over certain things - questions that the Little Silver had all the answers to.

With our minds made up, Stephanie called the Little Silver this morning and confirmed our date. It may be a long way off yet, but it is a lot closer than Stephanie would have thought just five weeks ago!

My wedding blog updates will probably fall quiet over the next year or so as we save and plan. No doubt come 2010 they will be frequent and be full of nervous anticipation! We hope to see you there!
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