Orlando, New York and Aruba!

It was my sister’s wedding last month, and she’d decided to have a beach wedding in Aruba, so I decided that since I’d be travelling across the Atlantic, I’d also add a short USA holiday to it as well!

So I flew out to Orlando on the 6th October, leaving Manchester at lunchtime, arriving at 4.30pm local time. The queue through passport control was crazy – it took 2¼ hours to get through it, and then once my passport had been checked, I was then picked to have my suitcase examined! I eventually checked into my hotel – the ‘Holiday Inn & Suites Across From Universal Orlando’ – and it really was ‘across’, being just a 15 minute walk to the main entrance to the Universal theme parks!

After a long day of travelling, I went to bed pretty much straight away, and then woke up ridiculously early because of jet-lag! So annoying!

Anyway, I got myself breakfast from a nearby McDonalds, and then arrived at the theme park around 10.30am.

I entered the Islands of Adventure park and hit the rides straight away! I stayed there until about 2 o’clock, and after a bit of lunch, took the Hogwart’s Express from Hogsmeade to King’s Cross over in the the Universal Studios park. Generally, it was busier than when I visited in 2014, and the queues were longer, but I imagine no-where near as busy as it is in peak season!

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Scotland weekend

Last weekend I was up in Scotland with Ali for Steve & Tatiana’s wedding! The wedding was on the Friday, so I drove up on Thursday afternoon and then picked up Ali from the airport, who’d taken a flight from Bristol. However, as I was driving to the airport, I got a major warning light and message on my car saying ‘system fault’ which wasn’t ideal!

I get RAC membership with my car servicing, so called them up early evening, and an RAC man finally arrived quite late, and determined it was probably an issue with my battery not fully holding its charge and causing the error message. He reckoned it would be safe to drive over the weekend but that I’d need to arrange to get it checked soon at a Nissan garage.

Anyway, next day was the day of the wedding – I’d offered to live stream it for them, since a lot of Tatiana’s family weren’t able to make it over to the UK. We had breakfast and left first thing so that I’d have time to set up kit. I was only using a single camera with a BlackMagic Web Presenter plugged into my laptop. In hindsight, I wish I’d packed a 2nd camera to plug into it, but I think they were happy that there was any kind of broadcast!

You can still watch the live stream of the service on YouTube.

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#batemantakethiswoman

This weekend I’ve been up in North Yorkshire – specifically Selby and Thorne near Doncaster – for Dave Bateman’s wedding to Abbie – hence the hashtag #batemantakethiswoman!

Me and Jimmy drove up first thing yesterday morning, grabbing a quick McDonalds breakfast nearby because we were a bit early, and then arrived at the church in Selby where we sat with Rob & Jenny, Chris & Debbie, Tom, Ralph & Laura, and Penny. Of course, John Roberts was there too, but since he was best man, he got to sit down the front with Mr Bateman!

Abbie and Dave.

It was a really nice service, and afterwards the rain stopped just long enough to take some photos in the churchyard, and by the yellow VW camper that was taking Dave and Abbie to their reception!

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Wedfest

I spent last weekend camping up in north Yorkshire at the Camp Hill Estate for the event of the year – Wedfest!

Rather than opt for a regular wedding, Darren and Claire opted to make a whole weekend of it, and include camping, and get married in the open air! Luckily the weather was perfect for the whole weekend, so no wellies were needed!

We all arrived on the Friday afternoon to pitch our tents… I was camping near to Rob, Clare and Tabitha, along with some of their friends who were really nice. The first night we had a barbecue in the woods, followed by late night consumption of alcohol back at our tents!

Then on the day of the wedding, after a breakfast of bacon rolls, we all chilled a bit before getting changed into our smart clothes (something that isn’t a particularly easy thing to do in a tent!). Then it was time to head over to the wedding area.

Darren and Claire.

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The year so far…

It’s been a while, so here’s a bit of a catch up!
Yesterday I went to Liverpool Cathedral to hear Rob Bell talk about his new book – ‘Love Wins‘. I’d seen him do a Q&A at Greenbelt last year, so was quite interested to hear him in person talk about his new book which has already caused a bit of controversy within the church.

It was quite bizarre because quite a few influential people were highly critical of it via Twitter, even before the book had actually been released, so I decided I’d rather make my own mind up, rather than listen to emotional ramblings from people who can come across a bit arrogant at times!

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I went with Tom Green from Vinelife, and met up with Dave Bateman (who’s now living in Liverpool), and I also bumped into Tim Follin and his wife who were both there too. The place was pretty packed, and it was really interesting to hear his thoughts, but even though I think some of the stuff he said was quite though-provoking, I’m not totally sure I agree with all the points he put across.

After he did his main talk bit, he was ‘interviewed’ by the host of the evening, but he wasn’t really very good at it and asked pretty rubbish questions.  And then they invited people from the audience to ask questions, but again I thought there were a lot of missed opportunities, and Tom went forward to ask a question, but they wrapped up just before he got a chance to which was a bit annoying!

I bought the book afterwards, and I want to read it myself to see what I reckon – I certainly think it’s good that he’s causing people to ask questions about it.

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America – YEAH!

Well, I’ve just got back from an amazing two weeks in the USA!

I’d never been there before, so when I got an invite to Emma McNeil’s (now Patterson!) wedding to Gerald in North Carolina, I decided that it’d be really cool to be there for that, and also to discover a bit of America at the same time!

I flew out from Manchester Airport on Tuesday 7th, and got on the plane around lunchtime, but not before being selected for a security check as I was boarding!  I guess it was because I was travelling on my own, but it’s funny how you start to feel guilty when you’ve not actually got anything to hide!  About 8 hours later I made it into Newark Airport – and it was really weird being able to see such iconic views as the Manhattan skyline and the Statue of Liberty as we came in to land!  After a bit of a delay waiting for my next flight to Greensboro, I finally boarded what can only be described as a coach with wings!  It was a 50-seater, small 2-engine plane, that was incredibly narrow with just 3 seats across, and an aisle separating one of those!  It was a bit of a bumpy journey – I’m not the most experienced flier, so it doesn’t take too much to make me a bit nervous! But we eventually landed safely at Greensboro airport quite late, although my awareness of time was a bit screwy due to the time difference!

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After getting through the airport, I met up with Emma and her mum, as well as her brother and his family who’d also just flown in, before picking up the car I was hiring for my time in North Carolina. It was a little automatic Chevrolet, and I then had to follow them back to her apartment on the other side of the city – which considering I’d only driven on the right-hand side once before in 1997, and this time it was also dark, it was quite an experience! I was actually quite relieved it was an automatic because it meant I didn’t have to worry about changing gear with the wrong hand!

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Tom’s wedding

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Last weekend I trekked down to Bideford for a pretty special day – Tom Green’s wedding to Vicky!

Tom’s probably my oldest friend – we spend pretty much all our time together when we were kids… whilst at school we tried to start TV and radio stations, produced the school magazine and a yearbook, made a short film, wrote a ‘commercial’ computer game that earned us about £100(!), plus loads of other crazy ventures!

And then after school, we’ve kept in touch, firstly helping start up a community radio station together, and we’ve both then taken career paths in media – Tom in radio and me in tv and video.  We even shared a house together in Birmingham in the summer of 1997!

Anyway, Tom’s been living in the UAE for the last few years, and was in Cairo before that, so we don’t see other loads, but do keep in touch online, and have caught up when he’s been back in the UK visiting family.

So when I was invited to his wedding down in Devon, there was no way I was going to miss it!  It was a heck of a long journey down there from Manchester, but I stayed at a Travelodge on the M5 the night before to break it up a little bit, and then stayed in Bideford on the Saturday night after the reception.

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Summer 2010

Thought I’d better do a bit of a recap about what’s been going on over the summer, and I supposed the first thing I need to blog about is that we had a bit of a setback at work last month when we had a break-in at the office.

Basically, the whole top floor of our building was targeted, and the burglars broke into about 50 separate units in all! Most businesses had stuff stolen, but it seems like we were the worst hit, with us losing 3 iMacs and a Macbook Pro, plus all our filming kit comprising of a Sony EX3 and Z1, as well as a load of audio stuff as well.  It’s been a pretty horrible experience – luckily we’ve only lost a bit of work since they didn’t take our server or external hard drives, which would have destroyed us really since we hadn’t really got a decent back-up of all our work. But it’s just so gutting that you put so much time and effort into building the business to have some scum just take it away from you.

Anyway, we’re currently looking at options for what to do next – hopefully we’ve got a new office lined up because I really don’t want us to go back to our old one, because I think it might just happen again if they don’t sort out the security issues.  Should have a clearer idea of the future soon.

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On to happier stuff… at the beginning of August, Rob and Clare got married in a field in Mellor (a small village not too far from Stockport), and I was one of the 12 ushers who were all dressed fully in white!

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Loads of great music…

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Well, after seeing U2 last month (which was amazing by the way… have I mentioned that?!) I’ve experienced some more great bands in the last few weeks.

I went to Greenbelt over the August Bank Holiday weekend with Ali and her mates from Bristol. Because she was working on the set-up team, it meant we were able to camp a lot closer to the main area, which was much better than the last time I went, when we were camped so far away!

There was a great variety of music over the weekend: Athlete, Röyksopp, Sixpence None The Richer, Cornershop, yFriday, plus lots of smaller artists as well.

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Also, I got to hear a bit of Rob Bell too, which was really interesting. I’ve got a few of his books, but I’ve yet to read them – that’s something I need to do when I get a bit more time! He was doing a Q&A session, so covered quite a few subjects. He did a couple of specific talks as well, but unfortunately I didn’t manage to get into those because the queues were so long that people got turned away. I need to get an MP3 of them!

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August catch-up

Thought I’d better do a bit of a catch-up…

It’s been a busy few weeks – we’ve had a lot on at work, which is obviously a good thing, but it would be nice to take a decent break at some point!

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A few weeks ago, I went down to Soul Survivor North in Stafford as a day visitor. James and Helen had taken the Vinelife youth there for the week, so I met up with them as they were dishing up tea to a crowd of teenagers in very wet conditions! They’d taken Jess with them, which must have been interesting for them, but she seemed to be really enjoying herself, and I got to feed her a bowl of pasta which she wolfed down! It was just a shame the weather was so poor, because camping’s much better when the sun’s out!

It’s been a couple of years since I’ve been to Soul Survivor, when I was working down in Shepton Mallet venue doing visuals in the Underground venue. It actually felt a bit weird being there as a punter – you kind of can’t switch off from being aware of all the behind-the-scenes stuff that’s happening!

Then that weekend it was John and Carolyn’s wedding up in South Shields.

I won the prize of being the driver for the trip, so it was a full car that set off from Manchester at 7am on the Friday morning up to the North East. Me, Dave, John, Jimmy and Mike were all crammed into my Focus, but luckily we actually had a really clear run up there, and it was a good laugh!

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Ste & Julie’s wedding

Thought it was time for one of my not-so-regular blogs! A couple of weekends ago, my brother Steve got married to Julie, so that leaves me as the only one not married!!

It was a nice day – they’d asked me to film it for them, so it kept me busy and gave me a job to do! Not sure when I’ll get a chance to edit it though… I’ve still need to do Vikky and Damien’s one from last September! It was a bit weird, because apart from family, I didn’t really know anyone else there – Vikky knows a lot of Ste’s mates, but being up in Manchester means that I lose touch with all stuff like that. There are photos of the day here.

It kind of makes me think about my own life a bit though. Both my brother and sister are now married, and I’d always hoped that the same would happen to me, and that I’ve have my own family and all that, but as I’m getting older, I see all that slipping away from me which makes me really quite sad at times. Also, I suppose as you see your mates around you getting married and having kids, it just reinforces it to you all the time. I know I’ve wasted my life a bit over the last few years… I’ve let my head get totally screwed up twice by someone I really liked (going back for more heartache obviously wasn’t the wisest thing I could have done – but sometimes you don’t act rationally!) It’s a bit weird how much your emotions can switch from having really strong feelings for someone to then never wanting to lay eyes on them again, especially when at the end of the day, the problem is mine not theirs… there’s no law that says they have to feel the same way! Even now though, I’m still struggling to put all that behind me and move on, but by never having to see her again, that should at least mean I can just wipe that period of my life away, and try to move forward. It is totally rubbish though – 5 years of spending your time thinking about one person is such a waste – but it’s a lot easier to say you’re over it than it actually being true!

Wow – that was all a bit more open and honest than I planned… though sometimes it’s good to get things off your chest!

Mr & Mrs Wood

Well, the wedding all went off great, and my sis is now officially Victoria Wood (insert your own gag here!)

It was a completely mad morning – I was staying at Steve & Julies’, and I got up about 8.30 to watch a bit of tv… the calm before the storm! Then it was time to get my suit on, and it was going okay until the phone rang, so I opened the door to go and answer it, forgetting that the suit jacket was hanging on it. I picked it up off the floor, to discover it covered in cat hair and sawdust (Steve had been constructing a wardrobe in the room the day before!) I tried my best to get it all off, but eventually I decided that everyone would be looking at Vikky’s dress rather than my suit, so I stopped worrying too much about it!!

The weather forecast for the day was pretty horrendous – heavy rain had been predicted all week, and we certainly had a downpour first thing, but by mid-morning the heavy rain stopped and it wasn’t too bad.

I headed off to my mum’s house at quarter to eleven where they were all getting ready – my mum, sis and her four bridesmaids… and to say it was hectic there would be a massive understatement! And then at 11.15 (45 minutes before the wedding was to start), there was a major panic as it was realised that one of the pairs of shoes for the bridesmaids was missing, and no-one had ever seen them! So I was sent off to race over in my car to Vikky’s house to look for them (with no clue where they’d be!) and I eventually found them in a box in the back of their storecupboard! And when I got back at about 11.30, she still hadn’t got her wedding dress on!

Anyway, we made it to the church for noon, although it took about 10 minutes to do the photos outside, so I’m sure Damien was sweating a bit at the front of the church!

It then all seemed to happen so fast – we walked down the aisle behind the bridesmaids, and then I stood at the side of them just praying that I wouldn’t mess up the bit where I had to give her away! I did it right, but then couldn’t remember whether it was then that I was supposed to go back to my seat, or if I was supposed to stay there a bit longer… but I chose the former ‘cos I though it better to do that than be standing there when I wasn’t supposed to be!

Then after the service, it just seemed to be never-ending photographs! We had some taken outside the church – it was drizzling a bit, but it wasn’t that wet really, then we headed over to Middleton Hall for the reception and had a load of photos done in the gardens there. This was then followed by the meal (chicken.. mmm) and then a disco with karaoke.

Both Damien and Vikky had a great day, and you could see they both really enjoyed it all (except when they had to walk around everyone before the meal!), and then yesterday they came back with me to Manchester because they flew out to Cuba from here this morning.

I’ve posted all my photos here.

Wedding chaos!

I’m typing this at my mum’s house because I’m down in Tamworth today ahead of my sister’s wedding tomorrow, and it’s absolute madness! I’m kind of glad I’ve only been here for one day of it, because everyone’s stressed trying to get everything sorted in time! We had the rehearsal last night, and I hope I can remember what it is I’m supposed to do! I’m giving Vikky away so I’m walking down the aisle with her, and I have a moment where I have to say “I do”! I’m sure it will all be great tomorrow, but I realised some things are still last minute when we were helping Damien write his groom’s speech just a couple of hours ago!

Anyway, I guess I should post a quick update on all that’s happened in the last few weeks since I headed down for Soul Survivor. On the Tuesday, I went and visited Ali down in Bristol and it was really nice catching up with her again. We grabbed a pizza, chatted until late about loads of stuff, and I even tried to convert her into a Myspace junkie (but I seem to have failed with that!)

Wednesday lunchtime, and it was time to continue onto Shepton Mallet, where I met up with the 29 guys, and also with Kate who did the video stuff with me there last year. They’d moved us into a smaller venue this year, which was good because it helped make it look much fuller each night, although we were out of the way of the main venues a bit which I think meant some of the kids didn’t realise we were there until later in the week. Then for the second week, Kate had to leave because she was doing a course in London, so Andy Passey took over which worked really well. It was a great 2 weeks, and on the whole, the weather wasn’t too bad.

However, for the 3rd week, Soul Survivor was replaced by Momentum, which I was staying round for along with Andy, so we kept all the video and computer equipment in the room we’d been using as an edit suite, but put it all on the floor under the worktops to keep it out of the way of the Artshed guys who we were sharing it with.

That afternoon though, we had a major storm with torrential rain, and quite a lot of the site got flooded (although my tent was okay), but I kind of assumed the venue would be okay because it seemed above ground level. After the main meeting, I met up with Andy who’d been to the Passion For Your Name meeting in what was the Underground during the previous weeks, and he said that the water had flooded through from the back of there, right down under the stage!

Now panicking ever-so slightly, I headed off to site control who told me that the artshed had been ankle-deep in water, and the stewards had had to rescue stuff on floor level, but they weren’t aware of that storeroom! So me and Andy went down there, and we were so lucky, because right next to the storeroom was a fire-exit where the floor dipped down a bit, and basically the river had taken that route rather than flow into the storeroom! I then hastily moved all my stuff off the floor – no point taking chances!!

You can see all the photos I took here.

I got back to Manchester at 3am last Thursday morning, and it was so good being back in my own bed after spending 15 days living in a tent! Then on Saturday, I met up with Sa and we went round town looking for items for a ‘survival kit’ for Emma who’s leaving Manchester to study in Cardiff. The original plan was to try and find some Welsh items, but we struggled to find that much (surpringingly, in England!) so the main thrust of it is things to remind her of Manchester, including a beautiful postcard we found of Levenshulme’s high street – classy! Then on the evening, Jamie came and joined us and we all watched a DVD at Sarah’s. It was nice hanging out with them both again – it’s been a really long time since I’ve spent time with these guys, and it’s great to be able to do so again, after all that’s happened.

Anyway, I need to get off here to allow my sis to book a coach ticket to bring them back from the airport after their honeymoon… I’m driving them up to mine on Sunday afternoon ‘cos they’re flying from Manchester aiport early on Monday morning. Will post an update about the wedding later!

Portsmouth

I’m feeling really tired, but I’ve got loads that I need to get done this weekend…

Mo and PeteWith work this week, I had to go down to Portsmouth to give a presentation to some call centre staff who are handling a telemarketing campain for us. I’ve never had to do anything like that before, so was quite aprehensive… and the reason I was having to do it was because Pete Searle who would normally do that sort of thing is off on his honeymoon (photos from his wedding are here). You’d have thought he could have put off his wedding to Mo by a week or so to help me out…

Anyway, the presentation was to take place at 11.30am on Thursday morning, so I was at Manchester Airport for half seven to catch an 0845 flight to Southampton. But whilst I was waiting in the departure lounge, I noticed the screens changed to show that the flight would be delayed by just over half an hour, which meant I’d be pushing it for time at the other end. So I waited until 9.20, when we were then told that there were technical problems and we’d be getting more information at half ten. Obviously this caused me slight problems since it was going to take me half an hour to get to Portsmouth from the airport, and the earliest I was going to get to Southampton looked to be 11.30 – the same time as the presentation!

We actually got our update at quarter past eleven, and we were told that a new plane would be arriving at noon, but there was really no point with me getting on it – but apparently if you remove yourself from a massively delayed flight, you don’t get your money back… they only do that if it’s cancelled! Anyway, what eventually happened is that I rearranged to travel on the same flight on Friday morning, with the return flight first thing yesterday morning because the guys I needed to meet wouldn’t be around until 6pm!

HMS Victory at Portsmouth HarbourFriday’s journey went a lot smoother, and since the presentation wasn’t until the evening, I had a few hours to look around bits of Portsmouth, and went to take a look at HMS Victory, and also around Gunwharf Quays which is where I was staying overnight at a Holiday Inn. The talk went okay I guess… it was a bit awkward because firstly it was someone else’s presentation, and I didn’t have Powerpoint or our DVD to use because it was rescheduled last minute!

Later on that evening, I went to the cinema (which handily was right next to the hotel!) to watch ‘Cinderella Man‘ – Russell Crowe and Renée Zellweger’s new film, and it was excellent. Quite violent in parts I guess because it’s about boxing, but it all took place within the ring, so the context allowed for it. I’ll be really surprised if it doesn’t pick up a few Oscars next time round.

Then yesterday, I had to get up at 4.30am to get to Southampton for my flight back up to Manchester… so that’s 3 early mornings in a row. I feel wrecked now! I’m not a morning person at all!

Mike & Claire’s Wedding

Claire & MikeIt was Mike Grey’s wedding yesterday, and I had the pleasure of filming it all for him. When he got engaged to Claire, he asked me if I’d do it, and I said I’d only do it if both of us were still working at MUTV when they actually got married! It seemed so far away then that I was sure that one of us would have moved on by now!

Anyway, it was fine… I was a bit worried about the ceremony bit, because you can’t really ask them to do stuff again. Although I did get Claire to walk down the stairs again before she entered the room, because I missed her coming down first time.

In the evening Pete Searle and Mo were there, as were Joanne, Gemma and Mark Hargreaves who were making an appearance for United, so at least there were some familiar faces around for part of the day.

The photos I managed to take whilst I wasn’t filming are here (make sure you check out Mike’s pink shoes!!)