So, the last weekend together for a few weeks has come and gone. Thankfully, this has been the final one achieved by train travel because, as I sit writing this very second, Kieran is stranded at Reading train station after assistance forgot to help him board his connection to Hereford half an hour ago. He’s since found staff and has been told that he can get on a later train that will take him to Newport where he has to wait a further half hour to board a connection to Hereford. Eventually, some time this evening he’ll be back in Hereford. It’s a little beyond a joke now seeing as I had issues in Reading and Oxford two weeks ago. As soon as Kieran dropped that he had a 40 minute wait at Reading into conversation this morning, I was immediately worried that assistance would screw up. They seem generally useless at long gaps between alighting one train and boarding your connection. It’s such a shame, too, because Reading kind of redeemed themselves for me last week when I managed to get on the Hereford connection with no issues at all. But again it seems like they’ve proved themselves to be ridiculously rubbish at their job. All I can hope now is that Kieran’s assistance, arranged on the spot by the station and himself via Twitter, is perfect at Newport. To be fair, Newport have been my absolute favourite station for assistance since I started travelling by train. I’ve never had even a slight hiccup there. I can only hope they act the same for Kieran tonight when he finally gets there. I was joking last week when I said that I couldn’t wait to start flying up and down the country to cut the distance between Kieran and I but after today I’m really not any more. After the last few disasters with assistance, I’m not really sad to see the back of needing to travel by train to see each other. Airports won’t have the choice of being as useless because if they forgot to board us on to our flights, they’d be in serious trouble as flights are nowhere near as frequent as the trains and the issue would be a lot harder to resolve than assistance at train stations make it seem when they’ve made the error. We have to be grateful that services like travel assistance on the trains exists, of course, because without them we wouldn’t be able to travel around the country on the railways like we do but it’s on days like this when errors like this occur that you can’t help but be angry with the system. Disabled travel assistance is booked over the phone and logged into an online system so it seems ridiculous that things like this can ever happen. But they seem to be quite often lately.
On Thursday evening, Kieran travelled down to Southampton via Oxford to spend the weekend here with me. Dad picked him up from the station on his way home from work and when they arrived, Dad had decided that he was ordering delivery pizza for everyone despite the fact that Mum had already been cooking Kieran’s dinner and preparing food for Dad. Kieran chose chicken strippers and potato wedges as he said he wasn’t hungry enough for a whole pizza. The food arrived quite late and we sat in the kitchen so Kieran could eat. Dad had ordered pizza and garlic bread, too, which he offered to us both but which neither of us fancied. I’d already had a mash-up dinner of quiche, garlic bread, potato waffles and a couple of mini sausage rolls earlier on so was already full. When Kieran finished his food, we went upstairs and curled up together on my bed for a cuddle and a chat. Plus, Kieran was pretty tired after the train journey and his day spent at work.
On Friday morning, similar to the last two weekends, we had no rush at all to get up and be ready for anything. We had nothing planned at all and nobody would be home until at least six o’clock that evening so we had nothing to do for anyone else either. The only things that were on the agenda were eating Weetabix and having showers, but all in good time. Eventually, after drifting in and out of sleep, chatting a bit and having lots of cuddles, we dragged ourselves out of bed long after midday, making no rush to do anything at all. We’d agreed to swap our usual routine around today to see if we could save my brain from feeling scrambled. So instead of going for showers first, we went downstairs in dressing gowns and pyjamas to complete one half of the agenda: scoffing Weetabix. First, I needed to find everything we needed for breakfast: the two massive tea mugs, box of Yorkshire tea bags, sweeteners, box of Weetabix, liquid level indicator, milk, bowls, jug and spoons. While I set about making my Weetabix (the weird way) and putting some ready in a bowl for Kieran, he made the tea (because I cannot be trusted with a kettle). Between us, we managed to successfully make breakfast. While we did this, we listened to Capital South Coast through the Tune In app on my Ipad.
After everything from breakfast was cleared away, we went back upstairs, had showers and got ready for the day. We continued to listen to Capital, streaming it through my Chromecast onto the docking station, while Kieran tried to solve some problems I was having with my laptop. Lately, I hadn’t been able to use either my Brailliant braille display or BrailleNote Apex as a braille display with my laptop. I hadn’t been able to pair either of them with JAWS or NVDA and I was hoping Kieran would be able to get one of them working. At first, it looked like he’d succeeded with the Apex but then it kept disconnecting itself and he couldn’t get the connection to remain active. So we moved onto my Brailliant where he discovered that the drivers installed to use it via Bluetooth and USB were corrupt. He tried reinstalling them but the corrupt ones just wouldn’t be removed. So there was nothing he could do for either device. I was glad for Kieran’s efforts to try and get things working because I really miss having a braille display alongside my computer but it doesn’t look like I’m getting that back any time soon, which is a bit annoying as both devices should work fine as braille displays, especially the Brailliant as that is its sole purpose. The fact that I have something that doesn’t fulfil it’s requirements through either available connection is pretty frustrating, especially as I can’t really afford to replace it and nobody is buying it off me for the lowest price I can possibly sell it. Then again, I’ve never gotten on well with technology that involves computers so I guess this is just my payback for hating computers for so long and stubbornly refusing to use them — now that I can, the way I like to use them is impossible. While Kieran was trying to make things work, the chromecast decided it wanted to join the temperamental club and stopped allowing us to stream the radio to the dock. So we decided to give up on the radio and watch some telly instead. I used my Apple TV to open Netflix and from there we agreed on Live At The Apollo, which Kieran has already seen and I’d said I wanted to watch at some point. Kieran said that originally Netflix had all series of the show but now there are only a few. This didn’t bother me too much as it was something good to watch and there were multiple episodes to keep us entertained for a while anyway.
We spent the remainder of the afternoon watching Live At The Apollo, laughing a lot at all of the comedians’ performances. When my grandparents arrived with my sister at a quarter past six and then my parents came in at twenty to seven, I guessed when needed to be polite and go down to see everyone. Once Nan and Grandad were gone, it was time to work out what we wanted for dinner. I volunteered my money for any takeaway service as it seemed a bit late by then for Mum’s original proposal of pie and mash, which was a shame as Kieran and I had both been looking forward to it quite a lot. In the end, we all agreed on getting food in from the kebab van that we sometimes go to after my cricket training and that was originally discovered after Mum and I attended my first concert in 2011. Kieran had a donner kebab with chips, Mum had a chicken kebab with chips and all the trimmings, Dad had donner meat and chips with all the trimmings and I had donner meat with chips. When Mum arrived back with it, the food was piping hot and delicious. We didn’t add any salt to it this time so didn’t feel in as much mortal danger as we usually do when we eat those kebabs. Everyone enjoyed their food and for Kieran and I it filled up ever growing hunger holes inside us after only having Weetabix that day. Admittedly, by the time we’d eaten the Weetabix that afternoon and then had the kebab in the evening, there wouldn’t have been time for another meal between the two but we still felt pretty hungry by the time dinner time arrived.
After we’d finished eating, we went back upstairs and continued where we’d left off with Live At The Apollo. We didn’t really see the point in watching anything else seeing as we were enjoying that already. We watched it until we got bored and were tired enough to settle down for sleep.
On Saturday morning, we couldn’t stay in bed as late as we had on Friday because there was the possibility that Mum would be home from picking Tamsin up from karate around eleven thirty. I heard them all leave around eight thirty and from then on I drifted in and out of sleep, aware that we needed to be up at a decent time unless we wanted to be judged by Mum and not do anything at all again that day. Around ten o’clock, we finally dragged ourselves out of bed and went for showers, not particularly rushing but not being as slow as Friday either. I’d said that it was probably better for us to shower and get dressed first and eat breakfast afterwards because it made us look more presentable for when Mum came in rather than seeming like we’d only just dragged ourselves out of bed. We made our breakfast of Weetabix and big mugs of tea again and listened this time to Kiss FM for Kisstory, which we always enjoy. When that finished, we headed back upstairs and Kieran set about getting my laptop ready so that we could watch the football. Liverpool were playing Swansea so it seemed like a good thing to do. Mum had already text me to tell me that she hadn’t managed to get her nails done while Tamsin was at karate so had gone to do it straight afterwards and would then be going to meet Dad for lunch. It seemed as if our efforts to get up and be ready were unnecessary. Of course, we’d already done that by then so there was nothing we could do about it.
To begin with, the football match wasn’t very exciting. Swansea scored first and Liverpool didn’t seem to make much effort to equalise for a while. And then they did. When the match finished at half past two, the score was 2—1 and Liverpool had done it, creeping up the Premier League table to second place, a spot they haven’t been in for quite some time. It was a close game, though, and Swansea could have easily equalised. Obviously, I was pretty glad they didn’t. After the game finished, Kieran turned to Sky Sports News so we could see what else was going on. By this point, Mum had come home and checked with us what we wanted to do. We’d agreed that we’d go to Nando’s and use our vouchers for free meals and make it a date afternoon. It wouldn’t be possible to go for a date night because Nando’s wasn’t open late enough and Dad was working until six so we’d be being an inconvenience. Anyway, date afternoon seemed good enough. A free date afternoon seemed no less than perfect.
So when Mum and Tamsin were ready to go, we all bundled into the car and headed for the city centre and Nando’s. Mum had some shopping to do in town anyway so it seemed like everything would work. The only thing we hadn’t managed to work into the schedule was the food shopping, which needed doing as we were low on supplies and pay day had come and gone. Although Southampton football team weren’t playing and there wasn’t any massive events going on in the city centre, it seemed extremely busy even for a Saturday when we arrived and Mum struggled to find a parking space. Thankfully, we got one in the end and made our way through West Quay and up to the food court where we discovered we had a ten to fifteen minute wait for a table. The guy we spoke to didn’t seem particularly sure whether staff would be able to seat us and take our orders from the table. Although I was a bit irritated with that response, Kieran reminded me that it isn’t a compulsory part of the service and that we’ve just been lucky the times we went to that Nando’s because they’ve been very accommodating. Just in case staff weren’t able to help us, Mum waited with us. Thankfully, we were taken to our seats and a waiter did come and take our orders and even refilled our drinks for us. Kieran had a double chicken burger with hot sauce and sides of spicy rice and peri salted chips. I had a double chicken wrap with lemon and herb sauce and sides of garlic bread and peri salted chips. We’d been looking forward to our Nando’s dinner date a lot and the food lived up to expectation; it was delicious as always. Being granted the extra service was nice, too, as the restaurant was overflowing with customers and they really didn’t seem like they had the staff to spare to help us.
Once we finally finished our meals, it was nearing five thirty and I knew Mum would need to get going soon so we could pick Dad up from work. She came to collect us once she’d finished her shopping and we headed down to the car. After we’d picked Dad up from work, we headed straight home. Dad had suggested that we all go do the food shopping from there but Mum said that she didn’t want to drag us all round the supermarket. I was a little disappointed as I was a bit fed-up of being inside. As I spend the majority of my time in my bedroom and my studies start back up tomorrow, I didn’t really fancy the additional time in my room when there was the possibility of wandering around a supermarket, putting in suggestions of things I’d like to buy to eat. Plus, it meant extra Fitbit steps — and I was nearing my daily target of 5000 — and Swarm coins. I know, what an exciting life I lead! But Mum was pretty adamant that we weren’t all going. So we just went home. About ten minutes after we’d got in, Mum headed back out by herself to do the shopping. It felt a bit strange not going with her as I’m always there for the monthly food shop and laying on my bed watching telly seemed a bit lazy. But Kieran and I had agreed to watch Gogglebox, as he hadn’t seen the first episode of the new series and the second had been shown the previous evening, and that soon had me sucked in and laughing a lot. Anyway, I’d wanted to watch the first episode of the new series with Kieran because there was a couple from Bristol on it who I’d found very amusing and thought he’d like too; turns out I was right. When we’d both episodes, we decided to watch a comedy DVD. I’d bought a few new ones online a little while ago and hadn’t gotten around to watching any of them yet. We settled on Adam Hills’ 2012 show Inflatable, which was filmed in Australia. It was quite interesting to see him perform in his own country, to notice how much more comfortable he seemed there. Some of the jokes he made in it were repeated in his next show, Happyism, recorded the following year but we guessed that was because they were made in two different countries. Either way, it was very funny and added some giggles to the evening. By the time Inflatable finished, it was quite late and we snuggled down to go to sleep.
On Sunday, we had things scheduled that were unavoidable. Saturday had been my great-Nan’s 90th birthday so we were off out with the entire side of her family for a celebration meal at a posh pub. The time had been set for midday because Nan usually eats her main meal at eleven in the morning and midday was the earliest anyone could bear starting the meal. Thankfully, the pub didn’t start serving food or drink until midday so we weren’t able to start ordering until then anyway. We arrived early, as usual, and were able to go inside and be seated at our reserved table. We kind of had a whole reserved room; there was a conservatory-style thing on the back of the pub and that was ours for the afternoon. Someone had paid extra to add balloons to the room. By the time all of the aunties, uncles and cousins piled into the room, bringing with them their gifts and flowers, it was pretty crowded and pretty noisy. We’d managed to decide what we wanted to eat and drink before everyone arrived so it wasn’t long before we were all ordering. I ordered a chicken kiev with curly fries. Normally, the chicken kiev is served with a jacket potato, salad and coleslaw but I really didn’t want any of that. Plus, Kieran had found the menu online and as soon as I discovered they did curly fries, I knew I had to find a way to have them in my meal; it made up for not having Perfect the previous weekend in Hereford when I’d really fancied curly fries, too. Kieran was undecided until the last minute, flitting between chili or sausage and mash. To be fair, for me there’s no competition there, especially as it was cheesy mash that came with the sausages. But Kieran likes his spicy stuff and the chili did tempt him. Right until the last minute, I thought he was going to choose the chili but then, when Dad asked, he said sausages and mash.
While we waited for our meals to arrive, my aunt decided that she wanted to take some family photos with everyone involved. She’d bought my Nan a photo frame with several sections in it for her birthday and wanted to get some up-to-date photos to fill it with and I guess what better time to do that than when everyone is together celebrating her 90th birthday. There were several variations of the group photo taken and then the group was split into smaller groups depending on which part of the family you were in. Thankfully, the photos were finally over and we were able to go back inside and relax around the table. Not long later, our food arrived. Although the prices of our meals seemed a little ridiculous, the food did taste amazing. My curly fries and chicken kiev, with garlic butter, were absolutely mouth-watering. The curly fries definitely lived up to what I’d been looking forward to and the kiev was a nice change to my usual choices of macaroni cheese or ham and chips. Kieran seemed to thoroughly enjoy his sausage and mash, with all the trimmings, and was finished before any of the rest of us. A while after we’d finished our meals, puddings were ordered. Neither Kieran nor I wanted anything else to eat. However, by the time everyone had finished their puddings, I was starting to wish I’d ordered something. However, we were then all presented with a slice of birthday cake, made by my aunt’s next-door neighbour who bakes cakes professionally. It was very nice cake, although I was a little unsure about the butter cream filling. It’s probably because I haven’t had decent birthday cake in ages. The last few birthday cakes we’ve had have come from Tesco’s bakery aisle so this really did make a nice change. By the time we’d finished our cake, it was getting on for three o’clock. As we’d arrived at the pub at half past eleven, it was starting to feel like we’d been there forever. Thankfully, we were finally saying our goodbyes and heading out of the pub at a quarter past three.
Back at home, all Kieran and I wanted to do was curl up on my bed with some telly on in the background and drift off for an afternoon snooze. Mum and Dad, on the other hand, were taking Tamsin up to Nan’s because she was staying overnight and then going out to Sprinkles for some ice cream. If we hadn’t stayed at the pub for so long, we probably would have gone to Sprinkles but we were too sleepy to want to. We settled for more Live At The Apollo on telly and, predictably, both of us drifted in and out of sleep during it. When Mum and Dad came back, they offered us some tea but neither of us were hungry. A little while later, we switched from watching Live At The Apollo to watching Outnumbered, mainly because Kieran didn’t like the next act on the current episode of Live At The Apollo and partially because I was a bit bored of it. I had flicked through my Netflix list of things to watch and we’d settled on Outnumbered from the last place that I’d been watching it. I’d started from the first episode of the first series and watched on from there one day while battling with my OU exam. Kieran seemed OK with this so it worked for both of us. In the end, we watched quite a few episodes of Outnumbered, laughing a lot and commenting on how Jake, Ben and Karen were like children we knew. Whilst watching Outnumbered was where the title of this blog entry came from. Originally, we’d had a title first from Adam Hills and then Live At The Apollo but then Outnumbered’s offering seemed a lot funnier. It comes from an episode where Pete is going to have a colonoscopy and one of the children asks whether it’ll be shown on TV. To this, Pete replies that there isn’t a colonoscopy channel yet… This made Kieran and I laugh a lot and seemed the best idea that we had for a title. We finally settled down to go to sleep around one o’clock, tiring of Outnumbered but agreeing that we’d continue watching it next time Kieran came down to stay, which is already arranged to be at the end of this month for the Adam Hills’ comedy show at the Mayflower Theatre. Originally, Josh asked Kieran if he’d be interested in going and Kieran told me about it. So I gently nudged my way into going too. Neither of the guys seem to mind and it means that Kieran has another excuse to come down and stay and Josh can stay over the night of the show. Together, Kieran and I have paid for the three of us to go, treating it as Josh’s birthday present as he hasn’t given us any other ideas of what to get him.
On Monday morning, we dragged ourselves out of bed as early as we could bear to, at ten o’clock to have showers and eat breakfast before Kieran had to pack everything up and we waited for Grandad to pick us up to take Kieran to catch his train. Of course Monday had come too soon so it was only natural that we shouldn’t want to get up. But we had to. We took our time having showers and getting ready. Kieran packed up his belongings in his rucksack and laptop bag and we went down for breakfast. I took the George Foreman down so that we could have sausage sandwiches for breakfast. We listened to Capital South Coast again while we made breakfast. I set the George Foreman up and put the sausages into cook. Then, I got our massive tea mugs and plates for the sausages out of the cupboard, grabbing the tea bags and sweeteners from the cupboard next-door. Kieran made the tea while the sausages cooked and I buttered bread for the sandwiches. We gave the sausages twenty-five minutes to cook, not wanting to undercook them and make ourselves ill. When Kieran placed the sausages on the bread and made it into sandwiches, we noticed that the sausages, if anything, were overcooked and a little burnt. But they tasted great and together with our massive mugs of tea they made a great breakfast. While I continued to drink my tea, Kieran volunteered to do the washing-up and even though I insisted he shouldn’t, he did it anyway. As usual, we left the George Foreman to cool and the work surfaces to be cleaned because it gave me something to do when I got home from the train station later on.
Upstairs, Kieran had everything packed up, including his clean washing which Mum had left on the arm of the sofa for us to collect. We tidied up the bedroom and continued listening to the radio. Grandad arrived at a quarter past twelve, even though we’d arranged to meet here to go to the station at half past one. However, Grandad was happy to sit in the back garden absorbing the sunshine with the cat until it was time to go. We bundled Kieran’s stuff on to the front seat of Grandad’s little car and then climbed in the back. The traffic wasn’t too bad getting across the bridge and into town. The last few times Grandad has driven us to the station, the roads have been pretty busy and we’ve been quite tight on time once or twice. But today we had plenty of time. A member of staff at the station led us to the waiting room and told us that assistance would come for Kieran before his train arrived. At a quarter past two, assistance came as promised and led Kieran out onto the platform with us following. As the train pulled in alongside the platform, I quickly gave Kieran a hug and kiss goodbye. The moment we separated, the assistance guy was leading Kieran onto the train. Grandad and I waited on the platform until the train was gone even though, as Grandad realised, Kieran wouldn’t see us waving him off.
So after another great weekend, my holiday from studying is finally over. The module actually officially started on Saturday but there was no way I was starting my studies then. But today has come. As soon as this is proofread and posted, I’ll be straight on the module website, working out where to start this brand-new module. It seems crazy to think that I’m minutes away from starting my third Open University module and my second year of university study. In a month’s time, I’ll be considering which module to start in February and whether I’ll be able to complete two in a year again. If I can cope well with the workload and there isn’t too many problems, I should be able to achieve my goal of two modules per year for a second time. This time next year, I’m hoping I’ll be starting my third and final year of university and seriously working out what I’m going to do when it’s over. As holidays go, though, I think I’ve managed to have a pretty amazing one. My first weekend spent in York with my sister and the following three spent with my fella. What more could a woman want? There were plenty of trains involved and several mishaps with assistance but I had a great time. As I’m writing now, Kieran is on his morning commute to work, after getting home last night at around eight o’clock. Thankfully, Newport lived up to expectation and there wasn’t any more hiccups with Kieran’s journey. I’m very glad about that. I’m very glad we’ve been able to have this time, too, these three weekends together. It’s the most time we’ve spent together since my three weeks in Blyth back in March and it was nice to have so much time and nothing to worry about apart from catching the train. Having no study deadlines has been amazing and I’m not looking forward to getting back into the tight schedules The Open University gives. But it’s all a part of the decision I made. A year after originally starting, I finally feel like I made the right one. However tough this year is and the one to follow, having the freedom to live every other aspect of my life around my studies will always be the right choice. Even if I fail from here onward, I don’t think I could regret choosing The Open University because it has meant that I’ve been able to spend loads of my time with my family and friends whilst completing two sixty-credit modules and nobody can ask for more than that.
Thank you for the most amazing three weekends, Mr Little. They’ve been the best I could have hoped for and even though I’d wanted to spend them all with you, I didn’t expect that we’d actually manage it. But we have and I’m more than grateful for that. I can’t wait for the end of the month for you to come down again. Adam Hills is going to be a lot of fun with Josh. Have a great last week at work despite the cold outside and the temptation to stay in bed and a super safe journey home on Friday. I love you very much and am looking forward to travelling up north to spend more time with you. If someone had told me this time last year that we’d be here doing this crazy thing then I’d have laughed at them. In fact, even when somebody suggested as much, I firmly threw that idea away. How ridiculous could someone be! But they were right and we were wrong and nothing could make me happier. I’ll be wrong for a very long time if this is the result.