My last few days in the UK were pretty enjoyable. On the Friday I went to Liverpool in the daytime on a shopping mission determined to find myself a nice new Emporio Armani laptop bag. It seems that the range of Armani in the UK is nowhere near the level it is in Italy (unsurprising when you think about it of course!) and I didn't have any joy whatsoever! I did find a bit of a bargain in the USC shop in Liverpool One in the form of a Henri Lloyd laptop bag for just £30! Given that I had expected to spend a lot of money on the Armani version I decided then to go on a bit of a shopping spree as I also needed some new gear for work.
I went up to Liverpool with one of my friends, Stevo. The last time we went to Liverpool on a shopping day we ended up going to one shop then a pub followed by another shop and another pub! We were very drunk by the end of that day and even went out in Chester that night! This time we concentrated a lot more on the shopping as I only had limited time to get everything sorted in time for Monday. I wanted to get some trousers and shirts but ended up only being able to find one shirt - I am quite particular about the shirts that I wear; short sleeved with a pocket, never different! The shirt I found was a Henri Lloyd shirt but I also found another gem whilst walking around.
We decided to have a look in the Liverpool shop as we were passing and I found the new white Liverpool shirt with a really cool touch to it - instead of a traditional name and number on the back it had the number 9 and "El Nino" printed on the back in a really cool font. It cost a lot at 60 quid but it was worth every penny! This now brings my collection of Liverpool shirts to 7 so I have one for each day of the week now! After we had finished shopping we decided to go to the Wetherspoon's near St John's Market for a few pear ciders before heading off back to Chester.
I also took the opportunity whilst I was in Liverpool to meet a girl, Katie, who I had been chatting with for a while on Facebook from Liverpool but had never met. We spent an hour or so in the pub with Katie chatting before we had to leave as we had a night out in Chester with a few of my friends to partake in! It was nice to finally meet her after what must have been about 6 months chatting online. I think that this was the first time I have ever met anyone like this and I don't think I would have done it before I had gone travelling.
After I had been back to my parents' house I took a shower and had something to eat before getting ready to go out for the night. Rich, Nath, Stevo and myself were all going out and we had arranged to go out just after 10pm when Rich's girlfriend, Lisa, got in from work. Stevo arrived at my parents' house just after 9pm and we walked to Rich's house to have a beer before we went out. A friend of ours, Paul (who we all call Dude!) came to pick us up. We were hoping for him to come out with us but he is a taxi driver so can't really afford to take a Friday night off but at least I got to see him again before I left the UK.
We had a real good laugh whilst in Chester and stayed out pretty late; I think it was about 3am before we decided to head off home. We played a bit of a game throughout the night too - each time someone bought a round they had to buy a "gay" drink and nominate someone to drink it. There were some quite strange drinks being bought for a group of lads! In the first place we went to myself, Rich and Stevo immediately started what we call "dickhead dancing" - if you can't have a laugh at yourself who can you have a laugh at? Nath is a little shy so he didn't really want to as he was a bit worried about what people would think!
When I got home I decided to take Roman for a walk (yes, at 3.15 in the morning!) so walked with Stevo to his flat from my parents' house. As we were walking an old friend, Emmeline, called Stevo so I arranged to go round for a brew. It was an interesting half hour as she also has a couple of dogs. To be fair they all got on quite well but, upon reflection, maybe 3.30 in the morning wasn't the best time to be reintroducing them! I left Emmeline's flat just before 4am and walked home with Roman - it's been a long time since he has been walked at that time in the morning (I used to do it quite regularly after a night out as I felt guilty leaving him alone all evening!) but I think he appreciated it.
On Saturday I arranged to meet Katie again, this time in Chester, and met her off the train with Roman shortly after 2pm. She had said she wanted to meet him so I asked her to come down and spend the afternoon with us. We walked over to the meadows near Handbridge with him and sat talking for an hour or so there. There were a lot of other dogs about but Roman behaved very well until a guy decided to let his little rat-like dog come straight up to Roman off his lead. You could see by the way the dog approached he was slightly aggressive but his owner was a proper tosser. He seemed to think it was amusing that his dog was daft enough to try and have a go at a Rottweiler - I doubt he would have found it so amusing if I didn't have proper control of Roman and if Roman had a vicious streak....
After that we took a walk around the city walls - it has been a while since I have done that and it is a good walk at about 2 miles in total. Katie had never been to Chester so knew very little about the place and it gave me the chance to play tour guide once more! I enjoy showing people around and it's good when you know a bit about the place where you are. We then walked down towards the station so that she could get the train back to Liverpool. She had just missed a train so we sat in the beer garden of the Town Crier for a bit having a drink and this also gave Roman an opportunity to have some water. In total I think we spent around 4 hours together and it turned out to be a really nice day, even if it was a bit cold!
Saturday night was a bit of a chill out night for me - I don't really get hangovers anymore but I certainly felt a little bit tired after a heavy night the night before and not the most sleep I have ever had. I can't really remember what I got up to but, knowing me, it was probably watching football or playing Football Manager or surfing the net - these are my usual relaxation routines so I doubt I strayed from them on this occasion!
On Sunday morning I went back up to Liverpool, this time with Roman, to spend the morning and some of the afternoon with Katie again. We had clicked quite well and it is always nice getting to know someone new; it was just a shame that I would only be in the UK for such a short space of time. It is often the way though that you meet people you really connect with at inconvenient times. It was really cold in Liverpool all day and, like an idiot, I had neglected to take a coat with me! We sat about for most of the time in a park just outside of the town centre chatting and, again, it was a nice relaxing day.
I headed back to Chester just after 2pm - I had been promised a Sunday roast and there was no way I was going to miss that after about 3 months without one! I love my food and nothing quite compares to a good Sunday roast. It's the thing, other than Roman of course, that I miss the most. It always seems pointless cooking one just for myself and the washing up afterwards is never nice - at least if there are other people eating you can normally con one of them into the washing up on the grounds that you cooked!
Sunday evening saw my first game of football in 3 months too - I played for the team I used to play for on Sunday evenings. Unfortunately the opposition didn't turn up so we had to play a friendly game. We were actually lucky enough to get two games as one of the teams didn't show up for the game after us either so we stayed on. We didn't perform very well to be fair so I guess it was actually pretty fortunate that the designated opposition didn't show up as that means you get a 5-0 win by default. It was nice to get a game again after so long not playing but I will certainly be looking for a team to play for in Germany.
Monday was a bit of a rushed affair as I still needed trousers and shirts for work and also had to do loads of washing and drying in time for leaving for the airport. I did the washing in the morning and headed into town with Nath and Stevo around midday. I managed to find a couple of shirts (again Henri Lloyd) and, eventually, managed to find two pairs of trousers that I liked. I also managed to pick up some Timberland gloves - Germany was not as warm as Italy and I knew that the winter time could get quite cold so I wanted to be prepared.
Upon returning to my parents' house and checking my tickets I spotted that the airline I was flying with stated you should arrive for check in no later than 2 hours before the flight time - I had presumed that check in opened 2 hours before check in so quickly had to rearrange my lift to get me there in time. To make it worse, I hadn't done any packing but luckily Nath and Stevo helped me out a bit and we managed to get everything sorted a couple of minutes before my lift arrived!
I had to wait around for ages in the airport and was pretty hungry so went to a restaurant there for a chicken tikka masala and a cappuccino. I was pleasantly surprised not only with the quality of the food but also with the size of the portion. I had been expecting something pretty basic and fairly small but it really was quite nice! I also spotted an Emporio Armani laptop bag in the duty free section of Manchester airport for 200 quid - I was proper gutted about that but in a way it had turned out well as I had managed to get plenty of decent clothes for work.
My flight left Manchester at 6.15pm and I arrived in Frankfurt at about 9pm local time. I then had to get a train to Heppenheim which was just over an hour. By the time I had located my baggage and located the ticket office it was about 9.30pm which meant I didn't arrive in Heppenheim until just before 11pm. I couldn't find a taxi there so my new boss, David, drove down from the hotel to pick me up. It wasn't very far away but I really didn't know where I was going and I was also carrying 28kg so didn't really fancy the walk anyway!
The hotel, The Park Inn, was quite nice and, luckily for me, they had an ironing room so I could iron some clothes for work the next day. It wasn't the best iron or ironing board but I managed to get the creases out of my clothes anyway. I didn't get to sleep until about 1am and had to be in reception for 7.30am to meet David to go for my first day at work! Lack of sleep seems to follow me around no matter where I go and I rarely get more than 6 hours a night these days - it's not through choice though!
Work have been really accomodating towards me in my time there - they sorted an apartment out for me to move into on Tuesday and David gave me a lift home Tuesday night so that I could go and get some shopping. The apartment is reasonably nice; it only has 1 bedroom but the lounge is a decent size as is the kitchen. I was pleased to be able to cook myself a good meal - after so long in hostels it really was a treat!
I have been picking up a few words of German throughout the last week and am now able to count quite well, name all of the days of the week, name all of the months of the year and ask a few basic questions in German. I am downloading Rosetta Stone so that I can learn more quickly but it is quite difficult to pick up when you have literally no vocabulary! Luckily, most people here speak pretty good English so it has not been a totally alienating experience so far but I am keen to develop my German skills as I always feel bad not speaking the language of a country I spend time in.
Over the weekend I went to the local pub near to my apartment and made a few friends there. I even went to a nightclub, called Apfelbaum (The Appletree) with a woman who drinks in my local pub and we were there until 6 in the morning! I was surprised at how good the place was as Heppenheim is not the biggest place in the world but there were 3 sections playing different music - R&B, 80s and dance. I am looking forward to going there again soon....