I survived Brum (and the gym)

Trip Start May 27, 2010
Trip End Aug 31, 2011

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Flag of United Kingdom  , England,
Monday, October 18, 2010

Guess what?  I went to the gym this week.  I know, I know, it's been a long time coming, but it was something I had to psych myself into.  I've realised there are benefits to going to the gym before work, something I've never really done before.  Rather than getting ready at home and arriving at work with grease and dirt on your face from the Tube, messy hair from the dude who insisted on resting his arm on your head while he clung for dear life to the handrails, and crinkled attire from being squeezed into your seat by an oversized suit on an oversized commuter, I arrived at work fresh as a daisy, and pumped that I'd made the effort.  Nice hair, nice makeup, nice clothes.  And what's even better, is that I didn't even have to get out of bed any earlier than normal.  Bonus!  I memorised my locker number before I left the changerooms so as to avoid a repeat of last time's embarrassing attempt to locate my possessions when I'd neglected to take any notice of the locker number I'd occupied with my things.  I ended up finding the right locker, but not before trying the combination on every other door and, on some occasions, actually opening a few by fluke.  I was getting some pretty dodgy looks by some of the naked ladies changing though, obviously thinking "who's this loony tune trying to nick all our stuff".  So I trundled off to the treadmill and spent some time walking around (well, walking on the spot) and laughing at the die hard gym junkies sweating like animals.  I didn't push myself too hard given that it's been a while since I've done anything that could qualify as remotely physical.  But I did come out of the gym with sore toenails.  It's unlikely to have been caused by the toenail bench presses I did, but more likely because it's been a while between pedi's and the tough little buggars have grown too long and tried to mesh themselves into the lining of my shoes.  I don't know why - it's not like they're good shoes or anything!  So apart from the toenail pain, it was a good experience at the gym.  I might even do it again.  One day.  Its the mental battle that's the hardest.  You wake up to your alarm, roll over and close your eyes again until the violent snooze alarm goes off, and then the battle begins.  Should I?  Can I be bothered?  Will I hate myself for not going?  When you don't have to force yourself to answer yes to all of those questions you know you're on the right track!  Let's just hope I can stay on that track. 

I spoke to Julie, my sister in law, on Tuesday, and heard little Eligh (now 8 months old) howling in the background - he'd just had another stack.  He's started pulling himself up on things around the house, getting more mobile and going through that frustrating stage of trying to walk.  So he's all battered and bruised from taking tumbles as he tries to find his balance.  Kids are so resilient though aren't they.  If they had a more lazy adult mind you'd think they'd suffer a couple of falls and then be like "stuff that, I give up".  But they keep trying and trying until they get it right.  Being mobile is great, and it's exciting that he's on the move.  Apparently Luke was walking at 10 months though, so that's a scary sign of things to come!  Julie was telling me how she has to virtually lock Eligh away when she wants to have showers so that he doesn't follow her into the bathroom!  I'd actually never thought about what you'd do with a crawling, climbing child when you want to have a shower and get things done, but it certainly sounds like it would be a challenge. 

What is also a challenge is every day putting up with a sniffer in the office.  Someone who constantly sniffs, snorts, coughs and sneezes despite being in good health.  It's like the girl I used to work with who would constantly cough.  We figured it must've been a nervous thing, a habit formed without even noticing.  But it's a very distracting habit and it makes it hard for me to concentrate on the hard work that is drafting my blog when all my senses are honed in on the sniffer.  That's the worst thing, when something is drawn to your attention or you notice something, you can't stop noticing it and it begins to really give you the sh*ts.  Granted, I'm easily irritated.  But surely people realise that what they're doing could be irritating to others.  Socially annoying.  Bad manners even.  Urgh.  Blow your nose people.  Sniffing's not cool anymore. 

I guess sniffing is something I'm going to have to get used to now that it's getting colder though.  Coughs and colds will be everywhere in a matter of weeks.  I actually can't believe how cold it's going to get, and I'm getting nervous wondering whether I'll be able to handle it.  They say last year's winter was super cold.  To me, this week was super cold with fresh temperatures around 13 or 14 degrees.  I even slept with socks on one night because it was so chilly.  And that means things are serious - I only ever slept with socks at home on the coldest of cold nights.  I'm told there are going to be days when the temperature won't pass freezing.  Awesome.  It's nearly time to invest in a proper winter coat, triple the thickness of any coat I might've worn in Melbourne.  It's going to be a bumpy ride!

Gemma and I had dinner on Wednesday night to help break up the week.  We met in Earl's Court after I finished work and after she had finished feeding the old girl.  Indian was the order of the day, so after a couple of pints we got a table at a restaurant up the road and filled our bellies with curry and naan while discussing deep and meaningful stuff and chatting about our travels.  I went home afterwards to watch more of season 3 of Rush, my favourite Australian cop drama.  Bung-eyed Drazic is one of the show's stars, and even though he had some horrific damage caused to his face in a car accident, and is rumoured to have a fake eye, he's still hot.  See, I'm not that shallow.  We all have flaws.  I have plenty.  Someone I know even has grey hair but I still talk to him don't I!  hahaha  It's what's inside that counts. 

To prove my shallowlessness (no, that's not a word), I ventured to the midlands region of the UK this week.  Biiiiiirrrmingham, to be precise.  Yep, land of the mighty Brummie.  To be honest, Birmingham never made it to my list of must-see places, but my eyes were opened to the interesting array of things on offer when I made my first visit on the weekend.  Before I set off I did some research.  Wikipedia provided me with these uber interesting facts:

- Population: 1,000,000+, the second biggest city in the United Kingdom

- In 2010, it was voted the third-best place in the UK to locate a business
- Also in 2010, Birmingham was ranked as the 55th-most liveable city in the world - I wonder how much fried chicken the mayor handed out to locals to make them all participate in that survey!

- 1980s pop band Duran Duran came from Birmingham, along with none other than Ozzy ("Sharun!") Osbourne

- The 'g' in Birmingham is silent (strictly speaking this wasn't a Wiki item)

- Philo lives there (this wasn't on Wikipedia either, but it should be, given that he is the only notable attraction in town).

I'd made sure everyone I knew had my itinerary so that they would know when I was due back in London.  Via Facebook I informed everyone that if I didn't arrive back on the 8.30pm train on Sunday that I may have been sucked into a chav abyss and required rescuing. 

So I left work on Friday and steeled myself with a few cans of cider on the train on the way up there, and it was evident that I'd consumed them too quickly when I made a trip to the on-board loo.  I was quite happily going about my business when, to my absolute horror, the automatic door slid open and a man on the other side got more of an eyefull than he bargained for - oops, I'd forgotten to lock the door!  All I could say was "close, close, close!!".  The man wrestled with the door and managed to close it again.  If I hadn't been half pissed I would've been horrified, but as it was I spent a couple more minutes in the toilet laughing my head off and then braved the public with a smile on my face as though I hadn't a care in the world.  Suffice it to say the man wasn't outside the door when I exited the loo - I'm sure he was more embarrassed than I was and scurried off to find another (unoccupied) dunny!

After a day of sightseeing on Saturday, which took all of 30 minutes, we jumped on a train and headed to Stratford on Avon, a cute little town which was once home to Shakespeare.  I made Phil take me out on a rowing boat and I took on the hard job of steering the boat down the river while he did some light exercise by rowing.  We grabbed some lunch and a couple of drinks and then headed back to Birmingham. 

When we got back, I turned my mind to what I was going to wear out for drinks that night.  I began to feel all self-conscious and uncomfortable when I realised I'd packed my bags so hastily that I left my leopard-print boob tube at home.  I had it all laid out to wear with my jeggings and hot pink Primark stilettos, which would be set off by my fake eyelashes, pink hair extensions and my brand new Lewis Vuitton handbag that I bought from the Camden Market just for the occasion.  The guy who sold it to me assured me it was real, and I believe him too, because it cost me bloody 15 (not cheap!) and the spelling was right - the rip-offs say "Louis Vuitton".  As it turned out, it was probably a good thing that I left my sick outfit at home.  I'm not sure Birmingham was ready for such a hottie anyway, and I would've just put all the other girls to shame, what with their muffin tops and toothless partners.  So instead I flew under the radar in my jeans and other standard inconspicuous clothing and tried to assure myself that it is ok to look normal sometimes.  We went to a couple of nice pubs and observed some random behaviour by young and old, and I demonstrated my strength when I tapped Phil on the shoulder and he fell over.  I really should be more careful around small people! 

I will admit that I had pre-conceived ideas about the place, borne from hearing the opinions of Londoners and other Australians who had heard of the city's reputation.  To be fair, Birmingham was once known as an industrial blue-collar centre full of rough-nuts.  Times have apparently changed and it is now a more of a suburban sprawl.  Its residents, however, still have a peculiar accent, to put it politely.  And they're still rough-nuts. 

Birmingham is much like Shepparton, my hometown.  Shepparton has similarly awesome claims to fame, such as the communication tower in the Maude Street Mall, K-Mart, and the decorated cows strategically placed all over town.  It has been home to important figures such as Richard Pratt and Damian Drum, although I can't say I have any idea who Damian Drum is, and I dare say most other people in town wouldn't have a clue either.  Like Birmingham, Shepparton has its fair share of low socio-economic scum who hang out at bus shelters and the K-Mart trolley bay, bumming ciggies and getting around in their shell suits (think Vicky Pollard).  But a city without a chav is like a pub with no beer.  You go there anyway, despite the people and the niggling fear of having your purse, phone and bobby pins nicked.  In summary, it's not all bad, and Birmingham does have a few redeeming qualities.  I reckon there are worse places on earth.  I just haven't found them yet.
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Kylie on

It also has an amazing jewellery quarter!!! I got my 'bling' from there!

gemma on

ha ha, i gotta get over to camden for a lewis vuitton handbag. just gotta save up first!

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