The last of the visitors? I hope not!

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

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Flag of United Kingdom  , England,
Monday, July 11, 2011

If I ever thought no one would visit me in Birmingham, I have been proven wrong  Gemma, Kim, my parents, and now Ben was gracing us with his presence for the week. 

He got here on Monday afternoon, weary from a few heavy sessions in London.  I was at work, but text him to make sure he wasn't in Manchester instead of Birmingham.  With my track record, I wanted to check that I hadn't sent him on the wrong train like I did the previous week when I led him to believe we were in Brighton rather than Windsor.  I feared being de-cousined if I got it wrong again, but alas I got it right and he had indeed turned up at Birmingham New Street without incident. 

We had a reasonably quiet week despite a raucous start on Monday night when, sipping my first cider, I fell straight through the deck chair I was sitting on, giving Ben a reason to all but double-over in fits of laughter.  Sympathetically, he took photos and video of me being tangled up in the wreck of the chair, unable to get out without assistance.  Phil and I still had to work during the week, so Ben was left to his devices during the day while we slogged it out at work.  In between all the fun and interesting things there are to do in Birmingham he found time to watch Australia's Next Top Model every day and get some washing done, having been on the road for a few weeks and lugging around a bag full of dirty, smelly clothes. 

On Tuesday I had my photo taken at work to be used as a means of identification and to be put up on the intranet phone list so people in the office can stalk me.  I stood in the line and waited patiently while all those ahead of me primped and preened themselves according to the instruction of the photographer.  He was very picky and was telling girls to flatten down their hair where there was a strand sticking up, or sitting in a particular way so as to satisfy his camera.  When it was my turn, I wondered what part of me he was going to pick on, so when I signed my name on the list and sat on the stool I asked him "so, what can you pick on with me?" to which he replied "nothing, you look perfect" and continued to shoot a hundred frames.  I walked away quite chuffed with myself for managing to look so perfect at 4pm on a Tuesday afternoon.  But I also wondered whether my questioning him had got him thinking about how critical he had been about all the girls ahead of me.  I should hope so.  I want to call him a wanker, but the fact he said I looked perfect is holding the word on the tip of my tongue and wont allow it to leave my mouth!

The next day I was cursing the cleaners at work when I sat down at my desk and reached for my water bottle, only to find that it was missing.  It wasn't in my bin, nor had it fallen down the back of my desk.  It had been thrown away by the cleaners.  I was pretty annoyed and upset that they had taken my property.  Sure, it's just a cheap water bottle, easily replaceable, but I decided that wasn't the point because a) it was mine, and b) I was trying to be environmentally friendly by re-using my water bottle until green mould grew in the bottom of it.  So when I finally got around to buying myself a new bottle, I started putting a post-it-note on it every night before leaving the office, telling the cleaners "please do not remove my water bottle".  It has remained on my desk ever since.  Who do they think they are, throwing out my stuff.  If I left a gold ring on the desk would they throw that out too?  Nah, that's right, they'd just pocket it.  Dirty rotten thieves.

Ben met me one night after work for a parma and a pint at the Walkabout opposite my work.  I thought the parma was pretty ordinary, but then so was the last one I had in Melbourne.  We topped off our 6 parma with some Ben & Jerry's ridiculously indulgent ice cream and took in a screening of Bridesmaids, curdling the dairy in our bellies with all the laughing we did.  It was a seriously funny film, one which we're both bound to watch again. 

There was a jazz and blues festival on in town during the week, so we decided to go into Moseley and check out what the Patrick Kavanagh had on offer, but not before a cocktail made by a novice at a newly installed Tiki bar at the pub around the corner.  But when I asked the bar tender at the PK what time the band were starting, he ended up telling me that the band had failed to turn up and that there would be no music tonight.  Disappointed, we got a cab up to the Hare & Hound where a hip hop band were playing in the room upstairs.  It took a couple of go's to get up those stairs however, Ben showing that he too can fall up stairs.  Phil went first, then me, and Ben followed, but not for long.  Hearing an almighty thud and a splash, I turned on the stairs only to see Ben, lying flat on the steps in shock, beer dripping off his face and wondering how on earth he'd ended up there.  Phil insisted that we "go back downstairs, quick" and we allowed Ben to clean himself up and get a fresh beer, having spilled the whole pint over himself.  We had another go at getting up those stairs and I told Ben to hold onto the rail this time, and when we reached the top we sat down in a room full of non-white people and listened for all of five minutes to the ranting and raving of the hip hop fellas.  It wasn't very good. 

We all agreed that Friday was going to be the big one and after spending the day on the couch watching Offspring (again) we all got ready and got ourselves into town.  First stop: Bodega.  We had some happy hour cocktails at the South American venue, and tucked into some burritos and patatas bravas.  Three cocktails later, we wandered around to the Old Joint Stock and after one pint decided that it was boring there and headed on to the Lord Clifden.  As part of the jazz and blues festival, a Harlem swing band was playing 1920's style music, and we loved every minute of it.  A few icy ciders later and after a quick chat to the old boys it was time to get a cab to Hurst Street where all the gay bars are.  We had a bit of fun in there, doing our silly dances and generally drawing attention to ourselves for all the wrong reasons.  I was done by about 2am and grabbed a taxi to take me home, chatting to Brooke all the way.  Phil rolled in at about 4.30pm and struggled to heat his leftover pizza up, taking the glass plate out of the microwave and putting it on the stove.  I'm still not sure whether he thought he could reheat his pizza on the stove, but in any case I trudged downstairs to give him a hand and make sure he didn't keep me awake with his bashing and crashing any longer than necessary.  I was able to get another hour of sleep before Ben called me to let him in the door at 6am. 

It was obvious that the boys weren't going to be feeling very well later on Saturday morning, and at 11am when Ben was still in bed (and so was I for that matter), I text him through the wall and confirmed that he wouldn't be getting the 11.30 train back to London.  It was an hour or so later before I drove to the train station via McDonalds and dropped my cousin off to make his three hour journey back to London.  It was great to see him and be able to spend the week together, chatting, laughing and generally mucking around like we always have.  Thanks for taking a week out of your trip to hang out, Ben - it was splendid. 

As it happened, Saturday turned out to be a nice day, so I got some washing done and laughed at Phil as he continued up Struggle Street and lay out on a blanket in the sun.  In hindsight, this probably didn't do much for his levels of hydration, and in fact probably proved to make him feel worse.  I fed him some dumplings later that evening and finally gave in to watching The Social Network.  Sunday was another nice day so I put together a bundle of things for a picnic in the park, and chilled out for the rest of the day. 

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