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Tuesday, 25 September 2007

La Época de Nuestras Vidas

Having been back from Mexico now for 10 days, posted Oliver's blog and three photo albums, I am still managing to find enthusiasm to write more words about our two week stay in Cozumel.

As I mentioned previously in Oliver's blog, we couldn't have wished for a better behaved baby, and as a result Steph and I were able to enjoy our holiday without stress or strain, really making the holiday what it was, along with the fantastic friends and family whom we travelled with!

We stayed at the Iberostar Cozumel, which is the best hotel I have ever stayed at on a package holiday. The vast hotel grounds and beautiful beach side setting gave it the 'paradise' ambiance that John and Nadine wanted for the perfect location for their perfect wedding.

However, one negative, certainly for us, but not for those who are not keen to explore was the hotels location geographically. Cozumel itself is a fairly small island, with one road that circumnavigates it, and would take you an hour by car to drive from beginning to end. As a result there is not a massive amount in terms of sites for tourists to see, and all are very worthwhile when you do.

For Stephanie and I, and for our mico-party (Pat, Colin, Carly, Joshua, Steve, Sue, Ken and Richard) we wanted to explore out and about and had a pre-trip itinerary of things that we wanted to do. Places such as Xcaret, Xel Ha, Chichen Itza are all located on the mainland and as a result required ferry trips over, which we anticipated beforehand. What was a surprise to us was that there are no coaches on the island and so we had to rely on taxi's for making our way around, particularly forward and back to the ferry port nearly every other day.

This wasn't at all tiresome and nobody complained about it as it was all hassle free, however it was something that by the end of the holiday had a cumulative effect on our spending budgets!

With that in mind, when asked about our hotel, it really is a amazing and I would recommend it again to anyone. However if you are a honeymooner or someone who is looking for a diving/water based holiday this hotel is extra suited to you. If you want to look around then book somewhere over on the mainland - purely to ease your travelling times.

Plenty of people in our group took advantage of the on site diving shop and came home with official PADI certificates and enjoyed amazing experiences under the sea with some of the world best coral reefs on the hotels doorstep, so there really was something for everyone.

With our excursions and days out, the two weeks in Mexico took me back to when I was a kid and rekindled some wonderful memories of holidays I had with my parents. Since I last went on holiday with them to Icmeler (Turkey), my holidays have invariably been for either a week or 10 days and consisted of staying in bed all day nursing hangovers before going back out for the night and getting hammered again!

When I was a kid I remember my holidays being lazy days around the pool, or the beach mixed in with days exploring and adventures climbing ancient monuments or hurtling down watershoots at breakneck speeds. Cozumel was exactly the same, although I was now in the role of mature grownup parent, but it was just as much fun! With Joshua and Bethany with us it was just as good watching the kids have a smile on their faces enjoying themselves then when it was me and Jessica all those years ago!

One thing that sticks in my mind, and a perfect example to emphasise the above point was Bethany jumping off the Cliff of Courage at Xel Ha. Richard and I wanted to visit the rope swing and the Cliff jumps so that we could notch up some man points and took Joshua and Bethany with us. The rope swing was suitable enough for kids Joshua and Bethany's age so we had some fun swinging into the water and swimming back to do it all over again. Joshua was a little frightened at first, but once we had sorted out the first swing and jump he was off again and again.

On our way to the Cliff Bethany said to me that she wanted to jump off it as well. I reminded her that she was very little and the Cliff was very big so she probably wouldn't want to do it, but I think some of Johns determination has rubbed off on her, as when we arrived at the top of the Cliff and looking down Bethany was standing next to me... white as a sheet.

I said to Bethany "It's high isn't it, why don't you go down there with Joshua and keep him company?", but she replied that she was "fine!". I tried to reassure her and remind her that she didn't have to and that nobody would mind if she didn't and that poor Joshua was getting lonely. Bethany, determined as she was did not budge! I started to worry and prepare for the fact that she was going to jump. Richard, whom had already leapt the 12m or so into the water below was waiting for the next person and treading water whilst watching for whoever would be next.

My last role of the dissuasion dice was to remind Bethany that she needed to jump as far out as possible to avoid any rocks, to keep her legs close to avoid losing her bikini and kick up as soon as she hits water. Despite this making Bethany slightly whiter she did not move an inch and in fact started to prepare herself to jump!

I threw her life jacket down to the still waiting Richard and moved out the way of Bethany. One quick look up at me, a hand pinching her nose and a quick prayer she was off!

As time slowed down and I watched her hurtling threw the air I managed to mutter a time lapsed "OH MY GOD", before she hit with a fairly impressive splash. Another three hours seemed to pass before she resurfaced and started swimming towards Richard.

Once she was safe and sound on land and making her way back towards me with a huge smile on her face in readiness for another leap. Each turn was not easy for me, wondering just what the hell John and Nadine were going to say when I told them that their daughter had been leaping from great heights in their absence!

All of the days out we had all had elements of enjoyment for the kids, just as it did for Jessica and me, something that I had missed in my previous few years holiday's that was rekindled and something that I hope will continue next time we are away with Oliver and the yet to be conceived Baby Bird mkII.

If it is the adventure and exploration of the days out that make a holiday it is the people you meet that add variety and something different. The Mexican people were warm, friendly and courteous, working hard day and night to ensure that our holiday was never short of entertainment. The staff at the Iberostar were to be found during the day arranging a full itinerary of activities from pool games, beach sports, recreational and sporting activities, dancing lessons and even Spanish classes!

The same people would then put on a two hour show in the evening that involved singing, dancing and audience participation games, which a few of our party were involved with. Even at the nightclub - open until 2am the Iberostar "Star Friend's" would be found letting their hair down and encouraging people to get up and dance along with them.

Pat (Stephanie's mum) had contrasting experiences of the nightly show, which in the main were very entertaining with the musical themes and entertaining dance shows. One night she was called up onto the stage and had to participate in the games that were arranged by the Star Friends and had to play a highly amusing game involving a couple of balloons and a series of quick fire sexual positions. Following that she had to play the female role in the final song of Dirty Dancing, including the iconic lift position at the end, which was made easier by three of the Star Friends lifting her onto her partners arms.

John tells me that he has the full performance on video, so I am hoping to get a copy for the website, or I may even post the YouTube link here, depending on it's whereabouts!

Her second experience was not quite so funny, with a fall during the Conga which meant a visit from the doctor, a couple of black eyes and the use of a wheelchair for the last two days of the holiday. Never one to let something like that effect her, Pat laughed along with the rest of us who said that Pat, when pushed along by Colin looked like the couple from Little Britain!

Despite all the stories that I could recount from Cozumel, we was there for a reason, and I have saved this for last as it is a suitable ending to this blog - and that is the wedding.

I wrote before we left that I was interested in how the wedding would go, whether or not being married on a beach would seem as if it was a 'real' wedding. I am happy to report that yes, it does, at no point at all did I not feel that I was anywhere other than a wedding ceremony!

Before the big day itself, which was on the first day of the second week, all the boys had been on a stag do to the main town in Cozumel and the girls had followed suit a couple of nights later. All the usual pre-wedding preparation had been made, mainly by John and Nadine, arrangements and meetings with the hotel staff so that they knew what was going to happen and when.

Nadine had beauty treatments, hairdo's and facials which resulted in a truly stunningly beautiful bride. All the things that one would do back home, but with the luxury of doing so in such wonderful weather and exotic location!

During the preceding few days John was hit by last minute nerves, which was a surprise to me, purely because he was getting married on a beach and for some bizarre reason I thought that only people who get married in church get nervous... strange rationale by me I know, not even sure where that idea came from to be honest!

The day itself came around quickly enough and it seemed rather strange at 4pm leaving the pool area from where we had spent most of the day to get ready for a wedding. Especially for Stephanie and Oliver whom had the same wedding outfits as they would have done if the wedding was back at home. I had a slightly adaptive outfit with linen trousers and sandals which I have been told was scruffy in the photographs since I have been back!

I went over to the beach and took a look before everybody got there for a photo opportunity. The arch from which John and Nadine would sign the wedding register was only a maximum of 2m away from the sea, which was calm and still adding another air of perfection to an already perfect setting.

The ceremony passed quickly, and was in Spanish with the aid of a translator, which for me wasn't much help, so my opinion of the ceremony is perhaps shaded, along with the fact that I had a restless Oliver sitting on my lap who was a distraction for the first and only time whilst we were away!

However, there is no mistaking the setting and the traditional values that were still evident, the bride, groom, bridesmaids, pageboys, best man and ushers all played their roles. Even the tears from the mothers were there and fighting it for all it was worth father!

As the photographs took place the sunset left the sky to transform into it's vast array of colours adding a dramatic backdrop to the occasion.

The sun disappeared very quickly, and so did the champagne that we all consumed leaving behind a romantic moonlight reflecting off of the sea. For sheer poetic ambiance and a dramatic stage in which to get married John and Nadine found the perfect place in which to become Husband and Wife.

Stephanie and I would obviously like to wish John and Nadine all the very best in their lives as husband and wife and would like to thank them for allowing us to be part of their very special occasion. We were all left with lots of cherished memories of our time in Cozumel, but the memories of their wedding day and the setting will be something that we will never forget.

Friday, 21 September 2007

Something different!

I saw this article on the SPAOTP football blog detailing the top 20 searches resulting in people visiting their site.

Having done a little research, here is the top 20 searches in which resulted in people finding this small part of the internet world!

1. adam bird
2. adambird
3. adambird.co.uk
4. www.adambird.co.uk
5. adam bird""
6. adam bird music
7. ebsfleet
8. first hatrick at the new wembley
9. adam bird football
10. adam's birds
11. adam+bird
12. charles w . chesnutt photos
13. diagram of wembley stadium
14. ebsfleet united fc
15. efe sodje and baby pictures
16. frannie collin legend
17. fueturventura
18. gillingham fc photos
19. how much does derek stillie united goalkeeper earn
20. is my unborn baby likely to be a boy or a girl

Monday, 17 September 2007

Ooooh Bambino

Mummy and Daddy wanted to say a big thank you for being such a good boy on your very first holiday! Daddy decided that he would write all about it so that you would be able to know exactly what you did and all of the things that you done.

For out very first family holiday Mummy, Daddy and you flew to Mexico along with Nanny Pat, Grandad Colin, Auntie Carly, and your cousin Joshua. We were going to Mexico especially to see Uncle John get married to Auntie Nadine, so lots of other people came along too, including Bethany, Sue, Steve, Ken and his son Richard and millions and millions of John and Nadine's friends.

Mummy and I were really worried about you and how you would handle spending ten hours on an aeroplane, but in the end we had nothing to worry about as you were a really good boy. We think that it must have all the excitement at flying for the very first time!

We were really lucky with the plane, as it wasn't full so there were plenty of seats around for you to sit down and watch the little tv in the seat in front, you were passed up and down sitting and playing on lots of peoples laps so that Mummy and I could have a rest!

One hiccup though Oliver, which may explain your headaches, or fear of flying in the future was your little tumble off the chair! We had just landed and both Mummy and I were hunting around for our bags when we heard a thump! We looked down and saw you on the floor under the chair in front! We are both really, really sorry!!!!

Despite you screaming briefly after your fall, we managed to alight into the heat of a hot Mexican afternoon, and I am sure that I saw a puzzled look on your face as if to say "Where the hell am I!".

Whilst seemingly waiting for what seemed eight hours to pass through Mexican customs we sat you on the terminal floor where you slid along the floor on your bottom, not really going anywhere! Two weeks later on the return home, we sat you down on the same floor and nearly had to run a mile to fetch you back, such was the amazing spurt of development you went through whilst we were away!

We really noticed your development having spent so much time with you in Mexico, where you learnt to "give me five", say "ta", pull yourself up onto EVERYTHING! You also made everybody laugh by pulling a bodybuilder pose and growling!

We stayed at the Iberostar Cozumel, which was a 30 minute transfer from the airport. We couldn't unpack fast enough and put you into your swimming shorts and see if you liked the pool. We had taken you swimming only once before, and you wasn't too keen on it. Too many children running around and splashing you in the eyes!

I carried you into the water, which at that time of the afternoon, was really, really warm! (I was really surprised at how hot it actually was!) As we went in, and your legs went into the water, you looked at me as if to say "hello, what are you doing?", but you must have quite liked it, as a big beaming smile came across your face, you lifted your hands in the air and brought them down into the water with an almighty splash! Recovering quickly from your own surprise you proceeded with a flurry of splashes which temporarily blinded me and made me choke whilst I was laughing so much!

The pool became your favourite place over the holiday, not only as a place to cool down from the intense heat, but as a playground, and a place to hangout with your homies at the bar!

That's right, the bar! If you was to have one lingering memory of Mexico, I am sure that it would be of that bar. As it was a swim up bar, the seats were under water, and it was just the right height for you to stand on one of the seats and hold on whilst the barmen went about their work. The bar itself was made of shiny blue stones, which you liked to play with and smack with your hands. If Mummy or I were looking for you and you wasn't in your pushchair asleep under an umbrella you were at the bar!

I am not too sure of the exact details of this story, and I personally blame Grandad, but over the course of the two weeks, whilst at the bar, you were at the bar with a shot glass. A little lime green one with "Senor Frogs" emblazoned on the side.

Now most of the time, you were drinking Sprite, although when I say drinking I meant missing your mouth altogether and spilling it all down yourself and into the pool! You were also seen quite happily doing the same with strawberry slush puppy and unfounded rumours of beer and tequila!

As I mentioned earlier, we were really amazed with your development over the course of the two weeks, and it was your crawling and moving around that caused us the most grief. We took with us a foldable tent, which we thought you could play in day after day. After two days it became worthless as five minutes after putting you inside you kept crawling right back out again!

When we were in our room, and we put you on the floor, you would crawl outside and onto the balcony, which caused us much panic. Being on the first floor, we thought that you may discover the steps and have a tumble or worse.

Even on the big double bed you caused us minor stresses by threatening to swan dive off the side. At one point you very nearly did until Mummy caught you and scratched your face in the process. You were left with a small crescent like graze on the side of your face for most of the holiday!

Although temporarily disfigured it didn't stop the locals from falling in love with you! To say that you were a hit with the ladies is an understatement!!! When Mummy and I went to swim with the Dolphins, and were in the shop collecting our photographs (we will take you one day, but you were watching with Nanny and Grandad as you were too small!), we took you with us to see them, and all the Mexican ladies who worked in the shop came over cooing "Oooh Bambino" and stroking you and doing the usual raspberry thing that people tend to do to babies!

One lady even took you off of us and gave you a big cuddle. At one point I thought she was going to run out the shop with you! Instead she placed you in with the Dolphin teddy bears, probably hoping that you would spoil one and make us pay for it!

On one of our trips out we visited a Mayan village, which was a very humbling and eye opening experience. Seeing so many young children with very little in terms of possessions and necessities that we take for granted such as running water and electricity was something Mummy and I will always remember.

As the footpaths were bumpy and strewn with rubble it was difficult for us to use your pushchair, so Mummy went around with the tour guide taking photographs, whilst you and I stayed back on the main road. Some of the mothers of the Mayan children, themselves carrying babies around your age came over to meet you. It isn't often (I imagine) that they have opportunities to meet blonde haired, blue eyed babies like you and so you became a little bit of a novelty to them. We had a couple of photographs together with them, but it became difficult due to you trying to pull a young Mayan babies hair, so we had to try and apologise and head back to the refuge of the tour bus!

Not only did you become a favourite with the locals, but also closer to home by becoming pals with John and Nadine's friends. "Hitman" Hiten became, along with Grandad your drinking partner at the bar, Lucy, Laura and Rachel were your water mermaids carrying you in the pool and everybody else at one point or another were giving you high fives, and the usual raspberry thing that people do to babies.

I started off this blog by saying thank you for being such a good boy, and you really, really were! It allowed us to fill our days with a range of varied trips and excursions, which all went so well.

As well as the trip to Chankanaab to swim with the dolphins and the Mayan Village which was part of the trip to Coba (ancient Mayan ruins), we also visited Xel Ha. The two trips to Coba and Xel Ha were over on the mainland, so we had two return ferry trips to Playa del Carmen, which you enjoyed both times. Although we were told that Coba was wheelchair (and pushchair) accessible, it proved to be otherwise.

As I mentioned above about the roads at the Mayan village,Coba itself was not much better. To get from site to site we employed the use of a taxi, which was basically a bespoke bicycle which had two seats welded to the front. You sat on our laps and had a great time as we were carried from site to site. With the wind in your hair giving you some much needed breeze and respite from the heat. We were originaly not going to book this trip as we were worried about the heat being too much, but apart from a few grumbles about being cooped up in your pushchair you was fine and enjoyed the day as much as the rest of us (although not Mummy as she was a bit too hot and bothered!).

Mummy and I's favourite trip with you was to Xel Ha, where you joined us on a trip down the lazy river. Despite a little disorganisation with the storage of all of our stuff and your pushchair, we made it to the river, with all three of us kitted out in life-jackets, including a very cute baby one just for you. I also had a snorkel, mask and flippers which proved to come in very handy.

Our transport down the lazy river was to be a dual inflatable ring, suitable enough for Mummy and I to sit in whilst carrying you on either of our laps. With the early start and ferry trip tiring you out the lazy nature of the river was just the tonic you needed in which to fall asleep! Luckily enough you managed to stay awake long enough for us to have our photograph taken from the riverbank, which is still Mummy and I's favourite holiday picture!

One thing we didn't realise was just how long this 'lazy' river was! With you asleep in the hot morning sun we thought it would be a good idea to get out pretty sharpish, so I had to use my flippers to swim us back to the nearest exit - 140 miles away! I couldn't get off the ring just in case I caused the ring to topple over and in the process dunk you and mummy in the cold water! So I had to half lay on the ring and half lay in the water and use my flippers to get us back. Despite many comments on my 'flipping' technique, I managed to get us back, you out and in the safe sanctuary of your pushchair before you got burnt!

The rest of the day passed without too much drama, and you enjoyed more water activity later on that afternoon with Mummy and Auntie Carly, whilst I went off tombstoning with Bethany, Joshua and Richard!

If your days in Mexico were varied and spent having so much fun, your nights were a little less active. By the time that Mummy and I were ready to go out and meet Nanny, Grandad and the others for dinner and post dinner show, you were already fast asleep!

If, on the rare occasion that you weren't already asleep, you would join us at the dinner table in the high chair and munch upon, or play with a bread roll. We would then put you in your pushchair, take a short stroll around the complex ready for you to drift off asleep. Whilst we watched the show you would be parked in an aisle underneath a mosquito net far, far away in the land of nod!

You have been a very lucky boy to have been to such an amazing place so early in your life, but the biggest shame is that you are unlikely to remember much about it at all. We hope that one day you may read this and get a better idea of your first holiday abroad!

Mummy and I spoke about our holidays when we were children and I was 13 before I went abroad and on an aeroplane for the first time, so I have some really good memories of my experience. Mummy was a little younger and cannot remember too much. But she can hardly remember her name sometimes, so I wouldn't worry about that too much!

We hope that in the future we are able to take you on more holiday's that this time you will remember and maybe you can write your memories here for us all to read!

So so very very sleepy...

Last year Stephanie and I went to Fuerteventura for a week and I managed to write the longest blog in the world.

I don't think that I will make the same mistake this year and instead will write some smaller ones retrospectively.

The nine hour overnight flight from Mexico has hit the three of us for six! Poor Oliver has not made things any easier for either of us by waking up at midnight and wanting to play for two and a half hours! Despite our impassioned pleas we were unable to convice him otherwise, and so had to spend the time blowing raspberries and allsorts - rather halfheartedly it must be said!

Now writing this at 3pm feels like midnight and that I really ought to go to bed. With so many photos to add and some stories to tell, it will probably be a little while until I feel a little less tired! The last time I was affected by jetlag was on my return from Las Vegas. I was in bed everynight for a week by 9pm, but doubt whether I will be able to afford that luxury this time around!
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