Adam Bird

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Monday, 30 June 2008

Brilliant Brilliant Budapest

Budapest

It used to be, or so I am constantly reminded Stag parties consisted of a curry in the local town, followed by a bar crawl and maybe a stripper chucked in for good measure. With the opening up of cheap flight routes across Europe Stag parties are now weekend affairs and life experiences - none more so than the weekend away to Budapest.

Best man for the occasion Mark, declared that Groom to be Stuart should not know where we were heading for his stag weekend and so we were all sworn to secrecy, succeeding where most thought we would fail. I was so determined not to be the one to let the cat out of the bag that I even went as far as telling Stuart I was just as much in the dark as he was.

Flying from Luton helped us massively in our task, as driving around the M25 at three thirty in the morning, past the M11 junction missing Stanstead threw Stuart even further off the scent. It wasn't until arriving at the check-in desk that the mystery was finally solved. Even then it wasn't quite clear cut.

Presented with two options "Lisbon or Budapest" Stuart was still uncertain. Reaso nobaly offered him a clue "it's what I am", meaning fat Budha, which offered us yet another early chuckle. Not quite as funny as when the penny finally dropped for Stuart and he asked with all seriousness "where is it?" If he didn't know then he certainly does now!

Flying with EasyJet is as they say, no thrills. It is also even less of a thrill when you lose in the random seating lottery and end up next to Dan and G'ry. Two guys who are early pace setters when it comes to alcoholic beverages. The flight to Budapest was only two hours long, my plan was nice and simple, two hours to catch up on some sleep. Which I did, for ten seconds until Dan and G'ry ended my aspirations with a series of punches and flicked earlobes. I was then forced to consume an unhealthy amount of aeroplane lager and being rather competitive I made sure that I had finished mine long before they did.

Feeling pretty ropey for the first few hours didn't really give me much of an opportunity to take in our surroundings, but I was aware that we were located rather centrally, and within the Pest side of the river Danube which dissects the city into two. Our accommodation, Hotel Baross was actually rather nice, very comfortable and in an around some rather hardcore building work, which was never actually a problem for us.

Happily for Stuart, and indeed the rest of us, Foordy, rather conspicuous in his absence so far was waiting to surprise Stuart on arrival, lying prone upon his bed without a stitch to cover his modesty. Apparently Foordy had some business to attend to in France prior to the weekend and so made his way North to Munich and caught the overnight train to Budapest. Upon arrival at the Keleti International Railway station Foordy jumped into a cab and was driven the 100 yards to our hotel!

If Foordy's bare backside wasn't a surprise for Stuart then the costume in which Mark had arranged for him to spend the day wearing certainly was. A bright yellow luminous jockey outfit, fully kitted out with a cap and adorned with black polka dots. It even came complete with a teddy bear horse which was configured to fit the body to give the impression one was actually riding it. It is publicly accepted that Stuart doesn't win anything and always finishes in second place so the jockey outfit itself was finished off with a couple of number '2's for good measure!

We wasn't due to meet up with our guide until the evening, so we had a whole day of leisure to ourselves. We soon became acquainted with a bar directly beneath our hotel where we enjoyed the first of many of the day's beers. I was still struggling from the plane but managed to slow myself down in amongst the madness that was going on around me!

Before long we were getting too familiar with our surroundings and so headed off down into Budapest for a little exploration and discovery. After walking for fifteen minutes or so, with bemused locals looking at the loud group of Englishmen in the company of a jockey riding a horse we felt it was about time for another pint.

After the third bar or so we found a delightful basement bar which was nice and dark, just perfect for me to find myself a secluded corner and take a well earned nap! I really couldn't say how long I was asleep for, but I appreciated being left alone for however long it was! Still, I wasn't the only one struggling and I was soon woken as we made our way back to the hotel for a quick shower and getting ready for the night ahead.

The first night was awesome, the power nap did me a world of good and I was ready to start over. We headed for a restaurant for our first proper taste of Hungarian cuisine. There were some nice sounding food on the menu but I had a typically bad choice. Still it wasn't going to be the food that made our evening. The banter and laughter at the table coupled with the speeches and singing was held in a great atmosphere. The locals sitting nearby never once took offence and seemed to take it in their stride.

After we had eaten we were taken on a bar crawl by our guide, whose name was also Adam. The first bar we went to was a strange affair, walking along a typical Hungarian backstreet with old buildings either side you would never have guessed that a bar was even there. Even when we entered it was like going into a decrepit old house that was badly looked after with graffiti on the walls and broken bicycles by the wayside.

The guide explained that it was a former factory, although he never elaborated on what was produced there. It consisteed of several rooms off either side of a wide entrance way but we headed out the back into a courtyard to the bar which was undercover to the side. Quirky fittings and strange things in strange places made up the decor of the building, for example benches built into the wall six feet in the air, a car in the middle of the courtyard used as a table and chairs as well as plastic bins turned upside down used as lampshades.

Our next stop was even stranger, we were heading towards a 'Gentleman's' Club but the walk was a long one, so we stopped off en route. The entrance to the bar was akin to the old Lord Street car park, except it never smelt of urine. It was dark, dingy and exposed concrete brickwork made the place seem worse than it was. We were taken up to the top of the building, which was a supermarket, on top was an open air bar with a view of the square below. Except you couldn't really see over the walls of the side giving the place a further surreal atmosphere.

I have watched films set in Eastern Europe and seen warehouses with hard techno music being pumped out and set with a real industrial ambiance, that's what the open air bar reminded me of and the reason why I loved it so much.

Our stay however wasn't long enough, but nowhere ever is on a whistle stop bar crawl. After another short walk we found ourselves in a 'Gentleman's' Club, which is exactly what this place was. I had read on the Internet about tourists ending up in strip clubs in Hungary and being forced to pay £300 bar bills for imaginative drinks and for things that they quite clearly never intended. Being owned by Englishmen there was none of the intimidating atmosphere I had imagined and instead found myself having quite a pleasant time.

Still, it had been a long, long day and we had more than enough excitement so most people decided to head off for home. My power nap from earlier had seen me regain a second wind and I had heard about a couple of nightclubs further down the road which I was keen to explore. Along with me came Stuart, Gavin, Juggy, Telbow and Lucky. Now normally this list would have included Will's name. I don't want to rub it in too much, but when someone says "I GUARANTEE that I will be the last man standing" you don't expect them to be the first in bed!

The decision to make a walk to the nightclub described earlier by Adam our guide was probably the best decision I made over the whole weekend. We had walked quite some distance to look for a bridge that spanned the Danube, over which would be a nightclub, when it started to rain. Rather than run for shelter or the nearest taxi taking us home, we carried on going getting slightly wetter until we finally relented and found a taxi to take us that last mile.

We were taken to the club entrance and I was expecting to pay a hefty entrance fee, but it was like a park area where you just strolled in and onto a dance floor spanned by buildings containing seating areas and bars. The rain had picked up by this point and as we made it to the dance floor which was pumping out hardcore Ibiza classics the heavens finally opened with a chorus of thunderclaps and lightning.

Being rather worse for wear after the barcrawl drinking we were in drunken heaven. Pulling some serious shapes as the virtually empty dancefloor filled with water. Stuart and I decided to remove our shirts and add them to the shape pulling exercises which were getting more elaborate as the rain continued to fall. We were all looking up at the sky as it was lit up by the lightning on the banks of the Buda side of the Danube and thinking it was the greatest place in the world. It was certainly an experience I won't ever forget, nor was the conversation we had with the Hungarian Porn producer who invited us back to his place for a drug fuelled orgy with his porno buddies!

All good things must come to an end and at the conclusion of the thunderstorm, when the sun came up and we were kicked out at 7am in the morning, we headed back to the Hotel Baross with smiles on our faces and muttering just how good the night was!

I was looking forward to my bed and having a long nap to prepare for the busy day two. G'ry and Mark however had other plans. Not able to get in his own room due to a mix up over keys, Mark shared with G'ry hoping that Stuart would find him when he got back. Unable to wake either G'ry or Mark from their slumber, and Stuart without access to his room we were forced to sleep on the floor of Telbow and Luckys room which was slightly less uncomfortable than I thought it would be.

Nevertheless, no rest for the wicked. Stuart who is not the deepest sleeper in the world woke us all up at 10pm and we went in search for breakfast fully dressed in our still we clothes from the night before. We found Mark and G'ry who were rather amused at our sleeping arrangements and the fact that they were both dead to the world when we attempted to wake them.

We were due for our stag weekend activity which I knew beforehand was going to be shooting handguns at a local shooting range. I didn't particularly want to drink anyway that morning still feeling awful from the night before, and certainly didn't want anything to jeopardise my handing of what ultimately turned out to be some serious weaponry.

When we arrived at the shooting club I was surprised by it's location, and underground bunker set deep inside a hill. We were given a safety lecture which was obeyed impeccably. None of us were under no illusions as to how dangerous the weapons we were handling actually were, MCM - .22 LCR handgun, CZ Grand - .22 LCR handgun, Glock - 9mm bad boy handgun, Taurus - .38 special handgun and Colt King Cobra - .357 Magnum, a total of 60 rounds.

The only non participant was Will who staged his own one man pacifist crusade, who was practically joined by G'ry, whom despite having a target as long as this blog failed to hit any of his 60 rounds within the middle 'black' zone.

The .357 Magnum was one powerful weapon, I was watching the others who went before me as they struggled with the recoil. I thought that I would end up on my backside, but once I was in there with my earmuffs and safety glasses I was even more concerned. I took an age to fire my first shot gently pulling the trigger in anticipation. No doubt about it, my arms were shaking with fear which made for inaccuracy when I finally pulled the trigger. With one of the guns the spent shells were firing out backwards, one even hitting me on the nose.

One of my favourite set of books is the Jack Reacher series by Lee Child, and Reacher's weapon of choice is a Glock and so I have read a lot about them. Having one in your hand is a totally different experience and trying to follow the advice Reacher provides through his stories is nigh on impossible.

Once we had all (minus Will) finished, we had a couple of photo opportunities with some AK47s and other machine guns whilst the organisers calculated the score. The script was followed to the letter as it was announced Telbow was the winner, Gavin was in 3rd place and Stuart the perennial runner up finished... 2nd! On the podium they were given a shot each, a selection of Hungarian drinks called 'Unicum' which we would be seeing plenty of later that evening.

We had the afternoon after shooting to ourselves so it was back to a few more bars to wind out the afternoon. On our return to the hotel we passed a female tramp who was asleep on a step in a rather large doorway, comparable if you like to the Angelsea centre in Gravesend. I passed her whilst walking back with Dan, but the rest of the group were further behind us. It transpired that Stuart had also spotted her, indeed you couldn't help but not. She looked as if she was dressed ready for the 80's roller disco up in London complete with bright pink leg warmers. Once Stuart had seen her, he decided to lay down next to her mimicking her prone state. How gutted I was to have missed it as it was one of the funniest things to have happened all weekend!

From the outrageously funny to something else completely different.

We had been quite efficient in our preparing for the night ahead with no delay in getting ourselves ready. We had met up with Szilvia, our rep for the evening and our mission was to walk to the tram stop, take a quick tram ride to a restaurant which was booked for us for the evening.

However, things took a slight turn for the worse when a couple of the boys stopped off at the cashpoint. I had heard sirens in the background and took absolute no notice of it. We were in a huddle waiting for Foordy who was the last person to get money out of the bank. The next thing I know a Policeman is running past me and over to Foordy. Grabs him by the shoulder, moves him away from the cashpoint and asks him to put his hands up.

At first we all thought it was a bizarre joke, what had Foordy done that warranted the involvement of the police? Next thing I know we are surrounded by 40 to 50 policemen with more arriving. We were all demanded by various officers to walk up against the wall of the McDonalds which held the cashpoint within it's walls. I am standing up against the window with my hands held up and outwards, shaking like a leaf.

We were all systematically searched and instructed to empty our pockets on request. All I had in mine was a packet of cigarettes, a lighter and a wad of Hungarian Forints. The amount of people who had stopped by to watch was staggering. The people looking back at us through the window in which we were lined up were reminiscent of visitors looking at exhibits in a zoo.

It was still a little unclear about what the police were actually after, but with much translating between the police who spoke no English and Szilvia our guide it transpired that the bank had informed the police of someone using a cloned credit card at the machine.

As Foordy was the last one to use the cash machine the Police wanted to ensure that the names on his cards matched his identification, except that he never had any on him. He was whisked away in a police car with the sirens blaring back to the hotel in order to "free himself" from any wrong doing.

In the meantime the rest of us were still being searched, I was searched on three occasions by two different policeman and I hadn't even used the cashpoint. Some of the boys had brought out their whole wallets, which in Reaso's case meant his gym membership card. The police not knowing which cards were for what looked rather bemused at Reaso's man boobs as he gestured weight lifting when asked what this particular card was for.

Confusion still reigned and for all us that never carried our ID with us were forced, despite whether we had used the cash machine or not to get in a police car and take a flashing blue light ride back to the hotel. If being poked and prodded about by a bunch of overly aggressive policeman and searched unknowingly what for wasn't scary enough, the resulting ride back in the police car was simply terrifying! Weaving in and out of the traffic, wrong side of the road, riding bumper to bumper with the police car in front and slamming on the brakes to a stop.

Back at the hotel with identification sorted and us finally being "free men" all that was left was to fill out statement cards. These were written in Hungarian and we had no clue at all what we were supposed to write. We were communicating by radio to Szilvia who was still outside the McDonalds with the other guys. I used Stuarts filled out statement sheet as a guide as to what I needed to write. How I didn't laugh when I read that his phone number was "123456" and that he lived at "1 The Street, Town Road, England" I will never know!

It was for a moment a very scary experience, the unknown element and forceful nature of the police didn't help matters, but we decided that it actually enhanced our stay rather than diminished it. So with a typical British attitude we walked back to the bar, met up, had a laugh about what had happened and hit right back on the beers.

If you hadn't known beforehand what we had been through and had seen us at the dinner table you would never have guessed. With much singing and hilarity we enjoyed a great meal which included twenty six individual speeches and twice as many rounds of applause. Champagne was ordered and sprayed around, drunk in merriment. The Hungarian waiters were patient with us and joined in with some of the games and laughter. We were very loud and never once did they complain, which we all had a lot of time for!

Having missed out the night before on the nightclub outside the boys were keen on reliving our experience. We were taken to another club, still on the Pest side of the Danube but with the exact same set up. Walk through a public park type space onto a dance floor, with buildings dotted around for the bars and seating areas and the same hardcore Ibiza dance music applied! I don't think that we even stopped off for a drink and just threw ourselves on the dancefloor into some more shape shifting patterns.

Will, who famously missed the night before tried to make up for it by trying to tell me how good he was feeling and how gutted he still was and how he wanted it to thunderstorm all at once which came out as "Good thunder wicked awesome gutted" instead.

Things started to get a little messy after a while, G'ry had bumped into another stag who was dressed up wearing a Borat mankini and G'ry decided that he wanted to wear it. The other stag was quite accomodating, so they both started to strip, both of them ending up stark naked in the middle of the club, people stopped dancing to watch, make mobile movies and take photos. G'ry picked up the mankini, put it in one leg, then the other, realised that it was too rolled up and couldn't be bothered to fight with it. In the end, the two guys ended up butt naked all for no reason!

My night was close to being over by this point and it has started to go real hazy, but it started off by having a drinking session at the bar. Having a moment alone with the stag and father of the stag I felt obliged to buy them both a drink. Having heard of the mysterious "Unicum" before I arrived in Budapest I felt that this would be the most suitable beverage.

Having just finished our shots and all three of us simultaneously gagging Will walks over and wants to know just what the hell we are gagging about. Once we had recovered and explained Will then buys a round, including another my way. The same scenario occured again, but this time Lucky walks over and wants to know what the hell we are gagging about! Lucky downed his shot before waiting 3 seconds and returning it to the floor followed by his evening meal and most probably some of his earlier breakfast.

I don't know what happened next, I really don't. I can hazard and guess but it isn't pleasant reading. I think I went and found myself somewhere to sit, but ended up passed out as when I woke up disorientated before having a "Lucky" moment. It was bright as daylight and there was nobody around. I really cannot remember where I was or what happened. My first memory after waking up is walked back to the hotel, but where I walked back from I really couldn't say, my sixth direction sense really kicking in and helping me out.

I arrived back at the hotel and went back to my room. Knocked on the door but once again no answer. Mark found me asleep in the hallway outside my bedroom door a little while later and put me in a bed in one of the rooms.

I cannot say that was my greatest ever moment, not by a long way, anything could have happened to me, maybe anything did happen? It was hardly very fair on any of the guys who could have been walking around all night looking for me, as it was nobody realised I had gone missing! Getting drunk and having a great time is normal, getting totally hammered and blacking out God knows isn't.

The final day was spent feeling sorry for myself and trying to work out just where I had spent those missing moments of my life. I wasn't in any state to spend the day in another series of bars drinking more alcholol so went with Foordy, Dan, Will, Jimmy H, Stuart and Jimbo to the Spa. Jimbo had suggested it long before we went as a suggested time filler on the last day, but I think he sold it wrong into something sounding quite homosexual. But nevertheless, it was nothing but and it would have been a great end to the weekend had we all gone.

Budapest has a lot of Turkish influence, culturally, architectually and also in the cuisine. This was particularly evident at the Turkish built spa. Three large pools surrounded by a beautiful building containing plungepools, jacuzzi's, sauna's and steamrooms. We spent the day hopping in and out of them all having a chillout and a laugh at the same time. Especially at the expense of some of the local men who had no shame walking around potbellied and naked, or incredibly hairy with bits hanging out the sides of their speedo's!

One of the pools had a large donut shaped ring area which you were able to swim around with the help of a rapid current which turned up and down in force throughout the course of the day. It was mental being whizzed and thrown around into people and trying to get out of the current which was nearly impossible when the rapids were at full pelt.

It was whilst here that Jimmy H offered one of the lines of the holiday when asked why he was standing at the side like a big girls blouse, he replied "it's too cold, I am more of a Jacuzzi man myself".

Although that one had me in tears, it wasn't the first and even though it was late on in the day it certainly wasn't the last. It was an awesome part of the subplot to the weekend, the jokes, banter, camadarie and pisstaking.

The biggest part of the camadarie was the question "Do you vote for A Reason?", "No? Why? Do you disaG'ry?" Which may sound a little bizarre, and trust me it was. I still don't fully understand it and I am writing about it. Basically, in simple terms, we had to vote for a favourite, Reaso or G'ry, each of which had a campaign manager and a campaign song.

"Love me for a Reason", or "Gry'wind" were sung out randomly throughout the course of the weekend, whilst Will was adding "Vote G'ry" to the chalk boards of bars, and carrying handmade posters and billboards in an attempt to gather "voters". Probably the funniest attempt of gathering a voter was when a passing guy on rollerblades skated by. He wasn't exactly skating slowly but Will turned and ran after him nearly 200 yards away down the road before the skater finally stopped and wondered just what the hell this mad Englishman wanted!

The modern day rule tends to be "What goes on tour, stays on tour" and I am a firm believer in that. But I am also a firm believer in sharing the love and seeing as so many Stag weekends are being arranged right now I want someone else to know about Budapest and the great time that we have all had.

It was a weekend aimed at providing the Stag with one final night of freedom before he gets tied down to married life. It wasn't like that. We had about six married men on that weekend away and each one of them will have come home after having an equally amazing time as Stuart just did. It is about enjoying time together with the lads, being lads, doing lad things and doing it all with a smile on our faces.

We have been back four days and that smile is still there.

Agishirgadre!

Friday, 20 June 2008

Communications with Land Securities

In an attempt to open communications with the people behind the Ebbsfleet Landmark I was provided with contact details for Land Securities by a fellow blogger who shares similar opinions to me.

I list below the transcript of our email correspondence (so far) in the belief that by sharing this information other people can learn more about their take on the project and have a further understanding of what's being planned.

Good afternoon,

I am writing in the hope that this email is one of many concerns voiced regarding the five shortlisted designs for the Ebbsfleet Landmark.

Upon hearing of the idea initially I was led to believe that the landmark was being developed for the residents of Ebbsfleet as a vocal point, a place that made them feel "at home". I asked myself the question - How can you build something for somebody who isn't even there yet? Surely the people of Gravesend, Northfleet, Swanscome and the local area, the people who have been there for years need to feel at home and a sense of pride in this just as the people who are being encouraged to move to the area?

My second worry was that the money being spent on the Landmark, from £2m - £10 million, depending on what sources you believe. Now being a resident of Gravesend I thought that even the lowest figure, £2m is an astronomical price to pay when you consider that many parts of Gravesend, Northfleet, Swanscombe etc are suffering from real neglect and would benefit hugely from this money instead. Although I understand that Land Securities is non government and so doesn't have a say in where the council spend their money, it is still I believe a valid concern.

However opposed to the landmark I was before the 5 shortlisted designs were put forward, is nothing to how I feel now that they have been announced.

Each and everyone of the five designs is so far removed from anything that resembles the local history, culture, asthetics, environment and indeed it appears from my point of view and many people that I have spoken to that the artists have got this inappropriately wrong.

I urge you to reconsider the proposals and invite local people to have a larger say in the final design and help chosing a final landmark. I personally believe that this is unrequired right now and so a best case scenario would be for the idea to be shelved all together and regenerated later once the Ebbsfleet residents are settled and more familiar with how the community has bedded in. But this is probably unrealistic and so it is important for me to stress the importance on getting the design right, not just for the local area, but on a national level too.

I know that Graham Hampsheir (http://www.angelofthesouth.co.uk/) has proposed a design that was overlooked by the people who are organising this and although I don't beleive that this is the right choice either, having believed that the artist has taken the "angel of the south" too literally and that the landmark shouldn't necessarily be synchronised with that of the north. However the final landmark, once complete should fit in harmony with it's surroundings, be considerate to the local history and have as much input from the local people as possible,

I realise that these designs are being showcased at Bluewater, but this is nothing more than a publicity stunt, saying "here are the designs, one of these will blight your landscape shortly". Nobody who visits the display gets to vote and more importantly nobody gets to say "No I don't want any of these".

Thank you very much for taking the time to read this email (I hope) and would certainly appreciate a response. I hope that common sense prevails, but I am a realist and understand that most likely you are to receive a few letters/emails of complaint and will carry on regardless.

Adam Bird

Dear Mr Bird,

Thank you for your email dated 10th June which was forwarded to me by Suzanne Kemmenoe from Land Securities. Firstly, apologies for the delay in responding to your email. Since the launch of the landmark proposals, we have received a large number of enquiries and it has taken some time to respond to each one individually.

We worked closely with our panel of art advisors to invite artists to submit proposals who we felt would be able to respond imagainatively to the history of the site and the changes that are planned to take place at Ebbsfleet Valley, as well as having experience of creating artworks in the public realm. It was by no means out of intention to overlook a locally based artist such as Graham Hampsheir, in fact at least two of the artists on the shortlist have strong personal connections to the local area.

Each of the artists responded to a detailed brief linked closely to the site and the specific indentity of Ebbsfleet Valley/ We appointed a historic advisor, Christoph Bull, head of Dartford Library, who helped us to brief the artists and we believe that each of the proposals very much relates to the identity of the site. More information about how the artists have interpreted Springhead's history and contemporary identity can be found on the website: http://www.ebbsfleetlandmark.com

With regards to your concerns about the money being spent, £2mn is a lot of money, but Ebbsfleet is an important location with impressive plans. Already Land Securities is commited to a huge amount of 'planning gain' contribution for local facilities and this additional amount, contributed by various organisations, was felt to be necessary to ensure the appropriate level of quality and scale for such an important place.

We are in full support of local people having their say in the landmark and we are keen to hear people's comments on the proposals, which is why we are holding an exhibition of all the artist's models at Bluewater shopping centre. In addition, we also have an exhibition display at the offices of both Gravesham and Dartford Borough Council, where you are invited to 'Have Your Say' with the comments cards that we have provided. Finally, for those that are not able to visit any of these three venues, we also have a section on our website where you are able to feedback your comments. All of the feedback will be analysed and will be considered by the Selection Panel when the final decision is being made.

Yours sincerely

STEPHEN JORDAN
Managing Director

Good Afternoon,

Thank you very much for your response - a typical "corporate" reply, which gives a lot of information but doesn't really provide much in reply. Your opinion that each of the five designs relating to the identity of the site really proves how far from touch you really are with the local people.

My suggestion to you would be to ballot every household in Gravesham and surrounding areas with a list of the five designs and a further option that says "none of above". I can almost certainly assure you that most will tick and reply with the latter.

I will endeavour to continue supporting the petition (http://petitions.pm.gov.uk/NOEbbsfleetAngel/) that calls for a more transparent communication process between the local people and yourselves. I am 100% not convinced that whatever responses you receive, whatever your findings are - one of the five designs will be chosen regardless. Ultimately at a detrimental cost to the local people.

Regards

Adam Bird

Dear Mr Bird

Thank you for your prompt response to my letter. I am sorry that you found it inadequate and that you think that I am out of touch. Whilst you have a right to have such opinions, your reply indicates that I may be somewhat more open-minded than you. Now there's a thought that you might like to consider.

We await with great interest the outcome of the unprecedented consultation that is taking place at Bluewater (and via the two town halls and the web).

Yours Sincerly

STEPHEN JORDAN
Managing Director

Mr Jordan,

Whilst you personally may be open minded and I believe also that I am open minded to many things, the situation regarding the Ebbsfleet Landmark is nothing to do with how liberal minded either of us are. This isn't about you and I, this is about the people of Gravesham, Kent and even the UK vs the Ebbslfeet Landmark.

I live in the area and have always done, my family too. I am sure that you aren't and therefore not so personally affected by what happens in the local area.

My point still remains and is backed up by hundreds of forums around Kent and the UK that the five shortlisted ideas are not in keeping with the local area, culturally, historically and aesthetically. I would even go as far as to say that they are not appropriate on a National Level where there are many examples of art and sculpture givine the UK a portfolio to be proud of.

It is all very well having showcases at Bluewater and the website, but it is a matter of procedure. The landmark will go ahead anyway. Invite a broad range mixture of people from varying backgrounds to sit on the judging panel and let them have a say.

Best regards

Adam Bird

Conclusion

I still feel that the "public consultation" phase that is currently being undertaken is just a matter of procedure and policy. I also never meant that Mr Jordan personally was 'out of touch', it appears that the artists who five designs have been shortlisted clearly are!

Please post any comments on your thoughts about this, or view the facebook group for the contact details for Land Securities.

Monday, 16 June 2008

A Massive Thank You to Stuart & Amy

For claiming the anonimously sent vouchers! Proof that a) at least one person visits the website b) online marketing/advertising is the future and c) blondes live up to the stereotype!

A Massive Thank You to ?????

Just a quick posting to thank everyone who came to our party on Saturday evening and we hope that everyone had a great time! Both Stephanie and I have been overwhelmed by the gifts that we have received and we hope to send out individual thank you's shortly. The reason for this post is an SOS! Someone sent Stephanie and I some Next vouchers and we don't know who they are from! If you were at Bluewater Next on Thursday 12th June at roughly 6.50pm, can you let us know who you are so we can give you a big hug like everyone else?

Thursday, 12 June 2008

Peace and Quiet

It has been very quiet in the blogging stakes since the 22nd May when I wrote "10 conclusions for the European Cup Final". Things should hopefully pick up again shortly with our engagement party this Saturday night, and Stuarts stag weekend at the end of the month.

Although the European Championships have been on over the past week I cannot say that I have been entirely enthusiastic about the whole affair. The games that I have managed to sit and watch have been tepid affairs, and I seem to flick over or walk out the room just as a goal is scored.

The pick of the teams after the first round of matches has been Portugal, Holland and Spain. Of those three I would like to see Spain go all the way, purely because of the Liverpool connection and the fact that I dislike Ronaldo (verging on hatred) about the way that he seems to be treating Manchester United with contempt over the whole Real Madrid saga. Finally, Holland, very pleasing on the eye to watch, play amazing football, but whatever they achieve it seems that they are constantly being compared to the great teams of years gone by, which starts to get annoying after a while.

With the domestic pre-season being very quiet so far, and to be honest rather depressing from a Gillingham point of view with relegation to League Two. I am sure come August I will be chomping at the bit again and proclaiming our title credentials!

So to our engagement party this Saturday. With luck we should have a good number, a lot of people haven't been able to make it for various reasons, but that's the way things go! We have had some posters made with the date of the wedding printed on them so people don't have any excuse for missing out on the wedding.

Stephanie has been working hard on all the arrangements, making sure a DJ is booked, buffet is prepared and that the hall is decorated in a purple fashion to match her dress for the night. I have even played along nicely and will be wearing a matching shirt on Saturday to incorporate myself into Stephanie's 'theme'. However, one thing that has eluded us so far is a song in which to dance to. Personally I think that this is a wedding thing, but apparently not...! Steph has been watching re-runs of Top of the Pops and scouring the Internet for "the one" but so far no luck.

I don't really know why we haven't got a stand out song, it must have just passed us by. For one of Steph's birthdays at the beginning of our relationship I took her to London to see Whistle Down the Wind and we kind of adopted "No Matter What" by Boyzone, but I hate the song now. Not that it holds bad memories or anything. But Boyzone?!!

The best thing about music, is it captures a specific time in your life, for me Oasis and Live Forever, Rock N Roll Star and the whole Definitely Maybe will always be about me at the end of my school days, heading off into life without a care in the world. It's the same with most music, you listen to a track that is a year old, it takes you back to a specific memory and gives it an element of extra clarity.

So, if anything I don't think having a slow romantic ballad that we like the words to would be a suitable choice for this occasion. I think something that encapsulated a moment from our relationship that brings both of us happy memories, whether it is "It's Like That" by Run DMC (the number one single when we got together!) or something totally different, it doesn't matter as long as it fits.

Whichever way it turns out, we hope to have a great night, and hope that everyone who comes does too! Hopefully the blog postings will pick up again over the next few weeks and some new photos added to the site as well. See you all on Saturday!
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