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Future Positivity

So I’ve still got this pesky cough. It’s getting better, but it is taking its sweet time. Urgh. Well, at least that tinfoil feeling has gone, and I’m sleeping much better. I’ll be much happier when I’m healthy again, mind.

*cough cough retching cough cough cough*

Anyway…today I have prepared for my medical examination next week. I’ll be heading down to London on Tuesday so I thought I should make sure I’m ready for it. Thankfully Vanna sorted most of it out already, but I filled in the last few details on the paperwork, double checked my train tickets and planned out my journey. The train to King’s Cross is direct from Durham, which is nice, but I still had to figure out how I was going to get from the station to the surgery. Can’t use the Underground because of strikes (and I hate the Underground), buses overwhelm me (foreign London buses? No thank you!) and taxis are expensive, so I’m ruling them out too. That leaves me with walking, which though in my control (probably why I don’t want public transport…I have to rely on other people), could easily go wrong as well. What if I get lost? My sense is direction is good, but it ain’t perfect. So I need to be ready. Time for Google maps!

1.8 miles which will take approximately 40 minutes…providing I don’t get lost or distracted.

Got it all written (plus a print off) so I don’t forget. Even followed it on Street View so I could get an idea of the route. My train is supposed to arrive in London before 2pm, and my appointment is at 3pm. If there are no delays, I should be able to make it pretty easily (walking less than two miles in 90 minutes has to be achievable, even for me). Same for getting the train home; if the appointment ends before half five, I’ll have plenty of time. Failing that, I’ll have taxi money just in case. Look at me being on the ball!

*another coughing fit* (signalling my coughing makes for a good segue)

So…though I wasn’t particularly keen on this compulsory trip to London, I’m quite excited about it now (should be nice weather, nice walk etc).  Not because I’m excited about my blood being taken, but doing it puts us (Vanna and I) another step closer to our goal. Being apart sucks but we’re trying to keep positive about the future. Last week we looked online for advice on the medical and the interview, and we found out some potentially good news. Our main concern was time; would it all get through before August (when we hope to have our ceremony)? These processes take a while, so we weren’t confident that three months would be enough. But the signs are in our favour; according to the responses we got on the forum Vanna signed up for, it takes around three weeks to get from medical to arranging the interview (the medical people are pretty quick passing on the results apparently), then another three or so weeks from the interview to getting the response. Based on that, everything could be worked out by mid June. Pretty awesome right?

Now, I should state that we’re not getting ahead of ourselves. There is a lot still be done (I have to pass the medical first, and then the interview), and times will vary for every applicant (only a few people answered; there could be others who waited months), so we can’t take too much from that information. But we’re looking at it positively. If it can be done that quickly, maybe we’ll be lucky. All we can do is hope for the best.

But that’s not all. Further reading in the forums suggested that the London Embassy isn’t overly strict when it comes down to relationship evidence (receipts, photos etc). We had been freaking out about proof (we foolishly didn’t keep anything from our first few trips, and our photos aren’t dated), but apparently they prefer to focus on the person in the interview, and ask them questions instead, which is something of a relief. Again, we aren’t getting carried away; we know it won’t be easy, and regardless of leniency, I need to go into the interview fully prepared. But we’re working on that; Vanna is going to send me a package with vouching signatures soon, while I’m going to figure out how to use this blog to my advantage (two years of documenting my actions should benefit me with plenty of proof!). So yeah, nothing guaranteed of course, but we’re feeling *somewhat* confident that things will go ahead. After all, we are genuine, we love each other, and face it, we’re adorable. It’s going to go well.

Fingers crossed it will, anyway.

Alex

 

Roker Beach Photos

Originally posted on Photography On The Citadel:

Today the folks and I went to Roker (Sunderland) for a walk along the beach, and of course I brought my camera with. Despite the grim look to some of the pictures (you’ll notice the difference near the end of the slideshow) it was a really beautiful day. Sunny, few clouds and just a slight breeze; perfect for a walk (and much nicer than the snowy/rain/cold weather in Minnesota right now…for once I’m glad to be here instead). We were out for over two hours so we definitely made the most of it. Enjoy the slideshow!

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Happy Easter!

Woke up this morning to this little surprise…

For me?!

In the light so you can read my card from the Easter Bunny!

Happy Easter Splat? You excited about the day?

Guess not…

 

I Might Just Cough Up A Lung

Sorry I’ve been so quiet this week folks. I’ve been ill since Monday, and I’m just recovering now. Still feeling pretty icky, mind. Not the greatest welcome home I’ve had, cooped up in my bed for days feeling even more miserable than I usually would (the only positive to being ill is that it distracts me from my predicament of being without Vanna for at least the next four months).

It didn’t seem like a big deal in the beginning either. A dry cough, nothing major. Maybe it was from the plane air, or the changing environments, or perhaps something someone else had. I don’t know, but I wasn’t concerned. Until Tuesday, that is, when I started to have severe muscle pain and a headache that would not go away. If I stayed still, I ached. When I moved, I ached more. I had no appetite (unusual for me) and no desire to do anything but curl up in a ball. Tuesday night was by far the worst night’s sleep I’ve had, though it would be generous to say I managed to sleep at all. Awful.

Drugs (good old ibruprofen) managed to alleviate the aching since then, but of course the cough has now returned with a vengeance. Imagine there is a small piece of tinfoil stuck in the back of your throat, and you’ll get an idea of what I’m going through. Last night I woke up at 2am and had to rush to the bathroom, it was that bad. But for all my violent retching down the sink, nothing happened; the feeling just got worse. I used to think a bad cough was preferable to runny nose. I take that back now. Just…awful.

Anyway, I’m feeling better (thank you cough syrup, you beautiful, sickly tasting liquid) so I thought I’d bring you up to date on some things… namely my journey back across the Atlantic.

Minneapolis > Amsterdam

Well, the flight was shorter than usual thanks to tail wind (less than eight hours), but it still took ages. I don’t think I’ve ever been so uncomfortable on a flight before, and I’ve used Air France. Leg discomfort was the main issue, but that was no real surprise; I should be used to that by now (I need to fly business class). Still, knowledge of the issue does not change the fact that being unable to stretch my legs out makes for a miserable journey. Urgh.

Oh, and I couldn’t sleep either. Super tired but I just couldn’t do it. And the food was pretty unexciting (I had a choice of lasagne or cold chicken salad…urgh, dry salad). The guy next to me wasn’t particularly chatty, and at some point I lost both my pillow and blanket. And my stomach hurt.  So yeah, generally just miserable.

Delta had a fun safety video though. In honour of April being 80′s month (or something like that) they had a special safety announcement with people sporting silly hairstyles and huge Walkman etc. Very clever.  After that I decided the best way to kill time was to watch some films.

Prisoners:

I have wanted to watch Prisoners ever since I saw the previews. I’ve been into my thrillers lately, and the idea of a man taking the law into in own hands after his daughter is kidnapped interested me. And it had Jake Gyllenhaal (almost spelled that right first time) as the detective, and he was great in Zodiac. Hugh Jackman is pretty good too, and it looked awesome in clips. First choice, easy.

Well it started impressively and I found it very enjoyable for the most part…but eventually I lost interest. I think it just went on for too long and got a bit too complex for its own good. Don’t get me wrong; the acting performances were fantastic, and the character development was compelling (lose a loved one or lose a part of yourself to find them?  Seeing how the parents, in particular Jackman, went through this process was fascinating) but the plot became too elaborate. Consider the more recent Saw films, and how the increase in shock factor meant they lost what made the originals so clever; the fact they weren’t just a stereotypical gory horror series. Prisoners felt a bit like that to me.

But eh, maybe I’m being harsh. I was in a bad mood, and I missed a crucial line of dialogue right at the end which didn’t help. And I was going crazy because I recognized of one of the characters, but typically I wasn’t able to recall where from. A quick search online would have solved it in seconds, but of course, I didn’t have internet on the plane. Turns out he was in Lost, but it was too late by the time I remembered that. It was rather distracting.

Anyway, 7.5/10 for now. A second go might bump the score up.

The Delivery Man

A lot of the films I wanted to watch had been taken off for 80′s month, so I opted for The Delivery Man. I never liked him before, but for some reason I’ve been in a Vince Vaughan mood. *shrugs* It looked to be a decent comedy, and the premise was different (a man finds out his sperm donations sired hundreds of children, said hundreds of children then want to learn who he is) so why not give it a go?

And, you know, it wasn’t bad. I didn’t expect much, but I was pleasantly surprised by how good it was. The ending was obvious, but I had some laughs from it (good considering my situation) and I enjoyed it. Don’t think I’d pay for it, but I’d watch it again. A nice comedy; inoffensive, neat script and not too forced. A secure 7/10.  Worth watching if you have some time to kill. Nothing mind-blowing, but there’s nothing wrong with that.

And…

…I feel like there was a third film. But I can’t think of it, so either there wasn’t, or it was so uneventful I forgot about it. Hmm.

Amsterdam > Newcastle

After landing, I was shepherded downstairs and out the way with all the geordies and England-bound people (now that all the ritzy gentleman I was travelling had gone, I found myself feeling rather depressed and unimportant). We got on a bus, and then, well, on the plane. I had a window seat this time so at least I had some nice views. Only had the one snack mind, because for some reason we had to choose between a brownie and some pretzels…usually we get both. Humph. Very disappointing.

Ahem. Not that I’m greedy or anything.

 

Anyhoo, I kept trying to doze off, but as soon as I relaxed, my head would fall forward and I’d wake up again. Even caught myself drooling once (thankfully I managed to catch it before I dribbled over myself). Very smooth, right? But it was a brief hour flight and then I was home. Got through Newcastle customs easy enough, and then, after being reunited with the folks, I went into my bedroom. And slept.

So…that’s about it for my journey. Uneventful and boring, as always. But don’t you feel better knowing it?

Yeah I thought so.

Right…I think it is time for my next cough dose.

Bye!

Alex

 

Home

Just a quick post to let you know I’m home safe. Now I’m going to sleep some more (24 hours awake isn’t fun).

More tomorrow,

Alex

Farewell Minnesota

Today is my final day in the US…where has the time gone? *sigh* In a few hours we’ll be heading to Minneapolis, and by 7:30pm I should (hopefully) be on the plane. Here are the details if you wish to follow my journey:

Minneapolis = Amsterdam

7:30pm, KLM 6064, arrives at Schipol 10:40am (Monday).

Amsterdam = Newcastle

12:15pm, KLM959, arrives at Newcastle 12:35pm.

Not too bad. I might plug in at Schipol to give an update. Or I might doze because I can’t sleep on planes. We’ll see.

Right then…I’ll see you all on the other side.

Alex

Pequot Lakes Pictures

Originally posted on Photography On The Citadel:

Yesterday Vanna, Sierra (Vanna’s sister) and Marley (Sierra’s daughter) and I went for a walk around Pequot Lakes. The weather was beautiful, and as I’ve said before, typical that I leave just when it starts to get nice. Bah! Enjoy the pictures.

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Two Years And One Week

So yesterday (but I only learned today) was the two-year anniversary of this blog’s registration. Isn’t that exciting? And yesterday was also the beginning of my final week in Minnesota. Isn’t that…not so exciting?

Yeah, we are both pretty bummed out by that. With the bad weather and Vanna’s busy schedule, we’ve not really had any opportunities to go places like we have in the past (we haven’t went to Duluth this trip, for example) so it doesn’t really feel like we’ve had four months together. But at the same time, having this long stretch together (longest we’ve had by a month) has shown us what being together permanently feels like, and going back now is even more depressing than usual. Especially now as it is starting to get nice out; the snow is melting at last, and it’s becoming warm enough to not need a coat (yesterday I walked down the road in just my t-shirt and jeans!). Typically really.

Anyway, though I have a lot to blog (there’s some stuff I’ve yet to mention, plus all those things I have mentioned but didn’t talk about, then said I would talk about them, only to then not talk about them again…), you can understand why I’m probably going to put it off for another week or so. Sorry, people. I know I’ve said this before. I just thought it was worth mentioning again.

But other than all that, Vanna and I are doing okay. We’re even thinking of having a picnic today. Exciting, eh?

Alex

 

Band T-Shirt Pics!

Hey,

Here are a few pictures of the two band t-shirts I bought at the gig on Tuesday. We were planning to take more (Vanna and I posing together in our matching tops etc) but we’re in a little bit of a rush this morning because Vanna is giving blood! Obviously I would join her but foot and mouth, y’know, can’t do it. Ah well. I’ll just have to take pictures instead. Oh darn…

Heh. Anyway, here’s the Starset t-shirt. Isn’t it awesome?

And now for Trivium. First the front…

….And there’s the back. Look at the first name on that tour!

 

Alex

Emergent, Starset and TRIVIUM!

So we’re home and back to normalcy from our trip to the cities. You’ll be glad to hear (by jove I’m hilarious) my ears are fine again. The ringing stopped sometime yesterday afternoon so that’s certainly a relief. Mind you, not being able to hear too great had its advantages…hmm.

Anyway, the gig! Here’s a rough account of what happened Tuesday night.

Opening Impression

We were at Mill City Lights in downtown Minneapolis. Got into the venue without a problem, which was good considering it was cold and I was only wearing a t-shirt. It was a narrow but tall place; downstairs was the bar and merchandise area, ground floor was the performing area (or whatever you want to call it…not an arena but it was fairly big) and upstairs was the gallery overlooking the stage. I was quite impressed with it until I noticed…there were no seats!

You see, because I’m an old man I was hoping to sit down and watch, but the rectangular area by the stage was all standing and the gallery didn’t have chairs either; just metal bars to lean against. Except for at the back by the bar, where you wouldn’t be able to see anything, there were no seats whatsoever. Oh man, not a good start for me. Where am I supposed to sit?

With that undecided and with time to kill, we got ourselves a can of cider each. Want to guess the price for the two cans? I was thinking no more than ten dollars…nope, wrong! Fifteen! Woo! So we sat at the bar (not what I had in mind) and drank that while we waited for the first of our three bands…Emergent.

Emergent

Emergent, a local band, was really good (note: I’m probably going to use the wrong grammar a lot during this post. I know it is wrong, but I’m adamant it sounds better…so there we go. Just a heads up). We started watched from the gallery, but decided to go downstairs for a better view. Vanna and I liked them (I wasn’t expecting to like anyone except Trivium, so I was pleasantly surprised), and they were popular with everyone else too. The singer interacted with the crowd well, riling us up for Trivium and getting us to move, so they were definitely a good opening band.

Their songs had a good blend to them too. Along with the heavy metal parts to head-bang to (if that’s what you are into), there were also parts where those who didn’t know the lyrics (like myself) could sing along too (not that I did). Vanna was worried that the vocals would be drowned out by the drums and guitars (that was a big problem at her last gig), but thankfully that didn’t really happen, so it was an enjoyable performance. Good job Mill City Nights audio crew.

Anyway, back to Emergent. They were on for thirty minutes or so, and finished to lots of cheers and applause (they took a picture of the crowd at one point, but sadly we were off to the left and out of shot). And though I wasn’t moshing or bouncing around like everyone else, Emergent did set the mood for me too. I still stood out like a sore thumb (probably), but less so than before. Slowly but surely I was becoming a “live gig person” (though with terms like that, I might not be).

Ahem. Our favourite song was probably Let It Fade.

Starset

Starset was a different band entirely, and sadly that didn’t go down great with the fans. An orchestral rock band (the genre on their Facebook page), Starset took about ten minutes setting up this touch screen/DJ thing (sorry, don’t know what exactly it was), which obviously didn’t go down well. They then performed in blue helmets and black spacesuits, which was a lot different from the good old rock/metal band we’d just seen. So sadly, the majority didn’t warm to them, and they left a few songs later in underwhelming fashion.

Now, this isn’t me hating on them. Actually I really liked Starset. At the time I thought Emergent had the more exciting performance, but I would be more likely to listen to Starset, a theory which was indeed proved after the gig (more on that shortly). I liked the concept, and the vocalist had a really good range. The songs were good, and I enjoyed it. My favourite was definitely My Demons. Even now I can’t get enough of it.

Why didn’t it work last night? Well, they didn’t really interact with the crowd (having all the equipment between us and them didn’t help), and the songs were slower, which after the previous upbeat act, wasn’t appealing to the people. The crowd wanted to jam, they wanted Trivium, and some heavy metal…thus Starset was greeted mostly with indifference. Not being local didn’t help either; there were no fans to kick-start the crowd, so nobody really knew what was going on. The poor reception was a shame because they had a pretty good performance. Had they opened the gig, and not followed the lively Emergent, they might have fared better. I don’t know. But I couldn’t dwell on it too much at the point…Trivium was up next!

Trivium

No offence to the other bands, but Trivium was on a different level. They were amazing, full stop. Singing, interactions with the crowd, guitars, drums…all of it was fantastic. I won’t go into it more because I’d be here all day, but yeah, it was very, very, very good. They played a few songs from each album, and each song was as good as the next, even the ones I wouldn’t put in my favourites. Just. Awesome. Trivium loved it (they’ve said in the past, and again that night, about how good the fans here are…not bad considering there was only a couple hundred there. And this isn’t just general platitudes either; this show wasn’t even planned in the original tour, but they had to come back), the fans loved it and I loved it too.

How much? Well I sang until my throat was hoarse, I jumped, I head-banged and I just rocked out. Loved every minute of it. Could have kept going on all night.

Merchandise Time!

Sadly it did end sometime after midnight, so Vanna and I headed downstairs to get some merchandise. Our initial plan was just to get a Trivium t-shirt each, but then I saw the Starset t-shirts, and wow, they were probably the coolest t-shirts I’ve ever seen in my life (even cooler than the Anchorman one I’ve got)…so I had to have one. And to make things even better, the band was there to sign stuff! As their live CD was reasonably priced, we bought it and got that signed by everyone but the drummer. Was pretty impressed at that.

Sadly, my only regret from the night happened at this moment. I really, really, really wanted to talk to Starset (more than Trivium in some ways), to say something good and you know, just converse, but of course, I was too shy and star-struck (ridiculous, right?) to say anything. I managed ‘I really enjoyed the performance, thank you’ but that was it. I shook their hand too, but man, I wanted to ask all about them and where they came up with their concept. Maybe next time Starset, maybe next time.

But wait! A chance of redemption! Emergent is over there! Let’s get their CD, get that signed too! Vanna and I went over and we had an actual conversation! Well…sort of. The guitarist talked, while we, being the socially awkward people that we are, nodded and smiled. Damn. But again, I got out some lame platitude and a handshake, so I didn’t completely fail. I tried.

So, with our hands full of goodies (I’ll upload pictures of the t-shirts tomorrow), we headed home. On the car journey we listened to Emergent’s CD and Starset’s CD. As I referred to before, I don’t think Emergent is really my kind of band but Vanna enjoyed them so no regrets there. Starset was definitely more to my taste, but sadly they have only released three, albeit very good, songs. Hopefully there will be more out soon…ideally a full album. I’ll buy it for sure, so get on it guys. I’m waiting.

Final Impressions

So that was that. Would I go to a live gig again? Definitely. Without hesitation. I loved it.

Alex

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