Richmond.

Today I didn’t skate, but instead headed straight for the London Borough of Richmond after work, where I would spend my last evening as a 22 year old. I met up with my good friend Samantha at the station, and took off exploring the area! This evening was crisp but dry and clear, and so it was lovely to walk the streets and take in the ambience, catch up on life and have a laugh.

During our adventures we stumbled upon an amazing “games cafe” called The Library Pot that has hundreds of board games (over 450 unique titles) that you can pluck off the shelves at will and play with friends and strangers alike. Not only do they host several gaming events every single day (check their website for details), but if you get tired of playing around you can relax by dressing up in the many adult-sized costumes and accessories dotted around the shop, or by heading to their underground ball pit. Yup, they have an adult ball pit

This friendly little shop is definitely worth a visit, but if planning a trip it is worth bearing in mind that it has such a strong community that weekends now require a booking just to get in (via their site). I’ll definitely be back soon!

X.

adventure:mk

WP_20151028_16_38_49_Pro.jpg

 

Anyone familiar with the town in question will understand this post’s title, though for the benefit of those of you who aren’t it is a reference to Milton Keynes (also known as MK), where the mid-noughties saw a spate of large buildings named (or renamed) in a similar manner, including: stadium:mk (since renamed ‘stadiummk’), the local football team’s ground; centre:mk, the town’s largest shopping centre; hub:mk, home to restaurants, bars, and hotels; and even office blocks, such as pinnacle:mk. Modern day Milton Keynes is one of Britain’s newer settlements, arising as part of the third wave of ‘new towns’ in the late 1960s, taking its name from a pre-existing village in the area.

It has to be said that Milton Keynes, unless you are particularly fond of snow sports (more on that later), isn’t much of a tourist destination. I found myself there for the first time yesterday evening to see my closest university friend, Emma, who lives in a nearby village. My first impression of MK (or what I saw of it, anyway) was that it seems very functional, if a little soulless: the town’s centre, for example, presents a collection of large industrial-looking buildings with sprawling car parks throughout a grid of wide multi-lane roads (admittedly a much more efficient and simple to navigate road system than the usual mess of narrow and poorly maintained roads seen in most of Britain’s towns). Due to its brief history and rapid construction, the town’s uniformity in architectural style is also unusual; I, for example, grew up in a 20th century house directly opposite a church built around the turn of the 12th – though for context the area is a lot older, having been continuously inhabited since the Saxons settled there during the Dark Ages.

One building, ‘Xscape’ (our destination for the day), stands out from the rest. The enormous glass-fronted half-dome houses not only shops, restaurants, and bars, but also a casino, a nightclub, an art gallery, a multiscreen cinema, a bowling alley, an indoor skydiving centre, and a real-snow indoor slope (one of only six in Britain!). We filled the afternoon with back-to-back bowling and pool best of threes, having a laugh while catching up on what’s new, then grabbed a bite to eat before heading back to hers to kick it for a bit.

Every time I get back from an enjoyable trip somewhere new I wake the next morning with the itch to get out there and discover somewhere else, and this morning was no different; as always it was wonderful to get in my car and explore, made even better by the fact I got to see a close friend I’d missed into the bargain. Yes, it could have been the worst place on earth and I’d have had a great time thanks to the company I had, but honestly MK has no shortage of fun looking things to do: I’d really like to try the snow slope, as much for the novelty of being able to snowboard indoors on real snow as for anything, and indoor skydiving sounds fantastic. As the old adage goes, you should never judge a book by its cover.

 

X.

To my best friend.

wp_ss_20161119_0001 (2).png

 

This weekend I am on the south coast of England in Portsmouth to catch up with my best friend and brother. Whilst technically we may not be relatives by blood, coming up to twenty years of unwavering friendship we may as well be – I have quite literally known you as long as I can remember.

Whenever I talk to anyone your name comes up sooner or later, and for good reason: the countless times we were sent to the headteacher together, the time you split your head open at my house, when you hit an old lady over the head with a plastic bottle in France in an unfortunate case of mistaken identity, the night we tried to ‘explore’ a barn and had a run in with an angry farmer and his dogs… All the best stories I have to tell aren’t mine, but ours. We started our first bands, and played our first gigs together; we learnt poker together, years later going to our first casino together; the first car I skitched was yours. But there’s more to our relationship than just mischief and adventure; some of my fondest memories of my teen years include singing along to your car radio, grabbing a drive through (often ordering in fake accents), and sitting by the lake to eat while chatting away about anything that came into our heads.

We share in each other’s successes and achievements, but also our pain; when my girlfriend of six years unexpectedly left me, waking the next day to you knocking at my door having dropped your plans and driven for hours to spend the day with me – to make me feel loved when I would otherwise have felt my most alone – is priceless.

For years I mistakenly believed that your house felt like a second home, but upon visiting you for the first time in your new flat I realised that it is you, not the house, that feels like home, and I hope that you will always feel the same. Thank you for bringing me so much happiness, and for being a source of light when things get dark; for being my confidant, and for never giving up on me.

 

Not too long ago I read one of those viral photos shared on Facebook (the ones with the unsourced and often dubious “facts”) that read something along the lines of “if a friendship lasts more than seven years, psychologists say it will last a lifetime”. Well, if that’s the case then I am a very lucky man.

 

Love,

X.