Monday, 27 December 2010

Back In England. It's Christmas.

I made it back to the UK as scheduled last Tuesday - I can't believe it's been almost a week already. It was so great to walk into arrivals and see my family waiting for me. I got to give them all a huge hug. It seems so strange that I'm back with my family, in my own room, in my own car, just for a couple of weeks as a holiday from school. But I love it. I think I've got over the jet lag now... Tuesday I was buzzing for a few hours, and first thing when I got home I did was drive Charlotte to work - I love my car so much, and have really missed it. I've been driving every day this week. I saw Jake at work, and got to speak to him for a couple of minutes between customers, and then drove over to Teddy's to say hi and see his new puppy. A wave of tiredness just as I was leaving Teddy's, and I got to bed before eight, enjoying almost a 13-hour sleep - I had almost no sleep on the plane flights.
The week leading up to Christmas was a good one. Although I was suffering from falling asleep at the most ridiculous times, I enjoyed the scenes when I was awake. I started my mission papers, and got my dentistry and physical done - I made sure I had my dentistry done in Great Britain so I could keep my wisdom teeth. My physical went well, and I got a typhoid jab, and the first of my course of Hep A & B jabs all in one go. I got to see and spend time with my Nan and Grandad who came over to visit me. I got to drive my car with my awesome new stereo, blasting my favourite tunes. I went shopping with Mum, getting some awesome new clothes I can't wait to wear on dates next semester.
And on the Eve of Christmas Eve we went to the world's most popular venue, The O2, to see the 2010 Christmas Spectacular with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Royal Choral Society, and Capital Voices. Before the show, we went to the Titanic Artifact Exhibition, which was so interesting. We got to see parts of the ship which had been brought up from the bottom of the ocean, learn of it's construction, see the living conditions, learn of its passengers, of the class system - a first class ticket cost $500, which in today's money would be over $65,100, for one ticket. We got to touch a fragment of the ship's hull, from the starboard side, between decks C and D. It was a great experience. After a fantastic meal at Gaucho, we headed to the box on level 3. The show was very good, hearing the Christmas music, listening to famous singers such as Rhydian Roberts, presented by Myleene Klass. I really enjoyed hearing the carols; my favourite song of the night was 'O Holy Night' performed by James Edwards. I was so tired somewhere in the middle of the show, and managed to fall asleep for half an hour or so on one of the sofas, but woke up in time for the pyrotechnics at the end of the show. It was a lot of fun.

Just like old times, I got to hang out and mini-roadtrip with Teddy on Christmas Eve afternoon. We played music loud (Teddy caught me up on music I'd been missing out on while I was away), and cruised to see some other friends that I hadn't seen in four months. I got to see my good friend Laura for a while, and we talked about what's gone on with school and life, and reminisced the fun times we had in college. Nothing's really changed. Once we were together it was as though we'd never been apart. We went to see Chris next at his work, and it was fantastic to see him again. I didn't realise how much I'd missed these guys until I saw them again.

That evening, we went out as a family to eat at Chiquito, and then went to see 'Little Fockers' at the cinema. It was a good show, but wasn't as good as its predecessors. Then just as we got home, Mum sent Charlotte and myyself out to deliver a couple of Christmas cards. We had so much fun in the car, playing music and singing as loud as we can, rapping to songs like 'Handlebars' by Flobots and 'Shut Up' by Black Eyed Peas. We saw our piano teacher from much earlier this year, Naomi, and it was great to speak to her again for a couple of minutes. Then we ended the night watching 'The Nativity Story' (Catherine Hardwicke, 2006) as we do every year. I love that film. I feel the Spirit when I watch it, reflecting on the birth of our Saviour in the humblest of conditions.
Christmas Day was excellent. Gifts before Church, gifts after Church, and Mum's incredible Christmas dinner. Just a few of my favourite things I got for Christmas included my BYU watch, my BYU [American] football, my new AE hoodie, IT Crowd Versions 3.0 and 4.0, Toy Story 3, Shrek 4, Inception, and of course, my new digital camera. And the new music I got. It's all good. The missionaries joined us for dinner and the evening, and we watched Shrek 4 and then played card games after Christmas tea. Then after speaking in Sacrament Meeting at Church on Boxing Day yesterday, we headed to Nan's for another Christmas dinner. It was fantastic, and good to see my cousins again too. It was so good to be home with my family for Christmas.

Monday, 20 December 2010

I Know That My Redeemer Lives

This semester at BYU has been some of the best months of my life. I've made some incredible friends there, and unforgettable memories. The semester finished strong, academically, socially, and Spiritually. I'm so excited that it's the Christmas season, when we can celebrate the life and birth of our Saviour. On Sunday, the Ward Choir sung the most incredible Christmas programme I've ever heard. I was in tears at the end of it. One of my favourite songs was 'It Came Upon A Midnight Clear':

When with the ever-circling years
Shall come the time foretold,
When the new heav’n and earth shall own
The Prince of Peace their King,
And the whole world send back the song
Which now the angels sing.

I have a testimony of the Gospel of Jesus Christ here upon the Earth. I'm so grateful for his life, example, ministry, Atonement, and love. I love it at BYU. And I'm excited to go home now.

The end of the semester

Finals week really wasn't too bad. I did one exam every day Monday through Thursday last week, and got them all done. Heritage could've gone better, but I did the absolute best that I could on it. Book of Mormon and Accounting were awesome. I'm so stoked with them. It felt so good when I walked out of Accounting Thursday evening, but I felt as though I should still be studying or doing homework or something! To celebrate, Robbie, Cameron and I went out to In N Out to eat, and then just went to visit people and chilled out. It was awesome. Then at midnight, we headed to Denny's and met a big group of people there including Breezy, Rachel, and Solana, celebrating finals being over. It was so good to have cooked breakfast at midnight - sausages, eggs, bacon, toast, orange juice... We were there until gone half past one, having such a laugh... And the waitress in the picture was so much fun. It was a great way to end the exams.

When we got home from Denny's, Robbie and I began cleaning the apartment (Cody still had an exam to take). We worked on the kitchen until about 3am, and then crashed. I woke up pretty early Friday morning considering the time I went to bed. So when I got up just after ten, I wrote to a couple of missionaries, did some laundry, and carried on the cleaning mission. I was cleaning for hours, and just got it done before our 2.30 cleaning check. A quick run to campus to sell back a couple of books, and then I changed for my date that evening. Megan had tickets to the Tabernacle Choir Christmas Concert and asked if I would like to join her, Steph, and Cameron. The girls cooked for us that evening, a delicious lasagna - there's a funny story behind that. After the food, we headed up to the Conference Centre, and got there just after 7. They had already shut the doors and didn't let anybody else inside, even though we had tickets - there were hundreds of people with tickets that they didn't allow inside. Instead we got to watch it from the Conference Centre Theatre, which was still excellent. David Archuleta has a phenomenal voice. It was so cold in SLC that night, but we enjoyed walking around Temple Square a bit after the concert, before heading back to the car and blasting the heat. Back at Megan's apartment we stayed up as late as visiting hours allow, and made smores and watched 'Enchanted'. That's such a great show.

When I got back from Megan's apartment, I began sorting out all my stuff and packing my suitcase. It was another late night, but I got everything sorted. Kirra came to pick me up Saturday morning, so I could get to the airport in time for my flight to Paris at 4.30. I got there and found out the flight had been cancelled because of snow in France. Cutting a long story short, I got another flight booked for Monday morning, and had to see if anyone would be able to take me in for a couple of nights. I called Shelby, and she, her dad and brother came to get me from the airport. They were so good to me over the weekend; I had so much food, watched films, relaxed, and had a bed to sleep in. Saturday night we rented 'The A-Team' and had pizza and desert pizza, and it was such a good film. We watched 'How the Grinch Stole Christmas', and then played 'Sorry!' until it was time to sleep. I had 10 and a half hours of sleep that night, sleeping late into the morning, and it felt goood! They have Church at 1pm, so Shelby woke me up at 11.30 for me to get ready. I love sleeping... Church with Shelby and her family was excellent - everyone in their ward was so friendly, welcoming me. And we got muffins. That's always good. After another fantastic dinner, we watched 'A Christmas Story' from waay back in 1983, but it was so funny! You should watch it. We got to hang out with Jessica later that evening, after five pieces of French toast and folding Christmas cards. It was great to see her after two and a half years! She's so funny, and we talked until 2am, which is so late considering I had to be up three hours later to get to the airport for my flight. I really appreciated Shelby's family's hospitality and generosity for the weekend, and it was brilliant to spend time with her all weekend.

This morning I got to the airport and again found out my flight was cancelled. After a lots of prayers and phone calls, I managed to get booked onto another flight leaving today. The Lord really did listen to and answer my prayers straight away, it was incredible. So here I am, sitting by the gate, chilling on the computer. I'm wearing my white BYU basketball tee, and just an hour ago, the entire Utah basketball team and coach was here, getting on another plane heading to Hawaii for a tournament. Part of me was excited, and the other part was kinda scared. I was tempted to ask them for a picture, but thought that might be pushing it. The plane is delayed, and just landed and unloaded, so I should be boarding soon. So I'm finally going home.

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Forever The Sickest Kids, The Christmas Pageant Tour

Tonight we went to the Christmas Pageant Show featuring Forever The Sickest Kids and Family Force 5 at the Avalon, Salt Lake City. It was an incredible show, and I had such a great time.

Cameron, Nick, Kelsey, and Hannah got to mine at around 6, and Nick drove us up to Salt Lake City for the show. Got there around 7. It was around that time that I realised I didn't have the tickets on me. I felt like such a douche. I called Smith's Tix, but their ticket office was closed. So I talked to the girl at the front desk, brought up my confirmation email on my phone, showed my ID and card that I bought the tickets on, and we were in. Actually, Hannah, Kelsey, and Nick were already in, going in through the stage door because Nick knows the opening band Never Ending Summer. So Cameron and I joined them just as FTSK were coming onstage.
The Avalon is the weirdest music venue I've ever been to. Wooden benches line the floor towards the stage, which doesn't make for good moshing. And there's no cloakroom. And no bar - just vending machines. What's that about? But the music was awesome.
FTSK opened with 'Woah Oh!', and then their set consisted of 'Keeps On Bringing Me Down', 'Catastrophe', 'She Likes', 'The Way She Moves', 'Hip Hop Chick', I think they did 'Believe Me, I'm Lying', 'She's A Lady', and some other awesome songs I can't remember right now. I crowdsurfed over the crowd onto the stage just after the intro of 'She's A Lady', and was up on stage with Forever The Sickest Kids for the third time. The crowd was pretty good for FTSK's set. Santa came onstage and threw out presents. And they played a new song from their new album, coming out in March, called 'Life of the party'. It was good. And Kent held up big boards with the words to 'Jingle Bell Rock', and the entire crowd sung along. They finished up with one of their best songs, the classic 'Hey Brittany'. I had a great time, and it really was an awesome show.

Family Force 5 were on next. They really did put on a good show. Opened with 'Carol Of The Bells' - "Merry merry merry merry Christmas, Christmas!" So awesome. They were in costume, and got the venue bouncing. The bassist was so intense, so awesome. My favourite songs that they played included 'Bulletproof' by La Roux, 'Love Addict', and 'Earthquake'. The bass was so loud, and the band had a bunch of tracks playing behind them - at one point the drummer stopped playing and stood on his drums, but the beats kept going haha. The singer had an awesome scream on him. More presents were thrown out into the crowd. Hannah crowdsurfed up to the stage on one of the songs, and danced up there until security pulled her off. The crowd loved it. And on the last song of the night, 'Kountry Gentlemen' - according to the setlist wiki I'm looking at - we pushed to the front and went all out. I started a mosh pit in the small room we had to move because of the benches. That turned into a bit of a fight. But we were jumping, pushing, enjoying the music. It was a great show.

It was great to have a break from studying and enjoy seeing one of my all time favourite bands in concert for the fifth time... Now back to studying for finals...

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

"Oh Christmas lights, keep shining on..."

-'Christmas Lights', Coldplay

What a brilliant weekend. I had so much studying planned, but actually didn't get any done. Instead, I had such an awesome time with friends, sports, and beautiful girls... Read all about it.

Bowling on Thursday was a blast. I took Mallory, and she was awesome, winning the game with 78. We played air hockey before bowling, and then began the game. We were playing bowling with Skittles, where you have to close your eyes, pick a Skittle, and then the colour you pick shows you what action you need to do as you bowl. For example, green was backwards between the legs, yellow was laying down, purple was spinning around 10 times before you bowl. We had such a laugh playing, and it was great.

The Best of Divine Comedy Show was Friday night. After getting Jamba Juice and getting to the JSB early, we waited in line. We got to see 'Reception' for the first time, and 'The Sound of Music and The Spoken Word' again - it was so funny. And we got to see some new and old sketches, some of my favourites were the better than NCMO cookies, the wedding and funeral planners, the universities... I love it.

Saturday was a great day. BYU played Hawaii at the Energy Solutions Arena in Salt Lake City. I took Kamree, and Cody took Rachel. We headed up to the Arena, and found our seats. BYU have an awesome basketball team. Before half-time, I predicted they'd win 78 - 58. The final score was 78 - 57. One off. It was such a great game. Afterwards, we headed to Temple Square to look at the lights and enjoy the atmosphere. The Christmas lights were so beautiful, the Temple looked awesome lit up, and I really felt so peaceful and happy as we were walking around. After grabbing a bite to eat, we headed back to Provo.

Saturday night was the BYU Freezefest. I met Robin there, and started off playing Broomball. It was the first time I'd ever played, and it was so so much fun! Being on the ice in regular shoes, going after a ball. We tied 1 - 1 after a short 12 minute game. Then we headed to the skating rink, and skated until midnight. I practised my hockey stops and backward skating, and enjoyed talking with Robin. She's a beautiful girl.

Sunday, after Church - with a phenomenal Fast and Testimony Sacrament Meeting at Church where all those leaving on a mission bore their testimony - and lunch at the Canon, we headed up to Salt Lake City with our FHE family to see the Temple Square lights with them. We got there at around 5.50, and got on the next Trax train that stopped and headed straight to the Conference Centre to see if we could get into the First Presidency Devotional. We found the standby line, and managed to walk straight in and find seats in the balcony. I was so so so excited! We got to enjoy seeing the 2010 Christmas devotional live, with the Tabernacle Choir, and hear talks from the First Presidency. I loved being in the presence of the Prophet, and feeling the Spirit from the music. My favourite song was 'O Come, All Ye Faithful' after President Eyring's message. It was so beautiful. The rest of the night we went to Temple Square, and the visitor's centres - it was just so foggy Sunday night that it wasn't as clear and colourful. We enjoyed the ride home singing Christmas songs as loud as we could...

Christmas really is coming. Just need to get finals out the way...

Friday, 3 December 2010