I can only apologise for the lack of pictures in my last post, despite the obvious rich source of photo opportunities available to me, but to make up for it, here's a photo of the house (possibly of ill repute) where I spent the first twenty years of my life. It may not be very exciting, but at least I can post it without having to reclassify this blog as a porn site.
But before taking a trip down memory lane (well, the A130) yesterday afternoon, Lisa and I had the pleasure of going on a family outing to Bluewater, "the most innovative and exciting shopping and leisure destination in Europe today". Although frankly after an hour my parents were ready to go home. We'd not been there before, hence the missing of the turning off the M25, but it was well worth the detour through the bizarrely named Bean, and the trek through the rain from the far side of the car park, because Bluewater is indeed innovative. It's a big building with shops in it. I'm surprised no one's thought of it before.
So we spent a couple of hours browsing the innovative branches of Next, Monsoon and Oasis, ate some lasagne and chips, and then drove home. I don't think we'll be rushing back.
That was Tuesday. Wednesday, however, was far more exciting, as I took Lisa to the undoubted jewel in the Essex crown - Basildon - to show her where I grew up. It's the first time I've been back since I left there more than twelve and a half years ago, so it was quite emotional, and brought a tear to my eye. Especially when I saw how many speed cameras they've put up.
Anyway, I'm not saying the place has gone downhill since I left, but there is now an off licence in Clay Hill Road, where I used to live, called 'Bargain Booze'. So they haven't exactly gone upmarket.
But we parked for free in the doctors' surgery car park, and tried to look ill as we walked next door to my old primary school - the mighty Kingswood. I showed Lisa the classroom where I started my glorious career in education (and played in the sandpit), and pointed out the entrance hall where I expect they still have a plaque commemorating my achievements as head boy in 1984. That's if it hasn't been lost in one of the regular arson attacks.
From there we crossed the road to my old house, which now has a new front door. The old one was probably kicked in by local youths. The upstairs window at the front was my old bedroom (though I think it was originally intended to be an airing cupboard), but the burglar alarm above is another recent addition. When we lived in the house, there was nothing worth stealing.
Having successfully avoided my old neighbours, we then recreated my daily walk to secondary school, and soon arrived at Woodlands, which doesn't seem to have had so much as a coat of paint since I left. The right hand classroom, three storeys up, is where I did A-level maths. At least I think it's three storeys up - I never was good with figures.
I also planned to show Lisa the spot just outside the school gates where I slipped over and broke my ankle in 1988, but unfortunately she fell over on the way there, and I think she was too busy brushing mud off her jeans to really pay attention.
Anyhoo, Basildon may not be the kind of up-and-coming des-res it was when I used to live there, but it has gone up in the world in one respect: we found a shop called Wafflicious in the Eastgate Centre. Bluewater eat your heart out. We certainly did.