When I opened my eyes and checked my phone this morning, it was still only 2 am. Damn it! As much as I tried, I couldn’t get straight back to sleep again. I ended up browsing on my phone for the next 2-3 hours before finally nodding off again. Despite a reasonably sound night’s sleep after that, neck pain wrenched me awake again this morning at around 7 am. I had hoped things would be better by now. Alas, not to be. I have another day of discomfort to look forward to.

Since our rented house is so close to Dad’s, Jae decided to walk there this morning. She is finding any excuse possible to spend more time there, which is great. With a planned day in London with Sandy, it will be a long day for Jae today. I hope she copes with it well.

Sandy got ready in the meantime. The plan was originally for all four of us to go to London for the day.  Upon reflection, we think it would be too much for Joey. It would mean a lot of standing, walking, and crowds. All of that would be a recipe for disaster, and there would be little option for a quick escape from it all. We decided to err on the side of caution. Sandy and Jae would go into town while Joey and I would hang out here, likely spending more of Joey’s pocket money on more toys.

Ince Joey was still happily tucked away in his room, Sandy and I went to collect Jae, and I took them both to the South Ockendon train station. I went into the station hall to buy each one-day travel card, which was around £42 for the two of them. After bidding them farewell, I returned to the house to see if Joey was up and about. He was, so we got into the car and headed to Lakeside.

Lakeside’s first port of call for us was the Krispy Kreme and pretzel snack stands. That was always going to put Joey into a good mood. With an arduous session of wandering around a shopping centre ahead of me, one of my least favourite activities, I would need all the help I could get. Sandy had suggested a particular toy shop on the lower level at the far end of the 245-shop retail centre.

Since Jae was enjoying a day out in London with her mother, I resolved to spoil Joey a little today, although I didn’t let him know that at first. The shop Sandy recommended had some great stuff that Joey liked, but he wanted to visit Smyths first to compare against what they had. We had the entire day to play with, and we could always return later, so I was happy to accommodate him.

Smyths is one of the larger retail shops in the retail park adjacent to the Lakeside indoor shopping centre. Although it’s technically right next door to the indoor shopping centre, the road and roundabout system that encircles both complexes can be tricky to navigate with lots of traffic. It took us nearly ten minutes to traverse the distance. We probably could have walked there faster if there were a path linking the two.

Smyths has a huge range of toys, although Joey tends to focus on several small sections each time he’s there. It’s typically either Beyblades, Transformers, Bakugan, Minecraft or Lego. After half an hour of perusing, he selected an armful of things he wanted to spend his money on, but there were still a couple of Bakugan sets back at the previous toy shop inside the mall that he was keen on, so back we went.

Over the past week, I have been taking antibiotics for the pneumonia. Although my lungs cleared up several days ago, I was required to finish the entire course of tablets, which I did. One of the side effects was supposed to be an upset stomach and diarrhoea. I was fortunate enough to have been spared that side-effect — until today. I had to jump into the toilet frequently throughout the day, only adding to my annoying health misery. Lately, I just can’t seem to get a break.

On the way back to Lakeside, Joey and I decided it was time to grab something for lunch. For Joey, a quick Maccas would more than satisfy him. We debated whether to stop at the Maccas restaurant near the retail park or go into Lakeside. I eventually decided on the latter. I figured we’d have the most luck avoiding a cramped and crowded environment there. Nothing pushed Joey over the edge faster than a crowd of people busting around him.

We parked and made our way to the food court at the shopping centre’s upper level. As it was now busier and raining, I parked in the multi-storey car park around the rear. It was quite a walk to the food court, but we did so via the toy shop, and Joey duly picked out the few things he wanted from there. He was thrilled with how I treated him and that he did not have to spend more of his own money.

We realised the Maccas was in a separate shop on the ground floor only after we arrived at the food court. Damn it! We did wander around a bit, seeing if there might be something Joey would eat first. I had my eye on the Nando’s. Ultimately, we decided to walk back downstairs again — better to be safe than sorry. The Maccas downstairs only had a few tables and didn’t have any space for us to sit. Joey was already feeling the effects of the crowd inside the small restaurant, so I sent him back upstairs to sit outside the Nando’s. It was relatively less busy there, and I figured I could order something from Nando’s and eat at one of the adjacent food court tables. This is exactly what we did. I found Joey sitting outside Nando’s, playing with his latest haul.

For all the effort and anticipation, lunch wasn’t the culinary experience I had hoped for. We were by now tired from all the traipsing around. It was time to return to base and chill out a bit. The host’s wife showed up shortly after we arrived. He came to see if she could sort out the problem with the TV. There is evidently a cable from the antenna, but it wasn’t connected to the TV, which would have explained the absence of any TV channels. She wasn’t able to connect it because the replacement TV they installed had a different connection than the one on the end of the cable, and it wouldn’t mate. He said someone would come tomorrow to see if they could connect it to the original TV still mounted on the wall. I’m almost certain we will have left when they get a functional TV going.

I exchanged a few messages with Sandy. She and Jae were enjoying themselves in London. They were at Madam Tussauds and would soon head to the London Dungeons. Sandy managed to get a special ticket as a carer so she could get in for free, which was a nice bonus. At my expense, I suggested they stay in London for dinner at a nice restaurant.

By now, my neck was again in agony. I went to have a nap to see if I could shake off the pain for a while. By the time I was up again, it was still only mid-afternoon. I tried to keep myself busy by writing up yesterday’s journal.

I eventually got the message that Sandy and Jae were on the train and heading back to South Ockendon. I grabbed the opportunity to pick up some chip shop food for dinner. While there, I also stocked up on some British chocolate to take home with us. Joey wasn’t hungry, but he had also been snacking throughout the day. I polished off my food in the car while waiting for the train to arrive.

Sandy and Jae were buzzing when they arrived, albeit quite exhausted from their time in the city. Jae wanted to be dropped off at Dad’s immediately to squeeze in more visiting time before bed.

A couple of hours later, just before I ran out of energy, I drove over to collect Jae. I downed another handful of over-the-counter painkillers to hopefully get some rest. Maybe tomorrow will be the day I finally wake up with no neck pain. I can only hope.