11 November 2013

The Day I Met Paul McCartney ... and the 30 Hours I Waited For It

I left off on the last Wednesday of our UK trip, which is really where our whole Paul McCartney adventures begin.  We had heard about Paul signing his new album the day before on Tuesday, switched our flights right then, and began planning.  We were going to have a little more time to be around the city, and then possibly meet THE greatest musician in the world? This was too much. 

 We were so excited on Wednesday that we were still in the city, and that we were possibly going to be meeting Paul, we decided to take a trip over to Abbey Road again.  We resigned the walls, hung out around the studios, and went over to see Paul's house.


 Paul lives a few blocks away from Abbey Road Studios - he has had this house since the 60s, and used to make the walk from there to the studios on a daily basis.  When we went this time, Heather noticed that the front door was open, and we heard the voice of a woman, who we assumed was Paul's wife, Nancy.  Right then, the gate to his house started to OPEN.  Now this is a pretty big deal.  Not many people get to see any part of this house besides the top floor, a brick wall, and a bunch of trees, and the fact that Paul McCartney could be walking out of his house right in front of us.  So we were pretty excited, to say the least.  

The gate came all the way open, and a man appeared.  We didn't know who the guy was, but he stood outside the gate and waited until the door came to a complete close.  He saw us standing there, kind of in shock, and said to us 'He will  be here next week. You didn't hear it from me!'  I think we were so excited that all just happened, we didn't even say anything to the guy, when normally you would, you know, maybe ask who this man was, how he knew Paul, or even just thank him for telling you? We had nothing.  It was pretty awesome though, I will say that.

Gate. Open.
Just trying to jump the gate. I'm sure it's been done before...

On Thursday, we had planned to spend the day walking around, doing some final shopping, and eating at a place in Piccadilly we had been wanting to since we got into London.  After all this, we wanted to head back to the flat, get our things together, and plan to take the very last tube out around midnight to Oxford Street, where we would spend all Friday waiting at HMV, which is the record store where Paul would be signing. He was signing at 3PM on Friday, but we knew how big of an outcome this would have, and knew we would have to wait a little while.  

While we were eating in Piccadilly, we were jumping on Twitter and Facebook looking at posts by Paul's team and others.  We quickly realized people were already talking about the queue at HMV, which made us VERY nervous.  We thought with our plan, we would be one of the first few, if not the first ones in line.  Once we finished our meal, we decided we should probably head over to HMV to check things out. Let me add, this was around 130PM on Thursday - over 24 hours before Paul was going to be at the store.  We went over to Oxford Street, and saw a queue already started, and with that, we knew this was the start of a very long wait. 

 There were about 15 people already in line, so we took our spots and started chatting with the folks around us.  The guy who was first in line got there at midnight on Wednesday!  We definitely underestimated our plans by a little.  But we were close enough in line to know that if it was a guarantee we would meet him, we were most likely going to be in that group.

We met the guys in front of us, who were two older men, also from the US, who had been traveling around Europe.  They, like us, got lucky on their timing in London and were able to take this chance to meet Paul.  The folks behind us were two friends who knew each other merely from meeting at many different Paul outings, whether it was at concerts or other events. Rose, the woman, was from Amsterdam, and planned this trip to London for this signing.  She literally came straight from the airport to Oxford Street to get in line - no hotel booked or anything. Phil was a guy from Manchester, completely inked up with Beatles tattoos.  He had Paul's face on his arm, different places where Paul and his son Julian had signed him, and a drawing of the Beatles across his chest.  Both Rose and Phil had met Paul before, and had also been called up on stage during Paul's concerts - maybe the only thing Heather and I have yet to do!  We had a great group around us and knew that it was going to be a fun night.

HMV - Where Paul would be on Friday!
Phil and his crazy tattoos!
Rose and me!
The line of people waiting!

We had Subway and Starbucks near us, so we were pretty set.  I had my interview that evening with Marriott, so I had to leave the line and go to that while Heather stayed and waited.  The interview went amazing, so I'm very glad I didn't blow it off to wait!  While I was gone, Heather hung out with the folks around us, and the people at HMV bought them Dominos Pizza while they waited!  When I got back, Heather made a trip to Primark to get us some blankets, and when she got back, I made a quick run to the flat to make up a backpack of extra clothes, toothbrushes, facewash, chargers etc.

This was serious. We were actually sleeping on the side of one of the busiest streets in London.  We had coloring books that we bought for our flights home that came in handy for this long wait on the streets - and even better, they were Beatles coloring books!

We had a ton of people walking around Oxford stop and ask us what we were waiting for.  I've never had so many people approach me.  We got people wishing us good luck and others who laughed and wondered why we would even think to do this, but it was all in good fun.

I also met a couple who was actually from Liverpool - the woman told me stories about how she thought Paul McCartney was this 'scum teenager giving her looks' and the man with her, her husband, actually played in a band at the original Cavern Club!  It was pretty awesome and ironic that I got to speak with them while I was waiting for Paul McCartney.

And with all of these encounters, we also actually got a kid come up and ask us if we were all homeless too.  Yes, the 50+ people waiting on the streets in a line.  We're all homeless.
The night started out fun, and then when about 3AM hit, it got pretty brutal.  It was freezing. Absolutely freezing, and these throw blankets that Heather bought us only helped so much.  We were laying on cardboard so that the pavement wasn't so cold, but it helped the absolute minimum that it could.

Let's think about this situation real quick.
 Let me put this in a good perspective for you to get an idea of what was really going on.
Heather and I are laying on the side of Oxford street.  She's laying on a Dominos pizza box, and I'm on the ripped up Primark bag.  I am laying my head on a backpack, and she is using a purse and two pairs of socks as a pillow.  Oh, and we are right next to a public trash can.

I don't really know how to describe this situation, but unprepared would not even begin to cover it.

Other people in line .. who thought a lot more about this and decided winter coats and blanket would, in fact, be a good idea.
What we brought and thought would be a good idea.  That Dominos box in the corner was Heather's future bed.
Not saying we looked like homeless people .. but we looked like homeless people.
All good fun.  Until it went below 40 degrees.

We wrapped up as much as we could, and tried our best to sleep.  Heather got a few hours in, and I think I got one or two, but it was rough.

Once we got to about 6AM, things definitely were looking up.  We had survived the night!  There were rumors that it was only the first 100 people getting in, and we were going to be issued wristbands at 8AM.  Rose kept telling me that the HMV staff told her we were guaranteed entry, but seeing that we were 15th-20th in line, I was pretty sure that if anyone was getting in to meet him, we would be in that group.

When 8AM came around, the HMV staff was there, the Paul McCartney posters were being hung up outside the stores, and they were ready to get us moving.  They gave us wristbands, and moved us into the HMV store to take us out of the streets and stick us in the basement to wait for the remaining seven hours.

8AM, and not looking too much like we had just slept on concrete.

The next seven hours went by pretty fast - we colored and listened to the New album that HMV was playing out the speakers. Paul was playing a pop up show in Covent Garden at 1PM that we wanted to go to, but leaving meant we risked losing our place in line, and with how long we waited already, it just wasn't worth it.

As we all waited, a gentleman named Alan approached us and began talking to us about how he grew up in Liverpool and knew the Beatles and how many times he met them, etc. etc. etc.  It was interesting to talk to him at first, then he wouldn't stop talking about himself and it just became annoying.
He took a liking to Rose, however, and she ended up getting a VIP wristband with him, being able to jump in front of the line and meet Paul first!  She went up with him, and the HMV staff started prepping us to get ready to meet Paul.  We weren't allowed to bring anything up with us to meet him - strictly one album.  All our other belongings had to be given to the staff before we went to meet him, and we would get it back once we got off the stage.  We weren't even allowed to have the booklet insert in the CD! They were serious stuff here.

As 3PM rolled around, we knew it was getting close.  We heard screams upstairs, which told us that Paul had entered the building.  I walked up to the escalator to take a peek, and there he was - Paul McCartney!  He was riding up the elevator to the third floor to get ready.  I got a glimpse of him and things got very real for me there.  We were meeting THE Paul McCartney.  A Beatle.  One part of the greatest songwriting duo in the history of music.  A true living legend.  This was real!

 Before we knew it, we were standing up and making our way to the escalator that would take us up to the lobby, where Paul was signing.  They were sending us in groups of 5-10 people at a time, and we were in the third group to be sent  As we rode up the escalator, we tried to put into words what was actually happening.

We got up and turned the corner, and there he was!  Up on the stage, already signing and talking to people, Paul McCartney!  There was also a mass amount of people taking pictures and watching, who did not wait or have wristbands to be able to actually meet him.  As we moved up in line, we were able to take pictures up until we got ready to step on the stage.  Heather and I took a few, but it was difficult, and we really just wanted to remember being there.  Phil, the tattooed guy I talked about earlier, was right behind us in line, and got stopped by some news folks for a quick interview.  I'm sure they saw his arms, and thought he was the perfect guy to get on camera.

All in line - this was it! The moment we waited HOURS for!
My first view of Paul - I promise he's there. You just have to look reallllly close.
See! I told you.
Interviews. Getting famous.

Once we got up to the line, we handed our things over to the HMV staffed, who commented on how everyone waiting outside came very prepared, except for us.  We have definitely learned for the next time we do something like this.

To get up to Paul, there were two waiting stations.  You handed your things off, and went and stood in the first waiting spot, where you are right in front of the crowd of people, looking up to the stage.
The second waiting spot is right on the stairs that lead up to the stage.

Heather was first up, I took the waiting spots after she made her way up.
As I was standing in the second area, watching her talk to Paul, I tried to remind myself again that this was actually happening.  I imagined who I was looking at right now, and how much I loved him and everything that he did.  It was something I couldn't really grasp.

As Heather made her way down the stairs, the staff motioned that it was my turn, and Paul was looking at me as I walked up.  I shook his hand and we said hello.  I told him I was so nervous, to which he responded with a laugh and that 'a couple people seem to be today!' HA, yea Paul... a couple people.
Phil, the guy behind me in line, was singing and dancing as he was in the waiting area, and Paul noticed this and started singing and dancing too! Right in front of me - Paul McCartney singing.  It was amazing.  I laughed and he stopped and asked 'What's your name, darling?'  I melted at 'darling', and then regained myself and told him, and quickly told him it was with a C, because everyone spells it wrong!

As I was spelling it to him while he wrote, Phil kept singing, and every now and then Paul would look down to him and sing a few notes.  I looked at Paul and said 'Please, you can keep singing if you want to!!'  He sang a few more notes, then I finished spelling my name to him, I thanked him and shook his hand.

And with that, I was off the stage, that was it.  I had met Paul McCartney.  Thanks to the photographers, HMV, and probably Phil's dancing, I was in a few shots up on the stage meeting Paul!

Telling Paul to keep singing!
HMV Oxford St: Sir Paul McCartney

We really didn't know what to do after that.  What can you do after you meet Paul McCartney that's worthwhile?

We left HMV, that was packed with fences and people and a red carpet, and went to find some WiFi so Heather could call her Mom and tell her everything.  We started walking, realized we were going the wrong way and turned around.

As we headed back, the street at HMV was FULL of people - I mean, buses and cars were all stopped.  Paul was leaving and the car was there waiting for him.  We decided to hang out there for a bit and see Paul one last time before he left.  I'll see if you can spot him in these pics


We found WiFi and Heather called her Mom to tell her about the day, and then we had to run a few errands before we headed back to the flat to pack our things.  Our flights were early Saturday morning, so rather than wake up extra early to trek from East London to Heathrow in West London, we got a hotel right next to the airport for Friday night.

We stopped around and bought some gifts we had been planning to get for Nicole and Ciaran as thank yous.  They not only hosted us in their living room for two weeks straight, they cooked us dinner, let us use their things, and were so welcoming of us into their home.  I know that people don't mind letting others stay in their place for a little, but they were more than generous to us staying with them.
We got them a few gifts we overheard them talking about wanting/needing in conversations, and left it as a surprise for them in the kitchen before we left.  We met them in the lobby on Friday night to say our goodbyes, and headed over to the airport.

I continue to have these opportunities to do things that not many people are able to do, but I am a firm believer in if you want to do it, you can make it happen.  So whether it be my sickening persistence, or amazing luck, I feel very blessed to be able to have what I've had in not only this past month, but in these past two years.  I can't wait for what's to come next.

Overall, it was quite possibly the greatest trip to London we could have planned.  Everything seemed to work out in our favor, we met quite a few different connections, and I ended up getting an offer from a company I spoke with.  There are a lot of things to think about and work out, but if there's anything I'm absolutely sure of, it's that I will be moving over to the UK, and it will be soon.  We worked hard, played hard, and had a flawless three weeks.

I'm currently back in Florida now, and Heather is in Kansas, both to make some money and set some plans.  What we do know though is that this is a pitstop before we start our lives over there, and I have never been more excited and ready for something in my life.

09 November 2013

Two Weeks with Big Ben, and the Hunt for a Job!

As long as that weekend in Liverpool felt, it was an indescribable feeling knowing that we still had two long weeks left in the UK.  And it was the time to do what we had made this entire trip for - to get a job. We each had plenty of meetings scheduled.  Some together and some apart.  I won't go too far into these because some of them were very redundant. 

 My first meeting was with  a tech PR company down in Southwest London.  It was actually on the Monday we were getting back from interview, and I cut it verrrrry close with trains and transportation.  It was a good first meeting, but it didn't give me the assistance or advice that I really needed.  When I finished that meeting, it was about evening, so Heather and I walked around to the places we knew best:

Trafalgar Square!
Our best friend, Big Ben 
Never actually took a picture of our Tube Station, Westminster - so it may look grey, but this place feels like home.

The rest of the meetings and interviews went really well.  I got to take a trip up to Oxford, for a great interview, meet with a recruiter who I had been in talks with over the last month, and Heather and I got to meet with a few people together. Thursday we had the day off from meetings and things, so we decided to walk around, and see a show!  

We decided to try for the Book of Mormon lottery, but with about 30 other people trying as well, our chances were very low.  When we lost that, we went for the typical us, and saw Let It Be, the West End Beatles tribute show.  It was all great fun, but I was not very impressed - I would have spent a night down in the Cavern with the Mersey Beatles over seeing that show any day.  Still, it was a great night out, and I'll always take Beatles music over something else!

Losing the lottery. Fun.
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That was a good amount of the first week for us.  We were able to walk around a little, but a majority of our time was spent connecting with people and brainstorming different things we could do in the time that we were there.

When the weekend came, we got to relax for a little bit.  We went out Friday night for Ciaran's birthday, and to celebrate his and Nicole's engagement, which actually happened the weekend we were in Liverpool!  We went to this great restaurant/club in Covent Garden called Circus - they had shows where people would get on the tables and dance and do cool things like fire breathing! It was a great night out with everyone! The rest of the weekend, Heather and I walked around London, tried to visit some areas we hadn't been before, and also went back to the places we couldn't get enough of:

Neal's Yard
Trafalgar Square
One of my favorite views in London

The next week we had one very uneventful meeting with an American guy, who basically told us he hated London and that we should move to Chicago.  Thanks .. but no thanks. The rest of this week, we dove into Marriott International, to see who we could connect with in that company.  We met with the HR Director at the Global Headquarters, and two other HR Managers at hotels in the city.  Everyone in this company was so incredibly friendly and helpful - definitely a type of company that I would love to be involved with. We also gave ourselves more time to spend around London.  We went around Covent Garden, Waterloo, Oxford Circus, everywhere we could.

St. Paul's
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The Globe
Music on 'the beach' 
US in the UK! I like your style.

This takes us up to Wednesday - which was when we were supposed to fly home.  Heather and I had been talking about this for the past few days, and how we felt that we needed a few more days here and that it wasn't the smartest idea to book a flight home in the middle of the week.  We looked into flight changes, and money, and it looked like something we could do if we really wanted to.  I

'll add a side note that Paul McCartney's new album, New, came out on Wednesday, and we knew some type of press event would possibly be held in London.  We finally got word that Paul would be signing the album on that Friday, and that was it. We were staying. 

 I'll have to post a new blog about this 30 hour adventure of meeting Paul.  It was one of the greatest moments of my life, so you know I'm going to get detailed on this...


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