Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Happy 50th Birthday Mum!

In between watching The Wire and packing for Germany I have been helping Mum have a good Birthday this morning. My abilities to put on a big smile were slightly comprimised by a massive headache I had when I woke up, subsequently I spent a lot of the first few hours of the day face down on the floor. Once I recovered we headed into town for some shopping and an ice-cream which was very tasty. Packing up the last of my bits now, I hope the Germans will see the humour in 'Pass the Pigs' because tht's the amount of joy I'll be bringing into their households.

I shan't be blogging over the next few days as I will be away consuming fine beers and spiced meats, just thought I'd let everyone know BEFORE rathe r than after I go away.

Pretty in Pink

Called into help with some gardening earlier today so I thought I would listen to some new music while doing that job. Sadly, y phone went all HAL from 2001 on me and flat out refused to play any music for me so I ended up spending some time backing up old pictures and stuff so I could format the card; fun stuff. It also transpired that there were no other gardening gloves than Mum's bright pink ones so I was trimming the hedges in style, but not necessarily the look I was going for.

The usual suspects came along for some games, we spent a good portion of our evening playing a card game I played a lot during 6th form: Hearts. Couldn't remember how good it was but it was not match for a bit of Pass the Pigs! Most intense game ever, rolling pigs for points is just absorbing and addicting, serving as a fun reminder to the thrill and pain of gambling without any of the socially damaging parts!

Monday, 21 July 2014

Apollo 13

45 years ago today man supposedly walked one the moon, while Apollo 13 is not about the infamous landing, it certainly seemed appropriate and right off the bat it really captivated me with the whole NASA setting and what space travel meant to the world back then. Obviously amidst the beauty of the setting comes the near disaster of the actual mission with a barrage of miscalculations and hoops the crew need to jump through. If anyone has seen Speed then the stream of action follows that kind of pattern: Command says 'Son you've got a big obstacle ahead of you,' protagonist clears obstacle everyone celebrates at how they overcame the odds until command then says 'Buddy, there's an even BIGGER obstacle now.' I fall for it every time as viewer, sometimes it's a trope that is eye-rollingly obvious, but while it was quite transparently done in Apollo 13 I was always on the edge of my seat. How are they going to build a carbon filter? How will they re-enter the atmosphere without a heat shield? When will they run out of urine bags? These are all questions that tense our muscles and ultimately make us cheer for our heroes at the climax of the movie. While it felt just a tad overly-patriotic at times, it certainly is a story that is worth celebrating and ergo, a movie worth watching.

In short, if your looking for Gravity the 90's edition then this is your film.

Tiramisu is the bomb

One of my all time favourite puddings is tiramisu. Even since I was a kid I knew something about it was very special, something about that coffee and chocolate combination really clicks and never fails to take me back to my younger years. So imagine my surprise when I discovered just how easy it was to make. Dad and I sat down and made some in about 15 minutes, just stirring some egg yolks, icing sugar whiskey and coffee into some mascarpone... and that's about it! Easier to make than some cakes since there is no actual baking involved either, just need to chill for a bit and once it was done, my goodness it was tasty.

Morale of the story is, just try making your own tiramisu sometimes. It's a doddle, makes you feel culinary cultured and tastes delicious. 

Sunday, 20 July 2014

DOTA 2 Is here to stay

It felt like the entirety of today was spent building up to our DOTA 2 game. Louis and his friend spent a little while discussing tactics with me over lunch, dinner and while they were watching the international championships in my room. We ended up winning gloriously and we sat beaming knowing that at least one of our friends is throwing is keyboard around his room in frustration.

DOTA 2 has become an absolute monster of a game since it's official release about a year ago. Right now you can get it on Steam for a fee of zero pennies and because if that, it has become the most played game on the platform. A quick look at the play figures show that the 2nd most played game (Counter Strike: Global Offensive) peaks at around 115,000 players a day. DOTA 2 on the other hand usually caps off at around 850,000 which is nuts.

Personally, I still don't understand all of the hype around it, but after playing a few games of it I can certainly see its appeal with its fantasy setting and it's deep (if slightly overcomplicated) mechanics. Right now it is the poster child for E-Sports and raising awareness of video games as a highly competitive medium that deserves to be televised along with sports like football and rugby and is now fueling some positive images of the medium. If you want to get a sense of how seriously this game is being played then you can check out 'The International' right here to get a sense of it all.

Saturday, 19 July 2014

Local Burger Joints > Burger King

One of the things I missed the most about Newbury while I was away at uni was our little burger joint Rio's. Just the scale and scope of the burger they have to offer is practically unmatched by any other burger place I have been to. Ask any of my friends and they will often say I use Rio's as a benchmark for what other burgers should be. It makes going to Burger King seem like a huge waste of time since the food there is just abysmal if you have ever had a proper burger. Mark, Louis and I headed down to Rio's for lunch today as we hadn't been in nearly a year and damn, it was a homecoming worth waiting for.

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Sleeping on Trains

For a very long time I could never fall asleep on public transportation. Be it a long plane journey or a cross country train trip, even when my mind is shattered and my body is aching I found that no matter how tightly I squeezed my eyelids together sleep would never come. Until yesterday apparently, coming home on the train from Reading to Newbury I just conked out. Which is actually quite scary since it's only a 25 minute train journey, luckily I was only gone for a bit but now with a pleasent prospect of knowing that I can nap on trains.

I was knacked because I headed back into London for a lovely day out with my girlfriend. We took a trip into a coffee shop inside a converted Victorian toilet, gents urinals and all. Then I found out how much I liked humus while having a picnic in the park followed by a walk up to Parliament Hill which is like the free version of the London Eye. If we weren't enjoying the food at Wahaca so much I might have just caught my earlier train home, we were literally running through Paddington tube station but to no avail - dah well!

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Master and Commander

I do not have a living memory of Mark where he hasn't hounded me over not seeing this one film: 'Mater and Commander.' So I poured myself a coffee and a grapefruit juice, put the film on and got around to seeing it. Now, Peter Weir has been one of my favourite directors since he made 'The Truman Show' which is one of my all time favourites, with Master I assumed he was just going to expand on the boating scene in the final parts of Truman. The mere thought of that got me very excited and sure enough, I was treated to some pretty good boat action with some very good music with some good acting and some good moment. But at the end of the day, just being 'good' doesn't make a film terribly remarkable.

The action sequences as I mentioned were solid, wood splinters everywhich-way and waves look destructive and powerful. Whoever did the sound mixing also deserves a pat on the back, I feared for the life of my speakers during cannon-fire. But in between all the set pieces and pretty window dressing, there needs to be some actual plot and characters and this is where things get a little leaky. (Pun intended)

From the get-go the film sets itself up to almost be a character study of an overly prideful captain, but it scarcely touches on any internal conflict he may be having that make him who he is. What does work is that we really do get a sense that he is an excellent leader, especially by the end of the film, however, we kinda already knew that since the beginning. There isn't really an arch to his character, he begins a stellar captain and he finishes as a stellar captain, albeit with a lot less crew. Instances between the captain and the surgeon were easily the best moments as there was a palpable sense of history and friendship between the two. It's just a bit of a shame we don't see more of this - these scenes were ripe to add some much needed character development but it never truly materializes.

The fairest way I could describe Master and Commander would be as an action film with an eye for authenticity for its time period and some above average human drama. If you like boat movies however and are in the mood for some nautical action then you can't really go wrong with this, just don't expect anything that will emotionally resonate with you.   

Monday, 14 July 2014

Supermarket Playground

I have a love/hate relationship with doing the shopping. Some days, it is a real chore. Write a shopping list, get to the shop, trudge up and down the same aisles looking for beetroots and Weetabix, put it in the trolley, push around the collective buffet of food and think hard about the calories in the trolley, you get the idea. It's a pain in the rear most days as a lot of you would agree.

Unless you treat the supermarket like an adult playground. Turn the mundane and expected on it's head like Chaplin or Keaton would. Treat the trolley like an invisible dance partner. Race to see how quickly you can get that list done. Stick around the bakery section just for the pleasant smells of bread and cookie and revel in the rush of finding a good offer or obtuse and delicious new brand of yogurt. As long as you view any activity with a fresh pair of young eyes you will often surprise yourself with the joys you can eek out of just about anything. This is by no means the key to unlocking eternal youth or happiness, just a way to make shopping less tedious. 

Saturday, 12 July 2014

Trip to London

Day trip to London with old housemates woo! Met up with Mark, Lucy and a very hung-over Jamie on our way to the train station, missing our initial train by about 6 seconds. Only a slight detour though as we were soon in London! First stop: Natural History Museum as Mark has no recollection of ever going, it was unanimously the bomb. Loads of great exhibits and who doesn't love a bit of taxidermy? The stuffed animals exhibit unlocked a conversation amongst ourselves over what our 'spirit animal' would be. Jamie was decidedly a wooly bison while I was a plucky tapir. We both agreed that these were excellent choices.

We then briefly hit up the Science Museum to check out the space exhibit and revisit 'The Launch Pad.' Mark and I had fond memories of this interactive section which et you play with various gizmos that could only be explained with science, it was a plesent trip down memory lane but we did look a bit old to be there and a bit young to be parents.

Next up was Camden which Mark and I had become strongly affiliated with after filming there at the end of last month for a week. We didn't get a chance to look at the market though which just spanned on for seemingly an supposedly empty and eternally expanding void... a bit like my stomach at that point so we grabbed a bite to eat from some chatty street vendors. Lamb wrap? Yes please! Humus and yoghurt squitry stuff? Why the hell not! About halfway through the meal I was sincerely regretting saying yes to all the saucy stuff as a big ol' blob landed squarely on my shirt and cntinued to dribble down making me look like I had just thrown up on it. I needed a new shirt.

After we got into a sleepy section in London centre I bombed down every road I could find, spent a good 10 minutes sprinting down each splintering intersection. I was meeting up with my girlfriend shortly and I didn't want to look and smell like an absolute hobo so the situation was critical. As relative luck would have it, we found a bike shop with sporty type shirts in so I slapped down some cash and changed right outside the shop.

Stained VS New
Met up with her for dinner at Vapiano and all was right in the world. Had some nice food and spent a little bit of time with her going through Hamleys and Regent Street which was lovely. Shattered now after running to catch the train so I am going to conk out right about now. 

Friday, 11 July 2014

Bristol is in my good books

Jamie and I went out into Bristol again today to have a general mooch around, last time we did that was in February so it was pretty neat to be doing it again so soon. Before I left the house this morning Dad recommended a little spot to us called Cabot Tower which we both were really eager to go and see. Our internal orientation however was somewhat terrible however since we continuously went around in circles for ages going up and down various steep alleyways. And in heat like today, let me tell you, the absolute last thing you want to be doing is going up and down steep alleyways. Jamie was sweating buckets for most of the morning but it was certainly worth it for the excellent view we got at the tower.

Ahoy, potential Facebook cover photo
Recommended viewing. Appetites were stoked from walking though so we headed to Mission Burrito to get a tree trunk of a wrap full of Mexican goodies and nourishment. Recommended eating. Just Bristol in general actually, it's like a little London with plenty of it's own charm and character with plenty to do!

Thursday, 10 July 2014

First Year Passed

Just helped Louis go through his old clothes to see which ones he should keep and which he should chuck out. He granted me almost the same courtesy yesterday by going through my old toys and literally piling them in a 'Throw' and 'Keep' pile without any negotiation, it was sadder than Toy Story 3. His clothes on the other hand were much easier to deal with, although he did have to factor in how ironic some shirts were and how many 'not in public' shirts he permitted himself; it was a very complicated process.

I also discovered that I definitely passed my first year of uni, with a 2.1 no less which I am super happy about. Already been asked to hire out some new camera equipment for filming the final scene of our WW1 project in September. I've also been asked to go along for the shoot which is a real privilege since only 5 others are going. Exciting stuff.

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Perks of Bournemouth

Got to do a little voice recording work for a coursemate today. I was given a little script to basically promote the university and explain the perks of picking Bournemouth so if you're thinking of going to an open day, you might just hear my voice and think 'Goodness, that guy sounds like he recorded that in his bedroom while wearing his pajamas.' But hopefully not. My other minor achievement today was finally getting around to starting The Wire. Moments before putting the DVD in Louis pointed at the box and assured me that Jimmy McNalty dies in the first episode. Having just watched the first episode it was nice to know that he was full of crap, and I'm excited to settle in for the long haul.

Baby Names

Moments before putting on Akira Kurosawa's 'Ran' I was called up by Jamie who asked if I wanted to go into town with him. I figured that I needed a new pair of sunglasses so why not? Met up with Jamie outside Coffee #1, a coffee place we thought was exclusive to Winton highstreet in Bournemouth but apparently they are a microchain of some sort, regardless we grabbed a brew. In the evening Mark and Lucy also joined us for a nice unofficial housemates reunion type thing where we watched Breaking Bad and discussed potential kids names. I think that thanks to my help, Mark is slowly warming to Krang.

Monday, 7 July 2014

What's with the kiwis?

Got up just in time to wave off my Grandparents who came to visit over the weekend. It was really nice seeing them again and I managed to have a nice chat with them along with a coffee before they went. Afterwards I was left home alone so I cracked through about half of Archer season 5. Right after I finish that I reckon I will begin The Wire which is a very exciting future prospect. Otherwise I have just been showing Louis the new Mario Kart and continued to unpack stuff and tidy up my room. Which Louis is making very difficult... As I'm writing this two mugs of half drunk tea and a bowl of eaten kiwis have been sloppily left on my floor.

Sunday, 6 July 2014

Our last farewells to Frederica

Packed up the last of my gubbins early this morning while doing some additional reminiscing with Mark while we both dismantled our computers. One of the crown jewels of our home was our office space, granted I personally did more gaming than work there but it was a hub of activity for all our computing needs, be it production management or killing zombies - both hard jobs but someone's gotta do it. Truly that room and set-up will be missed.

Mum and Louis came to collect me and load up the car, not surprisingly though I discovered that a fair amount of my stuff wouldn't fit so I had to leave a bunch of it there for collection later. The others and myself gathered up in between packing for one final moment together in front of our house to commemorate our time spent together.


Goodbye 36 Frederica Road! It's been one hell of a year.

Saturday, 5 July 2014

Though we knew this day would come...

Packing up day in Bournemouth. I can remember the 7th of September last year when we all loaded into the house with fresh smiles on our faces and dreams of the coming year living independently; optimistically refusing to believe that our days were numbered. But to quote Arcade Fire:

Though we knew this day would come
Still it took us by surprise...

None of us were ready to move out and be separated. We discussed it over our final dinner at Nando's how we have all individually developed over the last ten months. Confidence to face the world was by far the most common quality discussed with regards to Mark, Lucy, Jamie and myself and I whole-heartedly agree. The atmosphere in the house during packing and cleaning was not miserable however, just quiet and thoughtful. Each of us were probably looking at various rooms of the house and recalling foreign memories of cheerful moments shared with friends which became family. Birthdays and Christmas were celebrated together in this house, now it will feel alien to be apart from the company of eachother during times of great joy; 'I wish I could share this moment with Mark or Jamie' will be a common thought of mine over the coming months.

But it has been a cracking year which has provided myself with life experience that I wouldn't trade for anything. But sometimes the best lessons are learnt alongside a little bit of heartbreak.   

Thursday, 3 July 2014

Coffee Cake Recipe

Solo baking time! This time it's coffee cake, courtesy of Mary Berry.

Step 1: assemble ingredients:

 Serves 8
225g (8oz) very soft butter, plus more for the tins
225g (8oz) light muscovado sugar or caster sugar
225g (8oz) self-raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
4 large eggs
4 level tsp instant coffee, dissolved in 1 tbsp boiling water

Step 2: Realise you don't have any eggs so go out and buy some at your local corner shop. Casually browse around until you deduce that they don't sell eggs since they are not situated around any of the other dairy products or home baking ingredients so you politely ask. Get snippy directions to the obtuse location of the eggs since apparently putting them under the magazines at a height only your ankles could appreciate is clearly the obvious place. Return home grumpy but still optimistic about your cake.

Step 2.5: Think of witty comeback to corner shop lady only after you are halfway back home. Feel simultaneously smug and defeated since the moment has passed.

Step 3: Realise you don't have any unsalted butter moments before setting foot back in your kitchen with your eggs. Get too embarrassed to return to the corner shop so bite the bullet and walk to the closest supermarket cursing the entire way. 

Step 4: Consider origami as a viable means of using greaseproof paper to line a baking tray since you have never used greaseproof paper before. Give up half-way and decide you would have more fun making cake mix.

Step 5. Make cake and butter icing.
(Pro Tip: Make sure to lick as much cake mix and icing before committing it to the cake.)

Step 6: Wish that you spent more time perfecting the greaseproof paper...

Step 7: Assure housemates that although it looks like a rabid oyster with the bubonic plague it is actually quite scrumptious. (If you turned some people off wanting a portion using that analogy then result - more cake for you!)

Step 8: Consume.

In all seriousness, the cake did come out tasting a lot better than it looks and I am quite pleased with it. If you want to make a coffee cake of your own then I recommend this tried and true recipe. The butter icing especially is to die for.

Wednesday, 2 July 2014


Slept well, woke up tired; where's the logic? Mustered a bit of effort to begin tidying up the kitchen but about halfway I started feeling physically drained which is very unlike me. I soon came to the conclusion that my body needed sugar or something sweet to eat, luckily after dinner Lucy made an apple crumble which hit the spot. I did have to make an emergency trip to the shops for custard though, crumble without custard is just a culinary sin. It also meant more sugar! Snagged a bag of 'sour gems' as well which I was just eating rapidly while playing 'Don't Starve' along with Mark. We genuinely lost track of time while playing, but our games both came to an abrupt end followed by a lot of swearing since one stupid mistake can waste hours of your time in that game. The delicious irony in Mark's death was being killed after building a protective wall. I on the other hand was slaughtered by savage penguins, Darwin Award nominee right here.