Archive for the ‘General Musings’ Category

As much as I adore Amazon and their fantastic customer service, they clearly scraped the bottom of the muppet barrel when they employed the person who RAMMED the Mystery Machine into the Monty Python set to squeeze them into one small box!

Forgive the Beano-esque term.  I’m not talking ice lollies, I’m talking swag… dosh… spondoolix… moolah… cash.

I’m not feeling particularly festive this year and, even though it may sound a little shallow to say it, the reason is that I can’t actually afford to be festive.  There are those who would argue the point that christmas (note the lowercase) is all about family getting together to put the past behind and celebrate a joyous occasion in good spirits.  Others may extend this even further to see this period as being the time when we remember the birth of “The Lord Jesus Christ Our Saviour” (bet that was a bugger on name badges) and rejoice at how the three wise men chucked out their Garmins and decided to follow a star instead, and probably got there quicker anyway.

I don’t really subscribe to either of these pretenses.

To me, christmas is the time when I have the best ever excuse to spoil the one I love.  To throw caution to the wind and let the inner demon out to play… the Spend Demon.  I enjoy nothing more than to either withdraw a wad of cash and run around buying up everything that I think they will enjoy or, at the very least, get a kick out of.  I’ll quite happily sit for hours looking through EVERY single product on I Want One Of Those or Firebox until something bizarre sparks my interest and convinces me that they’ll REALLY like that towel with a CB radio and ashtray built in.  I love answering the door to the postman and the couriers, wondering which of the gifts arrived and excitedly checking to make sure that everything arrived intact… unlike Lorna’s “Monty Python Monster Box Set” which had been packed in the same box as the “Scooby Doo Mystery Machine Box Set” and the clever person at Amazon thought it’d be a smashing idea to just keep pushing the Mystery Machine until it went into the box, and ruined the Python box in the process.

The sight of all the sparkling presents under the tree is only ever superseded by the moment where she opens that first present, and the joy on her face as she finally gets to see whatever it was inside that odd-shaped box.  From one present to the next, the excitement and happiness is the only gift I really need.  Although I’ve never been that impressed by christmas as a holiday or a festive occasion, I do always look forward to that aspect and go out of my way to make sure that every single present is well thought out, well wrapped, and will be something that Lorna will absolutely adore but may not necessarily have considered for herself.

This year, however, that spark just isn’t there.  There are several reasons for this and the first is that it’s been a horrible year all told.  The stress levels in the last twelve months have been incredible and so I drag myself into December with extreme physical and emotional fatigue.  The second is that we simply can’t afford to do what we would normally, and so those moments as each of the presents have their wrapping ripped off are stripped down to a bare minimum.

It may be a beautiful set, but it won't be opened with the excitement of finally getting to play the game, alas

I very recently received an email from Play.com telling me that the Assassin’s Creed II Black Edition box set had been despatched… which was quite a shock to me as I didn’t recall placing the order, but it turns out I did so back in June.  That would normally be quite an exciting gift if Lorna didn’t already have the game in general vanilla format, so there’s no excitement bundled with that particular gift as it has, in reality, been demoted to an ornament.  Her next gift was supposed to be a surprise – a crate of the Crow’s Landing wine that she has taken a particular liking to.  Unfortunately, the courier delivered the box with several smashed bottles and in such a saturated state that he figured it was only fitting to announce at the door “your bottles of wine are ruined” so, even though there were ten intact bottles left… Lorna now knew about her surprise present.  She’d have found out anyway as I had to carefully slice open the box whilst wearing thick leather gloves to avoid losing a hand, and had to wash down every remaining bottle as they were covered in shards of glass.  Needless to say, as the gift was now ruined and the bottles looked like they’d been pulled out of a skip with torn labels and scratches from the shards, they went straight into the wine rack and are no longer christmas presents.

Jaws used to be part of my christmas ritual, along with King Kong (the original) and Star Wars

So now, with only five days until christmas, I find myself with only that one gift,  the Assassin’s Creed set.  Christmas morning will consist of Lorna opening up one present that she actually already knows about, which she already owns and has already played in standard format, albeit briefly.  The excitement of being able to rush through and finally get to play the game just won’t be there.  I have ordered another present for her, but I’m not sure if it’ll arrive in time or even if she’ll actually like it.  I couldn’t just settle for that one gift though, it’s not in my nature.

Mariusz Pudzianowski... the greatest strongman since Bill Kazmaeir and Jon Pall Sigmarsson... my new christmas ritual

With no presents to light up Lorna’s face, no Jaws or Star Wars on the TV, no trip to Berlin for the christmas markets and no personal religious leanings whatsoever… it seems likely that this christmas will end up being an entirely forgettable experience for the first time in years.  Ultimately, this comes down to not having money.  I’m not materialistic, even though I enjoy spending my money on nice things, but a christmas without watching someone’s face light up from one present to the next just won’t be the same.  I’m looking forward to the time off.  I’m even looking forward to perhaps being bored a little too often, but it still won’t be the same.

Thankfully, there’s always World’s Strongest Man.


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Oops, I didn’t it again

I promised I’d blog today, and it’s now too late to even start it.  It’s not like I’m capable of writing short and sweet blogs, so why waste my evening doing so when I could waste it in front of 2009’s final episode of V.

All going well, the new gaming PC should be ready tomorrow.  Believe it or not, that will prompt me to write about the ups and downs leading up to it finally being built.  No, I WON’T be playing it all night 🙂

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Persistence of Time

Where does the time go when it’s not around here?  Those words haunted me for years because it’s similar to something that I used to ask of the world around me.

As a child, it seemed like time was something we had in abundance.. like every precious minute would last an hour if we were having fun.  Within minutes of getting home from school I would cycle around to all my friends’ houses on my BMX and we would all travel down to the local track to practice our freestyle.

When we had exhausted ourselves of each trick… failing, falling, perfecting… we’d cycle the few miles back to our village and hang out on whichever street corner would have us that evening.  We’d sit there with our chips and Vimto, chatting for what seemed like a lifetime about how Eddie “The Flying Banana” Fiola and Bob Haro were breaking new ground every week on the Kellogg’s BMX Freestyle Championships.  Nothing else mattered… we wanted to be those guys, at all costs.

By the time we dispersed to our own homes, it was maybe 9pm… only five hours after we initially met up together, and yet we’d achieved so much and had so much fun together, as well as a hearty (if slightly unhealthy) meal.

At the time, those hours meant nothing – none of us wore a watch, none of us had a curfew to speak of and we only went home because we were satisfied that we’d achieved whatever we’d set out to do that evening.  Another hour in front of the TV with some toast and a cup of tea, and it was time for bed so we were refreshed in the morning for another day of school… and so they cycle continued.

What happened along the way?

Time alters as you get older, and precious minutes are stolen from every hour while you’re busy worrying about workloads or keeping up contact with your friends.  If you’re lucky, you’ll get to sit down to dinner around 6pm and by 7pm you’ll be busy doing whatever it is you plan on doing that night.  After what seems like only a few minutes, a quick glance to the clock jolts you as you realise it’s almost 10pm.  It can’t be. It was only 7pm when you last looked, and yet somehow those minutes disappeared forever and you’re already worrying about the next working day ahead.

Sometimes the mere thought of how the evening has vanished is enough to make me just want to go to sleep at that precise moment, in the hope that my dreams will be enough to convince my subconscious that I actually experienced something wonderful that day.   Most evenings I will simply rebel against time and my body’s impending defiance by forcing another three or four hours out of the day by placing myself in bed in front of the TV and watching whatever I can possibly find… anything… just as long as it takes up enough time to produce some semblance of a worthwhile passing of time.

The irony in this posting is that it’s 10pm and I’ve been staring between all three monitors for the last three hours.  Every now and again my eyes will flick to the left monitor as a new email comes in and I’ll either file it away or junk it.  I’ll then move back over to the main screen where I’m randomly surfing the web and nipping back to Facebook to see if anyone else has managed to do anything with their time, all the while darting my eyes to the right hand monitor where I’ll randomly select another track to listen to from my playlists.  Ultimately, I have achieved nothing… attempted nothing, and allowed the seconds to become minutes and, eventually, hours.

This isn’t how it was supposed to be though, don’t get me wrong.  I had planned to spend a couple of hours drumming and recording, but time slipped away as usual.  Now I arrive at the realisation that I’ve spent my evening wondering what to do with my time, yet I’ve left myself with no time to actually do anything about it.  My thoughts of how time vanishes while we’re wondering what to do with it prompted me to write this blog… and so another hour of my life has disappeared, never to return.

If I had the ability to go back in time… would I travel back to when I was a child and the minutes would last days, or merely to 7pm this evening?

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The story goes that a funny thing happened on the way to the forum and, in my case, that’s certainly very true.  In 2003 I led a very solitary life but was a regular contributor to a forum which was set up to support and critique a paranormal TV show, and it was there that I met a girl who checked all of the boxes of my mental “Ms Right” criteria.  Being an extremely shy individual, it was difficult to lay those precious foundations which would later support a bridge from the online world into an offline personal meeting but, thankfully, my belief that you can’t let things slip past you got the better of me and enough courage was plucked to ask that girl to meet with me in London.

Plans were made to meet in Leicester Square, and I’d be very easy to spot as I’d be dressed entirely in black and trying to kick all the pigeons… way before the developers of GTA or Fable had even considered such cruelty towards our feathered friends.  We’d discussed having a lightsabre fight in Leicester Square, and bouncing along Thames Embankment on Space Hoppers but those delights never happened.

We DID meet though, on July 11th 2003… and we’re still together today.  Two very antisocial individuals with such hatred for mankind and pretty much everything that surrounds us, yet united in our unique outlook.

That same forum gave us both another great friend in Pete – a social butterfly who is rarely on his own and oft found darting from one social event to the next like a cross between Paris Hilton and the miniscule, yet powerful, hummingbird.  In social situations, Pete excels as his happy huggy nature radiates from him like he’d spent too many years holidaying in a very flimsy tent in Chernobyl.

Since then we’ve become very active in the gaming community – with Lorna participating on the Games TM forum, and both of us on the Ready Up forum.  My joining of the Ready Up forum coincided with my toe-dipping into the waters of Facebook, where I’d created an account perhaps a year before in order to write a module for our ecommerce software, but I’d never actually even gone so far as to create a profile or post any status feeds.  After several old friends tracked me down on Facebook and wanted to join my empty friends list, I figured I’d give it a go and actually announced myself to the world with a suitably bland and pointless status update.

Not long after, six of the Ready Up writers were going for a world record attempt for playing Burnout Paradise non stop over a 24 hour period.  The event was taking place in ESC, only a 30 minute train journey from us and, as Lorna is one of the writers and I’d followed the site for some time, we went along to watch the unfortunate six prop their eyelids open with Nintendo DS styluses (yes, I checked to make sure that was the correct word to pluralise stylus!) as they barrel rolled and flat spinned their way to success through the night until the following morning.

By the time they’d been awarded their plaques and had their photos taken, I had a bunch of Gamertags to add to my XBox Live friends list and a few new email addresses.  A few days later my Facebook friends list had gone from having five people, which is actually pretty impressive for someone like me, to a double figured count of ten and we’ve had the pleasure of Rook, Victor and Tiq staying with us on several occasions for weekends (or weeks) of gaming and general merriment.

Fast forward a few months to around July of this year, and several online sessions of Burnout Paradise over XBox Live not only increased the number of friends on my XBL friends list… or the number of friends on my Facebook account… but the spillage of virtual friends to offline friends also increased.  Mobile numbers and email addresses were exchanged and any breaks garnered throughout the day were spent sending messages of support, rants, or general chit chat to my new friends.

Very recently, the pressure cooker of my friends lists finally exploded when almost everyone in question had the chance to meet up at a Ready Up forum get-together in the same venue that hosted the Guinness World Record challenge.  The basement of ESC was full of gamers, resplendent in their own excitement, some of whom I’d never spoken with before and many of whom I immediately recognised from their XBL cam shots or their profile pics.  What was supposed to have been a very simple weekend event with some relative strangers turned into much more than that… new friendships were formed and existing friendships became closer and stronger.  A rogue flu virus which appeared to incubate in the basement meant that Pete and Zoey had to stay on with us for another week until they fully recovered, which obviously wasn’t exactly very pleasant for them, but it was lovely to spend more time with them… albeit non-eventful time.

Now I find myself wondering when we’ll next have our friends come to stay and, as much as I love the peace and quiet of having the house to ourselves again, I do miss walking into the lounge to spend time with my friends.

So a funny thing happened on the way to the forum… I still sport the same disdain and resentment for mankind as a whole and, as much as I wish I had Vader’s power of being able to render someone unconscious (or worse) with nothing more than the power of my mind and a flick of a finger, somewhere along the way the reinforced steel walls came down and I’ve become one of those people who actually enjoys spending time with other people.  I’m an antisocial person with a penchant for spending time with my friends, I am a contradiction to my own term.

I am… an antisocialite

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