Busy Weekends Part III

As if we hadn’t been busy enough the weekend before last and the one before that, there’s more that I’m only just getting around to blogging! It was only when I thought about writing this up that I realised how much I’d neglected to write about already (and had promised people would be “coming soon”). So, without further ado; here’s what Ruth, JTA and I got up to last weekend.

Aside from our two attempts to conquer the Dunwich Horror (both attempts were failures, although the second was ever so close, ending with Ruth’s character in a one-on-one deathmatch with a Great Old One), our major event was a trip down to London on Saturday. After all, since the move to Earth, London feels like it’s pretty-much on our doorstep: so there’s no excuse not to take in a bit of culture once in a while in the heart of the capital. Of course, when we say culture

Ye Old Cock Tavern

We started out in Ye Old Cock Tavern on Fleet Street, because – hey – early afternoon is a perfectly good time to start drinking on a weekend. They did some pretty good chips, too, which we picked at as we drank our pints and watched a crowd gather for a wedding at the church up the road, nestled between the old newspaper buildings.


Volupté

Next up was Volupté, a burlesque club with a bi-monthly lunchtime Afternoon Tease. We started with a few fabulously-mixed and ludicrously ornate cocktails: only the first of many. The bar staff are simply entertaining to watch


Aside from the ongoing stream of cocktails (I particularly enjoyed the Porn Star Martini – which I’m seen drinking in the picture above – I don’t even remember what was in it, except that it came with a “shot” of champagne to drink before starting it), Afternoon Tease consisted of:

  • Drinking champagne and eating finger sandwiches
  • A guy dressed as Elvis, spinning hula hoops in ways that I didn’t think possible, to a medley of Elvis hits.
  • An extraordinarily erotic, genuinely tantalising peacock dance from a young lady going by Vicky Butterfly. She later returned for a second, different performance; not quite so arousing but equally mesmerising. That’s her in the picture, above.
  • Volupté’s special take on traditional tableaux vivants – gateaux vivants: a wonderfully mischievous woman posing behind little more than suspenders and a cake (with a fabulous parody of M&S food adverts gone by).
  • Scones and tea
  • A Miss. Rose Thorne, performing a tribute to Doris Day; and I can honestly say that I’ve never before seen a pair of gloves removed with such…  deliberate choreography. Very impressive.


By the time we staggered out into the afternoon sun, we were very entertained and quite spiffingly drunk. Volupté gains my recommendation, although I shall have to check the state of my bank account before trifling with their cocktail bar again!

The Golden Hinde

Next up, we made our way over the Thames to visit the replica of the Golden Hinde, the ship in which Sir Francis Drake completed his famous circumnavigation of the globe.


Yeah, it’s just a big boat (and not even that big). Ruth was pleased, though, but she is almost a big a fan of boats as she is for optimised road junctions. Of course, not to break the theme, we stopped for a drink in each of the two nearest bars to the vessel, as well as a snack to give us the energy for the next leg of our adventure, when we whipped out our Oyster cards and zipped down to Hammersmith for…

Penn & Teller

Yes, the Penn & Teller, during their 4-day-only visit to the UK (the first in 15 years), doing their usual mixture of magic and comedy in their in-your-face style, in a spectacular London show. If you’ve gotten this far down the post before you realised how awesome my weekend was, well, what took you so long?


I couldn’t even pick out my favourite part of the show. Perhaps it was one of these:

  • Teller “drowning” at the end of the first act as part of a card trick (yes, really!) gone wrong.
  • A whole series of fabulous tricks done with evidently-confused members of the audience (especially the one with the woman they had blindfolded and throwing knives towards Penn, and narrowly missing – it was all done with electromagnets, see?).
  • Stunning examples of cold-reading done using jokes randomly selected from joke books, with a predictive “hot reading” twist at the end.
  • The thought-provoking ending, in which Penn (between bouts of fire-eating) asks the audience to think not about how they do what they do, but why, along with some clues related to his experiences as an audience member of various shows.


Sundeep!

By remarkable coincidence, Sundeep and her partner, Ashley, were also at the Apollo to see Penn & Teller! Wandering back from the bar during the intermission we just bumped into her. As she doesn’t blog these days, for the benefit of those who might be wondering: she’s doing well, still on maternity leave and looking after Vanessa, her daughter (who’s looking quite cute in many of the billion or so pictures she carries around with her on her phone), and both are happy and healthy. Ashley – whom we hadn’t met before now – seems nice: he has a certain rugged-but-cute French look and he works for a very worthwhile charity, both of which give him good points in my estimation.

Mexican Tapas

After leaving the show, we were peckish again, so we went around the corner to a cramped but wonderful-smelling Mexican restaurant for a round of Mexican-style tapas, which was delicious. By this point, we were just about ready to settle into a bus for the long but comfortable journey home, when…

Penn & Teller, Again

…wandering back, we spotted a small crowd of people near the Apollo. Wandering over, we discovered that Penn & Teller themselves were hanging out with folks outside the theatre, signing things and answering awkward questions.
Needless to say, we hung around for a few minutes and got the chance to meet the magicians themselves.


Ruth – perhaps as evidenced by her expression in the photo, above – did her usual thing when in the company of a celebrity (as those of you who knew how she behaved around Lloyd Kaufman will know) of becoming a giggling little girl. She also managed to make a fool of herself by mumbling a question about the stage lighting to Teller, to which he didn’t have an answer (not a result of his on-stage muteness, though: he’s certainly happy to talk in person).


Meeting some of the most fabulous (and eccentric) magicians in the world is perhaps the best way to end a night out in London. But there was one more stop on our journey as we worked our way back to a Oxford Tube stop (avoiding the Circle Line, which wasn’t running):

White City

Yeah; perhaps not actually the highlight of the night, but as we were passing, Ruth insisted that we should get one more photo – for Adam‘s sake:

In case your eyes aren’t up to it, or if you’re simply unable to recognise this iconic London landmark, that’s the White City BBC Television Centre in the photo.

We got back to Oxford a full 15 hours after we’d first left: considerably more exhausted, more drunk, and merrily surfing the buzz of all the fabulous things we’d gotten up to over the course of the day. Sunday became very much a day of rest (and recovery) – we’re not as young as we used to be, as I discovered to my horror during my last party-sized jaunt into the capital. Exhaustion aside, however, this was a fantastic day out.

How’ve your weekends been? Not as legendary as mine, I’m sure.

Please Drink This Alcohol-Free Beer Responsibly

Huh? *

How am I expected to irresponsibly enjoy an alcohol-free beer? By selling it to people as “the real stuff”? It’s certainly not by drinking it – you’d have to drink somewhere in excess of one-hundred and sixty-seven bottles of Beck’s Blue, for example, to get the same amount of alcohol as you’d get in one pint of 4% ABV beer (thanks, Wikipedia), and Beck’s Blue is just about the most alcoholic of the “alcohol-free” beers.

Perhaps juggling the bottles would be an irresponsible way to enjoy it. The shopkeeper certainly seemed to think so this evening.

* Beck’s Blue is an alcohol free beer, in case you didn’t know. My year-off alcohol’s going okay (now over half-way through!), by the way, although I’m developing a taste for alcohol-free things and I’m not sure that I’m permitted to maintain posession of my Y chromosome.

The Danville Public Service Announcement

I don’t visit Facebook often. In fact, I usually only log on once or twice a month to clear out the billions of requests to install applications (and block those applications) that people don’t seem to have noticed that I never accept, or to check up on a mis-placed phone number or e-mail address for some infrequently-contacted friend. But in any case, I’m not up-to-date with what’s commonplace on Facebook any more. But this unusual bulge in my list of friends amused me for a moment:

That’s four friends, in a row, who all set their “statuses” to something resembling the lyrics of a well-known song. Kieran may well be the colour of the wind, of course, but he’s still a ginger. I’m not in a position to comment on Owen’s body odour, and I’m doubtful that Adam is the one and only (although it’s genuinely possbile that there’s nobody he’s rather be). And Gareth’s apathy is… well, pretty much standard.

But it doesn’t seem so regular that a block of people adjacent to one another on my seemingly-randomly-sorted (I assume there’s some kind of clever hashing going on at the back-end for speed, or something) would all independently (none of them know one another, to the best of my knowledge) choose to have their statuses inspired by songs. Nobody else on my friends list is demonstrating this.

Perhaps I’m seeing patterns where they don’t exist, like seeing the face of Jesus in a balding dog’s back, or something. Just thought I’d share.

It’s been a busy week or so. Last Wednesday I went out to the first night of the Ship & Castle‘s real ale festival with Penny and Ele, on account of the fact that (a) Yay! Dozens of cask-conditioned beers! and (b) I hadn’t seen much of either of them for an aeon or two. The pub was completely packed, but that didn’t stop us from sampling a good selection of the beers and ciders on offer. Once one became available, I stole a stool to sit on.

Now it seems that some strange wizard must have enchanted that stool on some previous visit to the pub, with a mysterious spell of popularity, because it suddenly appeared that every fucker in the pub wanted to talk to me. The folks I knew (one or two more turned up), the folks I barely knew (“I’m sorry, but I can’t remember how I’m supposed to know you?” territory)… even strangers seemed to know who I was or, failing that, want to. Two people said “hey, you’re that guy with the blog,” as if that in some way cuts it down in this town (abnib disagrees). One woman waved as if I’d known her for years but I can’t place a name to her face. Another chap – his flirtatiousness outdone only by his drunkeness – almost coerced a blush out of me with a particularly charming compliment. And it just kept on going, and going…

When the pub finally kicked us out (and we’d added Lizzie to our party), we hunted for another pub but without success, and so we scooped up beer and wine and took the party to the living room of The Cottage, where we talked all kinds of bollocks, drinking and listening to music – and joined for awhile by Tom, who came in looking drunk and stained with ash, drank half a bottle of beer, urinated in the back yard, and left again – until it was getting close to 4am and I thought it really ought to be time for bed, considering my planned early start at work the following morning. How Penny survived (she started work even earlier) I haven’t a clue.

A major difference between being in your late twenties and being in your early twenties, in my experience, is not one of having less energy for a late night (or early morning) of drinking, but one of responsibility. As a 27-year-old, I’m quite aware that I can still survive an all-night party (although it’s getting harder!). But when somebody spontaneously suggests something like “Let’s stay up and party and watch the sun rise,” instead of saying “Yeah!” I say, “Hmm… I’ve got work in the morning… maybe…” It’s easy to be made aware of this distinction when you’re in a student town, as I am, and it’s easy to be made to feel even older than I am. On the other hand, it helps to give every opportunity to pretend I’m less aged than I actually am.

So then Thursday was the anticipated long day at work, followed by a quick dinner before a rush up to the Arts Centre to see Steeleye Span, on JTA‘s recommendation. Steeleye Span are a “proper” folk rock band: y’know, they’ve had every single member replaced at some point or another and still keep the same name, like Theseus’s ship, and they’ve written songs that they don’t play any more, but that other folk bands do. That kind of definition. They were pretty good – a reasonable selection of songs from the usual slightly saucy and sometimes unintelligble varieties that they’re known for, and a particularly strong finish to the concert with a rousing sing-along rendition of All Around My Hat (which, I later discovered, they played as an encore the last time my dad saw them, about a decade or more ago – I guess that’s the third characteristic of a “proper” folk rock band: that your parents have seen them perform, too).

By now, I was getting to a point where I was tired enough to not be making much sense any more when I talked (as if I ever do), and I slept well, although not for long, because I had to make an even earlier start at work on Friday morning to make sure I got everything I needed to get done done before travelling up North in the evening.

So yeah: Friday evening we travelled up to Preston and had pizza with my folks, and then on Saturday morning I found myself taking my sister Becky‘s place in the BT Swimathon. She’d been suffering from a lung infection for a week or more, now, and had to pull out, so – despite having barely swum at all for several years – I pulled on my trunks and a swimming cap and contributed 1750m to the team effort. And then dragged my body out of the pool just in time for Claire and I to rush off to Formby for her godmother’s funeral, which is what we’d actually come up to the North-West to do.

Oh yeah, and I got a medal, which I’ve been wearing ever since.

I can’t say much about Claire’s godmother’s funeral, because I only met her once, and then only briefly. Her husband – she’d been married for 52 years; they’d been teenage sweethearts – was quite obviously finding her death difficult, yet still managed to deliver a beautiful and moving eulogy for his dear departed wife. Apart from the religosity of the service (not to my taste, but I suppose it wasn’t really there for me anyway) it was very good, and the church building was packed – this was obviously a popular woman.

Her body seems to be going “on tour”: she’s having a second service – the actual funeral – in Norfolk today. I wonder if it’ll be as full. Not many people get two funerals. Perhaps the popularity will wane after the first. On the other hand, you might get groupies… seems to be what Claire’s doing, as she’s down in Norfolk now and presumably went to the second funeral, too.

Later, we found ourselves in Manchester. We’d hoped to go guitar-shopping (Claire’s looking for a new one), but ended up there just barely in time to eat some noodles and go to meet my family, and each of my sister’s boyfriends, at the Odeon IMAX cinema to see Shine A Light, the Rolling Stones concert film/documentary. The film was… better than I would have expected, and the resolution of the IMAX filmstock really showed during long pans and high-detail closeups on the band in concert, although I wasn’t particularly impressed with the editing: too many cuts, too much crossing the line, and (on a huge screen) almost nauseating thanks to the bumps and bounces the cameras made. It was also a little too-much concert and not-enough documentary, perhaps because the band have never really interviewed very well. In one old BBC clip, Keith Richards is asked what has brought the band it’s initial success, and he simply shrugs. In another – in the early 1970s – Mick Jagger‘s only answer about the band’s future is “I think we’ve got at least another year left.”

A few games of Mario Party 8 with my family later (one of which, amazingly, my mum won!), and we were back on the road. Claire dropped me off at Birmingham New Street station so I could catch a train back to Aberystwyth, as I needed to be back at work this morning, and she carried on to Norfolk to visit her dad and to attend the other half of her godmother’s funeral.

My journey back to Aberystywth was pretty horrendous. Trains are cancelled between Shrewsbury and Aber right now, and replaced with a bus service, and I’m not sure I’ve ever been on a less pleasant bus journey in my life. Five-seats wide, I was squished into falling half-off my uncomfortable seat even sat next to somebody as small as Matt P (who I’d happened to bump into on the journey). There was barely any knee-room, and the air conditioning only had two settings, neither of which was particually pleasant but for reasons of completely different extremes.

We finally got back to Aber just in time to join in at Geek Night, where Ruth, Penny, and Rory were just finishing a game of Carcassonne. JTA arrived, too, and the six of us played the largest game of Settlers of Catan I’ve ever played. We also managed to have a couple of games of Hypercube Hop, Ruth’s dad’s first board game published under his new Brane Games label. For those of you that missed it, I’m sure there’ll be an opportunity to give it a go at some future Geek Night.

Then today I posed for topless photos for Ele. But that’s another story and I’ve got to go and eat dinner so I’ll leave it at that.

Well, That Was Quite A Night

I finally sobered up sometime this afternoon, right in the middle of some Perl programming. I spent some time staring at all of the symbols and regexen in the code. To be honest, I think I preferred it when I was drunk.

More if and when I can be bothered. For now… back to the pub again!

Curry And Penny

Went out last night for curry and beer to celebrate Paul‘s birthday (yes, we’re all well aware that Paul’s birthday was almost a month ago, but this was the first chance we’d had to really get together and make an ocassion of it). It was great to get together with a handful of folks rarely seen in the same place outside of Troma Night – and in some cases, recently, not even then – and have a good night out.

At the end of the evening I was quite tipsy; a direct result of the fact that or a few hours before the curry I’d been “warming up” with ales in the Ship & Castle with Matt P. And, as you may have noticed by now, there’s a strong correlation between me going to bed drunk and me blogging about particularly unusual dreams. I skipped a dream that I couldn’t be arsed to blog about, near the end of last month, under similar intoxication. I’d made some notes on it, as I try to with everything I dream about, but never found time to write it up to standards of internet legibility (whatever that can be taken as meaning).

In any case, last night was a classic example of me dreaming within-a-dream, which I gather is something a lot of people haven’t experienced (for me, while not commonplace, it’s not terribly rare, either, for me to “wake up” within a dream, or to remember previous dreams as dreams within the one I’m currently ‘in’). Note the double-indentation to ease understanding of which dream I’m referring to:

I had been hosting a house party of some variety, in a somewhat larger (and significantly tidier) version of The Cottage, and it was beginning to wind up – most of the guests had gone home, except for a few small, scattered groups in different parts of the building (I mentioned that it was bigger than The Cottage usually is, right? – there are times that the word “mansion” could have come to hand). JTA, Claire and Ruth were somewhere upstairs; Bryn was talking to Andrew Rawlins (!) in a kitchen reminiscent of my dad’s house; and I was in the living room, talking to Penny.

If I remember rightly we were talking about oral sex technique. So, just a regular conversation for me, you’re probably thinking. And that’s about the time that we kissed.

We hid that we’d been kissing from Bryn and Andrew as they came through the living room, said goodbye, got their coats and left. And again, when Gareth, Penny’s partner, arrived by car to pick her up. And then I went to bed.

And then I woke up. I don’t specifically remember waking up, but I remember having a moment of realisation that everything that had just happened was a dream. It was an unusual dream, sure (although not entirely unpleasant: Penny’s pretty hot), but just a dream, and so I got on with my day. Leaving Claire in bed, I went to work, and I remember thinking about the fact that I would undoubtedly blog about the dream I’d had, and that I hoped I wouldn’t alarm or embarrass Penny by doing so!

And then I woke up. Actually, this time, and there was a moment of confusion as I remembered that it was Ruth I’d spent the night with last night, not Claire at all, and I spent the first few minutes of the morning trying to work out where the dreams began and ended. Perhaps more confusingly, I discovered when I woke up that I’d somehow, in the night, managed to cut my hand and I was bleeding all over the place. I snapped the following photo after I’d cleaned it up a bit.

Ruth theorised that she attacked me in my sleep because she was jealous that I was kissing Penny in my dreams, going on to add that she wanted to be dreaming of kissing Penny. But I’m not sure if she’d approve of me blogging that, so you should pretend that I didn’t.

Do you or anybody you know routinely dream that you are dreaming? Or wake up from a dream with an unusual injury? Or have dreams that involve your friends cheating on their partners with you?

Pickled Eggs

Went for a pint with Paul and Kit at the Ship & Castle, which eventually turned into a long trek through over a dozen Aberystwyth pubs in search of pickled eggs.

A secondary highlight of the evening was my phone call to Rummers Wine Bar, leaving a message on their answerphone: “Good evening; my name is Daniel Huntley and I’m with the Welsh Pickled Egg Beurau. On behalf of the Good Pub Guide, we’re currently running a survey into the quality of pub pickled eggs, and we’re now in your area. If you could call me back on 07###-###### to arrange a visit, I’ll be in town all weekend. Thanks;” Kit and Paul creased up laughing. Well, you do, don’t you.

The primary highlight was getting to The Castle Hotel and seeing a quite spectacular band playing. Their bass guitarist/singer was extremely good, and the rest of the band were very listenable, too. Despite not having and pickled eggs, we enjoyed a couple of drinks there, were later joined by Claire, and finally went home to watch some Futurama.

Oh; and a guy (a patron, I guess) stripped off and started dancing in front of the drummer. Only in Aberystwyth.

Paul In Aber

Paul made it to Aber. Woo and indeed hoo. He, Bryn, Kit, Claire, and I went to the beach and drank beer and ate pizza to celebrate. Then Claire and I took turns in an inflatable dingy and I got soaked as a wave leapt over the side. You’ll probably see their reports of this on their journals, soon, too.

The wiki I was coding got finished. Sadly, only a few of you who read this will ever be allowed to see it, but it’s pretty sweet.

Plothole appeared in the story on Andy’s LiveJournal – he has me drinking tea, which, as everybody knows, isn’t going to happen on account of (a) caffiene being a really, really bad thing for me and (b) I don’t particularly like tea. Have reported this to him and await feedback.

This made me laugh: type Weapons of Mass Destruction into Google and you’ll get this page. I laughed lots.

Back From Lancashire

Spent the last four days in Lancashire and elsewhere in the North of England, visiting my folks (among other things). Details follow…

Thursday 26th June 2003
Linux Expo 2003, Birmingham
Sorted out Claire’s bank, packed bags, and set off for Birmingham to the last day of Linux Expo 2003 at the National Exhibition Centre, to meet up with Gareth and some other geeks to talk about a project on which my input could be valuable. Gareth is going to come over to Aberystwyth next weekend and we’ll knock together a prototype of the system we’ve suggested.

Claire got scared by the vast numbers of stereotypical geeks (and the distinct overdose of testosterone in the air – she was one of only three women in the whole place), and by the fact that, unlike normal, she couldn’t understand one in three words spoken. I smiled. She’s got a little way to go to earn her geek stripes, yet.

Bon Jovi, Manchester
Arrived late at Old Trafford – missed the support group, but in time to try to find standing room before Bon Jovi came on-stage. All-in-all, a good concert: Claire was a little short for standing on the pitch to have been a good idea, and the sound quality was a little below-par owing to a lack of adequate repeater speakers, and the only beer available was Budweiser and Boddingtons, but it was still a pretty good gig. Went to a Manchester pub afterwards before catching a really, really late train home. Got to bed sometime after 3am.

More to follow…

Dreadful Deadlines

Just been working like a demon towards a 13:00 deadline this afternoon, delivering a piece of software to a client. Barely made it, but what a buzz!!! Celebrated with a pub lunch with two colleagues, Lisa (the SQL Queen) and Alex (the CodeMonkey, our office pet).

Claire called from Norfolk to say “Hi!” I’d have liked to chat longer, but I have work to do.

Have promised to scan and archive some old magazines with Kit this evening. Ho hum.

Norfolk

Claire’s gone to Norfolk to help her dad move house, among other things. She’s back on Sunday.

Played a little Zelda and wrote a little Three Rings code last night, but didn’t do enough of either to be called ‘productive’. Rather, I watched The Animatrix with Kit and drank Firestoker and Hobgoblin and Newcastle Brown Ale.

I miss her already.

How To Fix A Flat Car Battery For Beginners

Unfortunatley my plans for a nice relaxed evening over a pint were delayed somewhat by having to help to fix Claire’s car, first. In a fantastic display of sense she’d left the headlights on on Sunday night, and all through Monday, and so by Tuesday the battery was very, very dead.

So she, Bryn, Kit and I stood in a cold and rainy car park, trying to remove Bryn’s car battery to get Claire’s car going, then switch back to her battery while it’s running so we could charge it with a nice long drive. But no such luck: the considerate engineers at Vauxhall decided that to remove the battery you must either (a) own a spanner with a neck width about the size of a human hair or (b) remove the engine first.

Thankfully I was able to persuade a taxi driver at the nearby rank to drive around with some jump leads and get her going. Suddenly this made things a lot easier.

In brighter news, Bryn got offered a year in industry placement with the National Library of Wales, which means that he, too, will be living in Aberystwyth for the summer.

Secret Site Launch

Happy with my new weblog, I’m launching it now. And, just out of curiosity, I’m not going to tell anybody about it, and see how long it takes people to notice.

Yes; I really am ‘just odd like that’.

Anyway – that’s enough goofing around on the internet at work for me… I’m off to goof around on the internet at home, interrupted only by a pint with Claire, Kit and Bryn, and a look at Kit’s newly-cleaned fish tanks. What an exciting life I lead.

Cool Thing Of The Day

Cool And Interesting Thing Of The Day To Do At The University Of Wales, Aberystwyth, #30:

Gather together a werewolf and an irishwoman, and, together, climb an unlit hill with a treachorous unmarked cliff, in an unfamiliar nearby town, in the darkness of the night, during a storm, and watch fireworks while clinging to a hundred-year-old momument to save yourself from being sucked over a 140ft precipice over a wave-smashed beach. Fail to find the ‘fort’ which the maps clearly state is right by the monument. Cause excess concern in the natives in a nearby pub upon your return: “You weren’t up the hill tonight, were you?” Smile. Nod. Sup your beer.

The ‘cool and interesting things’ were originally published to a location at which my “friends back home” could read them, during the first few months of my time at the University of Wales, Aberystwyth, which I started in September 1999. It proved to be particularly popular, and so now it is immortalised through the medium of my weblog.