Wednesday, 31 October 2012


Had my second Bond-at-the-cinema experience last night. Yep, went to see Skyfall. The only other time I've been to see a Bond movie at the pictures was when I went to see Die Another Day, which was a pile of shit and incidentally Pierce Brosnan's last outing as everyone's favourite nymphomaniac espionagologist-amajig. Take from that what you will. There's probably nothing more to take from it than it was the end of his movie deal, but hey. So Skyfall, then. I have to admit that I've never been the biggest fan of these 'new' Bond films with Daniel Craig. Casino Royale (even with it's fucking awesome theme tune – cheers Chris Cornell) was a bit of a mess in my opinion and Quantum of Solace...well I didn't even bother watching it after a) I found Casino Royale such a laborious slog; and b) most people who saw it (including friends who are massive film geeks) told me it was really confusing. Skyfall then, is a welcome step back in the right direction for the franchise as far as I can tell.

The pre-credits sequence features one of the best chase scenes I've seen (even if does traipse across the very same Istanbul rooftop as Liam Neeson does in Taken 2), and is easily as memorable as GoldenEye's opening segment (y'know, where Bond rides a motorbike off a cliff after a falling, pilotless plane, defies terminal velocity to reach and climb inside it and then wrestles it back into the Tina Turner's epic theme tune kicks in. Fucking ejaculatory stuff right there). I also feel special mention must go to Adele's theme song here too. The one for Quantum of Solace (Jack White and Alicia Keys, if memory serves) was a hideous, out-of-touch mess, so kudos to the director/producers/whoever for getting someone who can actually sing and write music to pen the score for the second most important section of any Bond film.

The movie calms down somewhat after the intro but the storyline is unmistakably 'old school' Bond, with an unknown enemy wreaking havoc across London and Bond returning from oblivion (along with a cracking new cast playing familiar character roles) to kick ass. There are also some genuinely funny bits too (the chase through a rush-hour Underground station and train, for example, is brilliantly done and the humour is very subtle but was met with a crescendo of laughter from the audience), but this is matched with some 'how the fuck is Bond gonna get out of this' juxtaposition. It's a really good entry in the Bond series and a true return to the action/thriller genre that the franchise so desperatley needed in order to coax back punters who, like me, have probably seen most of the films, but aren't die hards. Oh, and my opinion of Craig's Bond has been altered by his performance here – the character is at times frail and references to his age are chucked in here and there, as well as his (obvious) reliance on drink and women.

It's hard to see how the next Bond film will top Skyfall, but it needs to in order to compete with all the other spy-based shit that's trying to usurp him as the master of the genre. We've already had the Bourne films and Mission Impossible series, and no doubt there'll be more of them to come, so hopefully we cinema-goers have a lot to look forward to. One thing's for sure though – whenever Daniel Craig passes on the mantle, his replacement will have some damn big shoes to fill.

I took my Suzuki Goose for a service on Friday. As I suspected, it actually needed a bit of work as it looks as though the previous owners (both here and in Japan(!)) had never actually had it looked at – just ridden and ridden it to oblivion. As such, the oil that the mechanic drained out of the engine looked like treacle and it needs a new back brake disk and possibly a new chain. It's still legal to ride, but that shit costs money. In my defence, I instructed the mechanic to order a new brake disk and ring me when it arrives so he can fit it. Has he called? Nope. So fuck him. I'll go to a more reputable place to see if they can beat his quote, which was a tad high, considering his workshop is primarily a place that deals with gardening equipment and lawnmowers. Still, the service he did carry out has resulted in a marked improvement in performance for the Goose. She seems to run that little bit smoother, with less backfiring at high revs in a low gear, and he also sorted the headlight out. So it's not all bad – he just needs to sort his customer service and pricing skills. And maybe buy a pack of breath mints.

In a totally unrelated matter, I stumbled across a rather intriguing book this weekend. Or rather, I stumbled across a reference to a rather intriguing book whilst reading something online. I took this reference to Wikipedia and from there a bit of an obsession has developed. Basically, I was reading something on and the author made a reference to a book called House of Leaves. I read up about this House of Leaves and found myself absorbing the whole Amazon 'look inside' preview. I knew that as soon as I'd read the synopsis (I won't even bother here – it's way too complicated...but look here for yourself and tell me it doesn't sound awesome) I had to have it. So I've been and ordered a copy from Waterstones. The girl behind the counter who took my order said it should be ready for collection at the local store by today at the latest, but because I'm in Gloucester (incidentally, the only branch in the West Midlands not to hold a copy of House of Leaves), I know for a fact that it won't be there when I go in at lunchtime. That's because Gloucester, in every way imaginable, is a shitty place to live and this is just one way of illustrating it. But I've already covered that at great length. Unfortunately, the arrival of House of Leaves in Waterstones (whenever that may be) means that my current book (the second in the Night Angel trilogy) will have to go on hiatus.

Oh, and happy Halloween. If there can be such a thing.


As predicted, I went to Waterstones at lunchtime to collect my book and they didn't have it. To add insult to injury, the 'customer service' guy didn't even know when it'd be delivered for collection! I was told on Monday that it'd be there today! There is no way it takes 3 days for a book to be sent from one Waterstones branch to another, especially when the one in the next town has a fucking copy! Just another reason I hate Gloucester with all my heart. I looked on the Waterstones website to see which local stores have copies of House of Leaves, and yep - you guessed it, every single branch in the entire county (and the surrounding counties) have 1 or more copies of the fucking thing sitting on shelves. Just not the one here, where I live, in this miserable shit hole. God I can't wait to leave this:

Gloucester 'city' centre, October 2012

Waterstones just called me. My copy of House of Leaves was sent to the Yeovil store instead of the Gloucester store. I guess its an easy mistake to make, seeing as the words Yeovil and Gloucester look so fucking similar.

Friday, 26 October 2012

This Is Just A Tribute

Chances are that if you'd gone into the armed forces careers office in Portsmouth between 2009 and 2010 (vagueness is my middle name), with an interest in either joining the navy or telling somebody that you are, in fact, related to the royal family and demand to be given a pilot's licence (this happened on one occasion. The bloke in question was told that regrettably, we didn't offer pilot's licenses to people who wandered in off the street smelling of urine and dressed like an explosion had gone off on a charity shop. Or anyone for that matter); that you would have been asked to take a seat across a desk from myself. Still with me? Ok. That's because I worked as a careers advisor for a brief period and it was my job to have first contact with potential recruits and to give them information about the different types of jobs that were available in the navy.

I also had to answer a whole host of ridiculous questions about ships and numbers of press-ups needed to be done in training, and whether you could get wifi in the middle of the Atlantic...and these were usually coming from worried parents who didn't want little Johnny running away to sea without first getting a good idea of what to expect. Anyway. Whilst I was in that job (it was about a year and a half), I worked with a Royal Marine who did the same job as me, but whom offered advice to young lads who wanted to join the marine corps. We had a really good laugh most of the time and used to chat about some really (well, pseudo) in-depth subjects, ranging from politics and films, to whether or not there are secret bases on the moon mining unobtanium. 

Sometimes the job was horrendously monotonous, and as the two lowest ranked people in the office we usually got tasked off with the shittiest jobs you can imagine by our superiors (including making the tea on almost constant rotation). Happily, me and this marine got on like a house on fire and would spend about 70% of the time in the office bitching and moaning and messing around and trying to make the job more enjoyable. One time we found a box of old plastic and paper flags (they had outdated navy/marines badges on them and would've been used at recruitment events and road shows of yore) and built a replica of the Eiffel Tower out of them in the middle of the office, much to the annoyance of the army Major who ran the place. He would constantly berate me for still buying Dreamcast games on eBay, even though he would read my Dreamcast Junkyard posts laughing his head off. Basically, the guy was a really good bloke to work with and he made it bearable spending every day in such a boring office, and hopefully I had the same effect on his working day too. 

Because I was pretty new to Portsmouth and he was actually from there (well, Havant – a town just up the road), he would invite me round to his parents' house at weekends for BBQs, play Modern Warfare etc, or we would just meet up for a few beers with his other non-military mates. So yeah – if I hadn't met this guy, my life in Portsmouth would probably have been pretty dull. I would count the guy as a friend. 

His name was Corporal David O'Connor, and the Ministry of Defence yesterday released the details that he had been killed, along with Corporal Channing Day, whilst on patrol in Helmand Province, Afghanistan. 

I hadn't spoken to Dave for ages, just exchanged a few random texts with him every now and then, and we eventually (and inevitably) drifted apart what with my departure from the services. What is very poignant though, is that the other day I was randomly looking at old photographs I've got on my computer and came across a few folders of pictures of us messing about on nights out in Portsmouth, and of him trying to get a mutual friend's pet snake to wrap itself around my head whilst I was passed out drunk on a couch. It's true that whenever somebody dies or is killed, that the press-releases from friends and family are unanimous in their praise for the victim, and I'm usually indifferent simply because I didn't know them. In this case, however, I can totally agree with the heartbreaking testimonies of how much of 'hoofing' bloke Dave was. 

Even though I only worked with him for a year and a half, and it was hardly in a warzone, I can see what kind of leader he must have been in theatre just by reading the tributes to him from his comrades at 40 Commando, and from my brief period as his oppo. 

Rest in peace mate.

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Frying Pan

Just looking at my calendar and I've seen that I only have five months left to endure in this dump. That's a relief. I was beginning to think this misery would never end. I don't know why I do it to myself, I really don't. I wanted to leave the military because I was sick of being surrounded with people with whom I couldn't have an intelligent conversation, and now I'm surrounded with...well no-one. I believe the phrase is 'out of the frying pan, into the fire.' 

I should have just gone home when I shed that uniform, but I thought I knew better, thought I could just transplant myself into a new town and instantly have friends and a social life and all that other shit you think you'll get when you move to a place with other sentient lifeforms. I found out several things the hard way – the most obvious one being that there aren't many sentient lifeforms in Gloucester, and the ones that do exist don't speak to you if your accent isn't the same as their weird medieval drawl. 

Honestly, it's driving me fucking mental – all I can think about is going home. It's got to the point where I can't even focus at work because all I can think about is how much I despise being in this town, how much I hate them all. Just walking down the street forms a ball of pure hatred in the pit of my's taking over my life. I guess it's because there literally is nothing else in my life apart from going to work and going to the gym/running. That's it. That is my existence. And it's horrible. True, I get to see my girlfriend a few times a month...when I brave the horrors of the motorway/wind/rain and mud-strewn pot-hole riddled 'roads' for 3 hours every weekend (well, 6 hours if you factor in the return journey as well) on the motorbike. I'm so fucking fed up...probably why I'm struggling to actually find anything to write about other than how shit everything is, because at the is. It's like nothing else exists except my desire not to live in this place any more. Fuck the job, fuck everything – just get me out of here. 

When I do get a rare moment of clear level-headedness and actually think about my situation, the answers seem so clear and easy to grasp: jack the job and fuck this place off. Surely mental well-being and a social circle of friends and family is far more important than having something to put on a fucking CV?! I don't know. I'm just pouring my slightly mentally-deficient thoughts out onto the internet. Hopefully, I can look back on this in the future (much how I sometimes look at the archived posts and recall what I was feeling at the time I wrote them) and then laugh heartily (or maybe maniacally) about my ill-fated decision to try to make a life in a new (crap) town. Anyone who is thinking of trying this themselves should think long and hard. In some cases, it may be a risk worth taking, especially if the new location is a town or city that actually has a pulse. If it isn't though, think about how you'll cope with the long evenings of your own company and lack of anything to fill your time with. You'll probably end up hating your very existence and start writing overly negative, world-hating blog posts about your experience. 

In other news, I did finish the book I've been reading. It's called The Way of Shadows by Brent Weeks and is the first book in the Night Angel trilogy. I usually stick to science fiction when it comes to literature, but this book is a bit of fantasy novel set in a Tolkien-esque world of magic and war. It tells the tale of a young lad who is brought up in the slums but ends up becoming a kind of assassin's apprentice, and ultimately a master of killing (with a few magical powers too) that can (probably) change the fate of the world. It's a great read, and I recommend it to anyone who likes to root for the underdog. I've just started the second book in the series and hopefully it'll be every bit as epic as the first one.

Thursday, 18 October 2012

Icewind Dale

Sadly, this post isn't about an ancient PC role playing game, so if you came here after googling that title - I apologise. That's apologise, with an 's' - not a 'z.' Fuck off auto-correct. I went back up to Manchester at the weekend on the motorbike. I set off on Friday afternoon hoping to avoid the traffic on the motorway (it's always, always congested around Birmingham. Without fail. I bet it's congested right now, actually), but on the way to the M5 I discovered that my back tire was flat. It didn't look particularly 'down,' but when I was riding, the back end just felt 'funny.' Not Joe Pesci 'funny,' just a bit unstable. I stopped a few times and looked at it and pressed it with my thumb, and it looked and felt OK to my novice eyes/thumbs...but I called in to a garage before my junction and asked if a mechanic could have a quick look at it. Turns out it was completely void of any air whatsoever. Completely flat. He pumped it up with his little hand held squirty-gas thing (technical terminology, right there) and it went rock solid...and the ride quality improved dramatically. Leads me to wonder whether it's been flat the whole time I've had it, as truth be told, it's felt a little bit unstable the whole time. With the CBF, you could instantly see if you had a puncture because the tires were quite thin, but with this bike's big fat tires, it's hard to tell. Unless you get a bloke with a pressure gauge to check for you. So – note to relatively new motorcyclists: check your tires. If I hadn't just happened to pass that garage, I probably would've continued on to the motorway and then cranked the bike up to 70 – 80mph with a flat tire...and who knows how badly that little scenario could've ended.

The weekend passed with little incident – saw my myriad nephews and nieces and brother and sisters, saw some friends on Saturday night and then came back. The ride back was particularly horrible, though it had nothing to do with traffic jams or a flat tire – it was down to the fucking gale-force winds that threatened to blow me sideways off the road almost continuously. Seriously, the trees at the sides of the motorway were bending over with the force of the fucking wind and at one point just past Stafford, the back wheel actually shifted from under me and I thought I was dead. I managed to keep control and get the bike straight again, but fuck me – what is it with the damned weather this year? It feels like mother nature is throwing everything at me: January – February, when I first started riding, the weather was stupidly cold – to the point where I was wearing 3 pairs of gloves to keep feeling in my hands. March – September it rained almost constantly, with a little bit of wind and sleet thrown in for good measure, and now we've hit October, the wind seems to be wanting to get in on the act. The kind of wind I've only ever seen in news reports. And it's always blowing against me – never behind me, making the ride actually bearable. So, not only is riding a motorbike loud and cold and (to be honest) a little bit uncomfortable, now I've got to hold on for grim death because the wind doesn't want me to stay upright. Makes me wonder why I fucking bother to be honest. Oh, wait – petrol is still £1.40 a litre. That's why.

Went back to that shopping centre in Bristol this week to try to use some more of my vouchers. I'm probably in an enviable position in that there's not really anything I want or need. I've got a fuck load of gadgets, and enough I bought a travel towel for my planned Thailand trip in early 2013, and an iTunes voucher. Never used an iTunes voucher before, but it's pretty straight forward really – you just scrape the silver strip off the back and input the code that's revealed. So what did I get from the store? Bit of a mixed bag really. Got the new Muse album, The 2nd Law. And it's a bit cack. Several of the tunes are complete rip-offs of Queen songs, and the rest are, in the main, floaty high pitched dross with a few guitar riffs thrown in. There are one or two semi-decent tracks, but this is a world away from their last good album, Black Holes and Revelations. Their previous effort was underwhelming too... so might give Muse a miss from now on. The others I got were the new Motion City Soundtrack offering, Simple Plan's latest, an album from a band most people have never heard of but actually write some of the best punk/pop I've ever heard – The Click Five, and the latest album from Nas. I'm not a massive fan of the rap genre, but Nas' stuff is quite good in my opinion. Hence the purchase. So there you are. A few near-death experiences and some iTunes purchases. An action-packed weekend I'm sure you'll agree.

Friday, 12 October 2012


An actual quote I heard on BBC Breakfast this morning: “Of course, there will be no Jimmy Savile trial...because he is dead...” Quality investigative journalism right there. Speaking of the BBC, I actually have something positive to write about the organisation today, and can sum it up in one word: Cuckoo. Wait – I haven’t gone mad (yet). Cuckoo is the name of a new BBC 3 sitcom...that’s actually funny! Gasp!

BBC sitcoms are usually something I avoid like the plague, simply because they are, in the main, about as funny as testicular cancer. Boring, tired old writing, predictable ‘jokes’ and a lead character played by either Lenny Henry, Nicholas Lyndhurst or Martin Clunes. Yawn. It’s ‘safe comedy’ written by middle aged, middle class blokes aimed at middle aged, middle class women (see, most of the ‘jokes’ are usually at the expense of the bungling father-figure in these sitcoms).

In a stunning break from the norm, Cuckoo tells the story of a middle class, 2.4 children family living in suburbia. Everything seems fine, until the daughter returns home from a pre-university gap year with a bloke she met whilst travelling. Thing is, this bloke is a new-age hippy type called Cuckoo and is totally at odds with everything the head of the household stands for. True, it sounds like the most formulaic dross you’ve ever heard, but it is saved by the outstanding comedy talents of both Greg Davies (the big guy who plays the teacher in The Inbetweeners, the Deputy Mayor from We Are Klang and general top-class stand up comedian); and the American comedian/actor/singer/songwriter Andy Samberg, who you may remember from that epic Lonely Island song I’m On A Boat. No? Here:

The premise is that Greg Davies’ father character thinks that Cuckoo is several leagues below the kind of guy his daughter should be shacked up with. Cuckoo doesn’t believe in working for a living, constantly spouts incomprehensible pseudo-philosophy and generally acts like a bit of an arse. He’s Swampy the eco-warrior crossed with every annoying wanker you’ve ever known. And the clashes between the two, with the rest of the family caught in the middle, are fantastic. The best episode thus far though, involves the accidental ingestion of ecstacy pills and the ensuing embarrassing ‘high dad’ shenanigans. Fucking brilliant. The first few episodes of Cuckoo are available on BBC iPlayer and I really recommend giving this series a watch. 

Another new(ish) TV prog I’ve enjoyed recently is the new series of Red Dwarf. It’s been a long time coming, and isn’t made by the BBC (we have that old stalwart of the Top Gear repeat Dave to thank for this), and I’ve only seen episode 1...but I was pleasantly surprised and actually laughed out loud several times. It’s too early to say whether this will be as good as the older series (except the series 7, which was shite), but things are looking good going off first impressions.

Thursday, 11 October 2012

Wake Up Call

Hmm. Trying really hard to think of something positive or mildly humorous to write about, but it’s proving difficult. This probably because all I can actually think about is sacking my job off, stashing all my meagre possessions in a self storage cube and then fucking off travelling for a while. I should never have bought that Lonely Planet guide to Thailand last week. Just looking at the pictures of bustling cities and tropical island paradises has ignited within me a desire to leave this cursed place far, far least for a few months. 

This desire probably wouldn’t be so bad if I wasn’t hundreds of miles away from most of my friends, girlfriend and family, and have virtually no social life whatsoever. At least if I was in Thailand or some other far flung exotic idyll, I’d have a whole new culture to explore, new things to see and be able to discover a whole new country. Which, I’m sure anyone reading this would admit, is way, way better than being stuck in a tiny, unfriendly, run-down ‘city’ in the west of England, where it does nothing but rain incessantly and nothing ever, ever happens. In case you wondered where I’m living at present, it’s a place called Gloucester. And I’ve grown to despise the place in the few months I’ve been here. 

Understand that I only moved here to be closer to my job (as described in a previous post), and at first I found the place to be quite alright, if not spectacular. The ‘city centre’ has quite a few places of historical interest, including the oldest timber-framed medieval building in (I think) the world, an impressive cathedral, various ruined priories and blue plaques everywhere you look. There’s some serious history knocking about – even the street layout in the main shopping area is faithful to how it was back when the place was a Roman citadel. The thing is, Gloucester must be one of the most run-down places I’ve ever been to. Apart from the historical sites, there is very little else to recommend about Gloucester and I really regret moving here from a city as impressive as Bristol. Being a Mancunian and all, I have a certain image in my head of what city life should be like – having a social life, places to go, things to do...all things that since moving to this particular ‘city’ have all become glaringly absent from my existence. 

You may have also noted the use of apostrophes when I describe Gloucester as a ‘city.’ That’s because it doesn’t really qualify for such a prestigious moniker in my opinion. You can see from one set of hills to the other with the entire settlement in the middle, and the only high-rise building is the fucking cathedral! There is nowhere that can be considered an ‘upmarket’ area – the whole place looks like it was built in the 1960s and then just left to rot alongside the ancient structures. There are whole swathes of wasteland all over the place, and everything just seems riddled with decay. Old railway sidings full of rusty carriages, old red-brick industrial units with shutters permanently down and boarded up pubs with crisp bags, empty beer cans and leaves blowing around in doorways. Even the ‘new’ places, such as the quays, are just full of empty retail units. 

What I guess I’m trying to say is that Gloucester is not, by any stretch of the imagination, a ‘cosmopolitan’ city. There is no nightlife, no real social scene. I have tried to be social, going out to the few pubs...but who wants to meet people in pubs? The centre is absolutely full of chavs and tracksuit clad old men and people drinking cider at 2 in the afternoon. There are very few social activities to engage in here, other than drinking, so if you turn your back on that shit – you’re fucked. So you can probably see why I’m really desperate to get away from the place and return home where most of my friends and family are, and if it means giving up my job (which I have no real issue with, apart from the location of the building – i.e. Gloucester), then so be it. There will be other jobs. And there is Thailand. I just need to get the fuck out of this hole and start having a normal, healthy existence again. Watch this space.

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

I Shit You Not

Ok, I wasn't going to do this. But fuck it. What's the internet for if not exposing how vile, disgusting, repulsive and abhorrent human beings really are? Here's the deal. I rent a room in a flat. The other guy who lives here is also the landlord - he owns the flat. I find living where I do fairly OK for the most part...except for one thing. The landlord (who shall remain anonymous...for now) has a problem. A problem the likes of which I have never, ever encountered. Even after six years in the fucking navy:

Yes, he leaves these kinds of stains on the toilet roll. How? I really don't care to find out, but I must admit that it's a totally new experience for me. I have never encountered this kind of thing, so I'm a bit unsure of how to react to it. In case you can't guess, those stains on the inside of the communal bogroll are shit. Human shit. From his arse. On the communal bogroll. What. The. Fuck.

It doesn't even end there. Oh no. I'm constantly having to wipe the toilet seat to get rid of the strange brown stains that seem to appear at random. And one time I found a clod of faeces the size of a pound coin stuck underneath the seat.

Look at what I have to deal with. LOOK AT IT.

Taken 2: Far

Half a Guinness. Now.
Let me make this clear: I really enjoyed the first Taken movie. Actually, scratch that - I thought it was brilliant. It's basically an hour and a half of Liam Neeson doing a really shit American/Irish/who-fucking-knows accent whilst wandering around Paris beating the shit out of Albanians and rescuing his kidnapped daughter from a life of sex slavery. That's pretty much it. There are loads of really cool fight scenes, shoot outs, car chases...and to be fair, the story is perfect for this kind of mindless action movie. Liam Neeson is a man who possesses a very particular set of skills, he just wants his daughter back...or he will find you - and he will kill you. If you haven't seen this movie, get the fuck off the internet  and go find the DVD in a bargain bin somewhere. I'll wait.

Right - now we've got that out of the way, I'll begin. Taken 2 is fucking wank compared to the first one. It's a step too far. The first movie was acceptable, even with it's slightly outlandish plot, because it pretty much just came out of nowhere. Taken just appeared and it was all leather jackets and bent Parisian cops and explosions...and just a guy trying to rescue his little girl. Taken 2 is pretty much the same...but it just feels a little bit old. They've taken (hehe!) the plot of the first movie, tweaked it slightly, and then shat out a half-arsed cash-in. Sure, there are fights, a few car chases and Liam Neeson skulking around in a leather jacket smashing people's faces in with iron bars...but it just feels so hackneyed. It's like the director thought "well, they liked this shit in the first one, so here's some more!" Well, prick - the first film at least retained a (admittedly very slight) grip on reality. It didn't involve the lobbing of grenades around one of the most heavily populated cities in Europe...with no repercussions. It didn't involve a chase scene that lasted 10 minutes and consisted of constantly repeated sound bites of Liam Neeson shouting "go...faster!" while his daughter squealed "I can't!" (she could - she's driving a fucking Mercedes). It didn't climax with Neeson pushing a bloke's head onto a coat hook. Taken 1 was an out and out revenge movie and for that I salute it. It doesn't pretend to be anything but. Taken 2 on the other hand has some pretentious crap about the father of the tortured child kidnapper from the first film (the guy rigged up to the mains by his knees) coming out of retirement to find and kill Neeson and his family. This is nonsensical on so many levels, but there we are.

I noted that several of the reviews I had read gave Taken 2 a pretty harsh time, but I put this down to the overly negative view most 'professional' reviewers have when it comes to anything that isn't shot in black and white with a Spanish soundtrack. Upon viewing it myself, I have to say that, even as an action film Taken 2 is below par. And the final scene? Don't get me started. Go and watch it yourself and tell me it's anywhere near as good as the first one. If you disagree, know this: I have a very particular set of skills.

Monday, 8 October 2012

Weekend Endevours

Went down to Bristol on Friday to collect my prize from the Heart FM competition I won after last week’s half marathon. The prize was £1000 in shopping vouchers for anywhere in Bristol city centre, and they could be split across five different stores. I did a little bit of research into which shops I might want to get vouchers for, but as I’m an indecisive twat at the best of times, I opted to get Cabot Circus vouchers. For those who don’t know, Cabot Circus is a new(ish) shopping mall in Bristol that is kind of like the Bristolian version of the Manchester Arndale, and is named after the famous Italian explorer Giovanni ‘John’ Cabot. He set sail from Bristol in the 1400s and is widely reputed to be one of the first Europeans to set foot on the American mainland. How thrilled his spirit must be to have a shopping centre named after him. So yeah, I got the vouchers as gift cards that could be used in any of the shops in the Cabot Circus complex. Before I could go off in search of 'stuff' though, I took part in a photo shoot for the local newspaper (The Bristol Post) and also for the Heart FM website where I had to hold a load of shopping bags stuffed with towels to simulate, er, shopping. Twas all very amicable, and I would like to thank the staff from Heart for the prize...even if the chance of any of them actually reading this dirge is miniscule. Off I popped then, to Cabot Circus. 

The first place I went to was H & M. I looked at the garishly hued men’s clothing department and quickly decided that I’d rather be tried as a 12th Century heretic than wear any of their clobber, although I did need some new socks so I picked up a pack of 12 and headed to the cash desk. I handed over my gift card and the girl behind the counter just stared blankly at it. She tried to process it as a normal debit card and it wouldn’t work, so she went off to speak to a manager. After about 5 minutes, she came back and declared that the shop didn’t accept Cabot Circus gift cards. A little confused, I left H & M and went into Next, which was next door, funnily enough. I tried to purchase a pair of jeans...only to be told that they didn’t accept gift cards. Onwards I went, to the Apple Store, where I found a rather nice iPod armband running thingy. Tried to buy it...couldn’t because the little mobile chip and pin things that the Apple ‘geniuses’ carry around with them don’t accept gift cards. 3 shops...3 times I’m told that my prize is useless. I almost fucking exploded with rage at the guy. 

With that, I marched off to the customer information desk within Cabot Circus and told them that no matter where I went, none of the shops were accepting my gift card. The staff there were actually pretty helpful and explained that every store within the mall had signed up to the scheme and that they should all take the cards. With that, one of them went back to H & M with me, verbally bitch-slapped the staff behind the counter and made them ring the socks through (that were still on the counter where I’d left them 20 minutes earlier). Lo and behold, the card suddenly worked! I had some new socks! I thanked the woman who had accompanied me and she assured me that if I had any further problems using the gift card, that she’d be back to help. I had more problems with staff who didn’t know how to process the gift card, but they were generally overcome after several calls for management staff etc. In the end, I managed to get a few useful items including a new rucksack (for next year’s expedition to Thailand), a Lonely Planet guide to Thailand, a few T-Shirts and a few birthday presents for my niece. I didn’t spend the lot – how could anyone spend £1000 in a day?! I just got a few things I actually needed and bought a few presents for people. I still didn’t manage to get anything from the goddamned Apple Store though, as they insisted that their payment machines weren’t compatible with the gift card. Which kind of figures really – Apple and ‘incompatible with the mainstream’ go hand in hand. The thing that struck me was how many of the stores in Cabot Circus gave me crap and treated me like some kind of criminal just because I was using a gift card. They really need to sort that shit out as I’ve no doubt I’ll be the first or last shopper who comes into contact with untrained shop staff only to be told that particular stores don’t accept them...when in fact, they do. 

Saturday I was kind of dreading slightly, as it heralded the first proper long-distance journey on the Suzuki Goose. As documented here, the previous times I have taken it onto the motorway, it’s died on me. Granted, both times it was down to either having the fuel tap on ‘reserve’ or simply having no fuel, but like one of Pavlov’s dogs, I had become accustomed to associating the M5 with the spluttering and eventual packing up of the bike’s engine. I needn’t have worried though, as Saturday’s early morning trip down to Dorset went without any hitches at all. In fact, it flew by with alarming rapidity, thanks to the extra 100cc I now have at my disposal. The only things that were slightly unwelcome were the extremely cold wind and the mildly uncomfortable riding position of the Goose – it’s not really the kind of bike you want to be doing 200 mile journeys on unless you’ve got a well-padded arse. I don’t, so I was walking like John Wayne on arrival at my destination. Apart from that though – no problems at all. The bike itself is fairly tatty (what can you expect from a 20 year old machine?), but when it’s got enough petrol in, it runs like a dream and goes like greased lightning. Here are a few pictures I took of the Goose over the weekend: 

Saturday night involved a wedding party during which I discovered a taste for Gin and Tonic and Sunday was spent recovering from the G&T tsunami from the night before. Also saw the new Liam Neeson film Taken 2 on Saturday afternoon – next up: my rambling thoughts.

Thursday, 4 October 2012


It’s been a week since my last post. Thought I should here I am. Competed in the Bristol Half Marathon on Sunday. It went as well as expected, in that due to the amount of running I do generally, it was a piece of piss. My time was around 1hr 28mins, which isn’t a pb (that’s 1hr 26mins which I attained at Sturminster Newton a few months ago), but to be honest, Bristol isn’t really the kind of ½ marathon you can realistically expect to get a personal best time at, simply because of the massive number of people taking part. There were about 14,000 competitors this year, and even though I started in the first wave, the mass of people all trying to run down relatively narrow roads lead to a lot of congestion. The crowd thins out about halfway round the course as people begin to tire, but by then the impact from the slow pace of the first half of the race has taken a good bite out of your overall time. It was a good event though, and just as well run (no pun intended) as last year, so maximum kudos to the organisers, the marshalls, and the army cadets manning the water/energy gel stations. Not that I used them – the last thing I wanted was water after suddenly needing a massive piss about a quarter of the way into the race. I held it for the remainder of the course and just made a beeline for the portable bogs after I crossed the finish line. I think my overall placing was 417th, which when you consider that there were over 14,000 runners taking part, isn’t a bad result.

After the race, I took a stroll around Bristol city centre with my significant other. I do really like Bristol, actually. It’s not as big as Manchester or Birmingham, but it still has a proper ‘big city’ atmosphere. There are various districts with a distinct feel, there are loads of shops, bars, impressive historical’s just a great city to visit and I’m a bit annoyed that I didn’t explore it more thoroughly when I lived there for a few weeks at the beginning of this year. I say ‘a few weeks,’ but it was more like two months, and during that time, I lived in possibly the grottiest house share I have ever had. It was in a district called Brentry on the outskirts of Bristol, right near the Cribbs Causeway M5 junction, so it was handy for shopping and getting on the motorway...but pretty dire for everything else. The house was this big old mansion type place that had been converted into flats, I and I rented a tiny room on the ground floor. I knew it was only temporary, but the meagre amount of time I spent there was pretty shit for two reasons – the house itself, and the housemates. 

The room, as I mentioned, was fucking tiny. There was mold on the wall below a window that wouldn’t shut properly, so there was a constant cold breeze blowing in to accompany the incessant noise of a dog barking in a nearby garden. There was one toilet/bathroom that was shared by the four of us, but it was a game of chance actually being able to get in there seeing as one of the housemates insisted on taking hour-long baths (how fucking inconsiderate), whilst another had her lesbian partner staying over almost constantly. I had no problem with this, but it kind of grated when I wanted a shower or needed to take a shit and couldn't because a person who wasn’t even paying rent was using the toilet. indeed, I often had to use mother natures own water closet for a piss...but never dropped the kids off outside - that would've been a little too uncouth, even for a morally redundant urchin like me. On the subject of bodily functions, though, on one occasion there were drips of blood all over the bathroom floor. I was a little confused by this...until I saw the tampon packets in the bin and clicked. I almost gagged – and that happened on several occasions (the dripping of period blood all over the communal bathroom floor - not the gagging).

There was constant noise from the flat above (seriously, it sounded like they were moving a safe around...every night of the week) and the kitchen was a mess constantly, no matter how much I attempted to clean it. I even cleaned out the disgusting fridge...only to find it filthy again a week later. So in sum, it was a shit place to live, and the area itself was pretty crap – I had the petrol stolen out of my newly acquired CBF 250 after about two weeks of ownership. That isn’t to say I dislike Bristol – I fucking love the place. Clifton in particular holds a place in my heart as it’s just a cool area...but Brentry? No. 

But back to the point – I was walking around Bristol city centre and I spotted this red carpet with velvet barrier things around it, you know – like what they have at film premieres and shit. I went up to the girl manning it and she said it was a competition to win £50,000. All you had to do was approach the safe at the end of the red carpet and put in a random 6 digit number. Guess correct and walk away with the cash. I slowly punched in my date of birth with baited breath...and was confronted with the message that my combination was wrong. Dammit! On leaving the red carpet, another promoter asked if I’d like to enter some other competition and thrust an entry card under my nose. To be honest, I wasn’t even listening to her as I filled out the form – I was paying more attention to my girlfriend’s attempt to open the safe (which also ended in failure). I completed the card, and went on my way, not even knowing what I’d just entered.

Fast forward to yesterday. I get a phone call from somebody at ‘Heart’ (which I later discover is the local radio station running the competition I entered at the weekend), who excitedly tells me that I won! “Won what?!” I ask. £1000 in shopping vouchers to spend in Bristol City Centre! So tomorrow I’m going down to Bristol in order to collect my prize and have a publicity photograph taken. Weird how random shit just happens, eh?