Saturday, 15 October 2016

Bridge Day

Warning: I'm reminiscing about UK localities which probably won't make much sense to anyone not in the UK (or even not in Yorkshire/Lincolnshire!)

Apparently October 15th is "Bridge Day", however upon inspection this isn't actually a day to celebrate bridges, but a day to celebrate BASE Jumping.  BASE Jumping, the hobby where you hurl yourself off a building, cliff, or some other structure, and parachute/wingsuit fly down, it not something that I have any experience of - neither do I wish to! - so I'm going to defy the details of the day and cover bridges, and in particular, the Humber Bridge.

I typed "bridge" into my Google Photos and this is the only photo of the Humber Bridge that came up.  I could go and take a photo but I'm in my pyjamas and that just seems like too much effort.

The Humber Bridge, linking the north and south banks of the River Humber, opened in 1981 after the best part of a year of engineering and construction work, is one of the longest (and was the longest) single-span suspension bridges in the world.  The bridge connects the East Riding of Yorkshire to North Lincolnshire, allowing travel between.

I've always been mildly excited going on the bridge - often we took the bridge to go to the South bank, to go to craft markets (notably the Alford Craft Market, which my parents ran a stall at for years), or to get a fresh supply of Lincolnshire sausages (the best of which I venture to say are from Jacksons butchers in Louth - but every one in Lincolnshire has their own favourite butcher for their Lincolnshire sausages!)

Also, I love the road on the south bank leading to and from the bridge - a nice big dual carriageway, generally low on traffic, which is easy to drive.

The Humber Bridge even has its own Country Park, which is really nice to walk round.

But I think what I like about it is how I can get to a whole different county over the bridge.  Lincolnshire is different to Yorkshire, in a way that I venture the ridings of Yorkshire (East, West, and North) aren't.  Whilst the accents in Yorkshire gradually change and evolve as you travel from village to village, going over the bridge exposes you to a significantly dialect, where the phrase "Now then" can be a greeting, a comfort, or a warning, depending on the tone, and "Guide Thysen" is definitely a warning!

So I suppose for me the bridge is a transition, a starting place for a journey.  Do you have such a place?  You know where the comment box is :)

Tuesday, 11 October 2016

Guest Post - Banking Day

Today my dad blogs about doing some business banking!


Thanks to geralt for the picture!

And the sun rose upon a new day, and it was ordered that I must present myself to the bank and prove who I am.

The fact that I have done business with them for over 20 years is neither here nor there. They know where I live and I owe them money, but apparently I now have to prove who I am, show them my birth certificate, produce utility bills etc all supposedly authenticated by someone important such as an Optician, local government official, member of the armed forces, etc. Bank employees did not count as 'important'! The notion that an Optician is regarded as 'important and trustworthy' but an employee of the bank where I have done my weekly banking for over twenty years isn't, seems both bizarre and amusing.

However, it seems that potentially I could be an international criminal involved in white slave trafficking, money laundering, drug smuggling, the list is endless.

Can I prove that I am innocent? they seem to ask.
Are these people real? I reply.

The man who interviewed us at the bank - my wife also had to prove who, why, where etc accepted my wife's and my our proof of identity on the nod and seemed to be almost embarrassed that we had had to do this. He also said that regardless of the official letter I had received from 'Clueless Bank Head Quarters', he was regarded as 'important and trustworthy', and he could indeed verify my identity.

However, he had other questions to ask.

He needed full details of all foreign countries we buy goods from!

We don't!

Well, we placed a one-off order from a German toy manufacturer last Christmas, (a present for our grandson) which won't be happening again, and last summer - or was it the summer before, I forget - we bought some small statuettes from a firm in Paris, but 99.9% of our stock is bought in the UK.

"And what about Eire?" he asked, in a tone of voice suggesting that he had caught us red handed smuggling children to a sausage factory in darkest Pontefract.

We currently have two customers in Eire who buy from us - we don't buy anything from Eire.

"Oh", he said "Oh fine". Somewhat distractedly he waved his pen like a magic wand over a huge questionnaire, searching for a killer question that would prove our identity as international criminals.

"How much cash do you bank per year?" he asked.

Like the bank doesn't know? Maybe it was a trick question .. or possibly the bank's left hand is entirely clueless as to what the bank's right hand is doing?

If anyone knows how much cash we bank surely the bank will know? No, Really?

We bank very little actual cash (folding paper variety), as is the case with a lot of businesses virtually all our money is either cheques or cards through the card machine, at most £1000 per annum is banked and probably much less than that.

The bank chap looked utterly deflated, this sum was apparently trivial beyond expression, he was looking for people who bank hundreds of thousands or millions.

He looked rather discouraged and against my best efforts I couldn't help but feel sorry for him. Poor chap, he then spoke to us as if sharing a confidence with a friend, that he had been in Financial Services at the bank for 40 years!

No wonder he looked sort of 'withered'.

I made some half-hearted joke about it sounding like being trapped in hell and with no trace of a smile he said "yes, something like that"

He continued that being a 'banker' was no longer highly regarded these days and that he was sometimes reluctant to tell people what he did for a living.

I suggested that he tell them he was a pig farmer instead, at which he smiled vaguely.

Finally he said that he was pleased to have met such nice people, shook hands and thanked us for our time.

Yours faithfully - I forget my name, but I am certified a non-international criminal .... for the time being at least.

If you enjoyed this, why not pop over to and check out my parents business - they offer all kinds of weird and wonderful magical and new age goodies!

Saturday, 8 October 2016

All the fun of the Fair

Today we had a quick walk round Hull Fair, which for those of you who may not have your geographical maps centred on the city and port of Hull in the UK, is one of the largest travelling fairs in Europe (and I'm sure isn't necessarily known as "Hull Fair" when it travels somewhere else, but I only know it as Hull Fair - so Hull Fair I shall continue to refer to it as) and has been going for over 700 years.

Hull Fair is manic and noisy and absolutely jam packed with people trying scary rides, eating everything, and spending money.  It's ace.

I've been trying to remember how, if at all, the fair has changed since I first went.  The fair is still in the same location, there is possibly a greater selection of food vendors nowadays, you can get all kinds of food from german sausages to noodles, whilst all I can remember from my first visits is Bob Carvers (local chip shop - when visiting t'fair you have to get patty, peas and chips from Bob Carvers, it's the law), but apart from that I can't immediately see a great deal of difference, you've still got the dodgems, helter skelter, carousel, ghost house, hook a duck (£3 for hook a duck today!?! I know with the current foreign exchange non-UK readers will think that £3 is quite reasonable, but no, it's not) and various games where you can win an awesome prize, but that never seems to quite happen.

There's possibly less fortune tellers, I seem to remember there being perhaps half a dozen fortune tellers when I was little, and I could only see one today, but apart from that there didn't seem to be a huge amount of difference.

Perhaps that's part of the fun of the fair, that it is semi-traditional and the things that you enjoyed when you were young are still there now.  I perhaps spend a little more time analysing the prices of the various goods at the fair (do I go to this stall for eight doughnuts for £2, or this one for five for £1 - bearing in mind that the latter, whilst appearing a better option, might not apply sufficient sugar to the aforementioned fried dough).  And I couldn't leave without buying a bag of Wright's Brandy Snap (although that also carried a eye-watering price tag of £2.60 a bag, I remember when it would have been a quid at the right stall!)

At any rate, it was nice to have a walkaround, and there's every chance I'll stop by again sometime over the next week before the fair moves on.

Are you a fan of fairs?

Wednesday, 5 October 2016

Middle of the night

I'm a bit odd when it comes to sleep patterns.

I'm really good at sleep, it comes very much naturally to me. If you can give me a location, that I've been in, I've probably been asleep in it.  Places that would include:

  • Beds (unsurprising I know, but I've got to start the list somewhere)
  • Sofas
  • Floors
  • Many cars (generally when as a passenger, it should be said)
  • Whilst watching many films, both at home and at the cinema
  • A Jeep safari with branches hitting me in the head
  • Whilst underwater in a submarine

Fighting off sleep isn't something that I'm good at.  Sure, the usual suspect of coffee can be employed to kick start things for a little while, but as a rule when my body wants to sleep, if there isn't some pressing reason for me to be awake, I let sleep happen.

The downside of this is that I won't feel tired when I should be asleep - this morning as I write this, for example, I woke up about half 2 in the morning, after falling asleep at about eight in the evening.

I know that as a result I'll probably be ultra-tired when it gets to this evening, but I'll desperately be trying to keep awake in order to try to get my sleep pattern back into some kind of order.

The thing is, I quite like being awake in the middle of the night.  I'm not a night owl - I'm much more of a morning person - but waking and getting up early is quite nice. I'm generally most creative when I first wake up (useful for blogging) and when the rest of the house is still sleeping you're able to do all those things that you'd like to do, such as watching several episodes of House or spending an hour looking at a website on train journeys.

I remember reading something about how the brain handles memories - apparently it basically takes everything in, and somehow packs it so that all the stuff that happens every day, the non-noteworthy stuff, sort of merges together, whilst the unusual stuff stands out more.  That's why you can often recall a holiday from years ago day-by-day, while what you had for lunch on a certain day last week is difficult to recall.

There was a point to all this... but, ironically, I've forgotten!

Anyway... how about yourself? What's your favourite time of the day? And how do you sleep? A comment would be awesome :)

In other news, I've just released the latest video in my "Best Ever Games" series, looking at Final Liberation: Warhammer Epic 40,000. Enjoy :)

Saturday, 1 October 2016

Return to Robin Hoods Bay

So yesterday I went to Robin Hood's Bay with my dad.

Robin Hood's Bay, or RHB for acronym lovers, is a touristy fishing village in North Yorkshire in the UK, which I actually recently got to guest blog about.

Bearing in mind that we visited on the last day of September, we were extremely lucky with the weather, I had a jacket in the car but that's exactly where it stayed!

I first visited Bay I think when I was about 12 or 13, and for several years Bay was the family holiday.  I even went to stay by myself when I was about 20, with the notable memory of cooking a pizza with the polystrene base still attached (I was under the influence of alcohol at the time), and then not being able to turn the gas oven off so spending all evening with the oven door open to let the heat out.  In the morning I had no trouble whatsoever turning off the oven, it's very strange.

Since then we generally try to go every year, if even for only a day.

The mist was rolling off the hills opposite, which I tried to capture with various settings on my phone camera, but all I managed to do was make it brighter, so here's one of the automatically optimised pictures.  Which is quite nice.
We ventured down onto the bay itself for a little while, as you can see in the photos it was really nice, with just a touch of breeze.

My dad declared that he was going to have a paddle, and by the time he realised just how cold the water actually was it was too late, he was committed!

And of course no trip to Bay would be complete without a visit to a couple of pubs for some good quality beer!

My pint of Old Peculier, absolutely delicious.

I think the only problem was that we didn't get enough time there - I'm hoping to sort out something to get a day or two in the village, RHB is possibly one of the best places in the world to relax and unwind, but to do that you need the time to do it, so I hope to be able to get perhaps a cottage for a night or two in the low season.

Do you have a favourite place that you like to return to?

For more about Bay, why not check out my dad's post about the folklore of the village :)

Wednesday, 28 September 2016

Beer Festival and Alchohol

Last weekend I ventured into the wilds away from my home in the metropolis of Hull, out to North Ferriby, which was holding a beer festival, the "Ferribeer Fest".

I've always quite liked the idea of going to a beer festival, around here (and in many places I'm sure) a lot of the local towns and villages tend to have one at some point over the summer, and it seems much classier to go to a beer festival and sample some quality ale, rather than just go to the pub for inebrative purposes!

The event was free to attend and was well attended, and there was something like 27 or so different real ales, lagers, and ciders to try, which myself and my father did our best to tackle, although sadly I think we only managed somewhere around 14 between us before we started to unaccountably struggle!

Selfie taken at some point. We'd ensconced ourselves into a cubby hole suitably nearby the bar to give us a wall to lean on.
Obligatory pump shot.

I don't drink cider very often, but the Galtres ciders (produced by Orchards of Husthwaite from North Yorkshire) particularly stood out for me, they had a really nice flavour and I'd definitely think about getting some again.

Action shot. No idea what beer was being drunk at this point.

There was a band which was nice.
 And after the festival we headed back to my parents house, via a field that we had to cross to get to a pub so that we could ask for directions. I was feeling somewhat devil may care at this point and had what I've always known as a "Smartie" - a mixture of Tia Maria & orange juice, which takes the flavours of coffee and orange, and bizarrely turns them into chocolate.  I don't understand it either.

Field that we decided to cross.  I have no memory whatsoever of taking this photo. I think my smartphone must have taken matters into its own hands.
In other news, spotted the below sign the other day at an outdoor rest area - I wondered if the sign manufacturer was under the influence at the time of production...

Friday, 23 September 2016


Today is apparently the 358th anniversary of the first advertisement for tea in Britain, albeit at the time being described as a "China drink".

Tea is the quintessential British drink, I venture to say.  There's nothing I like so much as the idea of afternoon tea, reviving yourself after a hard day of writing letters and walking the estate by taking on a pot of tea and a selection of cakes and sandwiches.

There has been many recipes over the years on how to make the best cup of tea, and I'm sure that they are all very good.  But allow me to put forward my method:

One - Kettle on

Don't fill it up too much, or you'll be waiting forever.

Two - Teabag in a mug

The choice of teabag shows your social standing.  If you're using square teabags, you're salt of the earth. Pyramid ones are for those aspiring to the aristocracy.  Everyone else has a decent round teabag.

Three - When the kettle boils, fill the mug about 75% full

Not too full!  You can always put a splash in later if needed.

Four - Milk in

Don't even think about telling me that the milk should go in first.

Five - Sugar if required, otherwise, stir to a good colour

The right cup of tea should be a decent beige colour, not quite brown, but heading that way.  White is a no-no.

Six - Drink it!

Ideally accompanied with a rich tea, digestive (even though you have to bite the edge of it before you can dip it in your mug), or a Chocolate Oreo if you're just a crazy fool who likes living life on the edge.


 Tea - how do you take yours? Drop me a line in the comments :)

Thursday, 22 September 2016

Melted chocolate

So, I was going to a meeting last week, and decided, being a team player, to pick up a pack of biscuits en route to take for everyone to enjoy.

I decided to purchase a pack of KitKats (as an aside did you know that in the Dubai airport duty-free, 1 tonne of Kit Kats are sold every day?) put them on the passenger seat in my car and immediately forgot all about them, going to my meeting without them.

It was a hot day, and when I returned to my car several hours later, the packet of KitKats was decidedly warm to the touch.

I took them home, and put them in the freezer for a day with the hope of salvaging them.

When I took one out, it looked like this:

Not too bad, you might surmise, the silver foil looks a little crumpled, but otherwise not too shabby.

However, inside they had essentially moulded into a single lump of chocolate, with two biscuits hidden somewhere within, plus they had taken the opportunity to absorb as much of the foil wrapping as possible.

How long does it normally take you to eat a Kit Kat? A minute? Two? If I'm in a hurry I could eat a two fingered KitKat in one bite, pop it sideways into my mouth, use my tongue to snap it in half and crunch the sucker into a chocolatey biscuit goodness.

These babies took a good ten minutes to eat, simply because you had to carefully extract tiny bits of foil from the confectionery, bits of foil which cheerfully ripped into even tinier bits of foil whenever you touched them.

You'll be pleased to know that the saga of the KitKats is now well and truly over, each one has ultimately done its duty and been eaten, and I feel that the world is a better place for it.

Sunday, 18 September 2016

AI and the future of work

I've gone a little bit thoughtful on this one, don't worry, in a couple of days I'm going to be talking about chocolate :)

I read this interview with Mike Lynch today, which mentions the company Luminance and how its AI can automate part of lawyers workloads, handling due diligence and other tasks, work which would often take up a great deal of time, freeing up lawyers to spend their time on the more complex and challenging elements of their role.

I view this as one of the steps on the road to having a society dependent on AI.  For decades now technology has been used to carry out tasks quickly and easily, like car assembly and other manufacture.  Now AI is coming in to automate the more routine elements of what, for the sake of this blog, I'll call "professional work" (not that I think that the work undertaken by lawyers or other professionals is more important than manufacturing, merely different).

It won't stop there.

Think of all the repetitive tasks in any office job.  In fact, not just office jobs - in any job.  The combination of AI and physical technology will result in machines able to carry out larger elements of any job.  Consider medicine - how much of the typical doctors work could be done by a sufficiently knowledgeable database, a computer able to analyse symptoms to produce an answer?

I foresee work as we know it changing massively over the next 2-4 decades.  Humans won't be needed for so much work - we will get to the point where technology is quicker, and most critically cheaper, to do so much. Society will have to come to terms with the reality that not everyone has to work.

I don't look upon this brave new world with fear.  It'll be fascinating - we should be able to run the world with every human suitably fed, clothed, and enjoying at least a minimum level of comfort.  We'll be set free to spend our lives creating, with our families, exploring, and thinking.

There will be huge challenges, of course.  The removal of the link between work and having a reasonable amount of money to live on, perhaps resulting in the provision of basic income, or the Finnish experiment currently being undertaken. The challenge of course will be to ensure that people are happy, that they still contribute in some positive way to society - but there would be opportunities also.

How many people are in jobs that they truly enjoy, and how many have ended up in jobs which are tolerable, maybe even reasonably pleasing, but not what they ever really wanted to do - and because of the position that we are now in (mortgages, families and the like) people are unable to consider retraining to a job that they might enjoy more?

Exciting times.
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