Saturday, 24 December 2016

Christmas Greetings!


Merry Christmas to one and all this fine day (Christmas Eve actually, as I type this).  We're on the verge of another Christmas Day, and all that it entails.

For me it'll be a fairly busy morning of opening presents, seeing my parents for a massive breakfast (rather than the traditional Christmas dinner my parents have a huge breakfast, and then snack as needed throughout the day), presents, seeing my gran, and then back home for the rest of the day, and some dinner later.

Featuring this year will be my Christmas cakes, one iced and with marzipan, one just iced, and one totally naked (except for tin foil which will hopefully be removed before anyone eats it!).  Hopefully they'll be nice, or at least the amount of alcohol in them will distract people :)

I'm quite tempted to have a session watching the Food Network tomorrow, bearing in mind their plan for the day:
In summary, 21 hours of Adam Richman eating well over twenty five pounds of food. It sounds amazing.

It's been ages since I made a video, so I finally did one this morning - it's a bit random, but hopefully entertaining, with a bit of Christmas-relating wittering, singing, jokes, and at one point the camera phone even gets abducted, which wasn't planned!



Anyway, I do hope that whatever you're doing, you have a good time over this holiday period.  Do, as always, drop me a comment, and let me know what you're up to!

Saturday, 17 December 2016

Twas the weekend before Christmas...

... and I've still got a fair few things to sort out before the big day.

Mainly wrapping presents, there's a few left to buy which my wife is doing today (in return I've been posting parcels for her latest sales from her Etsy shop - do take a look at www.denkaidesigns.com) but I'll need a good couple of nights of wrapping presents next week.  I quite like wrapping presents, if you've got some good Christmassy shows on the television it's quite nice.  I do need to buy a few cards also, we don't generally do cards for people, except for close family and friends, I'm feeling a little guilty as my son received loads of cards from his classmates which showed up in his book bag from his last day at school, it simply never occurred to us to do cards!  Perhaps we might get some "New Year" cards for everyone for when school starts again.

I'm writing this blog post whilst having some small amount of glitter on me - last night a few people from work went out (well, a lot of people from work went out actually last night, in various groups) and at one point I had glitter liberally sprinkled on me.  This morning I woke up, and my wife said "I think you need a shower."
 "I do?"
 "Or a wash at least."
 "Why, do I smell?" I asked - I didn't think I did, although I was feeling rather dehydrated from the night before.
 "No, you're covered in glitter."

I took quite a few photos last night, I have no idea why I took this one which appears to be of peoples feet.

For lunch me and my son went to the local cafe for a snack, I ordered him beans on toast and a bacon sandwich for me, when they arrived he declared that we should "split it" which, I discovered, doesn't mean share, it means he eats my sandwich and I can eat the beans on toast, unless he's still hungry after the bacon sandwich, in which case he eats both of them.

Looking far too happy as he eats my bacon sandwich

How are your Christmas preparations going?  Let me know if you're all sorted and just waiting for the big day, or if you're yet to start!

Finally, some excellent news, this is probably the last post where I say "Time is running out to vote for me in the UK Blog Awards 2017!"

Votes for the awards do have to be in by the 19th of December so if you haven't already voted, please head over to http://www.blogawardsuk.co.uk/ukba2017/entries/blog-thog and pop a vote in.  I'm shortlisted for 2 categories, Lifestyle and Digital & Technology, you can vote for both categories in one go from the link above.  It's only by your votes that I have a chance of getting shortlisted, so please do vote if you haven't already :) Apparently you can vote regardless of where you live, although it's the UK Blog Awards all that means is that the blogs have to be in the UK, not the votes.

Tuesday, 13 December 2016

Time Out


We've got a mouse in the house at the moment.  I'm not a fan of mice (read here for more) in the house, in the wild they're absolutely fine, but not in the house.

Anyway, I was in the kitchen this evening, and it decided to pop its head out from under a kitchen cabinet and look at me.  This particularly annoys me, as I'm convinced that it knows innately that what it ought to do is keep out of sight, and only run around when no one else is in the room, but it refuses to even do this, and is obviously only showing itself to frustrate me.  So I jumped up and down, banged on the counter, shouted at it, and prodded a knife under the cabinet where it was lurking, to show that I really meant business.

However, I'd overlooked that recently we've been very firm in enforcing the "no shouting" rule with my son recently, and he came in the kitchen, and told me to go and sit on the stairs on time out.

And my wife backed him up.  Off to the staircase I went.

At least I got a couple of photos out of it :)


Time is running out to vote for me in the UK Blog Awards 2017, votes have to be in by the 19th of December if you haven't already, just head over to http://www.blogawardsuk.co.uk/ukba2017/entries/blog-thog and pop a vote in.  I'm shortlisted for 2 categories, Lifestyle and Digital & Technology, you can vote for both categories in one go from the link above, thanks!  Basically in each category the eight blogs with the most votes get through to the final shortlist so every vote really does count! Thank you again :)

Saturday, 10 December 2016

Sleeping In

 Jane was on a desert island in the middle of the Pacific ocean, well it was perhaps not a desert island, but it was very nice, with the sun shining and all that sort of thing.
 Then a shark leaped out of the water and ate her. She tasted like chicken.

 Sorry, I'm trying to stay awake, and it's a bit difficult.

 You see, it's my night when I can stay up late, because in the morning I get to sleep in while my wife kindly gets up with the little one, and part of me is just determined to play on the computer for a while, because I can.  But I'm really good at being asleep - I've slept on a submarine, on a jeep safari, in far too many cars to count, sofas, floors... if I get a chance to sleep, I'll sleep.  Loads of TV shows, and loads of films, seriously, far too many films to count.

 The key thing seems to be whether my mind is being kept active.  For example, if I'm going somewhere in a car, I'll be awake, because I'm going to a place, and I'm thinking about what I'm going to do when I get there.  On the way back, I've done the thing I was going to do, and unless I have a reason to be awake (like if I'm driving, for example) I'll just go to sleep.

 Right now, I'm pretty tired.  As I write this it's 10pm here, and basically to stay awake I need sweet stuff, or coffee.  There's a bit of dinner left over, but I'm not in the mood for that, I need a shot of sugar or caffeine to keep me going.

(Writing pauses while I go and make a coffee, and eat two small chocolate balls)

(Writing continues to pause while I grab a blanket because it's getting chilly)

(The blanket smells)

(Sod it, let's crack on anyway)

 That's better.

 I've always suspected that we aren't designed to sleep the way we do, by staying awake for sixteen to eighteen hours straight, and then sleeping all in one go.  I bet that we're supposed to sleep in periods, yes perhaps with a longer period overnight, but with naps as well.  It's reasonable for young children and older people to snatch forty winks in an afternoon, I bet I could get used to having a nap too.

 Anyway, I'm going to struggle on :)  maybe I'll push through being tired and feel better. Or maybe I'll fall asleep at my desk!

Don't forget to vote for me in the UK Blog Awards 2017 if you haven't already, just head over to http://www.blogawardsuk.co.uk/ukba2017/entries/blog-thog and pop a vote in.  I'm shortlisted for 2 categories, Lifestyle and Digital & Technology, you can vote for both categories in one go from the link above, thanks :)

Friday, 9 December 2016

Be Warned...



My wife, you may be aware, has started making and selling needleminders, which are magnets used in cross stitch for holding fabric and retaining needles.  As is the requirement for anything nowadays, various social media channels have to be employed to maximise the visibility of my wife's Etsy shop (well worth a visit at www.denkaidesigns.com).

I don't often query my wife's decisions, because she is unquestionably both smarter and scarier than me, but this is an exception, because she has asked me to look after her Facebook page, as she handles the Instagram, makes videos, actually makes and sells the needleminders, and so on.

After warning her many times of the questionable wisdom of letting me loose on her page, I have accepted the challenge, and I have scheduled several posts to appear on her page (https://www.facebook.com/DenkaiDesigns) over the upcoming days.  And I welcome all suggestions on things to write about on her page, as things stand I've used the loosest of loose links to tie factoids to her hobby, writing posts along the lines of "It's probably going to be cold today... Cold like a needleminder that has been accidentally left in the fridge. Check out my Etsy shop to buy a needleminder, but don't leave it in the fridge!" so if you can think of any topical yet tenuous links to needleminders then please let me know.

So, if you would like to keep an eye on the nonsense that I've prepared for her page, do go and Like her Facebook page.  You might regret it, but don't say I didn't warn you.

PS I am absolutely delighted to be in for the public vote of the UK Blog Awards 2017!  What this means is that I need as many people as possible (yes, that includes you reading this) to vote for me, if you have 30 seconds, a name, and an email address, your vote could be the one that gets my blog up into the top 8 which will then be looked at by judges.  So it'd wonderful if you'd head over to http://www.blogawardsuk.co.uk/ukba2017/entries/blog-thog and put a vote in for me.  I'm shortlisted for 2 categories, Lifestyle and Digital & Technology, you can vote for both categories in one go from the link above, I would really appreciate each and every reader taking a minute to vote for me.  Voting ends something like the 19th of December, so vote soon!  Thank you :)

Tuesday, 6 December 2016

Windows Network Diagnostics

This evening I was editing a video to be uploaded, watching a YouTube video to pass the time, when my internet connection inexplicably died.

"But wait!" I hear you cry (maybe). "What about Windows Network Diagnostics?"

Yes, my browser suggested that I try Windows Network Diagnostics, and like a fool, I did.


I'd love to hear from anyone who actually had Windows Network Diagnostics fix their internet connection for them.  As far as I can see, what it does is showing you progress bars optimistically filling up, and in the meantime it tells you that it's doing various technical and positive sounding things, like "resetting IP configuration" and "flushing DNS".  It also makes you wait long enough so that you think it's actually tried to do something, and then finally it says "Troubleshooting was unable to automatically fix all of the issues found"., the result being that you think it's done its best to fix the problem, but the problem is beyond even the technical expertise housed within the Windows Network Diagnostics tool.

At any rate, I've no idea what my problem was, but restarting the computer fixed it.

Anyway, the main news today - I am absolutely delighted to be in for the public vote of the UK Blog Awards 2017!  What this means is that I need as many people as possible (yes, that includes you reading this) to vote for me, if you have 30 seconds, a name, and an email address, your vote could be the one that gets my blog up into the top 8 which will then be looked at by judges.  So it'd wonderful if you'd head over to http://www.blogawardsuk.co.uk/ukba2017/entries/blog-thog and put a vote in for me.  I'm shortlisted for 2 categories, Lifestyle and Digital & Technology, you can vote for both categories in one go from the link above, I would really appreciate each and every reader taking a minute to vote for me.  Thank you :)

Finally, I've got not one but two new videos out on my YouTube channel - one is me telling a couple of stories from when I went to Dublin a few years back, and encountered a Chinese health practitioner, and the other is from my recent Robin Hood's Bay roadtrip, and shows me and my dad's epic mini pool tournament, so if you want to relax watching two grown men tackle a tiny pool table, that's for you.

Saturday, 3 December 2016

Christmas Baking


This weekend we've decided to get cracking on the Christmas decorations.  The tree took a great deal longer than expected, as I couldn't find the lights from last year - reasoning that we'd had them a number of years and was due some new ones, I headed down to our local supermarket, and bought two packs of white lights for a reasonable amount of money (£6), returned home, and set them up.

Ready to decorate.
They weren't particularly impressive.  True, with the aid of a microscope, you could indeed identify a faint luminescence from within them, but otherwise they were pretty rubbish.  Fortunately my wife was out shopping, so I sent her a text message requesting that if she happened to be in the vicinity of a shop selling lights that she get some.

She returned later with the lights, we put them on the tree, decorated it, and it looks very impressive.

Then I found the old lights.

Anyway, to my main experience of the day - every year, I state that I am going to bake a Christmas cake.  And every year, I don't.  I don't do a great deal of cooking, and I do even less baking, generally restricting myself to turning out a few cupcakes once or twice a year.

This year, I decided, would be different.

After soaking a kilo of fruit in alcohol last night, I made the cake mix.  All went reasonably well, until I put in the flour.  Using scales, I measured the right amount of flour, sieved it in, and mixed it up, but it seemed like a bit too much.

Then I weighed the remaining flour, and discovered that I had somehow managed to put twice the required amount in.

I endeavoured to resolve this by putting in more of the other ingredients (butter, sugar, and eggs) to balance out the flour.  This resulted in an increased amount of cake mix (batter?) for cooking.

At this point I discovered from my wife that I actually needed proper cake tins to cook in, I couldn't just use any old metal tin I found lying around, so went to the supermarket to get some (this was the same visit as for the underpowered lights)

After baking for about an hour and a quarter, the cakes came out like this:


So, they appear edible, and, possibly with the exception of the one on the right, aren't overly burned.  They've had another douse of alcohol, and they're now wrapped in foil and resting in tins, awaiting further dousing over the forthcoming weeks, until they get iced a week or so before Christmas.  Whilst I'm clearly going to endeavour to eat all three of them myself, I should warn anyone who might be considering visiting our house over the festive period to think twice before accepting my offer of a slice of Christmas cake :)

Do let me know how your seasonal preparations are going, if you are indeed preparing for anything seasonal! And I should say that my wife has added some new lines to her selection of needleminders, do stop by www.denkaidesigns.com and check her things out :)

And if you want more Christmas stuff, my last post was all about Christmas cakes and puddings :)

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

The REAL Christmas question - cheese or no cheese?

EDIT: Brief explanation of what Christmas cake and Christmas pudding is: Christmas cake is basically a fruit cake, generally iced or covered with marzipan. It's often (although not always) quite heavily laden with fruit. Christmas pudding meanwhile is made up of various dried fruits (often soaked in alcohol) and mixed with suet and with various spices. Both Christmas cakes and puddings may well be made months in advance of Christmas, provided that the alcohol content is sufficiently high to prevent spoiling.

It's rapidly heading towards Christmas - less than one month to go - and in Castle Raven we are rapidly taking stock of what Christmas presents we have bought, and what is still to be purchased.

And the wonderful thing about the internet, and indeed blogging, is that you discover things that aren't the same in different countries. In the US nappies are called diapers, kettles aren't seemingly the essential piece of kitchen equipment that they are in the UK, and across most of the world people drive on the wrong side of the road, due to a French chap named after a brandy. Or something like that, history has never been my strong point.

However sometimes, you discover things close to home that you don't expect.

We were talking in the office today, and one of my colleagues was having difficulty understanding the difference between Christmas pudding, and Christmas cake - for reference, below are pictures of both:

By James Petts from London, England (Christmas pudding) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons


By James Petts from London, England (Christmas cake) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

But more shockingly, they were seemingly aghast at a common practice of ours, and many other people (I thought).

I always thought that it was quite usual for people to have cheese with their Christmas cake.  A decent wedge of Christmas cake, with a healthy slice of cheese - probably Cheddar, or Red Leicester, I would suggest - goes down very well on Christmas Day, accompanied with a nice glass of something.

My colleague couldn't understand the idea of cake, especially with icing, and cheese.  I wholeheartedly acknowledge that it does sound odd, but in practice it is delicious.  Several people in the office found the cake & cheese combo perfectly normal, while others rejected it.

So, I'd like to throw it out to you - do you have Christmas cake, and if so do you accompany it with cheese?  Or is this a horrible idea?  And does your family have any traditions that apparently are at odds with society?  Let me know in the comments!

Thursday, 24 November 2016

Thanksgiving!


The traditional Thanksgiving breakfast curry.  Well, it is when the night before Thanksgiving you have a takeaway.

I have a bit of a fascination with Thanksgiving, as a British person it always sneaks up on me a bit by surprise.  I think it's the combination of being near Christmas (in the UK we have NO holidays anywhere near Christmas, there's a day off in August and then a long, long stretch without public holidays until Christmas) and also being on a Thursday - with the exception of Christmas and New Years Day, all of our public holidays are on Mondays and Fridays.  The idea of having a holiday on a Thursday this close to Christmas is just a little hard to imagine.

We in the UK have got our heads around Black Friday, although it also seems wrong to me - In November and December, when we're buying presents for Christmas, we expect our retailers to gouge us on prices, and not have a day of big sales a month beforehand.  We believe that we deserve to pay over the odds for trinkets that will appear in massive sales on the 26th of December, because if we were REALLY organised we'd buy all of our presents in the January sales, wrap them up then, and then put them away in the attic for the following Christmas (just like that one relative/friend that we know that we would emulate if we weren't so disorganised)

At any rate, if you are celebrating Thanksgiving, I hope you have a great day, I'd love one year to experience (aka eat) a traditional Thanksgiving dinner and afterwards fall asleep in a chair while watching TV! If you're celebrating Thanksgiving let me know in the comments what's planned for your day :)

If you'd like to watch something funny, my wife's channel trailer for her YouTube channel is now live :)

Tuesday, 22 November 2016

www.denkaidesigns.com

 

Why am I looking so surprised at a blank computer screen, in this totally non-staged photograph?

It's because I've heard that my wife's Etsy shop is now online, and can be found at www.denkaidesigns.com, and my jaw has dropped simply in anticipation of the amazing things she's going to have on offer!

See how surprised I look when I actually get to the website!  My cup of coffee has even disappeared!

My wife Cherise is a keen flosstuber - if you're not familiar with the term, people who cross stitch, and vlog about their hobby, are called flosstubers.  She's been making videos for a few months now, over at youtube.com/denkai (I particularly recommend the bloopers at the end of most of her videos!)

However, she has very foolishly allowed me to edit her videos, so I make GIFs like this...

Cherise has recently started making needle minders, which cross stitchers use to hold their needles in place.  She's put a ton of work into the design of her needle minders and also into the packaging, so that they're like lovely little presents that arrive in the mail.  She's also looking at expanding her range so if there's something that you want which she doesn't have in her shop currently do get in touch with her.

Cherise's latest video, check it out here :)

For myself, I'm off to Sheffield tonight to act as quizmaster at the 2016 Student Challenge Quiz Night, which should be good fun!  One of the teams is coming with me in my car so I've had to ask that I don't get a copy of the questions until I reach the venue, so there can't be any question of favouritism :)

Saturday, 19 November 2016

The Robin Hood's Bay Roadtrip!

Having made it back from our epic Robin Hood's Bay roadtrip, it's time to blog :)

So, on Monday me and my dad went up to Robin Hood's Bay (RHB) in North Yorkshire for 3 days - RHB is a small fishing village, popular with tourists and known as historically being a home for smuggling!

Monday we spent in RHB, checking out the various pubs - of special note are the Laurel, Ye Dolphin, the Bay Hotel, and the Victoria Hotel.  This had been the first time for some years that we ventured into the Victoria, and had a very nice time, which included a weird bluey purple pint, and a quiz night, which we'll certainly be checking out again if we're in RHB on a Monday.

After a big Monday exploring the pubs, on Tuesday we were feeling a little sensitive when we went to Whitby, the nearest town to RHB, popular with tourists, and known for fishing, Whitby Jet, and Bram Stoker's Dracula.  Nevertheless, we checked out a lot of decent pubs, bought some presents, and enjoyed an excellent meal at The Humble Pie :)

And then onto Wednesday, which we spent in RHB, taking in a ghost walk but mainly chilling out with a few DVDs :)

Notable signs we saw:

1) The fish and chip shop which had a phone number - in fact, two phone numbers - to take bookings.  I never imagined that there was such a demand to book fish and chips!
2) The stairlift company that offered stairlifts, to rent or buy (again, never really thought that people would want to rent a stairlift, they've always seemed a fairly permanent piece of kit to me)
3) The sign we saw outside an office which was apparently for "The Moors and Whitby Prevention Hub" - personally I quite like both the Moors and Whitby, having an office dedicated to preventing them seems a bit harsh.

All in all it was a great opportunity to explore a couple of the places that we like so much in a bit more detail, there's some pubs in Whitby that I'd now definitely like to revisit, and it was great to just have a bit of time to relax and not do anything too taxing.

The trip wouldn't have been the same without our supporters - thank you to our amazing sponsors:
deano_1
cinders1980

And here's a few photos:
Bag packed!

View down onto Robin Hood's Bay

My dad with lots of glasses, somehow having fallen off his chair


Apparently the soup of the day was Beef Wellington, onion duxelle with a smooth chicken liver pate. Bit of a fancy soup if you ask me, I'd have been happy with tomato.

The bay

If this was a computer game, this would definitely have been a hidden area of some sort

I've also done a video of our time away which can be viewed at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mhf2PTUah_8&feature=youtu.be and there will also be one or two more videos coming that we recorded while out there :)


Saturday, 12 November 2016

Pizza


So, with all the exciting events occurring in the world at the moment, let's focus on one of them.

Yes, apparently today is Pizza With The Works Except Anchovies Day (really) - I'm a big fan of pizza, it's a wonderful invention, a sort of hot open sandwich .  In a way, it's just a sort of cheese on toast (open grilled cheese sandwich for Americans) with extras, isn't it? Yet it tastes totally different to cheese on toast - and I do love cheese on toast also, in fact it's a source of disappointment to me that the grill in our oven doesn't work at the moment, so the only way of doing cheese on toast is to toast the bread, arrange the cheese upon the toast, and then microwave it, which just seems a bit wrong.

When ordering pizza I generally go for some sort of meat feast, although if I am going to Domino's it's more likely to be a Texas BBQ, and ideally I like a thin crust pizza, not deep pan.  Sometimes I do try the "Chef's special" which is basically everything except anchovies, I don't really know what an anchovy is to be quite honest, I'm very inexperienced when it comes to fish - I like haddock, cod, and pollock when fried in batter and served with chips, I've discovered that I like tuna, perhaps with melted cheese in a sandwich or on pasta, or mixed with mayonnaise and on top of a jacket potato, but apart from these types I have very little experience of fish.  Swordfish I tried once and it was very nice, but whenever I'm shopping, spot the fish counter, and think "hey, swordfish is okay" I then see the price and realise that actually I ought to work on clearing the mortgage rather than having to apply for a new credit card to pay for the swimming thing.

I have had tuna on pizza, and it was actually okay, but it did still seem a bit strange to me, I felt uncomfortable eating it, in a similar way to how you might feel uncomfortable changing seats on the third or fourth day of a week-long training course - theoretically you can certainly do it, and there's nothing necessarily wrong in doing it, but you wouldn't.  Social norms, and all that.

What's your favourite pizza toppings?

I'm delighted to say that the Robin Hood's Bay roadtrip is coming up very soon (Monday, in fact), so tomorrow I'll be packing!  I did a quick update video this morning, talking about beers and our planned itinerary, I must thank all of our supporters:

Diane Lynn of www.thegratitudeletters.com - The Gratitude Letters is a great blog which makes you stop and think for a moment about all those things in life that we should be grateful for.  I find it very beneficial, I'm a nightmare for rushing from one thing to another without allowing enough time to contemplate.  Do check out her blog.

Denkai Designs - my wife kindly supported us, I presume so that we'd not run out of money and have to come home early!  She's a flosstube YouTuber (she videos about cross stitch) so do check her stuff out, she's annoyingly good on camera.

Also thanks to deano_1 and cinders1980 who also both kindly supported us!

Sadly, the sponsor t-shirts that we were planning to wear I just can't make happen, I'd love for them to but it would just take too much out of the contributions to do.  Nevertheless we'll be recording videos while we're away and I'll be blogging and videoing when we get back (internet access in Robin Hood's Bay isn't the best, plus I don't have a laptop to take anyway) which I hope will be good fun for everyone!


Sunday, 6 November 2016

Dealing with spam email


I've been getting spam email recently from people that I've apparently agreed to buy things from. For a long time, I've simply ignored or deleted these emails, but today I decided it was worth making use of these, so I've sent off some replies.

---------------------------------------------------------

Email from Jumadelto:
Subject: African mount


Greetings,


The African mount you are intrested un purchasing is going for 200.00 without delivery
Regards,
Juan


Sent from my LG G Vista 2, an AT&T 4G LTE smartphone


My reply:


Juan,


I could never do business with someone using an LG G Vista 2.


Regards, Mike


---------------------------------------------------------


Email from Mahe M Avinashi Gounder:
Subject: Close5. Womens shoe.


Hi Micheal. Got ur msg in close5. U said u interested in buying the item. Winter shoe. Women. Size small. When shall we meet.


My reply:


Firstly Mahe, mispelling my first name REALLY annoys me. Now, to business.


Is it a left shoe or a right shoe? I am purchasing on behalf of a female pirate, and she requires a left shoe. If it is a right shoe then we really are wasting each others time.


Assuming it is a left shoe, please meet me and my client at Port Royal in Jamaica on the seventeenth day of November, she assures me that she will be "bringing home the booty, shiver me timbers" to port on that date. We may have to be on the lookout for Customs Officers.


Regards, Michael

---------------------------------------------------------


Email from Eddie:
Subject: TV Stand


When do you want to pickup the tv stand?

Sent from my iPhone


My reply:


Eddie,


I was really rather hoping for delivery, this being the Internet and all. How much is it for me to subscribe to Eddie Prime?


Best wishes, Mike


---------------------------------------------------------


Email from Christine vargas (with an email address starting "tina"):
Subject: Bread Box


I will sell it off on sunday so email then early I wake up at 7am


My reply:

Christine (I don't accept the name Tina as a shortening of Christine),


It is currently 7.17am on Sunday. I assume that you've already been up and about for 17 minutes whoring your bread box all over the internet, and as a result I've missed the boat. I wish you all the best in your future endeavours.


Regards, Mike


---------------------------------------------------------


And the one that I've had a reply to...



Email from alfredo valadez:
Subject: 49ers jersey



Hello I do have the jersey still. I stay in the eastlake area chula vista.


My reply:


Ah Alfredo, I was really after a 48ers? Any chance you can remove 1?


Cheers, Mike


Alfredo's reply:


What ???


I feel bad for Alfredo.


In other news, we are rapidly coming up to the end of the Robin Hood's Bay Roadtrip crowdfunding campaign - currently we have 3 amazing sponsors, Diane Lynn of the Gratitude Letters, Denkai Designs, and deano_1 - for just £1 (which, for non-UK readers, the current exchange rates makes cheaper than ever!) you can join that list, be promoted, and most importantly, fund the purchase of alcohol. Check out the campaign now at https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/the-robin-hoods-bay-roadtrip-friends-fun

Tuesday, 1 November 2016

Rabbits!



Rabbits!

It's the 1st of November, when apparently you're supposed to say "Rabbits" for good luck, I generally forget however :)

Today I shall recount my experience attempting to get some shopping a couple of weeks back.

Shopping has become this wonderful thing that can be done many different ways - once upon a time, you needed something from a shop, so you went to the shop, found the object in question, picked it up, took it to the till (aka checkout for our American friends), paid for it, and the job was done.

Now, there are many amazing options!  Would you like to order it online and have it delivered to your house?  Or to a drop off centre near your house?  Or somewhere else entirely?  Or would you like to go to the shop, pick your items, then go home and wait for it to be brought round?  Or would you like to order online, and then go to the shop to collect it?

All these options, and I'm sure some more, are available in this hyperconvenient shopping world.

You may recall that we had a brief caravan holiday the other weekend, well ahead of going away we needed to get some supplies to take with us.  My son wasn't well so I was staying home with him, when I had the bright idea of using one of these many shopping options.

I found that, using my favourite supermarket, I could order all the shopping online and then drive round and pick it up - this seemed like an ideal option, as although my son was up to a quick car drive, I didn't really want him to have to face a walk round a big supermarket.  The ordering went very well, and I arranged to collect it between 12pm and 2pm on the day before we were going away.

I showed up at the appropriate place, QR code in hand (and the order number should there be a problem with the QR code), parked up next to this fancy automated locker system which, upon recognition of the QR code, would release my shopping



I scanned the QR code, and the helpful little machine decided, rather than to release my shopping, to give me an error message.  I tried typing in the order number.

No luck.  The machine have me an error message saying say it was the "Wrong Order" and that I should ring their customer service line.

Ringing the customer service number, I spoke to an operator who explained that all she could do was to rebook the shopping for the following day - which wasn't ideal, as I really wanted some of the stuff that dinner than evening, but like a fool I accepted, and went home to do some studying, lunch break used up on the unsuccessful trip.

Getting back home I noticed on the new confirmation email that the price had increased - I wasn't desperately pleased with this, so I fired off a quick complaint, and the price did come down again.

Later on that evening I checked the emails that I've received from the supermarket, and I was perplexed to see that they made reference to "delivery" rather than a collection, and my favoured QR code was nowhere to be seen.  A veritable mystery!

Looking further into it, I noted that the delivery address for the shopping was the supermarkets address, which made no sense to me.

So in the morning, I rang the store itself, to try to establish whether my shopping would be sat in a locker waiting for me and my QR code (which I hadn't yet received), or whether it would be dropped off at my house by a cheerful delivery driver.  After working my way through somewhere in the region of seventeen automated options ("Hi, and welcome to ShopQuick. Press 8 if you'd like to talk to the HR operative in charge of employee flexible spaniel leave"), I finally spoke to someone, who didn't know what was happening with my shopping, but took my details and said that they'd get someone to ring back right away.

Three hours later, I'd gone out to get some medicine for my son, and decided to swing by the store just to say how things were progressing with my particularly challenging shopping order (which I'd received emails for, confirming that it was being picked in the supermarket, and being prepared for delivery, again to the supermarket).  After a sufficiently long wait, someone came to me and confirmed that yes, the order would be in the lockers between 2pm and 3pm.  We went home, satisfied.

At 2.30pm I showed up, at the locker, order number ready (still no sign of that ubiquitous QR code), typed it in, and....

Got the same "Wrong Order" error message as before.

Going back to the supermarket's customer service desk, the customer service assistant started looking into it for me, and told me "It's down to be delivered"
 "But when I came in this morning," I said, with that particular combination of rage and triumph that I think only an English person can feel, when they absolutely know that they are correct, and have also been sufficiently inconvenienced, "I was told that it would be in the lockers."
 The assistant then said "Ooh, there's a delivery van at the lockers NOW!" and sent me back out to the lockers.  Perhaps I could catch the delivery van in the act, and wrestle my shopping out of their hands.

At the lockers was two delivery guys, manfully trying to handle a series of people who couldn't get their shopping out of the lockers.  Eventually they got to me, and were very certain that I simply hadn't typed in the order number right.  I typed in the order number.  It didn't work.  The delivery guy typed in the order number.  To his consternation, it didn't work, even with his magic touch.

One of the guys happened to have the mobile number of someone inside the store who was involved in home deliveries.  He rang, and spoke to his colleague, explaining the situation.  He turned back to me.
 "If you go to the drop-off point at the front of the store, he'll bring your shopping out to you."

And so finally, after three visits, several phone calls, and at least one barely contained explosion of destructive anger, did my shopping show up.  I loaded it as quickly as I could into my car, worried that the store manager might appear, explain that my shopping couldn't be simply given to me in this way, and that I'd have to go home and wait for it to be delivered.

Most annoyingly I used the supermarket in question because my wife always goes to a different supermarket and I wanted to show her that we could use a different supermarket to get our shopping - as you can imagine I well and truly lost that argument!

There's just a week left on the Robin Hood's Bay roadtrip campaign, so if you're thinking about spending £1 (yes, just £1) to sponsor us, head over there now!

Cheers!

Sunday, 30 October 2016

A Walk Through The Woods

Yesterday I and my son visited my parents, to get my mum's new computer up and running (which it is very nicely, although it needs a network cable to get the internet at full speed - it's currently using a WiFi adapter I actually bought for my Raspberry Pi, and I'm quite surprised that it works at all on a normal PC).  Once we'd finished, and ate whatever I could find in my parents house that we could categorise as lunch, we made our apologies and farewells and left.

While heading back to the car my son expressed his enthusiasm for "an adventure", and having the afternoon to spare we decided to go for a wander.

After walking through a couple of fields and through an echoey tunnel (I should note that my son enjoyed hugely discovering a landscape feature that allowed him to be even louder than usual) we took a stroll through the woods near my parents, down to the river bank, where he spent a good while half way up a cliff playing.



We had a really nice time, I used to walk through those woods all the time when I was a kid but it must have been years since I went through them, so it was nice to make the memories come back.  And on the way back my son told a dog that it was cheeky because it came up to him and viciously wagged.

Today, meanwhile, we've been to the park, run around a good bit, found a ladybird, and then took a detour to the pub for lunch.

My son with the aforementioned ladybird

Pub!

The pub we went to had a jazz band, Adrian Ingrams Jazz Dawgs, playing, which helped the time pass pleasantly, and I even got to eat most of my lunch except for two pieces of toast which my son informed me were actually his.   All in all it's been a nice weekend :)

How's your weekend been?

PS - Mike is still gathering sponsors for his Robin Hood's Bay roadtrip next month! From just £1 you can sponsor a third of a pint of beer... :)

Thursday, 27 October 2016

Sneaky Dreams...

This picture has nothing to do with this post.  I just felt like including a picture of a couple of Norwegian policemen.

Today I'm being picked up early to catch a train down to London, so last night I went to bed early and set my alarm for 5am, to give me time to get ready, ahead of being picked up just before 6.

So this morning I woke up, and I wasn't awoken by my alarm going off, so I thought "Hey, I've woke up before the alarm, that's good" and decided to watch a little bit of television for 5 minutes before making a start. 

Then I then decided to glance at my phone.

5.50am.

And a car drew up outside, which was my lift.  I panicked, and ran to get dressed.  I couldn't believe that I'd slept through my alarm - something which happens once in a blue moon.

As I'm upstairs frantically throwing a shirt on and picking a tie to wear, I can hear my mum downstairs talking to the chap who's picking me up explaining that I'm just getting ready, and I won't be a minute.

I become aware that I'm at my parents house, not my own - and I wonder how did the guy know to come to my parents house, when I only gave him my address?

Then I woke, in my own bed.

I checked the time, and it was 4am.

I got up anyway.

At least -  I think I have!

I must give a big thank you to Diane Lynn of the Gratitude Letters for the latest donation to the Robin Hoods Bay roadtrip campaign, it's much appreciated - do feel free to check out the campaign at https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/the-robin-hoods-bay-roadtrip-friends-fun/x/7476667#/, it's got 12 days to go :)



Wednesday, 26 October 2016

Top 3 reasons for supporting the Robin Hood's Bay Roadtrip!

If you missed my last post, I'm having a go at crowdfunding to get sponsors for me and my dad going to Robin Hood's Bay next month!

Firstly, thanks and congratulations to deano_1 for being the first person to support us, it's much appreciated, and I'm particularly happy that you specifically sponsor a pint for me, it's very welcome indeed :)

Anyway, here's three top reasons for supporting our campaign!

Three - You'll be supporting the local economy!

We're going to Robin Hood's Bay and Whitby in North Yorkshire, both of which are popular locations for tourists, and because we're going out of the main tourist season, our spending will be very beneficial for local pubs and food outlets.

Two - The Reward!

You'll get your name on our very special sponsor t-shirts, to be worn during our time away!

One - Fun!

At the end of the day, it's a bit of fun! We all like to have some fun, and this campaign does it. So support us :)

My dad has a unique way of "tackling"...

So if you'd like to get involved, either by sponsoring us (from just £1 for a third of a pint) or by sharing the campaign, get over to https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/the-robin-hoods-bay-roadtrip-friends-fun/x/7476667#/

And if you'd like to watch this blog post, instead of read it, check out the update video :)



Cheers!

Monday, 24 October 2016

Caravans and Crowdfunding Beer!

As all too often is the case I haven't blogged for ages, but at least this time I have an excuse, which is that I've been somewhere that I haven't had a wifi signal!  We've just come back from a short break to Mablethorpe, staying in a caravan, which was lovely!

We enjoyed lots of nice tasting food, including Papa John's pizza - we discovered that it was far cheaper to buy two pizzas with four drinks and fries than it was to just buy two pizzas, so we had that one night (and subsequently struggled to manage four fizzy drinks throughout the course of the evening, and had loads of leftovers for the following morning too)

My only concern is that John here seems to be a bit keen on people loving his pizza.  It was tasty though.

There was tons to do at the caravan park (Haven Golden Sands, if you're interested), with rides, arcades, a swimming pool and all that sort of thing going on.  I still have 21 tokens which I won in the arcades, which I think was almost enough to win a small pack of Haribo.

My son absolutely loved this slide, it was huge!

We also went for a bit of a drive on the Sunday, ending up in the Half Moon in Alford for a carvery which was very nice.  I discovered that not only did my mum used to work at the same caravan park we stayed in, but she also used to go to the Half Moon for her works Christmas dinners, and I'm pleased to say that it was very nice.

And on the way back, awesomely, we discovered a Taco Bell!!  I've always wanted to try Taco Bell but thought it was a USA-only phenomenon, so when I saw it I insisted on us stopping for lunch. Verdict?  Good. Not the best fajita I've ever tasted, but not bad, and the crunchy taco was definitely good.



In other news, I've launched a crowdfunding campaign to shamelessly raise beer funds for next month when me and my dad go to Robin Hood's Bay for three nights.  Basically, you get to sponsor things like beer, the trip, and beds, and in return we'll be wearing sponsor t-shirts with your names printed on them.  We'll also cover the sponsors on this blog and on my YouTube channel, so if you want a piece of this, stop by the page. It's going to be amazing :)


Of course, it's only a bit of fun, but it gives me chance to practice my crowdfunding techniques.  And, unusually for most crowdfunding things, you actually get something even if you only support us for £1! Which can't be bad.

So if you want my dad to be really happy (like he is here with 3 beers), stop by the crowdfunding page! :)


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!



'BANKING' DAY.
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 www.facebook.com/RavenMagical 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 :)
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