Wednesday, 28 November 2007

Premature Midlife Crisis (without the balding)

I don't do cars, they're dull and all the same. They're boxes on wheels that are convenient means of movement when not in London - I haven't had my own car since I left Catchup Ketchup, my little red Fiesta that was almost as old as I was, in one place for too long (Matt could only come out to jump start it so many times a week) and the neighbours complained and had it towed. Bastards.

Imagine my surprise when I followed the advice of dearest sis WillowZ (who has been rightly bragging about her find here) and watched an episode of Top Gear. I thought all that babycare had finally driven her round the bend but, as she does tend to point one in good televisual directions and is an entertaining TV buddy, I obliged and turned to Dave.

(Aside: Dave is the new name for one of our cable channels, so called because apparently it's friendly and welcoming. I have not the words.)

It turns out that Top Gear is probably the most amusing, entertaining and brilliant programme ever made. What it basically is, at heart, is three blokes having a laugh and letting us watch, and the added bonus is that they're all hilarious.

Grumpy Jeremy Clarkson, dithering James May and perky Richard Hammond - we love them all. There are plenty of clips on YouTube (the Polar special is so funny there are no words for that either) for non-Brits and there's Dave for those who must suffer it.

It's making me like cars, heaven help me. I'd quite like an Aston Martin, if anyone's amenable. Or an MX5...uhhhhh...yes ok, still a beginner, if I carry on I'll sound like a nan trying to be knowledgeable about heavy metal.

Mostly as a tribute to the GENIUS who introduced me to Top Gear, who I know will appreciate these, I will end with some quotes from the show:

James: Can I make it absolutely clear, here, now, that I'm only here because the producers said I had to be. I don't like snow, I hate being cold, I hate outdoor pursuits, I hate the idea that I've got to "push my body to find the limit," I can't stand this stupid clothing that makes this rustling noise when you move all the time, and I hate the zips, and the toggles, and all the pockets, and that and I hate your stupid truck.
Jeremy: [shushing James] Listen. If we make it, look at it this way: you will be the first person ever to go to the North Pole who didn't really want to be there.

Jeremy: It feels soft and flobbery, like a big woolly bison.

Jeremy: Speed has never killed anyone. Suddenly becoming stationary, that's what gets you, that's the killer.

James: The interesting thing about the French nation, I think, because they are essentially peasants and Communists, is that they are quite good at the fairly small and fairly simple car.

Richard: Oh, dear, I fear Jeremy may be heading this way with an opinion.

Jeremy: (On the Daihatsu Copen) It's not so much a car as a shoe.

Jeremy: This is the Renault Espace, probably the best of the people carriers. Not that that's much to shout about. That's like saying "Ooh good I've got syphilis, the BEST of the sexually transmitted diseases".

James: I'm sorry, I'm gonna have to stop you there, I hate to interrupt, but this is quite honestly the biggest load of limp-wristed twaddle I've ever heard in all my five weeks in television. These two... these two are not men, okay? This one, Richard Hammond, every morning, sticks his head in a bucket of hair product, right, he's got a dog, but it's a poodle. I don't know what you're laughing about, Clarkson, because you won't drink brown beer. And this is the man that says flatulence, 'Ooh, it's not funny,' when clearly it is! I am actually the only proper bloke on this programme.

Jeremy: (After seeing May's Audi 80)You really can't believe that's a hundred quid car. I mean, I was ready to go, 'Oh no, James has bought a hen house'.

Jeremy: (about the Exige S, a few seconds later) And he's lined up alongside a plastic car that was made by some Norfolk turnip farmers, which is being driven by a fat bloke with a dicky hip.

Jeremy: (On the BMW X3) And if you are clinically insane, by which I mean you wake up in the morning and think you are an onion, here's your car.

Saturday, 24 November 2007

24: The Board Not Necessary Game

Best Mate and I are huge fans of 24, we go silly at the mention of Kiefer's name and are more than happy to disappear for the best part of a day with the newest box set.

(Not a full day, of course, for it's 24 telly hours, which is 18 of your normal, everyday hours.)

(Also, before I continue, please forgive the presence of my jim jams in the photo to the left.)

We were most excited, therefore, to find the 24 board game on sale in HMV, offering an interactive CTU experience involving, we assumed, engaging plots and an opportunity to prove our spy-foiling mettle. The PS2 game is fantastic, even if we're a bit shit and can't get past the car bit with the tunnel, so a board game has to be more than enough for a fantabulous night in, no?


First of all, there are no instructions. I never claimed to be the brightest spark in the Marks &, I need a bit more guidance than "congratulations, you're playing a game". So I was a bit edgy wondering if my tiny mind would be able to comprehend the game's brilliance.

While the DVD dithered about wondering whether to like my player (not entirely the DVD's fault - anyone got a cleaner thingum?), we worked out - proudly - that the little square card things are supposed to go on the little squares on the board. In any old order, doesn't matter which.

So, if it doesn't matter where the landing places can it matter how and where the lines between them run? And if the lines don't matter, how do you know where to go? And why are there no dice? And what do you do once you get to a square?

We trusted, foolishly, that the DVD introduction would make everything clear and tell us, if nothing else, how to play. But no, it merely repeated the happy, yet vacuous, instructions from the flimsy and unhelpful sheet in the box.

Clinging helplessly to the thought that the clue cards would make everything clear, we greedily grabbed at the pile whenever we were (entirely randomly) directed to do so. I came quite close to a hissy fit about an hour in when I only had one card and Best Mate had been offered a fourth (WHY?), but in the end it didn't matter, for they told you NOTHING. One informed me that the fictional company in question had recently begun exporting to Japan. Why in God's name would I give a monkeys? They weren't just 'not much help', they were completely and utterly irrelevant.

So...the board is useless, the cards are useless, the little plastic characters are useless, there are no dice, there's no end point and you don't gain anything by moving round the board, not even a flimsy cash bonus. Not really a board game then, you might say.

Did it redeem itself by being a halfway decent DVD tellybox game?


Aside from the fact that you only ever need the one button (not the greatest test of skill, really - not to mention the fact that they don't give you any instructions that might enlighten you to the one-buttonness, so I was mashing away at my poor remote like a joypad for absolutely no reason), most of the mini-games were like badly put together versions of Pong. After an hour of trying to work out the logic, we still had no idea why there was a huge delay between pressing the button and anything happening and had to rely on luck to complete them.

Bollocks to it, she's giving it to Oxfam. With my blessing. Pity the poor bastard who picks it up, two pound fifty or otherwise.

Wednesday, 21 November 2007

I am not organised: Part 2

I am ashamed yet truthful. My post about being disorganised clearly heralded events that were soon to pass...

Once in a while I do an Internet grocery shop, because not having a car and residing at the top of a very big hill means I have problems lugging my heavy ingredients home. So, in the interests of stocking up on potatoes and cans of beans, I sometimes allow Mr Sainsbury to bring his wares to my door.

This time I ordered ingredients for the following meals, and the following meals only (pay close attention here):

1. Chicken curry
2. Chicken stew
3. Chicken with white wine and cream sauce
4. Peppers stuffed with mini pasta.

My order arrived and I merrily unpacked it, happily anticipating the near culinary future. Only to discover that, in my blondest moment ever, I forgot to order two things.

Chicken and mini pasta.

I have nothing to say for myself.

Not long after, I described my harrowing ordeal to Laura, who very sweetly commiserated and didn't once call me a spanner. Well, not until the moment I leaped happily from my chair and scampered off to retrieve something from the kitchen cupboard...

Laura Leandros: so let me get this straight, you forgot all the key components for actual dinners, but it's ok cos you DID remember Nesquik Magic Straws?

I said it then and I will say it again: I would dearly love to be able to correct her, but sadly that is exactly the case.

Lollybloggings Returns!

This is an exciting announcement for all of you out there who have been waiting with baited breath for the next installment of Lollybloggings and the Grumbly Willock (there must be someone).

It's complete! After hours of toil and a brave infiltration of SL wearing child avs (we'd have been lynched if anyone had spotted us), Laura and I have brought to life the New Adventures of Willock. My words, her pictures, joint insanity.

Click here to find out what he's hating this time...

I am not organised

I am not organised. Though I know this will come as a massive shock to some of you (those who have arrived here looking for elk sponges, for example), the significant majority instinctively understand that my brain is not a place to lose something.

I try. I do, I really do. I create folders and subfolders and places and spaces and systems and so on, but I am easily disheartened. This goes for any filing system I ever encounter: home or work, virtual or physical.

My Second Life inventory happens to be a marvellous example of this. It's been nearly 4 years, people, I can be forgiven for amassing 14,000 objects - if only I had a clue where any of them were, we'd be set.

I also ought to confess that I have about 30,000 objects packed randomly in boxes, which is the SL equivalent of stuffing crap down the back of the wardrobe.

Here is a step-by-step guide to how I get myself in such a mess:

1) Start with systems that make perfect sense at the time and, with a little determination, are bound to translate to 'a sensible way of thinking'. You can train your brain, right?

2) Tackle increasing intricacy of accumulated items in unworried manner: simply add numbers, labels and subfolders galore.

3) Notice a much more sensible system of doing things.

4) Attempt to convert system to new, more sensible alternative.

5) Lose interest; promise to complete task later.

6) Go shopping (or writing, or creating - or anything else that involves multiples).

7) Realise error of ways. Lose hope. Ignore filing system and allow mess pile to accumulate.

8) Curse repeatedly. But do nothing about it.

Behold the results of this nonsense (or at least a very small glimpse of the terrifying whole - I write this after a somewhat urgent attempt to restore order). And if my inventory looks like this, one can only take pity on my brain.

Tuesday, 20 November 2007

Dog Scarf

Mood: currently missing my Internet Dog.

I swanned off to Bath this weekend to visit the Lovely Lisa because, after 5 years of relying on her to fill the pages of my magazines with her wonderful words (at breakneck speed), it was high time we celebrated with a little wine and a good long natter.

And some excitable dog, too, because I got to put a wag to the maracas and meet Skye, the dear pooch who I fell in love with a couple of months back and immediately adopted as my virtual pet. And I am his Internet Person.

He's utterly absorbing in real life, I couldn't stop watching him and making a fuss of him - I wanted so badly to stick him in my suitcase, long legs akimbo, and scuttle off home with him.

Here we are on Day 2, after Emma arrived. She's very used to dogs and had him under control immediately - I'm not, but then I found his antics highly entertaining and didn't want to stop him!
And as Skye said in his blog, nicely summing up a wonderful weekend:

Sarah Person let me leap all over her last night, and she laughed when I clambered up onto the back of the chair and draped myself around her neck like a big furry scarf. She played ball with me (my People are very well-trained, and always throw the ball when I bring it to them!), and they drank wine called "The Naked Grape" which made them giggle because of the name. People have a strange sense of humour sometimes - I didn't think grapes wore clothes anyway! Amber Person made necklaces for our Friends, and talked about designs and art with them.

This morning I woke Sarah Person by jumping on her Head, then kissing her. Luckily she didn't mind. She gave me a big cuddle. It rained all day, so I created endless Pawprint Works of Art for everyone to admire. When Em Person arrived I jumped all over her too, and sat between her and Sarah Person on the sofa so that they could both make a fuss of me.

Wednesday, 14 November 2007

It's not just annoying...'s Marks & Spencers, extra rich, covered in jam and roasted for a week annoying.

I can't take the M&S adverts any more, I can't, I can't, I can't. Who the hell IS that bloody woman, curling her voice around words like a cat on heat. It's not remotely relevant to food - I want Gordon Ramsay assured tones (the man might look like a deflated potato with a chick on his head, but who'd kick him out of bed?), not some ninny saying "sponge pudding" like she's expecting me to lick her feet for it.

Who gives a crap if the gravy's from some cave in the mountains above the lake in the land of the golden ostrich? It still tastes like gravy.

Food is seductive in its own right. That bloody woman is not. Get rid of her, before I spork her to death.

Tuesday, 13 November 2007

Candy Kisses

I was idling around the Second Life grid yesterday, not really doing much of anything, when the wonderful, yet devious, Sysperia grabbed me with a walking stick round the neck and dragged me to her lair.

She does that.

Her intentions were almost pure - this time - as she was putting together a calendar of naked and near-naked wonderfulness to give to her friends and customers as a Christmas gift. And this was the result of my avatar's shoot, in all it's candy-coated, sugary pink, feathery glory!

I will now proceed to use it everywhere, for everything, always and forever. Oh yes I will.

And yes that is a nipple and if that doesn't entice Marcus to come and read my blog, I don't know what will.

Monday, 12 November 2007

Little baby Sian

I realise this is a little belated, because the wee soul has been with us for a couple of weeks now, but I've been boasting to anyone and everyone who would listen that the first picture taken of baby Sian was for meeeeeeee and I wanted to check I was right. And I was!

Baby Sian is WillowZ's new arrival. I was rudely awakened by a text message at 5am on Saturday morning (November 3) to let me know that Sian had finally made it into the world - about 9 days late, she wasn't in a hurry (I believe she then slept for the first 8 hours of life) - and then a picture of her being small and adorable came through.

Definitely worth losing sleep for and I'm ever so proud to have been the first to get a picture - you can hardly blame me, look at her! Now I just can't wait to get up there to have a cuddle <3

Oh and to be asked to be the godmother *puppy dog eyes*

Sunday, 11 November 2007

What the...

People stumble across blogs in some very strange ways. I have, for example, been discovered in the past by someone looking for "exciting descriptive words beginning with v". I believe Tim was found through the google search: "slipping someone acid".

I am, however, placing my bid here and now for the Weird Discovery crown. For I have gained a new reader through a google search that makes the mind boggle: why was this person searching for it in the first place and, having made the inexplicable decision to type it into the search box, how the hell did it lead here? How??

The search term in question: elk sponge.

Yes, really.

The Complaining Torso

Friday night was Tim's 30th birthday and, aside from the incomprehensibly painful hangover the next day, was an absolute riot. Lots of old and new faces got together in The Goldhawk, the local pub back in the day, when we all worked in Hammersmith (right next to a lunatic asylum, fittingly).

I got to spend time with lots of lovely people I haven't seen in a while, such as Marcus (who renamed my magazine Open Your Legs and couldn't be persuaded out of it) and Martin (note to Martin: the bloke I was trying to make you listen to on my phone was Richard Walters) and Robert (I'm so sorry I made you sit in the corner and try to work out who I was making Martin listen to on my phone) and Lorna (who at one point forgot herself and shouted out "MY TITS" when I asked where she'd sprayed her perfume). I also got to meet the infamous Inexplicable Device, who was utterly charming and still has the green hotpants.

Apparently there was a dog chasing balloons, but I didn't see it, which begs the question of what on earth I was doing.

But the real trouble began on my way home. At about 12.30 I realised I was in serious danger of missing the last bus home, so I slurred a few goodbyes, staggered back down to the bus station and clambered onto the first moving vehicle I saw. Followed closely by a bunch of chavs. I made it about halfway home before I lost the ability to not laugh at their chav-speak. Sadly they clocked my mirth and started grumbling about it.

At which point I sent the following text to Best Mate:
They have spotted me. They see my glee. They chattin at me. I merry like santa. I off cup now. By cup I mean bus. On hill. Feel ma mad storytellin skillz.

Which tells you all you need to know about my level of sobriety. Worrying about this unusual, out-of-character behaviour (it was, it was, it WAS), Best Mate toddled out to the pavement in her nightie to make sure I hadn't collapsed in a heap somewhere twixt bus and home. And there I was, giggling and stumbling away. Taking pity on me, she escorted me back to her room, where I promptly slumped to the floor and started muttering. Best Mate was over the other side of the room making me toast and tea and could only see the top half of me over the furniture, so has decided to call me The Complaining Torso. It is a fitting moniker.

I would say I need more nights like that, but I'm not sure I'd survive.

Saturday, 10 November 2007

My heart goes out

It was announced earlier that someone I have always admired and enjoyed spending time with in Second Life has passed away suddenly. The speculation is over and I hope very much that everyone who questioned and understandably wondered will show their respect for a Second Life legend.

Starley has posted a beautiful tribute on her blog. At times like this, it's impossible to know how best to help - the online world is not great for sympathy.

It's a horrible loss and my heart goes out to his loved ones. Ginny, you and your amazing talent will be missed always. You were the undisputed queen of Second Life fashion and you had a bloody good sense of humour, to boot. You were the standard by which all other creators measured their work - few could even reach your bar to push it.

It was an honour, and a pleasure, to know you.

Monday, 5 November 2007

Remember, remember the 5th of November

Today was, almost from start to finish, an exercise in culinary adventurousness. I recently wrote a piece on Bonfire Night recipes for the website I provide the content for - you can see this particular masterpiece here - and Best Mate and I felt strongly that they ought to be tested out. All of them. One massive shopping trip later, and after the heartbreaking realisation that we were never going to manage the lot, we got going. And the results were:

Baked potatoes - these are impossible to muck up, you just jab them with a knife and stick them in the oven. They got a bit cold waiting for Anton to arrive, but it wasn't his fault (see: Toffee Apples). But all in all, they were baked and they were potatoes and that was the general idea.

Bonfire Toffee - without a cooking thermometer, this stuff is hard to judge. You're meant to let it reach 140C, but how the buggery bollocks are you meant to know? It boils up alarmingly, like milk does, but with the added fear factor of looking like tar that would melt your skin off on contact. Needless to say, we messed this one up swimmingly, and it's sat in my fridge looking like a very small, very neat peat bog.

Catherine Wheel Biscuits - these were a great success and went down well with the boys (I sent some over with Best Mate when she went to visit after the cookathon). I managed to whip them out of the oven just in time for them to keep that cookie squishiness. And then ate four.

Chicken stew - I did plan to make simple vegetable stew, but I thought I'd have a go at numerous birds with my stone and make a big, freezable batch of my all-time favourite dish. It's my nan's recipe and, if you're game for a long chopping haul, will make enough for about 7 meals, all for less than a fiver. Brilliant. Can't go wrong with this one and I even got plastic cups for Bonfire Night authenticity.

Parkin - none of us knew what this stuff was before we made it. We managed to navigate the problem of not having a clue what the end product was meant to look like by just doing what we were told in the recipe, but who the hell knows if what we made was right? It seems to be a weighty little bastard and we all had to douse it with cream and hack it with axes to eat it might not have been quite right.

Toffee Apples - not our best success. First of all I managed to forget the sticks and Anton was sent on a mad rush to Tesco on his way home (which is why he was late) and then it transpired that sugar boiled in water just doesn't cut it as a coating material. I think I was missing something.

Still, as cook-ups go, it wasn't too bad and we all came away with full, warm tummies. Of course, that was probably because of the parkin - like a brick, that stuff.

Thursday, 1 November 2007

Stardust and glitter

I'm not normally a girly girl, but when it comes to fairytales I do have a tendency to revert to being a five-year-old, gazing up in wonder and amazement and a craving to believe and join in. Much the same manner, in fact, with which I imagine Tim staring at the iPhone.

Emma and I indulged our easily pleased childlike sides this evening with Stardust, which may well be my favourite movie of the year (I'm not sure I should be admitting that).

It's not really the schmaltz I enjoyed so much this time, although the magic and effects are pretty darned cool and it's a lovely new addition to the world's collection of fairytales. I do like a golden story with a happy feel to it. But with Stardust, it was more the fact it was just so bloody funny! And it wasn't the people you expected to make you laugh, either - Ricky Gervais, for example, is a bit by-the-by. It's Robert de Niro, in the most bizarre movie role I think I've seen him take on, Michelle Pfeiffer and her incredible self-confidence and Clare Danes, for once not simpering madly, who stole the show for me.

And Tristan, bless his heart! I don't think I've ever seen such effortless acting from this side of the pond. He's not emoting and try-harding, he's just there, being Tristan, amiable and stupidly charming and almost crying out for a bear hug. He's hilarious, believable and impossible to dislike. One of these days I'll get to work on the Museum of Cute I've been threatening to do for much of my adult life, and he will get his own little pedestal. Oh yes!