Feb 16, 2020: Rooms

Despite the best efforts of the weather – potential for flooding and some blown electrics about an hour before we were supposed to play, we’ve been to Project Breakout in Brighouse to round off their rooms there. So they’re done, and we need to go further afield for more…

Aside from Operation Clearsafe which was under five feet of water on Monday and won’t be dried out and rebuilt for weeks. And we’re supposed to be doing it for a Christmas Do so we’ll be fashionably late with that!

Anyway, Project Z and the Dollmaker were what we needed to tackle. And tackle we did.

We were terrible in Project Z – we had such a slow start and there was a real possibility of us completely fucking it up and being locked in. We didn’t, and we weren’t, but it could have happened. But we have a special skill in rooms where we’ll sometimes be stuck on something for ages, but they everything else will click into place, as though while we’re stressing about one puzzle, our brain is making sense of other things that need to be done.

There was one puzzle which threatened to bring us down, bring us to blows and had Carole asking for the answer. It was a fiendish puzzle and it was hard – but we made it harder by not searching properly (shocker, I know) so were missing a vital part of the whole thing.

And actually once we had all the bits it was a fricking doddle. And it made sense what didn’t fit in, and why. And then it was obvious. But it took us to the brink, and threatened to give us another lock in after the wanky ball throwing of that one in Edinburgh took us as victims.

In the Dollmaker, though, we were a more cohesive unit. It could be we were out of practice when we started in Project Z. I did suggest doing an Exit game this morning to get us in the mood, but we didn’t do it in the end. But we definitely started Dollmaker better and were up and running pretty quickly. We’d seen the team before us – a team of six – get out with about nine seconds left, so we were a little worried. But we did fine and dandy, and with not a lot of help – just clues that were more admin than help. I always look at a clue as an admin clue if it’s more of a “focus on this thing” hint than “take the thing and do this with it” type. There’s no actual help. It’s just kind of keep going with what you’re doing.

The frustrating puzzle in Project Z had that level of help. Just keep doing what you’re doing. Rather than, do this and then this and then this. And that’s despite Carole asking for the answer!

The Dollmaker threw us a few curveballs. Something that was blue was blue, but something the should have been purple was also blue. Making the purple element of the puzzle a little bit of a guess, which we managed. But afterwards the game master had a look and even he had to admit that it was a lot blue. You know, the blue side of blue. You’d have thought the team before us would have mentioned it. But hey…

So yeah, we’ve done all the local rooms now. We need to build more at Riddle so that we can play more, although I can obviously never play mine. But I can play any Tom builds, which is nice. And I’m sure we’ll be the first guinea pigs in there, I hope.

We’re in Manchester next month for Carole’s birthday – guess we’ll have to do some over that neck of the woods as well… you know, just one. Or two. Or…



Feb 15, 2020: Sick

It’s a strange world in which we live.

Tonight, news emerged that Caroline Flack had killed herself. And it was weird, because when I read it I felt a little bit sick. And shocked. But definitely sick.

I don’t know her. I wasn’t particularly a fan of hers – the shows she was involved in weren’t really in my wheelhouse. Not since TMi on a Saturday morning, with good ol’ Sam and Mark.

But I was still shocked enough to feel sick about it all.

And then I’ve come home from work and fired up the interwebs, and it’s just there. All over my homepage news feed, every media outlet you can think of reporting her death. And then going for the “last TV appearance”, “last social media message”, “last photograph”.

Caroline Flack has had a rough time of it in the papers recently. Regardless of what she did or didn’t do in her most recent relationship, where she was charged with assault, or her previous one where she made life hard for someone off of the Apprentice. Or just the dubious taste that saw her hanging out with Harry Styles for a bit. Everything has been dragged through the wringer, with some papers – we know which – being worse than others.

The same papers and news outlets who are now fighting for first place on the “she’s passed away, she was lovely” train.

It’s not just the press, though. It’s the internet as well.

The constant need people have to tell other people that they’re not good enough at whatever, for whatever, or any variation on that, via the anonymity of Twitter or Instagram is just amazing. And it’s increased exponentially when you’re plastered across newspapers and news feeds.

It’s not just celebrities, either. I follow a variety of gaming things on Facebook. Every single post they make is filled with people bad mouthing something that they’ve never played, but have heard from someone who knows someone who was once near someone who saw someone play it once that it’s shit. Or that every decision such-and-such a company makes is terrible. Or something like that.

There’s nothing positive at all.

And I’m saying that. Me. I am a miserable fucker at the best of times. I am negative as hell. And even then I’m like “bloody hell, guys.” Like I saw a woman today complaining that her birthday present – a trip to see Count Arthur Strong at a theatre on the Isle of Man – was ruined because they’d cancelled the show due to Storm Dennis restricting their ability to get on and/or off the island. Her comment said, “You could have at least TRIED.” I mean, yeah, they could have. They go and do the show, say, and are then stranded on the Isle of Man for a day which means they can’t get to the next gig, which they then have to cancel. But no, as long as Miss Entitlement gets her fricking birthday present.

Anyway, I digress slightly while still making my point.

People on the internet are absolute bellends. I am a bellend here. I complain about all sorts in these blogs, but no-one reads them. And unless they’re about Stephen Fry on that back of every book in existence (I noticed yesterday he’s spaffing words over the Tom Hanks book I’m reading at the moment, dammit) I generally don’t direct my bile at anyone in particular. And even then, I’m just asking for a book, or a death, he hasn’t had an opinion about.

I’m not trolling the living shit out of him. Or commenting on news stories which show pictures of the inside of the flat where someone was beaten with a lamp, with some sort of nasty comment or whatever.

We can blame the media for the coverage which contributed to Caroline’s death. But we’re all to blame as well, to varying degrees, because we – the masses – are they people they peddle this shit for. Every time we click on something like that, or someone feels the need to go out of their way to pass a comment, then a reply, then something about how they’d (invariably) love to bang them we’re feeding them. And everyone knows, you put food in one end, shit comes out the other.

And then we have this.

And it’s bollocks. Because, whatever she did or didn’t do, she was thrown under a bus by every media outlet going. The Sun, in particular, were after her and their showbiz editor has, tonight, proclaimed his love and adoration (and support) for her, while still working for the same paper that published pictures of blood in the bedroom of her flat, and such like.

I mean… come on…

We call Facebook, Twitter and Instagram “social” media.

But when it comes to stuff like this – or stuff that ends in situations like this – it’s anything but.



Feb 14, 2020: Upgrade

For a while I’ve been considering a phone upgrade.

I have an iPhone 6. It’s not a well device. It works fine – which is much better than other phones which, this late in the day, have started randomly opening apps or just making phone calls of its own accord. And, best of all, that nothing I did stopped it from doing that.

This one, however, isn’t doing that. It’s just not holding charge for very long (even for an iPhone, eh tech fans) and the lightning port or whatever the fudge we call it is looser than a loose thing in a loose competition. So when you charge it, if it is even acted on by an air molecule it can stop charging just because it’s slightly out of kilter.

That’s either from a lot of plugging in or, I suspect, dragging it by the wire to reach it. Because I am a bad boy.

So I upgraded. I thought, you know what, sod it. Let’s just do it.

Just like that. On a whim. And totally not that my phone lost 30% charge while I was eating a McMuffin.

It does not take me long to eat a McMuffin.

So, I’m on an 11 now.

It’s yellow. Which is fun. It’s yellow because I wanted a different colour – rather than white or black – and it’s yellow because I changed it to a different colour, but then exited and started again and it defaulted to yellow. But anyway, it’ll be in a case soon and you won’t even see that. Not that it bothers me anyway. I’m just saying, it’s yellow.

So that’s that. I’ve transferred things. I’ve backed things up. I’ve used that little pin thing, lost my SIM card in the carpet, swore a bit, found it and blown some fluff off of it. I’ve done the whole thing.

And so far I like it. It’s bigger. It’s clearer. It’s downloaded all my dad’s emails for the past three years. And it’s got a load of apps on it that I am never going to use, but am going to have to work out what they are and then move them into the “meh” folder I have specially set up for all the included guff.

So yeah, onward and upwards.

I’m off to play with it a bit more!

Feb 13, 2020: Tracker

I saw an advert, just once – unusually, on YouTube for a small, discreet tracker you could hide in your car. That way you’d know exactly where your car was at any time – the advert showed an incredibly accurate map you could track your vehicle on – and thieves would be all like, “What? How you find me?”

There were a couple of things which stood out. For starters, this small tracker was pretty large. Not huge, but definitely not small and discreet.

It was also bright yellow. They showed a bright white one as well. But they primarily used the yellow.

I’m not a car guy. I know nothing about cars, at all. I know which is the front, which is the back and which bit is the circle turny handle, I think that’s what it’s called. Next to the flashy light stick. Near the brrrm noise changer handle.

So I know nothing about cars. But i do know very few of them have yellow or bright white interiors. You’re already on the back foot with the ability to hide it. But hey, show me more.

In the video they hid the tracker in several places. Brace yourselves, because you wouldn’t think of any of these.

The pocket on the back of the front seats. The pocket which, in the demo car, is a net. Now it’s a net with a big yellow tracker in it.

The glove compartment. Not hidden under all the shit in there, or at the back or up against the side. Just on top of the manual and all the other crap. It was an American ad so all that stuff probably hides a pistol, don’t wanna show that off.

Just under the corner of the mat in the passenger footwell.

Come on guys, impress me with how this increases security. Stitch it in a lining or something. Don’t just tuck it under a carpet and hope for the best.

But then, you need to do something like that lest the bright yellow or white reflect light into your eyes and you crashed…

… although everyone would be able to track – suspiciously accurately – exactly where that was.

Feb 12, 2020: Blondie

I spent quite a while this afternoon cooking some rhubarb and custard blondies.

I made rhubarb jam for the top of it. I spent ages waiting for my sugar and butter mix to cool before I added the eggs so that they wouldn’t cook in the mixture and leave bits of scrambled egg throughout the mixture.

I sifted. I beat. I folded.

I did all the things.

I ran out of space in the kitchen at least twice. I used more bowls than anyone should ever need to use. I managed to get some left over rhubarb – from the thinnest stalks you have ever seen in your life – into the freezer for I don’t know what but it’ll have to involve the need for small rhubarb.

I did all sorts.

And then it all went wrong.

I used too large a tray, I think. So it was too thin. But it rose beautifully.

I cooked it for way longer than it needed to, because when it wasn’t setting.

And even when it was set, it was still pretty raw in the middle.

It was a bloomin’ disaster. Basically.

The first cooking fail of 2020, I think. But I remained calm and collected throughout.

I’ve regrouped. I’ve searched the kitchen high and low for a more suitable cooking vessel to use. I’m back in the saddle on Friday, probably. After I have sourced some more rhubarb and some smaller eggs on the morrow. That was the other thing – the recipe called for medium eggs, I only had large. Which then led to me having to look up the conversion of egg sizes, and the ratios of eggs to flour and the like in cakes. Which was more research than I’ve ever had to do before.

And it still turned out bobbins.

But what’s worse is that it smelled delicious at every stage. There’s something innately tasty about butter and sugar. Throw in some custard, vanilla and rhubarb and it’s an olfactory sensation. And the customary lick of the spatula, post transfer to the tin showed that the batter was, indeed, delicious.

It just would have been nice if it had cooked properly, and not just gathered all the raw stuff in the middle – and the majority of the rhubarb and custard swirl to boot – to taunt me.

I won’t let it beat me, though.

I will melt butter and sugar together for as long as it takes for this to turn out properly…