Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Farewell 2008! Hey, 2009, let's get to know each other!

Yep. Some countries were evidently so disappointed by 2008 that they've decided to leave it behind before us and celebrate the new year early.
Well, local time. Same difference, hehe.

Here, there are already one or two fireworks going off every now and again, and tonight at work, though quiet, we've been plying a steady trade, with one guy who was obviously hosting a house party, ordering 10 pizzas with all the trimmings (I can't decide if I like that expression, or loathe it, so I'll use it out of bored indifference). Order came to nearly £70 and he tipped the person who delivered it, £15!
I have to make do with my meagre £6.88, but at least I didn't have to carry ten pizzas and all the - side orders.
Kudos to Chris who worked like a b*stard to get 10 pizzas made one after the other, fast enough to get the last ones out before the first ones went cold.

10:01, MIDNIGHT IN ATHENS. Happy new year, Greece :-).

Anyway, yes. Tonight on the scooter was weeeeiiiiirddd.

The pavements were full of people, the pubs were full of people, the roads were absolutely empty. It was/is also bitterly cold outside, very very cold in fact, all the water on the ground is frozen. So I'm sat there riding around freezing my arse off, looking hard to see where I'm going. Did I mention the mist?

This year, as with every new year's eve, it's been extremely misty. It is extremely misty. You could see it billowing around the headlight, I felt like a sodding airplane. The mist closed up around me and just left me with my head poking out of the top. I must have looked silly.

Speaking of airplanes, today I flew my longest X-plane flight ever - Dublin to Montreal - took me 5 hours. In a Virgin Atlantic 747-400. Just like this one, actually (not my photo).
No, I didn't sit in front of a flightsim for 5 hours. I did everything from starting the plane to levelling off at 30,000, and let the autopilot take over. 5 hours and 2500+ miles later, I took the plane in for approach, landed, docked it, and shut it down.
Was pretty fun. My longest-distance (simulated) flight ever.
The time between I was just surfing the net or reading or doing whatever.

Well, that's just about it for now. I'm not going to do a "2008 in review" for a variety of reasons, not the least of which being that I don't want to read the entire year's blogs again to remember what happened.
But all in all, 2008 has been a pretty good year. Nothing MAJORLY bad has happened (unlike other years where it's all come at once), so yeah. I'll look back on 2008 as a pretty good year :).

Have fun, see you next year!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Christmas 2008 In Review

Well, we're coming to the close of the Christmas hysteria, but worry not. It's only another 9 months before the shops start selling tinsel and Christmas CDs again, so you won't have too long to wait.

You'll notice that I go on about christmas a lot, even from relatively early in the year.
Something I share with my mum, and always have ever since I was little, is my great love of Christmas.
Where my dad and sister seem less enthralled with the whole christmas season, I find it, while not as magical as I used to when I was younger, still a special time of year. People tend to be kinder to each other, the world becomes a smaller place as people concentrate less on work and more of their families, and a sort of warm atmosphere imbues everything and everyone with a bit of christmas cheer.


Gainsborough: Christmas for our family - my mum and I at least (everyone else seems to either keep their own little christmas traditions private, or they genuinely do play less of a part in Christmas) starts in earnest around late november, with our trip (my mum and I go) to Gainsborough Old Hall. A nice 15th century timber-framed house. They have a christmas themed market, where you can wander around inside the house, look at various examples of home made crafts and suchlike (and it's great for Christmas presents too). They have a real fire (something of a rarity these days) in front of which you can sit, listen to Christmas music, and eat your home made mince pies, with fruit punch.
After going there, we usually wander into the town and have some chips, before going round the market. It's a little family tradition, and it's quite nice.

This year on the way back from Gainsborough, we also popped into Tickhill Garden Center - a local garden center between Maltby and Gainsborough (on your right hand side going towards Gainsborough). These guys have got a christmas department that's usually pretty big, and have lots of lights and trees and suchlike to look at and consider buying - we usually stop off their on the way back, shopping for new Xmas decorations.

While a nice day out in its own right, this trip was followed about a week later by a visit to Kelham Island's victorian christmas market. Pretty much the same sort of thing as Gainsborough, except this time, the setting is an industrial museum towards the center of town. This time, we took the entire family (with the exception of my brother and his other half) along.
It was pretty good, the museum was packed with examples of machines that helped give Sheffield the extremely important manufacturing base that it had before, during and after the war, and helped instil a sense of pride, when I realised just how important my home town had been during WW2. Jingoistic Nationalism aside though, it was also pretty fun wandering around with the family, taking in the sights ect. My nephew got to design his own christmas decorations, I got a few good photos, and we all had a pretty nice time.

In the days after this, we merrily got the house tidied and had started putting the Christmas decorations up.
I also had the misfortune to go completely deaf in my left ear, which for the week I was thus afflicted, was very alarming and offputting. Towards the end, as depressing (or should that be cheery?) as it sounds, I simply got used to it. But still, a quick trip sorted me out, and meant that I wouldn't have to spend all Christmas asking people to repeat themselves.

My nephew and sister and their new dog visited quite often during early December, and this presented us with a great opportunity to make Christmas that bit more magical for my little nephew, by taking him on journeys and trips through the "Magical Christmas Kingdom" (The next housing estate, where many houses had very elaborate lights). This also gave us the opportunity to take the new dog for a walk, which I'm sure she enjoyed. It also helped me figure out which house was the one with the lights that I could see straight out my my window, on the opposite hillside.

Shortly before my trip to the doctors though, we took a trip down to London, to visit the Christmas market, and do some shopping, and generally have a look about. We visited harrods, as well as a couple of other places, and the day passed pretty well. We didn't buy a huge amount, but we did have a nice time out. I like London. I used to feel like an unwelcome outsider when I was there, but in the past year or so I've come to realise that London is populated almost exclusively by people that weren't born there, and that I was no more unwelcome than anyone else. Which is probably not saying much (hehe). The trip round the tower was very good though, and I got some photos that I'm very happy with.

That same day, I started my Christmas Countdown. To summarise, when my parents came back from their holiday in Italy (which they thoroughly enjoyed), they brought me back a little tub or whatever you'd call it, of different bottles of spirits. I decided to save them for a special occasion, and I ended up using them as a Christmas advent calendar, with me have one of them each day, and doing a little writeup on how I found each drink and what I thought. Some were better then others!

In the days that followed, I set to work at my new job getting a bit of Christmas money together (except that they haven't paid me, so it's not Christmas money now is it. Grr), and I counted down the days to Christmas.

December the 23rd was important, and yet reasonably unpleasant, as I went without sleep and stayed up till silly times, insistent that I was finally going to finish my dad's Christmas present. Everything went wrong, either the CD software crashed mid-burn, or the printer ran out of ink, or the guillotine I was using to cut the pages to size was blunt and shredded the paper, I was not a happy bunny, but thankfully, and amazingly, I got the whole damn thing finished at long last.
My dad's Xmas present started out being a labour of love, and ended up being just a bloody labour. Didn't stop me from double-wrapping it though, first in a DVD gift box and then with wrapping round it, so he could make as big an effort to get it out of the box as I made to get it all in...

Christmas Eve was initially disappointing. One of our family's yearly christmas traditions is that we all go shopping as a family, and prepare for christmas as a family. This year, it had looked as though it was going to be different, with the abscence of my sister and my nephew, who it appeared had decided not to come along for the shopping, but fortunately we managed to bump into them before the store opened, and we did our shopping again, as a family again.

I was suffering with the cold a bit them, so I was grateful to get home and have a sleep. I woke up in the early afternoon though, and by juggling with the clock a bit, I was able to take my nephew out to see father christmas on his van, before going and working for a few hours.
After this, I gladly came home, wrapping up the last few presents. I had a shower and was generally variously grateful to the company that made my bed, the company that put an "off" switch on my alarm clock, and everyone else that didn't interfere with my plans, allowing me to have a nice sleep, which quickly ushered in Christmas Day itself.

The Day started easily enough, I had to grab the presents from the loft and help set everything up, of course, but the greatest effort was put in by my mum, who cooked a fantastic meal for dinner, but (OMG No Wai! etc etc) forgot the white sauce (!!!!!). Each year, my grandad swaps between spending christmas day at our house, and boxing day at the aunt's, and then vice versa the following year. My brother and his other half have a similar thing going on at their end, except it's with sarah's parents.
This year we were lucky enough to have Grandad over for Christmas Day at our house.
My Bro and his other half weren't able to come because my bro is recovering from an operation. Not to worry, there's a way around that...

Christmas Day was pretty good, everyone got what they wanted, more or less, and we had a nice christmas day walk in the park with my sister, nephew, remote control car/UFO and the dog, which gave us a moment of pause in what was turning out to be a nice but hectic christmas day, so that was welcome too. You'll note that Christmas Day's blog was very sparse. I was too busy having a nice christmas with the family to spend time writing about it, I think I had the right priorities :-).

Boxing Day came around, almost without me realising it (It was about 1am before I went to bed) and after a few little arguments (as is traditional at Christmas in every house, I am sure) we managed to grab my sis and nephew, and go along to my Brother's House for Boxing Day.

And I enjoyed it. It was one of those nice family occasions where everyone gets together and spends time with each other. Everyone got a few more pressies, which was always a good thing, and I got an interesting technological christmas project to work on.

After this were a few opportunities to just kick back and enjoy Christmas, drink the Christmas beer, eat the turkey curry (I had some yesterday, very nice it was too!) and generally enjoy the last few days of the "season of goodwill".

I think that Chrismas 2008 was probably one of the best Christmases I've had for a while. It beat 2007's which seemed a bit frugal, and definitely beat 2006's which was full of arguments.
This christmas was full of wine and nice food, and a nice christmas week with the family, which I think is something that I'd be a fool to ever take for granted. Everyone seemed to have a good time, and everything seemed to work out well.
There were a few arguments from my dad (who else) throughout the week, but that always happens, and this year they were reined in reasonably well, and so didn't cause too much disruption. So yeah, a nice christmas, one that I'd repeat happily :-).

And now I'm off to eat some turkey curry, if we have any left.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Boxing Day

00:23: I spent the last hour or so of Christmas Day watching a documentary on Blackadder, cleaning my camera sensor (took two of my 12 swabs - and they're £25 for a set of 12!!) and tidying my room out after filling it with cool new stuff.

So now I'm sat chilling, eating chilli, drinking beer and watching Father Ted.
My ickle buddy Conory's been on, he's had an awesome christmas too, and has either filled his camera's memory card up, or run his battery down. One of the two - either way, he said his camera is temporarily resting.

23:51: Okay, if I was writing this any later, it wouldn't be boxing day, now would it. Today is boxing day for me, or perhaps "60x1Ng D4Y" or even "60X0RZ", I suppose either could be applied to it by a special kind of AOLer, but we'll come to that later.

I woke up in the early afternoon with a moderate hangover. Nothing major, but I saw no compelling reason to get out of bed, so I didn't.
I woke up in the slightly-less-early afternoon, to the news that we were going to my brother's house for our traditional boxing day buffet banquet type thing in 45 minutes, and would I please wash my hair now. After a series of polite, and eventually less polite refusals, I relented, if only to keep the peace. During that time, we all had a series of nice arguments mostly centered around the fact that we were apparently going to be setting off 50 minutes early, and what was the bloody point of me asking what time we should go there if they're just going to ignore me as usual and do their own thing? Of course I was then told that I wasn't entitled to an explaination which set me off, and the whole happy ensemble continued until we got bored of it.

Eventually though, after a while of fecking about, it was time to go. Off we went. As dad set the alarm, my mum and I tried to muscle out of the house carrying armfuls of christmas presents (my brother wasn't present yesterday, so we're doing his/his fiancee's presents today) for the trip. My mum, in the rush, drops one of the christmas presents, and I try to go in to retrieve it before the alarm goes off, before my dad, during trying to stop me getting into the house, reveals that he picked it up and decided not to tell anyone for the sake of being bloody akward.

A quick journey later though, and we're at my brother's house. Not a bad place, considering we have similar tastes in interior decoration (every horizontal surface covered with gadgets/computer equipment). We sit and chat for a while, drinking some of the cutest little bottles of coke I've ever seen, and then get underway with the whole opening presents thing.

Now before we get into it, I complain about the media ban.


See, I'm an information nut. My computer is filled with photos, documents, and importantly, videos. If I've done something special, been somewhere special, or seen anything special, I probably have at least a few minutes of videos to go along with it.


I'm not one of these people who asks people to pose for official photos, I want to get the atmosphere of the thing as it happens. I want to record not just what happens, but the reactions to it, people's moods, and the whole atmosphere of the event I'm recording.
Preserved, like a fly in amber (what a cliche - sorry) those events are forever open to me, for me to go into them, and experience them again. Why make do with "I remember" when you can see everything exactly as it was?

To paraphrase Spike Milligan, "why do we grow so attached to the past? Is it that with the future unknown, and the present unpleasant, the now-distant and safe past beckons us and welcomes us to happier times?"

Unfortunately, As a result, I've acquired something (among about 2 people) of a reputation for having three eyes - my regular two, and one made of optical glass - and that kinda unnerves people. I don't know whether people are worried that once I have them on video I can do anything I want with their souls, for the rest of eternity, muahahaha - ahem, or whatever, but the fact is that people generally don't like cameras being shoved in their face (which I don't do) or even pointed at them (which I do do).

As I said to my sister though, people might dislike having a camera pointed at them, but they'd dislike not having Christmas/Birthday/Wedding/Bar Mitzva/Loss of Virginity/Childbirth/Whatever, photos and videos of their special occasions even more. And for those with common sense, even those against the whole camera thing would be well advised to consider it a neccessary evil, for the sake of their own future "cherished memories", and so that I don't have to mentally groan and roll my eyes with private derision.

In any case, in an effort to record every detail - including the food eaten at certain events (it's not just me, even Spike Milligan made a note of the menu served at one of his postings in WW2) I have been pointing the camera every which way recently, which my brother decided he didn't want me doing at his boxing day feast/banquet/buffet thing (shame as it was bloody nice), and so said that he didn't want any cameras at the table.
Of course me being me, I got the huff and accidentally deliberately forgot to bring a camera altogether. Rather irresponsible of me in retrospect.

(Now back to your regular programming)

Anyway, my bro says that I should go along and shoot with his D80. I initially feel flattered and honoured until I remember that I've got a few thousand photos on my D200 under my belt. I go out and prep the D80 (attaching flash etc), my mind smugly muttering that evil quote, "the circle is now complete. When I met you, I was but the learner. Now I am the master". Okay that's a lie, it never occured to me at the time, but hey, it would have been good if it had hey?
First time I picked up the D80 I wondered what all the glowy red things in the viewfinder were for, and all the buttons had weird acronyms. This time, I found myself looking at the camera thinking "where the hell is the focus area selector? How the hell do I change autofocus modes on this thing? The once mysterious acronyms now seemed as vaguely amusing and unimaginative as those on my own camera. In short, I knew what I was doing this time :-).

Anyway, the present opening commenced. My nephew was lucky enough to get exactly what he'd been ranting about for the past few months, which was a really cool sweetshop counter type thing, complete with a little scoop, weighing scales, and a till complete with money.
And an incredibly huge tub of sweets (which he gorged himself on until he was dancing on the spot with hyperactivity). I thought it was really cool though, the weighing scales worked and he had all sorts of sweets to go along with it.

In addition, he also got a playmobil camper van, which I thought was really cool considering his other playmobil related pressies. It's certainly been a bumper christmas for him.
I in the meantime am getting to grips with the D80 and the (to my mind) annoyingly slow recycle times of the SB-800 (You can lower the recycle time, but you have to buy an external battery pack, and if you keep firing the flash at full power without letting it cool down, you can eventually melt the electronics and even the body of the flash!).
I muse later, that I hadn't intended to shoot any pictures. When I did, I shot about 70!

My mum got a DVD, and I opened my first pressie to find a Budweiser presentation gift pack thingie. Great! I don't often drink Budweiser (because it's bloody expensive - or at least it is to low-brow six-pack drinkers like me), not only that, but I actually now had my own drinking glass again - something I hadn't had until I accidentally smashed my own London Eye souvenir tankard by dropping a battery (I think) onto it.

Later on I unwrapped a DVD, which turned out to be Rowan Atkinson - Live.
Now, to say this production and I go back is something of an understatement. When I was at primary school, no more than 8 or 9, I watched this so often (because I found it very funny, and perhaps because my parents either didn't know or were too busy to stop me :p) that I learned every line of every sketch, to the point where I was able to convince my teacher at the time, to allow me to pull her class out of the classroom, into the playground, where I gave a 10 minute one-boy show.

I can't remember the reaction, I remember they laughed, but I remember it wasn't a stellar performance (even I didn't understand some of the humour) but they found it vaugley funny, and looking back, I was and am glad that I did it :-). I'm not sure whether the teacher had words with my mum (hehe).

Anyway, I was very happy to actually own a copy, after my brother's VHS (no DVD's at that time) copy disappeared in mysterious circumstances.

My brother unwrapped the presents from me - a book about the formula one circuits, which he seemed pretty pleased with (yay) despite the fact that it's so bloody big that he'll have to store it under a rug or something.

I gave a copy of Century Rain to him too, to try to get him into Alastair Reynolds :-).

The third pressie wasn't so great.

My bro is something of a star wars fan, so while at Manchester Airport, I'd been careful to keep an eye out for one of Flybe's Dash 8's, which bore the registration number G-JEDI. Of course eventually I managed to get a few snaps of her as she flew out, seemingly desperate to avoid the glare of my camera lens. One of these snaps I'd printed and framed.

Remember me mentioning that one of the presents got dropped earlier?
During showing my brother just why he'd want a framed photo of an airplane, I noticed that old familiar "mr-spider-has-been-ice-skating-here" pattern that I used to see oh-so often when I lived in Bolton, which indicated broken glass. Bugger.

Presents over, the chatting resumed. I flew my little UFO around the room, assembled my nephew's camper van, and watched the dog run around in circles.
Or maybe I assembled my nephew's dog, flew my little camper van around the room, and watched my nephew running around in circles. I can't remember, but I do know he did lots of circular running.

I also helped remove the spoon from that snake's throat for the 50th time since Christmas Morning. Once I did this, it flew around the screen in quite a worrying fashion.

Eventually though, the food appeared, and very nice it was too. Dips, hula hoops, mini scotch eggs, ham that was sliced to an almost invisible 0.02 microns (and vigorously stuck together) which was very nice, breadsticks, all sorts of nice foods.

So we ate for an hour or whatever and I noticed that my bro's tablet PC, once a show-offy talking point, was now laying rather dejected on the floor, in the corner, under the table. Not where I'd have expected to find it when I first saw its sparkliness. Passing comment on it, I was told that it didn't work, that it would work, that it got destroyed in the floods, that it got slightly damp but wasn't submerged, and that I could have it. Not necessarily in that order (hehe). This is where the "b0xing day" comment comes in. "Box" being slang used among leet hackers/12 year old AOL users for "computer".

Anyway, I looked the thing over and the more I looked at it the more I liked it. A cool gadget, and I'd just been randomly given it. Whoa, cool.

So I'm sat looking at it and everything, and the dog, now in my sister's arms (herself in a chair) wakes up. She sort of looks around, tries to right herself, fails, decides to get down as she is, She wriggles over the armrest of the chair, still trying to right herself, before rolling right over, and falling off the edge.
Take your typical picture of a dog stood on all fours. Now turn it upside down. Keep that image in mind.
With all four legs sticking firmly in the air, the dog fell the two feet off the armrest, onto the hard wooden floor with a bang that surprised us all.
She righted herself, and spent the next few minutes staring at the wall in stunned incomprehension/embarrasment, while us evil sods sniggered and joked.

Eventually though, against my protests (I rarely get to see my brother) it was time to go. Little nephew was very hyper at this point, and the discussion I was having ith my brother was obliterated by this little (lovable) loony running round and being noisy.

Eventually we got home, and with the tablet PC in hand, I set off to find an adaptor.
I found a bag of adaptors in the loft. Adaptors with small plugs, adaptors with big plugs, adaptors with plugs in the shape of swastikas, adaptors with several plugs, adaptors in all sizes and colours, EXCEPT the bloody size and voltage that I needed.

We eventually found a 12 volt adaptor and plugged into the nearest convenient wall (as opposed to inconvenient walls - those walls seperating me from south africa's gold reserves are such an example).

For the adaptor's trouble, the tablet PC showed a helpful "there is an adaptor plugged into me" light.
After several attempts though, it seemed that the screen would do no more than flicker while the hard drive occasionally restarted.

Later on I noticed that we need an 18 volt adaptor, not a 12 volt one. So now an 18 volt one is on the way. I've cleaned the docking station up and everything, and I'm looking forward to getting the thing working. IT's a fantastic lil gadget and it'll definitely turn heads. I was told by my mate Nick that the last time I appeared at manchester airport with the camera tethered to the laptop, he overheard several comments even from the die-hard plane spotter crowd "Does he know something we don't?" "which magazine does he work for?".

So I've been sat since, watching Rowan Atkinson Live. It's weird, as soon as I heard those first three big piano chords at the start of the show, well.
It was like I was 8 again. Very weird, and very welcome :). I got to the end of the DVD, and thought "Shall I watch Tinselworm? I've not seen it yet".
Then I thought "I love Bill Bailey, and I'm looking forward to Tinselworm, but I think I'll hit "replay".

Now playing - Fatal Beatings.

I've also been drinking my budweiser. And the lovely tin it came in? It's now serving in an illustrious new post as my tips jar :).

Anyway. Some photos.
More photos.
Sorry about the shite formatting. Blogger should let people insert tables.
Christ It's taken me over 90 minutes to write that lot (from 23:51 onwards)

Have fun!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas Day! Yay!

Yay, it's Christmas Day!
We have pressays and turkay

Er, crap poetry aside, I am now sat here with a slight headache still waiting for the drier to finish my bedsheets and suchlike, so I can go to bed :).

09:44: Well, after about 7 hours pleasant but restless sleep, and a good 5 or so incredibly powerful sneezes, tis time to get the Xmas pressies down :).

13:24: YAY! All pressies are open, everything assembled, all the things that need to be on charge are on charge, and everyone is happy :).

A complete list of my Xmas pressies (in the orer I pick them up off my bed, so no favouritism):

Ye Olde Xmas Pressie List

Gerber Recon LED Torch Mum/Dad

Visibledust Sensor Clean Solution (8ml) Mum/Dad

Visibledust Lens Cleaning Solution Mum/Dad

Visibledust Lens Cleaning Cloth Mum/Dad

Visibledust Sensor Cleaning Swab (12 pack) Mum/Dad

Toblerone Christmas Collection (hehehe)

Official replica of
The Sovereign's Sceptre Mum

The Crown Jewels Official Guidebook Mum

Bill Bailey's "Tinselworm" tour on DVD Sister

Official Formula 1 Wash Bag with body spray/shower gel

Terry Pratchett's
The Colour Of Magic On DVD Mum/Dad

Magic Garden
"pour-the-solution-and-watch-crystals-grow" kit (I think this is a
replacement for my old Magic Christmas Tree)

A large pillow cut jewel of some description, possible Ametrine
(though it looks more like Citrine to me) Mum/Dad

"Whack-a-mole" game Family Friend

Celtic Calligraphy by Vivien Lunniss Mum/Dad

Parchment - 20 sheets (cotton, not animal skin, so all you animal rights loonies can leave me alone and go back to your potatoes and 16 veg) Mum/Dad

Illumination For Calligraphy
by Janet Mehigan Mum/Dad

A plastic tub containing: Burgundy, Silver, Gold, Green, Brown and Black 29.5ml Calligraphy Ink Bottles.

New Slippers (A traditional Xmas pressie - my old ones are torn to shreds)

Lexmark "perfect finish" photo paper (255gsm)

Remote Controlled "Firefly" UFO Mum/Dad

Milk Chocolate Creme Eggs (French Ones) Nephew

Do Ants have Arseholes
by John Butler and Bruno Vincent Mum/Dad

Smart shirt from Burton Mum/Dad

Smart Trousers from Burton

Socks with traditional risque joke

Bench T-shirt

Dozing Dragon Statue Mum

13:40: I've got to take the dog for a walk and give my nep-hoo the opportunity to play with his new RC/Car outside :). Back soon!

14:16: I'm back, but before I go any further, I'm gonna finish the list of pressies, up there^^. :)

14:49: I've been a bit busy trying to get this done along with helping to set the table, so I'm gonna sign off for a bit and go along and help. Sort of :).

17:41: Yikes! After a yummy scrummy christmas dinner (first course melon ("Mayon"), second course fresh-baked bread and minestrone soup, and third course, turkey (I had turkey, roast potatoes, stuffing, and some of those little sausages with bacon wrapped around them) I set my nephew's keyboard up.
What followed was the little guy making loads and loads of noise and generally having lots of fun :).

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas Eve! Again!

09:08: Yay, it's here!

We've just got back from our traditional Christmas eve christmas food shopping.
Having gone to bed at about 00:00, not feeling too great, I was fortunate enough to wake to the luxury of a warm bed and no reason why I had to get out of it.
Of course, 6:15 rolled around and it was time to get ready to go out.

On the way there, it turned out that we hadn't made any arrangements to meet my sister there, it seems that the whole idea of us going christmas food shopping as a family - as we have done for the past 20 years - has suddenly been dropped as unfashionable. I was amazed that no one seemed to be bothered about the fact that without my sis and nephew, this wouldn't be a family christmas shopping trip, it'd be me, at Morrisons, with mum and dad.

We got to Morrisons, noting that the place wasn't even open and already there was a sizeable queue outside, and the place hadn't even opened yet, but my enthusiasm wasn't really there.

But, my mum emphatically started saying hi to someone, and I looked around to see...
...a grinning beaming very happy looking ickle nephew (in a cute little hat). And his mum. They had come after all! :-). Apparently my nephew leapt out of bed this morning, he was so enthused about coming.
For my part, I was very happy to see them both. A family christmas afterall.

We were about to take my nephew on his little routine round the travelators, but the store actually opened early, and as the shutters went up, the crowd moved in. There's only so many ways to describe two hours of shopping for christmas food - I noticed we got about a quarter of the food we used to - but then another thing which has become fashionable in our family, is replacing everything as it gets eaten, so we didn't actually have a huge load to buy.

But my ickle nephew seemed to enjoy wandering around with me, looking at all sorts of things, and generally being sweet and cute.

After what felt like an hour in the canteen, It was time to go home and get the stuff unpacked, and so here we are.
The turkey's in the bedroom for some reason (the reasoning is it won't get as hot in there (eh?)).
And I'm here in mine, absolutely shattered, looking forward to having a little nap :).

Later folks!

15:27 Right, I've had my little nap and now feel a bit better, save for a headache and sore throat/nose. Time to get on with the xmas eve tasls (changing bed etc)

Yay! As part of getting my room sparkly and ready for Christmas, my dad has afforded me the privilege of using our new vacuum cleaner. Woopdedoo! Mind you, he did warn me to "go steady" with it. I'm not sure how you can NOT go steady with a vaccum cleaner, maybe if you run small rodents over, or accidentally vacuum up some diamonds or something like that, that would be NOT going steady, but other than that, I think my choices for misbehaving with the cleaner are a bit limited.

I remember last christmas, from somewhere, we managed to come into possession of a toy Dyson, that as you pushed it along, rattled all the beads inside it. I thought it was pretty funny and quirky and cute, and as I remember it was a Christmas pressie for my nephew.
I think I saved it from the bin at one point.

16:31 Well, tis nearly time for santa to come round on his van to distribute sweets to all the cute lil kids.
Dad's giong off on one about the violations of sovereignty of the back bedroom, who's sanctity must not be disturbed on pain of having a stupid unreasonable rant directed at you.
Still, I'm gonna leave them lot going off on one downstairs, me and my ickle nephew are gonna play Zoo Tycoon 2 :).

22:52: I don't know what my mum puts in her quiches but they're incredible.
My nephjew and I played Zoo Tycoon for a short time, even as the queues to see Santa mounted up. Eventually though, time rolled round, and it was off out to see him, so my nephew, my mum, and my sis all went out.

I'd been worried about doing this, as my shift at work started at half five. Now before I start getting paid, I have to get in, unlock the bike container, get out a bike, lock the bike container, do a bike safety checklist, get changed, and get my cash ready. Before I get paid. This takes about 20 minutes.
Now Father Christmas visiting our street is something I've gone to every year since I can even remember, and though the time was getting on a little, I was determined that I was not going to miss it.

Before long, he comes rolling down the street in his sleigh (for further details about this whole thing see last year's xmas eve blog here), much to the excitement of the local kids, especially one kid who was absolutely amazed.

Surprisingly the queue moved fairly quickly, and my nephew got his choccy bar from Santa. I got the whole thing on video which is nice, and then it was time to leave.

I got to work in a stinking mood, which as the evening wore on and the tips mounted up, improved considerably. Money can't buy you happiness, but it can pay the angst to lay low for a while. Out on my rounds, it was nice seeing all the houses with their decorations, and one of the local churches was even having a carol service, giving the whole place a very nice atmosphere.

I was amazed by how many people were out and about though, every single pub was full to overflowing, there was music in all the streets, and working tirelessly to protect and aid those who had fallen foul of the beer (why get pissed before Christmas, it just means you have a hangover on the big day, surely?) are legions of police officers, paramedics and ambulance drivers. I hope those guys have a merry christmas too, they've worked bloody hard tonight from what I can see.

I got back, not very long ago, to find my entire cousins' side of the family here, as they are each christmas eve, and we chatted for a while, before they too had to get on with their christmas preparations, and went.

And so here I am. I'm surrounded by bare blankets and uncovered quilts/pillows (the covers being in the wash as I type). Definite Article's on the TV, and I'm feeling rather headachey.
But hey, it's christmas soon :).

I think I'm going to nick another quiche :-D.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Christmas Countdown - 1: Amaro Monte Penice

Or "the water from Penis Mountain".

08:57: I woke up several times throughout the night, before falling back to a rather unpleasant sleep. I woke again later.
The morning light was illuminating the curtains, my throat felt like it was on fire, my head hurt, my mouth tasted like I'd gone to sleep with a soldier's sock in it, and I was cold!

The air felt like Ice, it was almost physically painful to be exposed to any part of it. I made what must have been half a dozen pitiful attempts to block all the gaps in my bed that were letting the cold air in, and fell asleep again. Eventually though, I accepted that I had work to do, and decided to get up.

I hate having colds, and now we're out of lemsip. Bleah, meh and crap.

22:05: Right, I've spent the entire day feeling crappy, but I have at last finished my dad's christmas present! After only six months!
Nothing went well, CD's wouldn't burn, manuals kept getting ripped up, scissors etc etc kept going missing and files became corrupted, but the damn thing is now done, at long bloody last!

With that in mind I'm going to get onto the Amaro shortly, but first I have a few things to do.


Right. Amaro is another herbal liquore, and is sold and drunk in a wide variety of ways. It's not rare, but it is popular, which I spose means that if I like it, I can get more :).

I don't have a lot to say because i'm freezing, dripping wet from the shower, and I still feel ill.
So let's make with the Amaro.

I still don't know what's going on with the name (penis mountain?! :p), but the drink is a lovely rich brown colour. So without further ado, let's get the photos taken and let's get drinking.
22:58: Upon opening the bottle, I was greeted by the smell of (according to my temporarily partially non-functional sense of smell) Dental Mouthwash. The taste is something different though, as per the name, this drink is bitter. Very bitter, with a hint of sweetness in the aftertaste. It's like the Amaretto but in reverse. That said, it's pretty nice, not a drink I want to rush though. So let's get on with enjoying the Amaro, the last of my christmas countdown drinks, and reflect on the fact that in one hour, it is Christmas Eve. I draw my first paycheck for five months, in less than an hour. Woo! Well, I'm off to chill out, and educate my lil buddy Conory about the difference between Bitter and Bitters, and just generally relax and (insofar as it's possible to do so while ill), have a good time! Merry Xmas - almost!

Christmas Countdown - 2: Ferro China

Sounds like a scrap merchant's shopping list.

Right, I'm gonna have to make this quick I'm afraid, because I'm suffering from a double whammy of being absolutely knackered, and a mild but very annoying case of man-flu. That is, a cold.

I've been to Manchester and taken a few photos that I'm happy with, including this one (it's a little grainy, but I kept it because I'm still happy with it). Nick also very nicely got me some lowepro camera gloves as an Xmas pressie, on the basis that I'd kept him company at the airport for pretty much the entire year and he wanted to say thanks. Nice guy :).

The weather worsened, we came home, I went to sleep, I woke up, I chatted to my ickle pal Conor (he's 16 now) who I am making wise in the ways of the world, and then I carried on with my dad's Xmas pressie, which is almost, but worryingly, not quite almost enough, finished.

I wrapped my remaining pressies, so they're done now.

We also mixed up the christmas pudding, which is nice :).

Right. Alcohol.


02:04: Opening the bottle, I'm met with a rather unusal smell. It smells kinda like port but a bit like sherry too. I'm not sure what this drink is, though some have told me it may be a kind of bitters. Other than that, I know absolutely nothing about the drink.

I have, on account of its old fashioned label and deathly black colour, looked on this drink with some concern, as I have worried occasionally that it might be unpleasant. That said, the last two drinks were not exactly an orgasmic taste sensation (actually that's an unfortunate choice of words) so this one may actually be some improvement.

Now to give it a go :-).
02:06: Despite the colour which had initially put me off (I'm not racist towards different alcoholic beverages) the drink actually seems quite pleasant. The best way to describe the taste of the drink is as a rather herb flavoured port. As with some bitters, this does leave behind a rather bitter aftertaste, but then so does Port.

But yes, it's much more pleasant than I thought it would be.

As with other Giarola products though, it seems to be impossible to find this online, so I doubt I'd ever be able to buy a larger bottle. Oh well.
Oh yes, I found the honest glass that did go missing yesterday... It was under my desk. Bleah.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Christmas Countdown - 3: Kakao


I hope that the label refers to the flavour rather than simply the taste or general quality.

Nothing interesting happened today, so let's get straight to this rather strange drink.
Why is it strange? Because it says that on the label, the drink is zabaglione al cioccolato. Which i think is basically telling me that it's chocolate flavoured Italian Custard. Which by itself sounds like a euphemism for something extremely unpleasant, and even if this wasn't so, still sounds like an ancient weapon of war.

Centurion: "Captain, the greek fire is having no effect on the enemy lines!"
Captain: "Right then. We'll have to use the Italian Custard"...

Or maybe not.
Yes, in any case, I'm confused as to how zabaglione worked its way into this bottle. Isn't zabaglione a dessert?
There is nothing to do but drink it. A feat made slightly more difficult by the fact that I have misplaced the glass that is older than me, so I have had to get a replacement glass that is older than me. Note that this glass also lies. It seems we have a cupboard full of dishonest glassware.
So let's get with the drinking :).
22:24 The pouring of the drink was initially accompanied by a sharp alcoholic smell, accompanied by a smell that put me in mind of yesterday's less than fresh drink.
So lets see if it is any good, shall we? :)

Well, The drink definitely tastes of alcohol, and it tastes of cocoa. That is, unsweetened cocoa powder. This isn't a chocolate liqeur, it's exactly what it says on the label, kakao. A portmanteau of "kak" (italian for "cack") and "ao" (italian for "oh")

The only reason I am drinking this horrible drink, is because it as sat waiting for a special occasion. And I don't want to waste it.
If I was offered this in a pub though, I'd turn it down. It is thoroughly unpleasant, so much so in fact that I'm not going to prolong the pain by sipping it for the next half hour. I'm going to do the unthinkable and down this horrible horrible drink in one.
22:27 Right, I'm still alive. That wasn't pleasant, but what is, is the nice tingling in my throat to tell me that it is in contact with alcohol. Which can only be a good thing.

But bloody hell, to say I've been looking forward to it for six months, this drink was thoroughly, thoroughly unpleasant.

I'm off to read, eat some real chocolate (toblerone) and try to wash the taste (of the cack-oh) out of my mouth with a hot cup of tea.

Christmas Countdown - 4: Whiskey Cream

After yesterday's debacle of a first shift, I decided that today would be more successful.
I managed to get to work 30 minutes early and was ready to start 5 minutes before my start time.
All well and good, and when the first delivery gave me a tip it put me in a cheerful mood for the rest of the evening.

And the evening continued quite happily, there was no wind, no rain, not much traffic and not too many orders.

The only annoying incident was where some of the local lovable tykes, a little posse of 10 year olds headed by a kid maybe 14 years old, decided they'd like to examine my scoot a little closer while I was out on foot searching for an address in a less than salubrious part of town.

They scarpered when they saw me heading back, and even tried to engage me in conversation about the bike when I went to load back up, having been unable to find the house, and obviously not being willing to spend any amount of time searching for it with the scoot left exclusively with this lot.
Still, they helpfully directed me to the house, or at least to somewhere conveniently away from the bike, so they could have another look.
This time when I doubled back, one was sat on the thing and had managed to get the electrics going. Odd, given that you can't do that without starting it.
To my dismay, the remote control alarm that my scoot is fitted with, wouldn't go off despite me sneakily pressing the button, and it wouldn't go off when the kid sat on the damn thing (This is the same alarm that later spontaneously went off when a gust of wind rocked my bike gently on its stand outside the shop).

Still, having told the kids I hadn't found the place and was now going (to say they'd been trying to feck around with the bike you'd think I should have been angrier or more hostile or whatever, but hey, cats will scratch, dogs will bark, and kids will be kids, especially in this part of town)., I was surprised to actually be able to get on the scoot and get away, without any objections -verbal or otherwise - from them.

Of course, In reality, I went to the next car park on the estate and tried to find the house again. I did find the house - or what I thought was the house - with all its lights off and windows closed.
Thinking I'd been the victim of a hoax call, I got my gear on and fecked off.

So yeah, not a bad night really, was quite nice, and I'm feeling more at home with the place.

No sooner had I got back from work than my sis phones me, to ask me to go to the local 24 hour ASDA to shop for some christmas food with her. Fair enough, my nephew was absolutely nuts, and would not stop running around and (often literally) bouncing off things!

He enjoyed zooming around on the travelators though, which was cute of him.

As soon as we had him and the shopping back in the car though, he fell into a dead sleep.

Other than that, not much to report. Tess is still terrorising the cats (though they're getting wise to her, and Tigsy (the torty/tabby) has made it a policy to back into the corner and start throwing those little kitty-punches that cats do.

And that's about it. Onto the alcohol.


I'm led to believe that this stuff is identical to Baileys, which is good because I like baileys. In fact over the course of two or three days, I once had a whole bottle to myself for my ickle bedtime treat. A fact which its owner - a mutual pal of my then-flatmate was not particularly pleased about at the time.

We all know what Baileys looks like so I'm not going to go into that any further. I am however, going to go into the fridge, to get the bottle. Ha ha aha etc.

01:14 (yes, today is until I go to sleep, for those of you that haven't read my earlier blogs)
I opened the bottle to find a couple of things. Firstly, a very pleasant smell. Secondly, a congealed sludge - probably cream based - blocking half of the neck.

With some shaking and perseverance though, I've emptied the bottle, so let's see what the drink's like. Well, it smells whiskyish, but not very strongly. I don't know if cream has a smaell (a new word) so I'll skip that and go straight to the taste.
Hmm. I can taste whisky combined with distinct undertones of what I suspect is sour cream.
I may be wrong, but I think this has soured.
Let me go and get a second opinion...
01:23. Right I'm back, having had the second opinion, and I apologise to the drinks manufacturers. I am told that the drink is in fact probably not sour, and the undertone of sour cream is more likely to be more whisky tones. My second opinion (my mum) was not 100% sure though, and the drink had congealed around the inside of the cap, but I'll try not to think of that bit...

Having got used to the taste, which includes a distinctly bitter aftertaste, the drink itself isn't actually that bad. It isn't as nice as Baileys, but it's not bad, and certainly isn't the labour-to-drink that the Alkermes was.

I've done some research and have found that Baileys, which has pretty identical ingredients to this stuff, has a shelf life of about 24 months. So it's probably just me then. I hope.

Anyway, I'm going to finish this drink so I can wash its taste away with fresh fairtrade orange juice, and then have a nice nap. I'm still not convinced it isn't sour.


Friday, December 19, 2008

Christmas Countdown - 5: Cremovo

I woke up several times today, initially from a rather unpleasant dream in which I was on shift delivering pizzas, and I got into a fight with a rather unpleasant crack user who was evidently rather disappointed that I didn't have any crack, and didn't know anyone who did.

Serves me right for reading wikipedia too much. One of the articles I browsed last night (in response to Jeff Dunham's comedy dvd) was crack. Don't know why, I've no interest in that type of thing :).


I woke up again to the sound of my parents arguing. They've evidently got over it now as they've taken the car and fecked off somewhere. Christmas shopping hopefully! ;-)

I eventually got round to browsing the net, and realised rather slowly that I was in fact due to see the nurse at the local surgery. So with about 25 minutes to go I started getting ready. I'd get dressed and see if I could swap some household chores for a lift to the doctors.

I looked outside - no car - bugger!

So I ended up running to the surgery. Not a problem, apart from the fact that my knee just "locked up" several times. It's like when I'm running either everything in my knee (my right knee - i've got two! (two knees not two right knees - cows have got two right knees, centipedes have got lots and lots. I don't know how many knees interior crocodile alligators have. They're all elbows and ankles (I just checked, they have two elbows at the front and two knees at the back (I'm going for the biggest number of consecutive bracketed sentences in a single paragraph(have I done it yet??))))) moves as it should, and sometimes it doesn't. Initially, it didn't.


I managed to get to the doctors with about a minute to spare, and announce my presence to the receptionist.
I was still looking through the magazines for the "digital photographer monthly" or whatever it's called, when the nurse called me. Of course, being mostly deaf in my left ear had evidently robbed me of most of my ability to tell which direction sounds had come from, so I'm looking around at the various doors, before I do a 180 and see the nurse grinning at me with some amusement :).

Anyway, I had my ears checked, then she sticks this thing which I spose is like a medical version of those spray things they use in bars and pubs to spray soft drinks into glasses, into my ear.

And then turned it on.

Did it hurt? Well, no actually. You do get a very loud rushing of water, and you can feel the water sloshing around in your ear, but in the first few seconds I noticed the sound start as muffled, and quickly become louder - it was working!

A second burst, at a higher setting, and that was it!
One week's worth of deafness fixed in 30 seconds!

I walked home, noting how loud the world had suddenly become.

I also stopped into the chippy on the way back, and got myself my favourite junk food meal.
Now, if you eat these on a daily basis, you'll become fat, deranged, and unable to move under your own power. But as an occasional unhealthy treat (god I sound like one of those special K ladies) I can't recommend it enough.
Introducing [chippy's] "wrap special". Get some chicken ("chikin") kebab meat, some lamb kebab meat, modge it around in curry sauce, then wrap it up in a tortilla. Then charge the person about £2.60 to eat it. It's cheap and tasty. And about as good for you as getting your head stuck in moving machinery. I also bought large quantities of soft drinks (running makes me thirsty).

I got home, dished up, and shoved some music on to listen to with both ears, for the first time in a week. Today's playlist is:

Nirvana: Polly
Nirvana: Lithium
Andy Williams: It's the most wonderful time of the year (Cool christmas lights too!)
Oomph!: Traumst Du
Collide: Razor Sharp

I'm now sat munching my unhealthy car-crash meal and listeing to christmas tunes. I might wrap some pressies when I get back from work. Hehe I love saying that. For now, it's nice to have a job again.

The cremovo comes later. It's going in the fridge now.

14:48: It was a dark and stormy night. It still is too. It's raining and the wind is blowing around something fierce. I'm gonna have plenty of fun staying upright tonight, much less making a good impression.
I'm trying to get ready and as usual everything's gone to rat-poo.
Everyone is running around putting shopping away, which means that I can't get ready because they're getting in my way and generally being a nuisance. The bit of paper that tells me when I start/finish is in my coat, which has disappeared into the dark recesses of the universe's imagination, far away from me, it would see, because I can't find the bloody thing.

What fun.
Still, it's Christmas soon :).

22:51: Right.
What a mess.
I ended up getting there bang on five thirty,, and it went downhill from there.

First, the bike shed has been replaced with something that's basically a glorified shipping container concreted into the ground. These are generally very hard to open, and it took me about 10 minutes to figure out how to get into the damn thing.

Second, when I did get one of the bikes out, the fecking thing wouldn't start. No electric start, no kickstart.
So we got the second bike out, exact same thing.

It was only after 20 minutes of several of us trying to figure it out that I noticed that the keyfob said "meta" (a manufacturer of vehicle immobilisers and alarms) on it. Eventually after triggering the alarm several times, we managed to get the damn thing turned off, and get the scoot started.

And from there, it was okay. Apart from one occasion when I slipped on some muddy concrete and fell on my arse. Fortunately I was in a good mood so I was laughing even as I got up.

Second though, somehow I turned the bloody hazard warning lights on the scooter. And I could not turn them off. They're remote control only - so there's not even a button on the scooter to turn them off.

So I had to ride back with the damn things on. What fun.

Thankfully though, the night improved, and the rest of the night was pretty much pain free :).

So now, I think I'd like to drink some alcohol. It's time for the Cremovo.


Cremovo, according to the information I've been able to find, is a kind of Marsala - a fortified wine. It has sugar and egg yolks in it as well apparently. That said, let's go and get it :).

23:30: Well, having poured the drink, it smells really nice, it smells like port. There's a reason for this. It is actually similar to port.
I spose it's time to give it a go and see if I like it :-).

Hmm, it's quite thick, very sweet, there's a strange, almost tangy undertaste that I can't identify, but all in all, the Cremovo is probably the nicest of the drinks I've had so far :).

I'm not going to go into huge amounts of detail about the taste, as Cremovo is basically Port.
But yes, as I say, it is very pleasant.

Well, I'm off to finish my supper and I suspect I will be going to bed soon. The presents will need wrapping in the morning I guess.

Have fun :).

Christmas Countdown - 6: Limoncino

So I woke up fairly late today and spent the rest of the day arsing about with my dad's Xmas pressie.

The day didn't really pick up until later when my sis suggested we go Christmas shopping. I need to get a few christmas presents so hey I went along.

First thing we managed to do was get myself one of those 3 foot long Toblerones. Not bad for what worked out as 2 quid, so hey. Onto Meadowhall. Admittedly the place is not as packed as I'd expected it to be, so it was cool working our way round, and pretty productive. Admittedly it took a while but eventually I managed to get pretty much everything I was looking for, noting with alarm that I was running out of money fairly quickly. I don't get paid (that's right folks, now I officially GET PAID!) until christmas eve. 00:00 hours on the 24th of December. Uh huh. What the hell do I spend my paycheck on? Santa's delivery service? Do I pay fuel surcharges or something? Import tax? Guess buying stuff in the shops in the UK is a good idea after all!

So what else happened? Well, my nephew spent the night like a strobe light, on, off, on off, flickering rapidly between "absolute little demon from hell" and "loving adorable cute lil kid". We had a good old wander round, and I spose "a good night was had by all" as I seem to be saying increasingly.

One other thing I bought myself was a kite. Yes, I paid money for a kite. Why? BEcause in my Twenty Three years, I've never flown a kite, seriously. I accept that perhaps a two-line stunt kite isn't a novice's best choice for a first kite, but it cost me £4 (down from £13) so I ain't complaining.

One other bargain that I managed to bag (Yes I know I went out scouting for christmas presents for the family, but this bargain was too good to resist and didn't impact my present gathering ability in any way whatsoever anyway) was Century Rain by Alastair Reynolds.

When this book came out it was about £15. There are places like Forbidden Planet selling the paperback version for £6.99 plus whatever the hell delivery is there - I'm not registering to find out.

I got my copy, hardback, for £1.
That's not a typo, I got this book, hardback for £1/1 GBP/1 Pounds Sterling.
How? You swallow your pride and go to the budget shops. I was surprised as hell to find this thing in there, but as far as they're concerned, it's on the shelf, it's £1.

So 500+ pages of Alastair Reynold's latest work are mine at about 0.20 pence per page. If it's as amazing a work as Pushing Ice, then that's bloody good value for money.


Anyway, moving onto the alcohol - not including the four cans left over from last nights anticlimactic (is that a word) celebrations. Tonight drink is slightly more familiar.


Limoncino as far as I can ascertain, is Limoncello. A not unpleasant (but not fantastic) lemon liquor made from the rinds of lemons. The resulting drink, while being completely lacking in sourness that might ruin it, still includes plenty of bitterness, which is less than welcome.

Still as I say, the drink isn't unpleasant, in fact, its popularity is increasing. Limoncello is being sold in the US, the UK and Australia, as well as some other European countries. Perhaps it's not as bad as I remember it. What's vaguely interesting in a boring kind of way is the fact that the drink itself manages to take on a yellow colour, even though it's basically alcohol with lemon rinds shoved in it. Maybe it's one of those mysteries of life. Maybe I don't care enough to research it further. Still, it's an atractive drink. One that makes me daydream about living in Tuscany, with a couple of ducatis parked outside my villa, heating up in the morning sunshine... ahhh.... Ahem. Back to the grimy reality. Time to get the photos taken I spose.

01:45 Yes, I admit it, I'm late again. Not to worry, remember, "today" ends when you go to bed.
The drink certainly smells lemony, and not unfamiliar. time to give it a go I spose. ... Well, I'm surprised, this drink here is actually more pleasant than the bottle of Limoncello my parents brought home with them. It's definitely Limoncello, but it's obviously from a different producer. There's less bitterness and the drink itself is sweeter. At 30% ABV it's also some 3/4% stronger than the limoncello my parents brought back from Italy.

I'm glad I opened this bottle, when its number came up I wasn't impressed, complaining that "I know what limoncello tastes like and it's not great". But yes, I've got to admit, this drink is pretty nice. So now I'm off to carry on watching Jeff Dunham on Youtube, and I'm going to enjoy the rest of my drink :). Here are the photos.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Christmas Countdown - 7: Alkermes (I got a job)

15:32. Right, new job starts in 45 minutes, and right now I'm running round like a mad loony trying to find all my clothes. tempers (well, temper - mine) are/is running high and I just want to get out the door and get on with it :).

Let's see how it goes.
We return to the christmas countdown later.

21:28. I'm sat here with my nice celebration beer, relaxing after what turned out to be a successful night at work. The long and short of it ist hat I was assessed on my ability to meet certain standards, and having met those standards, was awarded the job. So yay, after four months of being unemployed, I am now finally working again. Fantastic stuff.

My job? Well, I'm basically a pizza boy, but hey, it's a job, I'm working with a good team, the work isn't dangerous, difficult or unpleasant, and I don't have to worry about armed mercenaries storming into my house to steal my camera, and any goods I own that add up to it's total monetary value.
So yes, a good night was had by all it seems, as my mum is also celebrating - this time at a christmas party. I don't expect she'll be drinking though, as she has taken her car with her.

As for the alcohol, well, the random number generator has picked bottle number one today.


I know very very little about this drink. It seems to be a local specialty. The only information I have been able to find about it is that it may historically have being arabic in origin, and medicinal in purpose.
In that case, I suppose much like tonic water and coca cola going from medical concoctions to popular drinks in their own right, Alkermes has made a similar transition. The label says that it has natural flavourings in it, which isn't very helpful.

It's chilling in the fridge now, right now, I'm drinking my celebration beer and working on my dad's Xmas pressie. I'll come back to this later.

23:27. Well, I've got a nicely chilled (but tiny) drink in front of me. Aside from the bright red colour, one of the first things that I notice is the smell. Sort of alcoholic, but the drink also smells of rose water, and something like cloves. This is good, because I've found some more information on the drink, and this is exactly what it is supposed to smell like. Alkermes is a drink invented in 19th century Italy, and contains among other things, rose water, cloves, orange oil, as well as alcohol. It's colour used to be produced by a particular insect, though I'm not certain if this is still true. If so, this might be the only glass of beetle juice I've ever drunk. While Alkermes itself was invented as a drink, it seems it was derived from an earlier, but substantially different recipe, that did have (purported at least) medical uses.
11:34: Wow. despite its delicate smell, the drink actually has a very strong taste, and I have to admit that it's quite pleasant. The cloves are very noticable, as is the rose taste. the drink burns on the way down as well, which I personally consider a hallmark of a good drink. However, like the Amaretto, this drink also has a moderately unpleasant aftertaste, and while I feel that it would be unfair to condemn the entire drink as unpleasant simply due to the aftertaste, I do think that the aftertaste is a big factor in deciding what I think to the drink.
All in all, this is a reasonably pleasant, interesting and very striking drink, with a very unusual flavour that while pleasant, still takes some getting used to. One word that describes the taste would be "Aromatic". It's almost as if that while drinking the drink, the taste fills not only the mouth, but the nose and even the sinuses. It's very striking. I let my mum have a little taste of this as I wasn't sure what to make it. She described it as "liquid cherry lips", which I think is a pretty good description.
So yes, it wasn't unpleasant as such, but I am glad to be back on the beer. :). Might go to bed soon. Have fun!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Christmas Countdown - 8: Prugna Liquore (The movie Idea)

Today has been a productive day. I've accomplished a considerable amount of work on my dad's Xmas pressie, I've not got very much on it left to do before it's done and ready to be wrapped, and I've had a fairly steady day too.

I've put another three presents in the loft, and to be honest, that's about it. The most exciting thing that's happened to me today is eating a yummy cheeseburger with some coca cola while watching Dracula: Dead and Loving It.

On a related note, I must really recommend TVShack, it's a fantastic site, and while it doesn't have everything, it does have a huge amount of tv shows (star trek, father ted, bab 5, etc etc) as well as movies, documentaries etc. I also recently watched War of the Worlds (the crappy version) just to see how badly Spielberg and Tom Cruise could mutilate it between them.

The thing that makes me grin is how Tom Cruise's character is a dock worker, but still knows how to use an Anti Personnel Grenade (no, it's not simply a case of pulling the pin). On a related note, anyone who attaches grenades to themselves by the pin is an idiot, for obvious - or perhaps not very obvious (with fatal consequences) reasons.
The tripods were scary, and pretty convincing, I can't decide whether they're scarier than the Darkwalker or not though. But Tom Cruise has just completely lost all credibility with me, for reasons that Pat Condell goes into here, in his usual Articulate, funny and succinct manner.

That said, thankfully Mr Cruise seems to be able to keep his beliefs and his work seperate (unlike an increasing number of our workforce who finds that their job now offends their beliefs, whenever they are asked to do anything resembling work), and so perhaps the blame for War of the Worlds being a poor film, falls at Mr Spielberg's feet.


Perhaps in response, we should take "Independence Day", make it substantially more realistic, less cheesy and jingoistic, and have it directed by a British guy, to even the tables, I don't know.

We can have Simon Pegg as a wine drinking Royal Navy pilot who wants to get a seat in the European Space Project, getting woken up in his bed by his wife, while the earth shakes around them, only to insist that it's only legions of former British heroes revolving in their graves, before going back to sleep.

Of course, Jeff Goldblum, er, Lloyd Grossman, working for the BBC, figures out that the Aliens are trying to transmit a countdown signal over the BBC's network, but of course, the aliens find that after having travelled all this distance, their attack plans are completely ruined by the fact that the BBC did in fact record the entire countdown before the aliens ever turned up.

Pissed off, the aliens unleash a full frontal attack, all over the carpet, (before getting arrested for indecency and then quickly released when they complain loudly that getting arrested offends their beliefs) and the entire free world hangs on the success of Lloyd Grossman and Simon Pegg flying an Apollo space capsule stolen from the London Science Museum (the only alien construction the UK ever caught was shariah law).

With this, they have to contaminate the aliens' high tech computers on their mothership, with strains of the deadly "British Gas Billing System" virus (the one that makes all the numbers add up wrong),before launching a small nuclear warhead borrowed from the Americans (this occurs in space, so the labour government can't have them arrested for it), while all the while, a pissed up cider farmer from somerset, defies gordon brown and the human rights commisions by running interference down here by flying his F-18, er, Sea Harrier, er, do we have any armed forces left Mr Brown? (Yes, but no thanks to you), his cessna skyhawk into the underside of the alien ship in a clearly antisocial and racially motivated attack.

Of course, the labour government catch wind of this act of wilful damage on Bill Bailey's part, and gift millions of Taxpayer's money to the Aliens, by way of compensation, and to apologise for the damage to their nice shiny ships of mass destruction.

The aliens are then invited to "integrate into our culture" (A British phrase that is best translated into "Come among us and demand handouts for you and your descendants for as long as you are distinguishable from the native (hereafter known as the "poor bastards") population). They do so, and completely take over the nation without firing a single shot.

We can keep the title of the movie, "Independence" in this case refers to the entire world building a giant wall around the UK and keeping this horrible mess on the inside, much to the benefit of the rest of the world, who, now the aliens are distracted by a lifetime of BMW's and free money, are quite safe.

I kinda like that idea, maybe I should apply for a government grant to get the movie made.
I wonder if saying I'm "ethnic" as in "ethnic Yorkshire" will make it any more likely that I get free money.

But, hey, it's been a decent day so far I've had my little flight of fancy, and I'm off to bed soon, so let's make with the alcohol.

Today's random number generator picked bottle 8 - "Prugna"


"Upon close inspection, (and considerable research) "prugna" would appear to be plum schnapps. I've only ever had peach schnapps before, and have found it to be quite nice. I don't eat plums, but I seem to remember them being rather bitter, so this could be interesting.
I've also managed to dig out my chocolates that we bought from harrods (there's £3.50 worth of chocolate here!), so I'll be enjoying these with my drink. Assuming that I enjoy my drink.
I shall just go and get it
Well, I'm rather surprised to sat that this drink smells almost exactly like the Amaretto I drank last night, it definitely smells of marzipan, and it's not cross contamination because I cleaned the glass thoroughly.

09:56: And now to taste it.
Well, I don't think it's Amaretto, but it definitely tastes similar. I would say there's a fruity taste in there but it could just be the water from the ice, or could even be psychological.

It's very different from the Schnapps that I've had in the past (Archers), I'd almost swear that this is Amaretto. Of course, it's not unpleasant, and the bitter aftertaste found in Amaretto isn't present, so I'm really really not sure what to make of this one. I'll have to do some more research while I eat my chocolates.