Tag Archive: Brussels


37 years old – it passed me by fairly unremarkably. Upgraded phone, new board game (Spyfall), upgraded broadband to fibre optic, hummus bros lunch, skipped the quiz and went to bed after an hour of random GTA mayhem. Not much more to report. 

The Berlin/Brussels four day extravaganza (he said sarcastically) was last week. Flew out to Berlin from Heathrow on Germanwings rather than the usual BA because that was the cheapest flight (thank-you stupid work policies). I think I might have been the only Brit on the plane. Owing to a massive delay at baggage reclaim, didn’t get to the hotel until just before 8 so quickly unpacked and headed straight back out to Zsa Zsa for a Latvian Burger, Erdinger Kristall, Käsekuchen and cocktails. Es war sehr geschmecks. 

Day 1 of the trip was pretty much confined to…classroom type training. Clearly I wasn’t the only one who balked at the thought of a diplomatic dinner but the moral of the story is to be careful what you wish for folks as I received emails demanding briefing on work-type stuff. I was utterly knackered by the end of the first day because I only slept fitfully the night before so it was a very weary Joe who was in Euro Kebap on Frankfurterallee eating Currywurst and working on three drafts of a document. After three hours of toil, I had to throw in the towel and beg for assistance from colleagues as my brain wasn’t making the necessary connections (it worked – one replied almost immediately saying exactly what I wanted and needed her to say). 

Day 2 began ridiculously early owing to an early morning tour of the Reichstag. Was up at 6.30 (5.30 UK time), fed, watered, out and then Parisier Platz for our meeting point. Did the tour (didn’t get to go to the roof because of ice – apparently), then to the Chancellery, lunch (Caras, naturally), more meetings and then a dash over to Tegel for dinner and my connecting flight to Brussels. I did manage to throw a load of Schokolade into my suitcase from the shop (Ritter Sport and the usual large bag of Riesen pieces)Owing to delayed planes, my stay at Tegel was much longer than envisaged and I didn’t stumble into the hotel until just before midnight. And the meeting lasted about forty minutes rather than the full hour (even more galling). Still, at least I managed a more leisurely lunch rather than the more hurried approach that had been de rigeur the last few days.

Went into work the next day utterly zombiefied. If I’d have known, I’d have taken the day off but again, there was just too much going on. I have never felt that drained of energy and it was only four days of travelling. Hardly running marathons or toiling in a mediaeval field. Friday wasn’t much better though by the time Saturday came around for our steakhouse & chocolate making trip, I had enough reserves to make it through the day.

So, London Steakhouse in Chelsea, not bad. Portion control was ok though the others disagreed. It was also quite difficult restraining myself into…correcting general restaurant behaviours. I know, I’m such a snob but when you hear people saying “can I get/grab” – it does kinda rankle. I feel a little bit of a hypocrite, given my general stance on formality but if you’re in a more upmarket venue, there is a certain etiquette to these situations. Then again, we were definitely not the worst table – a middle aged couple next to us had a domestic in the middle of dinner which was highly amusing to all involved. 

I made a classic blunder of not booking a lane at Hollywood Bowl so we couldn’t bowl a couple of frames after lunch so we went to the pub and then another pub closer to the chocolate making venue near Haggeston. There was a suggestion of going to Draughts until I pointed out the £5 fee for what would be little more than an hour’s worth of gaming. Chocolate making – was pretty much the same as the one we did with work about ten years ago (and I cannot believe it was ten years!) with the usual lecture at the start, some sampling and then some making. The chocolate cocktail (voddie, chocolate liqueur, ganache & drizzled dark) was pretty nice as it happens and I think I might make some next time I have people over. Then it was time to go home, by which point I was wiped out and begging for bed. 

And this week – one game of Risk Legacy, 7 Wonders, Room 25, bought several packs of 7-Up from Tesco as they’re selling it ridiculously cheap, found out we won the Griffin season prize (London Steakhouse AGAIN!! And powerboating on the Thames), work craziness and having a couple of serious rows on the phone with people.

That’s yer lot for now. Not much else to report – another sorta self-indulgent post but it’s the first in almost three weeks so excuse the minor display of egoism.

Advertisements

Stupid Leap Year

It’s not right you know – just because this planet has a wobbily orbit around the sun, we have to suffer for its imperfections by adding a calendar day every four years to balance everything out.  Most of you don’t mind but for the 0.03% of us born between 0:00 and 23:59 on 1st March, the effects are more marked as we are forced to prolong birthdays by a whole twenty-four hours.  And what’s worse is that this leap year is on a Monday so I was paid the wrong side of the weekend.

*harrumph* (said in a growly, Odo-type voice).

Hell Fortnight is not quite half way through and I want to chuck in the towel – what do I mean by that?  Well, it has been a while since I last cracked open the laptop so I’ll rewind a little:

So ages ago, I agreed to do a meeting in Swansea for colleagues in DVLA, giving a presentation on my least favourite but most topical subject, Cross Border Enforcement.  I figured it’d be a nice, simple affair, overnight in a decent hotel, catch up with people and done.  But then after I agreed, I re-read the date that I’d need to travel as 28th February.  The same 28th February that I’d earmarked for birthday shenanigans (see last blog entry for further whining/gluttony for punishment).  Not so bad in the grand scheme of things I guess – there’d be other opportunities.  Then up comes Nottingham for a workshop which I’m kind of in the lead on (folly of taking on responsibility folks, be warned!).  Although that was a one day thing, I foolishly elected to try and do the family thing that trip.

It was…heartbreaking.  I won’t say why, I need to protect the identities of those involved but sufficed to say, it was the lowest I’ve felt for quite some time.  At least I can report that the Park Plaza in Nottingham (thank-you booking.com)  is a very nice place to stay with great rooms and great breakfasts.

As part of my ongoing learning and development, I’ve been allowed to apply for (and was subsequently accepted on) a 2 day training course in Berlin on 7/8 March to learn how to work with Germany – what makes ’em tick politically, how to negotiate, understanding the differing points of view etc.  Get in – not quite March 1st as I’d have liked but a very close second.  Until after I accepted and I saw who my fellow course attendees were.  Tubster is one of them (two days with that voice alone might drive me to random or deliberate acts of self harm) and there are a couple of other people who make me gag (minds out the gutter people).  So that definitely took the sheen/lustre off of things.

But with Mr Beer’s birthday plans on 5th March which we’d negotiated and I’d committed to, going out early wasn’t feasible, not without an earful.  So I wanted to take a couple of days out for myself after the training event.  Uh – no.  Y’see, despite my best squirming and buck passing, I now have to go to frigging Brussels the evening of 8th March for A ONE HOUR MEETING WHICH IS UTTERLY POINTLESS TO ATTEND.  Naturally after I begrudgingly booked the tickets, I thought of a thousand ways to get out of it (from simply refusing and taking my chances with repercussions to an elaborate scheme worthy of Baldrick).  Point is – no fun for me, two days with gargoyles, one day competely wasting my time and I’m fully expecting the migrants to storm the channel tunnel that day or something equally homicide-inducing.

#firstworldproblems?  Probably but damn it, I’m too old for this ess-aitch-wun-tee.  As Mary Archer might have said.  Or not.

So yeah.  Rage.

In other news, I downloaded Star Trek Timelines to my iPad t’other day.  Good game, much better than Star Trek Trexels as it feels a much better experience, a little truer to the original show.  And with the voice of John de Lancie as Q to boot!  Premise: random temporal anomaly pops up, shatters dimensions and time so that all Trek characters can come together in a series of missions.  Some want to re-write history, others want to solve the mystery behind what has happened.  Suffice to say, there’s a series of missions to solve, some real time, some “put your group on a quest and see what happens later”.  And of course, there’s the opportunity to buy your way to victory faster by putchasing in-game currency for quicker access to the better items and characters.  A wonderfully diverting game which only has one flaw – the need for an interweb connection to play it.  Cannot be played off line.

Whilst in Nottingham, I found a copy of Zombi (aka Zombi U, one of the Wii U launch titles) for the Xbone.  Played it once (my character died after two hours) so far.  Doesn’t seem that bad although the story seems a little contrived.  The gameplay is ok although as a Londoner, I wish they were a bit more accurate with how things have been depicted.  I personally would have loved to stumble past my flat (if GTA can model a city…) fighting the hordes of the undead.  Also purchased in Nottingham was – A NEW DENIM SHIRT THAT FITS.  Yeah, it had to be an XXL sized shirt, of course which is a blow to morale but it fits properly and that’s all that matters.  And they said they could patch my (increasingly threadbare) old shirt if I took it in which I might just do.  It seems a bit facile to get excited but I am a relic of the 80s remember, it was cool to have anything denim back then.

I also restarted the single player campaign on GTA, just to follow a different path (where there were game choices, I want to see how the other options pan out).  I found a download code for some in-game money in the box which I hadn’t claimed – supposedly 500K for the single player and 500K for the online game but I haven’t been credited for the single player.  Might whine at Rockstar and say WTF guys?

Board game news – Bought 7 Wonders + Leaders Expansion (very popular), Shadows Over Camelot The Card Game & another Munchkin mini-expansion.  I’m calling them all birthday treats and quietly ignoring the cost.

Oscar Boycott – didn’t really work, five seconds of net-rage and then the world gets on with the rest of its existence.  There are better ways of working within the system to change it, not to pout and flounce-delete.  But what the hell, who am I to tell these actors how to and how not to behave?  I’m sure they’ve got savvy behind their decision-making, after all, none of them have ever been associated with projects that were right-stinkers…

Hullo, 

I’m sorry there hasn’t been an update for a while – December is one of those months which just drains your reserves, saps your creativity and forces all secondary events into the background. That said, 24 days is pretty pathetic, even by my minimal standards. Désole.

Big headline stuff: Two weeks ago was crazy week. Brussels Monday/Tuesday, Paris Thursday/Friday. Running around like a loon presenting things made me succumb to a cold at the weekend and spent much of last week bunged up. It was good to see the City of Light again. The city doesn’t feel on edge post attacks, nothing like London in 2005 but you were acutely aware of the presence of the Gendarmes and l’Armèe. Big stores required you to be searched when you went in, as did one or two other places. I didn’t do much sightseeing although we were at a minor Parisian Landmark for the Friday. Just took in some walking, gawped at the Xmas Market (and left unimpressed), ate the food, drank the beer, got pawed at once and then home.

Gaming news: I bought a copy of Twilight Struggle (yet to play) and Avalon which I made my team play after our Xmas lunch. We must have played ten games and I think it went down very well. Possible follow-ups there. Been trying to get on with Battlefront: am slowly improving the ground campaigns but the aerial combat is a lot better – consistent top three finishes in teams, even without Millennium Falcon or Slave 1. Think my favourite mode is Walker Assault.

Ah yeah, Black Friday…I succumbed to a bargain. New TV. 55 inches. With Soundbar. Cost…a lot. Would have cost…a lot more outside the sale. Necessitated rearranging of the lounge. Also reduced ability to type proper sentences. Looks great…amazing except 4K now makes older shows look like “play of the day”. Xbone games are just so cinema like. 

And that’s about it for the bigger news. Not much to say in the little news. We did somehow come in second in the Griffin Quiz the last season – won an afternoon chocolate making. That might tie in nicely with our dinner for six package won the previous season. Fattening.

It’s been such a quiet week in Joeland – nay a quiet fortnight.                                                                                                                                               

Yeah, first trip to Brussels over Sunday/Monday for quite some time (February?). Had mixed feelings, was happy to be mobile again but just not on a Sunday given the continental tradition of opening few shops on a Sunday. Eurostar outbound was testing as a Belgian documentary crew were filming in my carriage, being pretty disruptive etc. I just wish Eurostar had let people know so that we could have the opportunity to change seats. Otherwise the usual Brussels experience – ate, drank, sweated, couldn’t get comfortable in the hotel bed and ate for England at breakfast. Trip home was more arduous.

RIP Nintendo 3DS XL – 2014 to 2015.

Yup, a beer was carelessly spilled all over my trousers, rucksack and 3DS by some random idiot. I stank of Desperadoes and the 3DS refuses to spring to life. Like the Norwegian Blue, it’s dead. Was fuming all the way home – kinda wanted the Border Agency to drag me aside as is their wont as it’d have given me the perfect opportunity to vent on someone. But they didn’t – the one time you _actually_ want to be stopped for no reason. Truth be told though, I’m not too torn up about the 3DS XL dying as I’m within my means to just go out and buy a new one. But the loss of data, that’s a hard one to take.

Otherwise with Dr Do(o)m out of the country whoring in the States (and I challenge him to prove otherwise), Casa Beaufoy is tranquil. Joey’s on Wednesday, played a round of Exploding Kittens (lost to Matt K) and two games of Room 25 – we won the first by outing Scott and Matt as guards and lost the second, again Scott was the traitor (natch). I messed up a plan as I just didn’t see what to do but came up with an unorthodox solution to the escape plan in the last turn. It would have worked but our…desperation threw the game away. And with Xian last night, we had a couple of hands of DC Heroes Deck Building which we both won a single game.

Almost finished GTA V – pulled off the Union Depository Heist and as everything else is turning to hell, it’s clear that the climax is around the corner. Not sure what’s next on the list – finishing The Lost and the Damned maybe?

Modest Meals, Modest Reflections

Peter Preston’s 51st State – average book but with one line that has always stuck in my head and thats’ the one that’s the title of the post.  When reporting on the eve of a US Presidential Election, the press ask what the Vice-President and his wife have for dinner.  The response is “Beans on Toast” as it’s a time for modest meals and modest reflections.  I’m not certain why that particular phrase remains active in my thoughts but it’s somewhat poigniant.  But today, 31st December 2014, yeah I’m kinda in that genuflecting mood.  And like last year, capsule review of the year gone by.

Travelling, that’s been this year to a tee.  Berlin, Amsterdam, Brussels, Dublin, Belfast.  Between 2002 & 2008 I didn’t leave the country once and now I’ve departed this island…so many times for both work and pleasure.  Yeah, I’m a latecomer to this travel malarkey but I’m glad it’s taken although no roughing it in hostels – five years at boarding school has throughly purged any longing for dormitory accommodation.  And of course, I’m off to Berlin on Monday…

New start in Vauxhall, ten months in and the memories of living in Stratford and Camden are relegated to a box labelled “dim and distant”.  Cannot imagine not being here but as thoughts slowly turn towards home ownership…yeah, will have to up sticks in all likelihood (though Elephant & Castle is a distinct possibility).  The flat was a great find, well worth the extra expenditure.

Personal life – kinda slid after my month off in October.  It’s been a decent year though I do kinda go into social hibernation whenever I have extended holidays.  It’s like I don’t just take a vacation from work but almost all facets of existence.  But things are improving (Xmas notwithstanding as everyone is pretty much off) slowly and January is starting to fill up with events.  I’m getting the Risk Legacy groups (note plural) going again, will have a Griffin Games afternoon soon – yeah…

Nasty habits – eating is back under some sort of control, drinking is tough to manage.  Give me a glass and I’ll quickly down the bottle.  If it’s there, I’ll have it.  Banging down those two bottles of Retsina over dinner in Brussels earlier this month was a particular feat which I am both proud and ashamed of (prouhamed?).  That said, I was out with Xian on Monday and I capped off at four drinks (three ciders and a beer) which isn’t that bad as it’s probably the only liquor I’m going to have this week.

Love life – pathetic.  Dr Richard said I’m borderline autistic.  I understand where he’s coming from when he makes a comment like that, my behaviour doesn’t necessarily attune to what is considered convention.  But to say I don’t understand emotion is false.  Nor am I borderline psychotic – I do empathise, sometimes a great deal.  I keep it all on a short leash as that’s my modus operandi.  Also, after 35 years of hearing the same sorts of stories time and again, it’s hard to feign interest in how someone got drunk and fell over or watch as they fall into the same basic traps over and over again and then bitch the fact when two minutes scrutiny would have tipped them off.  Point is, I apply impossibly high criteria so the bed is going to remain empty for a while yet.  That’s not a bad thing per se, I’m still working things out regarding what I want.  Better to have a proper notion of that first.

Work – going downhill again but not for the usual reasons.  There’s a particular layer of management (which I’m trying to break into) in our team which for personal and some professional reasons, I just do not like.  There’s been a lot of turnover in 2014 and the newer faces are…well, just not connecting.  It’s not me either, others have reported the same.  Of course with May 2015 coming up, who can say for sure what’s going to happen?  I swore I’d stay out of office politics but I keep getting sucked back in.

Avoided being ill for the most part this year too – minor ailments aside like that foot thing (split skin, most painful) and a recurrence of athlete’s foot which I’ve had to deal with.  Other people, not quite so fortunate.  Cancer has been quite prevalant this year amongst people I know.  Treatments all round have been good though.  No new HIV diagnoses this year which is something.

Gaming – lots of new games both board and video.  Massively took advantage of Steam Sales for new games though Civ V remains a firm favourite.  Think I’ve logged 300 hours this year….

As I write this, I’m finishing off my lunch.  What was my modest meal?  Well, given the fact that I’m heading to Berlin, I’ve been trying to use up the perishables slowly but surely.  Today it was a Frankenstein meal, composed of random fridge items: some brie, beetroot salad, green olives, the remainder of my low fat houmous, half a cucumber and a bread roll.  Tonight it’ll either be left over lasagne or find a way to use up the carrot and courgette in the fridge, possibly chopped up and cooked with pesto and those sauerkraut dumplings.  I dunno, I’m feeling experimental.

Draughts Café

Samedi – nous avons voyage “Draughts Café” à Haggeston. We’ve been meaning to head on down since its opening in November and Saturday seemed just a good a day as any. Although there was a bit of mumbling about the proposed start time of 12, I pointed out that the online gushings seem to suggest that it gets very full very quickly. We nabbed our table and remained there for almost six hours…though I didn’t gloat. What did we play…um – started off with King of New York (I won) which wasn’t as immediately picked up as fast as King of Tokyo, then moved onto Street Fighter the Card Game (similar to Dominion), Star Trek Catan (I won easily as I adjusted quickest) and finally Rivet Wars Eastern Front (a Dieselpunk WW1 game of tactics).

So the venue itself – very easy to get to from Haggeston station, nice and spacious, proper gaming tables, easily accessible games both for play and for purchase, sensibly sited bar and unobtrusive. My main gripe was the lighting which was severely lacking in the evening and some games were harder to play in the semi-darkness. If you were at the table by the main door, cold but well lit. Tables were quite close together and as the day went on with people getting slowly drunker and drunker, noise became a bit of an issue – for me, at least.

I’m not sure quite how many games there were – 200 + with about twenty different titles for sale. But they were organised well and the members of staff seemed to know their stuff in helping the various hipsters choose easier games to suit their tastes. And the ones on the counter were very affable. Food was despatched quickly, sammiches were nice, cake was good and the chocolate eggs were a nice touch. I know it’s early days but as the range is reasonably limited, if one could pay corkage on alcohol – or at least alcohol that the café doesn’t sell – I think that’d help boost business.

For five/six hours gaming, I spent about £35 – £5 on the “all day play games charge” which was fair enough, £10 on food and £25 on one round of drinks plus Dutch. Not too bad, all in all. If you get there early, you’ll probably be on the tea and coffee before graduating to the liquor which balances out costs a little. Cash flow is a little problematic – you can set up a tab and then settle up; Haggeston is strangely devoid of an ATM surplus so keep a careful eye on things. Otherwise it’s well worth the visit. Get there early, cannot stress that enough.

Brussels Sunday through Tuesday. Drank two bottles of Retsina on the Sunday + gawd knows how many beers. Regretted it Monday.

Found a suitable Raclette Grill at Media Markt though, back next week and will nab it when I don’t have a huge suitcase sweeping all behind me. Brussels Xmas market was a bit disappointing this year, it’s like the Southbank offering; not really trying all that hard. But the usual chocolatier/truffle maker was there by the church so paid him a visit. C’est tout.

Beluga Lentils

Been a while since my last update – think a mix of work pressures, increased social activity and lack of commitment to the cause has prolonged the gap between blog entries. So, where to start:

Gamin’: Xbox has seen me playing Gun. Yes, the game that caused a great deal of swearing on the Gamecube comes to HD, at least in my house. Not a particularly massive challenge, it has to be said but has its moments. Compared with similar sandbox games, it’s kinda crude but its heart is in the right place and is a decent adventure of sorts. A sequel is rumoured to be in the works but I think that’s been doing the rounds for some time. It’s been an Age of Mythology & Civ V fest on the PC, re-working through campaigns on the former, dossing about on the latter.

Socialisin’: Usual board game forays for the most part, playing games old and new. Shadows Over Camelot is a new one introduced by the Streatham Two, I introduced the East London set to Age of Mythology, Zombie Dice and King of Tokyo remain popular. After my recent Brussels foray, I brought back eight types of cheese and we munched our way through most of them. Good cheese.

Travellin’: Yeah, an overnighter in Brussels in the middle of July and five possible trips coming up last week of August/all of September + Dublin again. There’s one trip which like the two in February, might only have a day between them so there’s mileage in taking a day off and staying an extra day. And I shouldn’t be moving house so that won’t be an issue this time (though never say never). No month off this year though, there’s just too much on.

Eatin’: Haven’t yet tried the new Street Food market in Vauxhall (@ Lightbox during the week) but I’ll try and get down there some time. Haven’t been to many restaurants either, to be honest. Quite liking the new Puy Lentil packs found in the supermarkets – nukable as well as the usual cooking methods and taste nice with all sorts of random veg.

Vendredi á Bruxelles

It’s been two months since I was last in Brussels so it was something of a surprise to get an invite to head over on Monday and be there for Friday for a couple of meetings. Of course I didn’t get clearance until late afternoon Wednesday so the prices on the Eurostar website weren’t the most favourable but I’m not the one picking up the tab. Unlike other trips, this wasn’t making me feel happy to be heading out. Difficult to say why – probably as I didn’t have time to get used to the idea beforehand as it felt more of a burden than a pleasure.

I think my malaise extended into my travel arrangements; waited until the last possible minute to leave the flat and head for the tube to King’s X (hell, had I received more notice, I might, just might have arranged to stay at Brendan’s if that was feasible. I made check in with one minute to spare as the queues were horrendous and I was forced into collecting my ticket at the machine rather than have an e-ticket. Just about managed to pick up a coffee at Neros before jumping on the train. Irritatingly, I was in the breast feeding carriage full of squirming babies demanding attention though blessedly, not a single one cried. But there were plenty of ravenous babies enjoying snacks that you felt impolite to look up from the books on your iPad… It wasn’t so much the feeding but the packing up and unpacking of pushchairs was a real nuisance and Eurostar staff magically vanished rather than assist.

Two hours later and I’m in Brussels, head over to Place Schuman and have an early lunch at Exki for another one of those couscous and vegetable dishes with Courgette Soup. Very nice and I was emboldened to sit outside because of the un-springlike weather enjoyed by the Belgians. One thing Belgium is critically short of is good coffee shops – I like the one by Kolenmarkt as I’ve written about before and there’s another one in the street behind UKREP but very little else which isn’t a regular café. I’d have thought one of the French or German chains would have invaded and colonised but nope, stubborn resistance. Paul’s was just a bit too far out of the way to be comfortable and in all likelihood, I would have failed to resist buying some pudding.

Had my meetings – they went very well, lots of points scored and I’d definitely say successful. Traded gossip with colleagues, shared some intrigues and came away having accomplished…something. Naturally after I was finished, it was time to hit Delhaize and stock up on cheese, chocolate and the rest of the usual purchases. Bloody shop has stopped doing my favourite mustard cheese but fortunately, there’s some brand that packages it. It’s great for sammiches and the like. And I allowed myself to be seduced to going out for a drink with a transport lobbyist afterwards and traded gossip (I think I got the best end of that exchange). Alas I left it late again and barely made check in with two minutes to spare this time. I’d have liked to have popped in for a quick Carrefour trip but there just wasn’t the time.

Standard Premier on the way home – I paid the extra fare rather than agreeing to work on the train. Dinner was ok but I wish the meals were the least bit more substantive. Still, it left room for one of my two Desperados. When the train got into the tunnel, I had visions of picking fights with immigration if they were to stop me yet again for a tobacco and drug search. Lucky for me, this was not my turn to get pulled aside. Home for 9.45 or so, kick off shoes which are digging into feet, unpack goodies, meet Dom’s friends, pass out early.

Sauce for the Goose

‘lo people, this is most likely my final blog post of 2013 unless I get all maudlin tomorrow evening and feel the urge to write as other people are out having fun or something like that. Yeah, once again I’m carrying on the tradition of staying in with junkfood and video games, seeing the year out on a quiet note. And with Saturday’s trip to Morrisons, I’m not short of games to play as they were practically giving away decent Xbox titles so I cleaned up (Resident Evil 6, Saint’s Row 3, Epic Mickey 2, at least one other game + 3 months Live membership all for £30). Bought Lego Batman just before Xmas as that was dirt cheap at Sainsbury’s and I fancied something simple for the five day holiday. It took two days to finish it at 100% completion and get 45/46 of the achievements. Hell, the only one I’m lacking is not completing a level in co-op and that’s only because I lack a second controller!

Yeah, these last few days have been video-game heavy. I also finished off The Force Unleashed II after a prolonged absence, have been screaming up a storm at Bubble Bobble Neo (don’t ask), restarted Arkham Asylum on Hard Difficulty (and cussing out the Bane Level), won and lost countless games on Zoo Keeper Battle as well as garnering the usual hits on Streetpass 3DS. Also finished two paperbacks, several comicbooks in my “to-read” pile, learned how to use the grinder on my coffee maker after sixteen months (discovering that chocolate and orange coffee might smell great but tastes bitter).

What did happen on Wednesday? Well, I left my alarm on as it’s programmed to jerk me awake at a reasonable time and my orders were to be in Vauxhall no later than 12. A quick breakfast of Belvita biscuits and I made my way south, stopping by Xian and Stephen for coffee and to give them their gift. And it luck would have it, as soon as I got there, it began to chuck it down despite the weather forecast saying it was going to be clear. Fortunately the rain passed quickly and I was only fifteen minutes behind schedule.

Next a major thank-you to Pret-a-Manger whose Trafalgar Square branch was open on Xmas morning thus enabling the purchase of a much desired lattè. You wouldn’t think there’d be so many tourists out and about but the streets around the landmarks were quite laden with them. Still, I guess it’s either that or be bored in your hotel rooms. However, I powered through the throng and got to the pub at exactly 11.59am. It was a relief to be able to tear my rucksack off my back and let the dents in my hands even up.

Then we just spend the day together: John, Andy, Pepina, myself and Nova & Sable getting appallingly drunk, playing games, commenting on various odds and sods, talking about anything and everything. Lunch was a grand affair and I felt it a point of personal honour to finish the whopping great plate set before me. Of course that completely ruined me for the evening’s buffet and frankly, everyone else as our collective guts heaved. Still, it was all salvageable and little wasted. For the first time in twelve years I had someone else cook for me on Xmas day which was quite an experience, truth be told.

And yeah, the rest of the holiday was game heavy as mentioned. I just wish…well, I wish I had a bit longer off of work. It’s a little frustrating how everything has popped up in the diary for January forcing a revisiting of my plans to take some leave in the latter half of the month but it’s only a two-week deferral and perhaps…perhaps I might take leave immediately after the ReReg Working Group, dunno, have a couple of weeks to think about it.

Forward Look time: well, some sort of event-thing happening tomorrow evening followed by a Bank Holiday (YAY!). Breaking in the new manager from Thursday, mad rush to get work finished by the 10th and need to plan what’s happening for both my trips to Brussels. Also need to get some gaming days and evenings in the diary and of course, there’s only two months before the big 35…

More precious than platinum?

It seems harder and harder to make time to add entries to this blog. With work dominating more of my brain space and social activities picking up now that summer is waning, a fair amount of stuff is sacrificed for duty AND pleasure. I’d apologise but there are so many apologies flying around these days for all sorts of infractions; perceived and actual. I’m not sure they have meaning any more.

In catching up with things going on, let’s see – we won last weeks quiz and came third this week (enjoyed the chocolate pudding on the menu), Risk Legacy starts up again tonight, been playing a fair amount of Xbox (finished Banjo Tooie and the Force Unleashed on a harder setting) and a hair away from completing NSMB2 on the 3DS. Have completely failed in my quest to find locals (well, ones that I want to try and integrate into my life) to hang out with etc. Though my methodologies have been utterly pathetic, I must concede.

We’re off go-karting at the weekend in Thurrock (Lakeside) as part of our quiz prize from last season: Joey, Alex, David T and myself. Whether we’ll dress up in Mario costumes and throw banana skins at each other or not remains to be seen. Should be fun – and it comes after being able to sleep in an extra hour thanks to Fall Back.

I’m off to Brussels again on Friday for a day chock full of meetings. On the first train out and on the last train back. At least I booked myself into Standard Premier again for the return leg so I can feel knackered in a larger seat whilst playing Robot Unicorn Attack on my iPad. And speaking of the iPad, I’m tempted by the iPad Air as unveiled last night. For a while, because of the Brussels thing and other travels through work (mostly), having a 3G/4G model rather than a wi-fi only model would be handy although there’s the monthly charge to consider, of course. And I said that I’d wait to see what the fifth iteration of the iPad would look like before making a decision; think I’m sold and the 128GB memory would come in handy for filling it full of yet more books!

Oh – Saturday was particularly irritating when the oven went on the fritz. I’d painstakingly prepared a meal (for one, of course) and bunged it in the oven. 45 minutes later when everything was supposed to be done, it was all stone cold and no heat was coming from the oven despite the fan going which had led me to think there were no issues. Checked everything – in so far as my knowledge of catering appliances go and couldn’t find any issues except there was no smell of gas when the oven was switched on but the hob works fine. The cooker is an older model (couldn’t find it on the interwebs so it must be over ten years) so I think it can go the way of the dodo.

At least it saves on cleaning it. See, glass half full.