Tag Archive: dublin

Locked In Again


It’s April and once again, I feel like a little public self-flagellation, fessing up that I’ve not been the best blogger/diarist. Mainly as most of March was “more of the same” rather than something new and different. I wrote the below two paragraphs a couple of weeks back but quickly grew bored and left them to languish in drafts. But I feel I need some filler so here they are in their unmodified and unsexy glory.

The rest of my birthday went by fairly calmly and quietly. Played a couple of games, had a burrito, watched the Changeling (George C Scott) and went to bed. Not exactly a raucous affair but what I wanted in the end. Did a little gaming with Paul and Darren in Brixton the following day and then the main event on Saturday: Eldritch Horror followed by dinner in Belgo’s. We failed at the latter (barely got one mission completed before Nephren-Ka woke up) but had a blast necking fruit flavoured beers and stuffing our faces with fatty foods. They tried to drag me off afterwards but I was struggling to remain awake so had a drink at Retro before succumbing to unconsciousness.

Sadly I was up the next morning rather early owing to the need to get a train down to Cardiff as I was going down there with work. So bleary eyed, I staggered down to Paddington and on to Wales. Like Dublin, the weather was quite nasty (damn the Celtic fringes) for a good chunk of the day and put off any vague sightseeing/entertainment plans. I’ve been to Cardiff twice before but both those trips were just for the day so this was a time to actually have a proper gawp around. Naturally my first stop was the Board Game shop, Rules of Play. It’s sited in an Arcade so not much floor space (probably less than Orc’s Nest) but was very nicely organised and arranged. Couple of Welsh language games in the shop – novel as well as the usual selections. Would go back.


What else then? Had a second trip to Cardiff on 20 March, rain was far worse than the first visit. And I bought the Cthulhu Monster pack for King of Tokyo and the board mat for 7 Wonders. I only wanted one item! Otherwise, March has been a pretty quiet month. For Mr Beer’s Birthday, we went to the “Secret Escape” Room Escape game. It has, I was relieved to discover, nothing to do with that annoying woman on the adverts for the similarly named company. The premise: disappearance on a 1960s/70s film set. We escaped though we did require a lot of help, I think. Some of the clues were quite cryptic and did not flow organically. Still, there was a fair amount of fun had.

Speaking of room escapes, Tuesday night we revisited Time Run as they have a second game added to their repertoire which played differently to the first one. This time we were required collect items in each of the rooms that we were due to escape from to use in the final room. Our score was 97/100 + 13 bonus points so 110/100. Don’t know if it’s the record for the game but it certainly was the best score that day. I shined in the Russia room where there were a lot of problems like “Keep Talking or Everyone Explodes”.

Last night we finally finished Risk Legacy (the usual Wednesday mob) and I unexpectedly won. Everyone had a “last gasp for glory” style run by amassing tonnes of soldiers and going on an all-out attack. Actually, Brendan, Paul and myself did two gasps and mine was the successful one. But it was an epic finish to the game lasting two hours. I’ve had a stinker of a cold this week so was drinking copious amounts of brandy to keep me going. Feel much better today.

I’ll write a separate blog post for my adventures in Malta.


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.

Surgery Was A Success

With my data now transferred to my laptop and it’s brand new hard drive, so begins the long road to recovery.  It’s taken me the best part of three hours to sort out my iTunes and getting it all functioning properly but after gutting the library and starting again with a new approach to system restore, I’m confident that the issues are now all resolved.  Phew, there’s something very reassuring to know all your data is where it’s supposed to be.

What I wasn’t expecting was a reinitialisation of the generic software suite with the latest updates; I had assumed I’d get a version of Windows 7 exactly like the one I left.  They gave me new stuff – new Games, new System Tools to play around with.  And perhaps another unexpected side effect for the better was a brand new, clean file registry.  The only downside is that my copy of Office 2010 is in absentia and I’m damned if I can remember where the key is.  However – the work offer is still on IIRC so I can get Office 2013 for £8.

It’s 1am here and I’m trying to set up my download list for Steam (I decided to just leave those games when recovering data and download upon return) so I won’t be going into too much detail about Belfast.  Sufficed to say it was better than expected – I think that I preferred it to Dublin though based on a single trip apiece, I’m willing to go again to both.  Not that the two cities are in competition.

I will say I got all 50 achievements on Lego Indy 1 today – so that’s a mere 7 games I’ve completed start to finish.  Sense of accomplishment tho’.


Centaur Spice

Single cognac + bitter lemon + angostura bitters = centaur spice

Ok, it’s been quite a while since my last blog post. I’d offer up the usual feeble excuses (too busy, not enough time etc) but truth be told, I just haven’t felt like updating my blog in an age. There has been a lot happening recently but this requires downtime just to recharge sufficiently for the next task. Other lower priority activities – secondary importance, if not tertiary.

In key updates: I finally made it to Dublin over 3/4 April, staying at the Trinity Lodge (nice hotel btw, recommended). Got to the airport early enough for a long lunch at Giraffe (all day vegetarian breakfast) and a coffee whilst chuckling at Viz. AFAIK, it’s the first time I’ve been to Terminal One; can’t see why they’re going to be demolishing it but I would hope that BAA know what they’re doing. Flight was totally crowded being a rush-hour journey but amazingly enough, the only free seat on the plane was the one between me and some fat guy; no snickering please.

Impressions of Dublin – overall, the city felt…sad. Melancholic. The pervading atmosphere had a tinge of gloom but then again, Ireland was hit especially hard in the recent economic predations. Perhaps it was lingering echoes of that. It also reminded me of a larger version of Bloomsbury with all the tall townhouses interspersed with the greenery. Of course this was just the city centre. What I saw on the way in from the airport was a mini-version of Docklands. The people seemed upbeat and cheerful enough though. Took a while to find what I thought to be a half-decent Irish restaurant and even then it was a tourist sting operation but at 10pm, I was too tired and hungry to care. Wowed the waiters as I downed two bottles of Magners in mere seconds whilst waiting for my Irish Brie starter.

Breakfast in the hotel was fantastic though I think the waitress was disappointed when I settled for poached eggs over the Full Irish (John D at work warned me about white pudding as a herbivore) but made up for it by attacking the pastries with aplomb. Lunch was in Ely’s wine bar and I had the Thai curry, again nice but a little disappointing. Great venue though. So I think I walked around the city centre three times in total, up and down the river, through the winding streets, the shopping area, Trinity Green and the like taking in the sights. Didn’t do the castle however and dithered over what tacky souvenir to buy as there was no proper landmark statuette. In the end I settled for Molly Malone in a snow globe and some Guinness flavoured truffles. Got drunk in the airport waiting for the flight home – wasn’t my fault, the cider was moderately priced. MODERATELY PRICED! Now I know why celebrities get chucked off planes for being tanked. It’s great fun!

I think I’d go back to Dublin, but with someone. There are cities you can enjoy solo like Berlin or Paris and there are cities which work better in groups such as Dublin. It’s a vibe. But next…hmm, either back to Berlin or perhaps somewhere new. Vienna might be nice or perhaps somewhere in Canada.

What else? Two weeks leave immediately after Dublin – first week was spent doing stuff with other people, the second week was a self-indulgent week. I didn’t plan it that way but when you lose your only set of house keys and Dom being in Portsmouth for three days…your priorities kinda change. £95 for an emergency locksmith visit, that’s a new experience. Swam a bit, had people round, went out, had sex, had more sex, got appallingly drunk more than once…bought South Park: Stick of Truth…

So: contemporary game on the Xbox time. Yeah, I went to Game, saw a second hand copy for £25 and a brand new copy for £30 so paid the extra and got me the new game (albeit with the £16 stored on my reward card). I didn’t know much about the title other than it was an RPG and loosely based on the general Dungeons and Dragons-style episode. A good start, no preconceptions.

Premise – You’re the new kid in town with a secret and you arrive in the middle of a fantasy crazy where the kids have divided into two factions (humans and elves led by Cartman and Kyle respectively) and are fighting over the “Stick of Truth”; a MacGuffin. With the theft of the stick from Cartman’s faction, you get caught up in the craze and go a-questing in the town of South Park, interacting with all sorts of characters and fighting all sorts of beings.

Graphics – top notch, it’s just like watching a long episode of the cartoon, complete with the crude animations. Both foreground and background objects are clear and crisp and easily distinguishable. Some of the text could be a little larger in the inventory screens but that’s more a personal preference. The FMV sequences flawlessly amend your character’s current aesthetic (which can change rapidly during the course of a game) without any jarring or other crashes. The Canada section of the game – genius.

Sounds – Again, because of the heavy input by Trey Parker and Matt Stone, none of the sounds are out of place from an episode of South Park and of course there are plenty of meta references and call-backs to previous episodes, character themes. When you go into shops, a lot of songs are played in the background including some of the finest from Chef’s repertoire and Jennifer Lopez’s “Tacos”. The voice acting is top notch with so much variety; there’s less repetition for generic phrases. The characters sound involved in the game, not some bored actor reading from a script.

Gameplay – fairly standard RPG, turn based battles, minimal exploring on the map and with Timmy’s bike, there’s no endless traipsing over maps back and forth sucking the pleasure from the game. Novices can pick up the mechanics of the game pretty quickly, the menus and inventories are simple enough, screens aren’t too crowded with useless data. Everything was balanced about right; Obsidian have really outdone themselves.

Replayability & Lastability – there are four classes of character to play through the game as leading to different combat experiences but the generic storyline remains the same so a second play through will seem repetitive and it’s difficult to ascertain whether one will bother a third or fourth time (except changing the difficulty levels). That said, the game is fairly well contained. There’s a little backtracking to be done but it’s not enough to detract from the overall experience. Levelling up of characters is done at appropriate stages but you reach the level 15 cap fairly quickly which is disappointing, particularly if you head to the forest and grind your way through battles. Some way of dodging the horribly overmatched battles would be nice but not critical.

Extras – there have been two downloadable packs released (to date) giving three new outfits each + one with both packs combined. They’re quite “low level” outfits meaning they’ll be pretty useless in the later game but do look quite pretty. Worth the money? Probably not as it happens, more would have been nice.

Overall – definitely worth a punt, especially if you’re a fan of the show. It’s probably a good way for noobs to get to grips with an RPG as it isn’t overly complicated. The humour is fantastic, graphics and sound are superb whilst it’s easy to get absorbed into the game. Biggest gripes are the length of the game as too short and a the low level cap. But hopefully, the experience will be positive enough to spawn a sequel as it’s definitely worth investing in.