Monday, 27 May 2013

Goals for 2013 update

Five twelfths of the way through the year is the usual time to check where you're up to with New Year's Rulins. Now I'm no Woody Guthrie but I had a reasonably taxing list.

Woody Guthrie's New Years Rulins_Notebook13_650

- Join in Steph's baking challenge. Clem’s mum got us some wonderful kitchen stuff for Christmas and I can’t wait to start using it.


I've managed to bake a few things. I bought the Paul Hollywood how to bake book and I started out making soda bread because there are hardly any ingredients. That turned out ok so I got some bread flour and made a basic white cob. My first attempt was a sticky gooey mess which made a soggy only just edible loaf. It made me think that there was a reason buying nice bread costs nearly £3 a loaf and I decided that £3 is a perfectly decent price to pay someone else to do all the hard work for me while I happily never did that again. Then I realised there was two thirds of a bag of bread flour left over so I tried again and didn't put such a flood of water in it. It turned out great.

- Related to this is the goal to cook more ‘proper’ meals. I don’t eat very well and I’d like to change that. This will include cooking some more of my Grandad’s meals and trying a few recipes from the Game of Thrones cookbook.

Despite the good size of the kitchen in our current flat, the surface space to prepare food on is non existent. However, with a bit of balancing the bread board on the hob we can now cook:

  • Italian Chicken
  • Burritos (thanks Katie for the chilli kidney beans tip)
  • Sweet Potato Glory (roast sweet potatoes with feta and guacamole)
  • Lazy Toads (sausages in Mrs Beeton insta-yorkies)
  • Sausage Bake

We even made a roast dinner with a joint of pork.

Have yet to make any more of Grandad's meals or Game of Thrones dinners. Any suggestions for quick delicious dinners please inform me!

- But before that comes the big move. My January goal is to move in with lovely Clement and between us make our new place soft and welcoming and comfortable. 

Success! Well half success, sort of. I moved and it is definitely soft and great but two things have held it back from being completely perfect. One is that we are in the process of buying a flat and because of that, we decided not to put pictures up/decorate here and we still have packing boxes everywhere. The other is that there is no central heating and oh my god was it cold this winter. However, it's now warming up and it's much nicer (particularly to be out on the roof in the sun), it's lovely to be with Clem and I'm really really looking forward to moving into our new place :)

- Complete the Goodreads 30 book challenge again


This one is well under way. Helped along by the fact that I now have an hour train journey to work and back every day. Plus I've been ill a couple of times which has meant lots of time in bed reading. My favourites so far this year have been Catch 22, Life After Life, and Letters of a Woman Homesteader.

- Go abroad with Clem, possibly to the Ukraine


Not yet. The Ukraine will probably have to be next summer as this year we are going to Glastonbury which will be our main holiday spend. We are hoping also to go and stay with Clem's godmother in the South of France for my birthday. She lives near Carcassonne and is always bigging up the Cathar castles - understandably, once you've seen the photo above.

- Sign up for a course – currently thinking printmaking or small metals.

The new part time/hobby courses prospectus has just come out for next academic year at the local college and I'm eyeing up Quiltmaking for Beginners and Pattern Cutting. I want to do ceramics and screen printing as well but as quilt making is already on my goals list I am going to start with that. Plus we are actively trying not to have so much clutter crap around the house and my attempts at pottery probably won't help with that.

- Make a quilt – I’d like to actually do it this year. I’ve got plenty of my dad’s and Clem’s old shirts to make it out of and I’m hoping to get a dedicated craft space set up in our new pad. 

See above! In clearing out clothes for the move, I've added a few things to my quilt pile, so will definitely have plenty of fabric. In the new flat there is a second bedroom which will for the time being will be a hobby room divided down the middle with twee washi tape. Khaki and trolls on one side, cutesy fabric and balls of wool on the other. We are nothing if not gender conformist in our hobbies. I will finally have space for my old Singer sewing machine table which currently resides with my parents, and I'm looking forward to bringing that over.


Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Film Season: War Films

Clem is an ex soldier with a degree in military history (and an A-Level in film studies). He likes war films. After a discussion in which we discovered that the only war films I (or Sarah and Jess for that matter) have seen are Forrest Gump and Private Benjamin, we thought maybe we should have a season of classics. As Clem very patiently watched all eight Harry Potter films with me from start to finish recently, we settled on the same number. On to the films (none of which would pass the Bechdel Test (that's always going to be likely in a warzone) but it's still interesting to see how women are portrayed):


Released: 1964
Starring: Michael Caine
Set: Battle of Rorke's Drift, 1879, Anglo-Zulu War

To sum up, I will repeat the conversation we had at lunch last week:

Mum "You thought that film was quite boring didn't you?"
Clem "WHAT?!"
Me "erm, I like the idea of having watched it more than I liked actually watching it"

It might have been the old style film making - ten minutes of watching men push wagons over to make a barricade - or that I felt like I wasn't understanding what was going on as I don't know masses of turn of the century Southern Africa military history but I did find it a bit hard going. Looking back now, I feel a bit more fondness for it but then I don't have to watch it again.

What have I learned?: Long films go by very slowly when you don't have any knitting on hand.

Any women in it? Mass Zulu wedding at the beginning feature hundreds of semi naked Zulu women. One missionary's daughter adept at wiping the brows of injured men.

What does Clem think? Classic, much parodied. Shows traditional Victorian army tactics and a famous last stand. Good example of propaganda - always a lot of medals given out when things go wrong.

Kelly's Heroes

Released: 1970
Starring: Donald Sutherland, Clint Eastwood, Telly Savalas
Set: France, 1944, WWII

Donald Sutherland is brilliant in this. Clint Eastwood is brilliant in this. Their relationship is the best part of the film, particularly the 'this is my other dog imitation' scene and 'that's a paintball' as a close second. It's an adventure film and therefore a more familiar story arc to me than Zulu's battle event so I found it a lot easier to watch. I still managed to fall asleep half way through though, and had to watch the second half the next day.

What have I learned?: It is only worth attacking a Tiger tank if it is from behind as that's its weak spot.

Any women in it? Two or three wordless hippies swaying their arms and stroking a soldier. Repeated mention of 'finding some broads'

What does Clem think?: Dark humour and 60s hippies in a 1940s tank unit. Broadly accurate war film as well as a good comedy.

Thin Red Line 

Released: 1998
Starring: Jim Caviezel, Adrien Brody, Sean Penn, Everyone Ever (90s line up)
Set: Guadalcanal 1942-43, Pacific Islands, WWII

According to my research on IMDB, this film is pretty divisive. Some think it shows the futility of war with poetry and beauty while others think it's a pretentious piece of crap. I think it's both, there is more than a touch of noble savage about it, some of the poetry is a bit much (but I recognised bits of it from the samples in UNKLE's Eye For An Eye which helped) and it doesn't really have a story but it does show how nature carries on being beautiful and normal while the men are suffering massive effects from the situation. The scenery is gorgeous, and Jim Caviezel is great. And Vin Diesel is in it! I've never seen him in a film before. He's BIG.

What have I learned?: Adrien Brody looked exactly the same in 1998 as he does now.

Any women in it? One cheating wife (non speaking role bar a short letter), one french wife and daughter in an understandable panic.

What does Clem think?: "I wish Alice would stop saying 'Oh! that's Phoebe's brother from Friends!' and 'That guy was in Game On!' cos it kinda ruins the atmosphere. Beautifully shot and shows how things are still beautiful even in a war zone, which adds to the horror of it. I like that it doesn't have a point to all the action because that's how it is. Uniquely good looking platoon of GIs and quite old for who they are portraying.

Saving Private Ryan 

Released: 1998
Starring: Tom Hanks
Set: D-Day landings and aftermath, Normandy, 1944, WWII

As with the Thin Red Line, it's hard to suspend disbelief and step into the world as being real when the main actors are so famous. Tom Hanks, for chrissakes. Also the premise is weird. Would they really put all these other soldiers at risk to give one mother her son back? What about all the other mothers? All the other soldiers? They are no less important. Oh, and the story is given to us as a reminiscence of Private Ryan when in fact he isn't there for most of it. However, it's pretty watchable and a good demonstration of the sheer numbers of men sacrificed for the objective, which is always the hardest thing for me to comprehend, what with the men who planned the objectives all being well out of the way. There are a lot of military words that I didn't know and discussions of tactics sometimes made it hard to know what was going on.

What have I learned?: Tom Hanks is currently America's most trusted man. (not strictly learned from the film)

Any women in it? One heartbroken mother (non speaking role), a few secretaries (non speaking roles). A wife who has one word to say at the very end.

What does Clem think?: Bit too focussed on visceral horror of it all. Soldiers jargon is gibberish. Circular narrative isn't circular. Sounds effects and special effects very good.

A Bridge Too Far

Released: 1977
Starring: Michael Caine, Sean Connery, Antony Hopkins, Everyone Ever (70s line up)
Set: Operation Market Garden, 1944, WWII

Apart from Kelly's Heroes, this has been my favourite one so far. It's telling the story of Operation Market Garden which my Grandad was involved in as a glider pilot right before he was captured as a POW. There is a shot where you can see out of the glider pilots windscreen as they take off, which would have been exactly what my Grandad saw at the time. The voiceover at the start explained what was going on very clearly so I felt a bit more confident that I'd get what was happening. It also helped that each group was headed up by a very famous actor so I could think 'OK that's Sean Connery so we must be just outside Arnhem' (Sean Connery has a moustache so we don't confuse him for James Bond) or 'That's Michael Caine so we must be the infantry marching on foot'. Without that I don't think I would have known where we are as one 70s actor in uniform looks very much like another. It's quite a funny film, for all the blood and bombs. Lots of gallows humour and feigned incompetence from Michael Caine to keep his men happy.

What have I learned?: You can recognise an American soldier because they never have their helmet straps done up.

Any women in it? The voiceover at the beginning, who I think is the same farmhouse owner who gives up her home to be first a hospital then a bomb site for the cause. One mad old lady (understandable given the circumstances).

What does Clem think?: Yeah, this is excellent, full of stiff upper lip. They have the proper kit. Good at showing blunder but incorporating a bit too much hindsight.

Still to come, the Vietnam section:

Full Metal Jacket
Hamburger Hill

Sunday, 12 May 2013

May Day (Jack in the Green)

Warning: photo heavy!

(photo by EricaStLeonards on Flickr)

Hastings Jack in the Green festival has been going (this time round) for 40 years. Much earlier it was a popular event until Victorian morals and dislike of phallic maypoles put a stop to it. The festival is on all weekend but Jack himself is released on Monday morning by the net shops from where a parade makes its way up to the West Hill via a stop at one or more of the pubs in the Old Town. Morris Dancers and Bogey Men provide entertainment up on the hill until Jack is slain mid afternoon in order to release the spirit of summer. Nowadays he is slain through the method of hanky waving and picking off his leaves and throwing them into the crowd, but apparently in the old days he was beaten with sticks.

Tulips and blossom in the park

Sunday started with a walk down through the park flowers to see the crowning of the May Queen and some Maypole dancing. The look on the oldest Maypole dancers face when the little ones kept getting it wrong was worth the trip alone. I did worry for their futures though because the last Maypole dancer I saw was Tess of the D'Urbervilles.

The May Queen (in pink) with the mayor, the town cryer, and attendants

Maypole dancing

Sunday evening was our anniversary so we went to a fish restaurant for Hastings fish and this brilliant local lager which is brewed with champagne yeast and you can really taste the fact. Try it if you can find it, it's a bit confusing at first but lovely.

Champagne Lager

Ever a fan of blue plaques, suffragettes, and survivors of disasters, I was pleased to see this on the way home:


The main event happens on the Monday with hundreds and hundreds of bikers converging on Hastings seafront. The walk down the always lovely seafront promenade was jazzed up with bikes as far as the eye could see including such gems as the knuckle duster

Knuckle Duster

The Gold wing (note the desert scene with cactus)

Gold Wing

and the 'I couldn't decide if I wanted a car, a bike or a mobility scooter'

Wide Load

Once we got up to the hill, it was absolutely packed with people in green, or with green noses (if you aren't wearing enough green the bogey men will dab you with paint). We saw Mister Tumnus

Mister Tumnus

Morris dancers with humour

Morris dancer humour



and glamourous people with birds on their heads

Bird Head

Eventually the crowds all got a bit much so we went to sit up in the Ladies Parlour (next to the castle where the jousting used to happen) and had a good time people watching - especially the teenagers. They'd all formed a big (and I mean scores and scores of them) group a bit further down the hill away from their parents where they were getting happily wasted. And apparently troublesomely wasted as we watched some police go over to interfere and eventually drive one or two off in their van. Bit traumatic for them, excellent viewing for us. Lots of gesturing and arguing. The younger kids were more entertained with the traditional May day pastime of running up a hill and rolling back down it repeatedly (a classic, I'm sure you will agree).

Where's Wally

We wound our way down the twittens to get to the Old Town, where we found a street DJ playing Stevie Wonder and lots of people dancing while the normally busy shops sat around empty. If I had one I'd probably have locked up and joined in, but I'm not so my opinion is void.

Finishing off with a 99 (in tribute to Maggie. Or was it?) gave us the energy to get back down the seafront home for a snooze.

Mr Whippy

Sunday, 5 May 2013

Computer Games

This week I was thinking about playing a particular old computer game and once I looked it up, I fell into a hole of reminiscence much like when you meet someone new and realise they spend as much time thinking about the Thundercats as you do. I know there are more that I haven’t remembered so this might need updating when I think of them. 

Like what was that game called where you control a helicopter by pressing space bar to make it go up and releasing it to let it go down, avoiding all the windmills and cliffs on the way?

Or the one where you have to get out of a different gate than you came in at and to do so you have to push blocks into the water etc?

OOooh what about the one where you are tracking down biological weapons in a factory? There is one scene where you are talking to a worker and you ask him a name and he goes “hmmmm, hang on, I think it begins with P.... oh wait, it’s Seth”. If someone could help me remember what that game was I’d be over the moon.

Also, what was that one where you are on a sort of space slide and you have to not fall off and it gets faster and faster and you can jump.

There used to be an H&M game in the early days of mass internet that I played a lot, if anyone has any more memories or info on that I would be interested!

I’ve tried to be vaguely chronological but some are probably mixed up.  All dates and screengrabs apart from Paint and Floorplan are from


My sister and I would spend hours making pictures of snails on walls, much like this one. Sometimes it was a night time scene for a bit of variation. I did actually look for a screengrab to try and get out of redrawing it but turns out it might have been just us who liked drawing snails on walls so much.

Bricks (1984) 

Just very slightly more interesting than Pong but just as engaging.

Floorplanning (so many available I don't know the particular one we had)

This wasn’t really a game but that just depends on how you use it. Once, when I was a regular once a week visitor to the children’s section of the library in Lewes, they ran a competition to design a new library. I think they were probably imagining a picture of the building perhaps with a nice friendly librarian next to it but my entry was a very detailed and completely unfeasible birds eye plan for what I imagined to be the perfect new build. I sent it in to them but they never went for it (possibly because the children’s section was massive and the reference and adult areas were tacked on in a kind of lean to).

Anyway, the reason I did this was because I was mad on a house layout programme called floorplan which I used to create my imaginary future living accommodation. Like playing the Sims but without the pesky people, or setting up my Sylvanians in detailed dioramas but not acting out any scenes. Who needs emotions when you can have home decor? Nowadays I use an online one called Floorplanner and I have mapped out where everything will go in the new house – it’s even more fun doing it when it’s your very own real life house. Double points if you can tell me what the above layout is for.

Moria (1992 for DOS) 

I don’t think ‘the kids today’ would be very impressed with this one but I loved it. I didn’t know at the time it had anything to do with lord of the rings but I did like that you could choose to be a goblin/elf/human etc. This game taught me the word ‘inventory’. Your character is the @ symbol and you move around the lovely DOS screens going in shops and running away from baddies.

Monumentsof Mars (1991) 

It took me ages to find a screengrab of this one as I thought it was just called Mars. But after discovering a wonderful website packed with DOS games which you can download I finally found it. I remember getting up after I’d been put to bed and finding my dad on the computer playing this. I think he made me go back to bed again but he did let me play it the next day.

Pharoah'sTomb (1990) 

This game taught me the word ‘antechamber’. Looking at it now I realise why they chose the name Nevada Smith for the character. That went way over my head when I played it.

AlleyCat (1983) 

Basically, you are the Alley Cat and you have to go into various eye bleedingly bright levels based in living rooms or walls or washing lines and get all the food/points while not getting eaten by the dogs that wake up if you go near them. At least I think that’s what you do, I have yet to run this game and try to play it.

Micromachines (1994) 

Little cars! Race tracks with paper clips and left over breakfast!

Fleet Street Phantom

I can’t find any screen grabs of this one. I used to be off school a lot and sometimes when I was at school I didn’t go to normal lessons and went to sit in the Special Educational Needs area. If the SENCOs were all busy with the groups they taught in the classroom there, they’d let me sit in their office and play Fleet Street Phantom. I loved it. Especially because it was an educational game and I was hungry for knowledge (not really, I just liked showing off how good I was at hangman).

MavisBeacon Teaches Typing (1987) 

(see above about being a swot and loving educational games)

Princeof Persia (1990) 

This was really really hard. I don’t think I ever got past the first level or two. I would always fall on the spikes and have to go back to the beginning. Very frustrating but I kept trying because I liked the setting so much.

Wolfenstein3D (1992) 

If in doubt, kill Nazis.

Doom (1993) 

Probably my brother’s first introduction to video games, my Dad used to do the controls and Rob would press the fire button when they saw an enemy. Doom also had excellent cheats which meant you could be invincible and have all the best guns which was very good for an impatient player like me who couldn’t be bothered to play it all through properly. Ditto Doom 2.

HocusPocus (1994) 

Look how cute little Hocus is!

SimCity2000 (1994) 

This is pretty much the same as PixelPeople which I am currently addicted to playing on my phone.

ThemePark (1994) And Theme Hospital (1997) 

I'm sensing a theme here. CONTROL.

Worms (1995) 

GrandTheft Auto (1997)

Like Micro Machines but with more running over nuns. I never got to grips with the 3D version, I like the bird’s eye view.

Special award: My sister’s Sega GameGear for being the most jealously desired gadget of my childhood.

Special Awards for games I’ve played since I 'stopped playing computer games' 

TheSims (and Sims 2 and 3) (2000) 

Pharoah (2002) 

This might just be my favourite computer game of all time. It's floorplans, city layouts, history all in one. I want to play it again please.

so, in summary, I have a God complex and I need to get out more.