Thursday, 4 September 2008

Behold! I procrastinate anew

Hi all, today I unveiled my latest method of procrastination which is in fact an old form given rebirth. I have once again taken to lifting my paint brush. My first real focus for this new way of avoiding doing anything official was to pain Kate's 21st Birthday present - a picture of the stunning view from her old room in our old house - it took longer than I thought it would as it's been five years since I last did a watercolour, however today I mounted and framed the painting and presented it as a late birthday gift.

For those of you who don't have the honour of owning the original, a photograph is shown here:-

I plan to begin a campaign of regular paintings mostly for procrastination, self enjoyment and decoration.

Whilst I hold no pretensions to greatness (I recognise my skill is mediocre at best and certainly below many of my artistically talented friends) I'm looking forward to honing a new skill, or rather to brushing up on an old one. (pardon the pun).

I'd appreciate you're opinions on my first official piece...

Monday, 1 September 2008

My Bad Morning

What a morning. I couldn't believe it!

I had no cereal in and we'd run out of toilet paper so I decided to pop around the corner to our local Lidl, it's only 5 minutes away and really convenient so I grabbed my keys and strolled down there in just jeans and a t-shirt. I buy what I want, sacrificing my normal choco-pillows for some cheaper choco-rocks to save the pennies. I get home and get my keys out. Crap. I'd accidentally picked up the wrong set of keys and was now locked out without a phone and no one in the house to let me in.

After a short period of cursing I realised my only option was to walk from out Kensington house to our landlord's offices on Smithdown Road. I had no watch so I have no idea how long it took but I walked there carrying my toilet roll and cereal in my hands as I'd not taken a bag. At one point it started to rain but I glared at the slate grey sky and it stopped, breaking in the glorious sunshine (no, really). I got there at 11am so I'm pretty sure it took more than half an hour which was a problem as I still had to get back to the house and get ready for work, I had to leave the house at 11.30 or I'd run the risk of being late. I got to MGM's offices and they didn't have a key they could give me. Marvelous I thought. They did however ring someone to go and meet me back at the house in twenty minutes.

Okay thought I, grabbing a tenner from the cash point at ASDA and jumping into a taxi back to the house (£4.80 - so much for saving the pennies). The bloke from MGM got there at 11.20 and let me in, I had ten minutes to spare. I ate my cereal and got dressed for work but then couldn't find my real keys! Hunting high and low in my pit... sorry, my room... I found them but had by now passed my 11.30 deadline and had to race down the hill on my bike to get to Primark on time. Typically I got stuck behind a bus which was in turn stuck behind a tractor (A TRACTOR! In Liverpool city centre!) and all the lights turned red just before I got to them.

My legs burning and sweat pouring down my back I made it to work with two minutes to spare which was a miracle but considering I'd gotten up early to have plenty of time to relax before work it was a pretty bad start to a day. But at least it gave me something to blog about!

A further nuisance is that I went into a few shops after work to acquire something to complete my (late) birthday present for Kate. I naively thought I could just walk in and get one but it seems I have to wait 48 hours (starting tomorrow) so sorry Kate, I haven't forgotten, nor have I been idle since your birthday but your present wont be given to you until later this week. Sorry x

Sunday, 31 August 2008

Back from the summer hiatus (I really do love that word!)

Yes I've used the same intellectual sounding word twice in two blog titles but I don't care! I love that word, it ranks right up there amongst my favourite words (talking of which there's a newcomer in that category: papoose).

Anyway, back to the point - I've not blogged since before my dissertation deadline so here's a brief summary of what’s happened since then:

> Dissertation was handed in successfully. Got a 2:1. Content with that though was hoping for a 1st.

> As such my whole degree came out as a 2:1 with a strong average, for what thats worth. This means I got onto my MA course. Still wish I'd done that bit extra for the 1st. Have vowed to get a distinction in my Masters instead.

>Was chuffed to bits to have a letter appear in Empire though miffed to hell at that being the month they changed from giving a prize to every letter to reinstating the letter of the month format.

>Got job in Primark, slave away there for £5.69 an hour. My contract hours are Saturdays: 10.30-20.00 and Sunday 09.30-18.00.

>Went to see the new Indiana Jones film and was unimpressed, let down even.

>Discovered "Zero Punctuation"

>Attempted to move into new house, found it to be a sh*t hole and relocated to new, nicer abode.


>Saw "Dark Knight" at a preview screening two days before the general release. Thought it was amazing, absolutely loved it. Also loved the limited edition moving posted I got free for going.

>Went to Barcelona with family

>Decided walking to Primark was too much effort (45mins!) so brought bike to Liverpool and now put life into the hands of the drivers on Edge Lane at least twice a week

>Dressed as a Celt for Kate's Liverpool 21st Birthday Party, the theme was nations. (See pic below)

>Saw R.E.M. at Old Trafford Cricket Ground, supported by The Guillemots and The Editors.

>Saw the Trestles as part of the Matthew Street Festival which I finally made it to for the first time.

>Made a trip to Cardiff to visit the now distant Bec and Steve as well as some family in Swansea. Saw former-Stereophonic drummer Stuart Cable in Cardiff.

Well anyway, that brings you up to speed. I'll be posting at least a few more times in the coming days, hopefully at least once a week. Until then this is me signing off. Adios Amigos

Anything I've forgotten may be added at a later stage....

Monday, 5 May 2008

So much for that

So much for that bright idea. Yes, you may have noticed my Blog status updates kind of petered out. Those on Facebook will have noted my slowly, yet steadily, rising word count in my status though.

It's Sunday night (or really, really early on Monday morning depending on your point of view) and I have the following still to do:-

Re-write my dissertation introduction
Sort out my dissertation references and bibliography
Bind said dissertation
Write 1 x 500 words review
Write 1 x 1000 word peer-review
Write 1 x 2000 word self assessment.

As well as this any re-reading and editing of the dissertation and the rest of my creative writing portfolio will be counted as a bonus.

This leaves me a hefty work load to get through and tomorrow (Monday) the last day on which I can do most of it - the creative writing has to be handed in on Tuesday whilst the dissertation has until Wednesday, though to limit hair loss by alopecia I want it bound by Tuesday afternoon at the latest.

So, once more I push on, my final words and the finishing touches on my entire Undergraduate life.

Thursday, 17 April 2008


Today I calculated that the sum total word count of all of my work is 24,000 words. 3,000 of that is due in twelve days. The rest is due in a grand total of 18! Now there's a thought to get you working!

Here's the work so far:

Drafted Contemp essay. Did basic research.
> Wrote a couple of lines of dissertation
- Watched hour long documentary on BBC iPlayer about the Guttenburg Press, presented by Stephen Fry

Had Creative Writing piece slated and was told to completely change the focus (and plot) of the piece, involving not only a complete re-write but also (the harder bit) a complete re-think and indeed re-imagining.
> Wrote 1000 words of Contemp essay and did more research
> Worked out the grand total words (ie. just before writing this blog - see above)
- Sulked about the creative writing seminar
- watched my first ever episode of the apprentice

Monday, 14 April 2008

A semi-depressing attempt at achieving self-accountability

Right, I've got a stack of work to do in the next three weeks and in an attempt to motivate myself to not only work, but work at an increased rate - I'm going to try and post daily, or at least semi-regular posts on here detailing my progress.

I'm doing this for multiple reasons (well, so far only two. But I'll add more when they come to me):

1) So that anyone who reads this (Stephen...) can see what I'm up to and not nag me for not getting out or alternatively can kick me up the arse every now and again to get me to increase my productivity.

2) So I can see my achievement in progress, hopefully releaving some of the depression that falls on me every time I look at how much work there still is to do.

Anything interesting that (feel oblidged to / want to procrastinate for a moment about / have time to) Blog about will find my little counter at the end.

The most depressing thing of all is that unless I get some sort of income soon, I won't even be able to afford a proper celebration when all of this is over!

Things relevant to my course are marked > and things I had to do that arn't course specific are -

So here goes (backdated to Sunday):
> wrote approx 3,500 words of a short story for Creative Writing (Prose) module
- Watched Doctor Who on iPlayer (I missed it on Saturday night)

> Re-drafted yesterday's story
> Re-drafted existing 3,500 words of dissertation
> Wrote 500 words of dissertation
> Began reading of Alice Oswald's Dart for tomorrow's Contemporary Fiction seminar
- Handed in documents to next year's landlord
- Created this blog post
- Attempted to reschedule a fencing tournament due to "booking error."

Tuesday, 8 April 2008

The Highs and Lows of Living in Liverpool

I've got to give credit where credit is due. Those who know me know that I'm far from a sport aficionado. I mean I like watching sport, I enjoy a good display of talent, but its not high on my list of things I'd like to be doing, especially not football. Football, especially at a Premiership level annoys me more than it excites me, too many big egos swaggering around, if I had to spend time watching a sport a good rugby game beats a good football game almost every time.

But this is Liverpool, a football city, and this is the Champions League. So, Kate and I (Kate being the true fan) went down to the Flute to watch the third of Liverpool's recent confrontations with Arsenal. I've got to be honest, if I was sitting at home listening to the radio and the scores were announced on the ten o'clock news I'd like Liverpool to win, just because it's my adoptive city and I have a lot of love for this place, but at the end of the day I don't really care, if they'd lost I wouldn't spare it more than a brief thought.

But going to watch it in the pub, it changes things.

The Flute is a perfect sport watching location with screens everywhere you can always see the action no matter how packed the place is and though it didn't quite compare to the capacity I experiences last year for the Champion's League final the place was still pretty well jammed. We had to stand, both with our coke's: me out of a reluctance to needlessly consume alcohol (and a very low budget at the moment) and Kate out of respect for her drunken state last night and the match began.

I won't give a commentary of the match, those that care will have already seen it or will find much better match summaries elsewhere. What I really want to express in this Blog entry is the power of a crowd and the atmosphere of a pub in Liverpool that gets behind its team.

The match was very up and down and despite my nonchalance regarding the final result I found myself upset when Arsenal pulled ahead on aggregate and jumping for joy when Gerard slotted in the penalty to put Liverpool ahead (pictured) let alone the fourth goal! Singing "You'll Never Walk Alone" at the top of my lungs with who knows how many people joining me, it lifts you, it sends a thrill through you and you experience something really special.

I still don't care about football and if Liverpool don't win this cup it won't make me lose any sleep but for 90 minutes I was part of something amazing and I think that whether you like football or not that experience is something special and well worth revisiting.

Sunday, 16 March 2008

Not perfect by any means, but coming along.

Always happy to share any randomness I find online here's a link to an article on the good old BBC News about Google's awesome new Zurich offices. I want to work for a company like that!
Onto the main bulk of this blog posting and I'm happy to report I'm feeling slightly more optimistic about the future. Sure, I'm still sitting in the library at 8pm "working" on my dissertation because my computer is so fricking slow and unreliable. And sure I've got even less money to my name than I had when last I posted. And sure I'm reaching the point where I'm so poor I feel guilty buying food.

But that same dissertation is coming along a little, and the applications for housemates are starting to come in and I've got some great plans in place for what free time I'm affording myself this "holiday" so it's hard not to feel just a little lighter on my feet as I lug my bag of books backwards and forwards.

And now, because I'm actually here to work ('ha!' I hear you cry) I'm signing off on that short little note. I'll just leave you with this picture (because I always like to try and include an image in my blog), no real reason other than I like it because I have a soft spot for sunsets. Oh and I took it, almost two years ago in Berlin.

Is this going to be one of those weeks?

No, really. Is it? Let's take stock.

Having closely assessed my finances I've discovered that it's not likely I'll run into a deficit before I graduate it's a damn certainty and with a request being put in with the bank of mum and dad for help with the £300 deposit I have to put down on my house for next year this week I can't justify asking them for more money.

With such financial drains I've had to pull out of the Glasgow Open, the great fencing trip to Glasgow that is always a highlight of my calender and has been an Easter-ish time tradition the last two years. This is particularly frustrating as I wanted us to win Best Club there this year which obviously would have been particularly important to me as the Club Captain.I'm staying in Liverpool overtime to work on my dissertation. Yesterday my laptop shut itself off whilst I was working and I've lost not only 300 words of the draft but around twelve pages of research that was painfully squeezed out of the internet connection which is also fluctuating between dead and snail's pace at the moment.

Everyone's gone home now except Jon and it's at times like these when I realise how much I've changed. In years gone by (quite a time ago) I had no problems with my own company and would quite happily watch a DVD, play a game, read a book, write just spend time with myself and be happy. These days I find myself craving just a chat over a cup of tea or a ten minute bantering session with someone. I suppose its a change for the best - it shows how I've developed as a social creature and improved my communication skills to the Nth degree, does make you feel quite lonely at times though.

Given the laptop unreliability and the crappy internet I'm considering relocating to the library. At least there I can people watch for a while. The only hassle is carting off the quite considerably pile of books that I've accumulated around this dissertation - many of which are actually my own property now not library books.

On the plus sides I had a good day of rugby yesterday and whilst after 40 minutes of Wales doing what Wales do best (keeping Welsh fans scared) I was petrified it was going to be a very bad day for the Celts (Scotland and Ireland both losing their matches). The boyos pulled through and the Grand Slam cheer went up. For the record I dared to believe in them from the start! I've also recovered from my flu, my immune system beating it down to just a very annoying cold now. That in itself is a miracle given my current sleep deprived, malnourished state.

Where was I, oh yeah - so I'm poor, my laptop is playing up, the internet is playing up, my dissertation isn't going greatly and what work I'm doing is being sabotaged by Gremlins. The majority of people have gone away and left me. I'm going to have to job hunt straight after Easter is over - when hopefully my dissertation is at least fully drafted.
I'm considering packing it all in, job, uni, house, life and putting on my warmest layers, grabbing a few good pens and some pads and bumming my way around the UK as a writer-tramp (George Orwell did it!!!). Well okay, maybe I'm not THAT down but sometimes with a whole week of monotony ahead of you its hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel and not imagine an oncoming train or a psycho with a flamethrower.

Friday, 14 March 2008


Awwww bless her little cotton socks!!! Click here to see a three year old (American) girl's take on that cultural watershed that is Star Wars. I particularly like the way she thinks Luke's training droid is a poké ball and the way C3PO is the "shiny-guy". Bechod!

The pictures for this post arn't from the film but are equally sweet!

In other news, on slightly more personal notes. I've been really ill with a bad dose of flu this week (which was fun) but I've also been house hunting and today have rung the landlord of the favoured property to talk about sealing the deal. This moves me one step closer to actually having future plans! It's a nice terrace house on the edge of Kensington, not a bad part of town really (we all know how bad it is deeper in) only another 5 mins ontop of my travel time at the moment (ie. 5 mins + 5 mins). We'll see how it goes.

Wednesday, 12 March 2008

Heart Warming Tale

Sick of hearing about Alistair Darling's uber-exciting budget (sic)? If you are take a look at the story of the day as far as I'm concerned: Click here to read the story on BBC News of Moko the whale saving dolphin.

Tuesday, 4 March 2008

Tetris DS

Tetris. It's an institution, especially for Nintendo's handheld consoles. Anybody of around our age who held a Gameboy at some point (and I mean the big clunky grey ones) probably played it at some point. Even if you missed that little cultural watershed you can't fail but be aware of the premise of the game and the simple joy stacking these little bricks to make lines can create.

Even those who don't really "get" computer games, or understand the attraction of a puzzle can sit and play tetris for a good few minutes and become entranced by the rotating falling bricks and their ever increasing speed. How many people are with me in recognising the frustration of needing that long thin piece and all you keep getting are the L shapes that aren't quite long enough. Or the anger you feel when a 2x2 square comes down just at the moment when you don't have any surfaces for it to sit on without leaving gaps.

No, there's no question that tetris was going to be fun when re-released on the Nintendo DS, the question was how were they going to justify a £29.99 price tag for a game that can now be found bundled on disposable keyring games, mobile phones and even iPods.

So what have we got? Well you've got the normal mode which is basically a brightly coloured version of the original with (if you have time to tear your eyes away from the bricks) an automated demo of a Mario game playing across the top screen with Mario classic tunes for accompaniment. Each time you get ten lines you go up a level and the speed of the game increases, the music and Mario level also changes. It's quite nifty.

The new stuff comes in the form of an assortment of different takes on the classic from the Legend of Zelda themed Mission Mode (tasks include: "clear two lines with a 2x2" or use a "blue L to clear all blocks"), Donkey Kong themed Push where two games play on opposing screens and literally push the other persons game closer to game over, this has a vs. Computer mode but is best played in multiplayer. Touch mode themed around the lesser known Balloon Flight asks you to use the stylus to drag and drop blocks from a vast tower to reach the cage of balloons at the top. Of all the modes this seems the most original and fresh, fittingly different and obviously unique to the DS's touch screen capabilities.

The final two modes are Catch Mode which is based on the Metroid game, it's a little weird, you rotate a core of blocks and catch the falling ones adding them to your core which resets when you get enough without gaps. Miss some, accidentally hit the falling Metroids or touch the top or bottom of the screen and its good night Vienna. Finally there's Puzzle Mode which is themed around the game Yoshi's Cookie. This game gives you, for example, 3 bricks and a predetermined mess of already dropped bricks and then asks you to clear it all up. It's harder than you think.

Add in a very good multiplayer, including much loved 1-card short range play (meaning anyone with a DS and within a certain range can play with you and you only need one copy of the game) and you certainly seem to have a lot crammed onto the little cart, except that you really don't.

The only downside to this game is that for the price tag I'd like to see more extras. The only unlockable features are a few new soundtracks, great as they are its not enough. There is little incentive for me to play the other modes and I keep coming back to the classic or Standard mode.

I imported this game (saving a bundle) via eBay, I have to say I do love it and it's already absorbed a lot of my time. For the money I paid I'm happy but if I had paid the full £30 price tag I think I would have expected a little bit more.

Nevertheless the falling bricks are as addictive and compelling as ever. If you DO like tetris or puzzle games in general there is little wrong with this game at all.

Overall Score: 8.5 / 10

Monday, 3 March 2008

Back from a hiatus

I love that word. Hiatus. Sounds good doesn't it.

It's been a pretty long hiatus, but the blog is back up and running. There's so much going on at the moment I shouldn't really have time to post anything but here we go nonetheless.

In that time I've been up to a lot of junk, with varying levels of success. I've been down into the deepest depths of despair and raised to stellar levels of joy.

The most recent achievement I've clocked up is my completing the Liverpool Half Marathon 2008. I finished the 13.1 mile course in 2hrs 22mins 20 seconds (according to the gun time), according to the official results on the websites I came in place 3042 of 3435 I know that sounds pretty bad but to be honest I'm just happy I finished. The bane of my running life are my knees which despite a support on the right knee (the main trouble maker) starting hurting at the 3 mile mark. I pushed through and was confident that I could make it round without stopping until a muscle twang around 9.5 miles made me stop for a minute whilst I stretched out my hamstring.

Maybe I should have taken this as a warning: I started running again until I passed the 11 mile marker when I had the worst cramp I have ever experienced. My right calf just clenched mid stride and I had a shooting pain near the bottom and side of my knee (where I imagine the calf ligaments are...?). It literally floored me and it was heart warming to see how many people stopped to check I was ok and offered to send one of the many medical teams back for me. I declined the help through gritted teeth and after a couple of minutes managed to get up and carry on.

Needless to say the pain was pretty bad and it was at a slow hobble that I made the final two miles. Before the race we'd joked that the final .1 mile (of the 13.1) would be a killer that would destroy us and I really shouldn't have made such a comment as I entered the final stretch, limping along and people were cheering us on at both sides of the track, I could even hear people shouting out my number (454) seeing the obvious pain on my face. Well, the pain got worse. Just as I began the final hundred metre hobble my left leg cramped up. Not as bad as the right calf but enough to send my stumbling. I was determined not to go down though and with every last piece of willpower I could summon (and yes, I'll admit - through a haze of tears) I forced myself across the line before falling to my knees clutching my leg.

If I EVER say I'm going to do something so physically trying as that run again remind me of all of this but more than anything else, remind me how stupid I was to not do any training since a run to the park (of maybe 8km) in NOVEMBER! Fool!

Anyway, today my knees are fine (weirdly) and my legs are okay, just a considerably amount of muscle stiffness and rawness where my shorts had started to chafe. At least I got a medal and a T-shirt though :-D I gave myself my own reward by letting myself do most of my work for the day in bed. Getting up at 5pm for something to eat and then hobbling to the library where you find me now at 00.30am putting the final touches to some dissertation research. Oh and reviving this blog.

See how long it lasts this time!