February 6, 2020

In Memoriam

Tonight please raise your glasses to the fabulous Maisy who yesterday completed her ninth and final. She joined the household in 2008 and I think it’s going to be a long time until we get accustomed to arriving home and not being greeted upon arrival.

  • Comments: 3
  • It's the not tripping over her that is hard. - Karen
  • oh, so sorry to hear that. Ours came to us in 2007 and she's such an integral part of our ... - swisslet
  • You'll be tripping over her for ages. Sorry to hear your news. - graybo
  • Comments: 2
  • It's not a competition, my sweet. - Pete
  • I mean, I could make another, bigger pile of notebooks that are in use for various matters... - Karen
January 28, 2020


Recently I seem to have been taking lots of photos of birds. This is partly owing to a visit to the fantastic London Wetlands Centre at the weekend, and partly because my Yule present from Karen was a photography session at the equally brilliant Feathers And Fur Falconry Centre near Twyford. I felt it only fair to share a few of my results here. I hope you like them.

Amos (Long Eared Owl)

Bournville (Kestrel)

Pip (Little Owl)

Milo (Harris Hawk)

Norman (European Eagle Owl)


Puna Teal

Egyptian Goose

January 27, 2020

Alcohol-Free Beers (Part Nine)

(View previous instalments here)

Lucky Saint

A new cinema has opened up in our town, and imagine my delight to discover that they offer an alcohol-free beer that I hadn’t tried before! Sadly I wasn’t bowled over by this one – it had an odd sourness that tasted, while not exactly metallic, still somehow inorganic. Still, it’s not hideously undrinkable, so I probably would consider purchasing this one again under certain situations.

Bitburger “Drive”

After the film we went round to a nearby thai restaurant which I haven’t been too for a while. And for the second time that day, I was presented with the opportunity to try a new alcohol-free beer. Sadly, my hopes of discovering a new favourite beer were to be dashed again. This one reminded me of those nasty cheap European lagers that come in “stubbie” bottles which you can (if you are so inclined) buy in supermarkets for less than it would cost to buy the equivalent volume of bottled water. For years I’ve had a policy of avoiding that bottle shape, just to be on the safe side, and so I feel quite irked that this piss has sneaked in under the radar. At the time, I decided that I definitely wouldn’t drink this one again.

However, a few weeks later we were in Staines and the restaurant that we went to for lunch offered only this as its alcohol-free option. I was feeling generous, so decided to try it again, and strangely this time I enjoyed it a lot more. It was served a lot colder, which I think may have helped its case. After lunch we then went off to some nearby shops to buy about eight packs of chocolate-covered raisins, which has been one of the recurring themes of this month.

St Peter’s Original

I read an article recently about how St Peter’s have changed the recipe for their alcohol-free beer, so when I saw a bottle on the supermarket shelf with a new label design, I felt I should give this one another go. Whereas the previous recipe was a sickly syrup of unfermented wort, this new one is nowhere near as bad. Yes, there’s still a lot of that unfermented worty flavour apparent, but I’d now rank this one on a similar level to the Old Speckled Hen. It’s definitely far from being one of my favourites, but it’s no longer the laughing stock that it once was.

Big Drop Stout

While I was grabbing the St Peter’s from the shelf, I also saw this, which is another beer that I tried long long ago, and hated it because it smelled and tasted like stale cigarette smoke. I was feeling generous so I grabbed a bottle to give it another try. I found it a little bit less repulsive than first time, but that stale quality was still there and finishing the drink was a challenge.

Adnam’s Ghost Ship

Rounding off the trio of beers that I tried a long time ago, I purchased a bottle of Ghost Ship, one of the first alcohol-free beers that I ever reviewed on this blog, to see if my opinion has changed. My biggest revelation is that my sensitivity to that “metallic” quality that I complained about a lot in my early reviews has apparently gone way, way down. This might just be because I’ve become accustomed to it, or maybe there was something affecting me at the time that caused my brain to interpret certain flavours as “metallic”. Who knows. Either way, I still find the Ghost Ship to be a bit thin and underwhelming, though to be fair I don’t think I’ve found any alcohol-free beer in this sub-genre that does a better job.

Big Drop Hazelnut Porter

It’s become something of a regular routine for us to walk into town on a Saturday morning and grab a drink and a cake at one of the various coffee shops around the place. Our town centre has been undergoing lots of redevelopment lately (witness the new cinema, for example) and so there are a few new options on offer, with more to come.

Last weekend we walked into one place, did a few quick sums and came to the conclusion that there’d be no free tables by the time we got to the front of the queue, and walked out again. As we started to move towards another coffee shop, we noticed that the bar next door had a small sign outside offering cake. Interesting, we thought. Maybe we can find everything we need in here? So we went inside and as soon as I saw the range of alcohol-free beers on offer, I knew we’d be staying.

The cake system wasn’t quite what we were expecting. The barmaid said basically that we can choose any cake from the place next door (the place we were just in) and she’d pop round and get it. So Bernard toddled off with her to make his selection while I contemplated my drink options.

I eventually settled on this. The hazelnut aroma is intense and carries over great distances. The flavour doesn’t quite punch with the same weight, but it’s pleasant and well balanced. Like so many alcohol-free beers, it’s lacking a certain body. If this was coupled with a creamier mouthfeel then I would need to create a new scale to score it. So alas, it merely gets top points.

Coast Hazy IPA

One perk of the site going down over the weekend and me needing to rewrite this review is that I’ve been able to squeeze in the latest addition, which was consumed after the previous post had already gone “to press”, as they say.

This one poured with a very lively head, as you can see from the picture. The smell promises citrusy sourness and an exciting tanginess. Flavour-wise, it resembles a slightly toned-down version of the Nirvana Ananda which is made by blending one of their pale ales with green tea kombucha.

An interesting little drink, probably a bit of an acquired taste to most, and not something that I’d want to drink frequently, but it’s something to make a nice little change once in a while.
I’d also like to take a moment to highlight that it’s almost exactly a year to the day since I published the first post in this series. In that year I have sampled, and reviewed, 39 different alcohol-free beers. I find myself wondering if I even drank that many different beers in the preceding year.

Let’s see what 2020 brings.

January 26, 2020

Strange And Unexpected Outage

Those of you with eagle eyes may have noticed that the site was down over the weekend.

On Thursday evening I wrote my latest installment of alcohol-free beer reviews and set it to publish on Friday morning. On Saturday morning I wondered why I hadn’t noticed a notification appear on Uborkabot and checked the site manually, only to discover a hideous error message. Upon further investigation, all of the database tables corresponding to the WordPress installation were utterly missing. No wonder the site wasn’t working.

Everything’s now been restored from a backup, so that’s good. However, it’s still an utter mystery how the tables got deleted. It’s not like last time, when I accepted full responsibility. Well, sort of. I think that the UI designers of Movable Type, which we were using at the time, perhaps dropped the ball a bit too.

Anyway, upshot of all this is that the tables are back but without knowing how they got deleted, I don’t know how to prevent it happening again. And the beer review blog post also got lost, so that needs to be rewritten. But I’ll do it, I’ll do it for you, because I love you.

January 3, 2020

Let the games commence!


A year ago there was a Big Boardgame Clearout at Casa Uborka, but it looks as though the shelves are heavingly full once again, with thanks to recent birthdays and christmases. We are a geekily gaming kind of family, whether it’s tabletop games or videogames that we can play together. I could play boardgames ALL NIGHT LONG, and welcome you to come and join me. Here are the most recent additions to our happy home.

Disarm The Base is a deceptively simple-looking co-operative game, in which the team are breaking into an airbase and disarming the planes, while guards patrol the grounds. The mechanism is driven by cards in the draw pile, so like many co-ops, the outcome depends a lot on the initial shuffle; but good planning and communication between the players definitely makes a difference. We had a very successful streak with our standard three-player team, but found ourselves more challenged playing with four players on New Year’s Day. If you like Forbidden Sky, or are have a political streak, this will appeal to you. Pete doesn’t like being at the mercy of the deck; he says “You end up feeling like you’re not playing the game, the game is playing you.” Bernard finds it a bit samey.

Port Royal is a card game in which players are collecting victory points. All the information you need is on the actual cards, making it super quick to learn, and new players very quickly catch up so are not at any disadvantage. There are multiple strategies you can take, so it doesn’t stop being interesting. Works well with three or four players; the only dud game I’ve had was a two-player game, but a single data point is probably not enough on which to make a judgement. Bernard says this is “very fun, definitely.”

Pandemic has been on our wishlist for a very long time, so we were very happy to get it for christmas, and have played it a lot, quickly moving on from the beginners’ level with 4 epidemics, to the next level with 5. It’s like a less oppressive Risk. We had a very good run, and started to think we were really good at it; but since then we haven’t beaten the game once. This is another co-operative game, and the way it unfolds depends a lot on the roles you draw, and the position of the starting infections. This game intrigues me and Bernard and I really want to play it endlessly; sadly, as usual, Pete tires of it more quickly than we do.

In Exploding Kittens, you draw cards until somebody explodes. The non-exploding cards have various actions associated with them, so there is a certain amount of strategy, but this is one that doesn’t captivate me for long. The cards feature silly drawings and descriptions, which delight the younger crowd. Pete says: “underneath the slightly annoying wackiness, this is actually a pretty good competitive card game.” Bernard finds it highly amusing.

Bananagrams has been all over my social media this year, clearly it’s the jeu du jour. Pete describes it as, “strangely antisocial,” because each player is involved in their own puzzle until someone completes; there isn’t even a scoring system, you just get on with it. It passes the time nicely and is more fun than doing a crossword. Bernard enjoys making it difficult for himself by making very long and sometimes surprising words (xenophobia, polyamorous) and holding out for specific letters.

I first played Yahtzee aged about ten, during my christmas in Australia; I can remember well how much I enjoyed it, and it really surprises me that I haven’t picked it up again in 40 years. It’s not like it isn’t at the back of the cupboard in every AirBnB we’ve ever stayed in. This game is unique in the house, in that Bernard and I consistently beat Pete at it, which means he will soon refuse to play it anymore.

We do not own Azul, but played it chez Gammidgy on New Year’s Day, after being stuffed full of delicious curry. It is a truly beautiful game, with smooth pieces and pretty colours. It’s also lovely to play, one of those that I would happily keep playing for hours just for the pleasure of handling the pieces. It’s a game of planning, in which it does help to keep an eye on what other players are up to, and once you’ve got your head around it, is delightfully straightforward to play. Just lovely.

The other game we played chez Gammidgy was Illimat, a game created by The Decemberists (remember them?). This one is Really Gorgeous, with a cloth board and tarot-esque cards. The mechanism starts simple and gets more complex and interesting as you figure out what you’re doing. Really satisfying to play, may have to beg to borrow it.

Today’s honourable mention goes to Wingspan, which we played at Insomnia gaming festival in the summer, and absolutely fell in love with. The beautifully illustrated cards! The charming pastel-coloured eggs! The bird feeder device! Loved it so much, but it’s almost impossible to get hold of, so if you have a copy and would like to sell or trade it for one of our many games, give me a shout.