• Comments: 4
  • We're doing it again next Friday Mike. - Karen
  • Dammit, I never saw this! I shall raise a glass of espresso martini to you both in absenti... - Mike
  • Come on in then, we're open! - Karen
  • I've checked we have plenty of ice in stock and (shh! Don't tell the boss) I've already st... - Gammidgy
March 30, 2020

The Original and Best Online Cocktails

You are cordially invited to join us in celebrating wishing it was our wedding day on Friday at 5pm BST. A zoom link will be provided right here, for the Original And Best Online Cocktail Hour Invented By Uborka ©2003. As always, virtual drinks can be provided, but you are strongly encouraged to bring  your own, even if it’s just a nice cup of tea.

Karen
March 24, 2020

To have and to put on hold

Back in October Pete and I went out for dinner one night when my mum was staying. We went to a nice place we’ve been to before, called Valpy Street in Reading. It is an odd underground place that feels both crowded and cosy, but not uncomfortable. He spent much of the meal talking over whether to continue going to his archery club or not. When he eventually paused for a moment, I mentioned that there was another decision I wanted to talk about with him, and he said, are you going to propose?

I’d been following the Campaign for Equal Civil Partnerships for some time, and it had finally reached the point where we knew it was going to happen. There are many reasons why a civil partnership feels like a better fit for us than a marriage, not least the increasingly feminist view that we have of the world. More on that later. Having known and loved Pete for nearly 17 years now, I was confident that he would agree that it’s the right thing at the right time, so yes, I was going to propose. In fact, so confident was I, that I’d already ordered a ring redesigned out of my two ex-wedding rings and the diamonds from my mum’s engagement ring. If he had inexplicably turned round and said no to my suggestion, I’d still be wearing it, because I really like it.

The next step in our process was to figure out what it might look like. Big dress big cake big party? Doesn’t feel very us, and we’ve got four divorced parents to manage. Small bespoke do on a narrowboat? Even more of a parent-management issue. Do it all online? Seemed like a daft idea at the time. We made a list of everything we could think of to do with weddings, then crossed out the things we didn’t fancy; ice sculpture out, vintage cars in. Eventually we made a rule: if the idea doesn’t fill us with joy, then we won’t do it. We settled on a small signing in the registry office with two witnesses (Bernard and Pete’s sister), then a road trip round the country to go out for a celebratory meal with small family parties. Then maybe some sort of friend do in a pub at a later date if we feel like it. The road trip to include two nights where Bernard stays with grandparents, and we get a two night “honeymoon” at a fancy hotel in Grasmere.

A date was set, and then we had to wait for the registry office to give us the go ahead. I was in Manchester for work when they called me to confirm the date and tell us when we would need to go in for our pre-signing appointment. At this point they threw me a massive curve ball: Pete and I share the same surname, because when I was pregnant with Bernard, I did a deed poll. The deed poll hasn’t been lodged with a court, because it doesn’t have to be. It’s been used successfully to change my surname on bank accounts, passports etc. But for the purposes of a civil partnership, according to the registrar, it wasn’t good enough. We would have to use the words “Also known as [former married surname]” on the paperwork. This did not sit well with me.

I gave it some thought, and then wrote a strongly worded email, pointing out that since it is impossible for me to change my surname from [former married name] to anything else, as I have no ID in that name, I can’t possibly be considered “Also known as” that name. I was all ready for a fight, but they caved immediately, so a couple of sleepless nights for nothing there. Fucking patriarchy.

The date we have been looking forward to is 22nd May. Gorgeous Lori sorted me out with a dress; other costuming arrangements remained a bit vague. Actual pretty invitations were sent out! Guests were invited to contribute songs to the Wedding Road Trip Playlist. All we had to do was count the days down, which we didn’t actually do because it’s not that exciting.

And now what? Last week I paid a fee to rearrange to the earliest possible date, which would have been 3rd April. Last night Boris banned weddings. And yes, as plenty of people have told me, it’s only deferred to some unknown point in the future when we can celebrate and be happy, which rather undermines my genuine disappointment at not being able to do this nice thing when we expected to; as well as my genuine concern at Pete and I not being legally next of kin; and the fact is we’re as happy as one can be in these circumstances and signing a bit of paper isn’t going to make us more so. It was just a nice set of events that we were looking forward to, which now has to be rearranged in its entirety.

Karen
March 21, 2020

Fat Pigeon

Since Maisy died, we have slung oodles of bird feeders in the back garden. Some of the larger birds (like this chonker of a pigeon) like to gain access to the seed feeder by standing on top of the mealworm container.

Pete

Alcohol-Free Beers (Part Eleven)

(View previous instalments here)

Quite a few of the beers in this instalment are from the Big Drop brewery. I’ve had a handful of their beers before, but here are some that I haven’t tried before.

Big Drop Brown Ale

This one seemed very thin and watery out of the bottle. The initial flavour was fairly promising, quite robust and stouty, but sadly there’s also a tang of that stale cigarette smoke quality that is present in the Big Drop Stout, which is one of the first alcohol-free beers that I reviewed and which I also revisited recently. However, it’s much more subtle, and so I found this one just about tolerable.

Lervig No Worries

This is a very very nice little IPA. It’s not excessively hoppy, but has a really good creamy mouthfeel. It’s one of the haziest beers I’ve ever seen, it’s like trying to look through a pint of Guinness. It also keeps it’s head exceptionally well. Really, really impressive drink.

Big Drop Citra

You’d expect a Citra IPA to be fairly uncompromising, but this drink was just woefully incompatible with my taste buds. I found it to have an overwhelming metallicy tang and a sharp chemical flavour. I can appreciate that for some people, this might be heaven in a glass, but personally I would not buy this again.

Big Drop Sour

At this point I’m starting to feel a bit bad for all these negative reviews of Big Drop beers, and feel that I should hasten to point towards my highly positive review of Big Drop Pale Ale and Big Drop Hazelnut Porter. With that said, however, I didn’t get on well with this one. I’d rather drink a glass of vinegar. The flavour of this reminded me of the smell of the kettle descaler that we used to use at my old workplace.

Rothaus Hefeweizen Zäpfle

This one was something quite special. It’s a wheat beer and, like many of the other wheat beers I’ve sampled during this series, it really hits the mark. It’s creamy and sweet with a really heavy luscious mouthfeel. I absolutely love it.

SALT/Big Drop L’Il IPL

This beer comes in a slightly larger 440ml can, which is why it comes closer to filling up my glass in the photo than most other alcohol-free beers. With the exception of a small number than come in pints, 330ml does seem to be the norm when it comes to the alcohol-free ones.

This drink has quite an interesting heritage, it’s an Indian Pale Lager brewed as a collaboration between Big Drop and SALT, a microbrewery near Bradford that I hadn’t heard of before, who tend to go for bold, ambitious, high-strength beers, somewhat reminiscent of my local Siren.

I wasn’t blown away by this particular beverage. It’s moderately drinkable, but I did feel like it tasted a little metallic and unpleasantly sharp. That said, it had a great feel in the mouth, nice and thick and weighty. So, not the best, but definitely not the worst.

As I mentioned last time, I picked up a nice little batch of six new (to me) alcohol-free beers from The Grumpy Goat, which gave me the ammunition for starting this review. Since then, I dropped in again, and scored another three new (to me) ones, so my next review is looking like it won’t be too far off either. In fact, I’m not 100% sure that one or two of the beers in this review weren’t from the newer batch – I don’t keep track of these things. Either way, we know one thing for sure, and that’s that there are three beers on the shelf, begging to be reviewed. And we’re not going to let them down, are we?

Pete
March 19, 2020

Pandemic Legacy: February / March

WARNING: This blog post contains shameless spoilers for Pandemic Legacy. Reading this blog post if you have not yet played the game will impair your enjoyment should you decide to play it in the future.

The Pre-Game

Before embarking upon the evening’s main events, we started with a quick game or two of Skull and then a game of regular Pandemic. We tried playing with 5 players, despite the fact that it’s only supposed to be played with 4 tops, and found it very challenging. In our defence, we managed to cure 3 diseases, but couldn’t quite cure the 4th before the player deck ran out. It was just too hard to get the collections of same-coloured cards into one person’s hand.

Previously, on Pandemic Legacy…

  • We lost our first attempt at January, but won the second
  • The red disease can no longer be cured. The goal for each game is now just to cure the remaining three diseases
  • The researcher has a permanent scar as a result of being in a city when an outbreak occurred
  • The black disease has a positive mutation so can now be cured with one fewer colour card
  • The medic has an upgrade that allows them to treat diseases in adjacent cities
  • Two cities in Asia are in a state of rioting. A couple of cities elsewhere are slightly unstable.

February

We took our time over setting up February. We needed to refamiliarise ourselves with our characters, their upgrades, and the consequences of the previous session’s games. We also took care to set up the game in the given sequence, as you’re allowed to see the outcome of certain steps of the setup before choosing characters, which will inform your decision.

The mission briefing contained a bombshell – that not only could the red disease not be cured, it could also now no longer be treated. Any red cubes that we allowed to sneak onto the board would be there to stay for the rest of the game.

Red disease now no longer treatable in addition to being uncurable

However, we were given a new weapon in our arsenal – the quarantine tokens. One of these could be placed by any player on their current city, and would act as a sort of one-shot shield against cube placement. We were also given a new character, the quarantinologist. This person (named Ewan) had the additional abilities to place a quarantine token in any city (not just their current one), and also their presence in a city with a quarantine token on it would prevent that token being “used up”.

Rules pertaining to the new quarantine tokens

At this point the rules were also extended to permit us to define a “relationship” when creating a new character. We decided to make the new character a family member with Wei, the dispatcher, which meant that they’d get bonus actions if they started a turn in the same city.

Don’t worry, we did write the names onto these labels after I took the photo

The February game began. We all played the same characters as last time, with the exception that Karen played as the new Quarantine Specialist and we left the Scientist in the box.

The initial distribution of cubes meant that the yellow disease was quick to cure, and fully eradicate. This turned out to be pivotal later on. The board was generally looking good at this stage, though the red disease had the potential to get a little out of hand. We refocused resources on getting over there and slapping down lots of quarantine tokens. Blue was close to being cured too, with very few cubes on the board.

We had some great luck in this game, it has to be said. Of the three epidemics that came up, two were for the already-eradicated yellow disease, and one was deftly averted by the presence of a quarantine token.

Epidemic averted

In his final turn, Gammidgy executed a magnificent sequence of actions and was able to clean up the final blue cubes before curing it, meaning that we then had two eradicated diseases for this game.

Only a single outbreak in this game, and that was in Kolkata

For our end-of-game upgrades, we chose to capitalise on the fact that we’d eradicated two diseases, and grabbed positive mutations for both. For the yellow disease, it can now be cured from any location (no research station required), and for the blue, instead of treating it one cube at a time, it can now always be treated in bulk (similar to how it would be if it were cured, or if the medic were doing it, but this applies to all players). We did have a research station in Baghdad, and considered getting a starting research station there to aid movement around the board, but decided that the two eradicated diseases were too good an opportunity to pass up.

Eradicated diseases with new positive mutations

March

The mission briefing for this month gave us some good news – we now had new structures to add to the game, in the form of military bases. These offered a new fast travel network for selected characters, and there was also a new character introduced who could build them easily and move around from military bases and research centres by discarding any card. We named this character Derek, and set him to be a co-worker with Wei, which means they can transfer city cards even when they’re not both in the same city. We left Eric the medic in the box this time, and Gammidgy played as Derek.

New military base pieces

We now had an additional objective, on top of just curing three diseases. We needed to either eradicate one disease, or build six military bases distributed across the globe. We decided to principally focus on the latter, and see how it went.

We had a bit of bad luck early on when an epidemic occurred in Montreal and then the card immediately came up again, meaning that we had no opportunity to prevent an outbreak.

We managed to cure the black disease quite quickly, and at this point the board was looking reasonably manageable. There were a few cubes in Shanghai, but thanks to the quarantine specialist we had a quarantine token there so we didn’t have to worry about it too much.

Quarantine in Shanghai

Military base and Research Station in Atlanta, with a single blue cube

We didn’t have as much luck with the epidemics this time, and this game was much more difficult as a result. Blue was the next disease to be cured, and finally yellow. Our main objective was complete, but we still had to get one of the optional objectives. Things were looking a bit hairy, with epidemics and outbreaks occurring in the black disease zone, and an outbreak in Shanghai. Both of our optional objectives were within reach, as blue was close to being eradicated, but we made the decision to continue to focus on the military-base objective instead, as there was less chance of bad luck snatching victory from our hands.

The situation deteriorating in Asia

Black and yellow both on the cusp of crisis

The “Grassroots Program” event card popped up at a very convenient time, and we were able to get the sixth military base down just in the nick of time. The board was looking very troubling, and we wouldn’t have held out much longer. We also placed a research station in Riyadh as part of the last turn, which meant that for one of our two game-end upgrades we could place a starting research station there. This means that for future games we’ll all be able to fast travel over there on our first turn, if necessary. For our second game-end upgrade, we gave Ewan (the quarantine specialist) the ability to view the two two cards in the infection deck at the start of their turn, as this meant that if multiple cities were at risk of an outbreak, they’d know which one to place a quarantine token on.

The end of game state in Asia – Hong Kong and Taipei haven’t worsened, but a couple of other cities are deteriorating slightly

A few slightly unstable cities in the black and yellow disease zones

A few cities in North America now slightly unstable

We managed to make much more progress in this session than we expected – we weren’t anticipating beating both February and March on our first go. But we are aware that we had a lot of good luck in the first game, and the second one we only got through by the skin of our teeth. April is going to be a huge challenge.

Pete
March 16, 2020

Old And Busted / New Hotness (Mug Edition)

I can not remember the exact age of the mug on the left. Probably over 20 years though. Initially, it was just one of a small collection of mugs that I owned, but when Karen came into my life she swiftly assigned it as my primary mug. She claims that it’s because it is a very nice mug, but I think it’s really because she was struggling to remember my name so having a mug that said “Peter” on it was very helpful.

Either way, for about the last 15 years, that mug has had regular use at home and become a staple part of our lifestyle. That is, until recently. For it has developed a fault. You may be able to see, if you peer closely, a tiny pale patch just above the ‘t’. That, my friends, is a chip. Not the delicious sort either, but the rough and grainy sort.

At this point all the boomers in the house jump up and say “you call that a chip? Back in my day we’d drink our tea from a smashed up house brick and we’d be grateful for it!” And yes, I know that at first glances it may seem overly precious of me to replace a drinking vessel over such a seemingly-inconsequential defect. But I present two items of evidence in my favour:

Firstly, one of my preferred “grips” for drinking tea is the middle-and-ring-finger through the handle technique. This is an incredibly effective mode, as the weight of the beverage is supported on opposite sides (the thumb on the near side, the other 4 digits on the far side) meaning that the mug is not trying to rotate away from the handle. It also means that your hand is wrapped around the barrel of the mug, for maximum heat retention. Do not try this with a freshly-poured cup, obviously.

Secondly, this year has been one of big changes. Some positive, some negative. It seemed like the right time to acknowledge those changes with a replacement mug. So, on the right, you see the new hotness (pun intended). From the moment I clapped eyes on it, I knew that this was the mug for me. The yellow/orange gradient is bold, inspiring and invigorating. It is of a reassuring thickness with a sturdy shape and a matte finish. It does have a handle but stupid me set up the photo poorly. This new mug now carries a lot of responsibility, as if terrible things happen to me for the rest of the year, then I shall naturally blame the mug.

Pete