Sunday, 28 February 2010

an inspirational Facebook page:

"I love it when the parents are out of the house!"

It's endorsed by this cheery fellow:

and from what I can tell, peoples favourite things about their parent's absence include:

"crashing the house"
"doing illegal stuff"
"rading the frige"
"haveing the TV up really load"


"eating LOADS of sweets"

Sounds like a hoot, right?

Monday, 22 February 2010

Chris the chef

I'm rather pleased with the culinary excursions I've made during the last week:

Tuesday was Pancake Day, and instead of settling for pancake mix as I did last year, I followed an online recipe and learned how to make them properly. The first pancake was a bit dodgy due to an overestimate on the amount of butter required, but from my experience this is often the case. To strengthen my pancake skills, I made them again on Tuesday evening with a savoury filling instead of a sweet one as I had done earlier; the filling of choice was sausage casserole, and despite making enough food for ~3 people, it was delicious.

Yesterday evening, Emily, Charlotte and I decided to make cocktails on account of being too poor to go out for drinks. We decided on Strawberry Daiquiris, mainly because it meant only one kind of alcohol needed to be bought (white rum). Breaking the ice led to some undesired consequences (a broken jug for example), but eventually we figured out that beating the bag of ice with a rolling pin was the way forward. We then blended strawberries, brown sugar and white rum with the ice and 3 delicious daiquiris were born.

Wednesday, 17 February 2010


Isn't today a nice day? It's relatively warm, and the incessant precipitation from the last few days has finally given up and allowed the sun to shine. I noticed this on the way to a job interview this morning, and decided that appreciating the weather from the inside of a bus wouldn't suffice: instead I decided to go for a walk in the nearby woods after a bout of washing up (around 4 days worth).

The walk was nice. I chose to just put walking shoes on my interview clothes, and so took to the woods in smart trousers, a shirt and a v-neck, which in retrospect probably isn't the most desirable outfit. Especially because aforementioned precipitation all seemed to coalesce into giant muddy puddles all along my planned path through the woods. After jumping across puddles to safe patches of dry for a while, I decided I looked a prat and decided to man up, and from then on strolled carefreely through the puddles, deciding that 'any mud on my trousers would come off in the wash so fuck it'.

About half way through the walk, a dog named Mollie took offence to my presence and started barking at me. I wouldn't mind but the owners assured me 'she doesn't normally do that!', which is little comfort anyway but combined with the fact that it's not the first unprovoked barking I've received this year, made me feel slightly uneasy.

Mad dogs aside, I continued, and found an unspoiled patch of grass atop the hill. Unspoiled of course, apart from the 2 grafitti covered benches at the far side, one of which I sat on for a while and had a think about some things. I then walked to the bus stop and took the lazy yet cost effective route home (I'm determined to get my money's worth for my weekly travelcard).

Now I'm going to watch an episode of Scrubs, eat a Cornish pasty, 24 oven chips and ~half a tin of beans, then wash up the remainder of the dirties, tidy up a bit, and then commence a blogging rampage.


Tuesday, 16 February 2010

pour apprendre le Français

Pour apprendre le Français est maintenant sur le mon pour faire la liste - après étude Japonaise et obtention d'un degré de Leeds.

Cette chanson est par une bande appelée Malajube, qui sont Quebecois et qui j'aime:

Je suis désolé si un quelconque de ceci est mal traduit.

Saturday, 13 February 2010

I don't care too much for fancy titles

I'm reading a book called "The Blue-Eyed Salaryman" at the moment. It's about a guy who travelled a lot, then decided to get a career in a Japanese multinational. Those of you familiar with the Japanese work ethic will realise this is a huge transition from travelling the world as a free agent. The book has some good, or at least thought-provoking quotes in it, such as these (adapted for tense / person etc):

"set off for a year of living free while [you] have the chance, because you only get the chance once and there [will] be plenty of years for a normal, everyday job later"

"when I get letters from far away I sometimes ask myself what I'm doing here. I'm free to leave anytime, go anywhere, am I not? But I'm not free. I've started something here. I want to see it through."

"Collect those fond memories of a carefree youth, something to look back on when life gets serious, because if you've nothing to look back on, then what've you got?"

"I don't care much for fancy titles and I'm worried that [they] might tie me down. I don't want to build my life around a piece of paper. Still, I have to get a job in the conventional world sometime."

Observant readers will notice that the title of this post is taken from the last quote. It was a pun - as a post title it implies that I don't care too much for fancy titles in my blog, whereas in the book he is referring to titles such as PhD and similar.

I put these quotes up because they seem quite relevant at the moment - they deal with wondering why you're slaving away at something when you could be elsewhere, something that's on my mind at the moment (Canada). They deal with seeing things through - something I'm trying to do at the moment despite things trying to distract me. I'm not sure about the third one - I don't like the idea that the only thing we have to hold onto are memories of the past, but I agree with the sentiment that we should collect fond memories as we go.

A fairly disjointed post here unfortunately. Perhaps you see where I'm coming from, perhaps not, but either way it's an interesting book and I'll probably write more about it sometime soon.

Friday, 12 February 2010

today was a metaphor

This is a bit abstract, so bear with me.

After waking up today feeling a bit weird, I decided to go for a walk in Greenwich to clear my head.

I got the bus to Blackheath (the stop furthest from the park) then walked across the heath to the park, which I planned on walking through to Greenwich. I ended up taking the most random route possible, shown in red on the map below:

In Greenwich I walked through the market and had a look at a few stalls and in a couple of shops, then went for a hot chocolate in a swanky café nearby.

I felt better after thinking over hot chocolate, and so decided to head home via the Greenwich University campus (to get my bearings for tomorrow). I walked along the river a bit and into the campus, then round a couple of buildings, out the other side and up through the park (route back shown in blue on the map above), and got the bus home from the bus stop closer to Blackheath (but further from home).

The metaphor is this: I felt 'a bit weird' when choosing universities originally, due to circumstances at the time et cetera. I decided to go to Keele (represented by the first bus stop). Greenwich is now, and I've taken a really random yet enjoyable route to get here. Now I'm heading elsewhere, a goal, which is represented by the bus stop further from home. There were more roads to cross on the way to the latter bus stop, representing the hurdles I have to / have had to overcome to get to Leeds (application, finance etc) - but now I'm on a straight path there.

I told you it was abstract. It sounded more sensible in my head really.

Sunday, 7 February 2010

up in the clouds

Just got in from a nice night out with Mum, Connie and Sharon. We went to a pub on Blackheath for a couple of drinks after curry and some Baileys-esque cocktail at home. After incinerating the poppadoms and drinking aforementioned cocktails we got the bus up to the heath, then sat in the garden and talked over a pint of Frúli (strawberry beer).

We talked about a variety of topics - some disturbing - before moving inside for another round of drinks (a lemonade, a brandy and 3 random shots (the barmaid chose tequila gold, sambuca and jagermeister, of which I had the latter)).

After leaving the pub unusually early (10.30!) we had another drink at home along with an episode of bottom, before a cab arrived to take me back to the dogs at my Granddad's house. I opened the door and they nearly knocked me over out of excitement, so I immediately attached them to their lead and took them for a walk. Sky nearly dragged me along the first half of it, but she gradually calmed down and we took up a pleasant pace.

I'm listening to Darwin Deez now and thinking just how great things are / have been recently. Obviously some things haven't been ideal, but I think considering the circumstances some people find themselves in - I'm not doing too badly. I'm also thinking about how nice it would be to spend another week at 620 Huron before everyone moves out, and unfortunately how unrealistic this probably is.

Still it can't help to dream, eh.

Now I'm going to make a drink, relocate to the living room, watch whatever is interesting on TV at this hour and have a mong out until I feel the need to sleep. Then I'll get up tomorrow, walk the dogs for the last time, prepare a fried breakfast, and greet my Grandparents as they arrive home from their holiday in Borneo.

It's been a nice day.

book review - "A Walk in the Woods"

This was the fifth book I read for my "book a fortnight throughout 2010" scheme. I still haven't finished book #3 yet, so unfortunately review #5 is of book #4, confusing things further. This review is also hugely late - don't tell anyone but even though the date of this post is 6th February 2010, I'm actually writing it on the 21st. Tee hee.

Now down to the serious BOOK TALK: this is the first book that was not taken from the bookshelf of a family member, and also the first non-academic paper-based item I've taken out of a library for around 5 years. It was exhilarating. I intended to get 'The Lost Continent' by the same author (keep a look out for this later in the series), but after I was consistently foiled by my ocular abilities, and reluctant to look like a pillock by asking the lady at the desk where it was for the third time, I settled for the first Bill Bryson book to cross my sights.

It may be the author's immense writing ability resulting in all of his books being awesome, it may be my affection towards aforementioned author's works resulting in a biased opinion on my part, or it may just be good luck, but whatever it is this book was a good random find! (That was really long winded...)

The book itself recounts a series of hikes along the Appalachian Trail undertaken by the author and (for the most part) his friend Stephen Katz. The 'for the most part' could refer to the fact that their friendship is sometimes placed under strain, or the fact that Katz is not present for all of the hikes (as was the intended meaning). The aforementioned Appalachian Trail is a hiking trail of disputed length that runs along the East of America. It crosses 14 states along it's path, as well as a great many mountains. The length is disputed due to renovation works, inaccurate measurements, and a plenitude of other factors (all examined in the text).

Bryson's style is to intertwine personal accounts with historical and scientific ones to create an interesting and compelling story is something I have discussed before, and 'A Walk in the Woods' follows this trend delightfully. It discusses everything from why he decided to walk the trail, the conception and history of the trail and the people involved therein, the range of camping equipment available and the relative benefits of each ("'it lets you see what you've got in there, without having to undo the zipper', he explained and looked at me with an expression that invited staggered admiration"), the friendly people they encountered along the trail, the not so friendly people who have been known to haunt the trail, the varieties of wildlife on the trail (friendly or otherwise), and the state of accommodation and toilet facilities along the trail (the latter is probably unfriendly), to name but a few.

Therefore, in these modest 337 pages is crammed a constant supply of interesting, inspiring and often hilarious information. I think that's what gets me about Bill Bryson's writing; one minute I can be laughing at an amusing anecdote, the next being bequeathed with obscure but enticing knowledge, before being bought sharply back to reality with a sobering statistic, such as the fact that an extremely high proportion (I misplaced the statistic) of trees along the trail are at risk of disappearing in the next few decades (I misplaced this figure as well), from causes ranging from preventable disease to the insatiable appetite of the logging industry.

The ability to remind the reader of the dire state of things, however, is something Bill Bryson is able to do all too well; for example he points out that "America [has entered] the age not just of the automobile but of the retarded attention span", a quote whose likely truth has unfortunately been made all to clear to me by this book. Accounts of how large portions of the Appalachian Trail were cleared to make way for hotels, guesthouses, roads, and other tourist-driven ventures, again placing a large portion of the wildlife at risk, are commonplace in the historical sections of this book.

But yes. I'm not really sure what else to say, so I'll wrap it up: this was a good book, somewhat inspiring as I have a strange desire to go hiking at the moment, which will have to be followed up if it doesn't dissipate. Until then I'm going to return to the stack of books I've assigned myself to read, along with the multitude of other tasks I have to do.


Saturday, 6 February 2010

look, teabag - hand over the brown

- Bart Simpson

Another completely irrelevant post title here, I'm afraid. This post has nothing to do with teabags, brown, or the exchange thereof. Instead it is a heartfelt rant about several things, most of which are probably boring to any readers so I apologise.

Firstly: Why can't I be in Canada? Seriously. It was awesome there. Awesome people, awesome city, awesome atmosphere. I don't mean to imply that those things don't exist here of course; the people surrounding me here (family and friends) are perennially awesome, but it seems unfair to make such strong connections whilst abroad only to be yanked back into the routine I left around 6 months ago.

Secondly: It feels like there's so much pressure to conform with regards to jobs/careers. It's probably because I've been exposed to so much of it over the last fortnight, but everywhere there's pressure to start a career straight after uni (or even earlier) and stick at it for the rest of your life. I saw an advert saying "You'll probably have 20 years of retirement - better start preparing for it now" or something like that - what a terrifying thought. The average life expectancy in the UK is 79.3 years (World Development Indicators), so take away the 'probable' twenty years of retirement and the 5 or 6 years before education begins, and that leaves about 55 years of education/work. People are taught to EXPECT to devote roughly SIXTY NINE percent of their life to a job which, based on the general consensus, they don't even enjoy.

That thought genuinely terrifies me.

But of course without expecting to work at least 40 hours a week or thereabouts, you can't accumulate the money to do anything else. Especially when considering mortgages, bills, expenses and whatever else. I heard that for every £1 you earn you take home only 65p or something outrageous - I can't remember the figures exactly. I can't remember if that 65p is before or after bills / expenses, if it's before, then each £1 you earn probably amounts to 20p in your pocket.

I've signed up to several job sites and university sites and similar over the years, and one sent me an email inviting me to take part in a survey today. A £200 voucher was the incentive, so I participated just to get a shot at the money, but the survey was distressing to say the least: 30 pages of questions about the recession, the decline of graduate jobs, the dishonesty of companies during the recession and much else along the same lines. So my current impression of what (potentially) waits for me after university is this: a dull 9-5 job that has nothing to do with my degree, because it's the only graduate vacancy that will except me. From this job I will take home a meager sum each month to be distributed around various debts, which I will not pay off until the last 20 years of my life, by which time I will have so little money saved that I'll have nothing worthwhile to do.

Again that thought genuinely terrifies me.

Obviously this is only ONE (awful) option of how things could go. I have dreams and aspirations and am aiming for something COMPLETELY different, but I can't help this little bastard lingering at the back of my mind. I just hope that's the furthest it will ever get.

Apologies for the rant.

Thursday, 4 February 2010

the analysis

I did productive stuff 'til around 3pm, then nearly fell asleep on a bus and so decided to head back to base. I am now enjoying a period of vegetation which was achieved through ingestion of leftover pizza, Coke, Baileys and high-quality TV programs.

Aforementioned productive stuff included a meeting at the job centre which went well, a browse around Bexleyheath for job vacancies, a "one minute screening" for a tele-sales position which resulted in a "we'll get back to you", and another browse for vacancies in Greenwich.

When I got in I microwaved the leftover pizza and sides from last night's pizza, beer and games session with Vecca, and ate it while watching Scrubs. This was followed by a brief foray into Spongebob Squarepants, followed by a bath, some popcorn, and a series of quality cartoons (including Cow and Chicken and Dexter's Lab!!!).

Bed soon, I think.

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

the plan

Be productive from now until ~6pm, then enter a vegetative state through the ingestion of leftover pizza, Coke and low-grade TV programs.

Tuesday, 2 February 2010


As you may know, Terry Pratchett is suffering from Alzheimer's disease. He has begun campaigning for the right to assisted suicide, and plans to use the method himself to die before the disease progresses to it's final stages. He said:

"And so I have vowed that rather than let Alzheimer's take me, I would take it. I would live my life as ever to the full and die, before the disease mounted its last attack, in my own home, in a chair on the lawn, with a brandy in my hand to wash down whatever modern version of the Brompton Cocktail some helpful medic could supply. And with Thomas Tallis on my iPod, I would shake hands with Death"

Quite touching, I thought.


As you may know, Terry Pratchett is suffering from Alzheimer's disease. He has begun campaigning for the right to assisted suicide, and plans to use the method himself to die before the disease progresses to it's final stages. He said:

"And so I have vowed that rather than let Alzheimer's take me, I would take it. I would live my life as ever to the full and die, before the disease mounted its last attack, in my own home, in a chair on the lawn, with a brandy in my hand to wash down whatever modern version of the Brompton Cocktail some helpful medic could supply. And with Thomas Tallis on my iPod, I would shake hands with Death"

Quite touching, I thought.