Friday, 13 July 2012

Challenge #11: Sarah vs Ten Pin Bowling

I have vague memories of a ten pin bowling party I had as a child, but there isn't any photographic evidence to prove this ever happened and I have no idea how old I might have been at the time. What I do know is that I haven't been bowling since this event - which may or may not have even happened - and is probably something I should have done well before turning 29.

What people say

It's worth mentioning here the amazing reaction I get when I say ten pin bowling is on my list of things to do before turning 30: "WHAT?! You've never been bowling?? What have you been doing with your time?"

It's the exact same reaction you get when casually remarking that you haven't seen some classic film.

In my defence I may have been bowling before, but if I haven't, it's because I've been busy trashing my ears for fun at gigs, occasionally stalking bands and working on enhancing my record collection. These things ain't cheap you know.

The Rules

The only rule I'd come up with for the bowling challenge is that I wasn't allowed to have the sides up - I like to call them wings - because I thought that would take all the skill flukiness out of the game. And possibly some of the fun too.



Let's play...

Without any thought for how shit an afternoon it might be if I never hit anything, I insisted we were going to play three games. For some unknown reason I was quietly confident that rolling a ball down a lane would be quite an easy task and that knocking pins over would be do-able. I was being cocky. I was also wrong...

My first shot was a gutter ball. I was gutted.
It's lucky you can't hear what I said at this point,
but to give you a clue it began with an 'f' and ended in an 'off'.

This is Dan looking confident as he goes to take his first shot.

 You can tell that his first shot is right on course.
We're not putting this down to skill, we're putting 
it down to being incredibly spawny.

What I'm thinking: Yay, I finally knocked one over!
I would love to say that this shot was taken shortly after my first gutter ball,
but it wasn't. I did at least four of them before I managed to knock over one pin.
It was a proud moment though and this picture was taken just after
my celebratory dance.

First game score:
Dan 47
Sarah 22

Action shot

Action shot

This is Dan looking smug because he got a strike. 
Or two.

This is me looking pissed off because I didn't get any strikes at all.

Second game score:
Dan 59
Sarah 43

In the last game, Dan's tactics kind of went to shit.
I was delighted.
He was not.

Third game score:
 Dan 66
Sarah 69
I finally won a game!

Dan putting on a brave face.


Ten pin bowling is actually quite a tricky sport to master and what I've learned from the experience is that running and lobbing the ball somewhere in the direction of the pins is not the way to win. Also, having some coordination really helps, but is sadly something I seem to be lacking.

I've also discovered that playing against someone with more bowling experience will only lead to disappointment and name calling, so if at all possible, play against someone who is either shit or a small child.

Verdict: I hit some pins, so that's a win in my book

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

The Melton Stay-cation

You'd be forgiven for thinking there's nothing else to Melton Mowbray but pork pies. I've spent 29 years believing the same. So, having escaped for a week and having no cash to splash on an adventure or a holiday, I thought I'd have a look at what else, if anything, my home town has to offer.

Melton Carnegie Museum

I live a short walk from the Melton Carnegie Museum and yet I haven't set foot inside it since a primary school trip some time in the early '90s. The fact that it's free to have a mooch around made it a good place to start, but it also houses Melton's second most well-known item - a taxidermied two-headed calf. Although admittedly this may just be a locally known thing.

Melton Carnegie Museum used to be a library 
back in the old days. Fact.

The two-headed calf

Born in Braunston, Rutland, around 1900, these female twin calves lived for just a few hours. They were taximdermied by the vet that delivered them and put on display in his practice in Melton, later putting in appearances at the cattle market, where the public would pay to have a gawp at the two-headed freak show.

I remember seeing this exhibit as a child, but it's funny how your imagination can warp memories over the years. The two-headed calf I thought I remembered was smaller and posed differently, but then I have been to Ripley's Believe It Or Not and they have a fair amount of animals with extra heads and limbs there, so this may have skewered my memory slightly.

Melton's two-headed calf.
I named them Bessie and Buttercup in my head.

Other stuff of note

Cheese. Stilton cheese to be precise. Melton's Tuxford and Tebbutt is one of only five cheese producers in the world that make Blue Stilton. I've never eaten any though because it smells worse than my feet and looks a little like a fat lady's veiny legs. Umm. But you go ahead and indulge.

 Stilton cheese making stuff

Stilton inspired hat that isn't made of real cheese
because that would be silly. And smelly.

A photo of the 1922 Melton flood makes me
think we've only had a little rain in comparison this summer
This game kept me entertained for ages.
You have to stamp on all the clouds to turn them into sunshine.
If you do really well you also get a rainbow.
It's the simple things in life.

Dan looks smug here because he just won at dominoes.
I'm taking the photo while also sticking two fingers up at him.

The phrase 'painting the town red' was coined in Melton.
Oh yes.

Melton Country Park

Stepping out of the museum, we was shocked to discover it wasn't raining, so a trip to the park to feed the ducks and have a walk seemed like a good idea.

Attempting a pull-up.
I'm going to blatantly lie here and say I just did the 20
because I didn't want to show off too much.

I'm also going to lie here and say Dan didn't manage any
 at all, because I'm very competitive and don't
 like to lose at things. Especially to boys.

Feeding the ducks.
Note how they've started creeping up the bank.

That awkward moment when you run out of bread and
the ducks start chasing you...

Trying to make a getaway while feeling a little
like the piped piper.
Even after this pic was taken they carried
 on following us.


On his hometown of Blackwood, Richey James of the Manic Street Preachers, once remarked: "If you built a museum to represent Blackwood, all you could put in it would be shit... rubble and shit."

When I was younger, I thought this could easily describe my hometown, where nothing ever happened and there was never anything to do. I'm a little more forgiving nowadays and have grown thankful over the years that I didn't grow up in a city, but I do often wish there was more to do here that doesn't involve gambling or perusing charity shops.

Having said that, I don't think I fully appreciate what there is here - I hadn't been to that museum in about 20 years and probably visit the park about once a year. So I think next time I feel the urge to bad mouth my home town for being a little on the dull side, I'll bite my tongue and think of all the things it has to offer that I don't fully appreciate.

Saturday, 7 July 2012

Challenge #10: Sarah vs Abbey Road

It's easy to assume there's no real challenge involved in having your picture taken at Abbey Road. Surely all you need to do is pose and pull a big cheesy grin, right? Wrong. It's a dangerous game posing on a zebra crossing while angry taxi drivers are pipping and revving at you, and it's actually quite distracting when you're trying to get a nice smiley snap for the family album...

A gift from Laura

This challenge wasn't on my original list, because I wasn't smart enough to think of it. It only found its way into the game thanks to my mate Laura who kindly gifted it to me from her bucket list (thanks bird). The challenge was to try and recreate the famous Abbey Road album sleeve, which shows The Beatles on the zebra crossing outside the studios back in the late '60s - a decade when there was weather other than rain.

Spot the difference...

I'm fairly confident that you'll be able to tell which
version is which, but in case you're struggling this one
 is The Beatles. I'm pretty sure there were no angry
taxi drivers revving engines out of shot here.

Left to right: Tom, Dan, me and Laura

Note how Laura is playing along by looking straight ahead, while the rest of us are posing.
 Well, Tom looks a little like he's about to run away.

Getting the shot

It's a bit much to ask a total stranger to stand in the middle of a busy road and take a photo of you, unless of course you offer to trade a little life risking to return the favour.

Being very British and having good manners, we queued politely until we decided it was our turn, then screamed 'go, go, go!' as the cars came to a stop and we ran to our places.

Considering this was a one-take shot, we hadn't actually come up with any sort of plan, so I think we did quite well to stand evenly spaced and one of us even found the time to put a hand on the hip. Laura had obviously done her homework, which is why she is looking ahead, but I think the rest of us just panicked and went with the usual drill.

It was quite a weird experience though, having your photo taken while taxi drivers glare at you, trying to get it over as quickly as possible before they lose patience and just mow you down. Then again, I can't help but wonder why they don't drive a different way, they know the crossing is there and have had at least four decades to come up with an alternative route.

(By the way, it wasn't me standing in the road taking the photo of the strangers after they had kindly taken ours, I left that one to Dan.)


Abbey Road graffiti

As soon as we arrived at Abbey Road it started pissing it down, so we dashed over the zebra crossing to take shelter under the trees of the studio and indulged in a little graffiti and photo taking to pass the time.

Umm... wonder who wrote that one.

As you do...

Laura and Tom Hyde in front of the Abbey Road sign

Dan and me outside Abbey Road Studios
How to get there

Take the Northern Line on the Tube, getting off at St John's Wood. Follow Grove End Road onto Abbey Road. Singing Beatles songs while walking to Abbey Road is optional, but it's better if you do.

Verdict: WIN!

Abbey Road Studios has a webcam trained on the crossing, so you can watch people getting their geek on right now by clicking here.

Sunday, 1 July 2012

Challenge #9: Sarah vs. Zelda (A Link to the Past)

This battle has gone on for nearly 20 years. It was Christmas 1992 when my Snes arrived, excitingly packaged in its yellow Mario-themed box and unwrapped from its Christmas paper within five seconds flat.

If you're old enough to remember the Snes, you'll remember every boy you knew declaring that there would never be anything with graphics better than this. If you're not old enough to remember the Snes then you should probably be hanging around somewhere else looking sickeningly youthful and using slang words I don't understand.

It was my first games console and like many firsts, it still holds a special place in my heart. While everyone else sold theirs off for the N64 or the Playstation, mine has spent the last two decades juggled between the top of the wardrobe and the bedroom floor, plugged in a couple of times a year in order to provide a regular nostalgia trip.

The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past was one of my favourite games as a ten-year-old, but one which I always approached a little half arsed. I would do a few tasks, then eventually get stuck, get pissed off and not play it again for ages. Remember people, this was in the days before I could go on the internet and cheat my way through it, which as a ten-year-old I definitely would have done given half the chance. So, it seemed natural to add it to my list of things to do before I become too weak and feeble to be able to lift the controller.

The basic idea of Zelda is that some evil dude has taken over the land and captured the beautiful princess, and it's your job to save the day. The thing I loved about it was the story it had to it and as well as killing people, you had puzzles to work out. Some puzzles were easy to solve, but sometimes they were so difficult to work out I would resort to call the game unspeakable things beginning with the letters c, f and b.

As mentioned previously, my younger self would've been more than happy to cheat the entire way through, but it wouldn't have been much of a challenge if I'd done that. So, the two rules I set myself were no cheats to be used at all and I was only allowed to StrategyWiki it if I had reached a point where I really couldn't work out where to go next and the swearing was getting out of control.

Being the idiot I am, I didn't keep a log of how many hours I spent playing, but I think it took around six weekends to complete the game, completing about two sections of the game every weekend. Sometimes I played for hours at a time, occasionally it was just a brief stint, but the further along I got with it the more it seemed to consume my Sunday afternoons and evenings. Then, from out of no where, suddenly I was facing the last big bad ass dude (are they still referred to as bosses?? I'm calling them bad asses these days) and it was all over.

You're welcome.

First rule of Snes Club is you don't talk
about Snes Club. Second rule is you're not
 allowed to brush your hair and you must
 wear half of your pjs.

Also, looking a bit like the love child of Rebekah
 Brooks and Dave Mustaine here, only
 happier and less whiny.
And less orange of course.

Apparently it took me 155 games to complete it. Oops.

Well, it may have taken me almost 20 years to complete, but it just shows that you can do stuff when you put your mind to it. Or when you add it to a stupid list.

Verdict: WIN!