Avatar Five Novembers ago

We bought our house from people who thought they’d be living there forever. They didn’t, because we sent them away so that we could have it all for ourselves. I regret nothing.

Anyway, last week we pulled all the wallpaper off the walls in what had been their baby room, and found a charming memento painted behind it that had presumably been intended to last for many years.

It lasted five years and we’ve painted over it. But here it is, a message from five Novembers ago, just to prove it once existed.

Avatar Twenty one years on

A year ago, when it was twenty years on from the founding of Zyurisizia, I wrote a post about the fledgling nation that Ian and I helped to birth, and we had a short conversation about what its flag looked like.

My contribution was only that I had “a feeling it involved triangles”. Ian dredged up slightly more detail, recalling “triangles and a red circle, a bit like the Chinese flag”, though in what way that resembled the flag of China, which has no triangles and no red circle, I don’t know. We then recalled that territory was claimed by fastening the flag to the longest pole we could find, and planting that in the ground in various places.

Luckily I have now found my Office Memorabilia CD, so after a year of impatient waiting, you’ll be pleased to know the answer is now with us.

The capital city, which was the Office, was claimed with a hand-drawn flag on a 30cm ruler.

We then moved on to claim the Wildlife Area a few days later, by which point we had a more professional flag on a metre ruler.

I haven’t visited the Scholars Gate housing development to check, but I assume the flag is still prominently flying there somewhere.

For your peace of mind, this is probably all the Zyurisizia nostalgia there is to be had, so next year you’re probably safe from a “twenty two years on” type post. Still, lots of fun was had by all concerned.

Avatar Gaming Historian

Look at me and be inspired. What have I done for the last 38 years of my life? Good question. Next please.

What I have done is devoted my life to the very simple practice of picking up a thing and playing an imaginary thing on it. Some people have chosen to call these ‘video games’. I refuse to adopt this because I do not believe it accurately describes the thing. I call them ‘gamebopolies’. Only the most hard-core and committed members of the gaming community follow my lead because, yes, I am a leader.

Today’s topic is something close to my heart. As a child I would spend hours upon hours upon more hours playing gamebopolies on this most sacred of systems. What am I talking about? Why, young scamps, of course I’m referring to the Gamestation. Pull up a Tiktok and I’ll spin you a tale:

Photos of the console itself are not permitted under the Geneva Convention

The Gamestation was released in April 1995 by the Icelandic tech giant, Pony. The Pony Gamestation was released as a direct competitor to Shintendo’s upcoming Shintendo 54 and Trega’s Shattern consoles. Nobody expected Iceland to be capable of manufacturing such a complicated piece of electrical equipment as prior to this they were only known for ice, ice cubes and the DNA double helix (both the physical structure that exists in the human body that contains the information for creating and operating living systems and also the bitchin’ sound system capable of producing 100 decibels of might that has caused the hospitalisation of over one hundred and fifty people).

The Gamestation hit hard. The games were cheap to produce as they used playing cards for games instead of cartridges tat the previous generations had adtoped. For example, if you placed an ace of clubs, you would be greeted with ‘Grand Theft Auto’ whereas a simple three of hearts farted ‘Bubsy 3D’ in your general direction. Shintendo’s choices during this era of gamebopolies was noted as being a little short-sighted and they lost the war for the moment. They would have to wait ten years before they regained the momentum of the previous decade. Trega had already been losing ground for months prior and the Shattern did nothing to persuade the casual gamers of the age to set sail from Pony’s hallowed lake of sweet, sweet goodness.

PC gaming at the time was expensive. Only billionaires could afford a PC and therefore what little gamebopolies were released could only be played by Bill Gates and whatever other billionaires existed back in the mid-nineties. Hugh Heffner? Yeah him. And the two women from the ‘Philadelphia’ adverts, they must have had a giant wad. For example, Doom II on the PC only sold fifteen copies. It was a brilliant game by all standards: brooding, dark, quick of pace and maliciously violent. The only way little Jimmy was playing some Doom II though was if his older brother was a rich Texan oil baron.

I remember coming home from school and reaching straight for my Gamestation control nodule. I would be lost in the realistic 3D graphics, amazing music and tight controls and gameplay. Sometimes my friend Chevin would come round and we’d play two player deathmatch on the Gamestation’s flagship title, ‘Carmageddon’, where you scored points for mowing down civilians and blowing stuff up. Occasionally we’d play ‘Grand Theft Auto’ where you scored points for moving down civilians and blowing stuff up. It’s a shame ‘Postal’ was never released on the Gamestation because it was so wildly different from everything else on the system at the time; you scored points for only moving down civilians, you couldn’t blow anything up.

It was a wonderful time in my life. If you have memories of these gamebopolies or any others, then do let us know. Let’s share and be together as one giant community (with me as the leader).

Avatar Fallin’ out of love with ‘Fallin”

Words. The world is full of them. They come in all different flavours and no matter what you need to say there is usually a word or collection of words out there to help you. That is unless you’re trying to spell the word jush… juxch… jgusssh… unless you’re trying to spell the famous word where the letters haven’t been invented yet.

Alicia Keys is a very talented musician and songwriter from the last twenty years or so. A quick look at her wikipedia page is enough to make your eyes spin with envy. I’m not talking about the eight albums she’s released or the glut of awards she’s got hiding on the mantelpiece though, I’m going back to the first single I remember.

‘Fallin” was the first single from her twelve million selling debut ‘Songs in A Minor’. Back in 2001 I enjoyed listening to it because it was sweet and simple. A song that could turn up on the radio at any time of the day and I wouldn’t be turning it off. It had heavy rotation on the music channels. She was labelled ‘the new queen of soul’ by some music magazine based on the hype for the album. ‘Fallin” was an excellent lead single, hand-crafted with love and attention, picked by some record executive because they could hear the sound of money at the door.

I heard the song again recently and frowned a big old man frown. Was this the same song that had enchanted me twenty years prior?

Firstly, the music is perfectly fine and lovely, it’s the words that make me remove the rose-tinted nostalgia glasses and question what exactly I was drinking at the age of seventeen. I did a word count and officially there’s only 227. Short, pop songs are as old as the music charts themselves. There’s nothing wrong with short songs. There has to actually be words in them though.

‘Fallin” is a song perpetually infested with oh’s. It’s so full of oh’s it may as well be a box of Cheerios. You can’t go a few seconds without one cropping up. Not even one but a whole host of oh’s, you’re never too far away from them. You’re not subjected to a Mariah Carey level of insane warbling that would make dogs cry out in pain but it’s still fairly distracting and not pleasant on the ears. Then there’s the repetition.

The chorus is used five times. It makes the cardinal sin of rhyming ‘you’ with ‘you’. The weirdest part is that the officially last word of the song is ‘what?’ which I didn’t even remember and had to go back to watch it on Youtube to check that was factually correct, which it is. She gives a sassy look at the camera and asks the question. Is she asking me this because I don’t like the song anymore? Who knows.

What I do know is that ‘Girlfriend’ from the same album is an infinitely better song and I won’t be going back to ‘Fallin” any time soon. If it comes on the radio at any time of the day, I will be turning it off.

Avatar A terrible waist

This week I’m going to a wedding in Jernsey, an island just off the coast of France near where I live. It’s been a while since I went to a fancy do, so I did the usual thing, which is to get my suit out of the wardrobe about a week beforehand and try it on.

I got a new shirt and tie, so I put those on and they look nice. The suit has a waistcoat – I like waistcoats – so I put that on, and it’s smashing. The jacket is also looking very swish. The trousers, on the other hand, are a cause of concern. They have three fastenings at the top and it’s a good job they do, because they are so tight that a single button would not have handled the strain.

I breathe in and I heave and I pull and eventually get them fastened, and then I attempt to sit down, an activity I rapidly have to abort due to the discomfort involved and the extreme risk it poses to my perfectly innocent trousers.

I contemplate attending a wedding at which I have to politely decline all opportunities to sit down and where I have to avoid eating anything all day long. I decide this is not a world I want to live in.

On Saturday I take the trousers to work with me, and in my lunchbreak head out to a tailoring and clothing alterations place nearby where the man has a look, explains that there’s enough extra in the waistline to let them out by about four centimetres, and gets this job done in the time it takes me to find a working cashpoint and come back with the money. I try them on and find this modest change is ideal – the trousers are now well fitted but with plenty of room to breathe, to sit, and to insert a three-course dinner. Problem solved.

I return to work and relate these events to one of my colleagues. Oh yes, she says, I think everyone’s going through a bit of that these days. She and her husband went to a wedding just last week, one that had been postponed since Spring 2020, and the pre-pandemic suit her husband had bought in February of that year no longer fit properly. He had to have the trousers adjusted in exactly the same way to fit his post-lockdown waistline.

It’s the lockdowns, she said. We all did less exercise and ate more food. It gets to us all. I laughed with her and agreed. It gets to us all.

In my head was a different thought. It’s not lockdown. I only bought this suit six months ago and it fitted then. It’s not lockdown, it’s just too many biscuits.

But I’m not saying that to anyone. They can never know.

Avatar The Craxford Diaries

A good few years passed with nothing much to take note of. Whatever he was expecting to happen in both his forties and his fifties did not happen, not a lot did. On the eve of his sixtieth birthday, McIver poured the boiling water from the kettle onto his Pot Noodle and decided now, five minutes before the deadline, he would put the lottery on one last time.

As he struggled with the tiny buttons on his phone, he remembered a time when the dexterical simplicities of his youth came to him so naturally and fluidly. He could amble, he could frolic, he could dial a phone number without repeatedly pressing the wrong digits, not that phone numbers existed in 2043.

An odd calm came over him as he bought the ticket and took his seat next to the large window, his trusty foot stool by his side, his old man blanket covering the delicate parts of his frail frame. As the numbers popped up one by one a fire was lit beneath his amble behind, a warmth he hadn’t felt in decades. Six numbers in a row picked out like posies in a summer meadow. A cool one point five million was his and his alone because there were no other winners that night.

The first thing he did was hire a butler. Mackford showed up the next day at 8am sharp dressed in the finest attire that the North-East could throw up. Mackford was not his name but the butler would go by any name to assume the position that lottery bucks could afford.

He looked at his new master, the greying yet still handsome Mr McIver, a cheerful look on his face admonishing all the years that ageing had taken away from him. Why, he looked ten years younger already dressed in his usual checked shirt and jumbledown jeans. A cut-price squire, a Lidl lord, the dapper red snapper.

“Take me to Greggs, Mackford,” he announced, stepping into his Seat Ibiza, carefully making his way into the back over the passenger seat, “I’m in the mood for pasties.”

Away they sped through the mid-morning air. The traffic, low and humming, the streets empty because it was a Tuesday morning and everyone of purpose was already at work. He hadn’t felt this at ease in years.

Outside they stood, Mackford eager to take up the challenge of his master, McIver licking his lips in anticipation of the prizes that awaited him. The latter entered the hallowed premises, softly at first but picking up speed as he deftly nimbled past the sandwiches. It wasn’t too long before there was a tap on his shoulder and Mackford was back at his side. “Is there a problem?” asked McIver. Mackford looked forlornly at his feet and nodded. Only the worst could have happened, they must be out already. Some fat pie hogger has hogged all the pies!

“I won’t stand for this! Out of my way, Mackford, I must see the manager!”

“It’s not what you think, sir,” replied Mackford, “there’s plenty on the trays. I… I don’t know how to say this but due to inflation the cost of a cheese and onion pasty has shot up to one hundred pounds a pasty.”

“A pasty? That’s outrageous. I’ve never heard of such an absurd concept, Mackford. What kind of a world do we live in when a ludicrous lukewarm smear of dairy and vegetable costs that much? Damn and blast, I can’t leave here empty-handed. I’ll have to settle for a sausage roll instead.”

“It only gets worse, sir, the sausage rolls are fifty pounds each.”

McIver took a seat on the nearest bench before he toppled over in disgust. A cold sweat appeared on his brow, a fearful chill down his back. He was finally living his dream, the dream of all dreams, the life of luxury only it was too late. The economy had caught up, inflation had made devils of them all and there was no way around it. With his head in his hands, McIver wept the sweet weeping of a lifetime and all the yum yums in the world couldn’t raise a smile on those lips.

Avatar Chris and Ian’s Rap Battle – Round 2

So here we have it.

Three years have passed since the world was shook by the resonating words of these titans of industry, these monoliths of maniacal word mastery. Ian “I was eating pie” McBugle and Sheriff Rockingham aka Chris Marshall, both ex members of pioneering genre-bending super group ‘The Rapples’, are back for another scintillating slice of lyrical suppositories.

But the real question is are they still up to scratch? Can you still expect the old and beardy to reach the dizzying heights of previous years? What can you expect from two almost middle aged men who spend their evenings sitting down and nothing more? Can they, in the eternal words of Kevindo Menendez, still mack it?

Of course they can, you fools!

Tickets have been sold out for ages but you lucky, lucky people get to hear the whole thing as it happens right here on Beans FM.

With a phat new stack of material, Chris is a seasoned pro and ready to take the stage once again. He’s got horses and a drinks cabinet full of dazzling wordplay and witty observations in his corner. He’s never been both fresher and on the fashions. McBugle, however, loves to play with people’s expectations. He’s slumped, unshaved, walking like the weight of the world is hanging on his shoulders only to shrug off his coat and flash a smile that could blind a box full of puppies.

Take a seat, ladies and gentlemen, this is going to be a bumpy ride. Over to you, boys…

Avatar Younger Schmelves

Young Ian was an enigma and when I say enigma I actually mean ‘wrong in all the wrong places’. If I was to ever write a biography, to accompany my award-winning series of books, people wouldn’t believe it because of just how absurd it would all sound.

“What do you mean you were too lazy to make toast in the kitchen so you used the gas fire next to the TV in the living room so you could do both at the same time? What do you mean you broke into a building site just to start fires with some kids from school? You did a what on the side of the road on the way to pick up a parcel?”

I know, right? Truth is stranger than fiction.

Recently I have been remembering a lot of things Young Ian used to do. I expect this is a side effect to approaching middle age. Next thing you know I’ll come across an old advert for Radio Rentals and start weeping about all the electrical goods my parents used to rent from them. “Oh, the TV with the buttons missing on the front,” I’ll gush, “they would pop off if you pressed them too hard and they’d disappear under the sofa and you’d have to push them out using a ruler.” Nostalgia makes a fool out of everyone.

A strange fact about Young Ian is that he was amazed by the idea of convenience food. Not takeaways but those dinners you could put in the microwave and three minutes later you’d have a Sunday dinner (if your eyesight was impaired and you considered three painfully thin slices of beef and a few soggy potatoes to be a Sunday dinner). He wound marvel at the freezers in Tesco and Jack Fultons at the choice available to those with money to spare. I wasn’t very convincing so my mum would only ever buy one or two because children are fickle and she knew that the pictures on the front of the boxes were tarted up and would never resemble whatever came out of the microwave at the end.

That was the dream. Not to go to through the painstaking process of actually cooking a roast beef dinner but to get someone else to do it, freeze it and then buy it from somewhere down the street. The idea of doing this now makes my insides wince like watching anything on Tik Tok. Young Ian didn’t really know what he wanted but he wanted it all the same and thank baby cheeses he stopped before he turned into the white trash he could have been, sofa on the front lawn and everything.