Avatar Shenanigans

Before Christmas seems like an age away now. Do you remember what you were doing in December? No? Do you remember what you did yesterday? That’s a worry. You should get that checked out.

It was a fairly relaxed afternoon in the office and I was on my own as the time ticked towards the end of the day. Being chief morale officer in our team, a role I assigned to myself, I decided it would be best for some harmless mischief. I cast my gaze in the direction of the helpful list indicating the correct terms for the phonetic alphabet. Within a few minutes I had come up with my own and replaced it, expecting it to be mostly ignored as nobody ever seemed to use it.

When we returned after Christmas, I had largely forgotten what I had done… that is until my boss turned to me and asked if I was responsible.

“Responsible for what?” I asked, playing dumb. She had, apparently, noticed immediately and because of my reputation for zany behaviour I was clearly the culprit. Luckily due to it being silly, nothing was said about it. Everyone had a laugh. Ha ha!

“You almost threw me because you don’t have a daughter and this one here mentions one,” she said.

This was the sticking point.

This was the focus of most people’s questions and not the fact that I had made up three new words, referenced an album by Steps and a TV programme with Jack Whitehall.

Avatar Christmas Beans

It’s that time of year again, again? Of course it is. What you want is festive and huggable and bright and THRUST right into your face. Christmas is an epidemic but it’s the loveliest epidemic you’ll ever meet.

Times are hard though. If you thought 2020 was bad then meet the end of 2022, a harbinger of doom and fifth horseman of the apocalypse, handing out lessons by the fistful. Now, more than ever™, you need a helping hand to get through this marathon of monetary madness. Luckily we have our relative financial expert, Bartin Bewis, on hand to offer his guidance, support and “award-winning” money-saving tips to ease yourself out of December, through January and into the warm embrace of February.

Decorations

In order to reach its full potential, you need to decorate your house in everything that has the smallest bit of sparkle. If you run out of tinsel and glitter, get the spare bits of cutlery out and shine a torch on them from your window. Save money on tree decorations by getting the kids to make them out of whatever you can find in the recycling bin. If it looks like a donkey shat it out, merely tell your friends and loved ones that it means more than little Timmy and Julie made them rather than some corporate whore machine, spitting out baubles made of baby’s tears.

Food

What you want is a non-traditional Christmas dinner; leave the turkeys and the hams in the supermarket for the chumps, what you want is a rabbit stew. If you have wild rabbits living nearby to your house, set traps up in strategic places and you don’t even need to pay for the main ingredient. Some terminal wanker living on your street will have ‘foraging’ as one of their hobbies so beat some herbs out of them to avoid a trip to Asda and a few hours stuck in a bush trying to work out the one stalk or leaf that won’t give everyone diarrhoea. If you’re living in a less rural area, well, that neighbour’s cat keeps pooping in your garden so perhaps it’s time to even the score? Once you garnish it up and add a bunch of spices, nobody will be able to tell the difference anyway. Really struggling? Use your own pets and replace them in the new year. It will give the kids an understanding about death that their school could only hope of teaching them.

Presents

If you’ve been observant over the year, pick out the five toys, things, items of clothing or whatever else you have noticed that hasn’t been used too much. When the mark, sorry, loved one is out of the house, go and put it somewhere they’ll never find it. Wrap it up and present them with it on Christmas Day. Hopefully they’ll have forgotten they already own it. If they call your bluff, make a point of telling them that you spent good money on that train / aftershave / skirt the first time around and to have to bear witness to it being neglected over and over was too much to bear, so this lesson of being thankful for what you’ve already got IS the present this year. If it’s still not working, throw a bowl of nuts on the floor and spend the evening crying in your bedroom with the door locked. Make sure to secret a six pack of beer and some sandwiches in the wardrobe so you have something to do in-between sobs.

A lifetime’s worth of tips there, ladies and gentlemen. Be sure to use them wisely.

Avatar What a party

What’s the best party you’ve ever been to? Was it one of your own or possibly a friend’s? Was it laden with so many cakes that afterwards you had to invest in a new pair of teeth because you ate so much sugar and dissolved your original pair? Did you dance like a maniac when ‘We Close Our Eyes’ by Go West came on, accidentally span round into an elderly man and sent his pint flying across the room?

I can guarantee you that no matter how great a party it was, it cannot compete with whatever kind of party Dr Owl is throwing.

Woah, steady on there, boy!

Not that I could tell you exactly the kinds of shenanigans that go on. This particular book was on sale in a lovely bookstore called ‘Barter Books’ in Alnwick. It was so special that it was behind glass; no common chubby funsters could go flicking through the pages. If you wanted to know what Dr Owl was getting up to you needed to cough up a stonking £24.00 for the privilege. It wasn’t even a first edition or a special version with a foreword by some famous owl who loved the book, merely a simple reprint. I don’t have those kinds of Newcastle pounds to do blowing on secret insights. A man can dream though, a man can dream.

A sound investment if ever I saw one.

Avatar Woodworking: working with wood

My birthday present this year was a two-day workshop using traditional woodworking tools to turn some freshly cut logs into a beautifully finished stool, complete with a hand-carved saddle seat. Yesterday I had the first day of the workshop, which was enormously enjoyable and satisfying. I’m going back next week to finish my masterpiece.

I sustained a number of blisters while using an axe, making these the most manly injuries of my life.

Anyway, I thought you would enjoy learning about some of the traditional woodworking tools that I used to work the wood.

Froe

This is a long blunt metal blade on the bottom of a big stick. You place it on a log and then smash it with a huge wooden club. Several such macho whackings will force it through the log and split it in two. This is highly enjoyable. If hammering your froe isn’t sufficiently noisy you can cast it aside and use an axe and a metal lumphammer instead, which will cause everyone’s ears to ring.

Axe

This is a sharp thing on a stick and you’ve seen one before. By putting a bit of wood on a block, and holding on to it with one hand, you can swing the axe at alarming speed towards the wood, and your fingers, causing bits to splinter off in all directions. If you are the sort of sturdy gung-ho chap who runs a woodworking course, you will do this with unbelievable force and precision, turning a log into a chair leg in a matter of seconds. If you are me you will spend ten minutes ineffectually chipping away at it while giving yourself blisters.

Shaving horse

For obvious reasons the mention of this device terrified me, but once I had been coaxed back into the room I discovered that it is a wooden apparatus, sometimes called a woodland vice, that you sit on. By bracing your feet against a footplate, you pivot a bar down onto your piece of wood, holding it in place while leaving both hands free to tinker with it. The wood can be released, moved and held down again with great speed by using your legs. I much preferred this device to both normal vices and normal horses.

Drawblade

This item has a name in two parts. “Draw” refers to the action of pulling it towards you. It has two handles, so you can grip it in both hands, and you pull it forcefully towards your stomach. “Blade” refers to the fact that, mounted between the handles, is a foot-long very sharp blade which, as mentioned, you are pulling forcefully towards your stomach. You can use this to shave slices off a piece of wood, turning an ineffectually chipped-at log into something resembling a chair leg.

Spokeshave

Once you’ve drawn your drawblade enough, you will have a roughly shaped piece of wood. To finesse its shape you can use a spokeshave, which is a little bit of wood, big enough to grip in both hands, with a razorblade mounted in the bottom. You use it in the same way, but get a much finer slice, enabling precision smoothing. It can also be used across the end grain to produce a surface as smooth as if you’d spent all day sanding it. I achieved a state of zen mindfulness while using this tool.

Adze

These tools vary between terrifying and precise. The axe was, for me, at the terrifying end of the spectrum until I met the adze. It’s like an axe, but with a longer handle, and its blade is curved and at right angles to the handle. You use it to carve curved shapes out of a piece of wood, and you do this by standing on the wood with your legs apart and then swinging the adze, with as much speed and force as you can muster, between your legs. Ideally you will hack lumps out of the wood without damaging your shoes or removing your own toenails.


Also this week, I used a hand drill to put a one-inch drill bit through a solid piece of ash. Next week I will have my first encounter with a travisher, which I expect will be used for extensive amounts of travishing, and I will then form a mortise and tenon joint using means I cannot yet explain.

I will, assuming I am successful, allow you to sit on the stool, and I will repeat to you the story about getting blisters.

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 Derbyshire review

Until this summer I had not spent much of my life in Derbyshire. In fact, I will list for you the times I have spent in Derbyshire, if you like:

  • Passing through on the M1 between junctions 24 and 30, multiple times
  • Going to Alton Towers, three times
  • Visiting some friends for a weekend in 2009, though they actually lived in Staffordshire, but we did visit Derbyshire for a visit to a park

I think that’s it. Anyway, I went back last week for a longer stay and I now have a much better idea of what Derbyshire is like. I am, therefore, ready to provide my review of this county.

Activities

In Derbyshire I was able to go in three caves, ride one cable car, climb one big hill and explore four pleasant towns of various sizes. I also looked at approximately five hours of scenery while travelling around.

I give Derbyshire three stars for activities.

***

Accommodation

I stayed in a nice flat with a view out of the front window. It had a kitchen with running water and electric lighting in all rooms. The bathroom had an indoor toilet and those fancy “waterfall” taps that were fashionable about ten years ago. If this is typical of all dwellings in Derbyshire then it is a very modern county.

I give Derbyshire four stars for accommodation.

****

Food and drink

I ate an average of three meals per day while in Derbyshire, with at least one meal in a pub every day. With the exception of breakfast, I was able to have chips with every meal, and did so.

I give Derbyshire five stars for food.

*****

Conclusion

Derbyshire has scored a total of twelve stars. Until someone rates another one, it is the only county that has any stars at all, which makes it objectively the best.

Avatar Superhero sale

Good afternoon, sir. You must be here for our big sale. Yes, it’s been running for the last month or so and it has been very successful especially considering the downward turn in brick and mortar shop sales. I’ve barely had a moment’s rest these last few weeks, the staff have been rushed off their feet.

I feel as though I must admit that the majority of the shall we say more desirable super powers have already sold out. If you were hoping for the top tier stuff then you should have come on Black Friday. I still think we have a plethora of decent enough skills that you can wow your family, friends and work colleagues with should the case may be. Let me check out the back and I’ll be back in a moment.

Jeremy has picked out the three best of what is left for you, sir. There’s something for everyone. Let me see…

Flaming Onion Man

Feel the rage of a thousand suns. Feel the heat of a million barbecues. With this power you can generate onions from your hands, set them on fire and throw them at least six feet into the distance. Villains with quiver in fear at the sheer ferocity of the burning vegetables you can produce. They won’t know what hit them. They literally won’t know what hit them, you’ll throw them so fast. You’ll be pitching flaming onions as though they’re going out of fashion because, I don’t know about you, but I’ve never known a flaming onion to not be the hottest topic on the menu.

Here’s a Pen Man

Isn’t it annoying when you’re trying to look for something to write with and there’s nothing within reach? Here’s a Pen Man has two pockets in his trousers that will produce an infinite amount of pens. They’ll never run out. They will also never bleed from the temperature being too warm and will work upside-down in water in space for up to 500 feet. You will be everyone’s best friend in the bank, post office or whatever other environment has an obtuse lust for the use of pens.

Smell Time Man

What’s that smell? Can you smell it? No, right now you can’t because you don’t have the newest thing in town; the ability to smell time. Haven’t you always wondered what the past smelt of? Now you don’t need to wonder because for every photo and ye olde time show reel of people from the “before you” times you will be able to take in the smells of that era. Even better, you can smell time before it’s happened. You’ll always know when tomorrow is coming and when the day is coming to an end. The alluring scent of a new hour. It will all be at your fingertips or nostrils or something like that.

Avatar Serious Ian

Do you have a problem that needs fixing? Are you too silly to get it sorted yourself? Do you have a credit card and a strong desire to get the job done? Then what you need is Serious Ian.

Serious Ian can take all those chores that you can’t be bothered doing and he will get them done in the most serious fashion you’ve ever seen. His seriousness cannot be measured on a regular spectrum and scientists had to invent a new spectrum just to keep up. The only thing that came close to the same level of seriousness was BBC newsreader Huw Edwards or possibly Jeremy Paxman either duffing up politicians on ‘Newsnight’ (before he left) or duffing up students on ‘University Challenge’.

Here’s but a small muster of items that Serious Ian could help you (yes, YOU!) with:

  • Telling your dog or cat that you’re going on holiday and they have to stay with your smelly friend, Derek.
  • Pumping the waste out of your septic tank after years of neglect.
  • Doing the washing up after Sandra tells you she’s taking the job and there’s nothing you can do about it.
  • Ironing those shirts that need to look their best for Monday.
  • Driving slowly past your nemesis, with a pair of sunglasses on the tip of his nose, nodding his head sternly before driving off.
  • Informing the man in front of you in the queue that he has eleven items and needs to go to the regular checkout or till.
  • Taking little Billy for his first experience of death (possibly roadkill).
  • Asking Kev why he hides blankets inside pillows and querying when did he become such a sexual deviant.
  • And many more!

It may be a premium rate number but you’ve got to pay the best to get the best.

Serious Ian is also available in a multitude of colours to fit your mood and your situation. When times are hard choose that delicious charcoal Serious Ian to really hammer home the message. If you want something a bit lighter, yet just as serious, perhaps the clementine Serious Ian will be your catch of the day.

Whatever the job, task, role or message, you can guarantee nobody will take it more serious than Serious Ian.

Call now!