Avatar Trips Outside – Jarrow

Out in Covid Town, they still don’t like you moving around too much. If you ever think of crossing county lines or hopping on a plane to go and record an album with Jimmy Buffett, because he wants to write a follow-up to his wonderful ‘Cheeseburger in Paradise’ song, then eyes are most certainly raised. Thankfully, having recently changed jobs, I now have a brand new section of the North-East to explore on my lunch breaks.

I would like to welcome everyone to the breath of fresh air that is Jarrow.

I have only been within the vicinity for approximately two weeks and yet since then I have accumulated a wealth of knowledge that would put some locals to shame. Some may call that pitiful boasting, some may call it an outright lie and to those people I ignore anything they say and hand them a banana in the hope that they drop their line of questioning.

There are lots of things to know but given the time and my limited word count there are only four things you (that’s YOU) need to know about Jarrow in case you ever want to take a trip there:

  • Vikings – when the world was young and wireless abbabs were but the stuff of dreams, a large collective of Norse warriors decided they wanted a piece of Britain, hopped on some boats and decimated the coastline of North England for several years. Their only opposition was effeminate priests using gold crosses for weapons. These murderous heroes have been encapsulated in a statue displayed proudly in the town centre. They also got a shopping centre named after them to commemorate all the blood spilled.
  • Shopping – if you want shops, you’re going to get them. There’s a Viking centre full of them and, boy, are you going to be spoilt for choice. There’s a Wilko, a Morrisons, a B & M, a Home Bargains, Greggs, Boots, charity shops, butchers, more bakers, some kind of cafe I haven’t gone in yet but takes up a lot of space, I think a shop that fixes phones or laptops or maybe both and hiding towards the back a Dominos. They have a lovely PA system that forces you to listen to music as you shop so whether or not you want to listen to ‘Livin’ La Vida Loca’ by Ricky Martin is not up for debate, it’s happening baby.
  • Pronunciation – look at the name, it all looks so very simple, doesn’t it? Don’t be wandering into Jarrow thinking that it’s pronounced, “JAR-ROW” though, that’s wrong. Grit your teeth. From the back of your throat, it’s, “JAR-RAH”. If you get it wrong, you’ll be thrown out and never allowed back in. I once worked with a posh lash who said, “PRUD-HOE” instead of, “PRUDDA” and where is she now? I’ve no idea, probably sitting on a throne barking orders at lowly cronies. Or in jail.
  • Walking – there are several monuments around the town explaining about the contribution to the war effort back in 1917. The most famous thing Jarrow is famous for though is when, famously, 200 men marched from Jarrow to London to protest against unemployment and poverty because The Man had closed down the primary place of employment, Palmer’s Shipyard, and things were all bad. This is almost a three hundred mile trek. They would have had to trundle down the A1 which would have been very hazardous given all the long haul lorries driving down to London to drop off soaps or whatever it is people down South eat. There wasn’t even a Little Chef on the way that they could stop in for drinks and snacks. It’s bravery like this that makes me feel inspired.

Even though you may have never, and possibly may never, visit the sacred grounds betwixt the Tyne Tunnel, Hebburn and the tunnel under the Tyne that leads back to Willington Quay where I used to live, I hope this very brief tour is enough to explain and display the majesty of the South Tyneside town.

Avatar How doo dey doo dat?

It’s incredible, isn’t it? How does he manage to write four different pieces of something every single month? Each time it’s something fresh and interesting, like a butterfly made of marzipan. He’s clearly some kind of journalistic genius and the world is better off for having him.

All of those things about me are completely correct but don’t be fooled, writing is a serious game and one that takes a lot of effort. You think I’m pulling off (wa-hey!) and pulling out (WA-HEY!) these ideas from thin air like they were biscuits on a plate? You don’t think they take their toil on this mortal body? For sure back in the day I was tossing out so many posts that the Big Men had to put a cap on it to keep me at four whereas these days it’s a complicated and messy process.

Let me walk you through an average month:

1st – thank god a new month, thirty odd days with which to play with.
2nd – I should get organised and write one now but there’s still plenty of time left.
3rd – ooo look, Chris has posted something.
4th – there’s probably a weekend coming up so I’ll post something next week.
7th – that was a crap weekend, oh dear, best knock out some nonsense for the website.
8th – ah, another podcast. Let me type my ‘I’ll listen to it tonight’ comment and get back to doing nothing.
9th – I love corn because it goes with everything.
10th – if I run fast enough could I burst through a brick wall?
11th – nobody else remembers ‘Ovide’ the cartoon and that makes me sad.
12th – ooo look, Chris has posted something.
21st – blimey where did the last 9 days go? I’ve not done anything yet. Find a photo, ooo look it’s funny. First post done.
22nd – scan through previous month’s posts and ride the back of something else someone else wrote.
23rd – two in the can, it’s plain sailing now. Time to knock out a ‘Newsboost’ or something tragic that happened to me. Ha ha, hilarious.
24th – ooo look, Chris has posted something.
25th – is Kev going to reach his quota this month? Could that be the basis of one of my posts? Keep it as a back-up for dire times.
26th – DIRE TIMES ARE NOW! Post that mother.
27th – damn, Kev posted again. My post is superfluous. I’m no good at this anymore, even though young me was an arsehole he was so good at doing this.
28th – here’s a random thought, ‘if cakes were alive, would they try to eat themselves?’ Good enough.
29th – sod it, another photo will have to do.
30th – ooo look, Chris has posted something.

So as you can see, it’s not easy doing this month in and also month out. For all those secret readers out there who don’t make their presences known, you are most definitely welcome.

Avatar From the archives: Constantly Falling, the series

Back in about 2005 we thought we were brilliant at writing scripts and making videos, and presumably sooner or later someone from, I don’t know, Paramount Pictures would be along to tell us they’d seen a bootleg VHS of NiSH and they wanted to commission us for a five year run at a million dollars an episode or something.

That never happened. What actually happened was we kept having half-baked ideas in which we all played basically ourselves, wrote two pages of script, and then lost interest.

Let’s look at another of those stupid projects now.

Read More: From the archives: Constantly Falling, the series »

Avatar ‘Shed Avengers’ – mini review

Like Ian, I recently played a new game, and I wanted to tell you about it, but unlike Ian, I didn’t enjoy mine very much.

‘Shed Avengers’ is a highly lifelike simulation game in which you take on the role of a new homeowner who discovers that the felt covering the roof of his already poorly built garage is now being peeled away by the wind and causing items stored in the garage to become damp.

It has to be said that the graphics are incredibly good, as are the haptic feedback techniques used through the game controllers which really do make you feel like you’re climbing around on a flimsy wooden structure while alone on the premises. I really did feel like there was the potential to fall through the roof, sustain severe injuries and then lie there undiscovered for many hours.

The early part of the game is all about solving puzzles. It begins with the apparent aim of doing the job from the sides, safely standing on a ladder, but it quickly becomes apparent that this isn’t possible, and your hapless protagonist is forced instead to find a way to climb up onto the rickety roof using a ladder that’s a bit too short for the job. Once you figure that out, the first level, removing the tattered felt sheeting, is easily completed, but the game quickly becomes much harder. Level 2 involves painting a layer of wood preserver onto the roof while crawling around on it, but without the layer of felt to stabilise things, the unsecured timbers move around like the keys of a piano when your character’s weight is placed on them, and each must be painted all the way up to the apex of the roof before you can move on.

There then follow several more levels where the puzzles are less difficult and the gameplay less enjoyable, including lifting 20kg rolls of felt onto the roof without them either rolling off or falling through; hammering 400 clout nails into very flexible woodwork that bounces away when you try to strike it; painting a layer of bitumen adhesive under the felt joints while trying not to slide off the roof because it’s started raining; and finally, attempting to secure the last sheet of felt along the apex even though the flimsy stupid god damn roofline is like a rollercoaster so the stupid bloody thing won’t lie flat.

I will admit that my enjoyment of this already frustrating game was marred by my relatively low score on the final level, where I was unable to fully solve the puzzle and ended up completing the game with two wrinkles nailed in to the final felt sheet. If I were truly committed to the game, I’d go back and play it again to try and get a perfect score, but for me this was one to play once and then move on.

I’m not sure I want to play any more in the roofing and tiling series, and anyway my attention is now mostly taken up with the forthcoming release of Impossible Floating Shelf DIY Master, which is coming out in the next couple of months. When I’ve tried it I’ll let you know how I get on.

Avatar Changing the past

No, don’t look at me like that. I am not retconning anything so you can put your tut books away and save them for something else on the internet.

Now look at me a different way, in a more pleasing manner. There, that’s much better.

‘Innerspace’ is a 1987 film by Joe Dante, the guy who directed Gremlins. It starred Dennis Quaid, Meg Ryan and Martin Short. In it, Dennis Quaid gets shrunk down (“shranken”) for scientific reasons and accidentally injected into Martin Short. This then continues for approximately two hours with gleeful comic elements a-plenty. I even believe that this is one of my sister-in-law’s favourite films. I have fond memories of watching this as a child and believe it still holds up today (it also includes everyone’s fondest actor’s actor – Robert Picardo a.k.a the doctor from Star Trek: Voyager).

So what’s going on then? What am I trying to change? A friend recently told me that he had never seen it so I decided to treat him to the blu-ray. That said, when it arrived in the post there was something amiss. The title didn’t quite fit with me so after a few modifications using paper and glue I believe I have fixed it.

I’m not asking for every single copy to be changed only that sometimes it should be referred to by its “correct” name.

Avatar Culture in the workplace

Flushed with success at my recent foray into workplace safety, I decided to take more steps to improve the lives of my colleagues.

I noticed a long time ago that one of the bathrooms I regularly use at work has a small A5-sized frame with a glass front that faces you as you enter. I assume it was out there to hold notices from our facilities department – maybe a sign saying “we clean these toilets regularly” or “if you’re unhappy with the state of this bathroom you should see some of the others on this floor”. But as far as I know, it’s always been empty, possibly for years.

What this frame needs is a picture, and I have just the thing. I printed one out and stuck it in the frame. Now, instead of a joyless beige bathroom, toilet-bound staff members are greeted with the sight of one of the world’s finest artworks, placed there by me to lift their soul.

I don’t know how many of them have noticed it yet, but they are very welcome.

Avatar No mangoes in the server room

You will remember, of course, that this was some excellent advice from Kev, who is an IT magician and retailer of high-quality wireless abbabs.

I have, therefore, put up signs enforcing this rule at work.

I was just going to take pictures of my new signage and then take it down, but when I actually put it up, I decided I liked it, so it’s now going to stay there permanently. It’s a good rule. Safety first.

Avatar Danger Run

Warning: this post contains gratuitous scenes of exercise. Viewer discretion is advised.

This boy has been running now, jogging now, a bit of a mix of the two since the start of the year. Rogging arounds wrong so let’s stick with junning. I’ve been junning since January. I have dabbled in it in the past however nothing substantial. I suppose with a lot of things collapsing in on itself it’s only fair that one tiny thing in my life prevails in a positive and optimistic fashion.

Cut to Thursday night though when shit got real.

I prefer junning at night because there are less people around to point fun at the tiny shorts I wear. The temperature is at a steady balance, much better than slogging through ice and snow anyway. I start my jun and headed off in the direction of my route. This route has been planned to perfection i.e. it features very little uphill bits and mostly flat or downhill bits.

There is a housing estate close to where I live that I do a couple of laps of to warm up. As I approach the edge of it I’m feeling the juice, I’m feeling the jun through my veins so I decide to speed up a bit. Down the first street, right at the end there is a footpath which curves round a corner down to the next street. Bounding like a chopper I go, I approach the curve and this is where it all goes wrong.

There was no slow motion here, no events slowing in my brain or anything like that. It was a short, sharp pinch in the eyes as far as my recollection of events goes. One moment I was junning away, the next I’m lying on the ground with scrape marks on my legs and blood staining the palms of my hands.

Some little dear had left their scooter in the middle of the path, something which you couldn’t see because it was round a blind corner. Unless I had leapt 2 or 3 feet in the air I was going to hit it every time. Not a full size scooter, no no, something someone just out of toddler-dom would use. I have no concern for myself, my god, I must check that my electronic life partner is still okay! The phone is nestled snugly in my jacket pocket, safe and sound. I stagger to my feet to assess the damage under a dimly-li lamppost.

Now this is exactly the kind of thing that I would do to myself; I am no stranger to injuring myself in unusual circumstances. What really sealed it as an ‘Ian’ moment though was just as I turned the corner and collided with the scooter a teenage boy was walking up the path from the opposite direction. He daren’t touch me, for obvious reasons (following Bovona guidelines to a tee) but asked if I was okay which was nice. As I stood up to brush myself down and turn to start running again he called for my attention. To my confusion and astonishment the boy brought over the tiny scooter. “You forgot this.” Luckily the violently sarcastic part of my brain was sleeping at the time.

Unreasonable reaction: WHAT THE F*CK DO YOU THINK YOU’RE DOING, LAD? DO YOU REALLY THINK THAT F*CKING SCOOTER IS MINE? F*CK ME, I COULD BARELY GET ONE OF MY TOENAILS ON THERE LET ALONE A FULL F*CKING FOOT. I’M WEARING SHORTS, I’M OUT JOGGING. WHY THE F*CK DO YOU THINK A F*CKING 37 YEAR OLD MAN IS SCOOTERING AROUND AT 9PM ON A THURSDAY F*CKING NIGHT? DOES THAT SOUND SH*TTING PLAUSIBLE TO YOU?

Panting through the stinging in my hands, I merely said that it wasn’t mine and thanked him for his concern. There I was, stumbling in front of a member of the public only for him to believe that the situation was that much worse because I had embarrassed myself by failing to use a scooter properly. Remarkably my legs were fine, a gash on one knee and nothing more, so I carried on with my jun.

This is getting too long. I did consider that perhaps this was some kind of cosmic karma for something else. A balance had to be made by me making a tit of myself. The day after I was in agony. Some bruising to my right side meant breathing, coughing, you know, any kind of movement caused a little jolt of pain to explode under my ribs. I am on the mend after a few days of rest and hope to be back junning later on this week.