Avatar Virtual house tour

Since we bought a slice of Hampshire, and abandoned London for the delights of country living, we’ve been showing more or less anyone around our house. Friends? Yes. Family? Yes. Friends of family? Yes. The neighbours? Yes. Some guy who just wanted to pick up some furniture we sold on eBay? Yep.

Not everyone has had the thrill of the tour yet, though, and we understand that for some the wait is becoming intolerable. So, to help out, I’d like to extend an invitation for you to join us now on a virtual tour.

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Avatar Seagull food review

I’ve got all my posts for August still to go if I want to earn a bean. I’m going to do them all this week while I’m on nights. Four nights. Four posts. Let’s go.

Here we see a seagull enjoying some lunch. On our right, we can see a falafel wrap with extra garlic sauce. On the left is a pot of hummus. Note how the seagull is having some of the wrap, and then dipping in to the hummus as an accompaniment. The seagull is a sophisticated diner who understands Middle Eastern cuisine.

The seagull finds the wrap delightful, with a crispy bite to the freshly made falafel and a good crunchy salad that adds texture and freshness. The pickles are sharp and bring out the other flavours, but never overpower them. The wrap comes with chilli sauce and garlic sauce, but for him an extra shake of garlic is what’s needed to round out the flavours.

The seagull is also enjoying the hummus, but was slightly let down when he found that this side dish was literally just a bowl of hummus without crudités or bread for dipping. The dip itself is enjoyable but is very heavy on the tahini and would benefit from stronger seasoning. He can tell it was made with a quality olive oil.

Overall the seagull is pleased with his lunch, and at £7.50 plus drinks he finds it hard to complain about either the food or the service in this fast-moving street eatery. He awards it four stars. He then flies away to see if he can crap on some tourists.

Avatar Conspiracy Bales

Quick guys, I only have about five minutes before they catch me and I need to get this down and out (down and out?) down and out on the internet before they do.

Professor Reuben and I have come across an astounding scientific secret that has remained, well, a secret up until now. It concerns the best of our bovine friends, the common cow.

Where do all those cows come from? How do they get here? Was there was a time when there wasn’t cows or have they been here all this time? People have wondered this for years and with good reason; cows appear and disappear regularly with no explanation. You just don’t know. One day a field is empty and the next it’s swarming with cows like sweetcorn on a pizza.

Cows aren’t born through other cows. All that nonsense is only there to confuse you. I scoff at your notion of animals birthing animals. Cows come through a dimensional gate accessed only through bales of hay. They appear when nobody is looking, as white as my legs during the summer, with none of those black or brown splodges to speak of. It is only once they’re through into our world do they assume an identity and get splatted with paint to try and fit in with the others.

A portal hiding in plain sight

Normally I would be thrilled with such a boon. This is the kind of boon that the word ‘boon’ was made for. I’d be booning it large with a pint in one hand and maybe a couple of boons in the other. The cows, however, didn’t take too kindly to our interference with their practises.

Now that we’ve discovered this they’re after us. I haven’t slept for three days. Whenever I feel myself dropping off I can hear a sweet and low, “moo” drifting on the wind and we’re off again into the night.

If they get us and we don’t come back know only this, I regret nothing (except most of what I said and wrote in 2007).

Avatar Results Day

Don’t you hate it when things are about other people when really they should be about you?

Almost seventeen years ago I had a child and he got his GCSE results today. That took the focus away from me which never sits well with me. Technically he wouldn’t exist without parts of me so surely I should have been celebrated as well, it should have been my day as well but it wasn’t, it was all about him. So let’s turn back the clock and (try to) remember when I got my GCSE results all the way back in the year of mega panic, Y2K.

In my infinite wisdom I decided that I didn’t want to go to sleep and that I would stay up all night, and THEN go to school to pick up my results. In order to stay awake I drank at least half a dozen coffees to percolate the shizzels into my bloodstream, heavily peppered with a strong dose of sugar to sweeten the blow. This was the first time I had seriously started drinking coffee and I think it is probably the reason why I drink so much of the morning brown now.

Cup after cup I downed not knowing the repercussions to be felt two decades later. “This is a great idea,” I kept thinking, possibly whilst I shakily poured the next hot beverage.

But what would you do for those twelve or so hours, Ian, to keep your mind focused and stop from falling back into the blissful arms of sleep you may ask? I did the obvious thing, of course; I repeatedly listened to the song ‘History’ by the Verve to learn the lyrics. Then when I had reached an acceptable level of word learnery I then tried to learn the lyrics for the rest of the songs of the album ‘A Northern Soul’ because I was so cool and nobody could stop me.

In hindsight, everything about this was a stupid idea.

In the morning, bleary-eyed (not beary-eyed as I first typed) and groggy, I stumbled my way to school to pick up my magical envelope. Refusing to open it there and then I walked down to Tesco (where it was still situated in the old building opposite Barclays Bank) and revealed my results in the frozen food aisle. And there was much rejoicing.

Remembering is fun. That is, unless I’m mis-remembering and this is what I did the night before my A-Level results rather than my GCSEs.

Avatar The nemesis of Dr. Burger

We all know the healing powers of Doctor Burger. The wonderful Doctor Burger makes everything better. But for every Yin there is a Yang, and for every Starsky there is a Hutch. What if there was an anti-Doctor Burger, an evil burger that would make you feel worse instead of better?

There is. I’ve found it. I don’t want it.

You have it if you want. I’m fine without.

Avatar Chess for beginners

I learned how to play chess when I was about ten.

Wait. That might be overstating things a bit. What happened was that one of the other kids at my childminder’s house could play it a bit, and they showed me, and we had about three games that lasted about five minutes, and then I didn’t play it again until last week.

Last week I was reintroduced to chess, and found I had forgotten almost everything. If you have also forgotten everything about chess, either because you haven’t played it in a long time, or because nobody told you anything about it in the first place (sometimes referred to as “pre-forgetting” or “not knowing things”), then allow me to help.

Setting up the board

You need a big square made of other squares. They should be chequered. You also need lots of playing pieces. If you don’t have a chess set, you could borrow the pieces from a Monopoly set instead, but you will need five Monopoly sets because chess uses a lot of pieces. Put the pieces in lines.

How the pieces move

Every piece has rules about how it moves.

  • Pawns are small and so can only move slowly. They can go two squares, but only once, and they can only go in a straight line forwards, like one of those toy dogs on wheels. If they eat another piece they can go diagonally.
  • Castles are actually called Rooks. They are also sometimes known as Towers or Rectors or Benedicts or Backsliders or French Fancies or Ronnie Johnsons or Fluteypipes. They can go left and right and up and down, and they can go as far as they like, and in that sense are not much like castles at all.
  • Knights look like horses and can jump over other pieces, but go sideways a bit when they do it because they have bad ankles.
  • Bishops move diagonally and have nice hats.
  • Kings are rubbish. They can go anywhere but only one square at a time, and if someone else eats your King then you lose. If you try to protect your King by taking it off the board and hiding it, which is the most sensible thing to do if you want to win, then you also lose, apparently, which isn’t fair.
  • Queens can go as far as they want in any direction and might also be able to fly and travel underwater. This is similar to the real Queen.

Strategy

White always goes first. However, the ideal way to start the game is to steal some of your opponent’s pieces before the game has started. This early pre-game attack can offer many advantages in the later stages.

Attempt to gauge your opponent’s skill level at the beginning of the game by sliding all your pawns forward two spaces in a single move. If they are inexperienced enough to let you get away with this, you can claim a great deal of territory this way.

Spend lots of time taking your turn so it looks like you’re thinking really hard. This will make your opponent nervous.

Win the game by taking your opponent’s King. You can do this either by moving one of your pieces into a position where the King will be taken on its next move no matter where it goes, which is called “checkmate”, or by picking it up and refusing to give it back when you’ve had enough, which makes it impossible for the other person to win, meaning you have won by default.

If you have any chess questions (“chesstions”) please post them below and I will do my best to help you become a Chess Grand Master just like me.