Movies

There haven’t been too many movies I’ve got to see recently, but I did get to see The Orphanage in the cinema. This is a Spanish language haunted house tale “presented” by Guillermo “Pan’s Labyrinth” del Toro. Overall it was quite good, though they did over-use the old trick of loud noise to make you jump at the creepy bits. I don’t think it needed it and overall would have been better as a chiller with some creepy overtones rather than using the “BANG! Made you jump!” technique. Also, the last two minutes were entirely redundant, but other than that it was quite a good movie. I rate it… Must Rent.

I also finally caught the modern remake of 3:10 to Yuma on BluRay rental, because I like westerns and I like Christian Bale. Hmm… The score was good, the visuals looked lovely in HD BluRay glory and the score was good and well used. Unfortunately I haven’t seen the 50’s original to compare, but the story was really weak. It started off okay, but veered a little around the middle and by the end had unravelled entirely to the point that my suspension of disbelief had, itself, been completely suspended. I rate it… Avoid.
I knew I should have gone with The Assassination of Jesse James etc.

TV

Yeah, not too much here either. The new season of Heroes hasn’t really blown me away yet neither has Doctor Who. I’ve been watched Season 1 of House which started well. The fact that this is a blatant medical Sherlock Holmes (Homes? House? You see what they did… Oh never mind) crossed with CSI quite appeals to me, as does Hugh Laurie’s misanthropic titular character. But it’s becoming pretty damn samey, pretty damn fast. I’ve been assured that more character development and variation is coming, but I’m losing faith fast.

Books

I’ve been working my way through the recent trend of supernatural pulp detective novels, the most famous of which is the mildly entertaining Dresden Files series by Jim Butcher which was made into an utterly rubbish TV show. The books are fun, but are being bogged down by their own mythology by now. Then I moved onto the Rachel Morgan series, when I read Kim Harrison’s Dead Witch Walking, which was blatantly the Dresden Files, by a female author, with a female protagonist for a female audience. Half of it read like a the relationship self-help sections of women’s magazines. I didn’t bother picking up the rest of the series. But now I’ve moved onto Mike “Hellblazer” Carey’s Felix Castor series, beginning with The Devil You Know. I realise I may be a little biased towards the writer I already know I like, but I would say that Carey’s books are my favourite of this genre. I’ll hopefully be picking up the second book in the series today.

Graphic Novels

Not much for a while, but I read Warren Ellis’ Nextwave: Agents of H.A.T.E and laughed like a drain and I don’t even know what that means! Penny’s usually not much into Ellis, but she read the whole thing, frequently muttering “That’s just wrong!” and then carrying on reading.

Music

Well, due to my current client, I’m exposed to a lot more music these days, but not all of it is new. I’ve been listening to We Are Scientists, The Hives, The Datsuns and, for a complete change of style, Remi Nicole. And I wasn’t too impressed with Portishead’s first single off the new album, finding it too industrial for my tastes.

Games

Most of my gaming right now is on the PSP. I played God of War and enjoyed it immensely! For six hours. Let me reiterate that, to make it quite clear: This £25 game entertained me for a mere six hours! Once, I take off the trade-in value, that means I paid £2.30 per hour of entertainment.
On the other hand, I’m still playing Final Fantasy Tactics and according to my save game file, I’ve played it for 30 hours so far…
As for the PS3, Gran Tourismo 5 Prologue is beautiful, cheap and fun. It is worth your money and is very friendly to casual play.

I always say I won’t do these anymore, then I get lax for one reason or another and do another catchup post. But, here we are again and once again my assurance that this will be the last of it’s kind unless something dramatic happens in the form of the destruction of the internet, abduction by fae who see in me their long-lost and recently reincarnated god-king or I happen to catch ebola.

And so, in roughly chronological order:

  • I am the happy owner of a Sony 3. I am very pleased with my investment and have been getting a lot of pleasure out of it. This warrants it’s own, in-depth, post which I hope won’t take another month to emerge.
  • Penny went to Iran, had a good time, was fascinated by the cultural differences, saw interesting sights and missed a by the morality police by 24 hours. She is slowly but surely uploading pictures to her and hopes to blog her experiences.
  • As , I spent a weekend up in Cheltenham, drinking beer, hiking, observing the local predators at play and taking a steam train around the villages. Most enjoyable.
  • Since I last blogged I saw two movies in the cinema, both of which I was disappointed by, namely 300 and Spiderman 3. The former was either too hammy or the hamminess was not done by actors who could actually pull it off. The central themes and black humour of the graphic novel were not sufficiently present and the whole thing came off as a very pretty hack fest. Pretty, good battles but soulless. Spiderman 3 was great on special effects but it rubbed me up the wrong way with it’s constant lame gags to distract the kiddies from the darkness and the massive emphasis on Forgiveness. Do all superhero films now have to have a moral? All in all, watchable and fun, but does not compare favourably with it’s superior predecessors. This makes this years personal cinema chart look as follows:
  1. Hot Fuzz
  2. In Pursuit of Happyness (sic)
  3. 300
  4. Spiderman 3
  • Next cinema films I intend to watch are Pirates 3, Harry Potter 5, Stardust, 28 weeks later, Bourne Ultimatum and Beowulf.
  • Music-wise I’ve been to the , and .
  • In books, I’ve been devouring Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files series about a tough Chicago private eye… wizard. Excellent stuff, very good escapism.
  • Penny and I went camping last weekend down on the south coast. The little village of Rye is incredibly charming while the Camber Sands Leisure Park where we pitched up is dire beyond mention. here. It was a pleasant weekend and the new tent, a , held up spectacularly in adverse conditions. All the more impressive considering the minuscule weight of just over 1kg.

Right, I’ve probably missed bits out, but it’s a good start!

The latest version of the , is now available to download from the portable’s built-in Network Update. The update includes the following features:

  • PLAYSTATION Network titles are now supported under [Game].
  • But you can only play PLAYSTATION Network games (i.e. PS One games) if you have a PS3. There is no straight web download available for this feature. Bobbins for European’s right now and extra bobbins for those people who have a PSP and a 360 instead of waiting for their PS3.
  • [Remote Play] has been added as a feature under [Network].
  • Again, PS3 support only.
  • [Online Instruction Manuals] has been added as a feature under [Network].
  • Actually quite a nice feature, especially as the is actually up-to-date. Don’t understand why this can’t just be stored on the memory stick though, instead of having to be net connected.
  • Timed recording has been added as a feature under [RSS Channel].
  • A visual player has been added as a feature under [Music].
  • Woo! Visualisations at last! Did I mention woo?
  • 3-speed fast forward and fast reverse has been added as a feature under [Music].
  • Shame they didn’t add this for Movies as well. After all, you’re more likely to have a two hour movie than an MP3…
  • [Camera] has been added as a feature under [Photo].
  • Nice… if you happen to have the camera in question. Not likely to be a priority.
  • [UMD Auto-Start] has been added as a feature in [System Settings] under [Settings].
  • Hurrah! I’m actually quite happy about this one, I’d prefer to control whether the UMD game/movie/whatever starts up on power-up.

So there you have it PSP owners…

Update: Couldn’t find the update on the page yet.

An actual hands-on, gamers review of the Sony PS3, courtesy of the :

Japanese gamer Teruma Naito from Oda City was one of the lucky few to bag a PlayStation 3. Here he gives his impressions of launch day and his early experience with the console.

The news footage of more than 1,000 people lined up outside the first shop to sell the PS3 in Tokyo was phenomenal.

I have never seen anything like that before in Japan. Such was the competition that apparently people were going to the length of paying homeless people up to 10,000 yen (£45) to line up on their behalf.

I was lucky enough to purchase a 20GB version (one of only two in our area) and the queue was not as big, but just as competitive with last-minute queue jumpers and those pleading with others to swap.

But those in despair do not have to worry as there is now a flood of PS3 machines being sold on internet auction sites in Japan.

People bemoaning the lack of availability seem to be spoilt for choice – if they have the money available – due to a price war offering consoles from between 10,000 to 30,000 yen above the retail price.

Having only played the PS3 for a day, my initial thoughts are that it is absolutely sensational.

The wireless controller, on-screen format and graphics quality is nothing like any other console I have used. Its functionality (CD, DVD, Blu-ray, music, photos, internet, games) now allows the PS3 to be the only machine stacked underneath the TV.

PS3 owner, AP

Only a few people managed to bag a PlayStation 3

It goes without saying that the graphics and playability were phenomenal but the real winner for me was the network gaming aspect which was very easy to use.

An on-screen map of the world indicates where each of the players are based and obviously all of them are packed in Japan at the moment, but in time, once the other countries come online, it will be an amazing sight.

However, with only five games to choose from, I ended up purchasing Ridge Racer 7 and Gundam: Target in Sight – games which do not appeal to me, but were better than the other three.

Lack of game choice is definitely something that needs to be rectified, otherwise there will be lots of gamers getting very bored with the ones they have right now.

The PS3s internet capabilities are impressive. By using the analogue sticks to move the mouse pointer, I was pretty much able to do everything from view videos on YouTube, download photos and videos attached to my e-mails and even do on-line banking and complete a money transfer.

The only thing is I don’t seem to be able to open any Microsoft applications like Word and Excel.

However, the beauty of the PS3 is that any updates, whether they are system updates and or programs, can be provided by Sony online. As such, I would expect that most teething problems with the console (if any) will be promptly rectified by Sony.

There has been a lot of talk over the last year of Sony’s profits and delays with the PS3 but I think Sony has certainly delivered the next generation of consoles and set a new benchmark for their rivals.

The Sony press release says it all rather concisely: ‘Sony Computer Entertainment Europe Announces New March 2007 date for European Launch of Playstation 3.”

Sony Computer Entertainment Europe (SCEE) today announced that it would revise the launch date of its Playstation 3 computer entertainment system in the PAL territories of Europe, Russia, Middle East, Africa and Australasia from 17th November 2006, as previously announced to March 2007.

Bastards!!!

Update: Now they’re :
Sony is to cut the Japanese cost of its forthcoming PlayStation 3 console by 20%.
The price for the North American and European launch will stay the same.

To be fair though, an XBOX 360 with the new HD-DVD add-on will cost exactly the same as the non-Japanese PS3. This is all just a tactic to try and stop MS garnering any significant chunk of the crucial JP market.
But still…
I want my PS3 now!

tag:

Firmware Moves To 2.7 News Sony PSP Review – Playstation Portable News and Reviews: “The full list of changes with the firmware is:

* You can now play Macromedia Flash content under [Internet Browser].
*Note that you must adjust a setting to enable this feature. A connection to the internet is required to adjust the setting.
* [Connection Settings] has been added under [Settings] in [Internet Browser].
* You can now save content added under [RSS Channel] on a Memory Stick.
* [Automatic] has been added as an option under [Rate] in [LocationFree Player].
* [UMD Video L/R Button] has been added under [Video Settings] in [Settings]
You can now disable the channel skip feature of the L/R buttons.
* A new file extension has been added to playable AAC formats.
* [Simplified Chinese] and [Traditional Chinese] have been added as options under [System Language] in [Settings>System Settings].
* [RSS Channel Settings] has been added under [Settings].”

tag:

Nooooo!!!

Okay, I knew it was on the cards, what with the problems getting the Blu-ray standard nailed down for rights protection. But still. A six month delay actually means a six month delay for the Japanese launch, plus three months for the US and an additional three months for Europe.

At least the upshot is that there is no excuse for not having enough launch games available.

Update
Source:

It seems November will see a simoultaneous worldwide release in November. Hurrah! Furthermore 1 60Gb HD will be included and legacy PS1 and PS2 games will play at a higher resolution.
Furthermore, PSP firmware update 3.0 will be out soon and will enable Flash browsing and downloads of PS1 games from Sony Connect for a small fee. Hurrah again!

tags: ,

[Updated 23/02/06 14:34 after Alex updated me a little]
[Updated 27/02/06 15:30 after a weekend of playing with new features]
[Updated 15/02/06 13:00 with minor updates]
[Updated 30/03/06 10:33 with updates from the Game Developers Conference]

[Updated 10/04/06 10:30 with info on loading playlists from Itunes]

So, for my 30th birthday I received by Sony PSP. It was much desired before the day and greeted with much joy, but how does it measure up in the real world context of actual use? Has it become a very well designed paperweight, packed with electronics never used? Let’s break it down:

Games

It’s an obvious way to start, since games are what people buy a PSP for; And I certainly do play games on it.
Games for the PSP can be quite expensive at £35 a pop. Sure, that’s cheaper than a PS2 game, but still about the price of a new PC game. So for this reason I have only two games so far. These are:

Star Wars Battlefront 2: A good fun game that got mixed reviews. Due to having only one analogue joystick, it takes a while to get used to control system of this FPS, especially for console players. Personally though, once I got used to the system, it was great fun. Waiting for a train? Jump into SWBF2 and kill some ewoks, gungans or jawas. Very satisfying!

Lumines: Ask anyone, this is the must-have game of the PSP; A ridiculously simple Tetris-like puzzle game, where the better you are, the more backgrounds, skins and music you unlock. Yes, I know this sounds like it’s of limited entertainment value, but you’d be amazed, it really does suck you in. Very addictive indeed.

Prince of Persia: This is a full 100% port from the PS2 version with no differences at all. Sadly, the smallness of the screen and the resolution limitations mean that it’s sometimes hard to distinguish features of the background. Crucial for solving some puzzles.

Lemmings: What can I say… It’s cute, it’s clever, it’s simple, it can be pleasantly easy or brain-curdlingly hard and apart from the slight increase in difficulty in selecting the little green-haired suicide artists, this game confirms my nostalgia to be entirely justified. Lemmings rocks!

Other games I’m considering for the future:

  • Ridge Racer: It really looks like racing games have been the easiest first batch converts to the PSP and they look great. This looks like one of the best.
  • Battle Chess: I know, I’m sad, but I can’t help it.
  • Untold Legends 2 – The Warrior’s Code: A Diablo-style hack-n-slash RPG

In short, yes, games are good on the PSP. There aren’t a gigantic pile of games out there and most are dodgy PS2 converts, but the console has only been out a for a limited amount of time and things are getting better.

Alex’s comment: I’m personally looking forward to Outrun 2006 at the end of March at the moment, along with Every Extend Extra (the new music/shooting game by the Lumines guys).

Movies

I’ll begin by discussing UMD movies. It depends on how old\popular the movie is, but UMD movies will cost around £15 +/-. As you can imagine, this is rather a rip-off, when you consider how cheaply you can get DVDs these days and paying £25 total to get the movie in both formats is bobbins. What about imports I hear you ask? No go I’m afraid. We might all have multi-region DVD players, but there’s no such thing as a multi-region UMD player and all UMD movies are region-encoded. So while there are some okay movies out there to buy for your PSP, it’s an expensive and somewhat frustrating experience. Although, I quite like the music video\concert UMDs, but there are very few of those. (Apart from Depeche Mode, bizarrely, who have about three out. Other than that you’ve got Goldfrapp (which I have), Iron Maiden, Kylie and Coldplay. That’s it).

So, is the PS doomed as a movie playing device? Well, many of us have respectable DVD collections, but DVDs are encrypted and it’s illegal to decrypt them (for example by using the DeCSS decrypter). But if, by some terrible accident, your DVDs randomly decrypted themselves (what? It could happen!) then you could use the software to convert the resultant VOB file directly to PSP sized and formatted MP4 video. End result? 7Gb of Fight Club DVD would become 250Mb of PSP viewable movie. Nice! Suddenly flights, hotel stays and train journeys are no great chore. In fact I wish they’d last longer so I could watch more movies!

(Did I ever mention how very happy I am that my PSP came with a 1Gb Memory Stick? No? Well I should. Because I am)

Note: When transferring movies to the PSP they must be put in the directory \MP_ROOT\100MNV01 and must be numbered rather than neatly named. However, 3GP Converter will do the renaming for you. And if the movie file had a sensible name to begin with, the title is retained when viewed in the PSP.

Music

So the PSP plays MP3s. In fact, if you manage to connect to the internet (see below) you can even enable WMA access too (but I can’t tell you how frustrating it was, realising that I had to go online to agree to an EULA just to play WMAs). But while I use my PSP to listen to music (or even audiobooks) a lot, it’s because I always have the device with me, rather than because it’s particularly good at it. No playlists, no way of seeing what the next track will be, no visualisations, no way to control the order of play (other than random). It does work, but it needs some refinement. But, as I said, I use it to listen to music anyway.
I may even consider audioblogs (podcasts) at some point.

Update: Alex points out that you can do podcasts now with the current firmware, but unfortunately it’s streaming only. Not much use when you’re on the Underground or in an aeroplane… However, this is alledgedly going to change with the upgrade to the 3.0 firmware in March.

(Quick unrelated aside: I like visualisations with my music; they’re pretty. But beyond that, I found out a few years ago, at a house warming party, that a device playing mellow music and visualisations was the ultimate stoner trap. They were gathered around, their reverent silence only occasionaly broken with an awe-struck “Wooahhh”. One day the police will use this to arrest stoners in their hordes, mark my words.)

Update: Using Itunes with your PSP
I recently started using Itunes instead of Windows Media Player and I must say I like it a lot. Especially since I learnt how easy it was to transfer music from playlists to the PSP, which can’t be done fro WMP.
If you make your playlist (I use the party shuffle) and select the files you want to copy to your non-ipod player, right click and select “copy”. Open a folder where you would like to copy your mp3s to, and “paste” in that folder. The files will copy over. Easy as pie.
I’ve yet to experiment with AAC format (without DRM) and also I heard on the grapevine that it was possible to con Itunes that your PSP is actually an Ipod Shuffle. Watch this space!

Photos

A functionality I never thought I’d use, but it turns out I quite like having selected, treasured photos with me. (No, not porn) Furthermore, I take a screenshot of important timetables, my diary etc on there too, so I never have to worry about losing softcopy of my schedule.

Update: If you want to have perfectly sized images that fit on the PSP screen without scaling, e.g. for wallpaper, the resolution needs to be 480 x 272.

It’s a shame that the PSP currently won’t read TXT, PDF or RTF files, but in the meantime there is a workaround. The text files can be converted using to images of the right size, which can then be read quite comfortably on the PSP. I haven’t tried this product yet, but it seems to be simpler than some of the workarounds I’ve been using. Best combined with files from something like the , or your own documents.

Update: I’ve tried Jpegbook now, as well as it’s closest rival, . Both are somewhat flawed, but JpegBook less so. PP has the advantage that you can “print” from any application, so images are embedded. However, the text area cannot be shrunk to PSP size, so you have to scroll around. Annoying.
JB is only for converting TXT files to JPG which it does admirably and of the correct size. The downside is that sometimes it doesn’t wordwrap properly if you have more than 72 characters per line.

Further update: Can’t find the free ebook you’re looking for on the Gutenberg project? Well, the US copyright laws are quite tight in terms of what can be released into the public domain, so the is a very good bet for works by Shaw, Orwell and other authors of this century who were published after 1926.

Internet

You need to get online with your PSP. Without a net connection, firmware upgrades are awkward, you can’t enable WMA playback (mutter, grumble, grrr) and you lose out on a chunk of functionality of your device. How to get online? There are three options:

  • Have a wireless network at home
  • Wander the streets, periodically hitting ‘Scan for wireless network’ and hoping for some muppet with an unsecured wireless network (your odds are better in large towns. In Aldershot I think they’re still not sure of electricity, nevermind wireless networks, whether secured or not)
  • Pay for either a one-off voucher or a subscription to someone like (which can be expensive unless you use it a lot and the wifi hotspots are pretty few and far between in Surrey, but London is fine)
Update: A bit of a plug for coffeeshop in Woking. Decent coffee and free WiFi? Unbeatable!
So now you’re online. Now what? Well, here are some of the essential URLs for you:
  • – Like , but optimised for the mobile browser. Very useful indeed. Also good to use for blogging, as the input window of won’t remember what you ‘typed’ if you lose wifi connection, while Gmail has an autosave.
  • – Do you read blogs? The news? Webcomics? Subscribe to all their rss feeds and then read the updates all on one page. Invaluable.
  • – A social bookmarking and bookmark-tagging site. Keep all your bookmarks online, share them (across people and, more importantly, machines) and tag them like a Flickr pic. I have a tag link set up just for which I have verified work on the PSP.
  • – Use the AOL instant messenger from a PSP enhanced webpage. This works, but nobody I know uses AIM. How annoying.
  • BBC News – Works well as is on the PSP, but your browser is best set to small fonts and Just Fit screen size.
Some other URLs I originally thought would be useful, but weren’t:
  • – Online wordprocessor with online storage. Especially useful as the PSP cannot save non-graphical files to the memory stick. Failed! Could not even log in with PSP browser.
  • – Online spreadsheet with online storage. Especially useful as the PSP cannot save non-graphical files to the memory stick. Failed! Could log in, but not access spreadsheets with PSP browser.
  • – Online calendar. Failed! Links to log in or edit calendar entries fail. However, if you use CalendarHub from a different computer and want to view your address entries, you need to use this login page.


Homebrew

No, not a kind of beer! There are a huge number of unofficial apps, games, emulators and whatnot out there. Unfortunately the vast majority require an ancient firmware update that is no longer available and you can’t downgrade. I hear that there is now a hack to make hombrew software work with the newest firmware version, but to be honest there’s nothing out there fantastic enough for me to take the risk of turning my PSP into a brick. (And yes, there is a trojan that will do this. 100% unrecoverable)

Alex’s comment: Homebrew: will work on all PSPs now with the new loader that’s just come out (Brown Ale, amusingly enough) but you need a copy of GTA to be able to use it.
Update: There are mutterings that Sony will unlock the PSP to allow 3rd party code to run on it, but this is a rumour I, for one, intend to take with a big pinch of salt.

Future enhancements

There’s a few official enhancements due out sometime in the future:

  • GPS – Sounds somewhat useless, but could have it’s value. It depends how expensive and large it is. Game manufacturers have the opportunity to make very intriguing location based games. Real life monopoly? A London-location based who-dunnit?
  • Keyboard – Since they’re going to be releasing this, I think I can assume that they’ll be adding a document editor too. Otherwise it’s of low value. Update: Logic3 have cancelled their keyboard project, citing difficulties in getting API information from Sony. However it looks like Sony will develop their own.
  • Access to – Joy, another opportunity to buy music and video that you can’t use on any other device or format at an unrealistic price. You can buy individual episodes of Lost or 24, but at $1.50 each, you could buy the DVD box set at the same total price. £7.99 for a whole album that I can’t play on my PC or stereo? I’d be better off buying it on Amazon. Alex’s comment: Sony Connect is going to be relaunched next month apparently, along with the 3.0 firmware. Rumour has it that you’ll be able to download game demos, a bit like on Xbox Live Arcade on 360, which will be good if it’s true. Update: Sony have confirmed that PS One games will be available for purchase and download from Connect for playing on the PSP. Update from the GDC: Winter.. around October, we’ll introduce a further key innovation: the ability to download and run software directly from the Memory Stick. UMD will continue, but we believe that we can do true e-distribution of content straight to the machine without the need for a disc. Content server – to memory stick – to PSP. This will be augmented by having the PSone content available through an archive server. We’ll have an emulator, and you will have access to the entire PSone library.
  • A PSP version of the Eyetoy, in effect a webcam for the PSP. Update from the GDC: Another great innovation will be the addition of a video and stills cam for the PSP coming this October. The obvious application for this is a wifi videophone – we’ll have VOIP built into the OS.
  • An addition to the RSS reader. Not for text, but to allow it to consume video blogs as well as audio blogs. Rumour has it that this will be in download format, not just streaming. Update from the GDC: The next update has RSS feeds for audio and text, plus a flash-enabled browser, really enhancing that internet experience there.

Travel

I’ve mentioned above that I use the PSP extensively for travel. Here are some of my findings:

  • You can use the PSP on the plane, but you must have it switched off during take-off and landing and you must have the WiFI switched to off for the whole duration.
  • In general, keep the WiFi switched off when travelling as it uses up more battery power.
  • If you’re listening to music, switch the key lock on and use only the remote control to change tracks. This will allow the screen to stay off, preserving battery power.
  • UMDs (movies and games) use more battery power than reading from the MemoryStick, so avoid them if you can.
  • Saying that though, an airport (in the UK at least) is the best place to buy UMDs or games as they are sold tax-free (even for trips within the EU), saving you a rather nice 17.5%.

In conclusion


The PSP is great. It fits my lifestyle very well and if it gains document viewers and a PIM then I’d never need anything else ever again. That doesn’t mean it’s perfect for everyone, but for me it’s the right device and I love it.


Tags: ,

What a weekend! First off, for the impatient, the photos are here.

I’ll have to summarise this in bullet points as far to much happened for extensive prose!

Friday

  • The actual day of my and a day off work for me. Hurrah!
  • Presents! An antique-style wall clock from my mum and, rather excellently, the Anansi Boys audiobook, as read by Lenny Henry. Result!
  • Into Guildford for some exploring
  • Off to Craggy Island again for some climbing (once the test had been passed). Some traversing, some top-rope graded climbs and some bouldering. I had to borrow a harness because, oh horror of horrors, I’m not the svelte 25-year old I once was and my harness no longer fits! It seems I ate all the pies.
  • Dinner at , an oriental restaurant. A miso soup for starter and an excellent Mongolian chicken dish for the main course, all in view of
  • Snow! I win!

Saturday

  • A gentle start to the day
  • Saw on the train to London! Who knew how far Penny’s organisational skills ran! Certainly much better than my ‘appear suave and cool while talking to celebrities’ skill as all I managed was a “Hi” and a bit of a smirk, which was rewarded by a fairly dismissive smile. But at least there was an element of communication there, or so I’d like to kid myself
  • Got to at 14:30. Somewhat late as I was expecting to meet Mark at 14:00. No Mark though, who phones at 15:00 to cancel, pleading ill health
  • Due to a combination of accidents, incidents, misunderstandings and other reasons, nobody arrives for the next two hours! Numerous conspiracy theories, fueled by the Budvar I’m drinking, begin to develop. Do I have the wrong time? The wrong pub? The wrong day? Thankfully, eventually, everyone makes it.
  • The first presents! One never knows when one might need an album of 70’s music or a talking Captain Hook action figure!
  • Eventually we head off to Kentish Town to the restaurant. We go to the Ethiopian restaurant, and a most excellent meal it is!
  • Major present time… And it’s a PSP! Much desired and not-very-secretly coted by yours truly since release and now it’s mine, all mine! Muahahaha!
  • At the end of the night it was off to a hotel for Penny and me, much better than trying to negotiate the engineering works on the trains home.

Sunday

  • Chinese New Year! And what that seemed to mean was an ocean of people, 200,000 reportedly, gathering in Trafalgar Square waiting for the dragon procession.
  • Rather than wait around, Penny and I went into the Nationall Gallery, just long enough to view the , and the .
  • Back to Trafalgar Square for a bit of the dragon procession, at least those glimpses stolen in between even more people. Time to move on.
  • To go forth and purchase PSP paraphernalia. Hurrah!
  • Met Karen, Lynsey and Kev in All Bar One for a glass (or two) of wine before heading into China Town to observe the cabbage eating dragons and to buy ourselves some food poisoning
  • The London Eye was perfectly timed. Just at sunset, the sky literally changing colour as we moved around, all the building lights coming on and the Chinese New Year fireworks viewable just as we reached the peak. Most excellent.

And that was it. A highly memorable and very enjoyable 30th birthday. Thanks to all who were involved in any way at all.