We are halfway to Christmas, and approaching the end of 2023! However, before we reminisce, what do we make of December’s opening bow?
Before I can answer that, I need to take you back to a couple of Wednesdays ago, and a change…
Bins go Bonkers
I am all for recycling. I think it’s a worthwhile endeavour. I have to question the wisdom of whomever has arranged the latest recycling scheme for Basildon, which now involves a convoluted process of sacks, wheelie bins, and a lot of home sorting. It also involves less frequent collections, so everyone’s rubbish is going to stack up.
I do sort of understand the logic here. Less collections means less vehicles on the roads. This means less CO2 emissions. Pre-sorted recycling (such as sorting paper vs plastic) and reusable sacks is all generally better, right? It is, it absolutely is. However, the pink sacks we were all originally provided with are meant to be recyclable anyway, so it feels like the entire process has become more awkward for the sake of it, and that it’s intended more as a cost-cutting measure, rather than a genuine bid for better recycling. Plus, there is a very good chance of these new sacks going missing, as people will take ones that aren’t theirs, or forget to collect them.
Strange Sci-Fi Takes
I try to see the best in people, but sometimes, I swear the choices are between ‘ignorant’ or ‘wilfully ignorant’. The other week, I saw a post on Twitter that complained sci-fi had not always been political. Sci-fi has always been political! A lot of stories are, be they sci-fi or otherwise. They are vehicles for expression, and the biggest sci-fi genres will often explore political, social and cultural commentary. Star Trek is famous for doing this, Star Wars makes it abundantly clear that fascism should be opposed, and Doctor Who is filled with politics. The best sci-fi is very-much allegorical, and always has been.
The true objection, that some give voice to, and others don’t, is that sci-fi is too ‘woke’. Stuff like Star Trek, Doctor Who, and much more has had the audacity to represent a greater audience than just the heterosexual white male. The nerve of writers, producers and actors to include people who exist in their shows! The cruelty of acknowledging that women, people of colour, and the LGBT community exist is the real reason that some commentators deny sci-fi is political, and whine when it gets political. Storylines about the struggle of the transgender community, or even the presence of trans characters, are enough for these commentators to froth at the mouth. Some – like Nerdrotic (look him up on Twitter) – bitterly complain about the ‘MsheU’ (a play upon the MCU, or Marvel Cinematic Universe). The fact that the vast majority of films and shows have featured male leads, and usually white male leads, hasn’t stopped him from whining whenever a female character is front and centre. Just admit you’re a misogynist.
The morning of our trip to our luxury cabin, weather caused disruption to the final leg of our train trip. The UK rail network has always been vulnerable to the elements. If it gets too hot, rails start to warp. When it gets too cold, or during times of lots of rain, landslips can block lines or damage infrastructure. We fell victim to this, which led to a delay of an hour, but an hour is at least bearable. What had the potential to make life more interesting was the arrival – timely in some ways, being on the 1st of December – of snow.
I love to watch snow from within the confines of my warm home. I am less keen to travel in the stuff. Meerkats are not built for the cold, so snow is only welcome at a distance. Alas, if we were to reach our cabin, we’d have to brave the snow! To be fair, it was a light dusting, so hardly insurmountable.
Yeah, I have a Christmas jumper, and yes, it is Grinch-themed. It’s warm and snug, so I can’t complain! An extra layer of protection from the snow is very welcome!
Another moment of chaos, or to put it a better way, a potential moment of chaos, took place after we’d boarded our train at Waterloo. Having been forced to board an hour later than planned, we then learned that our train would split in half, about halfway into our journey. As is typical, we were in the wrong half! Nothing forewarned us as to this, and it would mean a scramble to move up the train, which is never fun with a suitcase, or indeed on any occasion.
I was starting to feel that the train gods, whilst not exactly smiting me, were not on my side with this trip. Still, I did snap this pretty sight at Waterloo:
Having stood for much of the journey, it was a blessed relief to put my feet up in our lodge!
The day after we arrived, I attempted the unwieldy activity of zorbing. It was a struggle to get into the thing, let alone do much else but I must admit, it was fun, of a raucous nature, especially the football!
I’m the one who wound up on my back, flailing like an idiot!
We also made a Christmas wreath, which I think turned out rather nice!
After a long but productive Saturday, the British weather played one of its timeless classics: rain. Unrelenting, torrential rain. It lashed down overnight, and with such sheer force that it kept me awake for what felt like forever. To top this up, it then briefly poured down again in the morning. I suppose the saving grace is that it wasn’t snow!
Sunday was somewhat more sedate. We took our daughter to make a cuddly toy, then watched the pantomime (which, given the limited budget, was quite good: Cinderella, if you were wondering), had a bite to eat, and settled into our cabin for a lazy evening, ahead of a long journey home on Monday. Industrial action meant the trains were fewer in number, and therefore busy, but at least I was able to grab a seat on the way back!
The weather was pretty rubbish. It drizzled with that horrible wet rain, and honestly, I’d have preferred snow. Still, it is what it is, and it couldn’t dampen my spirits!
Home Sweet Home
It’s nice to return home from a break, no matter how long. I enjoyed the cabin, and the ambience, even if the rain was annoying, but after four hours on trains (and this comes from someone who loves trains), it was a blessed relief to get back indoors, though not before we detoured to the new Burger King, where I over-indulged! Once home we moved to set up the Christmas Tree, and set up other Christmas decorations, and unwound after a hectic weekend!
Grand Theft Auto VI
I am by no means a fan or follower of the GTA series, which has attracted tremendous controversy down the years (as well as becoming a huge commercial and critical success story). That said, I thoroughly enjoyed one of Rockstar Studio’s other offerings (Red Dead Redemption 2), and I dare say I enjoyed elements of GTA IV and GTA V. One thing that I must confess to is that I have never completed a Grand Theft Auto game, and given how each game is progressively bigger than the next, I have no idea if I have any hope of completing GTA VI! One detail of note is that the latest instalment – hotly anticipated for many years – will have a female protagonist for the first time, and there have been plenty of rumours that the franchise will flip conventions on their heads. Whether this approach pays off remains to be seen, but for Rockstar it needs to, considering this is said to be a billion-dollar game.
It certainly looks the part. The trailer – viewed 48 million times in a matter of hours – shows off some absolutely gorgeous graphics, without giving much away as to the game’s story. By now, Rockstar are known for attention to detail (the realism of Red Dead Redemption 2, especially given it’s an older game by today’s standards, was remarkable), so it’s not surprising to see a vibrant, living environment, but the proof is in the pudding, which is to say that the gameplay will be where GTA VI lives or dies. It will be optimised for the latest PlayStation and X-Box consoles, meaning there’s no excuses not to have sophisticated, accurate physics engines, and other mechanics. Since the game has been in development for years, there is also an argument to make that it should be well-polished by the time of release, which is not until some point in 2025!
In the meantime, I present the trailer:
Chasing a Star
Recently, my step-daughter alerted me to a writing project that, if I successfully get to join it, could pave the way forward for at least one story I’m currently writing. Whether or not I get to join this project is up in the air, as I think it’s aimed at people in a more disadvantageous position than me, but it costs nothing to apply, and it could be a lot of fun! The biggest issue for me is that it would require time off work at what might be tricky times to get time off.
One thing that conservatives generally love to do is whip up hysteria. The latest bid to do precisely that comes from the Tories, and, and their efforts to demonise immigrants. Immigration has long-been a siren call to conservatives who thrive on an ‘us versus them’ culture. They present it as a pressing issue, as having the potential to cripple the nation, when in reality there are far more serious concerns. The cost-of-living crisis has nothing to do with immigration, but rather, unchecked greed, of which the Tories benefit from. The shortcomings of the NHS are the result of more than a decade of Tory austerity measures, which have seen to it that the poor have gotten poorer, whilst the rich have gotten richer. Crying about immigration is an effort to distract us from the reality of Tory failures. Unfortunately, it is an act that will appeal to the far-right, and to those too apathetic to realise what’s really going on.
Whilst all this is going on, the government is handing itself powers to snoop on peoples’ bank accounts on a whim. You just know this is a prelude to cutting benefits for people who are already desperate, all in the name of the economy, which is just another way of saying ‘let’s help our rich mates get richer, and damn the poor’.
Crazy Shrinking Bread
That’s my hand, and those are slices of wholemeal bread, of the Warburtons variety. I don’t expect a slice of bread to be bigger than my hand, not by any means, but this is pitiful. What are you playing at, Warburtons? I can pay less money for more actual bread, out of pretty much any supermarket!
Boris Johnson, disgraced former UK PM, has been in front of a enquiry into the Tory government’s woeful handling of the covid pandemic. It didn’t take very long for him to be exposed for the habitual liar that he is, and I remain appalled that as a nation, we believed he could be a good leader. His dishonesty and incompetence were known qualities, well before he became PM. His measly, insincere apologies for his failures should fool no one. He certainly does not fool me.
Without being able to go into too much detail, the other day I was left feeling quite annoyed. Why, you ask? Well, there was a task to do, a task that could have been done more quickly, if I’d had more assistance. There may be more to why I didn’t receive said assistance than meets the eye, but suffice to say, at the time, I was left feeling high and dry. The task in question was mundane but not difficult, and if two of us had done it, it would have been completed in half the time.
Saturday the 9th saw the work Christmas Do. This was a loooooooong evening. It began as soon as work finished, and it was spent exploring some of the sights of London’s Carnaby Street (along with the surrounding areas). It included a trip to a very particular cake shop, and then doubling back on ourselves to a pub at Canary Wharf. Along the way, I took quite a few pictures of London’s amazing Christmas lights, among other things!
After a chicken burger and a pint, it was time to return home, and after some lengthy spells on trains, I wound up getting home shortly after midnight. It’s been a while since I burned the candle at both ends, and the next day I felt absolutely shattered. Alas, I had work the next day, so no rest for the wicked!
There is a fascinating article over at the BBC, which relates to the UK’s famous Jurassic Coast. This neck of the woods – or rather, um, coast – stretches from Devon to a place I’ve been to recently, Dorset. It is being steadily eroded by natural forces, and the consequence of this is to reveal millions of years of geological history. This history includes the huge skull of a pliosaur, a marine reptile that lived some 150 million years ago.
You can see pictures of the skull over at the link, and it is a monstrous sight. The teeth alone are huge, and the skull itself is longer than most humans are tall. Some have dubbed the pliosaur the ‘T-Rex of the seas’, and it’s easy to see why! According to the BBC article, the pliosaur’s biting power was tremendous, more than twice what a crocodile is capable of.
What else is lurking within the cliffs and rocks of the Jurassic Coast, waiting to be found? It’s fascinating stuff.
By now, any of you who follow my blog will know I am prone to some strange dreams. The other night, something happened that was stranger than strange. I briefly took control of my dream! I knew I was dreaming, and I was able to direct proceedings, if only for a little while. In the dream, I was stood outside my parents’ house, and I was looking at a sequence of numbers on the back (not the licence plate, in case you were wondering, more like numbers on a little plaque). I remembered reading something about how if you look at numbers or writing in a dream, they will be different when you look at them again, and I decided to put this to the test. Sure enough, the numbers changed.
That was more or less it for the direct control, though I remember going into my parents’ home, and going upstairs, still sort of directing matters, though not as vividly as before. Beyond that, it all got a bit weird, and related to Doctor Who, including former companion Amy Pond and I walking into a wall, and me reading the titles of the next Doctor’s adventures, scrawled in chalk onto a brick wall. The only title I can remember was ‘The Best Bulldog Simulator’, which is complete madness, but that’s my dreams for ya!
Do you ever have a day from Hell? I did, yesterday. Some of it was self-inflicted, via playing FIFA 22, and getting annoyed at the game. Some of it was inflicted upon me, and that’s altogether a different story.
I had some errands to run, on behalf of my wife. I dutifully performed these errands, or at least tried to. They involved nothing more sophisticated than posting parcels. Easy right? Nope. They were heavier than I had expected, and I had to carry them to the local shop, in the pouring rain. I got to the shop, to be told that they had no space to store any more incoming parcels. Cue heading to another shop, a bit further away, and heading out of my way (for I had to collect my daughter from school). I got there, only for the barcode to fail to scan (in fact, it failed to load). By now, I was drenched, tired from lugging the parcels around, and utterly fed up with the entire affair.
Thankfully, work was around the corner, so I left the parcels in the store, and headed off to collect my daughter. We got an early dinner in town, and whilst there, my wife phoned me, to ask me to go back to the store, grab the parcels, and bring them home, so she could send them a different way. Cue once again going slightly out of my way, though at least by this point, the torrential rain had stopped.
Did I mention this was a day off? It didn’t feel like much of one. Still, it came to an end, and with that, so does this Muse. The next one will be right after Christmas, scheduled for the 27th, and will be the last Muse of 2023!