Wednesday, June 09, 2021

21 photos from the 2021 Grangetown Zoo

Last weekend it was the second community creative event called the Grangetown Zoo organised by the Grangetown Art Trail. The 2020 lockdown version was a lot of fun, and so we decided to take part again. Cathy made these amazing rhinos to sit in our window, and added an explanatory panel about rhinos as well. 

There were a lot of art activities happening in Grange Gardens and particularly in the new Pavilion. Unfortunately, we weren't able to catch those. However, we saw some very colourful snails in the Pavilion windows.

We also didn't make it to the craft activities in St. Paul's Church Hall, but we did take a picture of their giraffe, peeking over the churchyard railings.

Walking around Grangetown, some of the schools had really embraced the Grangetown Zoo concept. These murals at St Paul's Primary School were great. Giraffes were clearly a bit of a theme for places named after St Paul. 

Meanwhile Ninian Park Primary School filled their windows with a dazzling array of wildlife. I particularly liked the aquatic themed windows.

The school really went for broke on their giraffe though. I had to cross the road to take a photo! (Cathy for scale!)

A number of local businesses unleashed their creative side. (It hepled that they were open this year!) The lovely Honeycomb toy shop was transformed into a dragon's cave.

I especially liked the purple dragon. 

(We braved the dragons and went inside. We may have bought some things. Cough, cough.)

Opposite Honeycomb was this classy tiger in the window of Lufkin Coffee.

And local artist Anna Palamar had been asked to create a mural on the side of Bruton's Bakery on Clare Road. We have been big fans of Anna's for ages and it was serendipitous to find her adding a few finishing touches to the mural. She was persuaded to pose for a photo with me.

The attention to detail in the mural is superb. Good service etiquette too, with the badger using tongs to pick up pastries for their customer.

Meanwhile down near The Marl, the Channel View Leisure Centre was entertaining a giant whale and assorted fishy friends.

The real fun, like last year, was wandering around and finding animals in unexpected places, like behind gates on one of the lanes.

And the bit I enjoyed most was just seeing people's windows full of animals. Although, I struggled to take pictures of the aviary in Earl Street because the windows were too clean and reflected everything! Here's a parrot though.

And here's some more windows. From an aviary to an apiary saying Save Bees, another parrot and some penguins!

Even though we weren't able to take part in any of the activities due to other commitments, it was really enjoyable taking part by going out and finding animals. The creativity of our community really brightened up our weekend and for me, that's what the Grangetown Zoo should be all about!

Thursday, June 03, 2021

Unboxing Blood Bowl - the Second Season

A few years after it got rebooted, Blood Bowl has had a revamp. I didn't know that had happened, until I took advantages of the pandemic restrictions slowly lifting, to have a nose around one of my favourite shops for a nose around, Firestorm Games. There on a display were the new Blood Bowl items. I asked how much the Starter Set would cost, and discovered it was discounted. 

So, um, yeah...

I appreciate you might have questions. I have the starter set released in 2016. Did I really need this new one? Well, it came with the new Second Season rulebook, which costs over £25 on its own. It also came with two new teams, a Star Player for each team, a "Big Guy" for each team, and two referees. Plus all the dice and kit you need to play the game. It felt like good value, if I was going to get the rulebook anyway.

The first thing I saw when I opened the box was a pile of plastic sprues. Lovely, lovely plastic sprues, pregnant with possibilities. The clipping, the building, the glueing, the painting!

They are colour coded - the red sprues are the players for the Imperial Nobility team. They are all humans. Their backstory is that they are rich noblemen who want to play Blood Bowl, so they are kitted up ready to play, along with their retainers and bodyguards. Also on their side is an ogre, to give them a bit of muscle and protection. 

The dark green sprues are the Black Orc team, which is a mix of large orcs and goblins. They also have a troll on their side. The models are all new for this edition of Blood Bowl, apart from the ogre and the troll, which were released shortly after the previous edition of the game.

There's a blue sprue too, with referees; one elf, one dwarf.

The referees are biased and you can buy them off before the start of the game to help your team win!

Underneath the sprues is a sheet that prevents the pointy bits of the models from scratching the rest of the contents of the box. Underneath the sheet is the rulebook and the other bits needed for the game, including the bases for the players.

In with the rulebook are two "cheat sheets". These aren't actually about cheating, they are just reference guides to keep handy to remind you about the phases of the game and the rules that matter the most.

There is a set of dice for each team. The symbols mean different outcomes for when players try and tackle each other.

There are dug-outs to go next to the pitch, where spare players sit waiting for their chance to play and injured players are placed when removed from play.

Severely injured players go in the bit with a handy coffin ready, just in case they don't make it...

The game is backwards compatible to an extent. The teams from the previous edition can be used in the Second Season, which was a relief to my team of Skaven (who also have an ogre in their line up). Here's a picture of them from when I painted them last year.

With the two teams that came in the previous starter set, the two that came in this one, and the two extra ones I have acquired along the way, I now have enough teams to run my own league. I am looking forward to being actually able to meet up with my Blood Bowl buddy, Bryan, and play a few games. It could be a very bloody winter!

Tuesday, June 01, 2021

May 2021 End of Month review

Yes, it's my monthly review of the month just gone, which serves as a both an online journal and an announcement that I'm still alive. The pandemic seems to have abated somewhat and places are opening up. However, attending a football match is still off-limits in Wales (unless your team plays in the English system) so I wasn't able to go to Barry Town's final game of the season - the post-season play-off for a Europa League qualifying place.

This actually marked the first time where I really disagreed with the restrictions. 150 people were allowed in the Barry Town clubhouse to watch the game live on TV, but none of them were allowed to go outside and stand on the terraces to watch the game. I have been supportive of the rules restricting movement throughout the pandemic, but this just felt arbitrary and stupid. 

But anyway, that's enough about what I didn't do in May. What about the things I did do? Well, the month kicked off with an election. Here we are outside our local gorsaf bleidleisio, having voted. 

The election returned more than expected Labour Senedd Members, with enough to form a workable government. I blogged about the result here. There was a shift away from the more reactionary right wing parties, which either indicates a decline in popularity for that sort of politics, or that the Conservative Party has regained the support from that wing of society. (I think it's more the latter.) 

One additional aspect to the new Government is that there was a reshuffle in the cabinet and we have a new health minister. It's not yet apparent whether that will mean any changes in health policy, or knock-on effects for the NHS, but at least it means that things that have been on hiatus for ages can progress now. 

We also made the most of easing travel restrictions to visit family, including timing a visit to Shrewsbury to see my sister and family for the first time since Christmas 2019. My twin niece and nephew were 6 on the day we saw them - we hadn't seen them the entirety of the year they were 5!

Due to the changeable weather we had to shelter under some gazebos, but at least that meant we got a pic!

I also showed off some of me back garden football skillz in true 'cool uncle' style. 

No children were harmed in the displaying
of these skillz

The second time we went up, we actually stayed the night. It was the weekend when it would have been my dad's birthday on the Sunday. It was nice to be with mum and the rest of the family for most of that day. We also had a little walk out to a nearby pool, where we saw a gazillion tadpoles.

I have almost stopped reading anything during the pandemic, but I did finish one book in May. It's a very short collection of op-ed pieces by George Orwell.

As ever with Orwell's take on contemporary issues, there are several pithy comments, many of which resonated with me. I'm planning to get around to blogging some of them soon.

I'm still writing, though. This month marked the one year anniversary of my blogging project about baseball cards

In an exciting development I sampled McVitie's latest foray into different flavoured jaffa cakes. Personally I didn't like these as much as some of the flavours I tried earlier in the year. But I did like the purple-hued packaging.

And that wasn't the only exciting purchase I made. Right at the end of the month, Cathy and I called into the newly reopened Firestorm Games and I bought something I'm very excited about. But that's going to wait for a post all to itself!

Monday, May 24, 2021

Snack of the Month - Salty Sticks filled with Peanuts (& bonus snacks!)

This month's snack of the month is a contender for least exciting name for a snack, ever. Yes, it's "Salty Sticks filled with Peanuts".

This was another random snack discovered in Home Bargains. They are basically a pretzel-type stick with a smidgeon of peanut butter inserted in them. They look like this when served. 

The filling is minimal.

Despite being very thinly spread, the filling gives the pretzel sticks a nice peanutty taste. However, they're not very exciting, and unlike Ding Dong or Bamba Puffs, I probably wouldn't bother buying them again. 

Speaking of Ding Dong, Cathy went for a foray into town and came home with an array of Ding Dong that has kept me going while watching late night baseball games recently. 

I haz all the Ding Dong!

In addition to a regular 'Mixed Nuts' bag, there were Hot & Spicy flavour, Garlic flavour, and a 'Snack Mix' that contained crispy little curls and other crunchy bits. That latter one was a very nice snack. The Hot & Spicy was less hot or spicy than I expected and didn't taste much different to regular Ding Dong, and I haven't tried the garlic one yet.

We have recently had a relaxation in lockdown rules, and that's meant we have been able to visit a few friends and sit outside with them. When we visited Matt and Lauren in their new home (well, on their new patio), Matt was keen to show me their Snack Crates, which are mystery boxes of snacks from different countries that arrive in a very nicely packaged box that even includes a link to a curated Spotify playlist from that country. 

They had a box from Brazil and Sweden on the go. Here's the Brazil box, with Matt doing his best 'showcase the snack crate' smile.

The contents of the Swedish snack crate seemed to have been picked to amuse puerile anglophone snackers.

I'm sure everyone would like to eat some skum, munch on some kex, and chow down on plopp. And the people who selected the snacks for that crate weren't sniggering as they put it together. 

One of the snacks in the Brazil crate was another peanut-based snack. There were two in the crate, so Matt and Lauren said I was welcome to take one for blog review purposes!

Pacoquita is like a crumbly block of peanut butter with a bit of sugar mixed in. It crumbles like a butter tablet or very dry fudge. It was very nice, but I wouldn't be able to eat a lot of it because it was very rich. 

That's it for now. Stay tuned for another snack of the month next month.

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Wisdom from Firefly: losing and being right

I was sure I had blogged about this in the dim and distant past of this blog, but I couldn't find it anywhere when I was compiling posts for my page of cultural posts. So here we go...

Firefly was a short-lived TV show that has garnered almost legendary status among fans of TV science fiction series. It was cancelled midway through its first season, however the fan community has kept it going and there have been comics and board games and similar related media over the last 15 years or so. (Including action figures...)

Yes, I own this...

The set-up of Firefly is very much 'Wild West in space'. Humans fleeing a dying planet Earth have colonised several planets in a cluster of solar systems that makes interplanetary travel possible. Several of the planets are arranged in an Alliance, which favours the interests of the more populous and prosperous planets. However, some of the less well-off planets reject the control-grabs of the Alliance and ultimately this leads to a "War of Unification" between the Alliance and the Independent Planets, which the Alliance wins, setting up an authoritarian government and trying to impose laws on the newly "unified" planets.

Some of the main characters in Firefly fought for the Independent Planets. The soldiers wore long brown overcoats and were known as 'Browncoats' as a result. Malcolm Reynolds, known as Mal, is the captain of Serenity, a Firefly-class spaceship. He was a Browncoat and still wears his military coat on a day-to-day basis in his post-war career of transporting goods between planets (sometimes illegally).

At one point Mal is questioned about some shady dealings by a hostile Alliance Officer who asks him how it feels to have been on the wrong side in the war. Mal looks him squarely and says:

"May have been the losing side. Still not convinced it was the wrong one."

I've thought about that phrase a lot over the last few years. It particularly resonates when I think about the EU referendum and the subsequent chaos that has followed. I am still convinced that leaving the EU was an utterly terrible idea, for so many reasons, and I am convinced that a great many people were manipulated into voting to leave the EU by individuals who stood to gain from Brexit and were determined to do anything to get that result. 

I find the idea of accepting loss while still holding onto principles and beliefs is very encouraging. It's a good way of responding to setbacks. Losing doesn't mean we were wrong. 

We are already witnessing how Brexit is turning into precisely the damaging outcome that was routinely dismissed as fear-mongering during the campaign, and we are less than six months out of the EU. There is a lot more to come. I have a feeling I will be thinking of Mal Reynolds' reply quite a bit over the next few years.  

Monday, May 10, 2021

End of a football season that never really started for me

Yesterday, Shrewsbury Town played their last game of their Football League One season. I have felt increasingly disconnected from football over the course of the season. It's an equivalent conundrum to the old philosophical question about trees - if two teams play football and nobody's watching, then does the result still matter?

Fenced off from football

Shrewsbury finished in 17th, a slot they inhabited for most of the season after climbing out of the relegation zone under their new manager, Steve Cotterill. They maintained that position while the manager was in hospital recovering from Covid-19, including a stint in intensive care. So it has been a difficult season, with very few positives. They reached the third round of the FA Cup, and so I watched their game on BT Sport. But the rest of the season has passed by without me really noticing. 

The one occasion I really felt a pang of missing out was back in February, when I couldn't go on my annual trip to watch Shrewsbury play Bristol Rovers. I blogged about it at the time. I felt that pang again this past weekend, when I realised that Barry Town were playing TNS in Oswestry on the Saturday and then Shrewsbury were away at near neighbours Crewe Alexandra on the Sunday. In pre-Covid times, that would have been a perfect double-header weekend for me.

The initial cancellation of the season and early days of the UK lockdown back in 2020 meant several of my plans to watch football matches got nixed. I had planned to go up to Sunderland to watch Shrewsbury play in the Stadium of Light for the first time in April 2020, but that game never happened due to Covid. This season's match was restricted too. If Sunderland win the play-offs and go up to the Championship at the end of the season, then my chance to see Shrewsbury play them in the league will probably disappear with them. (Similarly, Bristol Rovers got relegated, so no February trip to that game next year either.)

The Euro 2020 games last summer got postponed. I had a ticket for a game at Wembley and for a first ever trip to Hampden Park, but have since cashed those tickets in for refunds. The games are likely to go ahead with very reduced capacity this summer and other people who held on to their tickets are now being told they can't go. 

The other summer event that I missed was Barry Town's trip to the Faroe Islands for a Europa League game. I would have loved to have gone on that away trip, and I would have probably taken my Mum with the hope we could connect with some of my Grandma's family. We went to the Faroes as a family when I was 12 and I have always wanted to go back. 

Obviously the Euro 2020 games and the trip to the Faroes would have been quite big events. But I feel equally sad at missing out on trips to the Memorial Stadium and end-of-season double-headers of meaningless games. 

It has been over 14 months since I last went to a football match and this is the first season where I have not been to a single game since I started chronicling my football matches in 1992. I miss it sometimes, and I'm not really convinced that the season has happened at all. 

Sunday, May 09, 2021

Senedd 2021 post-election review

Well the election took place last Thursday. Most of the results came in on Friday and the final couple of regional lists were counted on Saturday. We had one more leaflet arrive after I published my review last week. It was from Labour and took them into the outright lead in terms of literature. 

The updated graph looks like this now:

For the first time in my chronicles of election bumf there were more leaflets from "other parties" combined than from the main contenders. That included the Abolish the Welsh Assembly Party who were trying to become main contenders. 

There was an uptick in leaflets from all the main parties compared to the 2019 General Election when it feels like nobody was really trying. UKIP reappeared on the radar this time, although that might well be a 'dead cat bounce'. In fact, that is one of the most interesting aspects of this Senedd Election - the absolute failure of the right wing parties to score seats.

In 2016, UKIP gained 7 seats, mainly off the regional lists. The EU referendum was the big thing that year, with a month to go. However, since then those 7 Senedd members have fallen out with each other multiple times, sitting as 'Independents' or representing other parties. Hence why there were sitting MSs from Abolish the Assembly and the Brexit Party when the Senedd dissolved for this election.

The funniest comment I saw on Twitter about the right wing collapse was that Abolish the Assembly wanted to get rid of Welsh democracy, and then Welsh democracy turned around and voted to get rid of Abolish the Assembly. They claim they will be back but it's hard to imagine them surviving five years without a base in the Senedd. Meanwhile UKIP did incredibly poorly, and Reform UK, which was the Brexit Party two years ago, similarly made little impact.

UKIP, Reform UK and, to an extent, Abolish, were all pushing the same main policy point - get rid of the Welsh Parliament. But the original primary reasons that drew people to UKIP and Reform UK, the push for Brexit, have been robbed from them by the Conservatives. If people aren't happy with devolution and Wales governing itself within the current limits established by Westminster, then the Welsh Conservative Party are firmly Unionist and the natural home for the regressive right given their current stance on immigration, the EU, foreign affairs, and London calling the shots in the United Kingdom. 

Certainly, I would interpret the rise in seats for the Conservatives as hollowing out the hard right wing party vote, and combined with the infighting and rebranding and, let's be honest, toxic personalities involved in those hard right parties, those Conservatie policy shifts were enough to capture the voters they had previously bled to the right. 

So will any of these parties be sending me bumf in the next election? I wouldn't bet on it. But who knows? The regularity of elections these days mean we are probably due a General Election soon enough. We will definitely be getting one in 2024. The next Senedd election will be in 2026 unless something totally unexpected happens. 

Meanwhile, a wad of leaflets are going in my recycling bin tonight!

Wednesday, May 05, 2021

Mundane markers of pandemic life

Mundane marker 1. I emptied the car of rubbish a short while back. It's amazing what accumulates. I chucked four empty bottles of hand sanitizer in the recycling.

Mundane marker 2. Anyone who knew my Dad well knew that he loved camels. Several years back Cathy and I bought a giant brass camel for him. This huge humpbacked critter lived in the big window of the front room of their house for several years, and has now moved with my Mum to her new house. You can always find room for a large decorative camel!

On a recent flying visit to see family I had to pop indoors to use the loo. On my way through the hall I saw the camel was no longer just for decoration. He's got a job guarding my Mum's face masks by the front door!

These are the artifacts of living through a global pandemic. My car detritus is now empty santizer bottles. Camels are now convenient places to hang face masks. These are silly ways that life has changed.

Tuesday, May 04, 2021

Star Wars Day 2021 - disturbed by the Force

When Star Wars was first released (as Star Wars - the A New Hope title came later), it was a standalone movie. It's well known that George Lucas bothered heavily from storytelling theory and other sucessful movies to craft a self-contained story about a hero plucked from obscurity to rescue a damsel in distress, aided by a magical mentor and two bumbling servants, to triumph against all the odds over the forces of evil. 

In that sense, Star Wars is a perfect film. With ground-breaking special effects and enough fantastical aspects to the plot to keep things interesting, the movie was a massive success. That meant there was a hunger for more Star Wars stories and soon comic books, novels and a now-legendary Holiday Special filled the gaps until the first official sequel movie came out. 

One problem this has caused is the development of a lot of extra material. Sometimes known as 'lore', the extra details found in the books and comics, like the make and model of the spaceship the heroes travel in, and new characters introduced add to the complexity. In addition to the three movies of the "Original Trilogy" were some cartoon series and two spin-off movies featuring the Ewoks who were the cutesy, gutsy additions to the Star Wars universe in Return of the Jedi. These extra creations are now available on Disney Plus. 

Every so often new movies have come out and these have caused problems with various aspects of the 'lore' so that leads discussions about what events and people are 'canon' or not. When Disney bought the rights to Star Wars they ruled that the timeline that had been established after Return of the Jedi was now non-canon, and rebranded it as 'Legends'. They have subsequently relocated established characters, like Grand Admiral Thrawn, in the 'canon'  as characters in TV series.

Some of the books that I really enjoyed reading, like the X-Wing series by Michael A Stackpole, and the stories found in the comic books like Dark Empire, are now in the grey zone of Star Wars Legends, rather than being canon. I have mixed feelings about this. In one respect it doesn't matter. However, it does mean I don't take anything for granted. There are rumours that the most recent sequels are going to get rebooted soon.

But, I have started to grow ambivalent about Star Wars. It stems from working my way through the canon, particularly watching the Clone Wars cartoon series. There are lots of unanswered questions in that series, set 20 years or so before the events of A New Hope, revolving around the Jedi, their role in the Star Wars universe, and whether they are the righteous warriors I was led to believe.

One of the questions I have regarding the Clone Wars, is why are the Jedi automatically generals? Who decided they were equipped to lead? Generally speaking they are terrible at it. Huge numbers of clone troopers die in almost every episode. Too many decisions are made in defiance of orders, which in turn seem to be made for the sake of being made. 

The Jedi are committed to saving the Galactic Republic. So that leads to a deeper question - was the Republic worth saving? Presumably it is meant to be a good thing, but it's a huge bureaucracy and the taxation levels must have been off the charts. The Separatist mistake was having an army of conquest. They would have been better off using their army to protect worlds that joined them and enforce trade routes and so on, because these seem to be the main issues in the Star Wars glaaxy.

Which leads to another question, why are all these planets dependent on outside trade anyway? Planet after planet is under threat during the Clone Wars from blockades. The people of the Republic are routinely shown to be running out of food and medical supplies, and dependent on the hero Jedis turning up and rescuing them. How can people live on these planets without having their own means of production? Presumably at some point each planet was reasonably self-sufficient.

Most of this could just be explained as bad storytelling. But it's the wider arc of the story that has the biggest problems. Specifically, are the Jedi good? Many of the defining features of the Jedi focus on their deliberate attempt to be detached and emotionless. That's a fairly common element in the Clone Wars cartoon series. They are supposed to be peacekeepers and protectors but almost gleefully accepted their roles as generals in the army of the Republic. We never see a big debate about this, or a schism between Jedis who don't see their role as warriors.

I'm not the only person who has started to question the character of the Jedi as presented in the Star Wars films. In this article, 'Hang the Jedi', Jay Allen points out something quite chilling about the introduction of the Jedi in Star Wars.
The first time we ever see the power of the "light side" of the Force is to psychically dominate a security guard. The first time we see a lightsaber in use, it's to maim someone in a bar brawl. It's the "elegant weapon" of a man so feared that his battle cry sends the local people scattering.

Small wonder, given that his apprentice slaughtered those same people indiscriminately and without repercussion.

This man, Obi-Wan Kenobi, pines for a time when he and his brothers roamed the galaxy, meting out their unaccountable rulings as emotionless judges and executioners— when not using their powers to cheat at dice.
That post goes on to point out that the Jedi don't do anything to challenge slavery because it would be 'interfering', or to challenge the domination of sentient machines by organic beings (which is one of the most interesting subplots in the recent film, Solo). There is a good discussion to be had about exactly why the galactic population appears to be illiterate and there is no functioning media. Whose interests does that serve? Why aren't the Jedi champions of education? 

As an aside - there is a school scene in the recent series The Mandalorian and it would appear that schooling is something that has been reintroduced for children following the Galactic Civil War.

Another aspect of the original Star Wars film that deserves a second look is something that is written in a slightly tongue-in-cheek way in this article: The radicalization of Luke Skywalker. There are some good points made in there - particularly about Obi Wan Kenobi telling a version of the truth about his father that is later revealed to be a lie. Kenobi doesn't tell Luke everything he needs to know about the Force, and neither does Yoda, which later in Luke's life and the Star Wars Saga has disastrous consequences when Luke tries to train his nephew as a Jedi. 

So, where does this leave me, as a long term fan of Star Wars? It was a story that brought me hope through wonder when I was a dislocated seven year old, a film that seemed to be imbued with deeper, more spiritual meaning, and ultimately being Star-Wars-without-the-Force was one of the many, many things I found defective about the film Rogue One.

Maybe I've gotten older and more sceptical. I'm not taking as much on faith these days. It seems sensible to question the motivations of those who claim some kind of leadership role, which they might not be suited for, and who claim some kind of deeper knowledge, that comes with its own dark side of deception and desire for power. 

Or maybe I haven't grown up, and I can write a lengthy blog post analysing areas of doubt in something as if it were real and important, because to me it is real and important; it's a certain point of view.

Monday, May 03, 2021

April 2021 End of Month Review

And another month of 2021 has passed. I had a conversation recently with a friend who said that the days feel long but the weeks are flying by. It does feel like that.

April is always one of my favourite months because it has my birthday at the beginning. This year my birthday was on Good Friday so I had the day off work and a long bank holiday weekend to follow it. There are some birthday traditions in our house. We had pancakes for breakfast and I had to wear the birthday crown.

I've blogged about how I spent my birthday building a big Lego model with Cathy

I also got a second big Lego model as a present - everybody say hello to Grogu (Baby Yoda) from The Mandalorian. It was an interesting build. His ears are adjustable so they can look droopy and sad.

The beginning of the month was also the start of the baseball season. I joined in the #OpeningDay selfie fun on Twitter, wearing my retro 1984 Padres World Series shirt and also the Slam Diego t-shirt that commemorated the Padres brief run of Grand Slams last season.

On the subject of baseball, I was also a guest on the Tea & Topps podcast, talking about my collection of Tony Gwynn cards, among other things. If you want to watch and listen then you can do so here.

Ahead of that podcast recording I was asked to create a baseball card of myself they could use in promotional posts. This was the result.

Meanwhile the pandemic restrictions are slowly easing. This meant that we were able to go to Shrewsbury and see my family for the first time since September. My brother's family has grown with the addition of two new children and I met my new niece and nephew for the first time. They are 4 and 3, and both really lovely. 

I also got to play some back garden football with my oldest nephew. He says his favourite player is Harry Kane. He likes to thwack the ball straight at his hapless uncle more than he likes scoring past him. 

We have also been able to meet up with friends, including visiting the back garden of some friends who have moved into a new house, and sitting on the patio of other friends watching their twins being fed dinner. It has felt nice to actually see people, even if meeting up is still a bit weird and stilted. 

Another part of pandemic life is getting vaccinated. I got jabbed in March. Cathy got jabbed in April, with a short-notice invitation. Unlike me, she didn't get to go to Jabs'R'Us down the Bay. Instead we went to Splott.

Scandalously, when she came back to the car after getting jabbed she showed me she had been GIVEN A STICKER! I never got offered a sticker! I was fuming, and pouted all the way home. 

And finally, our addition to our managerie of adopted animals this month was a Painted Dog who lives in the West Midland Safari Park. I'm going to do a blog post about the menagerie at some point. It's filling up with some cute animals. 

So that was April. Roll on May!