Tuesday, July 25, 2023

The Double Bust Snack of the Month post

It had to happen eventually. Usually if I have a disappointing Snack of the Month I follow it up with a hit. And over the course of the past two and a bit years there have been more hits than misses. But this month the balance is redressed a bit because I struck out twice with snacks that promised much but ended up tasting like yack. 

First up, Insane Grain knobbly sticks. I probably made the mistake as they had a number of flavours but I was intrigued by truffle and cheese flavour.

This made a claim about being over half the fat of other snacks. A claim that carried over onto the back.

These were still one fifth fat so, yeah, mildly healthier.

They had an odd pale look.

And a truly bizarre smell that I can only really describe as the smell you get when you've put some mushroom peelings in the food waste bin and then it's sat there in warm weather for a bit, and then you get a waft of warm, mushroomy pre-compost next time you open the bin. They smelled like that.

And they tasted the way they smelled. I ate two or three and then decided the food waste bin was the ideal location for the rest.

After that disappointment, I had high hopes for the next snack. 

I mean, how could a cartoon crocodile like that be on an inferior snack? 

And the snack looked great - proper crocodile shapes, almost all of which had retained their shape integrity during transit.

However, consistency-wise these were odd, dissolving into mush almost as soon as I put them in my mouth. And the tomato ketchup flavour was quite nasty. They were sweet but not in the good way that some crisps manage to pull off. They were that odd sweetness you get from really cheap ketchup in a greasy spoon cafe. 

I can't recommend either snack - so I'm hoping this post can at least act as a warning to others! You have been warned!

Monday, July 10, 2023

Niche socialist marketing

I recently saw this fly poster on some street furniture and it struck me as so bizarre it must be a genuine attempt at political marketing.

Socialist Appeal is a group that was part of the Militant group in Labour but now operates separately as the Labour Party tries to distance itself from anything called socialist. It would appear Socialist Appeal are trying to appeal to a certain type of socialist. People who are happy to describe themselves as communists. 

There aren't many actual communists around these days. Among my friends I know one avowed communist - a guy I've known since my schooldays who is a card-carrying member of one of the communist parties. (He even cheerfully describes himself as a Stalinist.) 

Trying to appeal to communists specifically seems like a very narrow focus for targeted advertising. I can't imagine many people look at that and think 'Yes, I do happen to be a communist, actually. This must be an important message for me."

And then what is the message for the minute fraction of the population who would say yes when asked if they were a communist? Well it's simple - Get organised!

I can think of lots of revolutionary slogans: "Rise up!" "Cast off your shackles!" "Choose your side!" "Fight the power!" "Codiwch Cymru!"

"Get organised!" is, um, well, laughably condescending. "You need to get organised!" sounds like the sort of thing an exasperated mum would say to a sloppy teenager who proudly packs his own case for the school activity week and forgets to include any underwear. 

It wouldn't inspire me to join the movement even if I was a communist reflecting on my level of organisation and admitting it was lacking. 

So, overall, as a recruitment message, I don't think this is effective. It's guerrilla mass advertising aimed at a very narrow target audience. And the message is uninspiring even if it manages to reach those people. 

I don't think the capitalists have much to fear from this. Which might not be a surprise. After all, capitalists tend to be better at marketing.

Sunday, July 09, 2023

Bastille at the Castle

First gig of 2023 for us this weekend. Bastille were heading a day of music organised by The Depot in the grounds of Cardiff Castle. 

We hadn't been to a gig there before. Probably one of the coolest entrances to a venue I've been through.

There was a full afternoon of performers lined up. The only other set we bothered with was by Example. I enjoyed it. He brought plenty of energy to his set and really knew how to get the crowd going. Although his comments about the castle being a medieval fortress were hysterically historically inaccurate.

However, Bastille were the main reason we went and they didn't disappoint. A good mix of tracks off their albums and some covers thrown in too. Everyone joined in with 'No Scrubs' as if it was one of their songs.

We had a reasonable, fairly central view. Photos at gigs are always a bit crap. But at least they're colourful.

Being in the castle meant we had a good view of the old keep as the sun went down. It was to our left as we faced the stage.

And during the last song they let off a hunch of fireworks over the keep. Cathy got a spectacular photo that looks like a painting.

Genuinely #nofilter

A problem with the location of the fireworks was almost everyone turned to look at the keep, meaning the crowd wasn't focused on the song. It didn't feel very well thought out.

We were lucky with the weather because it threatened to rain all afternoon and evening but didn't quite manage it. If it had rained it would have quickly become a mud bath. 

Leaving was stressful too. Ancient fortresses (even pretend ones) don't have big wide gates to let people out. As the crowd funnelled out of the exit a crush developed that was unpleasant and could have turned into a situation. There is a real safety issue there.

Overall, I'd rate the gig worth going to for the performance, but I would think twice about going to another gig at the castle. It would have to be someone I really wanted to see.

Friday, July 07, 2023

Wythnos yn yr Gogledd, Mehefin 2023

With a week of leave to take before the end of my notice period, we booked an apartment in Felinheli on the coast of the Menai Strait. It had a view of the Strait and Anglesey and was an ideal base for exploring new places and revisiting some favourite spots.

Fave places like Dinas Dinlle just south of Caernarfon. This is such a lovely beach with incredible pebbles and lovely sand which is ideal for sandcastles. 

We were very blessed to be joined for some of the week with our friend Ella. She contributed to the sandcastle building exploits. 

We had a sandcastle building contest one night. Neither of them could withstand the incoming tide, however. (We stayed on the beach right into the depths of the midsummer evening. That's the beauty of holidaying in June!)

Next to the beach is a restaurant called Braf. I had pancakes for breakfast there. 

And Cathy spotted a great reminder of home on the wall. Almost literally. That scene is two streets away!

We had been to Beaumaris before but we hadn't done the cruise around Puffin Island. The name is apparently a misnomer as it is sans puffins for most of the year. We saw some swimming in the water though!

One bonus about having Ella with us was getting to do all the cheesy tourist things because she hadn't done them before. 

Things like going to the Smallest House in Conwy...

And posing for photos with the station sign at Llanfair­pwllgwyngyll­gogery­chwyrn­drobwll­llan­tysilio­gogo­goch...

And paying our respects by being suitably mournful at Gelert's Grave in Beddgelert before buying ice creams from the Glaslyn ice cream shop...

And not seeing Yr Wyddfa because it was hiding in the clouds...

And posing with a steam train...

And visiting lots of castles!!

That's me waving at the very top!

(There's one genuine castell Cymreig in those photos!)

The day after Ella had to (sadly) go home, Cathy and I went back to Anglesey and visited Newborough beach for the first time. It was incredible. 

I'm already looking forward to going back there next time we have a week in the North!

Monday, July 03, 2023

Recap of the month - June 2023

We are halfway through the year now and I had my first football-free month. Well, not entirely. I started collecting some football stickers to make up for not going to games. 

Speaking of collecting, I had my annual trip to Swindon to the 'Swinpex' stamp show. The organisation I belong to has it's AGM there each year. This year the guest presenter was Les Ashton-Smith, who presented on 'philatelic firsts' - stamps that were pioneering in some way, usually through the use of odd materials.

One of the weird materials used to make a stamp was fish skin, used by the Faroe Islands. Naturally, the country of origin grabbed my attention as that's where my Grandma came from and I've always felt an ancestral affinity with it. 

I reached the midway point of my notice period in June. I also took an opportunity to attend the NHS Wales Diabetes Showcase, to reacquaint myself with former colleagues in the work of Diabetes before starting my new job with Diabetes UK. I was very humbled by the warmth of the welcome I received - including some unexpected hugs. It was great to connect with some longstanding partners in disruption!

I also had some accrued leave to take before I finally exit my current employer. We spent a week up in North Cymru, staying in Felinheli, halfway between Caernarfon and Bangor. A proper blog post will follow, but for now, here are a couple of pics of castles. 

These castles have stood for centuries....

However, we stayed on the beach late and watched the ones we built get consumed by the tide!