Sunday, December 31, 2023

Football recap - December 2023 and the rest of 2023!

I made it to just one game in December, on the very first day...

Game 32: Notts County 2-3 Shrewsbury Town

Reason for going: When Shrewsbury were drawn away at Notts County in the FA Cup, my Nott-supporting friend Paul said we had to go! So we did. 

Point of interest: Ryan Bowman scored a hat-trick after three woeful defensive errors that became memes for how bad they were. The first goal came after a Notts defender just fell over instead of clearing the ball. It was very hard to cheer the goal because I was laughing so hard. 

And then the fixtures conspired against me for the rest of the month. On Saturday the 9th I was working. Barry Town's home game on the 16th got swapped for an away game. I was driving up to Shrewsbury on the 23rd but getting there in time for Shrewsbury's home game was a bit too much, logistically. Shrewsbury weren't playing at home on Boxing Day. And then on the last Saturday of the year I had other plans. So, that means December 2023 is a one game month!

Despite the low tally of games for December, 2023 as a whole calendar year has actually set a new record for me. I went to 62 games since my first game of the year on the 2nd January at Llantwit Major. 

Futbology has given me a handy summary

Futbology also produces a map showing all the new grounds I visited in 2023. There were a lot in Port Talbot, but I got a decent spread of football grounds across England as well.

As I am the kind of nerd who dissects his football attendance data, I have a breakdown of the games I have been to as monthly totals. This past year I set new monthly records for February (8 games), May (6), July (7) and September (5). I also equalled previous records in March and November (both 5 games). 

If I equalled all the monthly records in 2024 I would end up going to 76 games. That feels like a lot!

Wednesday, December 13, 2023

The unexpected return of Red Laser

My latest action figure acquisition is a brand new G.I. Joe figure issued in the Super 7 Reaction range of... Red Laser. 

But this is no ordinary member of Cobra, the villainous terrorist organisation locked in conflict with the G.I. Joe heroes. Because Red Laser was never a member of Cobra. 

Red Laser first appeared as a character in the British Action Force toyline produced by Palitoy from 1982 to 1985. He was the technical genius working for the evil Baron Ironblood who, in the British storyline, functioned as the overall commander of the forces known only as the Enemy. 

Baron Ironblood gets name-checked in the data file on the back of the card...

So what is going here? Why has this character been released as a G.I. Joe figure some 40 years later?

Well, back in the early 80s, Palitoy became a subsidiary of Hasbro. In addition to figures, vehicles and playsets designed in the UK, it also had access to Hasbro's production lines in other parts of the world. 

Several G.I Joe vehicles and accessories ended up in different livery as Action Force vehicles. Some swapped sides - the Cobra FANG helicopter became an SAS attack helicopter, for example. Other vehicles received a slight tweak. 

And some of those vehicles came with fully articulated figures. Most Action Force figures came with straight arms and legs. G.I. Joe figures had knee and elbow joints along with twisting waists. The Action Force articulated figures were some of those G.I. Joe figures produced in different coloured plastic. 

As you can imagine, when people started collecting G.I. Joe figures, American collectors were suddenly very interested in these weird yet familiar looking characters that had been sold in the UK and Europe. Red Laser, in particular, was a red version of the Cobra Commander figure. Original Red Laser figures are now quite pricey!

The original Action Force figures and vehicles that Palitoy developed were unceremoniously dumped in 1985 with "Action Force" becoming the European name for G.I. Joe and the full range of G.I. Joe characters replacing the British-designed figures. The Enemy was replaced by Cobra and Baron Ironblood disappeared - although there was a story in the Action Force comic strip that Ironblood reinvented himself as Cobra Commander.

Hasbro has given a couple of nods to the original British toy line in recent years but this is the first time any of those characters have been released outside conventions and other exclusives.

The Super 7 toy company produces a number of "retro style" action figures under its Reaction brand. Recently Super 7 have been licensing toy lines from several different places. I'm not sure what their relationship is with Hasbro but they have acquired the rights to create some retro looking figures based on established G.I. Joe characters.

And, technically, Hasbro own the rights to all the old Action Force characters as well. In a delicious recreating of the past, Super 7 has used a different colour plastic in its mould for their Cobra Commander figure!

And in a twist, this time Red Laser is as straight-armed and straight-legged as many of the original Action Force figures he fought alongside and against. 

And who knows? Maybe Red Laser's unexpected return could even herald the return of the evil Baron Ironblood himself one day!

Monday, December 04, 2023

Chrimbo Snack of the Month - Christmas pudding crisps

I really wanted to like these... I mean, I like Christmas pudding and I like crisps. So...

Here's the rationale behind the crisps.

And if you want to know what's in "Christmas Pudding Flavour", here you go.

They look like normal crisps.

Close up of the flavouring.

Conclusion: Well, I wanted to try them for the blog and at least I got a Snack of the Month post out of it. But they won't become of my yuletide traditions unfortunately.

Sunday, December 03, 2023

Football recap - November 2023

A short round up of November's games... 

Game 27: Caldicot Town 0-0 Tredegar Town (Caldicot won 5-3 on penalties)

Reason for going: My friend Ben was playing for Caldicot and my friend Steve who also knows Ben was free to come with me. So off we went.

Point of interest: I had a run of 30 games without seeing a nil-nil until this game. Strangely the previous nil-nil was also with Steve and also went to penalties. This was the fourth penalty shoot out I've seen this season. (And Ben scored his penalty, which was fun to see.)

Ben waves hello

Game 28: Barry Town 1-0 Guilsfield

Reason for going: To support Barry. (Although this was the first time I'd seen them for about a month.)

Point of interest: This was apparently the 150th Welsh Cup tie played at Jenner Park. An extraordinary stat, really.

Game 29: Caernarfon Town 2-3 Barry Town

Reason for going: Caernarfon was one of the few remaining Cymru Premier grounds I hadn't seen a game at, so this was on my "hit list" at the start of the season.

Point of interest: I made my debut as a co-commentator on Bro Radio for this game, after answering a call out by Daley Chapman for whether anyone was going to the game. It was tremendous fun. We got a great view from the commentary position as well.

Game 30: Shrewsbury Town 2-1 Port Vale

Reason for going: we were on our way home from a week in North Wales, so this fitted into our travel plans nicely and I got to go with my brother and eldest nephew.

Point of interest: there was a sad memorial before the game for four local teenagers who died in a car accident the previous weekend. The 1,600 Port Vale fans in the sold out away end all joined in with the minute's applause. 

Game 31: Barry Town 1-1 Penybont

Reason for going: There wasn't a particular reason. It was a Barry home game and I tend to go to them even on cold Tuesday evenings in November!

Point of interest: Barry were wearing their special charity festive kit featuring a penguin and a reindeer. The kit is majority black and Penybont were playing in a mainly white kit. I don't think I've ever seen a black kit v white kit game before. 

And that's the five games for November, which equals my personal record for November games.

Saturday, December 02, 2023

Recap of the month - November 2023

My November started with a weekend in Newport on the "Type 1 Family Weekender", which is a special weekend hosted by Diabetes UK for families with a child with type 1 diabetes. All the groups were named after woodland animals, and my group - the kids aged 8 & 9 - were known as the bears.

One of their first activities was to design a mascot for the team. We couldn't settle on the name Billy or Bob for our bear, so he ended up as Billy-Bob. 

You might notice Billy-Bob has an insulin pump and is holding his own teddy bear mascot. 

I had a great time on the weekend. The outdoor activities were a bit wet but huge fun and the indoor laser tag was probably the most exercise I've had all year. (It's a low bar, to be honest.)

At the risk of this recap being too work-focussed, I'm also going to mention World Diabetes Day on the 14th November.  I was invited by the Diabetes UK Cymru team to a special event at the Senedd, which included a tour of the Senedd building for the young people from Wales involved in the programme I work with, Together Type 1. 

I liked these maps in the Senedd building that show the topography and electoral boundaries in Wales. 

My friend Sara joined us for the tour so we had a selfie opportunity. You can see me branded up in my Together Type 1 hoodie.

I also snuck in when the young people had a photo with Eluned Morgan, the Welsh Government Health Minister. I'm the old guy looking old next to all the young 'uns. 

Shortly after World Diabetes Day Cathy and I had a week away in North Wales. I've already blogged about it. It was a great relaxing break and we had a lot of fun dodging the rain and eating unseasonal ice creams. 

And then to round off the month, I went to my first Christmas celebration of the season - with the very friendly Cwmbach Diabetes Group. I wore my Christmas jumper and had to have yet another photo with Sara. You can see I'm wearing my paper crown from the cracker, which makes me look even balder than usual. 

And as that officially kicks off the Christmas season for me, here's to a festive December. Hopefully we will close out the year on a high.