Saturday, May 11, 2024

Snack of the Month - purple sweet potato chips

Another find in the world foods aisle in Asda. I was intrigued by these Malaysian-made potato chips in a can. Not least, by their self-defeating "No Brand" brand name.

Made in Malaysia. Imported by Korea Foods. A real pan-Asian experience just getting them into the shop.

On opening, it's apparent a good chunk of the tube was used for shipping air halfway across the globe.

They are very purple. Very. 


Size-wise, they are a bit smaller than a Pringle. They're also much sweeter than I anticipated, more like mixed sweet and salty popcorn than a straight up savoury snack. They have a decent crunch and are suitable for a telly snack but I didn't eat too many because of the sweetness. 

Tuesday, May 07, 2024

Bank Holiday Rumbleslam

Bryan and I took advantage of a Bank Holiday to try out my new "sport but with little figures of goblins and ogres and trolls" - this time it's wrestling in the form of Rumbleslam! 

Two teams of five wrestlers enter the ring... in this case, the two teams that came in the starter box. They are still upainted and were mounted on blu-tac because I've kept the sprues on to make it easier to paint them.

Bryan took charge of the orcs, goblins and troll. Here's one of the gobbos preparing for his signature move, diving off the turnbuckle as "The Green Eagle".

The game concludes after 5 rounds. At the end of the game three of Bryan's team had been flung out of the ring, whereas only one of my human players had suffered such an ignominious fate.

Overall our verdict was that the game was fun, but like a lot of these games, the rules are a bit complex. The teams were well-matched with a mix of scrappy little dudes and slow-moving sluggerific big guys.

And these are probably my favourite game dice ever - used to determine whether the crowd liked a particular move or not.

Monday, May 06, 2024

Football Recap of the Month - April 2024 part 2

 ... and on to the second part of my football round up for April!

Game 57: West Ham United 1-1 Bayer Leverkusen

I was in London for a work conference and one of the people I was with secured us tickets for this Europa League Game. Leverkusen had just been crowned Bundesliga champions in Germany. We were in the away end, very high up, but with a great view of the action. 

Game 58: Charlton Athletic 1-1 Shrewsbury Town

I stayed on in London to go to Shrewsbury's final away game of the season. Plenty of fans turned up in fancy dress and Shrewsbury got the point they needed to secure League One status for another season. (Next season they will be the club currently in League One that has been there for the longest number of consecutive seasons.)

Game 59: Colwyn Bay 1-0 Barry Town

I left London on the Saturday after Shrewsbury's game, got the train to Shrewsbury and the next day borrowed my mum's car to drive to Colwyn Bay to see Barry's final game of the season. I took my nephew, Zac, with me. It was his third Barry Town league game and they have lost all three 1-0! 

Llanelian Road was the last ground I needed to "complete" the Cymru Premier League. I've seen Barry play at every ground.

Game 60: Cardiff Draconians 6-0 Seven Sisters Onllwyn

After three new grounds in a row, it was back to the familiar Orange Llama Stadium in Gabalfa for this game in the third tier of Welsh football. I sat with my friends Nic and Scott and we watch Scott's son, Sam, score five of the goals for the Dracs. We were tantalisingly close to seeing Seven Sisters concede seven goals, but I was equally happy when I realised this was game number 60 of the season and the score was 6-0.

Sixty games equals the previous record for me in a season. With a few games lined up in May, I'm hoping to set a new record before the season ends!

Sunday, May 05, 2024

Football Recap of the Month - April 2024 part 1

I went to nine games in April, so am splitting the month report over two posts

Game 52: Haverfordwest County 2-1 Barry Town

As I went in to the ground I saw what looked like a filled in bomb crater in the goal-mouth. Haverfordwest's late winner came after the Barry keeper slipped over in the mud. My company for the night was Jon, who I had last seen at the Newport County game I was crazily late for back in August. (The time when the train from Cardiff didn't stop until Reading.) It was Jon's first Barry away game and he said he might well come to another one. 

Game 53: Penrhiwceiber Rangers 3-1 Cardiff Draconians

Penrhiwceiber is at the start of the Cynon Valley. It has a low wall along one side of the pitch that is really comfy to sit on. Company was Scott, my former NHS colleague, whose son plays for the Dracs. The game hinged on a rather soft penalty that gave 'Ceiber the lead early in the second half.

Game 54: Truro City 1-2 Torquay United

This game was played at Gloucester City's Meadow Lane ground, which I hadn;t been to before. It means the "home" team travelled further than the "away" team and the "away" team had to travel further than if they had travelled to the "home" team's home. It was played in Gloucester because Truro's borrowed pitch is unplayable - this was towards the beginning of a terrible schedule for Truro where they were playing four nights in a week, including on consecutive evenings. 

Company was Adam, Cathy's cousin who lives in Gloucester and has been a Torquay fan all his life, his son Luke, and Adam's friend, Nas. We also saw England and Aston Villa star Ollie Watkins at the game because he has a friend who plays for Truro. 

Game 55: AFC Llwydcoed 0-2 Cardiff Draconians

Another game played at a borrowed ground, this time at Rhiw Dar, home of Taff's Well FC. Company was my soul sister Sara, who was impressed by the clubhouse with it's walls plastered in memorabilia, and that you get a biscuit with your half time cup of tea there. The Dracs won with two late goals scored after the 90 minute mark.

 Game 56: Barry Town 2-1 Aberystwyth Town

Two seasons ago Barry lost to Aberystwyth in their last home game of the season and were relegated. This win came after Barry were already safe and left Aberystwyth still in danger of relegation going into the final game. This was Barry's first win in Phase 2 of the Cymru Premier season. I felt mildly nostalgic thinking it was the season was pretty much over. 

Saturday, May 04, 2024

Star Wars Day 2024 - 25 years since The Phantom Menace

It's slightly unreal that it's a quarter century since The Phantom Menace was released in cinemas. I remember the excitement about a new Star Wars film. I had been reading loads of spin off novels and comics and had been buying packs of a collectible card game for most of the 90s, but a new film was next level. 

Cathy and I went to see it in a cinema that no longer exists in Barry, and again in the brand new UCI cinema in Cardiff Bay (which is now about to be pulled down to make way for a new arena). We really enjoyed it. OK, yeah, there were a few things that weren't so great, but overall it 'felt' like Star Wars.

Subsequently it has become kind of cool among some people to sneer at The Phantom Menace and call it rubbish. I noted that back in 2012, and listed some of the problems with the film:

The Phantom Menace is almost universally derided among true fans, and yet I think it is still the best one of the three. True, it has no main protagonist. He should have toned down Jar Jar Binks a lot. Darth Maul was pre-hyped as a massive villainous character then had about three minutes of screen-time. The plotline is essentially feeble. But it’s a ‘set up’ movie – what would you expect?

There were two disasters, though. One was the ‘explanation’ of Anakin’s potentiality in the Force as being due to microscopic force-producing organisms in his blood called ‘midichlorians’ and the corresponding random decision to accord him a ‘virgin birth’ (seriously). The other was the repeated fudging of the monarchy issue. ‘Queen Amidala’ is a teenager, who has somehow been democratically elected queen. Yes, that’s right, the constitutional monarchist system of Naboo elects teenagers to positions of unquestionable power.

(That was taken from a post about how George Lucas needed to be kept away from Star Wars films. I got my wish, but have to admit now that I don't think George was the problem. Rogue One, The Book of Boba Fett, and The Rise of Skywalker have convinced me of that!)

But, honestly, I don't remember there being much immediate criticism when The Phantom Menace was released. The common opinion that the film was a dud wasn't voiced until later. I remember some criticism of JarJar as a character - but Lucas has always included some slapstick and physical comedy in Star Wars. (He kept the scene where a stormtrooper smacks his helmeted head on a door because he thought it was funny.) 

What really stood out about the film was the CGI, which was ground-breaking at the time. It expanded the vision of the galaxy far, far away in ways that we would have been unimaginable when the original trilogy was filmed. 

Some of the other problems I mentioned back in 2012 have been rectified. Darth Maul was too good a character to kill off after just one movie. The Sith warrior was brought back in The Clone Wars cartoon, fitted with mechanical legs but on a separate path to his former master, Darth Sidious. In canon, Maul went on to run Crimson Dawn, the galaxy-spanning crime syndicate. He made a surprise appearance at the end of Solo, in this role. If you want to see a final conclusion to his story, you'll find it in the Rebels cartoon series. 

I'd also say that now, The Phantom Menace doesn't compare badly against some of the more recent glut of Star Wars product. There have been a few less-than-impressive films and TV shows. Compared to more recent grittier material, it's a brightly lit romp has retained a certain joyful innocence.. The Boonta Eve pod race remains one of the best sequences in any Star Wars film.

So, 25 years on, I'd suggest giving The Phantom Menace another watch and remember when Star Wars was meant to be enjoyable and not taken to seriously. 

Friday, May 03, 2024

Hectic itineraries and home improvements - April 2024

Some highlights from April 2024...

Train of the month:
Docklands Light Railway

The month began with my brother, sister-in-law and their four kids visiting us in Cardiff for 48 hours over my birthday. They stayed near us in Cardiff Bay. We had a lot of fun with them including riding the big wheel in the Bay and a trip to the amusement arcades on Ynys y Barri.

A highlight, as ever, was the play park round the corner.

Besides my birthday there were a couple of other celebrations. I saw my godson at his birthday party as he celebrated being 2. And I went to the studio-warming held by my friend Sian in her new business premises on Barry High Street. 

Sian is the exceptional photographer who came and took photos at our Silver Wedding Anniversary in September last year. It was great to see her new studio and she was already taking bookings for shoots.

Then I spent the best part of a week in London at the Diabetes UK Professional Conference. I was part of a team running an exhibition stand for the youth programme that I work on. The team included volunteers from each of the four regions in England and the other nations of the UK - so seven young people in total. They were an absolutely brilliant crew who worked incredibly hard to represent the programme and talk to healthcare professionals about the impact of the work. 

When the stand was set up and still looked neat!

And Sara dropped by to say 'Hi'

I stayed on after the conference and had a crazy weekend that started on the Friday night in the Moomin Shop in Covent Garden and ended on a sunny Sunday in Colwyn Bay queuing for ice creams inside a football ground. More details will appear on my posts about the football matches I've been to this month. But I did get to see Mum and the Fredster as well. (Here's the hound posing with Zac!)

I treated myself to a first class ticket home on the Monday morning. It was worth the extra £3!

Got a cracking cup of tea as well.

The final weekend of the month was spent getting ready to move out of our house ahead of the next tranche of building work. Our hall, stairwell and landing are getting replastered and it's just easier to be out of the way of the workmen. So we decamped to a teeny tiny flat in Cardiff Bay for a week. It was very small, but had a great view of the Pierhead Building from the window. 

And we were sort of, but not really, on holiday, so we had an ice cream (super low fat blackcurrant sorbet for Cathy) despite the rain...