Camden Lock

A date with Harry. We went to the market at Camden Lock. It rained, because we like that in Britain, in the summer. It makes a change from the winter sleet.

Lunch. Obviously very important. I had a chicken katsu burger and sweet potato fries.

General outdoor scenes. That’s Harry, with the white t-shirt and the back pack. We are falling in love and it is turning into quite a serious relationship. I wouldn’t be surprised if we ended up living together or even getting married, if his parents can handle the shock of the considerable age gap.

A hipster selling moustache wax and beard butter.

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The fancy tea shop. Harry is a big tea aficionado.

The Japanese shop.

A stall selling candles. They all looked and smelled delightful but I couldn’t have any because they are paraffin and my lungs don’t get along with paraffin candles. I discovered this after I bought a huge sampler pack of miniature Yankee Candles in all different fragrances, so I sent them to my sister-in-law who I don’t particularly like.

I love the photo of this lady and her husband. It was very clear that she desperately wanted one of these candles, if not several, and spent ages looking at them, but her husband did not take the hint. Then she tried passing them to him in an attempt to get him to take an interest, but he was not having it. As you can see, he is not even looking. I felt bad for her. We had a little chat about how nice the candles were, because she needed somebody to agree that they were nice.

And that’s all the news for now, as I am super busy today. I have lots more photos to share with you, but they will have to wait for next time.

Stamppot

Food is a huge part of my life since I met Harry. We eat out. We cook at home and try out recipes. He is a good cook and is encouraging me and giving me confidence. This afternoon, I cooked and he wasn’t even there. You don’t see that happen too often outside of Xmas.

At work, I am learning about Holland so I had a go at making Stamppot, which is a Dutch dish. Stamppot roughly translates as ‘pot of mashed vegetables’. Here’s my amateurish cooking. The results were quite good and I even put some in plastic tubs in the freezer for later consumption. I felt very domesticated and quite victorious, even though I made plenty of mistakes and cooking has never been my strong point.

The essence of a stamppot recipe is this: get some root vegetables, eg potatoes, boil and mash them; get some green, leafy vegetables, eg kale, boil and stir into the mash; stir in fried onion and bacon pieces. Season and serve with pieces of smoked sausage.

Here’s my amateurish version that I did today, with extra bacon instead of sausage.

Realised that I needed to use up a bunch of interesting-looking vegetables from the farmer’s market, including these carrots. img_3928

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Chopped up a potato. Chopped up a red onion. Vaguely fried everything in butter in the saucepan for a while, with no clear idea of what I was doing, then developed a sense of purpose and transferred the onions to a frying pan. Left the carrots and potatoes in the saucepan for boiling.

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Looked around for more of the market vegetables to throw in the boiling pan. Cauliflower. Red cabbage.

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Chopped up another onion and fried with some bacon pieces and too much oil. I always use too much grease and have much to learn about frying.

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Don’t forget to boil some kale. Later realised I should have put the cabbage in with the kale, note for next time.

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Make sure everything’s cooked.

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Mash the potato (cauliflower, carrots, etc), add milk and seasoning – big spoonful of Dijon mustard gives it a kick. Stir in the leafy veg, bacon and onions. Yum.

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I loved everything about this recipe and will definitely make some different versions of it to try out various combinations of ingredients and also to get good at cooking bacon and smoked sausage, a subject of which I know little.

There will be more food posts soon. As I mentioned, it’s a big part of this romantic relationship I’m suddenly having. We are cooking and eating while getting to know each other. I’m quite fat but that’s not really Harry’s fault and is mainly because I secretly eat cake when he’s not around.

 

Church.

Diljit Dosanjh is an Indian actor, singer and all-round celebrity who works in Punjabi and Hindi cinema and the Punjabi music industry. I am mainly posting this for the excellent dancing, Indian culture excels at dance, particularly for men. Dance requires men to be strong yet agile, not so bulked up with inflated, balloon-animal muscles that it reduces their mobility. This is why you don’t see Captain America dancing.

Diljit Dosanjh: Sweetu (2014)

 

Batman: Arkham Asylum

Batman: Arkham Asylum. Rocksteady Studios (2009), Xbox 360. A third-person action-adventure game concerning Batman, Gotham City and its cast of characters. 

Welcome back to the unstoppable TLYW Year of Console Gaming in which we dramatically swoop through 14 games in 14 months. Today is 1 August, it’s Month 8 and we’re into the second half of our 14-month year! The year began with two months of pre-history in the form of dinosaurs and primitive early humans, then continued through Ancient Greece, the Middle Ages, the Enlightenment, the American Wild West and finally plunged into World War I in July. Here we are in August and the natural next chapter would have been World War II, but frankly I could not face two world wars back to back, which is probably how people felt at the time. As a result, I looked around for another game that was more or less set in the 1940s and alighted on the DC Comics hero Batman (who first appeared in 1939, with his own comic book beginning in 1940).

Batman: Arkham Asylum is a critically acclaimed game that won several awards. It spawned a series of well-regarded sequels from 2011 and was remastered for the PS4 and Xbox One in 2016. I’m going to play the original 2009 version on the Xbox 360.

This should certainly make a change from Battlefield 1. I don’t think there will be much driving of tanks or crawling around muddy fields with a large, antique gun. Instead, I believe I can expect a month full of swooping, jumping, grappling, climbing, running, using throwing weapons and engaging in hand to hand combat. Arkham Asylum has Batman running around a prison for the criminally insane and his foes will include The Joker as well as half a dozen other super-villains. There’s some puzzle-solving and I’m slightly concerned that this is going to be uncomfortably close to the rather linear God of War 3, but we are committed now so let’s see what August brings.

It might be amazing; let’s hope so. Here’s a trailer so you can see what I’m in for.

Year of the Console, July Review. Battlefield 1.

Welcome back to the TLYW Year of Console Gaming. It’s the end of Month 7 and we have reached the exact halfway point in our specially extended year, which is 14 months long. There has been a great deal of work, meal preparation and relationship-building this month so I have played Battlefield 1 rather sporadically, making a start on its single-player War Stories, which amount to only a portion of the whole game. Despite playing it in small bursts, it’s been a very absorbing game, to the point where I almost forgot I’d ever played anything else. I would have struggled to remember what we played last month.

As you know, we are following a dramatic historical trajectory throughout the year. July was the month in which we fully settled into the 20th century, which of course means war. Set during WW1, Battlefield 1 takes place in France, the UK, Italy, Turkey and Mesopotamia and is based on real events. I travelled around by tank as well as sneaking around on foot. The scenery, whether French villages, Italian mountain ranges or Mesopotamian deserts, would be gorgeous if everyone were not constantly blowing each other up and destroying buildings.

For the second consecutive month, we have not only screenshots but real gameplay. Here I am, in character as Daniel Edwards, a British soldier, driving around a muddy, ruined village in my tank, taking out German tanks, artillery and infantry. This mission is based on the Battle of Cambrai, 1918.

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Battlefield 1. Electronic Arts (2016), PS4. A first-person shooter set during World War 1.

Plot and setting: The game begins with a series of single-player missions, set in half a dozen countries and climates. The missions are based on historical events in WW1 and the player adopts various unique characters to complete self-contained quest lines, or War Stories. These quest lines prepare the player for eventual multiplayer gameplay.

General remarks: This was an interesting change for me because Battlefield 1 is very rich in story while not being a RPG. There’s no character development as such. I never really got to know my character, Daniel Edwards, he didn’t have much internal dialogue. However, as a young soldier and tank driver for the British army in France, he and I certainly saw dramatic and terrifying events unfold. Battlefield 1 is nothing if not atmospheric. In strong contrast to most RPGs, it isn’t warm, decorative or obviously romantic. It’s brutal. It can be nail-bitingly tense but is not particularly relaxing.

Thumbs up: Amazing graphics and exciting gameplay. My heart was in my mouth as I stealthed around German camps in the dead of night, looking for spare parts for my tank and trying to pick off Nazis quietly without attracting everyone’s attention. The quest lines are clear and well-structured, there was plenty of action and most of the time I was clear what I was supposed to be doing, never having played a war game before.

Thumbs down: It’s an exciting game but it’s also a bit depressing. I loved being drawn into the drama but I also recall how much I enjoy games that offer blue seas, placid beaches, tropical flowers, palm trees and opportunities for quiet solo hunting or even house building and crafting and Battlefield 1 is the wrong place to look for that stuff. War is serious business and is not pretty.

Return to?  I recognise why this is such a Titan of a game. It is beautifully imagined and engineered. It looks great. It works and gives satisfying gameplay. It’s polished and professional. It offers entertainment and drama with a measure of real history. It’s a very macho game and I cannot say when I will return to it, however I acknowledge its many merits and technical accomplishments.

It’s almost August and time for a new Game of the Month! Kick-off on Tuesday, so stay tuned.

In which I waver and have dark moods.

I have been in a funny mood the last couple of days, since about Saturday evening. Irritable, pensive and gloomy. To what shall I attribute it?

  • Could be hormones. I am the right age for swinging hormones, or it could be a time of the month thing or it could be exercise-induced testosterone surges or whatever.
  • Eurgh, I have faulty lights in my house and I have to engage an electrician. If the whole place needs rewiring, it will be very, very expensive, running to thousands of pounds. This is enough to make anyone annoyed and depressed.
  • I went on a carb binge over the weekend because I was just so tired of constantly eating raw vegetables and watching my weight waver within a range of the same two pounds for the last two weeks. I am back on the healthy eating wagon as of this morning. I wrote that sentence and then ate several pieces of Mint Aero with my breakfast smoothie.
  • I want to do demanding exercise classes at my gym but at the same time I am plagued by various allergies and itchy skin right now and I know this is a sign that I’ve run down my immune system instead of boosting it. I need to rest and preserve myself and get my energy up, clear my skin, then resume doing insane classes at the gym where you heave weights around until you pass out.
  • There are certain aspects of work that I find annoying, which I guess is true for everyone. I’m not very patient with bureaucracy.
  • Being in an actual relationship for the first time since 2010 brings its own rewards and challenges. On the rewards side, it is a warm and mutually beneficial social exchange, we are genuinely fond of each other and my house is clean all the time. On the challenges side, I picked someone highly intelligent and observant who notices everything and is very interested in getting to know me. This is unnerving because it is something I haven’t experienced for a long time. Usually, my relationships involve making sure the other person is kept at a distance. We don’t discuss deep, personal topics. I discourage personal remarks and they don’t ask penetrating questions. We keep things light and cheerful. I now realise that I haven’t let anyone get to know me well for several years. I just don’t let people get that close. Also, it’s conceivable that I might be a bit crazy. You don’t notice this as much if you don’t let people in.

So that’s why I’m grumpy today. When I’m in a better mood, I actually have some nice photos to show you, but they will have to wait. Let’s have a tune instead. This is 90s rap artist, Da Brat. In this beautiful video, many famous singers and rappers of the era come together for a party and to see her perform. The vibe is gentle and everyone is happy. For me, the most special and poignant moment is at 1:26, where the late Biggie Smalls, arguably the greatest rapper of all time, arrives with four of his honeys, affectionately holding two of them by the hand. He was always a ladies’ man. Precious moments in rap history. Biggie died of fatal gunshot wounds three years later, in 1997, aged 24. If I could choose between having Princess Diana come back from the dead or Biggie Smalls, I would choose Biggie.

Da Brat: Give It 2 You (1994)

Finally, a definition of “over-exercise”

So, as you know, I have been over-exercising. I can infer this because my hair is shedding in large amounts, my skin is breaking out and I have been unusually exhausted (although, paradoxically, feeling more energetic when awake).

This is very, very annoying, esp the falling hair because I am a woman and I want my hair on my head, not all over the floor. Also, I now can’t get my grey roots dyed until it stops shedding, which could take 2-3 months and I can’t swim because chlorine and swimming caps are hard on your hair.

The thing is, we all know in theory that you shouldn’t over-exercise, but how much is ‘over’? Huh? If I knew that I could have avoided it in the first place. It’s not like I’ve been lifting huge barbells for 8 hours a day or pulling monster trucks with my teeth. I was exercising every day but I didn’t think I was overdoing it, I’m convinced that plenty of athletes and body builders around the world exercise every day and I thought the NHS shared the same view.

OK, so I’ve finally found someone who is willing to specify exactly how much is too much. Shin Ohtake of maxworkouts.com says “When I mean exercising too much, I’m talking at least once a day and for a duration of an hour at minimum doing mostly cardio related activities.” That’s me, isn’t it. I was exercising 7 days/week, for an average of 2 hours, sometimes more, doing mostly cardio, such as vigorously marching up and down hills.

Even more annoyingly, according to Shin, over exercising makes you store and retain fat instead of losing it, which explains why I’ve had no significant weight loss in two weeks.

So, how much exercise should I be doing?

Shin says to stop doing long cardio sessions because it eats away at lean muscle mass and makes you hungry.

Do short (eg 30 minutes), high-intensity workouts instead.

He doesn’t say how many times a week to do this, but I looked up the NHS guidelines and they think that on a weekly basis, 75 minutes of vigorous cardio plus two sessions of resistance exercises is about right.

I would like to keep going to Total Conditioning class at my gym because it is a demanding workout and I feel like I’m getting value for money. That class is about 50 minutes, is certainly vigorous and is mainly strength with some cardio. There’s a second class called Body Pump that sounds similar, hopefully slightly less brutal, so I’m going to try that as well. So that’s my plan for a while. I’m going to take two classes/week at the gym, starting this Monday and in between I’m going to do no exercise at all. We’ll see if that helps. No more 10-mile hikes until further notice.

Thanks for listening to me blathering on. Here’s a tune. Don’t get up and dance. You’ll just wear yourself out.

Iggy Azalea ft. Jennifer Hudson: Trouble (2014)