Words of warning and welcome:

This is very much my blog, so don't be surprised if this doesn't follow accepted patterns and norms. It is a place where I can be anonymous and honest, and I appreciate that.

It will deal with many things and new readers would do well to check out the "Story So Far" Page above this and the "New Readers" tag down there on the right. Although there's nothing too bad in here there will be adult language, so be careful. If you think this needs a greater control, please let me know. Thank you!

Wednesday, 31 July 2013


Nobody knows it / but you've got a secret smile

Well, things are calmer.

I still can't get accurate figures for most of the costs of moving and people are still ignoring what I say or ask, but, hey.

My parents have agreed to lend some money each, Tilly and I have raided the savings we'd put aside for the children and we've raised about enough to do everything. Now we just have to wait for a few things to fall into place. This may take 15 days yet.

But we're underway.

I can't face beer, I'd have to review it. Instead, I spent a few hours on G+, you know, Joanna time. It felt nice.

And I found this on Limited Audience:

I want to be the one in purple.
 And this, but I forget where:

It's... sweet I guess. I guess I wish I looked like that when
scribbling. I so don't.

Tuesday, 30 July 2013


Oh look, I am still useless.

That thing with the house? It was worse than I thought. I rang the mortgage lenders and asked the right questions. And... I'm screwed. We have a hole in my finances and sums that is approximately £8,000 large and growing as I look further into things. I have no deposit, no way of paying off the negative equity of selling the house and no way of paying for a structural survey of the new property. Basically, paying extra on the mortgage was... largely pointless? Mind you, saving instead would have netted nothing either.

This just confirms what everyone who knows me thought in the first place, I checked with both parents, and leaves me in a situation that I hate.

Obviously, on discovering my massive error I had to ask my parents if they could, as they had offered previously, loan us some money. I had originally hoped to avoid this - I hate being in debt at the best of times but to my parents... well - but needs must. Ringing my father and his wife, something now had to do, was always going to be bruising. My Dad already thinks I'm a bit useless and bombastic, discussed on this blog ad nauseam, and so this just confirmed that I am useless with figures and, well, life. His wife confirmed this to me over the phone: "Well, we know that you're a bit useless with figures and that's why we said not to rush into anything". My mother was the same. Both stressed the lie of all of this: "It's a new start."

It's not.

When I bought the current property I knew I was making a mistake, I knew it, but it was like a crash happening in slow motion - there didn't seem to be anything I could do to stop it. Everyone said to get a foot on the ladder, it was 2006, and to pay as much as I could as interest rates were as high as they would likely go. I paid more than I felt comfortable with and promptly spent until 2008 paying nothing off my loan amount despite my best efforts and saw my monthly payments rocket from £475 to £679. Indeed, in 2009 I owed £109,000 of the £108,000 I'd originally borrowed. This all sucked. In 2010 interest rates finally fell for me too, did I mention how shit I am at figures and such having locked into a fixed rate deal as interest rates soared only to see them collapse at the end of the month I'd renegotiated in. So, maintaining the payments of £679 actually allowed me to start paying off huge chunks of my mortgage over the next three years, to now.

Then there was the job moving. I left my job in 2007 at Tilly's insistence, because I was verging on total depression. She may have had the right idea. However, in my haste (spotting a trend?) I took a job that was rather more than I could do and be the father I wanted to our eldest who arrived, despite Tilly being on the pill, in the middle of that first year. By the end of the academic year it was clear I could not do the job and be a father and support Tilly, who was heading downwards herself. I started looking. I failed around 10 interviews and ended up back where I left in 2007. By 2010 I was in a precarious position there because I am a slack bastard and in depression. At the same time I netted an extra job with the hope of keeping the extra cash. Oh, and we had another child.

Of course we didn't get any extra. I crashed the car, which obliterated savings, and the new car kept requiring, keeps requiring, work to keep it on the road and legal. Upshot: the extra work for exam boards (about £2,600 a year) was needed to stop us going into debt. Net savings from 2009 to 2010 amounted to, get this, 11p. No, really. Even so, I felt that we had something going for us by overpaying my mortgage. So, that property was now paid down to £91,000. I figured we could sell.

I put in for a few jobs, about four interviews, and failed them all. At the time they were punts and I'd convinced myself that it was normal not to succeed. I spoke to a colleague and he revealed that he thought less of me as he'd never failed an interview. He was right, of course, I'm the only person I know of who has not gained a job at every interview - that is, the only person I know of in teaching. There's a lesson there, I think.

Error compounded error.

I pulled out of depression, ish, and we put the house on for £100,000. I accepted the one job offer I've had since 2009 in Derbyshire. We accepted that we needed to lower the asking price of the house - no one was coming that wanted to buy. We lowered to £94,000. We got a buyer. They offered £83,000, we said that wouldn't work, so they offered £89,000 and everyone said we should accept. We accepted. We owed £2,000 back on the mortgage even with the extra paying off.

Then I made an error with the maths and offered £121,000 on a house. Due to my enormous error we assumed we'd have an upward limit of £125,000 to buy a house. I was wrong. Our upward limit was, actually, uh... £40,000. If we raided the money we'd given to our children we could up that to the dizzying height of, uh, £80,000. To put that in perspective, we couldn't afford to buy back the house we live in currently. Except that I didn't work that out until last night.

So, yeah, when my father rang to offer help he also wants me to bring all my sums so he can check them and suggests that we might want to look for a smaller property. This is not a 'fresh start'.

My mother will lend us the money. But this means paying her back. Okay, it's interest free and I thank her for her offer, but I will be in debt to my mother. Yes, that's right, the University educated father of two will be in debt to his single mother on a wage that is approximately a third of what I get for what I do. You see, I think, why I'm not terribly keen on that idea.

Oh, and then there's the structural survey and the legals and the moving costs which we thought we could cover with the £3,600 we have in Tilly's savings (remember I raided them and paid it back tortuously over the last two years or so). Thing is, we might not. That was fine when I thought we had the money for a deposit - we could easily ask for a couple of hundred from my parents to cover stuff like that. Ha.

Ha ha.

I... uh... don't have an end to this post.

Monday, 29 July 2013

I am a twat

Let me explain. We are moving (what, no, really? I guess I didn't make that abundantly clear) and I thought I had the finances figured out. So, we go on our merry way making plans and working out what we can afford to offer. However, I'm not sure I've got it right. We put in an offer within what I figured we could afford and had it accepted today, but now I'm running the sums over and over and I think I may have miscalculated.

See, we owe about 91k on the shithole that we live in, we sold it for 89k, because that's good, despite an asking price of 100k. I have overpaid the mortgage to the tune of 8k, which we kinda need for a deposit on a new place. Now, in my original original sums we had the house going for about 95k, giving me 4k moneys. At some point I decided to change the maths. We borrow back 8k, the mortgage rises to 99k, but we still owe 2k, so I have 6k to play with.

Uh huh. But, if my mortgage is now 99k, don't I owe 10k on my property? If so, where in the Sam Hill is that coming from? How can I afford, well, anywhere else? This means I have to borrow an extra 22k to afford the offer we just made, a full 3k higher than I thought was my limit. This could be, well, a bit bad. In my plan I thought that we could get a loan to cover the difference, in this new mathematical paradigm I'd have to borrow twice as much? In order to pay off the original mortgage on the house and cover the difference I'd need 10k+22k-7k (to keep 1k for moving expenses) making a total of 25k of extra loan. This takes my monthly payments up much higher than I was expecting. Basically, when mortgage interest rates rise we'd be left unable to live as we are accustomed. Shit.

Someone tell me that my new maths is wrong and that my original maths is right?

Thursday, 25 July 2013

Is this blog...

If it weren't for the fact that this is not
our little girl then this would be our
little girl.
Catherine came round with her daughter today. Tilly and I decided that a day off was needed. Our Girlie is not taking the concept of moving very well, she is angry and pissed off at us. Our normally well-behaved and grounded little girl is now a waking nightmare with hitting and kicking and tantrums and rudeness... If she knew any swear words then they would be applied liberally, as it is we just get called 'naughty' and 'poo' a lot (we don't use either word very much, so they are 'forbidden').

We visited where we are trying to live with a view to finding a house on Tuesday. This did not go according to plan mainly because Tilly and I were unable to have a conversation about any of the places we were looking at. Every time we tried our Girlie would kick off with either a. random commentary, descending into tantrum if told to wait or even if we answered; b. straight out tantrum about some made up problem, which would shift if we fixed it (example: she was thirsty and wanted a drink NOW, we supply drink, now she's too HOT and we DON'T CARE and her brother is a NAUGHTY little BOY AAAAAAAARGH) or c. start hitting us / her brother / things. We tried everything short of bribery and threats, and we did those too in the end, but nothing really worked. She does not want to move and we can't reason with her like we normally do because she is not prepared to listen to any of the reasons we have for moving. I can relate, I really can, but it made life very hard for the two days we were away.

Did I mention I am jealous of women generally? Really?
Well, I am super jealous of the red head who
gets to play Knightmare. Bitch. Who I want to have the
babies of.
Oh, and Lord Fear. Hi, Lord Fear!
The Boy was similar but whilst on a walk in the woods with him last night and talking about the move he seemed to make his peace with it. I have no idea why or for what reason. However, we now have a new problem as he has decided that he no longer wants to live in "Mine silly ouff" and wants to move and live in his "shpeshal ouffsh". For the uninitiated this translates to the fact that he finds our current house a pile of shit and wants to move to some other house that he has chosen to live in but has not deigned to share with us.

All of which meant some placatory gestures were in order. So Tilly called up Catherine and she brought round her daughter on a play-date. Catherine and Tilly talked moving and using burly men to transport furniture and Catherine and I talked Knightmare (see my last post). It has been a hard week, we needed needless fluff and we were served well by Catherine who saw the need and adjusted accordingly. None of which is the point of this entry. Yes, I have points in my blog, honest!

Turned up searching for "supah Secret", so, I guess this is
something where people are supah secret? Supah Ninjas
No, the point was this. I have shared with Catherine that I have a supah secret blog (this place) that seems to have people actually reading it (thank you again for so doing, it really means a lot to me). This is in stark contrast to my public blog that has a single follower (my brother) and averages about three pageviews a day at the moment (mainly from two spam sites desperate to get me to click back). She also tried blogging, got bored and retired to Twitter. I shared some of the stats from here (of which I am proud) and when Tilly was out of the room Catherine inquired as to whether I was "sex-blogging".

Now, bear in mind that Catherine knows and I have spoken of this before. She is the only other human being in possession of photos of me en femme and one a very select few who have seen me dressed (ostensibly as part of a bet that she couldn't make it happen, only she and I of the few who saw it knew that it was a bet she was always going to win; and she has helped maintain the charade of my 'shame' about it ever since). So, she potentially has an inkling about what I am writing and why I would want to maintain a secret blog in the first place.

I guess what I'm asking, and I am asking, is twofold:
1. Is this a sex blog?
2. What would be good examples of sex blogs that I might peruse to understand them?

Oh, and I guess one final thing, should I supply the address to this place to Catherine? I am half tempted, but it's been a long and shitty week with only one spectacular thunderstorm, so I could be delirious.

Wednesday, 24 July 2013


I believe this is from a film I've never seen, but the image
is close enough to how I remember girls in the 1980s.
Keep in mind I was younger than 10 for the 1980s.
Point? Oh, yes, this is what I'd like to have been so I could
play on Knightmare. No, really, boys' teams were shit.
Knightmare! Apparently it is returning for a one-off youtube special this coming week. I am very, very, excited by this.

Sorry, I'll stop hyperventilating enough to try and explain. It was a show made in the UK for a commercial TV channel (keep in mind we only had two of those until 1998) on the children's TV segment on Friday evenings. The concept was a relatively simple one based on Dungeons and Dragons so loosely that it avoided all copyright with influences from Jack Vance, Tolkien and Arthurian legend so vague and amorphous that you'd have a job on finding them. In this, a team of four 'dungeoneers' would try to navigate a dungeon to achieve a quest. Their guide was Treguard, joined later by odd companions and given an enemy around series five in the shape of Lord Fear. What made it unique and clever was the use of early CGI, a blue room and a helmet that meant the dungeoneer who went in was blinded (useful as it was just the same blue room each time), their three 'advisers' would then have to guide their team-mate from a screen that they could see and their team mate could not.

Okay, the video below will not do it justice, it's from 1987(!) but it shows the concept well enough.

Sunday, 21 July 2013


This is a short one as the family prepares to check out a new place to live and see what houses we want/can afford and hope that the overlap is there.

I read with some conflicting emotion about Caitlyn/Calvin's good news getting a job and subsequent feeling that their online life was not as much a part of them any more. This means that they will be going on indefinite, potentially permanent, hiatus. This is, of course, all good but for the fact that many readers and online friends will now be bereft of such a character. I make no claims to being an online friend, merely an interested and sympathetic observer to whom Caitlyn/Calvin made insightful comments.

Imagine my honour and surprise when finding that Dee's thoughts on the matter involved me. And, yes, she was right, that is precisely the sort of thing I'd like to wear. I hope she doesn't mind me posting the caption here. Click it to go to the right place to see plenty more!

A life rewritten pt2

Ah, modern studenthood, I wish I could claim to
have studied as much as- wait! She hasn't
written anything!
Way back in this blog I posted a musing on what would have happened if I had been born female and ended up being quite a serious look at the dynamics of my parents and the effect my birth as a male likely had upon them. It's well worth a read if you're into that kind of thing beyond wish-fulfillment. The fact that I titled that little escapade as 'part 1' shows that I always meant to come back to the topic and now, over a year later, I suppose that time has come. Since that year old post I have found more followers, thank you to you people who know who you are, and seem to have gained many casual readers too. Thank you to anyone that takes the time to read these writings and especially to people such as Dee, Caitlyn/Calvin and Leslie-Ann who continue to comment and make me view things anew or, lately, just join in with things that seem to be going my way for once.

Now I shift the milieu and tackle a different form of life-rewriting. It is in my University years and not so much a question of if I had been born female, to be honest I would be writing fantasy of the worst possible kind if I were to try that (not to say I won't do it at some point as a thought experiment) but rather a question of confidence. The "what if" this time is principally based on the idea of what might have happened had I had the confidence to take my friends at their word in a throwaway conversation in the bar late one evening. Let me set the scene!

Props to her for not using a straw and
wearing a kick-ass corset.
It was late into a bar crawl, I was doing my usual in the summer bar crawls of not having any alcohol but subsisting, along with many others, on copious amounts of Pepsi (at 50p a can, this was good financial sense) and we were having a competition with the juke box. We each went up individually, without announcing it to the others, and put on a random number of songs. Then, having queued them well in advance, we tried to guess about half an hour later who had requested what. I chose Girls and Boys by Blur for one of my choices, reasoning that Kristen, a friend, was more a fan of Blur than anyone else and the song was obscure enough that no one else would be able to guess it was one of my favourites from my pre-University days. There were a number of obvious things that I missed in my estimations. Not least the fact that Kristen would not be fooled because she knew she didn't choose it, and the fact that, apparently, the song is about cross-dressing and, finally, the fact that Kristen had a few suspicions of her own.

So it was that Kristen correctly guessed the song was my choice. Then, in a surprising twist, she cornered me and asked if I were a transvestite. After a pregnant pause she reassured me that everyone would be supportive and that they were all my friends and that if I wanted to dress in women's clothes no one would think any less of me. In fact, she hinted that she might be on hand to help me choose clothes to match my style and that such a thing would be fine with her. I stammered a few times, mouth gone very dry, and said very little. She pushed, I eventually forced out a laughably stupid and transparent denial, she accepted it with good grace and promised not to raise the subject again unless I asked. I never asked.

But what if I had? What if, when I was cornered, I had instead stammered out an affirmative?

At this stage I had never been fully dressed en femme. I had worn some knickers back in my first year of University and toyed with string based bondage in Sixth Form and a little bit in that first year. I had bought that poster of Princess Leia that every geek-guy had back in the day but had gone no further. I had gone through a complicated ruse with e-mails to discuss the topic obliquely with a CofE minister and had discovered fictionmania, where I had been fascinated by the stories where the main character cross-dressed and found more acceptance dressed than when not.

This is the sort of thing I expect. Note the tightness at the
knee. And, of course, that last gasp of the 90s in the
platform flip flops. Totally my thing.
I think the first change would have been a well-meaning outing by Kristen to the wider group of my potential transvestite habits. It would have been followed by a badgering to go shopping. I would have, of course, caved pretty quickly. I think she would have been correct in her assessment, I don't think I would have lost any friends in this outing, though I may have found it next to impossible to continue my doomed mooning over two females in the group - this may have turned out to be a positive. Certainly one level of stress would have been lifted from my latter months at University - it may even have helped me stay focussed on studying rather than surfing fictionmania. I may not have been able to join in the 'Man' conversations as easily with David and Trevor in the latter stages of the year but I suspect that we would have remained friends. Instead I would most likely have been drawn into a closer friendship with Kristen, her paramour (and now husband) Jeremy, and their close friends Nigella, Georgia, Mick and Siona.

Or, you know, perhaps a dark red.
I like this image because I feel that I could emulate her
as a cross-dresser. I love the Devil-may-care hairdo and
the fact she is enjoying her wine. And why shouldn't
I would most likely have gone on a shopping expedition the following day and bought some new clothes. I may even have worn them about the house that Kristen, Jeremy, David and I shared on a more daily basis. I feel almost certain that I would have discovered long skirts, long tops and heels a lot sooner than I did. Over the course of a few weeks I think I could have been coaxed to attend a bar crawl en femme and maybe even brave campus a few times in small amounts of dress. I would have lost that random fear that to dress one must pass and would have been able to mix and match my attire. One very likely upshot is that I would have taken to wearing skirts and dresses more than trousers and so would have found my home visits even more constricting than I did at the time. It is eminently possible that I would have changed drinking habits. Being part of a different clique would likely have seen me dispense with the vodka and cokes that I favoured for white wine, more favoured by this different set. I think I would help with the cooking more and would have been convinced to make more of an effort to match Kristen's patterns for cleaning and housework than my own. (We were both cleaners, the others didn't really go much for it, and the main issue was simply one of when we cleaned, I preferred the morning, she preferred the evenings).

Instead of spending hours with David watching him play games I could not afford nor run on my ancient desktop I would have spent more time with Kristen in her room studying and discussing English, History and post-modernism. I would have probably allowed more physical contact too over those next few weeks, if my sojourns into being dressed in 2005, some five years later, are anything to go by. Without the added pressure of trying to impress two disinterested females for those months I think I may even have come out of my shell a little more too. All this would have aided my personality, made me a little more mellow and forgiving. I can see how I would have been a tad more compassionate generally and therefore more open to having proper relationships with my friends. I may even have actually taken a planning role in looking for an MA rather than sort of half-heartedly pootling about a few days before the deadline and ending up in Leeds.

Certainly I would have gained extra confidence at University, I would have been free to be more and I would have a different set of close friends that would have lasted longer than the circle I did have in the actual history. It was a missed opportunity. However, it would not be without its pitfalls, as I would have been shaken from the path that meant I met Tilly and our children would not have been born. That said, I would have met someone and we would probably have ended up married (given my views on sex and marriage) and with children down the line. That theoretical relationship may well have been more accepting of my cross-dressing as I would likely have been cross-dressed when we met. Does that make it 'better' than now? Probably not. Just very different. Of course, like last time, anything beyond that point becomes very difficult to judge indeed.

Beer Review: Best Bitter

Another night of me drinking ale and another beer bought for me by my students. Tonight it is the turn of St Peter's Best Bitter in a specially created bottle that is modelled on one presented to some fella as he crossed the Delaware in the War of Independence and was produced in Suffolk. I confess to being a little bemused by that particular reference, but there it is.

First impressions of this were good, there was minimal carbonation and the bottle was in fact pleasing to hold and pour from. The colour was pleasant and chestnut with a frothy head that soon disappeared after pouring. It is a warm colour with a good aroma to it of spices and citrus from the hops. At 3.7% ABV it is on the weaker end of the spectrum of ales that I review but it is not harmed by that. First taste is an assault by hops and very bitter but with a fresh aftertaste that means you feel ready for a second sip rather quickly. Not a downing beer by any stretch of the imagination, this is one to be savoured and enjoyed. Little malt to this, though enough to stop it being thin and cruddy, and it is dominated by those bitter hops. Not sure of variety but they are less smoky than I would expect of Fuggles, perhaps close to Cascade or Pearl. Very enjoyable on the tongue and weak enough that I don't have to be too wary with it.

This was had after my evening meal and so doesn't have to compete with my food for flavour, but I get the impression that it would work well with salad or summery foods generally. Probably not going to work with fish or strong red meat in gravy but a friend of anything vegetarian methinks. I wouldn't pit it against a curry or a chinese but that's not a criticism as I really like this ale. It's simple, uncomplicated and gets straight to the point at a level of strength that means I don't fall asleep or fall over.

Enjoy this on a bright evening or a dark winter night with either a fine summery meal outside or the crackling fire of a campsite. Get a few in if you can because you'll want to repeat the experience a few times!

Saturday, 20 July 2013

Electric Energy

Best to be honest from the get-go. Can't say you weren't

Tonight I shall mostly be reviewing Electric by the Pet Shop Boys because I got it and it is amazing. Of course I would say that because I am a bit of a fangirl of the Pet Shop Boys and also it appears to have done better critically (and in fan circles) than their last album Elysium. Now me, I like both but for completely different reasons. Their last album is definitely driving music or mood music for me. It doesn't do well in the background or if I'm working or if I'm doing housework or whatever. This latest album fills those spaces and is also driving music.

The first track, Axis, sets up the whole concept very well. It has a very deep bass, it has lots of synth and it sounds almost wonderfully eerie and subversive. The way it works together means that it sounds like you are travelling down some form of post-apocalyptic steampunk/cyberpunk sewer system in an impossible craft on the way to do some derring do. It is full of techno laser-y sounds and vocoder enhanced lyrics that don't actually mean much but are part of the melody and no more. The sort of words one could get and shout along to in a club or whilst playing table-top games or just whilst working on an evening. Can you tell I quite like it? Also, the video sets a lovely benchmark standard for the amount of minotaur one needs in a good pop video. This has just enough. Forever more will I pass comment on other music videos with "needs more minotaur".

From there it's onto the wonderfully cleverly titled Bolshy. Now, from most of the reviews I've read most people have gone straight to the standard interpretation of this track and the title. Certainly the lyrics are standard love-centric clubland stuff at first glance and the title suggests a camp play on one of those words that sounds squelchy and out of place. Several musical reviews have made play on the campness of the term and the way that it is played with in the chorus. What I found astonishing is that no one seems to have picked up on the Russian lyrics, which to me hark back to the line of historical reference we see in West End Girls and suggest a play on Russian Revolutionary history, the lyrics work with that just as well. "Where you lead my heart will go... oh Bolshy bolshy bolshy oh". See? Maybe that's just me, but, wait, what's that next track called?

Love is bourgeois construct. Ah. Ah-hum. See, this suggests that they knew exactly what they were doing with their Russian history references. I can't explain this better than I read in another, better, review of this album which was to say that this track is "Adrian Mole, the University years: where a pseudo intellectual worries about why his girlfriend dumped him (probably because he's a pretentious tit), denies the existence of love and then is quite prepared to drop everything and get back with Pandora when she returns". Yep. That about sums it up. But the Marx reference in it suggests that there's a deliberate link to the last track. The video? Needs more minotaur.

Next up is the much darker and deeper synthed Fluorescent that has hints of being more socio-political than it first appears too. It is similar in subject to Je ne sais quoi but there is a distinct undercurrent of Fade to Grey by Visage. This is not a criticism. I like Visage. This is the sort of song that you drown in rather than listen to and do so gladly. It is dark, it is heavily synthed and it is very much proper New Wave with better technology available. I like that, but I suspect, again reading reviews, that people have forgotten there ever was a New Wave. I confess, I missed it first time round by dint of being too young, but having found it in my later years I feel a bit sad no one else seems to have noticed. However, I like this track, one of my favourites as it is arguably the darkest and most sinister. I like it when the Pet Shop Boys are sinister.

I am minded of Dreaming of the Queen in terms of subject matter for Inside a Dream which borrows heavily from Depeche Mode in musical stylings and lyrics. There is a quote from an actual poet in it but, honestly, I can't see anything particularly poetic in it. It is a proper pop song that will likely do well with fans and the charts but is... well, it's driving music. My choice for the weakest track on the album, but it is the Pet Shop Boys so I'll keep listening. It perhaps would have gone better on Yes.

The next track is a cover version from Bruce Springsteen. I'll confess that I have never heard the original and I kind of don't want to. Most of the time the original is better. However, they did this with Where the Streets Have No Name and when I was finally convinced to listen to the U2 original I found them so completely different that they could co-exist happily. I suspect these would do the same. I like the song and find the lyrics about the right level of disturbing and multi-levelled for my tastes. There's one lyric that makes the hair on the back of my neck stand on end: "We don't measure the blood we've drawn any more / we just stack the bodies outside the door". I can't tell whether the song is supposed to be about post-apocalyptic journeys, the coming apocalypse, a comment on society or a tragic end-of-the-affair piece or all of the above. I like it and I like the way its done.

The next track, Shouting in the Evening, is full of vocoder enhanced lyrics. It is hard and it is heavy. When Tennant was interviewed he regularly referred to the whole album as 'banging' and, to my mind, this is the track that claims that boast effectively. Not one of my favourites but it is a very good track, the sort of track to belt out on the way home from a frustrating day at work or just because you can. Coming after the last track it makes an interesting contrast too, which I do like. In terms of rhythm it picks up from Axis at the beginning as we're back on that journey in a dark future. I kept wanting it to drop into dubstep but it never does. Maybe someone will remix a dubstep version. In fact, that is the one regret I have with this album, they never quite go into dubstep. I'd like to hear their take on it.

Thursday is the crowd-pleaser on the album. On the face of it it's a very simple pop tune with a sinple story about love and trust and all that carry on. I can't help but feel that it's another track in the mould of Shameless where it's actually serious and taking the piss all at the same time. Of course, I am a big fan, so I could be making more of it than is actually there. The fact that they have the lyrics stating that the weekend starts on a Thursday night suggests to me that they are definitely being more playful and subversive than the song seems to suggest overall. In any event, they have done a good 'why people go clubbing' song again and I like the way it makes me feel when I'm working. Good beat and a good use of spoken lyrics, like with REM's Outsiders, that allows me to enjoy it when I'm doing something else.

Finally we have Vocal, whose video shows me how much I missed in the early 90s. And that's about all I have to say about that. Besides, I already explained in a previous post about how much I wanted to be the girls in this.

If you've listened to any of these and liked them then I can heartily recommend the whole album. At 48 minutes it doesn't seem much bang for your buck, but this is the sort of album you can safely wang on repeat without shuffle and enjoy for a good few hours at once. I will likely overplay it in the next few weeks, I know I will, but it has already paid for itself a few times over. If you want an interesting audio journey then get Controlling Crowds by Archive but if you want some heavy synth pop to keep productivity going then get this album. It's fun and it's synth, nuff said.

Beer Review: Nutty Black

My students got me this, and three others, as a present to say thank you when they heard I was leaving where I worked. Each of the ales they got had been thought out and carefully considered with reasoning given for each. I shall relate that here as well as reviewing it because, well, that's just very cool and slightly humbling. Especially as they were so nice about it when they presented them to me. They were hiding behind the tables in a room that was close to 34 degrees centigrade and yelled 'surprise' when I got in. Bless them, they got me a book to go with the beers and they took the time to explain what they had done and everything. I really was genuinely humbled and made properly speechless. I remain humbled now, a few days later after the end of term, they made me feel like I had done something good.

Tonight I decided to try Nutty Black from Thwaites because I could. This was chosen because my teaching style is slightly 'nutty' (I prefer 'scatty professor type') and the black in the title was simply there. The fact that it had two types of hops was apparently testament to my many different styles. And that last point just shows the sheer thought that went into these. Now, granted, one of my colleagues had guided them to ales rather than a bottle of wine (I approve) but the students had gone out and chosen the ales (and probably saved a few quid too, good on 'em).

It looked like it was going to be too fizzy. I could smell the fuggles, and again spotted them before I read them on the side (which makes me in equal parts happy and sad), and see the whisp of carbonation. As I poured it there was the same sort of sound I associate with lemonade and so I resigned myself to a clever looking beer that would be too fizzy to be properly enjoyed. Served at room temperature the ale was indeed very black and created a fine cola-looking head that fizzed and looked as though it would remain as a scum-like froth. It did not. The fizz vanished very quickly and the head was soon gone, before I'd had chance to take a sip in fact. That fuggles smell now combined with a roasted nutty aroma to create something I could compare to Throughbred Gold. Of course I can, it's Thwaites, about whom I have written before.

The taste was rather satisfying, definitely hints of nuts and strong malt with a hit from the hops that stops short of being citrus like and instead goes straight for the fiery taste I like to associate with bonfire nights and barbeques later in the year. At 3.9% ABV it doesn't carry the same punch as most of the beers I've had lately but that allows it to have a much more subtle play of flavours, which was something of a pleasant surprise. After the first taste the rest settled into a good pattern. First you get the mellow Goldings followed by the slightly fiery taste of the Fuggles on the remaining carbonation, after that it's quickly down to business with a pleasant, but blink-and-you-miss-it, malt that leaves a nice refreshing aftertaste that fades fairly quickly. After all that I was left with the faint impression of nuts, but not salted or cheap, maybe akin to cashews actually, before you dive in for another sip.

Enjoy this at the end of a good summers day with nothing on your mind and little to do in the evening. It could make a great draft ale, drunk in the beer garden with a Ploughman's Lunch or else on an evening in the snug over a game of dominoes and/or darts. It's the kind of ale that would make one want to sing, putting me in mind of nights singing along to Bohemian Rhapsody, though in those days I was on vodka and coke, and should be drunk with friends. Share it if you can, it's definitely a sessionable ale with a low enough strength that you could take two or three in the evening.

Thursday, 18 July 2013

Drink like a woman

See, pink wine is totally a feminine cliche that I get to
legitimately indulge due to high temperatures and the
fact that the wine was given specifically to me.
A colleague approached me at work. He and I share teaching styles that are... well, they aren't currently en vogue in the UK. See, lecturing as a teaching style and as a means of enthusing and engaging young people is considered the opposite, that is, people in high places believe that because some teachers cannot lecture then no one should have the option to teach that way. These are the people that insist on terms like "best practice" - which my other friend points out is a complete misnomer and impossible within a teaching context because everyone is different. As I am leaving he gave me a gift. Gray Fox Rose wine. Grenache Rose. So, I get to fulfill a cliche of femininity by drinking it.

Yes, I imagine myself like this. Very much.
Thing is I actually do feel pretty feminine by drinking it. Which is completely ridiculous in so many ways that I can't even begin to list. It goes against everything I know about Feminism but it is mostly tied up with my own perceptions of femininity and what it is to be a male. It is also rather nice and, at 11% ABV, significantly stronger than much of the beer that I have been having lately. With the continuing high temperatures it is also easier to chill than most of the beers that I have. It has made quite light headed, thank you, much like I felt when out on my leaving do with the rest of my Department. I almost felt like telling them I cross-dressed. I am still toying with the idea of giving my leaving speech in my long twirly skirt. I won't. I lack the courage and could lose my job over it. But the thought is an exciting one.

Will I write about it in a fictionalised account? Most likely, it's the sort of thing that I do after all! I even combined dribking with eating chocolate. Hell, I'm just one beard away from being a bloody typical female teacher right now...

I want her watch and her hair.
And yes, my night out was a good one. We went to a lovely all-you-can-eat place for the middle classes on the day we may have sold our house and it was paid for (the meal, not the house) so it was a free night out for me. I had plenty of meat and plenty of food generally, managing over 14 portions of meat, which was as it should be, and chose my beer poorly. I am very female in that regard, that is, classically female. I am crap at choosing draft beers but better with bottles. I have no idea why this should be so as the bottled beer I chose on the night was chosen without any tasting or write up, just like the draft beers that topped and tailed the night, so... I dunno. It was Brazilian. No doubt I shall recount the escapades another time.

In the meantime the Rose is very nice. I like the taste, I like the strength and I like the vague feeling of femininity that it brings with it. I wish I were drinking it dressed but Tilly is in the room, so I'm not.

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Moving Experiences

Behold how easy it is to be more
athletic than I. Also, yes, I would prefer
that hair to my apparent inability to
remain upright.
The job I got a while back means we have to move as a family to another part of the country. I realise that this is no biggie for you people in the States and probably not an issue for people that aren't in the UK. Okay, maybe it's not an issue for anyone that isn't me. We had our first repeat viewing this evening, after a school sport's day for me in which I took part in the staff race due to peer pressure and wished I hadn't. It is probably of no surprise to regular readers that I am no sportsman and so taking part in a 100 metre dash seemed a little stupid before I began. Add in the near 30 degree centigrade temperature and a patch of grass that had caused a number of people to slip already and the fact that I was wearing school shoes with relatively smooth soles and you have a recipe for disaster. I've already fallen over and bruised myself pretty badly on both legs when running around the woods on Sunday for my daughter whilst waiting for a viewing to finish. In that one I landed on my keys in my pocket and bruised my leg pretty badly as well as grazing my other leg. There was even that comedy cartoon moment when I saw my feet sticking out from me at 90 degrees and thought "this is going to hurt when I land".

Anyway, sure as eggs is eggs I hit the slippy patch of grass when at full tilt, no idea of my placement as we were less than halfway and so no one had had a chance to pull ahead nor fall behind. I was pumping my legs and then I was pumping them into thin air, I rolled and skidded a good ten to fifteen metres, got up and then saw the rest of the field finish as I restarted running. This left me with a gammy leg, grass stains on my shirt, and a feeling of "I was right" too late to actually be doing anything about that. When I got back home it was to empty the house into the car and next door so that our viewer wouldn't be put off by the clutter.

I ended up taking the Boy, who was close to killing things, out of the house and into the woods as well. None of this was the point of this post!


Yes please. Liberation personified.
I took the opportunity to dress in that skirt with the blouse bought for the purpose of joining it to tidy some of the rooms. I really enjoyed it, especially the impracticality of trying to move around with a floaty and twirly skirt literally getting in the way. I have no idea why something that ought to be annoying turns out to feel so liberating and fun (probably because I don't have to wear it all the time I guess) but it was. I experimented with holding it out of the way, it restricts my walking, and with holding it with one hand (it felt deliciously feminine) and just moving around the house with the skirt on. The most surprising part of it all was the fact that it actually wasn't any cooler than wearing shorts and my short sleeve shirt, something I was genuinely surprised to learn.

I really really don't suit the blouse.

Oh, and my birthday present from my mother turned up on Monday: the new Pet Shop Boys' album Electric. It is very good. I can't believe that none of the online reviews have made mention of the juxtaposition of Bolshy with Love is a bourgeois construct but then I am daily amazed by how few people noted nor understood the lyrics to West End Girls: "From Lake Geneva to Finland Station", the journey taken by Lenin in April 1917 on his sealed train. I shall no doubt end up reviewing the whole damn' thing on here soon enough because I am a raving fangirl.

Hmm. I don't think I identify internally as a female, you know, but I do seem to increasingly refer to myself as 'twat face'. Make of that what you will.

Beer Review: Waggle Dance

Waggle Dance is another of those beers that I had way back, when I started having a beer a week but before I hit on the idea of reviewing them. It was a summer beer choice and I only seem to find it in the shops during the summer time and so I suppose my initial thoughts were right. It cannot have escaped your notice, dear reader, that I have been reviewing many more beers than one a week lately, well, that is partly down to the fact that I have been having more than a beer a week, more like one a night. And, tonight, it is the turn of Waggle Dance by Wells.

Opening the bottle caused a great deal of fizz and carbonation, a head formed almost at once on the beer in the bottle and so I eschewed pouring it into a glass in favour of just starting straight on it. It claims to be a honey beer and the colour is certainly very bronzed and walnutty and golden. A clear bottle does wonderful things for this kind of ale. There's a lot of fizz, clearly. Aroma is citrus-y, it is sharp and tangy, and it is clear-headed and pretty effective but... I don't know, there's a certain something that makes it smell a bit artificial, it tries too hard. First sip is strong, it is 5% ABV, and it is also very fizzy despite a clever flavour of honey over the top of some hoppy fuzz. There's no malt follow-up but there is a definite strengthening of that honey flavour and relief from the carbonation.

I actually really like this ale. It doesn't come across terribly well from the above description but I do. As honey ales go I do think that this is one of the best, I mean, it's no mead but it is very tasty and moreish. After that first sip you will have another and you will find yourself disappointed when the bottle ends. I think it could do better being poured out and having time to settle and go a bit flatter to really get the best from it but that's not to say it's not a generally good all-rounder ale.

Enjoy this ale, as I have done, at the end of a day that touches 30 degrees centigrade after some physical effort. Open up a few of those buttons to let your bosom breathe, cross those shaved legs with a sigh of pleasure and lean back into the couch, let your hair down, close your eyes and let that ale smooth away the wrinkles in mood caused by another day at the office. But keep those heels on girl, because, you know, heels.

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Inspiring Images

Just some of the images I've picked up over the last few days as I attempt to get back into the posting groove again and some commentary from me about what I think about them.

I've said before how much I love women in nature shots and this one seems to tick all the boxes that I look for in such a shot. I love the thin dress she's wearing and the light that evokes that late summer evening feeling - that warmth suffused with the end of the day that I love so much. Of course I want her hair and the ability to go about barefoot like that without killing off small woodland creatures with the stench my feet create. I want to be able to sit like that and be natural in that pose. Hell, on the floor I do sit like that but I look and feel awfully self-conscious so I don't do it much.

Did I mention my recent apparent obsession with Nigella Lawson? I think I did. This is another good shot to show what I mean. I don't find her attractive or one-hand browser worthy, she's a dyed in the wool Tory and a bit... aloof? Upper middle class? I don't know. But looking at this I really want to know what that tastes like and I want to know how that cardigan feels and I want to know how her body handles itself and I would like to have those hands and that hair style and have the abilityh to wear eye make-up like that and get away with it. I want to be that short and need to wear heels.

I know she's been the victim of domestic abuse, I don't want to somehow suggest that this is a good thing, but at the same time I confess a thirst to know about her life. Okay, not so much the domestic violence. I want to know what it is like for her to be herself, I want to know how I can emulate that in my very drab and straight-laced male life.

I'm sure I've mentioned my penchant for flowers in hair and wedding dresses. If I haven't, consider this me mentioning it. Now, this image is far from perfect for me, I'd like a bit more meat on them bones to emulate and I'd prefer my own hair colour, I'm not wanting to be blonde (Tilly dyed her hair blonde when I met her, I'm not saying blonde isn't attractive, I'm just saying that I would rather not be blonde myself) and the flowers would then have to have some deeper colours (I like pink). Still, the image successfully evokes what I bring to mind when thinking about femininity and how women are apparently seen by media and by the students I teach.

I love the complete pointlessness of the extra fabric hanging from that hairband and falling past the hands on the chair. I know from painfully little experience that this feels great and looks fine but is also bloody annoying for actual movement. I like that kind of impracticality, I think I've gone into detail on that before too.

Beer Review: Heather Ale

This is not the first time of tasting this ale. I first had it a few months back but couldn't get round to actually reviewing it because I was busy in the vortex of marking hell.

Tonight, then, I am drinking Heather Ale and it claims to be Scotland's oldest still-brewed ale. As a sucker for that kind of thing and interesting write-ups on the labels on beer bottles I will of course allow myself to be sucked in by that.

There isn't much action when you open it but there was a rapid appearance of a head in the bottle. When I carefully poured it into a glass there was a very frothy head that was created and a woody smell that put me in mind of the heather we grew in the garden back when I was a teenager. I suppose that's why it is called what it is. Anyway, the head did not last as long as something as frothy and thick as that would have suggested and I got a clear stab at the liquid beneath. A golden wooden colour, putting me in mind of the parquet flooring in Tsarskoe Selo, and still that heather-like aroma. 5% ABV, and it knows it, and a taste that verges on being fiery without ever actually being so. It has a spice to it, like it wants to be strong, but then this hoppy fire is overcome by the subtle tones of malt that bring the whole thing back down. It's not so much a roller-coaster ride but it may have comparisons made to a trip over a particularly undulating back road.

It is an overall dry beer that is a bit... bready. Okay, that's not a terribly helpful description, it reminds me of the feeling in my mouth after I've eaten some nice toasted ciabatta with an oil dressing but without the hints of olive about my tongue. These are, instead, replaced by something warmer and fuzzier. On sipping one is assailed by the points of the bubbles on the tongue, carrying hints of hops, and then smooth honey-like texture of the malt and then a pleasant warming sensation as it goes down your throat. The aftertaste is not a bad thing and lingers longer than the head did. The bottle claims that this is the oldest ale still brewed anywhere in the world, being four thousand years old, and that the current recipe dates back to the 1500s - challenging Shepherd Neame for age. There is a fruity hint to each mouthful as well. The label helpfully informs me that there is a peaty aroma, a full-bloodied fruity hops taste and then a full malt body and a dry white wine finish. That would seem to be rather correct given my own feelings on the matter. I prefer my ciabatta middle-class stylings to the dry white bourgeois gubbins.

Drink pretty much whenever you like but in conifer woodland above vast lochs. This is Scottish ale that calls to mind my own trips there flitting between Ben Nevis and Inverness along the Loch Ness road. All jagged and rugged glacial valleys with steep sides, heather above the treeline and strange noises in the dark. Drink alone or with close companions in a private setting open to nature as much as possible, this is not a party ale but the kind of brooding presence one associates more with Lord Byron and early versions of Dracula - like the Historian isn't but apes well - and so needs to be brooded over for full effect.

Monday, 15 July 2013

What is Masculinity?

Observe modern femininity at its
best. She's in charge, right? Except,
Except, it's all about exercise and
being thin. Check the earrings and
the long hair... subtle, but there.
It is a question that, as I read more and more things about Feminism, I really begin to wrestle with. I just don't actually know what it is and how it can be measured. I mean, femininity has been very much defined and carefully mapped. Everywhere I look online I can find definitions - some of them are very much what you would expect and fit the notions of what it is to be female in circles such as those that this blog moves within: that is, women are ethereal and giggly. There is a femininity that embraces light fabrics, bright colours, delicacy and lace, long hair, long nails, make up etc. There is, within this trope, the accompanying steel of the strong characters in TG fiction who know their own minds and desires to impossibly large amounts. Powerplays are made and male-esque roles are assigned the dominant females, some are even described as 'alpha' and there is an assumption that powerful females can operate as much as males as anything else. Like the main character in the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo what we are essentially reading is a cross-dressing male - the mind of a male protagonist altered to cope with the fact that this character has a vagina.

Here we have 'sassy' being used to hide the fact that the
whole point of this image is sex. We all know why she has
a lollipop, but look, she's smiling about it. Sass.
No, my dear, objectification. And, okay, we all know that
we like the concept of objectification on some level but...
Well, it's less subtle than the last one.
So, in that sense, there is a definition of masculinity that is rooted in control, dominance and power. An underlying threat of physical violence and an assurance that stems from physical, rather than mental, prowess. Where there are non-physical skills they are measured in the same way, it's almost as if to be male is to be O'Brien in 1984, to exercise power for the sake of exercising power. Masculinity is a boot stamping on a human face, forever. We see this all around us, in the marketing of masculine products and the creation of male myths and identity. In fiction we see this in the 'one man against a world gone mad' trope, and it's always one man. If women are involved then they are really men cross-dressing in a body with a vagina, where the physical steel and mental dominance are the key things.

Ooh I'm all lost and stuff in these
woods and need rescuing even
though I have a darling hat.
In the same way femininity is equally parodied back to us as weak and submissive and without substance. Vacuous and open, blank and smiling, a kind of watered down version of humanity that fits more a Victorian perception of 'dumb animals' than it does a well-rounded individual. To escape this there are other tropes for females - those of sluts, who are mostly feminine but enjoy sex and may or may not be promiscuous; or essentially male. Bad-ass sassy females who stalk the screen and page with female dress sense but a male perception of power and mastery and imposition.

But I find both of these ideals, these definitions, are lacking something, they do not seem to suggest that there is truth in them. I speak to men who are sporty and thoughtful, however, and I am disturbed by what I see. I see an acceptance of these definitions and a belief that there is nothing more. Women are the same: a fear of being too feminine and a fear of being a slut, a desire to be more male in how they work and operate. That is, to be hard and tough and hard-bitten. To make it in a 'man's world' it appears as though women must, in fact, become and be more masculine than the males around them and the method changes only a little despite outwardly being different. That is, the outward examples of masculinity on a building site would differ from those in teaching, for example. And yet, the underlying ideals are very much the same. It is the application of power and intimidation for the sake of power and intimidation. It is still O'Brien and that boot is still stamping on a human face. On the building site it is through the misogynistic jokes and culture, the overt objectification of women and femininity, the shared concept of 'her indoors'. In teaching it is through the way children are dealt with - nurturing being expected of females and harsh shouty discipline or laddish friendliness expected of the males. Men dress in shirts and ties and women have two modes: strictness with suit like apparel or overt sexualisation of their role. Sure, some come in dress that does not obviously seem to fall within those confines but... well, on closer inspection it does. Be male, and be harsh or laddish, or be female and be sexualised and a 'role model'.

And yes, I would like to look like this. If only for
a little while. To feel that hair, to have run and then
to stop and just be. Yes. But still, note the subtle
reinforcement of gender roles here.
And I am neither. At least, I don't want to be either. And the dichotomy upsets me.

It upsets me because I don't want to be that version of masculine or sassy. I equally find much of the list of feminine traits to be appealing to me (well, obviously, I cross-dress) but at the same time I know that I could no more live that list of submission than I could actually be a woman. That is, were I a woman, I would no doubt be looking at the list of masculine traits and looking to combine them with the same list that I now try to emulate. I am sure that most people are like to some extent too. I am aware that this entry is nothing new and certainly nothing big or clever. But it is where I am at the moment - wanting to wear a skirt and wanting still to be able to be shouty and matey.

Beer Review: Flying Scotsman

This is something I'd seen ages back at the National Railway Museum in York and decided that I must try. Luckily for me I managed to wait and buy it elsewhere. The bottle was not changed but the price was much better for my wallet and for that I am grateful. However much I like an ale I do prefer paying my usual for it and this came in an offer. By all means buy it if you are ever at the NRM but bear in mind that they have an additional mark up over supermarkets.

What is it? Why, it's Caledonian Flying Scotsman that is as much based on a train as you can get with some yeast, some hops and some water brewed and then bottled for your drinking pleasure. I had it alone, with no food accompaniment, and unchilled.

There is a distinctive, and not unpleasant, smell when you open the bottle; a snick of carbonation, but that just carries the malt and the hops to the nose. The first sip proved it to be a proper Scottish bitter, on a par with Black Sheep rather than the creamy Cumberland brewery. It was sharp, tangy and with an underlying maltiness that gave it a weight befitting something with 4% ABV. It let you know what you were drinking and there is no way that it could sneak up on you and leave you drunker than you realised. In many ways it really is based on a train. Let me explain: once you start drinking this it is clear that each sip will increase the speed, so to speak, of the taste getting to you and you build up quite a head of steam by the end of the bottle. That's not to say that it demands to be drunk in groups, but at the same time I was disappointed to reach the end of the bottle and thus the experience.

If you're a fan of malty tangs, as I appear to be, then you will enjoy this very singular taste. I haven't had anything else from this brewery yet but if this was anything to go by then perhaps I ought to be having more of them and soon to sample just what can be done by these guys. It is properly Scottish too, soft on the tastebuds whilst also packing a nice punch that will leave you warmed and glad to have taken the time to listen to what it had to say. Easily holds it own, and I suspect would make a good partner to any strongly flavoured food because it has such a distinctive taste of its own, it wouldn't back down in favour of anything less than a particularly strong curry I'd imagine.

Drink with a meal, maybe something by the Pogues playing in the background and reminisce on the inter-sectionality of the Celtic world, their trials and tribulations and the evils of bloody Cromwell. Imagine a steam train whistling and barrelling through a darkened landscape, snorting its way up a hill and drawing an express sleeper behind. And then, when relaxed and happy, nod sagely to your drinking companions and begin that game of dominoes that you've promised to do for such a long time and never got round to. A good, strong ale with plenty to recommend it.

Sunday, 14 July 2013

Another life

This is just beautiful. I love the fact that
she needs to wear heels to stop the
skirt running on the ground.
There's no real rhyme or reason to this one except to deliver on that promise I made to myself after failing at therapy around this time last year. Namely to get used to actually sharing and writing down the stuff that goes on in my head that even here, where my RL self is carefully obscured and hidden from most but those who watch PRISM closely enough, and therefore there is no fear of come back, I feel woefully underprepared to do.

I know that I have carefully set up this blog to be somewhere that doesn't really delve into the sort of thing that has people, men predominantly, browsing posts one-handed but, at the same time, I have tried to set up a place where I am free to be fully me. And part of me is my sexual side, I know that. I'm not sure everyone is the same, living with Tilly as long as I have has shown me that there are some people that are unable or unwilling to embrace or recognise a sexual side to themselves. Or, rather, Tilly is not at all comfortable with talking about or imagining sex with me. I have no idea if that is an emphasis on the last two words or the opening part of the sentence or both or neither, though obviously I assume the last two words for emphasis.

I also said that this sort of thing would be put safely behind a line break and so I shall make sure that this is the case. This particular one is very much based on a series of ideas I've had in a non-complete and non-linear fashion for many years. Once again, it relies heavily on my mad-ex with whom I had a six month relationship. Nearly ten years down the line and it still provides fuel...

Beer Review: Black Cat

So I'm having a beer renaissance. Tilly has taken to drinking cider now and again rather than wine and the other day she'd bought some in and felt a bit bad that I wasn't going to be drinking with her and so bought me some beer too. Very nice of her.

She bought me Moorhouse's Black Cat which claimed to be a dark ruby ale with a rich dry chocolate malt taste.

At 3.4% ABV it is on the weaker end of the spectrum that I go for, indeed, I have previously not bought it on the grounds of the weakness of the ale and the fact that it was generally a more expensive option. However, remembering the chocolate-y surprise, in that I actually liked it, of Triple Chocoholic I thought I knew what to expect and tried it. I was wrong. There was a whirl of carbon dioxide from the opening of the bottle that suggested that this was going to be a little bit too fizzy. So it proved. The fizz got in the way of both the taste and the smell. It smelled a little like chocolate, sure, but the overwhelming aroma was of malt and yeast. Taste was a little more in the chocolate zone and almost pleasant after a few sips.

Indeed, the longer one drank this the better it was. In the end it turned out to be a very drinkable beer that could go with most things but it never really lived up to the claims on the bottle. If I had never tasted the Saltaire effort then I suppose I would be writing here about the taste being very chocolate-y, but I have and instead I'm on here talking about the malt and the lack of decent hops flavour that I seem to like in the warmer months.

Overall, this is a winter beer or at least a colder month beer. Best drunk in the ailing light of a fairly short day, maybe with a crisp mist gathering in the bottoms of valleys spreading its tendrils through the woods whilst contemplating a long weekend. Turn off the heating, let the alcohol do its warming work and drink the beverage at the temperature of the room - don't chill it - to get the best effects. Finally, don't expect too much and make sure you've already eaten, it is perhaps too subtle to share your palate with food.

Saturday, 13 July 2013

And one other thing

It's around the time of my birthday again. It was a good one this year, probably the best in very long time, and I realised just how far into the pit I'd fallen over the last few years. I was listening to Contact, the album by the Benjamin Gate, in the car and realised that it has been over four years since I last listened to that album. I was shocked to say the least, but it figures because it's an album that I've only ever listened to in a happy mood and I suppose I haven't been very happy over the last four years for one reason or another.

This looks nothing like the skirt nor the look I
explain but, you know what, I don't care. Why?
Because this is also a look I'd like to try.
I also managed to get some time this morning, when the temperature was rising and around 26 degrees centigrade, to wear the floaty blue skirt I bought a while back. The Boy was downstairs playing with the iPad and Tilly was out taking the Girlie to her drama class / group thing. It was nice to wear and felt good. I honestly wish I could just get on with being a man in a dress / skirt like Tip in Skin-Horse and wear these things more often. It's not like I want to spend every waking minute in clothes designed for the opposite gender, I don't, but now and again, especially in weather like this, it would be nice to have that extra option. There was something cooling about the effect of wearing that skirt and ten minutes was too short a time to really enjoy the feeling, though I did get to bunch it up a few times and that was nice.

We went to a friend of our daughter's birthday party today and that was good too. Now I get to know people who I could talk to, when we're planning on moving down to my new job and losing most of the face to face contact that Tilly has built up over the last year. Hard to believe we only met the family in September and harder still to imagine how we will stay in contact when we eventually move. We've been down to look at houses in the new area and they're mostly affordable but we have to sell this place first. We've lowered the price and cleaned up as much as we can, but it's not shifting. We're just not getting people through the door.

And, of course, so is this.
Tilly's been having issues with her period, sound a little serious to me, but she hasn't yet been to see a doctor about the never-ending-period-of-doom. She did, however, go all pink on me today and expressed an interest in having pink hair. I can't claim to be opposed to that idea. We even watched In The Loop together last night and that was a pleasant evening. She looked good in pink and made me wonder what it would be like for her to wear her floaty skirt and pink nail polish and eye shadow and then for me to wear my blue floaty skirt, a light blue top and blue nail polish and eye shadow. A highly highly unlikely scenario and yet... strangely alluring.

Beer Review: Ashes Ale

The first day of the Ashes Test ought to have been very different from what it turned out to be. The pundits had been saying for days how the England side were so much more experienced and better prepared, the Aussies had suspended two of their players in the build up for minor infractions (going to a bar and missing a practice session respectively) and it looked like their team was the weakest yet. Botham had predicted a 10-0 series over the course of two Ashes Tests. The weather was hot and dry. The ground had no real swing and nothing to get the seamers into. England won the toss and went in to bat. By the end of the day they had been bowled out for 215 and the Aussies had put on a record breaking last man partnership where their newbie batsman managed 98 off 101 balls.

So I had Marston's Ashes Ale which proclaimed itself "not for Aussies" in solidarity with the English batting order's collapse on Wednesday. I had it chilled and out of the bottle and I had it with a curry.

It says that it is a 'light drinking ale' and Marston's tend to be good at that sort of thing. The English Pale Ale I've previously had by them was a sharp and semi-creamy light beer that went well with a meal without making me tipsy. At 4.1% ABV this is in their light stable and the smell was pleasantly citrus laced. There was a feeling of summer about it, which is presumably why they've marketed it at the cricketing crowd. First taste was pretty much as I expected, no surprises, with an opening twinge of citrus followed by a pleasant fizz on the tongue and a little zest of yeast as it went down. It was nice enough, neither heavy nor light in the end and the chilled nature didn't seem to make much difference. I suspect that this would do well as a proper warm beer and that is a good thing for something that is aimed at people sitting in a warm cricket ground and lunch time picnics.

In that sense then, this is a clever little beer and will no doubt do well in the open air as we experience an actual summer with actual summer weather. The citrus tang is enough to make it a valid option to curb one's thirst and the relatively light ABV means that one can stand a brace without falling over and getting a headache. It is also liquid-y enough to avoid carpet mouth and the taste is subtle enough to enjoy its own but light enough not to dominate in a meal. I mean, granted, I had it with a speciality curry laced with enough tikka to turn the rice red, but it held its own well enough and was still enjoyable at the end.

Would I recommend taking it to see cricket? Well, yes, I would, but I suspect it would do well in most outdoor settings. So, enjoy this with the family at a picnic in some field. Maybe you've brought your own stumps and a bat and ball and will play some cricket, maybe you just like to sit under the trees near a river and listen to the bugs buzzing in the air, maybe you don't have children and want to enjoy this with your significant others. Maybe you're a student and want to enjoy it with friends. Take a brace, pack them in a hamper and don't be concerned about the warm weather, this is a beer that wants to be drunk in summer!