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!

Friday, 28 February 2014

Beer Tasting

Obviously, reverse the roles.
So, I'm in a trough. Not really sure why. I'd like to say it's the renewed mixed signals from Tilly (she wanted to do something special for Valentine's, was unable due to illness and tiredness. I raised it yesterday and was met with "Ugh, no, why even bring it up?") or the numbing realisation that I am slowly becoming That Guy when it comes to our sexual relations (in that I am pushing every now and again but with continual rebuffs). It probably isn't. Watching Cold Feet doesn't help. They're all shits to one another, of course, but there's a playfulness and affection there that, despite the fact I know Tilly loves me, is missing at home.

Pik and Sierra were up on the weekend. It was a nice time. Pik and I sampled beers. I shall devote this post to that.

First beer was mine. My brew. It smelled sweet, fruity and light but lacked the citrus-y tang one associates with hops. None of the spiciness of yeast or the mustiness of malt, more mulled than sharp. It poured ginger and auburn with a depth to that colour suggestive of wood but without a head, some froth, with a light and eminently acceptable carbonation by dint of being bottle conditioned rather than added under pressure. In tasting there was a subtle hint of limited yeast that was instantly replaced by a summery light malt, filling the space in the taste, before fading to the bittering hops to finish it off. After-taste was agreed to be acceptable, mainly hops. Overall, this was a surprisingly standard, uncomplicated ale that worked well to explain the rudiments of beer tasting to Pik.

Second: Wild Raven, Thornbridge Brewery. 6.6% ABV. Black IPA.
Smelt very much of chocolate fondue (in the words of Sierra). Oranges and berries were present but wrapped in light milk chocolate melting over a naked flame. Poured very dark, living up to the title of black ale without masquerading as Guinness or Murphy's. As advertised, there was a beige head that filled quickly without fuss. Plenty of carbonation but this seemed less added and more conditioned from the bottle (at least if my own ale is anything to go by). Tasting revealed a hoppy start with a definite tang of exotic fruits before an edge of chocolate malt, surrounded by more citrus hops (the bottle suggested pineapple and that seemed pretty close) that was not a little unlike Um Bongo. Then there was a hops explosion that changed character so many times it was impossible to nail anything at all down. So... the 1980s in a glass? Tilly found it "too full of flavours for a beer" and Pik agreed that it was almost impossible to separate out all of the flavours. Everyone agreed that it was "intense" and Pik and I were glad we were on halves or trying to track the different influences would have driven us mad.

Third: Wainwright, Thwaites. 4.1% ABV. Pale Golden Ale.
Opening allowed a yeasty spice mingling with dank musk to escape, a hint of citrus working its way through and hanging around nonchalantly, but the dominant sense was one of the yeast. Poured very much a ligher coloured ale, dark straw, with almost walnut-like tone and warmth to it. Everyone agreed that the taste was "nice" without further elucidation at first. It had the banner across the bottle and Tilly announced that it very much lived up to it: "It is exquisitely lovely golden ale!" Definite yeast opening with the initial carbonation as it wallows around the tongue that slowly gives way to the malt that has the barest hint of caramel. the after-taste was telling in that it was a clear indication that this was our first mass-produced ale of the session. Not a bad thing, but, in the company of the evening, it wasn't doing the ale any favours.

Fourth: Black Sheep Ale, Black Sheep Brewery. 4.4% ABV. Drinking Ale.
Crisp and musty vie for control on opening with heavy and yeasty tones shot through. However, the sad fact is that the aroma is very much a reminder that the ale is mass produced in a way that was simply less obvious with the Wainwright and missing altogether from either my ale or the Thornbridge addition. Why? It is dominated by the added CO2. Taste was rapidly adjudged as being "not as much of an adventure" as Wild Raven by Pik and "not bland, but samey enough to be in the background" by Tilly, adding: "sharper than the Wainwright". Pik added that it was "less yeasty". It was definitely the fizziest of the evening and the taste was weak enough that it was murdered by the mere memory of Wild Raven. I was disappointed as I do love this brewery and really rate their ales, but on the evening this just faded and reminded us that it was totally manufactured with a forgettable after-taste that borders on being 'generic'. It's dark and nutty colour with fine head, alas, promised far more than it could deliver.

Fifth: Business As Usual, Derby Brewing Company. 4.4% ABV. Amber Ale.
This had a smell that was dominated by a mellow malt that almost left us with the sense of Horlicks (helpfully suggested by Sierra). The bottle claimed a toffee aroma and there was certainly an edge of that involved. Suffice to say that it wasn't so much a hoppy ale as it was a malty one. It poured with a minimal, almost white cell like, fizz and a businesslike head. From the first sip it was clear that this lacked the industrial level of carbonation seen in Wainwright or Black Sheep Ale and that lemon and lime citrus hops would play a large role. Pik announced it "one of his favourites so far" and joined Tilly in pronouncing that the taste was 'fresh' and clear (as one would expect with such sharp hops). Indeed, the hops very much forced the malt into hiding for much of the experience but there was enough to prevent an overpowering souring of the taste. A very strong showing for the last ale of the evening.

In the event, Pik and Tilly were unanimous in their praise and choice of Business As Usual as their preferred ale of the evening. For me, I thought it was very good but paled against the Black power of the Wild Raven. We all agreed, with varying degrees of sadness, that the weakest showing was Black Sheep Ale. It was simply up against some of the better ales I have tasted of late and thus out-classed by all but the Wainwright, that had the advantage of being light and spicy.

My happiest moment of this evening was the fact that all present agreed that my ale was good enough to edge into third place (or possibly second, though I thought that unfair). In such august company I think I canb safely call my first brewing attempt a success.

Saturday, 22 February 2014

Beer Review: Jaipur

No special occasion but I was bored and I am getting depressed by marking. So, I plumbed to have a beer and I plumbed to have one of the ones that were gifted to me when I went Oop North because, well, why not? After some hemming and hawing I decided that I would go for the Jaipur because it was closest to my hand as I reached over the breakfast bar.

So, this would be my second try of something from the Thornbridge stable. At this point I am becoming increasingly aware of the fact that proper beer cannot be found in my local supermarket and so resigned to the fact that, sooner or later, I'll have to start ordering in crates of the stuff from proper breweries. Is this bad? It's probably a bad thing.

Opening this showed a brief hint of carbonation and the aroma hits you straight away. This is very hoppy - seriously fruity tang in the air that is both citrus and a host of blooming flavours, like a bouquet of fruit! It is very alluring. The colour on pouring is straw and mellow with it, bright and clean and cheerful. Plenty of fizz but the sort that reminds me of being bottle conditioned rather than artificially carbonated. Head is big, vigorous and bubbly - and it sticks around too. First taste does not disappoint - it promises much hoppiness and there are plenty of hops. Hordes of hops. I can see why it was so loved by the person that gave them to me and I can see why it is a nice ale all round.

As the sips continue it softens from a fairly harsh fizz with plenty of hops to a soft malt taste that works around the edges of that hops explosion and makes it slip down more easily. At 5.9% ABV this is no slouch and the taste is pleasingly in line with the punch. You aren't going to mistake this for something light and fluffy but nor are you going to call it firewater and never touch it. It is pleasant and helpful, as an ale ought to be, and wonderful at cleansing palates. I had had curry for tea, a packet sauce with pre-tandoori-ed chicken pieces, and the harshness of that meal was carefully and soothingly washed away by the tones of this proper straw IPA.

Enjoy this whenever you like, but most appropriately on a warm day with a good set of spicy food or a barbeque. Have a couple to hand in case you want to experience a second or, as I am forced to do, daydream about getting in a crate of this, in a selection of course, and having the time to really kick back and sample several in an evening. I would love to follow this up with another beer but know that if I do I shall regret it when I need to do more marking in the early morning and when I don't have another beer another week as a consequence.

It is definitely time I start ordering in crates. I am an alcoholic.

Friday, 21 February 2014

Beer Review: Old Empire

After my last foray into the world of bottled beers I was beginning to wonder if my experience in Leeds had soured any chance I had of enjoying non-craft ales. Indeed, had I become as much of a beer snob as I am a curry snob? The answer, by the way, is probably yes. Heigh ho. Tonight I thought I would try another beer I got in for Christmas and whose services were not required in the event, Marston's Old Empire. An IPA, which was a good augur given how many times I tried them last year, and a strong one.

Upon opening I anxiously tested the aroma. This is not one of the lovely Thornbridge ales that my host from Leeds had gifted to me (I'm saving them for a special occasion - either having all three on an evening or because I feel like it, both would be special). I was not immediately electrified by the yeast-based smell, travelling with the barest hint of hops without any real fruitiness, but I was reassured that this would have something more to it than the Shambles Bitter. Colour on pouring was good and pale, as IPAs should be, but lighter than the straw of the White Swan. First taste belied the 5.7% ABV and went straight to a light and musty spice that one usually associates with yeast, though I confess that I didn't make that connection right away. There was plenty of that to go round, fuzzing away at the edges of the rest of the experience throughout without being overpowering. A light malt followed, but did not hang around as it wasn't really the star of the show, and was in turn succeeded by some light citrus before fading to a bitter and yeasty aftertaste that was not unpleasant.

In this sense then, the ale does well, the taste fills the mouthful and the colour matches what one would expect. The head was a solid one. Obviously the carbonation was artificial in the main, lacking any bottle conditioning that I have discovered I enjoy, and thus a little on the fizzy side but that wasn't a huge issue and didn't dent the enjoyment of it. As the pint progressed the taste mellowed, still with that yeast in the background adding spice to it, but the carbonation dimmed more to allow the beer to shine through a bit more. Something to remember with this one: let it stand a bit before supping. The flavour is rewarding enough and held its own against my evening meal of salmon pasta bake so it is probably enough to withstand even stronger flavours if not a decent curry.

Enjoy this as part of a meal, though I would counsel it needs something more than a fish pasta bake. If meat is your thing then this could go with something like a dark rare steak or, if not, try a mushroom based nut-roast with plenty of pepper. A curry would go well with it, something like a bhuna or even a jalfrezi but probably not something stronger like a biryani or dhansak. Be warned though, the strong yeast will leave you with the munchies. I was going to combat with further beer but settled, eventually, on Rochester Grape Juice (another Christmas leftover). In short, thank you Old Empire, I may be a beer bore but at least I'm not an awful beer snob, Shambles Bitter was that bad.

Thursday, 20 February 2014

Non-Spoilered Film Review: Lego Movie

If you have seen the film then you already know what I am talking about and, if you haven't, then you will probably at least know of the song and may be dimly aware that there is a Public Information Film doing the rounds masquerading as a Blockbuster at the cinemas. I refer, of course, to the Lego Movie and, in case it wasn't already painfully obvious, we went to see it and I am going to review it here.

There is a twist, however, and that is that we went to see it as a family. I had just got back from my night out Oop North and the children were at that stage where they needed to do something but were unable to actually do anything. Mind you, the Boy was a tad ill and the Girlie was a tad under the weather generally. Nevertheless, we thought they would enjoy the experience and it was a chance to introduce them both to the world of the cinema (and probably a good time as neither would have the energy to get a hurricane level of tantrum going).

This is an entry about parenting and a film. Would you like to know more?

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Beer Review: Shambles Bitter

It's another post about beer and ale tonight as I have been hard at work in my marking crunch. I still can't quite make enough sense to rejoin the political debate nor make a proper post about it here. Nor do I really have much to say about other matters, apart from the fact that I bought a bargain £1 top today. Red sweater vest with shirt cuffs and collar in pink stripes. Yes. Score. It may even match my blue denim skirt. Should have bought jeans to go with. I suck. Anyway, have yet to wear the top with anything, just tried it for size so far. But, being wordless at the moment.

Now that my own brew has been tasted and reviewed by others, and found to be good enough that they commented positively on it, I don't feel so bad about branching out and trying some others that have been stacking up waiting for my treatment of them. Tonight's effort goes to Potton Brewery's Shambles Bitter as I have been marking and fancied something alcoholic to ease the evening.

The bottle is one of those simple ones that I seem to like and brown glass, another plus. Obviously artificially carbonated rather than bottle conditioned upon opening and it poured well with a lot of activity but a fizzy and fast head that didn't hang around. Tawny colour, darkening to walnut, with the definite scent of bitter hops hanging around but nothing obvious enough for me to pin a flavour to it. At 4.3% ABV this was shaping  up to be a comfortable ale that would fit nicely into a relaxed evening.

First sip was not too heartening. A brief hint of malt gave way to some bittering hops but these lacked punch or nose. Then it was gone. After-taste was watery, of all things, and whilst not awful was not really in the same range of quality I have come to expect. After my night out Oop North and Fuller's 1845 I think I am coming to expect a little more from my tipples of an evening. Carbonation is very much artificial but hardly enough to fill the gap left by the taste. It's hard to adequately describe my disappointment with this bitter. It has all the right component parts - bitter hops, light malt, good colour - but they never really combine. The best I can do is say that it feels as though the overall taste has shrunk, and now the space is taken over with the water in which the brew was made. If it were a cordial I would say it had been made too weak, the sort of tea where the water is introduced to to the teabag briefly and then left to mull on the milk.

Tilly tried it too and pronounced it 'nondescript'. She also, interestingly, concurred with my statement that my own homebrew tasted better than this. I mean, that's not a good sign for this ale. Given I bought it over-priced, I feel, from my local supermarket before Christmas I am very disappointed with the result. I had been saving this as something that would be clever and crafted and... well, it was from the Home Counties. I expected refinement. I got cowardice. This is the Cadman of ale, for those that remember Victor comics and annuals in the late 1980s. Likely to see the enemy and then spend too long trying to find a cowardly way out rather than beat a retreat. Insidiousness that causes routs, I fear, rather than decisive actions that lose or win battles.

It'll do for the evening, it's not that bad (it's not Tod's Blonde after all) but it pales rather badly compared to my latest ales and tastings. Here's hoping the next selections won't fare so badly!

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

A Trip North

Yeah, I can say I felt a bit like this. Did not look like it though.

I have, however, had a haircut.
So, I went back to an area of the country renowned for its curries to take some of my home brew to the colleagues that got me the kit to start brewing. Naturally I went alone. Girlie has been getting increasingly rude and difficult to manage (sending Tilly a bit loopy) and Tilly has a massive migraine. I suspect that my worries in the last post are, well, largely irrelevant if i'm honest. However uneasy the concept of Tilly doing what she promised are I suspect that it will never actually happen, so I'm spared that particular soul search. Also, the conversation on politics continues and probably deserves a blog post at some point, but not tonight. I am failing to mark work and tired after a night out on the tiles.

We also went out to see the Lego Movie today. I shan't ruin it for anyone that hasn't seen it but it is not at all what I expected and plotted very much as one would expect from a twelve-year old. I do not mean that as a criticism by the by. Girlie seemed to enjoy it, the Boy found it hard going and is clearly a little bit ill.

Mmm, proper curry!
Going to the place of curry made me realise that the take out in this part of the country is substandard but it also reminded me why I hate big cities and made me appreciate anew where I live now. The opportunity to 'pop into town' and to cover the whole centre in about ten minutes is not to be sniffed at. The fact that there are some good pubs here, which I must start to try, and the fact that it's nowhere near as busy. Even though my host had a residence across four floors (!) I am not jealous as I would have been in the old days. I am happy for him and his family that they found that place and could get it, his children seemed very taken with it, but I do like my own house. I mean, sure, we can't return the favour for his whole family, but the space we have is just nice. And that was nice. Also, I drove up there with my bracelets and watch on. That was very good indeed and surprisingly comfortable. Anyway, I have chosen to relate the night in the form of short beer reviews because... uh... because... I... can?

Saturday, 15 February 2014

Article time!

I have Linda to thank for this next one and it gave me food for thought given the developments in my life over the last few days.

This is of Brian and Debbie. It is a great picture. For many
many reasons. None of them are related to physical
You can find the article here. I find it fascinating on a number of levels, especially as, increasingly, I was finding almost no reference to that idea that one could simply be a man that liked wearing women's clothes and had no real desire to be a female full time. Indeed, Brian's acceptance that he could never pass, and not even wanting to try, I find refreshing and empowering in a way that I'll confess makes no sense. I also totally get why he sees Debbie as the hero of the story - in many ways, she is. Perhaps she shouldn't be but she totally is. Much respect and props to her for accepting Brian and loving him. In that order.

This resonates particularly at the moment because of this post (and the subsequent comments section, well worth a read!) and the videos contained there (I still haven't watched the second part as of this writing). It also hits home because of the discussions I've had with Tilly about Valentine's recently.

After all, Valentimes is serious times!

Friday, 14 February 2014

Beer Review: 1845

On Valentine's Day this year my wonderful wife bought me two beers along with a whole bunch of other admissions that I really don't know what to think about. I shall be working those through another time, now it's time for beers. Of course, them being new beers means that I am duty-bound to tell you all about them. Or I'm just that boring. Still have the beard and I am putting on weight, a beer gut cannot be far away. If I do join CAMRA I suspect my beer boring will know no end. In fact, I suspect it already does.

Anyway, tonight I am drinking Fuller's 1845. Brewed in celebration of the brewery's 150th anniversary to one of the early beer recipes of that brewery so it promises a great deal. Even the label is gold and it claims to have been bottle conditioned for 100 days. Now, that's probably a bit longer as I don't know when it was bought or when they measure the 100 days from.

It's a different bottle, very tall and straight with brown glass. No obvious whiff of carbonation upon opening but it is clear that this plays a part. Mind you, there is sediment in there that suggests most of the carbonation is imparted by sugar and yeast. It smells old and bitter, in a good way, like the snug in a mouldering bar off the beaten track that has regulars hunched and talking animatedly to one another in the way that only old friends can. First sip is actually very interesting. It was hard to separate the Amber malt from the Goldings hops in that they worked so well transferring the flavour between smooth and bitter I couldn't really say which dominates when. There's a spicy hit to it and it tastes like it's an old recipe. I have no problem believing that this is from 1845!

At 6.3% ABV this is no slouch and the strength shows through very quickly. It's a strong bitter too, easily enough to stand on its own, and that allowed it to beat all the tastes from our takeaway - including the rather spicy chicken. Impressively, that taste remained almost undented until the end of the meal and then managed to wash that meal away at the end. If you're looking for an ale to dominate your evening then you could do worse than check this out. I had been avoiding this one as I felt that it was a bit corporate and mass-produced. And it is, don't get me wrong, but it's nice too and that makes it worth a hit.

Enjoy on pretty much any evening with or without food. This is not a lunchtime beer. You could maybe have more than one but I wouldn't session this ale. Equally, if you can get it on draught, do it! I imagine that this is smoother, spicier and all round better from a pump.

Wednesday, 12 February 2014


This is not a post that will lend itself to mys usual image-accompanied style. So I apologise for the wall of text.

I am a very lucky individual.

My sexuality as I currently understand it in
visual form.
As yet, my sexuality has not been considered to be so abhorrent that there are laws passed against it, let's leave aside the fact that most of my circle do not know the fullest extents of my sexuality and that my wife struggles to even talk about it, I am nevertheless incredibly lucky. As part of a majority, being middle class, white, male and outwardly heterosexual (in the sense that there would no point anyone questioning it) I get to bask (and I'm not being sarcastic) in the anonymity and positive judgement that is assumed in everyday life. No one questions my preferences, I am married to a wonderful woman, and no one ever challenges my worldviews or my opinions about who I am. In short, I am left to create and to nurture my own identity in the privacy that I can dictate without too many feelings of shame or pressure.

Then I watched this. And I realised that luckiness that I spoke of in the above paragraph. I began to get a sense of just how much my life is different from others whose sexuality is actively and publicly legislated against. It is so feared and misunderstood that, frankly, bizarre descriptions of made up enemies are enough to convince people of the justness of their hatred and fear. As a Bible believing Christian who knows the two verses (in a book of thousands) that prohibit homosexuality (well, actually, neither of them talk of love, they talk specifically of sexual practice and Leviticus is even more specific "to lie with a man as with a woman" which is not terribly encompassing - Paul speaks specifically to the Greek practice of teacher and student having sex with one another to deepen the pedagogic bond rather than more generally, otherwise we'd have to accept that women cover their head and that any Christian with long hair is breaking an equally serious part of Christian dogma, not something I see much of about) I also believe that God creates human beings.

In other words, it is not for me or anyone else to try and legislate sexuality until we can scientifically prove that these things are entirely choice. Not, by the way, something I feel that science will ever prove. Indeed, whilst it is looking far more complex than a gay (or otherwise) gene or set of genetic encoding it is nevertheless looking less and less likely that sexuality is entirely down to choice. I do believe that there are, and have met, those who claim that they have modified or changed their sexuality through choice and force of will (though, interestingly, my anecdotal evidence of 'people I have met' [all three of them] who claim this did so to become bisexual rather than straight and started from heterosexual baseline assumptions rather than homosexual ones - that is, men who decided they were attracted to men as well as women rather than men who decided they were attracted to women as well as men). But I do not believe, anecdotally or otherwise, that they would constitute a majority or even a sizable minority.

Which brings me to this snippet. I need to watch the whole damn' thing. I need to in order to educate myself further as there is little in the mainstream, that I have seen at least, that takes the assumption that something that is not considered normative is normal. Like I say, being considered normative in my sexuality means that I am free to make my own challenges and not challenged on a day-to-day basis about my preferences. Few heterosexual people are. I consider myself lucky to be challenged occasionally about my sexuality and blessed that I spent a good deal of time as a teenager dealing with self-imposed challenges to my internal perception that helped iron out a lot of the big sexual issues. Of course, I'm still very much on a journey, I recognise that, but my journey is at my own pace in many ways - which is a luxury not afforded to many people whose sexuality differs more openly and obviously with what is considered normal. And, like I say, to my knowledge my sexuality has never been legislated against or feared to the point of unthinking and unreasoning violent reaction by others. I am lucky.

The whole damn' thing:

I mean, I don't venerate Fry like many seem to - he was a top comedian in the 1990s and a decent enough host of QI but I very much disagree with much of his fluffy-liberal and fuzzy-logic worldview - but I have to respect what he's done here. I have to.

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Defining Moments

It was about that time in my life, except that,
obviously, I was not female nor
Catholic. This is, therefore, about as
far as it is possible to get from what I
was like in 1992.
I posted this last night, but it was a poor entry, so tonight I'm trying again. I've spent the day at Beth Shalom with some 13-14 year olds and... it was like watching Threads and then having the opportunity to meet and talk to one of the characters, in this case a survivor who was five during the events in question. And I was startled by how close to my own reading of the human condition his take on things was - though I feel I have more hope than he let on he had (it may be we share that hope, but his time was limited). It was not the experience I was expecting and I mean that as a good thing.

Then I've been at work until about twenty minutes ago, and had some of the challenges I expected from parents but mostly they were averted. Only one parent suggested I lacked experience (being new to the school it assumed that I have no teaching experience by many students and parents) and I was able to gently shoot that down whilst remaining supportive and polite. It was gruelling but I can't argue too much and it wasn't like it was an awful hardship. I am in for some busy days though if students follow through on some of my suggestions.

None of which is the point of what I want to talk about.

Way back when I was entering my teen years there was a song that I heard on the radio, a bit warbley and a bit pants that then changed character half way through. There was a lady with page boy haircut in the video I did not see until later and a woman whose name I later learned was Siobhan Flahey with a voice like a foghorn. I refer, of course, to the wonderful song by Shakespeare's Sister: Stay.

And why not?
And stay with me it has. In my Sunday School, at a very liberal (but also oddly high and liturgical) Church of England Church in the Borders of England, so vaguely Catholic by tradition, we didn't do much with religious meet involved. As a youngster we did our fair share of Bible stories without too much challenge and carefully arranged to hide the uglier parts. We did the vague discipleship thing and I asked a few questions that I got answers to that satisfied me (no mean feat) and it was nice. Now, I should point out, I have never really doubted that there's a God in Heaven. I've questioned various methods of worshiping that Deity and various traditions associated with belief in both that God and Jesus who was known as the Christ but I have never really questioned the existence of a Being that set all things in motion. Further, my understanding of God has always been... well, let's just say I have no problem imagining a God that is neither male nor female nor anything inbetween but all things at the same time nor imagining that a loving God can create, love and nurture homosexuality, asexuality, pansexuality, heterosexuality and so on. And this sort of 'understanding' that I had permeated my childhood as well. Whether as a product of my Church experience, my upbringing or something else I have no idea.

Hi there, have a Holy Hand Grenade. Three is the number
thou shalt count unto. Not four, for that is too far, and not
two except insofar as the next number be three.
So it was that, mostly, I have a faith that sits with popular culture. It challenges things, certainly (in the world but not of the world and all that) and calls me to repent but also to celebrate and share and be, well, human. Flawed and imperfect and occasionally an arse. Equally, my faith allows me to trust in God and The Plan - even if, mostly, it works despite what I do rather than directly due to what I do (my current job as a case in point). I can ride the idea that the Holocaust, volcanoes, tsunamis and bullies can be a part of that world and reality as run by a God. Doesn't make them 'right' or 'justified' just makes them... well, there.

When my Sunday School teacher wandered off into popular culture that morning then, I was somewhat unprepared. We had recently looked at relationships and, in a task I have since stolen and used to teach, we had been given some aspects of relationships and asked to put them in order. Things like "holding hands" and "kissing" and "statutory rape". We were also asked what was part of a healthy or unhealthy relationship (looking back, I believe that they were pretty clear of heteronormativity too, though I suspect marriage played a role) and, crucially, asked where different people would expect us to go and be comfortable with us going: Us, Parents, Church Family and God.

Relationships you say? I'mma just stay here and hug this
soft furnishing. Ain't gonna fuck up a soft furnishing with
my issues. Me, aged 12.
Obviously most teenagers, as we were becoming, generally said that they would go further than their parents would expect which, in turn, was further than they thought God would want them to go. Cue the teacher using this as an opportunity to show that God created sex and was happy with sex within the confines of a loving relationship (intriguingly I remember that marriage was only displayed as one option here, if a preferred one, and that cohabitation was also discussed positively if a life-long commitment). Except I was an odd child, I'm sure I've mentioned this before, and rated things thusly:

Where I would go: "just looking"
Where parents would expect me to go: "kissing and cuddling"
Where God would be happy with me going: "kissing and cuddling" but, over time: "marriage" and "sexual intercourse"

Let's see, how can I challenge the basic
concept of today's life lesson? What's that?
Lessons aren't all about challenging the
fundamental precepts of society?
Now, where's the fun in that?
Basically, I was the wild card. I share this because it helps explain reactions to what was about to happen with my new favourite song of the day, Stay. The Sunday School teacher, in a very rare moment of lecturing, warned us about a song that was out. It had Satanic tones (a term I've heard maybe six times ever and mostly in connection with incidents in the Bible) and was something that we should be shunning if we could. Most people had not heard of the song in question. It had a depiction of the Devil who tried to tempt a man to Hell with sexuality in a most negative fashion. Of course, the Sunday School teacher was referring to Stay. I was distraught, I loved the song and the sudden introduction of bass with the foghorn voice. I loved the lyrics ("You'd better hope and pray / that you wake one day / back in your own world. // You'd better hope and pray / that you make it safe / back to your own world. // Cause when you sleep at night / they don't / hear you cry / back in your own world. // Only time will tell / if you can / break the spell / back in your own world.") and I couldn't believe that God would denounce that love of the lyrics and the music as Satanic. I said so, of course I said so, and I don't really remember the conversation but the gist was that a clearly flustered Sunday School teacher agreed that my love of the music and the lyrics probably didn't mean I was being claimed by Hell and that not having seen the video didn't mean I just hadn't seen the evil of the song as the video was the Satanic part. And then, after further discussion, agreed that the video could be interpreted a different way, as the Angel of Death being denied by Love and thus could be an allegory inkeeping with Biblical teaching. Did I mention I was an awkward student to have in any class?

Anyway, it counts as a defining moment as it allowed me to argue a case based on my own faith and understanding. It was a similar argument of faith that allowed me to have sex with Tilly before we were married as I saw that as synonymous with marriage. Sex, in the Bible, is referred to as making 'one flesh' so, I figured, so long as I had one sexual partner then that was pretty much what marriage is and the ceremony was the public part of having sex. My understanding of God is that it's more about doing things right than it is doing things in a particular order. Ergo, defining moment when I was able to argue that the love of a song made the intentions of the people who made the song (who, for all I know, were aiming to be Satanic) irrelevant in terms of the effects that it had.

So... there. Also, cool video about sex and sexuality I found:

Aaand, yes, this is a better version of what I tried to post on Monday. Good.

Sunday, 9 February 2014

Beer Review: Double Chocolate Stout

Time to breathe some life back into this blog after a few days of being wordless and largely silent as a consequence. Takeout! Kebab? Well, okay then, but I'm going to have to team this kind of thing with a beer. Tonight I shall be teaming it with Young's Double Chocolate Stout.

As promised by the title the beer is dark, smooth and long. Definite whiff of carbonation on opening but not too strong and not too much. Pours well, but the head was a bit too powerful for my tastes. Despite my effort of pouring to avoid too much of a head the top third of my glass was still froth and the first sip, therefore, was mainly just the head which, while intriguing, wasn't really the best start to the beer. At 5.2% ABV it's on the stronger side of the beers I've been reviewing and drinking of late. Once I got a proper first sip the chocolate was clear in both the malt and in the overall taste. It wasn't as strong as the Triple Chocoholic from Christmas 2012 but it was very much in a similar vein.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, there isn't much bittering or otherwise from hops in this stout, it focuses very much on the malt and even the carbonation didn't seem too affect this much. A dark brew with plenty of body to it - molasses play a huge part of this and the weight is what I would have expected from things like Mann's and the Oyster Stout. Very much part of the Christmas stable from this year for me, being a heavy ale with dark brooding nature.

As an accompaniment to a large take out meal with spicy meats and dry chips it held its own very well, maintaining dominion over my taste buds against pretty much all comers. Therefore I would suggest that this is a good ale to go with a meal and one that you would wish to end an evening rather than begin one. It weighs nicely alongside strong flavours and will fill your need for beer well without having to session. One I may well try again but not for a while.

Monday, 3 February 2014

Cowardice or Confessional

Yeah, kinda like this.
Virtually all of my posts on here are confessional, right? Well, only so far I suppose. Mostly I record what's happened for the purpose of recording what has happened and not a lot else. Tonight I have another purpose and tonight I do wish to confess as to why I feel like a poor parent again. A spectre from an earlier age returned and I saw my father in myself very clearly.

The cowardice is easier to explain. Twice in this blog, recently, I have said that things feel 'right' when I do things. I have explained at length how wearing full briefs tops wearing boxers; how I enjoy the feeling of a camisole on my upper body so much that I have bought four of them. I have shared how a feminine watch with white leather straps and a pink face feels more like my own watch than the one that I have worn almost consistently since 2008 (and it feels very much like my watch, let me tell you). And, in both cases, the very sage advice has been "go you, you have discovered something that makes you feel good that you enjoy - why not do that more and embrace it?" And, again in both cases, I have immediately demurred, dissembled and then moved on from trying to do it more. Out of fear more than anything, I fear being so at home with myself that I would likely challenge others. I mean, what I should do is broach it with Tilly - say I'll wear camisoles for example, but promise that I shall clean and dry them and make sure she doesn't have to really see them but explain that I like wearing them and it's not sexual nor the start of me transitioning. Or the watch. I mean, for Heaven's sake, I can't see how that could be anything other than wearing a watch. Tilly doesn't even wear one!

But I am a coward. So, when Tilly feels a bit 'icky' I stop pushing anything. Given that she's felt 'icky' on and off now for about four years this has made it rather hard to raise anything. Don't get me wrong, we've hopped on the good foot and done the bad thing once recently but that was when she was three sheets to the wind and after watching a TV show that made its focus the sex-lives of horrible people. It was a nice experience but, again, the PIV part was mainly mechanical. I know that it's not really a 'thing' for her but she won't have me not do it (and I'd better finish my job too) even if I would much prefer some heavy petting. I've said before she's not up for touching me much - turns out even drunk she's not either. I am a coward.

Then there's the parenting thing.