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!

Saturday, 31 May 2014

Today I Learned a New Term

I'm going to start with a curtsey this time (as well as finish) because that's how I feel right now.

And there we have where I identify in a nifty image.

It's not with the one sleeping.
Rabbit holes, I follow them. And, at some point last night, I remembered that I had an account over at the Experience Project. I forget when I made it, or why, but it would appear to have been made before starting this blog - if I can assert that. I actually found it when looking for images for my last post. One of the pictures I found was called "sexless-marriage4.jpg" and I followed the term.

It turns out it's a term from the USA Census and refers specifically to a marriage where the couple admits to having sex less than ten times in any given year. Also, it's a well known term in the literature of marriage counselling and has an apparently long and illustrious history. Overall, this affects a small minority of couples, by the by, but from here on in I'll focus on that minority. It also masks things. It would appear that this covers couples that mutually don't have sex (and these would appear to be in the majority if not the vast majority), as in those with both partners having the same low libido and being happy with that. I think I even had the image in my last post: sex is an important 10% of any long-term relationship but it's still just 10%. In the UK, the average (mean) times a married couple has sex is down to three times (ish) a month from once a week. However, a minority of cases are involuntary. Sometimes it is both partners who reach out at different times and get rebuffed and that is heartbreaking to hear about - but there are plenty of areas to help if one can swallow one's ridiculous pride enough to find them and use them. Then there are cases where it isn't like that.

Reading the commentary on many of these cases is by turns saddening and angering. No one seems to behave particularly well in these cases. Invariably the men end up sounding like PUAs and MRAs (and some of them, quite clearly, are) in that they seem to feel that coins of kindness or favours will go in the woman machine and sex will come out like a vending machine. I find their situation distressing but I find their entitled reaction distressing also. It may help explain why their spouses feel the way that they do and are using sex as a weapon (not that this excuses their behaviour in weaponising sex). I am saddened that seemingly many people on the internets have this problem but I am angered by much of the advice (marriage entitles one to sex; men should demand it [demand!] of their spouses; etc) given too. However, the eye-opener was that it was 50/50. Most of the vocal complaints, the most vocal and well-written, were from women. Women who did not understand as they assumed men were just sex-obsessed (which is saddening and angering all at once) or simply did not know what happened to the man they met. Or there were those women who found too late that they had not been well-prepared and discovered their sex-drive was much higher than their spouse's and were simply unable to fix that. I am sorry to say, as a male, that males in general do not come off well in these stories...

First some new terms connected to this one that I learned. Refuser - refers to the one in the relationship who, for whatever reason, is not up for sex very often (or at all). Needer - the refused who end up begging and debasing themselves and find themselves controlled or else abused. Also 'Refusee' the one who is refused (I wonder what is wrong with just 'Refused').

Where males were the Refuser the complaints were often erudite and well-considered. The soul-searching heart-rending but also complete and sympathetic. This went for homosexual and lesbian relationships too, interestingly. These complaints were more saddening because, in the main (and I mean vast majority like over 95%), the complainants were honest and broken and reflective. I found sympathy for these complainants not only easy but natural. Their suffering was plain and their devotion to sorting everything out was clear. Their reluctance to leave or take the 'easy way out' was heartening. Not all ended happily (where they ended) and not all ended badly, but the common thread was decency and politeness. Where females were the Refusers and males the Refused (my blog, my term) this was less universal. Here maybe 67% (i.e. two-thirds) were polite and erudite, about 33% were sympathetic and understanding of their spouse. But at least 50% had feelings that I found difficult to support. Their anger and bitterness was all-consuming. 33% were horribly and obviously misogynistic and 25% were the most vocal and vociferous.

Hold on, another point, by this point I was following the rabbit hole on the Experience Project, having discovered my log in details again.

Well, obviously!

No, seriously. It's true.
On this community the 25% misogynistic and bitter males were joined by the 2% bitter and male-hating females to form about 40% of the conversations and comments. I was stunned. Mind you, I recently actually saw death threats and rape threats made to a woman who dared to post that, as a gun owner in Texas, she supported tighter controls on who could buy guns (and did not quibble open-carry laws). That was perhaps more legitimately shocking (I knew it happened, but never to people I actually know). Hell, I was threatened as a "sand-nigger" with severe bodily harm and rape for being British and correcting some erroneous information about the UK in the 'debate'. I digress.

I posted a precis of my own situation (imagine my grim humour seeing a male post "I haven't had any sex since February and I can't take it any more") and, in short order, got some actually rather helpful replies. One of them was... a little bitter. I'm not sure I was entirely happy with the presumption that the poster could insult Tilly the way he did (or how) - he went beyond the situation and started using ominous terms like "they", as in "if they [he referred to all women] could see what they do to us men". Hmm.

Anyway, it would appear that we, Tilly and I, fit the definition of sexless marriage and have done since we were wed in 2008. We even got a bigger bed so that Tilly wouldn't have to sleep so close to me and have two duvets so we don't share bedclothes. I do wonder what the point of sharing a bedroom is apart from a space saver. We've been in a sexless relationship since August of 2007. Seven years makes me a bit of a whelp and a wimp compared to some of the stoicism I've seen (most of the people I read about can claim upwards of ten years) but it is a long time I suppose. And I found, bizarrely enough, that the naivety I had about my own libido and potential issues with sex in a relationship are shared much more by females than males. Or else the males are less willing to admit that part of their lives. I don't know. Even the behaviour of the male refusers was described as being more similar to Tilly than not. Female refusers were, however, generally spoken of with less affection and more loathing, so perhaps that has something to do with it.

I have also managed to mark some books. Go me. To this track:

And here I was complaining that I had nothing to blog about recently.

Friday, 30 May 2014

Drying Up

These are what I shall be marking. The papers, not the girls.
On Thursday next week I start marking for the board again and I know that I shall lose most evenings and much of the weekends to hitting marking deadlines again. This happens every year and every year I try to keep this place afloat by stacking some articles in advance and then posting now and again with all the stuff that floats around my head. It's a reward for getting through a load of marking and sometimes serves to be some of the best stuff I post on here (in my opinion and that's no great yardstick).

This year I don't seem to be churning stuff out as much. No, not this year, just lately. I've managed to shove out a whole raft of Beer Reviews - which used to get as many views as my other posts but then my other posts started getting more views - but I'm very aware that they were only ever on here as part of my life experience rather than being the point of the blog.

Except reverse the genders. My Girlie is older.
Mind you, the Boy is very much more adventurous in how
he slaps pieces together and cares little for the end
result. If my Girlie can't see how to build a finished result
she won't even start.
My children have lego, they have seen a number of films and we have had visits from family. The home situation remains very much at the same place it has been for a while but I have viewed more stuff on Sex Positive attitudes and Feminism and... Before the recent drought these would all be issues that would be deserving of their own post - I would have things I wanted to say and this would provide me with the forum in which to air those views. Increasingly, however, I find that I am not really chasing things down the same way. It's like I have fleeting views and opinions but if I don't snatch them they fly away again. I'm not in the same place I have been for most of the life of the blog, and that's a good thing: I am happier in my job and situation. I can just 'nip out' to the shops. I can spend much less on daily lunches than ever before thanks to some of the bargain stores where I live. I eat better at work and at home. Hell, I bought new male clothes out of choice since moving jobs and houses.

In many ways things are very much more positive. They really are.

The best I could come up with to illustrate
a female academic.

Did it ever occur that image-heavy blogs
are a sign of a male author?

Text-heavy are more likely female writers.
Males are generally more visual than
So why the funk about things that have remained the same? Things aren't worse at home between Tilly and I. In fact, on balance, they are better than they were when I started this blog and, indeed, may be at a pretty high point overall. But the changes aren't as large as they have been in other areas of my life. I have created unrealistic expectations.

And I don't mean the lack of sex. I am not owed sex and being kind is not a way of creating a sex response, no that's just down to the fact that I love Tilly. She is, after all, mother to my children and quite intelligent. Way more intelligent than me (no, really, I will not forgive her for her First in History or the fact she had straight As in A Level and mostly As in GCSEs) and very capable of having intellectual conversations on my level and above. More importantly, she can talk about high-level issues with people who are not familiar with them and do so in a way that is never threatening and can bring them into the conversations. In short, Tilly is often a better teacher than I. She is also on a second draft of a novel that continues to develop and get written. She has beta-readers that are critical, supportive and professional but, and this is crucial, who recognise that what she is writing has legs.

Tilly is better at all the things that I use to define myself. It's why I fell in love with her and asked her to marry me. I am not sure why she said yes.

I'mma just leave this here.
When one punches above one's weight the expectation is created that one will always be able to do so and, in a relationship sense, that's impossible. Please understand that I do not put Tilly on a pedestal. I think I have enough posts on here that prove that she can make mistakes and get things wrong. Some she accepts and others she does not. She is not some ineffably perfect being - we can debate and sometimes I win and sometimes she wins and sometimes there isn't even such a thing as winning. Our opinions on birth, co-sleeping and extended breastfeeding have all evolved together through mutual research, mutual challenge and eventual mutual positions. Indeed, we didn't know anything about these topics between us before we researched them together. Home education is another area we have researched and created a position on together where nothing existed beforehand. No, she does not lead through being perfect any more than I do. We have done these things together.

But the fact remains that, objectively speaking, Tilly is better at any of the things that I do that I use to define who I am. And that is more and more obvious to me now that things are better and I have the space to move beyond depression. It doesn't make Tilly a 'better person'. It just means that I find it hard to be me. I think this is where I fundamentally prove that I am male rather than female - something about the urge to prove proficiency and dominate seems to be typically male. Not to suggest that females aren't capable of the same, simply that society is very patriarchal...


And I'm losing my thread here. Perhaps not drying up, just not settled yet.

An oldie but a goldie.

Thursday, 29 May 2014

Viking Music

Rusty lips.
Despite trumpeting my return, or perhaps because I trumpeted my return, I haven't actually blogged anything here. There are people out there who are hurting and in need of support and, although I no longer feel in the depths of my funk, I have precious little to offer them. There's Rhiannon who remains in a strange and unforgiving place, for whom any glimmer of support and appearance of shoulders on which to cry would be, I suspect, most welcome. However, as ever, I find myself without words to share or to say.

If you haven't, you really ought to seek out Ally Brosh's
blog, by the by, it's hilarious. And the posts on depression
are... touching.
Recently we've been properly invaded by family. I'm off work at the moment and so it's been a good point for Tilly's parents to come and visit, marking the first time that her father has managed to make it to our new house, and that was an interesting time. I wasn't called upon to make much in the way of small talk (and I can't complain because they brought me two beers from one of my favourite breweries: Shepherd Neame) but there wasn't really much opportunity to plan or post on the blog. I mean, obviously I managed to get a post out about My Little Pony that displayed my brony-ism for all the world to see, but that's been stewing for a good few weeks. And there was a glimpse, or maybe more, into the way in which Tilly and her father have had their relationship throughout her upbringing, along with the way her mother dealt with things. Without going into any particular details, as they would take rather too long to relate here, the fact that Tilly's mother managed to get through an entire bottle of Sainbury's Gin (30 units) over three evenings along with matching her husband on cans of cider speaks volumes. As did the father's apparent inability to walk that disappeared when left in the house (how else to explain the fact that he managed to get dressed and move chairs and stuff in five minutes). However, I did get my hair cut at long last.

I did consider leaving my hair to grow out a bit but... well, it was unseasonably warm a few weeks back and I had to keep brushing it out of my ears and I hate that. Plus, well, I know that Tilly views any such affectations as overly feminine and I still seek (and possibly crave) her acceptance.

Yeah, it's been like this here.
And last night my mother came up. So I couldn't really sit online and post here! It was a good evening, I had a couple of beers and we all sat in the living room, which seemed nice. Hard to tell, my mother has only the one facial expression 95% of the time and it's slightly peeved looking. Bitchy resting face. We retired toward the late end of the evening and then we went to a museum today. It turned out to be a living museum with exhibits that you rode and it was raining. My mother played to type and didn't really get involved, eventually retiring to a tea room there whilst the family took a ramble through some of the local woodland. The Boy met a dog he actually liked (he is scared to death of them usually, bless him) and the Girlie met one of her friends and this averted apocalypse. It was an okay day, if rather wet and miserable weather wise. My mother had dressed for warmer weather (despite it being wet and miserable for the past week or so) and so I think got a bit of a drubbing. We came back and she behaved... oddly over the timing of an evening meal before leaving and then phoned later to say how much she'd enjoyed the day. Meh.

Hells yes.
The real point of this post was to share a discovery I've made. Wardrunga. They are a Nordic folk band, which means that they make Viking music. My love of the 1066 game is pretty well documented on this blog by now, methinks, and so I already have a soft spot for all things Viking related. Furthermore, the recent reading of The Wake is still fresh enough in my mind to keep this sort of thing feeling very current. So, for your listening pleasure (and you may have to take a couple of minutes to make a decision) I link to two of their albums, enjoy!

Take the time to get into the first one. The first few minutes will make you wonder what the Hell I've sprung on you, but persevere  I promise that it is worth it! Even if folk isn't your thing or you have no real thoughts about Vikings. If the image to the right doesn't help out even a little bit in that kind of bolstering well, what can I say, you obviously have no soul. Who hasn't dreamed of being a Viking princess?

This is the first album. It starts out with a discordance, which is not to everyone's taste. I promise it gets more classical later on. However, I love that opening. The Boy calls it "that scary music" and I don't think he's far wrong. Good for marking actually. Best track of the album is the second, Hagall. Why? I don't know, there's something about the journey that they take with that track. I love the use of water and birdsong and wind and outside recording that's all over this. It works really nicely.

Then there's this one, it starts out with a better track if you want my opinion, and the last track is similarly awesome. Not that this diminishes the intervening tracks at all. I rather like Solringen in particular. Again, it's the melding of outside recording and studio noodling that makes the tracks really stand out from most of the folk stuff I like on this album.

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Friendship is Magic

Well colour me in yes then.

It's been a while since I posted on here with anything other than beer. And for that I apologise. The recent funk has also meant that I have avoided the blogs of others, which is similarly no good, and haven't really kept in touch with dear friends who have reached out. Basically, I have behaved rather badly and used my funk as an excuse and a shield.

A horse riding picture that is also a bridal picture.
Yep, definitely my blog!

Also, barefoot. Hmm.
When one falls off a horse then one must get on as quickly as possible or else face the prospect of losing nerve and never horse riding again. I have been rather guilty of letting that little fall prevent me from getting back on, and if I want to be able to ride side-saddle then I really need to actually get back into the saddle in order to do it. Consider this an attempt to get back in the saddle and learn how to look graceful doing so. I rather doubt grace will be the first word that people bring to mind when looking on, something about my gangly frame, poor grooming and general disposition will probably lend itself more to something along the lines of "there but for the grace of God..." rather than "graceful". No matter, I've had thoughts about this swirling for a while now.

What on earth am I babbling about?

My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. Yes, it would appear that I am, in fact, an adult fan of the show. I'd hesitate to go any further than that as I have no desire to write any fan-fiction or look up any pictures created with Rule 37 in mind. I could try to claim that I only watch it because both of my children enjoy it but I know that this is not true. I have collected the episodes assiduously and have paid enough attention to them that I can name episodes on plot points, follow the plots of different characters and actually care about plot arcs. Let me reiterate that, not only are there plot arcs in a cartoon aimed at preteen girls (mainly) I actually care about them.

Some time in the last week, amongst the welter of late nights and such (more on which later) I finally saw the last episode of Season 4 with my children. And I'll admit that I had a bit of a lump in my throat with the plot. Now, on the face of it, I know that this is silly: the stories are written for children, aimed at children and have a particular aim point for girls, if anything. I happen to think that the way the stories are put together is pretty genderless and that the recipe they use is consistent enough that it would appeal to any children - there are shades of the best cartoons from the 1980s but they are better balanced and, arguably, better written. The fact that the writers are clearly revelling in the opportunity to relive their youth, but with savvier and funnier writing also plays a part. But it is not aimed at adults.

Known as the Mane 6.

If you don't know them, I shan't be so boring as to explain
who each of them are in turn. Instead I shall simply
say that I think I identify most with Twilight Sparkle (of
course) and that my Boy identifies most with Rainbow Dash.

My Girlie... I dunno. I think she identifies too much with
Elsa and Rapunzel to contemplate being a pony.
What set me reflecting on this is the fact that it is a very Feminist show, and I mean that as a compliment. It is a show that takes as its premise the idea that friendship is the most powerful magic one can muster, master and use. Most of the episodes carry little or no peril or threat and, instead, revolve around imaginative ways of showing standard human interactions. Furthermore, the saccharine stylings of shows that I remember are gone, replaced by quite mature and subtle handlings of genuine complexity. For example, in the first season episode Griffon the Brush Off it looks as though the show is going to focus on the fact that one shouldn't play pranks on people that can't take it, standard moral fare, but it rapidly becomes obvious that all the ponies already know this lesson (as would most of the people watching to be fair) and so the moral of it actually turns out to be about how bullies are generally the most paranoid people of the lot. It offers solutions on how to deal with this but ends with the fact that the bully in question may not be receptive. Indeed, in the episode the bully chooses not to join in and remains a bully and aloof. And that kind of maturity is rare. I mean, you could equally argue that the ending is hardly happy stuff or that in cartoon-land there ought to be a positive end to such a tale or even that the episode misses a trick in having such an ending that practically ignores the bully, but I choose to interpret it in a positive way.

Why then do I choose to recognise this as a Feminist show?

Well, she's clever and she's pretty.

After the finale of Season 3 she's also an Alicorn.

And, yes, apparently I care.
Well, mainly the fact that nearly all of the characters are female, I guess. And it passes the Bechdel test hands down. I can't think of any plot line or episode that actually revolves around, or even includes as a major plot point, female ponies wondering and swooning over (or even getting romatically entangled with) male ponies. There are love stories in there. Shining Armour and Princess Cadance get married in one episode that deals, on a tangent, with the jealousy between a little sister and a potential mate and another episode deals with an old pony whose lifetime love was unavailable and then has to deal with the fact. In fact, the main plot point was someone helping him get over it without a romantic resolution. For these reasons, if no others, I am prepared to label it Feminist. It's not that there aren't male ponies with stories of their own either, it's simply that the show is very much about six female ponies and a male dragon and so those stories necessarily fade into the background - they aren't the point.

Some may argue that the lack of male involvement means that the show is somehow discriminatory, but I have to call bullshit on that. The vast majority of shows, cartoons, and the like, focus almost exclusively on the male story, with female stories carried as sub-plots or additions (even stuff I love, like Sherlock, Doctor Who, Game of Thrones and more). As a consequence, having a single cartoon that focusses exclusively on the female stories in a particular universe does not strike me as being discriminatory at all.

Tilly is less enamoured with the show, it's become very much a Daddy duty to watch it with my children and discuss it afterward. Both Girlie and the Boy have toys connected to the show (I would like to get them proper size ponies, but we haven't done that yet) and both of them enjoy playing with them. The Boy even went through a stage of referring to himself as Rainbow Dash and still very much identifies with the character. Now, a sporting and derring do female character for a male to look up to? I call that progress and I think I quite like it.

All of which is essentially a way for me to get back into blog posting. No doubt there will be further beer reviews, I do seem to be back doing those semi-regularly at the moment, but I also hope to get back to writing things that aren't blogging or beer reviews, y'know, actual writing over at my other blog. In short, I am back, for the moment, and glad to be so. I hadn't realised how long it had been since I actually spent some time here!

Sunday, 25 May 2014

Beer Review: Amber Ale

Tonight I review another from one of my favourite stables. That would be Shepherd Neame and the choice of brew is a 'winter warmer', so claimed on the bottle, by the name of Amber Ale. Presented to me by the in-laws who have chosen well, it is true, but I am going to review this at the height of summer as is my general non conformist wont. We went to the local steam railway and had plenty of fun. The Boy had great fun in the DMU they had running, being able to peer out of the front of the train, and we all saw the trains try to put on a play (no, really). Then we came back for a traditional fish and chip supper (where we live now doesn't do so well on this institution, I'm much too much of a northerner and now am officially out of the north it's just not the same).

I'm still struggling to write posts that aren't beer reviews, I do apologise. I may manage to break back into it during this week.

A good start, as ever, is the clear glass bottle that immediately shows you the colour and, in this case, we have a deep brown chestnutty amber that lends itself to the name. The art on the bottle promises the sort of spicy taste and fiery feeling that I associate with Autumn Red and the colour is reasonably close. On opening the whisp of CO2 suggests a pleasant and light carbonation and the pour merely serves to confirm it. Little to no head, but a skein of bubbles.

Aroma is like woodsmoke, hanging in the air and dry, and does a good job, here in summer, of evoking barbeques and open fires. It's a good smoke feel rather than the sort that leaves your nose too dry and leads to dry throat. Definite hops on the nose, imparting that citrus tang, but muscled out by that woodsmoke, which is actually rather positive. Good accompanying hints of wheat and barley swim around and entice the drinker further. First sip is rewarding and oddly, but positively, hard to pin down. It takes a while for the taste to take hold. Sure enough there's that undertone of smokey spices, on a bed of smooth but limited barley and wheat malts, fading gently to a satisfying hoppy bitter end. However, these hops are more of the spicy and warm variety than the citrus adventure of Wild Raven or the floral headiness of Halcyon as one would expect from the Kentish ale brewers.

It also works as a sessionable ale. I suspect that, at 3.8% ABV, this won't leave you with a bad head in the morning. As a consequence it is different to a lot of the ales that I review here as it would easily keep going late into the night.

Enjoy this in winter, as advertised, or in summer. Despite the claims this would work well all year round, accompany with a traditional fish and chips (may I humbly recommend an independent northern chip shop over a Midland chain or a southern attempt of the same) and gravy. Watch nothing on the TV and, instead, watch the world go by - either from the comfort of a warm room through heavy drapes in winter (avoid any heating but roaring fires) or through open windows facing a nice garden in summer as the dying rays of the sun illuminate the ends of high branches in the trees. Wear an impractical long skirt or dress that requires you to lift the hem to walk so that you'll sit for long periods, you won't regret it. Kentish brewed and Kentish in nature.

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Beer Review: the Mild Side

On today's halcyon sunshine summer's day I found myself trying the next of the local micro-brewery's offerings: The Mild Side that has a lovely picture of the Death Star on the front. For that reason alone I would have tried it. Ooh, look, it's an actual picture of my back garden. Note the potatoes in the background.

I appear to be beer reviewing in lieu of actual blogging at the moment. I've had some difficulty thinking about anything else. I suspect that this is connected to the current down patch and the fact that work is heating up a little. Not in a bad way, no, just busy. Almost pleasantly so. Oh, and I've watched the finale of the latest MLP:FiM season. You should go read that.

Would you like to read further on this delectable little ale? It defies explanation in places, so be warned!

Monday, 19 May 2014

Beer Review: Dragonfire

Sunny days are here again, the bees are in the breeze and the childrens are playing with play-dough or, rather, they were. Right now they're in bed. Yesterday was the turn of something I picked up cheap, because it was brewed for St. George's Day and that was a while ago now, and from a brewery I seem to enjoy. It is, of course, Dragonfire by the people at Shepherd Neame. It also marks the first ale that I had real trouble categorising in this new style blog - I went with amber even though the colour was a nuttier dark brown than that. Not ruby though.

We went out to a local park and suffered through the Girlie moaning and whining most of the way round. She did want to go, she wanted to play on her scooter, but something was off. So, we had to put up with some epic tantrums and basically trying to make us all feel miserable. When the Boy tried to play with her she would shout at him and scream if he got anywhere near her, cue askance from the Boy, and then she decided she wasn't moving without ice cream. I wouldn't mind, I would have supplied her with ice cream, but we had no money. This reasonable explanation got us nowhere so I tried shorck and awe shouting to be challenged by Tilly on doing what I glare at her for. In fairness, that much is true. Beer.

I know, I know, that image is a bit arty for this blog. Well, I can't claim credit for the image. My phone has been playing up. I stole this from the Google image search.

Sunday, 18 May 2014

Beer Review: Random Toss

Summer is here! Lovely weekend with lovely weather and a garden in which to enjoy it. First chance to try out the bench (it's a bit wobbly) and actually have meals outdoors. Obviously, in such glorious sunshine, I had to have beers. So, my first beer outside. It is an honour that goes to Random Toss by Flipside and is something that Tilly picked up for me whilst out earlier in the week with some homeschool friends at an old Tudor house - seems that place may be good for random craft ales. Mind you, it can also pile on the price and there's a local brewery will do for cheaper. Can't sniff at craft ales though.

It's been a bit of a weekend and I'm not over the hump of feeling down yet. The Girlie's tantrums are getting worse and neither of us are best placed to deal with them. I haven't even managed to ask about physical contact, note that - just hand-holding or kissing, not anything more - since the start of the Easter break and nothing has really changed. Anyway, this is supposed to be about beers.

Monday, 12 May 2014

Beards, Singing and Dresses

Conchita Wurst, ladies and gentlemen. Yes, that does mean
"cutie sausage" in a mangled version of English, Spanish
and German.
It was Eurovision over the weekend. That is usually enough to keep me away from the internets in any sense that makes sense but, this time, without a TV aerial or cable we had to hook up my laptop to the TV in order to watch anything at all. We spent about thirty quid on the cables to make it happen - we do take Eurovision rather seriously in our household - and we settled back to enjoy. Sacrificing my laptop to watch is fine, the first Eurovision that Tilly and I shared in 2007 I think I've spoken of before. Romantic fool that I am, I bought the DVD to watch together and remember. Of course, we haven't ever watched it together since. The winner, Austria's entry, was a bearded transvestite who self-identifies as a woman in costume but as a man the rest of the time - hence the beard. It was as much a comment on Russia's anti-gay laws as it was on singing (though it was a Bond-theme style song, and they tend to do well for reasons that I have never been able to understand, they aren't really my bag).

Romeo Clark. Gender hero?
Tonight I also came home to news that there was a boy in Rugby, Warwickshire, who had been excluded from an after-school club at the age of five for wearing the wrong clothes. That is, he would be allowed back in to the afternoon club on Wednesdays is he wore clothes "that matched the gender on the application form, which is male" and that this measure was to "protect the children sharing a space from upset and confusion and also to do with safeguarding, which the club takes seriously, to prevent bullying". He wears Disney dresses. The fact that Tilly told me this tidbit with a specific reference to "your sort of thing" and a caveat that she didn't "want any debate on it" is also interesting. She is supportive of the child (the Boy is similar I guess) but both she and I detect something else about the story that is unsettling. It's in the Daily Hei- Mail and the comments are what you would expect, about 80-20 split between support (80) and horror about a boy not being "allowed" to be a boy (20).

So, how does all of this relate to my life at present?

Friday, 9 May 2014


From dead of night / till break of day / endless thoughts and questions keep me awake / it's much too late.

Where've you been? / Who've you seen? / You didn't phone when you said you would. / Do you lie? / Do you try / to keep in touch / you know you could / I've tried to see your point of view but could not hear or see for / Jealousy.

All this quiet and all this complaining and off-loading. I'm jealous. Of course I'm jealous. I haven't been able to actually sit and write anything recently because I just haven't felt in the mood. I've had time and the opportunity but instead I have been my usual self-destructive self and spent the evening fruitlessly and shiftlessly trawling the internet for nothing in particular. I am very aware that, if clothes maketh the man, I'm 2004 most of the time (or earlier) and could never be described as fashionable. Basically, I can't be arsed to do anything and so currently have no gumption.

Once, in the far distant past, I identified with the chant in I'm Not Scared on the Pet Shop Boys's album Introspective:
If I was you / if I was you / I wouldn't treat me the way you do
If I was you / if I was you / I wouldn't treat me the way you do / you

If I was you / if I was you / I wouldn't treat me the way you do
If I was you / if I was you / I wouldn't treat me the way you do / you
But now I do not. Not at all.

Tuesday, 6 May 2014


I've already spoken about this, but now I've had time to think things through a bit more and offer a more considered and less distracted review.

What can you expect from this film? Well, I have to say that I was rather excited that I could get to watch it. I have been hearing about this where I work for ages now and it was all across different year groups and social settings. I had also seen references all over the webcomics that I read and in a number of forums that I subscribe to. All in all, this looked like being one of those films that becomes a cult classic and fits firmly in the Universal appeal category like Labyrinth and Flight of the Navigator from my own youth.

The plot is far removed from the short story that it is based upon, transforming the Snow Queen into the sister of the protagonist and adding in two potential princes, neither of which is the damsel. In the original, of course, it is the young man who needs to be rescued and who is at the heart of the tale. In this, it is a younger sister who has to be saved by trolls the first time and then by true love the second time. In a move that sent fundamentalist Christians in the US frothing with fury the Snow Queen embraces her powers in a song that apparently sounds like a gay person coming out (I don't see that myself) and has the younger sister not actually get into a definite romantic entanglement with anybody. Ergo, hidden gay agenda that will have our children turning gay. Uh huh. Right.

Oh, and there's two sidekick comic relief characters: a reindeer that doesn't talk and a snowman that does. His name is Olaf. He likes warm hugs.

The songs are very much to the taste of Tilly, who loves a good musical more than I, and she was instantly able to work out what other songs they sounded like (she downloaded Let It Go within an hour of watching the film and rapidly connected it with Burn). The snowman song montage at the beginning was not really what I was expecting given some of the hype and analysis that I had heard but I gave it the benefit of the doubt for being early in the film. And there are some genuine comedy moments in this that I did end up laughing to: the trader in the woods with his summer blow-out was good for me, being the kind of unkind person that finds jokes based on accents and stereotypes vaguely amusing. I know, I am a terrible person. The animation is sumptuous, with no wasted space and very clever use of human faces to allow for all kinds of very human expression in a way that animations have been finding hard for as long as I have been watching them.

By now, however, it should be obvious. After multiple viewings, my daughter is transfixed and it is, after all, aimed at such as her, I am not enamoured of this. Why? Well, if this were the only film I'd seen in the last few weeks then I would be singing its praises and talking up the feminist aspects of the plot about how the two princesses never need rescuing et cetera and so forth. But I'm not. See, I recently saw Tangled for the first time and, I hate to say it, it does everything Frozen does and it does it better. Apart from being a musical. There are songs in Tangled but it is not a musical.

Rapunzel faces a better antagonist in Mother Gothel (watch her smack down and belittle in a way that leaves you disgusted and vaguely impressed that she gets away with it) who works as a much better and certainly more sinister foil than... uh... just who is the villain in Frozen? There's the gold-digging heartless bastard of Hans, the slimy by bludgeon trader fellow (who gets zero development), the snow monster (who, uh, doesn't really count) and Elsa. Who, exactly, is the antagonist? I get that everyone is shades of grey but, seriously, none of them have any depth or development. Elsa develops by embracing her powers but her eventual rehabilitation seems to suggest that the real antagonists were the misguided parents who die at the beginning. No, seriously, their parenting is shit. Also, did the trolls not remember who Anna was when she came back? Are we seriously suggesting that Kristoff fails to remember the girl with the white hair that meant he was taken in by the rolls in the first place? Oh, and that happens with a one line quip.

Flynn Rider is a decent character. He and Rapunzel are equals in their adventure. Complete equals. They save each other in different ways and the they both have strengths and flaws. I know it stretches belief quite a bit when they meet and fall in love over the space of a day (something that is firmly set by the film on a number of occasions) and I found that aspect to be troubling when I saw it. However, the direction of their romance and growth, the pace of their development and the way it is shown is all very good. I actually think that Eugene Fitzherbert is very much like Jaime Lannister. In Frozen there isn't that same dynamic. Not even really in the sisterly love thing. There's never an explanation why Elsa leaves and shuts out Anna, nor is there real rapproachment for all that was done when they were children. After everything Anna goes through I figure she deserves to know the truth. Equally, the ending is... weak. There were plenty of points where the lessons could have been learned by Elsa and the fact that she doesn't until the end seems to be based entirely on the fact that it's the end of the film. Also, the pacing is off. There's a chase scene with wolves that seems to turn up because there's been twenty minutes without action. And, in that chase, we learn nothing that we hadn't already seen and been beaten over the head with earlier in the plot.

Oh, and Olaf. Not buying it. He's well acted and you can believe that he is that naive et cetera. But... No, actually, I can't. How would he know about Summer when he was created just a few hours before we meet him? Did Elsa just create life?

Anyway, yes, I liked the film, I really did. But I prefer Tangled. You may now create your mob scene. I'm off to watch some Cinema Sins videos that have nothing to do with this review.

Monday, 5 May 2014

Beer Review: Perfect 5th

Imagine my nerdy joy and squeeing when I found that there was a micro-brewery that I could get to direct. I was much too shy and scared to actually go into their brewery, that'll have to wait until another time, but I was very pleased to have found it. And, now I've found it, I can go back again and again. There are many other micro-brewery beers that are sold through them too, as one would expect from a support group, and so I shall be going back and sampling ales that are not of this brewery. It turns out that the head brewer was the guy working the butcher counter.

Of what brewery do I speak (I don't actually hear you asking, but this is my blog and I can pretend whatever I want)? It is Nutbrook Brewery and the first of their six wide stable that I shall be having is their Perfect 5th because I can and because I had been ranting about it to my father who wished to try some with me when he was up, yes the visit seemed to go without too much hassle. So, although I'm doing this on an evening, it was actually had at lunchtime with some pizza, nachos, and basic snacky foods.

The bottle claims a golden ale with a hint of honey on the label and it is very professionally made and sold. On opening there is a distinct hoppy aroma that rises to meet you, a typically summery ale, and it actually puts me in mind of my own efforts earlier in the year. That strong hoppy smell is underpinned by a subtle tone of sugar, rather than honey, and a definite musk of malt. Pouring shows an amber ale, despite it being brewed pale, and with the kind of understated fizz that one would expect from a properly made home brewed ale rather than mass produced. The lack of metallic edge to the smell speaks volumes and hints that this may be natural and added by barrelling rather than by cylinder. This is a good thing for a number of reasons, in my mind, and the principal thing is that it seems more natural.

When I was brewing my own stuff I liked the fact that I wasn't having to buy in a great deal of kit (alright, it was all plastic) and that it was something that I was sort of custodian of rather than something that I forced. To explain the difference: when making a flatpack I have to sort of force the structure to take shape - it is undeniably something created and made in an artificial way. When growing something from seed, that may take more human input, there's a feeling that it isn't something that is forced. It sort of... happens. The best ales I have are those that lack the metallic edge that suggests, now that I am older and wiser about such things, that the carbonation has been added artificially. Better yet is bottle conditioned ale that generally is still carbonating as you store it. So, this lacked the metallic edge and thus seemed more natural to me.

Despite being a round 5% ABV this doesn't kick like it and so ends up being a most pleasant supping ale. Plenty of hops on the nose, a good strong malt to carry it and little hints of the yeast and something spicy throughout, in short, I was looking forward to trying these ales and I was not disappointed! They've obviously been going a while (CAMRA approves their ales apparently) and they obviously know what they're doing. I like the fact that I like the ale because there's something about supporting the little guy (though I'm sure they don't need my custom) over getting in mass-produced ales.

Even so, I couldn't really taste the honey in this one, it was dominated by a pleasantly musty malt and bittering hops that came in around the middle of the sip and then rose in intensity until the end. A good aftertaste that was well balanced and very much hop dominated too. Coppery colour, lacking metallic tangs and a good all round ale that would do well with a meal but better alone and drunk in the sunshine in the garden on a summer's day. It could be drunk in the evening but it wouldn't be at it's best. Enjoy this in the light of the day, on a weekend perhaps, around late afternoon when you have nothing else to do. Let the family talk around you, the children running and giggling, and sit on the garden furniture while flies buzz about lazily. I over-use this description, I know, but this is a clear summer beer.

Sunday, 4 May 2014


Not a bad cosplay actually.


I have now finally seen the film Frozen and I can see what all the fuss was about. Certainly there is absence of any rescuing by any princes and, this time, a one-day love affair has about the effects you'd expect and is replaced by the beginning of a love affair that is left without any particular resolution. Indeed, the question of  whether or not this second go at a relationship is actually true love is left very much unanswered and only just asked. It is a musical, however, and very much within the genre and so if musicals aren't your thing then I would suggest keeping well away. Tilly prefers Tangled and the children, who did enjoy the romp, are in the same camp. Me? Well, I'm not too certain. Coming hot on the heels of me watching Fight Club and getting back into My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic it is hard for me to appreciate the film soley on its merits and so I remain totally uncertain.

In the car I have been listening to the rediscovered CD of the Kasabian album West Ryder Lunatic Asylum, itself a present from Tilly's friend to the Boy for no particular reason. I have to confess that I had forgotten just how much I enjoy the album and the embedded references to revolution. There are plenty of clever little touches such as "Run down, o run down old houses / feeding the cats to the mouses" or "Held off and called on by truncheons / rattling keys to the dungeons" from Take Aim. Also, "I got my / cloak and dagger in a bar-room brawl / see the local loves a fighter / loves a winner to fall" in Underdog or "Cannot see the signs of a real change comin' / take another sip of this hobo's wine / get yourself a million miles / from this concrete jungle" in Where did all the love go? But they remain playful and silly throughout with references like the spoken word poem: "Then I went down into the basement / where my friend the maniac busies himself with his electronic graffiti. / Finally, his language touches me / because it talks to the part of us that insists on drawing profiles on prison walls. / In that moment, poetry will be made by everyone / and emus will be in the zone" at the start of West Ryder Silver Bullet.

Tomorrow my father comes to visit. Last time we went there we were faced with some challenges to the fact that our children don't really sit at a table to eat. It is not something they do. Naturally they did try their nomadic ways and with my father's wife trying to get Girlie to eat by referring to her tendency to eat small amounts in one sitting (entirely invented by the wife and not matching reality) meant that Girlie lived down to expectations. Thing is, they get so excited by the concept of visiting my father and is wife that our children don't eat much - they can't sit still long enough! At home we're used to this, they will eat perfectly happily and in large quantities but very much at their pace and in their own time. They graze. I am very much okay with all of this - they self-regulate their appetites and have a very healthy relationship with food. Furthermore, the Boy can sometimes be indistinct. Some physical thing means that he is about six months behind his peers in speech and enunciation. That said, his vocabulary and sentence construction is about a year ahead of his peers - you just have to tune in to hear him properly. My father and his wife keep wanting us to go to a speech therapist and claim that they can't understand him. They will happily ignore him counting to ten in front of them, explaining pictures in rhyme or just patiently finding ways round words that he can't properly say by explaining things in multiple ways or with analogies. Basically, we have a stressful afternoon ahead. Joy. Just what we wanted on a Bank Holiday.

Saturday, 3 May 2014

Beer Review: St. Edmund's

Tonight we are watching Fight Club because Tilly would like to see Ed Norton being strange in something and, let's face it, you don't get much stranger Ed Norton than you do when he's being the narrator of Fight Club. 'Course, you get Norton in stranger places than this film, like in Ang Lee's The Hulk for example but you can't really do much more odd than you get in Fight Club. I mean, sure, Helena Bonham Carter is very strange indeed at the best of times but, in this, just...

It's an odd background for a beer but it fits, I suppose. And, tonight, it's the turn of Greene King's St. Edmund's, a golden ale that claims that it is specially brewed to be served cool. Of course, I didn't cool it because that would require me to wait. I hate waiting for beer.

Is the subtext of the opening that the narrator has a thing for Marla Singer from the beginning, and she him? I recall watching this the first time and thinking that they hate each other. Looking now, I'm not so convinced. There are plenty of shifts where the twist is lampshaded in these sections and we're not introduced to Tyler Durden until long after Marla takes leave.

There is a massive amount of carbonation with this and, on opening, the whole bottle starts to fizz madly. This is probably due to the special brewing to make sure that it can be chilled - that way the carbonation would still be sufficient - and it does mean that careful pouring is necessary to avoid a similarly massive head. Head-tastrophe averted, the colour is very golden indeed, so congratulations to Greene King on successfully naming their ale. Mind you, it is on the light side of being golden, in the right light there is a deeper brown in there but the lack of deep malt is obvious once you settle down to an ambient light. The initial burst of bubbles also carries the aroma well, and that's where the malt seems to live. A tang of bittering hops, but nothing special, over the bed of just plain malt. Maybe a hint of yeast? Difficult to say for certain.

Despite only being 4.2% ABV, the first sip is almost as though it is a hard hitter. In fact, there's a strength of taste and punch that reminds one of Riggwelter but patently isn't. Despite being quite weak and easily overpowered by the hops the malt is rather nice. Not terribly adventurous, the hops and the malt are well-chosen and matched in power so that neither completely dominates, this is a mass produced ale that does exactly what it needs to and no more. On that score, this is sometimes all that you want to do. Slip on some comfortable shoes, underdress, and just nip on down to the shops for a pint of milk. St. Edmund's is the ale equivalent of that.

Oddly, this ale fits the milieu of Fight Club pretty well. There's something about watching a biting satire on consumer society enjoying a mass-produced product of our corporate overlords. Greene King put their IPA in a can, in a can! Anyway, this ale doesn't disappoint, there's plenty of body to it and no slack where the flavour isn't. Light malt means that it lacks something in depth and weight but the bittering hops make sure that the aftertaste doesn't become too thin. The opening of the aroma and the enhanced carbonation make sure that you get a proper taste on that sip too, again avoiding the sin of thin watery slack that can build if one isn't too careful. All of which means that this mass-produced ale is a nice little drinker.

Enjoy this pretty much any time, it's a simple little sessionable ale that doesn't pull any punches. There's nothing offensive here and it's even got an award (is there an ale that doesn't have an award these days?) so that can't be bad. Have a few of these on a weekend, enjoy the sunshine as it stretches into the late evening or hide from the rain as it closes in. You can even have this in Winter and it won't hate you for it. Then, when you're done, get some instant ramen and enjoy the fact that 12 pence worth of palm oil will destroy the world as effectively as your gut and not even interfere with the ale.