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Lies hurt, there are no two ways about it.

When they come from someone you thought you could trust, then that hurt is compounded quite significantly.

I have a difficulty in opening up and letting people get to know the ‘real’ me, as it were. I’ve had more than one friend who has gotten to know me a little better and compared me to Shrek in the whole ‘onions have layers’ analogy.

So when you have someone, one of less than a handful of people who you have let in completely, dropped all your armour and let them see the real, raw you, take all that trust that you thought was reciprocated and throw it back in your face, it stings more than a little.

The saddening thing is that as far as I can tell, they aren’t doing it maliciously. It’s just their way of coping with difficulties in their circumstances. But that doesn’t mean it can be dismissed or forgiven so easily.

And, predictably, the end result is that I realise I am going to have immense difficulty in letting someone get that close to me again. But on a more positive note, anger at betrayal allows one to move on swiftly.

The trick is to never look back.

So, they say moving home is one of the most stressful things you do? Ye fecking gods they’re right. Barely been online at home right now because every day this week after getting in from work I’ve then had to crack straight on with sorting out stuff at the old house so when the tenancy ends I’ll be able to get the deposit back.

Complicating factors are that I’m moving from a three-room unfurnished house to a shared furnished flat. This has left me with a crapload of old furniture which I’ve had to get either given away or skipped. Plus running arguments with my ex while the house is being cleaned add so so much fun to the mix – she moved out six months ago but still had a LOT of stuff there, and half the deposit is hers as well so is helping clean up.

Plus of course having to shell out two months’ worth of rent in August so that the initial deposit on the new place gets paid. Yes, I’ll be seeing a fair chunk of that returned when the deposit from the old place comes in, but who knows how long that’ll take. A nice lean month ahead it seems.

There are bright sides of course. My new place is just awesome; a flat right smack in the middle of Birmingham city centre, living with a good mate, cheaper rent & rates, absolutely brilliant location. I just wish this week would end already and some normality return.

They just don’t bloody well get it do they?

Currently reading the news that Margaret Moran is standing down due to her ludicrous expenses claims, when I stumbled upon this utter gem of a quote:

“However, it is very important that I make it absolutely clear that I have done nothing wrong or dishonest in relation to my claim for expenses and have at all times acted on advice from the House of Commons Fees Office in relation to my family home in Southampton.”

Are MPs really so blind that they haven’t grasped why there is such anger from the public yet? From the man-on-the-street’s point of view it makes things WORSE to claim you were acting within the rules! The rules are utter bupkis! By using these things as a defense you are making yourself look terrible, Margaret. If you had come out and made a SINCERE apology you might have retained some credibility.

Unfortunately, as we’ve seen through this whole process, none of these MPs are sorry, genuinely sorry, whatsoever. The problem the public have is that these rules allowed such claims, and our representatives used these to pay for things utterly unrelated to their jobs. It is a complete lack of scruples when it comes to making these claims that is the reason you are being forced to stand down.

And what a way to stand down! Waiting until the next election! If these politicians had any decensy they would step down immediately. As it is they are saying that ‘well, we will quit, but not just now’. This at a time when the public is clamouring for an election to be held, and the government is holding it off for as long as possible.

Politicians – if you are reading this bear in mind these simple rules that will give you a lot more credibility:

  • If you are going to say you are sorry, at least be genuine about it. Michael Martin and Gordon Brown are consummate examples of how to say sorry while appearing that they just don’t give a shit and are saying it because they must. Don’t follow their example.
  • Don’t use the rules as a shield. The entire problem with the expenses row is that the rules were crap. The fault is not that the rules allowed it, it’s that you still did it regardless.
  • If you are going to resign, do it immediately. Saying you’ll do so after the next election is just plain disrespectful of the people you have betrayed. Considering the public feeling, you know you won’t get reelected anyway, so you’re essentially saying you’re not actually quitting. The public understand this, and we are given more of a reason to hold you in contempt for doing so.

I have to admit, I’m feeling rather pleased with myself today, for last night I fixed my washing machine.

A couple of weeks ago, after going through a few days of various churning, grumbling and gravel-like sounds, the washer decided finally to refuse to drain any water from the wash. And let me tell you, it’s a bugger to drain manually!

This gave rise to a dilemma – I’m moving out in a couple of months, and won’t need the washing machine then anyway. Do I just put up with hand washing my clothes for two months, or pay out to have it repaired only to leave it behind soon anyway?

So, taking option #3, I thought I’d have a crack at it myself. I mean, what’s the worst I could do, break it?

First stop was the ominous outlet where there was a nice twist-lock plug. As it seemed quite accessible, it seemed to make sense to start there. This also happened to be the manual water drain point, so after a damp start and much emptying of liquid, I found myself presented with the pump filter.

My, what a treasure trove. Clogged up in the filter was a number of unused cigarette filters, a worryingly large shard of glass, and… and old condom wrapper. Lovely!

So, that was probably the problem I think to myself! Plugged everything back in, and started it up again. And found it stopping at the draining point AGAIN.

So, drain all the water out again. Ok, not the filter. Hmm. Time to delve in deeper. *tips washer on side*

I’ll spare you the full gory details as it’ll go on for some time. Suffice to say that I needed to re-drain the water at least 4 more times after false-starts and misdiagnoses. Success, however, was found after dismaltelling the pump impeller, to find a tight coil of my hair wound around the fan! Ha! Yes! Pulled out, plugged in, and she rides!

I feel rather like Mario now. Where’s my 1UP?!

I have noticed a running theme with comments from colleagues regarding the progress of my new tattoo: “Didn’t that hurt?”

It appears from what I’ve heard to be the biggest hindrance for many people in getting a tattoo – the fact that there is pain involved. I even had one lady say she couldn’t stand to have one because it’d hurt so much, and she’s had two kids!

Pain is a very transient thing – it may feel intense at the time, but it will pass and leave no lasting effects. Yes, tattoos can hurt, but as soon as the needle has stopped humming, you’re fine. Doesn’t a few hours of mild/medium pain pale in comparison to the amount of time left in your life?

I guess I’ve acquired a fairly pragmatic approach to pain in the past year or so. In December I suffered some major dental problems which culminated in an emegency trip to have a wisdom tooth drilled out of my jaw without anaesthetic. Now that was painful, tears literally streaming down my cheeks, but it was worth it.

After an experience like that, the pain of a tattoo really does seem quite minor. I’d rather go through a short-term suffering to get a long-term gain, than sit back and dream of what I might have yet be too timid to try for it.

Chicken soup has long held a position of being a great remedy for minor ailments such as colds. Whilst the research on this isn’t exactly the most outstanding in the world, I certainly rate it as an excellent meal to have if you’re poorly – it’s soothing on the throat, tasty on the tongue and nourishing for the body.

That is of course so long as it has been made properly! The tinned crap from the supermarkets has been boiled, reboiled, pasturised and stored for so long that any nutritious properties it might once have posessed are now long gone, and the actual amount of real chicken in them is apalling.

With this in mind, I present to you my own recipe for a very tasty, simple and hearty chicken soup.

DISCLAIMER: This was provided to me by a very lovely lady who made it up on the spot when I was feeling crappy – as such there are no weights, measures or detailed methodology. This is an excercise in cooking, which involves creativity, not following some prescribed rote :) It IS an easy recipe though, so don’t worry, you’ll do it!

Ingredients

NB: Quantities will depend on the size of the pot you use! Use your head when buying provisions!

Chicken – breast works well as you don’t have to worry about fishing out bones later, though I have made this using a whole chicken in a pot and then pulling the skeleton out once the meat has shredded off.
Cabbage – I’ve found Savoy works best but go by your own preference
Mushrooms
Single Cream
Salt & Pepper
Garlic – Optional; if you don’t like garlic feel free to leave it out, but it does work well and helps a lot if you’re unwell.
Paprika – Optional; adds a little kick which can be very tasty, but not entirely necessary.

Method

1. Fill a pot 3/4 with water and place on the hob to boil.
2. While the water’s heating up, chop the chicken into bite-sized chunks. Don’t worry too much about consistency, it’s going to break apart a lot while cooking.
3. Once the water’s boiled, add a reasonable amount of salt and then add in the chicken – turn down the heat to a simmer and give a good stir.
4. If using garlic, finely chop or crush as many cloves as you prefer and add them in.
5. Chop & wash the cabbage & mushrooms – Don’t peel the mushrooms, most of the flavour and goodness is in the skin. Just make sure they’re well washed :)
6. Add the cabbage into the pot
7. Let the mix simmer for an hour or two – stir occasionally; you’re waiting for the chicken to cook enough that it starts to flake into pieces and turn the mix into a nice brothy consistency.
8. Add the mushrooms – cook until the mushrooms are done to your preference.
9. Add in the pepper – not too much, not too little!
10. Take off the heat & stir in the cream – you should now have a nice stodgy consistency that smells GORGEOUS.
11. Stir the paprika if you’re using it.
12. Pour into a bowl and enjoy your efforts!

There, that wasn’t too hard was it? I find this is great to make in a nice big pot – that way you can portion a lot of it into containers to freeze and eat another time. Just remember that if you’re having it due to illness, it’s best while fresh!

Sunday was a curiously enjoyable day, having tried my hand at the rather niche art of ciruit bending with the fizzPOP hackspace.

As a brief overview of exactly what this esoteric-sounding activity entails, it’s essentially the act of taking an electronic device that is used to produce noises (children’s toys are excellent starting points), opening them up and short-circuiting them in an attempt to get them to produce noises that they were not designed to do, with results varying from tuneful, grating or outright hilarious.

Once a desirable short circuit has been identified, some wires can then be soldered to the relevant points and attached to buttons, resistors or similar and the device reassembled, now looking and functioning exactly as it had previously until one of the new switches is activated, resulting in some added amusement!

After a false-start on an alphabet learning keyboard, I ended up digging into a barbie toy which was essentially a clone of Simon – surely this pink monstrosity could be improved upon!

From what I’d seen on the day (bearing in mind this was my first attempt at this activity), methodologies can vary wildly. I went for a testing-style approach, assigning each circuit point a number and then just working through the combinations. This did lead to some very curious note taking, such as:

11+17 = boing boing
12+16 = bouncy beeps
14+16 = STATIC
15+18 = happy beeps

I settled on two combinations, both of which appeared to short some resistors which regulated the speed of the sound playback. This culminated with three nice shiny brass contacts now being added to the casing via a combination of drilling & soldering, and to my amazement it actually worked. We also discovered that throwing in a potentiometer the speed at which the game now went approached light speed, giving some interesting results!

Ant I feel had the winner of the day in terms of entertainment. His chosen item was a sound-board device for Stewie from Family Guy. Ant took a much more relaxed method than I did (just connect points at random!) and was well rewarded with what sounded like a deck-scratching effect as well as supersonic playback, so I may have to vary my angle of attack next time!

Big thanks to Ant, Charlie, Pete, Julia, Mike and our gracious host Nikki for an extremely well spent day – I look forward to the next one!

Yes, it’s that time again – real life manages to prove far more interesting than anything the most twisted drama scriptwriter can produce.

This is now twice in two weeks that I’ve had friends get into hot water over, ahem, indiscretions on a night out. At least with the former incident it was the unknown, barely-spoken-to girlfriend that was the one who was being indiscrete. Alas this time around it’s an actual friend who seems to have had a little too much to drink and forgot that they were actually involved with someone.

Rather an awkward situation as it appears that their other half’s friends were within gawping range at the time of the incident, promptly informed said other half, and that prompted an irate phone call. What really compounds the whole thing is that the friend was so sozzled that they didn’t even remember that anything had happened and the first indication they had misbehaved was the irate call!

I don’t doubt they’ll patch things up, they care a lot about each other and this certainly wasn’t something the friend would do intentionally, but looks like interesting times ahead at the least. Roll on another fun weekend!

There is something deeply relaxing about just sitting in a pub, on a soft leather sofa, and letting time tick by.

Saturday was a rather full night and by 2am having the opportunity to recline and chill out was much needed – I like keeping the kind of company where you can sit in a comfortable silence and not feel obliged to have to make conversation.

Not to say that sitting around was a highlight of the weekend – much fun was had with four different trips to the pub(s) and two different clubs visited, but certainly after 2 nights out in the wee small hours you don’t quite appreciate how much work your legs have been doing until you let them take a well-earned break.

“It’s time for the Wall Of Death!”

Well, that’s what I assume the DJ exclaimed – the last three words came out as more of a wall of sound, a cross between microphone feedback and the bass growling of the finest of Nordic black metallers. This certainly didn’t discourage anyone in the room though, as the general anarchy of the dance floor swiftly organised into two opposing throngs and a gaggle of surrounding spectators.

Usually I would have been more than happy to charge gleefully into the crush of aggression and testosterone, however I was still more than a little sore from an earlier incident, involving a falling friend, and attempt to help her up, and new tattoo on the forearm. Needless to say my roar of protest was not heard amongst the tumult, however the lady was gracious enough to notice my expression of agony and be suitably apologetic once she had been returned to an upright position.

Still, spectating this near-medieval spectacle was no less enjoyable. The floor was split as the music built up, the factions encouraged and jeered on their sides by a bedreadlocked metaller acting as ringmaster, provoking the sides to louder cries as they practically pawed the ground, preparing to charge gleefully into the anticipated mêlée.

Akin to the flag dropping at the start of a race, the ringmaster stepped back and dropped his arms as the music hit the chorus, the wave of sound challenged by the charge of the antagonists.

No sooner had battle been joined than the first casualty became apparent, a slight man who looked somewhat other than sober literally flying out of the carnage. Though usually this would not seem to be a problem for anyone concerned, he had the unfortunate luck of being propelled face-first into a nearby iron girder, and lay still for some time.

Two young girls seemed in awe of the scene, and evidently inexperienced in such events did not have the good sense to keep their eyes on the action as two burly opponents, locked in a grapple, proceeded to flatten them as they steamrolled their way from the press.

Another recipient of a flailing elbow staggered away in the direction of the facilities, blood streaming from his nose while wearing an idiot grin.

Suddenly the music lifts, and the survivors step back and grasp hands with one-another, the rush of adrenaline evident on their expressions of elation, while the DJ yells himself hoarse over the tannoy, the crowd joining him in their exultation of the combatants.

And all the while I sit back with a smile on my face thinking, ‘next time… next time.’

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