So that’s my French Odyssey at an end. I’m back in Edinburgh and in my old flat. I have a new job. So all good. I’m writing again too. I’m on the last three chapters of my French opus, A Beer in Provence. I’ll post occasional snippets here as I go along. I attended my fist crit group the other week too and met some of our newer members, which was great. Very excited about having some new blood and new perspectives. I’ll no doubt be reading at some point soon as well – at the next Bloc show most likely. I’ll keep you posted.
Archive for the ‘life’ Category
When I first realised I’d got the job at Travel Horizon back in the May 2010, little did I know the months of teeth-gnashing, frustration, head-banging, pidgin French and general craziness that would ensue. Of course I was über excited about the prospect of living in Aix en Provence. Who wouldn’t be? Sunshine, fine wine, great food, real coffee. What’s not to like? If you’ve never moved country before, though, be warned. It’s an interesting experience. I think I rather naively believed moving to France would be un morceau de gâteau. It’s in the EU right? It must work pretty much the same way as the UK. Yes …. Anyway, first things first – before the off.
Preparation: a busy August
I left work a month earlier than I needed to so I could completely redecorate my flat and get it into a fit state for renting. That was a knackering month – not the least because I was working 15 hours a day on my place whilst blundering back and forth to and from IKEA, Homebase, and various hardware shops and suppliers like a total muppet. No fun. On top of that I was taking some French classes in a feeble and half-assed attempt to memorize some key phrases before I left – I should have just learned to shrug and blow raspberries, far more useful as it turns out. Added to that Writers’ Bloc were very busy – it being Festival month – and I was trying to cram in as much festival stuff and performances as I could. So by the time came for the off it was actually blessed relief.
A fishy fairwell:
I had a fish. A goldfish. This thing just kept on living. I had the same fish in the same tank when I moved into my flat in 2000. He looked like a piscean Elvis or Sly Stallone. His mouth was all squint – it’d been broken years ago. A Scottish goldfish. The dumbass critter had a habit of ramming its face into its stones on the bottom of the tank to sook food and algae off them. They sometimes got stuck. Usually he’d manage to spit the wedged pebble out after a while, but sometimes not. Then I had to delicately tease the thing out with a bent paper clip whilst holding the fish in a wee wet hand towel. Ridiculous, but it seemed to work. 10 years later the little fella was still going strong but I didn’t fancy his chances surviving a journey to Aix in a f*ck-off big van. Hell, I’m not even sure I fancied our chances. So one night in August in the wee small hours I clambered over the fence of a certain well-know financial services company that happened to have a big pond outside full of goldfish, and gave him his freedom. I really hope he’s still alive and doing well. I’m sure there’s a metaphor here.
OK folks, first of all my sincere apologies for the almost 2 year hiatus. Shocking. But in fairness I did move to the South of France. Which was kinda complicated and took a lot of time and effort. And money. But hey, we’ve been here a year and half now and it’s fair to say we’re pretty settled. And a lot’s happened in the meantime. The highlight of course being my engagement to my delightful, talented and beautiful fiance, Lynsey. But what definitely has not been happening is much writing. Dreadful I know. But, things are afoot. I have set my self two months to do a complete revision of Worse Things and I’m brimming with new ideas and things I want the novel to say. I’ll also be submitting a lot more material over the coming months and getting back in to Writers’ Bloc affairs (albeit remotely). So, proverbial finger out of arse and stay tuned! Also, over the coming weeks I’ll add some observations and anecdotes about la vie en France. Cos frankly it’s about time.
Some of you may not know, but I’ve upped ship and I now live in Provence. Aix-en-Provence to be precise. Of course this means I won’t be attending many bloc shows in the near future, but I do plan to get back over for guest slots every now and then. And of course, once I’m properly settled, I’ll get back to the writing, promise.
I’m such a doofus! I killed my site the other week and had to get a pal to resurrect it for me. I’m all for things coming back from the dead, especially when it’s my website! Anyway, realise I’ve not posted for an age so expect some rapid updates in the next wee while.
After the horror of boardgame night 1, we were, as you can imagine, somewhat cagey about another session. But setting our fears aside like true soldiers, we reconvened for another night of dice rolling, shouting, unhealthy food and worse chat. This time it was YAJ’s game that was brought to the table, the intriguingly titled ‘War on terror’. Here’s the official blurb…
War on Terror – Everyone starts with the best intentions. Then things start to get cramped. Then you notice your neighbour has more oil than you. Before long, war is waged, nukes are dropped, revolutions are fought and terrorists are doing your dirty work, before turning on you…
This is the War on Terror, the boardgame: A quality boardgame for 2 – 6 players, lovingly illustrated and politically correct (in a very literal sense). Playing it will bring out the nastiest, greediest, darkest, most paranoid aspects of your character.
This game was night and day compared to last session’s offering (no offence Paul, we still love you). War on terror was a tremendous game, so much so that we played it twice in one session. Jason has even gone and bought himself a copy, and I’m sorely tempted to do the same. So why is it so great? Basically it’s extremely funny, easy to pick up, involving (everyone can act no matter who’s turn it is) and has great props. Spinning the Axis of Evil wheel was tremendous and meant that random empires were suddenly declared ‘rogue states’ – a bit like being excommunicated, but more fun. As a rogue state it’s easier for you to sponsor terrorism against other empires. Such an ingenious idea. But of course sponsoring terrorism (like in real life) is a bit of a double-edged sword. Terrorists are great while they’re ‘your’ terrorists, but terrorists are a fickle bunch, prone to disobeying orders, holding you to ransom, and generally misbehaving. Another great feature allows a state that’s obviously being muscled out of the game to declare itself a terrorist state and go full on for terror. You can of course win as a terrorist, but it’s pretty difficult. The game just as has so many possibilities, with endless intrigues and plots and shaky alliances. Loved it to bits.
Our second game was great fun. I started losing very quickly and decided to turn terrorist, even though Duncan was already wearing the Balaclava of evil (yes, there’s a balaclava). Jason soon found himself going the same way and joined my ‘coalition of the dumb.’ We were the crappest terrorists you’ve ever seen. We’d hijacked planes and demand ransoms from countries that were skint. Then let off dirty bombs in Alsaksa. We were complete berks, but couldn’t stop laughing. We got well and truly humped too, but had sowed mayhem and mischief with verve and aplomb.
Top game – if you know anyone that has it, get it played. If you don’t, go out and buy it.
My pals and I are geeks. There, I said it. We’re bona fide nerds. We love games. And not just computer games – that’s the acceptable face of gaming after all. We’re in a different class altogether. We are of the Avalon Hill book shelf games generation. We own dice with more (and less) sides than 6. We love rules books. The thicker and tinier the point size the better. We regularly read websites like the indispensable www.boardgamegeek.com. We like fanzines and still moan about how shit White Dwarf went after Games Workshop abandoned real games to concentrate on selling miniatures to wains.
So in the spirit of being shuffling weirdos, we decided it would be a fab idea to have a regular Sunday afternoon/evening boardgame night (in the absence of anyone actually getting their arses in gear and setting up a roleplaying game. I get nagged to do this constantly – and guys, if any of you are reading this, I promise I’m getting round to it). So our first gaming night took place on the 5th of October. Named and shamed were Stef, Duncan, Shadey Paul, Jason, Gav and YAJ (bet they’d have rather have been named on the BNP members list than they would here, but tough titties). For some reason (mainly sadism we suspect) Paul decided we were going to play a game called Kingmaker. We had no choice in this, even though I brought round a huge pile of games we could have played instead. You can read more about this classic, torturous game here, but here’s a summary:
Kingmaker - 1974 Avalon Hill, 2 – 7 players, playing time 240 (aye, and the rest!) minutes, ages 12 (ages 50 more like) and up.
What the game’s about – based on the War of the Roses in English history, a time of civil war when two royal houses competed for the rightful throne. Players control factions using their military and political power to control and influence the royal heirs, supporting the heir in their control as king while trying to take down all of the other heirs.
Sounds all well and good, but fuck me it was awful (if funny). We’re no dafties, but the rules for this game were obtuse, hard to read, baffling, and downright awkward. The use of bizarre ratios for combat on a table that made Lothian buses timetable look like the warnings on a fag packet was particularly disconcerting. What the fuck’s wrong with dice? Paul seemed to take great delight in our discomfort though, which was funny in itself. We tried our damndest and all joined in gamely trying to interpret the rules, shouting at each other, scratching our heads, and generally losing the will to live. Paul tried to convince us that this was a great game and he played it ‘all the time’ as a kid. I suspect he was fibbing – cos he’d well and truly forgot the rules in the intervening years.
So we played as long as we could stand it. I think we got to turn two. We couldn’t figure out if you were entitled to votes from Newcastle the place, or Newcastle the noble. Or both! Then we tried a vote. ‘How many votes do you have in the commons?’ Paul asked. ‘And the Lords?’ We ummed, we ahed. We wept. We began to play with wee figures from games that frankly looked a lot more fun. Even YAJ’s endless supply of sweets and cakes couldn’t keep us focussed. In the end we caved and Gav produced a game with wee aeroplanes where we could dogfight across the table (Wings of War – great game). That was more like it! Hardly any rules, great wee biplanes, shooting stuff! Ratt-a-tat-tat! Loved it, even though mine was the first plane to bite the dust.
That said, we still had a magic night and the camaraderie was impressive in the face of such adversity. Here’s a selection of choice images and videos from the night, so that, should you know any of us sad bastards, you can torment us with them for years to come.
boredom-kicks-in > watch the moive
its-shit-anyway > watch the movie
no-fun > watch the movie
paul-is-enjoying-this-too-much > watch the movie
If you don’t have a Flash movie player, you can download a free one here.
Bring on games night 2!
But its audiences are getting thinner. Especially at Bannerman’s last night. Which is a real shame cos both bands rocked. I was there to see may mates’ band The Acid Fascists. They are as ugly as their name sounds. Fast-as-fuck minimalist surf punk. I never tire of hearing Crash Test Dummy, Up Against the Wall Muthafucka and my particular favourite, the love ballad Nice Night For a Knife Fight. You get the picture. The boys were a little peeved and made a few wee gaffs, but fuck’s sake, nobody cared, it’s punk. They are getting on (aren’t we all) and the lights were very dim. They couldn’t see their guitars properly.
After the Acid Fascists there was, bizarrely, a bit of burlesque. More burlish to be honest. A bit cringeworthy. Couldn’t help but be reminded of Paul Baron’s erotic night in The Club from Bang Bang Reeves and Mortimer. If you’ve seen it you’ll know what I mean.
The headliners were a Belfast duo who were fucking great. The Bonnevilles. Really nice punk blues. They felt to me like a mix of the White Stripes, Motorhead and The Cramps. They were so good I bought their CD. My favourite was God May Love Me (but he don’t know me like the Devil does). They are playing again (with the Acid Fascists) through in Glasgow tonight, so I’d recommend getting your arse through there is this is your kinda thing.
Yeah, it’ll probably be Facebook and all that next. So this is it, my first website. And rather than go to all the hassle of building one myself I opted for Wordpress instead. It’s early days yet, but I’m slowly getting the hang of it. So over the next wee while I’ll be populating these pages with my ramblings, insights, thoughts and ideas. There’ll be laughter, there’ll be tears. And a whole lot of bollocks written.
So as I write this particular bollocks Halloween has just come on the telly. What a fab film. That tune. I mind watching Halloween 2 when I was 11. Shat myself. Scarred for life. A little know snippet of trivia about Halloween is that the mask Michael Myers wears was actually a mould of William Shatner’s face. Not sure why they made it, or what possessed them to use it in the movie, but I’m sure one of you film officiandos out there can enlighten me.