Every Man Needs A Shed

Life and games (but mostly games) from Tony Boydell: Independent UK games designer, self-confessed Agricola-holic and Carl Chudyk fan-boy. www.surprisedstaregames.co.uk What was that beardy bloke going on about?

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Jean Genial

Anthony Boydell
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Newent. Glos
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*phew* Another week bites the dust.

Finally able to extricate myself from the attentions of nervous and needy staff, I pulled away from the Llandudno office and - at the 'big roundabout' - decided that today (Thursday) I'd go straight on down the A5 through Llangollen. It's a green and pleasant route that's mercifully quiet this time of year and, about halfway along, rumbles past the Rhug Estate:

Quote:
Rhug Estate, Corwen in Denbighshire is the main estate and home of Lord Newborough. The present house was built in 1799 and extended by Charles Henry Wynn when he reached 21 years of age when he became absolute owner. In 1911, Rhug Hall had 60 rooms with 14 servants living in. The present Lord Newborough, the 8th Baron inherited the estate on the death of his father who, by all accounts, was a rather eccentric character: a Boy's Own war hero who made five trips to evacuate troops from Dunkirk, blew up the German docks at St. Nazaire and ended up in Colditz! After the war he returned to farming; he died in Istanbul in 1998 and his ashes were shot out of an 18th-century cannon.


I mention this in passing because, through my paternal line, Lord Newborough is a distant cousin (!); I am related to a country nob and no mistake*. Thus, stopping off at the Estate is really just a 'family visit', isn't it?

The Estate, as you would expect given the way British history works, has it's own Chapel and - with cramping calves - I pulled in to the grounds for a leg-stretching nosey. The Chapel is now maintained by Cadw, the Welsh Government's historic environmental service, and for the princely sum of £4 I was granted admission:


From the outside, it's small and tidy and unremarkable...



...but on the inside...



...the roof is incredible...



...the panels on the walls, all unique, are sublime...



...the paintings...



...the ceiling panels...



...and the Angels!


I was the only person on the site apart from 'Jean', the Liverpudlian receptionist, who nipped off - as soon as I'd paid - to the Vestry for a warmed-up chicken tikka masala. When I'd soaked my eyes to saturation with the ornate, medieval beauty (see above) I returned to the gift shop whereupon 'Jean' started a conversation that looked like it would never stop! Hardly able to get a word in edgeways, 'Jean' narrated her life story to my polite nods and 'hur-hum's; the poor flower, trapped eight hours a day in a silent pre-Seasonal tourist attraction, was evidently starved of human interaction...and she wasn't letting me go without a (verbal) fight!

Eventually, with still a good three hours of travelling ahead of me, I took my leave and bade this genial prisoner farewell. Looking back on the photos, there are many worse places to be stuck in for one's job! Rhug Chapel is a real gem.

*awaits inevitable Boffonian/enoonian interjection
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Fri Apr 28, 2017 12:00 pm
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Ice Cold In Llandudno

Anthony Boydell
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Work colleague Craig, and myself, returned from a day's system support to glorious sunshine at the B&B. Ah, how we basked in the Spring glow as we ambled up the stepped gardens, admired the tadpoles wriggling through the quiet-fountained pond and aurally-delighted in the twittering of birds.

Half an hour later, as we set out to hike to the Iron Age village promontory, we were caught in a blizzard of hailstones and a wind cold enough to freeze the piss in your bladder! Cursing, we scuttled to the Cottage Loaf pub for a warming burger and pint of fizzy, fermented apple juice. Finally feeling our fingertips and toes once more, we determined to exercise our full bellies with a walk along the Llandudno pier, hoods up and teeth a-chattering, in the chill sunset.


Peering up the Pier: no fisherman, or jellyfish, at the end.


Oddly, in the far distance, through the forest of windmills, I could see Rhyl and Prestatyn bathed in a Summer's glow of their own - in stark contrast to our Arctic ambulation. Bugger.

The beach, shadowed by the Great Orme, laughed coldly at our frozen faces as the tide rolled in:




Still a beautiful vista, though.
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Wed Apr 26, 2017 1:15 pm
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A Castle For All Seasons

Anthony Boydell
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Goodrich Castle, April 2017.

This is the castle that I've probably visited the most in my life: on school trips, both before and after my family had moved up the Wye Valley from Newport; on cider-drinking, school-bunking afternoon's off from the Sixth Form; and, countless times, with our own - and extended - families.

It's a brilliant place; sunk in to a square 'well' on the hill, it overlooks the River Wye on two sides and has everything one could possible want from a visitable castle:
A dry moat? Check!
Towers you can climb to the top of? Check!
A dungeon you can go in? Check!
Spiral staircases by the dozen? Check!
A restored Chapel? Check!
A deep, DEEP Well? Check!
A cannon and some cannon balls? Check!
Outbuildings? Check!
Big rocks you can climb? Check!
Battlements you can walk along? Check!
Garderobes? Checketty-check-check-check!

It's just perfect...and only 15 miles down the road!

On this occasion, we met up with Mrs B's cousin and her family (whose parents live just a 10 minute walk up the hill a bit further) and took the same paths, scrambled over the same rocks and wobbled vertiginously at the top of the same towers as we ever did:
























Naturally, once we had had our fill (this time) of goodly Goodrich, it was off to the Uncle/Aunts for tea and hot crossed buns. Oh, and Arthur discovered the joys of sliding, face-first, down a staircase on one's belly:


He's such a special child.
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Mon Apr 24, 2017 6:30 am
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Volume 2: My Mother, when...

Anthony Boydell
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In an occasional series, leading up to July's 2000th post, I'll be scanning the first year's blog outpourings. I'm not looking for any kind of personal revelation, just curious as to what was occupying my thoughts six years ago. It's a fun, melancholic, sometimes confusing and/or anger-inducing exercise: a lot has happened and I'm glad I committed it all to a digital diary!

British comedy shows are, quite simply, the best in the World and there is no argument that can contradict this statement. My favourite writers/performers have a surreal and often viciously-satirical edge to them (Christopher Morris, Armando Ianucci and Stewart Lee) or are just plain silly (the Pythons, Fry & Laurie). Naturally, their 'style' leaks in to my blog voice and it's no more obvious - to those who have seen the Armando Ianucci Show - than in this early 2011 homage:


Quote:

(Tony sits in a large, inflatable armchair covered with so many puncture-repair plasters. His back is straight, his knees are together - in the Catholic fashion - and his hands placed,palms up, on his lap. A partially-eaten Eccles cake dries slowly in front of a log-burning stove. An adjacent, pristine inflatable chair stands empty)

Tony: (directly to you, dear reader) I'm just waiting for my grandfather…

(A log cracks loudly in the flames and a shower of sparks lands on the hearth)

Tony: ...he'll be along in a minute…

(a short cough)

Tony:…here he comes…

(The door bell rings)

Tony: (calling) Come in, grandfather!

(An aged gentleman enters - he looks exactly like Tony, but with bad Hollywood 'age' makeup on. He totters over to the spare inflatable chair and falls face-first into it. It bounces away onto the stove and pops. Acrid black smoke from the burning plastic quickly fills the room)

Tony: Hello, grandfather; I was just thinking about adapting life-jackets for colostomy patients who spend a lot of time at sea.

Grandfather: We never used to have colostomy bags in my day…we used to have a hole in the ground and a wheelbarrow. When you fancied a little walk, you'd put the hole into the wheelbarrow and took it along with you.

Tony: And what about board games? How was it different when you were a "wee bairn"?

Grandfather: There weren’t so many Reiner Knizia games for a start – you had only three or four hundred to choose from. Of course, we were at war with Reiner…and Friedemann Friese…twice.

Tony: Did that affect the games that you were able to play?

Grandfather: Of course! When you’re at war with someone, you don’t buy their excellent boardgames at the same time – every copy of Die Macher would fund a doodlebug; every Adlungspiele deck another tank shell!

Tony: So, what games DID you play?

Grandfather: We used to sit around the hearth of an evening looking at a picture of Settlers of Catan that we got off the Black Market. Munchkin was very popular, but only for the first 3 minutes of any given games evening; we used to get them off the GI’s in return for ‘favours’…

Tony: ‘Favours..?’

Grandfather: (blushing) I’m not proud of it, lad, but they were hard times and if you didn’t ‘go’ with the Yanks, you ended up with half a Monopoly set or worse…

Tony: Snakes and Ladders?

Grandfather: (angry; stands and waves his false elbow at the mantel) I’ll not have that name spake in t’house, lad. (calms down) During the Coronation in ’52, after the war, we went round next doors and saw a colour version of Carcassonne on their television – it were only the basic set then, of course.

Tony: The television?

Grandfather: No – Carcassonne. And we used to play Finca with real fruit, though figs were hard to come by so we used shriveled Ox scrota instead.

Tony: (pausing, a grapefruit speared on his thumb) Was it about this time that you met Grandma?

Grandfather: Yes it were! There used to be these Theme nights down at the Town Hall; you know the kind of thing: ‘Big Games In A Small Box’, ‘The Letter P’, ‘Games you will Hate almost immediately’ – that kind of thing. Your grandma was demo-ing a session of Illuminati: New World Order and I was on the next table playing Agricola: Farmers of the Moor. Our eyes met across the animeeples.

Tony: Sounds wonderfully romantic!

Grandfather: Not really – when I say ‘our eyes met’, I mean that my glass eye and hers had popped out and rolled across the floor like marbles. According to the Cambridge Rules, MY eye bombsie-d HER eye so it were mine to keep.

Tony: (aghast) You both had glass eyes?

Grandfather: Oh yes. It was all the rage then – like ear-piercings or Thunderstone. My friend Bill lost a thumb in Sicily and had it replaced with a miniature set of Villa Paletti…and my old Sergeant had his cock and balls swapped for a dice tower….nice one...with stickers and everything.

Tony: Let's go back to the war, grandfather; after all it was a difficult time for the gaming community and, being an old fart, that's all you want to bloody go on about anyway…what was it like playing tournament –level Ticket To Ride against the Hun?

Grandfather: Churchill banned all pens as they were being converted into knives, submarines and wotnot, so that ruled out Railway Rivals. The Yanks dropped demo copies of Ticket To Ride all over mainland Europe and it quickly became a propaganda nightmare. The Bosch were better at it than us, you see. Some of the lads down ‘the Legion’ still won’t talk about the Marklin edition.

Tony: You mentioned the Blitz - how did you cope?

Grandfather: Multiplayer Magic: The Gathering began to get popular back then. It's natural when you're all cooped up in a Nissan hut - it's either Emperor or talking to Mrs Scroggins about black-market bacon.

Tony: Was there a black market for TCG's too?

Grandfather: Oh yes! Spivs would come round the pubs offering "Carpet Of Flowers for the Lady?" or "Genuine Spectral Tigers?" or (singing) "Cockles and Netrunner Boosters - Alive, Alive-Oh!"

Tony: That sounds like a jolly song - were there any others?

Grandfather: "Roll Through The Barrel" was quite popular; so was "Hitler Has Only Got One Power Station", "My Old Man's A Semi-Professional Backgammon Player", ‘I’ve Got A Lover-ly Bunch of Macao-nuts’, ‘Rondel, Rabbit, Rondel’ and ‘Knees Up, Mother Bauza’.

Tony: (standing) Would you like a cup of tea before you die?



Genius.
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Sat Apr 22, 2017 6:40 am
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Small Post, Big Image

Anthony Boydell
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Once again an opportunity to continue dredging the murky corners of the Shed presented itself over the long Easter weekend; this time, an A2 art portfolio - sandwiched between the shelving unit and the back wall - long thought lost was revealed in it all its dusty glory...and within?
Graphic projects from times passed: some of which go back to the early days of parenthood!


(clockwise, and spiralling, from top left)Aliens for a bedtime story; flying turtles; an A3 poster of the IT Project team from my days in Swindon (2003-2005); beautiful female robot variations for Fzzzt!; box-art for 'the game that shall not be named'; Confucius line art for part of the final cover; a tee-shirt design for a pal's National Final pop-quiz team; riffing on my long-standing cartoon character.


The dust raised gave me a blocked nose and 'the sniffles' for the rest of the weekend but - hey! - that's a price worth paying for a bit of time-travelling
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Tue Apr 18, 2017 6:30 am
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This is the Bee Bee Sea...

Anthony Boydell
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Apologies if you can't access it but, for those of you that can, this is a rare example of
a) British broadcast media giving a shit about board games, and
b) it not being a massive fountain of Monopoly-obsessed bollocks.





It helps a great deal, of course, that the utterly splendid Mr James Wallis is involved: the man's a balm for the gaming soul, he really is.

Let me know what you think, below...
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Sat Apr 15, 2017 9:31 am
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Volume 1: For a long time I used to go to bed early...

Anthony Boydell
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In an occasional series, leading up to July's 2000th post, I'll be scanning the first year's blog outpourings. I'm not looking for any kind of personal revelation, just curious as to what was occupying my thoughts six years ago. It's a fun, melancholic, sometimes confusing and/or anger-inducing exercise: a lot has happened and I'm glad I committed it all to a digital diary!

This particular retro-glimpse was first published during my Magic: The Gathering days (2000-2001) and formed part of a wider series of articles from other TCG-ers in a faux 'Celebrity Deathmatch' series on ccgprime.com (you will detect the obvious Pythonesque influence). Unsure of how the new BGG blog would pan out, I regularly raided my M:TG archives for content - reworking the subject, where possible, to reflect board games instead of cards. It makes me smile, still; I particularly like the surreal touches: the boiled egg from behind the ear and Champignon, the Wonder Hors d'Oeuvres.


Quote:

All:
FIGHT! FIGHT! FIGHT! FIGHT!

HAL 9000:
(in that sinister, cold way of his)
Today's death-match dialogue is brought to you courtesy of Robo-PunditTM, the automated Sports Commentary Software available for your desktop PC, satellite receiver system, and all toasters with greater than 256K of memory

Cheerful Announcer:
(coughing up phlegm)
*hack* Robo-Pundit: Putting The Anal back into Analysis

Danny, The LOL Boy:
(who is a ventriloquist's dummy wearing a red and white spotted bow-tie and nothing else. He is sat on Tony Boydell's knee. Tony is nude, apart from a matching spotted bow-tie)
Heeeey, sports fans! A jolly ole English 'Halloo' from the Albert Hall in London, England. Tonight this historic, if small, auditorium plays host to one of the most keenly anticipated celebrity death-matches since Donald X. 'Gotta Catch 'Em All' Vaccination and a bucket of cold sick. Oh yes. Tonight we'll see that quirky UK-based japester and pun-merchant, Tony Boydell, taking a Pythonesque swing at himself! Yes, you heard me right - he'll be attempting to beat eight shades of stool out of his own person.

(turning to Tony)
So what's the deal, Tony?

Tony Boydell:
(starts moving Danny's lips and then remembers he should be moving his own)
I couldn't face being beaten by someone else. I have a fragile ego, you know - one swipe and I go to pieces.

Danny, The LOL Boy:
(anatomically correct)
Riiiiiiight. So what's your strategy for this evening? Any thoughts on your possible weak spots?

Tony Boydell:
(pulling a hard-boiled egg from behind Danny's ear)
Well I'm none to good with actual strategy - I've been looking at previous blog posts and have noticed that whenever I get close to making any sort of relevant point, I slip in a rather poor pun and gloss over the whole affair. I'll be looking to exploit that this evening.

Danny, The LOL Boy:
(head turns right round - Linda Blair style)
An interesting point, Tony - and what do you think about that, Tony?

Tony Boydell:
(holding up a hand-written sign with 'I Like Pasta' on it)
I think that I've seriously underestimated myself - relying on old submissions like that! I'd suggest that I'd better pay more attention to my own performance, if I were me, and less time on what's gone before. I've put in a lot of training for this contest, and have a few tricks up my literary sleeve, I can tell you!

(Tony holds up a mirror and grimaces to himself - faintly growling like a bear. He departs.)

Danny, The LOL Boy:
(head lolling forward)
Well, the bookies are fairly unanimous on this one. Tony is the hot favourite, but you could do worse than stick a couple of dollars on rank outsider Tony, with odds of 12 to 1.

(holds hand to ear)

Well, it seems that we're ready to begin. Let me hand you over to Burkett O'Slops at the ringside

(as the camera cuts to the ring-side, we can hear Danny say "Will someone please get me a gottle o' geer?")

Burkett O'Slops:
(voice only, though he sounds like he's dressed in a chicken suit)
Thanks, Danny. Here we go!

Master Of Ceremonies:
(waving his arms in great sweeping motions towards the packed audience)
I-in the red corner: Tony Boy-dell ! I-in the blue corner: To-ny Boydell ! This death-match will be decided by two submissions or a BGG disciplinary e-mail - no bad language or sexual content please - this is a family event.

The Bell:
DING - DING!

Burkett O'Slops:
And they're away. Tony leaps out of the blue corner with an obscure lyrical reference from a 70's progressive rock album - he's using it as a title for the opening paragraph. Tony counters quickly from the red corner with an aside followed by some fancy footnote-work. It's all textbook stuff as he circles himself around the ring, a jab here, and a pun there. Trying to find a way in…Oh! That was a tremendous wiity retort to Tony's ribs from Tony just then, managing to slip in both a reference to Agricola AND deride the current state of the Geekmod system AT THE SAME TIME! But Tony seems to have brushed that last remark off and is preparing a fulsome, jokey response of his own! Oh! Was that a direct insult, just then?

No! He just quipped him. Something about Scandaroon, apparently, which is a bit below the belt.

The Bell:
DING - DING! (aside) I’ve got a Drama degree, you know!

Burkett O'Slops:
And that's the end of Round One, with Tony just slightly having the edge. He looks in good shape as he receives encouragement from his family and some store credit from BoardGameGuru. Tony looks well placed as we go into Round Two.

The Bell:
DING - BLOODY - DING!

Burkett O'Slops:
And it seems Tony has taken some new advice from his corner during the break and has come out blazing - it looks like he's building a rant about people who play the same game over-and-over, a tried-and-tested strategy but is Tony angry enough? Tony holds his own steadily against this attack, responding with his own version of 'Somewhere Over The Rainbow' from 'The Wizard Of Oz' - cleverly interweaving satirical digs at the Essen trolley-geeks and rhymes for 'ass', 'undergraduate', and 'piccolo'.

(shouting)

OH NO! Tony seems to have slipped up! He was so busy 'going off on one' that he forgot to check his spelling and has completely mis-typed that last paragraph - consequently, the spell-checker has filled the blog post with hundreds of red underlines. Undoubtedly, a disaster for Tony at this point in the bout, particularly as he was building up a powerful case using justified bullet points and quotes from other writers. How disappointing! Tony realises his mistake and is beating himself up about it! - which isn’t going to help his writing arm either - I hope he remembers that with over two minutes gone in this round, he's up against a deadline!

The Bell:
DING - wait for it…

Master Of Ceremonies:
Tony Boydell receives a warning for confused babbling…

The Bell:
…DING!

Burkett O'Slops:
…and as Tony goes back to his corners, I notice that Tony has a split infinitive - they'd better patch that up as quickly as they can or the whole composition could come apart at the seams in later rounds. Well, I've been joined at the ring-side by Danny, The LOL Boy and Champignon, The Wonder Hors D'Oeuvre; what you fellas making of this fight so far?

Danny, The LOL Boy:
(in a mock-Cockney accent)
Well, the boy done good - ain't he? Eh? He's working hard, right? Steady as she goes, yeah? He's not mincin' 'is words, like. He's putting it together and showing it out like a good boy should, right?

Burkett O'Slops:
(to the plate of food)
Champignon? Any thoughts?

Champignon, The Wonder Hors D'Oeuvre:
(silence)

The Bell:
DING-A-LING! DING-A-LING! She wants to play with my DING-A-LING!

Burkett O'Slops:
And they’re off with round three, and after the debacle of the last column, both Tony and himself are playing it more cautiously. Tony has decided to divide his article into two parts, hoping to keep himself in the running during the later rounds, while Tony has opted for a quick cryptic quiz.

(to Danny)

We've seen this tactic before, right Danny?

Danny, The LOL Boy:
Yes indeed, Burkett. Offering some of your thrift store bargain finds as a prize is a great attention-attracter - this'll win him points with the Judges and the viewers at home - especially if they’re near mint…

Burkett O'Slops:
(interrupting)
…sorry, Danny, but I must interrupt you there! Tony, while skillfully expounding the virtues of the ‘casual gaming groups and the Friday Night aesthetic’ has inadvertently interviewed somebody from the audience AND made some of his clues 'just too hard'. He's knocked Tony onto his rebuttal and the referee is having very serious words indeed…

Danny, The LOL Boy:
(interrupting the interruption)
…this could be serious, Burkett…

The Bell:
DING-DING-DINGLY-DINGLY-DING-DONG!

Burkett O'Slops:
(shouting and shouting and shouting and shouting)
It IS serious, Danny! Tony has been disqualified for 'sending in any old rubbish' and that means that he'll go away from this event empty-handed, with not even his dial-up fee refunded. What a disappointment!

Champignon, The Wonder Hors D'Oeuvre:
(silence)

Danny, The LOL Boy:
(shaking his head so hard that his wig falls off)
You gotta ask the question: "Why did he do it?", Burkett, it was like he came over all deranged or something! He'll be a sad man driving back to his thatched cottage in Gloucestershire tonight.

Burkett, O'Slops:
So that brings us to the end of this evenings Celebrity Death-Match. After all the broo-ha-ha, an easy win for Tony after Tony gave it all away in the third round for the price of a couple of TCG boosters. Join us next time when Loofish takes on the tag-team might of Bored Gaymer and ‘A Girl’. Until then: keep it rigid, folks!

(roll credits to the tune of 'When The Levy Breaks' by Led Zeppelin)
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Thu Apr 13, 2017 6:12 am
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Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend...

Anthony Boydell
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...inside of a dog, it's too dark to read.

But where do board games fit in?



Board games to play with one's canine:
- Terrierforming Mars / Staffordshire Bull Terrier Mystica
- Mastiff Darkness / Kingdom Death: Münsterländer
- Great Westie Tail / Isle of Huskye
- Beagle Bros
- Sun Shih Tzu
- Panic Labrador / Unhappy King Charles!
- Gloomhavanese
- The Collie-nists
- Twilight Beagle / Pandikona Legacy ('In Season' 1)

Any more?
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Wed Apr 12, 2017 6:20 am
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Column Inches

Anthony Boydell
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I've gone and done another one of those speaky/recordy things with a pal in the U.S (of A) to further cement Trans-Atlantic relations (and to get a bit of on-air "me time", naturally). In what is fast becoming a calendar milestone, Doug and I chinny-wag about enduring - as in 'those that endure' rather than suggesting some kind of struggle-while-playing - releases from Spiel/2016 with the benefit of clear water and multiple plays. My selection comprises some of the hotnesses as well as a couple of figurative 'curve balls':



Peak Oil was pointed out to me (hi, Morten!) at the aforementioned Essen and was a pretty, playable prototype on the 2Tomatoes stand that was nigh-on impossible to get a seat in (subscribed and buzzing the whole five days). Fortunately, it's just popped up in Kickstarter and I immediately made my pledge...but why not take a look yourself? The link is:



Yesterday's blog post was no.1900 (7PM) which sort-of means I'm now on the official countdown to the big Two Thousand (circa mid-July); I have no idea what the post will be about/depict as I'm often just as surprised as you lot with what's vomm-ed via the clicky-keyboard.

In other news, Arthur and I have made it to the end of Harry Potter & The Half-Blood Prince leaving us just the one more volume; it's an exhausting read-aloud, on occasion, as I 'do' all the voices from the breathlessly-swotty Hermione, the (slightly) loutish Ron, the high coldness of Voldemort and a Richard Harris-esque Dumbledore. All of the characters from Peeves to the drawling Malfoy, the daydreaming Luna to the bellowing Uncle Vernon/West Country growl of Hagrid. And my wailing, sherry-soaked Trelawney is a wonder to behold.
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Tue Apr 11, 2017 6:20 am
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As is my wont...

Anthony Boydell
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...I'd finished blah-blah-de-training-blah and took myself, last Tuesday, back to the B&B. The Deganwy road to Llandudno, in preparation for the coming holiday season, was stop-and-bloody-started with roadworks (as seems to be most of the North Wales coast). Trying to find a short-cut, I ended up in the middle of an Estate and proximal to a 'Public Right of Way' path squeezed between two houses.

"There be big hills in that direction" I mused and, ignoring the bruisy sore pain in my left heel (that I've had since Sunday morning), I went for a climbing walk in the beautiful late afternoon:


(clockwise, from top left, around a Google map snapshot: a glinting Conwy; a prominent up-swelling of land; a prominent up-swelling of a human (with the Great Orme in the distance); "I remember when all of these fields were just fields..."; have panorama function on iphone, will travel; up my secret passage.


While it may be too windy to catch my meditative commentary, perhaps, you get the general idea:

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Sat Apr 8, 2017 6:25 am
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