Happy Christmas!

Back in the UK for a little while (until this upcoming Sunday). Friends, family, and all the mince pies it’s physically possible to eat in eight days. See you in the new year!


I am a creature of habit, to the extent that change is a problem. Why not ask my mother, who I still haven’t forgiven entirely for throwing out the biscuit tin of my childhood earlier this year1. I have had a very nice routine since I arrived in Cincinnati: get on the main road, drive for about 2 miles, and then turn right for the Kroger that has dark chocolate digestive biscuits. And other foods, but as you may have noticed, biscuits are also apparently an important part of my psyche.

And so, this week, I braved the almost-Christmas traffic to head to Kroger one last time before I come back home to the UK next week. I arrived to an almost-empty car park and a sign on the door saying that they had closed. Now, admittedly, there’s a fancy new Kroger2 across the road that just opened to take its place, but my habit: ruined. I have to turn left now instead of right! What a personal disaster! Also, it took me twenty minutes to find the digestives.

Oh, I actually was part of a winning trivia team this week! And all I had to give up was eye-rolling at the Union Jacks everywhere in the pub. I think my only real contributions were knowing who Was (Not Was) were and the importance of Westminster Abbey, while also revealing my deep-seated ire against the Shrek films3, but I contributed! Somewhat!

Helvetica update: she has decided that she is a lap cat when I’m on the couch, especially when I’m trying to use the laptop. She would like me to point out that she believes that only being fed twice a day is not acceptable. Let’s hope she never discovers my family’s feeding regime for their cats.

I had one of those rare anti-Impostor Syndrome moments this week; nothing too spectacular, but a day of find inefficiencies, fixing them, and seeing that reflected at scale. And as I come to the end of 2018, I think I find myself in a better place, in a variety of different ways. So there’s that. Of course, I still have four days left of 2018 for it all to go horribly Pete Tong, but I try to be optimistic about these things…

  1. Yes, I understand that it didn’t keep biscuits fresh any more, but that wasn’t the point, was it? It could have had a very good home in the United States instead of being sent to a farm. Of course, I may have just ruined any chance of getting mince pies this Christmas… [return]
  2. It’s a very fancy Kroger Marketplace that basically translates to a Tesco Extra. It’s not quite as fancy as the one in Newport, but it’s nice… [return]
  3. My stance is roughly that Shrek is the point where irony crept in and ruined everything. See also: The Office (UK). [return]

Last Minute San Francisco

You’d think with all the travelling I’ve done this week, I’d have some good stories. But, not really? Two days of work and the hotel was about five minutes away from the office, so I didn’t really have much of a reason to venture anywhere. Although the hotel did have some weird ideas of how to lay out a floor that veered on the realms of breaking Euclidean Geometry, and I’ve now been to Elixir enough times that I have a conversation with the bar owner about how new craft distilleries will survive now that MGP distillate seems to be thin on the ground. Good times!

So that was San Francisco. And it rained. But I guess in February, it’ll give me something of a respite from the inevitable deep snow in Ohio? Maybe?

Anyway, having got back to Cincinnati, I managed to get to the Newport Prohibition Bourbon Bar this weekend. I discovered that it existed almost two years ago, but a combination of it being over the river and opening hours that make Allen & Son1 look positively welcoming has made it difficult to plan a visit. But finally, just before running out the clock on 2018, we made the arduous trip across the Ohio River.

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And my goodness. Elixir is impressive. This is something else. It’s not very big, but there are bottles everywhere. Including crazy things like 1970s and 1980s bottles of Wild Turkey just hanging out. And they sell bottles too — barrel picks and things that are rather hard to obtain in the area.

Obviously, I will have to go back.

On the festive update, I will say that a healthy diet of Slade has helped up the festive levels considerably. Thank you, Sir Noddy of Holder!


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Yes, this morning, I drank tea out of my festive mug, opened the first door on my Cadbury Advent Calendar, and ate two mince pies. IT HAS BEGUN!

Although, having said that, I’m not feeling all that festive so far this year. Not quite sure why, either: I have a tree up, presents bought. I’ve even started looking at the Radio Times website to see what Christmas specials will be on back home. And there was snow this week too!

Something just feels a little off and I don’t know why. Perhaps after my trip to San Francisco this week things will feel a little more Christmassy…

Thanksgiving, Part 2

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This Thanksgiving was actually quite similar to last Thanksgiving, in that it took place in the same location and involved all the same people as last year. But! Importantly this time around, I had all my cooking equipment. Which meant I was free to go crazy on four desserts and spend most of a day putting together a cocktail from the new Aviary Cookbook. Look, who hasn’t decided to make a black forest gem cake with six different layers? Totally sane!

We also made Ottolenghi’s black miso sticky rice recipe, but paid little attention to quantities. At no point did we ever consider “given that we have roast potatoes, fried chicken, rolls, carrots, corn, and Yorkshire puddings, should we really make almost 1kg of rice?” We made all the rice. And the leftovers currently occupy a large portion of my fridge. But it was pretty good nonetheless…

Anyway, a good few days up here in Ohio. It was nice, after everybody came down with plague, for us all to get together and do some cooking and eating between ourselves. Now, onwards to planning early Christmas adventures1.

  1. Adventures appear to include another trip to San Francisco, the traditional advent calendar, a special order of bourbon gummies, another look at the Aviary Cocktail book, two different boardgames, and lots of stroopwafels. Oh, and Slade. Obviously. [return]

One Year Later

Well, with the postcard I got on Saturday from my old estate agent, it turns out that I’ve owned my current house for a year. I’ve only lived in it for a little over six months, but that’s a slightly different story. And to celebrate, the lights died in the bathroom. Houses are fun! Let’s go shopping!

But I think it has been a good year, and the house is holding up pretty well. I didn’t hate Driver, but there were large sections of the house that were just wasted, other sections that needed to be completely redone, and the kitchen was a total horror until Tammy and I painted over all that terrible knotty pine. Here? The kitchen is massive and full of enough counterspace that I can even do chocolate and pastry work there without breaking a sweat. The bookcases have been relocated all into one room, finally giving me the ROOOOOOOOM OF BOOOOOOKS that I’ve wanted for so long, and I’ve finally managed to clear all the clutter out of my bedroom for the first time in 39 years.

And then there’s the bar. Which is insane, and something that people don’t really believe until they’re actually inside it; for some reason photos can’t convey that, yes, it is about a quarter the size of Slem’s bar, that you could fit upwards of ten people in it without any trouble whatsoever…and that it’s pretty well-stocked, providing you like bourbon.

One year on, and I think I might the right choice, and I’m pretty happy here. In the next few days, I’ll be spending my second Thanksgiving in this house; this time we won’t need to ship in cooking supplies from Tammy and Robert’s house, and we’ll have plenty of chairs, two things lacking from last year’s adventure. But there will be a great group of people here…and I’m keeping things sane on the desserts front. Just five over two days! Totally reasonable!

Razorblade Throat

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How do you follow a week like last week? Well, how about getting a car bill for $2,000 bill, falling really quite ill, and travelling 100 miles to go see Los Campesinos! one more time?

Lots of thanks have to go to Tammy for putting up with the ‘ill man insisting he’s probably not going to make it to the morning’, followed up with ‘having to go to a concert with somebody that sounds like a Muppet having swallowed a helium balloon’. In fairness to myself, I really have been quite ill, and I came very, very close to throwing up in the middle of the concert.

(which would have been super-embarrassing as we were at the front, and I’m already the ‘odd guy who sent us chocolates’ and ‘that one who accidentally ordered 111 copies of our live album’. That’s plenty, I think)

I have officially lost count of how many times I’ve now seen LC!. Probably into double figures now, from coast-to-coast in the USA, and all over London back home (with one Oxford date, I think? My memory is not as good as it used to be1). This tour is a little different - no new album to promote, but the 10th anniversary of We Are Beautiful, We Are Doomed (the second album that wasn’t, but then was). As that was the album that cemented them in my head as ‘yes, this is my band’, I was definitely up for hearing a bunch of songs that they haven’t played live in the last few times I’ve seen them. But no All Your Keyfabe Friends? Sadness!2

In order to see them, we had to leave the safe folds of Cincinnati and drive all the way north to Columbus, Ohio’s Capital! Which I can confirm is a city. With a few tall buildings. Look, I felt like death and was trying to work inbetween passing out, okay? We did see a food truck! And a bizarre marching band that seemed to march past the hotel for a couple of hours…but that’s about it. Oh, it snowed too! So that’s my review of Columbus. Be aware that the CBD CVSs close really early.

I am now off to hook up a Lemsip IV and take all the NyQuil that exists in the house. Eventually I will feel well again!

  1. “Couldn’t you just search your blog?” Yeah, not really set up for doing that easily any more.3 [return]
  2. I kid. It was a great treat to hear You’ll Need Those Fingers For Crossing once again. Memories of the Electric Ballroom gig where Gareth started singing the lyrics to Kenickie’s Millionaire Sweeper over the start. Reader, I knew I was in the right place. [return]
  3. “Don’t you work for a search company?” Oh, aren’t you funny. [return]

Back On My Beat

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This was a trip back home that was long in the planning and surrounded in secrecy. I had decided to come home anyhow for my grandmother’s 80th birthday last Christmas, but it was only in April when I joined up with my family’s holiday that we started making firmer plans. And that it was to be a secret. I am still a little surprised that we managed to keep it that way right up until the point where I was standing in front of her.

And so I spent less than 60 hours back home, most of which was centred around a traditional family party: hordes of people from multiple generations packed into Granny’s house, completely taking over the street’s parking, and enough food to feed a couple of ravenous armies. Just like it has been countless times before and hopefully many times into the future.

For everybody else, I’m really sorry that I didn’t mention anything or try to meet up with anybody; jet lag and having only about an hour or so free all weekend meant that it wasn’t really possible. But I’ll be back at Christmas as usual, honest!

And now back to the other home, where apparently in my absence, Helvetica Black has taken up residence in her very own hammock, and I have my first Federal election to vote in…


It is a lot quieter this week. Well, except for a cat that was fed an hour ago that insists the lack of food in its bowl is in contravention of its fundamental feline rights, and it is prepared to meow for the rest of the d—WAIT IS THAT A LASER DOT? I WILL CHASE IT FOREVER.

Ahem. Anyway, quieter. But not more productive. It has been a week where I have discovered white hairs, have totally failed to write more than half-a-page, managed to get locked out of my AWS account because I forgot to transfer the Google Authenticator codes before wiping my old phone, and oh yes, I made a really quite fancy lemon tart…only I forgot to put in any lemon. All in all, not the best few days, I’d say.

But! I did get to dress up as a dinosaur and provide the heavy and prehistoric mob backup while Tammy did tarot readings. Unexpected way to spend a Saturday, but a good one!

I have also obtained what I believe is enough sweet-related products to stave off the potential hordes on Hallowe’en. As part of this, I discovered sour Skittles, which can be best described as ‘imagine Skittles coated with weapons-grade citric acid’. Eye-meltingly sour. And yet I just had to eat three packets of them just to be sure…

Introducing…Helvetica Black!

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(rejected names included “Cat (with a K)” and “Caaaaaaaat” (make sure you get all eight As!)

Apologies for the lack of update last week; my family has been visiting! They brought ginger cake, lemsip, and tea. And I obtained a surprise cat! She is settling in, but really does not like the robot vacuum cleaner. Not one little bit.

Although they didn’t go to see Fiona, I did take them to Jungle Jim’s so they could experience the insanity up close. Who doesn’t love a supermarket with its own monorail?

Anyway, I think they had fun, even though the temperature dropped to freezing and their luggage had a stopover in Philadelphia. Bonnie did indeed get to watch all the football on the TVs downstairs, Dad pegged things into pegboard in the garage, and Mum got to visit a market. Oh, and everybody played with that cat, obviously.

It’s a little quiet again, but there’s now a small cat sleeping on the cushions downstairs…