2

Pieminister Gets My Vote

I’d heard about Pieminister. My friends had sung its praises, my girlfriend has often sighed at pie we’ve bought, saying it’s just not Pieminister, and then we also own their cookbook ‘A Pie for All Seasons’, from which delicious pies have been made. But I’d never actually been to a Pieminister.

Hipster looking shop with views of the Town Hall

This all changed today, when Beth took me out to celebrate my new job. (I work in tech now guys – any women or LGBTQ+ people in tech advice, hit me up.) And so, with a Pieminister recently opened in Brum, we went. And man, it was not oversold. At all.

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View of the Town Hall was A++

With all kinds of pie, from beef to chicken to vegetarian and even gluten free, you’re not short of options. Unless you’re vegan. With only one main option that isn’t even a pie, it might not be everything you want from a pie joint if you’re vegan. All names are puns and everything sounds delicious – which is my kind of restaurant. And all pies come with gravy. Our waitress was very clear on that, which I fully appreciate.

When you’ve picked your pie, then you can pick your meal type. Classic, Mothership, Feast or Stick ‘Em Up – all of which come with varying amounts of sides or sticks (kebabs skewers with either pigs in blankets, onion rings or halloumi).

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Gotta love a flat lay esque photo

I went for the Free Ranger (chicken, ham, leek and thyme), with mash, garden peas with chilli and a stick of pigs in blankets. Beth had the Chicken of Aragon, with mash, minted mushy peas and a stick of pigs in bankets.

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Food for the eyes as well as the stomach

It was gorgeous. Not only was the presentation lovely, but it tasted delicious. The pie was everything pie should be. If I had to describe the epitome of a pie, it would be the pie I had at Pieminister. Both kinds of pea were great, and the pigs in blankets were exactly right.

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I was trying to be arty with gravy

All of the staff were super lovely, and the service was good. Oh, and on Sundays, cocktails are two for one. I thoroughly enjoyed Pieminister, totally see what all the hype was about. I’ll be going back as soon as I can. Next time you’re dreaming of pie, this is the place to go.

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Queer and Now

On Saturday, Tate Britain held an event called Queer and Now, launching Pride in London for 2017. They’ve also currently got an exhibition called Queer British Art 1861-1967, which is on until 1st October. All in all, it promised to be a fantastic day, and me and Beth headed down to London.

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Right queer, right now

A note on the use of Queer: Tate Britain outlined in the Queer and Now programme that ‘the word queer has been used both as a term of abuse and by LGBTQ+ people to refer to themselves from the end of the 19th century onwards. Queer and Now is inspired by its usage as an inclusive, fluid term for people of different sexualites and gender identities, and as a way of expressing ways of being in the world that don’t conform to the established norms’. Please be aware that I use queer throughout this post to refer to the LGBTQ+ community, as I both use it to refer to my identity as a bisexual woman in a relationship with a woman and it was part of an event called Queer and Now. However, I feel it’s important to acknowledge that while queer has been reclaimed by some members of the community but not every member of the LGBTQ+ community is happy to use queer, so it’s always worth talking to members of the community about how they would like to be referred to.

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The size of a giant wall this was

First thing we did was go round Queer British Art 1861-1967. Starting, as you might expect, in 1861 it chronicles art created by people confirmed or believed to be queer, which was often of people confirmed or believed to be queer. My favourite rooms were Blooomsbury And Beyond, which focused on the Bloomsbury group – a set of artists and writers whose gender identities and sexualities spanned the full LGBTQ+ spectrum, and the Defying Convention room, which focused on how gender norms were challenged in the late 19th and early 20th century, particularly by women* and non binary people.

These rooms in particular, but also the rooms before them, tried to be representative past white gay cisgender men, including several women, trans men and nonbinary individuals. Most notably, the self portrait used in the promtional material for the exhibit is of Gluck, whose name, as stated by the artist, is to be used with “no prefix, suffix, or quotes” and resigned from an art society when this wasn’t followed. However, there was little racial diversity throughout the exhibit, and the final three rooms, as far as I saw, focused on cis men, as if the rest of the queer community stopped produing art in the early 20th century. The exhibition also had a real problem with deadnaming trans and nonbinary people. (Deadnaming is when when a trans person’s birth name is referred to either in addition to or instead of their chosen name.)

As exhibits go, it was so great to see myself represented in art, and to have this representation explicitly referred to in the signs next to the art. Some of the pieces in the exhibit were on loan from Birmingham Art Gallery, and I have seen them several times, never knowing they were part of queer art history. However, while I could see myself represented, there was still huge swathes of the community who were not. As I said earlier, the racial diversity in the displayed art was poor, women disappeared from the exhibit past the early 20th century and I imagine it must be upsetting for trans and non binary people to see themselves in the art, only for the artists identities to be disrepected in the contextual writing. I’d still recommend the exhibit, as the sheer joy of being in a space where queer artists were allowed to be queer was exhilirating, but as a white woman, I do speak from a position of relative privilege in being able to see myself in the art shown.

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Solid sign this is. To the point, I like it

While we were in Queer British Art,  Queer and Now got off to a swinging start, and when we came out of the exhibit the gallery was busy. All the activites were free, some were explicitly family friendly, and the variety on offer was incredible. From LGBTQ+ vendors at the pop up esty store, to performance art to make up workshops to talks about queer history, there really was something for everyone.

We learnt about queer convicts in Australia before we headed to The O Show on female masculinity. Hosted by Oriana Fox, this was a chat show style talk about the expression of female masculinity. Guests included Lucy Hutson, a performance artist, Temi Wilkey, actor and drag king who co-runs Pecs, a Drag King collective, and Del LaGrace Volcano, an international photographer who has referred to themselves as a ‘part-time gender terrorist’.

Drag King Cole (Temi Wilkey) and Thrustin Limbersnake (Lauren Steele), two Drag Kings of the Pecs collective, performed a lip sync, which was incredible. The discussion on female masculinity was really interesting, and two days later I’m still thinking about issues discussed. But, in all honesty, the thing that has most stuck with me was Temi’s solo performance as Drag King Cole, which was about police brutality against the black community in Britain and the USA. I’d never realised how political drag could be and how it could be used to make such a powerful statement. The room was silent when she’d finished, as well it should have been.

As the day turned into evening, there were several DJ sets beginning, but after so much to think about (how much do I subscribe to traditional gendered dressing, if I have kids how do I raise them in this society while being aware that the gender binary is a harmful contruct, where is my closest drag king night), we headed home for Birmingham.

It was glorious to be in such a queer coded space. It felt more queer coded than Pride, and that’s saying something. Coming back into the real world was a bit of a shock, especially when a stag do took over our train carriage on the way home, but I feel buoyed up by my queer Saturday in London. We have always existed. We produce art, we form academic theory, we hold hands and kiss in art galleries. We exist.

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Love happens here

*To confirm, whenever I say women, I include trans women.

0

Victorian Computing Heroes

On Monday, me and Beth took advantage of the bank holiday to go on a quick jaunt to London. After speeding round the British Museum and eating a veritable feast at Wahaca, we headed for the Science Museum. I’d never been and Beth promised interactive exhibits. Which, as everyone knows, are the best kind of exhibits.

And then we came down a set of stairs and I freaked out.

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BEHOLD. THE DIFFERENCE ENGINE.

The Difference Engine is essentially the first computer. Charles Babbage designed it between 1847 and 1849, to calculate and run mathematical algorithms to speed up mathematical and scientific endeavors. Due to the fact that this was in the 1800s, it was never made because they couldn’t make parts that were precise enough. Oh, and Babbage abandoned the project to work on the Analytical Machine, which was a new and improved version of the Difference Machine. (He never finished the Analytical Machine either).

But the Science Museum built the Difference Engine in 1991 following Babbage’s plans. A big machine (though nowhere near as big as the first working computers) it is precisely calibrated to be able to churn through hundreds of numbers.

All of the above is pretty cool. Victorian inventor, first computers… It has all the makings of a great story. I’m not the first person to think this. In fact, I only found out about Charles Babbage and the Difference Engine thanks to Sydney Padua thinking it was a great story.

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An okay photo of a really excellent book.

Enter The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage. Focusing on Charles Babbage, aforementioned inventor of the Difference Engine and the Analytical Engine, and Ada Lovelace, who was basically the first computer programmer, this graphic novel first outlines what actually happened with Lovelace, Babbage and the Difference Engine, but then moves into imagining what could have happened if the Difference Engine had worked. And the answer is wacky steampunk-esque shenanigans.

With Babbage as an over protective owner of the Difference Engine (which, by all accounts, he was) and Ada Lovelace as pipe smoking, scientific and mathematical genius who worked out how to programme the Difference Engine (which, again, is an accurate and historical truthful portrayal), Lovelace and Babbage is a fantastic graphic novel. It’s lovingly drawn, extremely funny and historically accurate as far as possible. It has citations. What other graphic novel has citations.

I have never enjoyed scientific history so much, and Lovelace is my new hero (Did I mention that she was a female scientific genius in the Victorian era on whose work Turing based some of his research on?). Read it – you won’t regret it. And you too might get to freak out in the Science Museum like massive dork.

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Gif by Sydney Padua

4

Welcome to my Crib v2

I’m back! Kind of… This blog comes to you courtsey of 3G. Despite having moved in with my girlfriend over a month ago, we still don’t have broadband. It’s a work in progress, but I’ve missed you guys, so 3G it is.

Back when this blog was still a Year Abroad blog, I did a post about my room. And I thought, as moving in with Beth has been the highlight of my year, that I’d show you the cool bits of our house.

So many house guardians 

Our mantelpiece is full of totoro and hippogriffs and pokemon and dorky dinosaurs from Iceland. They’re cute and cuddly and look after the house while we’re not there.

Hoxton Monster Supplies do great business out of us

I’ve mentioned Hoxton Street Monster Supplies before in this post, but since then I’ve been to the actual shop not just the Liberty’s pop up.

HSMS is fantastic, a childhood dream come true. It sells salt made from tears, tinned fear and fang floss for even the most discerning werewolves.

All proceeds go to the Ministry of Stories, a creative writing and mentoring charity for children. It’s a great place to visit and a great place to support. It keeps our kitchen well stocked with the Collywobbles and Mortal Terror.

Space!!!

We have a space wall. Because space is great and we might become an interplanetary species. Also, Nasa do some really fantastic space posters.

Most important part of the house

 Behold the tea shelf. The heart of the home. A world of choice and none of them wrong. At last count there were at least 20… We may have a problem. A warming, mood lifting, cup full of a problem.

0

I’m not Dead

I’m so sorry for the radio silence. A month ago I moved house and a certain internet provider who shall rename nameless has been promising me internet that entire time.

I still do not have internet. (I’m posting this by 3G.) Which is deeply frustrating not only because I’d quite like to be able to do a Tesco delivery order, but because I have so many things saved up to tell you about.

Until the internet gods favour me again, you can keep up with me on Twitter, especially for Bake Off tweeting, or on Facebook for regularly scheduled moaning about the lack of internet.

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Look, I can’t be dead when I have such great taste in hats and superheros.

2

Who You Gonna Call?

The original Ghostbusters came out in 1984 and starred Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis and Ernie Hudson as the titular group. An iconic piece of pop culture, I watched it as a teenager as part of my 80s films phase. It was enjoyable, but I’ve not rewatched it since.

I’ve seen the new Ghostbusters film twice now. If the cinemas near me were still showing it at convenient times, I’d go see it again. Suffice to say, I really really enjoyed it. Starring Kristen Wigg, Melissa McCarthy, Leslie Jones and Kate McKinnon as the paranormal fighting bunch, it’s enjoyable and funny.

However, the film was receiving backlash before it was even released. Mostly because of the all female cast, partially because it was remake. Some people think it should be a continuation of the Ghostbusters series, rather than a reboot, which I think is a fair criticism. I’m quite happy with it being a reboot, but I didn’t love the original series, so that’s why I think that. As for all the retaliation, because they cast women in the lead roles … It’s time, okay? It’s 2016, women can be the lead in films other than rom coms.

Because I’ve seen it twice, I’ve been asked my opinion on the film a few times, so below find my frequently asked questions. Hope it helps if you’ve not seen it yet.

  1. Is it an enjoyable film?

Yes. Yes, it’s a highly enjoyable film. Laughs and scares and highly likable characters. Even the creator of the original Ghostbusters loved it. It’s everything a summer film should be. I would so suggest you go and see it.

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Dan Aykroyd’s facebook page giving Ghosbuster (2016) the thumbs up.

  1. Is it a good film?

Tricky question. It’s a silly film, like the original Ghostbusters, and for me the answer to this questions would be ‘well, it’s not going to win an Oscar’. But the original Ghostbusters was nominated for 2 Oscars. So who knows?

The CGI is fantastic, the acting is so good, and the plot makes sense. No glaring holes that I can think so.

  1. Is it like the original?

Much like every other reboot or series continuation, Ghostbusters has its fair share of shout outs and homage paying moments. But unlike Jurassic World, they’re not jarring, and the plot is different enough to the original to feel like you could have just watched the original.

  1. Isn’t Hollywood doing too many remakes?

Quite possibly. For me, it’s weird because I haven’t seen a lot of the originals (Jurassic Park, Star Wars…), so to me they’re entirely new films. But maybe Hollywood’s out of ideas. Who knows?

  1. Was it weird that all the main characters were female?

It was weird. But it shouldn’t be weird that there’s a film with 4 female leads, who are not sexualised, are never the butt of sexist or size-ist jokes, who so totally kick ass.

Women in films are never portrayed like this. Usually there’s only one woman who has to represent all of womankind, who looks a certain way to fit certain beauty standards, who either is the damsel in distress, or ends up fighting the only other woman in the film, who is never the main bad guy.

Watching Ghostbusters, particularly the climatic fight scene, made my heart swell three sizes. Because for what feels like the first time ever, I got to see women fight like men get to. That is to say, go all out fighting for their lives, not in spandex, not in sexy positions, but with badass music and proton guns galore.

 

I can’t quite explain how much this film means to me. And I know that its had such an emotional response for me, because of the portrayal of women in it. Which is great, and a good reason to go see the film anyway. However, that aside, you should go see it because it’s fun and silly and so enjoyable.

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Pockets of Greatness

Last couple of weeks have been… interesting. And while …interesting is not a fantastic way to describe past times, there have been some pockets of greatness. So I’m gonna tell you about them, and hopefully the …interesting-ness will end and we will be back to your regularly scheduled blogging.

  1. John Finnemore’s sketch try out.

John Finnemore, writer of Cabin Pressure and John Finnemore’s Souvenir Programme, sometimes tries out sketches before he puts them into his radio show. And me and my girlfriend got tickets. Cue an hour of excellent comedy and a pocket of greatness was created.

  1. Fantastic food.

Arabica in Borough market has amazing food from The Levant (and if you like me don’t know what that means, here’s Wikipedia). I had Armenian-Style Lahmacun which was so delicious that I have no pictures of it, only fond memories. As well as fantastic food, Arabica has great drinks, it’s under railway arches (which I love) and the staff were so lovely.

  1. Gavin & Stacey

Yes, I’m about ten years too late to the party. But when it first came out I wasn’t so fussed by Gavin and Stacey. But I ran out of TV shows to watch on Netflix (suggestions in the comments, please) and so I ended up watching the British sitcom from the 00’s. And it’s great. Comedy focused around the little things. I now completely understand why everyone was talking about it when I was 15.

  1. Friends

Friends are great, as I’m sure most of you are aware. And in my life they’ve been super great recently. I’ve been a French evening to cheer up a homesick friend, I’ve met up with friends from school with plans to see them again soon, and I’ve reconnected with a friend from childhood after about a decade. Having friends and doing things with friends is highly recommended. 10/10. A++. Would do again.

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A Few Favourite Places: Nottingham

So, as you probably know, I go places, I see things. And I thought, in addition to those long long posts about every single thing I did, I could start a series on my favourite places. They will mostly be about food, I cannot lie to you.

I’m going to start with Nottingham – home to Robin Hood, more hipster establishments than you can shake a stick at and me for three years while I did the uni thing.

White Rabbit Teahouse

White Rabbit has two charming locations in Nottingham, both of which are super adorable. With delicately patterned china, cake stands piled high and beautiful tea, White Rabbit is a great place to stop for a break while wandering the busy streets of Nottingham. I’ve had tea and cake though never had the pleasure of afternoon tea there, it looks delicious.

Annie’s

Annie’s claims to bring the Rhode Island to Nottingham. I don’t know how true that is, having never been to New England, but with over 30 burgers to choose from, I don’t know anyone who doesn’t love Annie’s. All of them can be served vegan, veggie or meaty, and come with either fries, curly fries, or wedges, and boy, do they fill a plate.

Pit and Pendulum

Oh Pit and Pendulum. Always dressed for Halloween, Pit and Pendulum caters for the drinker in search of something a little less than heavenly. Their house cocktails are the Seven Deadly Sins (drink all seven in a night and win a t-shirt) and I can vouch for every single one as being fantastic. With a suitably goth interior including a secret passageway to the toilets, it’s a great night out.

Bunker

Beer pong, cocktails and the best DJ I think I’ve ever encountered. Bunker is a great place to be, with an excellent vibe and the friendliest bar tenders I’ve ever experienced in a bar that’s also a club. As the name suggests, it’s underground and I can confirm, it’s a hell of a party.

Rock City

Rock City is a gig venue and club. With three different rooms, all of them big, there’s usually a room for everyone (as long as you’re at least vaguely happy with rock). My favourite night is a Saturday, where I used to dance the night away to the rock, pop punk and emo that characterised my music taste as a teenager.

Have I missed out your favourite place in Nottingham? Let me know – I love to hear about new places to discover.

5

Magnificent Madrid

February in the UK is cold and wet and often miserable. Which is why it’s the perfect time for adventuring abroad. At the end of Feb, me and Beth went to Madrid, in search of tapas, art and a blue, blue sky. It did not disappoint.

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Look at that sky.

Flying at a reasonable time from Gatwick meant we could travel down to London on the day of our flight, which was awesome, though getting up at 4am was not fun. It meant that we got into Madrid at 2pm, giving us plenty of time to struggle with huge suitcases on the metro and to find our hostel before it went dark.

Our hostel was TOC Madrid and it was a like a good hotel. Quirky, polished and having rooms with balconies, we were really impressed with TOC. Because we’re adults now with shiny paychecks to blow, we stayed in a private room at the hostel (Which was still cheaper than staying at an actual hotel), rather than in a dorm, and it was so cool to be able to eat our lunch on a teeny tiny balcony.

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Balcony, balcony, balcony

When we’d siesta’d (4am is too early to be up, guys), we headed out into central Madrid to have a wander round. We headed to the Puente de Toledo aka the Bridge of Toledo. Very pretty, surrounded by gardens that’ll probably be better when it’s not February and dark. Then we ended up at Las Bravas  for tapas, which involved two different kinds of squid. Tapas is pretty great though it helps when you know what is you’re eating.

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Points for you if you can guess which two things are made of squid.

On Saturday we headed to the Musuem of Romanticism for breakfast, where it became apparent to us how little Spanish we know. Breakfast was delicious, but we decided not to go round the museum in favour of finding Caxia Forum. It was a great decision.

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Caxia is pronounced Kai-sha by the way.

Caxia Forum is an art gallery that looks like it’s floating and has a four storey wall of greenery next to it. It was a gorgeous day and the living wall was very impressive. Of course we went into Caxia Forum, which had an exhibition of Joan Miró’s work. He was modernist or post modernist – either way it was a lot of fun coming up with faux artistic reasons for the art.

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Four storeys. Four whole storeys.

After stopping off in the excellent shop at Caxia Forum, we headed across the road to the El Retiro Park, which is a public garden with a couple of art galleries. Madrid loves its art. We spent a very pleasant couple of hours with baguettes and beer in the sunshine. We eventually wandered to the Palacio de Cristal which is a beautiful art space in the park before we headed back for a quick siesta and then headed out for food.

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The Crystal Palace of Madrid is gorgeous.

We went for paella, because when in Rome. The restaurant was called La Paella de la Reina and Lonely Plant (my go to guide book) recommended it. The paella was great, though we struggled for half an hour to get the bill, because every time I caught the waiter’s eye, he’d smile and walk off.

The next day was Sunday, and according to all the literature, the thing to do on Sundays in Madrid is to go to the flea markets. So we did. Streets full of old paintings, second hand clothes and general tat/antiques. As always, the weather was glorious and it was lovely if a little crowded.

And then we had the best brunch ever. La Central is a bookshop who not only have an excellent selection of books, but had the one of the best meals I’ve ever had. For €23 euros you get, mini pastries, juice, tea or coffee, a main and a pudding. Of brunch. I had eggs benedict for the first time and a chocolate crepe (not at the same time), and the juice wasn’t bog standard orange or apple. No, it was fancy with over three ingredients and tasted fantastic. Simply incredible.

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After a relatively lazy day, that evening we went out looking for drinks. After some seriously great burritos, we wound up in a down at heel bar for cocktails before we went in search of another watering hole.

We sucked at finding places to drink. But it all worked out when we found a swish looking bar who had local beer. They also had a band playing who were American metal folk. It sounded pretty much like you’re imagining.

Monday was our last full day in Madrid and we began in the district of Chueca, where we found some amazing niche shops, some fabulously expensive clothes and some really lovely people. We ended up at a café called La Linda where they have their own juice and some pretty great toasties.

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Chicken, brie, mustard and honey.

Later that day, we tried to go to the palace but it was closed for an official event. So we wound up in Costa surrounded by a lot of English speakers before we headed to the Reina Sofia, one of Madrid’s most famous art galleries. On certain days, you can go for two hours in the evening for free, and me and Beth love us some free art galleries. And so we ended up at the Reina Sofia after dark.

Being in an art gallery in the evening was quite exciting. I was less impressed with the actual art gallery. From having interactive art that you weren’t allowed to interact with to endless rooms of paintings with no context other than the name of the piece and the name of the artist, it wasn’t super fun. So we left.

Our hunt to find food using the guidebook didn’t work very well, with all three places we headed for being closed. So we went to MacDonalds. They have a big mac but with chicken burgers. It was so good. So good.

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Much chicken, so good. 

On Tuesday we packed up and bade the hostel farewell, before heading back to the palace. This time it was actually open and we got to go round the very impressive building. Built to show off wealth and power, it’s still achieving those goals. Particularly the room where the wall paper is made out of porcelain.

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So impressive. 

Eventually we had to leave, after having the best burger at Bacoa, we took the metro back to the airport and the plane back to England. Our flight was delayed and then cancelled so we got an extra few hours in Madrid but in the airport wasn’t an ideal way of spending them.

Madrid was an incredible city and I’d go back. The art was great, the food was amazing and it has a constantly blue sky. What more could you want?

1

Casual heroics

There was no blog post last week. This is because on Saturday I went paintballing and then spent Sunday recovering. And so, of course, I’m going to tell you about paintballing now.

First things first – yes, being hit by a paintball hurts. Though not as much as I thought it would. Don’t get me wrong, I’m bruised all over and going up and down stairs on Sunday was difficult. But once I’d been hit once, it wasn’t so scary and I charged headlong into battle.

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Photo credit: GO Paintball London                                                                                                                  

Look at those war faces.

We went to Go Paintball London which is in South London. A friend had a voucher which is why we went so far south. It involved a delayed train the night before, a surprisingly nice hotel and navigating the tube while half asleep.

When we got there, we got geared up. Camouflage body suit, visor and an ammo belt. Ammo was, of course, extra but from what I understand that’s pretty de rigueur with paintball. Before we were allowed guns, there was a safety talk by the owner of paintball and then we were divided into teams.

Instead of just playing with the people we’d come with, we had masses of strangers on our teams. And we were on opposing teams. Great in theory because you get to shoot your friends. But in practice, it was difficult to spot your friends when you had a visor on and paintballs were flying.

We played four maps, two of which were essentially capture the flag. Stockpile meant trying to capture three flags, Wasteland had us protecting one flag and trying to steal another. Then Stronghold you either stormed or protected a castle and in Bunker you were trying to secure both a nuclear reactor and (shockingly) a nuclear bunker for your team.

Discussion later revealed that each of our favourite maps were where we got to do some thrilling heroics. So for me it was Wasteland, where, having run out of ammo, I made a desperate run to try and capture the flag. I did not succeed. But I tried and that’s what counts, right?

It was a really fun day, especially when I figured out that my talents lay in providing cover and not in attempting to run anywhere. I’d go paintballing again, thought maybe not before any important events because I am still very bruised, several days later. And while Go Paintball was a great experience, it’s kind of far away. And I’m not sure how good the day was makes up for the expense.