Monday, August 12, 2002

Another weekend has been and gone. On the whole it was a pretty damn good one too, although there were a couple of negative aspects which we will no doubt get to later in this stack of waffle. Actually, let's get them over and done with then I can concentrate on the positive stuff.

Friday night after yet another phone call from Canada asking if everything was sorted out yet with Ernie's accounts we got a bit stroppy and sorted out what we could. We are still waiting to hear from a couple of people who may or may not have some more money to give us, but this is apparantly too slow for some people. So we divided up the cash and wrote a couple of cheques for the other sisters. This was not enough and there were still more calls asking for copies of things to be sent (as if our word is not good enough and it seems clear that we are not trusted to look after money. Pity nobody remembers asking me to sort it while we were still up north and then letting me get on with it). So yesterday we gave all the paperwork over to Helen and are going to let them get on with it themselves. Of course, in theory everything left outstanding should be coming to us anyway as we did the initial organising but we won't let that get to us. They also brought Joan a new mobile phone that Alexander had got from one of his uncles whilst staying up in Northampton for the last couple of weeks. It works with her SIM card so all seemed well, and I was to have her old one as it isn't actually that old and the keys on mine are starting to get a bit iffy. Today Helen has been on the phone and getting arsey with Joan - first off a message asking if she could have her old one "temporarily" to which the answer was no as I'm having it and then a call asking if Joan's boss would do a reference for Alexander.

When Joan said her boss was busy but she'd ask, but not to be too helpful as she doesn't really know him that well she got all uppity, asked to speak to her anyway and then came in as well to buy something acting all nice as pie. What is it with these people?

Anyway, enough crap and on to the good.

Saturday was a way out day out to London. With Richard and for fun rather than for work or with Joan for a change. We got the 0900 train out of Ipswich and decided about half way down that if we didn't get away from the screaming kids sitting a few rows behind us soon we would end up throwing them out of a window or something. After all, they were keeping me awake!

So, we got out at Stratford with the intention of showing Richard the exciting (well, I like them) extended Jubille line stations as far as Canary Wharf and then transfering on to the Docklands light railway. I also wanted a look at Stratford tube station itself as it has been rebuilt in a rather dramatic fashion of late. Naturally, having made this decision they were doing engineering works so we had to get a replacement bus as far as Canary Wharf instead. Which was OK by me in some respects as I do like buses after all, but not quite the thrilling trip we had in mind - the underground architecture of east London is much nicer than that on the surface! Still, he got to see the dome at any rate.

At Canary Wharf we met our first cow of the day. Yup, the cow parade statues have come to London this year. There the DLR transfer went ok and we were off via the tunnels to Covent Garden. That produced the only other major let-down of the day as the London Transport Museum shop didn't have the book I was looking for. Will have to get that from the jolly old Interweb instead. Oh, there was also our second (and surprisingly last) cow outside the museum too. We were also fascinated by the bungee trampolining - but not enough to give it a try. Must be getting old or sensible or both.

Next stop was Tottenham Court Road where it meets Oxford Street for lunch. This was consumed at Garfunkels next to the Dominion theatre and for me was Chicken smothered with BBQ sauce, bacon and melted cheese along with copious amounts of mashed spud and a bit of greenery. All very tasty it must be said. Opposite (and thus determining the choice of lunch venue) is one of the entrances to the hugest of huge Virgin megastores in the big city so it was only fair we had a look in there whilst in the capital. We only came out with 5 cds and one pre-recorded minidisc between us. Which I think was pretty good. My tally was Crash which goes one more step towards migrating my Human League collection on CD and also In The Nude by Eat Static. Can't say what Richard bought as I wasn't looking.

From there it was off to the main attraction and reason for being in London - Game On at the Barbican. As the name suggests, this is an exhibition on the culture, history and future of computer and video games. The first strangeness came when we emerged blinking in the daylight from the tube into what can only be described as a wasteland. The Barbican is in the middle of the actual "City" of London - the financial district and that only operates monday to friday. So there was no-one about, all the shops were closed etc. Very unusual for a big city. Still at least we didn't have to worry about getting run over.

More strangeness ensued when we followed the handy yellow line painted on the floor between the tube and the exhibition centre. Without going up any steps I can recall (although I guess there must have been some) we found ourselves on a walkway at first floor level running between offices and flats. A strange place to live if you ask me. Anyway, on to the event itself.

As was to be expected, there were computer games there. Lots of computer games. Lots and lots and lots. Over 150 you could play plus several more that didn't work (mainly the old stuff, the final disappointments of the day were the non-workingness of Tron and Battlezone) coupled with conceptual artwork, marketing methods, more games, articles on history and development, old adverts and magazines, differences in stuff from around the world oh and some more games. I won't go in to a long list of what we did and didn't play but will just mention a few highlights - Tempest in the original arcade version with rotary controller rather than joystick or pad (a real novelty, and stranger still as it was obviously built before the now familiar convention of movement bit on the left and fire/action buttons on the right of the control panel/joypad came in to play). The original Japanese version of Renegade as set in a school playground rather than a subway (and thus with kids as opponents rather than thugs). A peculiar Japanese train simulator complete with proper loco controls. Anything on home systems we've never owned - PS2, X-Box and Gamecube obviously but also the original NES, Commodore 64, Sega Saturn, PC Engine etc.

All provided much fun and enjoyment, even if there wsasn't nearly enough time to devote to any one piece of kit. It has made my mind up that I will get a Gamecube at some point (although not until Jeff Minter confirms that is indeed the system he is now developing for) as the stuff we saw on that just looked amazing.

There was also a groovy new thing from Sony that tracks movements with a camera system then overlays your actions on to (in this case) live footage of you - in real time. It was limited to flame or water effects for now but the power required to do that "live" must be phenomenal. Looking forward to see how they can implement it into a game without it being simply an excuse for the technology that gets boring after 5 minutes. That, after all, is usually the fate of new ways of playing - witness the dance mat, most light guns, Nintendo Power Glove and robot, Spectrum surfboard et al. Still, perhaps they will get it right.

That proved to be the end of the day as we spent longer than expected there. I restricted myself to just buying the book of the show, although there were numerous others that could have quite happily come home with me. I am now about half way through it and enjoying it quite a lot.

When I finally got home after train (woohoo a chance to sleep for half an hour or so) and car it was to find Joan in the middle of cutting the lawn so I finished that off before dinner and a quick check on the internet to find that the full version of Jeff's new game Gridrunner++ was now available so that was bought, downloaded and played till my eyes could take it no longer.

Yesterday we did a whole load of work at clearing in the garden. 5 sacks worth at least. We also popped up to Homebase to get some plants and did some tidying in the house as well. All that after a very long lay in. However I was still in zombie mode and managed to have 1½ hours sleep in the garden while Joan kept working. Makes me feel a bit guilty but does add more ammunition to the case to present to the doctor next week. Then we ended up having another late night after watching the first show in this week's Elvis bonanza, it being 25 years since he popped his last pill and all.

So now I am back to today. Not done a lot of real work - mainly replying to messages and, err, writing this! Have also been out at lunchtime and moved money about to clear a few bills etc and buy a new SIM card for this phone. Am leaving early as well in order to go see this Chris chap and see what he can do for me. Will report on that tomorrow, which is also D-day for me and Gary.

I still haven't decided which of the two jobs I want, but feel I am being steered into the Junior one as that's where they've put Park & Ride and I want to keep looking after that. Oh well, no point worrying about it at the moment.

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