June 2019


I thought it was time for a round-up. Now that we’re inexplicably in July, let’s talk about some June highlights.

I didn’t watch any films this month. That troubles me slightly, especially as I got into quite a good habit of watching a few earlier in the year. I think with the longer evenings, I have less ‘time’ where I think ‘ooh I’ll just stick a film on’ and so maybe it’s just not a summer thing. I’m also less inclined to voluntarily choose to sit in a dark room for two hours when the sun is out.

I did go to the sort-of cinema though, to the Science Museum’s IMAX screen to see an exclusive cut of the Smithsonian Channel’s APOLLO’S MOON SHOT with a live soundtrack from Teeth of the Sea. It was phenomenal. The footage looked great on the huge screen, and the sound was majestic – the band’s mix of post-rock with some psychedelia and bleeps and bloops worked perfectly and sounded gigantic over the IMAX sound system.

I finished watching FLEABAG after a few month between blocks of episodes. I enjoyed it, and have really enjoyed the occasionally very on-the-nose insights into the inner monologue of a protagonist I think a lot of us can relate to. After not seeing the ending around the time it aired, and being aware of the hot takes about the hot priest, but not the details, I think I expected something more…unsavoury? Instead it was just a believable storyline that fit with my expectations within the universe.

Having said I tend to watch less films in summer, I now realise I’ve spent probably most of the time I could have been watching films playing THE LEGEND OF ZELDA: BREATH OF THE WILD. I’ve clocked up more than forty hours in the game now, and recently conquered my first Divine Beast.  The game is so full of small and huge milestones that you always feel like you’ve achieved something, but that milestone was the biggest yet. I am still enjoying almost every aspect of this game, particularly knowing I have a lot left to enjoy.

I wish I knew how long I’d put into JUST CAUSE 2 a few years ago. That’s the nearest comparison I have to BotW in terms of a big openworld game that I played and tried to ‘finish’. There’ve been others like FAR CRY 3 and BIOSHOCK INFINITE that were more linear, but I feel like I spent a long time finishing JUST CAUSE 2 in a different way, and one which I really enjoyed. I’ve also played a bit of JUST CAUSE 3, but it hasn’t grabbed me in the same way. Similarly, I stopped trying to care about SKYRIM and haven’t thought about once since.

M has been playing LEGO CITY UNDERCOVER, which has been enjoyable for me not just because it’s a fun game to watch while doing something else, but also because she seems to be having a great time playing it. It occasionally has a stage she can’t seem to crack, and I’ve realised it’s partly because some stages rely on pre-learned l33t gaming skillz which not all plays of the game will have. Mostly driving skills and sometimes weird 3D game world movement. But I’m very impressed at the overall polish the game has, particularly in the open world setting.

I’ve also played a bit of STEAMWORLD DIG on my 2DS, which is a game I love the vibe of. I just forget about it from time to time and need to re-learn its flow each time I pick it up. But when I do, I really like it.

We’ve been watching more and more of the ladies’ World Cup football. I’ve really enjoyed the lack of arrogance but no less passion of these women’s teams. It’s the same game but played a bit differently, and most games we’ve watched recently have had heart and drama and skills which have kept us both hooked. The new rules and use of VAR is at times very clunky.

We’ve been cycling a bit more lately*, after we attended a bike maintenance class recently which was laid on for free by the local council.

* I say we; M rides her bike to and from work almost every day rain or shine – it’s definitely me who’s the sometimes/fair-weather cyclist.

The course was really well done – pitched just right for a group of ten with a range of levels of expertise, and the right size for everyone to get periods of one to one help, and the opportunity to get way more hands on than I’d expected. The instructors were so friendly and knowledgeable and had a lot of patience for us all. We were even given a free multi-tool. Our local one has a bit of a waiting list but I’d thoroughly recommend it if your local council offers something similar. I learned a lot about my own bike and some of the bits I’ll need to change soon.

And perhaps sooner than I’d realised, too, as M and I will be going to France for a week soon, taking the ferry to one port, then spending five days cycling up the coast to another. I can’t wait. But I do need to make sure my bike and I are in the best shape we can be before we go.

Earlier this month I ran my first proper half marathon in St Albans, which was a really enjoyable experience. I had great company, good weather, and the course was interesting and at times very pretty. I hadn’t done masses of training, but spent the week or two leading up to it at least giving it some though. I was really pleased with my first official time – by far a PB, especially given it was the first uninterrupted course I’d run over that distance.

I don’t think I want to run a full marathon. I am aware of the areas where my body starts to creak between 10-20km. And although I get into quite a zen state over those distances, I just can’t yet see any personal benefits in doubling that challenge. I would like to run another half because it’s enough of a distance to be a challenge to me, but one I might be able to refine in terms of pace and strategy. And it definitely hasn’t put me off running – even a 5k is enjoyable for me, and can often be a huge mental health booster at a time when I need it.

I also went bouldering/climbing a couple of times this month. M and I have been really enjoying watching the World Cup. And it’s been great climbing with David as he is a) pretty bloody good but b) is patient and offers helpful advice whether I’m eager to go tearing up something I’m not quite warmed up for, or pushes me to try a technique I hadn’t spotted or considered possible. I want to do more climbing more often, I just need to work it into my schedule. Maybe once the French cycling trip is out of the way.

I recently replaced my Galaxy S7 with a Motorola G7 Power and haven’t looked back. The S7 had a great camera and screen (and the size was nice), but it was always being let down by poor battery life. Most days were fine, but some days the standby time would be surprisingly poor, where other days the features that I enjoyed like the camera or location-related stuff would work fast and well, but absolutely cane the battery. It became so that I’d barely make it to the end of a day doing normal stuff, and I’d gotten used the battery being dead on my way home from a more active day where I’d inevitably used the phone more while out and about.

Conversely, the G7 Power has a weak camera and screen, though both are perfectly fine, but the battery is a beast, giving more than two full days of real use on a single charge. I’ve managed to get to the early evening of a third day, too. I anticipate that taking the phone on trips away will either a) give a long standby time when, say, camping and not using it much and b) work all day with no signs of low battery with intense use tracking bike rides and using the camera and whatever.

One other feature I liked about the S7 was the stereo mics and I recently got a more into making field recordings using it. But I picked up a second hand digital recorder over the last month and have started getting to grips with that. More on that another day, but suffice to say that it’s like going from a half decent cameraphone to a dSLR in terms of quality (not to mention the headroom to clean up audio afterwards, ala RAW files).

I just need to figure out what I’m trying to achieve with these field recordings. But in the meantime it’s a lot of fun just capturing stuff and seeing what grabs me.


Finally I led a walking tour last week on the subject of Charles Paget Wade. Three years ago I wrote and self-published a small book on Wade and his early life and work, which received some nice feedback and sold about as well as I’d hoped.

In the intervening years I have done more research on him, and decided to run a new version of the walk again. The first walk was the first I’d ever led, but since then I have led two or three more on other subjects.

This time round was quite enjoyable – I had a small but interested and friendly group, and the weather was perfect. It lasted two hours, and I got through all my notes in the right order, and delivered it – I hope – quite naturally and mostly from memory.

In the run up to the walk I have also been finishing a new second edition of the book. I’ve been able to add a few bits and bobs here and fleshed out the details of other segments where I’ve found more primary evidence. I’ve also just been able to give the whole thing a slight wringing-out in terms of flow and readability, and altering the format/size/cover a little. I hope this new edition will be available fairly soon.