Wednesday, 7 March 2018

14) Skydive

In 2010, or some time around then, my good friend Dan and I decided we would skydive. I'm not a particularly fearful or nervous person, but I was nervous from the very second we agreed to it. We decided what day we would go, I got the time off work, and I had confirmed the date with the skydiving place (pending deposit). It was all going to plan...

... Until it wasn't. I told Dan that the day was free, to his confusion - as it wasn't the day we agreed. It was a week after. How did I make that mistake? I'm not a mistake-maker! I went to the work holiday board to see if I could change it - but my holiday wasn't marked down on the week I thought it was... it was booked for a week after. I had no idea how all of this had happened... agreeing one week, booking the week before off, an arranging it for the week after. Was I self-sabotaging? Was it some divine intervention, because the parachute wasn't going to open and I would die a squashy death?

The plans all fell apart, and that was the end of that.

7 years pass and it is coming up to my 30th birthday (30... I know... wtf. How did this happen... I guess it deserves it's whole own post, how years happen and all that). I still haven't skydived (skydived? Sky dove? A sky dove sounds more like a bird. Is "dove" even a word in that context? Have I made a mistake my whole life? "He dove into the water". It doesn't even sound right now. This is "versed" all over again)... but now was the time.

The first person I called was Dan. He was my man. 7 years in the making. But, alas, with a child he is now a more sensible man. I was at 1 child, I guess. I now have 4. Sense has long since left. I needed a new squad to be blasted into space - well, sky, which is part of the way. I needed my own Armageddon, in the film sense, not the catastrophe sense.

The calls went out... I picked my A-team, and everyone responded.

Joe: Friend since we were 10. Once said he would jump out of a plane for me, probably.

Mike: Friend since pretty much every lesson in college and Uni was together. Good at buying hot dogs.

Craig: Friend since Uni, when he told me his name was MC Nicholas and I thought he was a wigger-rapper.

Mom: Friend since aged 3-4. She says before, but I'd be taking her word for it.

Wildcard - Joemondo Fro, aka Joe: Friend since Uni, where he wore a different pair of trainers every day.

And the backup... Amelie. She really, really wanted to go, and cried when she couldn't.

For some reason I was no longer nervous. Maybe I had matured over the years, and gotten a new "fearless" side. Admittedly, very little makes me nervous or scared now, at least in the way of things like this. I was more excited. I even did my hair to match the Armageddon jumpsuits (I actually only just realised that was similar now. I was going through a thing, getting close to 30 and changing my hair a lot because I can so eff everyone).

The day had came, Sunday 23rd July. We arrived at midday, hoping for a quick take off, and a quicker descent... but it wasn't to be, instead we had to wait 4 hours for everybody else. I think this must have been to test my nerves.

The time eventually came, when we were paired off with men who came to pick us, like young women in a 50's disco. They decided to put me with the biggest bloke, who wore me like I wear the babies (for those who do not know, in one of those baby carriers you put on your front...). I looked ridiculous.

The plane went up, and up. We were jumping at 13,000 feet. The big man wore a watch (altimeter, or whatever) that was kind of like a doomsday clock. He showed me, between little tickles, and sniffs of my hair. And as the clock struck 13, the door was opened, and air blasted in.

I was dragged (tied to big man) to the entrance, there was a man dangling holding on, and then the next thing I knew we were falling.

It was amazing.

We did a kind of flip or something at the start, and it was hard to get my bearings. I remember a teacher I had in year 4 telling me that she had been skydiving, and I was in awe. She said she went through a cloud and got wet. I always thought I'd like to go through a cloud and get wet - and today I did.

As we fell I was looking down at the things around. The big man kept putting his fingers in my mouth (or under my chin, or whatever, either way it felt as emasculating). He said before that if you look down you'll struggle to breathe, but I was fine, apart from the hand covering my mouth.

Then suddenly there was a pull, and my back cracked like I was back in Thailand with some woman snaked around me thrusting. The parachute was up, and it seemed like I wasn't going to die.

I was looking for different people around me... then out of nowhere, mom pops over. For a moment I was pretty sure we were going to crash parachutes. It's strange having a little chat, thousands of feet in the air.

At one point, big man made me take control of the parachute. I didn't really trust myself not to let go of it. I know it's all attached and stuff, but I'm pretty sure if I let go it would have caused problems, and I didn't want that...

Then we landed... and I could see Amelie still kind of crying, and my dad pointing me out to her, and her smiling. It was a nice welcoming.

I had survived it, and it was awesome. And I got to cross off number 14, Skydive.

Monday, 21 November 2016

Recipe: Chilli-Cheese and Mustard Seed Scotch Eggs

At the weekend I made scotch eggs again. The first time went okay, but I didn't have a deep fat fryer so they tasted a little bit of the fat (a product of not frying at high enough temperature, due to using a pan).

It was more fun than last time, as Amelie helped me. I was a bit reluctant with what tasks I gave her, but then she did everything from peeling the boiled eggs, to wrapping the sausage around the eggs.

Here is the recipe for the chilli-cheese and mustard seed scotch eggs. I freestyled a bit, but I think I remember it.

- 12 eggs for boiling
- 4-ish eggs for coating
- A loaf of bread
- Half block of chilli cheese
- 16 sausages
- 200g of chilli cheese
- 2-3 tablespoons of wholegrain mustard
- Some flour
- Some salt.

1) Boil the 12 eggs for a while... until they're somewhere between runny and boiled. About 7 minutes or something. Then peel. Note... peeling directly in water is so much easier than out of water. You don't have to worry about the vinegar tricks and stuff.

2) Squeeze the sausage meat out of the sausages and into a bowl

3) Grate the chilli cheese, and put a few spoons of wholegrain mustard and mix. Maybe bit a bit of salt in.

4) Make breadcrumbs with a load of the bread. Just use a cheese grater, avoid any huge chunks but they'll likely fall off.

5) Split the sausage meat into 12 equal balls. Put a bit of flour on your hand. Take a ball and flatten it into a round disk. Take an egg and roll it in flour. Put the egg on top and push the meat around it equally. Roll it in your hand and stuff, until it's equally thinned out.

6) Crack 4 eggs into a bowl and mix.

7) Take an egg/sausage ball, hold it over the eggs and pour over a few teaspoons and rub it around so there's egg all over.

8) Roll the egg in the breadcrumbs. Quite a few should stick.

9) Holding over the runny egg again, put another couple of teaspoons over and spread.

10) Roll in the breadcrumbs a second time, then set aside to repeat for all eggs.

11) Deep fry at about 165 degrees for 4.5 mins (they'll look golden when they're done).

Thursday, 3 November 2016

Hotel Rwanda

A few years ago I watched the film Hotel Rwanda. I have always been fascinated with Africa, so watching it was part of trying to learn and understand more. It's a horrific story that I'm sure everyone is mostly familiar with. Normal people, go from living somewhat normal lives, to being massacred based on what "type" they are. I won't bother adding any more colour to the description or story, as the film can portray it much better than I ever could. It left me wondering what I would do if it happened now. 

In Hotel Rwanda the international response was bad. They needed help, but countries were reluctant to help. It wasn't long after the events of Somalia, so the world was cautious of getting involved in the problems in a country they don't really understand. But when there are that many people being killed, how can you not respond? I was sure that I would be one of the few that would go out of my way to do something.

Many years ago, in a Psychology lesson, we looked at the Milgram experiment, with the premise "The Germans were different". That what happened with the Nazi's couldn't happen in another country. How could people not fight back? How could they accept how the Jews were treated? I understand the difficulties faced by people who did go against the country, but surely you'd do all in your power?

I cannot recognise any humanity in the people that kept slaves. Those people are so different to me that they might as well be a different species. But whether you kept slaves or not, would you not do all you could to help people get free? To fight against an accepted reality where people can be possessions?

If I was in Alabama in the early 1800's I know I would fight against slavery. If I was in Germany in 1940 I would be secretly handing out leaflets, and helping to hide Jews. If I wasn't 7 during the Rwandan Genocide, I wouldn't stop shouting to the government until they intervened, and I cannot understand the reasoning of people who wouldn't...

... Until now. There's a lot going on in Syria. I honestly have no idea. There's so much noise that it's hard to pick out information. My understanding is that ISIS are ploughing through, anyone who doesn't leave are forced into ISIS or killed. There's a load of fighting within the country. Honestly, I don't know. I think it's a really bad situation for everyone there but our media is full of showing people who were probably fine in Syria, now using the opportunity to get into other countries just because they'd like more money. I don't believe that, but because that is the main line it's hard to find out what is really happening. I have a lot of sympathy for the refugees, but I've not really "done" anything. I think if I could see what is actually happen it would completely change my mindset.

Assuming our media ever reports honestly, I can picture in 20 years time people unpicking what happened and wondering how people didn't help. They will not understand the reasoning behind people who didn't do all they could to make the situation a little bit better. Except this time I will be one of the people, and my children will be wondering why we didn't do anything.

Tuesday, 6 January 2015


I've always wanted 4 children. I wanted to have two boys and two girls... but only so there wouldn't be just one of the gender. That way, there wouldn't be an odd one out. I got lucky meeting Brandi, because she also wanted 4 children.

Amelie is now 1 year and 17 months. That time has gone really fast, and she's growing up to be awesome. Over the months she's had many funny, temporary things, such as calling me "Andeh" in a Northern accent when she was about 10 months, to, currently, running around after the dog shouting "ey, ey, naughty, ey, good girl, come, come, ey, down, naughty, down, good girl". Lula (the dog) doesn't quite know how to respond.

Naturally, we wanted to get a move on with the next baby. I had started to get a little nervous that I wouldn't have enough time to spend with them if we had a second. I'm really busy with work, and trying to get the business really going, and Amelie would play all day given the chance... but that is probably what most parents, think, so I put it out of my mind. 

In August we got the good news, that baby number 2 was on the way. In October, I got the much more shocking news, that baby number 3 was also on the way.

I never, ever thought I would have twins, let alone identical ones! They will also be girls (or 'Twincesses'...), so I am pretty outnumbered now. Not that I mind at all. Just before we had Amelie I had said that I wanted a girl, and had since thought that I'd love to have 4 girls.

Two things are for sure though... this year is going to be very difficult... as will 2030.

Thursday, 22 May 2014


I like when people have "things". The world becomes a much more interesting place when people have "things". Yesterday I walked past a guy with a spiked earring and a large hula hoop over his shoulder.

At a first glance people may be like "that's weird, what's he doing with that hula hoop?", which is actually a pretty silly question. There are only so many answers that would make sense. He could be transporting it... or may just like to hula hoop. Either way... it made my walk more interesting.

"Things" are a lot more prominent when you are young. In cartoons and childrens TV programs people always have a "thing" to distinguish characters. Noddy has a weird hat. Super Ted has a superhero costume. I'm sure there are better examples you can find yourself. As we get older, though, it seems like we expect everybody to look the same, and anyone who doesn't, or does anything that may stand out is maybe a little weird (unless they're famous enough to get away with it). I grew up watching early 90's Wrestling, where you had to have a thing to be remembered at all.

At the moment I have a "thing"... I now wear headbands (or... buffs, to be exact). This is because my hair is too long, and I got annoyed keep brushing it out of my face. Having my hair cut might be a good option, but I quite like having long hair. A few years ago I was thinking about having it short, and was upset because I thought that if I have it short I'll probably never grow it long again. I should stop thinking like that... so definitive.

At the moment I have 3 buffs. Two I designed myself (a Captain Vestman buff, and an earth one), and one official one, that I don't actually like as much.

I get quite a lot of looks and comments wearing them. Almost never positive. Nobody ever says "that's a good thing!", but I won't be deterred. I actually quite like the negative comments, it shows people care. "Rambo" comes up often... which can't really be an insult. At first I thought I'd just use them for walking and running, but yesterday I found myself on site with a client wearing it. After the initial "Jimmy Hendricks?", it wasn't mentioned again.

So... in conclusion... I encourage everybody to have a thing. Or not... either way. But ask yourself this, would a walk down a completely immemorable street, on an entirely immemorable day, would it be made just a tiny bit better by walking past a person fully clad in medieval armour?

Monday, 15 April 2013

25) Live a day blind

Yesterday, on Sunday the 14th of April, I decided to live blind for the day.

I've wanted to try this for a while. I thought it would be interesting, and for a lack of a better expression, eye-opening to "see the world" as a blind person does. I have a bit of a fear of being blind, and thought that this could slightly help. So just before bed on the Saturday I turned on my phone accessibility and put on my blind fold.

The morning

Using my phone

Thankfully in my sleepy morning daze I remembered what I was doing and didn't instantly take it off. I lay in bed at 9am trying to unlock my phone for about 10 minutes. Android's accessibility controls are really powerful, I was impressed. Even being blind for a day I was able to open up a Reddit app and hear some of the top links, with Android reading out the headlines, and the articles if I clicked through.

After using my phone for a while I got dressed (I felt around for my jogging bottoms, and a t-shirt that I thought could match), and got dressed. 


The next part was a little harder. I hadn't thought, but it is a very risky thing for a blind person to stand-up-pee. Even trying is a disaster waiting to happen. I decided to enjoy the luxury of a sit-down-pee, though it didn't feel natural.

I then tried to bush my teeth. This was much more difficult than I'd thought it would be. I put my finger on my toothbrush to try and feel how much toothpaste was going on. I couldn't feel any... so I squeezed the tube lower. I still couldn't feel any, so squeezed more. Somewhere along the way the toothpaste sneaked out and I ended up covering my hand and toothbrush with way too much toothpaste.

The keen-eyed may notice I haven't mentioned showering. Don't judge me.


For breakfast I got a glass of squash (for people who aren't lucky enough to know the joys of squash, it is highly concentrated juice that you add water), and I impressed myself with how I didn't make it overly strong.. but it was all guesswork. I felt around the cupboards for cereal, and although mostly successful  there was quite a bit too much milk.

The afternoon


Before I started being blind I downloaded a game designed especially for the vision impaired, called "BlindSide". It is a game set in a 3d world, except you play it using only noises. I thought it could be fun. Actually getting to the game was another matter. 

I turned on my laptop, sat for a while waiting for the start up sound, and then realised I hadn't turned on my laptop. I pressed the power button harder, and heard the familiar ticking of the hard-drive. I waited a few moments before attempting to put in my password. This proved very difficult, as there were no sound cues. I tried typing the password in, guessing where the keys were (I never look at the keyboard, so it shouldn't have been hard). But.. this didn't work. I tried a few more times, before deciding to feel around the keyboard for the letters, and try doing it slowly. This also didn't work.

Eventually I called Brandi down (she was painting) to put in my password, and she told me it was on the desktop screen. I dunno if I had put it in correct, and it didn't play the welcome sound, or it was hibernating and opened up on the desktop... but either way, without her I'd probably have had to give up.

The day before I started this I tried Windows accessibility things. Turns out they pretty much have none. I read about a program for blind people, but it costs £1000.

Brandi helped me open the game, and I played for a while. I had to find my way around a room using the ticking of a clock, a dripping tap, and TV static. In the game everybody wakes up blind, and there are monsters eating people. It was actually really difficult.

Moving around the house

Using noise cues in the game got me thinking that if I was blind it would probably be useful to have a different clock in each room of the house. I expect using them you could know exactly where in each room you were.

Navigating the house wasn't overly difficult. I didn't bump into many things, and didn't have to wave my hands around too much. The rug came in useful for knowing when I was close to the coffee table. The most difficult part was putting glasses of water on the coffee table... it made me nervous about reaching around for the mouse, or anything else.

Watching TV & Audio books

Later on Brandi put the TV on. I "watched" a program, and could mostly tell what was happening, so it wasn't too bad. One thing I hadn't really considered is that, being blind, at least for me, I would have my eyes covered/closed most of the time... this inevitably lead to me sleeping constantly. I couldn't help it. I'm like it all the time. However awake I am, if I close my eyes and lie down I will sleep. So, whilst watching the program, I found myself waking up at some point.

Brandi went back to painting, but before she did she put on a stand up comedy (I felt this could be the most appropriate viewing for me). I wanted to watch Dimitri Martin, but he is quite visual, so I settled for George Carlin... as I'd heard he was good. Turns out he wasn't, he just shouted about things and pretended to be angry, and regardless of what he said, people cried with laughter. I found myself waking up after maybe listening to just 10 minutes.

I went to get some crisps, but realised I couldn't see the flavours.

I tried to listen to an audio book, but found myself waking up after not even making it through the first chapter.

Going for a walk

With all the sleeping I had done, I thought I should go for a walk, to get rid of some of the built up energy, and to see how difficult it would be.

Brandi was my guide for it, and we walked around the block. I put on sunglasses, as I didn't want to be seen walking around with a blind fold.

I didn't trip once, so I was quite pleased. I tried to grasp where I was at times, but struggled, though I could hear things around me well. At one point in the walk, Brandi was shocked at how much they had cut the trees away from a passage. Obviously, I couldn't see it, but I have a picture built up in my head, so I might go there later to see if it looks like I expect.

The evening

Phone second attempt

Throughout the day I had received a few messages on my phone, so I attempted to reply. The Swype keyboard that I use didn't even slightly work, so I switched to the default Android one. I think I replied to the messages quite well. By this point I was a pro at unlocking my phone, and though typing messages was slow, I could hear when I made a mistake, and erase it.

Annoyingly, WhatsApp doesn't label their send button (when you put your finger over buttons it gives a description, if the developers decide put it in).

Most people could probably use the speech to text things, but apparently I talk like a retard and phones can never understand what I say.


For dinner we had pizza! It was quite interesting to eat, as I couldn't see how much I had eaten, so I didn't know when to stop. Apparently it takes your body some time to realise you are full, so you use your eyes to have more of an indication. I didn't count how many pieces I had eaten, so eventually Brandi told me to stop.


Being blind is difficult. So much of the world is made for people with vision, and though the vision impaired charities argue that the potential market loss for not catering for the disability is high, many don't.

Personally, I think all areas should try to, even if it doesn't lead to profits. People should see it as important to try and make products and applications accessible to people who already have a difficult time. Netflix, for example, doesn't have any audio-descriptive videos, many Android apps don't properly label buttons, and Windows accessibility was terrible.

As a developer it has made me more aware of people blind people would interact with things, and I will bear that in mind in future.

All in all the day didn't go too badly. It made me realise some things, and although I would never want to be blind, I don't think I would see my life as being over if I was.

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Being Vegan

On 18th February I decided to try being vegan, after having some chicken that I didn't really enjoy. I had set the dates to be 13th March until 10th April, but with the flight delays after Belgium, and still having chocolate left over I decided to postpone it until the weekend, and started on Saturday 16th March.

Immediately after starting I remembered the BBQ ribs, popcorn chicken and faggots that I had bought a few weeks earlier.

I started out by going shopping to try and find vegan alternatives to the things that I eat. It wasn't too difficult at first. I swapped milk for almond milk (which was actually quite nice with cereal), and swapped butter for vegan vegetable oil (which tasted the same).

I was most surprised that when looking at the ingredients of two similar products, one would have 3-4 ingredients, the other would have a load, which seemed unnecessary (one of which always seemed to be something from an animal). It opened my eyes slightly on the qualities of different food, and made me question why one would need so many less-natural ingredients.

On the Sunday Brandi cooked vegan brownies. This was needed, as the main problem I had predicted was that I would struggle with chocolate. I snack quite a lot, and didn't think I'd be able to stop. To counter this I bought oat crackers and peanut butter. Both vegan.

As for food throughout the week, I had pasta (wheat germ) and beans on toast, and on another day I made a vegetarian Thai red curry, and Brandi made a quinoa recipe. I struggled not having chocolate, and though it was a nice gesture that Brandi had made the brownies, they were quite obviously vegan. The closest I could get to chocolate/snacks were breakfast cereal and ginger nut biscuits (though apparently some bourbon biscuits are vegan).

I'll cut to the end of the story, so I don't deceive. I gave up on the following Saturday.

Throughout the first week I felt like I was doing fine, but would occasionally feel like I wanted to stop, because I wasn't enjoying any food. I then started to feel like I wasn't getting any protein (I can only eat so many nuts, and I don't like tofu).

I had considered stopping a couple of times, but had told myself that the only reason I want to stop is because of chocolate and unhealthy food, and that should be a reason for me to continue. I had had dreams where I was in a chip shop, and asked if there was anything vegan, then realised as I was asking that I was eating breaded chicken.

On the Friday I went for a meal with my family. I phoned the pub/restaurant beforehand to ask if there is anything on the menu for vegans. The person on the phone had no idea, and went and asked the waiters who also had no idea. I think they might not know what vegan means.

When I got there I had to make the decision between chips (potentially not vegan) or vegetarian tagine (which I am certain was vegan). I went for the tagine, which wasn't very nice at all. There was nothing I could have for dessert, and to make things worse my niece left a whole cookie cheesecake, right in front of me. I somehow managed to resist, angrily.

That weekend I was babysitting Logan, Charlie, and Savannah. I had my usual almond milk breakfast cereal, but things went wrong lunch time. Brandi and Savannah made a load of peanut butter cookies, and the children was having potato waffles (which I love, and which contain skimmed-milk extract). I gave in, and had cookies and waffles. I felt guilty, and it didn't taste nice because of that. Eating non-vegan things for the next few days didn't feel right.

Although I only managed a week, I am still quite pleased. It doesn't sound very difficult, but it was, and a majority of what I eat is vegetarian. The life of a vegan is difficult, and I wouldn't like it. Food is an important part of life, and it made unenjoyable. I am sure that if you force yourself for long enough you eventually can, but I'm not willing to.

In just 7 days my body shape slightly changed (my tummy isn't as big, and my boobs are less boob-like), and I lost 5 pounds. Take that dieters!

On Sunday night I had a big bowl of BBQ ribs... which I didn't enjoy.