Proper flying post tonight as it’s been a busy day. Back to the gamebooks next week!
My second favourite pesto, but also the one I’ve loved longest.
I’ve fallen in and out of love with the Sacla Classic Basil Pesto over the years, as the recipe has changed so much. The tomato version, on the other hand, never changes, and so it has stayed a strong favourite of mine (I had it again tonight). When I was little and first discovered it, it used to be called ‘red pesto’, which is generally still the term I use.
There are lots of red pestos out there, but supermarket ones tend to taste a bit bland, like generic tomato pasta sauce. The Sacla version is sharp and rich and tastes exactly right, which is why no imitation has ever beaten it for me.
I broke a record today.
My previous lifetime record for consecutive days spent in the UK was 1,095 days. With Mum and Dad, I sailed back from our holiday in the Faroe Islands to Shetland on 7th July 1986. I then didn’t leave the UK again until 6th July 1989, when I sailed from England to France with Mum, Dad and Malcolm. During that three-year period we did get on a lot of ferries – we were visiting my grandparents in Shetland a lot as my grandmother was poorly by then – but it wasn’t until that French trip in 1989 that we went abroad again.
Growing up in the 1990s I was lucky enough to travel a lot with the family. We went abroad almost every year, usually to continental Europe but sometimes to North America too. In my late teens I often went on holiday abroad with friends, and after I met Geth, while most of our travelling was UK-based, we typically ventured out to other countries once a year or so, usually to coincide with one of his academic conferences or work trips.
2018 was the last such trip to date. Geth was meeting international colleagues in Toronto, and we decided to combine that with a holiday as it was an opportunity to visit Malcolm and Steff. Mum and Dad were able to match the dates for their planned trip to Toronto too, and so it was a lovely get-together with the family. I flew back from Toronto and arrived in Edinburgh on the morning of 25th July 2018. That was 1,096 days ago – exactly three years. I haven’t left the UK since.
I had no idea it would be my last trip abroad for such a long time. Breaking this particular record was obviously not my plan! I passed on joining Geth on a work trip to Oslo in June 2019, as I was really busy with work and other things at the time, but I had a ticket to see Duran Duran in Dublin in June 2020, and we planned to go back to Toronto in summer 2020, and we wanted to have a couple of city breaks in Paris and Amsterdam in autumn 2020…
It’s funny how much I took travelling for granted before. There were lots of places in the world I wanted to see, and the only things stopping me from seeing them were time, money and the anxiety I always have around travelling due to mental issues with routine. It never occurred to me, pre-pandemic, that the world would ever be in a situation where I simply wouldn’t be allowed to go to these places (or that it would be so logistically difficult and/or risky that it wouldn’t be worth it). Nowadays, as I sit in the house watching cities like Sydney and Tokyo and New Orleans and Johannesburg and Barcelona and Rio de Janeiro fly by, in documentaries and films and videogames on my screens, and in the pages of the books I read, and the academic works I edit, and the stories I write myself… I always think the same old thing I always did. ‘I’ll go there someday!’ And then I feel sad, because I don’t know when that will be possible again in the same way that it was before. Years away, perhaps.
I had a ticket to see Duran Duran in Dublin in June 2020. Then I had a ticket to see Duran Duran in Dublin in June 2021. Now I have a ticket to see Duran Duran in Dublin in June 2022. I hope it happens. I hope the world won’t make me go a whole quarter of a decade or more without seeing my brother, whom I last saw in person on my birthday in January 2020. I hope I’ll be running parkruns in Paris and Amsterdam next year. But the last year and a half has taught me that I can’t be certain.
I can hope, though. I really, really hope that the world will go back to what we once thought of as normality.
Until then I will just keep patiently counting days. And hope that I am setting a record I will never break again!
It’s been another busy week at work and I’m really glad it’s the weekend. Geth and I are going to parkrun tomorrow morning! It’s finally back in England for the first time since that strange weekend in March 2020, and I’m very excited to return. Our home parkrun has a new name (formerly Newcastle, now Town Moor due to several other parkruns now existing in Newcastle) and a new course and a mostly-new core team running it, so it’s a bit of a new era all round. It feels very strange that we can finally parkrun again after so many false starts, but it feels like the right time. I hope Scotland and Wales aren’t too far behind.
Other than that I’m going to be chilling out with videogames this weekend, both creating and playing. I have returned to Final Fantasy I this week so I’ll be spending some time with that! I’ve also still got a lot of ParserComp entries to get through before the voting deadline next weekend, and I’m really excited to get some coding done as well.
The weather is still hot and not conducive to long runs. I’ve moved my long run day to Thursday, both because of events happening later in the training programme (to be precise, due to COVID-induced race lag, the rescheduled GNR falls precisely three weeks before the rescheduled-rescheduled London Marathon, and in a marathon training programme you’re supposed to do your 22-miler three weeks before marathon day, and I’m not doing an extra nine miles before or after the GNR! …so I’ll do it on the Thursday and have a gentle plod round the dodgily-rerouted ‘GNR’ three days later, no racing it) and because mental health wise I need FULL WEEKENDS at the moment that are not completely taken up with running, so it’s best to squeeze the long run in on a weekday instead. My last two long runs have ended up being cut short due to heatwave collapse, so next week I’m going to grit my teeth and attempt an out-and-back in the hope that, by the time I’m struggling, I’ll already be ‘on my way home’ and so it’ll be mentally easier.
Lots of groups and classes from pre-pandemic life now inviting me back, but as I’ve always said, these things will need to happen very gradually for me as I don’t want to jump straight back into Constantly Doing Stuff. Ignoring the FOMO and doing my own thing for a while longer.
This week’s earworm playlists:
Nobuo Uematsu – ‘Yuna’s Theme’
Crowded House – ‘Weather With You’
Don Henley – ‘Boys Of Summer’
Duran Duran – ‘Give It All Up’
Nobuo Uematsu – ‘Cosmo Canyon’
Paul Weller – ‘You Do Something To Me’
Calvin Harris – ‘Summer’
And a bonus track Geth was humming that day:
Nobuo Uematsu – ‘To Zanarkand’
Therion – ‘Summer Night City’
Duran Duran – ‘To The Shore’
Boston – ‘More Than A Feeling’
Levellers – ‘The Fear’
Duran Duran – ‘Shadows On Your Side’
Nobuo Uematsu – ‘Airship Theme’
John Waite – ‘Missing You’
Manami Kiyota – ‘Satorl Marsh (Night)’
Mum took a photo of these George Street phone boxes for me the other week. Edinburgh is looking summery in a particularly Edinburgh way! (Grey skies included, but mainly because of the marquees that are out so that people can dine al fresco in the drizzle.)
I haven’t visited these phone boxes in aaaages and am so glad to see they’re still standing proud!
I can’t wait to visit Edinburgh again.
This is another selection from my childhood collection. My brother Malcolm and I absolutely loved Asterix as kids and had tons of the comics, as well as several gamebooks. I didn’t play this one from the Alea Jacta Est! series nearly as often as the more-tactile Asterix Adventure Books we also had (they’ll be replayed soon!), so it was a treat to be able to replay it recently without remembering much about the story.
In this gamebook you play as Justforkix, a character from the comic book Asterix and the Normans. Justforkix is the nephew of village chief Vitalstatistix and is tasked with the mission of retrieving his uncle from a spa visit so that the latter can return to the village and attend an important meeting with a rival chief. It sounds a bit pedestrian, but in typical Asterix style it’s a fun romp along the roads of ancient Gaul, either avoiding or getting into fights with Romans as per your preferred play style.
The book comes with a play aid sheet for keeping track of scores and inventory (I had to rub out a lot of decades-old pencil marks). You also need a six-sided die, which was fine. I am obsessed with dice and have a special dice bag full of them. Part of this is due to the too-shiny dice displays always catching my eye when I go to the UK Games Expo.
Some of the choices in the book are a bit odd (at one point you bump into Asterix and Obelix and they ask if you want them to accompany you; if you’re a fan of the stories, then the natural choice would be to say yes, but in this book it results in a game over as Asterix decides you’re clearly not up to the task if you want them to help!). However, it’s mostly fairly intuitive – you’re rewarded later in the game for gathering information in the village early on, and there’s a fun maze section where you need to find your way out while getting into as few fights with Romans as possible.
Once you’re out of the spa town, it’s a fairly straightforward journey home and a slightly abrupt ending, though it is fairly satisfying story-wise. The game was meaty enough to take me a few evenings to get through, which felt like just the right length.
This is the only one I have in this subseries, but as mentioned above I am really looking forward to replaying my Asterix Adventure Books soon.
Useful link: listing at Demian’s Gamebook Web Page.
This is a nice tasty pesto flavour that I’ve always associated with summer. I used to have the Sacla version of this in the ’90s and ’00s, but I’ve not seen it in recent years (though you can still get it according to the website!). However, the Sainsbury’s one tastes very similar.
In addition to the nice pepper taste there are also a lot of pine nuts in there, which are the perfect texture to go with the taste. The only negative is that it’s *very* slightly too moist – from what I remember, the Sacla version gets this balance better. However, that doesn’t stop it being a favourite!
After a couple of weeks off I’m excited to get back into game creation this week. I’ll be playing with various experimental stuff and also returning to my work on Marie.
Part of the reason I’ve been doing my new ‘Screengrabs From Games That Don’t Exist’ series on Saturdays is that I have a ridiculous number of game ideas and not enough time to implement them. I’ve got a few pinned down for working on during the rest of the summer, but there are so many others that will have to stay in the parallel universe for now. One day!