You can sign up to do a challenge for any decade from the ’60s to the ’00s, or even do all five if you’d like to go for the supermedal! You can also choose any standard distance from 5k upwards, and can change your mind about the distance if necessary before the virtual (as the medal and t-shirt aren’t distance-specific). I decided on 10k, as I really wanted to complete a 10k in January 2021, having not managed to do so in November or December 2020. As it happened, because of the snow, the only 10k I managed to do in January was on the treadmill, and I wanted to do a road 10k for the virtual. I eventually managed to get my ‘official’ 10k in on the first weekend of February – I was really glad that you could choose to do it any day before the end-of-February deadline! The website now states that you can do the runs at any time up to the end of May 2021, so still plenty of time to get those retro runs in if you’re interested.
I was really pleased with the run itself – my running had all been very slow over the winter, but on the day my legs clearly decided it was a race and so I managed a time that was fairly close to my official 10k race PB. One of a number of recent signs that are very promising for when I get back to doing real races again.
I didn’t listen to the ’80s playlist provided during the run, as I generally prefer to run without headphones. I will have a listen at home at some point though! Bling-wise I donated extra in order to get the t-shirt – I don’t normally bother with a t-shirt for virtuals as I have so many from real races and my drawer is getting a bit full, but the Retro Run Series ’80s t-shirt is a fantastic design, with a reference to the infamous Frankie/Hamnett knockoff slogan on the front, and a nice synthwave-esque neon/car/sunset motif on the back.
The medal is also great, with the featured ’80s item being a ‘Sonny’ Walkman (avoiding a legal issue maybe?) and some nice ’80s colours and fonts that are a very welcome addition to my medal collection. Going to display this one with pride.
The Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation are going to be doing another virtual series later this year, so I’ll be waiting with interest to see what they come up with!
While I was very little in the ’80s and so didn’t pick my own outfits, the clothes I wore back then look unquestionably vintage from a modern perspective (see for example the unfortunate-looking snow suit from a couple of weeks ago). Children’s fashion changes just as adult fashion does, and so I rocked ’80s jumpers back in the day just as much as the grown-ups did. Even if mine were usually hand-knitted with cartoon characters on the front!
Since the snow melted last week, signs of spring have been everywhere, which has really helped my mood. The croci are budding nicely now along the snowdrops on the paths outside, and the supermarkets have finally started to sell daffodils – a month later than usual, but they’re very welcome! It feels warmer outside for running too, meaning I’m gradually starting to shed my winter layers. Last Sunday, I went for my first proper long run since September, and the weather made it really enjoyable. I’m really hopeful that I can get some good long runs done leading up to the point when races start again.
Since the announcement of the UK government’s roadmap for England on Monday, races (and parkruns… and of course non-running events too!) in 2021 finally feel like a matter of ‘when’ rather than ‘if’, which is a huge source of hope for me. Scotland is still more up in the air, so I’ll have to wait and see what happens before I know when I can visit home, but on the whole I feel a lot more positive about the whole situation now that I’ve got a bit of certainty. I know the proposed dates aren’t set in stone, but at least they give us an idea of when restrictions will ease.
I’ve felt a bit out of sorts for the last fortnight because I’ve not always felt able to stick to my schedule. However, I’ve done a lot better with it the last couple of days. I think it’s just that I need to tweak it regularly to make sure it always works for me – over the last month I’ve been doing a lot more cross-training (yoga and walking) than I was doing when I first drew up the plan, and so like everything else, that needs to be scheduled in so that it doesn’t take up more time than it needs to.
Bravely Default II arrived in the post today! I’ve been looking forward to this game for over a year and am going to be spending every spare second playing it from this weekend onwards. While still making time for all my scheduled stuff as well, of course!
This week’s earworm playlists:
Revo – ‘Horizon Of Light And Shadow’ Duran Duran – ‘Ordinary World’ 5 Seconds Of Summer – ‘She Looks So Perfect’ Arcadia – ‘Election Day’ Clean Bandit and Jess Glynne – ‘Rather Be’
Revo – ‘Horizon Of Light And Shadow’ Will Powers – ‘Kissing With Confidence’ Taylor Swift – ‘You Need To Calm Down’ Ed Sheeran and Stormzy – ‘Take Me Back To London’ Lindisfarne – ‘Lady Eleanor’ 5 Seconds Of Summer – ‘She Looks So Perfect’
Joe Hisaishi – ‘Kokoro No Kakera’ Ryo and Chelly – ‘Great Distance’ 5 Seconds Of Summer – ‘She Looks So Perfect’ Levellers – ‘One Way’ John Newman – ‘Love Me Again’
Revo – ‘Horizon Of Light And Shadow’ 5 Seconds Of Summer – ‘She Looks So Perfect’ Technotronic – ‘Pump Up The Jam’ Pop Will Eat Itself – ‘Get The Girl! Kill The Baddies!’ Daft Punk- ‘One More Time’
Bloodhound Gang – ‘The Roof Is On Fire’ They Might Be Giants – ‘Birdhouse In Your Soul’ Duran Duran – ‘I Believe/All I Need To Know
The Beatles – ‘In My Life’ Nobuo Uematsu – ‘Chaos Shrine’ Robert Allen – ‘Bloxonius’
Vangelis – ‘Chariots Of Fire’ 5 Seconds Of Summer – ‘She Looks So Perfect’
Another holding post while I continue my Doctor Who phone box hunt. This distorted-looking phone box will regain its proper shape once it’s out of the wardrobe…
It’s part of the design of my ‘Oh London!’ skirt (shown here as part of my outfit for New Year’s Day 2019). I haven’t worn it – or any skirt, come to think of it – for well over a year.
I’m not sure how ‘dressed up’ I will get for post-pandemic events, because at the moment, after a year of leggings and loungewear, the idea of wearing clothes like that seems a bit alien and terrifying. Still, I do love my phone box skirt, so hopefully in the future it will be allowed out from the wardrobe again.
As I discussed last week, I’ve not been listening to music in a focused way recently, so I surprised myself a bit last night when I found myself on Spotify, working on my playlists again. I have probably 50-odd playlists on Spotify as my music taste is fairly eclectic, but I hadn’t realised I’d never put together a videogame soundtrack playlist before (other than a specific one for Monkey Island soundtracks). Videogame soundtracks feature frequently on my earworm playlists, as both Geth and I play a lot of videogames and the music is often very catchy, so it’s about time I start collecting my favourites together!
I started this process last night, but it’ll be a little more involved than most Spotify playlist creation processes as most of my favourite videogame soundtracks aren’t on Spotify. As such, I’ll have to track them down separately and store them in my local files in order to put the playlist together. This could be a bit of a long project as a result, but it’d be a great playlist to have, so I will persevere.
I have a lot of favourites, but here are five special tunes that have soundtracked my gaming life (and my life in general as a result).
‘Candion’ (Jazz Jackrabbit: Holiday Hare ’95, 1995)
An unseasonal Christmas example to start off with! Having spent about five years obsessively playing PC platformers – starting with Hunchy on the BBC Micro when I was very young and still spectacularly bad at videogames, then moving onto early ’90s offerings such as Jason Storm (I first played it on a black and white screen!), Word Rescue and Hocus Pocus – I spent pretty much all of 1994 and 1995 playing Jazz Jackrabbit, a Sonic-a-like for the PC. Every single one of the soundtrack tunes for the game’s thirty-odd levels brings back so many memories, but it’s this gorgeous MIDI rendition of ‘Carol Of The Bells’ from the game’s second set of Christmas-themed levels that stands out most for me.
‘Type A’ (Tetris, 1989)
I didn’t get a Nintendo Game Boy until 1997, a good eight years after the system had first come out. My younger brother Malcolm was fairly console-obsessed and spent most of the first half of the ’90s unsuccessfully pestering my parents for a Game Boy and/or a Sega Mega Drive. We were both keen viewers of GamesMaster on Channel 4 at the time, and one of my main memories of it is the constant background refrain of ‘ohhh I wish I could play that…’ Of course, having watched the episodes again on YouTube with Geth in more recent years and realising how eye-watering the prices were for consoles and videogames at the time – £50 for a single game in 1993! That’s £105 in today’s money! – I now understand why my brother’s requests fell on deaf ears! I, on the other hand, was perfectly happy gaming on the PC – that is, until I went on a school trip to France in 1997 and had the opportunity to borrow my friend Fiona’s Game Boy during the long boring hours spent on the coach. Realising the usefulness of portability (Mum and Dad were/are keen travellers and so I spent a lot of my life in the backseat of a car at that point), I requested one for Christmas that year. The prices may have been more wallet-friendly by then, as I got my Game Boy – and so did Malcolm, who wasn’t about to miss out on his long-awaited handheld system now that his big sister was getting one.
I had a few games for the system, including, of course, Tetris, which I believe was bundled with every Game Boy ever sold. I always appreciated the fact that you could choose from a selection of background music, something I don’t remember seeing in any other game of any era (I’m sure other examples exist but I’ve not come across them personally!). While I remember preferring the slightly classical-sounding ‘Type C’ when I was playing the game back in the ’90s, it’s the iconic ‘Type A’ that has seared itself into my brain for the rest of eternity.
Addendum: I can’t talk about the Tetris music without linking to the amazing ‘Russian history’ version!
‘The Swamp’ (Monkey Island 2: LeChuck’s Revenge, 1991)
However, on the odd occasion that I wasn’t in the backseat of a car, the second half of the ’90s (and all of the ’00s… and to some extent the ’10s and ’20s and presumably every decade for the rest of my life) were all about LucasArts graphical adventure games. In 1997 (clearly a big year in gaming for us), Malcolm bought a magazine with a demo for The Curse Of Monkey Island, sending us both down an adventure game rabbithole from which I have yet to emerge nearly quarter of a century later. I’ve played many, many classics from the ’80s and ’90s, as well as a lot of great adventure games that have been made in more modern times, but the Monkey Island series will always be the greatest in my eyes. The soundtracks – an inspired blend of Caribbean reggae and more traditional ‘pirate’ genres such as English hornpipe, composed by Michael Land – are so brilliant that I have a whole separate playlist for them, as mentioned above, so it’s hard to pick a favourite track. However, the one that I think I’ve always loved the most is ‘The Swamp’, a spooky epic from the second entry in the series. It’s like a thousand memories in one.
I’m generally a late adopter of console and handheld systems. In my case it’s because I have such a backlog of old games that I don’t mind waiting a while to play the new ones (exceptions over the last year have included Paper Mario: The Origami King as I bought into the hype, Beyond A Steel Sky as I’d been excited about it for years, and Bravely Default II (arriving Friday! so excited!) as the previous entries were my favourite 3DS games ever. Geth is the same, which has probably been for the best this last year; I think we would have been inordinately stressed if we’d tried to partake in the PS5 / XBOX Series X launch palaver. I’d still like to get one or the other, but I’m happy to wait for a couple of years!
As such, I only got my first 3DS* in early 2014, three years after it had come out. Geth and I had been avid Wii gamers since the turn of the decade, but the Wii seemed like it was dying a death, as the official Nintendo magazine focused more and more on 3DS games. These 3DS games sounded REALLY good, and so I bought my 3DS for my 29th birthday. It was my first handheld since the Game Boy Colour (something I still almost regret buying** as I never actually bought any games for it, just used it to make my old Game Boy games look slightly more colourful. I only bought one because Malcolm spent the entirety of our 1999 summer holiday in France trying to find an affordable one in the supermarkets, and by the end of the holiday I wanted one too. Don’t buy into the hype!).
I love the 3DS and still play it a lot, even though I’ve got a Switch Lite too now. The system has provided what are now some of my favourite games of all time, such as the first two Bravely games, Fire Emblem: Awakening, and of course the brilliant Ace Attorney series, which was my first introduction to Japanese visual novel-style adventure gaming.
The Ace Attorney soundtracks are fantastic. The games were originally released in the early ’00s in Japan before being upgraded for worldwide release on the 3DS a decade later, and so the music is still very MIDI-sounding and retro. All the tracks are great, but my favourite is the character theme for Dick Gumshoe. (He’s not my favourite character but he has far and away the best music!)
*I’m now on my second. My first one died bravely in battle (like, literally in the middle of a Bravely Default battle) in 2016. That was a bad day.
**Almost, but not quite. Due to the vagaries of cartridge decay, my copy of Super Mario Land 3: Wario Land now refuses to play on my Game Boy, but plays perfectly on my Game Boy Colour. My Game Boy is still fine with my other cartridges, so it’s just one of those technical mysteries!
‘Leaving Earth’ (Mass Effect 3, 2012)
Around the same time as I was enjoying the Ace Attorney games for the first time, I finally got round to playing the Mass Effect series.
I mentioned earlier in this post that Geth and I are late console adopters, but we’re not as bad as we used to be. Back in the early ’10s, we waited a whole console generation so that we could pick up an XBOX 360 for cheap when the XBOX One came out in 2013. As such, we didn’t own the Mass Effect games until then, and though I watched Geth doing a couple of playthroughs in 2014, I didn’t get round to playing them myself until the following summer.
Mass Effect was a huge and important gaming experience for me. It was what inspired me to start running (because I watched Commander Shepard running around the universe and thought ‘I’d like to be able to run forever, too’). It shifted my expectations and perceived baselines around videogames, and has become a major comparison point for me when I’m evaluating new ones. Unlike the other games on this list, however, I wouldn’t say that the Mass Effect soundtrack is uniformly brilliant or even that memorable. It’s one particular track – ‘Leaving Earth’ from Mass Effect 3 – that stands out so much that it will always be one of my all-time favourites.
I always find it lovely that ‘Leaving Earth’ – along with many other soundtrack classics – was composed by Clint Mansell, who in the late ’80s and early ’90s was in Pop Will Eat Itself, one of the greebo bands loved by a teenage Geth back in the day. Greebo and epic soundtracks are worlds apart to me, but maybe not as much as I think!
In closer-to-home musical news: the Zoom band night I was attending on Wednesdays has come to an end for now 🙁 However, I intend to keep doing a bit of ukulele practice at the same time every Wednesday so that I don’t get out of the habit again. Maybe I’ll start learning some of my favourite videogame soundtracks on ukulele!
I’m really pleased that so many alcohol-free wines have rosé versions because rosé was always my favourite type of wine when I still drank alcohol. I find non-alcoholic still wines uncomfortable to drink* because they ‘feel’ too much like their alcoholic counterparts, but I’ve really come to love the sparkling versions, as I’m able to perform that mental separation and so they don’t put me at risk of wanting ‘real’ wine.
The Fizzero version, like its white counterpart, tastes very grape-y – a bit like grape juice. The rose flavour is a bit too subtle for my liking, but it is there. Another nice light alternative for summer.
One of the many types of virtual challenges that have sprung up during the course of the last year is a medal challenge with the option to pick a (standard) distance and date and just go for it. There are many companies online that offer this kind of flexible challenge to help with motivation during the long wait for races to return, including my running club, Lonely Goat RC, who are the biggest affiliated running club in the UK due to being based online. They started offering the option to sign up to virtual challenges in autumn 2020, but with so many other virtuals on my schedule at the time, I didn’t end up signing up to one of their challenges until December – a time when I really needed a bit of motivation to get out the door.
5k is usually a distance that I run or surpass two or three times a week, but during November, I didn’t manage the distance at all. I had overtrained slightly for the Virtual GNR and Virtual London, and I found that my body needed a break. Prior to starting my daily running streak, I would usually find that I had a ‘winter running slump’ every year where I didn’t run at all for three to six weeks. This period from late October to mid-December 2020 was my equivalent this winter, although I did run at least a mile every day to keep the streak going!
As such, signing up to do a 5k on 27th December felt like an actual challenge! The roads were clear that morning (a rarity this winter) so I was able to go out and run my usual 5k route. I was fairly happy with my time too, considering my running had taken a back seat for a couple of months.
A few days later, the medal arrived. Bling is one of the things I miss most about races, and also one of the main reasons I’ve been doing virtuals to tide me over:
It’s a really hefty, weighty medal, well worth the cost! (You can sign up to Lonely Goat challenges for free and pay for a medal as an optional extra.)
They’ve slightly redesigned the medal and ribbon for 2021, so I will be having another crack at a Lonely Goat Virtual Challenge later this year. Distance to be announced at a later date…
When I organised my 2021 wall planner the other week, I took up Geth’s suggestion of using sticky notes for scheduled events so that they could be easily moved around if postponed for COVID-19 reasons.
I have apparently not used sticky notes for a very long time. This is the back of my sticky note pad:
The pad dates from a time when 0582 numbers were in use for the Luton area – it’s been 01582 since 1995, so the notepad is early ’90s at the latest, though I suspect it’s probably more like late ’80s judging by the font and style used. It was presumably a bottom-of-the-drawer find when I was a kid!
I was still coasting along with an ‘age doesn’t matter’ attitude, and generally feeling like I was still young and pretty much at the start of my life and there was still plenty of time to achieve all my planned achievements.
Being thirty-six feels different, and I’m not sure why.
Perhaps it’s just that multiple things have hit me in a slightly alarming way recently. First of all, I did a fairly major accounting exercise for my business in January and realised that I can’t just blame the recent slump in takings on COVID-19 (though of course the pandemic has been a factor): it started way before that. I’ve known for some time now that my editing business is not viable by itself as my long-term career. I either need to build up something else on the side (I hoped writing would play this role, but I’m still not making any money from my writing projects) or retrain so that I can move full-time into something else. I had two academic options planned out for retraining at the beginning of 2020, but the pandemic put them on hold. If life had continued as normal, I would have been a lot further ahead with those options right now, and so I really feel at the moment as though I’m paused (not by choice) in my career, and that a considerable amount of time is being wasted while I wait for the world to restart. I’m sure lots of other people are in a similar position.
Secondly, I’ve been struggling with the loud, insistent tick of the biological clock in recent weeks. I have always known that motherhood would not be right for me or my life, and so I have never planned (and still do not plan) to have children. Still, however logical and sound my 1,001 reasons for staying childfree are, there are times when I feel them drowning under the weight of worries like ‘thirty-six is VERY close to forty; you are running out of time to change your mind’ and ‘who is going to inherit your legacy, your family heirlooms and your videogame collection?’ and ‘don’t you WANT to experience this unconditional love that everyone talks about?’ and ‘your husband is a few years older than you and you are bad at maintaining friendships due to your introversion; you will quite likely spend the last few years of your life alone and unloved’. I will stick to my plan because I know it’s the right thing to do, but the feelings are hard sometimes.
Accepting the things you can’t change is the sensible and obvious thing to do in life. It’s also really hard work. There are a lot of things I wish were different – a lot of things that I was sure I would have managed to achieve by now – and I constantly feel like I’ve let my past younger self down, and that I’m also letting my future older self down by continuing to fail to achieve stuff (or stuff that was on the ‘list’ anyway… I know there’s a lot of unplanned stuff I can be proud of from over the last few years!), and generally being a bit mediocre.
But the life I have now is the life I have now, and I’m not superhuman (even though the mind demons tell me that I COULD be if I just tried a bit harder), and I know I’m doing my best at the moment, and the fact that I didn’t do my best in the past is something that can’t be changed.
Thirty-six is still not sitting right with me, and I’m not sure when it will. But I can’t go backwards, so here we are.
This week has been quite busy and difficult at work, which hasn’t helped. I’m hoping to be able to squeeze in an extra afternoon off on Monday to make it a bit of a long weekend, but we’ll have to see what happens over the next few days.
I’m very nearly at the end of Bravely Second and should finish it over the weekend. I’ve then got the demo of the newly-announced Switch game Project Triangle Strategy to enjoy before Bravely Default II arrives next week!
Running has been short and gentle this week as I’ve been resting a hip/glute twinge. However, my comfortable run speed has increased over the last couple of days, which usually indicates that my legs are up for a nice fast 5k at the weekend. We’ll see how it goes tomorrow. I’m also hoping to do a long run on Sunday (maybe eight to ten miles?), though the pace for that will be very sedate indeed as I’ve not done anything over six miles for months and months.
Crossing my fingers for a really quiet week next week! I’ve got various coding things I want to get finished/started, so hopefully I’ll have good news on that front next Friday.
This week’s earworm playlists:
Backstreet Boys – ‘As Long As You Love Me’ The Drifters – ‘Under The Boardwalk’ Will Powers – ‘Kissing With Confidence’
Revo – ‘Sylvan Tranquility’ Ray Charles – ‘Hit The Road, Jack’
Joe Hisaishi – ‘Kokoro No Kakera’ will.i.am and Cody Wise – ‘It’s My Birthday’ The Black Eyed Peas – ‘Just Can’t Get Enough’ Duran Duran – ‘Five Years’
Canned Heat – ‘On The Road Again’ Sarah Brightman & Hot Gossip – ‘I Lost My Heart To A Starship Trooper’ The Power Station – ‘Some Like It Hot’ Taylor Swift – ’22’
Judy Garland and Lucille Bremer – ‘Meet Me In St Louis’ Tom Lehrer – ‘Christmas Carol’
Ewan MacColl – ‘Dirty Old Town’ Fontella Bass – ‘Rescue Me’ Coldplay – ‘A Sky Full Of Stars’ The Wonder Stuff – ‘A Wish Away’
Mike Hewer – ‘Snowman Party’ Queen – ‘Don’t Stop Me Now’