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A busy month – you bet!

Wow…

I do believe this has been the longest gap between blog posts since…forever, or something like that. I have seen a lot since then in the news. An American Yawn, a Chinese Yawn, Qatada and something in the Middle East.

Oh, and yes, I was in Poland for half that time with a lot of filming. In the can as they speak. Lots to edit, rewrite and pray for before heading off to the next bit next year.

And I did take a little saunter through Poland too. After all, it was a ‘working holiday’.

But enough of that, I think it is time to actually write a blog insead of talk about not writing one. Let me flex those fingers…

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Looking back at 2011

So this may be as personal as this blog gets. Or I might get peckish before I can be bothered to reach the goal of 500 words and so cut it short. But, no matter what, here is my personal look back at 2011. Not at the events of the world, but of the events in my life, while not giving away too much detail as I am damn cagey about such things. For the manipulative writing mind that I have, this is quite some feat, so enough with the intro bumpf and let me get going.

Personally, I have had a weird and wonderful year. But it has definitely been spectacular on that front. But definitely add the adjectives weird and wonderful into that description and I could accurately portray my emotional state. I have had to adapt myself to a brand new and far more situation, but I have not done too badly so far. But as a man, it is always my responsibility to take charge while at the same time slavishly obey the wiser half. These conflicting aims are what makes such situations special and the cornerstone of human relationships. We, as humans, are complex beasts and when starting down a path with someone, the bumps are numerous. With someone special beside me, it has definitely been one of the more interesting years personally.

Professionally, as I have said previously on this blog, it has been an utter disaster of a year, and this is something I hope to reverse in 2012. Whether my optimism will be snuffed out this year remains to be seen, but it will be an interesting year. I will be revealing more in February, as part of my plans involve Poland. Cashwise however, this has been a fantastic year, and I have saved a bundle of money, been able to play with motorbikes this year (including gaining my licence) and I have travelled like hell.

Travelling has been intermixed with my personal life and to an extent my professional side as well. One big difference this year versus previous years has been my European travels. This year I have seem more European countries than my previous years combined. Firstly, that shows how much I have travelled beyond my own neighbourhood and secondly, it also shows a shift in my own personality, which I predicted when I was in my twenties. That in my thirties I would begin to see Europe, mainly as I could afford to. Expect more Euro-travels coming up in 2012.

Individually, it has been a bit of a funky year. Ending the year by getting knocked off my bicycle to be honest sucked (and my leg was bloody sore, but is getting better) but I have had not a bad one. I think my personal life has definitely been the highlight, while my film life has been the lowlife this year. But onward I go, 2012 is still a bright shining star round the corner. Although, with 2009 still fresh in my mind, I am very wary of being too optimistic…

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Really, that was Christmas 2011

For those that are back to work today already, I feel your pain. But I was working through Christmas, busy as hell. But it was fun, really fun. Really. Honest. I am smiling! Really!

Haha!

Yes, it was hellish in some respects, and I lost out on far too much sleep over the Christmas period. But it was one of the most entertaining festive periods I ever had. There were old faces and new at the dinner table and it was one hell of a dinner.

Not only was it eating and making merry, but it was rushing around town. Meeting people, fr too many and trying to link up with as many loved ones as possible. TO be blunt, I have never had a Christmas as busy.

But you know what, despite the fatigue, I really miss Christmas. All of it. The hullabaloo, the panic, the hassle. After all is said and done, you miss it because the loved ones are no longer there. The fantasy, suspending yourself from reality disappears. For just a few brief hours, the world is good, for those lucky enough to enjoy Christmas. It is a one day dance that takes the best part of three months to plan for and to spend and get in to debt for. But, despite the hassle, the hustle, I will do it again this year.

It is probably why Christmas only come once a year, as we need time to forget the stress and look back fondly at the memories.

But one thing I will repeat. I HATE STANSTED AIRPORT. Nothing will change my mind with regards to that!

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The Sun is Back!

Yesterday was really the first day of spring – hooray! So I was out and about in town, busy, as always, but also productive. But here I was on the tube, looking westward as the afternoon was winding down…

Long may Spring live on! The year may be hurtling through, but it is good to get some warmth back into the bones…

And to everyone, thanks, yes, I am feeling better. Ah, the curses of being a left hander trying to do DIY…

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Charlie’s Holiday to Poland (16) – Looking Back…

You know, I have stretched this series of blogs on Poland out enough. So it is time to call it quits and to stop looking wistfully back on memories and to move forward in London town. But before I do, let me give a potted guide to the lows and highs of the magical land of Poland:

Food: Not exactly Poland’s greatest export. This is no India or China. The food is generally stodgy, and the cliche of potatoes, cabbage and pork is a pretty accurate description of Polish eating habits. Still, the cuisine is better than Germany or Hungary. Unfortunately, unlike Western Europe, there really isn’t that many immigrants in Poland, so you really are stuck with Polish food and of course Gyros. Breakfast, it has to be said is a disappointment. Still, one things that is great is the tea and coffee.

Culture: One of Poland’s strong points, and to be honest, some of the most easily accessible in Europe, and that is something I am surprised to say. Europe as a whole is really good when it comes to culture. It is the continent’s main draw, and Poland is no exception. The bulk of museums have displays in English, and if not, an audio guide/tour will usually be provided in English, so we are really lucky as visitors. Plus the amount of great hip bars, fantastic cinema and of course the surprise of the lot – opera! I think this has to be one of the most cultural holidays I have had in years!

History: Fascinating. As I have mentioned before, Poland has had one hell of a turbulent past. But that is not to say that the history of the nation is all tragedy. A beautiful culture has sprung from this history. Poland is one hell of an interesting place with regards to its past.

Women: Fit! Hot! Super! Really, I kid you not, the legend of beautiful Polish women is a truth.

Language: This is a tricky one. Unlike, say, Hindi which we may have some exposure to, no one really understands Polish. And reading it sends shivers down my spine. One thing that can be said to its advantage is that the rules are the same, so once you get a grasp of them, it becomes a lot easier. The best phrase I can come up with is Lubię laski Polski – and even then, I know I have screwed that line up! However, people of my age generally speak really (and I mean really) good English. A godsend to someone like me, but it does put a smile on a local’s face when you can say please and thank you in their language!

Expense: Cheap by European standards, but not by world standards. Accommodation can get pricey, some museums can be extortionate. Food is reasonable, especially if you eat where the locals eat while internal travel is really cheap. The train, while long, will save you tons of cash!

Looking back on Poland, I will say that I definitely enjoyed the country. I will go back, to see other cities, other town and more of the people. It is surprisingly nice. And to be blunt, I was expecting very little from this holiday, but I am glad I made the decision to come. Krakow really is the unsung gem amongst European cities and it bedevils me to think why it is not as popular as Barcelona. Wroclaw too was an unexpectedly great city to spend a couple of days in.

My advice to you is if you are looking for romance, head to Paris. Adventure, head to Asia. Great food, pretty much anywhere else. But if you are looking for a cultural holiday, with fun things to do in a relatively unexplored part of the world, then head here. You will not find the trappings of Communism left here. No, that departed a long time ago, and this country is very much in the EU. What you will find on visiting is a fascinating land, with plenty to do and very accommodating locals at one hell of a price. Unlike much of the New EU, it has not yet been overrun by holiday makers seeking something new, so head over if you ever get the chance. You will not regret it…

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Living with Zelda (1) – A Review of ‘A Link to the Past’

Let me take you back to my childhood and show you the awesomeness of Zelda

For those that have been living under a rock for the past couple of decades or who have never picked up a control pad, Zelda is the great RPG’s that came out in the Eighties and since then, on virtually every console that Nintendo has released, there has been game from the Zelda series.

A Link to the Past was also the first time I came into contact with Zelda, and I can honestly say that this game did change the course of my life. Procrastination, going on odd quests around London, rescuing princesses, all of these activities that I partake on a regular basis is a result of playing Zelda on the Super Nintendo as a kid.

And as the first time I played Zelda, this had a massive impact on me. I knew of Zelda from the earlier NES (never had this machine)titles, but never really played them. In the end, I was still unsure whether to get this game or not, but a friend of mine at school who had the SNES told me that it was the best game he ever played. With a recommendation like that, I pestered my parents and one Christmas, it was wrapped under the Christmas tree. I love Father Christmas…

Zelda as a series is loved as it is a combination of game styles. Yes, there are combat sequences, but they are not the major part of the game. Instead, as in all of the Zelda series, solving puzzles, going on huge quests (there is no direct path to the princess) and an absorbing story is what made this game brilliant.

Looking back through Rose Tinted spectacles, it is easy to overlook the flaws of the game. Namely the technology at the time sucked. But, despite the limitations of technology, this was an amazing piece of software. The graphics at the time were mind blowing, the sound was great and the size of the game was epic.

A Link to the Past was groundbreaking in so many ways. The Zelda series evolved because of it. The concept of two worlds (in this case the Light and Dark Worlds) in effect doubling the amount of gameplay first made its appearance here. So many items that have become iconic such as the Hookshot and of course, the Master Sword.

To say I loved this game is an understatement! Instead of going out and getting high on crack like the kids of today, Zelda kept me indoors for far too long and made me appreciate the a dark room and going for hours without food, absorbed by a pointless quest. Sarcasm aside however, this was so much fun to play! When I was a kid I loved it. However, as an adult, while I do look back with fondness, I have had no desire to replay this game. Maybe it was the length of the game (it is just far too long) or maybe it is because I want to get into the world of 3-D Zelda…but for some reason, I have not had an urge to replay this brilliant piece of my childhood.

Still, I look back on Link to the Past as one of the finest games ever, and the one game that got me sucked into a world where fighting bad guys with a bottle of bugs was not fantasy, but reality!

(Rating A- – A brilliant game that has survived so well over the past couple of decades. And still playable today!)

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Crossings of the River Thames: A look back…

Wow.

I cannot believe it.

But yes, I have actually managed to do it. To visit and chronicle each of London’s public crossing points over (or under) the Thames. For the sake of reference, here are al the crossing points of the River Thames in London from west to east:

Hampton Ferry (Plus a How to get there bit)
Hampton Court Bridge
Kingston Bridge
Teddington Lock
Ham Ferry
Richmond Bridge
Twickenham Bridge (Two Posts)
Richmond Lock
Kew Bridge
Chiswick Bridge
Barnes Railway Bridge
Hammersmith Bridge
Putney Bridge
Fulham Railway Bridge
Wandsworth Bridge
Battersea Bridge
Albert Bridge
Chelsea Bridge
Vauxhall Bridge
Lambeth Bridge
Westminster Bridge
Hungerford Bridge (Two Posts)
Waterloo Bridge
Blackfriars Bridge
Millennium Bridge
Southwark Bridge
London Bridge (Two Posts)
Tower Bridge
Rotherhithe Tunnel
Canary Wharf-Rotherhithe Ferry
Greenwich Foot Tunnel
Woolwich Ferry
Woolwich Foot Tunnel

Just as a note the rules of this series were that the crossings had to be open to the general public by foot (so no to the Blackwall Tunnel), they had to be permanent crossing points (seasonal were allowed but crossings like the Jubilee Line Replacement Ferry were not) and had to have at least one side of the crossing point in Greater London (so the famed Dartford Crossing was out).

And so what next? My original reason for this tour of London was twofold. Firstly, I wanted to see a different side of the Capital, but more importantly, it allowed me to just get out and life my head up from the world of work and film making. And it has done a great job doing that. No matter what has come my way, I have always set aside one day a month to visit my crossing point and to see a different part of London. These crossing points have been useful in letting me do so. Letting me live!

On the way, like many things I do, I have got distracted. So my monthly Thames sojourn has sometimes been replaced by other crossing points. The Forth Bridge and the Dollis Brook Viaduct alongside a few crossings in India that were the Guwahati Ferry, the Howrah Bridge, the Manjitar Bridge and the Living Root Bridges of Meghalaya.

And so now what?

Well, I think I will take a break from bridges for a while. I might come back to this series if and when new crossings are added in London. But for now, I need to find something new about the city to explore. Something that will get me out of cloud cuckoo land and back to reality. And something that will entertain, both you the reader as well as myself…

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