Category Archives: Best ever…

In which we crack The Crystal Maze

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Last year, my friend emailed me to see if S and I were up for being part of a crowdfunding campaign to recreate The Crystal Maze, which was being run by someone she had taught at university. For those of you who’ve never seen the TV show, I’ll wait here while you go off and watch an episode of two (or three, or four) — you’ll find most of them on YouTube.

Naturally we said yes, so we pledged our money, and then completely forgot about it.

Turns out that a LOT of people love TCM, and were up for paying £50 for a bit of nostalgia, as the campaign exceeded its £500,000 target and actually ended up raising over £900,000. The maze got built, tickets went on sale, and as crowdfunders, we got first dibs on booking dates, which is why last Saturday saw us outside an office block in Angel and donning a (rather sweaty) bomber jacket.

The production company had built the maze exactly as it was — Aztec, Industrial, Future and Medieval zones, with games played in order to win time crystals to spend in the Crystal Dome. All the games were those featured in the series (although sadly no water based games, due to health and safety). Richard O’Brien only appears as a video message at the beginning, but our host, Dusty, was every bit as exuberant (and also played tunes on the harmonica!).

Before we went, S and I watched about six episodes to refresh our memories, and it was just like being eight years old again. We gleaned some useful tactics (don’t all shout at the person doing the game, give them plenty of warning to get out if they can’t access the door easily), and I also decided that my goals were to a) not get locked in and b) win at least one crystal.

There were eight people in our team, and we got to play two games each. I opted for a mystery in the Medieval zone, which involved a stained glass window puzzle and having to correctly match it to the replica on one of nine doors, to open it and find the crystal.

Then in the Industrial zone I picked a skill game, only to then groan inwardly when I was given an automatic lock-in game — the very thing I was dreading. I opened the door to find a nest of ropes, and the crystal in the top corner of the room. I had to climb up and retrieve it, but without ringing any of the bells attached to the ropes. Three rings, and I would be locked in. I managed to ring the bells twice in quick succession, and then starting panicking. I even called out “I can’t do this!” to the team, who were all anxiously watching me through the windows, but with their shouts of encouragement I succeeded in pocketing the crystal and making a nervous descent back through the ropes without setting the bells off for the dreaded third time. (I found out later that one of my teammates suggested making lots of noise so our maze master couldn’t hear if I rang it again!) Dusty did laugh at me for trying to climb out of the window rather than knock on the door to get out, but it was a heady moment when I got out, crystal clutched tight in my hot little hand.

Rather amazingly, one of the physical games S picked was one we’d seen in our rewatch, so he knew exactly what to do and did it in under 40 seconds, which was very nearly the record!

After time in each zone we had a grand total of 9 crystals (we actually won 10 but we gave one up to retrieve a locked-in team member, who had the misfortune at 6’2″ to be put in an automatic lock-in game involving not tripping over laser beams) and then went “to the dome!” In a slight variation on the TV show, we had to collect gold credits, and were pitted against the other three teams who were in the maze at the same time as us. Our nine crystals gave us 45 seconds, against totals of 9, 11 and 13. And, dear reader, I am so proud to say that despite having the shortest time in there, we whooped the other teams (who were all far too young to have seen TCM on TV the first time around!) and achieved a grand total of 182 tokens. Not enough to put us on the board of fame (already looking very healthy, with a winner of 319 only four days into the maze being open!), but very respectable and enough to make us smile a lot! It was pretty much down to tactics again — we had the two shortest members of the team on ‘posting’ duty, and one of the other members realised that if he held open his bomber jacket, it was the perfect receptacle for collecting tokens en masse!

I cannot recommend this highly enough — it’s pricey but it’s honestly one of the most fun things I’ve ever done, and totally exceeded my expectations. And now I can say that I cracked the Crystal Maze!

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In which I look back on a fantastic year

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I can honestly say that 2012 has been one of my best years ever. I knew it was going to be pretty special, what with turning 30 and the small matter of a three month round the world trip, but it outdid itself in many other ways, on a personal level and also on a larger stage.

I’ve never been a jingoistic flag waver but I was so proud to be British in 2012. After the horrible events in London last year, having such a fantastic Olympic Games was a real balm to the country. And that opening ceremony! I re-watched some of it the other day and I still think it’s such a perfect representation on the UK and our culture. For someone whose not usually a sports watcher, I was avidly watching – and enjoying – loads of random Olympic events, as well as the Tour de France. In fact, I became such as fan of the TdF that I’m going to watch it next year for the Alpe d’Huez stage. (Unfortunately we were out of the country for the Paralympics so I don’t know much about them, sadly, but I bet I would have been similarly glued to them.)

Our Awfully Big Adventure was just that, and one of the best things we’ve ever done together. We had the most amazing time, forged a lifetime’s worth of memories and experienced so many things that I’m still processing them all. Posts on Chile, New Zealand, Australia, Bali, Singapore, Thailand and India will come soon! We also got to travel to Germany and Austria, and visit Brighton, Yorkshire, London and West Wales. I hope 2013 brings similar opportunities to see more of the world.

In terms of work, I’ve certainly not been bored. I was asked to become the editor of the magazine I work for, which made me very, very happy. I had some other great freelance work and worked with some lovely people. And although I got made redundant from my part time job, this was a blessing in disguise as I’m really excited about looking for a new role in the new year, as well as developing more freelance work projects.

As of October we became an aunt and uncle after S’ sister gave birth to baby Holly, and we also stood up as godparents in April. My dad passed his Masters with distinction, we danced at four friends’ weddings and toasted two others who got engaged. I turned 30 in June accompanied by lots of friends, fun, frolics and wine, and I’m really excited to see what this new decade will bring. The first six months have been pretty awesome!

Yep, 2012 was a good year. Thanks to everyone who has visited me here, read my ramblings and contributed a comment – I still get a real thrill from knowing people are reading what I’m writing. Here’s to 2013 and all the opportunities this new year holds for us all.  I’ll be seeing the old year out with some of my very favourite people in a pub in Clifton, with (rain permitting!) a walk over to the suspension bridge at midnight to watch the fireworks. Wherever you are and whatever you’re doing to welcome in 2013, I hope you have a good one, accompanied by plenty of your favourite beverage. (Make mine a glass of cava.)

In which there are reasons why it was a good weekend

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Because of delicious Thai food.

Because of discovering the best chocolate chip cookies, ever.

Because of meeting the latest member of the extended family clan and having him fall asleep in my arms, a cosy little hot water bottle.

Because of coffees in the park, bought from a Wurzel.

Because of seeing tiny spinach and sweet pea sprouts pushing up through the soil after a tremendous rain shower.

Because of dinner with good friends.

Because of red wine.

Because of finishing the deck.

Because of rediscovering a lovely nail polish.

Because of sunshine and wearing my new sunglasses.

In which there is a Royal Wedding and lots of bank holidays

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After eleven days off it’s always hard to get up in the morning and go to work. The fact that these past eleven days have passed in a lovely haze of sunshine, cider, cake, camping, cream teas and gin made it even harder than normal.

We spent the first four days of our holiday in Cornwall. Now, a confession: despite living in Somerset for 13 years and Bristol for 6, I had never been to Cornwall before. Shocking, I know. Most people on hearing this would wince and shake their heads in disbelief when I owned up to this. Feel free to do the same.

But I can now hold my head up in pride as I’ve not only been to Cornwall but thoroughly explored several places. We camped by the sea in St Agnes, and also visited St Ives (beautiful), the Minack Theatre (one of the nicest venues I’ve ever seen) and the “lost” gardens of Heligan (stunning). I can understand now why people rave about Cornwall; I’ve never seen sea so blue in this country before, nor seen such beautiful juxtapositions of water and land. It was such a lovely four days: I had not one but two cream teas, ate freshly caught ling, read a big fat book from cover to cover and jumped for joy by the sea.

When we got back, Heligan had inspired S in the garden department and so he commenced with an ambitious plan to build a deck in the garden, which gives us more space and cover up some of the more dodgy brickwork left by the previous owner. So while he put his grand plan into action, fuelled by coffee and trips to Wickes, I was his “mortar water porter” (phrase coined by my dad), read Glamour alongside the cement mixing, presented food at regular intervals and then spent an entire day helping him hoist boards over the wall and screw them onto the joists.

And then, of course, Friday was the Royal Wedding. I never thought I would be fussed about watching it; I know I may work for a wedding magazine but I was a bit meh about the whole thing. But in the end the whole build up sucked me in and I got up early to watch it on the big BBC screen in Bristol’s Anchor Square with a friend, accompanied by gin & tonic and red velvet cupcakes. And I’m really, really glad I did: as other bloggers have said, the atmosphere was absolutely fantastic that day. In Anchor Square we oohed when we saw the dress, we joined in with the hymns, we cheered when they kissed the first time and even louder the second time, and there was an impromptu conga line at the end.

(If you want to read my thoughts on the wedding in general and Kate’s dress in particular you can here and here. Short version: it was a lovely happy day celebrating two people in love, and wow, she looked stunning.)

So now I am back at work, and despite having to haul myself out of bed this morning far too early it’s not been too bad. I have a marzipan chocolate bar stashed in my drawer to make the afternoon sweeter and I’m off to my book club this evening to drink wine and talk about this book (short version: very good).

How were your extended weekends/Royal Wedding experiences?

In which marriages are celebrated, the blossom blooms and there are pygmy goats

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It felt more like summer than early spring this weekend. This was superb timing as Saturday saw our very good friends A and P celebrate their first wedding anniversary with a big party for family and friends. They’re the ones who eloped last year to a Canadian mountaintop, so we all demanded a rematch so the British contingent could celebrate their marriage with them. They picked an amazing location – one of my favourite restaurant/venues in the city – where the food was superb, the views stunning and the wine flowing all night. Because it was so hot we met up with some friends before the main event kicked off and spent a happy hour catching up over cider in the sunshine. S was one of the best men and did a brilliant job with his speech (if I do say so myself) whilst looking mighty fine in his suit. I was honoured by being seated at the top table, and even got to speak myself – reading out the bride’s mother’s words from across the Atlantic. It was also our six month anniversary (where does the time go?) so we had a recreation of our wedding dance out on the waterfront, singing the words ourselves in the moonlight as we tried to remember the steps.

The next day I was left a mountain bike widow so I took my book and a Cornish pasty to the park to soak up the sunshine. I’m glad I had my camera on me as the flowers were stunning – pink blossoms stretching as far as the eye could see.

 

 

And just to make you smile, here is a pygmy goat I saw at the city farm. Happy Monday!

Hello, I am a pygmy goat. That means I am extremely cute, especially with my pink collar.