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In which there is a snowcat wishing you Merry Christmas



Here’s the nowannual Paintenhanced photo of Olivia to wish you a wonderful Christmas and New Year that’s full of friends, family and fun.


In which we crack The Crystal Maze


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!


In which those were the months that were: June and July edition



Trips, barbecues, picnics and birthdays… June and July had a great mix of fun stuff that was planned in plus some more spontaneous things.


Watched Jaws in the woods and Dirty Dancing in a hot tub
This summer is clearly a time of watching films in odd places. As part of a Two Wheeled Cinema event, we cycled over to Leigh Woods and watched one of S’ favourite films on a lovely warm night, while eating Munchies and cider on a picnic blanket. We then rode back in the dark through a deserted Ashton Court, which was eerie but quite beautiful. Dirty Dancing in a hot tub was as much fun as it sounds — six ladies in a hot tub, waiter service to bring drinks over, a room full of equally excited girls (plus a couple of boys) and then an 80s/90s music video party afterwards.

Went to Copenhagen
My Canadian friend Steph was out there with her family, so it was too good an opportunity to pass up meeting them and visiting another country at the same time. Plus it was the week before my birthday so I claimed it as an early present. It was very similar to S’ birthday jaunt to Amsterdam earlier this year — lots of cycling, nice beer, just in a lot warmer temperatures!
Turned 33
The sun (just about) shone on my birthday week (although it was super windy), so on the Saturday before I had a picnic in Queen Square followed by drunken pizza at Renatos, and then on my actual birthday, a Wednesday, I met some friends for dinner and lots of rose. S was supposed to be away that week on a cycling trip (with my blessing) but he broke his bike (oops) and so made an appearance on the actual day after all.
Celebrated a friend’s wedding
This was one of the most fun weddings I’ve ever been too, with lots of delicious food and a lovely Somerset location. As the bride is half Indian she had a sangeet (a traditional ladies’ henna event) the night before the wedding, where I had a gorgeous pattern put on my hand as part of the celebrations and ate an amazing curry cooked by her dad.
Had a reunion in the New Forest
Best friend Z was back for a bit from Australia, so we gathered a group of university and school friends and went on a mini break to a cottage in the New Forest for a weekend. Much fizzy wine was consumed (as a starter, four of us got through four bottles by 6pm on the Friday), we saw some super cute ponies and I got to hang out with some of my favourite people.
Spotted sheep in the city
Bristol is currently hosting a Shaun the Sheep trail, where individually decorated Shauns can be found dotted around. There are 70 to ‘collect’, so over the course of a bike ride two weeks ago we got 22, then we added another 12 to the mix last weekend in between buying nice coffee and eating tiffin.
Gone freelance!
And so far it’s going very well — I’ve learned a lot about gluten free cooking and papercrafting.