The Tyranny of Small Decisions

It's a blog on a board-gaming site. Pretty safe bet it'll be about board games then...

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Emergency ... urm.... Sheep?

John Shepherd
United Kingdom
Ovington
Northumberland
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From gallery of MrShep


Is that even a sheep? I'm not entirely sure. (And it's not even the strangest creature that I've met this weekend).

Apologies blog fans. We've been doing a fair bit of travelling lately, and as a consequence my blogging routine has slipped a bit.

We have watched some people run up a very steep hill, carrying very heavy cheeses.

From gallery of MrShep
Is that the hill out of the famous Hovis ad, Mrs Shep?
Why yes! yes it is!


We have visited some very English Fairs and markets. Including this one, in a once-bustling medieval port town. Which has now managed to move about 50 miles away from the sea. (You have to keep your eye on those medieval port towns, you know. Take your eyes off them for even a minute, and they're away!).

From gallery of MrShep


We helped to wake up Jack in the Green by making a VERY LOUD NOISE, and therefore ensured the arrival of Summer this year. (You're welcome!)

From gallery of MrShep


We sat in the meadow where a very rare wildflower grows, on the only day of the year that the landowner allows the public to enter...

From gallery of MrShep


...and we also got involved in some streetfighting in Lewes.

From gallery of MrShep


This hasn't left a lot of time for gaming. Well... not for much gaming anyway. But normal* game-related-blogging service will be resumed very shortly. Honest.

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*Actual levels of normality may vary.
This is also normal.
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Sun May 15, 2022 8:57 pm
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Eleven good men and true

John Shepherd
United Kingdom
Ovington
Northumberland
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It was the feast of St George, the day of the great Manorial court, and there was much bustle amongst the townsfolk… for this was the day upon which the Lord of the Manor would gather everyone within the great guild hall, and preside upon the matters of the coming year. The High Constables, The Dozeners, The Pinners … and — of course — the Lord’s official Ale Tasters — would all be present.

As noon approached — and as the various officials gathered upon the raised platform at the front of the great hall in anticipation of the arrival of the Lord Baron — a whisper went around the crowd. Where were the Jurors? Twelve townsfolk, good and true, would be responsible for meting out justice to those who had wronged the court …but only seven seemed to be present in the Juror’s box. What had happened to the other five? Had they unwisely tarried too long in one of the many inns, taverns, or ale houses within the town? Were they suffering from the terrible pox that had blighted the town so recently? Or had they completely fled the county, fearful of retribution and revenge from the relatives and associates of those that they were about to pass judgement upon?

Who could say!

The Steward of the court — fearful of the rage of the Lord of the Manor, should the court be found inquorate — quickly instructed the bailiff to go amongst the crowd, and to recruit some replacement jurors to make up the numbers.

As the Bailiff walked down the centre of the great hall, most of the townsfolk looked away nervously, trying not to make eye contact. Refusing a direct request of the court Bailiff could very easily land you with a night in the stocks, or even worse! But whether they avoided his gaze or not, several members of the assembly were nominated — the long, bony finger of the bailiff pointing in their direction, and his loud, gruff voice demanding: “You, Sir!”.

One by one they were picked from the hundreds who had assembled.

And then… the unthinkable happened! The bailiff gazed in my direction. But as he stared into my eyes, I did not look away. I did not fear him. I fixed his gaze. And so the great finger pointed in my direction, and the voice boomed out.

“You, Sir!”.

The court secretary quickly entered my name into the ledger, presented me with the correct headwear, and sent me to sit in the Jury box. This year, it would be I who determined the fate of the townspeople. It would be ME who passed sentence upon all miscreants put before the Manorial court!

But this new-found responsibility filled me with nerves and fear. In truth … I was a visitor to the town, with no real knowledge of the way that the court functioned, or of the punishments that were appropriate to press upon the guilty townsfolk.

What was I do?

I turned to the Juror to my right; an elderly gentleman, in a very scruffy coat, and who bore an extremely unconvincing blonde hairpiece. But he seemed familiar with the proceedings, and perhaps he could advise me on what was about to happen.

But as I asked my question, and he turned his wrinkled face towards me to speak … a strange feeling of surprise, dread, and recognition fell upon me.

For it was not the face of a simple and kindly peasant farmer that met my gaze,

It was in fact…

(sings…)

“The Face of Michael Fabricant…”
“The Face of Michael Fabricant…”


And then I woke up.

Spoiler (click to reveal)

Except I didn’t wake up. THIS ALL ACTUALLY HAPPENED.

From gallery of MrShep


From gallery of MrShep


From gallery of MrShep


In terms of photographs which could be massively mis-interpreted if you weren’t aware of the surrounding context, I think this one ranks very highly.

Possibly, in fact, as highly as such a thing could EVER rank.

God help me.

It was taken just as the Jury was being signed in… some moments before I realised exactly who* I was standing next to. And now I feel a little bit sick in my mouth, just looking at my happy smiling face.

What HAVE I done?

Tenuous theme of the day: Have you ever found yourself duped into playing a game with a complete and utter ***T ?


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*No, his hair isn’t any more convincing in real life than it is on television.
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Mon Apr 25, 2022 7:10 am
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Balls to Good Friday

John Shepherd
United Kingdom
Ovington
Northumberland
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No board games in today's post I'm afraid (well.. it IS the holiday weekend after all). Though possibly something that you could consider a dexterity game. Of sorts...

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Good Friday found us in the village of Chiddingstone, Kent, to attend a recently-revived custom: Chiddingstone "Real" Football.

From gallery of MrShep


Shrovetide & Easter football games -- mass-participation games in which entire villages compete against each other -- are a tradition dating back at least as far as the 12th century. The rules ... or what little rules there are ... vary from place to place. At Chiddingstone, the "goals" are a pair of pubs, roughly two miles apart, with the "kick off" located at a rocky crag approximately half way between the two locations. And the rest of the rules are: No hiding the ball under your jumper, no trampling of crops, and you must not, at any time, convey the ball upon a vehicle. Or a horse

From gallery of MrShep
The "Pitch", showing goals and the centre spot.


There isn't much parking in the village. By which I mean... there isn't really any parking in the village at all! -- especially if you don't want to leave your car in a location where it's at risk of being trampled by a scrum of marauding football players. So we turned up early, parked on a country road far away, and walked over to The Castle Inn (a 15th Century pub, and the official gathering place for players) with plenty of time to spare.

From gallery of MrShep


A pint or two of real ale from the local brewery -- located just a few hundred yards up the road from the pub -- helped pass the time before the kick-off. It was a gloriously sunny day. And the perfect sort of day for sitting outside a country pub with a pint

However, the appointed hour soon arrived ... speeches were made ... and we set off on the 20 minute walk into the countryside.

From gallery of MrShep


The game begins with the hurling of the ball from this rocky outcrop, into the thronging scrum below...

From gallery of MrShep


And here's a photo taken a few minutes later ... with a second (rare) glimpse of the ball on it!

We've been to a few of these types of game, and there tends to be one of two ways that they can go. Either the ball disappears under a mountain of heaving bodies for long periods of time, and rarely moves more than a few feet in one go ... or ... there's a sudden break in which some fit young scamp emerges from the throng, clutching the ball, and pelts off into the distance running as if his life depended upon it. (Which maybe it does?). The Chiddingstone game lasts for 4 hours, and some years it's had to be declared a tie, with no significant progress made in the direction of either goal.

But what kind of game was it to be this year?

Wellll... the second type. After 15-minutes-or-so of the ball being punted around various slow-moving scrums across a couple of adjacent fields, some plucky young soul in the colours of the red team managed to grab a hold of it and go sprinting off in the general direction of The Castle Inn, seemingly unchallenged.

Spectators and players followed him... slowly picking our way through a dense copse of trees and brambles (You do end up doing an awful lot of countryside walking while spectating these things!)

From gallery of MrShep


We expected the goal to have been scored -- and the first part of the game to be over -- by the time that we arrived back at the pub (almost half an hour after seeing the ball disappear into the distance!)... and were therefore very surprised to find a bit of a scrum still going on in the street. Apparently the previously-mentioned red player had managed to run nearly all of the way back to the pub before being flattened by a single lurking defender. There was now something of a mass brawl going on around the goal, with the attackers attempting to convey the ball to a particular spot on the road where it has to be tapped 3 times in order to score, and the defenders trying very hard to stop them from doing that. However... as you can see from the picture, there seemed to be many more red players (attacking) in the area than blue players (defending) ... so a goal for red was only a matter of time!

Traditionally, once a goal is scored, there's a bit of a break for folks to rest, have a pint, and then make the trip back over to the kick-off zone for the rest of the game to be played. Though -- facing a long trek back onto the playing field -- most spectators (ourselves included) seemed to prefer to stay at the pub at this point and soak up the atmosphere from that vantage point instead.

And that's how we spent the rest of Good Friday afternoon.

2 days later... I'm still not entirely sure who won the game in the end. But that local ale that I mentioned was very, very nice indeed... and it was a lovely sunny afternoon to be sitting in a beer garden. So I'm counting myself as the ultimate winner in that respect

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An unexpected event happened upon our trip home that evening...

Kent to Northumberland is a good five-and-a-half hour drive ... even on a day when the roads aren't gridlocked due to it being a national holiday, so we'd cued up a whole list of podcasts to listen to on the trip. Imagine, if you will, how weird it must be to have a podcast tootling on in the background... a widely renowned podcast, with a large listenership -- not one of our super-niche nerdy boardgame podcasts -- and to suddenly hear a familiar voice on that podcast talking about YOU?

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Well... personally... I'll just have to go on imagining what that feels like. But not Mrs Shep! Because ... four minutes or so into the latest episode (#422) of internationally-renowned trivia podcast No Such Thing as A Fish -- and to our complete surprise -- Mrs Shep (and her crazy customs-visiting quest/project) got a mention*!

Mrs Shep is now definitely winning in the mentioned-on-a-podcast wars. I'm going to have to seriously up my game to beat that one...

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*Though I don't think Anna Ptaszynski got the account of the 2013 Slathwaite Moonraking festival quite right; it was the performers of the traditional Mumming play who defected to the nearby Rhubarb festival ... not the entire parade!
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Sun Apr 17, 2022 2:13 pm
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Emergency Sheep #004

John Shepherd
United Kingdom
Ovington
Northumberland
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Unfortunately Mr Shep isn't able to come to the blog today because:

He hasn’t recovered from AireCon yet.

AN EMERGENCY SHEEP HAS BEEN DEPLOYED!

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Number 004: The Swaledale

Sheepfacts: Well suited to the exposed regions in which they predominantly live, the Swaledales are very hardy, thick coated, able bodied, and bold. The ewes make excellent mothers and are known for being able to rear lambs well, even in adverse conditions. They are of a medium build, with black faces marked with bright white around the nose and eyes. Males and females both grow curled horns; however, the male's horns are much larger.

Swaledale sheep can often be found grazing in the Aire Valley.

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It’s been quite a week. First: a birthday. Then … a whole load of board game kickstarters arrived all at once. And then… the second biggest board gaming convention in the UK!

So much game-related stuff happening, but so little time to write about it all -- ARRRGH!

...but I’ll catch up soon.

Honest.

(Stay tuned! )



From gallery of MrShep


RATE MY SHEEP:

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Poll created by MrShep


Photo credit: Vaelta at the English Language Wikipedia CC-BY-2.0


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Mon Mar 14, 2022 7:10 am
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Blogs kennt keine Grenzen

John Shepherd
United Kingdom
Ovington
Northumberland
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From gallery of MrShep

I've got nothing for you today. Nothing at all. Other than a stolen photo (because the BGG front page loves a thumbnail!) and a recommendation that you pop over to Ben "5 games for doomsday* (and one-time contributor to this very blog**)" Maddox's patreon page, and read a thing that he posted a couple of days ago.

Because it deserves more readers.

You could be one of those readers!

Go!

(Sorry. It's not about board games***)

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*Now there's a podcast title that seems just a little bit too close to reality right now. (It's still an excellent show though!).
**Very literally one time. See the 30th January 2020.
***Not really sorry at all
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Tue Mar 1, 2022 7:10 am
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Urban Exploration

John Shepherd
United Kingdom
Ovington
Northumberland
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Did I ever tell you about the tower block apartment that I impulsively purchased, back in mid-2019?

Perhaps it’s not the most auspicious of properties… being a very small room in an overwhelming concrete megastructure. But nevertheless, it is mine. Lured in by the promise of guaranteed investment growth and flashy sales literature, I signed a contract for a 99 year lease for a tiny room in an abandoned towerblock, called Iceni heights.

From gallery of MrShep


But then covid happened… and my plans to go and visit my brand new acquisition were put on hold. And all that I’ve had for the past couple of years is a photograph on the sales documents:

From gallery of MrShep


The flat definitely looked like a bit of a fixer-upper… apparently something bad — something VERY bad — once happened at Iceni heights, and the whole tower has stood empty for quite some time. But I was more than a little fascinated by the graffiti that the previous tenant had left on the walls of my room — as glimpsed in the sale deeds. Some kind of scientific formula, perhaps? Could it be a clue as to the fate that had befallen the tower’s residents?

Finding out would have to wait.

At least… it would have to wait until yesterday. When I finally got to visit flat 505a, and peek through some of the other doors and windows of Iceni Heights


“MdZ Estate is a touring dystopian model village, which lives inside a 40ft shipping container. It consists of four tower blocks built at 1:24 scale, using over 2 tons of concrete … containing 1,360 different rooms, each of which has been scratch made and painstakingly vandalised by the artist”.

From gallery of MrShep


From gallery of MrShep

MdZ Estate is viewed in semi-darkness … with a smoke machine, wind machine, and a high-decibel soundtrack featuring chinook helicopters and the voice of Amber Rudd playing throughout (at least, it is if you press the “Full English” option when you go in … and why wouldn’t you?)

From gallery of MrShep


Fortunately I’d memorised the location of my room, and managed to find it before the smoke machine kicked in properly. It’s not an easy one to find, as it doesn’t have a light bulb (tenancies with access to light cost more!) — so I had to shine my torch around to make sure … but I finally got to see those cryptic equations in full. Does anybody recognise them?

From gallery of MrShep

From gallery of MrShep

From gallery of MrShep


There were some very strange things going on in neighbouring apartments. From reading the graffiti, it would seem that the residents have banded behind an influential cult leader — called Brenda — to form the “Iceni tribe”. But to what end? Where did they go??

From gallery of MrShep

From gallery of MrShep

From gallery of MrShep


Near to Iceni Heights stands HMP Camp Delta-Zulu, a "multi-storey child correction facility".

From gallery of MrShep

From gallery of MrShep

From gallery of MrShep

From gallery of MrShep


This building also stands empty; the child-sized holes hacksawed through the barred windows and dangling ropes suggesting some kind of mass escape?

From gallery of MrShep


Tower Block three is called Roman Point; it’s a high-rise residential care home and biopharmaceutical facility. Again… dissent seems to be in the air, and the residents have all disappeared. But where to?

From gallery of MrShep

From gallery of MrShep

From gallery of MrShep

From gallery of MrShep

From gallery of MrShep

From gallery of MrShep


And as for tower block 4? “The Watchtower”? Mysteriously… my camera stopped working at tower 4.

Is this where all the residents of the Estate were inexplicably drawn?

To what end?

Perhaps you’ll have to visit to find out.

From gallery of MrShep


We visited MdZ Estate in Middlesbrough … where it’ll remain until the end of the month (completely free to visit, but bookings are required for covid safety purposes). After Middlesbrough it will appear… somewhere else in the UK; its movements are shrouded in mystery. But if this big blue vandalised shipping container does happen to appear in your locale, it’s well worth a visit. And do have a peek at room 505a for me, to check that my property is being kept in good disorder

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And you’re right, there is very little do with gaming here. Though — as I’ve mentioned before — sometimes the border between participative art and some kind of weird role-playing game gets a little bit blurry. This is definitely one of those times.
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Sun Oct 17, 2021 12:50 pm
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No joke

John Shepherd
United Kingdom
Ovington
Northumberland
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Board Game: error + delete


Yesterday I got in a bit of a mess with the blog moderation tools. Truth be told … I’ve never actually used the blog moderation tools before; it was a first time experience for me (which seems a bit of a surprise, considering how long I’ve been writing this thing!). To cut a long story short: somebody pointed out that I was a little bit guilty of enforcing gender stereotypes in the (to be honest… not-massively-funny-anyway) gag that I’d used as a post title. It was a fair cop. So I changed the title to refer to a "person" instead of a "man". And then the comments section got a bit messy.

EDIT: These next couple of paragraphs since proven untrue. Meh. I wasn't having a great day...

Anyway, it transpires that if you turn off commenting on a blog post which already has comments on it… all of the existing comments disappear. And won't come back again. Who knew? Clearly not me: I’d kind of assumed that all the still-intact comments up until that point would be frozen … in much the same way that forum threads get frozen when moderators intervene on those things.

But apparently not.

Oh well. We live and learn.

So: sincere apologies to anybody who spent time and effort feeding back on my opinion of MagLev metro yesterday. I know it’s annoying when those contributions disappear into the ether without so much as a by-your-leave. Definitely not my intention

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It was a funny old sort of a day yesterday. Amidst the slow-but-mostly-positive crawl back to normality… (face to face gaming - yay! …working in an office again… ya… oh, wait, not-yay!) some rather awful news came through about a work colleague. He’s the first person that I’ve known directly — not closely, but in a I've-been-in-umpteen-work-meetings-with-the-guy kind of way — to have had a fatal reaction to covid. And just to make things a little bit scarier: this was the second time that he’d caught it. He was a fair bit younger than me … no idea if he was vaccinated or not, or what other undisclosed health factors might’ve contributed… because, well, you don’t, do you? But yeah. It’s struck a bit close to home, that has. Definitely a reminder that we are not out of the woods yet.

Keep staying safe, folks!

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Lightening the mood a bit: I got hold of a copy of MicroMacro:Crime City a couple of days ago. I figured that we should probably see what all the fuss is about, as so many people have been raving about it for so long AND it got the SdJ award this year. And guess what? It is, actually, very very good. But we are burning through the content stupidly quickly (and already trying to ration our sessions to make it last!).

It’s definitely something that I’d consider to be game-adjacent, rather than an actual game-as-we-know-it. A brilliant piece of interactive art though, and I'm very impressed with it from that perspective alone. It would make an excellent picture to hang in a guest room (with a few of the clue cards nearby?) …though possibly at the risk of seeing slightly less of your guests over the course of their visit than you might otherwise.

Or I wonder if I can use it as a workshop icebreaker at work? Hmmmm…..

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Fri Aug 6, 2021 7:10 am
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Not quitting this. But quitting something...

John Shepherd
United Kingdom
Ovington
Northumberland
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Board Game: Quit


It seems odd that I’ve reached the age of 51, but never — in my entire working life — actually quit a job. (Unless you count quitting a self-employed job … but handing your notice in to yourself doesn’t seem like quite the same thing, somehow, does it?).

Maybe I’ve just been particularly fussy about the various jobs that I’ve taken, over the years -- or perhaps just lucky? -- because, as a rule, I tend to stick with them for a quite a while. And when I do depart a place of work, it’s invariably been because the place of work concerned decided to leave me, rather than vice-versa (To be honest, I suspect I've been the last man standing on far too many metaphorically-sinking ships over the course of my career!).

And yet, this week, for the first time ever… I quit a job. Handed my notice in. Resigned. Announced my intention to move on to pastures new.

And blimey… what a roller-coaster that was!

The position that I’m moving to is, professionally, a little bit of a step up from my current job … so I had to raise my game a bit, and do a fair bit of preparation in advance of the recruitment process …hence that period of unexplained-at-the-time radio silence not so long ago; I definitely didn’t have time to blog with all of the homework going on! And I’ll freely admit to some too-exhausted-to-blog evenings more recently, due to sleepless nights spent stressing over the outcome. But yeah… the process all seems to have paid off. So in a few weeks time, I’ll be embarking upon a new adventure. Mission accomplished!

I’m kind of surprised by just how much better I feel, mentally, with all of this done. There’s clearly been an awful lot of work-related stress spinning around in my head over recent months, even though I maybe didn’t register it as such at the time. The sensation of all of that stuff suddenly going away — almost like a switch has been flipped — has been a bit of a revelation, and a VERY unexpected feeling. But definitely a good one. I mean… I’m sure that the new job will bring its own distinct stresses in due course... because that's what jobs do. But for now, I’ll enjoy the whole prospect of a fresh start and exciting times!

Hopefully this “fresh start” won’t have an adverse effect on the blog … but I’m already anticipating my daily routine being disrupted a bit, and finding myself super-busy while I find my feet in the new role. So to be honest… I’m not entirely sure what’ll happen yet. But we’ll see how it goes.

Fingers crossed.

Even the best jobs don’t last forever.

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Fri Jul 30, 2021 7:10 am
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Gone Away

John Shepherd
United Kingdom
Ovington
Northumberland
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Just after 15:15, on the 10th March 2020, I dashed out of the office to catch a train … heading off to a 3-day stint at a trade fair in Manchester. At the time, I didn’t know that I wouldn’t be going back to the office for more than a year. Or for that matter… that I wouldn’t really be going back into the office at all.

The new normal has led the company to the conclusion that they don’t really need as much bricks and mortar as they once thought they needed, so our office is now being "let go". We’ll all be predominantly home-working from now on, with a smaller — more modern — set of offices and meeting rooms in a different part of town available when we need to go and do face-to-face things.

Which is a bit weird. When I dashed off to catch my train on that day — exactly one year ago as I start typing this — I had no idea that it was the end of an era for me; it’s a lovely old historic building, which I’ve been working in for 8 (minus 1) years now. I’ll be popping back at some point over the next few weeks, to pick up some personal belongings that I left behind… but everything in there seems to have already changed quite significantly, and most of our stuff has been dumped into a “lost property” room. So it won’t be the same as saying a proper goodbye to the place.

The situation has made me get very nostalgic about the “day in the life” post that I wrote in October of 2019 (which I rediscovered, by complete chance, very recently). At the time, it was just a bit of a jokey response to everybody else posting their Essen diaries during that week. But I look back on it now, and I kind of think… yeah… I’m glad that I documented that day. That commute, and that seat, at that desk — that’s never going to happen again. It’s good to have a reminder. (Maybe I should do a boring day-in-the-life-of-2021 post… just so that future-me can look back and think whatever thoughts are most appropriate to the situation a year or two from now...)

Anyway… about that “lost property” that I need to go and pick up. There’s definitely a copy of The Mind that I left behind. I know that my views on The Mind NOT being a very good game are considered heresy in these parts … but -- despite said opinions -- I found it to be a brilliant warm-up exercise for customer workshops, and my copy ended up living at work. So I need to find that. And I might have left my copy of Illusion in there too, as that was lined up as my next here’s-a-good-excuse-to-play-games-at-work candidate. Hopefully they’re still around — because I don’t think “lost in a property evacuation during a global pandemic” has been added to the ownership categories in the BGG database yet.

So: Tenuous theme of the day: Have you ever been unexpectedly separated from some of your games for a long period?

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Wed Mar 10, 2021 4:17 pm
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Happy Loo Year...

John Shepherd
United Kingdom
Ovington
Northumberland
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I had blogging plans for today... plans to sit back with my laptop, pour myself a nice drink, and have a proper clichéd ramble on about 2020 and the year to come. But then I (accidentally!) hit my hand with a hammer last night. And the resulting bandage and swollen index finger are not particularly conducive to long sessions of typing. Oops! shake

Still, if there's one thing that 2020 has taught us, it's to be prepared to change your plans at short notice!

So, instead -- as we finally look forward to flushing 2020 down the metaphorical toilet of history -- I leave you with this: some emergency betwixtmas toilet paper.

From gallery of MrShep


From gallery of MrShep


This product is presently deployed in the Shepherd family bathroom, where it is delivering top-notch seasonal reading to all participants. Sadly, our visitor numbers have been somewhat limited this festive season... but it seemed too good not to share with a wider audience.

Wherever you are, and whatever you're doing today, have a happy -- and safe -- new year's eve

See you in 2021...

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Thu Dec 31, 2020 11:58 am
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