Review of Secret Cinema: The Empire Strikes Back

So, despite having countless articles, stories and other random pieces sitting the drawer ready to be published, I have, unexpectedly, decided to ignore them all and update the blog with something I did last night. The reason? At the time of writing there are still four weeks of Secret Cinema’s “Empire Strikes Back” event left and, well, if you’re a Star Wars fan you need to go. Actually if you’re not a Star Wars fan you need to go. This is an astonishing event and worth every penny of it’s hefty price tag.

It’s tricky to review in detail because it’s secret by name and secret by nature. The location is not revealed to you until 48 hours before your departure (though it’s no real secret that it’s in London somewhere), no phone or camera are allowed at any time, and all correspondence is in ‘code’. In truth, as much as I want to tell you all the details and gush about it, it’s far, far better if I don’t. Better for you, that is, the surprises should be surprises. I may do an updated blog after the event has finished with all the details if there’s any demand, but we’ll see. Continue reading “Review of Secret Cinema: The Empire Strikes Back”

The old man, the cafe and me.

Simple little tale and completely and utterly true. It happened in Quantum Web Café no more than two weeks ago, a web café I own in Reading. Although fully staffed, I sometimes I work the shop floor myself to keep my hand in. It’s also a great way to get real feedback and really understand any issues that the guys may have raised.

It was a warm sunny morning and I’d not long opened the store. I do like working the shop floor sometimes as I get to meet the customers, the vast majority of whom are fun, respectful, polite or at the very least harmless. The grumpy or difficult ones are actually few and far between, possibly because we’re pretty laid back ourselves. There are many regulars both for internet and just lunches etc, but everyday we also see new customers coming through, which is great.

This particular morning, a very elderly gentleman shuffled into the café. He was probably in his late eighties or early nineties, but well dressed, neatly groomed and clearly still mobile, albeit with the aid of a walking stick. I gave him my usual cheery ‘good morning’ and asked if he needed any help. Continue reading “The old man, the cafe and me.”

Caught out – by today’s youth …

Something happened yesterday that inspired me to write this post. It’s completely true, and, whilst not exactly a world changing event, it was so entirely unexpected and against the grain of my own self-programmed stereotypes, I had to share it.

You may remember from our Facebook page that the BBC came in and did some filming for the ‘Your Money’ programme a few days ago. This isn’t that unusual, a film crew from one of the big four often appear for something or other, and this shoot was nothing out of the ordinary. The article was about promoting the discounts you can get through your Reading Bus Pass or NFC enabled mobile phone at Quantum (and other retailers in Reading) using Molo. If you don’t know about this, by the way, you should really check it out because if you DO have a Reading Bus Pass, you’ll already have all the offers around the town centre loaded on it. But anyway … Continue reading “Caught out – by today’s youth …”

E-on, Scammers, and the guy who called back.

Eon Energy love me. They must do. they call me at least once a day. Every single day and have done for at least three years. I always know it’s them because they always start the call in a thick Indian accent and say “Hello, can I speak to Meester Dee-Urn pliz?”

In the early days I used to politely request they take me off their calling list, or make a joke of it, or enquire why they kept calling me. After a few weeks, this had progressed to pretending I was someone else, imitating them on the phone, speaking in various accents from around the world, speaking gibberish, repeating word for word what they were saying until they gave up, pretending to be a burglar who happened to answer the phone, going to get ‘Meester Dee-Urn’ and then leaving the phone on the table for twenty minutes at a time, leading them on and pretending to be really interested and then say ‘just kidding mate’ at the end, or just hanging up if I was busy. All to no avail. Continue reading “E-on, Scammers, and the guy who called back.”

So which is it? Quarks or Quantum?

Confused? Don’t be!

Remember how ‘Marathon’ rebranded to ‘Snickers?’ or ‘Jif’ rebranded to ‘Cif’? or ‘Oil of Ulay’ to ‘Oil of Olay’? Well, this is absolutely nothing like that.

First, those rebrands were all completely ridiculous, cost thousands, even millions, of pounds, second, they were unnecessary and even annoying from a consumer’s point of view and, finally, these were products that are purchased by thousands of people daily. we, on the other hand, have one café in the centre of Reading which serves four people daily, half of whom have come in by accident because they are looking for the cobblers that closed down ten years ago.

Ok, so that last bit may be a tiny bit understated for comedy effect, but the fact is the café has definitely changed name. I can prove it too … Continue reading “So which is it? Quarks or Quantum?”

The King and The Magic Well

My daughter, Anya who was nearly five at the time, had been asking me if I would come into her school and tell some stories to her class. Of course, I really wanted to do that for her, but these days it’s not easy with all the regulations that are involved. The whole process took several weeks by the time I had been CRB’d (successfully, I’m happy to report) and her teacher and I had managed to match our schedules. But finally, it was on!

My hour fell in ‘Healthy Week’ and the day before I came in, Anya’s teacher asked if I could read a story about being healthy. Dutifully, I looked round to find a story that would be interesting and entertaining for the kids, where the message wasn’t overly simple and obviously political (these kids, I have learned, are very smart and can see through this easily!) and was, preferably, one they hadn’t heard before. A couple of hours later, I hadn’t managed to find one that fitted all these criteria. I was, very slightly, panicking. I couldn’t possibly turn up unprepared, especially as Anya had been telling everyone for days that her ‘daddy was coming in’. Continue reading “The King and The Magic Well”

Innocence and Dancing Ducks

It’s been some time since I’ve actually contributed to the blog, although there are copious pages of scribbling waiting to be converted into readable text in due course. But today, my little girl inspired me to write a story telling the world what happened to her this typical Tuesday.

Anya loves to dance … all the time

It was 4.45 when the Outlook reminder came up to tell us that Anya’s second MMR jab was due at 5pm. We’d forgotten of course, but luckily the surgery was only a 5 minutes’ drive away, so it was all still possible. As I looked at Clare’s face, I could tell she was not keen on taking her daughter to be stabbed in the arm twice, which is why I had been volunteered for almost all injections to date. It simply upset her too much.

I glanced at Anya who was sitting at the dining room table with grandma colouring in a thickly lined image with a large blue pen, oblivious to the discussion concerning her veins that was going on a few feet away. Realising that we only had minutes to spare and there was going to be no mind changing, I leapt into action. Continue reading “Innocence and Dancing Ducks”

Destiny vs embarrassment

This is simply a retelling one of those moments in life where you become aware of something and have an urge to take a specific action. The trouble is that the action you want to take is one of those that you normally only see in a scene from a film, which always either ends well for the hero of that scene, or, by design, feeds the story along in a specific way for a specific purpose. How many times have we all seen or witnessed something and wanted to be the one who intervened in an ‘I’m Spartacus’ attention-demanding way? How many times have we afterwards said to people who experienced the same thing “I was going to say this” or “I was going to do that” only to have them reply “me too!” and yet none of us did. Trouble is, it takes some serious balls to that, but even that’s not really the problem. It’s more a question of doubt – could the action create more problems that it solves? Could it perceived incorrectly and therefore have the wrong motives assigned? What if the information you’re working on has been gotten ‘illegally?’ Where do you stand then? Continue reading “Destiny vs embarrassment”

The funny side of terror suspects

It’s very difficult, of course, to write a story that captures the moment of extreme laughter in a way that is meaningful to a reader sitting, well, where you are now. I bet you’ve tried it yourself, explaining to someone who was in no way connected to the event you are recounting, the circumstances that led to ‘everyone laughing hysterically’ only to be greeted with a polite smile on reaching the punchline. This is usually followed by a slight pause and either party offering the universal ‘get out of jail free’ card of ‘you had to be there’.

Even knowing that my efforts will therefore most likely be in vain,  I still feel that I have to share this moment with you. For the people involved, it is still, even all these years later, oft referred to, and invariably makes me smile just thinking about it, which is exactly what is happening right now as my fingers dance over the keyboard. Continue reading “The funny side of terror suspects”

Measure twice, cut once

Originally written a couple of weeks after my son, Jed’s, birth this was an accurate account of what happened and the unexpected complications we experienced. An edited version was published in one of the Maternity publications, but I forget which now. It’s long, but then a lot happened! Enjoy!

Measure twice, Cut once

A less than routine birth from a partner’s perspective

It was never routine for us. My partner, Clare, had had major surgery some ten years previously for a serious Crohn’s attack – a rather nasty, incurable and, in my opinion, completely pointless infection of the intestine and bowels – and been told that child bearing could be life threatening for her. This was a belief long held by her family who were visibly shaken when they found out she was pregnant. A little more complicated, sure, but not life threatening if all went well. All we needed to do was avoid a C section to be safe.

Hah. Continue reading “Measure twice, cut once”