It seems that each day as you walk through the city you spot another shop holding a “Closing Down Sale”. The news reporters don’t appear to tire of telling us how the “Current economic climate is forcing many independent traders to close down”, however each week I see yet another niche fast food store opening in the centre of Bristol. Within minutes walk of the office I can now get burritos from two different outlets, posh pasta from another and countless hand made sandwiches.
Until now the closure of these independent retailers hasn’t directly affected me, with the exception of having to choose a new food outlet. This was until yesterday at 5:00pm when the world of my friends and I changed forever!
For the last eight years a shop on the high street of Westbury-on-Trym has been the centre of our friendship group, it is where we all met and were we continued to meet up on a regular basis. Without it two of us would have been without jobs, and the rest of us would never have met.
All those years ago my friend Bob (@thillier_uk) and I walked into the new “Internet Gaming Centre” that we came to know as SNP (Surf n Play) with the intention of ‘seeing what it’s like’. Little did we know that it would become our second home for nearly a decade. Surf n Play closed it’s doors for the last time yesterday, with a dwindling number of customers and the rise of home gaming computers (and consoles) twinned with everyone tightening their belts financially it was only a matter of time.
Surf n Play has served the local people of Westbury well, providing them with internet access, multiplayer gaming and computer repair (and advice), and will be sorely missed by all it’s customers. But it will be missed most of all by its original crew: Kai-vana, Damingo, Shenny, IAmASheep, Dark_Pegasus, Dragon_Slayer, Mail_Man, MoukDan, Plank, Dazza and many more.
Rest in piece(s) Surf n Play.
On the wall of the downstairs toilet (bare with me here!) in Emma’s father’s house is a framed piece of paper signed by His Majesty the King George V. I’m sure that is something that very few people can say; the paper actually holds the hand written signature of King George from August 1915.
The paper is really the certificate of Commission of Emma’s Great Grandfather into His Highness’ Land Army. In it the King says that he wishes to:
“Appoint you to be an Officer in Our Land Forces from the Twenty Eighth day of July 1915. You are therefore carefully and diligently to discharge your Duty as such in the Rank of 2nd Lieutenant or in such higher Rank as We may from time to time hereafter be pleased to promote or appoint you to.”
I mentioned this paper to Emma’s Dad asking him what relation Mr Basil William Addison was to the family, in the discussion he mentioned that the family believed that Basil was awarded the Military Cross but they were never able to find out for sure. So after another helping of turkey sandwiches (nearly finished it now!) I took to my laptop in search of further information.
Through the power of Google and the indexed archives of both the London Gazette and the National Archives I was able to find out that Basil was in fact awarded the Military Cross in 1917. The London Gazette has been carefully indexed since its beginning; however it is now fully available online providing easy access to historical announcements and legal information. In it’s archives I found two pages from the Gazette detailing the award of the Military Cross to 2nd Lt Addison, one page announced the award another gave details as to why he was awarded the medal (something that the family were very interested in finding out). The National Archives allowed me (for a small fee of £2.00) to access a copy of Basil’s medal card detailing the award of the cross.
Copies of each document were available to download; they will now be printed and framed alongside his papers of commission and his picture. In that very dignified of places, the downstairs toilet!
As my previous post mentioned I have just bought a new laptop, I have also had several friends ask me about sourcing new laptops for them. As you can imagine the laptop I have purchased for myself is somewhat more powerful that those I would suggest for a standard user. There are of course minimum specifications that people should look for, memory, processor, etc. I try to encourage people to find a laptop within their price range and then to compare it to the next model up. If you can afford the next model up then you should go for it, you won’t regret it in the future.
I have been entertaining a theory for a while regarding the impact of security software on a machine over time. As I have a little spare time over the holidays I thought I would do a tiny bit of research on the topic. So whilst I sit and half watch Terminator 2, I have been googling some historical figures regarding memory usage of Antivirus programs.
Memory use is just one of the factors that would affect your computer; it is however the easiest to measure and as such is the one that I have started with. One of the most popular Antivirus programs is AVG by Grisoft, back in 2009 it used a tiny 14.7Mb of memory (on average) raising to 29.6Mb in the 2011 iteration of the software. It is understandable that AV software has to improve as time goes on as the threats become more complex so must the detection mechanisms. Alongside the increase in memory use the installation footprint has increased substantially from 188Mb in 2009 to a whopping 482Mb. The same can be seen in the industry level Antivirus solution ESet NOD that has increased from 44Mb to 66Mb of memory in the same time period.
I see this “security drain” in practice every time I spring clean someone’s machine, just by updating the security software you start to notice a decline in system performance. Unfortunately there is no real trade off between security and performance, without a working security suite your machine will get slower as you start to become affected by malicious software. This is where the “up-sourcing” I mentioned earlier becomes important, when you look at a new machine don’t just look for one that ticks all the boxes now, look for one that is slightly better than what you need. Perhaps another GB of Memory, or a few more digits on the processor speed, you won’t regret it later.
Oh and when you do go looking for new computers be sure to check out TopCashBack first, I received over £50 cash back on my new laptop on top of the discounts I managed to find! And if anyone wants any advice on their new machine feel free to ask!
But what you are interested in is not be getting a new laptop, its the discounts that I managed to get! So if you are buying a new Dell Laptop (or desktop) in the January sales pay attention now! Firstly via topcashback.co.uk I will hopefully be getting around 8% cash-back on my purchase. The main savers however are two voucher codes that I discovered:
+ J3$N26XFR2C32K – This gave me free shipping saving £19.99.
+ VF55NVR605K5M7 – This gave me 15% off the total price!! Saving me nearly £150.00.
So a new Dell XPS laptop with a ticket price of £1,522.00 minus Dell’s “discount deals” of around £630.00 (upgraded RAM, etc) ended up costing me £823.64. The total saving being nearly 50% I feel that I have obtained even more Christmas presents!
So if you are thinking of buying a new Dell Laptop try these vouchers at the checkout!
On the subject of presents there is a niggling voice in the back of my mind at this moment, it is trying to convince me that it is not to early to open one of my many bottles of Christmas scotch (I got six bottles of varying size). However as I have to drive the family (and frail old Granny) to the hotel for Christmas Lunch I suppose that drinking would be a bad idea! Instead I have settled for a bite of Christmas thorntons chocolate to tide me over until the starter!
I hope that you all got something that you wished for this Christmas, and more importantly that you got to see the smile on a loved ones face when they opened the present you picked out for them. We have a range of gifts here; from framed drawings of Bristol (mine from Emma) to farting silly putty (Emma’s to her father!!) with all manners of Christmas edibles in between. However reading through twitter this morning I had to stop and think about those that didn’t get what they deserved, as bad as it sounds I pray that the homeless shelters are full this Christmas. As if they were not there would be someone out in the cold, going with out turkey this year. The online newsreels are already talking of bombings at Church’s in far off lands, not everyone got what they dreamed of this year. I do not say this to remove the Christmas magic from you all, I say it so that when you sit with your family this year and enjoy a well-earned glass of sherry over your feast you simply raise your glass in silence to those who are not there.
My the spirits look down on you all this Christmas where ever you are, be it Bristol town or Helmand Province. To each and every one of you I wish a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
This Christmas will be a little different for me, I will be spending it down in Falmouth with Emma’s family. It is also her Granny’s 90th birthday at New Years so we have to celebrations. A little holiday in Falmouth is just what we both need, and I have been looking forward to it for some time!
I want to share a couple of photos with you all that I took this evening after reading an article about photography at Christmas over on ‘Digital Photography School‘. Before I do I just want to share one brilliant piece of news that Emma (@martianseraph) and I received yesterday; a year and a half after graduating (and a year and a half of searching) Emma got a call offering her a full-time job!! She starts in January, and it’s a great early Christmas present for us both, the extra income will give us the chance to save for our wedding!
The Coca Cola Christmas truck visited Bristol again this year, giving out mini-cans of Coke to everyone with a good helping of Christmas cheer.
I am still working on my HDR skills, my night-time skills are still lacking so my apologies for the quality of this image.
It will be no great surprise to those of you that know me when I say that I can often be found in a good Pub. The definition of a ‘Good Pub’ can cause as much controversy as a banker’s bonus and as much argument as a discussion on who’s turn it is to do the dishes! We all have our own opinions but something that I hope we can all agree on is that Bristol has a great range of Pubs, many of which have been featured in the CAMRA Good Beer Guide.
Two of my regular pubs feature highly in the Good Beer Guide, the nearest to my home and work is the ‘Severn Stars’. The ‘Severn Stars’ has been voted as ‘Pub of the Year’ in Bristol two years running, and even gives us CAMRA members a discount! The stars isn’t to everyone’s taste, there is no food (unless you count pickled eggs) and the floors could do with a bit of a mop! But for a good pint of ale straight after work it can be hard to beat. The stars changes it’s range of beers almost daily and the barman can always suggest one if you aren’t sure.
My other regular is the one that I call my local pub, although not geographically local it is my most frequented. The Victoria Inn in Westbury-on-Trym is still my favourite pub; it has consistently served great beer and good food as long as I can remember (well beer since I was eighteen anyway). The Victoria is a Wadsworth pub so it mostly serves their beers, not that I am complaining as I am a lover of Henry’s IPA, however it has both cider and a few lighter options on tap. The pub has stared in the Guide for many years and also holds the ‘Cask Marque‘. The food is cooked fresh to order on the premises (no microwave lasagna there!) by their chief with everything from a gigantic mixed grill to various fish products, they even have a range of Pie Minister Pies. The pub’s food even landed it runners-up in the Observer Food Awards this year. Every other week they hold a Pub Quiz (sometimes hosted by me if they are short-handed) aimed more at fun than head scratching.
The Victoria is not only helping to bring back real ale, but it has also been working on bringing back a bit of community spirit! They recently took over a piece of scrub land alongside the pavement opposite the pub. The community came together in an act of ‘Guerilla Gardening’ and ripped out weeds and roots before planting hundreds of spring bulbs. All this was rewarded by a free dinner at the pub and a few pints!
Back to the subject of what makes a good pub, to me it is important that they serve proper beer and that the environment is right. When I go to a pub to share a jug with my friends I intend not only to share a drink with them but to share conversation; as such a pub with blaring music or sport on TV is a definite no. When a quick drinking session drags on, food becomes important (regardless of whether you think “eating’s cheating”) so a decent range of good food is a benefit to any ale house. All of those things are what attracts me to the Victoria Inn, I really would recommend a visit!
I have just completed one of my joyous weekly tasks, that of cleaning out my pet rats. It has been a week since they were last cleaned out and to be brutally honest they hard started to smell a little like poo! Whilst I was cleaning out the base of their cage in the shower I realised that I haven’t written anything about them for months, they wouldn’t be impressed if they knew!
We have had our little pets for around five months now, it seems like so much longer, they have become an integral part of our lives. When I get up in the morning they are always awake waiting by the bars to see me, sometimes they are even the first ones I talk to in the morning (if @martianseraph hasn’t woken up yet!). Every evening before we go to bed the little rat people are allowed to have a run across the sofa with us, they seem to know when we are preparing for bed (I think they realise when the TV is turned off) and climb up the cage just at the right moment.
When we first got Kryten and Felix I wasn’t to sure about rats, Emma loved them so I agreed to get them; they are cute after all! I had two pet hamsters as a child, as much as I loved Rimmer and Kochanski I have to say that rats are so much more interesting and enjoyable as pets. I don’t know what the science community would have to say about it but I think that rats display a definite level of intelligence. Sometimes it almost looks like they smile when you walk into their field of vision, other times when we have been out for the night they seem so sad until we reach into the cage (at which point they become ecstatic!). For anyone living in a confided environment such as a flat, or somewhere without a garden rats are a brilliant pet. They don’t take up much space, they aren’t expensive and they are friendly! Contrary to popular belief they are clean animals, they spend most of their waking time either eating or cleaning themselves!! You do have to buy at least two as they are social animals, Felix and Kryten do fight sometimes but not in a nasty way. On the other hand when Felix was sick recently I watched Kryten bring him food, and if you knew Kryten’s food hounding habits that would shock you!
If you do want to think about getting some pet rats I recommend visiting your local Pets at Home, they are friendly people who know a lot about their animals. Whenever we visit the Pets at Home store near Ikea the lady we bought the rats from asks about them! The store also seems to be one of the cheaper places to buy most of the things you will need. The basic of which are a Cage, Food, Bedding and a few toys. They still have the same deal on as when we bought the cage, for around £90 you get a good sized multi level cage with several accessories (including a hammock for them to sleep in), around a months supply of specialist food and a fortnights supply of bedding, The rats themselves were £15 for the two. With the initial cost out of the way I find that £10 worth of litter lasts for about 5-6 weeks and a £8 bag of food lasts a good 2 months at the least.
I get the sense that this post may be getting a little close to the TL:DR point so I will leave it at that, if you want to know more about keeping pet rats (and the places to acquire things for them) keep an eye for a post / page in the next week.