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greenierexyboy

greenierexyboy

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I shall return and catch up with ratings when I'm old...so, in about nine days then

Reviews written

since 27/10/2007

82

Concept II Concept 2 Rower 03/09/2013

Row, row, row your static exercise thing...

Concept II Concept 2 Rower I am someone who has spent over a quarter of a century lurching dramatically between wanton slovenliness and the most manic of fitness fanaticism, and when you couple this with my barely repressed hoarding tendencies there's a degree of inevitability in the amount of sports equipment I've acquired during those years. Golf clubs languishing in the attic. Fell running shoes secreted at the back of the wardrobe. But constantly on display throughout my era of self-delusion (and periodically subjected to the most vicious of abuse from its owner) is my Concept Two rowing (mine is a Model C; the current version is the D) machine, an ever-reliable implement of cardio-vascular improvement and absolute agony. The Concept Two is easy to assemble (proof? I assembled it, and my DIY incompetence is legendary) and straightforward to maintain, a periodic dab of oil (supplied with it) and the mopping up of several oceans of sweat having seen it right for well over ten years. If the rower is in use it requires a space roughly ten feet long and wide enough for the user to splay out their elbows; the sensible will decide upon extra provision to ward off claustrophobia, or to allow for some nearby entertainment/distraction. (When I used to be a five-nights-a-week-at-the-gym-bore the line of huge television screens in front of the rowing machines would have a constant diet of Mariah Carey and Westlife videos on repeat, as if to encourage you to row even more frantically in the hope of getting ...

Jason X (DVD) 26/08/2013

'In space, no-one can hear you etc etc...'

Jason X (DVD) It's surprising (and faintly depressing) that of the three juggernaut stalk 'n' slash horror franchises of the late 70s/early 80s it's the most limited and unimaginative one that turned out to have the most legs. For sure, they all ended up being churned out in a creatively moribund manner, but the initial entries in the 'Halloween' and 'A Nightmare on Elm Street' series were highly memorable little flicks made by skilled directors with an innate understanding of what did and didn't work in the genre, and blessed/cursed with villains who were genuinely scary before over-exposure (or in the case of Freddy Krueger that and a terrible addiction to despatching every unpleasant teenager with an equally unfunny gag) neutered them. If one wishes to make musical analogies then 'Halloween' was like Kraftwerk: all technical perfection and precision execution. 'A Nightmare on Elm Street' was like the late era Beatles after the hallucinogenics kicked in, or Captain Beefheart. And 'Friday the 13th'? That, unfortunately, is just like Status Quo. It started out rubbish. It stayed rubbish. Repeat. Ad nauseam. 'So, What Were You Going To Do When You Grew Up? Once Jason Voorhees put in his memorable first appearance towards the end of the first film and assumed centre stage, the Friday 13th movies cheerfully settled down to their standard lakeside setting and devotion to the idea that a stalk 'n' slash movie can do without the stalking and just have a large bloke in a hockey mask pretty ...

Scarpa Manta Mountain Boot 31/01/2012

Long Walk To...Chelmsford

Scarpa Manta Mountain Boot It was a sad day in Scotland's Southern Uplands when my trusty Scarpa Fitzroys decided that 15 years and countless adventures were enough. My boots and I had pitted themselves against short and (very, very) long mountain walks, endured winter mountaineering and tackled some quite tricky rock climbing, but here on the benignly snowy slopes of White Coomb was the first time that they'd been the weak link rather than me. As I cautiously picked my way down to Loch Skeen, trying not to swish any further standing water through the enormous hole granting free access to my right foot, I was acutely aware of an imminent holiday in Ireland involving a lot of mountains; replacements needed urgent consideration. ‘Trek across the space…’ Since I last needed to buy any boots the market has sprawled outward somewhat, as outdoor footwear became more specialised and new players (often manufacturers of more conventional sports shoes) entered the fray. Despite this, a bit of research allied to my natural conservatism (when I'm buying something in a niche market, I tend to prefer companies that cater largely for that market alone rather than anyone who's trying to keep too many digits in an excess of pies) led me back to Scarpa. The Fitzroy, alas, was no longer available (or I'd have just bought another pair) and the closest match was the Manta. This model had been available back in 1995 too, but at the time I'd gone for the Fitzroy's greater abilities on rock. In an ideal world I'd have ...

Hasbro Trivial Pursuit Genus Edition Bitesize 29/12/2011

Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition...

Hasbro Trivial Pursuit Genus Edition Bitesize For those of us spending the majority of our waking hours earning an honest crust, the onset of Yuletide is a time of mixed emotions. You might be gradually winding down as holiday mode gradually takes hold; equally, you may be beset with fervour as you try to get everything finished in time. You may have social events with a whole army of people with whom you wouldn’t normally socialise, be buried under an avalanche of hastily scribbled Christmas cards and somehow acquire enough chocolate to make the town of Bournville sink into the Midlands. And more fraught still, you might have a Secret Santa... I was once given a carnivorous plant as a Secret Santa. It died obviously, what with me being about as useful in the garden as soluble decking, but I appreciated the effort. Plus, that present stands out a mile amidst some of the ‘witty’ detritus for which I’ve felt obliged to look grateful (or at least vaguely amused) over the years: ten copies of OK! Magazine for instance, or 45 tins of Tesco Value marrowfat peas. And the worst insult of all: a Brotherhood of Man CD. (A slight I repaid the following year by buying the guilty party ‘Fandabidozi: Our Amazing True Story’ by the Krankies, a book whose mere cover is toxic). Fear, surprise, ruthless efficiency, an almost fanatical devotion to the Pope... But this year my anonymous benefactor had been paying attention, and my tearing open the obviously-female-wrapped package revealed ‘Trivial Pursuit Genus Edition Bite-size’. For ...

Nun Bowling 23/12/2011

Nun shall pass...

Nun Bowling ‘There are but three true sports--bullfighting, mountain climbing, and motor-racing. The rest are merely games’ – Attributed (probably incorrectly) to Hemingway Even if old Ernest was indeed the source of this quote, it’s evident that he spent too much time in Parisian brothels taking part in games (mere or otherwise) to notice an obvious fourth example...something that fuses such weighty issues as religion, women’s rights and existential futility into the sort of mighty metaphor for life that all great sports represent. I am, of course, referring to nun bowling. ‘You don't feel as embarrassed around them as you do with real women’ Nun bowling comes in a magical little box with the following contents: 10 nun pins, each about an inch-and-a-half high, cold and indifferent to the guilt and misery they have inflicted. A fecking great (well...about the height of the nuns anyway) marble with which to knock them down. A 32 page booklet explaining the rules, the satisfaction to be derived from knocking down a coven (oops, I mean ‘convent’) of nuns, and how it’s alright because the nuns as Christians are duty bound to forgive you, or something. ‘They were only nuns...’ Play will hold no mysteries for anyone acquainted with the more mundane form of the activity as practised by several million teenagers making a single bottle of WKD last for hours on end in several thousand leisure complexes every Friday night: they are basically the same, except you’re knocking down nuns. ...

Cribbage Set 20/12/2011

Go Johnny Go Go Go Go!

Cribbage Set Not Bamalama-Fizz-Vaj... In case you didn’t know, Cribbage is a card game using a standard deck for two or more players. In my opinion, it’s a card game for two OR four players (in which the four would play as two pairs), as I’d imagine that regardless of what some folk might say it’d be useless with three, a bit like REM. And more than four? Convoluted and tedious in the extreme. Anyway, hands are dealt, cards are thrown away and kept, players worship the number 15 and the lesser deity that is the number 31, they try to contrive pairs, runs and flushes, points are scored and being the dealer is usually an advantage but sometimes isn’t. And occasionally ‘his nob’ puts in an appearance. A more lucid version of a game might go as follows: # The objective of the game is to reach 121 points or 61 if you think the other person is better than you and you want to maximise your chances of winning. # Players cut the deck for the honour of dealing: after this, they will take turns in doing so. # Each player is dealt a hand. If there are two players, they’ll get six cards: if there’s four players (playing as two pairs), they’ll get five. Then each player throws cards (two each if it’s a two player game, one each for four) into another hand called the 'crib', which will form the dealer’s second hand when the hands are scored. # The top card in the deck is turned upright. This will form the fifth card in all the hands in this round of the game. # Players now lay their cards in turn ...

Horn Head, Letterkenny 12/08/2011

Round the Horn(s)

Horn Head, Letterkenny The British are by tradition an island race, a nation that does like to be beside the seaside. This is handy seeing as we are actually living on an island, but what (if we're brutally honest) is less handy is the seaside we've been landed with. Obviously it's not ALL disappointing (Beachy Head, North Devon, Arisaig, etc) but for a lot of us a very important part of our day trips or holidays is pretending that places like Skegness, Blackpool and Great Yarmouth aren't actually utterly useless. Some of us aren't very good at pretending, and so we tend to spend our free time slightly further afield. And if I go to County Donegal, it really is 'slightly' with a small 's'. A couple of hours past Belfast brings you to a dementedly diverse coastal wonderland at the northern extreme of Ireland, where titanic Atlantic breakers lap upon the most gorgeous of sweeping beaches, where peeling seabirds whirl and dervish about the hugest of towering cliffs, and where the 'characterful' locals eke a fascinating ongoing existence. On Your Shore The most staggering scenery in the county is in the south-west, where the horrifically beautiful declivities of Slieve League rear almost 2000ft above the waves (*cough*, see my previous review, *cough*), but as you continue clockwise towards the border at Derry the visual feast scarcely eases off. As the coast gradually turns the corner around Bloody Foreland one grows used to the inevitability of another golden shoreline, one more wildly remote ...

Grianán Ailigh 02/08/2011

The Not That Well Hidden Fortress

Grianán Ailigh The Circle Maybe it's me, but as an Englishman driving around Ireland I can't help but feel that the Emerald Isle's visible ancient history is so much more magical than our own. This isn't to say that the Stonehenges of this kingdom aren't impressive, but to me they're suggestive less of sorcery than of primitive science and lots of Druids, and it's hard to get excited by a sect that apparently counts Ken Barlow among its number. Over the water they have Newgrange, Gallarus Oratory, fairytale monasteries and cold stone tombs, all of which are viewed through a mystic meteorological veil that makes you think that Cúchulainn might drop round for a spot of stew at any moment. Even Tara, the ancient seat of Irish kings, seems otherworldly despite looking like a badly maintained municipal golf course these days. And then there's a lot of ancient stone forts, and if you're cruising along the main N13 Letterkenny to Derry road in the north-east of Donegal wondering what that circular walled thing on top of that hill on the right is...well, you're looking at one of the finest examples of the genre. The Grianán Ailigh (which translates as 'Sunny Place'...those ancient Irish kidders) is sited about five miles outside of (London)Derry, just inside the Republic. As such the travel links are unusually good for Ireland; buses run along the N13 to within two miles of the fort (walking distance?) from where minor roads lead up to the site (as ever in Ireland, a car remains the sensible way ...

A'Mhaighdean 06/03/2011

'And I would walk 500 miles...' (ish)

A'Mhaighdean For all outdoors folk in this country, for anyone with eyes to behold the hills and legs with which to climb them, the spectre of Scotland will eventually materialise. Even if you don't begin there, it's a midge-infested inevitability that it's where you'll end up. Moors and mountains, steep slopes and beetling crags... they're everywhere. (Unless you live in the north-east or in the bit between Glasgow and Edinburgh, and even those areas look veritably Dolomitic for those of us domiciled in the Fens). This unfair upland discrepancy in the Scots' favour is painfully illustrated by the fact that England, Wales and Ireland combined have (depending on definition) between 17 and 21 mountains over 3000ft in height; Scotland has 283. You may or may not be aware that those 283 mountains are known colloquially as the Munros, after Sir Hugh T. Munro who first catalogued them. ’Compleating’ (sic) the ascents of them all is something of an obsession for a large number of hillwalkers, a feat to be accomplished over a lifetime or a single (somewhat substantial...the record is 66 days) walk. Whilst some may decry this slightly trainspottery approach to the outdoors (devoting one's self exclusively to Munro-bagging ignores some wonderful mountains that fail to reach the magic height), it can't be denied that you'll know the Scottish Highlands a lot better by the time you've finished. You'll also have become painfully aware that the Munros weren't created equal, and once one gets past ...

Collected Ghost Stories - M. R. James 31/01/2011

'Who is this who is coming?'

Collected Ghost Stories - M. R. James I’m forty this year...I’m allowed a little existentialist angst. ‘nothing but bones and tendons...’ As individuals...hell, as a species too, our grip upon life is fleeting, and that grasp is constantly subject to countless obvious-or-insidious attempts to loosen it. Remember that time you almost stepped out in front of a Number Ten bus? Remember all that food that you ate beyond its 'Use By' date because 'it'll probably be alright...fingers crossed'? Consider the constantly mutating armies of germs and viruses continually seeking the weaknesses in our ever-deteriorating immune systems...think of the vagueries of a climate that warms an entire planet while dispensing the sort of cold snap that leaves your face marbled to numbness should you even step outside your front door. And laugh at the bloke who chose the middle of said mini-ice age to change cars from a front to a (powerful) rear-wheel drive model. Most of us are troubled on some level by the impermanence of our being...perhaps that's why we're so hung up on pondering whether this is all there is. Maybe our exit from this life isn't so much 'ashes to ashes, dust to dust' as 'Mr Acorah...can you hear me?' All civilisations and cultures throughout recorded history have constructed their own legends and tales of the spirit world. The Mesopotamians believed in entities with the memories and personalities of their living selves, accorded a position in the netherworld and offered food and drink by their ...

Write About Love - Belle & Sebastian 29/11/2010

A lanky English writes about...

Write About Love - Belle & Sebastian Many years ago we had Cool Britannia and easy credit, and we didn't really have the Internet and Simon Cowell. The latter has continued history's habit of putting evil in a black shirt, ruining both popular music and popular television in the process...and the former? Well, as you fire up Google and discover another thing you never knew before Webcrawlers...do you ever think that we've lost something with all this access to information. Don't you wish there were a few secrets left in the world? Well, a long time ago, in a Glasgow far far away (I'm here all week), in an age before the Internet put all human knowledge at your fingertips and thus wrenched all the mystery out of everything...there was a lovely little band called Belle & Sebastian. They played the most gorgeously wistful chamber pop imaginable, with chiming guitars, plaintive keyboards and orchestral flourishes, all topped off by the remarkable cracked choirboy's voice of Stuart Murdoch, purity seemingly tarnished by unwanted Catholic knowledge as he sang of childhood and small-scale domestic drama while somehow making the kitchen-sink minutiae of Clydeside sound impossibly glamorous. ’Wrapped Up In Books’ The music was SO good (and in particular the first two albums, 'Tigermilk' and 'If You're Feeling Sinister’, ostentatiously adorned as they are with amazing moments of timeless beauty) that the initiates were desperate to know more. But the band weren’t playing ball, and their steadfast refusal to ...

The Mourne Mountains, Northern Ireland 02/09/2010

Fishing in the Sky

The Mourne Mountains, Northern Ireland When we've got all we want, we're as quiet as can be Where the mountains of Mourne sweep down to the sea. Huddled into a squashed salient of land just inside Northern Ireland, the Mountains of Mourne do indeed sweep down to the sea. But that's not all they do and have done. More than most mountain groups they have shaped and influenced the lives of men: their slopes have been farmed for generations; their hollows have been dammed to water the city of Belfast, and their granite rocks quarried for roads and houses. And, as in Percy French's classic immigrant song quoted above, they have been culturally and socially inspiring: a regional symbol more resounding than the cranes of Harland and Wolff, Gerry Adams' beard or the Rev Ian Paisley's jabbing index finger. The summits bear witness to Northern Ireland's divided years, with lyrical Irish names paying tribute to Catholic saints (Slieve Donard) and more prosaic English monikers (such as Rocky Mountain, Cove Mountain, Hen Mountain, Pigeon Rock Mountain and Cock Mountain) describing the landforms, assorted birds and Bono. The Mournes pack a lot of mountain into their compact 100 square miles. They rise straight from the water (as anything sweeping down to the sea is wont to do) in steep steep slopes to the lofty crests of the High Mournes, before plunging down to deep valleys sheltered by soaring ridges and guarded by granite castles. This splendid land is buttressed from the Irish interior by the ‘Back of the Mournes’: less ...

Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain - Pavement 16/07/2010

'We need secrets crets crets crets crets crets...'

Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain - Pavement Musical taste: it’s a weird, chaotic thing. Apparently similar people can like the most diametrically opposed sounds. And there are few environments that bear this out more than an office, a melting pot where individuals who may otherwise never have met are thrown together in a common corporate cause. I’m lucky. I work in a great office where we all get on, we’d run through a brick wall for each other and the craic is excellent. It’s so good that I’m prepared to overlook my colleagues’ cultural blindspots, such as Canadian Gav’s apparent belief that he’s patriotically obliged to stick up for Michael Bublé and Celine Dion, or the way The Other Peter gleefully showed me a picture from the BBC website of him and his missus enthusiastically singing along…in the front row of a Simply Red gig. And the fact that none of them ever seem to have heard of anything that I like. Fight This Generation Just about every band that ever broke up is reforming these days. Even Cast (nobody knows why). Therefore I was pleased but not surprised when 90s slacker kings Pavement announced a reunion tour this year. A stolen ten minutes of non-work office webtime duly netted some tickets and resulted in several workmates querying what had me so excited. ‘I’m going to see Pavement at Brixton’ I said. This prompted the inevitable response… ‘Who?’ ‘Do you know The Fall? They kinda sound like a cuddly version of them.’ (A collective) ‘No’. ‘Remember ‘Song 2’ by Blur? The ‘WOO-HOO!’ ...

Gap of Dunloe, Killarney 17/06/2010

Who's Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses?

Gap of Dunloe, Killarney For those seeking solitude, there are few finer places to indulge the search than in Ireland's south west. At the risk of writing the script to 'Far And Away' all over again (not that I was the guilty party the first time, you understand) it's a peerlessly atmospheric land of wind and rain, of ancient history and unique tradition, and possesses an apparently narcotic ambience that can cause men to go on strike in protest against forced nappy-wearing in the equine population. There are countless magnificent places to escape the crowds. Places like the cliff-girt gash of the Anascaul Glen, with its loughs, waterfalls, mad legends of Cuchulainn and man-eating midges...the sombre Black Valley, hiding its tragic history behind the huge half-umbrella of Macgillycuddy's Reeks and a general veil of man-eating midges...and the gushing spout of the Hungry Hill Waterfall, concealed in plain sight on the south flank of the Beara peninsular but guarded by Size Zero access roads and man-eating midges. So, if there are lots of locations where one isn't going to be lost in the throng or accidentally battered to death by the manoeuvring elbows of photographers...where the hell are those crowds? There's a huge amount of tourism here (in summer at least), and all this ‘humanity’ must be going somewhere... Into The Gap Well, amongst other places they've probably converged en masse at a huge glacial rent in the mountains to the west of Killarney, a deep valley whose sides are rubble-strewn ...

Great Blasket Island, County Kerry 28/05/2010

Blasket Case

Great Blasket Island, County Kerry At the farthest western extremity of Ireland, the farthest western extremity of Europe, a gnarled ancient tendril of sandstone thrusts its defiant knuckle out into an unforgiving ocean. It’s a land of dramatic contrasts: of staggering mountains and sublime beaches, of verdant farmland and tiny fishing ports both clinging to the links of land between the hills and the sea. A place steeped in history and pre-history, drenched in deep and deeper magic, and whose economy is worryingly dependant on one renegade dolphin. Welcome to the Dingle peninsula: one of the greatest cul-de-sacs on Earth. Westward Ho! Most visitors start from Tralee, and its fleshpots (round here the Rose of Tralee festival and a big windmill are all you’d need to get St Brendan’s Y-Fronts in a knot) are ideal contrast for what is to come. The drive west begins under the watchful turrets of the Slieve Mish mountains and the fabulous ancient hill fort of Caherconree, before the traveller can choose between the north and south coasts: both scenically splendid but with attendant risks: the north risks death on the narrow Conor Pass road, the south risks madness with the sight of the colour scheme of the Randy Leprechaun pub/hostel at Annascaul. But with a bit of luck and a following wind (which you’ll never get: it’s inevitably a westerly on Dingle) these hazards can be survived, and once the stupendous mountain massif of Brandon is behind you you’ll arrive at the bustling port of Dingle town. You won’t see ...
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