Let’s go get locked in a room together


I had a few friends from uni come to visit over the weekend and we did something that apparently is quite unusual. I say this only because when I tried to explain what we were going to do to people at work, they looked at me like I was crazy. When I told people at work that Fern, Elliot, Naomi and I, they all thought it sounded insane. One person just turned to me and asked if it was some sort of cult thing. I did explain to her that it definitely wasn’t a cult thing but she left looking even more visibly concerned.

But the thing that reveals a lot is that when announced to Fern, Elliot and Naomi that we were all going to be locked in a room for an hour to escape, they all responded with: sounds like fun.This is why we are friends.

I think Fern only made it to Leeds to begin with since burritos were on the table as the lunch option. If burritos hadn’t featured into the day’s activities, I doubt there would have been any weekend plans.

Ignoring Fern’s undying love for the burritos from Tortilla, the day ended up being spectacular. I went into the locked in game with reasonable but not overly high expectations. I think my expectations had lowered somewhat when we ended up getting lost on the way and then found the place behind another building in a slightly dodgy looking area… Next to a building with eyes. It was lowered further when we all nearly got run over by the RAC van that was clearly too wide for the dodgy back alley.

We arrived for our game about half an hour early because there was nowhere around the site to sit and have a coffee so we had given up and committed to the idea of sitting around in the building of the game and waiting out our time there. As it was, the women let us in almost immediately once they had explained how the game worked. We (I) chose the Nursery Nightmares game. When we first went into the room, I was a little underwhelmed. I say this because the room did not look like it held enough to take up an hour. I was wrong. The room was quite small with a handful of items of furniture. I’m not entirely sure of the back story to the room as I couldn’t really hear the dialogue on the TV when it started but not knowing it didn’t really detract from how enjoyable the entire game was.

As soon as the timer started, we all went crazy. Our original plan to take a quarter of the room each just went down the toilet. We all just went back and forth between things without any real pattern and it turns out none of us are particularly good at looking carefully for items. I’ll give an example, there was a doll house in the nursery which Naomi and Fern had been looking in. They had decided they had found everything in it. We were a bit stuck later on so I went to look back over the doll house, lifted the roof and immediately found a letter, so I looked through the whole thing. Turns out I’m not very good at searching either as Elliot went back through and found something else later on. We all clearly made the right choice in not pursuing a career as a detective.

I don’t want to write too much about the room in case some random people end up doing it. Writing everything about the room would ruin the fun. I will say there was a secret room. We figured out the code to one of the locks, opened the wardrobe and freaked out. We lost it. There was a passage to the creepiest room in the world. The first thing you could see as soon as you walked in was the perfect horror movie doll right in a corner.

I hate dolls. It spoke if you touched it.

Nope.

Everything was just a bit weird. I loved it. Fern had the first jump scare of the day when she found a disembodied hand in a drawer. I was doing a crossword puzzle at that point so all I heard was her yelling and I had no idea what was going on.

I can’t judge for reacting badly to things. I had the worst/best reaction of the day. According to the women running the game, ours was the best exit they had seen.

I will give the lead up to the last few minutes. We had worked out the last of the puzzles and were in the process of trying to unlock the safe which ended up having the solution to the directional padlock. This safe had a three attempts and then a five-minute lockout system. We were in the last 7 minutes of the game… and managed to get locked out of the safe. We knew the combination but had the cards the wrong way round. So we had to wait. Now as the seconds ticked down on the screen in the room, it was intense. We managed to get in, solve the puzzle for the directional lock and then I worked the lock as Fern read out the directions.

By this point I was losing it. We couldn’t lose. I wouldn’t be able to cope if we didn’t scrape out. I had been staring at this lock and finally it clicked open. I was so happy. I pulled it off, yanked open the door… and screamed my head off. What I hadn’t been expecting was for something to be right outside the door. In hindsight, if I had heard the back story to the room that type of thing might have been expected, but I was so in the moment this horror movie figure outside the door on a sheet just scared the life out of me. Fern and Naomi didn’t see the figure, what they got was me violently screaming in a way that alarmed so much they started screaming too. Elliot at this point for some reason was looking around the room and hadn’t even been paying attention to our escape so had no idea why the three of us were screaming.

Good times.

I can appreciate a good jump scare so seconds after, I was in hysterics. I was still shaking and completely on edge, but it was fantastic. It kept me amused for the rest of the day. I just wish there had been a video of us leaving the room. I have never screamed like that in my life.

In our success picture, I look very sheepish. This is because this picture was taken moments after we left the room and I was still recovering from my minor heart attack.

I’m ready for the next game though. We’re all going to do one in Sheffield at some point. Next time we’ll be ready to search properly…

And I’ll be ready for the jump scares.

Maybe.

Locked In Games website

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Thought Bubble 2015


This post comes a little later than it was meant to. I was going to write on Sunday after I got home from Thought Bubble but all I wanted to do was sleep. I thought about writing yesterday but just didn’t. So here I am, two days late. Better late than never and all that.

Until last weekend, I had never been to any sort of comic convention. I have a few friends from home who go to MCM in London most years but for various reasons (mostly money) I have never ended up going with them. Last time I was in Leeds, I wasn’t even aware of Thought Bubble, as I mentioned in my last post, but a few months ago, a friend mentioned it to me and I knew I wanted to get involved more than just going along.

I meant to do a post per day of Thought Bubble but that clearly didn’t happen. I have already written about the setup on Friday so I will start from Saturday morning.

It started very early.

My first alarm went off at 05:00. My second alarm went of at 05:15. My third alarm went off at 05:30. I ignored all of them and fell asleep again. I of course managed to miss my bus to get there for 06:00. I ended up arriving at around 07:00. On a Saturday, that just isn’t an hour that exists for me. It shouldn’t exist for anybody.

I had originally not been on the list of jobs that was sent around the volunteers, which meant I was supposed to be a floating volunteer. In the first half hour of arriving, I was assigned to be on refreshment duty. My initial thought with that was “Oh god, this is going to be awful.” I am glad to say I was wrong and had one of the best weekends, but it wasn’t without its perils.

One of my first jobs was to go and buy as much milk as I could for £10. It turns out, you can buy a lot of milk for £10. And I do mean a lot. I strutted into Tesco, picked up as much milk as I could carry and ran to the till. Turns out 30 pints of milk is awkward to carry and rather heavy. It also transpired once I had finished scanning them like a crazy person, that you can buy an extra 6 pints and still end up with change from £10. That was when I did my mad dash across the shop to pick up another 6 pints of milk. By this point, the scales on the self-service till were already full of milk. The last container just ended up precariously balanced until I had paid.

Now, I decided in a moment of madness that two plastic bags would be enough to carry these 36 pints of milk. I could already foresee the bags splitting when I left Tesco. They were already bulging and stretching in a way that made me very nervous, but I held onto the hope they would hold up until I got back to the ticket office, which was probably only 100 feet away.

They did not hold up.

One bag did, but about 50 feet down the road, the other violently exploded, sending 3 giant containers of milk tumbling to the floor. Luckily, the milk gods were looking down on me because none of them split. That may have had something to do with the fact I was probably hunched over from the weight.

That was the most eventful part of the pre-convention setup for me. The rest of it was setting up and filling the urns, waiting for people to arrive to make tea for. Once the exhibitors had arrived, it was full steam ahead. I made more tea this weekend than I have ever made in my life. I started off as I meant to go on by throwing 2 cups of coffee onto the floor in my futile attempts at balancing 5 cups of coffee. Turns out you can balance 2 on top of each other, not 3. The more you know.

I will tell you this, when people have an early start to the day and low prospects of leaving their stand, they are so grateful for caffeine. I had more compliments this weekend just for bringing coffee and tea to people than I have had for the rest of the year.

There is power in having access to all the caffeine.

Refreshments ended up being one of the best jobs. Yes, I never once stopped moving, my feet were on fire by the end of Saturday and my notebook was filled with pages of scrawled tea orders, but it was a lot of fun to have legitimate excuses to meet all the big artists.

By the end of Saturday I wasn’t even asking proper questions or greeting people though. I would walk past and wildly blurt out: “Tea, coffee, chocolate?” And just stare at them expectantly until they answered. Good system, good system. Will employ next year.

I got a chance to meet DMC of Run-DMC over the weekend. Nice guy. Brought him some chocolate. Can add him to the list of famous people I have met.

The list stands at 1.

I also met my Trans-Atlantic twin. Lovely lady. Lots of food preferences in common. We had a good system for delivering lunches to people. Will employ next year.

I have so much I could say, but not many words coming to mind to say the things. So I will just sum up:

  • My feet were dead by the end of the weekend
  • Every single muscle ached including some I didn’t know existed
  • The weather was dreadful all weekend, it rained nearly constantly and then just to spite the entire event, it was glorious sunshine on Monday
  • I had one of the best weekends and am ready for next year already

It must have been a success. I didn’t injure myself that much.

I only gave myself an electric shock once.


 

Favourite costume:
I loved this costume. Might not have been one of the most difficult to execute, but it was done so well.

Most impressive costume (that I took a picture of):
This was insane. The guy was giant in his suit. I didn’t even know what the character was from but I still wanted a picture.

Best accessory
Someone came into the kitchen on the second day and just said: “did you see the owl?” I thought he meant that someone was dressed as an owl. There had been furries walking around the day before, it wasn’t unreasonable to assume that. I walked out of the kitchen and there was a girl stood there in an owl hat and I assumed that was the end of that. Completely forgetting about the owl thing, I had made myself a cup of tea and was in search of a place to sit down. I walked out, set my tea down and looked to the side. “Oh my god, there’s an owl.” I honestly just looked to the side and there it was. I didn’t realise at the time that she was dressed as a Gryffindor. Mad props for her commitment to realism.

Creepiest person of the convention
I’m leaving furries out of this because while I personally find fur suits horrifyingly creepy, I know that isn’t a sentiment shared by all. The creepiest person of the weekend was this guy.


His costume was a little bit creepy on both days (didn’t get a picture of his costume on the second day) but what really pushed it over the edge was that he would stand somewhere perfectly still for ages. He would just ever so slightly turn his head and follow you with his eyes as you walked past. Already a bit weird. What was even more bizarre and disconcerting was when he would move between spots in the square. He did not just walk. What he did was move really slowly, almost gliding across the square. Everyone else around him was rushing around from place to place and there out of the corner of your eye you would see this figure just moving slow motion through the crowds. Very strange. I approve, creeper.

I wasn’t the first to injure myself, or even the second.. at least not seriously


I have just in the last 15 minutes or so returned from the first night of work for Thought Bubble 2015. For those of you outside of Leeds and outside the loop, it is a comic convention. Now, last time I was in Leeds I wasn’t aware Thought Bubble existed, and when I heard about it this time, I went onto the website and went “Hm, I wonder if there is a way to volunteer.”

There was.

And today, I put in a good slog helping to set up the first two halls. It took 7 hours. I got down to the Royal Armouries at 3pm, having taken a half day at work. I left at just after 10. Now, I don’t mind this (much) but it was a bit of a shock to the system. I haven’t been on my feet for more than about 2 hours for a rather long time. Spending the best part of 7 hours stood up, moving heavy tables has left me broken. It’s not even the first day of the convention.

Now, I go into things assuming that there is every chance I will be the first person to injure myself. I didn’t escape today without a few scrapes. My own injury was a splinter. Normally, I would just pull it out myself but unfortunately the splinter in question was more problematic. I had a table in hand at that point and I didn’t really want to lodge the splinter in further, so I ended up walking up to someone I’ve only met twice and just saying to her: “would you mind pulling this out of my hand?” She didn’t seem to mind but she did have to pull quite hard to get the splinter out. She seemed mildly alarmed once it did come out. But like the trooper I am, I carried on working despite half a table having just been pulled out of my finger.

But, that was not the biggest injury or accident. There were two.

Just outside the Royal Armouries there are automatic barriers for certain vehicles to get in and out. The problem with these (despite them being very big and very yellow) was that when carrying a giant wooden piece of art horizontally, the person carrying from the back could not see the barriers. What then happened was he walked straight into one, doubled over awkwardly and scraped up the length of his arm. To his credit, he did manage to keep the art up on his end despite that. His commando roll off the top of the barrier was quite something.

The second accident came closer to the end of the evening. As can always be expected with Great British weather, the moment you want to run an event, it will rain and it will rain hard. It had been raining on and off for some of the evening but when we were finishing setting up the hall, it suddenly started pouring it down. We couldn’t work out what it was immediately. Someone had asked if it was rain and instead of walking to check, he ran across the hall. The problem came when he reached the floor inside the door.

It definitely was rain.

And the floor was soaked.

And this very tall guy went flying. I laughed. I’m a bad person. But at least we knew it was raining following the death skid. He was fine.

So, with the knowledge I cannot now be the first to have an accident, it can only be a good sign of things to come.

It’s alright, we’re used to the gang warfare


I completely forgot about bonfire night the other day until about half way through the work day when I just blurted out to the partner I share an office with: “I forgot it is bonfire night tonight.”

Then that was the end of that conversation.

It was brought up again when one of my colleagues walked into the office to give me a file back. She had mentioned it was bonfire night and then immediately went: “Oh, what about your cats?” My instant response was “I’m going to stop you right there, the cats aren’t going to care at all.”

Now, it turned out I was mostly right about this assumption. I already know from experience that Oscar and Raven just do not care about the loud noises of fireworks. I know this because for at least two months, there have been child gangs roaming the area I live, firing off fireworks. Doesn’t matter what time of day it is, you can almost guarantee there will be fireworks. Now, don’t ask me where these people got the fireworks in such plentiful supply, because I have no clue.I also have no idea why they would choose fireworks in the first place or why they would continue after one of them was arrested about a month ago out the back of my flat, but then again, I’ve never been in a child gang, so I can’t say I’m in the right mindset.

In contrast to the child gangs running around Harehills, I am the type of person that gets nervous around police for no reason) (despite never having done anything worthy of police attention to the point when a friend said crack within 10 feet of  policewoman a few months back, I immediately reacted with: “You can’t say crack near a policeman..”

That says a lot about me.

Anyway, back to bonfire night. Now, I was right that Raven and Oscar did not care about the noise of the fireworks, so for the first part of the evening, we were completely fine. It was only when the firework crews ended up in front of the flat with fireworks that actually flashed as well that we had the problem. Raven and Oscar have both developed this unhealthy interest in the fireworks so were sat in the window watching. When the gangs started firing the flashing fireworks, the cats did not like it. That was the only time they were away from the window, and to be fair, their fear seemed to subside within about 20 seconds. After that they didn’t care.

They are hardened to the firework gang warfare of Harehills.

Unfortunately, I am not. And neither are other people in the area. At one point I risked a look out the window and the whole street was just filled with smoke. There was a car just pulling onto the street and at this point the youths were in the middle of the road. The driver of the car took one look at what was going on (lots of youths firing fireworks at houses and cars) and just reversed back. Smart move mysterious driver, smart move.

I suppose my hardened cats are better than having two cats who can’t stand fireworks or they would never leave their safe spot under the sofa. Or they would spend their lives hidden in a cupboard somewhere for safety.

But firework gangs? I still can’t get over it. You stay classy, Harehills.

This is what Raven and Oscar will have become by the time I move out of Harehills

It’s been an exciting week (sort of)


I’ve been back in Leeds for a fair few months now. I keep convincing myself it’s been 3 months, but it has actually been just over 5. So, for the last 3 (5) months, I have been finding reasons not to go out. When I first got back to work, one of my friends from last time I was at the firm was trying to gently push me (read: nagging incessantly) to go out and do things with people, to make friends instead of festering away in my flat alone.

I didn’t. And I continued to ignore that despite finding things I would be interested in going along to months ago. So, last night I finally made myself go. I had seen an event organised to play werewolf a few months back and I love werewolf. It is a great game and easy enough to pick up. I figured, it was much better to go and play a game with strangers that I already knew the basics of. It would make me look marginally less awkward.

Now, it turns out I didn’t need to worry about that so much because everyone I met last night was very nice. The only awkward moment of the evening (getting past the momentary awkwardness of meeting a large number of new people) was when I was trying to work out where in the bar the group was. Now, I immediately spotted, when walking into the bar, that the upstairs was closed for a private function. I walked half way up the staircase then decided, no, I must be looking in the wrong place, it is probably a work do up there, I will ask at the bar.

So I did.

And here is pretty much how the conversation went.

*Walks up to random bar staff*
“Hi, I was just wondering if you know whether the leeds werewolf group is upstairs?”
*He just stared for a moment*
“Err… Are they in werewolf costumes?”
*Then it was my turn to stare at him like: what?*
“No… they will have a pack of cards…”
“No, sorry. Don’t know anything about that.”

Right, so note to self: just keep looking, don’t ask bar staff about werewolves, they will think you are insane.

Other than that, the night was very amusing, can’t go wrong with werewolf and two rooms and a boom.

The cats did show their displeasure at me having the nerve to spend time outside of the flat after work. In the 20 minutes I was home before I went to bed, I had to clean up a plate that the cats had smashed, and I had to put the towel rail back on the wall, which the cats had managed to knock off despite it being held on giant hooks.

Good job guys.

And now we go back a day. I had an exciting Tuesday too… I had my first Nando’s.

It was alright.

Hot level spice wasn’t enough. Next time will be all about the extra hot. I’m sure I devoured half the bottle of extra hot sauce.

I’m not sure I understand all the hype about Nando’s. It was passably good food, I enjoyed it. I probably enjoyed it more because dinner was on my work friend because she felt bad about cancelling the last few times.

I’d go again but I wouldn’t rave about it.

And now, having been out two evenings in a row, I feel entitled to spend the next few and the entire evening doing nothing on my own and spending time with my cats. Living life to the full as always.

Update on previous post:
Bake-off cake turned out quite well. Seemed to go down a treat.

The Great Work Bake Off


My team at work has had a bake off going for the last few months. As soon as it was announced, I was there, signing up, screaming my excitement. When the lists came out I looked and realised I wasn’t baking until the penultimate week. I have been waiting since September for this moment, and I have now been making my bake since yesterday.

Now, everyone else in the team probably got the first email and thought:

“Oh, that will be a fun little thing for charity to get involved in, I’ll sign up for that.”

I looked at the email and went:

“Oh my god, this is my defining moment as a baker. It’s on. It’s so on.”

I have been seeing what everyone else has baked for the last 8 weeks and I have been silently assessing the situation. Now, my plan has always been to make something that looks spectacular. Everyone else has made things that taste fantastic and I am fairly sure I can whack out a cake that will taste good. My assessment of the situation is that the winner will come down to how the final product looks. So in my weird brain I decided to just go all out and make a cake that looks like a chess board. Now, for the best part of the last 8 weeks, I have been trying to work out how to best go about it. I have seen people online make the actual chess board by casting 64 individual squares to put on the top of the cake. That was my original plan, but failing to find good moulds for it meant I ended up drawing out a grid and casting the entire board in one piece…

Which I then snapped.

I did repair it because chocolate is fairly forgiving. If in doubt, fix it with more chocolate.

I’m in a bit of a baking frenzy at the moment. We had a charity bake sale on Friday, which I spent two evenings making halloween cake pops for. They turned out well. I only had one pop fall off the stick, which is a significant improvement on the last time I made them. But, half my decoration choices didn’t seem to go down so well. Note to self: don’t make baked goods look blood splattered. People don’t respond well.

I just got bored of icing faces onto pumpkins and couldn’t bear to dye another batch of white chocolate orange. It’s an oddly tedious process if you don’t have oil or powder based food colouring (which I didn’t).

Anyway, my bake for tomorrow is almost done now. It is the assembly left to go and a few more chess pieces to cast. I’m just hoping the cake makes it to work in one piece.

All the layers did make it out of the tin in one piece, which leaves me strangely optimistic about my prospects.

I have added some pictures below of the work in progress.


I think the grid worked out quite well. It’s a shame I really struggle to draw straight lines. I ended up using the lines of the wood on my butchers block to line up the inch measurements. Innovative, I know.

These were the first chess pieces I was casting and I realised (too late) that it is a lot better to over-fill them as they are prone to snapping. So many of the white pieces look slightly weathered.

This was the completed board. This is from the back so I am hoping that the messy lines here will translate to nice smooth squares on the front… Apart from the bits I snapped and then had to rush a chocolate repair job. I’m hoping people just won’t care / notice.

I am so impressed that all my cakes ended up coming out of the tins smoothly. I normally end up impatiently removing them and half the cake ends up left in the tin. This normally results in a buttercream repair job.

Oh, and here were the cake pops from Friday.

Hairy babies


Before I adopted Raven and Oscar, I had wanted a cat or a kitten for a long time, and I thought I knew a lot about what it would be like to have a cat.

I was wrong.

Now, I hadn’t ever really thought of cats as hairy babies (in the words of Baymax), but recent events have lead me to realise that, maybe not cats, but kittens are exactly that. They are hairy babies.

I had a bit of an emergency this week. Raven is the type of cat who has to be watched constantly whenever food is around. He is the noisiest cat in the world running around normally, but the moment food is around, he is like a shadow. You don’t see or hear him coming and he is suddenly just there. In a split second of your back being turned he will have off the side whatever you are cooking, whether or not it is something he can eat. There is currently nothing he won’t eat.

And this is where the problem arose this week. I had been roasting potatoes and had thrown a few cloves of garlic in with them during the roasting. Before serving them up, I took the garlic out and set it aside without even thinking, with the intention of throwing them away after dinner. Now, I didn’t immediately do so, which was the fault on my part, and just went about the rest of my evening. It was an hour or so after dinner and I was sat doing something and I could hear Raven chewing something, so I looked over at him and went to inspect. Now, the moment I spotted that he was chewing on one of the cloves of garlic, I freaked out.

For those of you that don’t know, garlic is toxic to cats.

I immediately took it away from him and threw it out. And this was when I realised there was no sign of the other. So I ended up phoning the vet the next morning, having panicked half the people in the office as well as myself. I spoke to the vet and told them what Raven had eaten (much to the amusement of the receptionist when I said it was a whole clove), and when he had eaten it. The receptionist made a few inquiries with the vet and having watched both cats very closely that morning, I confirmed both of them were still eating, drinking and playing like normal. There was nothing different. The vet gave me the instructions to keep an eye on the cats. If nothing seemed wrong, then not to rush over to the vet, but if anything were to change, to bring the cat so they could put him on fluids.

Now, the rest of that day at work was awful. I was sat there stressing out to the max. Now, I’m quite lucky in that my supervisor and the partner I share an office with are very understanding. I spoke to both and said that if anything came up the next morning that I was going to need to take an emergency day off, which I would sort out when I got back to work. Both of them were fine with it. When I got into work that next morning, the partner I share an office with was visibly relieved. I had stressed myself out so much about it that it had stressed her out about it and she had become worried about my cats too.

I have been on close watch since but both cats are very much themselves. My hairy babies are fine. But I am still on hyper watch mode. And I’m being a lot more careful with garlic.

People in the office keep asking me. There is still no sign of the garlic.

Maybe it is hidden somewhere. Maybe Raven didn’t eat it at all. I’ll see if my flat starts to smell strangely pungent.. That will let me know.

But for now, enjoy Baymax and his hairy baby.