I’m a Luigi!

I recently read an article about the re-released NES/SNES consoles. It was work, I swear. It was on the website of my accountancy body and everything!

It reminded me of the first time I ever played Super Mario Bros. I went round to a visit a friend from school and they had just got the NES. It blew my fragile little mind. I think at that point we may have had an Amstrad CPC 464 but Super Mario was on a completely different level and I attribute it with igniting my love for gaming. This would eventually lead to me paying hundreds (probably thousands over my lifetime) of pounds on consoles and games. I would be much richer were it not for the moustachioed Italian plumber.

As it was my friends console, he was Mario and I was Luigi. I’m sure many like me developed a fondness for the little green guy who was often relegated to the sidelines, based on the fact that they were not the alpha where the Nintendo was concerned.

One of the items on my bucket list was to complete Super Mario 3. I won’t go on about it again here, but the fact that the desire to complete it lasted maybe 20 years is something that older video games have over newer ones. Some of them release new versions every year. Some of them are just too difficult to keep you hooked. Some of them are just too big. There are very few games that I’ve got 100% on my PlayStation and having just checked the ones that I have seem to be linked towards interests I have outside of gaming – Batman, The Walking Dead and Blood Bowl.

Over the last few years I’ve drifted away from video games. This is for a few reasons. Time is one. Growing up means you don’t have as much time on your hands as you do when you’re at school. You can’t get head home just after 3 each day and spend hours playing a game. You’ve got Responsibilities.

Another reason is no longer living with another gamer. For me, quite a lot of gaming is social. I much prefer playing something like Smackdown or Pro Evo or even Halo (despite being crap at it) because it involved interacting with other human beings. When I was living with my brother, we’d play all the time. I’ve also had housemates who I would play with often, but when I started living on my own I started playing less frequently.

I do enjoy some single player games – especially horror games for some reason that I haven’t worked out entirely as I don’t really enjoy horror films. I think it’s probably that being immersed makes it a lot more scary. Condemned on the Xbox is still one of my all time favourite games and playing it in a dark room by myself probably just heightened the experience.

However given the choice, I would probably now spend the time playing a board game if I’m with other people, or often doing one of many other things if I’m not. Which is a shame as I’ve got a whole bunch of games that are currently sitting unplayed. Maybe I’ll get around to playing them soon. Maybe.

It’s probably like many things – the thing that gets you hooked is the thing that you always try to get back to to recreate that hit. It is likely nothing will be the same as the first time I made an Italian man waddle along and jump on two dimensional bad guys.

A rough night’s sleep

Over the past few weeks I’ve had a few occasions when I’ve not slept too well. I put this down to the fact that we’re soon to be moving home and that my mind has been working overtime with all the things I need to remember or to sort out around it – I am very much a planner.

However, many people have much worse sleep than I do. I have been reminded of this most mornings as on my walk to the bus stop I’ve been seeing two people sleeping on benches. One laying down under a pile of coats, the other sat upright under a coat, clutching on to a suitcase full of what I assume are their only worldly possessions. It can’t be a comfortable way to sleep but for them it must feel like what they have to do.

When I arrive at Stratford, most days I’ve been walking past between two and four people who have obviously been sleeping rough the previous evening. Some under a tent, some with signs, some still asleep, some chatting to people. Some talking to police officers, who hopefully are helping them to find somewhere a bit more comfortable.

I find it difficult to walk past without trying to help them in some way, but the sheer number of homeless people at the moment means it is simply not possible to give a spare bit of change, a sandwich or a cup of tea to everyone who you pass.

It saddens me that as a society we are not able to help those who get into these sorts of situations. However I am proud to be working for a company that is attempting to do something about the national housing crisis but it worries me that we are nowhere near to breaking the back of the problem.

The town I am from has a voluntary organisation which for the last 9 years has arranged a Winter Shelter where over the course of 12 weeks, volunteers open up a different church hall each day of the week where anyone can turn up, get something to eat, warmth and shelter for the night. It’s a truly remarkable endeavour which our town is fortunate to have.

This is something which is completely run by volunteers and funded from donations. For the last year I’ve been playing in a band with a couple of close friends. We’re hoping to raise a little bit of money to help the Winter Shelter in our own way this Christmas.

We have recorded a version of It Feels Like Christmas from the Muppet’s Christmas Carol. You can see the video we made for it here.

We are attempting to raise money for our local Winter Shelter and if you are gracious enough to check out the video and don’t dislike it, we would be grateful if you could donate a small amount on our donation page here. 

My thoughts on volunteering at a food bank

Last my team at work used half a day of our 3 day volunteering allowance to visit The Hope Centre, one of four locations of Lewisham food bank. The food bank is part of the Trussell Trust which operates across the UK. Last year, the Trust gave out over 1.3 million food supplies, representing a 13% increase on the previous financial year. This included 134,244 parcels given out in London which I can only assume includes many residents of the housing association that I work for. We’ve all heard the stats about how food bank usage has been increasing so I won’t repeat them all here but it is safe to say that actually seeing part of the operation helped to make it less abstract number and more realistic for me.

Our community investment team arranged for us to spend the morning at the Hope Centre with Carol, the manager, Gary who seemed to be her second in command and Chris whose job was to make tea and on days when the Centre is open to put their visitors at ease and to reassure them – perhaps the most vital task of them all.

During our volunteering morning, we sorted, moved and organised just over half a tonne of food. We became a well-oiled machine. We split food into different item types, loaded shopping trollies and ferried them into their “warehouse” to then sort into more specific sections – splitting Fruit Juice into Apple Juice and Orange Juice sections, for example. This makes it easier for food bank volunteers to quickly make up food parcels specific to their visitors requirements. Planning, sorting and organising turned out to be something that worked well with the skillset of our team of accountants!

The food we were sorting had been donated mainly in a three hour period when Carol and her team were in Waitrose at the weekend where they asked customers for specific donations. They can only do this every so often as the food bank is mostly staffed by volunteers with Carol being the only paid employee and only for 3 days a week. The rest of the time they rely on individual donations and volunteers to run the centres. By the time we left, the warehouse was stocked to the brim but we were saddened to hear that we were probably only looking at stocks that would last them for about 2 weeks. Each parcel given out is around 3 days’ worth of food each time. The centre is open on Wednesdays and Fridays and receives around 15-20 visitors on each of those days. Food banks are intended to provided assistance to people in crisis, rather than be relied upon regularly. People can only access these foodbanks having been referred to them with a voucher from many community sources – doctors, social workers and the citizens advice bureau being a few of those sources. There is a limit of only 4 vouchers per person or family per year. Having said that, Carol is reluctant to turn away anyone in need and will offer a small parcel and advice on how to get vouchers to anyone who turns up without one.

During a tea break Carol, Gary and Chris spoke to us about the way that the centre interacts with political candidates. They are happy to talk with anyone provided no photographers or film crews are present and they feel very passionately about the “unintended consequences” of political choices that have been made over the last decade or so. We can only hope that some of these consequences are dealt with as it doesn’t seem right that so many people in this country have to rely on the kindness of strangers in order to put some food on their table. They mentioned that there have been small victories – such as the waiting time for universal credit being reduced to 5 weeks – but it still isn’t enough for many people and the impact of this is something that our housing association may see in the future in the impact on our rental arrears.

Most supermarkets have food bank bins and it doesn’t take a lot to drop something in their once you have completed your shop – especially as many of the items they require cost under a pound. Please do check out a list of things they need and things they don’t need before doing so though, as there are only certain non-perishable items that they can supply. This can be found near to the bins or on their website. From what we saw in Lewisham, they almost certainly don’t need any more pasta for quite a while! They will probably need many other items that you wouldn’t normally think of.

Carol mentioned to us that after the Ken Loach’s film I, Daniel Blake was released they have actually been so overrun with sanitary products that they have actually donated them on to local schools. It is interesting to note that he continues to have an impact on our social attitudes over 50 years after Cathy Come Home came out.

If you and your team are looking for a team building exercise that will also give you an insight into the hardships that many across the country have to endure, then I heartily recommend looking into volunteering at a food bank.

Hair today, gone tomorrow

About two and a half years ago I moved to a new town, and round the corner from my house is a barbers. Being a man of few follicles, I have rarely had need to visit the barbers but one day I decided to treat myself and have a proper shave.

I find the barbers a weird experience. It might be because I am not a naturally outgoing person and I struggle with the small talk. It might be because the experience of someone you don’t know doing something very close up to me isn’t one I find relaxing (see also: when the optician puts his face right in front of your eyes).

However, it can also be enjoyable. I usually get my scalp done with a wet shave and it feels so smooth and lovely afterwards that I can’t stop stroking it. It also smells nice for the next few hours as well. The barbers also offers a hot towel and a steam machine which the staff are very keen to get you to try out. I’m not sure if they charge more for it – it doesn’t really seem to affect the price. These, my friends, are the good stuff. You need to get in on this if you’re not already. It’s so amazingly relaxing. I’m sure there’s some sciencey explanation for what it’s doing to you, but the feeling is like your face is having a giant warm hug.

Bass told me to try the hot towel treatment and it’s one of the few times that I have entirely agreed with his recommendation. I have since recommended it to my brother-in-law when we got smartened up before my wedding.

After trying out the barbers and armed with this new found sense of beard based adventures, I decided to try out all the other barbers in town. If the first barbers I tried had these exciting things, what amazing possibilities were awaiting me in the other ones?

There’s about 6 barbers in our town. Our high street is mainly full of hairdressers/barbers, charity shops, cafes and estate agents. Every few weeks when I felt like it was time for another treat, I took myself to a new one.

And every time I was disappointed. None of them did a wet shave. None of them did a hot towel, and I daren’t even ask whether there was a steam machine.

So after trying every barbers, I went back to the one just round the corner and I have never gone to another one since.

Why I didn’t enjoy Ready Player One (the novel)

A while ago, I asked for recommendations of books. I asked people to tell me what their favourite book is. Several people named Ready Player One by Ernest Cline which conceptually I liked the idea of, so it was one of the first recommendations that I read around 5 months ago. It has been turned into a film by Steven Spielberg which has just been released and so I have been thinking about the book again.

Now, I may be a grumpy old man. I may not just get what kids like these days. However, this book is not something I enjoyed, and there are a few reasons for this. I know from reading reviews on Goodreads that there are others who feel the same way. I also know that there are those who absolutely adored it. I don’t like or want to ruin stuff for anyone, so I’m not going to tear it to complete shreds like I would have done if I had written this immediately after reading the book.

The film might be significantly better than the book, I don’t know. I’d imagine it will be as it’s Spielberg. I don’t intend to watch it. You may enjoy the film, the book or both but I feel that I need to get out my thoughts on why I didn’t enjoy it. This will probably contain spoilers, although it is my opinion that the book could not be spoiled more than Cline has already done so by misusing the intriguing concept he came up with.

The first thing that annoyed me about the book was that it is a mystery book where the reader has no chance of solving the mystery. I love detective stories. I love trying to solve the mystery but always coming up short because the criminal or the detective or both is/are much smarter than I am. This is fine, and it is all part of the enjoyment. The mysteries in Ready Player One cannot be solved by the reader. There are no clues which will allow you to do so. Even if your knowledge of 80’s culture is as good as Wade, the main character, you stand literally no chance of solving the puzzle. When he (or one of the other characters) works out the next step, it comes completely out of the blue.

For a novel where the main premise is solving a series of mysteries, all the suspense got drained for me because I knew it would be something entirely random. This is partly because it is set in a virtual reality world called the Oasis and we have absolutely no idea what is in it unless the author tells us about it. He doesn’t drop any clues about how to solve each mystery. The planet which the protagonist needs to travel to in order to solve the puzzle has not been presented to us, so we have no idea it exists and therefore no idea what the solution could possibly be.

Another thing that annoyed me is that it is a sci-fi novel, although rather than inventing its own universe, it appropriates it from the 1980s. It is basically nostalgia porn. It plays on the fact that people who love that culture will love references to it in the book. Which they do, but it doesn’t mean there’s any substance there at all. It doesn’t add any meaning, depth or insight to the novel. It annoyed me in the same way that all the references to celebrities in Glamorama by Bret Easton Ellis annoyed me, so much so that I was unable to read another of his novels for several years.

The book also has a love story, but I never cared if the characters get together or not. Lots of other factors might have combined to create this apathy in me. I might not have cared because I was struggling to get invested due to the other elements of the book that turned me off. However, it seems to me that there is minimal depth of character or character development. The characters don’t have much internal conflict. They have their goal of solving the puzzle and by and large they are focused on it to the detriment of everything else, except when Wade becomes a love-struck teenager. I could not give a hoot if they got together, or even if they died horribly. I struggled to have any empathy for the characters at all.

I feel that this is a story where fairly early on you know what is going to happen and there are few surprises and relatively little of interest. There’s effectively a deus ex machina in the fact that Wade knows literally everything. Some of the puzzles require photographic memory and knowledge of the most obscure things. He twice quotes a film near perfectly in order to solve a puzzle. I have seen some of my favourite films hundreds of times and couldn’t even quote 50% of one of them. How he knows two random films back to front stretches believability.

I haven’t even started to pick apart the quality of the writing and as it’s been a while since I read it and I have no desire to look at it again, I don’t want to criticise this aspect without feeling confident in what I’m talking about, suffice to say that it didn’t feel like it was written well.

I loved the idea of the book. A futuristic virtual world, obsessed with the past as the modern world has fallen apart. Clinging onto some hope of a better time and a better place. I wanted to like the book – I absolutely love dystopian novels but I really struggled with Ready Player One.  I feel the execution of the concept really let it down.

New Years Resolutions

Some people make New Year’s resolutions in December to start in January. These people I call fools. Every accountant knows that the year starts in April. As such, I have come up with my New Year’s resolutions three months after everyone else or as I like to think of it – at the correct time.

Between May last year and getting married at the end of September, I managed to lose a reasonable amount of weight. The NHS online BMI calculator still thought I was overweight, but only just. Since then, I have started a new role at work which has meant that I am commuting  on average 4 days a week rather than 2. These are lost hours, some of which I previously spent exercising, and now all of the weight I lost has been regained.

The reason I was able to do so well last year is because I bought myself a fitness watch. It provides me with real time info, stats, graphs… all the stuff that an accountant loves!

I have never really liked running, but I have always liked the idea of being good at it. I am aware that it is good for general fitness and I’ve always wanted to complete a running challenge.

I ran 3 miles for Sport Relief a number of years ago, which was at the limit of what I was able to do. I’d like to be able to run a significant distance further. Mainly because I have seen Zombieland and I know how important cardio is. Also because loads of people seem to be able to do it and to run impressive distances or take on impressive challenges.

So, based on this, I have some resolutions:

Resolution 1: I will run 365 miles this year.

I was going to make this more difficult and say that I would run at least 1 mile every single day. Whilst I like the idea of this challenge, there are some days when it literally isn’t feasible.

My target will still be to run a mile a day if possible but I won’t beat myself up if I miss a day or two, I will just make up the miles another day. One main reason why I want to do one mile a day is because I have suffered previously with shin splints and cramp when running. These have improved with constant repetition and gradual increasing of effort, so my thought is that little and often will allow me to get over these problems.

Resolution 2: I will get to a weight the NHS thinks is healthy.

I know what the target for this is, although I am aware that actually the targets aren’t applicable for everyone because for some people it just isn’t healthy. However, I know I’ve been close to achieving it previously, so I know that it is healthy for me personally.

To be able to succeed in this, as well as the first resolution, I will pay a bit more attention to what I put in my body.

I’m not a big drinker anyway, but I aim to to drink a little less. I also intend to try to eat more healthily. This has been less easy with my additional commuting due to time constraints but there’s so many options these days that it’s pretty much just laziness when I don’t

Both of these resolutions are SMART. I am quite proud of myself for this. It shows that I’ve been paying attention in my training sessions.

Get together with my old friends…

This past weekend, I went to see one of my favourite bands play my favourite album in full. It was brilliant.

The band are Hell is for Heroes and the album is the Neon Handshake. The album was released 15 years ago and it had a big impact on the 23-year old me. The band featured two members of the more punky band Symposium who were even less well known than HIFH, although their live shows were pretty awesome. Hell is for Heroes were heavier and according to Wikipedia are of the “post-hardcore” genre. I’ve got no clue about such things. I just know I love them.

The Neon Handshake was apparently ranked the 58th best British rock album of all time in 2005 according to readers of Kerrang! I wasn’t aware that it was that widely known. Also, the readers of Kerrang! are wrong. It is the 1st best British rock album of all time. That is an objective fact.

I had first heard rumours of the band before their debut album was released from a friend who lived just outside London and had seen a couple of their shows and so I got the album a little after it came out. I listened to it a lot.

It really connected to me in a way that only happens every so often. You encounter a piece of art at exactly right time in your life that it really just resonates with you. The musical sound was something I hadn’t really listened to. I know there are other bands that have similarities but they were the first I had heard with this new sound. The emotion in the singer’s voice also really hit home. I wonder if it was also perhaps a reaction to the music I had liked previously. My favourite band up until that point had been Radiohead, who had started to go in a slightly different musical direction and I think perhaps I clasped onto this album that had it’s roots firmly in the rock tradition.

HIFH released two further albums, which I bought as soon as possible. I think I even bought promo copy of their third album so I could get it early, and it was missing song titles. I have listened to them recently and they are good, but they just didn’t have the same impact on me as the Neon Handshake. I wonder if it is because I had listened to it so much that it became so important and so familiar to me that anything wasn’t going to compare.

The last time I saw the band was when they briefly came out of hiatus for short tour in 2012 when they played Neon Handshake in full, supporting Hundred Reasons who played Ideas Above Our Station in full. I was a little bit grumpy then. For various reasons, we missed the first half of their set. I was more than a little disappointed and had little interest in Hundred Reasons, who I had never been that in to.

Late last year they announced a tour for the 15th anniversary of Neon Handshake and we snapped up tickets quickly. I wasn’t expecting them to play the album start to finish this time, so when they were a couple of songs into their set and I realised what they were doing, I had a big smile on my face. That big smile stayed their for their whole set. I was grinning, singing and dancing away in the limited space available.

If you’ve not heard the band, you should really spend three minutes and twenty seconds of your life listening to the song below, my favourite of theirs, I Can Climb Mountains. You won’t regret it*

* Unless you have rubbish taste in music.

My groomsdudes #7: my new brother

I first met Gavin when myself and Jo went up to visit him and his family in Scotland one Easter. He was exceptionally welcoming straight away. I was a little overwhelmed by the fact that having only been out of the car for 5 seconds and having only exchanged around 5 words, I was then in his car on the way to pick up some drinks from the supermarket. Whilst I wasn’t nervous about meeting him, I wanted to make a good impression, and emerging from an eight hour car journey probably isn’t the best time to do so. Gavin was great, though. He’s one of the easiest people to get on with and one of the genuinely nicest people that I’ve ever met, and we started to bond instantly.

That first evening he tried to get me to have whiskey. I refused as there have been times when I’ve had whiskey and it has come straight back out again. He insisted I tried it. I had a sip and then passed it to Jo to finish. I have since got a bit better at drinking whiskey. I can now drink a shot of whiskey sip by sip in under an hour. As he hasn’t been able to force whiskey upon me, he has gone for other drinks, mainly red wine which I have been fine with. I think this might be a family trait as Jo is always keen to make sure everyone has enough to drink, whether it is tea or something stronger.

Jo had told Gavin that I loved castles, so on my that visit to see him in, he took me to see four different castles in four days. It was possibly overloading but I loved it. I don’t think he’s taken me to see a castle on any subsequent visits though. I may need to have a word with him about this.

Some of my favourite times have involved going up to Scotland for Christmas with a whole bunch of board games and having drinks and playing games into the wee hours with Gavin and his friends. They have also been some of my least favourite times the morning after. We seem to take it in turns as to who will be the poorliest the following day.

This mainly started when me and Gavin played chess one time when Downton Abbey was on and we both wanted to be doing something else. I beat him twice. He has not asked me to play since. However, it did lead onto a conversation about other games and so the next time I visited, I came armed with a big bag of board games whist has led to me being known among the Borders folk as the Gamesmaster. It’s either because I bring games, or due to my uncanny resemblance to Patrick Moore. I guess it could be both.

Whilst on the phone to Gavin one evening after we were engaged, he said that he assumed that I’d be wearing a kilt. I hadn’t thought about it but he suggested that it would be a good idea as I’m marrying into a Scottish family. I said I’d consider it, as I do have Scottish ancestry myself, and my brother had considered wearing one for his wedding. I decided to run the idea past all my other groomsdudes, assuming that at least one of them would say no and I’d have a ready made excuse to back out of it. They all seemed to be really excited by the idea and I didn’t feel like I could disappoint them by backing out, so my legs will be out on display next weekend.

Out of myself and Jo, I am very much the planner. I am perhaps excessively so. During wedding planning, there came a point when I was worried that if Gavin didn’t get fitted up for his kilt, it might not arrive in time for the big day so I started to remind him on what may have been a weekly basis that he needed to go get fitted up.

On the phone to him one day, he told me that he wouldn’t be able to get measured up until just before the wedding as the kilt shop was extremely booked up. This sent me into a mild panic, so I gave the phone back to Jo and went to make a cup of tea. He let me stew (pun definitely intended) about it for half an hour or so before he revealed that he had been winding me up.

I realised at that point that this sort of teasing is what big brothers do, and I really felt like part of the family.

Bucket list item 32: Go on a zombie experience day

I am quite fond of zombies. That is, in the sense that I like stuff involving zombies, not that I’m a zombie sympathiser.

One of my favourite computer games ever is Dead Rising, a zombie slash-em-up. I’m also a really big fan of the Telltale Walking Dead games, which have some of the most emotional moments I’ve ever experienced in a video game, as well as watching the Walking Dead TV show. Zombie entertainment is my not so guilty pleasure.
So, you can probably imagine how excited I was when my brother told me that he’d found a zombie experience day for us to go to for my stag do. In case you can’t imagine it, I can tell you that I had an excited face on.

He had been in contact with Zed Events who run an event at a disused mall in Reading. The mall is scheduled for destruction so you can only book it a couple of months in advance as they’re unsure when it’s going to be knocked down. There are doors with big Warning! Danger! signs on that they tell you to be extremely wary of as they are actually doors to lift shafts with a big drop.

I don’t want to give too many details away about what actually happens because I highly recommend you go. It was an amazing experience and even the most hard to please of us seemed to really enjoy it. It was really well executed. From the moment that you walk into the building after your safety briefing, you feel like you’re walking into a computer game. The actors really add to the experience, both the humans and the zombies – with some of the zombies having really chilling screams.

At the end you get to have some photos taken by the organisers (see the photo above) and then you can wander around taking photos of yourself and the zombies, who very impressively stay completely in character the whole time.

I highly recommend this as an experience to take advantage of whilst you still can!

My groomsdudes #6: my dude of honour

I have recently decided that my friend Louise is my dude of honour. She was the ringleader for ensuring that I hada hen do. This was so that all my female friends had a chance to embarrass me as well as my male friends. They (rather understandably) didn’t want to be left out of the fun of embarassing me. 

Louise will also be a witness at our wedding, so I hope she has been practicing her signature.  All of this means that she has earned a place as my honorary groomsdude.

 
I can’t remember exactly when I met Louise. It was almost certainly through mutual friends, and was definitely before her 18th birthday, as I remember going to her party down on Camber Sands. I had only been driving a year or so and it was an exciting adventure to drive down the coast with my friend Tom who most likely brought along a whole bunch of ska-punk cassettes with which to educate me with during the journey.             
 

Generally we always seem to do cool stuff for Louise’s birthdays. A number of years ago we went to Paris for a day trip (although it rained and was generally a bit miserable). This year we went to the O2 see The Blink 182s who were kind enough to not only put on a show for her birthday, but also dedicated I Miss You to her.

One of my favourite memories of Louise is when we went to the silent disco at The Shard last year for her birthday. I was listening to the Bee Gees and was  strutting, jiving and singing at her, whilst she was listening to T’Pau’s China In Your Hand singing away and air grabbing with the full intensity that the song requires. It’s difficult to explain how awesome it was just with words, but this moment alone made the entire evening worthwhile.

We first started spending more time together when we were both working at Saga, often having lunch with my brother and our friend Ron. We used to have a competition to see how much of the self-service desserts we could hide underneath custard whilst still only getting charged for one portion. 

Louise worked in HR at that time, so she was able to provide us with all the gossip about what was going on. For the sake of all concerned, I should probably not repeat any of this gossip here. I’ve never managed to be able to acquire much gossip working in the accounts department. It’s a very gossip free kind of career path.

 
Many years later, the house next to the one I was renting with three other guys went up for rent and we managed to persuade Louise along with a few other friends to move in next to us. It was like being in Friends. We lived in the House of Boy and they lived next door to us in the House of Girl.  We even took down the fence in the back garden so that the houses started to flow into each other, which was especially useful for parties. 

Around a year after they moved in, we had to move out of our house and there was a space available in the House of Girl which I moved into. Whilst I only moved my stuff about five feet from the top floor of one house to the top floor of another house, in one of the most demoralising moments of my life, I had to take it all the way down two flights of stairs, a few feet along the street and then all the way up two flights of stairs again.
 
Some of my favourite memories are from the time living in those houses, with chaotic house parties and hanging out with good friends. One slightly less chaotic memory is how I was exhausted and had a really early night before I moved into the House of Girl. Natalie, one of my new housemates, found out about this, and decided that early nights were unacceptable and put in a rule about bedtime curfews. The first Saturday night after I moved in, Natalie was out and me and Louise had an extremely rock’n’roll evening of watching a film and having an early night. I felt extremely rebellious defying the curfew.
 
When I bought my flat, it turned out that Louise and Lisa had to move just before and we ended up living round the corner from each other so we got to spend quite a lot of time together. One of my favourite things about this was on Christmas morning we would all gather round their flat for a Christmas breakfast fry up and bucks fizz I’m a fan of Christmas and anything that makes it even better is always going to go down well with me.

Louise has been an invaluable source of advice when I have been dating which, over the course of our friendship, has been quite a lot. Her understanding of how females work was invaluable, as was her patience as I rambled on and on almost non-stop about my dating woes.

When I met Jo, Louise was able to tell how happy I was and was very quick to invite her to join in with group activities. This included an invitation to the annual viewing of Love Actually in November. There is pretty much no bigger honour than that. 
 
I find Louise to be an inspiring person. She likes taking on challenges, such as when she persuaded a bunch of us that we should start climbing mountains and we foolishly agreed that it was a good idea. We have now climbed all of the three peaks and I feel very accomplished for having done so. When Louise sets her mind to do something, she is a very dedicated person. She has very strong feelings about wanting to make a positive difference in the world and she is very determined to do what is right for both others and herself. Louise is one of those people who has great qualities that I want to emulate, and I am proud to have her as my dude of honour.