Sunday, 17 February 2013

Visiting the Mayor

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Hello again. Can't believe the last week went by so fast! I haven't even finished telling you about the week before! But, I was back at work and the week flew by in a flash.

Nathan still hasn't received his toys - I mean PRIZES from his win last week. However - to keep us amused he features in the winners video. Have a look here:

I am very proud :-) He has been asked if he'll be interviewed for one of their magazines too - next week.

Our week of excitement didn't end in London though - oh no! On the Friday evening when we got back - we were invited to the Mayor's Parlour in Newcastle. Oh yes - we do move in exalted circles :-)

Interesting Night Out :-)
The Mayor was entertaining the parish councils - a couple at a time I think. So Silverdale PC was asked to go for "drinks and nibbles" at the Civic Offices. Not all members could attend to N and I decided to go along to make sure we were well represented. You were allowed to take your other half.

When we first arrived our coats were hung up and two gentlemen in white glove handed us drinks.

We had a look round his parlour, signed the guest book and peered into his cabinets full of glinting silver and gold. I was fascinated by the Mayoral Mace - and was running my fingers over its fine engraving when one of the gentlemen in white gloves closed the cabinet up with a polite cough.

What's behind the Door?
We were invited to go to the ante-room and enjoy the snacks prepared for us. There was a very fine large pork pie - that we wee assured was made locally and didn't contain horse.  Some very tasty sausage rolls as well and prawn crackers crisps and nuts. Went very nicely with the white wine.

Some of the Ceremonial Jewellery
While we were eating, the Mayor Mr David Becket  (who sports a very fine set of mutton chop whiskers) gave us all an A4 sheet of paper that had the Newcastle-under-Lyme coat of arms on it. He explained what all the different parts of it represented - including the tree on top with the two young goats next to it. That was put there when Kidsgrove  joined the Borough. It was interesting - and he was helped by his wife Anne who also told us something of the duties of a mayor. It seems that they are only Mayor/Mayoress until May. They have enjoyed it although at one point Anne did say that they did attend a LOT of carol concerts!!

He showed us the Mace - which no-one else is allowed to touch only the High Constable of the Borough. (Ooops - that's why the chap closed the cabinet up so quickly when I was playing with it!)
He said that there was a lot of valuable chains of office and other ceremonial jewellery around and we were free to wander the corridors and have a good look.

Some Previous Incumbents
The Untouchable Mace :-)
We had another drink and some more nibbles and enjoyed looking around and chatting to the other people from Kidsgrove PC. One of their councillors and his wife turned out to be the parents of someone who went to school with Nathan. he caught up a bit with them! Then when the Mayoress came over to chat it turns out she used to be the head of the Maths department at his school too. So he didn't feel out of place at all! In fact I think we were the last to leave!

Small world?

It had been a really good night - different - but good!

On Saturday we went to The Queen's Arms in Freehay to celebrate my parents wedding anniversary. Can you believe they have been married for 56 years?

We had a very nice lunch with my brother Dom and his wife Sharon and Sarah their daughter. The Queen's Arms is one of my dad's favourite places to eat - and we have to say the food is very good.

Okay - next week we are on a diet!

Saturday, 9 February 2013

Creative Bloq Awards - London

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Nice empty train :-)

 Laura was nice and got up early to get Nathan and me to the station in time for our train to London. We went on London Midland - a slower but cheaper train! I like being on a train and find this so much more relaxing than the business people-full speeding trains of Virgin. There was lots of room, we got a table and it was all very nice. I could savour my hot chocolate and had time to read all my newspaper and do the crossword!

Seems a bit harsh. I put 50p in!
We arrived in the Capital just before 12 noon. In time for lunch!! Nathan took me to a pub, The Phoenix that he had discovered with his friend Martin. He said the food was great - so we thought we wold give it a go. It is also the place where Mitch Benn  holds his Distraction Club nights (if you are a fan of his - he is regularly heard on The Now Show on Radio 4)

We could tell it was a place of comedy - by the many signs around the place. We ordered food and Nathan got out the laptop we'd brought because he was having a bit of a panic that Interference wasn't working properly just as the judges could be looking at it! There didn't seem to be much activity on the game - but he had a look and all seemed to be well.

So we could settle down to enjoy our meal. I had half a chicken with red wine gravy and chips - very tasty! Nathan had some of their famous barbecued "pulled pork". I tried a bit and it was delicious!

Something a bit different I suppose!

Nathan makes music at the Science Museum
We had the afternoon to ourselves as the Awards Ceremony didn't start until 6.30pm. We had decided to go and visit the Science Museum as we had seen on the news that they had a new exhibit of a Bionic Man. A robot that was made up of all the best and latest technology in replacement body parts. The place was pretty busy - lots of school parties with excited children. It was good to see them enjoying science. We enjoyed it ourselves. There was some kind of Google Lab - where you could had to get a tag from the machine as you went in and then you could try different experiments and record the results on your tag. Then, when you get home you can have a look at what you produced - video, sound or pictures just using a webcam and your PC. There were musical instruments played remotely from a screen - some were being played over the web from all over the world. There was constant music in the room. You could compose a sequence yourself and record it - and put it on your tag.
A good likeness do you think?

My favourite part was  where you could be drawn  by a robot! You had to have your photo taken, then the computer turned it into a line drawing then a robotic arm drew your portrait in the sand. I managed to get a photo of mine before it as wiped and it started to draw the next one.

We did find the bionic man eventually - but they would not allow us to take photos. It did look amazing - we decided we must watch the C4 documentary about it - so we can see it in action rather than just in a glass case.

This one is better :-)

Nathan in sand

By the time we'd seen all this it was going dark outside and I was ready for a sit down! We decided to get over to Shoreditch, where Modern Jago is situated, then find a nice pub to have a drink and a rest before the awards ceremony at 6.30pm.

Happily there was a Brew Dog bar just round the corner! Brew Dog are a Scottish brewery and I think they hold some kind of record for the strongest beer in the world! It was called The End of History and is 55% and comes served from a stuffed squirrel. Aaaaanyway - we didn't have that as we didn't want to turn up to this event already wasted!

N tried some Trashy Blond (no comments please!) and I was offered several tasters before I found one I could actually drink. The first taster was Pineapple Sour" which was way too sharp to drink without stripping off your stomach lining, then I tasted some raspberry beer - far too hoppy and bitter. I eventually settled on a light-coloured ale that tasted of apples and cinnamon. That's the only problem with this bar - it only served beer!

It was raining as we set off up the road to find Modern Jago. I think I mentioned in a previous blog that it is situated inside an old school. It is beautiful inside - you can tell designers work here!

Magical Modern Jago
 It was nice to see that we were on the list - so they let us in! We left our coats in the cloakroom and headed over to the bar as directed by the lovely Marsha who welcomed us in thee. She works for Future Publishing - the hosts of the awards.

N had a beer and I had a white wine - all free. Waitresses were circulating with canapés. The micro fish and chips and burgers were lovely - and so were the smoked salmon ones and the spicy hot crackers. Not sure what was on those!

We met Richard again. he was the really nice guy who made the Font Picker app. He was also on the shortlist! It was nice to see him and catch-up with what he'd been doing since we saw him back in October at the Windows 8 Launch.

They are projecting our tweets!

It wasn't long before the old school bell was rung and everyone's attention was focussed on the stage where representatives from Microsoft and Future Publishing were going to announce the 10 finalists.

We held our breath as three winners were announced - then we heard the word INTERFERENCE and Nathan was called up onto the stage to receive his prize! I can't remember what they said that they liked about the game - but I am sure that they had said they were recording the ceremony. When they send us the link I will post it on this blog. Also Richard won too - with his Font Picker! The judges said that it was "indispensable for every designer"

Although we didn't win the Grand Prize - we were very happy to be a Top 10 App as N has put so much time and work into this game. We have more than 13,000 players now and some amazing artists! Even if you don't want to play - have a look at some of the pictures being produced - in just 10 minutes!! We have a great community on there too - from all over the world.

 Nathan has won a Lumia 920 phone, an Ultrabook laptop and a Windows 8 Tablet. Not sure exactly which ones until they arrive!

They will all help him develop the game for other platforms. Very useful for the business :-)

Nathan won!!
 After that it was party time! Nathan was interviewed by Future - they are also going to put the interviews onto their website. Also a really nice, very enthusiastic guy called Andrew came to find us to ask us all about Interference

He works for Microsoft and said that he was so happy that a game had won. It was the only one! He wants to keep in contact with Nathan and do all he can to help with promotion of the game and getting out to a wider audience.

That was the best prize!

( I loved the way he was describing our spare bedroom as an "Indie Studio" )

So we enjoyed a little more /beer/wine and some tiny chocolate brownies covered in glitter and then got the bus through rainy London over to Stoke Newington where the lovely Heidi and Si live. They had offered to put us up for the night. We took beer and Maltesers and continued to celebrate! Well, N and Si celebrated by playing Call of Duty Black Ops.

It had been a very good day :-)

Waiting for the Announcement
Nathan interviewed by Future Publishing

The Prizes are in the post.... :-)


Exciting Week

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It has been a very busy week off. We enjoyed out App Group meet-up on Monday night. We went to Miso again, which is an all-you-can-eat restaurant - but not a buffet! You are given menus and you can choose 3 items each at a time - and when they bring that food you get another order form and order some more. You keep doing that until you are full and couldn't eat another grain of rice!

Miso - before it got busy!
I would definitely recommend the Chicken Nanban, (which Nathan insisted on calling chicken Gangnam style!) Cucumber sushi and the Catsu. I enjoyed the plum wine and Nathan had the Sapporo beer. The company was good too. We talked to Katherine and Chris of Lightwood Games. They had spent a few days hobnobbing with Johnny Ball - who had been emailing them since. They may decide to work with him on producing educational apps - a new direction for them. 
It seems from talking to the others there that Nathan is the only one round here who has been shortlisted for the Creative Bloq App Generator Awards down in London later in the week. We'd all had invitations but only Nathan's had said he was shortlisted for a prize! We had assumed they short-listed most people to get us all down there! Things may be looking quite hopeful then....

Nice cherry blossom wallpaper :-)
At one point during the meal the waitress brought a bowl of a mysterious substance - and asked us who had ordered the Japanese Radish! No-one on our table owned up to that - but we told her we'd try it anyway. We expected it to be either sour and pickled or hot like wasabi - but it was really sweet and very nice. A bit like pineapple.
Mysterious Japanese Radish

The lady who owns Miso is so nice! She had asked us to move tables as a much larger party than ours arrived and we had the biggest table. We didn't mind at all, we got to go and sit in the sunken seating with cushions!  But at the end of the night, to make up for the inconvenience she took all the drinks off our bill! She is great! I'd recommend it for a good night out - it is always busy - but then that is the sign of a good restaurant!

We didn't intend to stay too late - but we were enjoying ourselves so much it was a bit of a late night.

What's more - we had arranged to go out to lunch with our parents the next day. They haven't met up since Christmas Day so we thought it might be fun!

We had decided to all meet up at The Weathervane - a Hungry Horse pub at Meir Park - near the Tesco. It was a bit of a chilly day. We chose it because it was quite central for all of us - Nathan's parents came from Stone, my parents from Cheadle and we came from Newcastle. Also - I had a £5 off voucher for being on their mailing list! :-)
Mmmmm - chicken.

The food was very nice and you could choose BIG versions of most of the items on the menu. I went for the New York chicken which meant it was covered in barbecue sauce, wrapped in bacon and smothered in cheese. Healthy eh?

Just the kind of food you need on a cold February day. Also, since my mum was there and doesn't feel that a meal is complete without one - we had to have a sweet too! She enjoyed a syrup sponge and custard, N's mum had cheesecake and N and I shared a big chocolate brownie sundae.

Our parents at The Weathervane
Then, when we looked out of the window we saw that it had been snowing and everywhere was rapidly becoming white! So, we decided not to hang around and we all went our separate ways. It was pretty bad driving in it - this time it didn't stick - so all was well.

We did spend Wednesdays indoors. We were off to London on Thursday until Friday - so we got on with some work and stayed warm and cosy.

Next episode - The Trip to London and the Creative Bloq Awards!

Stay tuned :-)

Monday, 4 February 2013

Hospital Visit

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Back from the hospital. It was so busy this morning - we had to go up to the top of the multi-storey car park and half-way down again before we found a space.

We guessed that it must mean that the whole place was busy - and we were right! We had quite a wait in the main waiting room. That was fine though - as we saw Frank and his wife waiting there too so we could catch up. It was so nice to see him!

 He was looking quite thin - but he said that he had his PEG out a couple of weeks ago (horrendous experience he said - and I would agree!) so was actually eating real food now - supplemented by the liquid food. So, hopefully he'll fatten up a bit soon. Nothing tastes nice though - and he can't eat a lot. He has a very dry mouth and needs water with everything. It is some progress though.

The not so good news though was that he has another lump in his neck and one in his chest. So last week he was back having another scan. He was waiting for the results today. I hope it is not serious. On the good news side - they have booked a holiday and are looking forward to that in May.

After about an hour we were called round to Sub Wait 1 and I hadn't got far with my Su Doku when we were called into the Corridor of Consultants! We were taken past the usual door and went into a room further down the corridor. There was Mr Hughes!! I haven't seen him since just after my operation. He said "It's a year since your operation" - so I guess that's why he saw me today, to see how I was doing. There was a room full of people, not all familiar - I recognised Wendy the Special Nurse and a young man called Neil did the honours with the nose cam today. He took his time and was very gentle - but it still made my eyes water! (Note to self - don't buy any unwaterproof mascara again!)

Wendy said to Mr Hughes that I had a "good neck" I did wonder what she was on about! From what I could gather from their conversation they'd  had a patient in who was just about to undergo a Radical Neck Dissection and wanted to know how she would look afterwards. Mr Hughes didn't think that I wold enjoy meeting her though!

He did say that all was well with me though - and he would see me back in two months! So my next appointment isn't until April! I am quite happy with that.

Tonight we are going to Miso in Stoke for some Japanese food and another Meet-Up with the App Creators of Stoke. Chris and Katherine will be there - they have just come back from an educational technology fair, where they met Johnny Ball. You know - Zoe's dad - did "Think of a Number" and other such gems on TV. I will be able to hear all about it. I think he liked their educational apps!

I probably won't be able to contribute much to the conversation but I will enjoy the food and maybe a small glass of their wonderful Plum wine. :-)

Sunday, 3 February 2013

Is it really a YEAR???

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It seems like ages since I blogged last - but now I have got a week off so I'll be able to catch up and let you know how things are going.

Tomorrow I have an appointment with the consultant team - it is six weeks since my last one on Christmas Eve! I'll let you know how that goes.

Meanwhile we have been celebrating because on 31st January it was exactly twelve months since I had my surgery to remove all the cancer on my neck. I remember just afterwards not being able to eat much - or speak properly - what a difference a year makes. I feel perfectly normal again now!! Heehee - if I ever WAS normal!!

Do you remember the photo from 4 days after the op? Click here to go back in time :-)

So to celebrate me being able to eat without pain - we went to one of our favourite places in Newcastle - The Blue Chilli - highly recommended if you like Thai Food. We only discovered last week that it had actually moved from King Street (near the roundabout with the fountains) to opposite Brunswicks. It is above the shoe shop near Hacking Ashtons Solicitors.

We can report that the food is just as good and the service still extremely friendly. We did pop into The Rigger for a drink beforehand - I really like the beer  pumps shaped like guitar necks. It was pretty quiet in there as it was early - although one girl was very much the worse for wear. We saw her friends walking her around outside until a taxi arrived and they put her in it - then came back into the pub to carry on partying. Hope she was okay!!            

New Blue Chili
We walked down to the Blue Chili in the rain and walked up the stairs. it is so nice and light up there - with their new chandeliers and  great views over Newcastle.

The bar is pretty well stocked although no real ales so Nathan and I shared a bottle of Rose wine and Laura had Malibu and lemonade.

The men has changed and seems to have more choice - although my favourite Gloden Chicken is still there. I couldn't resist it - so I ordered it with some of their wonderful coconut rice and crispy noodles.

New Chandelier
Fun at the Lymestone Vaults
Laura went for a Yellow Curry with tofu and Nathan tried a chicken curry - also with coconut rice. It was pretty good! When we came out it wasn't so wet - so we walked into town to the Lymestone Vaults - so N could get some real beer! It was heaving (well it was Friday night!) but we squeezed our way to the bar - and then were lucky enough to find a sofa free that we could sit on. After a couple of drinks we decided to move on - but y them most places were charging to go in! So we went to a café bar down near the job centre, where it was free to get in. That was also very busy so we came home after that. Got a taxi home and the driver thought it was hilarious that Nathan told him to go back via Buffet Gardens - instead of Buffet Island. he kept saying that he was going to go in and tell them they should change their name - they'd do loads more business as it was a much better name!

He was very funny - much better than the taxi driver we had going - who didn't say a word - just had Radio Stoke on really loud with some phone-in programme about what people thought of the manager.
We'd had a lovely night though - and now I have a week off and have all kind of adventures planned including a trip to London for another Microsoft Event at Modern Jago.

Lymestone Vaults
I will keep you all updated as the week progresses...