Drinking and Driving

Posted on July 14, 2015

I left university with a few extra letters after my name, twelve extra kilograms of meat joined to my bones, and several thousands pounds worth of student loans attached my bank account. Using the power of logic I came to the conclusion that losing weight would be easier than losing my debts.

The weight loss regime started straight away: instead of drinking beer, or whiskey, I had the same drink as my stick thin girlfriend. Sadly the lemon juice in a margarita doesn’t count towards your five a day, and even though I looked fabulous drinking Cosmopolitans, I didn’t suddenly become eligible to work at Abercrombie and Fitch.

So I gave up drinking. Temporarily. The plan was to have a merrily teetotal September, and then partake on special occasions for the rest of the year. Luckily for me, I have a supportive family that would surely support me in my quest to lose weight.

On the first night my Dad opened up a rather fine bottle of Balvenie 14 Year Old Caribbean Cask. This fine malt happens to be my favourite whiskey. I resisted, despite having to watch him drink it with Soda water, Coca-Cola, and a whole range of other mixers designed to infuriate me.

A few nights later he arrived home from work with a bottle of 2004 Grand Vintage Moet & Chandon Champagne; he looked me in the eye whilst eagerly mixing, what would have been my glass, with orange juice in order to make world’s most ridiculous Bucks Fizz.

Lastly, he asked me to meet him at a pub on the way back from work. The pub seemed to be hosting some sort of private function; walking in I received some pretty puzzled looks. Undeterred I waited at the bar and ordered my drink, a Lime Soda, and received an even weirder look from the barman. It was only when he was pouring my drink, and as I was looking around to try and see Dad, did I see the flyers scattered around the pub: it was a National Front meeting.

I hastily drank my drink and exited stage left to phone my Dad: turns out he was in the pub across the road because, quote: “it was too busy in the other place.” He did reassure me that the idea of using white nationalists to peer pressure me into drinking wasn’t his; it was my mum’s.

I suppose I deserved it. She did try and hand back a stack of pizza boxes, to a Dominos delivery driver, because I told her they paid 50p for each returned box they could reuse.

Since then, I have suffered a self imposed exile in my room, as I fear what the next step in the ‘let’s get William drunk, or killed’ plan is, and have only emerged for my driving lessons.

Which is completely stupid. I’ve managed to inherit all the bad traits of my parent’s respective ethnicities, but none of the good ones. My teeth are the reason American’s fears a British style healthcare system, and my driving is more Asian than Bruce Lee punching a Panda right in its comically small penis. I’d be better off facing my parent’s attempted infanticide based pranks.

Saying that, I’ve enjoyed my driving lessons. My instructor is the most patient, and fearless, man I have met and the two hours I spend in the car are deeply therapeutic, especially after a hectic twelve-hour day at work.

However, the fact that my weekly highlight reel consists of several clips of me stalling a car, when attempting to Parallel Park, makes me appreciate just how awesome university was. Not to mention just how sad I am that I’m not heading back to Portsmouth for just one more year.

Pompey, I miss you.


The £130 Vue Movie Experience

Posted on July 14, 2015

I’m a Formula One fan; so it should come as no surprise that Ron Howard’s Formula One based epic tickled my fancy. Unfortunately my other family members are not F1 fans, so it took some a considerable amount of begging charm before they succumbed to my request.

Which is totally understandable: a trip to the cinema for a family of four now costs £30, but only if you stop off at a Tesco on the way to buy snacks. If you do feel the need to pacify the popcorn mafia the price is likely to surpass £50.

On a minimum wage salary that is eight hours work, which really puts it into perspective, and explains why most people exercise a reasonable amount of restraint before splashing the cash on a night at the pictures.

Vue Bicester opens just fifteen minutes before the first movie starts, so we decided to explore the new Sainsbury’s for a look around first. Once the cinema opened, at 11:30, we promptly bought our tickets and snacks: all together, for three people, two large drinks, and a single large popcorn, the movie came to £50. Whilst that would be completely unacceptable for movies such as Saw 3D, or Movie 43, it felt justified for Rush and we had no complaints as the movie was excellent.

Unfortunately the post-movie buzz was cut short by an £80 parking fine as we had over stayed our three hour ‘free parking’ stay by 20 whole, unforgiving, minutes.

On the signs, and the Vue website it proudly proclaims that: “Vue Bicester customers can park for up to 3 hours for free with a validated cinema ticket.” From that we gathered that we would get three hours for free, and then we would simply pay for any time after that.

We were wrong: you have three hours maximum and you cannot purchase anymore time that that.

Rush clocked in at just over two hours longs, and we all know how unbearably long the adverts and trailers go on for. What about actually buying the tickets and popcorn? Why offer three hours free parking if a decent movie experience is likely to go on for longer than this?

This is like giving football fans 2 hours free parking for a football games: yes it’s possible to get out just in time, but how are you meant to enjoy the game?

So whilst it is widely documented that films are getting longer, and longer, in addition to getting more and more expensive, Vue now wants you to sprint back to your car as soon as the credits start to roll

With this in mind what is Bicester’s Pioneer Square meant to achieve?  If you want people to come to Bicester to enjoy a film, maybe a meal, and a walk around the weekend market why offer a three-hour maximum stay and no way of extending your parking allowance?

It makes no sense to impose such a strict time limit on a car park meant for movie goers: even Bicester Village, the boutique, designer, weekend shopping destination offers free parking.

Instead, go to Milton Keynes. Cineworld will refund your parking charge at the box office, as long as you park in the Xscape parking lot, and in the blue bays. Then you have the whole day to wonder around the 240 stores without a ridiculous time limit.


Supermarket Showdown: Sausage Fest 2013

Posted on July 14, 2015

Following the ‘shocking’ revelations that horsemeat had been found in burgers, it was also revealed that no one was remotely shocked; at least it is meat, said the masses.

At this point it is important to remember that Value food has one purpose: to sit in the back of the freezer and act as an incentive not to go to the pub, save some money, do your work, and get your degree.

However, on the occasion your student loan does not stretch far enough, you may need to consume some smart price, or everyday value, products.

Before this happens I strongly suggest phoning your parents and begging for money, or even contacting Wonga for a short-term loan, but if all else fails you will need to know what value foodstuffs are edible, and what is not.

That’s why I have assembled a crack team of food reviewers, from around my house, to assist you in buying only the very best smart price food. First up, ASDA Smartprice Sausages versus Tesco Everyday Value Sausages.

Both brands are similar in terms of price: you will get 12 ASDA sausages for 84 pence, and 8 Tesco sausages for 61 pence.  Find me a cheaper sausage, and I’ll show you a horse’s willy.

This means both brands come in at a scarily low 7 pence per sausage. In return each sausage will begrudgingly provide you with, roughly, 120 calories and 6 grams of fat.

In terms of meat content Tesco’s actual pork content came in at 50%, which is higher than ASDA’s 40%.

When cooked, both brands browned up quite nicely, but didn’t give produce any sort of smell.

When tasted we agreed that the ASDA sausage has a much better texture. That is not to say it had a nice texture, but it was definitely firmer and nicer to bite into than Tesco’s. In comparison Tesco’s sausage felt like a slightly meaty rice pudding encased tightly in cling film, or how I imagine Madonna’s arms to feel like.

However Tesco’s definitely tasted better. Again, we are not implying it had a nice taste, but only that the sausage contained some form of flavour; which was probably down to the slightly higher meat content, and better seasoning. ASDA’s sausage did not taste of much, and by ‘not much’ we mean nothing except a little salty; almost as if the other 60% of the sausage was the pig’s tears.

It seems the two companies went down different paths when it came to designing their budget banger; Tesco sacrificed their sausage’s texture to provide you with more meat for your 7 pence, whereas ASDA sacrificed meat for bulking agents and a better texture.

We ate the sausages plain for the test, and it is unlikely you would do the same. You probably won’t taste either sausage when it takes its place in a full meal. So, if you would prefer the illusion of a meatier sausage as an accompaniment for your beans and mash then ASDA it all the way, but in terms of what we think tastes better: Tesco’s Everyday Value Sausages are superior.


Airline Adverts: I call Shenanigans

Posted on July 14, 2015

I was only a few months old when I made my first journey on an aeroplane; freshly birthed, it was vital that I be introduced to my Thai family whilst I was at my whitest.

So off I went: London Heathrow to Bangkok Don Mueang with a 14-hour stopover in Riyadh courtesy of Saudi Airlines. I would be lying if I claimed to remember any of the flight, but I am assured it was rubbish. A claim I have no reason to doubt.

According to my Dad, he and my Mum were put in the smoking section of the plane – yes, they had smoking sections back then –and whilst they enjoyed the finest selection of Arabic films, and secondary smoke, I slept on the food tray.

It would be the last time I ever slept on flight.

Despite all the hours I have spent up in the air, slowly absorbing radiation from the sun and the sweat from the guy next to me, I am yet to find anything resembling an airline advert on an actual flight.

It is not from lack of trying either: since starting university in 2010 I have flown over 180,000 kilometres, and prior to that I would fly regularly to Hong Kong, Malaysia, and other places around Asia.

I’ll use my flight with Virgin Atlantic, as an example as I know you will have seen one of their adverts.

I flew with them from Hong Kong to London and the only thing that carried through from their adverts was the cabin crew’s red uniform, and that they were vaguely human.

Imagine my disappointment when the stewardesses did not seductively float through the airport, with cocky pilots closely behind high fiving random travellers.

It gets worse when you actually get on their vessel. Allegedly, Virgin’s seats were design by a child prodigy with a chair obsession. I respect that, but the seats were tiny, uncomfortable, with a TV screen lifted from a calculator, and the smallest collection of movies outside of North Korea. Seat boy needs to reassess his life’s work.

The inflight meal came in a Chinese take out style foil container that, in turn, came out of a cardboard box. Pretty bad even for airline food, but Virgin do not just do ‘pretty bad.’

The stewardess then handed me a Virgin Cola.

In disbelief I took it from her, I needed to feel the can just to convince myself I wasn’t hallucinating. They still produce this stuff? I looked around, desperately trying to think of what I was supposed to do with it, was I expected to clean the toilets?

Several hours passed, no more drinks were offered, and then I clocked on. They expected me to drink it.

I’ve picked on Virgin here, but the same applies to all airlines. If every other product has strict set of guidelines controlling their advertising, why don’t airlines?

If alcohol brands can’t equate their drinks with sexual attraction, then neither should airlines. At least after 8 pints the beers goggles have set in, the same can’t be said after 14 hours flying.

Sainsbury's Soup Review

Sainsbury’s Own Brand Chicken Noodle Soup Review

Posted on July 14, 2015

A little over a week into 2013 and I was on my way back to Portsmouth. Safely away from the well-maintained abode, that is home for three weeks at the end of each term, and forced back into the hedonistic university lifestyle that I rock so very well.

As I was being chauffeured down the M27, a large Sainsbury’s appeared near Hedge End; my Dad looked at my despondent, moneyless, demeanour, ruffled my hair, and took the next exit.  I was going to get food and quality food at that: Jamie Oliver is the patron saint of awesome food, and he has starred in some very convincing Sainsbury’s adverts.

Whilst I am not a soup connoisseur, I do enjoy a good broth when I feel the time is right. When spending my hard earned student loan I will buy Heinz when, but only when, on offer. This isn’t as bad as it sounds as both Asda and Tesco own brands tend to be adequate, and Lidl soup is surprisingly tasty on both the palate, and the wallet.

But when in Rome, you do as the Romans, so I stocked up on some Sainsbury’s soups; safe in the knowledge that they have been endorsed by the master of the fifteen minute meal.

A few weeks later and my food supply was getting low. Following a cold walk home from a meeting about a space doctor- who doesn’t have to retake his medical licensing test every time he re-spawns, despite his personality changing drastically – I eagerly grabbed a can from my cupboard.

Although the can itself is a pretty standard 400-gram aluminium container, with a ring pull for ease of access, after tasting its contents it is now apparent that the great river Ganges flows effortlessly through India with a thicker, meatier, liquid.

A good soup should require a few shakes, and maybe even a spoon, to tease out the last bits of liquid delicious. Upon opening the can of Sainsbury’s Own Brand Chicken Noodle Soup, and pouring the anaemic looking liquid into a the pot, the only thing that required scraping out was the noodles; which came out in one big Pringle like disc.

I would take bets that this large monstrous slab of tasteless Noodle gloop would cause the Japanese to spontaneously lose their shit.

As for the chicken, Sainsbury’s Own Brand Chicken Noodle Soup is the Foster’s Lager of the Soup world, and simply dipping a live chicken into warm water, like a teabag, will provide you with a more defined chicken taste. Watching a chicken strut around on television will induce, from memory, a taste of chicken more vivid than that found in a can of Sainsbury’s Own Brand Chicken Noodle Soup. Only a man who shaves his gentleman’s area with a straight razor can claim to be less chicken than this sham of a soup.

In conclusion, I do not recommend Sainsbury’s Own Brand Chicken Noodle Soup.