October Miscellaney

September and October were busy, busy months as my post on Solo Lentil Soup alluded to. On having a wee think about October I realise:-

1. October opened and we were in Ireland. Prior to that I had been away for a conference on the weekend. Law conferences are mean.

Dandelion Clock from my Mean Law Conference, Oxford.

Dandelion Clock from Mean Law Conference, Oxford.

2. We came back (from Ireland) and started a language course – my first formal learning environment since finishing my law degree. Studying again is disconcerting and makes me rather nervous.

Crocosima in the Rain, Northern  Ireland, Oct 2009.

Raindrops on Crocosima, Lough Erne, Northern Ireland, Oct 2009.

3. We went to London for a weekend and a couple of weekends later, I went to London again. Although I have traipsed to London on quite a few occassions while living here, I very rarely take photographs. This time, I tried a bit harder to take photographs but even still, we did not have many. Partially, it seems as if everything is over photographed. Partially, the crowds bother me and I just want to escape them. And now, there is the added annoyance of wondering whether I am taking a photograph of something that I am not allowed to photograph because I might use that photograph for my terrorist plots.

Japanese Windflower - the photos are tangetially related to the preceding paragraph.

Japanese Windflower. The photos are tangentially related to the immediately preceding paragraph. Except for this one. I just like this one. (And I have not sorted my London photos yet.)

4. On our first free weekend in about 2 months, we filled it to the brim with cycling. As we had house guests, we had not been for long rides; so we went for a long ride. Except that the long ride ended up being stop-start-abortive because I got two punctures (or one puncture not fixed correctly the first time).

The first puncture we fixed at a roundabout junction of two A-roads, with many passing cars, motorbikes and pedestrians. That sure was fun.

The second puncture we did not bother fixing, but instead changed the inner tube. Thankfully, the second puncture occured on the bike path, so we were surrounded by trees and it was blissfully peaceful. The only sounds were my grunts of annoyance as I struggled to (1) remove back wheel; (2) remove tyre; (3) replace inner tube; (4) replace tyre; (5) re-affix back wheel.

Naturally, the next day we had to go for another ride (plus the weather was glorious – my favourite crisp cold blue skies). We went for a less long ride but together, both rides made for a lot of riding plus one lovely long lazy Sunday lunch at a fabulous pub in the English countryside.

Gentian or Campion? I always mix them up.  I think campion.  The Burren, Ireland, Oct 2009.

Gentian or Campion? I always mix those two up. I think it's a campion. The Burren, Ireland, October 2009.

5. Our next free weekend we ruined by staying up way too late at a friend’s place, nattering, playing computer games, watching silly Youtube videos (you know that party game, Have you seen, “Charlie bit me?” No? It’s on Youtube, you must see it. And so it goes.) On Saturday, we woke rather late.  Sunday was miserable weather. I spent the weekend crafting, cleaning my bike chain and, surprisingly, whooping my partner’s ass in Carcassone. Yay me!

Carcassone is a board game, in which you place tiles that have roads and city parts on them. You have a set of characters – known as Meeples – which you place on the tile to claim it; once placed the Meeple can become a Knight (city piece); thief (road piece) or Farmer (land piece). The aim is to gain points by building cities, roads and farms. Cities and roads are scored as they are completed and farms are scored when all tiles have been placed.

I don’t really have a strategy for Carcassone and what “strategy” I do have would not be called a strategy as such by more serious players. Usually, I try to place my Big Meeple (what my partner and I call a Beeple but I don’t think that’s orthodox) as a farmer as soon as possible because his continued presence in my ranks of Meeples stresses me out. Mostly, I play with an eye to aesthetics and how the land is developing. Sometimes I decide, “This game, I’m going to make lots of cities.” Often, I play and develop the land physically closest to me. I try to resist these tendencies but I’m not very good at it.

I never was very good at chess; I could not help wanting to save all my pieces. Losing even a single pawn would get me quite upset. As a war leader, I would more likely retreat or negotiate a peace settlement than make a, “Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more; Or close the wall up with our English dead,”* type speech. My chess strategy involved dodging around evading capture until I did something stupid like expose my king to check and, sometimes, to checkmate. Conversely, when I used to play Lemmings (the computer game) I would rescue just the percentage I needed to get past that level and then blow all the rest up because their posture with the bomb above their heads and increasing panic as the numbers counted down made me giggle. Every. Single. Time.

Dear Partner, if you read the two preceding paragraphs, please erase all memory of it. In truth, I have excellent game strategies with multifarious strands and clearly developed endgame manouvers, which you will never learn. Never.

And, as of this weekend, we are off to France to cycle in that alleged cycle-touring mecca. In November. (We like cold weather.)

* Henry, from Shakespeare’s Henry V.

Did a lemming just head down there? Me @ the Cliffs of Moher, Ireland, Oct 2009.

Did a lemming go down there? Me at the Cliffs of Moher, Ireland, October 2009.



  1. Gorgeous shots of those flowers, Oanh. So you’ve been traveling 😉 I think I can relate to the nervous feeling of being back in school. I had nightmares off and on for years about missing classes and assignments. Are you learning a new language? I was just reading about a fellow with aspergers who is gifted in languages. He learned enough Icelandic within a week to do an interview.

    I smiled when I read about your Carcassone strategies. In my small circle of friends with whom I play some card and board games, I’m known for my non-strategic style.


  2. nikkipolani

    Yes! I’m learning Russian. It’s language and cultural exchange – very exciting.

    I would love to have a gift for languages but I don’t. I do love learning languages, though. It seems like the best way to really stretch your mind in all kinds of directions: logic, puzzles and patterns, rote learning and quirks – like in Russian one does not ask, Do you know (e.g where the train station is etc)?, one asks, Do you not know etc?. Fascinating.

    re strategy – I fool many people who think that because I appear logical, competitive and ruthless, that I must have a strategy. Often when I play games, people who don’t know me as well as my partner does, puzzle over what I am doing. I can see it in their faces and I am tempted to put them out of their misery by saying, “Ah, I just did. Not because there’s a master plan or anything.” But it’s to my advantage that they are perplexed by my playing style…


    1. wandering chopsticks

      A visit 🙂 Not so much Russia, but central Asia fascinates me.

      My reasoning goes that I can muddle French, Spanish, German and Italian because of the links with English. Russian and Cyrilic (the alphabet) are so completely alien – no muddling is possible.


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