Short & sweet Friday Fun

I’m in the mire of two big deadlines (8,000 words in total) due next week, so I haven’t the time to do a ‘proper’ Friday Fun, despite having plenty fodder.

BUT, there is one thing that’s brought me respite at intervals through the week which I’d intended to share – given that it’s fun and transport related. Out there, some brilliant geeks are working on a metro game, where you can create your own transport system. You connect stations; cross rivers; resolve capacity issues; and ultimately aim to safely carry as many passengers as possible. The game is over if serious over-crowding occurs, just as in real life.

It’s in beta, so they’re welcoming feedback and in the course of the days that I’ve been playing it I’ve noticed both bugs and improvements, so you’d actually be contributing something too! This is what the developers have to say:

Mini Metro is an upcoming minimalistic subway layout game. Your small city starts with only three unconnected stations. Your task is to draw routes between the stations to connect them with subway lines. Everything but the line layout is handled automatically; trains run along the lines as quickly as they can, and the commuters decide which trains to board and where to make transfers.

Mini MetroThis was one of my more successful escapades. I think I got 397 passengers [note the number in the bottom right corner] before over-crowding shut down my system. The circle on the bottom left is a new station – they appear at intervals and you have to work out how to incorporate them. The symbols at the stations are passengers waiting for trains – panic ensues when those lines grow longer! But each time Sunday rolls along (see the clock in the top right corner) you are offered a choice of bonuses, from extra capacity trains, to additional river tunnels.

At times it seems fiendishly difficult, but practice improves things! (Although I did note that my friend Matt had already reached 471 when he sent me the link, but he is a techy nerd, so maybe he’s just better at these things!)

Anyway, there’s your challenge for the weekend! Enjoy!

When the Spirit moves through Jenga

A compulsory component of college residentials (aka #VicarWeekend) is the Saturday evening fellowship group meetings (also, cynically, known as forced friendship groups). These groups are a way of helping us get to know students from other years and other centres (of which there are two in addition to the one I go to). Nice idea and generally a nice concept – it’s just that the unnatural, forced element of it is always there.

Last Saturday our fellowship group leaders had two options for our time together:
(i) Play Jenga
(ii) Pray for each other
Being a holy huddle, the conclusion was to “play Jenga and see where the Spirit leads us”. It led us to a fairly unsuccessful first game and an incredibly successful second game – possibly the tensest I’ve ever played.

In case you’re not familiar with the concept, Jenga basically involves a lot of wooden bricks assembled into a tower. The aim is to remove bricks from the tower and place them at the top until the tower falls down and it’s great because there’s basically no winner – just one loser. (Handy for competitive types like me.) You can – as I discovered on Saturday – also up the tension by playing appropriate music as a soundtrack. O Fortuna from Carmina Burana (the X Factor judges’ music) worked rather well; while some tinny Christmas music simply made the situation more ridiculous than it was already.

Such fun!

Treasures in Tewks

It’s great having siblings that know you well. Over half-term (how great is it to have half-terms again?!) I paid a flying visit to the shire, [well, I say ‘flying’, First Great Western got my there fairly speedily by train] and as a special treat, my sister had saved an exciting activity for us to do while I was there…

Tewkesbury, on the surface, is a fairly sleepy town. You can walk round it in 20 minutes. It doesn’t have a wide range of shops (its M&S closed down over a year ago), it does have an ancient abbey. The most dramatic thing to have happened there was the Battle of Tewkesbury in 1471 (part of the War of the Roses) – until 2007, when the town was over-run with water:

Thus, the thought of a exciting activity based in the town was rather intriguing – even more so when I discovered it was part of a fundraising activity from church (which in her case is the aforementioned abbey) – but my interest was truly awakened when I realised it was a competitive quiz:

That’s the quiz sheet – a collection of 30 images involving parts of the town (in a defined geographical area) and the abbey. Our mission was to locate them all and we only had a morning. Joyful. I love a good mission and a random adventure!

Luckily, she’d already identified a few of them (like number 25 – the West Window of the abbey photographed from below) so the task was slightly less daunting. Off we headed to the abbey, where we certainly did not use Verger contacts in order to get a head start… We foolishly assumed that #16 was part of a stained glass window – more fool us, how did we not realise it was a roof boss? [Who knew ‘roof boss’ was the official term for those things on the ceilings of abbeys/cathedrals?] However, it was once we left the abbey that things got really exciting.

In addition to the super-exciting quiz, Mim also took the opportunity to show me hidden nooks and crannies of the town. As we ventured up one alley, we unexpectedly found #11, quickly followed by #5 and #23. The next alley yielded even more – and our shouts of excitement with each new discovery were getting louder. As we paused for a breather (and to write down further answers using a bin as a desk) we spotted another three. Within an hour and a half of starting, we’d crossed off the majority – leaving just a few for Mim to finish off with some younger friends.

But the treasures of Tewkesbury did not end there. In the summer, I had an unexpected phone call from my mother, asking me questions about Chalet School hardbacks thanks to a discovery in the town’s second hand bookshop – it yielded me a copy of The Chalet School Goes To It. Clearly, I needed to make my own visit, though there were serious money implications. Within seconds of stepping over the threshold, I spied a shelf of familiar spines. My sister likes to help other people spend their money and she soon had me convinced that the two first editions and fully dust-jacketted hardbacks I held in my hand were veritable bargains (they really were, but it still came to quite a lot of money). Then, I glimpsed the cabinet…

…I think most Chalet School fans covet a few particular titles owing to their dust-jackets (it isn’t just me, is it?) and I would suspect that a highly sought after one would be The Chalet School Reunion, as its jacket features a collection of characters, with a key as to who’s who. As I approached the till to pay for my discoveries, I spotted three CS books in the cabinet – and there was an immaculate Reunion. (Plus two immaculate Coming of Age of the Chalet School. All three were first editions.) One of the books cost the same as the three I held in my hand, but I was tempted. At least I have now held those books, and that’s something.

Joey Goes to the Oberland, A Genius at the Chalet School & Shocks for the Chalet School

Go, visit Tewks! (Just don’t buy the Chalet School books I left behind.) Or, if you can’t be bothered, devise your own photographic treasure hunt and invite your friends along for a competitive afternoon of random object hunting. Fun for everyone.

Who said ordinands were meant to be responsible?

I was under the impression that only mature, responsible individuals entered the priesthood (yes, I realise that I am not necessarily in that category – but perhaps I’m the exception to the rule). However, after a week in France with 100 other vicars-to-be, I have discovered that this is definitely not the case. It seems that in fact, many of the students find it all to easy to connect with their teenage selves…

One can understand how childish games might become fun in a foreign monastery with free-flowing red wine. Boo Yeah! was a discovery on our first residential and it’s on its way to becoming a firm favourite. [It’s like Hot/Cold, but with yells, screams and humiliating actions.] Then there’s Guess the Kitchen Implement? – never has an extractor fan been so hilarious. How would you mime such an object? [That game is immensely simple – you mime the action of a kitchen implement. I suggest beginning with a corkscrew and getting progressively more complicated.] My personal favourite was miming one of those egg timers that changes colour in the water.

Anyone ever played spoons? It’s a classic youth group game – enough spoons for all but one of the group; a pack of cards; when the first person gets a set of cards, they reach for a spoon and everyone follows; person left spoonless is out. Sounds fairly tame, but it’s vicious. It’s not often that I participate in games that involve pre-match rules on which areas of the body to avoid (we specified faces and specifically those wearing glasses). Despite this, the end of the first round saw me prostrate on a table, devoid of glasses and with an elbow in my cheek. Actual blood was shed before I went spoonless (nails dug into fingers) and one player damaged their nose. Ah, the hilarity! It didn’t end there – how else should such competitions be settled than by a Chariots of Fire style quad race (at 11pm)? A race in the dark, round slippery floored cloisters, clad only in socks. It’s a miracle no bones were broken. (An alternative version involving blankets and towing girls was proposed the following evening but never took place.) Oh, and it couldn’t be left with one race – there was another, this time a 4 person relay version. Men…

Poor quality due to darkness and speed, but you get the idea – this was during the relay.

It was the childish pranks that were more surprising. People who follow a certain worship leader on Twitter, may have noticed a reference to a discovering a frog in their bedroom. It turned out this wasn’t a natural phenomenon, but a plant by an intrepid ordinand. Retribution was to follow, in this form:

That is no ascetic monastic bedroom, that is a bedroom devoid of all possessions and beds. Genius. No idea how long it took or how many people were involved, but I am impressed. [Note to self: be careful who you play tricks on in future…] 
Just in case you think it was only the ‘young & trendy’ students who were getting up to high jinks, two of my favourite quotes came from students of more advanced years. One opened an act of worship [a boat/ocean themed agape meal] with the sentence “In the words of the Village People…” and proceeded to quote In the Navy. Another, in response to a request that we shout out words of praise and thanksgiving, kicked off the shouting with “Rum punch!” – something that we should always be praising God and thanking Him for. [It was the cocktail deemed most appropriate for a boat based activity…] 
[An aside: the ‘young & trendy’ reference was actually a high point of my week. On the first morning a lecturer came over to the table I and my fellow younger students were sat eating breakfast and said “Spot the young & trendy table” to which one of the group replied “Wow. We’ve made it.” – perhaps we had, but I had to observe the reality: “It’s sad that we had to come to theological college for that to happen.”. Still, I’ll take that – I finally have an area of my life in which I’m cool, that’s enough for me.] 

Perhaps it’s three years at theological college that turn irresponsible wannabe teenagers into mature priests? Evidence from our staff would suggest otherwise. Who got over excited during the bonus University Challenge staff round in the pub quiz? The Assistant Dean and Principal. Who demanded more wine when their answer was considered wrong? A leading, respected theologian who may or may not be married to an Archbishop. It seems there is little hope for the Church of England…

A game to play in parks…

…but not in cemeteries.

I am fortunate to have a sister who doesn’t mind making a bit of a fool of herself. [She does, however, mind me making a fool of her – hence her banning me from singing appropriate songs at appropriate Parisian landmarks. No Disney at Notre Dame, no rendition of Come What May at the Moulin Rouge… Sad.]

Somehow, an idea struck me while wandering through the Jardin du Luxembourg that we should emulate the poses of the many statues stood along its paths. I say ‘we’, my sister took on the brunt of the challenge – though my mother and I did one each, just to show willing. The game wasn’t restricted just to the park, but carried on throughout the streets of Paris, even including the Arc de Triomphe.

However, there were some limits. Certain statues were judged by Mim to be inappropriate, as were certain locations. The Montmartre cemetery was full of interestingly posed statues, but we decided that it would be crass to play the game in such a sombre location – a shame, because I had great plans for Nijinksy’s grave…

 Nijinksky (dancer) and Bauchet’s (one time director at the Moulin Rouge) graves.

These two locations – Montmartre Cemetery and the Jardin du Luxembourg – also highlight the supreme awesomeness of the Pocket Rough Guide to Paris. Looking up our first stop in our most recent guidebook (my pre-trip purchase) I discovered that the Rough Guide’s writers felt that we ought to be ‘beguiled’ by the Jardin du Luxembourg and they were right – beguiled we were. (However, disappointingly the toy boats we were promised on the lake did not appear…) It became a running joke to check the Rough Guide to see how we ought to be feeling in any given location – in the cemetery, we were meant to be sombre, yet not oppressed. As a result, I now have a burning ambition to write for the Rough Guide.