Friends not things

Moving to a new city is scary and exciting, sad and delirious all in one. It means you get a fresh start and leave some old shit behind. It means making new friends but saying goodbye to old ones. Being an expat in a (relatively) small city means that there’s a ready made group of friends who were all new once, so are really welcoming, friendly and keen to invite you out to stuff to keep your weekends busy. I’m already lucky enough to have met people who I hope to grow into very good friends. Serendipity brought me here in the first place and has since showered her gifts upon me: starting off with Queen’s day was almost too much fun. Here was my view from the ping pong table towards the end of the day.

View from the ping pong table

But a new city means leaving old friends behind. My dearest friend came to visit me last weekend and played mum, dad and best gay straight friend all in one whilst cooking me meals for the week (and until now I had not fully appreciated the usefulness of freezer bags), unpacking my boxes and helping me purge old clothes from my wardrobe to make room for Me Mk 2 outfits.  He left all too soon on the Sunday evening and I went off to dinner with my new planner colleagues. It was only this morning that I really felt the pang of his absence as I cycled to work through the park knowing that it would be a while before I see him again.

Then, mid morning I was told the dreadful news of someone from university had died very suddenly in an accident. I hadn’t seen him much, if at all since I left 10 years ago. But now I felt a lot of very overwhelming emotions as I was invited to join the memorial group on Facebook and see friends’ tales old and new of him from their collective memories.  It’s peculiar  that I remember some friends from those days with such clarity – entire scenes and conversations I can play out in my head. But with this person I have much hazier recall. Even now, with all the photos, I’m grasping for details of my experience of our friendship.  All I have is a nebulous memory of a cheery soul, always smiling, always there with open arms ready to dance.

It’s friends not things that matter. And that life, life is for living so get on and live it big.

Bikes, bikes everywhere

My bike arrived today from London. His name is Roger (or Rodrigo for long). I debated long and hard about whether I should bring him over, or sell him and get a cheapo Dutch bike.  People told me that bike theft is rife here in Amsterdam and that a nice looking bike is hot property. I didn’t think I could bear it if old Roge’ was stolen as he has been such a loyal and trusty steed in London. But then I realised that there’s a reason that bike theft is so commonplace in Amsterdam. Is because locks in Amsterdam are shit. What is with those rubbish hair-clips through the back-wheel nonsense? And the big chain locks that can be smashed open with a hammer? So I’m risking it and riding Roger so he can be with his biking brethren. I’ll just make sure I double lock him good and proper


Things I miss about London

I’ve been in Amsterdam for a week. And what a crazy week it’s been. Queen’s day happened and fried my brain and I awoke this morning wishing that I had access to the best hangover breakfast known to man. Which brings me to the point of this post – the number one thing I miss about London right now is Mixed Menemen from Cafe Z Bar on Stoke Newington Road. Heaven in a bowl. Image

Here is my new street! Hello Amsterdam!

Change of timezones

Change of timezones

I’ve moved to Amsterdam – it’s a good excuse to blog again! Pictures and canal-side tales to follow

An angry email to Spotify

I’m increasingly finding that I take great pleasure in writing angry emails to helpless customer services representatives of brands that have slighted me in some way. I think it’s an age thing. I never used to be like this. My Mother calls them ‘stiff letters of complaint’ and some of my most treasured memories is her reading me angry notes to various utility companies with pride.  What the stiff letter of complaint is really is an excuse to revel in your prolixity and put your intellectual superiority complex to some practical use. It rarely results in any genuine resolution of the original problem that irked you but the very fact that you get to write a SLOC is solution enough.

This week I’ve taken 15 minutes out of my life to write to Spotify, the music streaming service that apparently doesn’t like to pay musicians very much. I’ve been a subscriber to their fiver a month service for nearly two years. But I’ve decided it’s maybe time to go back to buying music properly again, y’know, to support the musicians. But I still use it to listen to recordings of old choral works to revise for concerts I’ve got coming up, complete with ads of the ‘free’ version. And what is this after listening to Bach’s Magnificat for the fifth time this week? It won’t let me listen to it anymore. Apparently I only get a miserly five listens per track. It wasn’t like this when I had the invite only version! I feel cheated. Angry. I feel the rage coming as another loud irrelevant advert barges into the middle of my calming baroque. So I search their website, click ‘contact us’ and begin to hammer into my keyboard with brow furrowed.

I was originally with the invite only free version back in 2009 - which, I’ll remind you, gave your users no limitations of the number of times they can listen to the tracks. I subscribed to the unlimited £4.99 version because you ramped up the advertising making them increasingly intrusive and irrelevant and the whole experience unlistenable. After nearly 2 years, I’ve decided to go back to the ‘free’ version for a while and I’m disappointed to discover that you’ve dispensed with my original subscription and have introduced a cap of just 5 times your users can listen to one song.

I’d like to point out that this subscription isn’t ‘free’ per se - we’re paying by listening to the ads that, it seems you make little or no effort to ensure are targeted towards the interests of your users. Whilst I appreciate it’s hard as a media owner to invest in the kind of technology akin to Google or Facebook’s that results in perfectly targeted advertising, the least you could do is offer me the service I originally signed up to.

It’s disappointing to see that the plucky Swedish company I once believed could revolutionise an industry so reticent to change has simply rolled over and delivered a sub-standard experience just like and Pandora before them. You’ve handed your balls to the major labels on a plate. Shame on you.

The trouble is with stiff letters of complaint is that they can be composed in minutes and fired off when your blood is still boiling. Once you’ve calmed down and your heart rate falls below the level of your average murderer you may re-read what you’ve sent and realise you sound like a bit of a dick.

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An ad that warrants a post

I love this new Tetley advert from Dentsu. So simple. Turning a bland product benefit into something wonderfully emotional, making a wish on the last drop you squeeze from the bag. THIS IS WHAT ADVERTISING SHOULD BE ABOUT. Dentsu, I salute you.

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New music discovery

via my usual source thanks @deathofashade

Rarely to I listen to lyrics, but these ones are great -

So if I see you again,
Desperate and stoned,
Keep your prison locked up,
And I will leave my gun at home.

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Infinite Blade HTML 5

Games launches are fairly formulaic: trailers, website, PR, pre-order, and big fuck off telly ad.

So it’s nice when you see things that are a little different. Some great lateral thinking here shows off what the game is all about…

Open in Chrome.

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