Welcome to SpaCeMonKeY UK, the blog of Helen Wells (nee Berrington, aka FieryFred) since 2002.





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SpaCeMonKeY UK

Saturday, September 28

I have another blog! But not a blog like this one. :)

No, it's a ruse to make it look like I update the Pretender Campaign UK website more often! Because if anything's going to happen with that Campaign it ought to happen soon, but I'm really awful at getting anything done. I think I'll have a campaign that totally fails because three people actually participate. I mean, it's not like other campaigns where everyone knows about the show you're campaigning about. Drat it...

So it's on the Pretender Campaign website, then. If you live in the UK and you want to see something good on telly, then you could help. Trust me, I like decent stuff, and I think it's fantastic! Heh.

And it stars Michael T Weiss, who is almost certainly not gay (however many people search for that combination of words on Google!).

And it starred lots of other people who are now famous. I've talked about this before. Like Jake Lloyd (young Anakin in TPM, evil film that it was). And Haley Joel Osment was in the one I watched the other day. (He was in AI and The Sixth Sense, obviously). And those are just two of the talented child actors who've been in it the show! Amazing. :)

I could find my more detailed Pretender related archived page, but nah, can't be bothered.

I redid the whole website, I didn't just add a weblog.


Friday, September 27

I think I'm getting better. Hooray!

I can't really be bothered to say much tonight, though, just so you know. The two part series 6 opener of Stargate SG-1 aired on Wednesday. It was called Redemption, and it was really good! Jonas is hilarious, with his weather channel viewing and his constant eating. And to think I had doubts! Maybe they should have gotten rid of Daniel earlier - I can't really remember much that happened in the fifth season, so it can't have been great...

Apart from that, I managed to rip the music off of my Max Payne CD-ROM. I combined two things I'd read on different websites, and also used my brain slightly. You need the RASmaker program, which comes on the CD. I couldn't actually get it to work properly under Windows XP - it needs a command prompt, and you know how Windows XP and DOS feel about each other... Anyway, if you've got that installed, go to the start menu and choose "run". Then copy the following into the box:

"c:\program files\max-fx tools\rasmaker\rasmaker.exe" "-x" "c:\program files\max payne\x_music.ras"

Type that exactly, including the speech marks, then click okay. And it'll extract the stuff into the RAS data folder! Excellent.

There are 13 bits of music, some of which are slightly abrupt since they were made for in-game excitement, not listening to with Winamp. :)

But the Max Theme is 3:44 of top notch game composition. And I'm not just saying that because of my affinity with the game.


Tuesday, September 24

I kept trying to blog but it wouldn't let me. And now I have lots to tell you about! I feel awful, though, so I might not remember everything. My sinuses hurt and my nose keeps dripping and my face aches and feels strangely hot. I don't like it. Bleugh. What with the tree allergy as well, it's just not fair! :)

What have I done since the last blog, then. Well, on Saturday 21st Mark, Ali and I went to Collectormania in a shopping centre at Milton Keynes. Mark talks about it on his weblog, if you want to know more about it. Suffice it to say that even though there were exciting guests, I didn't see any of them. You could queue for autographs if you wanted, but I didn't really care. Anthony Head was there, and Dave Prowse (maybe I would have bought an autograph if there'd been a "Green Cross Code" picture, rather than Darth Vader!) and Rutger Hauer. And other people.

Then Mark made me go bowling, which he also mentions on his blog. I was awful at it. Really, really, awful. I hadn't bowled for ten years, probably because I'm so bad at it. Although maybe if I bowled more I'd be better at it! I don't know. ;)

Um, Sunday I didn't do much. Went to Ali's church in the morning. Ali took me for a walk in Bradgate Park. Doesn't look like Nash Bridges is on in this region, darn it! How am I going to waste my afternoons now?! Anyway, it's a wild sort of park, with deer hiding in the undergrowth. And huge craggy hill things to climb. It contains the remains of the house where Lady Jane Grey was born, the queen who was executed by her sister in law, Mary I.

On Monday I started the madness that is university. I've waited around and queued and other unexciting things. I've paid lots of money to the university. I now have to decide what modules I want to do... I may say more about this when I feel like it. I didn't really feel like blogging tonight, so I've typed quite a lot, considering!

Goodnight. :)

Friday, September 20

There, I've been brave and put my new passport photo in the sidebar. Everyone expects passport photos to be awful, so if I look bad it's the booth's fault. Okay? I mean, it's one of those funky booths where you say "no" if you don't like it and it takes the picture again. Great idea, except that it always gives up on me. I suppose if it didn't limit the amount of times you could do it, some people (like me) would be in there all day. Drat.

Anyway, I had passport photos done because I'll soon need some. Not for a passport, but because I'm going back to University. For those of you who don't know, I have a degree (BA) in Archaeology. After a two year break to make some money, I'm going back to do a Masters degree (MA) in Professional Archaeological Practice! And I need the photos for library cards and the like.

This is also why it's taken me so long to blog. I moved back to Leicester, so it took a while to get the internet set up, then I had other stuff to do, and to top it all blogger wouldn't work yesterday. I was in the middle of editing it when it went down, which is why the sidebar had half changed. (Not that anyone would have noticed that!)

I wanted to blog yesterday because it was talk like a pirate day! Arr. Shiver me timbers. Splice the mainbrace. (Splice?!) It would have been hard to say all this in pirate talk, I suppose. Aye, t'would be most difficult. Arr.

I never even had the chance to say, "You fight like a dairy farmer!", or "Soon you will be wearing my sword like a shish kebab!". Drat...

Okay, if I'm honest, blogging would have occurred sooner had I not bought Max Payne. Yeah, I was addicted to it a while back, but I never finished it. I was on the last level, but I never finished it. And since I had to leave John and his PS2 behind, I had no option but to buy it! And it ran beautifully on my lovely Medion Aldi laptop (many keywords there, since people keep arriving here looking for info on those fantastic bargain computers!) Brian. Which was a surprise. (The games I want to play almost never work...!)

I've finished it now, just in case you were wondering. :D

I keep looking for a decent Max Payne community to hang around in. Something that's not so much playing the game, since I'll probably never try it on the harder settings. The reason I love the game so much isn't because I love playing it (although I do, this is kind of hard to explain!). I love it because I love the story. I love the way it's done. Hmmm... I think it would make a fantastic film. I think it would make some great fanfics!

But I still have that Stargate story I haven't finished, so you needn't worry about terrible Max Payne fics any time soon...!

I'm going to get weird now. Bear with me.

Max Payne is a great character. I love him. I love him!?! Aaargh, I start off saying I've never dated and then I talk about loving characters made of pixels. Would it be better if I found out the bloke's name that they based him on? Or the voice actor? No, I'd be an evil stalker. And it wouldn't be him. He's fictional! Ack. But people fall in love with actors all the time, and they're not falling in love with the person. Are they? They know nothing about the person. I know lots about Max Payne. And they've no chance of ever getting with the person, so having an emotional attachment to pixels isn't so bad.

It's not the same sort of love as human love. It's just that he's so cool...!

Ali's hiding in my cupboard. She's amusing. In a good way. That sounded patronising. You see, there are different levels of normality. Some people hide in cupboards. Some people have emotional attachments to people made of pixels.

Oh, and I'm not looking for a "I want to marry Max Payne" club. I'd like to straighten that out. :p

Hmm... It was nice to read that James has the same non-existent lovelife that I do, and I'd like to accept his offer of a date (if he ever travels halfway around the world and has nothing else he'd rather do!). But I don't expect him to agree with me on the pixel person thing.

Would I date Max Payne? I doubt it. Even if he was real.

Would I like to leap around the house pretending to be Max Payne? Well, maybe.

The end of the game said the pain had only just begun. I can't wait. :D

Thursday, September 12

Lately, whenever I read Stephanie's weblog, I think I missed out on something. She seems be excited about several cute men at the same time, whereas me... I've never been like that about anyone. I've never dated. I'm 23 and I've never dated.

There are probably other people out there who are like me, but sometimes I feel like a... freak. Probably. Freak sounds like a strong way of putting it. *sigh*

Maybe going to an all girls senior school didn't help. I never went clubbing, so I never met anyone anywhere like that, either. (That's another thing - no "young person" type social life. Hmm.)

If you do meet someone in a club, how do you go about getting to know them better? Surely you don't just give them your phone number and go out on dates. How can you date someone you don't know anything about? They could be anyone!

I think my parents had it easier. They had the church youth group. (There isn't really any youth at my church any more!) As far as I can tell, Dad dated every single girl in the church youth group before he went out with my Mum. They knew each other first, they dated, they married in 1974, and I've never known them to argue. If I ever get married, I can't imagine it working better than that..!

I've been thinking about all this because Mum was thinking about money, and she jokingly asked if I was planning on getting married soon. (Jokingly because we both know there's no man on the horizon. I doubt there's a man anywhere near the horizon!)

But if I get married, I think a fancy dress wedding would be fun.

I thought it'd be cool to go as a pirate, but then I wondered what the church's views on that would be.

September 19th is "Talk like a Pirate" day, you know.

It's all because I'm a geek, isn't it?

The dating thing, not the pirate thing.

Probably. :p

Monday, September 9

I meant to say (although I can't see who'd want to know), I have enough naqahdah (I insist on spelling it like that, that's how they spelt it on Stargate so it must be right, okay?) at Ausgate to buy anything I want!

This took 511 days, incidentally. It's not like I have a lot of time to waste on something that pointless..!

Name - Fyra of Roch Athrad
Race - Jaffa
Skill - 634
Experience - 36673
Trinium - 1972
Naquadah - 1001917
Rank - 12 / 160

The most expensive thing you can buy is the Ion Cannon, priced at 1,000,000... bits(?) of naqahdah. What is naqahdah measured in? And since I have 1,001,917 bits of naqahdah, I could buy one! Not that I'd have a use for it.

I bet there's a really obvious naqahdah measurement. But hey. :D

Since midnight it's rained 25mm. That's a lot of rain. Last week it was sunny and warm all the time, now it's autumnal all of a sudden! I suppose it had to happen eventually...

I have nothing interesting to report. I thought I'd write something, just so you know I'm not dead. Not that you thought I was, but hey.

I bought some more Star Wars books on holiday. I have 37 now. There are only eight more that I really want, then there are all the X-Wing and New Jedi Order ones, if I feel that way inclined. I suppose all I have to do now is read the things!

Oh well. ;)

Saturday, September 7

I spent the last week on holiday in Kent. I took my laptop, because I took my digital camera. It was either that or buy a ton of memory cards! (I'm aware that taking my computer on holiday probably adds a few more geek points to my geek quotient. I also took my Minidisc player, just in case you were wondering!) Anyway, I figured that since I had the computer, I could write my blog entries and publish them when I got back. I really enjoyed James's holiday reports. :-p

I would have published them while I was there, but there was no phone. Hence the "million blogs at once" approach...

Oh, and I can't remember who I was talking to about Oast Houses, but I know all about them now. I must have seen several hundred of the things! They're for drying out hops, you see. The characteristic conical roofs with white tips are a sort of chimney. The hops are dried, cooled, pressed, and put into sacks. Then they're sent away to become beer, presumably.

So there you go.

I've added some pictures, but I squished them and made them very small and also terrible quality, so they don't look great. Maybe they give you an idea, though. I don't know...

Sunday 1st September

It's starting to get dark. I have the feeling it'll get really dark before long. You see, I'm no longer in the metropolis of Southend. I'm in the village of St Michaels, in Kent. There aren't lots of street lights, spoiling the view of the night sky. This is the countryside.

A lot of people seem to think that there's no countryside in Essex. Well, that's not true. There's plenty of countryside, if you travel away from the highly populated area around the River Thames.

Kent countryside The Essex countryside is picturesque, with thatched
cottages and the like, but there's one thing that makes the Kent countryside different. Hedges. They don't just plant huge fields of grain here, or oilseed rape. They farm animals, as well as growing crops, and when you farm animals you have more hedges. And that's the major difference.

Somehow, hedges make everywhere looks smaller and more interesting. I always think that it's interesting that what we perceive to be a natural landscape is completely manmade.

I didn't arrive here (a charming terraced cottage, with rooms on three floors) until about six o'clock, so I haven't got much to talk about. A hot air balloon landed in the field opposite, being chased by a Landrover with a huge trailer. That's the highlight of the holiday so far. But being optimistic, I'm sure a load of fantastic occurrences are just around the corner!

Monday 2nd September

Driving around today, I've decided that the reason for the hedges (and animals) is because Kent's much hillier. I like hills, as long as I don't have to walk up them. ;-)

We didn't walk up many hills today. We drove to Brighton, where we visited the British Engineerium. Apparently there's only one engineerium in the world, but that's probably because
they invented the term.

The EngineeriumThe engineerium is an old pumping station, which now has a huge amount of models and a working beam engine inside it. It's a very imaginatively constructed brick building. They don't build things like that any more. Mind you, if they made steam engines today they wouldn't be as pretty. They certainly took great pride in their constructions.

Talking about hills, as I was, we then headed off to Lewes. You see, the name Lewes is derived from the Old English for "hill". As you approach the town, you can see the new housing developments teetering on the edge of what's almost a cliff.

Lewes is an interesting little town - we visited the castle a couple of years ago, when we were staying in East Sussex. The town originally developed around the Norman castle, and things became even more fortified in the 13th century, when Henry III arrived on the scene. Not that it worked, because Simon de Montfort captured the town in the imaginatively titled 1264 Battle of Lewes. Today, the town's more popular attractions, apart from the castle, are a plethora of antique shops and upmarket second hand bookshops.

Tuesday 3rd September

Today was somewhat disorganised. It took us a very long while to decide where to go, but in the end we headed towards Tonbridge.

Tonbridge is another town that grew up around a castle. After looking around the town's shops (the usual modern high street, nothing particularly interesting), we headed off to the castle's bailey to have our lunch.

Not much of the castle remains, apart from the gatehouse and a few crumbled walls. However, you can climb up the motte, where the shell keep once stood, and sit in the pleasantly grassy bailey. Oh, and you can pay for an audio tour of the gatehouse.

The gatehouse tour was surprisingly fun, considering that from the outside it doesn't look like much remains. The tourist information centre dispenses little audio devices that take you around the building. I'm not sure how they work, although it must be some sort of minidisc based system. You can skip around between tracks and listen to additional information, if you want to. Clever.

People in the basementFrom the entrance room, visitors descend into the building's basement, where medieval people are hard at work. There's the man in charge of the stores, who's scribbling away, and a man in the armoury, packing arrows into a barrel. In the dim candle light, you can almost believe that the models are real people. It was darker than it looks in the photo.

From there it's upwards to the watch room, where four guardsmen are eating unappetising looking food. There's an audio visual presentation, too. Then it's up, to the battlements, and the upper floor. More medieval people are lurking around. And then it's down, back to the first room in the tour. I highly recommend it!

From Tonbridge, we headed off to Bayham abbey. It was what I'll call a premonstertarian abbey, because I can no longer remember the correct name of the order. This is what happens when you visit too many places with my family..!

Bayham abbeyAnyway, the abbey was dissolved soon after 1530, as all abbeys in England were. (Because of Henry VIII and his break with the church of Rome.) However, since it was quite isolated, the buildings survived fairly well. But then the people who had the abbey in their garden decided to make it prettier, by getting rid of a few walls that spoiled the view. (Grrr!)

Wednesday 4th September

I feel incredibly tired. That's what steam trains do to me..! I don't know why they make me so tired. I think it's the soothing swaying motion.

So, the Kent and East Sussex Railway. The nearest station is just down the road, in Tenterden (which St Michaels is kind of part of). We had an hour or so to waste until the train arrived, so we had a look round Tenterden Museum. It's a small museum, and parts
of it are done in the old unappetising museumy way. But it's well worth the £1 to get in! There are a few bits from the Time Team dig at Small Hythe (including an excellent model), which was the nearby dockyard in medieval times.

After that, we set off on the train. The steam engine that pulled the train was called "Rolvenden", which is the name of a nearby village (and which also happens to be one of the stations). The 10 ½ mile trip isn't tremendously exciting - it goes through a lot of marshland. Drainage ditches divide up the fields. The environment does mean there's some wildlife around, including herons.

We travelled all the way to the end of the line, which is Bodiam. Bodiam is, of course, famous for its castle. It's a very picturesque castle - all the outer walls are intact. The interior's a different story, with few walls remaining. There are an incredible amount of fireplaces visible in the walls. And there's a moat, with ducks and huge carp. I mean, those carp are enormous!

BodiamThe castle is different to the Norman castles that we'd visited previously. It's later, having been built in the 14th century. Edward III let... I think his name was Dalygrigge, although John insists that it's Dungaree. Anyway, he gave the knight permission to build the castle. There's some debate now over whether it's a proper 'castle', or a house...

And then it was back to Tenterden!

Thursday 5th September

I feel tired again. This holiday is exhausting!

Today we went to Dover Castle. Although there's a castle there, obviously, that's not all that's there. Even the castle part has many different stories to tell. It's definitely a whole day out to do it all; we were there all day and we didn't have enough time to look at everything!

The first thing we did was go on a tour of the tunnels, which wend their way through the chalk cliffs. The tunnels were first excavated during the Napoleonic wars, when they were used as an underground barracks complex. It must have been pretty crowded and smelly! During World War II, more tunnels were excavated. In the end there were three levels of tunnels - the top (called "Annexe") was a hospital, the middle (the Napoleonic "Casement" level) had a telephone exchange and various control stations (amongst other things), and the lowest level (called "Dumpy") was basically a military base in itself.

You don't get to see Dumpy, because it's too dangerous, but the other two levels are included in the excellent tour. The tour has sound effects, flickering lights and even authentic smells!

After that we headed off to the Keep in search of food. One jacket potato each later, we walked through the "1216 Siege Experience". It's another one of those audio visual things, and it only lasts 10 or 15 minutes. You see, after King John signed the Magna Carta,
and then looked like he was still going to be nasty to his barons, the barons asked Prince Louis of France to take over the throne. Prince Louis managed to take hold of most of southern England, but Dover stood firm.

Dover was besieged, and much bloody warfare ensued. One of the towers was undermined and collapsed during the siege, but the defenders still managed to hold the castle. King John died, and Prince Louis thought that'd mean they'd give up, but John's son
Henry III was crowned and Prince Louis was defeated. The fact that Dover was one of only two castles to withstand Prince Louis's attack shows how strong a castle it is.

We had a look round the regimental museum there, and the rest of the Keep. The Keep was built in the 1180's. You can walk around the "Fit for a King" exhibition, which is basically the interior of the Keep with a few extras. They've set it up so that you can see what had to be done to prepare for Henry VIII's visit. (Planks of wood and glazier's tools lying around, that sort of thing.) The Keep has a lot of ancient graffiti on the walls - pictures as well as words. And the view from the top is beautiful. (Shame it was so hazy!)

Pharos and ChurchFrom there we walked across to the Saxon church and Roman lighthouse. When I say "Saxon" and "Roman", they have some original material left, but not a lot. The church was derelict until the officer's mess was built (in the 19th century), when its walls were rebuilt and the interior was tiled in a uniquely Victorian way. There is one Saxon doorway left..!

The Roman lighthouse has suffered in much the same way. It was built in the first century AD, and (like the church next to it) it was derelict until the 19th century, but it'd been changed even before that. I think it was in the 13th century, presumably when the castle was built, that the lighthouse was altered so that it could be a watchtower. If you want to see what a Roman lighthouse looked like, this structure won't help. Its original stepped appearance is no longer discernable, although you can see where the Roman layers were, thanks to the surviving tiles and pink mortar. Sadly, you can't go inside at the moment - it's too dangerous.

After that we headed back to the Keep and paid for audio tours of the battlements and Keep. We wanted the medieval tunnel tour, but we ended up with that one instead. It was quite good, although to begin with it was hard to figure out where to go. I think the things they were using to tell you where to go (like the elusive white bollard) had disappeared. The tour appeared to be a few years old! I mean, it's tape and walkman based - ancient technology! Heh...

This walk must have been the thing that tired me out. It takes you up on the battlements, along where the cannon are, down to various towers in the curtain wall, gatehouses, earthworks... Oh, and we had a look round the medieval tunnels. Some of those are
very steep. Without the tour I wouldn't have realised how enormous the castle was, nor what a complex history it possessed.

A successful medieval castle, cleverly altered into a Napoleonic artillery fort, with a secret underground WW2 military base - what more can you want!

Friday 6th September

Today is the last proper day of the holiday. We're going home tomorrow. After the energetic nature of yesterday's day out, today was somewhat calmer. We started off having a look round the neighbouring village of Tenterden, then came back for lunch. In the afternoon we headed off to Rye, which is a village that used to be on the coast. A lot of southern Kent is marshland - I think I mentioned the drainage ditches we saw from the steam train? Rye is a picturesque sort of village, with lots of narrow winding roads. It's crammed full of antique shops, many of which we visited! After that (we didn't buy anything, just in case you were wondering) we drove off in the general direction of St Michael's.

Cramped museum!We stopped at Rolvenden (one of the villages on the steam railway's route) and had a look around a tiny motor museum there. When I say it's tiny, there are a lot of cars crammed in a very small space! And I mean crammed! The collection is housed in a sort of garage/shed at the bottom of his garden. It mainly consists of three wheeled Morgans.

Not only are there ten or so of those, but the walls are covered in pictures, roadsigns, and other memorabilia. And there are
toys, too. Cases full of Dinky toys, and other models too.

I can't say that I generally find motor museums particularly exciting, but these cars are beautiful. It's a most surprising museum, and only £1.50 to get in. (Let's face it, you can't get much cheaper than that!)

Saturday 7th September

Technically this was the "coming home" day, but since Kent isn't far from home, we still managed to visit a couple of places. I don't feel inclined to say much about them, but since I've told you about everywhere else we went, it'd be mean to leave them out.

First of all we headed away from home, to Brede. Apart from a nuclear bunker, there's a water pumping station at Brede. I couldn't bring myself to get overly excited, but the rest of the family seemed to enjoy it. (I'm making it sound like I hated it! I didn't, not really! It's just that they all belong to the Museum of Power, which is a pumping station at Langford, in Essex.)

Worthington Simpson They were running the newer engine on compressed air - it's a Worthington Simpson (and yes, I had to ask what the things were in order to write about them). The one they were most excited about was the 1903 Tangye triple expansion engine. The engine at the Museum of Power is a triple expansion engine - that might have something to do with it!

After that we went to what was supposed to be an antiques fair at Tunbridge Wells. It wasn't really an antiques fair, though, more like a general fete of some sort. There was a marquee there with some antiques in it, but it was mostly a "motor show". By that, I mean there were a lot of car dealerships trying to sell everyone shiny new cars. Mind you, I did enjoy looking at the New Minis. There was even a Cooper S. Nice...

The End :-p

He has a bowler hat, go figure.


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