Three of us had to head off to client meeting on Monday and then followed this by taking some of the clients out for a long lunch. It was Chinese and was very nice. It was good to go out and see them in a more social scene. Had chicken for starters followed by some special fried rice for the main course. We got stuck in some major traffic on the way home meaning that we didn't get back into the office until about 7.00 ish. Went swimming again as I wanted to prove that the previous Saturdays efforts had not been a complete fluke. They weren't and I nailed in another 100 lengths in under an hour which pleased me.
One of my bosses had a chorizo sausage delivered to the office for me on Tuesday. She had ordered it about five weeks previously and for it to be delivered then. Unfortunately the company handling it displayed woeful service and took all this time to do so. It was meant as a thank you for my work on that charity campaign that we had worked on. Needless to say it wasn't needed or expected. I'm happy to work for my bosses for the respect I have for them and the money they pay me. I took it home that night and tried to make something special with it. I chopped up some nice bacon, a small onion, some mushrooms and chucked them in a wok along with some slices of chorizo. I then added a Lloyd Grossman sauce and some red wine but it didn't lift it into greatness. The juices from the chorizo made the sauce quite tasty but whenever I popped a piece of chorizo in my mouth it was bland and chewy like the soul of a shoe. I had tried but my 'creation' skills couldn't do anything and I ended up chucking a whole load of it away.
Wednesday was uneventful and when everyone else was gone my two bosses asked when I was going to take some holiday. So far this year I'd only taken two days off and confess that I had been feeling the need for a long lie in soon. I'm not being a martyr or anything but I enjoy where I work and I've not really wanted to spend my money on going away anywhere. I know the benefits of time off but work for me is more than work and I don't like the thought of lazing at home when others are hard at work. I think that's why I always enjoy the Christmas holiday as I feel I can relax in the knowledge that everyone else is off as well. Anyway, I responded that I wasn't sure and they said they had got me some books to read for when I did eventually have the time off. What? I was bemused to say the least and ventured over to the amazon box that contained the books. Nestling within was a vision of heaven. Admission to a special club that I've been considering joining for over a year. An Xbox 360. Oh my giddy, god. I laughed, I clapped my hands together and I looked backwards and forwards at my two bosses. What, why, how come I attempted to say. It wasn't a reward for all the holiday that I hadn't taken off and it wasn't meant to incentivise me to not take any off next year. It was a token from them that they acknowledged how little time I'd had off and a recompense for the days that were still in the kitty.
Man I couldn't believe it. A premium Xbox 360. For those not in the know this presents the complete package, as the name might suggest, of console, 20Gb hard-drive, wireless controller, headset and Xbox live out-of-the-box. Only this week with the Gears of War and Call of Duty 3 reviews coming out and me regularly looking at ign.com yet here I was now a proud owner of an Xbox 360. It's like all my evenings have been filled up for the foreseeable future. Like I don't have to worry about being bored when I've always got this in my room. I felt energized. From fretting over exactly when I might get it and what games to get, here I was with the console in my hand and the decision on which game clearer in my mind. Although I've been keeping tabs on Halo 3 and was going to get an Xbox 360 anyway there is still the feeling of immediacy that I'm now in a position to rock and roll immediately if it was suddenly released. In addition to the console I also got given an Xbox 360 toolkit comprising a 2 litre bottle of coke, packet of twiglets, packet of kettle chips, bacon pringles, microwave popcorn, peanuts and cashew nuts with glass jar container (aka Nut Bucket), protective hand cream to keep ones fingers supple and finally a bucket with accompanying funnel and deodorising wipes to remove the need to pause a game for the inconvenience of visiting the toilet. The final part was naturally done in sarcasm before anyone thinks that I'd continue playing in a swamp of my own piss.
I spent the rest of the evening trying to decide what game to get to with it. GOW got the best reviews but Call of Duty 2 really impressed when the 360 first came out and the third was supposed to be even better. I was also wondering when would be the best time to tell my brother. I knew he would be just as excited and I wanted to experience that face to face rather than just on the phone. I decided to hold fire and maybe do it on the Friday night. I drove home as chuffed as anything, yet still very humbled at my bosses generosity. They really are two amazing people.
Took in cakes the next morning, mainly as a small form of thanks for the two of them but also because I was feeling pretty damn good and wanted to share that feeling. It's not the same but love for a console is better than no love at all!Lunch was an unhealthy meal of ham, chips and beans. Ah, what the hell. Decided against setting up the Xbox as I wanted to wait until Friday night to share it with my brother. He even called me from my place making general chit-chat, unawares or so I thought that he was standing right next to the boxed machine.
Friday was the last one before Barcelona and I was keen to ensure that I knew what I needed to buy at the weekend. Also wrote some copy for a client which was good. Headed home and hooked up with my brother who couldn't stop smiling. "What's up" I said "Nothing" he responded, yet I knew something was. I pushed harder until he splurted out "what's in the box?". Dammit, he must have noticed it when he came up and here I was wanting it to be a complete surprise. I briefly fobbed him off with the same book line that I'd got but I knew I couldn't convince him and let him look inside. He was pretty chuffed and we went and got some fish'n'chips to discuss what we wanted to do and what games we wanted to play. As I knew we would, we then spent the remainder of the evening actually setting the thing up. We moved my old Xbox, re-arranged DVD's and dusted / polished sides down in preparation of welcoming our new addition. I wasn't concerned that I didn't have a game as first and foremost I wanted to have it set up and everything being perfect on that score. I was still undecided on what game to get though bro was firmly in the camp of Gears of War. The mind bending graphics and opportunity for two player co-op had him hooked.
Up on Saturday and off again to the swimming pool. I only did about 80 or so lengths. I was feeling tired and also a little excited about hitting Bluewater. I wanted to get a game and some other accessories for the 360 but was also aware that it was the last weekend before Barcelona and I needed final bits for the short break. Got my haircut and I think asked for it a little too short. Went for a more subtle Mohican with the normal hair shaved to a one and the Mohican a two. I liked it but realised that it was maybe a touch too short. Broke the news to my hairdresser about the 360 and he was thrilled. As you may remember my first experience of it was round his house and he knew how much it meant to me. The haircut flew by as we talked about games and the features of the console. He'd also been to Barcelona so we briefly talked about that. He told me that I should get Gears of War and when we left we embraced. Him because I was part of the gang and me because I love him to bits.
Headed to Bluewater and spent an absolute age there. Looked around at different boots, Happy (by Clinique) products in Boots and different tops and shirts. I also looked in John Lewis for a digital/optical cable. When I bought my home cinema system, the sales guy had said that I should get a digital output lead to go from the DVD to Amp. I always considered it but never did. Add to this I was always unsure whether my amp was that good. It could handle DTS, 5.1 and 6.1 yet never really seemed to show it. I knew that all games on the 360 were in 5.1 so decided I would go next-gen with the sound as I was with the console. Managed to find one in John Lewis along with a plug and play charger and a wired controller for the Xbox. My bro works in John Lewis so I was keen to use his discount if I could. Went and bought the special edition tin box version of Gears of War from Virgin. All their games were completely shrink wrapped and this lack of tamper-ment and scratching at the hands of joe public was the deciding factor for buying it from there.
Mooched around for hours until bro finished work and then took him on a quick tour of the items of clothing that I'd seen to get his approval. He discounted them all. The boots, the beanie, the shirts and the top. It deflated me to be honest. I respect his opinion and defer to it but Jesus. Looked in Schu at some other Timberlands but they didn't have my size. Hit JD's which had some Nubuck boots in by K1X. By this point he could have singled out anything and I would have probably bought it. Went to make a purchase and the chatty sales assistant who kindly told me that I wasn't too old to wear the boots and liked my Senheiser headphones said that if I got a store card I could save 10% on my purchase. With the boots, Nike air top and a beanie the bill was £100 so a tenner off was a good deal I thought. I confirmed that it definitely wasn't a credit card and agreed to it but they then discovered it was too late to do there and then. Decided that I would come back the next day as I wanted another look around.
Followed this by looking in a Jewellers for a new DKNY watch as my last one had packed up. To be honest the winder on the side had fallen off, I think from when a previous jeweller had changed the battery, and it was always going to be rendered useless once the clocks went back an hour. I had had it for over three years so it had served it's time well. Anyway we asked to try two watches on and the sales assistant started chatting to us about how it was her first week etc. Now I'm not saying there is anything wrong with her chatting but it seems my slow takeup of responding to her was indicative of how much we have become unused to conversing with shop staff nowadays. It seems you normally enter a shop, at the most communicate your desire to try something on and then make your purchase. With chip 'n' pin you don't even need to hand them any money. It's quite easy, and regular, to make purchases in almost complete silence. Thus to have two assistants in two consecutive shops converse with me kinda took me by surprise. It reminded me that the bubble that I walk round the shops in can be broken and that some of the people who work in shops are still human, whose minds and eyes don't glaze over as soon as the shop doors open.
Headed home and after dinner, pizza I think, we linked up the digital cable. Wow, everything I'd wanted my home cinema to be it now was. I put on Titanic which has a THX opening which always pushes the surround speakers and finishes on a low sub woofer rumble and it sounded great. The surround speakers were chucking it out without having to be cranked up and it sounded really cool. Who would have thought that a £12 lead would make so much difference. I was happy. Popped in Gears of War and checked it out. The supporting literature in the special edition was excellent. There is this small hardback book which gives a little more info on the Gears of War world along with a special features DVD, though I don't want to watch this until I've completed the game. The sound and graphics on the game are outstanding. Shoot a wall and for a millisecond you can see the hot glowing rounds in the wall that quickly fade and the sound was demonstrated by a leaking radiator that hissed from each speaker if you approached from different angles. We attempted to get to grips with the cover methods but with only an hour or so to play think it might need some more time.
Hit Bluewater again on Sunday. I must be a glutton for punishment eh? The idea of a discount was encouraging and I thought I might pick up some other bits. Bought some Happy Eau de Toilette to go with the other items in the range that had been bought for me for my birthday and headed back to JD's for the boots, Nike air top and Nike beanie. They swore again that it wasn't a credit card but once I'd filled in the forms they told me I didn't have to pay now as the discounted purchase had gone on the card. You shouldnt turn down credit but my fear of getting into debt kicked in and I was a little miffed that I couldn't square up the bill there and then. As soon as they send the paperwork and card through I'll pay it off immediately but there is always the fear that it will slip my mind and I'll be presented with an unexpected bill. I also decided to treat myself to Call of Duty 3. I shouldn't have, what with Barcelona coming up, but once I start this spending lark, and have worked out what I can afford, then I just had to have it.
Headed home, put on some washing and popped in Call of Duty 3. Wow, it's pretty impressive. The opening set piece is just madness with incredible sound and truly next gen graphics. The sense of immersion in a battle when there are bullets, grenades, chunks of rubble and shouts in American and German ringing out is amazing. It's a real roller coaster ride. When my bro got in from work I let him play it so I could take the chance to look at some of the surrounding graphics. You sense them when you are playing but when being shot at you rarely stop to examine the flowers. Had some dinner and then went for some co-op Gears of War. This took a little longer to get the hang of as having been used to playing a first person perspective game to then a third person perspective means the eye needs a little time to re-calibrate. The cover system was also proving a little taxing. It was a little frustrating to begin with but after an hour or so began to really gel and being able to work together to flank and outmanoeuvre the enemy was cracking fun. The story and setting is very involving and some of the firefights were a real blast, even more than those in Call of Duty 3. The only downside is that with so much graphical beauty to take in you wish you could see more than the split screen that the co-op works in. Bro is talking about getting a 360 at Christmas so maybe a system link playing will be in order when we can both benefit from having a full screen to play on.
A good week and a nice build up to Barcelona. I'm feeling good because I've got all the bits I need for the trip and good because I've got a 360, meaning my entertainment needs when I'm alone are nicely taken care of. Finally this week I also paid my first years subscription to Mr Site. I'll probably give my website more of a review at the beginning of next year when it will have done more of a complete year but at this time I'd say it's still probably the best gift I have ever received. A device that allows me to be me and attempt to get across to the world who I am is surely the best you could ever ask for. It's garnered me a couple of good internet friends, provides a nice chronicle in the journal for me to look back on next year and keeps immortal (as long as I keep up the yearly subscription!) my thoughts, musings and ramblings.
To those lucky individuals that do read it, thanks.