Category Archives: Martyn

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Something to cheer me up at the end of a lousy day..

As you may already know, I am a HUGE Studio Ghibli fan.  It is perhaps the finest film studio in existence.

Hayao Miyazaki, the finest writer and director of stories in, perhaps, ever (although not to dismiss Ghibli’s other writer/directors who are also superbly talented – one only has to watch Grave of the Fireflies to realise this – through floods of tears; it’s one of the most superb and most saddest films I’ve ever seen).

Having had a lousy, lousy day at work (which appears to be the norm at the moment – I come home very irritable having often been angry throughout the day), I discover that Studio Ghibli’s original soundtracks are now available through iTunes UK!

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Alas, these are not available through Spotify or other streaming services as yet (at least that I can see).  But nevertheless long sought songs and themes are now available to buy individually or as albums.

This makes me very happy.

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Martyn’s adventures in Coffeeland Part Three: Coffee at Home

Previous entries: [ The Coffee Wars | Part One | Part Two ]

I’ve acquired quite the taste for coffee and tea recently.  I’m a bit of a late starter in this regard, but now I’ve made the switch, I don’t regret it in the least.

Apart from Costa and Starbucks, I tend to drink instant coffee at home.  We have a coffee machine at work, but to be honest – it’s a lot of kerfuffle to get a decent cup of coffee.

In terms of home instant coffee, I’ve recent started trying newer blends from Nescafé.

This one, Alta Rica®, is really quite superb.  It’s definitely bold and intense as stated, but it’s also very smooth.  Add a dash of milk and a single click from the Stevia dispenser (which seems to be the lesser of artificial sweetener evils), and you’ve got yourself a very nice cup of coffee.

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Before this, however, I bought Nescafé’s Gold Crema.  This is a very smooth coffee and again, adding milk and Stevia makes for a great drink.  But even without milk or sweetener it works wonders.  As you can see, I’m nearly out.

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But it’s not all about coffee.  Oh no.  I also love my tea.  Green tea in particular.  And especially green tea with lemon.  Clipper’s Green Tea with Lemon is a particular favourite of mine.  Drunk straight without milk or sweetener, it’s incredibly refreshing.

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Like Nescafé’s range of new coffees, I’ve also began to explore Twinings flavoured teas – especially as the local Tesco has them at reduced prices.

The Strawberry & Raspberry blend is something quite special.  I find it works best with Stevia, but you can definitely taste the strawberries (it’s not a strong taste, but it sure is there).

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The Mango & Strawberry seems to have a weaker flavour than the Strawberry & Raspberry.

I can just about taste the mango, but the strawberries seem to have taken a seat right at the back and can’t be coaxed out.

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I’m still buying new flavour teas and coffees as and when I replenish existing stock.

I have a huge box of PG Tips tea that’ll probably take me the rest of the year to finish (although I do drink regular tea quite a bit too).

It’s very odd that once upon a time you’d probably never find a single teabag or coffee jar in my home.  It was almost always Diet Coke.  But since switching over to tea and coffee (even though it’s instant), I’ve not only felt a lot better, but I’m enjoying the experience a lot more too.

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Soap without the opera

One of the finest television shows I’ve had the pleasure watching over the past 11 years has been Farscape.

Starting way back in 1999 and ending in 2003, it was a rollercoaster of a show featuring the adventures of US astronaut John Crichton stranded in space on board a living spaceship with a bunch of  alien “criminals”.  His mission: to find his way back home.

The show featured creatures created by Jim Henson’s Creature Shop (initially headed up by Jamie Courtier, who I had the privilege of meeting at a book signing sometime in the late 90s prior to Farscape started shooting in Australia) and the whole look and feel of the show was very different to anything that came before it.

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Well, with the possible exception of Gerry Anderson’s Space Precinct which features creatures from Doctor Who’s Neil Gorton – but the whole show was absolutely terrible from an acting and writing perspective.

Somewhat ironically, John Glen who directed one of the episodes of Space Precinct also directed the person whom I’m about to mention (in The Living Daylights).

Anyway, Farscape featured Virginia Hey, an Australian actress whose acting career has spanned three decades in a variety of interesting and often unusual roles.  If there’s one thing about Virginia, she’s never played a dull character.

In Farscape she plays Pa’u Zotoh Zhaan, an alien character with a dangerous past, on the run from the authorities.  She’s blue.  She’s a priestess.   She’s a healer.  She’s sensual.  And often the most level-headed character in the show.

Farscape ran for four seasons and a movie-length finale.  As the make-up for Zhaan was extremely extensive, Virginia unfortunately suffered health related problems which forced her to leave the show in order to recover.

This sort of thing in the film and tv industry – I remember reading about legendary make-up effects pioneer Dick Smith’s son who was highly allergic to the chemicals in his father’s workshop.  This prevented him from pursuing a similar career.

As Farscape ended just over 11 years ago, I’ve not seen much of Virgina on screen.  But what with my recent interest in sci-fi conventionsFacebook suggested I show follow Virginia Hey and that’s when I discovered (via LinkedIn) that she’s been a business owner for a very long time hand-making soaps and fragrances via White Flower Lei.

I was curious, and decided to buy a soap to try.  I tend to buy Lynx products almost exclusively these days – sprays, shower gels, etc.  I use antibacterial hand gel for everything else.

I bought a frankincense and leather soap.  It was the day before the start of the Easter bank holiday weekend, but a few hours later after placing the order, I received an email from Virginia to say that she had made the soap and was going off to post it that afternoon.  I had the soap sent to work.

On the Tuesday the soap arrived and took it home to give it a spin.

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The presentation of the soap is excellent.  It came packaged in a small box with plenty of protection – therefore it won’t fit through a letterbox (so I’m glad I was able to have it sent to the office).

When you open the box you receive a business card along with the soap itself.  The soap is very well packaged (see image above) and even then the smell is apparent – it’s a good strong smell that isn’t overpowering.  It hits the spot nicely.

The soap itself looks almost good enough to eat (making the phrase, “wash your mouth out with soap” very tempting).

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The soap has replaced my usual hand wash and it lathers nicely with minimum amount of water.  That said, it’s been used a lot over the past month and I’m going to need to buy a replacement soon.

Thankfully there are plenty of other soaps on offer, so I’m going to try the others that Virginia has on offer.

I therefore highly recommend Virginia Hey’s White Flower Lei - not just for yourself, but they make excellent gifts for loved ones.  Both male and female.

And let’s see Virginia back on the screen again.

 

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The birthday kid

Photo (above): Dad’s birthday card to me

Another year’s gone by.  I’m now a late ‘thirtysomething’ – a whole 38 years old.   Blimey.

I’m in good company as a 22nd May Gemini.  Graham Linehan, creator of the I.T. Crowd and many, many other things shares his birthday on this day too.  Also sharing the day were: Sir Peter Bazalgette (chairman of the Arts Council and former chairman of Endemol UK), Naomi Campbell, Morrissey, and Bernie Taupin.

Yesterday went well.  Met up with my ex-wife for dinner at Wagamama’s in Guildford before heading down to the local Odeon to watch The Two Faces of January.

This was a project that was originally handled by the late Anthony Minghella, and indeed, his son Max is the executive producer of the film.  It clearly shares the same DNA as Minghella’s The Talented Mr. Ripley, and that’s because the The Two Faces of January is based upon the novel written by the same author of the Tom Ripley novels, Patricia Highsmith.

We enjoyed it very much – a good tense thriller with an excellent cast.  Comes highly recommended.  And the location work is superb.  Makes you want to book a trip to Greece and Crete – but all the while avoiding all the murders and other things that go on in this film.

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The Lord Giveth and the Lord Taketh Away..

I was all set to have a nice profitable end to May after I discovered that I’ve been overpaying my electricity bill for nearly a year.

It turns out that I’ve been misreading the meter (above) and giving a slightly larger figure than what I’ve actually used.

And now I’ve been given a rather significant refund from my electricity supplier.

Horray!  Happy birthday me!

But I came home to a note from my neighbour that the new garden fences that I had replaced back in January had become loose.  Sigh.

The long and short of it that the refund is now going to be used to pay 95% of the bill demanded by the handyman I’m hiring to fix the rotten post and fix everything so that it’ll last.  That post should have been replaced back in January when the wild weather of Surrey wrecked havoc with garden fences and other things that are incredibly annoying to replace.

Oh hum.  At least the weather ain’t too bad at the moment and we don’t have to batten down the hatches for a while.

I might be able to enjoy my garden this summer once this has been fixed (and have given the grass a bit of a cut).

So it’s back to an austerity birthday for me on the 22nd.  Oh well, at least it’s not yet my 40th.