Tuesday, 1 July 2014

A travel into my gaming history....

...well, today i got sent a new toy. I got home to find a parcel from Amazon waiting for me. Now my partner had said to keep an eye on the post as he had bought me something to say well done for finishing Uni. I opened it up and it was this...

Words cannot express how excited i am by this and i shall tell you why (other than my partner being totally awesome of course....).

There is a gaming tradition in my family having started out in 1979 when my dad brought home one of these...

We lived in a tiny village in Yorkshire at the time and frankly it was the most exciting things i had ever seen. Yes the games in hindsight were very basic and im sure that kids of today wouldnt understand the thrill of something which had no monitor, had to be hooked into the tv and was realllllly sloooow, but it was a revolution! i still remember fondly some of those games - Missile Command, Donkey Kong, Galaxian, Joust...oh they were superb. A few years later we got an Atari 800...

 followed by an Atari ST...

My favourite games on these were adventure type games. As a family we would all sit down and try to work our way through the Scott Adams adventure games - text based adventures where you had to type in the exact word to get the game to go further - no images, just text. Again I'm not sure how the kids of today would cope with n graphics but they sure made your imagination work overtime! Some other family favourites were Ali Baba and Return of Heracles both basic graphic adventure games which we would sit down and play as a family - we still have family 'in jokes' from those days. I think that these adventure games fuelled my love of games like Zelda and Tomb Raider that i love today.

I had a few years without a console (getting married, having no money, getting divorced, life basically...) until my sister gave me an old Playstation - i didn't really get into the PlayStation at first other than Abe's Oddysee which appealed to my sense of humour. Then, after i made the move to Birmingham in 2000 and got a stupidly well-paid job in 2001, i bought a PlayStation 2*, ostensibly to play Prince of Persia. Then a good friend introduced me to Zelda Windwaker on the GameCube and i fell madly in love with the beautiful game with its adventure, puzzles and kooky creatures.

The Zelda games are EXACTLY the kind of games i like obviously harking back to those 80s adventure games. i have played Windwaker countless times - although games may seem an expensive outlay when you get a good one and spend hours and hours on it then they certainly become worth the money. My issue is that many games these days rely on graphics and not story content plus many of the big games are shoot 'em up types which i really don't like. Following Windwaker my other favourite games on the GameCube were Pikmin 1 & 2 which were puzzle solving games.

Over the years that passed i got an X Box 360 and have enjoyed the Assassins Creed series, the new Tomb Raider reboot is superb and Overlord (a more evil version of Pikmin still keeps me entertained) but i never lost my love for the Gamecube. I bought a Nintendo Wii and was so bitterly disappointed - i couldn't get on with the stupid sensor bar and playing Zelda Skyward Sword became a nightmare due to the appallingly bad control system. I sold my Wii quite recently and its a standing joke in our house that when anyone mentions the Wii my standard response is "i fucking HATE the Wii!"

So then Nintendo brought out the WiiU. I was sceptical - i hated the way they had gone down, what i call, the party game console. Im biased as i will forever love that little GameCube...look at it...its cuteness hides a superb games machine...

The problem is that trying to play GameCube games on a large screen tv is hampered somewhat by the picture looking terrible (something to do with resolution and g33ky sh1t that i don't understand...) so when i heard that they were bringing out Windwaker on the WiiU in HD as well as a long awaited sequel to the Pikmin franchise...well i really wanted one. being a poor student i hunted down secondhand WiiU's in CEX and the like but they are just SCARCE. Talking to people who work in CEX and Game, as well as friends who have a WiiU, its because people really like it. So i had to dream of owning one when i had saved up a bit of money.

but NO! here i am with a WiiU sitting in my living room! What are you doing sitting on your PC and writing this rather than playing Pikmin in a frenzy Emma? Well, I've had a little look but my partner had a friend over tonight and they were busy playing Mario Kart - i don't mind Mario Kart but am not a big fan of racing games. Now that Andy's friend has left i daren't go and start playing Pikmin as i will honestly spend hours on it and i have work tomorrow - i don't normally work Wednesday's and if i had known that a WiiU would be sitting in my living room i certainly wouldn't have agreed to go in for a meeting in Coventry in the morning...!!

So my plan for tomorrow afternoon is to get home as soon as possible and then lay claim to the console. Happy days :)

And for those of you who have no idea what I'm talking about in relation to Windwaker or Pikmin 3 then have a gander at these trailers - and give me a shout if you are a fan or have any other games of this type that you think i may like!

Windwaker HD trailer

Pikmin 3 trailer

Happy watching!

* i need to give a shout out to two awesomely brilliant games on the Playstation 2, Okami and Beyond good and evil. Again both adventure games and really, really enjoyable.

Monday, 30 June 2014


So it been almost two years since my last blog post...where did the time go?? A friend recently told me how much he missed my posts so I'm going to attempt to rectify this now that my life has quietened down somewhat....

So, a quick catch up. What have i been doing? Well, finances got the better of me and i had to find myself a paying job. I got a job with Swanswell who are a drug and alcohol support service. just an admin job at first working on the Accredited Programmes team. What are Accredited Programmes i hear you ask? Well, as part of their sentence some offenders get a requirement to do an Accredited Programme - these can range from Sex Offender and Domestic Violence programmes to Thinking Skills programmes. In the West Midlands Swanswell provide programmes to do with substance misuse on behalf of the National Offender Management Service so my role has been to liaise with probation officers to ensure that their offenders are motivated and ready to complete their programme and then to enrol them on the courses. i really love this job - i work within a probation office within Birmingham City Centre where the staff are lovely albeit that they are going through some (in my mind) short-sighted and scary changes thanks to Mr Grayling and the Ministry of Justice. Anyway, although i love the job it doesn't tax my brain (but keeps me very busy!) so I've recently been through some national assessment centres to become a tutor for the courses that we run. I have been successful in becoming a Drink Impaired Driver Programme tutor and a Lower Intensity Alcohol Programme tutor - the link above shows who these course target. I will still continue to perform my admin role but will also do the tutor role so I've increased my hours from part-time to almost full time and start the tutor role within the next few weeks.

So, what about the counselling i hear you ask? how can you fit that in with the increase in work hours? Well, I've finished Uni (big cheer please!) and handed my two final assignments in today. these assignments have been the culmination of five years hard graft and were pretty tough. I had to write about my emerging integrative approach (as my field of therapy is integrative counselling) and a case study based upon one of my clients. Its been an interesting five years where my approach has changed - i started off thinking that i was a person-centres counsellor but ended up being far more psychodynamic with a bit of person-centred thrown in (with a fair bit of Transactional Analysis, Gestalt and redecisioning therapy). Its been an interesting journey! When you start counselling training you are warned about how, as you become more self aware (personal therapy is a requirement), your relationships change and can even break down. My partner has been incredibly supportive and our relationship has just got better but my friendships with certain people have changed along the way.

I'm currently doing a placement which provides open ended NHS counselling (almost unheard of these days) with the LGBT community in Birmingham. I love, love, LOVE it!!! Its not without its troubles and i have an amazing supervisor who supports me incredibly, but the privilege of being with people and getting to know them so intimately is so rewarding. I still have 18 hours of my placement left to do for my uni course (we have to do 100 client hours in total) and then i have to submit my portfolio and undergo a viva but then i will be a fully qualified counsellor. Woop! Go me! I have an option to then undertake a BA top-up degree to get a full degree but have decided to take a year out from studying as i want to concentrate on the new role at work and my clients (i will continue in my placement as i love it so much). Oh, another good thing about the new role at work is that the Accredited Programmes are based upon CBT principles (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for those not in the know!) and as CBT is not a therapy im naturally drawn to (and it has very little place in my therapeutic work) I'm quite looking forward to practising it with offenders as the research evidence shows that it really does work for substance misuse problems.

On a personal note my partner has now moved in with me (a big step for me!) and my lodger continues to live here too....we are a happy little family...especially after our most recent addition.....

Say hello to TJ :)

TJ came to us just before Xmas from Portugal - its a long story - but his family weren't able to look after him anymore...i saw a photo....fell deeply in love and the rest is history. This blog may start to contain many dog photos in future....

So, i realise that this is a long entry but the last two years have been action packed! I wont bore you with anymore for now other than to ask you, dear reader, what you want to see on the blog? I have been asked to make sure that i still do some cookery posts (am more than willing to oblige!) but any other thoughts are most welcome!!

Much love to you all,


Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Creating a Sanctuary and a Hat!

Its been too long Dear Reader, i know this and i apologise. Life has a funny habit of running away with you. Well, it does with me anyhow. In the last couple of months i seem to have been really busy doing all those things around the house that i never got to do whilst i was at work. The main thing that i needed to get done was a new roof. I cant get excited about having a new roof as its like paying A LOT of money for something which you dont really get any joy out of. That said, some months ago i was outside the house looking back at it and somehow the loft light had been left on by mistake. My roof looked a little like Heathrow's landing strip due to the light shining through the holes! So i had no choice really. It does make me feel somehow safer in the house, knowing that the roof isn't going to explode a load of rain on me at any given time though! Whilst the roof was being done i had a MAHOOOSIVE erection in the garden...(cue childish giggle....)

Ive also finally got around to painting my bedroom and having a carpet fitted, ive lived for 6 years with sanded floorboards, which although lovely in many houses were just draughty in my bedroom. Im about to have the curtains fitted this weekend and then the room is finished! Its really relaxing and im so in love with it at the moment that all i want to do is spend time in it.

The things that i am most proud of in my bedroom are my bargain hunting, charity shop finds. I popped to a small charity shop which sells furniture looking for a couple of pieces - i got there just as they were about to take some unsold items to the tip and they said that i could take what i wanted! I took a bookcase (you can see the finished article in the photo above) and a piano stool - both were old and battered but i knew id be able to do something with them. So i sanded them down (when i say "sanded" thats really an exaggeration as i hate preparation work for these things and i wanted them to look old and worn) and then painted the woodwork white. I decided to have a go at reupholstering the piano stool in the same fabric that my curtains will be in...i mean, how difficult can it be? So armed with some pliers (to get rid of the old trimming), a staple gun and a glue gun i got to work. It was SO easy. I just stapled the new material over the old cushion, pulling tightly, tucked the corners in nicely and then finished with some ribbon glued over the edge to hide the staples - Voila!

Another creative thing i did was to visit Hats From the Hall. My friend Gill rang me to ask if i wanted to go and make a hat - i think she had far more faith in my creative abilities than i did! Im not really a hat person - i dont do posh, girly, dress up and the thought of having to go to something like Ladies Day would have me running a mile, so i wasnt too sure about this. But i decided to step out of my comfort zone and go, and i was so glad i did! Louise runs the business from her amazing home near to Leicester - the house is so beautiful, i was most envious (in a nice way!) and almost wished that i could have hidden in a corner and stayed! The group of women on the course were all friends, so i was a bit of the odd one out as i only knew Gill, but they were all so lovely and welcoming, as was Louise. We got to look at the hats she was currently making as well as try on all manner of hats in the showroom. I particularly fell in love with a typical loud creation (i called it The Boy George hat!) but frankly i looked ridiculous in it.

We started by deciding what kind of hat we would make - i knew that i wanted to make a felt hat as i felt that i'd actually wear that more often, but other people made fancy hats for weddings as well as fascinators. Here are some of the various types of hat we could make:

With the felt hats we had to stretch the damp felt over a hat block which helps to creats the shape of the hat:

The Darth Vader looking item on the photo above is the hat bloakc that i used. i really enjoyed stretching and pinning the felt into place, it was very therapeutic except for stabbing myself with the pins all the time!

 The hats were then whisked away to dry and we ate some fabulous lunch made by Louise's husband. In the afternoon our creativity was encouraged greatly as we made adornments for our hats. I found a lovely turquise bead necklace and altered it to fit around my hat and also made some felt flowers to attach to the ribbon around the hat. Here is the result of my work:

Im really pleased with it and cant stop telling people how i made it all myself! If you ever want to have a fun day making something with friends then i can highly recommend Hats From The Hall - it was great fun and Louise and her team of merry helpers have the patience of saints!

Thursday, 8 March 2012

Chicken & Chorizo Gumbo

Yesterday i was having a productive day. After deciding that i MUST go on a diet i sat down and decided upon food for the week.

Actually when i say diet i lie. Some of my friends recently have lent me WeightWatchers books, calculators etc as I've been moaning about how I'm really hating my body right now and need to desperately lose weight but I'm not sure about 'doing a diet'. They've never worked long-term for me before so i don't see why this time will be different. So am attacking this from a different perspective and will see how it goes. Am trying to eat good food and exercise more. To achieve this i have been out for a walk around Cannon Hill Park this week with my friend Christie from my counselling class at uni. We did 2 laps of the park but i think I'm going to build this up to more over the coming weeks. Christie has also given me a cross-trainer (which I'm using at home, gradually building up the number of minutes i spend on it...currently standing at a measly 5, but its better then nothing) and she has also given me a push bike. The push bike needs a little work doing on it as i cant get the tyres to stay inflated (the air rushes out when i remove the bike pump from the tyre - maybe a faulty valve??) but i cant wait to get out and about on it. After speaking to Birmingham Bike Foundry earlier today, I'm going to drop it in there for them to look at it and perform wonders....

Anyway, last night i made Chicken & Chorizo Gumbo. I started off by making a chicken stock - i roasted some chicken bones for 20 minutes and then put into a pan with carrots, celery, bulb of garlic, peppercorns, onion and simmered for 3 hours. I then strained it and let it cool before removing the layer of fat from the top.

To make the gumbo (which is adapted from a recipe in this amazing book which my wonderful friends, Alex and Katie got me for my birthday last year) i firstly fried off some diced onions, celery (i SERIOUSLY hate celery but i think it helps to make the base of a soup), chorizio (about50g, diced) with half a red and yellow pepper (also diced). I then added some garlic cloves, paprika and chilli and cooked for 5 minutes. The recipe called for sweet smoked paprika and cayenne pepper, neither of which were in stock in the Co-op so i improvised ;) The recipe also called for Bourbon....this is something that i don't have in my drinks cupboard so i didn't bother. I then added a diced potato, diced sweet potato, a load of the chicken stock id made (enough to cover), a bay leaf and some dried thyme...simmered for 20 minutes....had awesome gumbo! It was really sweet from the chicken stock and peppers (definitely worth making the proper stock) and hot from the chilli.

Now for this afternoons task - I'm going to the cinema. On my own. For the first time ever. Those of you that know me well will know that to me this represents a passage into adulthood (at the age of 41...) See you on the other side!!!

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

NB: this course will change your life.....

Last week i went on one of the Back to Basics courses run by LOAF. Ive been looking forward to doing a course with them for some time so was very excited.

The course is run by Tom, one of the four directors of LOAF and the powerhouse behind the bread-making, in his home in Cotteridge, Birmingham. There were six of us on the course, none of us knew each other but a shared passion for wanting to make good bread soon got us chatting. The day started in a very civilised manner over the breakfast table with brioche, jam, tea, coffee, white bread and rye bread. Here are some leftovers after breakfast together with an artfully placed Stirchley Community Market mug...

I came to the course having had a go at making some of my own bread before but wanting to make sure that i was 'doing it right' and with the aim of ironing out a few problems. Id been trying to make wholemeal bread but found the mixture really wet and difficult to knead plus when baking my bread i found it hard to tell when it was cooked properly - tapping it on the bottom and identifying a hollow noise isn't as easy as it sounds. During the day Tom answered these questions and many others - I've now been taught the most amazing kneading method which i can easily use with all doughs and as for knowing when its cooked? Use a probe thermometer - its the only surefire way unless you are an experienced bread-maker!

The morning was spent doing all the 'hard work' ie making the dough so it had time to rise before baking it in the afternoon. We learnt about different ways to make the dough - i had never heard of the sponge method before and am actually trying that out currently (my sponge is downstairs doing its thang as i type). We then went onto kneading...here is a link to the three kneading methods that Tom showed us...i absolutely loved the French kneading method as it really works and you can get up a good speed with it, as well as take your frustrations out on the dough. I then find it easier to finish off using the classic kneading method (2nd in the video clip) as i find it calms me down as i lovingly finish off the kneading process...and one day i may get good enough to do the 3rd example in the video but I'm not there yet! Its really interesting to see that Tom has NO flour on the work surface when kneading - this amazed me and has totally transformed the way i make bread....for the better.

The other thing i found out was that previously i hadn't been kneading the dough for long enough...Tom showed us a really good way of checking if the dough had been kneaded enough...its called the window pane test and it works really well!

During the day we made fougasse (look amazing and are so simple to do), a white loaf, some seeded wholemeal rolls, ciabatta (a really, really wet dough which was fun to work with) and pizzas for lunch. Tom had also mixed some brioche dough that we took home to cook the following day.

Brioche - i baked this the following day

Ciabatta - mine is the weirdly shaped one...i like to think of it as authentic...

Fougasse - stunning to look at (doesn't come up so well on this photo) but so easy to make

White loaf after proving but before putting in oven. note the slits which have been cut in the top - these help the bread to expand whilst baking

Lunch - homemade pizza. I'm obsessed with homemade pizza now - its so easy to make, you know exactly whats going into it, you can make your own Taste Sensation Topping and best of all, it tests SQUILLIONS better than those bought in supermarkets or pizza parlours

Wholemeal, seeded rolls

White rolls


The course was amazing and has demystified the art of bread-making for me. Ive realised that i just need to chill out and have a go...sometimes the dough takes longer to rise or to knead...that's because all flours act differently plus it depends on the warmth of the kitchen, the humidity, all sorts of things....you just have to know what you are looking for and not be afraid. The day course cost £75 which i know has put some people off but i stress that this is a) much cheaper than other bread-making courses and b) will change your life as it will make you obsessed with making your own bread rather than shop-bought nastiness. Plus you can buy gift vouchers so why not ask people to get you those for your birthdays/Xmas etc...??

Following the course i took my spoils home where a hungry Mr A gave his thumbs up to all of my wares...i then went about ordering some equipment to help me in my new love of bread-making... I bought Dough by Richard Bertinet which has the most mouth watering photos and recipes in it. Ive already made the Spicy Moroccan rolls (containing ras-el-hanout, one of my favourite spices - i brought a load in the Spice Bazaar in Istanbul) for my friend Tina's birthday - as well as getting her a copy of the book too. Ive also bought a probe thermometer and an oven thermometer, as well as a pizza stone and peel....but the best purchase was the dough scraper tool you can see in Toms kneading video - that is an essential tool, it makes the process so much easier and was the princely sum of £1.50. Bargain!

Here endeth my bread missive.

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Relationships, honesty & male attitudes to pregnancy/abortion

This is a rather spontaneous entry coming out of the musings of my mind over the last few days...

Due to a situation I've found myself in with my ex-partner, Ive had reason to question how i behave in relationships and what i expect from my partner. As I've been going through various counselling courses and personal counselling myself i have changed. This has happened over the space of 3 1/2 years in which I've been with two different partners. I realise that i am incredibly honest about things I've done, experiences which have shaped me for good or bad and, although it can take a while for me to voice my feelings, i am honest about what I'm feeling and why i think I'm feeling that way. Because honesty is so important to me i expect my partner to be the same and I've kind of realised that that isn't always the case.

I was talking to my friend Gill (who i met through Cruse training and i feel is a kindred spirit who is on a similar journey to myself right now) and something she said made me stop and think. She said that to expect everyone else to have the same high values as you do is quite daunting. Or words to that effect. And she is right - i need to reflect on that as i know that i have very high expectations and values for myself and i need to really think about whether i put those thoughts onto those i love...but then there are things which i think go beyond values and come down to respect and love. If you love and respect someone and you know that something you have done will bring them immeasurable pain then you ensure that they find out about it in the kindest way possible..i guess that this isn't just about partners but about all our relationships with those we love.

In other, entirely unrelated thoughts, i was thinking about men's attitudes to abortion (this comes after watching Borgen and my brain spinning off into thinking about stuff). I am, and always have been a huge supporter of the woman's right to choose. I guess that many of us women have had pregnancy scares and these lead us to think about our options. I remember being 17 and my period being late. I hadn't had unprotected sex but then accidents can happen and i was really, really scared. In my logical mind i knew that i didn't want a baby - i was with someone i loved (who later became my husband, and then my ex-husband!) but i had my whole life ahead of me and i didn't want to be tied down. Plus, even at the age of 17 i knew that i didn't want to have children ever. Logically i knew all of these things but the minute that i thought that i could be pregnant my emotions ran riot. I began to consider what it would be like to have a baby and these were alien emotions to me. I guess I'm saying that i now believe that none of us know exactly how we feel until we are in the situation and that judging other women for making what is an extremely difficult decision is wrong. Ive never considered how the man would feel though. I'm not talking about when you are in a committed, loving relationship because i would *hope* that the man would support his partner. What if i slept with someone i didn't know that well and got pregnant? Would he want to know that i was having an abortion? How would he feel? Would it be right for him to express his desire  to keep the baby even if i wanted an abortion? These are things that i have never thought about before because I've never thought of abortion as a man's issue. I don't know how many male readers i have but id be interested in your thoughts.

On that note, and now that I'm in thoughtful mode, I'm going to begin my uni assignment. An essay of 3000 words....first essay I've written since i did my A Levels 23 years ago. Meep!

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Renting v Buying, Government Cuts & Multiplex Hell...


My lovely friend Tania, who writes this blog about her food and beer adventures, has given me a friendly nudge to remind me that i haven't blogged for a while. Well, this is true and i apologise dear reader. I was hoping to post some photos from my lovely trip to Istanbul but i seem to have mislaid the cable for my camera...i will attempt to get this rectified soon.

Istanbul was fabulous in so many ways and i met some amazing people and went to awe-inspiring places. If you have never been then you should go - its quite unlike anywhere I've ever been before. but more on that when i post about it.

Since i left my job at the end of 2011 i have been really busy doing crafts, cooking and studying but since I've been back from holiday i seem to have lacked some structure to my life and have felt a little adrift. I'm not quite sure why this is but this week i have been trying to get a little more structured and have been  putting things in my diary and attempting to do them. Attempting being the operative word. Myself and Mr A have recently discovered the joy if Assassins Creed on the X-Box (i love computer games) and i am having to stay away from the game during the day as otherwise my hours just seem to disappear.

A slight blip on my journey to a new life has come in the guise of my friend, and lodger, deciding to move out and get her own place. Obviously I'm delighted for her but it leaves me in a bit of a quandary. i still have a mortgage to pay and my redundancy pay-out wont last forever so i will need to make a decision about what to do. Do i look for another lodger or sell up and rent somewhere? In an ideal world i wouldn't have a lodger but if i do have one then i much prefer it to be a friend however, most of my friends are now at the stage of having their own homes or are renting with partners. The plus side of keeping the house is that i have bricks and mortar but that comes with responsibilities - the roof needs replacing which i wont see much change out of £5k and if i have to sell in a years time (because the work that i want to do is paid far less well than what i have been used to) then i wont really see a return on that money. If i sell up and rent the monthly payments will be about the same but i wont have all the upkeep to pay for but then it worries me that i wont have a foot on the property ladder.... I'm someone who always worries about the future and if i rent then it concerns me about what i will do when i retire and have limited income for rent. When did life become so complicated??

Its my final training at Cruse this weekend and. following my tutorial a couple of weeks ago i am very confident about them taking me on as a counsellor/Bereavement Support Officer. That said in order to pass the course i need to do a stack load of work for my portfolio before Saturday...that, on top of a 3000 word essay i need to write for uni, is playing on my mind somewhat. My plan is to buckle down to some of that tonight and tomorrow afternoon.

Tomorrow morning I'm volunteering at St Martins Helpdesk. I'm concerned about the Helpdesk at the moment. Funding, as we all know, is being cut back and i know that this is bound to affect the Helpdesk and the services we provide. It angers me greatly that the cuts affect the poorest people in society. We deal with a lot of homeless people - now, I'm sure that many of you think that someone becomes homeless and the council will sort it out. You would think so as they have a duty of care to everyone living in the city, however this isn't the case. We recently had a family in who had been to ever government/council agency and other charity with no success until they came to us and we helped them to get housed - they actually said that without us they wouldn't have known where else to turn and would probably still be on the streets. And that's without the plethora of single men living on the streets who aren't seen as high priority. it breaks my heart that in this day and age people not only live on the streets but die. Yes, people DIE. every winter we say goodbye to someone. Its so, so sad.

In less important news i went to the cinema today (am making good use of Orange Wednesdays in an attempt to be a little more frugal) with Mr A and a couple of friends. We'd got tickets to see The Woman in Black   and i was really looking forward to it. First mistake of the day was that we didn't think about it being half-term! However we'd gone to Cineworld in Solihull so one would expect a better class of teenager (tic), how wrong we were.... The cinema was quite full when we arrived and we were sitting towards the back and the majority of the audience were teenagers. Now, i wont tar them all with the same brush as some of them were really well behaved but a large number were behaving appallingly - they were talking all the way through the film, laughing, shrieking, using their phones, kicking the backs of our chairs... one of my friends turned to the boys behind s and asked them to be quiet which they did...for a while but the general level of noise was just unacceptable. I could feel myself getting really irritated and angry - why on earth would someone pay to see a film and then talk all the way through it?? Anyway, after 20 minutes i realised that i wasn't going to be able to enjoy the film and left. The cinema were very good and gave me my money back but it did make me laugh when they asked if i had reported it to a member of staff upstairs - i pointed out that there were no members of staff around and this got me thinking about how cinemas have changed. I went to see Mark Kermode doing a talk at The Electric a few months ago where he discussed how cinemas are now just giant monopolies who don't really give us good customer service anymore. I have tried to be more selective as to what films i go and see following that talk - i don't want to give Hollywood my hard earned cash for the tripe they churn out - i want them to make films which make me think, i don't want to see Underworld 7 or whatever just because its marketed as the Must See Film... try it yourself, when watching trailers ask yourself "Does this look like a really good film or is it just the same old hogwash?" I really want to see A Dangerous Method but its not showing in Birmingham until TWO WEEKS after its release date and only the independent cinemas are showing it. This proved to me the importance of our independent cinemas - The Midlands Arts Centre (The MAC),

 the Electric

 and The Artrix in Bromsgrove

 really need our support and do a fabulous job plus you get excellent customer service! Wouldn't it be great if we could show the multi-nationals that we actually cared about our cinema-going experience by choosing to see films at the independents?