Phew… well that was a busy few days and a shed load of Star Wars Battlefront II online gaming.. but now I’m back.

This post should’ve happened ten days ago but a combination of a glitchy iPad, a stupid WordPress app (that didn’t autosave thirty minutes of writing), driving my car to North Wales, being a passenger in the back of a business taxi to London, a hire car to a remote bit of Norway, on the super-efficient Flytoget airport train from Oslo Gardermoen airport into the suburbs of the city and a couple of commercial aircraft, and a sheer lack of willpower conspired to provide a ‘no show’ until now.

The weather was comparable between Norway and North Wales (cold and drizzling), and it seems like the snow that was lingering in Norway followed me home to England. When I brave the cold and leave the house there are two snowmen looking at me from my neighbours front gardens; it’s a little disconcerting to a Jo Nesbo fan.

We had some more Christmas food in Norway (in a return to Lorry among other places). At the second sitting upstairs at a super-busy Lorry, I had the pork dish with sausage, meatballs, berries and red cabbage which I was drooling over last year. A colleague had two helpings of the rehydrated salted lamb which was really fatty but deeply flavoursome, and of course there was the weird waxy cod dish (lutefisk) to deal with. Pretty much everyone had a poor night’s sleep as our systems processed all the protein and calories.

One thing I have noticed is how good all the bread over in Norway is. I don’t eat a lot of bread at home, but will always take the opportunity to try the different things available over there. The best thing was actually based on a Israeli recipe – small sweet breakfast buns flavoured with cumin seeds and topped with rock salt, excellent with cold meats and cheese – served at the remote Engo Gard hotel and restaurant.

Engo Gard, about a two-hour drive from Oslo, would have been a beautiful place to stay (surrounded by woodland and next to a fjord) if I wasn’t there for work, if the sun had come out and if it hadn’t been windy and wet. As it was, I got no time to explore on my own and instead made the most of the excellent food including the best venison (or perhaps reindeer) I have ever eaten – it was translated as ‘deer’ on the menu so it might have been either and I was too shy to press the waiter for a more precise identification. We also ate some fermented herring which wasn’t as bad as it sounds – although the locals said it was the ‘lite’ version.

When I have been at home, I have spent a lot of time on Battlefront II. I’m gradually learning all the maps and what each of the cards and classes can do for me. I’m preferring the ‘heavy’ class because of the front facing personal shield and the firepower. The ‘officer’ class is also a lot of fun with the automatic turret and his battle cries that put a buff on other players’ health for a while. The ‘assault’ class is my highest ranked so far (at 21) but it’s a bit odd as I don’t play that class very often anymore. I’m at 21 overall in my career and just under for the heavy and officer class. I’m nowhere with the ‘specialist’ class – I’ve never been into sniping on multiplayer online games. I enjoy it on single player campaigns but it’s very difficult to get right when you have 20 players baying for your blood and simply not standing still long enough.

There’s some news maps, and an extra campaign mission I think, out soon to celebrate the release of the new Star Wars film and the timing couldn’t be better as I am getting a bit fed up with the bottlenecks on some of the big maps. I’ve been playing the smaller objective based modes a lot – seem to me to be lots more fun as I enjoy playing the objectives. I’m a team player after all. I’m also nowhere with the starfighter assault levels, but it’s not because I’m not enjoying them – I’ve just never been very good at flying games. The 40 player first person shooter modes have been rather laggy recently, so I hope they’re going to add some more servers to support the popularity of the game. It’s no good having superb graphics if your character is jumping backwards and forwards and rendering the whole experience pointless.

Anyway, enough about that.

I watched the fantastic Baby Driver before I went over to Norway again. It’s Edgar Wright’s best film so far in my opinion, mixing cool action with quirky choreography and an excellent soundtrack. The cast is great (including a cameo from Red Hot Chili Pepper’s Flea) and lead actor Ansel Elgort is marvellous.

I also watched Spider-man: Homecoming and enjoyed it more than I did Doctor Strange or Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2. I enjoyed the fact that it was an American high school movie with a superhero twist and that the other Avengers didn’t get in the way (apart from Ironman). Also great to see Jon Favreau, Michael Keaton and the return of Pepper Potts, however briefly. Liked the bad guy’s motivation – just doing it for his family – and the way his defeat was handled.

I’m still a bit dicked off that Andrew Garfield didn’t get the role for Civil War and this film, but I guess he’s moving onto bigger things these days. I wasn’t completely blown away by the film (Baby Driver is a lot more enjoyable) and I no longer rush to the cinema to see the Marvel films. It’s getting like a conveyor belt these days and I feel like it’s crowding out more original action films – despite the success of Baby Driver.

I’ve also been rewatching The Hunger Games films with Siggy who hasn’t seen any of them before. She can be a bit picky and so it helps that Elizabeth Banks and Woody Harrelson are in the cast. I think she was pleasantly surprised and while I found the books a bit hit and miss, I do like the film adaptations, despite some of the rather silly plot points  and overly complicated technology.

While I was in North Wales, sitting opposite a lovely real fire, I finished reading The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell. It’s primarily about a Dutch trading outpost in eighteenth century Japan, but it also features an odd cult. It was perhaps the stuff about the cult which reminded me somewhat of The Handmaid’s Tale which I found more interesting than the painfully researched historical aspects of the story. The book is so called because Japan has been described as the land of a thousand autumns – I didn’t know – had to look it up on Wikipedia. If you like the historic novels of Bernard Cornwell, you will probably like this.

I might not do another post before Christmas (although a little retrospective ramble might be on the cards). So just in case, to all readers who celebrate it, I hope you have a good time and many thanks for following my ramblings. I will try and provide an equal amount of incoherence, shambolic self-absorption and lack of focus in 2018! Also, I might publish Bad Blood at some point.