Fatamorgana Gelato – not a sponsored post

This isn’t a sponsored post! Noooooo. It’s a gelato place! I’ll probably end up making this a short piece however I cut it, so I’ll try and keep it sweet too. First, I would like to obsessively splog about their incredible selection while totally not salivating.

Kentucky-flavoured, homemade, organic and gluten free ice cream (nearly put fat free in there – not that anywhere in the US would be… #ohsnap) may not sound so appetising, but I assure you that it has nothing to do with the state. Well…

Well, maybe the whole tobacco thing… yeah, it’s chocolate and tobacco flavour. Sound good? No? Well to hell with your opinion, I thought it tasted fine. (Note that as I graduate from tweens to teens, my posts will likely become lippier.) I’m also not suffering symptoms of nicotine withdrawal… so, extra points!

Then… um… black tea and dark chocolate, anyone? No, I don’t either. But mum… mum was all up for it. It sort of had a smoky aftertaste. Mum seemed to like it, and… I guess it was fine. Maybe even pretty good. You may ask why I chose to write a post about ice cream. Well, let me finish the bastard review first, m’kay?!

But guess what? Mum ruined her selection. With what, you ask? With… mango. Yes, mango. But apparently it would have gone fine if it was tangier. Personally, I’d have gone with another chocolate. But then I don’t recall ever having had more than two scoops of ice cream.

My selection? First, passionfruit. A delicious, tangy ice cream, with all the passion of the Christ, but none of the Melware. Also, it was delicious. And sour. And… according to the girl working there, it was a “good choice”. Though I had my doubts, seeing as I’d coupled it with…

Stracciatella. What is that? Choc chip. “Oh,” you say. But it was delicious! Tasty vanilla ice cream, lovely dark chocolate chips… though my ice cream did end up looking like one of those “Eggs Benedict” that mother is ever so fond of. Mmm…

…Christ, I’ve extended this past my usual length. Oh, and you were asking why I, in Italy of all places, chose to write about gelato. Because mum will write about Rome, Venice and Florence. Well, whenever she finishes putting each day of our Mongolia trek into 400-word Grauniad columns. Any month now…

The locations of Fatamorgana’s branches are: Via Lago di Lesina 9 (rione Trieste Salario), Via G. Bettolo 7 (rione Prati), Piazza degli Zingari 5 (rione Manti), Via Laurina 10 (Via del Corso), Via Aosta 3 (Re di Roma), and another one which isn’t on the card. 38 or 36, big sign saying “GELATO”, find it yourself.
Oh, and we’re in Italy.
© 2013 Zac Sutcliffe. All legal bullshit is strictly enforced by bazooka-toting lawyers on cybernetically enhanced, flying alpacas.

Fun at High Hazels

Meh… my brain is a sponge (cake) right now, so no witty intro today. Instead, have this invisible screen bacon as penance:

 

 

Yum! It is so TASTY! But anyway. ‘What the £µ¢κ are “High Hazels”?’, I hear you say. I’ll tell you! High Hazels is a a group of holiday cottages operated by the National Trust. They are in the Peak district near Harwick Hall. I can’t be arsed to tell you about H. Hall, so just check mum’s site.

Okay, so… first up, getting there. Erm… a small Japanese car, four people, lots of luggage. Quite a few hours’ drive. Bleh. Next, waiting. For what? My cousins, Elias and Evie, with whom TV-watching and rubbish cricket are much more fun. They arrive, bringing me great happiness and entertainment. Woohoo.

Out comes one very cheap plastic cricket set. Hooray. Elias is batting, I am bowling. Ngh… I do not throw well. My bowling is destined to improve greatly over the next few days. Then batting. Meh-diocre. Then… den-building. Nope’d. Then… the horrifying realisation that “CBBC will be back at 7:30 AM”.

Next: tomorrow comes. First on the agenda: brekkie. Then, a film. The film? Cats & Dogs. I have no desire whatsoever to see the sequel (or even the second half of the film). It was bad. Sunday? Well, Elias’ b-day. And, um, Hardwick hall. Say, remember how I said I couldn’t be arsed to tell you about it? Well, I was kidding.

So, like, H. Hall was built by Bess of Hardwick, who was very powerful on account of her excellent divorce lawyers. She made a fortune out of not-very-much and was very proud of it, so the letters E H are distributed about the place. E H as in Elizabeth of Hardwick, natch.

Zac-approval levels:

Decor: 7/10, nice dusty weapons, boxes and chairs.

Size: 8/10, convenient for a shortish trip

Preservation: 9/10, very well preserved

Architecture: 6/10, pretty good, I guess

Touristiness: 9/10, few crowds

Grounds: 6/10, big but with only one tree to climb

Overall: 7.5/10, should visit if nearby.

I am writing this in hindsight as I was bathed in relief at Elias’ b-day present’s having been a smash hit (LEGO and bubble wrap, double-whammy). Also, my draft seems to have disappeared and I am writing this from scratch. The rest is, well, uneventful. Well, maybe apart from a few times, like when I made raspberry sludge with a hand-blender and a jug. Mmm…

And on that note, I am pressing that pretty blue button that says “Publish”.

I Broke my Freaking Arm

Hello readers. Since June the 23rd, I’ve had a broken freaking arm. It’s… not actually that painful. It’s slightly sore, granted, but they screwed a big metal plate into it and now it’s fine. So… meh. It means I miss out on a lot for a while. And…
And I have to go into hospital and remove it (not easily pulled out, those things, so it’s important to have medics standing by if you rip out a bit of vital artery), and do all that, and do boring physiotherapy to get it back in shape, and… and it’s altogether pretty damn SHIZ. :c
Wot else? Well… for a while, I can’t:

  • ride rollercoasters D;
  • climb trees :c
  • do other cool stuff

However, I can still:

  • do math D;
  • write a blog post :c
  • play video games :D
  • watch TV :D

So it’s not all bad. However, today Archie has gone and done a bloody sleepover, so I’ve been left here with a blog post to do. Now readers, you may know me. But for those you don’t, I am horribly stricken with a severe case of chronic laziness. Because of this, I am having a hard time even writing this.

Oh… em… gee. I haven’t even told you how it happened. Well, a while back I went to Mongolia, see. And in Mongolia, I went and sat on a horse. Well, see, the horse didn’t much like being sat on. So it made a displeased noise. Then it just started moving with the rest of the horses. It was… hot. And… the rolling Mongolian landscape got stale. And it was a five-day, seven-hour-a-day slog back to Hatgal.

But, as bad luck would have it, the saddle on my horse slipped. Have you ever seen a horse bolting? Have you ever been in the saddle at that very moment? Have you ever fallen off and gone into shock, only to find your foot’s trapped in the stirrup? Arms are weaker than rocks. Horses are fast. When a rock won’t budge and neither will an arm, then…

Crack.

Looking Back on School

Hello! The time has come for me to write a blog post about Chinese middle school. DISCLAIMER: I dunno. Read it. So, looking back. Day one. I walk into school, wondering if today is the day I get in or if they opt to wait until a full day can be arranged tomorrow.
And guess what? It’s my first day at school. And I’m terrified. I sit there, at the TA’s desk at the back, staring at the board. I hope to God or something that the teacher (Chinese as a native language, no less) doesn’t come over and realise that I’m not understanding a word of what’s being said.
Also, everyone is looking at me.
Afternoon. The same damn thing. Except everyone is older than me. Because guess what? I’m at the uni. So… the youngest is 16, the oldest 23. I am downright terrified. So I copy. After a while, the teacher walks over and (presumably) notices the astounding similarity between the work of me and that of the guy next to me.
Day two. It is half seven. I am brought up to the front of the class. I am introduced. There are audible sniggers from my classmates, probably meaning that “Victor-of-a-Military-Battle Mountain” is an unusual name. I am sent to the back again. Ah, a few people have stopped staring.
I decide to stop cheating at CFL (Chinese as a Foreign Language). Conscience: clear. Understanding: eh, probably under 10%. Oh boy, I have a long way to go. Fast forward a little. Day something-something-dark side. I have endured it. All of it.
I have sat through CFL tests, maths tests, English tests (:D) and lots of other sh*t like that. And I have done fine. Fine enough to regret leaving? NO! And yet… yes. The kids and teachers have been more than nice. However brutal the hours may have been, however tough the homework…
I will miss that school.

The Awful Chinese Language

Yes, after a long period. (ha, Americanese) of inactivity, the least uncreative thing I couldn’t contrive not to come up with isn’t a whine about the awful Chinese language. But I’m still going to write about it. Anyway, as you may know, I have been suffering (or studying) the Chinese language for some time now. And I have made a terrible discovery.
What is this terrible discovery? The learning curve… is a right angle. It’s terrible. Don’t get me started on the hideous writing system. It’s all made of these little radicals, with three or four per character. Sound easy? Let’s see… four radicals p/c, hundreds of radicals, hundreds of words that mean the SAME GODDAMN THING… dismal.
‘But it’s only difficult because you’re a westerner! It’s easy for people who speak related languages!’ Yes, and what “related languages” might those be? That’s the thing about Chinese. There are no similar languages. Unless you count Cantonese, 北京话,上海话 and all the other bloody dialects. Blech. Don’t defend it, it’s an atrocity.
Shī Shì shí shī shǐ

Shíshì shīshì Shī Shì, shì shī, shì shí shí shī.
Shì shíshí shì shì shì shī.
Shí shí, shì shí shī shì shì.
Shì shí, shì Shī Shì shì shì.
Shì shì shì shí shī, shì shǐ shì, shǐ shì shí shī shìshì.
Shì shí shì shí shī shī, shì shíshì.
Shíshì shī, Shì shǐ shì shì shíshì.
Shíshì shì, Shì shǐ shì shí shì shí shī.
Shí shí, shǐ shí shì shí shī shī, shí shí shí shī shī.
Shì shì shì shì.
石室詩士施氏,嗜獅,誓食十獅。
氏時時適市視獅。
十時,適十獅適市。
是時,適施氏適市。
氏視是十獅,恃矢勢,使是十獅逝世。
氏拾是十獅屍,適石室。
石室濕,氏使侍拭石室。
石室拭,氏始試食是十獅。
食時,始識是十獅屍,實十石獅屍。
試釋是事。
What is this? For a start, it’s boosting my word count by about 70 words. It doesn’t count characters. More importantly, it is a poem, called Shī Shì shí shī shǐ. Google it. The point is to illustrate the need for characters and how useless Pinyin (and, to a lesser degree, spoken Chinese) is. Say it. Shi shi shi shi…
Next up: having a pop at Benny the Irish “Polyglot”. Here is the nutjob‘s site. In his final video, he’s still pronouncing “hen” like “chicken”. His accent is totally screwed up. And he’s claiming that it’s easy. Which it is, if you’ve just scratched the surface, chatted a little and bragged.
Be careful for the curve.

Arse on the Ice: my Adventures at the Ice Sculptures

<wit></wit> I have spent most of my time outdoors, as the title suggests, with my arse on the ice. Today, I will be chronicling my great adventure at the ice sculptures, and the arse-plants involved. Our story starts when we have crossed the river, because the bit before that was just me whining about how my tears were freezing and how I needed ski goggles.

So, it starts with me slipping on the ice. My arse was unharmed, but my knee suffered grievous damage and I lay there hissing for about two minutes. IMPORTANT: I did not cry. My tears were frozen. Just clearing that up. Anyway, we set off for the ice festival with me grumbling about my leg, mum rejecting offers of rides and some dude in a car offering to give us a ride to the park.

Then… let’s just skip to the ice sculptures. What do we do when we get in? No, not gawp. Well, we gawp a little. Then we set off to have a cup of coffee for mum and heavily diluted, powdered milk for me. Oh, and guess what? THEY HAVE GIANT SLIDES SHAPED LIKE SWANS. MADE OF ICE. Yeah. Drink it in… I’ll shut up about the slides.

Just kidding! It is really scary, both in going up and shooting down, because… well, it’s ice. So, it’s slippery. So, when going up the stairs you’re in danger of slipping, and going down you go so fast that when you hit the snowdrift that serves as a buffer, snow goes up your sleeve. :( Anyway, on to something interesting.

Ninjas are interesting, but I don’t have any ninjas. Hm. Oh, I know! Next, I piss around on the smaller slides. I go on most of ‘em. There are loads of them. Made of bumpy, solid ice bricks, all of ‘em. Fun to slide down. Oh, and there was one really big one that truly shone. It had tons of people queuing for it and it was a bit tedious at first, but then I got the hang of it.

However, nobody really got my method of “waiting until the last person goes down, then shooting down at light speed”, so… pileups ensue. Boom, I shoot down because people are starting to cut in front. Boom, I collide (though not painfully; I slowed down some) and boom, the people behind collide. A pileup ensues, during which I switch to the second slide-bit.

And… well, that’s about it. There were some awesome ice sculptures, like a giant beer bottle made of ice (Communist my arse) promoting Harbin Beer. And ice castles. Disney style. But those are mum’s domain.

Bai!

Happy New Year!

It’s new year! Chinese New Year, you dufus! I wouldn’t roll out a new year’s post this late. But hey, it’s not too late for me to blog about the firework display. Even though fireworks are an awful, awful subject to write about. Anyway, it starts off with me in bed. I’m not asleep, just enjoyin’ mah mancave. Wishing the bloody fireworks would pipe down.

They don’t. Instead, mum pipes up and starts yelling at me to come and look at the fireworks. Because she can see them from the balcony. So I rush out –did I mention that I’m in my undies and a t-shirt at this point?– and look. Predictably, there’s condensation on the windows and I can’t see much, but I get a glimpse.

Next, I go back to my f*cking room to (hopefully) get some f*cking peace and quiet. No such luck. I am soon called to mum’s room, where, for whatever reason, the windows are fine and I can see the fireworks. They’re pretty, mainly the classic colours of red, green and yellow but with some white and blue in there too.

Then I go back to my room and observe the fireworks from there. Good god, this was an awful topic for mum to give me. I wonder if she’s written one on the subject…

How I Crashed a Tank

Yes, I’m already rolling out a new post. Yes, it was just a near-seizure. You can guess the driving factors behind this post. So, without further fuc mucking about, let’s begin. A few days ago, mum and I went to the Harbin ice festival. It’s on the river (which is, obviously, frozen at this time of year) and is generally fun. To begin with, we did… well, zilch. Then we went off and had lunch.

Ahh, lunch. Mmm. Part one: Operation Lunch. :D First stop: rbt. This is some random and expensive cafe nobody’s ever heard of. It has cool benches, which are swings, but… the food is overpriced and unremarkable. Next: the Parkson mall’s food court. It’s exactly what it sounds like, really. But it’s cheap, the food is tasty, and it’s close by. So ends part one. And yes, I did use an entire paragraph. UMAD?

Part two: the Slide of Epic Lulz. We are back by the river, and mum is preparing to fork over 2£ for a single trip down an epic (it is revealed) slide. She forks it over. She hands over the ticket. The PLA dude (they have a big army) rips the ticket and hands it back. I go up the stairs. Incidentally, the stairs are made of ice. The entire slide is! They don’t call it the Ice Festival for nothing!

And then I’m at the top. And scared. Because I’ll be going down a large (and steep) ramp of ice in a rubber tube. I watch the first batch go down, then quickly grab a spot which looks gentle-ish. To give you a bit of perspective, at the time of writing I weighed around 32 kilograms. So, as I witnessed them shooting down, you can imagine what I felt like.

Actually, it was really fun. I shot down at breakneck speeds, only slightly worried as to whether I might flip over and break my nose. Then I had to lug it back up a ramp. A ramp made of ICE, no less. :( It had footholds, but it was still really hard. Especially when I slipped, fell over and dropped my tube, which went down the ramp until it collided with someone, nearly knocking them over.

Part three: the Mighty Tank! Yes, we finally get to the tank! You see, when we scouted out the place (before lunch), we (or rather I) spotted some form of tank over by one of the slides. And, after I finally got my frigging tube up, I headed over there with mum. We are unpleasantly surprised, as all the tanks are covered in tarp.

Thankfully, they’re not closed. The guy starts one up. I get in. Chug chug chug… aaaand I’ve crashed the tank into the side of the course (also made of ice). Blam. I’m stuck. I get out and pathetically try to push the thing off the wall. I fail miserably. But I’ve learned my lesson: tanks are really hard to drive.

BTW, how do you like the cursor?

The Great Apartment Hunt

We have WiFi now! That’s right, WiFi in our apartment. To “celebrate”, I’m writing this post (nah, I celebrated with a full day of nothing) to chronicle our great hunt. First stop: Bomele 1931. That’s the coffee shop, BTW. Next: the office! Mr Ye’s office, to be precise. Mr Ye is the broker who’s broking us. That is what a broker does, right?

Whatever. I have a near-heart attack when I see the stairwell. It’s dark, smelly and, well, undesirable. Then I see the office and have a near-seizure. Then mum says “But… but someone’s living here, no?” and he replies “Yeah, this is the office.”. I narrowly avoid my seizure and wait for him to get the keys. The keys are got. We set off for the apartment.

And we get to the stairwell. Heart attack number two inbound. It’s exactly the same, but our flat is higher up. Up the stairs we trudge. We, who have done the EBC trek, so suddenly defeated by two laptops, a crappy tote bag and six smelly flights of stairs. We get to the apartment. And… no seizure! It’s rather nice. Not as nice as the one in Kunming, but… nice.

We decide to look at another flat. After half an hour — yes, thirty bloody minutes — of waiting, we give up on that one. Then we find another place with Mr. Ye. That one fails, too. I, desperately, try to and (to some degree) succeed in liking it. Mum doesn’t, and vetoes it. So we spend the night in an eighty yuan train station hotel with rats under my bed.

Well, noises under my bed. The bed is made from plywood boards rather than poles and is thus easier to sleep in than a bed with rats under it that you could see by sticking your head down. :( Morning comes, and I eagerly get the hell out of bed, get dressed and go to Bomele. Then we find one that we like. In case you were wondering, we couldn’t stay in the other one.

Why? Because they’d worked out that we were only staying for four months and that if we signed the one-year rental, we’d just bugger off and lose the deposit. Then I get another near-seizure. From happiness! Because we can stay there tonight, instead of having to stay at the fleapit! Oh joy of joys! And that, my friends, is how we got our apartment.

Next up: I Crash a Tank!

Into Harbin we Charge

Oh into Harbin we come a-chargin’
…no, I’m not any good at rhymes. We’re in Harbin! But it took great sacrifices to get here. We took several long train rides. We slept on all of them but none had beds! We spent about 39 hours on those trains. Not consecutively. That would be savage. But it makes for darn good reading, so I’ll write about it anywho.
Our great odyssey begins in Shenzhen, where I find out that there are no beds left on any of the trains. Alarms start ringing inside my head. How… why… OH GOD, WHY!? We board the train. I whinge, as is customary, my class vanishing with my good mood. I sit on the big navy backpack. After a while, we manage to accommodate all of our bags- at least the ones that need accommodating.
I unhappily take out the Kobo. It’s gonna be a long ride. The people selling food and drink push their trolleys back and forth. After a while, mum’s laptop dies. I take out my laptop and give her the Kobo. It’s probable that if I say “now would be a great time to read the Alan Carr book!” she will hit me, so I say nothing.
Then the train stops. It’s the next day. We are both bored. We get our bags out and check in to the nearest hotel. It has WiFi. I plug in my computer. After about 10 minutes of charge, I stab the on button with the ferocity of a drowning man clutching to a leaf. And I blanch. There’s no WiFi. WiFi up to the third floor only, say the staff. No, I think. NO!
There’s Ethernet, though. It doesn’t work on my computer, but I get to use mum’s. I play with Stevie for a while and don’t get a wink of sleep. This is a very good idea, as it means I can sleep through lots of the train ride.

Hum. I appear to have detailed everything that happened for any of the trains, all in one train ride. Well, I shall be doing another post on the subject of our great apartment hunt. Until then? Just go to mum’s site. She’ll have rolled out 6000 words on the subject, no doubt.