While the hype around the celebrated Nintendo augmented reality game Pokémon Go has long since died down, perhaps because everyone decided to twaddle with fidget spinners instead, the game still draws a loyal support base. For the uninitiated, Pokémon Go is an interactive game, downloadable to your mobile phone, where you catch animals from the Pokémon kids’ cartoon series in real-life locations, raise them and use them to fight opponents. In 2016, the game’s popularity reached endemic proportions, with people crowding in parks to catch rare and elusive Pokemon, and state authorities such as police, giving out warnings for people to pay attention to their surroundings when immersed in the highly addictive game.
Pokémon Go lovers will soon be able to bond and exchange their little friends in a special Community Day event, scheduled for the 17th May 2018 across the world. The Community Day offers game players, known as ‘trainers’ a chance to go out and catch Pokémon together as teams in a special and social bonding experience.The creators of Pokémon Go, in a bid to counteract the perception of gaming as an anti-social hobby, created the events, held monthly, to encourage players to get out, discover new places, and meet new people.
There are many game bonuses being released for the day, according to online magazine iMore. These include extra XP, Stardust, faster egg hatching, lure modules that last three hours, and a special Pokémon with an exclusive move. The featured Pokémon for May’s event (the Community Day occurs for just three hours on one day per month) is Charmander, a small orange fire-breathing cross between a dinosaur and a dragon.
While the event is scheduled for just three hours, start and finish times will vary according to your location. Gamers in the Asia-Pacific region, including Japan, can start hunting at 12 pm to 3 pm JST (Japanese Standard Time). Participants in Europe, the Middle East, Africa, and India will have their regional event from 10 am-1 pm UTC (Coordinated Universal Time) and those in the Americas (including Greenland) can play from 11 am to 2 pm EST (Eastern Standard Time).
To celebrate the 100th anniversary of British women winning the right to vote in elections, the Museum of London is hosting the Votes for Women Weekend from today in honour of women’s suffrage, featuring various participatory activities for people of all ages, the magazine Skint London writes.
The event, which is being held over two days from 3-4 February, 2018 and is free entry, promises to be an immersive and fun experience celebrating this key milestone in universal suffrage, when women over the age of thirty finally won the right to help choose who governs us, after a long struggle.
Votes for Women Weekend will feature lots of performances, photography, workshops, poetry and other things to do. Visitors can take part in a re-enactment of a suffragette rally, which also has a trip through history to the present day, and a two-hour long ‘banner-thon’ where they can create their own digital banners in collaboration with the charity Digital Drama’s 100 Banners projects. The banners will be taken on a march to the UK parliament.
Herstory fans can also learn about how the early 20th-century police used photography to capture suffragette activities undercover, and even play suffragette-inspired games in an Edwardian living room, including one called ‘Pank-a-squith’, a board game said to be have conceived by the Suffragettes themselves.
There will also be a spoken poetry jam and a chance to discover stories about inspirational women and girls, as well as learning about significant participants in the struggle to gain women the vote, such as Millicent Fawcett and Sophia Duleep Singh.
British women received the right to vote on the 6th of February, 1918, after a long struggle by early women’s activists, known as the Suffragettes, who first planned their protests in the drawing rooms of Victorian Britain, before eventually taking to rallies, civil disobedience protests, and in some cases, even getting into trouble with the law.
Right now, I am off work for three weeks because of annual leave and the Christmas and New Year break, so I spend some time on the Internet. Every once in a while, the dark brooding spectre of boredom casts its long shadow upon me, and I found myself in front of the laptop, fingers twitching. I literally cannot think of anything to do. When boredom strikes, and I do not want to leave the laptop’s side, I fill up the dead time by Googling something, binge-watching YouTube videos, browsing the Facebook newsfeed or checking out some graphic design.
Until today that is… a journalist with the website Citispotter has been kind enough to dig up some impressive sites that are the perfect medicine for when boredom strikes. Give the cat videos a rest and have a look at these fun websites which will change your outlook on life, keep your fingers occupied and make boredom yesterday’s news.
This is a website where you can generate your own art of fiery wisps of smoke like something out of a progressive rock video or something. Release your inner punk artist and make pretty thangs!. You can also save and share your designs. Silk is also available for download on iPads and iPhones.
It is always important to have regular eye tests at the opticians, but what if you are stuck at home, you are not going out and the opticians are closed. Well’ you can try an online eye test like the one linked above and see if your peepers are up to scratch. Ideally it’s best to use a desktop computer so you can keep the approved distance from the screen.
Run by the Mormons (Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) from their headquarters in Utah, USA. FamilySearch is the world’s largest genealogical portal, where you might be able to find details of your ancestors and long-lost relatives. Who knows, you may have royal blood?
This is very handy if you want to keep a close eye on your electronic goods. Oriented towards safeguarding our iPhones/iPads/Mac Airbooks, Prey lets you track and find your devices with a single account, should they get stolen or lost. Around 8.5 million devices are protected by Prey. The tracker can even take a secret picture of the thief if they start using your device as well as gathering data useful for the police or the courts.
Do you love to sit back with a hot chocolate and David Attenborough or Bear Grylls on the box. Now you can watch documentaries on your PC for free with Documentary Heaven. Current must-watch highlights include docs on the Cassini spacecraft, former EastEnders actor Ross Kemp exploring the Libyan migrant crisis and a report on torture in American prisons.
If you are not only bored but unable to sleep, then this might be right down your street, or bedroom. Rainy Mood plays different kinds of sounds associated with rain, making it also ideal for people relaxing and studying. Just don’t fall asleep on your device and wreck it by drooling over it.
This is a handy utility for people who love to read but are crap at organising. Download Calibre and it will organise your e-books into virtual libraries. Not only that, but apparently you can use it to create your own books and sync your collection with your other devices.
A renowned website where you can learn major world languages for free with assessments to reinforce your learning. The lessons are fun and gamified and you can learn at your own pace and even in your lunch breaks.
Not only do you get to end your boredom, but you can also help end world hunger with Freerice. Play its multiple-choice quizzes and every time you win a quiz, 10 grains of rice are donated to the World Food Programme. Created by John Breen in 2007, Freerice makes altruism fun.
If you are a regular Facebook user, then you are probably really big on leaving comments on pictures, posts and videos you like (or make you want to kick in your computer screen). You have seen all sorts of comments, ranging from the downright weird and the abusive, to declarations of love (finished off with a tonne of hearts and heart-eyes emojis, no doubt), mini essays on intellectual topics and politics, and gushing comments. You probably know your way around Zuckerberg’s pet project very well. Right? Well maybe not! Let me explain.
As you may know, Facebook has recently introduced many major and minor changes to the website experience and interface design, for example adding extra emojis to show reactions to posts (instead of the bog-standard thumbs up like) and introducing Twitter-style round display pictures for personal profiles and public pages alike. But did you know there are three more ‘Easter eggs’ to be discovered, when you write a comment using certain special words? Well, you are about to find out here (thanks to BetterMe). The author will also be testing them out himself live and giving his own impression, because you know sometimes it has to be seen to be believed.
This one is really epic and perfect for the party people. So your sister has announced her engagement, your best mate is having a baby, or your housemate has just winged a new promotion at work. What do you say? Well surely a congratulations is in order!. If you type in the word ‘congratulations’ or ‘congrats’ into the comment box, your screen will suddenly be filled with a cascade of cartoon balloons and confetti. It is brief, lasting a few seconds, but it is really cute and contemporary and just adds to the happy atmosphere. While the standard congrats earns a flurry of orange and blue party stuff, if you congratulate the birth of a baby, you get instead pink or blue balloons depending on whether the new bundle of joy is a girl or boy. Mood mode made!
Feeling in lurve? Fingers twitching to spread some virtual affection to your bestie, bae, or even bro (nothing wrong in a little bromance!). Give that extra oomph to your affections by typing ‘XOXO’ into the comment box. Your screen will fill with hearts (sadly, I tested this at the time of writing and it appears not to be working) so you can drop some love on your loved ones’ newsfeeds.
3. Give them the thumbs-up
Apparently, if you type in the word ‘Rad’, your screen will become a waterfall of thumbs ups. The unmistakable Facebook fist of appreciation is a highly recognisable symbol that has become a defining moment of social media. Unfortunately at the time of writing, this feature appears to be not working also, so I am a little disappointed.
So while sadly, only one of three of these comment gems appears to be working in the UK at least, do not fret. You can also spice up your comments by inserting an image by clicking on the small camera icon to the right inside the comment box, or to make things really interesting, throw in a GIF by clicking on the GIF icon to the immediate right of the camera one. The GIF feature is one of Facebook’s latest and has proved a huge hit. It makes use of extensive GIF libraries run by GIPHY and tenor, two influential animated image repositories.
You will become king/queen of comments in no time…
For Londoners, a trip to the seaside usually means a forty-plus minute drive through heavy traffic and with screaming friends/kids/radios to the Essex coast or Brighton, but from this May, you can be beside the seaside on a rooftop in south London, courtesy of Brixton’s Rooftop Beach. This event brings together sand, sun, buckets, spades, street food and seasonal cocktails for a fun day out without having to book the coach.
The Rooftop Beach, organised by fresh pop-up bar maestros Brixton Rooftop, takes place from May 26 to 29, 2017 over the Bank Holiday weekend. The event is a reincarnation of Brixton’s hugely successful Brixton Beach, a 1980s Miami themed occasion held in 2016 by the same people behind local events South Pole Saloon, Brixton Beach Boulevard and Big Apple Brixton. South Pole Saloon was rated “Best Pop-Up London 2015” by Design My Night. As the clocks turn back and the summer cranks up, the Rooftop Beach will feature bars and music, all on a few tonnes or so of imported sand for that squishy sandy feeling between your toes, minus getting tangled up in seaweed or a lost jellyfish. The beach’s massive interest among people looking for their next eclectic social fix can be gauged from their Facebook page alone, where 5,700 people have planned to attend with another 35,000 interested in visiting, so this promises to be a roadblock
The beach is part of a contemporary pop-up trend of temporary entertainments and establishments that have become a hallmark of city life in London. In the past years, temporary beaches have become a feature on the banks of the River Thames, for instance, drawing in thousands of tourists, office workers and locals looking for an easy way to enjoy the beauty of the coast without having to travel far or book off two weeks from work.
The Brixton Rooftop Beach is tickets only (see sources below) and takes place at Brixton Rooftop’s HQ at Pope’s Road, Brixton, SW9 8JH London, United Kingdom.
As the London Borough of Newham gears up to mark the fiftieth anniversary of its founding, residents were treated to an exciting garden party and a giant cake courtesy of the borough’s council, the Newham Mag reports.
The cake, encased in silver-grey and white icing, was decorated with floral motifs, council logos and the words “Happy 50th Anniversary Newham” was the centrepiece of a free entry garden party held in Central Park, East Ham. The party was organised by the council’s Community Neighbourhood team. This team is responsible for organising activities and initiatives designed to bring local people together and build stronger and more resilient communities.
Over 500 local residents had a knees-up, enjoying refeshments and snacks. They also participated in fun activities for adults and children alike, including balloon animal making, fitness taster sessions, family-friendly races, a giant chessboard, face painting and a free jazz concert. The celebrations at East Ham for Newham’s half-century of existence were also attended by a local VIP guest, the borough’s mayor Sir Robin Wales.
Local councillor for East Ham, Lakmini Shah, who is also a lead member of the Community Neighbourhood team, told the Newham Mag: “I was delighted so many people enjoyed the fun”
As Newham celebrates fifty years since the Local Government Act of 1965, which led to its creation from the mergers of two east Londoncounty boroughs, the council plans to hold more garden parties to celebrate. The next series of events takes place at Priory Park, in Upton Park district, on the 25th July. A third party will take place at the First Avenue Community Garden in Plaistow on the same date between the hours of 12pm and 4pm. More events are planned for this August and September.
The London Borough of Newham was created on land which was originally part of the neighbouring county of Essex, but which was absorbed into the new county of Greater London. The trigger for its establishment was a monumental change in the UK’s county boundaries instigated by the Local Government Act, passed by Parliament in 1965. It was formed from the merger of the old Essex county boroughs of West Ham and East Ham. The new borough also gained North Woolwich (previously part of Woolwich county borough in London) and a small chunk of western Barking, the Little Ilford area. As a legacy of the old boroughs, Newham has two town hall buildings and road signs can still be found with the names of the obsolete county boroughs heading them. Newham currently has a population of 307,984, according to the 2011 national census, and the youngest population in terms of age in the UK.
Newham residents (and other Londoners and visitors) can find out more about what 50th Anniversary events are happening near them by contacting the council’s Community Neighbourhood team on +44 (0)203 373 4695 or alternatively going online to www.newham.gov.uk/summergardenparties
“Garden party is icing on the cake” – The Newham Mag [Issue 319], Newham Council (16 July 2015)
If you’re a Twitter user like me, you’ll know that the social media network with the cute blue bird is full of great advantages. A cool interface, brevity of messages, lots of photos and now videos to comb through, and the level of interaction with other users is second to none. You can keep updated on things that matter to you, whether your favourite sports teams, celebrities, artists, politicians etc. as well as your family and friends closer to home. And of course block or mute anyone who does your head in.
But nothing is perfect in life. Not even Twitter. Aside from the occasional and mildly annoying drunken tweet or unsolicited direct message (DM) ….not withstanding the recent controversies surrounding racist and sexist trolls abusing people on Twitter…there is also the scourge of bots. Fake accounts with dodgy names and quotes clearly slurped off a website somewhere, gift-wrapped with a stolen display picture (usually some random meme or woman), or that God-forsaken egg that usually is served up as default, sadly not with some sausages or bacon as well.
These bad eggs are the bane of the Twitterati. Although the admin behind the site are very good at obliterating most of the fake followers, new ones take their place with the speed and intensity of mushrooms on the forest floor after a long rainy spell. Talk about putting too many eggs in one basket.
According to a filing made by Twitter with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission in 2014, it is believed that bots and spam bots account for 14% of Twitter’s active user base. That is around 23 million accounts out of the 271 active users on there. Many of these bots are programmed to retweet garbage or clickbait articles. Not all bots are bad, indeed some are fun (such as the Wiener Schnitzel bot that retweets you every time you mention that phrase) but there are concerns that some may be a gateway for hackers or data miners. Other bots are created to boost up follower numbers in that never ending popularity contest of ‘Who has the most followers?’. There are some companies that will for a small fee get fake accounts to follow your every move and tweet, and inflate not only your follower count but also presumably your ego as well. They do a relatively roaring trade despite Twitter rules of usage prohibiting tweeters from enlisting the services of such ‘follower farms’.
No-one, and I mean no-one is safe from the attention of the bots. Not even celebrities or politicians. United States presidential hopeful Hilary Clinton is said to have once had 2 million fake or inactive followers and that only 44% of her followers are real, living, breathing people. She has also been accused of plumping up her 3 million follower figures with fake accounts, according to British newspaper The Daily Mail. Over here in the UK, former Member of Parliament Louise Mensch found herself in a bit of bother after a Twitter statistics and auditing website determined that 97% of her followers are counterfeits. Several other ministers and low-level politicians in her party, the Conservatives, also found their accounts’ popularity called into question amid flying accusations of wholesale fake follower shopping to boost party morale.
Personally I’ve seen more than my fair share of bots and dodgy Tweeters. On both my individual and blog accounts, I often receive up to five add requests from suspicious looking accounts. They are either accounts with Russian names and bios written in the Cyrillic alphabet or English language accounts with really strange names combining different ethnic origins. For example, recently I’ve been befriended by a Yuriko Dille, a Manika Boag, a Eustachius Knowler… other with half Arab or Indian or Japanese names affixed to Anglo-Saxon, Scottish or German surnames. They must shred up phone directories and randomly piece the names together like some sort of hellish Yellow Pages puzzle.
You can usually pick them off because their feeds are full of spammy retweets and their bio is some sort of quote. Other bots have nonsensical handles like @fnerit_elephantfartunicorn which is one of the main things I look out for when evading bots and fake accounts.
Last weekend I was having a Twitter conversation with a fellow blogger and keen writer, SD Cadman (a.k.a Sarika and Luna Elektra). Since we met on WordPress, we often have little chats of 140 characters or less, but this time there was a serious topic on hand. The conversation was inspired by an article I posted on @halfeatenmind about obtaining quality followers rather than just breaking numbers. We then got talking about fake followers, and how Sarika mentioned that they may well be bots sniffing out data for possibly nefarious purposes. We agreed that the worst bots were, in Sarika’s words, those that “act bloody human” or the “nonsense Factoid accounts”. We joked that we needed a weed whacker (a nice sharp blade) to remove these bots from Twitter like those pesky dandelions that never seem to give up sprouting over your smart well-manicured lawn.
Here’s a GIF she sent me to illustrate the frustration with these meddling dregs of AI….
In a nutshell, what Sarika proposed is that Twitter should have some kind of ‘Weed Whacker Award’ for the person who culls the most bots. That can mean ignoring them when they coming knocking at your account’s door, reporting them to Twitter, but most importantly of all, not adding them, as that gives them legitimacy and access to your followers list. Twitter does often undertake regular purges of fake followers, exterminating them like the filthy rats they are, but new ones keep cropping up. The winner of the bot wipeout can receive a certificate in the post or possibly a badge to go on their header or sidebar et cetera on Twitter. A sort of virtual Neighbourhood Watch against the fraudulent and fake. This would be a bit of fun, but also encourage people to look out for each other and protect against malicious hackers and other cyber-criminals and general online trouble makers.
Inspired by Sarika (SM Cadman), I’d thought I’d come up with a couple of designs for a ‘Weed Whacker Award’ badge if Twitter did such badges. If Dick Costolo, the Twitter CEO, is reading this, you can hire me and Sarika as your ‘creative consultancy team’ or whatever they call them in Silicon Valley. Free lunches and Segways would be a bonus.
A couple of months back, while completely bored out of my head and dealing with a set of itchy fingers, I decided to go on the Net and search for ‘do-it-yourself’ motorway (highway) signs that you could change the writing on to something of your choice. Not quite cute little kittens with balls of string, fair enough, but this was my inner trainspotter coming out to play…and nothing was stopping this old anorak!. Although I don’t and can’t drive myself, I’m often out and about in taxis, buses and the like, and often notice the road signs here in east London. For those of you based in the UK, you’ll know that we are crazy when it comes to filling our roads with signs of all sorts. We take safety…and not getting hopelessly lost….very seriously here.
In the throes of my internet research, I stumbled across a few sites where you could churn out personalised signs at your pleasure, although disappointingly for me as a Brit, most of these signs were more oriented to the US side of things, and I couldn’t find much of the personalisable signage like the endless diagrams that grace the pages of your average driving theory book/Highway Code. It weren’t an issue though, and I soon began creating some cool signs, which are featured below in their original format. It’s a nice bit of fun for when you have nothing better to do and procrastination rears its ugly head. Find your way out of boredom, and remember, the destination is a whole bunch of laughs for you and your friends. Scroll down at the next sentence (satnav voice)…..
Reading this while trapped in a traffic jam? Tailbacks for the next 10 miles?….hopefully the first of our recommended sign generators will switch all your happiness traffic lights to get-going green. Retro website Atom Smasher has a special adaptable widget where you can alter the message on this LED sign attached to a bridge over a U.S. motorway. You have four lines of space to enter text into, which is then re-imagined in little yellow lights that are the bane of every motorist. Delays…roadworks….overturned lorry…ah who cares?…I’m running for prime minister and giving old Davey Boy a run for his expenses. Even if your ambitions are more humble than mine, you can write a four-line message of your choice. Perhaps even email one to your boss to say you’re stuck in traffic. Check she has a sense of humour first though. I cannot accept any responsibility for anyone getting their ass fired.
The website runs under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License or similar attribution based licence which means you won’t get a lawsuit slapped on you if you decide to reproduce the picture on your site or blog. You have to download the picture though, so no hotlinking. While I’ve used the highway sign generator, there are a few others on the homepage to choose from to soup up your own petrol station, error message, and even Chinese restaurant and corporate office signs. Go wild!
RTS is a website for DIY traffic signs using North American formats. Using the RTS custom traffic sign wizard, you can design your own traffic or warning signs with options for sign shapes, colours and sizes. Unlike the ‘Make a Highway Sign‘ featured above, this is an actual company that manufactures signs according to customers’ specs. They’ve been accredited by the US Better Business Bureau and were in the top 500 online commerce sites for the US and Canada in 2014. However you do not need to give any credit card details or buy anything in order to use the wizard.
I chose a warning sign with red striped border and lettering…and yes it is a warning….I can be a bit ‘unusual’ at times. Be warned haha!!. If you’re based in north America and want to make your virtual sign a reality as a cool thing to stick on a wall at home, you can order direct and securely after creating your sign with the wizard.
Now for something from this side of the Pond. Web designer/developer Marijn Kampf runs a site called MyFunStudio.com, where you can create your own ironic London road name sign, just like those found in the touristy hotspots of the City of Westminster, Theatreland, and the like. The format for this sign has become as much of an icon representing London Town as our red buses, Beefeaters and the underground. Kampf’s site offers customisation using a choice of four popular fonts including the official ‘Streetsign‘ typeface used in the real deals ready to be teamed up with an overwhelming choice of colours. You can download the finished product as a standalone PDF or PNG file or go further and have your design transferred to all kinds of items from baby dummies and skateboards to leggings and doodle speakers. MyFunStudio also do a side range in Keep Calm posters and bored punters writing their names using elements from the periodic table. Very interesting and unique site, which is a good slice of the creativity my city is renowned for. These signs are highly recommended for blogs and sites on or operating from London as a way of showing some civic pride. North…South…East…..West London. The Half-Eaten Mind has got it covered!.
P.S. This website was originally used to create our new logo. Here I’ve gone somewhat narcissistic and named a major London throughfare after myself…well I’ve been in London virtually my entire life so surely naming rights are due. Anyone want to sign my Change.org petition?…Anyone?….*sad face*
While this is not strictly a road sign, it does give you an idea of how versatile the sign customisation technology found online can be. Image Chef, run by the company CyberLink, offers an option where you can take over a cinema’s backlit entrance sign for your own star-studded premiere. Declare your love for your favourite movie star, name-check some friends or beg some popcorn off the VIP guests, this silver screen’s all yours buddy.
The Half-Eaten Mind is the star of the red carpet round here, but you can add your own blog’s name for that special 9 pm blockbuster post.
In keeping with the theme of this article, Image Chef also offers road signs, including one template that allows you to add text to an image to an artsy montage of Swiss signage and a standalone sign in the Midwestern desert. Check out my interpretations below. From my blog office to my world, you’re in for an interesting journey. Don’t feed the scorpions.
This fun site offers several images beyond flat metal pavement furniture that you can doctor easily to your heart’s delight. All look realistic with no stray pixels or shoddy resolution in the final image. Very useful for blogs, forum signatures and the like.
From signs in the real world to signs in the animated world. The next pitstop in this road trip of virtual signage takes us to Springfield, U.S.A and the home of Homer J. Simpson and his merry band of yellow-skinned townsfolk. When not irritating the hell out of Mr. Burns in his day job of safety inspector at the nuclear power plant, our favourite donut-muncher likes to roam and pose with rictus grin around the streets of Springfield, scrawling over road signs in much the same way as his son writes lines on the board in the opening credits of every episode of hit cartoon The Simpsons.
More “woo-hoo!” than “d’oh!”, the sign generator at images-graphics-pics.com lets fans of America’s favourite dysfunctional family add a message to one of Springfield’s famous, if bland, signs. Just enter some text, choose your typeface style and size and then push the button to change the sign. Just like El Barto, you can make your mark on one of the world’s favourite mythical animated small towns. Just don’t let Chief Wiggum catch you.
After our long journey you’re bound to be feeling a bit peckish. All that altering of road signs on the Information Superhighway certainly leaves a hole in the stomach. Why not head to your local Chinese takeaway for a slap-up meal of chicken chow mein and steaming dumplings? When the plates are cleared away and the bill’s paid, help yourself to a fortune cookie and find out what the future holds for you….
Well, for once, a fortune cookie that gives some decent advice. Want to create your own crunchy yet insightful snacks?. images-graphics-pics.com also offer a good fortune cookie generator, using the same principles as their Homer Simpson generator featured above. Simply choose a suitable font and colour and your message will be faithfully reproduced unscrolled on a platter of the finest produce this side of the Yangtze. Ideal for takeaway-loving couch potatos or for the Chinese New Year.
All these websites make great pictures for blogs and personal websites, and are perfect for emailing to work colleagues and friends for a bit of a laugh. Give one or two a try and see for yourself. Completely free of charge and very amusing to boot.
Thanks for reading this special Half-Eaten Mind presentation.
Newham’s only closed marketplace, Queen’s Market in Green Street, played host to a special sporting extravaganza this past month where 300 local residents came to try their hand at fun and games courtesy of a community neighbourhood group, reports the Newham Mag.
Members of the community young and old converged on the Upton Park market, a short walk from the West Ham FC stadium and a popular Asianshopping district to attend the event, which was hosted by councillors and residents associated with the Green Street Community Neighbourhood team, which has links with local government in the borough of Newham, in east London.
The ‘Market Games’ event, a localised version of the Olympics with many sports that are new to this type of event, saw Upton Park residents participate in roller-skating, rowing machines, wheelchair basketball, table tennis, taekwondo, running and non-contact boxing. The different sports activities aimed to get residents thinking more about being active and healthy. A team of police officers representing Green Street Safer Neighbourhoods were also on hand to advise visitors on personal safety, crime prevention and security marking their valuables to prevent against theft.
The event also had support from the council’s leisure arm activeNewham, the West Ham United Community Sports Trust, London Youth Rowing, and the nearby Manor Park School of Taekwondo, all of which helped to provide activities and equipment at the Market Games and have many years of experience promoting sports among the young between them.
Retailer Tesco, who run an Express store a short distance from the Queen’s Market, also lent a hand, providing a food hamper as a donation for the Games prize draw. Another Market Games is in the works for February next year.
Local councillor Hanif Abdulmuhit told the Newham Mag at the time: “We are keen to get young people involved in fun activities like this when the market is not in use. It really brings our community together“.
As with many councils in London, Newham Council regularly organises community events to help bring communities together and encourage social cohesion and support. The much applauded arrival of the Olympic Games in Newham two years ago has created a spur of sporting activities organised by the council and sports bodies to encourage residents to be more active and to take up use of local facilities.
“In the market for fun” – The Newham Mag [Issue 305], Newham Council (5 December 2014)
Yesterday, Saturday 4th October 2014, I officially kissed my eventful years of being a twenty-something goodbye and said “Oh hi…er…Hello” to my third decade and thirtieth year of milling around on this green, green planet. Needless to say, while you cannot have a cat in hell’s chance of stopping the advances of age, it still was a bit of shock to me. I am actually going to be 30. Thirty!!. That’s a big chunky number. Part of me was telling myself that now I’ve reached the big Three-Zero, maturity and reflection on life was the name of the game, then there was a part of me that felt almost geriatric. Fair enough that I already got my first few white hairs some years back and being tall brings some aches and pains, but this morning I woke up with some noticeable leg cramps. I’m surprised I wasn’t dreaming of dusty suitcases from trips to the hospital, long post office queues and those god-awful 50+ life insurance adverts that infest daytime TV. But thirty is hardly old-age pensioner. It is a decade that will hopefully bring big changes into my life. Marriage, settling down and starting a family, being hired into a better-paid position (hopefully in the media), moving into my first flat,…and many smaller milestones that will turn when and whether. Being thirty is a transition point, a halfway house between the carefree and carelessness of youth and the responsibility, organisation and enhanced maturity of older adulthood.
My thirtieth birthday was a small and private affair with family, with of course many well wishes from friends and acquaintances new and old, and special greetings messages from the extended family in Mauritius. On Friday night (the 3rd of October) I visited my mother, who is recovering from a recent leg operation, to see how she was doing and to have a special dinner with the family. We ordered the food from a local takeaway and I made sure to get my favourite. A lamb doner kebab. This one was tasty but did reek of onions. Sadly there was no cake but I got lots of dosh and a gift box of Ferrero Rocher chocolates, and most importantly the love and best wishes of my family together. My 5-year-old niece even pulled out a little gift from her jacket pocket as she came to hug me and wish me a happy birthday in advance. The gift was a small blue toy car. She must have chosen it especially for me. Once I get a decent-sized place of my own to live in, her toy auto is going on the mantelpiece or shelf. I then went with my niece and my sister to her place, where I spent a short while with her and her husband, before heading off to my home.
Come the big day I was as happy as Larry. I don’t know who Larry is, but I was feeling great. On Facebook, I arranged with my brothers to go to the nearby Westfield Stratford City shopping centre to go bowling and then later, the cinema. It started off a bit crazy though. My brother didn’t have his phone with him as it was in a repair shop having its speaker fixed. He had been having no end of problems with that phone. While chatting to him on Facebook, I had also forgotten to say to him exactly where we were going to meet up as Stratford is a big place. Cue me waiting like a bum at the area’s bus station for one and a half hours wondering where the hell my brother was. He had been dropped off by car and was also planning to get some clothes shopping in, with the money he received for his own birthday, which falls one week before mine. After frantically Whatsapp messaging my other siblings to try to get to the bottom of this missing persons inquiry, I decided to head up the short walk across the glass-sided bridge to the Westfield shopping district. I started hunting around the nearby clothes shops to see if I could spot the missing brother. No luck. I scanned the crowds, hoping for a glimpse of him. Nah, not happening. Then something told me to head to the Vue cinema that sits on the third floor of the shopping mall. I thought it unlikely he would be there, but I took a chance anyway. Long story short, once I arrived at the picture house, I saw my brother on the balcony of the cinema’s courtyard. He had borrowed another shopper’s phone and was calling home. At the same time as I saw him, one of my sisters messaged me to say where he was. A very strange and almost psychic experience I think. Thankfully we was reunited and went to the bowling alley. All Star Lanes, which is based a very short walk from the cinema, is basically a bowling alley for all ages. It also has an American diner-themed cocktail and milkshake bar with a restaurant serving typical diner food. We booked our lane for the two of us (my other brother was sorting out transport to arrive later to watch the movie). Unfortunately we were told by reception that there would be a twenty minute wait before the lane would be free to use and they armed with a buzzer that looked like an oversized car alarm key. Me and bro decided to kill time by going to the clothes shops. We visited adidas, Topman while my brother tried to find a hoodie he liked. We saw a lot of cool and ridiculous stuff. Ridiculous in both price and aesthetic appeal. Sadly brother could not find the hoodie he wanted. The buzzer apparently went off, but I felt and heard nothing, though I was holding it in my hand to the point my palms were sweaty and probably fusing with the plastic.
We reported back to All Stars and because we had missed the buzz, we had to wait another ten minutes. Me and little brother went to the milkshake bar and ordered a shake each. He ordered vanilla, I got one flavoured with Oreos, in keeping with the American theme. Well mainly really because I have a primal weakness for Oreo-flavoured milky beverages. It was delicious. I was even scooping out the cookie dough like sludge from the bottom of the glass with my straw and eating it because, blimey, it was THAT good. Me and little bro had the third lane from the left and while he was a bowling veteran, this embarrassingly was my first time. I even had to figure out which fingers went into which holes in the ball. I had fortunately played enough bowling of the virtual variety that that experience helped me pick the real thing very quickly. Although little bro triumphed over me, beating my score of 74 points with his haul of 96, we both managed to do I think around three strikes combined, with myself demolishing all the pins on my third go on the lane. It was quite stuffy in the alley though and not even the ice-cold shake could cool me down, but it was a brilliant time.
We sauntered around some more outlets selling designer garments. This time we hit up the Nike Shop and admired their sportswear, their mind-boggling array of trainers, including a ‘trophy case’ display of them pinned to a wall. We saw lurid pink ones, technologically-advanced ones, stylish ones and even ones with holograms and ones that were fitted in material that looked like the metallic skins of bluebottle flies. I saw a few Nike brand basketballs lying around and was tempted to dribble like the great Shaquille and score a triple-pointer. But being booted kicking and screaming (haha, booted) out of Nike by security is not the best way to remember your 30th birthday.
Towards the end of the night, my other brother finally arrived after catching a train from further east and we had booked our tickets. The film we got into was “A Walk Among The Tombstones” starring Liam Neeson. Obviously as it’s a new film, I don’t want to give away any spoilers. I will say that he plays a washed-out former policeman. Divorced and trying to stay sober, he operates as a private detective. A drug trafficker calls on his services to help locate the kidnappers who took his wife. If you are planning to see this film, keep an eye for TJ. He’s hilarious.
My thirtieth birthday may not have been as monumental as other peoples’, but it was a tight family affair. It put a smile on my face and joy in my heart. Reading the many social media messages from my friends and family, plus the texts and calls was the real icing on my birthday cake. Thank you to everyone who made it special. You all made my thirties much, much sweeter.
P.S. For the Half-Eaten Mind’s regular readers on WordPress who were wondering what happened to my usual Saturday article, now you know why!!
Here is a small selection of pictures from my birthday:-
Photo 1: A birthday ‘e-card’ made by my cousin Vipul using some of my Facebook pictures. The theme he ran with was ‘shisha’. One of my hobbies, although it’s been a while since I made an acquantaince with a hookah (stupid snigger). If you’re wondering, my usual flavour is double apple, but I’ve done everything colour in the flavour rainbow, from chocolate to melon.
Photo 2: The toy sports car (Cadillac…Lambo?) gifted to me by my niece Shaniya.
Photo 3: An ‘old chap’ greeting card given by my sister and her family. She just loves to call me ‘grandpa’ now *rolls eyes* *laughs*. I really like the vintage look though, even if it makes me feel a smidgen dessicated.
Photo 4: Another greeting card from my Mum and siblings. Nice blue metallic finish that matches well with Shaniya’s car in Photo 2. I’m seeing stars!!
Photos 5 and 6: Some night time pictures I took of the buildings at Westfield Centre in Stratford City as we waited for my other brother to arrive. The shopping centre does look amazing at dusk.