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Archive for July, 2020

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The taste of a pint

The pubs have opened again and it still doesn’t feel quite right to go in them, what with the looming threat from a certain deadly virus.

Stroud appears to have one of the lower infection rates of coronavirus in the country, at least from the information I can find. It makes sense, what with the relatively small population and all the open spaces and clean air. But make no mistake, the virus is out there and some people living down the road have had it.

So with some caution, I met some friends for some beers. Because when it comes to caution, alcohol is obviously the best thing to have.

This is by far the longest I’ve not been down to the local brewery since I started going down there during visits back home about seven years ago. Travelling to the other side of the world and a global pandemic kind of got in the way a bit.

You have to book a table, which feels a bit weird. But they’ve clearly give everything a great deal of thought, with tables well spaced out and limits to the number of people who can sit at them. And you don’t go to the bar, instead there’s table service.

Those thinking that pubs with social distancing will mean lower takings at the bar have failed to take table service into the account. It is very easy to spend a lot of money without even realising when people keep coming around and asking you if you’d like more. “Why, yes. I would very much like another pint.”

And another. And another. Let’s just say I had more than three. In fact, I kind of lost track.

And while I’ve been drinking bottles and cans from there throughout lockdown, I’d forgotten just how good a pint tastes from a cask. In fact, it tastes a little too good.

But the downside of table service is that you get the bill at the end, instead of previously paying in instalments during rounds. And I was audibly shocked when I received mine. I even forgot I have a discount card.

It was the most I had probably drank since Wellington in early March after one of my shows, when I was also a gigging comedian.

Thankfully, my current accommodation is substantially better than that abysmal hostel I was staying in Wellington, which had no ventilation and there were two toilets between 50 rooms. My competition for the toilet at the moment is dramatically lower. And for that, I’m grateful.

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Clone Wars and Rebels

I think after three entries, it is safe to abandon the lockdown diary facade. I meant to write something in June, but that didn’t happen.

One of the main reasons I’ve not done much writing of late is that I have been binge-watching the Star Wars animated series Clone Wars and Rebels. I’d heard they were good and had wanted to watch them previously, but the lack of a TV or subscription to call my own in the last decade created something of a hindrance.

Despite not being a massive fan of the prequels, I’m surprised by quite how much I enjoyed Clone Wars. They managed to achieve something the prequels were unable to and make Anakin actually likeable, with his inner darkness more nuanced instead of just flicking a switch and turning to the darkside as he had to for plot purposes.

Another impressive feat was that even though you knew the fates of most of the characters, it was still compelling and interesting to watch. And that’s all thanks to the writing. In the episode where the clone trooper called Fives uncovers the truth about the inhibitor chip inside the head of each clone, the story is written in such a way that you at least have a glimmer of hope that he’s going to succeed in revealing the truth – even if you know deep down that he’s ultimately doomed. In places, the series is also very funny when it intends to be in a way that the prequel and sequel trilogies often weren’t.

It doesn’t fix my main gripe with the Clone Wars depicted in the prequels, which is that it never really made sense for the Jedi to be fighting droids when the enemy forces should have been a relentless onslaught of clones. The clue is in the name. But the animated series could only work within the parameters of what had already been established, which Dave Filoni took and improved dramatically.

After Clone Wars, I moved onto Rebels. The first thing that’s immediately noticeable is that the animation is a poorer quality than the Clone Wars, with Ezra looking like someone from a PlayMobil set.

It took at least a season or so to get going and the characters took some time to get used to. As the seasons progressed, I enjoyed it more. But Clone Wars is definitely the stronger series.

I have far more to say on these series and may include it in that longer article I’ve been writing about Star Wars that I may end up pitching to somewhere.

I will just finish by saying that both series delved far deeper into the Star Wars mythos than we’ve seen in any of the films, and proved an important reminder that it is still possible to tell plenty of new and exciting stories in that galaxy far, far away.