Ant Cule Reviews... Being Alive

An Extremely Subjective View of Being A Human

Category: Reviews (page 1 of 4)

Ant Cule Reviews… Reading Until It Gets Dark

I returned to my reading nook. A red armchair with a footrest next to the bookshelf. The door to the balcony was open; the sound of children playing in their gardens drifted through the cool, post-rain evening air.
I was only reading a short book, 40 pages from the end. So I just kept reading, and the light, without me noticing grew fainter and fainter. I was in another place; in California with Oedipa Maas trying to figure out the ins and outs of ancients postal systems. And then, before I knew it, I was reading by the street-light outside our balcony.

This is what I was reading

It took me back to reading by the light from the landing coming in under my bedroom door; reading the book of the film of The Jungle Book. I remember the drawings. The feeling of breaking some rule, but being too engrossed to care. I can’t remember if I was ever caught.
I probably was.
Overall, I highly recommend reading until it gets dark. It’s soothing and relaxing and can be an unexpected trip down memory lane. You could also try having a warm bath and watching childhood videos. If you have a VHS player.  And a bath.

Ant Cule Reviews… Falling Asleep on the Train

I’ve never really done it before. Nodded off on the train. But I’ve done it twice in the last three days.

It starts with a heaviness in the eyes and around the head. Then a loosening of the neck muscles. And before you know it, your head is up against the window. But the safety glass is no pillow. And it’s not too long before your head lolls forwards, dangling like an undignified gooseberry. You jolt awake as the train trundles through Ely (for example), and try and wedge your head between the seat and the window, anything to gain some kind of purchase. But it’s no good, and soon enough you’re drooling down your own chest. You wipe your chin, look around to see if anyone noticed, but no-one cares.

Overall, I neither recommend nor don’t recommend falling asleep on the train. For a similar experience, try falling asleep on the sofa whilst your loved one pulls it around your home.

Ant Cule Reviews… Eating Ice Cream

The spoon dips. And rises again with its humble load. Then the spoon passes your lips. The frosty sweetness kisses your tongue. Your stomach rumbles. Your saliva glands go absolutely nuts and start spraying every which way. The old feeling. So sweet. So familiar. The ancient dance of ice cream.

GORGEOUS

Ice cream.

Iced cream.

Cream + Ice. A simple sum that equals sheer bliss.

Are there two more beautiful words in the English language than ‘Ice Cream’?

What is it about the sweet, creamy, delicious, addictive, sugar-filled, well-marketed treat that makes it so irresistible? I don’t know. But I do know that I absolutely love it. And there are so many flavours! Here are a handful of my favourites and some tasting notes.

Rum ‘n’ Raisin – Very delicious.

Salted Caramel – Very delicious.

Chocolate – Very tasty.

Vanilla – Very nice.

Mince pie – Very good.

Cream – Very creamy.

Overall, I highly recommend eating ice cream for a cold and tasty treat. You could also try eating chilled icing sugar.

Ant Cule Reviews… Discovering All The Things An Aeropress Can Do

Have you ever thought you know a piece of equipment, only to discover its boundaries are far wider than they appeared? That’s exactly what happened to me with the Aeropress.

For those who haven’t read my review on coffee, I suggest you do, just to get a flavour of how much I love the taste of that sweet brown muck. I now own four different methods of getting my sweet coffee fix. The Aeropress, the coffee pod machine, the caffetierre and the Moka express. I have no preferred way of getting my coffee. It all tastes good. Or at least, I had no preferred way. Until now.

It began with me in the kitchen, making a cup of coffee with my Aeropress. For Christmas, my girlfriend and my sister got me coffee bean subscriptions from here. Each of these bean packets comes with a little card- board flap which describes the best way to get maximum flavour from these particular beans. I saw these beans were best made using the Aeropress, so I made them in the usual way, as recommended on the packet of the Aeropress. That is to say, put in the grounds, put in some water, let it sit, stir it, let it sit, press it. And that made a very tasty cup. But something about the instructions as written in the card- board flap gave me pause for thought.

They showed the coffee brewing in the Aeropress… upside-down.

My stomach danced. They couldn’t mean it, could they? And yet it made so much sense. It’s long been a bugbear of mine that as you let the water and coffee grounds mingle in the Aeropress, it starts pouring through into the cup below… but to brew it upside-down… It couldn’t work… Could it?

The very next day I tried. And I took photos. And it worked! My boundaries had been extended! I found a new way to use this remarkable piece of technology to extract yet more delicious flavour from the coffee without prematurely sending it into the cup. And ordinarily that would be where it all ended.

img_1768 img_1770 img_1769 img_1774 img_1773 img_1775

But then I discovered this. And I have not. Stopped. Experimenting. And the results have been delicious. Like, seriously, some of the best coffee I have ever made.

Overall I highly recommend grabbing something you thought you knew the limits of, and discovering what else it can do. The Internet is a great resource, be- cause other people have done the trial and error for you and you just get the sweet sweet caffeine infused nectar.

Ant Cule Reviews… Driving for Eight Hours Non-Stop* Twice in A Weekend (Sixteen Hours Total)

* With several stops for breaks

Without wishing to overstate it, driving for eight hours non-stop is an abysmally miserable experience for all involved. I speak from experience, for on Friday and then Sunday I made the journey from London to Bigbury-on-sea, and then back.

Don’t get me wrong. There were things to cherish about the journey. The company; my girlfriend on the way down, then my girlfriend _and_ my sister on the way back. The view (sometimes); we drove past Stone Henge. The entertainment; Desert Island Discs.

Ugh. Me. (NB. Not me, actually from driving.ca)

Ugh. Me. (NB. Not me, actually from driving.ca)

But oh! The numb buttocks! A lament for my unfeeling rump! Hold a vigil, light a candle, pour a libation to my poor old bum. Humans are evolved to walk a lot. It’s an open secret that you have to sit down whilst driving. Thus, driving for a long time is not what we are meant to do. We get uncomfortable. I think the Flintstones had the right idea.

Furthermore, driving is bad for the planet. Or rather the burning of fossil fuels is, and that’s what driving does. Unless you’re driving an electric car, which even so probably burns fossil fuels to generate the electricity. And pretty soon, if it doesn’t do that, it will probably generate a heap of nuclear waste SO THAT’S GOOD. Basically there’s no two ways about it, driving in a car = environmental doom.

There are people driving cars who are not safe or pleasant to drive on the same road as. These are the people who undertake you and whip in front of you, when you yourself are about to overtake a lorry. There are people who give you a wanker sign in front of their two young kids when you’ve reversed to get out of their way on a country lane. I want to like people, I do. But sometimes they make it difficult.

Then there’s the traffic. Cruising down the motorway is one thing, knowing you’re ploughing through those miles. You can enjoy staying alert and lively, and you can revel in obeying the speed limit. But once you hit traffic, and you start crawling through the miles, there are few things more tedious. Don’t even get me started on stopping on a motorway. It’s unnatural.

Finally, there’s just the interminable length of the journey. After six hours of driving there’s still another two to go. Half an hour remaining on the journey feels like a snip. It feels even longer than slogging through this post, if you can conceive of such a thing.

Still…

The most magical weekend here for mom and dad's 60th birthday party.

A photo posted by Ant Cule (@antok87) on

…It was worth it to have the celebration of a lifetime down in Devon for my parents’ joint sixtieth birthday party. It was a special weekend. Not even the loads of driving that bookended it could take that away.

**Overall** I do not recommend driving for eight hours non-stop. Why not go for a jog instead?

Ant Cule Reviews… Houmous

Or Hummus. Houmous. Or Hummus? Why not both? They both amount to the same thing. Chickpeas smashed into a glorious paste, flavoured with manna from heaven. And tahini.

Glorious and tasty paste. Eat with crisps (not pictured)

I am a vegetarian. Houmous (hummus?) is often associated with vegetarians, being as it is one of the only things they can physically consume. But even before I became a vegetarian I ate a hecka load of houmous. Hummus. The thing is, I love crisps, but on their own they’re so dry and crunchy. They don’t have nearly enough wet paste smothering them, is the problem. And that’s where hummus steps in. Hamas?

Houmous on its own, is a delicious wet paste, but it doesn’t have nearly enough crunch to it. Do you see where I’m going with this? How do you spell hummus?

Crisps and hoomoose combined are what I call ‘God’s Own Confection’. Just the perfect balance of slime and crunch. Like eating a delicious insect, I suppose, with a crunchy exoskeleton and gloopy innards. I’ve only ever eaten one insect on purpose – a deep fried locust. The wing-casing was stuck in my teeth for the whole evening.

I eat so much humous (woah! Autocorrect just gave me yet another spelling!) that I ought to be a brand ambassador. If only I could spell the damned substance. I can’t say that since becoming vegetarian I’ve noticed a major spike in my own hjummush intake, but that’s probably because it is literally my snack of choice. I was born in Surrey, by the way.

Things I love about hommos:

  • how no-one knows how to spell it!
  • The plastic wrapping that you have to unwrap from around the lip of the pot.
  • The many ways you can spell it; It’s so versatile!
  • How great it tastes with crisps!
  • The many different variants you can get.
  • How scared I am to make it myself.

Overall I highly recommend houmous – the delicious paste you can eat!

Ant Cule Reviews… Spring Cleaning

When does Spring spring? Is it the weather? Is it purely the month? Is it when you see the first goslings drifting down the river? When you’re honked at by a goose-mother? When does Spring spring?

For me, there’s one definitive measure for if Spring has sprung. And that is “Am I wearing sunglasses and a jacket at the same time?” If the answer is yes, then you’re bound to be in the season known globally in English as Spring. Wearing sunglasses and a light jacket makes you immediately look like a badass, I’ll tell you that for free. You can imagine yourself as the Terminator, or as the kind of person who walks down the street talking loudly into a bluetooth earpiece. That’s the feeling Spring should invoke in you.

And traditionally with the ushering in of Spring, comes the ushering out of old clutter.  I’ve never consciously indulged in a “Spring Clean” before. I’ve only recently started consciously indulging in cleaning of any sort. Haha, no, just joking, hahaha, I’m a filthy pig.

What is it to Spring Clean? It is to look at your living area afresh. Check your shelves for books you’ll never read again, films you’ll never watch again, bananas you’ll never eat again. It is to look at your clothes and be honest about those t-shirts you’ve now been wearing for more than ten years. It is to move beyond giving the surfaces a good wipe down, and investing in some elbow grease. It is to take everything out of a cupboard and put it back in in a different order so it looks more appealing. It is to change over from your Winter to your Summer duvet.

Spring Cleaning is to let go of your attachments things. It is to become a Buddhist for the day. It is to take an itinerary of your life-things, and adjust it accordingly. It is to finally get rid of that vacuum cleaner that has long since been usurped by Henry. It is to marvel at the length of Henry’s wire, as it stretches down a full flight of stairs. It is to lambast your previous vacuum cleaner for its poor suction and its comparatively short wire. It is to throw out your old kettle.

Anyone want some free stuff?

Anyone want some free stuff?

To Spring Clean is to clear a new space in your life, where you didn’t think space could be found. Space that you can fill with better, newer stuff.

Now, does anyone want a free vacuum cleaner, kettle, or one of a selection of books and films?

Overall I highly recommend Spring Cleaning to give your life a good once over, and to help you stop being so bloody attached to things. Also, it’s nice to live in a clean flat.

Ant Cule Reviews… Getting Caught Photographing The Aftermath of the London Marathon

Okay, I’ll level with you. This one is a little niche even for a website about reviewing specific elements of my life. And yet here I am writing it, and here you are reading it.

Allow me to set the scene. I had been to the shop. Tuesday. Slung over my shoulder, a canvas bag full of gubbins for dinner. My mind ambled this way and that, and walking along the Woolwich Road ultimately led me to thinking about how I’d watched the London Marathon runners doing their running on the Sunday. It seemed so alien, that this road, now swarming with traffic, was home to thousands of betrainered feet, pootling along the ginormous running course. Traffic of a different kind, I suppose.

One particularly striking aspect of the marathon runners was the gleeful abandon with which they cast aside their (presumably free) bottles of Lucozade and packets of energy gunk. Sure, at the time I didn’t begrudge them pelting the pavement with basically full bottles of orangey-sweet goodness, but, you know, over 30,000 runners came through. That shit adds up. And so it struck me that despite a superhuman effort on behalf of the organisers, there still remained evidence of the drink-chucking frenzy that had taken place.

It came to my mind to photograph such a piece of detritus, with the half-formed idea of reviewing what it’s like watching the London Marathon (it gives you motion sickness, the sound of thousands of feet clomping along is very satisfying). I whipped out my phone, and snapped an empty packet of energy-goo nestling by a car wheel. At just that time, someone came walking briskly around the corner carrying some sort of cardboard box. I gawked, open mouthed at him, as if he had just busted me, trousers around my ankles, popping a squat at the side of the road.

And here it is, the photograph that caused all the trouble

And here it is, the photograph that caused all the trouble

Needless to say, he didn’t care. If anything, he looked shocked that I looked shocked. I, meanwhile, waddled off ahead of him, cursing my stupidity. Doubtless he would think I was off to send an email to the council; Subject: Marathon Detritus. I wanted to grab him and say “I’m not a nark, man!” Instead, I cast a furtive glance back at him, and kind of snorted coolly, as if it was all one big misunderstanding.

Overall, getting caught photographing the aftermath of the London Marathon is not recommended, for doing so will surely damage your street-cred.

Ant Cule Reviews… Receiving A Postcard

The world is full of surprises. But mostly, they’re big and/or nasty surprises. There are very few small and good surprises.

Finding 50p in your pocket. Walking through a nice-smelling section of air. Seeing someone reading a book that you’ve also read and enjoyed. Seeing a pigeon in an unusual place.

Spotted doing a bit of after work shopping in "Coo-stle" Mall #businesspigeon #norwich

A photo posted by Ant Cule (@antok87) on

And one of those pleasures, the small pleasures, the pleasures that make you feel a little spark that the world might be alright in the end, is trotting down to get the post and seeing a cheery little piece of card beaming up at you from the matt. You turn the card over, and there’s writing – actual writing! in pen and ink! – in a hand you distantly recognise. No matter whether the message is short, there is something so personal about knowing someone has taken the time to pick out a postcard, uncap a pen, and write you a message.

We live in a world of digital ink, and emails and whatnot. But I can’t see, no matter how much we try to humanise ‘tech’, how it can connect with us in the same way as seeing someone’s handwriting. There’s physical effort in handwriting. There’s connection between human and pen and pen and paper. There’s mistakes that you can’t get rid of (unless you have one of those pen erasers).

Receiving a postcard automatically makes you think “I wish I sent more postcards”. And that’s a great thought to have. You should send more postcards! So should I! On my desk I have a book called ‘Chekhov; A Life in Letters’. No-one in this day and age is going to be known as ‘A Man of Emails’. Man I wish I lived in the 19th century. Just the 19th century with wifi and all the modern conveniences that we enjoy (eg. coffee, Netflix, etc.)

All in all I highly recommend receiving a postcard for getting a warm feeling and one of life’s little surprises. Why not surprise someone whose address you happen to know today? Send them a letter, or a handmade postcard, or just a regular postcard!

Ant Cule Reviews… Being Poorly

I looked something like this. (photo from mumsthenerd.co.uk)

The few days before: Notice I’m looking kind of pale and splotchy. Internalise it as just my usual complexion gone a little haywire. Rosalind notices paleness. Claim it’s just my complexion. I’m a pale sort of guy. In the sun I go from pale to sunburnt. Nothing in between. I know nothing of healthy glows. Feel more tired than usual, but otherwise okay.

Sunday: Play football, as is tradition. It’s a hot day. Wear suncream, take drink. Play. Really badly. Feel the heat even more than usual. Tire out even more quickly than usual. Work harder to make up for mistakes. Drink lots of water afterwards. Game ends (last goal wins thanks to my mistake). Stupid body, not doing what I want it to. Walk back to tube station. Feel strange. Thirsty. Hot. Light-headed. Buy water, snack, and head home for lunch. On the tube just stare into space. Get home. Feel odd. Have lunch. Eat half. Feel strange. Drink water. Nothing will tame this thirst. After lunch, feel a bit better. Like myself. Feel guilty that girlfriend has been cleaning the bathroom whilst I’ve been playing football. That doesn’t help anyone. Have a cool shower. Feel a bit better. We go shopping. Stroll around the supermarket. Lean on the trolley. Definitely not feeling right. My stomach is roiling, my head is aching. Just concentrate on shopping. Drive home with the window down. Not a long drive, luckily. Once car is parked I sit there feeling ill. Put my head between my legs. It’ll pass. Try and carry shopping in. Get to turning, and have to throw up. As is apparently perfectly normal, I feel better after throwing up my lunch. Rosalind says it smells of cucumber. Sorry about that.
Lie on sofa. Drink liquids. Get into bed, and snooze. Wake up only to throw up twice more. Sleep.
Rosalind clears up sick. Feel bad.

Monday: Still feeling rotten. Sleep most of the day. Otherwise, lie on the sofa. Watch ‘Frank’ (feat. Michael Fassbender). It’s good, and weird. Wanted it to be funnier. I mean, it was funny. It was also sad. I feel funny. I am sad. At least I’m not throwing up any more. Watch a lot of Community in bed. Snooze. At least I can have toast for dinner.

Tuesday: Feel dozy. Snooze. Get up. Haven’t even got the energy to walk around the house. Watch The Babadook. Which is really good. Why am I watching sad/disturbing films in the midst of my illness? Misery loves company and all that. You know, it could be worse. I could be battling The Babadook. Otherwise, it’s mainly a diet of snoozing, and toast. I haven’t had a coffee for two days. I wonder if part of the illness is my caffeine dependency kicking back. It feels like there’s a fuzzy veil between me and the world. Manage to get enough appetite to eat something that’s not toast. Lasagne, in fact.

Wednesday: Manage to get out and about for a little bit. 2 hours of tutoring. Feel completely spent afterwards. Do manage to enjoy it during the actual teaching though. Appetite returning somewhat. Still kind of grey-looking and feeling.

Thursday: Have a meeting in the morning at Liverpool Street. It goes well. Enjoy it. Have a cup of tea instead of a coffee. No coffee for four days(!). Discover that coffee binds to iron and prevents your body from properly absorbing the iron. Wonder if the amount of coffee I drink (a not-excessive, yet definitely dependency-forming 2 cups a day before this) combined with going vegetarian has lead to me not getting enough iron. It would explain the lethargy. The greyness. My family is prone to that. Need to eat more irony food (and I don’t mean, like, cool, forgotten 70s throwbacks). Finally register at the doctors. No time like the present, hey?

Friday: Feeling more like my old self. Still tired, still fuzzy. Bit better, though. Manage to go to the theatre in the evening, and see Calculating Kindness at the Camden People’s Theatre. It’s really well performed, with a great set, and great lighting. Just wanted the ideas to mesh even more. Something about it felt a little unsatisfying. But still, it was good. The theatre got really hot. Possibly because we were sat just below the lights. It really was distractingly hot. Felt completely spent after that.

Weekend: Mostly relax. Do some shopping, get a herb garden for our balcony. Plant the chilli-seeds I’ve been meaning to plant since last year. Spend time with Rosalind. Start to feel restored again. We play a lot of Xbox (The Lego Movie game – we’re a great team). Feeling restored. Still, need to get a blood test. Will probably pass out when they take my blood.

Overall, I really don’t recommend getting ill and it taking a week out of your life, with the feeling awful and having no energy to do anything. Instead, try eating healthily, drinking less coffee, and listening to your body.

UPDATE: Do nearly pass out when they take my blood.

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