Caffeine’d

Howdy,

First, a digression.

I’m going to tell you the story of what happened last Thursday night, the 17th of November. Astute calendar-watchers will observe that today is a Saturday, the 26th of November, a full nine days after the event in question. Maybe I’m getting old and disinterested in blogging, and so I don’t see a problem with such a delay in written observation as I once did, or perhaps my life is increasingly resembling a gelatinous mess of times and dates and deadlines and banterous stories that a nine-day difference is nothing to me when life is one big, chaotic to-do list to plow through.

But regardless, I am going to tell you the story of being caffeinated up to the eyeballs, so here goes.

As some of you may be aware, I don’t drink caffeine. This is in part an aspect of the Straight Edge lifestyle I lead, where I dislike the idea of being reliant on drugs to the point where I abstain from them entirely, and in part based on my own personal catastrophic experiences with alcohol, that ended with me alternating between Red Bull-fueled lectures and naps in Regent’s Park in first year. It’s been pointed out that abstinence isn’t the most mature of responses to something like this – it betrays a fundamental lack of self-control if one doesn’t trust oneself to only take something in moderation – but for the sake of my health, I avoid caffeine completely.

Until Thursday.

*dramatic music*

Due to a series of unlucky timetabling issues and my own negligence, I ended up with nine hours of Old Icelandic prose to translate for a 10am seminar on Friday. I realised this at about 2pm on Thursday. In theory this would give me ample time to complete the work: start at 2, finish at 11, go home and get a solid night’s rest, right?

Right.

I’d already had about three hours of sleep the night before, and I wasn’t free until about 5pm on the Thursday to work on the translations; so best-case scenario, I’d be working until 2am, by which point I’d have been up for 18 hours after 3 hours the night before. Not impossible, but certainly strenuous considering I’m stressed all the time and haven’t had a decent night’s sleep since September.

So I did what 15-year-old me would consider unthinkable; I broke Edge and drank caffeine.

But I don’t do things in half-measures, so instead of grabbing a coffee or nursing a can of Monster through the night, I bought two litres of Blue Bolt, the Sainsbury’s own-brand version of Red Bull, chugged it, and opened my textbook.

Obviously, caffeine is not the most mind-shattering of drugs, and I don’t expect to be presented with a Hardcore Binge Champion sash any time soon, but it was certainly a shock to the system. I simply didn’t feel tired, nor did I get bored from the work, and I spent the evening chirpily tweeting my experienced to an engrossed audience of about two people, which is two more than I can usually hope for. The nine hours passed relatively quickly and painlessly, and even when I got on the bus home the worst I experienced was a weird lightheaded-ness and an inability to string a sentence together, which is really my default state of being.

I then spent Friday with a constantly high blood sugar and slept most of Saturday, so it wasn’t all peachy.

At the end of the day though, I used caffeine without wrecking my health, which is a huge step forward. It might be an uncharacteristically clinical approach to dismiss it as s purely mechanical force, something akin to an ankle brace strapped to a foot for a few hours for a game, then peeled away at the final whistle to let normal humanity return, but it’s a pretty solid metaphor in all honesty. I might break Edge again over summer for my exams, or even over Christmas to get my dissertation finished, because I’m at the stage in my life where idyllic lifestyles are less important than getting shit done: I have a degree to do, which will get me a job, which will pay for my rent and food, which will allow me to actually live.

But I won’t make a habit of it; I didn’t get to bed until about 4am that Friday morning.

I played with a Super Nintendo!

Evening folks,

I love games, but a major hole in my gaming experience is that I’ve played almost no older consoles. I remember spending five minutes with a Nintendo 64 back around 2002 at a kid’s house; I didn’t even like the kid and the joystick didn’t have a top so the shattered plastic pole dug a mark into my hand, and in all it wasn’t very pleasant.

But today I ticked off an item on the classic gaming bucket list; I played Super Mario Kart on the Super Nintendo.

There’s a bar near where we live that my friends and I visited (briefly in my case, as I had to shoot off early to see my beloved Tottenham splutter to a 1-1 draw against the mighty West Brom) to celebrate them submitting an essay of particular importance. And the place was cool, and the drinks supposedly cheap, but the main attraction for me was the Super Nintendo – a real-life Super Nintendo – with a copy of Super Mario Kart plugged in.

It’s interesting playing an older Mario Kart game – both chronologically and on a different system altogether – considering my experience with newer ones. I couldn’t, for instance, figure out how to drift until the┬áthird race.

But what wasn’t different, however, was the game’s ability to capture my imagination. I was sat in a corner playing a pixellated kart racer by myself on a muted CRT TV, and it was great. Peach screwed me over my zipping past me at the line, and Donkey Kong Jr. smashed me into a wall, killing my acceleration and the dim ray of hope I had to finish first. The controller was oddly-shaped and lacked thumbsticks and multiple shoulder buttons, but it was still a tool of great empowerment and interactivity. It was a game, and it was brilliant.

And those are the best experiences to cross off the bucket list.