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.

Praise The Bucket

Good afternoon, can I have a moment of your time to talk about our Lord and Saviour, The Bucket?

You don’t know about The Bucket? Well, allow me to educate you. May I come in? Can I have some orange juice? Ahh, that’s okay then, I’ll just park myself on this chair if you don’t mind.

That’s a lovely picture of you and your family.

So, The Bucket.

For a few weeks now, we’ve had an unspecified number of mice in the flat. It could be a horde of small, scuttly lodgers, or a single, incredibly persistent, drywall scratcher, single-pawedly making irritating squeaking sounds at night and covering the kitchen floor with the patter of their tiny feet.

Either way, we’ve tried various humane methods to deal with the issue, from a machine that makes a high-pitched screech that supposedly mice can hear and are frightened by, to humane traps carefully stocked with some of the more expensive grains and oats pilfered from my flatmate’s cupboard. I even waved a small PETA flag around, making it clear to the mice that I was on their side, that I wanted nothing more than to carefully remove them from their human-infested prison and release them back into the parks and bushes where their lives can flourish and be tragically extinguished by the swoop of a hungry predator. The Circle of Life, and so on.

Tragically, however, these totally reasonable measures failed to dislodge the fuzzy housebreakers, and soon their scrabbling and pattering and scratching and eating-a-hole-in-my-flatmate’s-sack-of-rice got too much to bear, and less humane options were considered.

Yet, fortunately for my fragile sense of ethical superiority, a saviour emerged from the darkest corner of that awkward bit under the stairs that has no real name but has become a de facto storage space for cardboard boxes, vacuum cleaners, and the second freezer my flatmate bought ages ago, thoroughly dissatisfied with the size of our provided freezer. In this tangled mess of discarded cleaning items and dusty floorboards, there is a mop and bucket, a pair of items that get semi-regular use in the kitchen, and so are perennially temporarily lodged in the space under the stairs that borders the kitchen, rather than being placed in the more proper, yet more awkward, room upstairs that is the residence of our heavy-duty cleaning supplies, such as laundry materials and toilet paper.

It so happened that last night, at the entirely-appropriate-to-be-still-up hour of about 1am, as my flatmate and I were chilling on the stairs, we were struck by a small scuttling sound, and a tiny mouse plopped down from the first floor and pattered across the stairs. Screams were screamed, water was spilled, and the weary realisation that our inability to deal with these mice was now becoming a tangible problem descended on our bipedal heroes.

The mouse found a spot on the stairs they seemed to like, and so sat there, staring into the gloom. Carefully, I approached, armed with no less than a colander, intending to trap the small beast inside a prison with ready-made air holes, so they could be transported away in the morning. However, my flatmate accurately pointed out that said colander was too big to fit on the stairs, and implied that my selection of it revealed my foolishness and unsuitability for the profession of humane animal control.

Saddened, but unswayed, I produced a smaller article of entrapment, a Tupperware box. However, having already broken the box in my attempts to punch an air hole in the bottom – in reality I may or may not have snapped the bottom in half and scarred it greatly – the box was largely useless, and as I swung the plastic cuboid down with mammalian clumsiness, the mouse easily dodged to the side.

This mouse, as it transpired, was also more of a daredevil than myself. While I was reduced to metaphorically filling the role of an end table, standing bearing my object – in this case the useless Tupperware box – in silence and passivity, awaiting instruction from a higher power to redirect my purpose, the mouse had leaped from the stairs altogether. Not seeing to where it jumped, I briefly panicked, pulled out a flashlight, and stared hopefully into the abyss beneath the stairs.

And there they were: in The Bucket.

The mouse’s diminutive stature – its dimensions were such that it would not be an exaggeration to call it the smallest living thing I have ever beheld with my own eyes – meant that it was unable to escape from the tall blue walls of The Bucket, and that vessel’s smoothed sides made it impossible for the mouse to gain purchase upon them and clamber out. With dimples in the base, into which could be and were poured water and food to nourish the mouse, The Bucket was a perfect humane prison for the poor creature. With the mouse provided for for the night, and the top of The Bucket sealed with air-hole-punched cling film just in case some act of God were to tip The Bucket over and offer the mouse a chance of escape, the humans went to bed, intent on releasing the mouse the following morning.

And, sure enough, the mouse was released! I carried The Bucket and its prisoner – who admittedly looked rather shaken from spending the night in its plastic belly – to a nearby park, and let the small creature free, before returning home and washing The Bucket, replacing it in its rightful place beneath the stairs, and lodging the much more familiar mop within its plastic casing.

But why am I telling you all this? Do you care for the plight of my flatmates and I, or even more so the plight of our furry guest? Do you even care for the work of The Bucket, they who are both domestic service item and humane animal trap at once, a transcendence of mortal properties to a higher plane of superior, multi-faceted being? Perhaps you don’t, and that is why you ought to hear the tale of The Bucket, and receive their teachings.

What?

No, I didn’t just try to nick that silver plate? No, you’re being very defensive.

No, I’ll call the police.

Then we’ll see who’s laughing.

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 third 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.