The Pull, Part 14

Allow me to present what is effectively Winchester Mission Control, just six days before we launch the rocket towards its destination. The large pile cluttering up the centre of the image above is made entirely of clothes I will be taking – in the process of clearing out the wardrobe, I was surprised to discover that I owned many more T-shirts than I thought I did! The garments that had to be retired after years of loyal service were consigned to one of two other piles, and as I write this they are destined either for the charity shop or to be used as miscellaneous rags in one of Dad’s many household jobs. I have to say that seeing everything I would definitely need grouped together made the whole exercise feel somewhat therapeutic – together with Mum I had been ruthless and made some sacrifices, which did feel quite calming. The first thing that introduced even a modicum of stress to proceedings was deciding what to wear to the ball I have booked a ticket for during my fresher’s week.

The dress code is very much a formal one, but even though that seems straightforward enough, it did open up something of a small can of worms, because “formal” can mean any one of a number of style choices. I tend not to be good at those, so I turned to my new flatmates for a spot of fashion advice – I had no idea whether I should choose a jacket, waistcoat, shirt and tie, bow tie, or anything in between. Panicking, I put the question forward, but the response was encouraging and it really helped to defuse the situation. The general consensus was that I should go for whatever I felt most comfortable in, since all of the contenders fell under the umbrella of formality. I have therefore decided to keep it simple – as things stand, I will be opting for a shirt, a tie, and a nice pair of trousers in an attempt to look dapper.

That particular dilemma was thus resolved, but what remained proved to be just as difficult. As I plan to take my record player away with me, I needed to choose ten albums that I simply could not do without. Panic filled my brain – what if I sorely regretted one or more of my choices, and couldn’t do anything about it? This notion immobilised me for a moment, causing me to flick through my collection aimlessly before I gathered my thoughts and decided my choices had be well-established, undoubted favourites. You can see one of them in the bottom right-hand corner of the picture – Oasis’ Be Here Now (1997). It is one of two albums by the Manchester greats that I selected. The other was their debut (and absolute finest hour) Definitely Maybe (1994), and that in turn was accompanied by Blur’s Parklife (1994), Pulp’s Different Class (1995), The Smiths’ Hatful of Hollow (1984), Jamiroquai’s Automaton (2017), Busted’s Night Driver (2016), Muse’s Black Holes and Revelations (2006), Moby’s Play (1999), and Pink Floyd’s The Wall (1979). They have now been separated from their fellow LPs ready to be packed up, and I have reassured myself that if I do regret not bringing one or more alternatives, I can just listen to them on Spotify instead. That’s it now, though – final choices are being made and the final ball has been set in motion. When those records next see the light of day, they will be two whole counties away…

Mason

 

The Pull, Part 11

As part of my ongoing Winchester preparations, I am now coming to you live from a brand-new laptop! It is, in a way, another statement of intent bought with practicality and working in mind. I chose – after a long period of deliberation with the salesman in the shop – an HP Envy, coincidentally the newer version of the laptop Louis had a few years ago. Like many laptops you can buy today, it lacks a disc drive, although I intend to buy a portable one soon. This saves a considerable amount of weight from something that is already very light, and that was key for me when I first considered what to buy, as I need to be able to transfer the laptop from table to bag as easily as possible – preferably with one hand. It has the USB ports and headphone jack I wanted, as well as a more powerful processor that can deal more efficiently with multitasking (perhaps at the expense of some storage space, although Louis says I can save documents to the cloud if I need to).

One of its other, more unexpected features was re-discovered only this morning, just as I had begun this post. Louis had been silently studying the laptop for a little while – particularly its hinges – and he suddenly pointed out that I might have bought a laptop which folds all the way over and doubles as a tablet. We nervously tested his theory and he was right – when it is folded over, the laptop asks you if you want to enter tablet mode, and even in its regular form it features a touch-sensitive screen. I remembered that I had already been shown this in the shop, but had completely forgotten it since. I will probably put it to good use at some point in the future, but seeing as the laptop is brand new, I don’t really want to put fingerprints all over the screen just yet!

This post is the first productive thing I have done with it. The aforementioned portable disc drive will be particularly important when it arrives as it will finally allow the audio notetaking software I have to be downloaded. As I may have said before, I already have the app on my phone and the microphone to plug in – thanks to a test I carried out with Louis, I am pleased to report that it works perfectly. All that’s left is to install the disc, and Microsoft Office at a later date, and this laptop will have everything it needs to serve me well at university. I couldn’t be happier with my choice so far, and I definitely couldn’t be more relieved about how much easier it is to carry!

Mason

The Pull, Part 10

What you see before you might not look like a masterpiece, but I felt it appropriate to share a photo of it here, because this meal – this humble stir fry – is the first one ever to be cooked by my own fair hands. As you might have guessed, Mum used her Yoda-like mastery to guide me so that I would know everything I needed to cook for myself in Winchester. When she announced yesterday that I would be making my own tea tonight, I was filled with a mixture of confidence, intrigue and the fear of the unknown, but now that the meal has vanished from my plate I can safely say that only positivity remains. I am very optimistic that I will easily be able to reproduce it on demand when I am living alone, and this is due in no small part to what Mum did to soothe my inner doubts.

After I had made sure my hands were well and truly washed, I rolled across to the worktop by the cooker to see that the chicken breasts had already been laid out on the appropriate chopping board. Mum explained that in Winchester, it may well be easiest for me to use chicken that has already been diced, but she took this opportunity to make sure I could cut it anyway. Obviously, raw chicken does not put up much of a fight against a knife, so slicing it into smaller pieces was hardly an issue for me. When they had been swept into the wok, to be coated in the hot oil I had poured there, I was surprised by exactly how quickly they all cooked through. There was an instantly noticeable transformation in the appearance of the meat, and I got to see this up close as I tried tossing it about with both tongs and a spoon. I concluded that the tongs were most effective when dealing with chicken, since I could examine and move each piece individually, but when the somewhat slithery vegetables went in, I favoured the spoon to turn them collectively. The grip tongs have on those isn’t quite as firm, that’s for sure!

Then came the noodles, specifically those of the “straight to wok” variety, which Mum had very thoughtfully purchased. They were tightly packed into a large block within their packaging, so it was suggested that I unpick them carefully over the crowded pan. I had expected to immediately drop the lot in with my butterfingers, but I was ultimately able to add them in small quantities – until the last batch, which did fall in a large cube that only narrowly missed the kitchen floor. It was in, however, and now only minutes remained before the contents of the wok would be the contents of my plate. I had never previously realised that cooked noodles did not change colour, so I learnt another small lesson when Mum told me that they only appeared darker in her meals because of the soy sauce she stirs in prior to serving. I used the spoon to break up the last of the noodles that were clinging together and after a couple more minutes, dinner was ready.

The wok is pretty heavy, especially in the hands of someone like me, so Mum initially doubted my ability to lift it and transfer the food to the plate, but I quickly proved that such fears were unfounded by easily tipping it all on. As it sat there steaming away, it was somewhat lacking in terms of presentation, but Mum – as you can see in the photo – had the foresight to try scattering the mangetout in an artistic manner (which might not have worked so well). With that, it was on the table, and in my stomach just as quickly. As I sat back staring at my clean plate, I wondered what else I might be able to accomplish in the kitchen with Mum’s ever-reliable assistance. She tells me that a simple plate of pasta in sauce will be next. A few days ago that might have daunted me, but I suddenly have no fear, and I can clearly see the benefits these new abilities will bring in just a few short weeks. Bring on the pasta!

Mason

Tech a Step Forward

The poetry project is coming along well, even if I do have the occasional crisis of faith in regards to their quality. The student bank account is officially open and all related numbers are in the process of being crunched. As I sit here writing this, I am simultaneously badgering Mum about the university “big shop” and when we’ll actually be going to do it – by next Christmas, I might have a definitive answer. The final preparations are therefore all progressing nicely, and one in particular has got me very excited, as last week – after a great deal of insistence from my family – I finally became a smartphone owner, acquiring a shiny new iPhone SE.

My previous phone, a white HTC Wildfire S, had served me well for almost seven years before its demise on the bathroom floor a couple of months ago. I had seen no point in changing my phone at all, hence why it lasted so long, but towards the end of its tenure the HTC was becoming increasingly tired and obsolete. Yes, it still called and texted as I wanted it to, but its limited memory meant that there was very little room for apps – indeed, the app store I originally got them from had been upgraded and no longer opened – and those I did have were of poor quality or did not work properly. I couldn’t see or use emojis in texts, weather updates were non-existent and on the outside, the phone appeared dirty and battle-worn. The time for change had finally come, so I was somewhat glad when the HTC was pronounced well and truly dead. It may have been considered smart in 2011, but it had been left far behind by its rivals in 2018. I now had to decide on a replacement – and in the meantime, Tesco would provide a temporary substitute.

This came in the form of a MobiWire (no, me neither), which – until Friday – I had been using since around mid-June. It was about as basic as phones get, and actually had buttons on it, but it would have to do for the time being. I had certainly forgotten how long it used to take to send texts before the advent of the smartphone – it may have been what you might call a “first world problem”, but having to select each individual letter from groups of three or four very quickly started to drive me round the bend. This annoyance was thankfully ended when I settled on the iPhone and the perfect contract deal that came with it. It was swiftly delivered the next day, and I gratefully extracted it from its box to set it up. Once this had been done, I thought about what I needed from it, keeping my Winchester future firmly in mind. My old phone number and contacts were all immediately swapped over, before my focus turned to the vast array of apps potentially at my disposal.

Excluding a couple of games, as well as Facebook and Twitter, I only have things that are relevant to university installed at the moment. There are two mobile banking apps, the recording software I will use in my lectures, a social network allowing me to connect with other students, a portal to various student discounts, and an app from my mobile network that will provide me with relevant updates. I think you’ll agree that as statements of intent, these initial additions are very mature – although I’m sure I’ll be seduced by the lure of mobile gaming at some point! I haven’t forgotten WordPress, in case you were wondering, since that has pride of place on my home screen too. University work may prove itself to be intense at times, but as long as I keep on top of things, nothing will get in the way of Third Time Enabled. You’ll be with me every step of the way!

Mason