Top marks for a smokey roast at The Poet’s

Full of flavour and feeling full! This was a roast with the most.


Raise your hands, who likes roast dinners?! As 95% of the UK raise their hands and wave eagerly, crying out “Me, me, me!”, drool escaping down the side of their quivering jowls. The other 5% are stared at with utter bewilderment – who could not like a big ol’ Sunday roast with all the trimmings? Well, a few of us.

I’m not a hater of roast dinners, by any means. I’m in the rare 1.5% of Brits who aren’t too bothered, but just every so often, a really, really decent roast with tons of veg and good quality meat would actually do rather nicely, thank you very much. So before you oust me, wrongly branded as one of the 3.5% who are true Roast Haters, I do partake in the Sunday tradition from time to time and enjoy it. Maybe once every three or four months. And undoubtedly at Christmas. But Christmas dinner is a whole other sub-genre of Big Dinners, so we’ll leave that one there for now.

The past weekend was one of said occasions, having promised during the week to treat us (me and the hubby) to a pub roast. It turns out to have been one of the best ideas I’d had all week. Presenting to you……

The Poet’s Smoke and Ale House’s Roast Dinners! 


They honestly were The Business. Our plates were literally piled high with heaps of delicious vegetables, succulent meat, roast potatoes and a very proud-looking Yorkshire pudding. Honestly, this roast gets points for being the tallest Sunday lunch 20354055_10210527025752922_1083156051_oI’ve ever been presented with. I wonder if there are any pubs that go as far as to present roast dinners taller than they are wide…

The Poet’s Smoke and Ale House is a pub that we’ve frequented a good handful of times, both for drinks and eats, so we already knew the standard would be pretty decent. During the week the pub specialises in American-style grub, with burgers aplenty, smoked ribs, smoked pulled pork, smoked half-chickens, meat platters, nachos, chilli dogs, the works. (They do some very good quality vegetarian fare too amongst the mighty meaty menu.)

So yeah, they smoke a lot of their food. I just LOVE smokey flavours, so there was a good chance I’d be having something smoked for my roast dinner. Eagerly eyeing up the Sunday specials, one thing caught my attention: smoked leg of lamb. Now, I’m actually not a big lamb fan, always deeming the flavour too farmy, the meat too greasy, and just generally not my thing – most of my lamb-tasting experiences have consisted of plain grilled cutlets which gives you the full whiffy fatty lamby farminess. But I’m keen to change my view and try different incarnations of the meat to see whether I can find a lamb dish that excites my palette. The smoked lamb got my palette, taste buds, and stomach so excited that they all did a joyful, greedy dance as I hoovered up those tender slices of meat. It wasn’t greasy, didn’t have that pungent strong farm-like taste that I’m so offended by, oh no – the lamb was smooth and succulent, the smokey flavour ran through the meat without being overpowering, it was deliciously savoury, not too rich, and without a doubt the best lamb I’ve ever eaten. Woohoo for taking a food risk!

The full Sunday Roast menu

My partner in delicious crime chose to have the 14hr smoked grain fed Australian brisket – this also did not disappoint. More subtle in its smokiness than my lamb, the beef was rich in flavour and again beautifully smooth and fall-apart tender. However, we both felt that the lamb won the battle of the tastebuds. Both dishes were awash with a rich not-too-thick-or-too-thin gravy, perfect for Yorkshire pud swirling and roast potato sponging. The roast potatoes had a thick crisp crust and fluffy centre to boot (I have a confession here, I’m not big on roast potatoes…. *Gasp!* Aaaaargh *Someone faints, someone else fetches the Emergency Extra Strong Tea to whiff under them and bring them back* …They’re just not my thing. Give me mash any day over roasties. Please don’t judge me!) – my husband appreciated the roasties at least. The Yorkshire pudding was gorgeously puffy with crisp edges, yet also had decent substance and a lovely pancake flavour to it.

And the veg. Oh the veg! I thought my greens, purples and oranges would never end, there were so many! A superior selection of vegetables is something that I really look for in a roast dinner, and The Poet’s did not fail to perform: a buried treasure of cooked red cabbage, blanched kale, roasted/sautéed carrots, mashed swede and chunks of roasted beetroot were hidden beneath the swathes of meat and tide of gravy, brightening up our plates and nourishing our bellies. They all tasted wonderfully fresh, each carrying with it its own earthy or sweet or strong individual flavour (I’ve experienced some awful roast dinners before where all the veg tastes like the same watery mush, I knew we’d be safe from such vegetable tragedy here). Having them all cooked differently too provided the dish with some nice variation – though perhaps the carrots could have been cooked a fraction less. I like a little bite to my orange roots. Still, it was a terrific selection and we hungrily devoured the lot.

By the end of our meal, we were two very satisfied diners. Two pints of a local ale (GoldBier by Harvey’s of Lewes) and a massive plate of food down and I was pretty much done. I know that the desserts are awesome at The Poet’s too, but I couldn’t face shovelling a whole load more calories down my throat. Somehow, my husband could! Mississippi Mud Pie was ordered after much dithering over the many superb sounding sweets (I would have plumped for the Pecan Pie – next time, I guess!). To quote the man himself, “It’s like a brownie on steroids!” came the review of said gooey, chocolatey dessert, which came served with a scoop of chocolate ice cream.

Mississippi Mud PIe – please excuse its half-demolished state, I was a bit late in remembering to take a picture!

A successful Sunday roast it was indeed! I do enjoy The Poet’s, both its food and the pub itself. The décor is quite trendy, full of wooden furnishings – some tastefully painted in blues and creams – with some quirky hangings and mirrors adorning the walls and plenty of light to illuminate the heaving bar and brighten up the space. The staff are friendly too and the service always quite quick. I’m surprised and slightly saddened that it wasn’t busier. Sure, it’s summer, so not typically roast dinner season, but lately it’s been pretty grey and damp – surely the perfect excuse to hide yourself away in the cosy confines of your local public house to chow down on their delicious food. Worked for us anyway!

I’d say that this Reviewski is worthy of a few well-pulled pints of your favourite golden ale or lager, served by a charming barman or cheeky barmaid with the sunlight just glinting through the rain-flecked windows and some cool Sunday blues riding the soundwaves.                                                                             Poetic, right? For The Poet’s pub!





If I’ve enticed you to try a meal or just to pop along to The Poet’s Smoke and Ale House for a pint or two, you can find the pub tucked into the Poet’s Corner area of Hove just behind Portland Road. Check out their website or Facebook page to be tempted further – cheers!

Berries, cabbage and sunshine: all available at your local Pick Your Own

Getting carried away with the thrill of finding the finest fruits.

Full blown Summer with a capital ‘S’ comes to England and several things come to mind: trips to the beach with picnics on uncomfortably stony beaches, walks in the countryside admiring the patchwork fields from a hilltop, strawberries and cream (with or without Wimbledon – I prefer mine sans tennis), and the sudden urge to go an pick said strawberries from a local Pick Your Own (PYO) field. A trip to a PYO has to be up there as one of the more quaint and quintessentially British pastimes. Take a rare hot, sunshiny weekend, the desire to go out somewhere and make the most of the weather, and an appreciation for fresh produce and you’ve got the makings of a sweet, bountiful afternoon full of sticky fingers and heaving punnets full of nature’s finest.

This is exactly what happened to my husband and I last weekend when we had a rare free sunny Sunday with no jobs to be done. So off we trotted over to the Roundstone PYO Farm in Worthing – a place I’d not visited for years but have fond memories of. Strawberries were my favourite fruit as a child, and I’d probably end up eating more fruit at the farm than ended up in the basket. What kid can resist the fresh, warm, sweet allure of a beautifully ripe strawberry hanging tantalisingly from its stalk? And, in all honesty, what adult can resist it either?

We arrived in the glorious mid-afternoon sun to a busy field with plenty listed as in season and ready to pick. Strawberries, raspberries, gooseberries, loganberries, blackcurrants, redcurrants, early blackberries and plums, cabbages, peas, broad beans, green beans and many more fruit and veg aside. We went with the thought of bringing back strawberries – who wouldn’t? It’s the first thing I think of if someone says ‘Pick Your Own’ to me, and I still love the fruit – nothing beats a ripe English strawberry. It’s like the Top Trump of all the fruits, sure to floor any Spanish blueberry or French apple. But nonetheless, we actually came back with anything but the idolised red fruit, instead foraging punnets of tayberries, blackberries, gooseberries and a gorgeous red cabbage.


Some of you might be wondering what the heck a tayberry is. Hey, I hadn’t even heard of one before last weekend! As soon as I saw that tayberries were among the available fruits, I just had to learn just exactly what they were, so off we headed on a taste adventure. Turns out that tayberries are like longer versions of raspberries in appearance, less tart in taste than their sister fruits and perhaps a touch floral and smoother on the palate. Into the punnet they went to be put to further culinary experiments at home!

The blackberries were a touch on the sharp side – perhaps to be expected as it’s still early in the season for them – but perfectly edible and honestly it’s just a joy to be out their picking fresh berries from their stalks. I kept saying both to myself and my other half ‘That’ll probably do’ but found myself irresistibly scouring the brambles for more, risking the prickles and rejoicing with another fresh handful to add to the basket.

Gooseberries were our next prey. Excited by the experience that is probably as close to real foraging as I’ll ever get, and maybe on the tiniest sugar high from the consumed berries, we hungrily set off to the next field. What we found was not what I expected at all. The gooseberries were superb. Seriously, they were massive and so, so sweet and delicious. I’d never eaten a raw one, always assuming that they’d largely be too sharp – when do you ever see fresh gooseberries as a garnish on a dessert? – but I dared to taste one and was so pleasantly surprised. They were the star of our findings, for sure. I couldn’t help but reap a whole bagful of them, not yet knowing what scrumptious fate lay ahead for these beauts. However, BE WARNED: the bushes have super long sharp thorns that shred your hands to pieces. You either need to be fully committed, or prepared with gardening gloves to pick the blighters.

Time was pressing as the afternoon drew on, and we just had to at least find the strawberries, maybe sample one or two. Or ten… Most of the bushes had been ravaged already, leaving only a few overripe squishy ones or overlooked bizarre-shaped strawberries. Their malformed exteriors still contained the most luscious flavour you’ll find during summer though.

As we made our way to the counter to pay for our glorious fruits, we happened upon the veg patch. Convenient for me, as I wanted a red cabbage for some homemade coleslaw. Having not prepared for the occasion or cabbage cutting, we didn’t have a knife to free it from the stalk. However, my handy husband knew exactly what to do: brandishing his door keys, he hacked away determinedly until the purple ball of glory was severed from its earthy confines, and lo! We had a cabbage. It made for the best coleslaw.

Our wonderful harvest came to a little over £5 – great value for such excellent produce. We’ll definitely be returning for another round of fruit & veg picking. It made for such a joyful, satisfying and carefree afternoon. Something about the open air, the excitement of finding the best fruits, and the anticipation of eating them when you get home gives one quite the mild homely thrill.

Our trip to the Roundstone PYO is certainly worthy of a few refreshing glasses of Pimm’s, which of course wouldn’t be complete without being packed full of (freshly picked) strawberries, blueberries, orange slices, cucumber and mint. It’s the stuff that British summers are made of! If you fancy wiling away the afternoon in amongst the fruit bushes, check out the Roundstone PYO website for all of the details and to see what’s in season.



Oh, by the way, most of the gooseberries were lovingly thrown into an amazing gooseberry and ginger cheesecake. It was a big cheesecake, but it barely lasted a few days – it had no chance! The tayberries were made into ice cream, which I’ve yet to try but hear rumour from my husband that it’s pretty darn good, and the rest of our berries were made into a lovely fruity crumble.

Gooseberry & Ginger Cheesecake
The cheesecake of dreams. I’m sad it’s all gone.

The recipe for this super cheesecake can be found at delicious magazine. Enjoy!



Gym workouts – how they really work out!

My fitness future is certainly going in the right direction.

Last month, I decided to join the gym. I’d been wanting to for ages and always thought that it going to the gym would be, like, ‘for me’ ya know? I’m good at self discipline, not very good at committing to classes (my moods and energy levels aren’t terribly stable/reliable and I’m no good at evening exercise) and like setting personal goals with no other competition but myself. Not that exercise classes are designed to be competitive – in fact, they’re completely the opposite. But I bet there’s not one person in a yoga class, kettle bell workout, spin class or zumba sesh that doesn’t look at others who are already far fitter and able and feel a million miles behind. Of course at a gym, there are folk of all fitness levels too, but you’re not doing the same exercises as one so there’s no pressure to keep up. The only one pushing you to do that extra minute, those extra 10 reps is the little trainer in your brain telling your body to ‘Keep going, you can do it!’. I like it that way.

I didn’t take up the gym to lose weight, by the way. I’m actually underweight and want to gain muscle, tone up and generally increase my fitness levels. At the local gym I visit, Change, they have this brilliant machine called Boditrax that analyses your body for all kinds of things. This magical set of scales with rods to hold for a full body scan measures your weight, water levels, bone density, body fat, muscle mass, visceral fat (the bad stuff around your midriff where your organs are – nobody wants that sticking to their insides), metabolic age, and breaks down the information into very digestible stats using pretty colours and simple layouts. I was actually quite happy with my first body analysis: my body water was where it should be (apparently, this is quite rare for a first time scan, most people don’t drink enough), my metabolic age is in its teenage years (again, apparently this is great, it should always be younger than your physical age), and there’s not a great deal of fat on me (which is kind of expected, but nonetheless a relief to see anyway. Better than being a skinny person with a ton of internal fat hidden away like a walking pack of skinny butter).

One thing that was a bit low, as expected – apart from my weight, obvs – was my bone mass. I have early stage osteopenia, which is basically a precursor to full blown osteoperosis. Crumbly bones ain’t summat nobody wants. So I’ve been trying to improve on that for a while, with scans every couple of years to keep an eye on it. One of the things recommended for strengthening bones is weight-bearing exercise. I already eat enough stuff that contains calcium, and the supplements don’t agree with me, so one of the things I’ve been pretty hot on is doing weights in the gym.

So, one month on, and it was time for my second Boditrax scan. Already feeling more energetic as a whole from going to the gym, I knew there was going to be some improvement. Going 3-4 times a week and putting in about an hour’s workout each time was bound to do something! I think that even the gym staff member was impressed with my progress…

Over the course of one month, my body had gained 1.2kg muscle mass – 1.2kg muscle! Needless to say, I’m happy with that! I’d actually lost a bit of fat, which I wasn’t really expecting as I’m only quite slight. But hey, I’m not going to complain about having more muscle and less fat! But possibly best of all for me, I’d gained 0.1kg bone mass. This is a seriously big win for me. I don’t want to be a cripple due to failing bones in middle age. No-one does. If this gradual increase in bone mass continues each month, I’ll be out of the danger zone for osteopenia within a year, easily. It’s really boosted my confidence and made me even more determined to keep it up. I already wake up on a gym day and say to myself (sometimes out loud) ‘Yay! Gym day!’ and miss it on days that I can’t fit in a workout. Now I’ll be even more eager to go!

It’s amazing what modern technology can do (when it does decide to work). To be able to stand on a machine and in mere seconds it runs several highly complicated checks and scans on your body and gives you the results instantly is incredible. I think anyone stepping on a Boditrax scale for the first time will have their eyes well and truly opened as to what is really going on internally with their bodies. Be it positive or negative, it will make you want to do something about it. I want to improve on what I already have, and by starting my workouts at the gym has proved that it’s definitely the right thing for me. The results are there in black and white and greens, yellows, reds and blues thanks to the lovely printouts I now have filed away. I can’t yet see a great deal of improvement, but I know it’s happening inside as I can sense changes within my body. Hopefully, after another month the results will be more visible and I’ll have more body confidence as well as feeling healthier. Thank you to the gym staff too, by the way, for always being very helpful, supportive and kind – they’re always smiling and ready to help you out!

Time for the ratings for the Change gym and Boditrax machine! It would seem somewhat counter-intuitive to bestow a health institution with an alcoholic award, so I think that this time the drink will take form of a mocktail or two. A fiery Moscow Mule Mojito for the punchy hit of a workout, followed by a refreshing Blackberry Mint Spritzer to satisfyingly quench the thirst. Both of these mocktails and more can be found here if they take your fruity fancy! If not, your local offie will be more than happy to supply you with the real hard stuff 😉



Further to ‘On Today’ (i.e. yesterday…)

The damage revealed…

Yesterday was a bad day. Think I established that pretty well on my previous blog post. Today is blessedly kinder, though the lingering grains of weariness live on in the back of my eyeballs. Still, I can function a lot better and am able to actually enjoy things today (it helps a whole heap that I’m home too – midweek day off = WIN!).

But anyway, we all remember yesterday and the crappy weather and the foul mood and, of course, the cake fail. I’d just like to show you exactly what happened to my poor Teensie after its journey into town. Behold: 20049389_10210406771946652_42349165_o

Yep. Head’s fallen clean off. Well, messily off. I had expected as much though – the weight of his oversized icing-coated rice cereal & marshmallow nose needed far more support than a few cocktail sticks and edible glue. But at the time I was thinking on my feet and didn’t have much else to hand to work with. At least it wasn’t a paid order! I think that’s the only reason that it didn’t make me even more stressed.

So, once my husband and I were at the event later on, I thought I’d modify things a little. I made another flat cake that was originally meant to be the base for the Teensie to stand on – little did I know that he’d be far from teensie, so they were brought as two separate cake elements based on the same game. It was all kind of good ultimately as my solution made use of the base cake: I stuck his head band smack in the middle:

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Those big innocent eyes still gaze on smilingly. Creepy or cute? And there stands the ripped open corpse, moist cakey innards exposed, as though a fiendish saboteur with victory firmly in their thoughts set out to obliterate any rival cakes. As it happens, I came second! Not sure who won as I left with my husband (I still felt tired and awful) before the judges announced their verdicts – a friend who also attended the occasion kindly kept me informed of the proceedings.

So, despite the shitty day, it wasn’t all bad. I was still kind of pleased with the cakes I’d made, disaster being inevitable though it was. The likeness of a Teensie was still there, it just ended up looking more like a sacrificial offering to the judges instead of a cute Teensie Wizard on display. Some you win, some you lose, and some you come second, which was enough of a win for me.

So for that reason, I think the cake at least gets an upgrade in ratings. I’m awarding my own cake a booze level of: Happy Mistake Cocktail By Mixing A Surprisingly Good Blend Of Liqueurs After Spilling Most Of The First One (Which Was An Actual Cocktail But You’ve Run Out Of Those Ingredients). Cheers!


On today.

Bad days. Ugh.

Do you ever feel as though you should really have been forgiven the stresses of existing for a day because it was so damn shitty? Today I do. And so, inspiring the raw and bitter pissed-off-ness that I’m feeling right now, it’s time for a reviewski on today. Please find below a checklist of the reasons today stank.

  1. Woke up very tired. The kind of tired that you know will never leave you. It’ll stalk you like a hyena, taking advantage of your tiredness to stoke all the negative feelings and make any problems ten times worse than they would be if you felt not tired. My eyes currently feel like tiny concentrated balls of sandpaper that are receding into my skull.
  2. Public transport. In this case, Southern Rail trains. They’re always fun, and especially so when you’re already in a foul mood. It was late, as per Southern’s guaranteed shitty service, and when the doors opened it was so packed that passengers were practically spilling out of the carriage. Great, gotta wheedle my way beneath some guy’s smelly armpit. Thank god it’s only a 10 minute ride. As it lurched and squealed away from the platform, I wondered whether it would even reach town under the weight of so many resentful commuters.
  3. Work. It all went tits up. As you’d expect when you’re already feeling grouchy and tired and not ready for the day. We’re currently having an absolute hell of a time getting the stupid credit card machine set up and it is driving me NUTS. We’ve tried every possible solution, but the bloody thing still won’t connect. It’s a new terminal too. I think I’ve lost part of my soul to either being on hold or explaining the same thing again and again down the phone line about the problems we’re having. And then there are the other things that can easily go wrong in a normal working day too, but wouldn’t have if the universe had kindly been less of a douchebag.bang head.gif
  4. Cake. I bet that was the last thing you thought I’d be mentioning as a bad thing! But yes, cake let me down. I signed up for what I thought sounded like a great event. And it is really. A charity event where you get to make a cake based on your favourite computer game! What could go wrong? Depending on how ambitious you are, everything and anything… I made a Teensie from the Rayman Legends game yesterday, which started out OK but ended up being very stressful for various reasons. One of those being the head. Teensies are very face heavy, and having secured as best I could the massive head to its body with cocktail sticks and edible glue, I had a sneaking suspicion that it would eventually fall off. These are the measures I took to try and keep the head up: 20050041_10210398255173738_27668966_oAttractively positioned, huh? Who knew that tea bags and tissues could be so handy! And it actually worked for a while; look, he stands freely!19893860_10210398254653725_1446013059_oHowever, it was not to last. The car journey into town was enough to loosen his head. Fully expecting to be disappointed, I was not disappointed with what I expected to see. Yes, Teensie head fall down. Ripping the icing with it. Hey ho, maybe I’ll get sympathy points for it later.
  5. Dinner. Normally, I don’t have a problem here. I love cooking and am quite a good cook, and usually I don’t drop stuff. But not today. Somehow, I ended up with half of my beany pasta sauce mix all over the floor. A few loud four-letter expletives may well have escaped my lips. It was the last thing that I needed. Especially as that kind of stuff always splatters far further than humanely possible. I think some reached the hallway.
  6. It’s been grey and miserable and rainy all day.
  7. I’m even more tired and dreading going out now. Which is a real shame as I was so  looking forward to the evening.

*Sigh* A baker’s gotta do what a baker’s gotta do. Here I go. Grumpy and wishing I were tucked up on the sofa in my PJs watching something easy. It’ll be interesting to see what other people have made though and how creative they’ve been with their baking.

In terms of ratings, today gets a half drunk glass of rubbish red wine that sounded so good, with its promise of hints of vanilla with a rounded, plum flavour, but turned out to taste like an old man’s smoking jacket soaked in vinegar. Yuk.

Aliens (1986)

Action-packed, intense and gripping: Aliens takes sci-fi to a different level.

I know, I know, some of you will be thinking ‘Why is Becs reviewing Aliens now? Like, everybody has seen the Alien films and knows how great they are!’. You may well baulk in disbelief, but at the stout age of 28, I have only just seen the first two of the Alien Quadrilogy. I am ashamed to admit that there are several classic cult films out there that I’ve yet to see. Somehow they’ve passed me by with their vital lessons in suspense, overacting, and brilliant monster designs and animatronics. I fully intend on catching up with famous movies that I should already know (it just might take a while…) – don’t worry, I won’t be reviewing them all! So, on Aliens:

Sigourney Weaver really kicks ass, doesn’t she? I mean, seriously. Her character, Ripley, has the most balls out of all the crew there put together. She damn well knows how to teach those Aliens a lesson and sets right to it – no namby-pambying around, no false macho bravado, no nonsense.


And NOBODY listens to her warnings about how dangerous the creatures are. I realise that that is a vital part of the plot insomuch as it results in all the crazy action, fighting, and revelations from the crew sent out to destroy the aliens that Ripley wasn’t lying about how there is no other way to deal with them except by destroying the seemingly unstoppable face-sucking parasitic wily beasties. (Please pardon the awful sentence structure, sometimes rambling is the only way to express yourself.) But it seems pretty unprofessional to me not even to acknowledge the dangers ahead put forward by Ripley. These guys are the military, after all.

It’s funny how certain character styles come and go with the film eras. Like the military guys, for example. The team that are dispatched with Ripley to investigate the colony are overly bigheaded, immature, and disobedient – entirely the opposite of what a soldier should be: responsible, calm and level-headed. I get that there is sometimes an element of competitive macho-ness amongst military men and women, but it’s pretty well milked in Aliens and at times cringe-worthy, especially watching Private Vasquez (the only female military member sent on the mission) constantly flexing her muscles and over-playing the tough gal role. In modern movies that involve members of the armed forces, the characters tend to be a lot more mature on the whole and a lot less raucous. Sure, a bit of ignorance and egotism resides in some characters (like Sully in Avatar), but they either get what’s coming to them or learn to grow up. Privates Vasquez and Drake, however, are particularly insufferable with their muscly strongman/woman banter and carry on regardless without learning a great deal. Watching them made me want to give them both a good slap, tell them to stop acting like jerks and grow some real balls like Ripley’s.

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There was one other thing that I didn’t much like about the film. It’s pretty big, very predictable, and an unavoidable move in such a classic film. Ripley’s altruistic heroism as she returns to the now completely alien infested colony to rescue Newt.

You’ll all be shouting at me, saying ‘But how could you be against that?! Ripley just HAD to go back for Newt! She’s the hero and Newt is the only surviving kid from the colony and Ripley loves her like a daughter and Newt helped them escape’ yadda yadda yadda… But come on, people: Newt went under, the aliens had her in their nest stuck in who-knows-where on the sticky mucousy wall, Ripley and Corporal Hicks get out with only minutes before the colony blows up, Bishop had the ship ready for them to escape to safety…. But the inevitable was coming: ‘I have to find her’, shouts Ripley as Hicks is bundled onto the ship. *Sigh* of course you do Ripley, and what really are your chances of finding Newt? Thankfully for her, the fact that they’re both part of a big blockbuster movie make them very high. So yeah, unavoidable part of the plot, but nonetheless I found myself shouting ‘What are you doing? Don’t go back, the colony is going to blow up in minutes! You don’t have a goddamn clue where Newt is!’ Alas, there was little I could do but watch on as Ripley yet again cuts it fine with the whole rescuing and escaping just in the nick of time.

It did, however, lead to the best final battle with the alien Queen. I just loved the edgy, silent negotiating that went on between Ripley and Queen as she stumbled face-to-face with her in the heart of the nest. The tension, the subtle movements and apparent understanding between two females protecting their young – yet both want the other dead. A frantic escape ensues, and then of course the ultimate head-to-head with Ripley commandeering the power loader as battle armour and weapon against the savage Queen.


She takes no shit from anyone, does Ripley. Not even from alien royalty.

Another aspect of the sequel that I did appreciate was the extra mile they went with the alien models and costumes themselves. They are seriously sinister, everything about them reeks of sly aggression, and there is a cleverness in their movements that suggests a malicious mind. And the face-suckers are downright creepy, like the spider of your nightmares on steroids. The way that they scuttle across floors and unexpectedly leap out of nowhere ready to give you the kiss of slow, parasitic death is truly chilling. It all looks a lot slicker than Alien too, with fewer clunky shots of scaled-down spaceship models flying through the galaxy (I have to say, those scenes in the first film did look a lot like the intentionally clunky space scenes of Red Dwarf).

All in all, even with those couple of frustrations noted above, I actually loved watching Aliens and found myself captivated by the action and plot itself. It’s a much more involved film than its predecessor, and really worth a go if you thought that Alien was too slow to get going. (I actually quite liked Alien, my other half found it lacked a bit and was too centred around suspense.) On that note, Aliens doesn’t lose the knack of keeping you ready and waiting for things to jump out – a masterful technique that any successful thriller couldn’t be without.

So I think Aliens stacks up a good few pints of strong, dark ale, or perhaps Guinness to marry the night-black skins of the aliens – either choice would be sure to see you through!

One last note, entirely unrelated to the review of the film: anyone else think that Sigourney Weaver looks kind of like Michael Jackson with that haircut?


The Wolf Among Us

Time for a game reviewski: plot, character design, artwork – The Wolf Among Us has it all.

The folk at Telltale Games are geniuses. (Hold that thought: is that the correct term for the collective of ‘genius’? For an intelligent word, it sounds terribly messy. Geniei [djee-nee-i] sounds better, but looks confusing.) They really are though. I have now played through The Wolf Among Us twice and absolutely loved every moment of it. From the opening credits, which are sexy and mysterious like a comic book film noire, to the superb character design, each complete with a damaged background and attitude to match; and, of course, the brilliant story writing that keeps you on the edge of your beanbag (personal choice of gaming seat) in eager anticipation for the next plot twist to reveal itself.

The Wolf Among Us is a storytelling game, and it seriously plays with your morals. It’s kind of like you’re making the decisions for a film’s main character, so for example, you’re faced with the option of being the tough guy and punching them in the face during an interrogation, or perhaps being sympathetic and getting the best out of others by listening to them and telling them what they want to hear. There isn’t a huge amount of actual manual game play – it’s not a free roaming format – but that really doesn’t matter because making decisions can be very difficult. Second time round of playing, after initially playing through making the decisions that are closer to my own morals, I thought ‘I’m gonna play the No Shit Badass Hardcore Cop’, but it actually proved to be quite difficult. Even though it’s fictional, even though it has absolutely no effect on you as a person in the real world, I defy anyone to make Bigby (YOUR character) hit a woman and not feel guilty about it. I couldn’t do it. Plus, there’s the whole consideration of how this helps or hinders you/Bigby in your investigations. You want the other characters to be on your side, and if you blow it by overreacting, the folk of Fabletown might not be so forthcoming in future.

On a note of violence, you do get thrown into some brutal fight scenes – be warned, you need to be quick on your toes with your reactions for them! They can be pretty intense, sometimes quite graphic. Be ready to pump that A button on your controller to access your full strength and heave other characters off you or bend something until it breaks. Some of those battles do require a bit of thought about how far you take them… Your own actions can come back and bite you later on…

So, here’s the set-up for the game: you play Bigby Wolf, AKA the Bid Bag Wolf from such fairytales as The Three Little Pigs and Little Red Riding Hood. Except in this world, Bigby Wolf is the Sheriff of Fabletown, which is a place in the real world where fairytale characters (known as ‘Fables’) have to disguise themselves as humans using ‘glamours’ – a much-sought-after and pricey magic spell used to conceal their non-human identities. Working alongside Snow (yep, the classic once-upon-a-time princess), your job is to keep the business of Fabletown in order, make sure everyone has a glamour and generally keep Fables out of mischief.

Snow and bigby

Just take a moment to admire the glorious detail of the characters: Snow’s iconic jet black hair and pale skin, the snowflakes on her blouse nod to her roots; the rough, worn and linear form of Bigby with wild-looking long hair and stubble, suggestive of an animalistic persona.

After dealing with some relatively day-to-day stuff to start with, like dealing with Mr Toad (who is literally a toad – bit of a freeloader, always claiming that he can’t afford to get a glamour. Kind of likeable with his blunt Cockney accent). But pretty soon, you find yourself in a fight with the Woodsman who’s found attacking a young woman. I’ll say no more on that, but not long after a severed head is discovered on the doorstep of the tower block that Bigby and Snow work in. Who’s head is it? I hear you ask… Turns out it was the girl you saved from the Woodsman earlier. But that is definitely not all there is to it – it’s merely where the real plot begins…

Through a whole myriad of moral dilemmas, fights, confessions and daring character design (I have to mention Georgie, as in Georgie Porgie from the nursery rhyme: tough-guy owner of the Pudding & Pie brothel, covered in tattoos, one of which quite brilliantly reads Kiss the girls, rough Manchunian accent and speech littered with profanities – this is twisted character design at its finest), you find yourself utterly under the game’s spell, dying to know more and play through the next chapter. The game climaxes with a final fight against one of the most sinister bad guys (who is actually a gal) I’ve come across and ends with the chance of acquiring justice for the whole town.

I will definitely be playing this exquisitely crafted game through again – even if only for the pure joy of seeing the artwork again. I find it inspiring, the style makes me want to draw every character and scene! I’ll also try on different attitudes for the Wolf and see how it affects the gameplay – it’s endlessly fascinating, I can’t imagine how complicated the writing for this game must have been.

If I’ve inspired you to check out the game for yourself, you can purchase it on Steam (be aware, you’ll have to enter your date of birth to access the link as it’s a violent, sweary and slightly nudey game). Brace yourself, you won’t want to put your controller down!

Booze rating: several measure of the finest Bourbon in town. On the rocks.

Seriously, you Telltale guys are awesome.

NB: I hear rumour that there’s a Season 2 for The Wolf Among Us underway too…. I have every faith in Telltale Games to make it just as awesome as the first one – maybe even more so! Watch this space…