Vegan-friendly hunting

Not long ago I found myself sitting in the reception of a police station in Scotland, nervously awaiting a criminal intelligence analyst job interview. A poster on the wall depicting a man with empty hands raised as if shooting, demanding people either apply for an airgun license or surrender their weapons caught my eye. It turns out that as of the very last day of last year, air weapon law has changed north of the border, and even simple possession of an air rifle (which in England can be legally used by an unsupervised fourteen year old on private land) could potentially put you behind bars.

Seeing this poster reminded me that an air rifle of my own, bought fairly impulsively by sixteen year-old me (and scarcely touched since), lay stowed away in a corner of my bedroom in my dad’s house. Now, back in the south, I thought I’d dust the old thing off and see if it works at all with a little target shooting:

Turns out it does. Truthfully, I wasn’t expecting such a powerful discharge for something I remember thinking of as a toy when I first bought it nearly a decade ago; I had walked into a local shop and asked for something cheap and cheerful for precisely what I did today: shooting targets in my garden (a practice which came to be known as “vegan-friendly hunting”), as an alternative to darts, which my friends and I had been obsessively playing at the time. And while the craze for target-based games passed fairly quickly, we had a lot of fun with it back in the day.

I have never aimed a weapon of any description at a living thing, so I have absolutely no idea the potential for damage or injury that a gun like mine presents, but having seen it tear through both sides of a can and into the plank behind it, I wouldn’t much fancy being on the receiving end of a shot. I have really enjoyed a little target practice (as I did together with my dad this afternoon), but also understand the Scottish authorities’ desire to limit the availability of such items to youngsters who may not appreciate the damage they could cause. Either way, today was both an eye-opener and a spot of light fun (with a healthy dose of nostalgia), but now the gun lies back under the wardrobe, likely to be forgotten once again (particularly if work calls me to Scotland…).

Truthfully, more than likely due to having grown up in the UK, firearms very rarely come to my attention, save the odd (usually negative) news article, so I would love to hear your opinions on the topic in the comments below (though please exercise restraint and respect for the opinions of others)!


Hey oh.

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Today I swapped my daily skate for a snowball fight!

Apparently I’ve not been paying close enough attention to the weather forecasts (actually, I haven’t listened to one at all for some time now…) because it was a complete surprise too! My colleague Alex and I ran out of the lab and after pausing for a couple of minutes to appreciate the snowfall (which despite not setting too well was fairly heavy) got straight down to business pelting each other with snowballs – a great way to let off some steam after a long day’s work.

There’s something so satisfying about sinking one’s fingers into fresh snow, even if it was the final blow to my already dry winter skin (my cold after-work skates don’t do my skin any favours), actually splitting open at the knuckles. Ouch. Between having had some fairly mild winters of late and having spent a few winters in the Caribbean it has been some years since I last saw snow, much less had a snowball fight, and sure enough they’re still as fun as I remembered – there are some things you just can’t grow out of!

Bizarrely my home, only 6 miles from the lab, appears to have missed out on all the fun, the roof of my car bringing the only snow to be seen in the area… Well, that and the half-melted remains of a snowball found in my jacked pocket upon arriving home. I’d like to say the snowball fight was a battle I won, but alas she got me. She got me good.



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Today I gave the birthday present I recieved from my parents, an Akaso EK7000 Action Cam, a little test run by jumping down a couple of small staircases near my home with the camera mounted to my bike’s handlebars. The camera shoots in stunning 4k resolution, but I reduced the quality to 720p HD to reduce the upload time. I will definitely be getting a lot of use out of this impressive little thing!



Today I didn’t skate, but instead headed straight for the London Borough of Richmond after work, where I would spend my last evening as a 22 year old. I met up with my good friend Samantha at the station, and took off exploring the area! This evening was crisp but dry and clear, and so it was lovely to walk the streets and take in the ambience, catch up on life and have a laugh.

During our adventures we stumbled upon an amazing “games cafe” called The Library Pot that has hundreds of board games (over 450 unique titles) that you can pluck off the shelves at will and play with friends and strangers alike. Not only do they host several gaming events every single day (check their website for details), but if you get tired of playing around you can relax by dressing up in the many adult-sized costumes and accessories dotted around the shop, or by heading to their underground ball pit. Yup, they have an adult ball pit

This friendly little shop is definitely worth a visit, but if planning a trip it is worth bearing in mind that it has such a strong community that weekends now require a booking just to get in (via their site). I’ll definitely be back soon!





Anyone familiar with the town in question will understand this post’s title, though for the benefit of those of you who aren’t it is a reference to Milton Keynes (also known as MK), where the mid-noughties saw a spate of large buildings named (or renamed) in a similar manner, including: stadium:mk (since renamed ‘stadiummk’), the local football team’s ground; centre:mk, the town’s largest shopping centre; hub:mk, home to restaurants, bars, and hotels; and even office blocks, such as pinnacle:mk. Modern day Milton Keynes is one of Britain’s newer settlements, arising as part of the third wave of ‘new towns’ in the late 1960s, taking its name from a pre-existing village in the area.

It has to be said that Milton Keynes, unless you are particularly fond of snow sports (more on that later), isn’t much of a tourist destination. I found myself there for the first time yesterday evening to see my closest university friend, Emma, who lives in a nearby village. My first impression of MK (or what I saw of it, anyway) was that it seems very functional, if a little soulless: the town’s centre, for example, presents a collection of large industrial-looking buildings with sprawling car parks throughout a grid of wide multi-lane roads (admittedly a much more efficient and simple to navigate road system than the usual mess of narrow and poorly maintained roads seen in most of Britain’s towns). Due to its brief history and rapid construction, the town’s uniformity in architectural style is also unusual; I, for example, grew up in a 20th century house directly opposite a church built around the turn of the 12th – though for context the area is a lot older, having been continuously inhabited since the Saxons settled there during the Dark Ages.

One building, ‘Xscape’ (our destination for the day), stands out from the rest. The enormous glass-fronted half-dome houses not only shops, restaurants, and bars, but also a casino, a nightclub, an art gallery, a multiscreen cinema, a bowling alley, an indoor skydiving centre, and a real-snow indoor slope (one of only six in Britain!). We filled the afternoon with back-to-back bowling and pool best of threes, having a laugh while catching up on what’s new, then grabbed a bite to eat before heading back to hers to kick it for a bit.

Every time I get back from an enjoyable trip somewhere new I wake the next morning with the itch to get out there and discover somewhere else, and this morning was no different; as always it was wonderful to get in my car and explore, made even better by the fact I got to see a close friend I’d missed into the bargain. Yes, it could have been the worst place on earth and I’d have had a great time thanks to the company I had, but honestly MK has no shortage of fun looking things to do: I’d really like to try the snow slope, as much for the novelty of being able to snowboard indoors on real snow as for anything, and indoor skydiving sounds fantastic. As the old adage goes, you should never judge a book by its cover.



No more bad days.



This morning the sun came out, and it even stayed dry. England hasn’t seen this bright a day for a long time, so obviously I headed out to the local skatepark to make the most of the weather. The photograph with this post is actually from around a month ago – I forgot my tripod today so couldn’t get a good photo – and unfortunately doesn’t nearly do today’s weather justice (though it was taken at the same skatepark, if nothing else!).

Today’s efforts were mostly focused on manual pad, ledge, and rail tricks, and I had one of those sessions where things seem to just work – the cherry on top of an already glorious morning. The park wasn’t completely deserted either for a change (though the others there were riding scooters, but you can’t always have it all). The only negative this morning was that I had intended on trying to fastplant over the larger ledge from the manny pad (which I have always thought would look awesome), but completely forgot once I was at the park. But there’s always tomorrow…

The session’s highlight came in the form of an epiphany on my skate home. I realised the only difference between today and any other of late is that the skies were clearer than they have been for a while: I had nothing special planned for the day; temperatures have actually continued to drop, despite the brightness of the day; and there were more job applications waiting to be done when I got home. It occurred to me that I had essentially chosen to be happy, and justified it with a minuscule factor that is completely out of my control anyway. But there needn’t be a justification for feeling good, and I have vowed from now on to cut out the middleman and choose to be happy just because.

After all, nothing makes a day good like having a good day.



Battle scars: what skateboarding means to me.



In life, everyone finds things they enjoy doing. I, like many others, enjoy doing a range of different things, with the extent to which I am likely to do any particular one of them on a given day generally subject to my energy levels, mood, the weather, and a host of other internal and external factors. Two activities stand out for me in that I never tire of doing either and am so fond of doing both that after day without either I always feel slightly unfulfilled. Those two things are music and skateboarding, and today I’m going to focus on the latter.

I can still remember the first board I ever owned, at six years old: an old-school shaped deck complete with tail bone and rails, large soft cruiser-style wheels, and plastic trucks. I rode that board until it was literally falling apart. I was hooked. My first proper ‘popsicle’ skateboard, with metal trucks this time, came shortly after, from a skate shop in Worthing on the south coast of England; a ¾ size as I was still too small to manage a full size deck. This time rather than just cruising around I took to skateparks for the first time, learning the ropes at a park exclusively composed of mini ramps not ten minutes from my house, inspired by VHS tapes of the X-Games that I would watch and re-watch until I knew my favourite lines by heart.

Since, I have ridden every board I possibly could: skateboards, cruisers, longboards, snowskates, snowboards, and surfboards. This love affair has been one of few constants in my life, spanning 16 years – a relationship eclipsed only by my best friend, who’s been by my side for over 19 years – and yet I simply never tire of it. In fact, this morning I bounced out of bed at 8am and hopped in the car to explore a new skatepark (which inexplicably has no lights, hence the early start to make the most of the trip; the sun currently sets around ten past four).

So why do I enjoy pushing myself around on a small plank of wood (well, technically several plies of wood) so much? Skateboarding frees me. Whether flying down a hill, dodging pedestrians on a busy street or cars on a road, carving a bowl, or doing tricks, I feel totally liberated. I couldn’t care less about any trends: I don’t ride a wide board despite my large feet (7.75s just work for me), my trucks are so loose I get wheel bite (even when riding park and vert), and my wheels softer than most. I’ll wear whatever I want, go wherever I want, and do whatever I want. I’m all about old school tricks, carving, powerslides, and goofing around, and I love it. When I feel good, skating makes me feel great, and if I am feeling sad or stressed, skating frees me. Not a bad thought even enters my mind. In fact, I hardly think at all: it’s the wind in my hair, it’s movement, it’s emotion. Every time I touch a skateboard I push my limits – faster, higher, further, smoother, cleaner, more aesthetic; there’s always something to work on – and when you’re pushing your limits you are forced to be totally focused. And in those moments, nothing else matters.

Sure, I am no pro. I can’t do the most technical tricks, or the biggest gaps. But that’s not why I do it, and it never will be.