Author Archives: countstex

Hero Worship

It’s natural as a young boy to bestow hero status on your father, provided of course you are lucky enough to have a good one. Be that biological or otherwise. They can do anything and know everything. My father worked, drove, did DIY, baked, took me and my brother to football games, loved science, helped with homework.. all the things one would expect.

Of course eventually we all grow up, become adults ourselves and realise that our parents are just people capable of making mistakes, people whose advice is only as good as their experiences. The negative side to this is looking back on certain situations and realising just how crappy you have been to your parents at certain points in your life.

An example of this with my father that still haunts me to this day was an occasion of a damp weekend morning in the 1980s. My brother and I both played in local football leagues, this being the 80s, England and even more importantly Liverpool where football is more religion than sport. Whoever was supposed to be the referee that day hadn’t shown so one of the fathers had to step up. This particular day my dad did. Being a child, perhaps 8 or 9, I saw this as a great thing as surely I would have him on my side. I even recall shouting at him at one point because he called an offside in the wrong half. (I highly doubt he did, my memory of it is not clear I can only assume I believed I could influence his decisions) Thinking back on that time now as an adult I can only imagine how nerve racking an event that must have been for my father, having to maintain control of 22 8 year olds running after a football whilst his fellow fathers and the handful of mothers (this was the 1980s) looked on. Sure we can all sit at home watching a match and call the ref out on all his mistakes from the comfort of our sofas, but to actually fully control a match and call decisions when all you had expected to do was watch your son play… so yes I cringe when I think back and find little refuge in the excuse of my age.

So yes we grow up and see our parents in the light of grown day and see how fallible we all are and that hero status fades somewhat into the memories of youth.

But sometimes things happen in life that allow you to again see a parent in that same shining light.

My mother for the past several years has suffered from early onset Alzheimer’s and we had all prepared ourselves for the inevitable outcomes of the disease. I’d expected the psychological aspects, the unreliable short term memory and confusion, expected the TV and movie instilled ‘time travel’ of her thinking it was perhaps 1978 again and wondering why I was a 40 year old man and not a 4 year old boy. These things we see played out and referenced over and over in various media. However little of these things really ever surfaced in my mother, at least not in ways I was expecting. What has been apparent though, what has caught me so off guard are the physical changes. It started quite quickly with her speech, perhaps more a lack of confidence at first reducing her willingness, but fairly quickly I could notice she wouldn’t join in conversations. In more recent years her fine control of her hands went making dressing and eating difficult tasks that my father had to assist with. More recently still she’s been unable to walk or even stand much.

All these things are devastating, but also on some level just how things are. However through all of this my father has been there, researching all the latest findings, making use of any natural products he could to help maintain my mothers health as best he could. He’s always been into vitamin supplements and alternative ideas and all I will say to that is it always seems to have served him well. But he has been, though all of this, fantastic. I hear in his voice sometimes that he’s sometimes of the opinion that he’s not done enough, or he should be coping better and it breaks my heart because he’s done more and survived longer than I fear I would. On some level I still can’t comprehend what is must be like for him, to see his wife suffering so, even when I am experiencing the same feelings of helplessness as her son.

So now, in my forties, I find myself once again looking on my father as my hero. A man to look up to as my brother and I always have. As a father and as a husband.

Dad you are amazing and I love you.

Lessons in Danish:The beginning of the end

Written Exam

I’ve not written all that much about my time learning Danish, which is odd given how huge a deal it’s been for me since moving to Denmark. I was never one for languages; given the chance to jump ship from French to Latin after three years in high school I took it, getting to start over and therefore have an easier ride. Perhaps not all would agree to Latin being easier than French but I certainly found it more enjoyable given it also focused on Roman culture and we had a teacher who would happily take us out to sit beneath the trees for our lessons in the summer time. Thanks Mr Redmond!

So the idea of starting up a new language at the age of 38 was a little daunting, and when Linda suggested I take the state organised free classes for us ‘new Danish’ I was rather resistant. Perhaps I found the idea of spending time with a bunch of strange foreigners a little off putting, despite the fact that I too was just as strange and foreign. It’s a curious thing this being a minority immigrant.

It’s a curious thing
being a minority immigrant
But I’ve never shied away from admitting when I’ve been a fool and that resistance was such a time. ¬† My years¬†at language school have been nothing but joyful from the start. I’ve met so many people from so many different places, from the more expected Germans, French and Polish, to the more far flung Nigerians, Kenyans, Burmese and even one guy from the Cook Islands! Oh and a fair few from that curious island that lies in the North Sea funnily enough.

And then there are the teachers, four of whom I’ve had the pleasure of their teachings on a fixed basis. All have been truly fantastic, not to mention incredible patient with me! Oh and I guess you could say we’ve had some fun along the way too, the British and Danish humours are not exactly opposites. And the fact they have all been women hasn’t hurt things one bit ūüėČ In many ways language school has become my ‘happy place’ here in Denmark. Something to look forward to whilst I’m cleaning my umpteenth toilet during the working season, or the bright light shinning through the long dark nights of the Danish winters. I’m always counting the days.

But today things have started to enter their final phase. I’ve just come home from taking the first half of my final exam, in this case the written half also known as trial by fire! I have the oral exam next month, but that’s basically just talking to people so nowhere near the stress levels of this first half. Technically¬†I shouldn’t be stressed at all. I didn’t start this journey to obtain a qualification as such, it’s purpose was simply to become good enough in Danish that I can communicate with people, as anyone who chooses to live in another country should. And so the grade I get isn’t important to me. Or rather it wouldn’t be if it wasn’t for the fact that I¬†can’t help feeling it will reflect upon my¬†teachers, and on that score I can’t stand the idea of letting them down. Sadly I fear I have little chance of excelling, but if I can just nab a middling pass that shows even an old dog like me can be taught new tricks I’ll sleep easy. We’ll just have to wait and see on that score.

The return of the MMO

Since we escaped our WoW addiction back in 2008 we’ve tried to get that same itch scratched by other games. Borderlands has come close, but actual MMOs have left us rather cold. Most are so instanced that you lose all feeling for the world they create even when they look as beautiful as the likes of Guild Wars 2.
Strangely though a game that suffers from all the same flaws of these alternatives, and which is a long way from the polish and grandure of WoW has managed to pull us in.

That game is Neverwinter. The difference with this game? Simple.

It’s on a console.

This not only grants the ease of playing from a sofa, but with a controller in everyone’s hand the opportunities for enhancing the combat scenarios are far greater than any PC based MMO I have tried. I haven’t actually played Neverwinter on PC so I can’t fully compare the two but the console implementation feels so right it’s hard to fault. I’ve never had my character moving around a battle arena anywhere near so much as I do in Neverwinter.

The game itself does suffer in many other areas from being controller based. Inventory handling is a real pain, and you are limited to how many different potions you have ready on quick draw. Also many other aspects of the port feel under tested or just plain ropey. We’ve even joked amongst ourselves, this being a free to play game, that you have to pay for the ‘high frame rate pack’.
But it says something for the pure mechanics of the game and it’s capturing of the usual MMO hooks that Linda and I our both actively grinding our toons up to level 60 pretty much everyday. We’re popping in to check on professions even when we’re not going to quest. We’re grouping with friends and getting that social fix of chat and laughter that MMOs often excel at, despite that never really being a design point, it’s just part of the DNA of the up and down times questing systems create.

That gaming bug has a habit of finding you right where you weren’t really looking.

Not my Destiny

We bought heavily into Destiny. We finally broke our absence from the next-come-current gen and picked up a couple of PS4s and a digital copy of the game itself. We dived in to the world and have been playing it pretty much every night since launch, and even one full day when we had a rare day without work.

However, like many others, we’ve found the world, or perhaps I should say solar system feeling a little bland, the story hidden away on Bungie.net via some cards you can’t access from the game. The universe they have created is actually quite interesting, but the way it is presented in the game is just all wrong. However I find myself thinking the whole set-up could have been handled so much better, and the game is even suited to it!

You see Destiny is a game of two halves. The first has you leveling up whilst playing the story. By the time that is over you either are or close to level 20, the max standard level in the game. You then start the second half where you are running and re-running missions to grind out gear to level you past that 20 barrier.

So how do I think the game should have been laid out? Well…

The game should start at the end of the golden age. The Darkness has come and humanity is fighting a loosing battle. Of course they hard thing with a war you must lose is how does the player ‘win’ within that context. Well I would have had the players fighting to clear the lands that the Traveler was going to protect. Your guardians clear the zones of Fallen, Hive, Vex and Cabal, introducing you to the races. You’re winning battles as you hear of the loses of the war, first Mars falls, then Venus. Finally you hear that the Moon has been taken too just as you secure the lands where they say a Tower will be built to shelter what remains of humanity. Withy only the Tower and the Cosmodrome left you are sent to The Wall to make a last defence of the cosmodrome, a sort of horde mode where you inevitably die.

Only then are you awakened by ghost, back from the dead in the now wasted lands of twisted metal and human remains. And so begins the fight back. Continuous Strikes, Raids and Patrols holding off the Darkness ready to begin the strike back.

This would have opened it up for a set of DLC packs, each one detailing the fight back across the 3 none earth zones. Moon, Venus & Mars.

To my mind that split of the story and grind sections would fit perfectly with the gameplay and feal more natural. The repetitiveness of the late game grind fitting nicely with an eternal struggle to just survive rather than defeating the Darkness and then for some reason still fighting the same battles again and again.

All thing said though, Linda and I are still enjoying our time with destiny, the mechanics are without question fun and engaging. And I think provided you have a constant team available to you you can have a lot of long term fun with Destiny.