Category Archives: Non-gaming

Two Wheels Good

You may have noticed that my gaming posts have recently become less frequent and less detailed than back in the days of yore. We can lay the blame firmly at the feet of cycling.

As I mentioned back in November, I’ve signed up to the Virgin Money Cyclone Challenge on 18 June. That means 106 miles of Northumbrian hills – by a fair way the longest ride I’ll have been on – and that in turn means a solid training programme. I’ve been ramping up the duration and intensity of my rides over the last few months, which has left me with less time and less energy to spend on blogging. I did 114 miles last week, over the course of five rides and nine hours in the saddle… which was obviously nine hours I couldn’t spend on anything else. Like blogging.

Actually, some of those 114 miles were virtual. I’ve been using an indoor trainer hooked up to Zwift, which is essentially a MMORPG… except the only role you can play is that of a cyclist and the only way you can get around the virtual world is by pedalling an actual bike in the real world. At the moment, I’m a level-10 halfling bard… sorry, a level-10 halfling cyclist. (Yes, genuinely, there are levels and XP.)

Virtual me on my virtual bike

Virtual me on my virtual bike riding round a virtual Richmond, Virginia on a virtual replica of the UCI (real-)World Championship road race course

It’s a fun way to relieve the monotony of indoor sessions (and avoid the horrendous winds and rain we’ve had over the last few months). My favourite rides are the ones when there’s a pro cyclist online; there’s always a massive crowd of fawning fans following them around the circuit, asking questions about heart rate and FTP on the in-game chat.

Anyway, all that aside, I wouldn’t expect too much gaming blog from me over the next couple of months, but something approaching normal service may resume in the summer. Until then, feel free to sponsor me for the Cyclone – I’m riding to raise money for ME Research UK. Click here to visit my JustGiving page.

(If you’re lucky, I’ll make it along to the all-day session at Newcastle Gamers on 28 May and write up some 18xx afterwards…)

December – Rubbish Month, Good Gaming

December was riddled with calamity and annoyance, including my first Rapid Unscheduled Dismount while cycling as an adult, my first puncture while cycling as an adult and major flood-related phone-line cutouts plus botched repairs. And, of course, no phone line means no broadband, so I’m typing this using my mobile phone as a wifi hotspot. And, of course, living up a hill in the middle of nowhere means the best I can manage in my thick-walled stone house is two bars of patchy 3G reception if I stand on one foot in a corner of the coldest room in the house while reciting the arcane rituals of EE.

Amongst all that, the only Newcastle Gamers session of the month fell on the day it snowed enough to make the hill on which I live truly dangerous. We’ve lived here for four years and I could count on one hand the number of times I’ve considered the hill too dangerous to drive on. sigh

John and I did fit in a couple of Corbridge sessions though, the first of which was a “quick” play of Carl Chudyk’s latest, Mottainai, followed by HaggisMottainai was interesting, although very difficult to get our heads round on a first play. There’s an awful lot going on, and figuring out exactly how to get cards to the places you want them is pretty tough. I won almost entirely by accident, with a wince-inducing final score of 35–14. Very Chudyk. Haggis was… well, Haggis. It’s a very traditional-feeling climbing/trick-taking game and I suffered from a couple of bad deals and a general lack of competence. John got his own back for the Mottainai drubbing by winning 310–169.

A week later, we reconvened for Nippon, by Madeira/Panamax designers Paulo Soledade and Nuno Bizarro Sentieiro. I really enjoyed this – it managed to boil down a fair chunk of the thinkiness and planning of their previous designs into a smoother, easier-to-digest gaming meal – although I do have a niggling concern about how samey it might feel after just a handful of plays. Never mind, though: I’ve only played it this once so far. A nice tight game, with a victory for me, 200–193.

Because every collection needs at least one game about competing zaibatsu in the Meiji period

Because every collection needs at least one game about competing zaibatsu in the Meiji period

The rest of the month (and the ensuing school holiday) was peppered with family gaming: a Ticket to Ride here, a Castle Panic there, a Ticket to Ride again, followed by K2, with another Ticket to Ride to round things off… Yes, there’s a definite hit in this house. And, of course, M and I continued our marital Pandemic Legacy campaign. To date, we’ve played six games and only lost the most recent (early June) so the board looks relatively unscathed, but there have been some… ahem… developments that mean things certainly aren’t getting any easier any time soon and we’re enjoying the extra challenge.

More to come soon – sooner if the phone line gets mended…

A Cyclone on the Horizon

Long-time readers and people who actually know me will be aware that I’ve been going through a relapse into – and recovery from – chronic fatigue syndrome. Obviously this has affected many things, although this blog hasn’t really been one of them. At my physiotherapist’s behest, and as part of my own ramshackle attempts at pacing and graded exercise therapy, I started cycling back in May. I got myself a road bike and gradually built up the distance and time I was riding for, taking care never to push myself too far, but always notching it up to the next level if it was comfortable.

Well, now I’m at the point where I’m riding over 100 km per week, happily climbing hills (seriously, it’s my favourite bit – it helps being short and relatively light) and genuinely feeling like I don’t have CFS any more. Well, only when I’m cycling. Weird, I know, but walking still feels like the slog it has been for the last two years; standing still is oddly exhausting; even just thinking is a struggle at times… but when I’m spinning along at 90 rpm, everything’s just fine and dandy.

Because the cycling’s been going so swimmingly, I thought I’d enter a sportive – if you haven’t come across the term, it’s like a fun run for cycling (i.e. not a race), but still officially timed and with mechanical support and feed stations along the route. It’s a little something to aim towards. Given where I live, the Virgin Money Cyclone Challenge seemed like a good option, but with route options of 34, 64, 90 and 106 miles, which should a recovering CFS-sufferer go for? Hmmm. Yes, the 106-mile one. Definitely. That’d be sensible.

So I’ve signed up. Yes, it looks like lunacy at first glance, but given that I’ve gone from 0 to 65 miles per week in six months, it doesn’t seem unreasonable to think that I could get to well over 100 miles per week over the next seven months, which should set me up for the Cyclone. Of course, that means the slog of winter training, but I’ve got the British Cycling training plans on my side. As long as my body can keep up, I’ll be out on the road.

See you there.

My April in… Singing?

Yeah, not a huge amount of gaming done outside Newcastle Gamers sessions this month. There was an excellent evening towards the end of the month when I finally got to play Bruxelles 1893 with John Sh. He’s been saying for years (or at least the 18 months or so since it came out) that it’s my sort of game, and he was spot on. Lots of things to do, a clear sense of progress and (literally) building towards the end-game, relatively simple rules underlying a complex set of interactions… yeah, that’s the stuff. Great game (with the bonus of beautiful artwork and design) and I won by a single point in a two-player game, so it’s clearly tightly designed and well balanced.

We also played Roll for the Galaxy, which had been a slightly unusual purchase for me in that it has 111 dice. I tend to prefer games with fewer dice than that – typically 111 fewer dice, in fact – but I knew there were plenty of ways to mitigate the rolls and do the things you need to do. The components are lovely, from the custom dice and bespoke dice cups to the thick, chunky tiles that make up the space empire you’re building. The game itself was quick and enjoyable; it’s a bit multiplayer-solitaire-ish, but I’ll forgive that in a short game. We also managed to fit in my first game of Red7, which was baffling and fun in that way that only Carl Chudyk seems to be able to pull off.

Apart from that one evening (and a few failed solo attempts – yet again – at the first scenario in Robinson Crusoe: Adventures on the Cursed Island), I’ve mainly been spending the month singing. I used to do a lot of choral singing; indeed, I was a member of the National Youth Choir of Great Britain some 15 years ago and sang regularly with a local-ish choir until about 10 years ago, when life, work and geography started getting in the way of rehearsals. I’ve always kept an eye out for local choirs I might be interested in joining, but nothing’s ever managed to fit the bill. I don’t want to sound arrogant or pretentious, but once you’ve toured the world singing some of the most beautiful and complex choral music ever written with the most talented young singers in the country… singing a medley from Cats to a half-empty church hall in rural Northumberland doesn’t really do it for you. I need a challenge.

And when you’ve had a decade off singing, it stops being a “thing you do”, so people don’t know that you do it. Eventually you’re not even sure if you can do it any more.

Well, I found myself talking to a local singing teacher a few weeks ago, and mentioned my choral past. It wasn’t long before she asked me to do a little small-group singing… and then the floodgates opened. Relatively speaking, anyway. So now I’m working on some madrigals (my favourite singing thing – there’s nothing quite like one voice to a part singing Elizabethan secular songs) and some alto–tenor duets, all slated for performance some time in the late summer. I’m even working on this (maybe for performance this year, maybe next year), which is really exciting because I’ve never done anything like it:

(In case you’re wondering, I’m a tenor, so I’d be singing the short-haired guy’s part – that of Abraham.)

It’s like coming home, or meeting an old friend for the first time in a decade. I’ve just kind of picked up where I left off, and it’s really good fun. I’ve even gained about a minor third at the top end of my range as I’ve aged, as well as a little richness in my chest voice, which was all a nice surprise. I won’t witter on too much about singing here on my blog, but it’s trundling along in the background, keeping me feeling that little more… alive.

Oh, and just to round the month off nicely, I finally got to see Nick Cave live at the Sage Gateshead with second-row seats – and it was everything I’d hoped it would be. Nick Cave knows his audience and he knows what we want to hear, so it was nearly two-and-a-half hours of fan favourites: “The Ship Song”, “Up Jumped the Devil” (complete with toy xylophone interludes from Mr Cave himself), “Into My Arms”, “Red Right Hand”, “Love Letter”… it was an incredible performance.

Paul Kingsnorth: “The Wake” – a book review

Something a bit different today: for the first time in my life, I feel compelled to write a book review.

the wake

Paul Kingsnorth’s The Wake tells the tale of the Norman invasion of England in 1066 through the eyes of a Lincolnshire farmer, Buccmaster of Holland. After the initial wave of devastation, Buccmaster has to find a new way to live in a country increasingly at odds with his traditions and his expectations. But he finds it impossible to let go of the old ways, ultimately leading him into deep conflict with everyone he meets. It is a post-apocalyptic novel set nearly a thousand years in the past.

Over the last week or so, I’ve worked my way through The Wake. This immediately sounds like a less-than-ringing endorsement. Worked my way through? But there’s really no other way to put it. This is a novel that demands the reader’s whole attention, because it’s written in a language that doesn’t exist and never has.

Kingsnorth has taken elements of the Old English spoken a thousand years ago and melded them with elements and syntax from modern English, to create what he calls a ‘shadow tongue’, giving a flavour of how his characters might have spoken in 1066 without requiring the reader to hold a degree in Old English. Naturally, some effort is still required, as seen in an early paragraph*:

so i will go to the ham i saes to my wifman and i will asc what the gerefa macs of this fugol. she was weafan on her great loom in my great hus as i left this hus was sum thing to see. raised of ac timber it was the roof laid with secg from the fenn all carfan on the door frames wyrms and the runes of the eald times. treen we had and some seolfor things a great crocc greater than many in the ham many men was lustan after my hus

But once you have a few pages under your belt and consulted the partial glossary a few times for those words without modern cognates, it becomes almost second nature. Through this gained fluency comes better understanding of the first-person narrator, Buccmaster of Holland. Through better understanding comes insight into Buccmaster’s mind. And what a mind.

Buccmaster is one of the most bitter, small-minded, manipulative, abusive horrors I’ve come across in fiction – the epitome of the anti-hero – and I loved reading his voice. He brought to mind Patrick Bateman, the protagonist of Bret Easton Ellis’ American Psycho; indeed, anyone meeting Buccmaster now would consider him a sociopath. He sees everyone as below him (his references to his status as a “socman” and his ownership of “three oxgangs of good land” continue long after such things have been destroyed) and uses his initial social status to essentially bully others into following him as an insurgent leader. As the story progresses and it becomes clear that he is no sort of leader, he shows his mastery of manipulation as he twists words and takes advantage of his luck to convince his followers that everyone else is “dumb esols”. Everything Buccmaster does seems to be driven by anger and frustration. In modern American parlance, he has ‘gone postal’. In modern British parlance… he’s pretty much a Britain First candidate. He’s just awful.

Every so often… well, in fact, a lot of the time… Buccmaster achieves his goals by simply being stubborn and swearing aggressively until others back down or are won round. His foul-mouthed rants against the “fuccan frenc hunds” are wonderful to read, filled with the contempt that drives his every action, pulling the reader deeper into Buccmaster’s gradual descent into madness. Filled with blind rage at the loss of his grandfather’s beloved Norse “eald gods” in England due to the coming of “the crist”, he starts to believe himself to be the last hope of “anglisc men”, carrying a sword forged by the mythical Weland the Smith. As a second narrative voice starts to regularly interweave with that of Buccmaster, it is clear that his grip on reality is becoming weaker, and the reader is left wondering where he can turn next.

Ultimately, I hugely enjoyed my ride along in Buccmaster’s mind, although the thing that gives the voice its strength and authenticity – the ‘shadow tongue’ – also proves to be its greatest limiting factor. By limiting the language so that no words of French or Latin derivation are used, Kingsnorth has removed huge swathes of descriptive vocabulary that we are so used to as modern readers. Naturally, a sokeman in 1066 would not have had a huge vocabulary, so it is certainly in keeping with the linguistic conceit, but it does mean that things can be a little repetitive through the course of the book. There are only so many times that you can be told a mere is deop and deorc, lined with secg and lesch, but I forgave the repetition as it gave extra weight to Buccmaster’s slow decline – as if he is using the same phrases again and again to make his thoughts more true and more real, to take things back to the way they always were.

The Wake isn’t a book I can blithely recommend, much as I might like to. It really depends on a person’s relationship with reading as an activity, and the reviews on Amazon bear this out. The rating distribution is an almost-perfect inverted bell curve, with as many people loving it as hating it (“Don’t understand it, Would like my money back” is a particular favourite of mine). If reading is mindless entertainment for you, The Wake is one to avoid. For those who like a bit of immersive challenge and a ride along with one of the most unpleasant characters you may ever meet, it triewely is a fuccan good boc.


* Rough translation into modern English (any translation errors my own):

“So I will go to the village,” I said to my woman, “and I will ask what the reeve makes of this bird.” She was weaving on her great loom in my great house as I left. This house was something to see. Raised of oak timber it was, the roof laid with sedge from the fen, all carved on the door frames [were] dragons and the runes of the old times. We had woodenware and some silver things; a great cauldron, greater than many in the village. Many men lusted after my house.

It’s All About ME, ME, ME

It’s been quiet on here for the last few weeks. It’s not like I haven’t been gaming (Navajo Wars, a solo run of France ’40Rampage with the kids, plenty of iPad gaming, playtesting Tony Boydell’s new solitaire card game Lux Aeterna, not to mention ongoing play-by-email games of Red Winter and France ’40 using VASSAL, and Cruel Necessity is set up and ready to go on the table behind me right now); it’s just that I haven’t had the mental capacity for much beyond that. My little game design project: dormant. Learning new wargame systems (OCS, Panzer Grenadier and GBoH, I’m looking at you): dormant. Even reading Sandman has stalled a bit. I’d previously ploughed through a volume in a day or two; now I’m lucky to read a single chapter in a day.

France '40: that's one almighty Belgian clusterhump.

France ’40: that’s one almighty Belgian clusterhump.

All suspicions were confirmed by a specialist on Monday: I am indeed suffering the return of chronic fatigue syndrome (aka ME, which isn’t a name I use but it’s one most people have heard of). Interestingly, he believes it never actually went away after my previous episode aged 16; rather, I subconsciously adapted my lifestyle to suit what I was capable of, leading me to believe I was fully functional when in fact the underlying problem was still… um… underlying. It wasn’t until I attempted teacher training that I was consistently pushed beyond what I could manage – thus the relapse.

But with the diagnosis confirmation comes referral to various therapy teams and a slew of ideas on how to manage this condition. That means I should be able to better manage my energy (both physical and mental) and make conscious decisions about where I’m going to direct it. With better management comes greater capacity, or so the thinking goes, and the specialist hopes to have me back to a reasonable level of function by the end of the year. So, although I may be quiet-ish for a while longer, I hope to get back on my various horses in good time. Onwards and upwards from here!

Interlude – The Visual Word

One of the symptoms of my recent/ongoing/whenwilliteverstop illness is a low ability to concentrate. In my case, this manifests itself mainly as an inability to read and comprehend much more than a sentence at a time. Well done, body and brain. Well done. Just when I’m spending most time sitting and lying down because my body’s revolting (in the sense of an uprising against me, rather than being repulsive… although give me a few more sedentary months with chocolate…), my brain flakes out on the one thing I’ve actually got most time to do. Seriously, well done. All the time in the world to read, and I can’t read.


For some reason, I can manage graphic novels and comic books. I’ve no idea what it is about them that makes them comprehensible to my current brain-state. Perhaps it’s the fact that virtually all the text comes in short, digestible chunks of dialogue and thought (apart from you, From Hell… you were hard work). Perhaps it’s that the descriptive text that makes up so much of standard, normal, non-graphic fiction (umm… is there a proper term for this?) is replaced by images, reducing the form to that of almost pure story. Perhaps it’s that the stories themselves are almost always episodic in nature – chunks of chunks, conveniently reducing the cognitive load. Whatever it is, it works for me.

I’m a relative newcomer to the realm of comics and graphic novels – a couple of months ago, I’d only read a couple – but I’ve had a few people ask me if I have any recommendations. Yes. Yes, I do. Here are a few of the books and series that have blown me away.

Side note: Every single one of the books that follows contains graphic violence and extremely strong language. I don’t know what that says about me as a person, but there it is.

Watchmen (1987) – Alan Moore & Dave Gibbons


Dog carcass in alley this morning, tire tread on burst stomach. This city is afraid of me. I have seen its true face. The streets are extended gutters and the gutters are full of blood and when the drains finally scab over, all the vermin will drown. The accumulated filth of all their sex and murder will foam up about their waists and all the whores and politicians will look up and shout “Save us!”…

…and I’ll look down, and whisper “No.”

Rorschach’s opening words in Watchmen

This book is some sort of rite of passage for anyone who wants to get into comics and graphic novels. Like Moore’s V for Vendetta, it’s very much a product of its time, with Cold War paranoia oozing through every frame. Unlike V though, it doesn’t seem to have aged much. Watchmen is drawn and coloured in a timeless, standard superhero-genre fashion: strong black lines and bold, often primary colours. Every frame jumps off the page and pulls you in.

But this is no superhero comic. The main characters in Watchmen are (with the exception of the virtually omnipotent super-being Dr Manhattan) simply people who chose to don costumes and fight for the American way of life… and many of them are pretty unpleasant people. The book is rife with antiheroes, with Rorschach’s unshakeable moral absolutism driving the plot forward through broken finger after broken finger.

I’ll admit, the last chapter or two didn’t fully do it for me. It seemed a step too far in an unrealistic direction, after so much time spent in a plausible world. But it was still great stuff. I’d highly recommend Watchmen.

Daytripper (2010) – Fábio Moon & Gabriel Bá


This is one of the few graphic novels I’d read before this illness. Through ten chapters, Daytripper tells the story of ten different possible endings to the life of Brazilian obituary writer Brás de Oliva Domingos. Sounds pretty bleak?

It’s not at all. It’s a sort of magical-realist paean to family, to love and to life itself. If that sounds massively sentimental and overly soppy… yeah, it kind of is. But it works, and mainly because of the incredible artwork. A contrast from Watchmen‘s rigid nine-frames-per-page layout, Moon and Bá strew frames across the page (although not with quite the same abandon as some of Sandman‘s artists, more of which later) and fill them with faces, places and emotion.

For a book about mortality, it’s surprisingly positive. Recommended for everyone. (And probably the least violent book in this post, although there are still a few bloody pages.)

Saga (2012–ongoing) – Brian K. Vaughan & Fiona Staples


Ah, Saga. Look at the image above. A woman with wings and a slightly silly asymmetric haircut is holding a gun and breastfeeding a baby. A man with curly horns, goat ears and a sword has his arm around her. Does any of that put you off? No? Go out and read Saga now.

Even if it does put you off, I say go and read Saga anyway. At the moment, it’s only two volumes old with a third volume due in a couple of months, but it’s already a favourite of mine. Vaughan seems to have seen the freedom offered by a fantasy sci-fi setting and taken an “everything but the kitchen-sink… ah, what the hell, I’ll throw in the kitchen sink too” approach to Saga. Interplanetary warfare, wings, horns, magic, anthropomorphic rodents, teenage ghosts, living wooden spaceships, an entire nobility consisting of androids with televisions for heads (one of the main characters is Prince Robot IV)… it’s all in there.

There are no deep explorations of morality, or the nature of free will, or anything like that. This is pure, unadulterated fun in an over-the-top space-opera universe, with Buffy-esque tongue-in-cheek dialogue throughout. And that’s just the writing. The real icing on the cake is Staples’ artwork. Of everything I’ve read in the graphic format, Saga contains my favourite art. Every detail is beautifully realised and consistent from frame to frame. This feels like a real, ongoing story that the reader just happens to have walked in on halfway through. My only personal gripe with the art is that virtually every character is insanely beautiful; a bit more ugliness wouldn’t go amiss. That might just be me though.

Note: Saga does have quite a bit of graphic sexual content in it. There. I warned you. It doesn’t bother me, but it does bother some.

Sandman (1989–1996, now ongoing again) – Neil Gaiman & various artists


Like Watchmen, Gaiman’s Sandman is something of a ‘must-read’ for those new to comics and graphic novels. This is very different fare though, and it sprawls quite differently across the twelve volumes that make up the original series.

I’ve only read the first three volumes, with the fourth waiting on my shelf, so I can’t comment on the full series. What I’ve read so far has varied in style and tone so widely that it can be hard to piece it together as a consistent narrative; in fact, it’s not intended to fit together in that way. Rather, it’s a collection of short stories, each of which feature dreams… and Dream, the main character of the series.

I started out sure that I’d love this series, but I don’t quite love it as much as I expected. Nevertheless, I can see that it’s brilliant writing and the art is superb in every story, which keeps bringing me back for more, and I like the variety. This is probably a series I’ll keep dipping back into for a long time yet.

Locke & Key (2008–2013) – Joe Hill & Gabriel Rodriguez

Locke and Key

I can’t quite put my finger on why I like Locke & Key as much as I do. It’s essentially a supernatural teen-drama. But I suppose it’s a supernatural teen-drama with a superb premise: the Locke family (minus the father, Rendell, who gets killed off in the first few pages of the first issue) move into the old family home, which is full of keys with wildly varying supernatural powers. Many chapters revolve around the discovery of a new key (often by six-year-old Bode) and how its powers affect the ongoing story arc. And just like all great writing, just when you think the story’s been neatly rounded up for the chapter, there’s a neat little twist that makes you want to carry on reading.

Locke & Key is unusual in this post in that it’s the only title I’ve read solely in digital form. The Comixology app for iPad offers instant download of pretty much every comic and graphic novel you can think of, usually substantially cheaper than the print edition. I’ve read a few free first issues on the app (that’s how they suck you in), but none have really worked on screen so well as Locke & Key. It’s down to the bold, detailed art style – it really sings with a backlight.

I’ve read the first four volumes, with two more to go (the final one will be released in a few weeks), and although the supernatural story has escalated a pretty long way, it hasn’t quite reached Stephen-King-level silliness. Yet. I fear it may run in the family – Joe Hill is the son of Stephen King – but the twist at the end of the fourth volume is a great set-up for the last couple of chunks.

Honourable mentions

I’m wearing myself out by actually thinking here (and this post has already taken a couple of days to put together), so I’ll quickly round up a few others that have tickled my awesome button.

From Hell (1999) – Alan Moore & Eddie Campbell

As I said above, this was hard work for me, and it’s really not going to be a book for everyone. It’s a graphic, graphic exploration of a hypothesis surrounding the Whitechapel murders of 1888. Rolling in themes of existentialism, Freemasonry and royal conspiracies through the medium of dark, murky and very explicit art, it’s a worthwhile read. But it’s a bit of a slog at times.

Revival (2012–ongoing) – Tim Seeley & Mike Norton

Yeah, yeah, yeah. Another zombie story. But this one’s a bit different. Here, the “revivers” aren’t bloodthirsty, flesh-eating monsters. They’re just like they were when they were alive the first time around. And this isn’t a zombie story about zombies; it’s a zombie story about people in a rural American town. I’m not sure about the other supernatural element that’s creeping into Revival over its two volumes so far, but I’m going to stick with it for now.

Ghost World (1997) – Daniel Clowes

I ploughed through this in one 90-minute sitting. It’s just a wonderful series of vignettes about growing up and being massively insecure, but the truly great part is the dialogue. It’s got that perfect level of teenage-girl snark.

OK, that’s enough for now. I’m off to read Chew, a series about a detective who experiences visions every time he eats anything other than beetroot. That’s what I love about comics: the creators can take absolutely any idea, no matter how ridiculous, and roll with it… and occasionally come up with something brilliant.