Category Archives: Rants, Raves & Reviews

This blog is, after all, the vehicle for the ramblings of a maniac…

They Called It Mametz

STo my loyal fans,

It has been a while. I must apologise for my silence; with my time divided between work and work, there is currently no time for play.

I imagine your fingers are trembling as you read this post. Unfortunately, it is my sad duty to inform you that I will not be announcing my return at this juncture. I am writing to you today to alert you to the fact that one of my short stories ‘They Called It Mametz’ has been published and is available for your enjoyment on Amazon. Who knows, some of you might want to see what all the fuss is about.

The story follows a group of soldiers from the 9th Battalion, Devonshire Regiment, as they prepare for the Battle of the Somme. If you do give it a read, please let me know how you get on.

Whilst I am on wordpress, I should inform you that I have decided to hang up my typing gloves for now. If you wish to stay in touch, please do follow my exploits via my podcast, www.thethirstpodcast.com.

I hope you are all well.

Love, Ed

‘They Called It Mametz’ at Amazon.co.uk

‘They Called It Mametz’ at Amazon.com

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The Pokémon Drinking Game

The other night, my friends and colleagues over at The Thirst Podcast Studios (check the podcast out, if you haven’t already – it’s a doozy) had a team bonding session with an aggressive round of the Pokémon Drinking Game. That’s right, there’s a drinking game. And it’s epic. There’s only one rule: you gotta chug ’em all.

Sorry about the pun. You might say it was shocking. Like Pikachu’s thunderbolt attack… I need help. Anyway, look at the pretty picture.


These are the counters we used for the game. From left to right: Charmander, on a yellow post-it note, by Robert Horwood; Squirtle, by James Crosse; Bulbasaur, by Edward Fraser.

By means of comparison, here are the Pokémon as they appear on the television series.

You can visit this website for details about how to play the game.

And finally, here are some other Pokémon related goodies:

An A Cappella version of the Pokémon theme tune

Pokémon Apokélypse: Live Action Trailer

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Why does it have to be like this, Mr Fly?

It’s early, and I’m awake. Such unusual occurrences invariably have causes, and as I stare fuzzily around my room, the reason for my unhappy predicament slowly becomes clear to me. There is a faint buzzing noise coming from over there, somewhere by the curtain. An intruder, of the flying kind.

All thought of sleep is quickly forgotten. In a trice I’m on my feet. My family are prepared for these eventualities. We are in the possession of all manner of fly killing machinery (what honest household is not?) including several spray cans of RAID and a heavy duty fly swat for the more hands on assassin, but the equipment is all the way downstairs and I am not inclined to make the journey in my current state. In hindsight, of course, that would have been the sensible thing to do…

So I seize the book from my bedside table. It’s a big one, the kind with pictures. Perfect for the task at hand.

The intruder is wandering around the top of my bookshelf. I spot him lurking in between a couple of Enid Blyton books I can’t bring myself to throw away. My eyes narrow. It’s far too early for subtlety and so I hurl myself into the fray with reckless abandon, bearing down upon my foe and screaming with the thrill of battle.

My enemy takes to flight immediately. The chance for surprise lost, we become locked in a deadly struggle. For several minutes I pursue him violently about my room, swinging my book this way and that as I attempt to dislodge him from the air.

He dodges all of my flailings with contemptuous ease.  I tire of the conflict before he does. Mid-swipe, the book falls through my sweaty hands. My foe returns to his perch on my bookshelf, wherefrom he surveys me, naked and bested, with an unkind mixture of scorn and derision in his many eyes.

I crawl into my bed. Things are looking desperate. I know I haven’t got the stomach for another fight. But I can’t back down. Otherwise he will perform a victory dance intermittently on my back for as long as I remain in bed. I reason that man and beast must be able to strike some sort of accord, such as sometimes exists in war between worthy opponents. I am the first to set conditions. ‘Take my bedroom, it’s yours,’ I cry. ‘Only refrain from making your landings upon me.’

The winged tormentor does not care to bandy words with me. Territorial trivialities are of no concern to him. As he understands things, the skies of my room are his domain. And if I am too weak to defend myself, then that’s shame, to be sure, but he does not see it as a reason not to use me as a resting place in between his aerial forays. As if to prove his point, he buzzes over to me and brushes my arm. Instinctively I beat him away, but he’s already gone. He’s got what he came for.

Utterly defeated, I curl up into a ball, trying to expose as little of my vulnerable flesh as possible to the mischievous hunter. ‘Maybe he will take pity on me,’ I think.

He doesn’t. For the next hour we play a game, he and I. The rules are simple. First he waits for me to fall asleep, at which point he lands on me, so as to startle me awake, before retreating to survey his handy work. He repeats the same procedure over and over again until I get up and go downstairs.

Why? Because why not? That’s why.

Well played Mr Fly. You’ve won this round. Now I’m going to get my RAID. If I were you, I wouldn’t be here when I get back.

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I don’t believe it – he’s only gone and made a podcast!

Yes, the rumours are true; eager as ever for more glory, I have indeed made the decision to try my hand at podcasting, so I’m afraid that I’ll soon be bothering you across another medium. This is the reason for my prolonged absence on theedexperience. It has been a wrench for me, being away from you all, but I think it was worth it, because now you get to listen to me too!

Basically, from now on I will spending a lot of my spare time on the podcast’s website – www.thethirstpodcast.com – so if you want to follow my ramblings please take a little look.

In terms of the podcast itself, the idea is that I teach my friend Rob philosophy. Sounds simple enough, but it isn’t. Trust me.

The podcast is on iTunes (just search for ‘the thirst podcast’), or you can listen to it here. Do give it a listen and let me know what you think. And if you enjoy it, why not show the world (which is all that seems to matter these days!) by giving it a rating and/or a review on iTunes, or by getting involved on twitter or facebook?

Fear not if podcasts aren’t your sort of thing, I will continue to post on here whenever I can. Anyway, thank you for your time!

For you, as always.

Ed

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Meet The Family & A Soldier’s Declaration

I think it’s time you met the family.

There are six of us Frasers. We are led by T.M. – which stands for ‘the mother’, not ‘the monster’ as people tend to presume. She is a stout and uncompromising lady with a firm sense of right and wrong.

Ever at her side is her devoted husband (my father), ‘Dadda’, a surgeon with a keen appetite for real ale and a lusty singing voice, whose out of doors antics have earned him the nickname ‘Randy’ – i.e. Stan’s father in Southpark – amongst my friends

The eldest of the children is your humble narrator about whom you already know enough.

There follows a procession of sisters, the first of which is called Lotti, or ‘Del’ to me. She is currently living her dream in Thailand.

Next there is Hannah, aka ‘Nurdy’. The Nurd is at university, plugging away admirably at a classics degree which will surely be of little to no service to her in the outside world.

And finally there is young Catherine,  ‘The Rin’, who is about to take those most taxing of exams, A-Levels, worry free in the knowledge that she can probably afford to spell her name incorrectly and still receive an A*. [Face it guys, children are not getting cleverer, exams are getting easier.]

As you can imagine, with 4 children all close in age, family dynamics could get a little tense at times when we were younger. In a bid to resolve certain issues, my parents came up with the wonderful idea of holding ‘Family Councils’ once a month. In order that you might have some insight into the process, I have provided below a letter of grievance, which I like to call ‘A Soldier’s Declaration’, that I submitted before the council on 11th January 2003.

Needless to say, I did not recieve a sympathetic hearing.

Note – the writing at the bottom refers to a drawer I broke in my burst of rage against the injustice of my situation.

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A Fantasy Review: From The Lord Of The Rings To A Game Of Thrones

I am currently 2/3 of the way through an epic re-watch of the Lord Of The Rings. My band of brothers and I have escaped from out of the very bowels of the Mines of Moria. We have stood, bloodied and yet unbowed, before the Uruk Hai at Helms Deep. We have risked the black fury of Barad Dur itself. And we have taken the hobbits to Isengard.

In case of my death, let it be remembered that with each and every waking breath, I worshipped the Lord Of The Rings, both the books and the films. Let it also be recorded that I loved Tolkien as if he were my own son.

That’s right – Tolkien’s world is so immersive, his characters so complete, and quite frankly his dialogue stirs my loins. The great man is surely the yardstick against which all writing, especially fantasy, must be measured. As one critic puts it, all fantasy writers subsequent to Tolkien must content themselves with shaping the world that he revealed. On a side note, Peter Jackson and co. deserve credit for recreating so spectacularly the monstrous saga on the big screen. Each film is a stunning spectacle, which is nothing less than Tolkien’s genius merits.

Yet in spite of my rather more than casual adoration for Tolkien, there is a crucial element to his work that I believe is sadly lacking. This element is tension. My only problem with The Lord Of The Rings is that the (main) characters are so cool that at no point do you worry about their safety. The one exception to this rule is Gandalf. Fair enough, when he dies you are all like ‘oh no!’ but his dramatic return, unexpected as it might be, only serves to reinforce the growing suspicion that Tolkien has constructed his characters so well that he will not be able to handle killing them off. Indeed, the only characters that do end up biting the dust are characters who have displayed some sort of boorish flaw – e.g. Boromir, the louty yet loveable Gondorian scamp, or Theodin, the feckless leader of a rabble of random horseman.

I have some sympathy for Tolkien here. In my first book I was an absolute mess when confronted with the fact that my favourite character simply had to die. It was only a whole day’s worth of writing under the influence of a firm hangover that allowed me to push through to the end of my story without him.

The unhappy consequence of Tolkien’s (and my own, apparently) unrivalled ability to construct a character is that his books take on the attitude of a carefree jaunt, when really they should be nothing of the sort. It simply isn’t that ‘life or death’ that Aragorn has been surrounded by his enemies, because you know he will be able to fight his way out of it; that’s just how much of a man he is.

Fortunately for those adrenaline junkies out there, modern fantasy definitely has a ruthless edge to it. I defy anybody to watch an episode of Game Of Thrones (for example) comfortably – i.e. without sobbing softly whilst snot drips down their face, having been thoroughly overcome by the whole excitement of it all.

I should confess right now that I have not read George R. R. Martin’s series ‘A Song Of Ice And Fire’ (on which the TV series of Game Of Thrones is based). I acknowledge that this is a gross omission for a man who professes to be a fantasy writer, but there we have it. What can men do, eh? To be honest it is probably a good thing I haven’t read it, because I would be a state.

Anyway, my point is this – Tolkien is a hero, of that there can be no doubt. Modern fantasy writers would do well to learn from him. Heck any writer would, (what is this whole disrespecting of the fantasy writer about anyway? Leave us simple folk alone, bra.) But if there is one thing that modern authors do have over their old mentor, it is the savage unpredictability of their plot lines. Some stuff is going down. There will be consequences.

If you haven’t been watching Game Of Thrones, by the way, then where have you been? Sort it out. Honestly.

On a final note, Theodin’s much pondered over question (see the top right of this fantastic post) was finally answered by my dear friend Roberto (like Mancini but more man and less cini) the other day. His response? ‘Little to nothing.’

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Thoughts on the Birdsong BBC TV Series

So there we have it, the highly anticipated TV adaptation of Sebastian Faulks’ Birdsong. Let’s not mess around; I loved it, and here’s why…

First things first, in my opinion the casting was spot on. For those of you who haven’t read the book, Stephen is not your stereotypical protagonist. He’s a bit strange, and not all that likeable. Indeed, I believe the reader is only supposed to get along with him enough that they keep reading.  Now I was worried that, in an effort to appeal to a wider audience, the BBC might cast as Stephen some sort of smile-happy, hunky fool. A real Brad Pitt / George Clooney nightmare, brandishing a gun in each hand and screaming, “Where’s the Hun, let me at em!” Imagine my delight, therefore, when I saw Eddie Redmayne pouting intensely at me from my TV screen. And the other characters were equally well cast. Clémence Poésy cut an attractive but frustrating Isabelle, and Marie-Josée Croze, who played her sister, Jeanne, was not too young (which would have been a fatal mistake) but just about young enough. Richard Madden, who played Captain Weir, starred in Game Of Thrones, so all is good there and Joseph Mawle was a legend as Firebrace. Yes, very well done all round.

Second things second, it was shot beautifully, although it must be admitted that I don’t know anything about that sort of thing. Much as I enjoyed the visuals, however, I could not overlook the fact that the depiction of the trench systems at the Somme wasn’t quite right. For one thing, that area of France would not have been so arid. The place was made to look as though it were somewhere in North Africa. Indeed, one fully expected to skip forward one World War and witness Monty flying in his Grant tank in pursuit of the fleeing Rommel. I can’t for the life of me think why it was decided to go for such a dry set-up, seeing as it had been raining in the run up to the BEF’s offensive.

There’s no point harping on about this any more. So third things third, I found the amended timeline much more engaging than the timeline in the book. Birdsong is split into three different periods – quite simply before, during and after the war. I must confess I actually found the book rather boring when it wasn’t following Stephen at war. I think it was an inspired idea to make 1916-18 ‘the present’ and deal with other events by means of flashback. It gave centre stage to the war in a way in which the book did not.

Fourth things fourth (and last things last) the crucial ‘over the top’ scene was done well. Faulks’ account of the first day of the Somme is second in my mind only to Erich Maria Remarque’s peerless All Quiet On The Western Front as a depiction of men at war. No other piece of writing has brought me closer to the action. It is a long time since I’ve read Birdsong, but I felt as though nothing was missing from the BBC’s adaptation. The preliminary exposition, where Stephen tells his Colonel (and the audience) about the difficulties the BEF has in store (up hill, in plain sight of German machine-guns etc.), only for his quiet common-sense to be drowned out by the Colonel’s ignorant calls of cowardice, was perfect. The behaviour of the men on the eve of battle seemed authentic to my eyes, and from Stephen’s commanding officer, Captain Gray (played by Matthew Goode) there came that awful sense of playing one’s part, whatever the consequences. The comment, ‘my boys, my poor boys’ – made by somebody I took to be an army chaplain (but it could well have been one of the diggers, or someone else entirely) – summed up the whole terrible business brilliantly.

It is difficult to do justice to the scale of the disaster that was the first day of the Somme. It is the worst day in the history of the British Army. The facts and figures – 60,000 casualties on July 1st – scarcely scratch the surface. As the event recedes further into history, a great deal of historical effort has gone into showing how the Somme, for all its obvious failures, was an overall success. After all, the German Field Army was ruined, and it made a hasty withdrawal to the Hindenburg Line. But even if the offensive itself can be shown in a positive light, the horrors faced by the men who took part in it must never be forgotten. Such accounts of the war as Birdsong – which last night completed an untroubled transfer from book to TV – help to ensure that the memories of their sacrifice endure. It was a thoughtful and honest adaptation, and I encourage all who didn’t watch it to give it a go. You must also read it, of course…

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