Are You Just Friends?

As I live with a member of the opposite sex, a question I’m often asked is “are you a couple, or are you just friends?” but it’s not something I’m new too. As someone with quite a lot of friends of the opposite sex, it’s a question I’ve been asked regularly for the past decade – probably literally hundreds of times and with regard to just about every female friend I have. And it always annoys me.

Having said that, it’s not people wanting to know the nature of my relationships which annoys me. It’s fair enough. People are curious and want to know more about my life. What annoys me is when people ask if I am ‘just’ friends with them, because it suggests that there is some inherent inferiority in friendship. That romantic relationships are the real, valuable ones and friendship is ‘just’ that. Through my eyes, the two things are different, but equal.

There are friends who are very dear to me. Friends who I’d done anything for. Friends who I love to an enormous extent. Friends whose wellbeing is just as important to me as my own, because as friends our hearts are entwined and if they’re distressed I feel it too and I won’t be able to relax until I know they’re feeling better. To what extent would these relationships be anymore valuable to me if they included a few of the aspects of romantic relationships? I daresay I care a great deal more for some of my friends than certain people do for their romantic partners.

So when people ask me “Are you a couple, or just friends?” I usually answer “We’re not a couple, no, but we’re not just friends. We’re very, very good friends indeed.” Because to describe any of these deep relationships as “just” friendship is to do them a disservice. To make a comparison, if you tell someone the sun was beautiful the previous day, they don’t say “Oh did you see it at sunrise? Or was it just at sunset?” because they’re both equally wonderful and amazing things.

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Forming Connections

In recent times, a few people have commented about the number of friends I have – indicating that I have an unusually high number. It doesn’t bother me, because every person has different social needs and will be happy with a different size friend circle (or square).

I was thinking about why it is that I seem to have a number of friends which some people consider to be above average and I came to a conclusion. I’m very quick to find myself emotionally invested in someone. After I’ve seen something that shows me the person I’m talking to is a good and kind person, I just can’t help myself. Even at times where I have intentionally thought to myself “I’m going to keep to myself here” I’ve still ended up making some good friends.

I know that some people say that if you have a lot of friends, they tend to all be lots of shallow, insubstantial friendships that don’t mean anything. But I have two responses to that, the first is that I don’t think the love a human being can give is finite and, secondly, that surely if someone has a choice of very many people to spend their time with, but they choose to spend it with you, that’s a lot nicer than somebody who has never made any other friends at all?

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Mysteries by Chrissy Derbyshire

If you love to see the concepts and ideas of ancient mythology mixed together with everyday, modern living, then you’re going to love this book as it’s a collection of short stories and poems which do just that. Though I must say, they’re often quite dark tales.

‘The Mysteries’ is the first story in the collection and actually one of the best too. All I’ll say is that it’s about a young woman going on a night out and it takes a most unexpected turn, but there’s a very nice bit of foreshadowing at the start which will make you smile when you get to the end. But my favourite of all is probably ‘Tramps and Thieves’ – not only does it contain vampires (I love vampires) but also a really beautiful concept surrounding a group of tramps. I wasn’t entirely sure what the story was about, but it was amazing, full of big ideas, excitement and even humour.

I think what I quite liked about this collection is that every story and poem is pretty short. Even if you don’t have much time, you can just open up the book and take a quick shot of mythology. Despite the short length, they all managed to give me something to think about afterwards and to convey such interesting ideas in such a short space of time isn’t something just anybody can do.

I’ve not mentioned the poetry as much so far, because I find it such a difficult art form to review, but I think the poems compliment the stories wonderfully. I always read one of each at a time as I made my way through. It’s hard to pick a favourite, but if you read it look out for “I Am All Ink Inside” and “A String of Lights” which both resonated with me especially.

If you’re looking to try something new, something thought provoking and something beautiful, then I recommend this collection. It may not be a massive book, but you’ll enjoy it while it lasts and it’s likely to give you something to talk about with your friends.

Rating: 8/10

Buy it here.

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Political Neutrality

I encountered somebody recently, someone who’s probably at least five years older than me, who is completely politically neutral. Not only did he say that he had never voted for anything in his life, but also that he had no idea about what any of the political parties stood for or what kind of politics he believed in. He didn’t even have an opinion on the EU referendum.

On the one hand, I really admired that easygoing attitude – even envied it. It must be very nice not to have any political concerns. I was also surprised. I don’t know how somebody can be completely political neutral when news of politics seems to come through in so many ways (social media, television, entertainment, radio etc.) – but it’s pretty impressive that they were successfully able to close themselves off from it. When I was younger, this was something I tried to do myself.

But having said all of that, I think that the reason the current political climate is so bad, is because too many people were apathetic (or intentionally neutral). After all, the people with extreme views will always vote for those extreme view… So I suppose it’s a good thing that somebody with no views or opinions or at all is so noteworthy, because perhaps the divisive politics of recent times are actually getting people engaged, even if it is for negative reasons…

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Time Flies Before Your Eyes

A few years ago, I worked in a primary school as an MDSA (Midday Supervisory Assistant). It was a pretty good job and although I was only there for a fairly short length of time, I can still remember many of the children quite clearly.

In fact, I spotted one of them on the bus just the other day. Obviously, they looked a little older, but it was easy enough to identify them. But then I realised, they were on the bus heading to college – and I’d known them when working in a primary school! At first I thought that they must be some kind of child genius, promoted up the ranks quickly for enormously impressive grades. But, no, the time that’s passed is long enough for them to be in their first year of college after their final year of primary school when I first met them.

When you’re in college (or sixth form, as was the case for me), the time between then and the time you were in primary school feels like a huge, insurmountable chasm. But now, the same length of time in a different period of life doesn’t really feel that long at all. I’ve always heard how life passes you by more quickly when you get older, but this is the most significant piece of evidence that I’ve had in my life…

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Assassin’s Creed II

After playing the first Assassin’s Creed game, I was a little reluctant to keep going with the series. I found it to be such a dreary game and I was concerned that the second game might be a similarly unenjoyable experience. But I pushed on, because I knew the series was really popular and several people had told me how good some of the later games were.

And you know what? I’m glad I kept going. I can honestly say that Assassin’s Creed II was a pretty darn good game. But what’s funny is that in a lot of ways, it’s very similar to the original – it just goes to show that with just a few small tweaks, a bad formula can become a good one.

The biggest (and best) difference, is that this game is much more story driven than its predecessor. While the first game only really used Desmond as a character to walk in and out of the Animus, there are some pretty dramatic developments on his end this time – to the extent that I often enjoyed playing as him just as much as I enjoyed playing as Ezio in the past. Although Ezio’s storyline was pretty great too. Especially the ending.

Ezio, by the way, replaced Altaïr as the primary protagonist. While Altaïr was a bit of a ‘blank slate’ character who never received any development and just followed his orders without us ever really getting any glimpse at who he was, Ezio is a real person with thoughts and feelings of his own. You see his family (you even see him being born!) and get to see his relationships grow with other characters – I particularly liked the friendship between him and Leonardo Da Vinci. Ezio is a man who finds himself caught up in the world of Assassins and Templars without knowing anything about them beforehand – making him a bit of a gateway character, which I think is needed in a game like this.

Since I actually cared about Ezio (unlike Altaïr) this gave me much more motivation to keep going through the game. But that’s just one of several things which made it much more appealing . You can now collect money from the guards you kill (meaning that when they endlessly fight you, it actually feels productive) and you then use this money to buy medicine, improve your armour or purchase new weapons. They’re just small additions, but it means even if you don’t really progress the story when you play, you can feel like you did something worthwhile (rather than just wandering around and fighting pointlessly).

Another positive was changing the setting to Italy. The environments felt atmospheric and were kind of beautiful. The green open countryside that you sometimes walk (or rode your horse) through was easy on the eyes and it was a significant improvement over the dusty old cities of the Holy Land that Altaïr had to explore.

Overall, this is a pretty solid game and if you’re interested in getting into the Assassin’s Creed games, I recommend starting here over the first game. You really don’t miss much by skipping over it – except from perhaps a few hours of boredom. This will be a much better first impression for a series which is well worth playing.

Rating: 8.9/10

Buy it here.

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Easing the Reigns After Eight Years

For eight years I agonised over making sure this blog was regularly updated every week. I’d stay up much later than planned to write a short little post – once or twice, I even got myself out of bed just as I was drifting to sleep so that I could write a blog post which I’d forgotten to do. But over the last month or so, I’ve decided to ease the reigns a little bit.

Monday, Wednesday and Friday are the Trusty Water Blog update days and I’ll always endeavour to get a new post up on those days… but if I don’t, it’s no big deal. I came to realise that forcing myself to write something under any circumstances was probably a bit unhealthy. Writing is my passion – of course I love doing it. But I don’t force myself to do the other things I love even when I don’t want to.

So I do apologise for the fact that I have missed a few update days in the past few weeks and I apologise in advance for the update days in the near future that I will inevitably miss. Perhaps this means the quality of these blog posts will improve? Who knows? I’ve just decided to adapt my approach to something that’s more comfortable for me.

I think that if a writer turns their writing into a chore, it will inevitably become less good – and I do believe that updating the blog occasionally felt like a chore, so that needed to change. I’m sure there won’t be any significant change in output from me, but as this attitude is quite different to the one I had before, I felt it was worth writing.

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Super Mario reviews:

The many appearances of Nintendo’s iconic platforming star: Mario (and his friends).
YearGameScore
1981Donkey Kong ¹6/10
1982Donkey Kong (Game & Watch) ²5.5/10
1982Donkey Kong Jr. ³5.9/10
1983Donkey Kong II6/10
1983Mario Bros. (Game & Watch)7.9/10
1983Mario Bros.6/10
1985Super Mario Bros.6.5/10
1986The Legend of Zelda8.6/10
1986Super Mario Bros. 2 (The Lost Levels)7.6/10
1987Super Mario Bros. (Game & Watch)6.1/10
1987Mike Tyson’s Punch Out!!8.1/10
1988Donkey Kong Classics6/10
1988Super Mario Bros. 28/10
1988Super Mario Bros. 39.4/10
1989Super Mario Land7/10
1989Tetris9.4/10
1990Dr. Mario7/10
1990Punch-Out!!8.1/10
1990Super Mario World9.2/10
1991The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past ¹⁰9.2/10
1992Super Mario Kart8.5/10
1992Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins6.7/10
1994Wario Land: Super Mario Land 38.9/10
1994Donkey Kong (Game Boy) ¹¹8.5/10
1995Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island8.8/10
1995Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy’s Kong Quest ¹² 10/10
1996Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars9.4/10
1996Kirby Super Star ¹³9.1/10
1996Super Mario 649/10
1996Donkey Kong Land 2 ¹⁴9.3/10
1996Mario Kart 647.5/10
1997Game & Watch Gallery ¹⁵8.3/10
1997Yoshi’s Story ¹⁶8.1/10
1998Mario Party9.5/10
1999Super Smash Bros. ¹⁷6/10
1999Mario Golf8/10
1999Donkey Kong 64 ¹⁸9.8/10
2000Paper Mario9.3/10
2001The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Seasons ¹⁹9.1/10
2001The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Ages ²⁰7.9/10
2001Mario Kart: Super Circuit8.7/10
2001Luigi’s Mansion8.9/10
2001Super Smash Bros. Melee ²¹9.5/10
2002Super Mario Sunshine9/10
2002Animal Crossing ²²9.4/10
2003WarioWare, Inc.: Minigame Mania ²³8.9/10
2003Mario Kart: Double Dash!!6.5/10
2003Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga8.5/10
2003Donkey Konga ²⁴7.9/10
2004Mario vs. Donkey Kong6/10
2004Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door9.5/10
2004WarioWare: Twisted! ²⁵9.3/10
2004Super Mario 64 DS9.3/10
2004Yoshi’s Universal Gravitation ²⁶5.6/10
2005Mario Kart DS9.5/10
2006Game & Watch Collection ²⁷8/10
2006Tetris DS ²⁸9.4/10
2006New Super Mario Bros.9/10
2006Mario vs. Donkey Kong 2: March of the Minis8.6/10
2006Wii Shop Channel ²⁹N/A
2007Super Paper Mario9.5/10
2007Super Mario Galaxy9.2/10
2008Super Smash Bros. Brawl ³⁰9.5/10
2008Mario Kart Wii9.5/10
2009PiCOPiCT ³¹N/A
2009Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Minis March Again!8.5/10
2009New Super Mario Bros. Wii9.1/10
2010Super Mario Galaxy 29/10
2010Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Mini-Land Mayhem!8.8/10
2011Puzzle Swap ³²7/10
2011Super Mario 3D Land9/10
2011Mario Kart 79.3/10
2012New Super Mario Bros. 28.6/10
2012Animal Crossing: New Leaf ³³9.5/10
2012Nintendo Land ³⁴8.7/10
2012New Super Mario Bros. U8/10
2013New Super Luigi U8.7/10
2013Super Mario 3D World9.2/10
2013NES Remix ³⁵8.3/10
2014Mario Kart 89.6/10
2014Hyrule Warriors ³⁶ 9.4/10
2014Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS ³⁷8.9/10
2014Bayonetta ³⁸8.8/10
2015StreetPass Fishing ³⁹8.3/10
2015Yoshi’s Woolly World ⁴⁰ 8.3/10
2015Super Mario Maker9.4/10
2016Minecraft ⁴¹ 10/10
2016Super Mario Maker for Nintendo 3DS8.8/10
2016Super Mario Run6/10
2017Super Mario Odyssey9.8/10

Parent Series:

Spin-offs:

Connected Series:

Footnotes:

  1. Mario is the game’s playable character.
  2. Mario is the game’s playable character.
  3. Mario is the game’s villain.
  4. Mario is the game’s villain.
  5. A kind of Piranha Plants called Manhandlas appear as enemies.
  6. Mario appears as a non-playable character.
  7. This game contains ports of Donkey Kong and Donkey Kong Jr.
  8. Mario and Luigi appear in the game’s multiplayer mode.
  9. Mario appears as a non-playable character.
  10. Chain Chomps appear as enemies.
  11. Mario is the game’s playable character.
  12. Mario has a minor cameo.
  13. Mario, Luigi, Toad and Birdo can be seen in the crowd whenever there is an audience.
  14. Mario has a minor cameo.
  15. The game features remakes of Game & Watch titles which all now include various characters from the series.
  16. Bowser (as a baby) is the game’s primary antagonist.
  17. Mario and Luigi are playable and there are a couple of stages based on the series.
  18. A port of Donkey Kong can be played.
  19. Manhandlas, Thwomps and other creatures from the series appear.
  20. Cheep-Cheeps appear as enemies.
  21. Mario, Luigi, Peach, Bowser and Dr. Mario are playable and there are several stages based on the series.
  22. NES games featuring characters from the series are unlockable, such as Donkey Kong.
  23. Mario and other characters make various cameos in different microgames.
  24. Mario has a minor appearance on some of the game’s menus, music from the series can also be unlocked.
  25. Mario and other characters make various cameos in different microgames.
  26. Bowser is the game’s main villain.
  27. A playable port of the Game & Watch Donkey Kong (which features Mario) is included.
  28. Mario and other characters from the series appear in various game modes.
  29. Mario and Luigi appear and are partially playable on the game’s download screen.
  30. Mario, Luigi, Bowser and Peach are playable an there are several stages based on the series.
  31. Mario (and other characters) appear once certain levels are beaten.
  32. Super Mario characters appear in numerous puzzles.
  33. Piranha Plants and Bullet Bills appear with certain pieces of furniture.
  34. Two new games, Mario Chase and Luigi’s Ghost Mansion, are included.
  35. Various characters from their series appear in their NES forms and are “remixed” into new scenarios.
  36. Manhandlas appear as enemies and Chain Chomps can be used as weapons.
  37. Various characters from the series are playable and there are several stages based on it too.
  38. Bowser appears as part of some of Bayonett’s attacks. (Wii U version only.)
  39. Cheep Cheeps and Bloopers appear as fishes which can be caught.
  40. Bowser appears as a baby.
  41. Characters from the series are playable in the Wii U and Nintendo Switch versions of the game and can be encountered online in all console versions.
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Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

This is a book I read after being recommended it by a friend. I went in knowing nothing – literally nothing, about what it was about. The only clue I had was the title. I’m pleased I did though, because I was delightfully surprised by everything I read.

Right at the start, there’s a murder. You don’t know who was murdered, who the murderer was or what their motive was, you just know that a murder happens at a certain place at a certain time. Then the story jumps back in time several months and introduces us to the characters who live in that area – a group of mothers whose young children go to the same school.

There are many tensions and rivalries between different people for different reasons and it’s all a little silly at times – as, I think, it’s supposed to be, but then at the end of every chapter there’s a statement about the murder which is going to take place and all of a sudden a dark shadow is cast across everything. I worried, not only about who would be murdered, but who would throw their own life away by killing someone, because I was very fond of all of them.

The book is full of interesting and well developed characters, but my two favourites were two women named Jane and Madeline. Jane is a quiet, single mother who seems to have something tragic in her past, while Madeline is a loud, boisterous woman who loves to gossip and get involved in other people’s affairs. The friendship which grows between these two very different people is really nice and though Madeline feels a bit ‘much’ at first, I found my opinion of her becoming a lot more positive over time.

Beyond all the friendships and dramas, the book does deal with some pretty serious issues. Abuse, domestic violence, mental health, body image and even sexual violence. At times, the novel became rather distressing, but I really appreciated the way that these issues were handled in a healthy and progressive way. Though disturbing to read, they’ll do a lot to help raise awareness.

I think this is a book that just about anybody would enjoy, so if you’re looking for a book suggestion, you should definitely give this a go. It was a book that was had to put down. The chapters were never excessively long and when I got to the end of each chapter, I thought to myself “just one more won’t hurt” and if there’s any sign of a good book, I think this is it.

Rating: 9.4/10

Buy it here.

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Living Together

About three months ago, I moved to Bath (as I had always wanted to) and started living with my friend Sophie). I used to think that living alone would always be the best living arrangement, but I really like living Sophie and am glad that I do not live alone.

There is, however, one aspect of it which I hadn’t foreseen. Friends of mine will know that when it comes to say goodbye, I’m bad at stopping the conversation. I draw it out and have very long goodbye speeches before I go. Inevitably, I’ll have a bus or train to catch and then I’ll have to dash off to avoid missing it (which I never do).

But living with a friend means I have no reason to stop. Sophie and I can just end up talking for hours. One time even until 4am! On the one hand it’s excellent. I love it. On the other, I can sometimes by quite shocked at how much time has passed.

I suppose a good analogy is a bowl of crisps at a party. You sit near it, you take one. You think you’ll only have a few. You have one more. One more. Before you know it the whole bowl is gone. That – except with conversation. You may feel a bit guilty that the bowl is empty, but you enjoyed every second you spent eating those crisps.

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