Embarrassing the Sales Assistant

Had an interesting time in a certain large store in Reading earlier today. I was in getting a cable for my iPod, and was in the queue behind a couple who were trying to return their recently purchased laptop because it had Vista on it and not XP. The sales assistant was very much trying to persuade them not to return it by telling them that they couldn’t get a machine with XP any more, and how they’d have to buy second hand, and so on and so forth.

To be absolutely blunt, that is rubbish – what he was actually saying is that his store wouldn’t sell them a new machine with XP. At that point I cut in and said that it was still possible to find a machine with XPDell being probably the best known example of a manufacturer still doing so (albeit to a limited extent), and the example I gave.

At this point the sales assistant looked shifty, and started ringing up the refund, before remembering that they had some similar laptops in their sale that were still running XP. Must have just slipped his mind I guess!

Killing Off Kylie

dr_who_christmas_07.jpg

So hands up, who thought that they’d find some way to bring Kylie back to life by the end of Voyage of the Damned? There has been an opinion I’ve seen expressed a lot in fan circles, that killing off a companion didn’t fit in with the spirit of the new show – the prime example of that being the ultimate survival of Rose back in season 2. Although obviously Astrid wasn’t going to leave with the Doctor at the end of the special, I’m sure most people were expecting some sort of plot device that meant that she couldn’t go rather than her ending up as she did.

Anyway, aside from that, what did we think of this years festive outing? As we did last year we watched this up at my parents, and it generally seemed to go down pretty well as a Christmas crowd pleaser.

The opening cliff-hanger with the Titanic crashed through the TARDIS wall was quickly resolved with the Doctor flicking a few switches to get the wall to rebuild itself and to bring the time machine into the ship. From there the scene is set as the Doctor finds himself on an alien theme cruise, visiting present day Earth. Once that is established the story quickly shifts into classic disaster movie mode as the Captain deliberately crashes meteors into the ship in an attempt to destroy it. From here we have all the classic disaster movie characters – the ones who don’t make it, either through accidents on the way, or by bravely sacrificing themselves so the others can escape. The really easy option – the TARDIS – conveniently gets blown into space in the initial explosion, and then automatically lands itself on the Earth below.

The show also references the previous Christmas specials, with a deserted London as a result of the two preceding Christmases – with it seems only the Queen opting to stay. This produces one of the big moments that really they could only have got away with at Christmas, with the plunging spaceship heading straight for Buckingham Palace.

All in all it was a pretty entertaining episode, just right for the family to sit down with. There are some thrills and spills, a few laughs, and I’m sure the hankies came out in parts too. I’m sure it’s not going to win masses of awards for being massively original, but it was entertaining none the less.

But what was there for the fans? First up was the new arrangement of the theme tune, which on first listen through seemed an improvement over the previous version. There was also the other traditional aspect of the Christmas special, the trailer for the new season. I think as with last year it will take until the end of the season in the summer to work everything out, but we got glimpses of the return of the Sontarans, glimpses of both Donna and Martha (who also popped up in the Torchwood trailer they showed afterwards). Based on previous trailers I think we probably were only looking at footage from the first few episodes – but it as always whetted the appetite for when the series comes around again later in 2008.

Record Breaking Numbers?

Glowing Christingles

We’re in the middle of the busiest time at St James. Last night was the traditional Nine Lessons and Carols service, that had a record breaking 302 people attend – with people stood packed into the vestry, and stood in the North Aisle – apparently it got so hot in the building that the organ went out of tune… It certainly seems like we’re going to have to do the same as we do with the Christingle services, and run the whole thing twice next year in order to accommodate everybody who wants to attend.

Today we had the four Christingle services. We were on duty for the 2pm and 4pm services, with Beth acting as sidesperson and looking after the sound system, whilst I discovered a new calling as a doorman keeping track of who was coming in, and more importantly collecting unused tickets that people had got ‘just in case’ to allow the one or two people who turn up on the off chance an opportunity to get in. Thanks to the flu bug doing the rounds in the village there were quite a few returns, although at the 4pm, those were all used, and one family decided to come back for the 6pm service as there were no seats left at 4pm – so it looks like we’ll get somewhere between 600 and 800 people through the doors for those services alone – and we haven’t even got to Christmas itself.

The Midnight Communion is usually packed – so on the basis of the turnout last night we’re expecting to be jam packed – quite how we can expand capacity at that service I don’t know. We’re then back up for the 11am service tomorrow morning – although there is also an 8am and 9:30am service too. Certainly it’s looking like we may well have another record in terms of the number of people through the doors over the Christmas period.

We have a few pictures of the 4pm Christingle service up on my Flickr stream, although as usual with shots of this service the majority are restricted access because of all the children in the pictures.

The Feast of the Pharaohs

Walk Like an Egyptian

Last night was my office Christmas party – this year going along to the Feast of the Pharaohs, this years version of the big party that the Christmas Company hold out at Easthampstead Park every year.

We’d been along to one of these a couple of years ago when the theme was Cirque Noel so it was interesting to see what was different.

The first and perhaps biggest change is thanks to the smoking restrictions that came in over the summer. Even though it is held in a marquee, the same rules apply as to any other indoor event, so whereas last time we knew a number of people who didn’t really enjoy the event thanks to the smokers on adjacent tables, this time it was totally smoke free – well aside from the copious amounts of dry ice of course…

As before you arrived in the bar area, and there was an hour or so of mingling and chatting over drinks before dinner. The curtain was then drawn back on the main marquee which again was over eighty tables surrounding a central stage. The courses of the four course dinner were again interspersed with entertainment on the main stage, and this was again later turned over to the guests for the disco. They also once again had the dodgems – just the kind of thing to settle your stomach after dinner!

Perhaps the thing that didn’t quite work this year was the theme – as someone on our table put it “Do you suppose anyone who planned this has actually been to Egypt?â€? The dancers performed several times during the evening, with routines that had a vague hint of Arabian Nights at times, and then there was a fire-eater that turned up later on. There was a brief moment of Walk Like an Egyptian, but aside from that there was nothing that you could specifically tie up with the theme. In fact it got positively bizarre towards the end with some weird routine with the fire eater that looked like some sort of pagan ritual, and then an even more weird routine with a net curtain… Maybe as a table full of software engineers we’re not the ideal people to judge, but anyway, we didn’t quite get what was going on!

Head On

The food was pretty good though, although the goats cheese and spinach starter seemed to be a bit of a love it or hate it option. As before it all turned up piping hot despite the nearly 1000 guests in the marquee needing to be served. We didn’t stay much after dinner, as with it being a Wednesday night, Beth had to be up and awake for school the next morning. However we did manage to get on the dodgems before we went – pictures of that along with the rest of the evening can be found in our picture galleries.

All in all, it was a great evening, and hopefully we’ll get a chance to go along to whatever they put on next year.