The One with the Wedding Cake



In August we attended a truly magical wedding. Jen and Patrick gathered their nearest and dearest to celebrate their marriage with a charming, relaxing and fun-filled few days in rural France. A group of us actually stayed for a week after the wedding, and it turned out to be a lovely little holiday.

The Build-up

The wedding itself was on the Saturday, but most people arrived the day before and stayed a day or two after. We (me, Dave, Mum and Dad) arrived on the Thursday, as we were responsible for the cake! After a couple of days of intense baking, we loaded the car in the middle of the night and set off to the channel tunnel. We picked Dave up on the way and Dad powered through the 12+ hours of driving like a trooper. The journey was long and Mum and I were pretty squished in the back of the car, since the boot was full of cake and all luggage was therefore on top of us! But we saw some beautiful views, passing through quaint villages, stopping at a lovely lake for lunch and driving past endless fields of golden sunflowers.

We arrived mid-afternoon on the Thursday and were greeted by Patrick’s family; the wedding was taking place at their holiday home in the Burgundy region of eastern France. There were tents in the garden and guests were spread between these, the youth hostel opposite and a g├«te next door. It’s a beautiful place and the weather was glorious (though the heat would become an issue).



The wedding was in such a beautiful setting

As usual, I could fill this blog post just talking about the food we enjoyed over the next few days, but I’ll do my best to keep that part brief. On this first night Jen made Kosheri – a delicious Egyptian lentil and rice dish that Mum and I have since recreated and will no doubt make again soon. And on the Friday night, once most of the 80 guests had arrived, we enjoyed an absolute feast of curries and rice that Jen and Patrick had made. How they did it, I have no idea, but it was excellent!

Jen is one of the most organised people I have ever met, so needless to say when the day of the wedding rolled round, everything was planned out meticulously. Jen had a notebook which became known as “The Bible” and outlined exactly what needed doing, and by whom, throughout the day. Actually, I think it covered a couple of months before the big day and at least a week afterwards!


On the wedding morning, Jen’s only job was to relax and get ready, so The Bible was handed to me with clear instructions and the power to delegate. There were plenty of hands free to help and by the time the ceremony began, everything was looking perfect. The only downside was that, given the size of the venue and the fact that it was all outside, I had spent the morning doing a fair bit of shouting, the consequence of which was that I had no voice for the best part of a week afterwards. Oops! Still, it made Dave’s retreat to the countryside that much more peaceful!



Team table-settings went on a wild flower hunt and came back with a beautiful selection!

The Wedding

At midday we gathered in the orchard of Patrick’s parents’ house for the ceremony. It was a beautiful day and the whole thing was completely idyllic. Unfortunately, our dear friend Hazel was unable to attend the wedding as she was eight months pregnant, so I skyped her and she and her husband Joe watched the whole ceremony live from Bristol. Oh the joys of technology!

After the ceremony there was a bit of posing for photos and then we all made our way over the road to the grounds of the hostel, where the rest of the day would unfold. We basked in the sun, playing lawn games and chatting until it was time to sit down. We all settled under the gazebo for a wonderful meal of gazpacho soup, garlic tart, a variety of salads and, of course, the speeches. All of the speeches were excellent, and the atmosphere was light and full of love. Then came the surprise – Patrick’s family, along with Jen’s mum and sisters, all got up and sang in perfect harmony to the newlyweds! It was a wonderful combination of loveliness and cringeyness.

Once the speeches and singing were over and the food had been devoured, it was time for dessert. The cake! And boy, what a cake it was…



Such yummy food!

The Cake

The story of the cake began months before, when Mum first offered to make it. Patrick’s favourite cake is carrot, and since neither of them has a particularly sweet tooth, continuing the vegetable cake theme was an easy choice, with chocolate and beetroot, and lemon, courgette and poppy seed as the other two flavours. Taste tests were done and everyone was happy with the choices. Three flavours, three tiers – sorted! Right? Well not quite. The couple had chosen a very specific cake topper that would dictate the size of the top layer, and therefore the subsequent layers. Long story short the cake ended up as FIVE HUGE TIERS, the scale of which is best portrayed in this photo.



The cakes themselves were delicious and went down a treat after the meal; since they were served as dessert, a decent dent was made on that first day. But it did take several more days of concerted effort to get through the leftovers.

Remember earlier I mentioned the heat being an issue? Well aside from the sweaty guests, the main problem with 40° heat during an outdoor wedding proved to be the integrity of the icing on the cake.

Mum had been working on a cooked buttercream recipe, which research showed was both a little less sweet, and a little more stable than the usual whipped frosting. Unfortunately, it was just too hot and it icing was melting off as quickly as she could put it on! And what’s more, since it was outside, Mum and Dad had fashioned a bit of a mosquito net to protect the cake from the local wildlife. It was excellent at keeping the wasps away, but as the wind picked up, it soon became stuck in the melting frosting and by the time the cake was cut, it wasn’t such a pretty picture.




Poor Mum. She worked so hard on it and then they drove so far to deliver it! But remember, life is about the uckle, not the shuckle and at the end of the day all anyone really cared about was how it tasted – and boy, did it taste good! Not that there was ever any doubt about that. Everyone got a plate with a slice of each cake and they went down a treat. Well done Mum – it was a magnificent feat and you outdid yourself. And Dad was his ever-helpful self, having procured some lovely slices of log to sit the cake on and then acting as the best sous chef anyone could ask for.

The rest

After the much anticipated cake came the dancing, and this went on well into the next morning. It was a great party and everyone had a wonderful time.

Mum and Dad headed off the day after the wedding, unable to stand the constant praise and compliments about the epic cake! The next few days saw numbers slowly decline as other guests departed, but there were about 15 of us who stayed for most of the following week.

The week was relaxing, with lots of food, cheese and wine…so much wine! We worked our way through all of the wedding leftovers and had some lovely meals together. One night turned into a bit of a rave with some outrageous dancing and Simon’s car’s pimped-out stereo echoing through the surrounding acres of land as we partied the night away.

We also took a brief trip into Dijon, which Dave will talk about in the next blog post. Walking around the city was lovely and the cherry on top of the dead mice on top of the melted cake. Oh yeh, I forgot to mention - the cake topper was two taxidermy mice dressed as a bride and groom...yes, real mice. Weird.

Thank you Jen and Patrick, and your family, for your generosity and hospitality. It was a week we’ll never forget!


Photos


The Venue












The Guests




The uni gang (missing a Hazel)

The sisters

Hazel and Joe congratulating the happy couple







The Cake

The controversial taxidermy mice on the cake topper!

Cutting the cake was precarious due to the melting!



It took a team effort to get it all cut up and served

The Week After


Such a beautiful place to eat dinner together each night


The rave!

My Thoughts on the VR Journey So Far

*Originally posted on Reddit but thought I'd share on the blog as well.


2018 has seen a hell of a lot of progress with the tech. It's easier to forget that the Go only came out in May, as it has been a staple of my VR use since I got one. I reckon my hours of Go have surpassed my Rift usage and no it isn't simply NSFW content (I've gone #noVRfap on that, haha!)

I'm not a big gamer at all (I use my rift mainly in Premiere Pro or to try out games + Beat Saber) and bought the Go to help me showcase my 360 VR experiences. Yes, I call my edited 360 VR videos with graphics/photos "experiences" even though they are hosted on YouTube, VeeR, etc.

For me, embodiment is a key concept and a well crafted VR experience transforms the viewer to a new place. E.g. My biggest project so far is where you learn Spanish in an embodied experience in a classroom and then out and about in Spain (a quick showcase is here and a survival Spanish pack is here - all free!) It's much more than simply a video IMO but let's not get bogged down in semantics.

The point is that the Go has made VR simple, which for me is the biggest hurdle to overcome. The comfort of headsets is very important but buying a Go for my girlfriend's parents and having them ABLE to use it is the most important. The Go just about manages this and I think simplicity is the way forward. I'm sure when Apple join in the fun, they will nail this aspect. VR can't just be for people with technical knowhow.

This year, I have watched hours of 360 experiences (#noVRfap) and played a whole bunch of games. I've been stealing the best uses of the medium to implement them in my own projects. There are some great creators out there, which is good to see, as we can all learn from each other, and the hardware market is improving at an exponential rate.

My main hardware decision this year has been about buying (and not buying) cameras. I bought the Yi 360 VR for its high resolution and relatively simple workflow. After my failed Kickstarter, I wanted to double down on my bet on VR and go for a professional rig. I came very close to getting the Insta360 Pro 2. With the camera and PC upgrade, I realised I would be sinking the best part of £12k into the upgrade, while giving myself more work to do regarding workflows, etc. I also realised my main reason for doing this was to show my commitment to the medium.

I decided instead to delay the camera purchase and commit my production company to release a new 360 VR experience (video) every Friday. We're currently doing a series around Green Spain in what we'll calling a VRlog, i.e. VR Vlog. These videos are sharpening my editing skills and helping me realise what I can improve upon. If you have some free time in VR, have a look, and tell us what to do better.

So what comes in the next year? I recently filmed and made an experience for a friend's wedding. Their reaction to the 20 minute experience was priceless and I was blown away. It made my day and definitely made theirs. They absolutely loved it and they now have a memento of their special day for decades to come (assuming no divorces :P)

We're going to expand into weddings and other celebrations (I'm filming my cousin's Bar Mitzvah this weekend) so we'll see if I can actually begin to fund the experiments in VR we're creating.
I think creating experiences that put you in the mindset (create wearer embodiment) of an important life event or cultural event (see our Fallas documentary) is the key difference between video and 360 VR. You can feel the joy and relive that special day, or experience that event, in a much more realistic fashion than any other medium. 360 VR tricks you so completely that it's almost like having a time machine and gives you the ability to visit your wedding/big event as a passive observer.

The other major project I want to do in the next 6 months is a fictional narrative drama that I have written. I have been writing screenplays for 12 years that have sat on hard drives and done a few table reads… But now I'm making 360 content, I'm writing 360 scripts. I have the actors signed up, location agreed, and am more-or-less ready to finalise the date BUT I want to film using a better camera than my Yi 360. Anyone that can shoot (and edit) high quality (6K 3D and above) in London that is interested, send me a message and we can sort something out. The script is a comedy, similar to Withnail and I, but set in the very near future with the characters being addicted to tech and not just booze and drugs.

Over 2019, I plan to build my knowledge with Unity, and hopefully bring in a business partner (unity developer) to help with future projects that utilise a lot more functionality than our simpler 360 VR video experiences. With the Quest, etc coming out, I think this will be essential to ensuring we stay relevant to our fans.

How am I funding my life? After 5 years as an engineer, living frugally, and a girlfriend that works as well, we left our careers to move to Spain from the UK. It's cheaper here and she works part time teaching English. Her job plus savings are how we survive day to day. We also have Patreon if anyone is interested in supporting our endeavour.

My closing point is one of optimism. This technology is groundbreaking and I know I'm preaching to the choir, but fuck it, sometimes the choir needs a good preaching!

VR and AR are the future. The paradigm shift in immersive experiences is happening and we are watching it unfold, quite literally, in front of our eyes. Quitting my corporate engineering work and starting afresh, doing what I want to do, in an industry that is finding its feet, is both exciting and scary. Together as a community, we will succeed. You only have to remember the first time you used a proper VR system and had your mind blown to realise that this is an inevitability!

Good luck with your projects and let me know what you thought about this post or any of our experiences you have seen.

TLDR: Not making money as a VR creator but making weekly 360 VR (video) experiences hoping to build an audience with a strong belief in the medium!

A Turbulent Boat Ride


We had planned to spend the summer of 2018 away from Valencia, leaving in mid July and not returning until late August. This worked out perfectly for some friends who had recently quit their jobs and would be travelling around Spain. They wanted to chill in Valencia for a month or so and happily agreed to flat-sit for us.

It was one of those situations that just seemed to work perfectly. We had a bit of crossover time in Valencia with Danny and Nina, during which we had a fantastic Italian meal, and went on a boat ride.

Our friend Vivi, who we met when we first arrived here, is a tour guide and has been using a friend's sailing boat to take tourists out on trips. She very kindly invited a group of her friends on the boat for a day of chilling, drinking, and swimming, and we were lucky enough to make the cut! The day started brilliantly and despite a little bit of chop on the water, it was great fun.

We sailed for about an hour and then set down anchor for a bit. We jumped into the sea, swam like our lives depended on it (because they did) and generally just had a great time bobbing about in the waves. Back on board we ate some excellent cheese and other nibbles, accompanied by lots of wine. And all the while the sea kept getting more turbulent.

One difficulty we had was getting from the sea back onto the boat, because it was rocking like mad, tipping 45 degrees as the waves came in. Getting onboard involved grabbing a ladder as the boat tipped towards you, ensuring the hull didn't smack you in the head as it rocked, and then launching yourself up and out of the water as it tipped back the other way. Not easy.

We eventually decided to call it a day, as darkness approached and the sea ravaged us. It took a while to get back to the safety of the harbour and there were hairy moments that had my amygdala on overdrive. What was supposed to be relaxing day, had turned into an adrenaline filled one, what with the constant fear of being flung from the boat and into the waves at any moment! But it was a great day nonetheless and the fear certainly added something. That being said, I've realised that I'm definitely more of a land person than a sea person…

My biggest takeaway from the experience were the seasickness tablets I had taken before we set off. After my experience on the ferry from the UK to Spain, I knew I was a little sensitive and hadn't got my sea legs yet. But before getting on the little sailing boat we took Biodramina (active ingredients dimenhydrinate) and they worked a treat.

Being an easy sufferer of motion sickness, these pills were unbelievable and I learnt a valuable lesson that day about what an effective drug they are. They're not available in the UK mind, so I'll have to stock up if we ever move back home, especially for that bloody ferry ride.

So for me, as long as I'm learning, I'm happy. I also learnt that the sea doesn’t seem to like me and is trying to kill me. Hopefully this is not a full blown vendetta and the sea can forgive me for whatever misdeed I have carried out. Maybe I should stop peeing in it...



A Tale of Two Castles


One day we set out on a drive
And headed south, towards blue skies.
Atop a hill we spied a castle
Thanks to the car, we arrived without hassle.

X├átiva is the fortress’ name
Where Romans stood and laid their claim.
With gardens green and pools of blue
It was a special place. That much we knew.

On to Sagunto! David cried
As we headed north, close to the tide.
Again we climbed up rather high
My legs grew weary, I cannot lie.

Yet once again it was worth the struggle,
Though this castle was little more than rubble.
But the views from the top were a sight to behold
Green hills, blue seas and sands of gold.


Spain is full of castles. Thousands of them, in varying degrees of ruin, are scattered around the country and, while the city of Valencia itself doesn’t have one, there are quite a few within day-tripping distance. Today I’m writing about two of them - Castell de X├átiva and Castillo de Sagunto.

Xàtiva

We stopped at this castle on our way back from visiting my uncle in Torrevieja. It’s about an hour’s drive from Valencia centre and well worth a visit if you have the time. It’s location atop a jagged hill makes for a very striking sight as you approach from below, and once you’re up there you can see for miles.

Apparently this castle is located in a very strategic position, on an ancient road leading from Rome, across the Pyrenees, and down the Mediterranean coast to Cádiz.

The castle grounds are long and narrow, stretching across two peaks of the hill. This means there’s quite a bit of climbing involved in the visit, but the gardens, water features and well-preserved fortifications are worth a bit of effort.






When you've gotta go, you've gotta go!



Sagunto

Closer to the coast than X├átiva, this castle offers something different in terms of views. Also set on a hilltop, this fortress dates back thousands of years, to when the town had a rather amusing name – Arse!

I must admit that, while it is conveniently located just half an hour from Valencia, this castle isn’t quite as worth visiting as X├átiva. It’s much more of a ruin and there is little in the way of plaques or information about where you are and what you’re looking at.

Still, we had the place to ourselves when we visited, which was a welcome bit of peace after the manic morning we'd had at Tomatina (blog post coming soon!) and we very much enjoyed the views and sea breeze.