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Monday 1 Apr 2013
Bilgola, Australia

Really, really addictive games

I have just spent a few days with my very good friends Ali and Will in Bilgola, up in the Northern Beaches area of Sydney.  For those who don't know them, I met both of them through Peterborough Mountaineering Club - and for those of you who don't know the UK, the irony here is that Peterborough is the flattest part of the country - almost 10 years ago.  Will is an Aussie and was living in the UK at the time.  Two years ago Ali followed him back out to Sydney and I lost a great rugby-watching-cinema-going-street-date-playing friend to the lure of beaches and good weather.  But this kind of friendship persists in spite of distance and we have managed to meet up every six months or so in Sydney, Oxford or Colorado! Japan has been earmarked for the next catch up, though it may have to wait until the ski season of 2015...

We started in true Aussie fashion with a trip down to Bilgola and Palm beaches to inspect the surf.  (Telly fans: Palm Beach is better known as Summer Bay as they film the Aussie soap Home and Away here.) Sadly/fortunately the surf wasn't doing much and we all agreed it was too cold for a swim, so we followed another great Aussie tradition and went to the local RSL club for a beer instead.  In the evening we headed into Avalon for Japanese - last time I visited, Ali was less than convinced about sushi, but after their recent snowboarding trip to Japan, she has learned the error of her ways.  This was actually my second Japanese meal with her in a week, as I had met her in Manly for dinner a few nights earlier while Will was still away.

Easter Sunday dawned bright and sunny and Ali cooked up a storm in the new kitchen, serving up a huge full English breakfast that kept us going most of the day.  We headed down to Pitt Water to go out on Will and Ali's new yacht.  Unfortunately we discovered a broken connector on the sail which meant we would have to just motor instead... which we would have done if the motor had started, but it stubbornly refused to turn over, so we ended up sitting on the boat in the sunshine and, yes, drinking beer in the marina instead.  Just as much fun without the effort!

Ali cooked a roast chicken in the evening and we were joined by their neighbour Trish.  After dinner, I was introduced to a boardgame called Agricola. It is a very complex game, originally from Germany, which involves building a farm, populating your workforce, feeding your animals and reaping your harvest at certain points in the game.  Only certain moves are allowed in each round, so it requires a lot of strategy and hoping your neighbours don't work out what you're planning and decide to 'trip' you up (Ali, I can still hear your gleeful giggles at playing the tripper to stop Will doing what he wanted!)  My first game was very confusing and I came last, but I was already hooked.  I wanted to play again but it was nearly midnight at this stage. 

Before bed, I had a quick look at Facebook and a game I was playing on my phone called Icomania.  It is a simple but frustrating app that shows you part of a well-known brand logo, or a cartoon impression of a famous person or film and you have to name it.  I was stuck on one which I asked Ali for help with.  She then started playing on her own phone and we sat there for another hour getting equally frustrated and triumphant or asking each other for help when we got stuck.  I finally went to bed at 1.15am leaving Ali still playing.

I emerged at 10am the next morning to be greeted by a cry of "I hate you for showing me this game!" from the sofa.  Ali had sat up until 2.30am, then started again the minute she woke up and continued until she had completed all 400 levels!

Ali and I drove up into the Ku-Ring-Gai Chase National Park for a walk along the coastal headland overlooking Pitt Water.  There are Aboriginal Carvings in places here that date back several thousand years.  We had a lovely walk and stretched our legs on the steps leading back up to West Head (not as many as those in Mount Cook on the Red Tarns Walk, but just as steep).

Back at the house, we settled in for an afternoon of Agricola again.  This time Will was taking no prisoners and I was thwarted resoundingly in the final round.  I definitely need to get this game when I get back home!  

It was great to catch up with my friends again.  Thank you both for a fabulous Easter weekend.  Something tells me that Agricola might be coming to Japan for our next catch up...



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