On Saturday, I was out on SJA duty, covering "Seasons of Love" in South Norwood by St Mark's Players. They did a performance on Friday night, then a matinee and an evening performance on Saturday, so I handled both of them. I'm going off to see the "Lord of the Rings" musical in a couple of weeks (neatly coinciding with my birthday), so I'll be interested to see what that's like.
Yesterday, it was the Official World Custard Pie Championships, down in Maidstone (part of their Rotary Fun Day, raising money for the air ambulance), so four of us entered that as "Team Tiswas". Admittedly, the "World" bit is something of an exaggeration; also, they didn't use custard (it was a flour/water mixture), and based on pieoff rules we were throwing flans rather than pies (since the top was less than 50% pastry). Still, the basic principle is sound.
They awarded points for costumes, so I put a (somewhat feeble) Phantom Flan Flinger costume together. I didn't make it to a fabric shop in time to buy material for a cape, but I found an old black T-shirt that I could sacrifice to the cause, so I chopped that up and sewed it into a mask, finishing at about 3am. Ah well, I'm sure that the practice is handy for my sewing in general. I didn't take photos of the work in progress, but here are the basic steps for anyone who's interested:
- Pick a sacrificial T-shirt. In my case, the X-Files "Trust No One" shirt; I bought it in 1996, and it's seen better days; it also has a large area of black without logos.
- Put it over my head to size it up. In my case, the front half is enough.
- Chop off the sleeves, then chop it in half down the side seams. I only need the front, so the back/sleeves can be discarded.
- Fold the front bit in half (along the vertical edge), so that the collar is at one end and the "waistband" is at the other. (If there's any logo/paint/whatever, put that side outwards, i.e. have the clean side on the inside.) Pin it, then tack it. Stitches go all the way up, and along the top, making it a sealed unit.
- Put it over my head again, being careful not to strain the stitches too much. When I pulled the bottom edge down (to meet the collar of my "real" T-shirt), there was still a lot of space at the top, that was just flopping around. That makes sense, because my head is shorter than my torso!
- Pinched the shirt together to find out where the empty space begins. In my case, that's just underneath the "X Files" logo (by left nipple). Tacked across there, and tried shirt on again. (Key point: sew before cutting, in case I'm wrong!)
- Cut above the tacked stitches. This messed up the original tacked stitches a bit, i.e. rather than ending in a knot (at the very top), that thread now comes to an abrupt halt. If you're going to replace the tacking with proper stitches, it's not really a problem. In my case, I turned over the corner (since my head is narrower at the top), and sewed that, for a sort of hem/seam.
- Eye holes! This step is probably easier with a second person. The key point is to work out where the eye holes need to go. However, aiming sharp objects at the cloth (e.g. scissors/pins) while I'm half blind through the fabric sounds like a good way to impale my eyeballs. Instead, I pinched the cloth just in front of my left eye, and held that while I removed the mask. Then I cut around that (two diagonal cuts), to produce a diamond shaped hole. At that point, I could now see through the mask. For the second eye hole, I put the mask back on, and made sure that the left eye was lined up, then repeated the pinching process.
- Finally, turn it inside out. The clean side is now outside, and the stitches are hidden inside.
This may not be the best long-term approach, e.g. the edges are a bit frayed, but it only needed to last one day.
I wore the mask along with my ski hat and "Milk Tray Man" tracksuit for the initial parade, but I changed back into jeans and Tiswas T-shirt for the main event, partly because my tracksuit trousers kept slipping down. One of my teammates did a much better job with her Phantom costume, so she kept that on the whole time; this attracted quite a bit of (positive) attention from the various reporters and TV crews.
We made it through to the quarter finals, i.e. we were in the top 8 teams out of 22, which I think is pretty good, and we had four matches. All the pies had to be thrown left-handed, so there were a few times where I actually hit the person next to the one I was aiming for, but never mind. They had some showers there, although they recommended cold water (to avoid baking the flour), so that was bracing. It took me a while to get it all out of my hair.
There's an article about the event in the Kent Messenger; they include photos, but they don't have one of our team. However, they have a video, where we do appear; I get slightly less recognisable as it progresses! There's another video at Hot Under the Collar Television. Also, we were on the Meridian TV news last night (must have been a slow news day); the WCPC segment starts at 05:25, and our team is on from 06:10 to 06:15. (I've been told that it doesn't work very well on Safari/Firefox on an Apple Mac.)
Anyway, I had a fun time, and it was nice to get out in the countryside again. I was quite tired (in a good way) after dashing around in the open air, so I slept well last night.
Today I've had the day off work so that I could do a computer exam: the ISEB Foundation Certificate in Software Testing.
I went over to ULU for this, and I was quite surprised to find that it was a "traditional" exam. Since it was multiple choice, I'd assumed that it would be computer based, like the Microsoft exams I've done, but it was all done on pencil and paper. This meant that I had to adjust my technique a bit; I could change my answers (by rubbing them out), but that's more fiddly than clicking a mouse button. The invigilator said that we could write on the exam papers; in fact, we all had to write our names on the front, so that if anyone swiped their paper then they'd be found out. So, one option would be to circle the relevant answers on there, and copy them over to the answer sheet at the end; however, the invigilator explicitly said that it's only answers on the official sheet that count, and if you don't have time to copy them over then you're out of luck.
So, I went through and answered the ones I was sure about (34 out of 40), which took me 30 minutes. I then went through it again, checking my answers, and filling in the ones I wasn't quite so sure about, which took another 15 minutes. I then spent the last 15 minutes twiddling my thumbs, because nobody was allowed to leave early. (With computer based exams, I'm used to clicking the "Finish now" button once I'm happy with my answers.)
Personally, I found it fairly easy, and in one case the answers pretty much leapt out at me as soon as I turned over the page, so I had to force myself to stop and answer the first question before I carried on with the ones in the middle. On the other hand, if I didn't know the subject (by reading the official book) then I would have found it much harder; I think this was a problem for some of the other people in the room. One person needed a new answer paper after they messed up the "write your name" bit at the start, and someone else had to be told three times to stop writing at the end.
If this exam had been computer based, I would have found out my result immediately. In this case, the exam papers are being posted somewhere, hopefully to be scanned by some kind of automated system, so I'll find out my result ... well, sometime, I guess. I'm pretty sure I passed, but it would be nice to know, partly because this is a prerequisite for the Intermediate Certificate.
Once I'd finished there, I was conveniently close to the comic shop, and then I went to Pizza Hut for their "all you can eat buffet lunch". All in all, a good day.
Tomorrow I'm off to Ghent (in Belgium), to meet a software supplier; I'll be staying overnight, then coming back on Wednesday. One of my colleagues has already given me some Euros to buy chocolate for her, so let me know if you want anything couriered...