Half filled.

December 30, 2012 at 9:37 PM

Today, I found that half of the filling from one of my teeth has gone missing. There’s now a nasty hole in one of my teeth on the left hand side of my mouth. So, new year, new filling, and open wallet surgery!

I’m actually in a bit of a pickle here. A lodger in my house also lost a filling recently, at the end of October he got too enthusiastic with a piece of crackling. It took him over a month to get a proper appointment at the local dentist, they insisted he had a check-up first (which is fair enough). The problem is, the check up was 2 weeks later and the appointment to fill the filling two three weeks after that, he was finally seen at the beginning of December to have the filling.

Now, I could go to a private dentist of course, but I can’t afford that. So, I’m anticipating about a four week wait in between going to the dentist tomorrow, and actually having the filling. Anyway, the reason I’m in a pickle is this: I’m hoping to get a job within the next few weeks. I should hear this week about a job I was interviewed for in mid-December. Essentially, I might be moving house within the next couple of weeks. So, if I do register with an NHS dentist here at home, I’ll have to reregister with another dentist and go through the whole rigmarole again if I move house.

So, what to do? I think I’m going to have to bite the bullet and go to the dentist tomorrow. Incidentally, if you’re biting the bullet at a dentist, you really should consider going to a better one. If I get seen quickly, there’s a chance I’ll get my filling before I move. And the worst case scenario would only be paying for two check ups. The sooner I get the filling the better, as I am already starting to feel a few twinges in that tooth…

A personalised Christmas

December 28, 2012 at 7:52 PM

It’s been a lean Christmas in the Peake household, we’ve all got very little money. As I can’t really afford to get the presents I’d like to for my family, I decided to personalise things for Christmas Day itself. It went spectacularly well!

Firstly, I stuffed my own crackers from a cracker making kit. I put very random things inside the crackers including bouncy balls, chocolate, bubble blowing solution and a bouncing spinning top. It’s surprisingly difficult to get interesting objects that fit within a Christmas cracker. Now I know why all crackers tend to have the same set of gifts inside. However, I was able to put my own jokes in. These included:

Who should you call to protect your farm? The Hay Team.
Have you heard about the glow in the dark encyclopedia? It’s volume-inous!
Why was Clifford the big red dog in jail? He was caught red hounded.
What is a vinegar loving dwarf’s favourite musical instrument? A piccolo.
What do mermaids use when wrapping Christmas presents? Shellotape.
What do you get if you cross a reindeer with the ocean? A rudolphin.

They went down… well, about as well as any Christmas cracker jokes did. I was pleased, at any rate.

The real highlight of the day was a surprise treasure hunt around the downstairs of my house that no-one knew about. It took about a day to plan and write the clues, and I hid all the clues just before midnight on Christmas Day (so I didn’t see Santa, naturally).  It was quite a treasure trail – an extra cracker was mysteriously laid out after Christmas dinner. Upon opening the cracker, the 30 minute time limit immediately started (as controlled by me on my PC). They were presented with a lock with a clue inside, but no key. Along with the lock was the following clue:

In these dark and gloomy days,
we really need some light.
Find seven sources made of ‘wax’
that don’t require a ‘light’.

Pretty quickly, they figured out that meant a candelabra of seven electric candles. When they looked behind it, they found:

If Tom Jones put some clothes on,
you could describe him thus.
Remove the middle of the three
to continue all this fuss.

It took a while to poke them towards working out that Tom Jones putting his clothes on could be a Welsh Dresser – and indeed the clue was behind the middle of the three drawers in the dresser, Of course, I made it so they had to take the entire drawer out to see the clue, didn’t I? Naughty Daniel. They then found this:

I reckon that the next clue
is one you’d need to find.
To discover your next CLUE,
see where it’s well defined.

Where is the word CLUE well defined? In a dictionary, of course. They found that one quite quickly – there was about 24 minutes left on the clock. This is what faced them next:

After all the tasty turkey,
basted, cooked and greased,
you’ll kick yourselves when you find
a clue beneath your feast.

Within 60 seconds, they’d found the clue on the underneath of the table where we’d sat and eaten Christmas Dinner. Oh dear, did I make the time limit too long? There was still 23 minutes left! Luckily, the second half of the treasure hunt was more difficult than the first…

There is a thing about gazpacho
likely you have observed.
Find a recipe for the soup
on a place like it is served.

The family quite rightly latched onto the word “served”, and so the looked in and under all the things in which it could be served – tureens, plates, bowls, jugs, saucepans – the entire kitchen was turned inside out! But no clue. I had to prod them “LIKE it is served”, and “why gazpacho?”. Then they started to twig, gazpacho is served cold. A place “like it is served” is a cold place – a fridge! So, how to find a recipe? One of the fridge magnets is a “Tomato Cookbook”, which has recipes in it. One recipe is, you guessed it, for gazpacho soup. So the clue was within that fridge magnet, next to that recipe. That stumped them! Haha! There was about 15 minutes left on the clock, when they found the clue:

In this time of Christmas cheer,
what should we dance to?
___  ____’_  ____  _  ____  _____
Number 52.

Quick as a flash, they realised they needed to be looking for the CD of Now That’s What I Call Music #52 – but there were six draws and one CD rack through which they had to search to find it! Still, a very quick two minutes later, they found the clue. 13 minutes on the clock, and they were 3/4 through the hunt. However, this is where I was quite sneaky:

Now that you’re all dancing,
perhaps you’re “cutting” this.
Lift it up, look underneath,
and spot something amiss.

To ‘cut a rug’ means to dance, and we only have one rug. So did I place the clue underneath there? When I nodded that I had, they looked at me in astonishment. Why? The only rug we have is in the lounge and has two sofas and a very large coffee table underneath, three heavy items which they would have to move to get to the clue, which I had put under the middle of the rug! Very naughty Daniel. It took them ages to move the furniture and roll the rug up but there was the clue, slightly dusty, in the middle of the room. The family couldn’t believe I’d done that! So, then they had this, with seven minutes to go:

You’ve got this far, you’ve done so well,
you’re certainly perplexed.
You now have all that you require.
Be bold to find what’s next.

They quickly realised the bold letters all over the place spelt out the message. It was an entire clue! Written out in full, it was:

In order to undo the lock,
you need to find the key.
Take a look and poke around
deep inside the tree.

I can tell you, it was very very difficult to hide that clue in order amongst the other eight clues. The clue has plenty of unusual letters, four K’s, a few U’s and so on. But I’m very pleased with myself that I was able to do it. They decoded the message with ease… until they came to “inside the tree” where they consistently missed the R in tree. They started looking for a “tee”. I helped them out there – they realised their mistake and with three minutes to go they found the key within our Christmas tree. This allowed them to undo the lock and access their final clue:

Well done! You’ve found the key.
It’s time to cast your eyes
to find yourself and look beyond
to discover your prize.

This was going to be close. After reading out the clue, they had about 2 minutes left to find this “prize”. They realised quite quickly that to find yourself you look in a mirror. We have three mirrors downstairs, but they quite rightly focused on the largest one (more than three times the size of the next mirror). But they mistranslated “look beyond” as look in the mirror, see what you can see in the reflection, and go and look there. This took them to the already quite untidy kitchen. The time ran down very quickly, and as this was the last clue and time was tight, I wasn’t going to help them. Time ticked down… 5… 4… 3… 2… 1… TIME UP. Sadly they hadn’t found the prize. I then told them think about the clue again, how could they “look beyond”? Then the penny dropped – they needed to look BEHIND the mirror. As soon as they did that, a bar of chocolate fell out from behind the mirror, which would have been their prize. Well, it still was I guess, as I shared a bit of it with them.

They had come SO CLOSE to finding the treasure. They got through 9 out of the 10 clues in the 30 minutes, and had thoroughly rearranged the lounge, downstairs bedroom and kitchen in the process. They did have a fantastic time however. Unwisely, I left the chocolate I hadn’t eaten downstairs on Christmas Day. I came downstairs on Boxing Day to find it was no longer there, instead a note replaced it, which said “When you find your chocolate, it will light up your day”. Took me five minutes or so, but I finally found the chocolate in a box of tissues which had touch activated fairly lights built in. I deserved that, I suppose.

More interest than the Bank of England

December 21, 2012 at 12:43 AM

This week I’ve been starting to ask people whether they’d like to pledge to donate 1p per clue for my 2500 Clue Challenge, and I have had a fantastic amount of interest so far. I am blown away so far! I’ve currently gathered pledges to the tune of 27p per clue, and I’m fully confident that this will increase throughout the challenge. I was initially hoping for 25p per clue, but now I’m setting my sights on 50p per clue, which would raise over £1000 for Rethink. If you’re interested in donating, then email me at 2500cluechallenge@danielpeake.com, and I’ll get back to you.

What’s been really interesting for me has been that the vast majority of people have said “I have (or have had) depression” or have had experience of depression through the family. About 30 people have pledged or donated, and only 1 or 2 people HAVEN’T said that to me. The amount of support and positivity that I’ve received for the challenge has been fantastic, and I haven’t started it yet.

All in all, this is looking quite promising as a challenge. Throughout the year, I hope to say how I’m coping my depression. I certainly haven’t beaten it yet, but I’m slowly getting there. I don’t really plan on saying why I have depression, for me that’s personal and a very very long story with no one single thing causing it. But I want to say the impact depression has had on my life and how I have, and haven’t, coped with it in recent years.

I did a test week recently for the 2500 Clue Challenge in which I solved 54% of the clues. This past week… erm… less than 25%. I think it’s going to be a close run year to 2500.

If I don’t blog before then, I hope you have a Merry Christmas. I’ll certainly blog before the New Year, whilst I still have my faculties.

A pound per day… is agonisingly slow

December 16, 2012 at 1:55 AM

I would really quite like a tablet. No, not the little pill kind, although I’ll probably have a few of those too thanks. No, I mean the electronic computer kind. I’m not entirely sure whether I should get an iPad or not, I reckon I’m going to get the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 for a few reasons, including that it includes a styles, the Android operating system makes file management a little easier, and it’s £320 compared to the iPad’s £400.

So, I’ve been saving up. But, I currently don’t have a full time job, which makes saving up money a little tricky. Since the beginning of October, I’ve made it my aim to save £1 per day towards the ‘tablet fund’. I’m not able to do this every day, as I can’t afford it, but I’ve done it on the days when I can afford it. I’ve also had some part time work with the gracious people at QuizQuizQuiz, and I’ve also had a birthday. From each of these, I’ve skimmed off half of my birthday money and £10 per session I’ve worked for QQQ, and put that towards the tablet fund.

It’s now the middle of December, and my tablet fund stands at £196, which I’m very pleased with. I’ve also got £40 in amazon vouchers which I’ve saved up for the past six months, so that takes my total to £236. I’m also owed £40 from various sources for selling some of my old DVDs, of which £20 will go into the tablet fund, making the total £256. So, to get to the magical £320 mark, I need £64. I’m quite proud of myself for being patient so far… but that sixty four pounds equates to another two months and it thus won’t be until February that I get the tablet. My patience is wearing a little thin!

Of course, I might get a bit of money at Christmas, of which half will be put towards the tablet fund and the other half towards, well, rent and living and eating. So that could speed things along a few days. Fingers crossed that at the beginning of February, I’ll be the owner of a shiny new tablet. I will hopefully reward my patience! I’m also well aware that in other parts of the world, people live on less than £1 per day, so I am very thankful that I am able to put aside what is, to me, such a small sum of money towards a bigger goal.

A whopping €3.5m prize!

December 15, 2012 at 2:11 PM

This evening I’ll be commentating live for (approximately) six hours from 7.15pm onwards on the German Gameshow Schlag Den Raab with a €3.5m prize! Absolutely amazing! You can find all the details at http://www.bothersbar.co.uk/?p=6651 . YOU COULD ALSO WIN €100! Please tune in and listen to us for game explanations, statistics, bad puns, and inane chat! It will make your evening, I promise.

Testing the 2500 Clue Challenge

December 8, 2012 at 8:18 PM

This past week has been a test week for the 2500 Clue Challenge. I’ve used this week to test a few things, mainly checking how many clues I tend to solve per day, and how I update progress on a spreadsheet and flickr.

There were 145 clues in crosswords in total over the week, an average of 29 per day. This would imply that there would be around 7500 clues throughout the year, but that’s probably slight over-estimate. It’s pretty likely there will be between 7000 and 7500 clues over the year. I managed to solve 78 out of the 145 clues, a success rate of 54%. This is better than I was anticipating, although I did have all day to work on each one as I’m not currently employed, a situation which I hope will change early into the new year. Based on this, it looks like I should be able to hit 2500, and maybe even 3000 solved clues IF I try every day of the year and IF it all goes well. Two pretty big IFs there.

I’ve worked out how I’m going to blog my progress. I will occasionally update my progress here, and include a summary of my progress on the 2500 Clue Challenge main page, but mainly I’ll be updating my progress through an online spreadsheet that you can all see – https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/ccc?key=0AvH9W6C-9XHRdE8tZnRmSXRTekVZbUpaRWhzN0tyTVE#gid=3 . For example, right now you can see my statistics for the five Guardian crosswords I tried this week. I aim to update this spreadsheet several times a week.

To prove that I’ve also done the crossword, I shall post a picture online to my flickr account of each crossword attempt. Click here to see the photos from my attempts this week. I’ll update this as often as I can, but I plan on updating it once a week.

It’s been a great test week, and the response from the people I’ve told about the challenge has been fantastic. Not only have they really liked the idea of the challenge, but they have also been approving of the choice of charity –Rethink – and one comment I keep getting over and over is “I know someone who has had depression” or “I have had depression” and they also say they don’t know anyone else who has (or had) it. It’s one of those things where people tend to suffer in isolation and silence, thinking you’re alone, and yet most people know of people who have had depression and it’s so much more common than people think. In 2013 I want to raise awareness of depression, what it is, and just how common it is in the population. I’m doing that through this challenge, and people have already started donating to Rethink through my JustGiving page, which has been amazing as I haven’t even started the challenge!

To those who have shown their support to me so far (both financially and morally), I’d like to thank you and say that I can’t wait to start the challenge properly in a few weeks time. Needless to say that by around 7th January I’ll be well fed up of it, but until then let the good times roll!!

Give it a go, then panic.

December 3, 2012 at 11:19 PM

This week I’m having a test week to see if my online resources for the 25oo Clue Challenge are up to the task. So, each day this week, I’m solving the Guardian’s crosswords. I’ll be putting up how many clues I solve in each crossword into a spreadsheet at https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/ccc?key=0AvH9W6C-9XHRdE8tZnRmSXRTekVZbUpaRWhzN0tyTVE#gid=3 , and I’ll also put up an image of each crossword so you can see how many I solve each day in its full horrific glory. Today’s first test crossword is at http://www.flickr.com/photos/mintypython/8241863033/in/photostream .

I don’t plan on uploading the picture each crossword every day, probably once or twice a week instead. Basically, as often as I can stomach. There will be more proactive times, there will be less. However, it is easier to edit the spreadsheet each day, so I’ll endeavour to update that every day (again not a guarantee, but should be at least once a week).

Today, 3rd Dec, I managed to solve a whopping 23 clues out of 30. This is quite a bit above average for me, but Rufus’s crosswords (and Monday crosswords in general) tend to be a bit easier than the rest of the week, to slowly ease you into it. I’m sure you’ll see, through the rest of the week, solving around 10 clues becoming normal.

I’ve already had a fantastic response to this challenge. I’ve already had £90 donated to ReThink, and I’ve not even started the challenge. You are of course welcome to make an instant donation on my JustGiving page: http://www.justgiving.com/danielpeake2500 , but I’d prefer it if you would pledge instead. I’m after people to pledge JUST ONE PENNY PER CLUE that I solve. That will hopefully add up to around £25, and you’ve got a whole year to save up for it!

If I can get 20 people to pledge 1p per clue, then I’ll hit my £500 fund raising target if I get to 2500 clues. If you would like to pledge 1p per clue – email me at 2500cluechallenge@danielpeake.com and I’ll add you to the list.