Robot Wars: What on Earth has happened to you?

Let me preface this by saying that Robot Wars was a huge part of my life in primary school. Hell, I ran the Robot Wars Club in Year 6. I avidly followed the trials and tribulations of all the rubbish robots and also Razer for all seven series. But HOLY HELL WHAT HAPPENED?

I was so excited for the glorious return of my favourite series. I was so excited for Dara O’Briain as host. I was so excited for the fact that every heat featured at least one familiar robot – not just familiar, but legendary. How on Earth did they get it so wrong?

Firstly, the arena. It looks like someone won a fan competition to design it. I get that the old arena was sold on years ago, but there was really no need to change it up. You had twelve years to basically emulate or build upon it and it just looks so…drab. They talked-up the size of the arena, but it looks tiny. In addition to this, there’s been twelve years of evolution in terms of camera angles. Twitter shares my feeling on this – the camerawork was way too choppy and was slightly nauseating at times.

Secondly, the actual format – I get that, to gauge the opinions of the audience, they only invited forty robots to compete, meaning we’d only see eight robots per heat. However, the level of filler in the first episode was deeply worrying. I wholeheartedly approve of having four-robot heats to begin the episode, but turning the second round into basically a football quarter-finals didn’t work for me. It meant that the actual final battle was ridiculously underwhelming, as we watched two knackered robots try not to be destroyed, rather than destroy each other.

Yes, the round featured a shock – overwhelming favourite Razer accidentally pitting itself – but that is also really not good for the overall series. Razer caused so much panic from other roboteers, so much panic for anyone involved in operating the house robots, that it elevated the show immediately. The fact that the new format basically devolved legitimate Robot Wars legend, Behemoth, to a blubbering mess. Seeing new blood dominating is a great thing, but it being a side-effect of two legends basically self-evicting isn’t a fine way for a reboot to begin.

As a result of the arena being tiny, the house robots felt irrelevant, as they really didn’t have anything to do unless they were forced to. In times gone by, we would have seen House Robots actively bait competitors, or be baited (or destroyed, thanks to Razer) by competitors. The new CPZs are probably six feet square, leaving the new ridiculously huge Sir Killalot, Matilda, Shunt or Dead Metal to basically sit there any cash in the pay cheques.

I feel so bad for criticising the new Robot Wars, because I so badly wanted to enjoy it and see badass fighting machines entertain me and make me feel ten years old again, but there’s just so much that they changed for the worse that I just don’t see where they could go from here. Robot Wars did so much good for so many people – showing them careers in STEM and igniting their passions for how stuff works, but the new Robot Wars just limped across the line for me. I hope that the rest of the series is better, because this sort of underwhelming reboot can cease for me.

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Amazing Race Canada – a franchise in crisis?

You don’t need to travel anywhere else – you have everything you need in our home country.

Sixteen words. That’s all it takes for one team to potentially ruin a franchise.

In the next few weeks, Amazing Race Canada will begin its fourth trip around the world. As an outsider looking in on this franchise, it strikes me how different it feels to other Amazing Races around the world. This franchise doesn’t rely on the flexibility of travelling, knowledge of language, flight intrigue. No, it is fuelled by nationalism, by the belief that – above everything else – Canada is the best damn country in the whole world.

And, the weird thing is, they’re not exactly wrong. Canada is a fantastic country. I’ve spent nearly a month there in the past four years, and I can count on one hand the number of unpleasant people that I’ve met. However, nationalism can be a very dangerous thing, especially if it is left to overrun a franchise that has shown so much promise.

Amazing Race Canada began, as my good friend Logan likes to say, as a beta test – a test to see whether Canada – possibly the biggest fans of Amazing Race around the world – could sustain their own version. As a precaution, production limited the season to nine teams and ten legs, all of which took the China Rush model of not leaving their borders. As the show became Canada’s most popular show of all tiiiiiiiime, pleas for the show to embrace international travel began cropping up. Season 2 had two countries – China (Hong Kong/Macau) and France – appear outside of Canada’s borders. Season 3 extended this to three – Chile, Argentina and India. However, the tide began to turn during the airing of Season 3.

During Season 3, a tide of nationalism swept over the fans of Amazing Race Canada. Gone was the excitement to see new countries or teams deal with language barriers, and instead we had celebrations at visits to exotic Sudbury (suck it, Trebek) and a final memory challenge that involved string. This was compounded by the winners of the season – who in the opinion of this author are some of the most boring people ever to race – stirring up the tension to dangerous levels with their winners’ quote being the above sixteen words. They weren’t challenged by anyone – Monty agreed with them at the Finish Line, and so did the fans on the pages – and this is a very worrying trend.

Amazing Race is a show that thrives on new experiences, on ordinary or extraordinary people being pushed to their limits, doing things and seeing places that they would never have dreamed of. And even more worryingly, Amazing Race Canada risks grinding to a halt without the intrigue or vibrancy of the exotic and new locales.

People may claim that Amazing Race Canada is different – it is intended to showcase Canada, and not the world. I wholeheartedly agree – I’ve learned more about Canada than I ever could have thought possible three years ago. I’ve learned that Canadian casting is almost always fantastic, for example. But, I’ve also learned that Canada rests on its laurels when it thinks it has a good thing going on. There is a huge difference between patriotism and blind patriotism (and no, the difference isn’t that you don’t have to put your picture on the board for blind patriotism!) It is very easy to forget that Canada – along with many other countries around the world – has a place in the world, and it is just as important to show the world Canada as it is Canada the world.

Last season, producers focused more on adding in twists like the Double Battle, rather than adding in more countries, and that is fine. It was a wondrous idea to add in the race for the Double Express Pass in the second leg instead of just resting on your laurels and handing it to the winners of the first leg – that is how you build upon your franchise, but don’t think for a second that you can relax or rest easy or get lazy. To quote the introduction to every season of Survivor, they need to adapt, or they’ll be voted out. And the problem that Amazing Race Canada faces – whether they realise it or not – is that the actions of production now may condemn the franchise to the scrapheap in a few short years.

The international destinations are another point of contention. A little-known part of the show’s deal with Air Canada is that they can go on any Air Canada flight, but more importantly, on any flight with an Air Canada number – even if it is a codeshare flight. This means that they can fly on Air China, Air New Zealand, Singapore Airlines, Austrian Airlines, Lufthansa and any other airline in Star Alliance. Just because it’s not an Air Canada plane, doesn’t mean they can’t still say that the flight is provided by Air Canada (which it still would be). Air Canada alone flies to 182 destinations in five continents around the world – there is literally no excuse for minimising international travel. In addition to this, almost every English-speaking country in the world has a Canadian ex-pat community and – even if they restricted travel to Commonwealth and former British Empire countries – they could tie every leg for ten seasons back to Canada, without it feeling forced or egregious.

So finally, my plea to producers – please be very careful when the season begins. Please don’t stoke the nationalistic fires that you so carelessly stoked last year. Please don’t be scared of the backlash you might face for expanding to a fourth or fifth country. And please, for the love of all that is holy, don’t let Gino & Jesse be your damn mouthpiece again.

A History of the You Are Team Number Podcast…so far!

Welcome to the third year of the You Are Team Number podcast. Two years ago, four people from the four corners of the Earth (well, the UK, Canada, Australia and Malaysia) launched a podcast that aimed to give a more irreverent take on each Amazing Race episode. Twenty-four months and over one hundred podcasts later, we have reached this point. But how did we get here?

It began, as all good things do, with an idea. Inspired by the podcast from the Previously on Survivor Facebook group and the infamous Survivor Historians podcast, Logan came to the group with an idea – Why doesn’t someone create an Amazing Race podcast that represents the truly global nature of The Amazing Race? Like a well-oiled jigsaw, it all came together, and one year ago today, Eamon, Logan, Michelle and I joined forces for the first-ever YATNcast. Of course, in completely typical fashion for me, it was not all plain sailing. Firstly, because of the weird set-up I had to use on the first episode, you couldn’t hear me. Secondly, we ended up talking for over three hours, which is all well and good, but at least two hours of that was not even Amazing Race related! We finished the show shattered (in the case of my back and Logan, who finished the show at 5.30am his time), our batteries drained (literally in the case of Eamon, who was actually on his phone in the car park of his workplace for the hour he could manage) but knowing the error of our ways having ironed out the problems that befell us.

2014 opened with a change of plans – Michelle took a step back from the podcast, allowing the three of us to cover “All Stars?!” at a more reasonable hour of the day for us all – 3pm GMT/BST every Wednesday. The lack of Michelle meant that the off-topic nature that the three of us possess went completely unrestricted, leading to many discussions about the Mole, every Survivor season and everyone’s favourite recurring segment – Malaysian Asks – where Eamon asks the first question that comes into his head and ends up getting both an answer and a little bit of mockery.

Once “All Stars?!” had ended, we looked back on our first podcasting season fondly. Whilst the show that we were actually talking about wasn’t great, there was a lot to be proud about with our coverage. Logan was now so awake that no-one accidentally implied that Phil Keoghan was a racist. I had invested in a microphone stand that meant that I was actually audible. However, we were faced with a dilemma – two international seasons were both starting over the Summer at roughly the same time, and in order to give them both the attention that they needed, we needed to split up. Logan & I would cover Canada’s second season, whilst Eamon would cover Australia. This allowed us to bring back a familiar face – Michelle – to accompany Eamon, as well as a new face – Ben Powell – who would be the main host of the Australian podcasts.

Summer 2014 was a time of firsts – it was the first time that Eamon had been a part of the cast preview, it was the first time that Logan & I managed to stick to a regular timeslot and it was also the first time that any of us had actually met, when I flew to British Columbia as part of a late Summer holiday in September. The Canadian season also gave us the comedic stylings of Sukhi & Jinder – the funniest brother-sister pair ever seen on the Race, and also the title holders of “Most awkward use of the life drawing Fast Forward in Amazing Race history”. Without teams like Sukhi & Jinder, I don’t think the podcast would work this well for both us and the listeners – each Race needs at least one team to carry the comedy deep into the Race and give us and other fans something to talk about! On the Australian side, Ben was already proving himself to be a great addition to the podcast family, bringing out both the best and worst in Eamon & Michelle.

Coming out of the international seasons, a plan needed to be formed. Due to my holiday, I was going to be missing a podcast for the first time ever. Thankfully, Ben stepped into the breech and (ignoring a minor flub at the start) began the season’s coverage in a great way. With TAR moving to Fridays, we needed to move, and the best course of action was to move from 3pm Wednesdays to 3pm Sundays. This was great fun for Ben, given that 3pm for me is 2am for Ben. We were back to the problem of everything immature being hysterical and Logan and I learnt very quickly that Ben is a terrible influence on us. From his insistence upon getting me into trouble with Scotland so soon after they tried to abandon us, to finding the new Black Family in a screencap of Bill & Cathi from Season 19 bodybuilding to his already legendary impression of Bethany Hamilton, he has brought out the best and worst in the both of us. For the sake of Ben’s sanity, the podcast moved from 3pm to 11pm my time, which meant I was shattered for a few weeks, before finally moving to the new timeslot of 8pm GMT.

2014 ended with a Year in Review podcast where, for the first time ever, all five of us appeared on the same show. Beginning an annual tradition of recapping the last year’s shows one final time, we chatted about how awesome Sukhi & Jinder are (see above), how terrible “All Stars?!” was, and Ben & I traded impressions as Mark Jackson & Bethany Hamilton. We also gave our first big announcement of 2015 – our first foray into interviewing former Racers.

As our first victims, we chose Amazing Race Legends, Joe & Bill. This podcast was genuinely the most nervous I have ever been for any radio programme. If we messed this up, there was basically nowhere that we could take the podcast, and I would always have this nagging regret. However, after 98 minutes of recording, I was so proud with what we achieved.

March 2015 saw Ben & Michelle’s first interview, with Cat & Jesse from Amazing Race Australia vs New Zealand. Throughout the recording, I was sending them Facebook messages asking if everything was going alright, and after about two hours of radio silence, I began getting worried. Had they forgotten to press record? Was there an issue? As it turned out, there was an issue – I had to edit three and a half hours of audio. Thinking that I could probably get it down to an hour, I was reasonably confident that I could have the podcast uploaded reasonably quickly. However, once I began listening to the file on the way home, I was beyond shocked. I’m not just saying this because I’m friends with both of them, but that podcast is potentially the best Amazing Race interview I’ve ever heard. Even after the edit, it’s 163 minutes of pure behind-the-scenes gold. There wasn’t a single anecdote that I decided to cut out, not a single question that I wouldn’t have asked, not a single part of the interview that, as a fan, I wouldn’t have found interesting. I have genuinely told people when they’ve asked about the podcast this year that this episode is my favourite that we’ve ever put out, and I still stand by that.

The gap in Amazing Race 26’s airing also brought another development – we decided to switch over to audio-only podcasts for our recaps. It allows us greater flexibility with the discussions that we have, as well as better audio quality. 26 also brought the rise of Hayley as a force to be reckoned with, as well as our love of Mike & Rochelle and jokes about a certain blind date couple who transitioned over to Big Brother.

Logan, Ben & I also branched out into Big Brother Canada whilst we covered Amazing Race 26, launching the hashtag “ginjaninja” which Logan signs off with every week, talking about the rise of Queen B and Sarah and how our support in the Zach vs Peter Brown argument comes down to who we hate less. This was the first major diversion from Amazing Race coverage that any of us had taken (The Big Adventure…does not count), and was a source of much amusement, usually from Godfrey Mangwiza, Lady Pleaser.

Mike & Rochelle from Amazing Race 26 also joined us the week after the season ended to recap everything that happened and shed light on a few behind-the-scenes details that surprised us live on the programme, as well as discussing our mutual love of Nintendo, clowns and what it was like to be body-checked by a caballito.

Canada 3’s coverage saw the return of Michelle & Eamon to regular podcasting, and the launch of our first predictions pool.  Canada 3’s cast had such potential, from the love-fest that is Nic & Sabrina to the first ever Racer that Logan had actually met – Elias Theodorou, but as they fell by the wayside, the rise of the VoldeMussolinis – Gino and Jesse – dampened our spirits somewhat.

And finally, to 27 – the season that launched a thousand jokes. As soon as the phrase “paddleboarding in my backyard canals” appeared in Logan & Chris’ biography, I knew that they would be stars, and they didn’t disappoint. 27 has been a season that was defined by Racer interaction – no season in recent memory has had a cast which is so close to each other, no season in recent memory has had a cast so willing to interact with us on the podcast. It’s always nice to have a season where I’m stuck with a choice between two or three potential banners (usually one of which features Denise’s reaction to something and one of which features Tiffany and/or Krista) for each week.

After 103 podcasts, over four days’ worth of audio and 192 contestants talked about, the You Are Team Number has reached the two-year mark. Who knows what Year 3 will bring?

Nintendo Direct 01/04/15 – An open letter to Nintendo

Dear Nintendo,

I prefix this by saying how I love you dearly. Mario Kart Double Dash is my jam. Mario and Zelda have sustained me for eons. I am a self-professed Nintendo fanboy. However, what on Earth was that direct?!

You’ve been using Nintendo Directs to show us all the amazing stuff that I have to pre-order since before you spurned E3, because it was too mainstream. I eagerly await every one, but I have never been more disappointed with a Direct as I was tonight.

Firstly, Mewtwo DLC dates. Yay to that. Something that was rumoured and I really badly needed. But then, you had to go and break my heart by introducing Lucas. Of all the characters from Brawl that I wanted to see return, Lucas wasn’t even bottom. He was in the chasm reserved for only the most awful ideas that Smash occasionally gets lumped with. Bring back ANYONE but Lucas. How about, oh I don’t know, SNAKE? Even Squirtle or Ivysaur, but not flipping Lucas! You did make me less ranty by announcing the Smash poll, but sadly Tingle will probably win that and I’ll feel like a Koolah-Limpahing loser by voting for Travis Touchdown.

Then, the Amiibos. My God, the Amiibos. Of the first five games, every single one had either Amiibo support, new Amiibos or DLC announced, or in some cases, all three. Splatoon, the game I’m most looking forward to this year, gets lumped with bloody Amiibos that block off certain items unless you have them. WHY? I get that there’s a need for making money, but don’t put something in a game and then stop me having it because I haven’t got a fecking piece of plastic with a 10p NFC sticker on it.

This Direct also suffered from the fact that there were way too many games that I have never heard of or care to hear about. There was a solid 15 minute section where I considered switching off the patchy stream that was provided on the official site and going back to playing one of your fine, original, Amiibo-less games. I actually walked out the room to inform Mark of how terrible it was so far, and I’ve never considered walking out of a Direct before, even when you talk about obscure games that are being ported or that time when I accidentally watched the American stream.

By my count, there were Amiibos made of wool, Amiibos of a game that hasn’t even been released or gives me any emotional attachment to it (despite the bloody awesome looking multiplayer, Splatoon) and a wave of about twenty new Amiibos, as well as Animal Crossing cards for that new game that takes all the good bits out of ACNL, like being a brutal dictator and making those animals work for you and frigging costumes for 69p for your Mii on Smash. Now, forgive me if I’m wrong, but did I wake up in a world where Smash had become Team Fortress 2?

The crowning moment of awful though was the StreetPass Mii Plaza announcements. I’ll admit to having bought the Rock-Paper-Scissors game, because it looked fun, and it is. But who in their right mind thought that anyone would care enough to buy f-ing StreetPass Fishing? Sure, the Zombie game looks kind of endearing, but it’s not enough to make me actually buy it. And then, the announcement of an optional VIP room and the ability to see people’s birthdays, for those times when you want to wish the person you’re never likely to meet again a Happy Birthday, or those times when looking on Facebook to see when your friends turn another year older isn’t enough, for the low low price of £4.49! What a bargain! Sign me up for 25 immediately!

Sure, we got the date for Mario Kart 8’s second (AWESOME LOOKING) DLC pack coming out. Yeah, it’s earlier than expected. Yeah, it comes with a free update that entitles you to 200cc races now. Yeah, they replaced Monty Moles with Mr Resetti. But is it enough to satisfy this fanboy? Not really. The surprises from MK8 were the diamond in this ball of a direct, firmly in the rough.

Happy YATNversary!

Twelve months is an awfully long time when you think about it. Twelve months ago, I had three grandparents. Twelve months ago, I had one of the best holidays of my life that had only just been booked. Twelve months ago, to the second of this being published, I began a pet project that has changed a lot of things in my life.

It began, as all good things do, with an idea. Inspired by the podcast from the Previously on Survivor Facebook group and the infamous Survivor Historians podcast, Logan came to the group with an idea – Why doesn’t someone create an Amazing Race podcast that represents the truly global nature of The Amazing Race? Like a well-oiled jigsaw, it all came together, and one year ago today, Eamon, Logan, Michelle and I joined forces for the first-ever YATNcast. Of course, in completely typical fashion for me, it was not all plain sailing. Firstly, because of the weird set-up I had to use on the first episode, you couldn’t hear me. Also, we ended up talking for over three hours, which is all well and good, but at least two hours of that was not even Amazing Race related! We finished the show shattered (in the case of my back and Logan, who finished the show at 5.30am his time), our batteries drained (literally in the case of Eamon, who was actually on his phone in the car park of his workplace for the hour he could manage) but knowing the error of our ways having ironed out the problems that befell us.

The first issue that we had to solve was at what time to do the next podcast. After both Logan and I found the concept of accidental racism in The Amazing Race 8 to be the funniest thing we’d ever heard, we knew that it probably wasn’t wise to podcast at a time that meant Logan was staying up for 20 hours straight in preparation. Michelle offered to take a step back, and this freed us up to begin podcasting as a threesome at 3pm UK time on a Wednesday, giving us enough time to watch the episode and make notes. Of course, just because there was no Michelle to keep us in check anymore did not mean that we actually stayed on topic during any podcast of the 24th American season. Our ridiculous tendencies to ramble led us to such diverse topics as The Mole (a lot), pretty much every Survivor season, not having any clooooooothes and everyone’s favourite semi-recurring segment – Malaysian Asks – the gold standard of which is still when Eamon asked whether urine freezes immediately in -40ºC weather.

When the season ended, we took our first little six-week break. This break gave us time to think – how else could we improve? We’d managed to rectify a lot of mistakes that occurred during the test podcast, from aiming not to reference Phil Keoghan being made out to be a racist, to me actually investing in a microphone stand now that it was in use again. Two international seasons, both of which had representation from our gang, were preparing to return, and gave us an opportunity to test out new ideas whilst also giving us a way to cover everything that happened. Into the breach stepped another Australian – Ben Powell. After Eamon was unavailable to cover the Canadian season, we decided that the podcast would split into two teams for the Summer – Logan & I on Team Canada and Ben & Eamon on Team Australia (technically Australia vs New Zealand, but who cares about those bloody Kiwis?). Of course, Michelle is the world’s biggest TARAU fan, so happily rejoined the podcasting team, and Team Australia became a three-person squad.


For the first time ever, Eamon managed to be around for the first podcast of a season – the Cast Preview podcast – where we spend an hour being mean about people we’ve never met just from the network-provided bios and pictures (and in the case of one particular team, adverts where they say the word ‘bloody’ an awful lot), and he even managed to only miss two Australian podcasts in the entire season, after missing three in the 24th American season’s run – an impressive record! Since his very first show, Ben has brought out a distinctly bitchier side to us all – like many Australians, he’s not one for mincing his words, and it’s only natural to compete!

On the Canadian side, we managed to stick to a timeslot for an impressive (for us at least) nine of the first ten episodes, before I decided it’d be more fun to fly thousands of miles and shrink the time difference to only an hour whilst we were in Alberta, and absolutely zero whilst we were in BC. We spotted the potential of possibly the most gloriously dense team in Amazing Race history (at least in recent memory), as Sukhi & Jinder single-handedly provided the comedy of the second Canadian season. From being the first team ever to block the exit to the start line, to unnecessarily charging a car in an attempt to get ahead, to asking (out loud), “Which way is upstream?” whilst sat on a raft and trying to paddle. Their crowning moment of awesome occurred in the ninth leg when they became the first family team in Amazing Race history to complete the infamous “Life Drawing” Fast Forward task and it was all sorts of sibling awkwardness. On a sadder note, we had to move the fourth episode recap of the Canadian season due to my grandmother’s funeral. I’m sure she’s looking down on me, proud that I’ve turned my radio obsession into an outlet to channel the snarkiness that I inherited off her.


This isn’t awkward at all…

Our Canadian recaps saw a bunch of firsts for us. We had our first episode which topped 1,500 views. Our first preview podcast that was accompanied by the promotional pictures of the teams. The first real chance for any of us to embrace a punslinging host, in the same way that Allan Wu loves to throw out a pun, and Logan and I both appreciate them, in Jon Montgomery. In one season, he turned from an alright host into probably the best thing about the entire Canadian franchise. However, most importantly, the Canadian season marked the first time that YATNcast worlds collided, when Logan flew out to Vancouver for the weekend and joined my family and I for the day in September. I’m pleased to say that my family got on famously with him, and everyone involved had an awesome (as Canadians like to say) time, even if he found out we were being bumped from the hotel in Vancouver before we did! He certainly picked the right day to come, as it was the first day in a week that we’d actually seen sunshine!

Coming out of the international seasons, a plan needed to be formed. For the first time in three seasons, I was unable to make an appearance in the preview podcast for the 25th American season, because of glaciers. Thankfully, Ben stepped into the breech and made me look even better by flubbing the intro ten seconds into the podcast. Of course, this being me, I mocked the hell out of him for it the week after. With TAR moving to Fridays, we needed to move, and the best course of action was to move from 3pm Wednesdays to 3pm Sundays. This was great fun for Ben, given that 3pm for me is 2am for Ben. We were back to the problem of everything immature being hysterical and Logan and I learnt very quickly that Ben is a terrible influence on us. From his insistence upon getting me into trouble with Scotland so soon after they tried to abandon us, to finding the new Black Family in a screencap of Bill & Cathi from Season 19 bodybuilding to his already legendary impression of Bethany Hamilton, he has brought out the best and worst in the both of us. For the sake of Ben’s sanity, the podcast moved from 3pm to 11pm my time, which meant I was shattered for a few weeks, before finally moving to the new timeslot of 8pm GMT.


And now to the present. As I write this, we’re gearing up to podcast about Episode 9 in Singapore in two days’ time. We will have produced 49 episodes about five different Amazing Races (and one failed Seven reality programme, which no-one needs to be reminded of). Our shows have stretched for a total of nearly two days non-stop. We’ve had over 35,000 views over all our podcasts. These numbers blow my mind. I would have never thought in my wildest dreams that this could be achieved in such a short amount of time.

The final credit has to go to everyone involved. Without all of you guys, this could never have happened. Just a warning, I’m about to go all Martha Stewart on yo asses.

  • Eamon – you bring so much to the podcasts when you’re on them. Malaysian Asks is a thoroughly tongue-in-cheek segment, but your interest in the most random things brings it alive. You have such incredible passion for everything, and it entertains me to no end. For the record, no, piss does not freeze at -40ºC.
  • Michelle – I’m so glad that you got to complete a season of the show that you love so much. I felt so bad that you felt you had to step back that I was always waiting for you to get your chance at redemption. If there’s ever an Amazing Race Australia 4 and you are not cast, it’s a crime. You have such passion for the Australian seasons that it makes me immediately envious that the UK’s never tried.
  • Ben – For such a late addition to the YATNcast family, you know how to make a big impression! As I said above, you bring out the very best and the very worst in me, and it’s no secret that I’ve enjoyed this American season so thoroughly, and a big part of that is the energy that you bring. Also, we need to hear what Bethany sounds like on laughing gas! Also, Bill & Cathi say Hi.

Flexing for Ben.

  • Ryan – “Dear Ryan, you have the desire to try new things, and a lot of self-confidence. I think you need more focus, and possibly more education, in business for example. I know you will then be ready for a big challenge.”
  • Logan – Where do I start with you? You share so much of the same sense of humour as me that it’s actually kind of scary. The perfect example of this is the mock thread for the unaired episode on Netflix Gold Premium Plus. The fact that you were willing to improvise an entire podcast around the rubbish that Ben, Eamon, Wayne and myself all came up with whilst adding your own flairs was hilarious. You are beyond dedicated to The Amazing Race, and I will have immense pride mocking the hell out of you on TARC3. The fact that you were willing to be so flexible with podcast timings and that you flew for the very first time to come and see some weirdo that you met on the internet says immense things about your character. Also, the Black family, lol.
  • My family – especially when it came to our holiday in Canada, you were more than accommodating to the podcast timings, with the exception of not finding me wi-fi in Alaska for the preview podcast. I am disappoint.
  • Jess Liese and the TARHAP family – This may sound like a weird one to thank, given that you are kind of our competition, but I thoroughly enjoy how different our spins on the episodes are. If people ever ask me to describe YATNcast, I tend to go with “RHAP, but bitchier”, and I have the utmost respect for everyone involved. I take an awful lot of inspiration from you guys.

To friends old and new, here’s to you. Here’s to another strong year, and here’s to another year where I get to enjoy being mean about people I’m unlikely to ever meet. Here’s to our new family. Here’s to the glorious second year of YATNcast – the snarkiest, wittiest, most entertaining show I’ve ever done.

What about us?!

What about us?!

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Day 38

Complete devastation.

I’ve felt it before, and I had an awful feeling it was coming again today.

It’s currently Monday 7th April and as I write this, it’s been about three and a half hours since I received the phone call I’d been dreading – the phone call that would either make or break the last six weeks of effort. A phone call that I knew in my heart of hearts the result of as soon as I woke up this morning. The dreaded no.

As some of you know, I was one of the final ten candidates for the Traffic & Travel and Web Content Apprentice position at the Manchester-famous Key 103. This was, as I pointed out in the interviews, the position I’d been waiting for – a position that would play to my strengths as an absolute radio nerd, as someone who has to write and rewrite statements on a daily basis, as someone who is used to dealing with the public on the phones and face-to-face. Yet it was still not to be.

Almost three years ago, I got rejection after rejection thanks to universities, but I was okay, because I had the BBC Production Trainee Scheme to fall back on. As you might have guessed, the email came through telling me I wasn’t being put forward. I wept. A lot. For forty-five minutes to be precise. I was that much of a mess that I collapsed in tears in a stairwell at school, having to be comforted by one of my maths teachers. Not my finest hour. But I learnt a valuable lesson that day – never get your hopes up, cause they very rarely pan out when they’re your only option. And I stuck to that until this past week. I had exit strategies planned. There was a nagging voice in my mind telling me not to get my hopes up, but I ignored it. Much to my current regret.

I’ve a lot to be angry about – the feelings are still very raw. This is the first time I’ve ever been called “too laid back”. The ideas that I thought were genius went down like a fart in a lift. The fact that someone else will get an opportunity that I can only dream about frustrates me infinitely, and that is going to last an awfully long time. But I’ve also a lot to be proud about. I beat out (at least) 130 other people. I got more excited and passionate about anything than I have in the past three years. But this sort of thing has screwed me over royally when it comes to emotions. And that’s not to say I’m not immensely frustrated at one person – myself – for the things that I had pointed out. There is no-one else to blame but myself for this situation, and that’s probably the worst thing about this situation.

I have however met a lot of really lovely people.

Firstly, thank you to Helena Priest and Alex Sherriff from Learning Unlimited for being so lovely and putting up with my emails when they were in charge of the process. Thank you for teasing me so much when they rung me up about whether they’d put me through or not. Thank you for being so chatty when the final fifteen were stuck in that room for three hours. Thank you above all for not breaking my heart on my 21st birthday. That I am grateful for.

Thank you to Kate Cocker and Holly Smith from Key 103. Thank you Kate for being upfront with me this afternoon – I’m not sure I could have coped with another minute of pontification and then being told I’m crap. Thank you for giving me actual constructive criticism – I might never have been called “too laid back” before, but I sure as hell will never be called that again. Thank you for pointing out that I may have slightly over-thought the logo idea, despite my best intentions.

Thank you to Adam Catterall – you brightened my day last Tuesday by actually remembering that it’d been my birthday the week before. Thank you for being an absolute legend when I met you and was stupidly nervous. Thank you for sharing my sense of humour (“What the BLOODY HELL is that?!“) when it comes to item choices. Thank you for showing me what a real radio presenter looks like – I have the utmost respect for you.

Finally, thank you to everyone who I met and basically competed against. Aaron and Tatum – I am insanely jealous of you both, but I have faith that you were the right two to go through. James – I am honestly still in shock that you did not make it to the final two. I was convinced you would be the biggest stumbling block to me getting the job. As it happens, the biggest stumbling block was my own damn self by the look of things! Richard – you are absolutely crazy, but in a good way. We were the last pair who were interviewed together standing, and you did a complete 180 when it came to personality between that and the final fifteen day! Who’d have thought that someone who was a little bit quiet one day would be probably the second loudest person in the room three days later? You and James were the two I was most worried about facing, and the fact that all three of us went out together is a huge shock to me. To everyone else who I haven’t mentioned – the process wouldn’t have been the same without you guys, and I am so proud to be a member of this tiny group.

I’m unlikely to forget this experience – for better and for worse – for an awfully long time. I entered this process as someone who had lost his passion and way when it comes to radio, and I’ve left it being so into it that I threw an adult tantrum two minutes after getting off the phone. It has reignited my passion for the radio to the point of no return. Watch out radio stations – I’m coming to get you.

Survivor: Blood vs Water – Episode 1 (also known as Survivor: Amazing Race edition)

Time to start a new era in my blogging and cover one of my favourite shows – Survivor. Returning for its 27th season, the Reality juggernaut is bringing back ten former castaways (they’re not technically favourites, but probably moreso than last season’s cast) as well as ten people related to them, whether it be by blood or water, and then throws a boatload of twists at them. Those twists are:

  1. Day Zero – The ten pairs will be split up along the beach, and camp out the night before to prepare the loved one for their time in the game. It also gives the producers the ability to split them up cruelly the morning after.
  2. Redemption Island is back! – Immediately after creating the tribes, one person from each tribe will be voted out and sent immediately to Redemption Island to await the first actual boot on Day 3. I don’t hate Redemption Island as much as some people, but I would much prefer it if we could either get ninety-minute episodes every week (meaning we could keep reward challenges) or they’d shift Redemption to the end of the episode, allowing someone to actually leave the show every week.
  3. Tribe Switches – I’ve long said I’d like Redemption to appear on a season with tribe switches happening, so it wouldn’t be as predictable, but I didn’t expect it to be done in this way – if your loved one is on Redemption, for whatever reason, you can take their place before the duel happens. In that case, they will join your tribe, meaning that tribe will have a mix of returning and new castaways.
  4. Redemption Island Truels – Following the model of South Pacific, three people will compete in each “duel” – loser goes home, first and second place stay. However, the winner will be able to hand out a clue to the immunity idol, which is actually hidden this season, to whomever they want on either tribe. This gives the winner a little bit of power and/or revenge over their former tribemates or loved ones’ tribemates, if they so choose.

Now to those pairs. In no particular order, they are:

Gervase and Marissa – “Original OG” and student, from Philadelphia and North Carolina


Gervase & Marissa are Uncle and Niece, and probably the most volatile pairing out there – they’re the only pair who openly admit being willing to vote each other out, and are very very competitive, which could be their downfall. He played in the original season, Borneo, when she was just nine – can he learn from his mistakes, and correct his laziness and weakness in swimming? Coincidentally, the above picture is the first and only time she smiles.

Kat and Hayden – Former Survivor loser and Big Brother winner, from Florida and Arizona


She is a former Survivor castaway who was blindsided, he is a former Big Brother winner who is possibly the most boring winner of that show for a long time. She was screwed by her alliance, he screwed one of the most popular people ever to play the game. In short, he’ll do well, she really won’t.

Laura M. and Ciera – Mother and Daughter, from Oregonsurvivor.s27e01.hdtv.x264-2hd-3

I’m glad Laura’s back. If it wasn’t for Russhell in Samoa, she would have done very well and probably been a much more fun and over the top villain than the little we saw of her. Ciera struck me initially as probably a very early boot for the loved ones’ tribe – she’s small, she doesn’t look very strong, and her mother is the sort of player you would want to weaken as soon as is physically possible. Can she overcome the troubles she might very well have?

Rupert and Laura B. – Will keep returning to Survivor until he wins and Merchandiser, from Indiana.


ROOOOOOOOOAR! The call of the Rupert means he’s back. Again. For a fourth time. He’s already won $1,000,000 thanks to America, but surely everyone is tired of him. Well, unless you’re on a tribe with him. He and Boston Rob don’t just share the fact they’ve both played four times, but also the fact that they are the two most well-respected camp builders in Survivor history. She has been his loved one in the annual visits twice now, and was probably the most obvious choice when the season was announced, but this will almost certainly be Rupert’s last appearance (hopefully).

Colton and Caleb Former(?) racist and outdoorsman, from Alabama


Colton previously abused his tribemates on Survivor: One World, and describes his fiancé as his rock. It’s ironic that in the first Survivor season with a former Big Brother player, and after such a dire season in terms of hatred from nearly all those players, that they would invite such a hateful former castaway back. For all his protestations that he has changed, I doubt it.

Candice and John – Replacement Pair, from Washington D.C.


Candice and John weren’t even supposed to be on this season. For a girl whose major claim to fame is being the one who mutinied and wasn’t Penner, she’s getting a lot of mileage. Last we heard from her, she’d postponed her wedding to Mr Candice (aka John) to come back for Heroes vs Villains, and was one of the questionable choices. Both times she’s played, she known for being disloyal to any and all alliances or tribes. Should be fun for her with the immediate vote-off.

Monica and Brad (For that is his name) – NFL wife and Attorney, from Florida


She was a workhorse non-entity in One World, he was her dutiful former-NFL playing husband, who is now an attorney. Also, if he is not the villain this season, something has gone majorly wrong. He is by far the cockiest person out there, and I just hope he gets blindsided fast, because it will be a glorious piece of television.

Tina and Katie – mother and daughter, from Tennessee (where the whiskey flows like wine)


The winner of the Survivor season with the most watched episode ever – Tina Wesson – is back for a third time. In All-Stars, she was an immediate target, for being a smiling assassin. Tina & Katie are also the only pair to explicitly mention that it’s okay for them to vote each other out, although I doubt they’d ever go through with it.

Tyson and Rachel – Survivor badass and Graphic Designer, from Utah


Tyson is one of the funniest people ever to play Survivor. I am a huge fan of Tyson, purely because he is able to be a competition bad-ass, whilst distracting everyone by his antics including his frequent nudity. Rachel has to be strong-willed just to be with someone as relentless brilliant and silly as Tyson. If Tyson doesn’t go far, I will be sorely disappointed.

Aras & Vytas – Former winner and former heroin addict/maths teacher, from California


Aras is one of the most underrated winners of Survivor. His brother is a former heroin addict and was horrible to him growing up. This is only going to end well.

Which of these pairs of people will have the right mix of brains, brawn and luck to make it to the finish line and win $1,000,000 and the Amazing Race Survivor: Blood vs Water? Thirty-nine (and a half) days, twenty people, ONE Survivor!


Once Day 1 finally begins, Jeff has everyone who’s looking forward to competing against their loved one raise their hands. Monica, Aras, Vytas, Katie, Candice, John, Laura B, Marissa and Kat all raise their hands – a fact that means Jeff claims “over half” put their hands up. Not for the first time this episode, maths is not someone’s strong point. Brad also makes an instant mistake and admits he’d let Monica win a tarp regardless of his team’s reaction. Marissa in particular was not a fan of this tactic. Returning Players and Loved Ones then split into Galang and Tadhana respectively.

When the instant vote twist was announced, my prediction was Colton and Ciera being the first people voted out. The votes were as follows:


  • Vytas – Laura B
  • Brad – Laura B
  • Hayden – Laura B
  • Laura B – Marissa
  • Caleb – Laura B
  • Marissa – ?
  • Ciera – Laura B

Rupert, of course, thought it was a slight upon him. He is of course, wrong – she stuck out like a sore thumb in her tribe, being middle-aged.


  • Candice – Laura M
  • Tyson – Laura M
  • Tina – Candice
  • Kat – Candice
  • Colton – Candice
  • Rupert – Laura M
  • Monica – Candice
  • Aras – Gervase (having crossed out Candice’s name)
  • Laura M – Candice

Mr Candice vowed to vote out everyone who voted out his missus. Good luck with that one.

Jeff then floated the idea of the loved ones’ switch to Rupert.


Face of an idiot.

So much has been made of Rupert’s decision, but here’s my opinion – WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!?!?!?! Rupert has never not made the Jury, and for a very good reason – he’s safe in the tribal phase of the game. Nobody is going to vote him out first, ever! His wife, on the other hand, was singled out by her tribe for being the weakest one. If he thinks logically, all he wants is one of them to win the million, so why not give yourself the best chance and let her duel it out with Candice, who’s never been brilliant at individual challenges? All he’s done is given Galang an easy first boot, unless something catastrophic happens. The best tactic would be to go back to your beach, make an alliance and then discuss it on Day 4 with her – it’s ridiculous to give up so easily!

Mr Candice is then given the same option, and decides against it. The irony of Candice and Rupert being together on Redemption after her backstabbing attitude with him in Heroes vs Villains is amazing. Rupert also claims that he and Laura are blood, which I sincerely hope they are not, because it would be creepy as hell.

Once they’re back at camp, Galang discovered their supplies. Gervase correctly spots that he’s had the longest lay-off in Survivor history. Surely, that’s obvious – he was in the first season, this is the newest season, dumbass! Monica also has a discussion with Colton over his behaviour in One World and warns him not to be a nuisance. I suspect this won’t last, purely because he’s a professional nuisance, and has never given us any reason to not say that.

Brad immediately brings Tadhana round to apologise for his statement about the tarp – all this did was rehash old feelings and bring animosity. He then starts an alliance, between “four guys and a gay guy” to rule Tadhana with an iron fist. He claimed to Caleb that he’d be “number one” in the five-man alliance, his first bit of lacklustre maths. Could Vytas please give him some tutoring? Because “Four with nine equals out, but five with nine equals in” – the basis of Survivor alliances.

Within fifteen minutes, Galang has fire. Tadhana, however just has secrets to divulge, thanks to Vytas (heroin addict) and Ciera (double teen mother). Mr Candice also seems to know that Brad played in the NFL, but it’s not known if he admitted it or not. At Galang, Colton also tries to apologise for his racism from One World. Whilst he’s crying, Monica sympathises with him, so obviously forgives him for what he’s done.

At Redemption Island, Candice is out for revenge on all the people who voted for her, whilst Rupert sits back and tries to retain strength for the duel. Neither Candice nor Rupert have won an individual immunity before, so it’s a level playing field.

At the first challenge, six people from each tribe race over a series of obstacles, racing to untie a boat containing three bags of puzzle pieces. The remaining three people use the puzzle pieces to create a wheel and raise a flag. After the boat portion, Tadhana have a huge lead, mainly thanks to Gervase’s lack of swimming ability and Tadhana’s teamwork. Galang also struggled with the paddling aspect, veering off course twice. The battle of mothers vs daughters in the puzzle levelled up the playing field, with the mothers annihilating their daughters (and Caleb) to win immunity for Galang.


An idiot being restrained by a legend.

Thank the Lord that Gervase hasn’t played in thirteen years. His behaviour as a sore winner, especially on a season where your win jeopardises your loved one’s safety is idiotic. Tadhana is a tribe ruled by men, and his niece has gone from being safe to being very much on the block thanks to his actions.

When they get back to camp, the five men of Tadhana decide upon their first target. Thanks to Gervase’s actions, Marissa is one of the targets, as well as Katie for being a third wheel on the puzzle in the challenge. Vytas also keeps his side alliances open, being the conduit between the girls and guys.

Tribal Council centres on the tribe’s relationships with members of the other tribe, whether that be Mr Candice’s choice not to swap with his wife, or Ciera’s comparison between her mother’s stories and reality. Marissa also realises she’s guilty by association, thanks to Gervase’s actions at the challenge.

Katie and Marissa are shown voting for each other, but no-one else’s votes are shown.

By a vote of 9-1, Marissa, you have been evicted from the Survivor House.


Last part of the trip!

I’ve completely neglected this blog! We’ve been back from the States for over two months now, and last time I posted, we’d just started the Tour. We spent the remaining eighteen days after it touring California before flying to Florida for three and a half weeks.


Anaheim is only a thirty-minute(-ish) train ride from the centre of LA, and is a very pretty spot, but of course, there is only one reason anyone goes to Anaheim unless they live there – Disneyland! The original theme park in the glorious Disney empire, Disneyland Park is the only park in said empire that Walt himself oversaw the construction of. It also shares a ridiculously small amount of rides with the other parks, justifying our visit for five nights. We managed to pick up an “Honorary Citizen of Disneyland Resort” badge whilst we were there (mainly cause they were out of “First Visit” badges) and managed to have a nice relaxing time, especially after the stress of the tour. We also enjoyed a ridiculously huge cake at Outback Steakhouse – it was only 1,000 calories, and suggested for three people. We actually had to give up and bring it back to the hotel and put it in the fridge and ate it on our last night there.

San Diego

When I posted the last blog, we were on the (remarkably plush) train from Anaheim to San Diego. After five nights in Anaheim, we had to tear ourselves away from the lights and sights of Disneyland to the most south-easterly city in the United States – San Diego. We only had four nights in San Diego, so decided to only do the major sites – Old Point Loma Lighthouse, SeaWorld (much to the irritation of Lawrie Brailey) and the USS Midway. Despite a run-in with SeaWorld (who advertised their water park as being just minutes away, when it was actually less than two miles from the Mexican border, and two hours away on public transport), we really enjoyed San Diego, and it was by far the most relaxing bit of the Californian adventure so far.

A proper visit to LA

For the last eight nights in California, we travelled back to LA – Hollywood in particular. In addition to a return to Universal Studios (obviously – we had an Annual Pass to use!), we saw sights such as the Griffith Observatory (Amazing Race 22 Start Line!), the Walt Disney Concert Hall (Amazing Race France task site!) and of course, Pasadena, where we took our L’il Sebastian plush back to his spiritual home at Pasadena City Hall. If you don’t know what the end of that sentence means, go and watch Parks and Recreation – do yourself a favour! We used the Hollywood part of the trip as a more quiet endeavour, mainly because we knew what was coming next – the biggest part of the trip, and the part where we were most likely to see well over 75,000 people in a day – Florida.


The last part of our trip took us to the Sunshine State, the home of not one, but FIVE of the top ten theme parks in the world in terms of attendance, at the busiest time of the year, with our trip coinciding with 4th July celebrations. It is also the home of two of the top three water parks in the world. As a side note, by the end of the trip, we’d been to seven of the top ten theme parks, and eleven of the top twenty, which is a pretty impressive stat.

We’d chosen the Maingate Lakeside Resort as our base, as it supposedly had great links to the theme parks (Disney and Universal), but as we found out, the Disney parks were closer if we walked, as it was only around a mile away by foot. We only visited Universal Florida once, but it was full of surprises, as I discovered that one of my classmates from high school worked at the Simpsons Ride, which was a very surreal moment when I said hi to him in the queue.

The hotel was comfortable enough – we weren’t planning on spending much time there anyway (at least in comparison to the other hotels), but it did have one major benefit – a Pizza Hut on site. Even better, there was an offer on allowing us a refillable cup for $10.70 (about £7.00), allowing us to refill said cup any time we wanted whilst it was open throughout our stay. This as you can imagine was abused, and we more than made our money back.

We decided to spend 4th July in Epcot, as Magic Kingdom was forecast to have 100,000 people (also known as a Phase 4 closure) on that day, despite it being a Thursday. Epcot is also home to, in my opinion, the world’s greatest fireworks show – IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth, which has around 2,000 fireworks added as an Independence Day celebration. We watched a patriotic concert at the American pavilion to start the day, and it was as over-the-top as you can imagine. Thankfully, Disney provide wi-fi in all the theme parks now for free (a great help when using their app), so it was there that I found out another classmate from my high school class was also at the same concert. I suspect there must be something in the water at BRGS that makes us all come to Florida in early July. We also had a day trip to Miami, which featured an Everglades airboat ride and Miami Harbour Cruise – I didn’t really enjoy it, but if you’re into the sort of trip where you look round islands where famous people live, it probably has much more appeal. We left Florida feeling very pleased with ourselves for a holiday well done, as well as a little homesick (although not necessarily pleased to come back)!

All-in-all, a job well done – we were disappointed at some aspects of the holiday, but nothing was bad enough to ruin our impressions of the US. We travelled somewhere in the region of 10,000 miles (3,000 of which were in the tour alone!), and spent 77 nights in (on the whole) beautiful surroundings. Thanks to all who helped us with this trip, whether it be work allowing us the time off, our parents for helping us with a load of the planning, and Tim Johnson at Travelbag, who put up with my nagging and helped sort the flights, tour and some hotels. I’ll be back tomorrow for one final post, where I’ll be imparting some advice on how we sorted out a trip of this magnitude. I’ll then be starting my coverage of American shows this year – I’m thinking I’ll be covering Survivor, The Amazing Race and Revolution, with a possible appearance by Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

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Philadelphia, DC, Herndon and LA

As you probably guessed from the last post, Philadelphia was a breath of fresh air compared to New York. The hotel was so much better, and we managed to find a nice Irish restaurant that we went to a few times, as well as discovering TGI Friday’s, adding another potential string to our restaurant bow.

The day we arrived in DC was the hottest day so far on the trip, and coupled with the traditional DC swamp heat, meant that it was a bit uncomfortable doing all the sightseeing that we did that day. I also managed to pick up a very sunburnt foot (only one though oddly), which has thankfully browned nicely now. The hotel was alright, but the restaurant had dreadful service there, and upon asked the question of what came with our burger, the waitress handily forgot to tell us it was layered with mushrooms underneath the cheese – a fact which incurred her Mark’s wrath! We were also rudely awoken by the sound of dance music at 9am from the pool, which our room looked over, being played on huge speakers. The pool was, of course, not even open yet, as it wasn’t Memorial Day (which was the 27th May).

After two days, we travelled to the town of Herndon, Virginia via the airport (which was a farce in itself) as there was a free shuttle from the airport to the hotel. I can honestly say that the hotel in Herndon was one of the nicest hotels we’ve ever stayed in – free breakfast, free coffee in the lobby 24/7, free soft drinks on one of the evenings (or beer/wine if you wanted them) and just a generally nice place. It also had a free laundry, which was very welcome given the price of some of the coin laundries over here!

On the 22nd, we flew from DC (technically the airport’s in Virginia) to Los Angeles, the sixth busiest airport in the world. The flight was decent, although my MP3 player had gone walkies (luckily it was just hidden in my bag!) and I had to sit next to a deeply odd woman, who insisted on falling asleep before Mark or I had got there, meaning we had to wake her up, brought a very pongy fruit bowl on board for the journey and wore both ear plugs and an eye mask for 90% of the journey, disturbing me for a great deal of the journey.

Once we got to the hotel (thankfully only about a mile from the airport), I discovered that the TSA had left me a delightful note that they’d rifled through my bag when it went through Dulles airport. Obviously, there was nothing in there untoward, but I’m still puzzled as to what they thought looked suspicious! The hotel was nice, but didn’t even offer free wi-fi. The hotel also served as the starting point of the tour, but very few people seemed to know anything about the joining instructions (as ours had been cut off, and I found out later that they’d changed the plans anyway!) so we actually didn’t know what on Earth was happening until we checked out and the lady handed us an ATI envelope with luggage tags attached.

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Boston & New York – The Tale of Two Cities

We’re in Philadelphia at the moment, the third stop on our tour around America.

Boston was really cool (yes that word was chosen given Mark’s birthday card from Annie!), with a beautiful location, especially the view from our window, free wi-fi and a traditional American breakfast of pancakes. The weather was top notch, as well. The fish & chips in the pub in the hotel was exactly what we needed after about ten hours on the road, and we ate there four of the five nights.


New York, however, was a bit of a catastrophe. The hotel was lacklustre, with wi-fi only available in the lobby, surly staff, dreadful food in the cafe, and just an awful awful area, the sort where you just don’t feel safe after about 6pm. The hotel was more Bates Motel than Hilton Hotel. It says a lot when the highlight of that part of the trip is a choice between a tour where you can’t take pictures (which was still very interesting!) and going to see the Unisphere and getting caught in a storm.

Philadelphia so far is a much better hotel, with wi-fi in the rooms and much more light and general enthusiasm so far.

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