General Election 2019: My case for voting Liberal Democrat

Owing to its lateness, this essay will be shorter than it was for the last GE and the referendum.

As I’m sure most of you have noticed, the crux of the Liberal Democrat position in this election is stopping Brexit. The arguments against Brexit are well-documented and are largely unchanged since I urged readers to vote Remain in 2016. Of course, unlike in 2016 we now have a specific form of Brexit on the table, the so-called “Boris Deal” which imposes a customs border between Northern Ireland and the UK, despite Mr. Johnson’s repeated assertions that it does not, apparently in direct contradiction to what the Withdrawal Agreement actually says. If we assume this deal goes through, we will indeed have left the EU, but we will then have until the end of 2020 to sort out our future trading arrangements with the EU, something which Michel Barnier said today was “unrealistic”. If there is no trade agreement in place by the end of 2020, we face reverting to WTO trading rules, which almost all economists agree would be disastrous for the country. Given the amount of time it took the Tories to agree just the withdrawal agreement, expect to see plenty of infighting around these trade talks, with the ERG likely rearing its ugly head once again. So contrary to what Mr. Johnson says, a Conservative government will not be quite so simple as “getting Brexit done”, and it only delays the very real risk of crashing out on WTO terms by 11 months. Labour’s alternative may look appealing by comparison: negotiate a “better” deal, and then hold a referendum on it. The main flaw with this is that the EU will not grant another extension to Article 50, due to the fact that the EU begins drafting its six-year budget after the 31st of January, and for this purpose it needs to know whether Britain is in or out by that date. Readers may recall that Mr. Macron was reluctant to grant the last extension just for the purposes of holding this election. So, there is very little time for a Labour government to negotiate a new deal, and hold its confirmatory referendum, in the – what – six or seven weeks after this election. Unfortunately, whether delivered by the Tories or by Labour, Brexit remains just as intractable today as it did on the 23rd of June 2016, and anyone claiming to have a viable solution is papering over cracks which expose huge consequences for the political and economic integrity of this nation. The only way to make Brexit go away is to stop it, and that’s the basis of the Liberal Democrat position. I will not hear any accusations that the policy is undemocratic; it’s literally a manifesto pledge for a general election, and if it were to be given a mandate by the electorate, you cannot argue that that mandate is less valid than the referendum results from three years ago – for just as one parliament cannot bind the hands of a future parliament, an electorate cannot be allowed to bind the hands of a future electorate. Sure, you can try to stop Brexit by voting for a referendum which may or may not happen and which you have a 50/50 chance of winning (or, indeed, by breaking your bit of the country off the UK and rejoining the EU as that bit), or you can treat this election as a referendum, and just simply vote to stop Brexit. Chances are good it’s the last chance you’ll get.

Many arguments regarding the economy and public spending also carry over from my equivalent blog post from the 2017 election – most crucially, that extravagant spending promises from Labour (and indeed, this time from the Tories too) are completely unfeasible because they are predicated on leaving the EU. Again, almost all economists agree that most forms of Brexit will hit tax revenues, and that results in either austerity or excessive borrowing. My argument also still stands that Labour has its priorities completely wrong, with hugely expensive but ultimately pointless pledges such as abolishing tuition fees and nationalising utilities. What exactly is the point of spending billions on nationalising water companies when there are precisely zero issues with the country’s water supply, whilst the homelessness epidemic continues to escalate (and whilst, I shall remind readers, Labour-run councils such as Manchester and Oxford continue to arrest and fine homeless people). Neither the Conservatives or Labour have been honest about how they will fund these policies; indeed, in one interview, Mr. Corbyn seemed to suggest that issuing bonds to pay for his nationalisation programme didn’t count as borrowing, which suggested an alarming level of financial illiteracy. To clarify, I have no problem with borrowing for capital investment; indeed, a Liberal Democrat government would be investing large sums into renewable energy and improving our transport infrastructure, areas which actually vitally need funding, and this would be achieved through a mixture of borrowing and reasonable tax rises. In this Twitter thread, the Institute for Fiscal Studies reaches the clear conclusion that the Liberal Democrats are the only party to put long-term debt on a downward path, whilst meanwhile, the Resolution Foundation carried out analysis which showed that the Liberal Democrat manifesto did the most for those living in poverty.

Source: the Resolution Foundation

With the IFS saying the Liberal Democrats are the most fiscally responsible, and the Resolution Foundation saying the Liberal Democrats will do the most for the poor, why would you even need to consider anybody else?

A couple points on social issues:
-Yes, the Labour anti-Semitism crisis is real, if you’re still trying to deny it at this point then you’re being wilfully ignorant, the sheer volume of evidence at the EHRC enquiry has been staggering. I’m sorry but there are just as many bigots in the Labour Party as there are in the Conservatives, and just as in the Tories, their apologists go all the way to the top. The only difference is that their target is Jews rather than… well, the many types of minorities that Conservatives tend to be bigoted against.
-The Liberal Democrats are the only major party without a serious transphobia problem. Labour, the Greens and the SNP host a number of loud TERFy voices and are apologists for them.

On the environment, my argument is very much similar my argument on the effect of leaving the EU on public finances. We are much better placed to tackle climate change, a global issue, as part of the EU. In fact, it was as part of the EU that Sir Ed Davey, then Liberal Democrat Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, managed to get 27 other European countries to adopt our more ambitious target on carbon neutrality (indeed, Davey is almost single-handedly responsible for much of the progress this country has made on renewables over the past decade, setting up the Green Investment Bank, which the Tories immediately sold off as soon as the Lib Dems were out of government). And whilst I’m on the topic, no, Jo Swinson is not pro-fracking, the party voted against fracking at its 2016 spring conference (I should know, I was there and I myself voted against fracking) and the SNP’s suggestion that Swinson is pro-fracking in one of its leaflets was found by a court to be defamatory.

I’ll wrap up by talking about the political landscape and tactical voting. I know many readers are planning on voting tactically to get the Tories out, and for many, that involves voting for Labour. Nobody likes tactical voting, but I accept that a lot of you feel it is necessary. However, a couple of points: firstly, I find it quite egregious that some Labour types can advocate tactical voting when the Labour Party does not support electoral reform. If we can introduce proportional representation, as the Liberal Democrats would, you will never have to vote tactically again. Labour on their own will never introduce PR because it serves their own interests; after seeing Labour’s tactics in Wimbledon, which almost all pollsters have down as a Tory/Lib Dem marginal, I am increasingly convinced that they have accepted they are not going to win the election and are just trying to drag the Lib Dems down with them out of spite; I suspect that they would rather have a Tory majority where their cosy two-party system prevails, rather than a hung parliament in which the Lib Dems are relevant. I should also point out that literally all parties use the notorious tactical voting bar charts, and I remain baffled as to why the Lib Dems in particular are singled out for them. Literally all parties have been using polling projections of varying quality, under first-past-the-post they have no choice. I’d be far more concerned about the tsunami of misinformation coming out of CCHQ and Labour’s continued denials about anti-Semitism than a badly-proportioned bar chart.

The fact of the matter is this: the only way the Tories will be denied a majority is if the Liberal Democrats win seats from the Tories in the Home Counties and South-West London (indeed, winning dozens of Lib Dem seats in the South of England was how the Tories got their majority in 2015). I would also urge readers to consider the fact that in safe seats, be they Tory or Labour, there is really no point in voting tactically, and you might as well vote for the party which best aligns with your principles. This is why I am voting Lib Dem in Birmingham Selly Oak, where the party came third last time. Certainly in the case of safe Tory seats, it will take multiple election cycles for a party to overturn their huge majorities, and readers should consider the demographics, particularly future demographics, of their constituency. There is an ongoing demographic shift in the Home Counties as liberally-minded young professionals move outwards from London. Just because Labour finished second in 2017 in a lot of these seats doesn’t mean they will ever win them; these seats are heavily middle-class and Corbyn is hated in most of them. This election is the time to begin building a new opposition in many of these kinds of seats, one that is palatable to enough of its voters to one day overturn the Tory candidate. Think of it as tactical voting not for this election, but for an election five or ten years from now. At the very least, take a look at the MRP projections, rather than the 2017 election result.

I know that many readers probably see Labour as the lesser of two evils, but honestly in this election they’ve not been much better than the Tories at all: both parties are nominally pro-Brexit, both have serious problems with bigotry of some form or another, both are against electoral reform, both have manifestos that are less fiscally responsible than the Lib Dems, and both accuse the Lib Dems of plotting to let the other in, despite the fact that we have categorically ruled out supporting either Johnson or Corbyn, and Welsh Lib Dem leader Jane Dodds said the Lib Dems would back the Tories “over her dead body.” If we can force a hung parliament tomorrow, either Johnson or Corbyn, or both, will have to go, and their successor will have to face working with a Liberal Democrat cohort who will demand an end to Brexit and the introduction of proportional representation so that you never have to vote tactically again.

For further reading, here is the Liberal Democrat manifesto.

Also, don’t forget you can take part in my election prediction competition here. Entry is free and the winner will get a small prize. The deadline is 10pm when polls close. Remember to make sure that everything adds to 650! For the record, my own final pre-election prediction is:
CON 336 LAB 230 SNP 42 LDM 18 DUP 9 SF 7 PC 4 GRN 1 SDLP 1 ALL 1 Speaker 1

Musical Top 100 – v3

1. J.S. Bach – Toccata and Fugue in D Minor
2. Queen – Bohemian Rhapsody
3. Led Zeppelin – When the Levee Breaks
4. Motörhead – Ace of Spades
5. Fleetwood Mac – The Chain
6. John Williams – The Imperial March
7. Phil Collins – I Don’t Care Anymore
8. Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky – 1812 Overture
9. Pink Floyd – The Trial
10. Arctic Monkeys – Do I Wanna Know?
11. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Red Right Hand
12. Tenacious D – Tribute
13. Manic Street Preachers – A Design For Life
14. Queen – Radio Ga Ga
15. Franz Liszt – Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2
16. Hans Zimmer – Crysis 2: Epilogue
17. Jeff Wayne – Eve of the War
18. The Killers – Mr. Brightside
19. ABBA – Winner Takes It All
20. The White Stripes – Ball and Biscuit
21. The Small Faces – Ogdens’ Nut Gone Flake
22. Andrew Lloyd Webber – Phantom of the Opera Overture
23. Rage Against the Machine – Killing in the Name
24. Don McLean – American Pie
25. Metallica – Enter Sandman
26. The Animals – The House of the Rising Sun
27. Chris Cornell – You Know My Name
28. Nirvana – Smells Like Teen Spirit
29. Soft Cell – Tainted Love
30. Arctic Monkeys – If You Were There, Beware
31. Radiohead – Creep
32. The Human League – Don’t You Want Me
33. Pink Floyd – Hey You
34. Led Zeppelin – Stairway to Heaven
35. Sparks – This Town Ain’t Big Enough For Both Of Us
36. Journey – Don’t Stop Believin’
37. Bon Jovi – Livin’ on a Prayer
38. Green Day – American Idiot
39. Pink Floyd – Waiting for the Worms
40. The Automatic – Monster
41. Billy Idol – White Wedding
42. Eminem – Lose Yourself
43. AC/DC – Back in Black
44. Nirvana – Lithium
45. Drill Queen – Born Depressed
46. The Cult – Rain
47. Depeche Mode – Shake the Disease
48. Queen – The Show Must Go On
49. Franz Ferdinand – Take Me Out
50. Pink Floyd – Comfortably Numb
51. Phil Collins – In The Air Tonight
52. Dexy’s Midnight Runners – Come On Eileen
53. Bee Gees – Stayin’ Alive
54. AC/DC – Thunderstruck
55. Yes – Roundabout
57. Gerry Rafferty – Baker Street
58. The Beatles – A Day In The Life
59. Starship – We Built This City
60. ABBA – Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight)
61. Blue Oyster Cult – (Don’t Fear) The Reaper
62. Iron Maiden – The Number of the Beast
63. The Charlie Daniels Band – The Devil Went Down To Georgia
64. Queen – I Want To Break Free
65. Pink Floyd – Another Brick In The Wall
66. Oasis – Don’t Look Back In Anger
67. Rage Against the Machine – Bulls On Parade
68. Blur – Song 2
69. Adele – Skyfall
70. Dire Straits – Money For Nothing
71. Bonnie Tyler – Total Eclipse of the Heart
72. Stevie Nicks – I Can’t Wait
73. Arctic Monkeys – I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor
74. Rage Against the Machine – Know Your Enemy
75. Eagles – Hotel California
76. John Travolta & Olivia Newton-John – Summer Nights
77. Radiohead – No Surprises
78. Creedence Clearwater Revival – Fortunate Son
79. Gorillaz – Feel Good Inc.
80. Bryan Adams – Summer of ’69
81. Kaiser Chiefs – Ruby
82. Bonnie Tyler – Holding Out for a Hero
83. The Killers – Human
84. Elvis Presley – Hound Dog
85. Soundgarden – Black Hole Sun
86. ABBA – Waterloo
87. Black Sabbath – Paranoid
88. The White Stripes – St. James Infirmary Blues
89. The Killers – Somebody Told Me
90. Erasure – Chains of Love
91. Dr. Dre ft. Snoop Dogg – Still D.R.E.
92. Georges Bizet – Carmen Overture / March of the Toreadors
93. Guns N’ Roses – Sweet Child O’ Mine
94. George Michael – Careless Whisper
95. The Verve – Bitter Sweet Symphony
96. System of a Down – Chop Suey!
97. M83 – Outro
98. Guns N’ Roses – Paradise City
99. PJ Harvey – When Under Ether
100. Kaiser Chiefs – I Predict A Riot

A Day of Reckoning

I wanted to write down a few of my thoughts on the current state of British politics, particularly with regards to Brexit and the situation in the Labour Party.

I’ve been saying this since the 24th of June 2016, so this statement should come as little surprise, but Brexit is the single biggest scam in British political history. Why? Because of the way international trade works. It has been accepted for decades that free trade leads to prosperity, and that import and export tariffs (protectionism) limits prosperity. During the EU referendum, the British public were sold the following premise – that a supposedly protectionist EU was limiting our ability to trade freely with the rest of the world.

Now, it is true that, as a member of the EU, Britain cannot negotiate its own independent trade deals with other countries. It is theoretically possible, by leaving the EU, to set up a whole host of indepdendent deals which could, perhaps, be equivalent or even better than the deals the EU has. However, there are two quite colossal problems with the premise, which the Leave campaign conveniently forgot to mention. Firstly: EU membership means that we have zero tariffs with our twenty-six closest neighbours. People forget that distance matters in international trade; it is far better to have free trade with, say, France than an equivalent economy on the opposite side of the world. Leaving the EU single market and customs union raises the prospect of tariffs being applied when trading with the EU, as well as costly and time-consuming customs checks at the border – these would certainly harm the economy. Secondly: the EU negotiates its trade deals as a single bloc. This gives it more weight in negotiations, which allows it to obtain better deals. The UK, negotiating independently, does not carry anywhere near as much weight. On the contrary, outside the EU we will default to WTO trading rules, and we will have to negotiate new free trade agreements with other countries from scratch; these countries, especially the larger ones such as the USA and China, will know that the UK is desperate for a deal, and will take advantage of this fact to force poor deals upon us. In order to get anything resembling free trade, we may have to abandon the high-quality products and services we came to expect as an EU member – see reports of chlorinated chicken from America etc., as well as the nauseating prospect of having to outsource large portions of the NHS to US health industry megacorps.

Where does this leave us? In a future where protectionism is on the rise thanks to the reckless actions of President Trump, Britain will have thrown away frictionless trade with the EU itself, as well as access to all the EU’s free trade deals – such as the huge deal it recently announced with Japan. In short, the UK will have basically abandoned free trade. I understand that it is the intent of the Government to negotiate lots of of new, independent free trade deals from scratch, but this doesn’t seem to have gone very well so far, in spite of the ambitious nonsense you see printed on those pamphlets in Wetherspoons nowadays. So, Britain finds itself facing a choice between a protectionist purgatory – causing huge damage to the economy, leading to unemployment and austerity – or selling itself out to Trump’s America. Given this reality, I do not think it is controversial to say that Brexit must be stopped.

How do we stop Brexit? Most people would agree that the only legitimate way to stop Brexit is through another referendum. Here some people start to get a bit angsty. A premise is put forward that the will of the people was expressed in 2016 and that questioning that is anti-democratic. The counter-arguments to that have been said over and over again, but I will give a brief reminder:
-A democracy is not a democracy if it cannot change its mind; so as Parliament cannot bind a future Parliament, the electorate cannot bind a future electorate.
-We will know a lot more about what Brexit actually looks like when the final deal is on the table, compared to 2016 when it was mostly just opportunistic posturing by people who didn’t even expect to win.
-In general, you cannot make the argument that more democracy is anti-democratic; assuming that there was another referendum, you cannot argue that its result somehow expresses the will of the people less than the 2016 referendum.

Now, I appreciate that in reality most Brexiteers understand these principles (they would, of course, be using them themselves had Remain won in 2016), and that the real reason they’re so opposed to a people’s vote is because they’re terrified that they would lose. Far more interesting to me are the many remainers who simply don’t care enough about stopping Brexit; those who have given up, or those who agree with the people’s vote in principle but have other priorities. These people are the key to stopping Brexit. We know based on opinion polls that the public mood has changed drastically. However, the people’s vote is still struggling to gain much support from politicians outside the Liberal Democrats and the Greens (with notable exceptions, such as Lord Adonis). Here’s another interesting thing: the majority of MPs are still anti-Brexit in principle. The vast majority of Labour MPs are, as are a small but significant cabal of moderate Tories. It is now a matter of weeks until the final Brexit deal is put before Parliament; when it does, I expect attitudes to harden. The numbers are there to force a referendum. It’s sometimes easy to forget that, whilst the extreme Brexiteer faction has considerable sway over the Government and the Tory party, they do not have a majority in the House of Commons. Between them, the vast majority of Labour, along with the Lib Dems, the SNP, other parties and a few Tory rebels can defeat the government. Remember Dominic Grieve’s amendments? Those would have passed if he and his cabal had held their nerve.

The missing piece of the puzzle is the leadership of the Labour Party, as well as the SNP. The membership and the MPs of both parties are anti-Brexit in principle, but the leaderships of both parties refuse to budge. Corbyn knows that backing a second referendum will destroy support from working-class Leavers and is quietly anti-EU himself, whilst Sturgeon sees Brexit as her golden ticket to Scottish independence. We have to force the hands of these two parties.

I have been saying for a while now that a day of reckoning is coming for the Labour Party over Brexit. Their voting base is a fragile coalition of middle-class metropolitan Remainers and working-class Leavers. Whichever way they swing, they are going to face trouble. They can’t keep walking the tightrope forever. I cannot predict what course they will take, but I’m far from optimistic that they’ll be on the right side of history.

So, I have a message for moderates in the Labour Party: today the results of elections to your NEC were announced. The entire JC9 slate was elected, including the blatantly anti-Semitic guy. The Labour Party is now firmly in the grip of the hard-left movement. They don’t care about stopping Brexit, they don’t care about addressing anti-Semitism – their singular political goal is to get Jeremy Corbyn into No. 10, Downing Street. And as today’s results show, they mathematically outnumber you by a scary margin. What makes you think they’ll listen to you now?

This isn’t going to be some cynical piece where I admonish Labour moderates for continuing to support the party. In a way, I’m sympathetic. I know many good people who spent five years sticking with the Liberal Democrats throughout the coalition years, who hated the coalition but stuck by their belief that liberalism is what’s best for Britain. I appreciate that it can be hard to turn your back on a movement that you love, a movement that you may have given years of your life to. But I’m sorry to say that your party is lost. You can try to stay and fight, but you are outnumbered by supporters of a pro-Brexit leader. Consider the following: Labour needs campaigners in order to win the next General Election. They will notice if they start bleeding members to the Liberal Democrats, and it might just be what it takes to force Corbyn to back a people’s vote. Further, as I said before the last General Election, Labour cannot afford its spending plans if we leave the EU – the hit to the economy will cut tax revenues as companies flee to Dublin and Frankfurt. Consider also that, at the next General Election, the Liberal Democrats can be expected to gain numerous seats from the Tories across the South (especially the South West), which, in the absence of a Blair-like figure, could be the key to forming a left-of-centre coalition; that the Liberal Democrats are more than just an anti-Brexit party, and have a whole range of policies which anyone who is centre-left will probably find broadly agreeable; and thus, that if you care about stopping Brexit, which as I have outlined is absolutely vital, joining the Liberal Democrats may not be as unpleasant as certain partisan hacks might tell you. Consider this a cordial invitation. We’re actually quite nice.

Insomnia Gaming Festival 61

It’s hard to believe that this was my thirteenth Insomnia. It’s interesting when the summer LAN comes around and we find ourselves reminiscing over that first ever event for our group, i49, now four years ago, back when I was aged 15 and still had to get my mum’s permission to attend. Things have come a long way since me, Ryan and Becky would lurk outside the VIP lounge at Telford hoping to ambush YouTubers; in fact, pretty much everything’s changed.

We now live in an age where the first of our group arrives as early as Wednesday, when Jamie (@_Morphh) helps the logistics volunteer team to set up the event. Now, more and more people make the journey on Thursday afternoon, with Bryony (@AnOrdinaryGirl) famously commencing proceedings by drinking on the train. We have Rody (@RodyGaming), Julia (@Juniorrwx) and Fabian (@AnUnordinaryGuy) – the Dutch squad – making the arduous overnight ferry trip and getting to the NEC before even midday on Thursday. Personally, I had just moved into my new student house in Birmingham the day before, and was due to be picked up by Ciaran (@Muskoke_) and Chloe (@Timber_Rifle) in the evening. As it turned out, they ended up picking me up considerably later than I had expected, so I found myself arriving at the NEC shortly before 11:30pm. Just as last summer, I had missed the standard check-in closing time, leaving me disappointed but not too worried, as the security guards at the entrance to the indoor camping hall were still able to take my camping ticket and give me an appropriate wristband. I hastily pitched my tent, dumped my belongings, and turned to leave when I noticed Nat (@NatzoHD), finally back at Insomnia for the first time since i57. Nat suggested that I may still be able be able to get into the LAN hall since I had my actual BYOC ticket on me, so I grabbed it from my tent. However, our first stop was in fact Wetherspoons, where I had thought I had seen Amy (@LikeTotallyAmy) on my way in. It turned out I was correct, and in addition to meeting her I ran into Sufi (@suufiii135), Ryan (@Jagerbomb7), Connor Brogan (@Constillate) and Rowan (@Bandgasmic). I had gotten to ‘Spoons at around 10 minutes to midnight, and had just enough time to buy a Kopparberg before last orders (which I had missed when I had been similarly late last summer). I had a bit of time to say hello to everyone (including Amy’s peculiar new friends, who instantly stole my top hat) and observed the drunken antics of Sufi (relatively new to alcohol, as readers may recall his first ever alcoholic drink from the i60 blog post) and some guy called Nile. Nat was keen to get back to BYOC and Spoons was in the process of closing, so I quickly finished off that first drink and the two of us made our way to the LAN hall entrance, though not before being stopped on the way by some randoms who wanted to take a picture with my hat on, to the amusement of another nearby Connor (@FIyover). When me and Nat got to BYOC, I explained my situation to a security guard, who recognised me from previous events due to my hat and pointed me in the direction of a volunteer who had kindly stayed up to get wristbands for latecomers like myself. This meant that, unlike last summer, I could still get into the LAN hall on Thursday night, although I would have to wait till the next day to get my security stickers and bring my PC in.

Nat showed me to our corner of the LAN hall, on the left-hand side a few rows behind the VIP section and near to the social area. I was surprised to find Chloe and Ciaran still awake and at their PCs, given that it was now half past midnight and they had spent most of the day driving down from Glasgow. I used Nat’s computer to order some Bulmers to my desk via Qjacker. Without my PC I didn’t have much to do except watch other people play games. Nat, Fabian and Helen (@Helen_Bottster), a former associate of the ATLAS people and whom we had recently adopted, played Rocket League for a while, and Eike (@EikeSky) dropped by to say hello. Bryony, having been drinking since the afternoon, was predictably drunk. With it being a Thursday and being so late, things were pretty quiet and most people were heading off to bed fairly early (all things considered, this was a welcome relief after the Thursday of i60). Nat went to meet some of his friends in another part of the LAN hall, and I tagged along, where I discovered that these were in fact mutual acquaintences: these were Panda, Danny, Nathaniel, Smish and the other Tower of Power people, with the common link between me and Nat being a girl called Katie (my fellow UoB student Jaynee wasn’t there this time, however). Anyway, after a couple of Bulmers I was already feeling pretty tired, and I hadn’t had too much to eat that day so the alcohol was going straight to my head, so I called it a night at around 2-3am.

The first night at Insomnia in indoor camping is usually the most difficult, and I woke up a few times throughout the night. I had the misfortune of being placed very close to the dividing wall between the camping hall and the main stage hall, so I was woken up shortly after 9am by The Final Countdown, various generic dubstep tracks, and Shooting Stars shortly followed by the opening ceremony blaring through the wall. Deciding any more sleep would be virtually impossible, I returned to the LAN hall, got my security stickers and lanyard from the now-open check-in desk, and ate a breakfast of pringles and extortionately-priced £1.50 bottled water from the tuck shop. Of course, most people were enjoying the comfort of their hotels, so they could easily sleep as long as they wanted and wouldn’t turn up for another couple of hours. Thus, I decided to kill some time by exploring the event, and ventured into the Expo Hall. It’s a part of Insomnia I always make a point of visiting, as once upon a time the Expo was our home at the festival way back at Telford and Coventry, and I’m not one to forget my roots. I soon discovered that this was the largest Insomnia exhibition I had ever seen, and every company under the sun seemed to be here. A lot of recent exhibitions have been mostly generic merchandise stalls, but I was pleased to see this event had been spiced up with a robot battle arena and a drone racing circuit (which had been present at i58, but had been a little bit hidden away compared to i61). I went back to BYOC, where I pointed Amy in the direction of Dan (@DTenory) (not Bennett), who had her phone.

At around midday, I recieved word from Chloe that she and Ciaran were inbound, and I was due to meet them since my PC was still in their car. I made my way outside to wait for them, where I spotted the ATLAS people lounging on the grass outside, namely my i59 livestream helpers Callum (@AnimatedCallum) and Paul (@Paul19988), my one-time former pub quiz ticket dealer Ryan Wild (@Wild1145), Charley (@Death_Frostbite) and her boyfriend Alex. I sat down with them for a short while and chatted with Callum before heading to the car park to find Chloe and Ciaran. Ciaran had bought a trolley for £27 which made transporting my PC and peripherals considerably easier and left me wondering why we hadn’t done this years ago. Before long I had my PC in the hall, but the common LAN affliction of incorrect socket usage by the opposite row left me without a socket, and after some communication with the presently absent Nat (who was sat to my left) I swapped a few plugs around and powered up my machine. The technical issues weren’t over, however, as it turned out the Ethernet cable I had been provided with was dead and I had to go to the technical helpdesk to get it replaced. In the meantime, I ate the packed lunch I had made myself to save money. At around quarter to two, I was finally able to run my traditional initial speedtest and send the first tweet from my machine of the LAN.

However, this didn’t give me much time to relax, as I was the owner of not one, but two Insomnia Pub Quiz tables which meant I had 20 tickets to distribute. I gave out the ones assigned to people who were already around, accounting for around half of my total supply, but had to hang on to the rest until their recipients arrived. In the meantime, I played some offline CS:GO against bots, since I hadn’t played in ages and I was quite out of practice (as it turned out, I didn’t play any competitive CS:GO all weekend, but since LAN the game has come back into fashion in our group, so it may not have been entirely useless). Whilst playing, the second Ethernet cable I had been given randomly died as well, so I had to go back to helpdesk and get that one replaced too.

Something which has become an Insomnia tradition for our group over the past year has been the pre-Pub Quiz Frankie and Benny’s at Birmingham Airport. Having been instructed by Bryony (who typically organises such things) to arrive for 5pm, I went back to my tent to partially change into my pub quiz outfit, as I had found at previous events that changing after Frankie and Benny’s limited time for pre-drinking the quiz. I left my waistcoat and cane in BYOC and my bow tie in my pocket, so I was wearing my nice shoes, trousers, shirt, blazer and hat, and made my way across the Skywalk to the west wing of the NEC (home to the winter and spring LANs), across the overpass to the train station, and onto the monorail to get to the airport. I was about 10 minutes behind the others so I was a little late. This time at F&B’s, we had Bryony, Chloe, Ciaran, myself, Rody, Julia, Fabian, Nat, Jamie and Francis. Concious of the fact that my habit of eating mostly rubbish Qjacker food in order to save money at LAN had probably contributed to me feeling ill for most of Sunday at previous events, I decided to spend a little more than usual and got a burger and some garlic bread instead of just my usual bowl of chips. This turned out to be a little too much, since the burger unexpectedly came with a side of chips and there was a lot more garlic bread than I was expecting.

The Frankie and Benny’s usually has good vibes and is generally the calm before the storm. Once the meal was finished, the group went our separate ways to prepare for the Pub Quiz. Me and Rody went back to BYOC, where I found Sie (@wondersiex) sitting at my computer, having arrived at the NEC whilst we were at the airport. Sie’s nephew Ash was also lurking, hanging around with some of his other friends in the LAN hall. I simply put my waistcoat and bow tie on and opened a Bulmers and waited for the others to reassemble; in the meantime, me, Sie and Helen were treated to the sight of Rody topless, as he had decided to put on his pub quiz suit in the LAN hall for some reason. At around 7pm, I made my way outside to the smoking area, to give my final pub quiz tickets to Skeppy (@SkepticPara), Sam (@PoHobi), Callum (@C4Tune) and Timmy (@TimmehGee). Since the move to Friday night, the Pub Quiz hasn’t been licenced as late as it normally would be, so the start time was billed slightly earlier than it normally would be, with doors opening at 8pm and the quiz itself starting at 8:30. I’d bought two tables, but they weren’t together, so I planned to get in early and arrange a swap with one of the neighbouring tables (which we’ve done successfully once or twice in the past). Thus, me, Nat, Helen and Francis, with a crate of Bulmers in tow, set off for the main stage entrance at around 7:50. However, there was some sort of delay, because the doors didn’t open for half an hour. We joined the colossal queue, where we soon met the twins, Curt (@CurtZeNinja) and Kyle (@EyeIzMoorey), and were later joined by Chloe and Ciaran, who was wearing a giant banana costume. At 8:30, the doors to the Insomnia World Famous Pub Quiz finally opened.

I immediately found our table – 43 – and swapped the table number of the neighbouring table with the number of my other table – 148. Once our neighbours got here, I simply pointed them in the direction of what used to be my second table. Then, over the next half an hour, our team slowly began to assemble. For the first time since i55 two years previously, we had a mega-team with two tables joined together. I registered us as Golf With Friends Esports Association, managing the answer sheets for my seventh Insomnia Pub Quiz in a row. On the team was myself, Chloe, Ciaran, Nat, Bryony, Sie, Ash, Francis, Rody, Julia, Fabian, Helen and her friend Fraser, Jamie, Skeppy, Timmy, Callum and Sam. Curt, Kyle and a couple of their friends actually joined on a third table, but I think they had their own team registered. Interestingly, Bryony and Ash actually registered their own team called Autistic Spinners, but they either didn’t hand any answer sheets in or deliberately gave all wrong answers because they scored 0. We were also lucky enough to be placed very close to our friends on Dan Bennett’s (@DanBennett) team, including Toby (@nether_dweller) and Katie (@katiejjk), although unfortunately Alice’s (@AlphaGlitchGirl) team, Team Sensible (back for the first time since i57 now that Alice is finally old enough for the new 18+ policy, and an important team for me since it was my very first Insomnia Pub Quiz team way back at i53) was on the complete opposite side of the hall. We also weren’t too far away from the Tower of Power group, who like us had organised a mega-team. We had plenty of time before the quiz itself began, and as this was one of the only times in the weekend that we could get the whole community in the same place, there were plenty of greetings, hugs and group selfies going round; lots of people hadn’t seen each other for quite some time (the most extreme example I can think of would be that C4 wouldn’t have seen Rody and Julia since i54, well over two years ago). There was a great atmosphere and I’m quite proud of putting the whole thing together. Shortly after 9pm, Multiplay founder Craig “Wizzo” Fletcher got the quiz started by announcing that we had already raised over five grand for Special Effect, and a clip of a man eating maggots and promptly vomiting was played to set the mood (it’s gotten to the point where I’m deliberately leaving gaps in my pub quiz playlists due to how NSFW it’s gotten). We got off to quite a good start and played our Fatmouse card (one-use double points checkbox) in the optimal place, but as per usual, everything went downhill after the picture round interlude when the alcohol really began to kick in. As the quiz wore on, various people (namely Sie) began to wander off to talk to YouTubers and such. We had an unusual second interlude before the final round, in which the Multiplay production team had enough time to squeeze in the Fresh Prince of Bel Air theme and the Manic Street Preachers’ A Design For Life (both for the first time since i57 I believe). Then we had the music round itself, featuring a rousing acapella chorus of Linkin Park’s Numb, in tribute to the recently departed Chester Bennington, and also the what I considered to be the surprising inclusion of Downtown by Petula Clark, a song which I recognised from the days when my Year 4 teacher would run the school choir and would drag the class along to listen to their practice sessions (historically, my contributions to music rounds have been pretty lacking, so it’s nice to actually recognise a song every once in a while). And then, with the quiz itself done and dusted, the traditional singalong got underway as the volunteers wrapped up their marking work. The fairly recent (i.e. since i59) but popular double act of The Fratellis – Chelsea Dagger and Fall Out Boy – Sugar We’re Going Down were back, as were many of the usual Pub Quiz classics: Katy Perry – Firework, The Killers – Mr. Brightside, Tenacious D – F**k Her Gently, and the return of CeeLo Green – F**k You. The winning teams were announced, and we noticed that Sie had pulled a Ciaran and decided to get on stage with one of the teams; running towards the stage to get a better view, I slipped in a puddle where Francis had been pouring water over himself and bruised my elbow. My injuries were compounded when Kyle borrowed my cane (presumably for air guitar purposes) and promptly hit me in the mouth with it, though he gave me a can of Strongbow by means of apology. With the winners announced, there were just a couple of songs left, songs which are almost synonymous with the World Famous Pub Quiz: the full rendition of Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody sang by 2000 gamers, followed by the conga line to the tune of the Cuban Pete song from The Mask as we slowly started making our way to the exit. One of Curt’s friends was quite royally drunk and as we tried to figure out how to extract him, Wizzo dropped by on his way out and we said hello. Personally I was around 4 ciders in at this point, and a summer out of uni had reduced my tolerance so I was feeling borderline drunk myself – although I suspect my days of having three drinks, getting plastered and simultaneously being somehow hyperactive are behind me. Maybe it’s the fact that I’ve gone off Jager a little bit – I didn’t have a single Jagerbomb all weekend, and the last time I can remember even drinking Jager at the pub quiz was i58.

Anyway, by now it was around half past midnight, and most of the BYOC group made our way back to the LAN hall. A few of us got together to play Jackbox Party for a short while, but it wasn’t long before most people started to head off. Me, Sie, Helen and maybe a couple of other people stayed up late and lurked around the bar for a while, where I managed to grab Syndicate so that Helen could get a picture with him. Tweets from around this time are sparse and I can’t remember much exciting happening, so I’m guessing things were pretty quiet, and that I presumably went to bed some time between 2:30 and 3:00.

Saturday morning, like all mornings after the Pub Quiz, was a slow start. I myself woke up at around 9:30 due to the main stage blaring music again. Whilst having some form of makeshift breakfast in BYOC and looking through the pictures of the previous night I was joined by Helen and C4. Unfortunately, Callum had to leave the event early due to work so this was the last I saw of him. Whilst waiting for more people to wake up, I worked through some video editing for the Adammic YouTube channel. A few more people arrived such as Bryony, and we got through a couple of games of Golf With Your Friends, the community’s traditional LAN game. The main event of the afternoon would be the Cosplay Championship on the main stage, and a load of us marched down there just before 2:30 to support Julia who was cosplaying as an Ascended Sleeper from Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind. As usual we cheered and generally made as much noise as possible when it was her turn. Unfortunately she didn’t win anything (prompting much angry questioning of the judges’ decisions from our community), although she did get 3rd place at the secondary Cosplay Masquerade the next day, which I missed (I’m still not entirely sure what the difference between the Cosplay Championship and the Cosplay Masquerade is). Incidentally, I believe it was Nat’s friend Katie who won the Cosplay Championship.

On returning to BYOC following the cosplay event, I soon noticed that the Pub Quiz results had been published. Of 206 total teams, the main team had finished 138th, Team Sensible 167th, Dan Bennett’s 145th, the ATLAS group 193rd, and the Tower of Power gang 185th. I do suspect that the main team only managed to finish ahead of every other team loosely affiliated with the community through sheer force of numbers, given there were around 20 of us. I spent a while copying the results into my spreadsheet, watched by Nat and a bemused Katie, still in full cosplay. Some time around 4pm Chloe and Ciaran went to acquire a few provisions, and in the meantime me, Nat, Bryony, Fabian and Francis had a short trip to Wetherspoons to play a bit of Never Have I Ever over various Kopparbergs and Desperados. Due to a small issue, Bryony had to visit the medical room, whilst the rest of us went back to BYOC, where we generally chilled out for a few hours. I watched Nat play through Portal and helped him in places. Eventually, shortly after 7pm, Chloe and Ciaran decided to go to their hotel restaurant to eat, and me and Helen decided to tag along. Their hotel was the Premier Inn, which was fairly close to our end of the NEC. We all ended up ordering steak. It was a good chance for me to catch up with my good friends, with me and Ciaran discussing business and politics at length, and it also served to introduce Helen to Chloe and Ciaran.

By the time we were finished with our meals, it was gone 9pm, and the others had already started drinking without us (although I’d had a Magners with the meal), so I was keen to catch up. Chloe and Ciaran had to get something from their hotel room so me and Helen walked back to the NEC. When we got back to the LAN hall, we found most of the rest of the BYOC crew (from memory, Bryony, Sie, Ash, Francis, Jamie, Nat and Dan (not Bennett)) in the social area playing card games, huddled around a small table with very little room to cram chairs into. Me and Helen joined them, and we played a bit of Blackjack before moving on to the classic university drinking game Ring of Fire. Rather than using Qjacker, I decided to actually use the Esports Bar for once, incurring a fair bit of extra cost for a Stowford Press cider before eventually upgrading to whiskey and cokes. Our games of Ring of Fire saw some interesting rules: ending every sentence by pointing at the notoriously socialist Francis and calling him a Tory voter managed to break his spirit a little, and we eventually developed a habit of shouting “THE KING IN THE NORTH!” at random passers-by, which essentially became the meme of i61, much like the dinosaur dance at i54 and the “We drink, we drink, we drink again” chant of i55. Whenever an Ace was drawn and the “waterfall” was triggered, Helen would frequently exhibit a surprising amount of stamina at downing drinks, instantly impressing Bryony and myself. How Helen managed to survive without throwing up I have no idea, because she got through a lot of Captain Morgan’s. As the night wore on into the early hours of the morning, things entered a bit of a lull as various people disappeared to the casino in anticipation of the imminent Mayweather vs. McGregor boxing match. In the meantime, we met a guy who had apparently lost his cat, at least according to Sie. At one point, whilst downing a drink after drawing the fourth King, I was interrupted by Zoey of the Blue volunteer team, who I had met at StratLAN in February, although she didn’t stick around as she presumably had games of Werewolves to run. Wizzo also dropped by and me, Sie, Ash and Nat were able to get a picture with him. We were eventually joined by Eike and Rowan, and I was able to prise Chloe and Ciaran from their Hearthstone games to join us as we transitioned from Ring of Fire to Never Have I Ever. With Bryony and her natural authority at the casino, I ended up taking charge and, once again in my borderline-drunk state, found myself assuming a John Bercow-like Speaker of the House of the Commons persona in order to manage the game, with variable success.

As 4am approached, we noticed a large crowd gathering around a TV screen near the VIP area – someone had paid to view the big boxing match and was essentially streaming it on this TV screen for the punters to watch. I adjourned the game of Never Have I Ever (ayes to the right: 1, that being Eike, and noes to the left: 0) and those of us who were left joined the growing crowd. Chloe and Ciaran weren’t too interested and shortly went to bed, but I still had a fair bit of energy and decided to see what the fight was all about. Me, Sie and Francis gathered around a table near the back of the crowd; Nat and Rody weren’t sat too far away, and I also noticed Toby, clearly up way past his bedtime 😉 . Anyway, after about an hour of pre-fight build-up and other such nonsense, during which time I recall Katie coming over and talking about her cosplay with some of the others, the big fight finally got underway. I sort of ended up getting a little bit into it, although not as much as some of the other members of the crowd who clearly had bets on the outcome. By the time Mayweather emerged victorious, it was knocking on 6am, and within minutes our very tired group dispersed into the NEC lobby, already illuminated by the early morning sun. I went straight back to my tent.

Of course, just three hours later the main stage had started up again, and I woke up on Sunday very grumpy and tired. There was no hope of getting more sleep with crowds of pre-pubescant Youtube fans screaming in the next hall over, so I went back to BYOC and had my usual mediocre breakfast. The LAN hall was pretty deserted due to the previous night’s very late finish, so I mostly fiddled with my spreadsheets and watched videos for a few hours. Fabian was the first person back, according to Twitter. Shortly after midday, Toby mentioned that he was at a computer in some far corner of the LAN hall about to watch the Formula One Belgian Grand Prix, so I took the rest of my Aldi-knockoff Pringles over and we watched the first twenty laps or so, much as a few of us had done the previous summer. Later, I went to the Expo hall to find Alice, who was with a couple of her friends from school. Both me and Alice were keen to meet Ashens, who was the first YouTuber I’d actually been interested in meeting since Mindcrack at i52, back when I was 16 years old. Thus, we wondered around the Retro zone for a while, to no avail. At any rate, I also had my personal obligation of always setting some time aside to see Alice at every event, as she had kept me company for much of i53 and I remain very grateful for that. Alice’s friends wanted BYOC Guest wristbands, so we went to the helpdesk and I vouched for them. After that, I decided to get on with eating some lunch, and left Alice to her own devices. I would soon see her again, however, as just as I was finishing my lunch she messaged me saying she had found Ashens in the Retro zone. I dashed over there, said hello to the guy, and Alice took a picture of us with Ashens wearing my hat, which I’m very happy with.

Shortly afterwards, I went into the lobby to meet Sufi, who like Alice is someone I make a point of seeing and spending some time with. We did a lap around this end of the NEC complex and chatted about life, before I left him with Connor Brogan, Trollzous and the rest of that bunch, as they were due to have a night out at Pryzm in Birmingham city centre (somewhere I had no intention of going as I had spent enough time there as a fresher at UoB). A certain Lewis (@JAMAICANBACON96), better known to us as “Jesus” owing to his impressive beard and long hair, had arrived at the NEC, making a surprise appearance. Bryony got him a guest wristband and promptly tied him up in the “FRAGILE” tape she had got from a shop on her way to the event as punishment for being late. By now, evening was starting to arrive and most people were getting ready to see the Dark Room, John Robertson’s immensely-popular “live action video game” comedy show. I myself was starting to feel pretty rotten by now after three nights of drinking, and didn’t even do much gaming, instead electing to continue to watch Nat as he progressed from Portal to Portal 2. Inspired by him I did spend an hour or so playing the original Half-Life. However, as the others headed over to the main stage to watch the show, I still hadn’t eaten. I joined Chloe and Ciaran in Wetherspoons and ordered a bowl of chips, but I could barely eat a handful of them – I was feeling pretty ill in the digestive region, shall we say. By the time I gave up on the chips, I had missed a sizeable chunk of the Dark Room, and not wanting to incur Robertson’s wrath by arriving late, I decided to skip the rest and go back to the LAN hall with Chloe and Ciaran. I gathered some strength and ordered another 4-pack of Bulmers, going by the logic that if I started drinking again, I would either feel better or throw up, which would then eventually make me feel better. In the end, the former case happened, somewhat – I still didn’t feel too grand. In the meantime, many of the others were having fun at the Dark Room – Charley became the first ever person from our community to be chosen to play the game, followed shortly afterwards by Lith.

When the Dark Room finished, a few of the others made their way back to BYOC, settling on some bean bags in the social area, where I joined them. Soon afterwards, Sie, Ash, Skeppy, Timmy and Sam also joined us, after pre-drinking in their hotel rooms. Since I’d only been nibbling at a few chips, I was drinking on a somewhat empty stomach and the couple of ciders I’d had started to go to my head pretty quickly; on the plus side, it was making me feel less ill. Gathered around the bean bags we had myself, Nat, Bryony, Rody, Julia, Fabian, Francis, Em and Helen, with Sie, Skeppy, Sam, Timmy, Ash and Jesus floating around nearby. There were some good vibes for a while and a few of us started to attempt to play Ring of Fire, although we didn’t get very far. For whatever reason, Sunday was a kind of weird night. It was still good a lot of the time, but drama was unfolding in Sufi and Amy’s group at Pryzm which inevitably leaked into the rest of the community; meanwhile, Sie and Ash had made the disastrous decision to play Werewolves with a particularly irate GM who apparently had a very short temper. Sie, of course, had no intention of taking the game seriously, and once tempers flaired and the possibility of physical violence against Sie was raised, the more physically capable members of the community bristled in Sie’s defence; luckily Zoey intervened and was able to defuse the situation without any need for security to be called. Whilst all this was going on, Chloe and Ciaran were happily sat at their desks, whilst Ciaran chatted to Jamie and Toby used my computer to play Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds with them. The night wore into the early hours, and whilst I was still drinking on a relatively empty stomach, I was also drinking slowly, and I actually started to sober up a little. I tried rum and coke for the first time as Chloe and Ciaran had a bunch of cans of the stuff and needed help finishing it off. By 4am, the only people who were left were myself, Sie, Ash, Rody, Curt and Kyle – we went to the bar one last time before the event closed, where I was regrettably served an unbearably strong whiskey and coke for some reason, so strong in fact that I couldn’t finish it. Lucy (@Lucif3r_Rhin0), her boyfriend, plus Connor (Pixelated) and his girlfriend Megan were also lurking around and I briefly spoke to Connor. Sie and the twins were much more drunk than me and I was horrified to find myself as the responsible adult, especially when the security guards started to get increasingly suspicious of their antics – Sie, of course, was still at charisma level 100 and was very friendly with the said security guards in no time. Once again, dawn was approaching, and the last of our energy was spent. I went back to my tent at around 6am, contemplating the weekend. The Pub Quiz had been one of the best, and we’d had some good times playing drinking games in the social area. I’d been able to see so many of my friends again, some of whom, such as Nat and most of the Dutch squad, I hadn’t seen for over a year; making a point of spending time with some of my best friends had been worth it, whether it be discussing politics with Ciaran and Chloe over steak, wondering the Expo hall with Alice, getting drunk with Sie or watching the F1 with Toby. I took the momentous decision of ranking i61 as the greatest Insomnia ever, beating even the legendary i57 – although only narrowly.

After waking up on Monday, I went to BYOC to finish off the rest of my food and generally try to relax, given that I was pretty shattered by this point. By now, the LAN hall was emptying and people in our own area were preparing to leave. At around midday, I powered down my PC and packed up the peripherals. Chloe and Ciaran were inbound and I had just enough time to see Alice and Lith in the lobby and say goodbye to them before Ciaran arrived. I said goodbye to those still left in BYOC, and we loaded my PC and peripherals onto the trolley. I gave Ciaran my lanyard so he could join the queue to check-out my PC whilst me and Nat went to the camping hall to pick up my camping gear. Meeting up again, the three of us moved my stuff back to Ciaran’s car. I said bye to Nat, and soon Ciaran was driving me away from the NEC – now not to return until next Easter. After arriving back in Selly Oak, I gave Ciaran a quick tour of my new house, before saying goodbye to him as he headed back to the NEC to pack up his own and Chloe’s stuff. I thought that would be the last I’d see of the Insomnia community for a while, although as it turned out, Helen had missed a train and she ended up staying in one of the spare rooms in my house overnight.

So there we have it – a new best Insomnia ever. With this one and the previous success of i60, it does almost feel a bit like a new golden age like the Ricoh era, although I do suspect that the Ricoh will always be viewed with rose-tinted glasses to an extent. However, I do feel that there is much which could be changed about our experience at LAN to make it better. Since taking over the Insomnia planning discord from Lewis Caddick in February, I’ve presided over the BYOC seating and pub quiz planning for two events, and I’m fairly happy with where we’ve got things. For the first time since i55, the mega-team is back, and I’ve already said how proud I am of putting that together. At the same time, though, there is more I want to do with the planning discord. In particular, I’m always concious of the way Insomnia hangs precariously on a cliff-edge of value-for-money. If I had a pound for every time I’ve seen someone say that i[XX] would be their last Insomnia, I’d almost be able to buy a round of Jagers from the Esports Bar – although most of those dramatic declarations do tend to be forgotten as the hype for the upcoming event builds, they do raise the point that, if just a few things go wrong, Insomnia could easily end up being a waste of money. When things go right, Insomnia can be the highlight of the year. Currently, with a robust system in place for BYOC seat picking and pub quiz organisation, as well as now six events of experience at the NEC and the cost-saving techniques that experience has taught us (pre-drinking in hotels, taking bulk Qjacker orders into Pub Quiz, etc), we’re at a somewhat comfortable baseline in terms of value for money. But at the end of the day, I’ve always believed that Insomnia is what you make of it; although much does rest in the hands of MPUK and the NEC, there’s only so much that MPUK can do – they’re just providing the environment and the infrastructure, and it’s up to us to actually have fun. With that in mind, I’m concious of some things which I want to add to the Insomnia planning process in order to maximise value-for-money. Ultimately that’s what I want: Insomnia is undoubtedly expensive and I want myself and my friends to have as best a time as we can in order to justify that expense. The most glaring thing in my opinion is the amount extra we spend on BYOC rather than weekend tickets, not to mention the hassle in dragging our computers in some cases halfway across the country, going through the stress of getting everyone together on the seat picker, given the small amount of multiplayer gaming we actually do together. Over the course of the weekend, I think we had maybe one game of Jackbox, one game of Golf With Friends, one game of Portal 2 co-op and one game of Rocket League. There were probably more but those are the only ones that I remember. It’s worth pointing out that LAN lasts for 94 hours – even if we spend three quarters of that sleeping, drinking, eating, looking round the expo or whatever, that still leaves a lot of time that we’re sat in BYOC not really doing much – often just looking at social media or playing singleplayer games. To be fair some people do figure out stuff to do – Ciaran, Chloe and Toby spent plenty of time playing PUBG for example. But I spent only a tiny amount of time playing multiplayer games – you know, that thing which a LAN is supposed to be all about – and I know I wasn’t the only one. Maybe I’m making this sound like more of a problem than it really is, but I’d just really like us to put these slow afternoons to good use in the same way we’ve long put our evenings to good use. So, going forwards I’m going to experiment with organising some multiplayer sessions suitable for medium-sized groups of people like we normally get at LAN. These will be quite flexible because of course people often want to be spontaneous at Insomnia, to go to the Expo or get something to eat. I’ll basically just say something like “I’m going to organise some GTA races at whatever time, join us if you want” and if people want to do something else then we’ll do something else. I’m very keen to make full use of the discord for this and also using the voice channels for in-game comms more. I do wish to re-iterate that it is not my intention to over-plan Insomnia: others have rightly pointed out that Insomnia works best when it is spontaneous. That is why these will take the form of flexible suggestions, not some sort of fixed timetable. Currently the games I have in mind include GTA V, CS:GO, Golf With Friends, Jackbox and PUBG, although I’m open to any more suggestions. I’ll keep them quite low-key and they’ll be carefully timed so as to not clash with anything else (cosplay, meal times, pub quiz preparations etc). I probably won’t give an end time, just a start time and we can see how long people feel like playing for. At any rate, this is just in the ideas stage, and it can be discussed in the discord nearer the time; I invite as much feedback as possible, I promise I won’t be offended! Furthermore, I’m hoping to expand my media operations by recording more of the event and actually keeping to my word when I say I’m going to livestream. Currently, I have a substantial archive related to Insomnia: vlogs, pictures, attendance lists, pub quiz spreadsheets, and of course these blog posts. All of these will also be maintained for the forseeable future.

Anyway, enough rambling. i62 is now over six months away due to the cancellation of the winter LAN, which is a shame, but it does mean that when Easter finally rolls around, Insomnia will be back fresher than ever. Maybe a bit of a break will do us some good, who knows. Our time at this event has had its ups and downs, but I’m fairly optimistic about 2018. As always, I remain the community’s unofficial Insomnia helpdesk, and I’ll continue to help the community to enjoy Insomnia as much as I do. See you at i62 folks.

Insomnia Gaming Festival 60

The last time we had a proper first-rate Insomnia was i57. i58 and i59 just felt pretty standard issue, more of the same. April arrived this year with a tons of hype built up and almost everyone from the community was set to be going, and boy did that hype deliver.

Our story starts at my home in Wakefield at quarter to 6pm on Thursday, when my dad set off with me and Guy (@LittleLooter) for the two-hour road trip to my uni flat in Birmingham. Once there, we gathered up my camping gear and PC stuff, and made the final extra 20 minute drive from there to the NEC. I first got my wristbands from check-in, and ventured into the BYOC hall to find Chloe (@northghosts), as she had Guy’s ticket. Our seats this time were near the entrance to the LAN and easy to find. Already there were Chloe, Bryony (@AnOrdinaryGirl1), Jesus (@JAMAICANBACON96) and others, and yes they were drinking already, though just chilling out for the most part. Here I discovered that my beard was now longer than Jesus, though I was quickly informed that this did not make me the new Jesus. Whilst Chloe went to sign Guy in, I set up my camping gear in the indoor camping hall, and went back to the car to get my PC stuff, which my dad helped me carry. Once everything was inside the hall, I said bye to my dad and set about plugging everything in. Setup ended up being very prompt with my first tweet from my PC at LAN being timestamped at 9:52pm. The next order of business was to acquire alcohol – though Thursday night was only intended to be a relatively quiet one. There was initially some confusion about whether Qjacker – the BYOC food and drink delivery service – was working that night, but I put in an order and it turned out it was indeed working, giving me 4 bottles of Bulmers. Whilst Bryony and some of the others were at Wetherspoons, me and Guy met the twins, Curt (@CurtZeNinja) and Kyle (@EyeIzMoorey), who were doing BYOC for the first time. Meanwhile, with it being the Empire of Adammia’s Foundation Day – its 4th anniversary – I had some work to do editing and uploading some footage from the Foundation Day celebrations the previous weekend. I had also planned to buy all my Adammic citizens present on Thursday a drink, which was of course a rather blatant attempt at getting more citizens to sign up. I ended up cancelling this idea after I looked at how low my bank account was.

Ciaran (@Muskoke_) was now off-shift from his yellow-team volunteer duties, which gave us a chance to celebrate his 19th birthday – I deliberately got him a terrible card, partially to honour my mum’s tradition with my uncle. At one point, Dan Bennett (@DanBennett) and his girlfriend Katie (@katiejjk) dropped by, as did Eike (@EikeSky). As 11pm came and went, people came back from Wetherspoons, rather angry as they had apparently been asked to leave for being drunk. They didn’t seem drunk at that point – however, as the night wore on things started to go downhill for a couple of people who shall remain unnamed. Ciaran ended up being the one to call security after one of our people ended up paraplegic. I was astonished that we had seemingly made history by needing paramedics and a wheelchair on night 1 of Insomnia, although rumours which circulated later about a drink being spiked made this a lot less funny. I stayed up until around 2am to chat to people and finish my first batch of drinks, which got me just about inebriated enough to easily fall asleep when I retired to my tent.

I got up at around 9am on Friday. Things had been changed up a bit this Insomnia – the World Famous Pub Quiz would now be on the Friday to make way for live music on the Saturday. This meant that this would be the day I had to distribute pub quiz wristbands to my team members. I was under a great deal of stress as I had promised a lot more people wristbands than the 10 that came with my table. I had bought one extra wristband from Ryan Wild (@Wild1145), but I spent around 4 hours constantly refreshing the Multiplay forums hunting for the rest when I heard on Discord that Helen (@Helen_Bottster), someone who I had briefly met at i59 through Callum (@AnimatedCallum) and Paul (@Paul19988), had plenty of spares – enough to fill the gap. I bought the whole lot from her, meaning I could relax for now. I spent a while playing Golf With Your Friends – a LAN favourite of our group – with Bryony, I believe Guy and Curt, and some guy called Dan who was sat next to me (not to be confused with Dan Bennett, Dan as in Panda, Dan as in Panda’s mate, or the complete randomer sat opposite me who turned out to also be called Dan). A few latecomers were now setting up at LAN, such as Skeppy (@SkepticPara), Sam (@Pohobi), Fabian (@AnUnordinaryGuy) and Cheyenne (@LPUltimate1996). My work on the pub quiz wasn’t done – I had all the tickets but I now had to distribute them to everybody who needed them. First I headed to a different part of the LAN hall to find some familiar faces – Connor (@ConnorPyxel) and Simon (@SimonLCollins). This time their friend Jordan wasn’t with them; instead they brought yet another guy called Dan, Simon’s younger brother Aidan, and Connor’s girlfriend Emily. I often invite these guys to my pub quiz team so I gave them their tickets. I then went outside to give tickets to Andy (@AndySuckssss), Lara and Ryan (@Jagerbomb7) and Ryan’s friend. However, I soon got a message from Ryan saying that the ticket I had given his friend wasn’t working. It transpired that his had been the ticket I had bought from Ryan Wild, so I went to try and find him. In doing so, I met my old friend Alice (@Alphaglitchgirl) and her boyfriend Lith (@Lithara) and we had a quick chat. However, I couldn’t get hold of Ryan Wild, and after nagging AnimatedCallum on Twitter a bit, it turned out firstly that Ryan Wild was presently driving to his hotel, and secondly that his entire table had some sort of ticket issue, and that new tickets had been issued. He sent me a picture of a new ticket, which I forwarded to the other Ryan and scanning that picture apparently worked. I still had a handful of tickets left to distribute at 5pm, but those would have to wait since it was now time for our traditional pre-Pub Quiz Frankie and Benny’s at the next-door Birmingham Airport, which was extra special this time since it was also celebrating Ciaran’s birthday. When I first got there, Chloe and Ciaran were running late, but I met Bryony, Fabian, the guy called Dan sat next to me, Lewis (@Justcallmelewis) and Jamie (@_Morphh). Before long we were joined by Chloe and Ciaran, and then Toby (@nether_dweller), and we ordered our meals. Some decent banter was had there, which involved Bryony deciding that I was now called Colin, which I decided to go along with.

At around 7pm we went back to BYOC to pre-drink the Pub Quiz. By now Sie (@wondersiex) and his cousin Ash had arrived. I got changed into my pub quiz outfit (the tuxedo, top hat and cane), and hurried about distributing the last of the tickets as the opening time of 8:30 ticked ever closer. Once the doors opened, I led my team – named “Count our Fatmouse this time” in reference to the markers’ failure to do so at the i59 quiz – to table 113, a standard table on the right-hand side of the main stage hall. This was the largest team I had led since the i55 30-member mega-team, consisting of myself, Chloe, Ciaran, Sie, Ash, Guy, Curt, Kyle, Connor, Simon, Emily, Aidan, Dan (Connor’s friend), Sam and Skeppy. Nearer the front in the Premium and VIP areas we had Eike’s team (“Sandpaper Vagina”), where Rowan (@Bandgasmic), Bryony, Jamie, Fabian, Kav (@InsaneKav) and others could be found; there was also Cheyenne and Jesus’ team, “The Falling Scotsman”, and Dan Bennett’s team “Allah Snackbar”, where Katie and Toby could be found.

The Insomnia World Famous Pub Quiz proceeded in its usual fashion, presided over by Multiplay founder Craig “Wizzo” Fletcher. My team put up a reasonable fight, doing worse than we did at i60 despite the size of the team, but still finishing 97th out of 147 teams. We did better than Eike’s or Dan’s teams, but it was Cheyenne’s team which did best, finishing 59th. During the picture round, I was able to leave Aidan in charge (he actually did a pretty good job) whilst I zipped around the hall to say hi to the other teams in our community. Meanwhile, Chloe became considerably drunk and got half-way through planning her wedding before being forced to withdraw to the bathroom – although she was back within a couple of rounds. I myself, in an effort to avoid extortionate bar prices, had brought in large quantities of Qjacker-bought Bulmers, which due to its sweetness and its rapid consumption, caused me to throw up despite only being tipsy. I then continued drinking, feeling mostly fine. As the traditional singalong began at the end of the quiz, All Star by Smash Mouth made its debut, followed by some familiar songs: Chelsea Dagger, Sugar We’re Going Down, Mr. Brightside, F**k Her Gently, Tribute and of course Bohemian Rhapsody. We also had a marriage proposal on-stage, which to my knowledge was an Insomnia first. We were then somewhat ushered out of the hall to the sound of Cuban Pete in what felt like a rather rushed end to the quiz; overall the quiz was pretty decent but it didn’t match some of the great quizzes like i55 and i57.

Afterwards, we went back to BYOC where we hung around for an hour or two, generally chatting drunken nonsense. As people drifted off to bed in their ones and twos, I ended up by the Esports bar with the rest of Ciaran’s yellow-team volunteers (Ciaran had gone to bed at this point) and, after they too left, wound up with some complete strangers from Glasgow for a short while, who from what I can remember were at Insomnia representing the GT Omega gaming chairs. By this point it was 4am, so it wasn’t long after that that I went to bed myself.

I woke up at about 10am on Saturday morning and got back to BYOC around half an hour later. As it turned out, the Pub Quiz team had been unusually quick at releasing the full results so I spent a few hours crunching the numbers for my own community spreadsheet (which in retrospect I might as well have done after the event but oh well). After lunch, I met up with Alice and Lith again. Alice was making a mock gaming magazine for a college project which she decided would include an article about me visiting Insomnia in my capacity as Emperor of Adammia – so we went around the Expo hall whilst she took a few pictures of me in my pub quiz suit. Next, I went to Wetherspoons to meet Andy, Callan (@AyyCapsy) and Sufi (@suufiii135) and I stayed there for a couple of hours whilst we gave Sufi his first ever proper alcoholic drinks and managed to get him quite drunk. Me and Sufi then went to Eike’s corner of the BYOC hall; he was sat away from the rest of our group because he was running a charity livestream marathon with some of his own crew. After chatting with him for a while we went our separate ways.

Saturday evening was the night of the live music; I wasn’t interested in any of the acts so I didn’t buy tickets. Before the bigger names came on, a few of us passed some time playing Never Have I Ever in BYOC, which was revealing to say the least. Later on, when most of the others were in the live music, it was must me and Guy left in BYOC, so we drifted over to Connor’s group’s area. However, they were quite busy playing Overwatch, so we soon decided to leave them to it. Some time after 11, people started to leave the live music, although there was a small issue with security who seemed to be confused about BYOC guest wristbands, which was soon resolved. Me, Guy, one of the twins and I believe either Sie or the other twin had a game of CS:GO, which we lost 9-16. Meanwhile, I had made a dreadful mistake, after mixing Jagermeister with a can of what I thought was energy drink but turned out to be some sort of iced tea. This dreadful concoction gave me heartburn for the rest of the night which forced me to slow down my drinking somewhat. It was now late on Saturday night, and drunk LAN-goers were now trying to get attention with the traditional cries of “ALAN!” and “STEVE!” and other random noises, including occasional blasts from an airhorn which divided community opinion on the forums (airhorns have since been banned from i61 onwards due to health and safety). However, for the most part, Saturday night was pretty uneventful and slow-paced, since people were still recovering from Pub Quiz the previous night. I wound up spending some time at Eike’s stream with Nebula (@MsNebula13), before eventually going to bed at around 5am.

I’m not sure what time I got up on Sunday, although it was probably quite late (my first tweet was around midday). The daytime of the final full day of LAN was pretty quiet as per usual, and I roamed around saying goodbye to the various people who were leaving that day as opposed to Monday. It was on Sunday afternoon that Andy gave me a piggyback in which I accidentally bit the top of his head, which was not a pleasant experience for either of us. Later, those of us in BYOC had a quick go at the interactive YouTube version of The Dark Room, to make up for John Robertson’s absence from this particular event.

Much like at i55 – which had the legendary final night at the Ricoh Arena in Bar 87 which I consider to be the best night in the community’s Insomnia history – it was the Sunday night which really made i60, and is one of the main reason why I ranked it my 3rd favourite Insomnia out of the 12 I’ve now been to. The BYOC crew started at around 6pm playing Jackbox Party games for a few hours, which led to the whole story about Kyle’s sock and the hilarious “two twins one sock” Quiplash punchline, probably one of the funniest moments I’ve had at LAN ever (I won’t explain the story here, you had to be there). Me and Guy then began planning an end-of-LAN livestream and fired up Rust, but it just ended up crashing my computer so we put it on hold and later, in light of further developments, decided to cancel it altogether. These further developments were the group’s move to the social area behind the BYOC help desk, where we claimed a table for ourselves and played the notorious university drinking game, Ring of Fire – this required my attention much more than the livestream. After me and Bryony figured out the rule variations between the UoB and Welsh versions of the game, play began with me, Bryony, Sie, Jamie, Dan (the one sat next to me), Ash, Curt and Kyle. For those who don’t know, the point of Ring of Fire is to get a group of people drunk in a fairly short timespan. It turned out to be quite effective at this. After the game had finished, a few others began to join us, including Guy, Chloe, Ciaran, Francis, Amy, Toby and Toby’s friend Will. We spent quite a few hours just messing about, socialising and getting more drunk. This involved sampling shots of poor-quality whiskey, and Ash (I think) taking Bryony for a joyride around the BYOC hall in a spare GT Omega chair. It also involved a brief acapella rendition of Rick Astley’s Never Gonna Give You Up in the middle of the LAN hall in the hopes that it would catch on, which it sadly didn’t. At one point we were joined by the Head of BYOC himself, GeoSnipe. Later, as our numbers thinned, we moved to the Esports Bar, where those of us who were left, seriously drunk, got through our final drinks of the weekend. Here I attempted to introduce Sie and Ash to the yellow team which was of course a disastrous decision. Personally, due to a combination of a lack of sleep and poor alcohol-related decisions, I was feeling quite exhausted and I ended up going to bed at around 4am.

Few people were left on Monday as we began packing down the PCs and leaving in our ones and twos. After a change of plan due to my original ride back to Edgbaston being forced to cancel, I got myself some Multiplay tuck shop ice cream – commonly known as Wizzo’s Creamy Goodness – and got ready to leave with my backup lift, Jesus. I had a quick diversion to the atrium to sign the Certificate of Arms I had made for Alice. After Bryony led Chloe and Ciaran for a lap of the hall by stealing their suitcase, we said goodbye to them, and finally me, Jesus and Guy moved my stuff to Jesus’ car. Just like after i59, Jesus dropped me off at my halls of residence in Edgbaston, and so he became the last member of the community I saw.

Finishing up this blog post now, it’s been over 3 months since i60, which is the longest delay one of these blog posts has ever had. I’ve been super busy, first with university exams and since then with all the Adammic business I had to postpone due to uni. Since i60, I went to the summer StratLAN, but nobody from our community was there (although I did hang out with the yellow team a fair amount, sans Ciaran). So I’ve not seen anybody from the community for quite some time, and with i61 just over a month away, hype is now slowly starting to build. For the first time since i57, we’re expecting to see Rody, Julia and Nat returning. The BYOC seats have been picked and Pub Quiz tables have been bought, and we’re hoping to make i61 one of the best Insomnias we’ve ever had. As for i60, before Sunday night it was originally looking like a pretty standard Insomnia like i58 and i59, but in my opinion, that final Sunday night propelled it to 5-star status and put it in the top 3 behind i55 and i57. At this point, the main things to improve are making the pub quiz feel less rushed (i.e. more like it was at i57, when we were singing for close to an hour), and sorting out the bar prices by, at the very least, re-introducing special offers. Increasingly the community is learning ways to adapt to the new reality of Insomnia at the NEC, and this, combined with GeoSnipe’s ongoing efforts to improve the community focus of BYOC, means that in my opinion the best of Insomnia is not yet over, and we can expect great things from i61 and onwards.

Genealogical Research Summary

Some of you will know that for the past couple of years I’ve been carrying out occasional research into my ancestral origins. At first I didn’t even know the names of most of my great-grandparents, and I’ve come a long way since then. This article will discuss some of my findings, including my probable descent from Charlemagne. Most things described here are not 100% definite, since most of my research has been done using online resources and even then, as with anything which happened centuries ago it’s difficult to know for sure. However I’d feel confident in claiming descent from the ancestors mentioned here.

The Belcher family has long had its roots in Pontefract, which is a town not far from where I live. The first known Belcher who I can trace back to was George Belcher (sometimes spelt Belshaw) who was born around 1748, my great-great-great-great-great-great-grandfather. After him the trail goes cold, although he married his wife Ann Senior in Darfield near Barnsley, South Yorkshire so that may be a lead. The patrilineal line from him to me is as follows:

George Belcher (b. 1748)
Richard Belcher (b. 1785)
William Belcher (b. 1809)
John Belcher (b. 1839)
John Belcher (b. 1869)
Frederick Belcher (b. 1900)
Kenneth Belcher (b. 1939)
Kevin Belcher (b. 1965)
Adam Belcher (b. 1998)

The furthest ancestor I could find on my paternal grandfather’s side was from the Medley family, and was my great-x16-grandfather. His name was Thomas Medley, born sometime in the 1450s; we’re not sure where he was from, although his son John was from Dewsbury, West Yorkshire. In 1639, Grace Medley married into the Dixon family, who lived in Thornhill not far from Dewsbury. Then, in 1765, Mary Dixon married Benjamin Boldy, who lived in Kirk Smeaton, near Pontefract; their grand-daughter Jane married into the Moverley family, and in turn her daughter Elizabeth married my great-great-great-grandfather John Belcher. Here’s the full line from Thomas Medley:

Thomas Medley (b. 1450s)
John Medley (b. 1479)
Benet Medley (b. 1515)
William Medley (b. 1545)
John Medley (b. 1569)
Michael Medley (b. 1594)
Grace Medley (b. 1621)
George Dickson (b. 1648)
George Dickson (b. 1685)
Edward Dixon (b. 1715)
Mary Dixon (b. 1738)
William Boldy (b. 1775)
Jane Boldy (b. 1806)
Elizabeth Moverley (b. 1839)
John Belcher (b. 1869)
Frederick Belcher (b. 1900)
Kenneth Belcher (b. 1939)
Kevin Belcher (b. 1965)
Adam Belcher (b. 1998)

An interesting side-note here is William Boldy’s wife Jane Asquith. The Asquith family’s most famous member was the great Liberal Prime Minister, H.H. Asquith, so it’s clear why I might want to try and find a link here. The Asquiths were in fact from West Yorkshire, and it’s a fairly unique name, so I reckon it’s pretty likely there is a connection. However, I couldn’t get any further than Jane’s grandfather Joseph Asquith (b. 1717) due to two sets of contradictory evidence. The Asquiths were non-conformists so they don’t always appear on the usual registers, which makes the task more difficult.

As far as I can see, most of my paternal grandfather’s ancestors seem to have come from Yorkshire. An exception is the Fox family, which was his mum’s family; they came from the West Bromwich and Dudley areas just west of Birmingham. The earliest known ancestor of this family is John Phipson, who was born in Cleobury Mortimer, Shropshire in 1640.

Much less is known about my paternal grandmother’s family. I don’t know any ancestors of her dad, and the only thing I know about him is that he apparently committed suicide. Her mum’s family were the Forder family, who seem to be from the south originally.

My maternal grandfather’s family is the Hall family. The oldest confirmed Hall in the family tree was Thomas Hall, born in 1806 in Guiseley, West Yorkshire, my great-great-great-great-grandfather. There are quite a few known ancestors on this side, but most of them aren’t very interesting, except that one of them once shot a policeman, according to my grandad. Very little is known about my maternal grandfather’s mum’s family, the Kelly family, except that they came from Ireland.

My maternal grandmother’s family is where things start to get really interesting. Her family was the Boxall family, which comes from Lewes in East Sussex. The Boxall line has been traced all the way back to Richard Boxall, born in 1586. He is my common ancestor with a fellow micronational leader, Emperor Jonathan of Austenasia, whose mum is a Boxall. He did this part of the research for me in order to find out if we were related, which, it turns out, we probably are, although there was one link in the chain which couldn’t be conclusively proven. This would make Jonathan my 11th cousin once removed. The line from Richard Boxall to me:

Richard Boxall (b. 1560)
Richard Boxall (b. 1586)
Richard Boxall (b. 1612)
Thomas Boxall (b. 1650)
Thomas Boxall (b. 1676)
Thomas Boxall (b. 1700)
Richard Boxall (b. 1740)
Richard Boxall (b. 1775)
John Boxall (b. 1807)
Henry Boxall (b. 1843)
Edgar Boxall (b. 1901)
Winifred Boxall (b. 1945)
Jayne Hall (b. 1968)
Adam Belcher (b. 1998)

Henry Boxall’s wife Charlotte Hazel is where the heavyweight genealogy comes in. Her mum was from the Ilott family from south-west Oxfordshire, near the border with Berkshire and Wiltshire. Starting from William Ilott (b. 1780) and following a long, mostly matrilineal line, we eventually arrive at Susan Hungerford, the daughter of Sir John Hungerford. Now that we’re dealing with a higher class, most of the research had already been done, so at this point I could just transcribe from existing family trees. The Hungerford family were the first notable family I came across; Sir John Hungerford’s father Sir Anthony Hungerford (b. 1485) was an MP and the High Sheriff of Berkshire and Oxfordshire. Going further back, we find Thomas Hungerford, who was the very first officially-recorded Speaker of the House of Commons. His son Walter Hungerford was also a Speaker of the Commons and later became the 1st Baron Hungerford.

Walter Hungerford’s wife, Catherine Peverell, was one of the Peverells of Cornwall, and was born in 1380. Her great-grandfather Jacob Peverell was married to Margaret of Cornwall, a daughter of Walter of Cornwall. This Walter was, in fact, an illegitimate son of Richard Plantagenet, the 1st Earl of Cornwall, with his mistress Joan de Valletort. Richard was the son of John, the King of England. From here, since medieval royalty were so horrifically interbred, it was a fairly trivial process linking King John to such great names as William the Conquerer, Kenneth MacAlpin (the first King of Scots), Alfred the Great, the Capet dynasty of France, and, of course, Charlemagne, who united the Franks and was crowned Emperor of the Romans by Pope Leo III in 800 AD. Charlemagne would be my great-x39-grandfather. The full line of descent from Charlemagne is as follows:

Charlemagne, Emperor of the Romans (b. 742)
Louis the Pious, Emperor of the Romans (b. 778)
Charles the Bald, Emperor of the Romans (b. 823)
Judith of Flanders (b. 843)
Baldwin II, Margrave of Flanders (b. 865)
Arnulf I, Count of Flanders (b. 890)
Baldwin III, Count of Flanders (b. 940)
Arnulf II, Count of Flanders (b. 961)
Baldwin IV, Count of Flanders (b. 980)
Baldwin V, Count of Flanders (b. 1012)
Matilda of Flanders, Queen Consort of England (b. 1031)
Henry I, King of England (b. 1068)
Empress Matilda, Lady of the English (b. 1102)
Henry II Plantagenet, King of England (b. 1133)
John Plantagenet, King of England (b. 1166)
Richard Plantagenet, 1st Earl of Cornwall (b. 1209)
Sir Walter of Cornwall (b. 1254, illegitimate)
Margaret of Cornwall (b. 1280)
Sir Hugh Peverell (b. 1300)
Sir Thomas Peverell MP (b. 1340)
Lady Catherine Peverell of Hungerford (b. 1380)
Sir Edmund Hungerford (b. 1409)
Sir Thomas Hungerford (b. 1440)
Sir John Hungerford (b. 1460)
Sir Anthony Hungerford (b. 1485)
Sir John Hungerford (b. 1513)
Susan Hungerford (b. 1554)
Mary Cox (née Choke) (b. 1573)
Margaret Buck (née Cox) (b. 1609)
William Buck (b. 1635)
Joan Bunney (née Buck) (b. 1667)
Joan Cook (née Bunney) (b. 1688)
Martha Ball (née Cook) (b. 1713)
Sarah Ilott (née Ball) (b. 1742)
William Ilott (b. 1780)
James Ilott (b. 1807)
Martha Hazel (née Ilott) (b. 1846)
Charlotte Boxall (née Hazel) (b. 1876)
Edgar Boxall (b. 1901)
Winifred Boxall (b. 1945)
Jayne Hall (b. 1968)
Adam Belcher (b. 1998)

Through the common ancestor of King John, this would make me the 24th cousin twice-removed of Queen Elizabeth II, and the 26th cousin exactly of Prince William, Duke of Cambridge.

Finally, over to my maternal grandmother’s mum’s family. She was descended from the Manns family, which came from Lancaster, and the Lunn family, whose ancestors the Nottingham family came from the area north-east of Pontefract, which is split between North and East Yorkshire. As we reach the opposite end of the family tree, here is the known matrilinleal line:

Elizabeth Kent (b. 1763)
Hannah Stainton (b. 1800)
Jane Pulleyn (b. 1823)
Sarah Nottingham (b. 1860)
Lily Lunn (b. 1882)
Ruby Manns (b. 1911)
Winifred Boxall (b. 1945)
Jayne Hall (b. 1968)
Adam Belcher (b. 1998)

To finish up, a bit of fun: the earliest confirmed ancestor of Charlemagne – and thus my earliest recorded ancestor – was Saint Arnulf of Metz, born around 582 AD. Written out in full, he would be my great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandfather (that’s great-x44).

Election 2017: My Personal Case For Voting Liberal Democrat

As we all know, a General Election is looming. Like I did just before the EU referendum in this blog post, I wanted to write an article on here about why I’m voting the way I am and why I suggest that others should do the same. As many of you know, I’m a member of the Liberal Democrats, so it should come as no surprise that they’re my choice in the polling booth. I wanted to write an article describing my reasons for voting Lib Dem in my own words, without any of the slogans that the party headquarters tends to use. I’ll be tackling several of the major issues facing the country in turn, analysing the flaws in the Conservative and Labour policies and explaining why the Lib Dem approach is often better.

I’m going to jump right in with the elephant in the room, which is of course Brexit. I’ve had people tell me that the Brexit battle is already lost, and that we should now be completely focused on what we can offer post-Brexit Britain – as if the EU referendum closed the issue for good. I don’t think I could disagree with this outlook more. The Brexit process has only just begun, with Article 50 only being triggered back in March, and the proper negotiations yet to start. The only thing that is set in stone is the decision to negotiate our exit, and everything else is still up in the air. We’ve made the decision to leave, so now we should be using this election to determine the details of our approach in the negotiations. A lot of questions were not resolved by the EU referendum. Will there be a “hard” Brexit or a “soft” Brexit? Will we be able to change our minds and back out of the process if the negotiations go wrong? To address the first of those two questions, a lot of Brexiteers seem very quick to assume that a hard Brexit is the only option, pointing to the fact that leading figures on both sides of the debate said that leaving the single market would be a consequence of voting Leave. People did know what they were voting for, they insist. Well, did they? For every Leave campaigner saying we would leave the single market, there was another Leave campaigner saying we could negotiate a Norway-style deal and retain some access to the single market. What happened to the Norway-style deal? Here’s the thing – just because Brexit is the “will of the people” doesn’t make it any less of a bad idea. Negotiations haven’t even begun yet and already the pound has collapsed, investors are thinking of relocating to Dublin and Frankfurt, and inflation is starting to creep up. If we quit the single market, or even worse get the “no deal” option where we crash out without even a proper trade deal in place, forcing us to revert to World Trade Organisation rules, the economic consequences would be an order of magnitude above what we’ve already seen. What’s worrying is that this is the direction Theresa May seems to be taking us, and Jeremy Corbyn is happy to go along with it. Labour supported the Conservatives in the Article 50 vote despite not getting any concessions – no assurances for EU citizens already living in the UK, for example, and I think it is disgraceful that Labour were complicit in allowing the Conservatives to effectively hold hostage the EU citizens – whom the NHS deeply rely on – and use them as bargaining chips. Back to my second question, regarding whether or not we can back out if it all goes wrong, it seems clear that the only way to “cancel” Brexit is through a second referendum. I’ll admit that this is a very contentious point – Brexiteers hate the idea of a second referendum because they’re scared they might lose, and the public in general aren’t really in the mood for a repeat of the brutal 2016 campaign. However, I must insist that a democracy that is not allowed to change its mind is not a true democracy. Is this just a case of “remoaners” being upset that they lost and not accepting the results? No, it’s just that there is so much at stake here that it only makes sense to double-check that this is still what we want to do, once the negotiations are complete and we’re ready to exit. So for comparison, as most people are aware, the Tories and Labour are both happy to exit the single market – possibly without a deal at all, causing massive economic damage – and both will not give the public the chance to give the final go-ahead. The Liberal Democrats, on the other hand, would persue a Norway-style deal where we stay in the single market, and would also offer a second referendum at the end of the process.

Okay, let’s move on. The defining aspect of any party manifesto is its approach to tax, public spending and the economy. We all know about the Tories and austerity. The state of the NHS should be proof enough that the Tories have seriously under-funded public services. As I said in my EU referendum blog post, the Tories have been able to hide this from their core right-wing voters due to, in part, their friends in the right-wing press blaming everything on immigrants. What I said then is just as true now: immigrants support public services by both paying their taxes and being employed by those public services. It’s not their fault that the government isn’t putting that tax money back into the system in order to properly fund the schools and hospitals that immigrants, along with the rest of us, use in our everyday lives. When Labour released their manifesto, there was a lot of excitement. Fully-costed for the most part, and it gave public services the boost they desperately need. Sounds good, but there’s one key flaw which brings down the whole thing, and it all comes back to Brexit. We already know that, like the Tories, Labour’s plan is to quit the single market, and we know that unless some sort of miraculously-good free trade deal is pulled off (very unlikely), this will result in potentially significant damage to the economy. We know that multinational companies are already looking at moving resources out of the country. Besides causing increased unemployment, this will result in a substantial drop in tax revenues, which could partially or even completely cancel out the extra money generated by Labour’s tax increases. Suddenly the money for all of Labour’s nice policies dries up. Obviously we don’t know for sure how the economy will react to leaving the single market, but it isn’t looking good so far. Not only that, but if we are going to leave the single market, we have to find ways to persuade those multinational companies who are thinking of leaving to stay here. Even the Tories recognise that, which is why they have a policy of keeping corporation tax low. Lots of people have shared graphs on social media showing that Labour’s proposed corporation tax rate of 26% is still lower than a lot of other countries, so it should still be competitive. However, these graphs don’t take Brexit into account at all. Countries like Germany can afford those higher corporation tax rates because they have other ways of keeping their economies competitive. As Britain heads towards leaving the single market, we lose one of the best incentives of trading in this country as opposed to others. I believe that for many companies, the double-whammy of leaving the single market combined with increased corporation tax could be the nail in the coffin for their UK operations. If Brexit wasn’t happening, I could probably support an increase in corporation tax. Prior to the EU referendum, the economy was starting to pick up the pace again after the crash of 2008. Budget cuts weren’t necessary any more and we could afford to start being more ambitious – but Brexit has changed all of that. The point I’m making here is that Labour’s willingness to leave the single market has effectively sunk their entire manifesto.

What alternatives are the Liberal Democrats offering when it comes to public spending, then? Well, similarly to Labour, we do have substantial increases in funding for public services on the table; in fact, we’ve pledged to spend twice as much on education than Labour. These will be funded in a number of ways – for example, our extra £6bn for the NHS and social care will come from increasing income tax by 1p per pound of income. We also plan to reverse Tory cuts to corporation tax, capital gains tax, and inheritance tax, with corporation tax being brought from its current 17% to its original 20%. Not only is this a more reasonable level than Labour, but the fact that the Lib Dems would have the UK stay in the single market means that we can afford to make these tax increases. Another thing worth commenting on is something that I hate bringing up as a Lib Dem, but I sort of have to given the circumstances: Labour’s policy of abolishing tuition fees completely is the wrong priority. In an ideal world, maybe university could be free, but that’s not reality. For all the bad press tuition fees generate, they aren’t as bad as people often make out – you only pay the loans back once you’re earning above a certain threshold (which, by the way, is a threshold the Lib Dems would increase), meaning they operate more like a tax than a loan. I think they’re not perfect, and it would be better to replace them with a proper “graduate tax” so that interest is taken out of the equation, but they have actually meant that universities, with the extra money, can offer more places now, allowing more working-class students to go to university in the first place. Labour’s policy of abolishing tuition fees is one of the most costly parts of their manifesto, and it’s money which would be better spent on early-years, primary and secondary education, which is exactly what the Lib Dems are focusing on.


A graph from the Institute for Fiscal Studies showing how the policies of the three parties would affect net incomes of different parts of society. Lib Dem policies are the best for poorer people, and best on average.


Another graph showing the predicted size of the economy under the three different parties. In the long run, Lib Dem policies would create the strongest economy.

Uniquely amongst the three biggest parties, the Lib Dems have deliberately gone for a forward-thinking, green approach to the economy. With Labour wanting to take us back to the 1970s and the Tories wanting to take us back to the 1950s, there seems to be only one party which is actually living in the 21st Century. Investment in better infrastructure, becoming self-sufficient on renewable energy, and supporting small businesses with a “start-up allowance” are all the kinds of things I want to see in an innovative economy. I’m aware that talking about the economy is pretty dull, but make no mistake: as Britain heads towards Brexit, it’s absolutely vital for jobs and living standards that the economy is kept competitive, sustainable and flexible. I shouldn’t have to point out how important renewable energy is… we all did GCSE Science.

I want to touch upon a few of the Lib Dems’ more distinctively liberal policies for a bit – the things that made me join this party in the first place. Out of the three main parties, the Lib Dems are the only ones who are bold enough to suggest ending the disastrous war on drugs – a complete waste of police time and money – and legalising cannabis. Whilst the Tories and Labour ignore the need for electoral reform because it benefits them, we are the only ones out of the three main parties bold enough to call for a more proportional voting system. How does it make sense that, in 2015, the SNP and the Greens got similar numbers of votes, but the SNP got 56 seats and the Greens got just 1? If that’s not a broken system, I don’t know what is. And then there’s Theresa May’s frankly terrifying obsession with mass surveillance and regulating the Internet in the name of counter-terrorism. There isn’t even any need to give security services these extra powers to snoop on our browsing history, because there are more limited versions of those powers already in place which they hardly ever use! And besides, spying on the Internet won’t stop terrorists. All you need to be a terrorist these days is a van. I’m not saying that more police resources – perhaps more armed police – would have stopped the recent terrorist attacks, but they would definitely have made them, along with any future attacks, a lot less likely. More resources and manpower for the police is the way forward. Giving security services more intrusive powers will only create a ticking time bomb until some lunatic inevitably hacks one of these databases and suddenly every embarrassing Google search you’ve ever made is available for everyone to see. These are all symptoms of perhaps the most authoritarian government we’ve ever had. If I had to sum up Theresa May in one word it would be: patronising. The attitude of the Conservatives is one of “mother-knows-best”, treating the people of this country like children who can’t think for themselves. Angela Merkel’s Christian democracy, if Christian democracy was on meth. It’s about time we had a party which treated us voters like the grown-ups we are – and you won’t find that party under Jeremy Corbyn, who cares just as little about drugs reform, electoral reform and civil liberties as any Tory. You’ll find it’s the party that blocked Theresa May from introducing these snooping powers for five years whilst in coalition. The list of things I could criticise the government for goes on and on: selling weapons to human rights abusing countries like Saudi Arabia, the PM not turning up to the TV debates, the dementia tax, fox hunting…

The reasons to vote Liberal Democrat over Labour are substantial. Labour will take us out of the single market which will badly damage the economy, they’re only spending half as much on education as the Lib Dems, their policy of abolishing tuition fees is the wrong priority, their track record on the environment is mediocre at best compared to us, and they don’t care about drug reform, electoral reform, or civil liberties. But maybe I haven’t convinced you to vote Liberal Democrat as a matter of principle – so I’m going to wrap up by briefly talking about tactical voting. Many of you will know that we operate under a voting system called first-past-the-post where one party wins a single seat for a constituency. A lot of young people reading this, whether they’re inclined towards Labour, the Lib Dems, the Greens or the SNP, will first and foremost want to get rid of the Tories. In order to stop the Tories from winning your constituency, it’s often best to vote for the party who are most likely to stop them in that particular seat. For example, if you’re in a Tory seat where the Lib Dems came second last time, voting Lib Dem would probably be the most tactical choice. By putting your postcode into this website, you can see the stats from the last election to see who is most likely to stop the Tories this time. Generally speaking, if you live in the South of England, the Lib Dems tend to be the most tactical option.

Even if you still don’t want to vote Lib Dem, that’s fine – what’s far more important than who you vote for is whether or not you actually vote at all. There are plenty of non-voters out there who refuse to take part because “they’re all the same”, or “the system is rigged”. Not voting simply gives the government this message: “I don’t care. You can take me for granted.” Voting in the right way can leave the government rattled. Enough young people voting could swing this election. So make your mind up, and go out and vote tomorrow. And maybe, just maybe, consider voting Liberal Democrat 😉

Mapping the History of the Community to Real History

I was just thinking about the history of “the community”, that is to say, the group of people I hang out with online, sometimes called the “Insomnia community” since that’s where most of us meet up IRL. This blog post describes the history of the community in a fair amount of detail. It occured to me that this matches up pretty well with the real-world history of Western civilisation. Here are some examples:

-Ancient Egypt is GameplayerHD’s server. Prior to GPHD, not much is known about the formation of the social circles which led to the current community, so that would be prehistory. In general, the Minecraft era of the community can be thought of as classical antiquity.
-Ancient Greece is the Nateandsie server. Like how Greece was the birthplace of Western civilisation, Nateandsie was really the birthplace of the community. I don’t really have an analogy for the Great Schism, unfortunately.
-The Roman Empire is the World of Tux server. Successful, but ultimately brought down in part by constant infighting. WoTgate can be thought of as the eventual sacking of Rome.
-The Dark / Medieval Ages are the rest of 2014 following WoTgate. The Outcast group was the main centre of gravity for the community during this time, and are like the Byzantine Empire. A lot of people from WoT started to disappear, sort of like the Black Death. The feud at the time between myself and Sie, started as a result of WoTgate, is comparable to the 100 Years War.
-The Renaissance is 2015, when Insomnia became the primary focus of the community. This was the start of a new golden age when the community exploded in size. Through Insomnia we met new groups who have been absorbed into the community, much like how the New World was discovered and colonised.
-The Spanish Empire is the Teamspeak server I set up in late 2015.
-The Industrial Revolution is the introduction of Discord at the start of 2016.
-The French Empire would be Eike’s Discord. The drama throughout 2016 is equivalent to the Napoleonic Wars.
-The Pax Britannica is where we are right now. The community is very large, like the British Empire, and is at peace, with very little drama so far this year.

The bad news is that according to this analogy, next up we’ve got two world wars. Which doesn’t sound particularly fun.

Another numbers thing


Rather than spamming your Twitter feeds with 50 tweets I just thought I’d answer all of these here. Stolen from HariusAwesome who stole it from some other people I don’t know.

1. Adam James Belcher
2. Aquarius
3. Ginger
4. 5′ 2”
5. 3… seriously, my feet are more like stumps tbh
6. No
7. Yes, once or twice a week at uni, and once every few weeks at home
8. Rage Against the Machine – Bulls on Parade
9. Guy aka LittleLooter
10. “Okay”
11. “I see. Well if my mum takes us we can be flexible, and if it’s my dad we will be going in the evening anyway, so you should be fine”
12. Single as always
13. Straight (except for Ciaran)
14. My little brother, he never fails to make me laugh
15. Pretty relaxed
16. My mum
17. Last dream I can remember I was at a LAN which looked a bit like StratLAN, only some people from school were there
18. No idea
19. I try my best to be nice
20. Abortion is sad but sometimes it is necessary
21. My lack of information as to the exact state of the universe makes predicting the future extremely difficult, and as such I live in constant fear of the illusion of randomness.
22. Procrastinating on uni assignments
23. I take precautions
24. Yes
25. One or two kids
26. Rather live without cable TV… obviously
27. No, god forbid
28. Online: Hard to choose between Ciaran, Chloe, Guy, Sufi, Nat etc. IRL: Al, Luca, Jack, Joe, all of the gang really they’re all great
29. [REDACTED], [REDACTED], and Ciaran
30. Incest, bestiality, and Andy
31. Star Wars (all of them)
32. What can I say? In the mad world of romance, you win some and you lose some, although in my case it’s mostly losing
33. Somewhere nice in the UK, like Edinburgh, York or Bristol, or maybe Canada, or if I knew the language maybe somewhere in the Netherlands or Scandinavia.
34. Vanilla (very underrated)
35. Most beef-related products, such as mince (especially mixed with mashed potato) or steak
36. Green
37. By virtue of it being the current venue of Insomnia, the NEC. Alternatively, my grandad’s house
38. Arctic Monkeys – Do I Wanna Know?
39. Blue
40. Black
41. My family
42. Assuming American intent, Christmas
43. Probably Northern Lights by Phillip Pullman, but this was two or three years ago
44. Never shaved my legs and don’t intend on ever doing so for reasons which should be self explanatory
45. In my bedroom at my university accommodation
46. Single… we’ve already had this one… no need to rub it in
47. Mercedes E-class
48. Writing this
49. Quite healthy
50. Difficult with Daniel because he’s severely autistic and difficult to talk to about normal things. Jake is only 12 but he makes me laugh a lot as I said

Musical Top 100 v2

1. J.S. Bach – Toccata and Fugue in D Minor
2. Queen – Bohemian Rhapsody
3. The Killers – Mr. Brightside
4. Motörhead – Ace of Spades
5. John Williams – The Imperial March
6. Hans Zimmer – Crysis 2: Epilogue
7. Journey – Don’t Stop Believin’
8. Fleetwood Mac – The Chain
9. Franz Liszt – Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2
10. Tenacious D – Tribute
11. Phil Collins – I Don’t Care Anymore
12. Bon Jovi – Livin’ on a Prayer
13. Led Zeppelin – Stairway to Heaven
14. Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky – 1812 Overture
15. AC/DC – Back in Black
16. Bee Gees – Stayin’ Alive
17. Andrew Lloyd Webber – Phantom of the Opera Overture
18. Arctic Monkeys – Do I Wanna Know?
19. Dexy’s Midnight Runners – Come On Eileen
20. Nirvana – Smells Like Teen Spirit
21. AC/DC – Thunderstruck
22. Queen – Radio Ga Ga
23. Rage Against the Machine – Killing in the Name
24. Yes – Roundabout
25. Eminem – Lose Yourself
26. Jerry Martin – SimCity 3000 soundtrack
27. Georges Bizet – Carmen Overture / March of the Toreadors
28. Toby Fox – Undertale soundtrack
29. Bryan Adams – Summer of ’69
30. Metallica – Enter Sandman
31. Billy Idol – White Wedding
32. The Small Faces – Ogdens’ Nut Gone Flake
33. The Animals – The House of the Rising Sun
34. Chris Cornell – You Know My Name
35. Benny Goodman – Sing Sing Sing
36. Deep Purple – Smoke on the Water
37. George Handel – Zadok the Priest
38. George Michael – Careless Whisper
39. C418 – Minecraft Volume Beta
40. Blur – Song 2
41. Manic Street Preachers – A Design For Life
42. Guns N’ Roses – Sweet Child O’ Mine
43. Queen – Don’t Stop Me Now
44. ABBA – Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight)
45. Adele – Skyfall
46. Starship – We Built This City
47. Gerry Rafferty – Baker Street
48. Dr. Dre ft. Snoop Dogg – Still D.R.E.
49. The Verve – Bitter Sweet Symphony
50. Phil Collins – In The Air Tonight
51. Drill Queen – Born Depressed
52. The Automatic – Monster
53. System of a Down – Chop Suey!
54. The Cult – Rain
55. Kansas – Carry On Wayward Son
56. Kenny Loggins – Danger Zone
57. Tina Turner – Simply The Best
58. Guns N’ Roses – Live and Let Die
59. A-ha – Take On Me
60. Darude – Sandstorm
61. Glenn Miller – In The Mood
62. M83 – Outro
63. AC/DC – For Those About To Rock (We Salute You)
64. Ellen McLain – Still Alive
65. Drowning Pool – Bodies
66. Motörhead – Brotherhood of Man
67. Ennio Morricone – The Good, The Bad and the Ugly / The Ecstacy of Gold
68. Ludwig van Beethoven – Symphony No. 9
69. Pat Benatar – Shadows of the Night
70. Johannes Brahms – Piano Concerto No. 1
71. Gustav Holst – The Planets
72. Adele – Someone Like You
73. The Charlie Daniels Band – The Devil Went Down To Georgia
74. Guns N’ Roses – Paradise City
75. AC/DC – You Shook Me All Night Long
76. Queen – We Are The Champions
77. Motörhead – Bomber
78. ABBA – Dancing Queen
79. Soft Cell – Tainted Love
80. Tenacious D – F**k Her Gently
81. J.S. Bach – Passacaglia and Fugue in C Minor
82. Twenty One Pilots – Heathens
83. Chesney Hawkes – The One And Only
84. Alannah Myles – Black Velvet
85. Europe – The Final Countdown
86. Survivor – Eye of the Tiger
87. Belinda Carlisle – Circle in the Sand
88. Coldplay – Viva La Vida
89. Johannes Brahms – Hungarian Dance No. 5
90. John Williams – Cantina Band
91. Christopher Tin – Baba Yetu (Civilization IV)
92. Alien Ant Farm – Smooth Criminal
93. AC/DC – Highway to Hell
94. Sparks – This Town Ain’t Big Enough For Both Of Us
95. Nightwish – Ghost Love Score
96. S Club 7 – Bring It All Back
97. The White Stripes – Seven Nation Army
98. John Williams – Duel of the Fates
99. Queen – I Want To Break Free
100. Basshunter – Dota