Angle Grinders and Dodgy Macaroons: A Microsoft Sunday Lunch

[videoyoutube]“Remember the naked guy climbing a curtain?” Dan asked over our last glass of wine.

Looking at it now it seems like a bizarre, loaded question, but a good few hours prior we’d witnessed an especially skinny young man strip off his drag outfit and – via the medium of dance – express himself whilst spitting out fake blood.

Expression’s beautiful. The handsome fellow was clearly hugely talented (in more ways than one) and his ‘act’, which ultimately involved blood and resembled the bastard child of Alan Partridge and Vic Reeves, stained our memory somewhat, but you can’t begrudge raw emotion.

Retrospect, however, is equally powerful. Looking back at what amounts to a most kooky interlude to our otherwise slightly less crazy weekend, you’d think Microsoft had lost their marbles. If not, then Dan and I had partaken in enough Margharitas to suggest otherwise. And you know you can rely on TSA to do that bit right, right?

Dan’s journey down south to That London was somewhat more succinct than mine: planes weren’t involved and there wasn’t the same restrictions on liquids. Me? I was on a plane, both of us keen to learn what Microsoft had in mind for 2012 but ignorant of what crazy events were to befall us on arrival.

“I’m buying Coke,” I said, to answer Dan’s phone-call requesting my location. St. Pancras is big and busy, and I didn’t fancy being worrying about picking him out from a crowd without sugar. I’d set off early, endured Easyjet’s patented brand of air travel and just fancied five minutes to myself.

But Dan was outside, I recognised his Uncharted 3 attire, and thus we set off across London’s myriad of tube stations, alleyways and – it turned out – cute little Lebanese food outlets. A few wrong turnings later (including one massive one) and we were in the club, albeit one that didn’t recognise Dan’s name. Even when they tried ‘Lee’. And that’s when the crazy started.

[drop2]Paulie. He was the fine fellow in fetching blue overalls that enquired about my nipples just as I was dumping my bag. He was delightfully buzzy and bubbly, just the right side of intimidating and yet somehow quite warming. He gave us a sheet of paper afterwards that was essentially his resume – a right rounded geezer in desperate need of a proper email address.

But, yeah, Paulie. He didn’t really know much about the 360, reading from a script and bouncing around the bar. We’d sunk two margaritas and some weird green champagne thing before the event actually opened – not my usual Sunday lunchtime offering but after travelling so far so quickly (across every mode of transport barring a box on a skateboard) it was fine by me.

We didn’t recognise many people. Some were older than us, some were younger, but most didn’t look like gamers, if such a stereotype exists. This, then, was the plan: to convey what the 360’s new TV service is all about to a wider audience. Video bloggers, family sites, music journos. And us, a smattering of people in jeans confused as to why there wasn’t a Forza 4 pod.

Four hours later, and we were leaving. Giggly off alcohol, and trying in vain to call Tuffcub, who was – we assumed – somewhere underground. I’ll spare you the official reason, suffice to say we met up in a pub afterwards and – in black and white flashbacks – tried to explain to him what the afternoon was all about.

[drop]There was a DJ, the music was fine and the atmosphere – a room full of comfiness and tiny tables – worked well. The food started off nicely too, with a wee tasty hotpot followed by a plate full of junk food, except cooked by a fancy chef. In and amongst these courses, though, was two ten second video clips (one I missed entirely), a woman with a guitar and a hand grinder and a naked man climbing a curtain.

I mean, he had underpants on, but there he was, bold as brass, six feet off the ground thrashing around recreating the famous shower scene from Psycho.

The barely dressed woman prior was meant to signify The Avengers, I’m told.

It’s OK, it got weirder. Dancers appeared, the videos that were meant to be showing us the new features of the dashboard were clipped short, and Dan ate some macaroons that were – judging by the fact that nobody else ate them in the entire room – deathly poisonous, like some inside joke just to thin out the numbers of Those Northerers In The Corner. It’s worth pointing out that the next morning Dan looked like death, and spent hours throwing up.

Tuffcub sighed. We ate some dinner in the pub, had a few more drinks and then went to check into our hotel. Dan and I soldiered on, ended up in this bar staffed by a single French dude that a) had only taken on the establishment two days back and b) was happy enough to only charge us once for two glasses. Result.

It was back at the hotel bar (after a huge wrong turn) that the words came out. “Remember the naked guy climbing a curtain?” Dan asked over our last glass of wine. I do, and I took a video just in case I needed to convince myself that I was seeing what I was seeing the next day.

What didn’t really click was the thing we were there to see: the 360. I mean, there wasn’t one there. There wasn’t a Kinect in sight either. No chance to kick Dan’s arse at Lady Gaga on Dance Central. No chance to actually see the new dashboard other than via a tiny snippet in one of the tiny videos.

It was, looking back, an enjoyable day or so. I feel sorry for Dan and his crippling stomach cramps in the morning – he really didn’t maximise his breakfast allowance – but we met a couple of nice people and, you know, nothing says ‘hey, look, we’ve got LoveFilm’ like a pair of bollocks in your face.

As part of the roll out of entertainment options on the Xbox 360, Microsoft has asked us to get your help with this survey. We’ll be talking a bit more about what’s coming up on the 360’s new dashboard as we get closer to Christmas, hopefully you’ll come back for that too!


  1. Brilliant. *Applauds heartily*

  2. ?!

  3. Right

  4. Typical TSA Sunday afternoon then?

  5. that video was one of the strangest things i have ever witnessed

  6. Very entertaining.

  7. Erm…. i dont understand. Apart from the vagueness of London where the hell are you and why?

    • Found ourselves asking the very same questions.

  8. I suppose it would be a bit dull if they just talked about features to a bunch of people with laptops/paper and pen on plastic chairs. But this might be a tad too far in the other direction..?

  9. The hell did I just watch?

  10. What is this I don’t even….

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