winter

Writer's Block: "What now?"

Once upon a time, a very young trapper in a sleepy little village somewhere in the far northeast of the Certhan continent was called upon by destiny to defend his village against the raiders of a neighbouring warlord.  Praying to all the gods, he took up his sling and hunted the warlord as the raiders rode through the village, striking him dead with a bullet to the back of the neck.  The raiders fought amongst themselves and left the village be, the little trapper having saved the day.  The villagers threw a feast to celebrate the deliverance of their village and thanked the gods and the little boy who had struck dead the warlord.

It is at this point that most stories cheerfully round off with something along the lines of "and the little boy lived happily ever after in his peaceful little village.  The End."  Indeed, this particular story did end here, though this is not the story being told.  The story this tale concerns begins the morning after, when the little trapper asked himself:

"Well, what now?"
winter

Principles

Principles are hard work.

I have decided to boycott Tesco after a rather impressive human rights violation on its part resulted in it attempting to sue three Thai critics for a total of £19.6M, one of whom was landed with £16.4M of it and the threat of a two year gaol sentence for criminal libel.  Given the scale of the damages sought are between a hundred thousand to a million times more than the amount paid for the articles, it looks like Tesco has taken the rather Machiavellian* route to conquering Thailand.

This is not without problems.  Tesco established a Tesco Extra in my hometown of Batley (where I am currently staying) about six years ago.  My parents and I have engaged in a very on-off tendency to boycott Tesco over little issues ever since, but I felt this merited a special frustration.  The problem with monopolistic enterprises of course is that they are, well, monopolistic.  I decide to push another principle (energy conservation, or at least fuel conservation) and pick up my old bicycle I discover in the garage.  After 13 years it still works... barely.  I return to the house, wander around trying to find a 13mm spanner to adjust the seat, fail, then settle for just greasing the chains with rock oil.  Eventually put on my dinky little cycle hat (also 13 years old, I really need a new cycling helmet) and wheel, creaking and unsteady from years of disuse, down to town.

I mentioned monopoly, right?  Although The Mill fashion and homeware outlet has provided some saving grace to the town, I humbly believe that Tesco is single-handedly responsible for killing Batley.  The moment they converted the humble old two-storey Tesco supermarket into a gigantic warehouse monstrosity** the entire character of the town changed.  I have always believed that people reflect architecture as much as architecture reflects people (builder's son) so the moment I saw this giant neo-American style edifice*** smack in the middle of an idyllic West Yorkshire mill town**** my entire sense of aesthetic uprooted itself and immolated in protest.  I am not going to blame Tesco for the rise in antisocial behaviour in my hometown, or the developing lack of a sense of community or history.  I am going to blame it for completely destroying the existing commercial order and putting a large number of the local businesses into bankruptcy.  For those of you wondering where the hell I was going with all of this, we are taking the long route but it will all become relevant soon.  I promise.  Just enjoy the ride for now.

Since Tesco arrived, many of the good butchers and bakers have now gone out of business.  Additionally, thanks to economies of scale, those still remaining must charge higher prices than the supermarket to stay out of the red.  As a consumer, whom do you go to?  Well, this depends on who you are.  If you are typically of the older generation and have developed lifelong ties to your local butcher, baker and so on, you may well continue to shop with them because you can be guaranteed a familiar face, good service and (hopefully) high quality food.  This is what I do with Neil Chadwick, my local butcher at Tingley, who for his part cures the finest ham I can get on a regular basis.  Well done, Neil.  If you are typically of the younger generation (I am generalising and thankfully there are a great many exceptions) and in particular have not developed links of friendship or community with your local butcher, you may find it appealing to visit a cold, unwelcoming warehouse lit by dangling lamps in which the shelves are rearranged at randomly every six to twelve months to keep you guessing in the vain hope you pass items you don't really want but feel you should buy anyway.  You can get a piece of meat hung for 29 days from their 'authentic' butchery section (populated by the very butchers whose own practices have since gone out of business) at a premium rate, or if you're in a rush you can get a little plastic slip of Belgian processed miscellaneous meat masquerading as ham sealed in an argon atmosphere.

Tesco does do good freshly baked bread though.  Unfortunately it seems that my alternate choice, ALDI, has a disadvantage here as I cycle in and pick up my various vittels.  In a strike of hypocrisy I do indeed visit a chain store rather than my local suppliers, chiefly because I am exhausted, out of shape, in dire need of liquids... and have no cash on me.  Local suppliers are admittedly not that good on the credit cards front.  Score one to the supermarkets.  I think tomorrow I will have to try and find a decent baker in Batley again.

Cycle back knackers me.  Horribly out of shape.  Additionally, my Think! Bike! bag breaks no less than three times on the way back, possibly a sign that I should finally just get a damned backpack if I insist on carrying so much at once.  Eventually get back and make myself a sandwich, slipping the premade lasagne into the fridge.  Regret ALDI's bread.  Need to find a good baker, damn it.

Well, I'm not quite at the buying everything from local producers stage yet and I'm not even touching Organic, but I guess it's a step.  It took three times as long and wasn't as convenient, but at least I upheld two principles today.  I might stand a chance at actually developing some sort of moral fibre yet.

That's it, either I'm finding a good baker or I'm going out and getting some flour and yeast and doing this myself.






*Machiavelli is horribly misrepresented.  He was a 16th century Florentine civil servant who throughout his life only wanted to be in government for the sake of doing the best for his own people.  Unfortunately, in his attempt to stay near to power and do his job he became highly distrusted, switching to the Medicis when the Republic fell and being distrusted because he was a former Republican, then being distrusted and kept out of office when the Republic was reinstated because he was seen as a dog of the nobility.  Throughout The Prince Machiavelli repeatedly states the importance of a solid moral code, not taking undue advantage of one's people (indeed, having the support of the people over the nobility) and all in all aiming to be a fair and just ruler.  He was also a pragmatist and noted that if one did need to do horrific things to establish one's rule, they should be done swiftly, efficiently and memorably, completely destroying any man injured in the process to prevent their retaliation and thus preventing the necessity of any further ruthless measures.  Once the clear dominance of the prince is established and the harsh laying down of the law is done, he may (and must!) rule fairly and justly.  Minus the horrible atrocities he just committed so that he wouldn't have to repeatedly do them for years to come.  In this context, Tesco is 'making an example' of these three critics to forestall further criticism.

**When on the train to Derby I met a girl with an ambition to become a professional buyer for a fashion company.  Her father was a professional designer who worked for various market chains and had previously designed all manner of affairs, including aspects of store design.  I asked her whose brilliant idea it was to make all new supermarkets these days enormous warehouse affairs with exposed
Brazil-esque air ducts and those awful hanging lights.  She said she didn't know, but if she ever found out she'd make them pay.  So will I.

***Pay close attention if you will to the other large shopping facility with associated car park.  This is
The Mill, a multistorey shopping facility housing a number of fashionable enterprises.  You will note that it is not a gaping eyesore.  You will note that it does not rob the surrounding atmosphere and character of the town of its charming, friendly nature.  You will note that it is a brilliant re-use of an otherwise abandoned textile mill building, compared to the options of turning them into fashionable multi-storey apartments for office workers in Leeds (making the gridlock problem just that little bit worse) or tearing them down and building a soulless glacial abomination.

****You may find this hard to believe but when I was growing up as a child, the town looked pretty much like this, except without the smokestacks belting fumes into the air and increasing amounts of traffic calming as the years went on and cars took up the pollutant slack.  The market used to be held there, smack in the middle of town outside the hall and church.  The church is now practically abandoned save for a handful of pensioners and the market has been relocated into the roadside next to
Tesco Extra because that's where all the foot traffic is these days.  Now all that's left is this gaping open space that should be the font of commerce but no longer is.
winter

2/5/08 - 5/5/08 - Filming in Derby

Sat in a hotel conference room (The Stuart, Derby) mocking up a logo for Blot Inc. (literally 30 second work, we're in a rush). New tablet is working out well. Whilst desperately rushing for the trains on Friday, I made a rare impulse buy and purchased a fancy new Bamboo One tablet from Wacom. Granted, Wacom have been tableting for years and years but the last I had was a rather nafty affair and put me off them for a somewhat lesser number of years. Technology, fervent and terrible taskmistress she is, has since force-marched the company's brave engineers into producing tablets that record marvellous degrees of accuracy as far as capturing my inane, Lovecraftian scribblings is concerned*. I have put it to work sketching aspects of the Hearth from Win, following the new 'modular' design. Not yet happy, but will get there eventually.

I have gotten no work done on the sermon for tonight. My regular readers (I have more than three readers?) will know that I do a weekly sermon for the purposes of roleplaying (more on that later) on a server called Dark Age. I have largely retired from the server due to work and obsessions, but do still play my priest character by putting on small performances in a religious setting. Before I get back to Leeds tonight, I need to write and edit a chapter in Balatro, the Book of Hyaptus, Balite Saint of Fools. I have done this faster before but I actually have no idea what to write for this. Buggery. Similar lack of time spent on working out the religious lore from Win's Cult of the Mother. No time limit on that, can worry about when work and revision are handled.

The Friday train from Leeds to Derby is a familiar one, the Cross-Country (nee Virgin Trains) line from Edinburgh/Leeds to Bournemouth/Plymouth. Two weeks ago David and I experienced a moment of wartime nostalgia as, sat in the corridors of the seat-saturated service, we felt the joys of cramped quarters and freedom previously felt only by Jews huddling in trains, fleeing Nazi prison camps.** This week was worse. The standing passengers from Leeds actually stretched beyond the corridors and into the cabins themselves. I offer the following advice for those trapped in such conditions to avoid the tedium driving you flat out insane. Find the nearest approachable person (signs to look for: attractive, good posture, 'open' face) stuck in the same situation, give them your name and introduce yourself as a sardine. They will be completely nonplussed, so start asking conversational questions thereafter and this will successfully break the ice. Fail to and they'll immediately start moving for the nearest cabin out of stark raving fear. I will add hurriedly that the former happened... this time. Experience is almost as harsh a taskmistress as technology.

Most fortunately arrive in Derby to be met directly by Patrick, a long-haired gentleman I have met on prior occasions, dressed in a black suit. Given my own appearance (last entry's grey travelsuit and paisley-on-paisley shirt-tie-waistcoat combination) I feel slightly relieved to be alongside someone looking as obviously eccentric as I do. He offers to take me the 'scenic route', promising there will be ducks. I was not disappointed. Spend remainder of day adjusting to Patrick, Emily and other members of Neil's flat, including Kristine who I probably haven't met before but momentarily confused with Helen. When you tell an alcoholic you might have met them before but aren't sure, suddenly neither are they. The same goes for mescaline users, I've noticed. Not that I hang around with drunks and addicts. Obviously. Charles and Charles the komodo dragons agree.

Chilli is had that night by all. No less than four cooks contribute. Broth is just barely scavenged, as it turns out the second cook had no idea what he was doing (the first cook is actually quite good). Fun is had. Sleep.

Wake! Sleep. Wake! Sleep. Wake! Sleep. I despise this persistant sleep problem I have where I not only repeatedly wake up during the night but cannot manage to stay awake during mornings. Eventually get out to film work for the day. Long day of filming, play crewman for pretty much all of it (sound tech, jib arm operator, runabout), work out the 'voice' for Barry Pipes, a role with four lines and two scenes. Most challenging role I have ever undertaken, as Barry's voice is nothing like mine. Eventually end up with a very 'sleazy businessman' voice. Feel like I should have a combover, but too much hair. Maybe we'll just wait for David's fate to take hold before any of us can really pretend to be bald. Blame his Y chromosomes.

On that note Neil, James and I decided to go see Iron Man^ that evening and get dinner beforehand. Food was reasonable (at the Oast House, Derby) in quality if not price, but good decision made in sitting outside and ordering bottle of wine. Conversation passed between serious and light issues. Generally agreed that the five/six of us who did Comedy (still not using the alphanumerics^^ name, Neil) should return and start doing serious script and performance work again, with the premise that we should all be involved in every step of production (though not expected to be the best in each step). Think Valve's hiring policy. Truth is that each of us brings something to the table to make a great script, be it different flavours of comedy, different takes on an approach and the ruthless will to edit down one another's scripts to the point where they work. We are like Red, Blue, Green, Magenta, Cyan and 'Yellow' joining together to produce the White Ranger!^^^ Suggest we take a week this summer, get all of us together and do a stress test - produce a script per day between all of us (that is, all of us produce a script together). Write, edit, dry run and refine until we're happy with it. Also go with James' suggestion - we should all just go out one night and have a drink. Worth it.

Sleep. Wake. Sleep. Growl annoyingly. Sleep. Drowse. Realise it's twelve o'clock somehow. Panic shower. Dress. Port heavy equipment to film location. We spend the afternoon (2-4:30) in and around a men's toilet, filming a 56 second scene between James and I (Barry's four lines). Panic that we are kicked out early leads to shortened tempers. Neil handles well, provides diplomatic apology and reasoning thereafter. Matters are smoothed out. We return to a rather enticing setting - Dungeons and Dragons. James has become intrigued by this game (not as surprising as I might have thought, given his fondness for Warhammer) and has the bravery and ingenuity to straight out go for a lizardman rather than one of the standard races. Spend some of the evening setting up his lizard (who goes through many names, eventually settling on Itzaloq of the Ameran Swamps) as we are joined by Patrick, Emily, Patrick's friend Mike and Stuart, who set up their characters elsewhere. Distracted as Kristine returns, having announced that she was meant to go out an hour ago but has gotten drunk and is concerned about falling over. Cue entertaining conversation during which I pick up general tips on how to please my woman. Useful!

James and I venture out for ingredients and make a vast batch of chicken fajitas to the tune of fighting music (Bob Dylan, Muse, Greenday, Gorgol Bordello). Serve out food as my father calls and am required to deal with business. James chooses poorly at this moment to try and annoy me by repeatedly calling me to dinner. He succeeds - I do not like being disturbed unnecessarily when I'm working. Business sorted as much as I can deal with in limited situations, return to dinner. Much laughter is had around the table as Stuart relates the experiences following his tonsilectomy; ordering tea and dessert, then falling asleep and having the wonderful sensation of waking up to find tea and chocolate mousse ready there on the table when you wake up. We are joyously entertained before we get down to further details of setting up our characters. Everyone starts at level 4, so they all get a sudden wealth of money to spend and most fail to really spend it on anything, barring a couple of magic weapons. Notable exceptions include Patrick's character Karranak's decision to purchase a wagon and horses, then another wagon with a massive cage in it to put prisoners and undead in, Gorn the Shovel's decision to buy a shovel and Itzaloq's decision to purchase at the princely sum of 900gp the most useless object in the D&D world: a water clock. I will note that only James had the initiative to try bargaining the cost of his water clock down below the market price being offered. Since he was new and had money to burn, I gave him a modified magic missile wand to use as well (more on that later).

Karranak the elven necromancer (with pet snake), Gorn the Shovel the human fighter, Itzaloq the lizardman druid (with pet rat), Molly the human ranger (with pet wolf) and Cog the Hammer all walk out of Akbar's Discount Weapons, Wagons and Water Clocks and head to Akbar's tavern. Describing Cog came out as follows: "You see a massive half-orc built like a brick s***house, dual wielding a battleaxe and a warhammer with ten javelins strapped to his back like a massive fan." Karranak comments on his being a half orc. Cog: "Yes, I am a half orc! I destroyed the orcish village!" Cue travelling salesman NPC who tells them of their quest. To the south, there was until recently an orkish village which was mysteriously destroyed. Everyone looks at Cog. Then, everyone within was reanimated as wights! Everyone looks even harder at Karranak. Things sort of went downhill from there in a frankly hilarious set of circumstances. Without going into the whole campaign, there was a rather amusing scene where every single other player was trying to convince the 7' half-orc barbarian to enter a rage and burst through the door into the one house left in the village, dual-wielding an axe and a hammer... whilst on fire.

Normally I would sleep here, instead travelled back to Stuart's because I hadn't had a chance to talk to him in months. Talked serious matters, then less serious matters, then just general hilarity. Suddenly realise it's 3 a.m. and we're setting off for more filming at quarter to eight. Bugger. Back to flat, apologise, sleep. Wake. Butter sandwiches (?!?), shower, load belongings, to the hotel! Enter where we were at the start of the entry.

I am currently on the train back home to Leeds. Filming was great fun and we managed to get the rest of my scenes done. By now they may have finished James' scenes, but I honestly can't be sure. Given the thirty or so sandwiches we made in the morning for a dining room scene they're filming, suspect they may just be having a feast. Alas! Still, all in all a very enjoyable four days' work. Now I just have to worry about that damned sermon...

 

 

 

 

 

 

*For those entertained by Lovecraftian scribblings, horrors and singing, why not YouTube Shoggoth on the Roof? Don't expect a wonderous performance, merely a mildly amusing parody. Good for fans of the mythos and Jewish emigrants alike!

**I talk about Jews a lot, don't I? It's not antisemitism, I'm just not afraid to make references to highly contraversial races. They must be contraversial, they've been persistently oppressed throughout history. How often do you hear about a non-contraversial race being oppressed? Of course you don't, we're usually doing the oppressing. That's the English way.***

***Really, it is. Ask the Scots. Also the Welsh. Also the Irish. Also the Zulu. Also the Malay. Also the Americans. Also the Canadians. Also the French...

^Not as bad as some reviews have made out. No Superman Returns, but I expected an entertaining film and got it. Good action sequences, humour, Robert Downey Jr. Plot was compressed too much and not enough characterisation, but it was a two hour film. Miniseries would have allowed for more development. Nevertheless, worth the money I paid. Sneak preview at end of credits not as great as hyped, but worth a light smile.

^^kOm3dY, for those interested.

^^^Actually, that is a poor analogy. It is more like putting a wide selection of beasts in a variety of differing environments and having them fight to death for our amusement and the purposes of natural selection. The nimblest and most humorous efforts survive against the brutal ravenous criticism of our peers, yet somehow avoid being bland and generic and instead end up unique and charming. There is a bit of a rock-paper-scissors thing going on, too. I fear Neil too much and James too much to cut their work, but I do not fear David. Stuart fears David too much to cut his work but does not fear Neil. Neil does not fear David, but David does not listen to Neil, nor does he fear James but James will listen to Neil. James and David are like two female cats in a litterbox. It's hilarious, with the promise that one day blood will be shed. Possibly on a long moonlight night the pair of them will do battle with broken shards of a great weapon, fighting for the life and hand of their one true love...

 

winter

Sick of Chocolate

I am sick of chocolate.

That was a lie.  I am sick of cheap chocolate.  The cloying scent is stuck in my skull, clogging up my head and making me irritable.  Gods damn it, I need fruit!  Salad doesn't have the sugar I need and dried fruits are outright saccharine.  

Give me fruit!

Fructivorous frustrations duly fettered, feeling freely frugal.  Spend way too much money these days.  That aside, the last two days have been abominably busy, which is a poor start given the nature of the week ahead.  Wednesday starts with the handover meeting for the society (delayed by traffic) with a request for my father to return and help with work.  I admit to delaying to read the newspaper and eat something, accidentally fall asleep and rush back home at 4.  Takes me an hour to get back as the heavens open up and bring all traffic to a standstill.  Eventually give in to my frustrations and ride around the damned traffic like any respectable motorbiker (not legal, but nobody really cares) and get home too late to do any real work, so get out of sogging clothes, put on fresh clothes and catch train back to Leeds (futile, no?).  Get to Hi:Fi (which turns out to be a great jazz club), discover with irony that I'm the one member who hasn't got a black waistcoat today, find all shops shut at 6, so I can't get one.  No matter.

Performance goes well at the club, we're preceded by Simeon's barbershop group, who are excellent.  The audience supposedly love us, judging from the response.  Suspect I went flat during Fat Bottomed Girls, but c'est vie.  David turns up, introduce him to dental friend Nabilah and catch a McDonald's before singing (Chicken Legend 2: This time it's Bacon!*).  Afterwards, sing Johnathan Coulton songs at the bar, talk with peoples and eventually settle on the subject of David's relationship troubles.  The trouble being not having a relationship.  David wisely points out that it's great being a brilliant, charming and affectionate person - if you actually have someone to be all those things to (cue analogy of running customerless five star restaurant - earmark for plagiarism).  Suggest problem may not be he is not attractive, just unapproachable.  To point out necessity of sometimes brazen confidence, ask girl next to me for dance, duly dance.

Notes for Ellie:
1.  I picked her because David thought she looked good.
2.  I picked her because I saw her talking with her boyfriend at the bar, no chance of mixed signals.
3.  I fully expect you to dance with hot men if the chance arises.  And only to dance with them.

David defeated my entire point by noting that a) I had a girlfriend, so the confidence issue wasn't even there and b) the ability to pick up a random dance does not apply the same rules as for picking a date.  Gods damn it.  Coax David to dance floor regardless, have much fun, walk back to station and discuss ridiculousness of debt problems.  Train home.  No phone, so walk 40 mins through Batley.  Talk shop with father.  Sleep!

Back to work.  Long, -long- day follows sorting out crap with work.  Think we've gone through several trees in printouts today, trying to rush a planning application before he and my mum leave for France tomorrow for a week.  Really hoping I will actually get home before midnight tonight.  *sigh*

Had little to no time to work on Win, annoyingly.  Need to sort out doctrine.  Must actually read the scripts for this weekend as well, try and get copies printed.  Need to post about sermon on DA being Monday.  Aaargh!  Bloody plans in disarray, playing havoc with my psychoses.

Alright, back to work.



*The plot of Chicken Legend 2 largely revolves around the plucky poultry protagonist of Chicken Legend travelling back in time to meet Francis Bacon, who is involved in a rather feckless plot revolving around Sir Bacon's creation of a philosophical time machine and the antagonist of the original engaging in yet another asinine attempt at world domination, failing only in his otherwise flawless plan due to the incompetence of his subordinates, the dumb luck of the protagonist and the sheer ridiculousness of the entire plot.  I give it a 2 out of 5.
winter

Log update

A little update on the meanderings of life before I have to get back to work.

This is ironic, as I have just finished work of one sort (the academic), having finally completed my coursework as of 9:30am Thursday the 17th of April and been through a (rather abysmal, sadly) MCQ thereafter.  I need to revise my general subject matter.  At any rate, coursework in.  Went home to get my bike brake fixed so that it worked nicely again, then got my hair cut.  It's shortish and fuzzy and bleh, but it'll grow back into shape in a week.  About two hours to discuss my next piece of work (tentatively named Project Win) with my compatriot and ally in matters Worldbuilding, Anshar (whom I normally call Carreau and whom I almost never call Mikael).  We discuss ecology for a time.  He seems insistent on making bloody everything have poisonous barbs.  I'll grant the necessity of poisonous barbs on things, but we need harmless animals too.

Dash out to a capella, put on a tie for a laugh.  Receive compliments on tie/shirt/waistcoat mix.  Sing.  Return, bioshock, sleep.  Awaken two hours late, no time for a shower, rush to get changed into tie/shirt/waistcoat, suit and coat.  To Leeds!  Arrive half hour late, catch David (who is wearing shades in grey weather).  We run some errands, reach the train station and get submarine sandwiches for the train.  To the train!  I unbotton my coat, he sees the shirt, tie and waistcoat.  Comments that paisley on paisley does not work and admits he suddenly understands why I didn't comment on him wearing shades myself.  Talk politics for the train journey, norse mythology and fiction work whilst waiting for Neil.  Spend train journey "fleeing Nazi Germany" style sat in the corridor due to lack of seats.  To the bar!

No, really.  This is where we're doing filming.  Get a surprisingly warm reception from the barmaid, probably due to the amount of alcohol we were buying for the shoot.  Think I'm getting looks as I'm walking around, not sure if good or bad.  David assures me bad, given the shirt-tie combo.  Many hours of filming proceed, all of which are great fun.  I drink two glasses of whiskey on the film budget, many bottles of Corona are consumed in the repeat takes.  Everyone is cheerful by the end.  The guy playing Armando is cool and can throw a hat well.  David is getting fat and repays me the £40 he owes me (I only wanted 20, but he did want to pay for the full birthday meal from earlier in the month).  I am shocked by his waistline and feel a lot better about my own weight (doesn't excuse me from exercise).  Shoot finished, we spend five minutes bouncing on a bouncy castle (which Neil films).  Utterly exhausted from it - bouncing is hard work.  David and I tackle each other a few times in a display of manly homoeroticism.  Collapse on floor afterwards, think it was the three layers I was wearing that wore me out.  Five, when I was still bouncing with both coats on.  What was I thinking?!  That said, everyone there except David actually thought the shirt-waistcoat-tie combo was actually really cool.  So nyeah.  Afterwards we pick up things, return to Neil's, drop things, find we've missed the 7:42 train to Leeds and will have to take the last one at 9:42.  Go to a pub called the... Jonty Ploughman, that was it!

We join a large group of Neil's comrades and get our orders in.  David's repayment of debt has landed him back in the land of no monies and so I pay for him as well.  He gets the MEGA stack burger with chips and (allegedly) onion rings - 16oz of beef in a bun with light garnish and a lb of chips.  A pound of chips.  Good lord.  He then went on to complain the onion rings hadn't arrived.  David, I know you live a writer's lifestyle (and panicking highly stressed single English student's)

I ordered a beef madras with rice.  The burgers were tempting, but I could feel Ellie's disembodied spirit tut-tutting my eating habits.  For some reason, my conscience enjoys taking on the voice of my closest friends.  Forty five minutes (I think, proably more) pass.  By this time, everyone has received their meal.  I go up to the bar and politely ask them to check on it.  The lady offers an explanation about the sizxe of the group and goes into the kitchen.  She returns with the explanation that the chef may have (may have?) left it in the microwave and not yet plated it out.  She assured me it would be forthcoming.  Fair enough.

Fifteen minutes later, it's now been an hour.  Everyone has finished their food, some have left and we have to go in fifteen more minutes.  Return to the bar with the intent of politely asking for my food or my money back.  To my surprise, the barman sees me and gives me both.  Refunds me the fiver for my meal and tells me that they'd just plated it out and it was on its way.

It was good curry and free.  Full marks for handling a bad situation well, Jonty Ploughman.  If you were a chain, I'd visit you more often.

To the train station!  We talk about dissertations (need to sort one out), get on the train, get seats.  I feel icky and lose about 20 minutes of the train journey.  Even when you cannot vomit (something about a powerful gag reflex, only done it twice in my life), your body can still find ways to express its displeasure at your starting up the motion sickness.

We get back to Leeds too late for me to catch a bus back, so we head to David's and chat for a bit, reading through the Better Internet Quiz and even playing Thy Dungeonman III for a laugh before I conk out.  Restless night, cold but sweating.  Fever?  Strange pressure sensation in right ear, ever since train.  Very odd.  Awaken, get let out.  Return to Tingley, picking up a cheap, large and inherently horrific breakfast bap along the way.  Actually would be really tasty, perhaps without the pureed tomato on it.  Definitely bad for my cholesterol.

Sleep.


Oh, well.  Time to work on an ecology map for Win.
winter

Pasta

Long day, shan't bore with most of the details (and you might well find them boring, unless it interests you to know about the transcriptome analysis of HSV-1 in baby hamster kidney cell culture), will note the following.

Take rice noodles
half a sliced onion
green beans
Greens (as in the cabbage-like veg)
a small green chilli pepper (cut out the innards and save them for spice)
a large, chopped carrot
the residue of last night's tomato soup (which at this point is mostly tomato chunks and basil)
a dash of soy sauce
pretty much all of the cottage cheese, because it just passed the use-by date
some pots and
a wok.

Boil your rice noodles, as the packet neatly suggests, for 8 minutes, then tip them into a sieve and put them in cold water until you're ready.

Whilst that takes care of itself (set a timer, though honestly I found I needed 12 minutes) open the fridge and get out the green beans.  Discover they're six days past their use-by date, frozen in places and withered.  Discard.

Reach for the greens.  Discover they're about three weeks past their use-by date and whilst they appear fine on first examination, you note there are a few dark spots you're rather wary of on the leaves.  Discard.

Find the only green things you have left in the fridge is the green chilli in a pack.  Curse your lack of planning and vow to go shopping, then take it out regardless.  Take the top off and cut down the middle, extracting the seeds and very central pithy bit (leave a bit of pith for flavour) to dry and use as spices in later meals.  Chop up the skin of the chilli.

If at this point you feel a sharp burning around your mucous membranes such as fingertips or lips, that's fine.  You're just a moron.  Chillis are extremely alkaline.  If you're too much of a baby to put up with the sting, dip them in a pint of coke.  Don't do this if you got it in your eye, just use some water.  Don't try putting the chopped onions in your eyes, either.  Onion tears aren't caused by acidic substances, they're caused by a protective biochemical sulphur-containing compound (syn-propanethiol-S-oxide) which, whilst being formed from sulphenic acid is not itself strongly acidic and won't help*.  If you do, you're an even worse moron, as now your eyes are both stinging and leaking.  Well done.

Once you're finished tossing coke into your eyes (because you're either a drug addict or ignored my previous warnings) chop the carrot into diagonal sticks along the stem.  Are the noodles done yet?  If you're a fast cook, they shouldn't be, but if you're not they're probably just about ready now.  Dish them into the cold water, but save the boiling water you just cooked them in.  Stick the carrots in, it'll save you a bit of water and you need to boil them before you can even think about going to the wok - frying raw carrots just caramelises the outside and then burns them.  It's not pretty and it's definitely not tasty.  Eyeball the boiling with your teeth - test it now and again until it's nice and 'al dente' and then turn the water off.

About this point, remember the tomato soup from last night you didn't finish and probably won't.  Since it's on the hob anyway, start boiling it again.  Remember to stir throughout whilst it's rendering.

Put the wok on the hob, set it going and pour some vegetable oil on (rapeseed's good, it's nice and pure).  At this point remember you've forgotten to chop your onion, so grab an onion, peel it quickly, chop it in half and then slice up one of the halves, tossing it into the wok in a desperate rush before your oil starts boiling.  Things heat up here (sorry for the pun) so get your spatula/spoon/magic wand ready for some flash frying and shunt the gas up to max (or wait laboriously for the temperature to rise if you're using electric).

As soon as the smallest bits of onion show signs of browning, drain the carrots and toss them in.  Stir frantically for a few moments, decide 'what the hell' and toss the chilli in too.  Stop throwing coke in your eyes, I see you reaching for the bottle.  When you're confident things can't get any worse, drain your noodles and toss those in too.

By this point your tomato soup is now tomato and basil paste.  Excellent.  Throw that in and stir until it's even.  Taste it, find it's missing something and add a dash of soy sauce (a dash, not too much salt).  Continue stirring.  Open up the cottage cheese and add a little, stirring.  Add a bit more, stirring.  Find there's a lot less than you think when it's all stirred into everything.  Toss most of the pot in for good measure, since use-by was yesterday anyhow.

When you're finished pleasing yourself (put the coke down!) dish out and eat.  Well done, Marco Polo, you just made pasta from a series of oriental ingredients.  Now get held hostage by the Khan for 20 years as his chief advisor because he likes you too much.


Feeds 2-4 humans, depending on how much rice noodle you put in and because I can't apparently proportion well enough to cook for 1.  Feeds 6 dogs.  Feeds 1 American.**





*In fact, you shouldn't cook onions directly with acidic foods anyway, they'll never caramelise.  Brown your onions first before adding acidic foods to the fry.

**Currently, my sole reader is a Briton like myself.  Do not think the casual racism will stop when I get American readers.  Also, do not assume the British are exempt, either.

winter

The birth of a new blog.

Witness, friend.  Here in the frigid void of the internet, a tiny spark glimmers anew.  Like the daughter of a stem cell, newly split and differentiating before our eyes, this glistening neurone stretches out its thin, spindly arms in the hope of forming ganglia, linking to other bright sparks and joining the great neural web that spans every inch of the greater form.

Let's make connections.
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