Sunday, 30 January 2011

Weather report

The weather report was blessedly brief, this time, but extremely confusing.
"The weather," said the meteorologist, a young, skinny man with bad acne, "will be mostly bendy." Then the news show segued to a discussion of the new "reasonable reporting" laws that had left the Daily Mail with nothing other than a knitting column and heavily-redacted reader's letters to publish.
"What was the weather report?" Tristan poked his head round the door, his blonde hair fluffy from the hair-dryer. I cringed inwardly, knowing how he'd react, and told him anyway.
"Mostly bendy?" He almost spat the words back at me. "What on earth is that supposed to mean? Didn't they say anything else?"
"They seemed keen to get away from it and on to the knitting," I said.
He smiled, momentarily distracted. "It's amazing isn't it? And I thought the Daily Mail would never be worth buying. But the weather, mostly bendy! How is that useful? How do I know if people are going to turn up for work tomorrow, when the weather forecast is mostly bendy? It's not like the old days is it, when the forecast would be for snow, and you'd know who'd be phoning in the next morning claiming that they couldn't open their front door for fear of triggering an avalanche."
"It wasn't that useful," I said. "They weren't as honest back then, they never said 'Tomorrow will be the wrong kind of snow, and the trains will stop running almost as soon as they start. I was trapped in East Croydon for two days because of that once."
Tristan's face recognised the horror of the situation, but he wasn't to be deterred from his problem with the current weather forecast.
"It's no better these days," he said. "Look at last Tuesday's forecast: Mobile trees. I mean, who looks at evaporation patterns and wind vectors and thinks, hmmm, this'll really annoy those trees, I bet they get up and start walking around?"
"We did get mobile trees, though," I pointed out. Our garden looked like a forest now, as something had apparently attracted them. We were also infested with squirrels.
"Great. So now we have accurate forecasts that we can't understand."
His head disappeared again as he returned to getting ready for work, and I relaxed a little. On the television some radio talk show host who'd been dragooned in to review the papers was complaining that the "reasonable reporting" law had left him almost without material for the fourth hour of his show.

The King in Yellow

The ambulance turned out to be for Julie; she had been pregnant and had taken something, some abortifacent to end it. Only she hadn't known how far along she was, and she hadn't listened to whoever had sold her the drug, and... well, it was messy. She had collapsed in her sister's kitchen, landing in the dog's food bowl, and her sister had found her two minutes later, pale, gasping, and being head-butted by the hungry dog.
I sat in the hospital corridor, inhaling deeply and trying to hide it, waiting for the nurses to decide that Julie was strong enough for a visitor. No-one else wanted to tell her the bad news -- the baby, despite being a whole trimester premature, had survived and appeared to be doing well.
The disinfectant they used in the hospital, which I kept inhaling as deeply as I dared, reminded me of the desert, and the King in Yellow.
It wasn't long after I'd encountered the psychotropic sand, perhaps the next day or the day after. I'd spotted some rocks sticking out of the sand, and although it was somewhat aside from the path I hoped I was sticking to, I decided to detour and take a look. If nothing else, they were higher than the sand dunes, and it would be nice to see if there was anything other than sand and sun on the horizon. It took longer to get there than I expected, even though I'd learned by that point that everything appears closer than it actually is in the desert. I did find that the quickest approach was never to take my eyes off it though; whenever I looked away it seemed to try to sidle off and hide. I'd been out in the sun for too long by then to find anything odd about this either.
The rocks were, of course, sandstone, and showed signs of weathering, which I took as a sign that it did occasionally rain in this yellow aridity. They went both up and down, forming a deep canyon that stretched away and turned round corners, and put me in mind of a World War I trench. I could almost hear the crack of rifle-fire, and I could easily spot places to sand-bag and uncoil the barbed wire. I resisted the temptation to go down and play soldier, finding instead a narrow stone tower with a staircase carved around the outside. I followed the steps up, and then in, and then I stopped.
Inside the tower was a room with a paved floor with only a thin scattering of sand across it. The walls were carved with images in panels, that seemed to lead around the room in a dramatic spiral. A throne, or at least a large, ornamented chair, carved from yet more sandstone, was placed at the golden ratio; the point where the two arms of a cross would intersect were they drawn of the length and breadth of the room. Sitting on the chair, was an ancient man dressed in heavy yellow clothes: a thick yellow jacket of brocaded silk, heavy yellow trousers that might have been dyed leather, and yellow Caterpillar-branded boots.
"Look around," he said. "See the history of this place, and understand why I'm here."
"Who are you?" I said. His teeth were yellow when he opened his mouth to speak, and his skin appeared jaundiced.
"The walls will tell you," he said, a yellow, forked tongue flickering over dry lips.
"I want you to tell me," I said. "You're here in the desert, in the middle of nowhere, and you want me to start reading the walls like an archaeologist? If you've already done that, then save me some time and tell me yourself!"
"I carved the damn walls so I wouldn't have to!" His voice started to get louder, but then it cracked and went squeaky, and although he tried hard not to, he started coughing after he finished speaking.
"That was a bit silly," I said. "If you're going to do that, why are you still sitting here? No-one's going to read the walls if they can just ask you instead."
"Just read the damn panels. Or at least, read the last two. They're at the bottom, over there." He pointed, a skeletal finger jutting out from his jacket like a twig on a dead tree.
"No." I was too tired for reading, and his strange insistence was getting on my nerves. "I don't actually care who you are. I'm just here for the view."
"I am the King in Yellow, and I order you to read those panels!"
"I am Lady Muck, and... where the hell are the windows?"
Finally I realised that all the light in the room was emanating from the King in Yellow, and if I ignored its yellowish cast, it was the same sparkly, shiny light as Mordechai had had shining around his eyes.
I turned round and walked out immediately, ignoring what sounded like some kind of fit happening behind me. I got about a hundred yards from the rocks before the tower I'd climbed collapsed in a cloud of dusty sand and an echoing crash like thunder over the desert.

Sunday, 23 January 2011

Still food blogging

I'm so hung-over. So very hung-over, and it's totes not my fault. Jenn came over, and she brought Darren with her, who brought his sister, who brought her best friend and her twin, and they all wanted to try Coddled Eggs in Wine just the way I described it in my first post. And at first they were all Ewww and then I remembered that the martinis had helped a bit the first time, and soon we were coddling eggs -- well, egg-nog -- and drinking martinis, and... and now I feel like I'm being punished for being such a good cook and host. Hostess.
The reason Jenn came over, and brought Darren with her, who brought -- hang on, I told you all about that in the first paragraph. I won't bore you and tell you again! (Well, not in the same post, anyway. Read more about it tomorrow!) is because I have to move house tomorrow. I mean today. So she was going to help me pack, and so was Darren, but we wanted to eat first, and that means I never actually got started on this packing thing. Well I did, before they all arrived, but then I had to unpack some stuff to find the martini-shaker and the egg-nog coddling thingy (saucepan! See, I told you I was hung-over), so I'm now less packed than I was before.
Oh lord, what would SJP do?

Right, that was clearly the right question to ask, as I realised I could just hire people to pack for me. They were a bit rude on the phone when I explained that I wanted them right now, but I pointed out that I was a government worker and they jumped to it after that. I'd like to think it's because people respect the work we do in government, but I overheard one of them saying it's because they thought I was going to go postal. Hah. Like I'd know what to do with any post, I have a secretary for that. I mean, a PA.
So, cooking was going to be a bit tricky today, so I thought I'd do a salad, and I'd forage for the leaves myself, a really green post. But when I went for a quick walk round the shops, there were no free plants anywhere, which was a bit disappointing. Finally I stopped and asked the cute server in Dean&DeLuca where the foraging department was, and he said that foraging was all about going out into the countryside and picking things there. I slapped him. Naturally. (And got his phone number, but more on that when the media're interested in my blog.)
Well fine, I saw a park on my way to a restaurant the other day, I can forage there. Only I get there and realise I've no idea what the plants look like. In the end, I pulled up some pretty flowers and grabbed some clean-looking leaves and ran like hell when the park wardens saw me. Some of them are good shots, good enough that I now need to petition for park wardens not to be allowed firearms.
So, today's dish was park salad, and I poured a pot of mayonnaise over it, sprinkled some green stuff from a jar over it, and gave it to my helpful movers. (About that jar... isn't taramasalata supposed to be pink?)

Saturday, 22 January 2011

Food blog

So, it seems I've just turned thirty and all my friends, who all watch old Buffy re-runs, Sex in the City re-runs and complain that the Jersey Shore makes them feel a little ridiculous now and then, tell me that I need to do something to stave off the mid-life crisis. What crisis! Lol. (Oh dear Lord, did I just write lol? Perhaps this crisis is happening faster than I thought. What would Sarah Jessica Parker(SJP) do?)

Right, crisis averted for the moment, as I remembered where I left the cocktail shaker (a gift from my father when he divorced my mother -- I'll go into that in more detail in a month when I can't stand to cook any more because it's all going horribly wrong, and because I'll have had a chance to attract media attention by then too. And they'll need something juicy to keep directing people to this blog!). Martinis all round. By which I mean, I'm surrounded now by martinis, and people, they don't keep. I am going to have to drink them all!

Ah, the martini is good, but I've just been back and counted all my exclamation marks and I think I've blown the budget for the month on them. So no more little pointy things with dots underneath! Except for that one.... Oh god, what would SJP do?

The plan for this blog (yes, yes I have a point you see) is to do something with my life. Something meaningful, something worthwhile, and something that will get me a book deal and my own tv show before I'm forty. Something like... a cross between Buffy and Sex in the City, only set on the Jersey Shore. With a bit of Desperate Housewives thrown in for good measure. But in order to get there I have to have a bit of a silly, but exacting, challenge. So I've picked a cookbook off the shelf (ok, it's the only one I own, and that's because Jenn gave it to me last year when I said I ought to blog about food), and I'm going to cook my way through it, every single recipe, in a month.
Ah, the book's called 1080 recipes. Probably not going to do that in a month then, not if I still want to watch TV, get manicures and swan round to the Devonshire to lord it over the girls! (Oops. That's not really an exclamation point, honest.) OK, well, we're going to cook all the recipes from there in a year, unless I get that book deal first. Which I hope I really do.

First recipe then, opening the book at random, is Coddled Eggs in Wine Sauce. No problem.

Well, I have no eggs, so I'm substituting egg nog, and I've drunk all the wine, so it's a martini instead, and... and... I can't see very clearly any more, so I'm going for a lie down. I'll blog about this when I wake up again. That's what SJP would do.

Random snapshot


The kind of thing that, after you've eaten a piece, makes you feel like next month is when your next meal should be. So very, very rich!

Dolly chasing a ball

Just a short video.

Sunday, 16 January 2011

Wuffuluffagus 3

First page  Previous Page

Dolly ran through the gateway and paused on the other side. The trees in the Scary Orchard had grown in straight lines once, but then they were neglected. Now they grew wherever they wanted, and it was easy to get lost in their when you were on your own. Out of sight of the gate, there were just trees, leaves, and fruit in the summer and autumn.

Leaves crunched beneath her paws. Behind her, something growled....

Saturday, 15 January 2011

Wuffuluffagus 2

First page

Dolly peered cautiously out of the window, her paws up on the windowsill and her nose just poking beyond them. Although the sky outside was grey and threatening, it wasn't raining and the pavement wasn't wet. Dolly didn't much like being out in the rain; she felt that it was rude when the sky leaked on you without being asked to. If she wanted to get wet, she'd... no, she didn't want to get wet. End of story.
It looked as though it might be cold out, so she thought of putting her coat or her jumper on, but then decided not to. She was only going to take a quick look at the Scary Orchard and see if there were any clues to get her started. She definitely wasn't going to be out long.
The Scary Orchard wasn't far away, but there was a busy road to be crossed before she got there. She waited on the edge of the pavement as huge lorries and buses roared past. She pretended she wasn't scared, but really she was. She only quivered a little, and then only when the really big lorries went by. Then suddenly they were all stopped; the little green man on the side of the traffic lights lit up, and Dolly raced across the road to the other side. Then she stopped, and sniffed at the base of a lamp-post. In front of her, up a couple of shallow steps, was the gateway to the Scary Orchard. And it stood open.

Sunday, 9 January 2011

The Wuffuluffagus

It was cold outside, and Dolly had made herself a small Chihuahua-cave out of fleecy blankets under her desk. Inside the cave it was warm and she could curl up and sleep, or stretch out and pretend to be asleep while she watched the world go by. It was ideal for a doggy detective.

She was about to stretch out again when a pup walked into her office and sat down on the floor in front of her desk. Dolly sat up, a little reluctant to leave her cave behind, and barked a greeting.
The pup cringed, one paw lifting up and covering his left eye. He stayed like that until he was sure that Dolly wouldn't bark at him again, and then slowly put his paw back down.
'How curious,' thought Dolly, but she was a professional and so said,
"What can I do for you?"
"I hear you solve crimes," said the pup, his eyes huge and moist. "My mummy's been taken away and I want her back."
Dolly was taken aback a little. Who would steal a puppy's mother?
"Do you know where your mummy went?" she said gently.
"The Wuffuluffagus took her!"
Dolly was more than a little taken aback this time. Everydog knew about the Wuffuluffagus, a terrible monster that lurked in shadows, growled in the night, and smelled so terrible that no-dog would go near it. Could the Wuffuluffagus really be somewhere nearby?"
"When did... did the Wuffuluffagus take her?"
"She was out for a walk, near the Scary Orchard. I don't go there alone, I only go with my mummy."
The puppy looked like he was ready to cry, and Dolly could understand why. The Scary Orchard was not a nice place to go alone.

"I'll take your case," said Dolly quietly. "It'll cost you two bones, and any expenses I might have."
The pup started thanking her, attempting to lick her with gratitude, but Dolly wasn't paying attention, already worrying about having to go the Scary Orchard and find the pup's mother.

Part 2