Wednesday, 4 December 2019


Nearly summer.
In the morning there was black tea, loud kitchen.
Later, we're lakeside.
Dusk isn't here yet, but it's in the post.
Lunch good, but not recent.
Grass fragrant, insect life set on comfortable hum, honey.
Yellow fruits nestle in some trees.
Ratty, browned, horror novel nestles into the ground.
Dress rustles, bare heel lazy on top of my calf.
Bottle of ale.
No work tomorrow.

Thursday, 24 October 2019

My granny

My granny, who died in 2015, taught me how to play a frenzied, raucous game called Bagatelle (she seemed to like frenzied, raucous games - also being a demon at Racing Demon). She taught me how to open a bottle of wine, and introduced me to a bewildering array of terms coined by her family, many of which she had invented herself. She was someone for whom the preservation of English and its correct usage was of great importance (a value I believe she passed on to me, much to the chagrin of my friends), and yet she also revelled in her own phrases like the "bus conductor" lunch - meaning a lunch where she put out the cheese box (the bus conductor itself, I believe) and various bits and pieces like ham and Marmite (which she called "Mar-meet" for some reason best known to herself) with a loaf of bread, and you helped yourself to what you wanted. She had her idiosyncratic and traditionalist beliefs on "the proper way" to do things, but she was warm, and open, and she valued people. My granny was someone special, and as a young boy, as well as loving her unconditionally, I intuitively knew that she was an unusual, powerful person. She had a fiery spirit, and a gleeful zest for life which seemed quite rare for someone of her age. She outlived two husbands and though she did give up on romantic life after that (despite a few suitors), it didn't dull her enthusiasm to engage with the world and the things she loved - literature, sports, cinema, her family and friends, conversation, Strictly Come Dancing and The Weakest Link, a whisky at six o'cock and a bowl of salted almonds. She relished life, she was thoughtful, kind, and her mind was sharp. I loved talking with her, because unlike many adults I had encountered she was never, ever patronising. She treated me as her equal and took me seriously. I would count down the days to my visits with Granny with great anticipation, for they meant a week of fantastic fun with a caring, energetic, faintly eccentric old soul whom I loved dearly. My first night would always entail fish fingers, pasta and peas, and when I got a little older, a can of stout, cider or ale. She would listen with great care to the most outrageous ramblings of a young child, and give her honest opinion. Of course occasionally I would go overboard and get a "what rubbish!" as a wry grin spread across her face, knowing I was trying to get that very reaction, but she would never, ever dismiss me outright, she listened carefully to my wildest dreams and considered them carefully. I felt completely at ease with her. We watched The Simpsons, James Bond, Woody Allen and Hitchcock movies, and in the newly reopened Rex cinema in her town of Berkhamsted (an event for which she had vociferously campaigned), our old favourite, Some Like it Hot. During a lengthy speech the artistic director of said cinema made, her voice clearly rang out across the auditorium - "what a pill!" I shrank into my seat, hoping nobody would see me. She was my granny, but she was also my friend. I miss her.

Monday, 9 September 2019

Chopping Garlic

Chopping garlic with Ken’s professional kitchen blade
Ken’s a farmer, moving into cheffery
I put the knife down for sudden mosquito combat
Clapping maddly
Too late - a tiny, rotten needling

An anonymous Wednesday, but in mathematical terms
A very special day
Where a cloud of quarks, or waves, or matter
Shuffles across a small, humid kitchen in greater Tokyo
In search of Tobasco sauce
Because it wants to

Mushrooms sliced now, ready to fry
Pasta simmering

Time to eat

Wednesday, 10 July 2019

And now for something completely different.

The other day, as I was unpacking my Pokemon bento box to chow down on a squashed pickled-plum rice ball and radish salad, I had a sudden yearning for a good sandwich. After moving to Japan I realised that I couldn't really manage to replicate any of the sandwiches I enjoy, as the bread is sugary and soft, the lunch meats intolerably expensive, and the cheese isn't really cheese. My state of lament was such that it inspired me to write this blog entry - my favourite sandwich I have invented (of many). I am sure it closely resembles the famous "tuna melt", which ironically I had always avoided as it sounded unappetising, and I was not consciously aware of how it was made.

This is perhaps the most important sandwich to me, as I invented it in my second year of university, and it remained a staple the whole year, I loved it so much. It also went down well with my housemates and girlfriend. Goes nicely with a packet of plain crisps and a bottle of ale.

1. Slice a good, mature cheddar finely (but not too much, this shouldn't be the main flavour in the sandwich, two or three very thin slices only).
2. Chop olives and pickled gherkins (I used to use green olives, but black work too). Chop them up roughly, but into fairly small chunks. If the pickles are large, cut into two or three length-ways sections first, before slicing.
3. Put a generous couple of tablespoons of good-quality mayonnaise into a bowl, and grind in pepper quite generously, as well as a small dash of Tabasco and a tiny splash of Lee and Perrin's. No salt required as ingredient are all salty.
4. Drain a can of tuna fish.
5. Add pickles and olives and tuna to mayonnaise and mix thoroughly.
6. Toast a bagel lightly.
7. Add cheese to one side of bagel so it melts a bit.
8. To the other side of bagel add salad leaves - like lambs leaf lettuce or something with a bit of crunch, but only a few, don't cram them on.
9. Spoon mix onto cheese side of bagel, and close bagel.
10. Eat straight away while warm. Fantastic!

Unfortunately, there's no way I can eat this until I leave Asia, but you enjoy.

Monday, 8 July 2019

Deafening silence

Deafening silence, and when good men do nothing, evil triumphs.
But here a fearless warrior, cheerful in her fiery tirade, splendid in her call for revolt.
The time is now, she cries!
And the famous podcaster's eyes glaze over dully, full of warm admiration but child-like terror, he is cocooned in a safe space of ambivalence, a facade of ignorance.
But she shouts out what he knows in his heart: the world is burning, and it's up to us all to put out the fire.

Tuesday, 21 May 2019

The man under the tree

Today I saw an old man napping under a tree.
He was wearing short black rubber wellington boots.
After a while he woke up, propped his head on one hand, and lit a cigarette.
When he finished his smoke, he got slowly up, rolled up his mat, picked up a bag of rubbish, and headed towards a van, which had another old man in the driver's seat.
Before getting to the van, he asked a fat man with a clipboard something.
The clipboard man had been striding around importantly.
The clipboard man prodded a phone and put it to his ear.
Lots of old men in short black or grey rubber wellington boots, some of whom wore brightly-coloured green or red safety hats, were standing or walking around the flower garden by the river. One was taking pictures. Two of them were chatting and a loud chuckle rang out.
They were having a good time.