The Saturday after the Thursday before – thoughts on the referendum

by on Sep.20, 2014, under Miscellany

avatarSo, here we are. It’s all over, and this is where the recriminations and thuggish celebrations could so easily undo all the good that has been done during the campaign.

I’ve been silent on the issue, and will remain so as far as which way I voted — that being a matter between me and my ballot paper — as there is a political sensitivity to my day job profession. As a writer, it has been an interesting experience, to be both part of the process but also, because I was obliged to remain apart from the arguments, to be an outside observer.

I’m with Irvine Welsh, as much as I’m with anyone. No matter which way you voted, no matter how you feel about the outcome, what was achieved was almost 100% voter registration and a massive 85% turn-out. The one thing no one can accuse Scotland as a nation of being is apathetic or disengaged.

I’m distressed to see people I know posting insults about “No” voters, accusing them of being traitors or feart*. The one thing that really would see Scotland as a nation lose from this exercise is if the population were to be split down the middle, with one half hating the other. As the campaign went on, and the polls came out, I knew only one thing was certain: whatever happened, approximately half the population was going to be extremely upset and pissed off by the result.

I didn’t need hindsight for that.

I hope, with every fibre, that this split does not come to characterise our nation as we move forwards. I don’t think this matter is settled. As the promises of three old Etonians, made in their panicked run-up to the referendum without any backing from Westminster, crumble to dust in the cold light of the morning after — as we all knew they would — there is every chance that Scotland will see another referendum before this generation has made way for the next.

There are already disappointed Yes campaigners organising themselves to go again, and do it better this time.

I’d make a plea, to anyone trying to fathom how it is someone could have voted differently from them, whether Yes or No, to bear some things in mind. These are things I learned during my years of cycle campaigning, things that were often ignored by my fellow campaigners.

  • DO accept that other people have different opinions from you, and it’s not because they are bad people; it’s because they have reached a different conclusion from you after assessing the evidence available to them.
  • DON’T assume you know the reasons why people who feel differently from you feel that way. If you could see valid reasons for them to feel that way you might feel the same. You will therefore be forced to imagine invalid reasons for them to take that position, which will only lead to arguments and frustration.
  • DO try to engage with people who feel differently from you, and do so in a constructive and open manner. It might be worth starting with what they thought of the question they were being asked in the first place. For a great many people, “Should Scotland be an independent country?” is neither straightforward nor easy to answer.
  • DON’T assume people who were quiet about their decisions will give you a heartfelt answer when asked why they feel the way they do. There is a degree of peer pressure and fear of judgement when it comes to positions that have a social impact. Everyone has a Social Survival Mammoth, and for a great many, it’s the mammoth answering the questions. People are more likely to answer honestly about their primary reason for their opinion to those who feel the same way, because additional reasons for feeling that way will cement their acceptance in that peer group. If asked by someone who takes an opposite stance, people will probably give one or more of the commonly reported responses.
  • DO stay positive and keep agitating for change. This wasn’t, no matter what the media might say, an overwhelming outcome. Very nearly half of all those living in Scotland voted to leave the UK. That’s a near miss, not a routing.
  • DON’T be surprised by a catankerous old boys network hurling scorn and reneging on last minute promises. Politics has become a hive of playground tactics, and the only surprise should be that they haven’t yet yanked their shirts over their heads while running around with their arms out as if doing an impression of a fat aeroplane.
  • DO try to remain civil, open, understanding, non-judgemental, co-operative and forward-looking, no matter how hard it is. Defeatism is the last thing we need. The No voters didn’t vote that way because they are traitors; nor did the Yes voters. Fear characterised much of the campaigning on both sides: if it had gone the other way, plenty could have said it was because Scots were afraid of being forced to leave Europe, or losing the NHS. As it is, there are those saying the No vote came about because selfish people were afraid of losing their pensions. It’s just not that straightforward.
  • DON’T let what happens next be informed by spite, bitterness, hate or revenge.

Rather than focus on what might have been, let’s look at what we can do to make things better now. At the end of the day, that was what the No campaign promised: “Better Together”. Well, okay then. For a whole host of reasons, slightly more than half of the people of Scotland believed that was true, or at least more plausible than better apart.

Never mind the details for the moment. Just think on this: while the Scottish referendum was decided by the 5 million people north of the border, the rest of the world was watching. If, in fact, “Better Together” turns out to be fabricated entirely from tissue paper and lies, false promises and wishful thinking, a dying sense of empire and an archaic, tight-fisted grasp on historical precedent, then what are the 56 million other British people going to think of promises made to them?

This has been a wake up call. Let’s make the most of it.

*Please don’t assume this tells you how I voted.

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by on Nov.26, 2011, under Miscellany, Planet Sam, rambling

avatarIt’s my birthday. Birthdays are cool and special and I’ve never grown out of feeling that there is something particularly important about birthdays. I know other people feel differently about birthdays. Some seem to treat them as something to ignore: an inevitable indicator of time passing and thus mortality; another year, another set of wrinkles. To some they are an excuse to party.

To me they are something to celebrate in a congratulatory fashion. Hey! Well done you! You survived another year and you know what? You’re doing okay, actually.

We moved recently —are still sort of halfway, if truth be told— and while packing I found a photograph of myself taken many several an unspecified number of birthdays ago. It was one of four identical pictures taken in a photobooth, back when I was still cutting my hair very short and shortly after I acquired my very first black artificial eye (a huge moment in the personal history of me). I think this was the year I went to Ashton Court Festival and became inordinately attached to a helium balloon in the shape of a dolphin, which I called Jones.

Old photo

My friend Charlotte commented:

Cor, that looks like a portrait from the assasins’ academy graduation yearbook.

I think she has a point.

Women with hair that short attract the wrong sort of attention and attitudes. The immediate assumption, if only of those who feel it is appropriate to voice such opinions to strangers, is that one is either a “dyke” or a cancer victim. Unless the woman in question is playing a particular part in a movie, or is a model doing a show that is avante garde, or “edgy”, then hair that short is generally considered unattractive, and I’m pretty sure that presumptions about gender roles play a large part in that. Long hair on a woman is usually better regarded than short hair. Women often invest a lot in having long hair — look at the tearful reactions of the would-be supermodels on reality shows such as America’s Next Top Model during the makeover section, when their precious locks are lopped off in the name of fashion.

It’s only hair. It does grow back.

I loved having short hair. I loved the practicality and fuzziness of it — it was incredibly soft. I liked how it emphasised my bone structure and showed off my ears. I thought it looked good.

Six years ago I reluctantly stopped shearing mine with the clippers once a month, as I was planning on re-entering the job market and I knew it would create a poor first impression. I resent the expense of a hairdresser — when I had it cut for the wedding in March it cost me £60! — and so I have grown it out to the point where it no longer needs that attention.

Although I won’t, because in the real world sometimes being professional requires that one refrains from being unconventional, looking at this photograph made me want to cut it all off again.

It was fluffy. We like fluffy!

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A day older

by on Nov.26, 2010, under Miscellany, Photography

avatarIt’s my birthday today and I am officially much older than really I feel is right. It’s one of those “How the hell did that happen?” moments. Mind you, I occasionally still get asked for proof of age, so I can’t be doing that badly.

I’ll be pretty busy, so while I would normally find time on a weekday off from work to post some rambly nonsense about telly adverts or bicycles or computer games, you will have to wait for my considered opinion on Rabbids Travel In Time because I have a cake to make, another batch of ice cream to start and a whole pile of vodka jellies to do.

Yes, it’s my birthday, and I shall do my own catering if I want to.

In the meantime I leave you with this image I captured using my (practically obsolete) mobile phone while out for a lunchtime walk last week. I love these colours. I love the scents and textures of these colours. My synaesthesia gives these colours a tang and a fizz. Imagine a curtain made of fine, bronze threads hanging in an open doorway on a hot Mediterranean summer’s day with the azure sea just visible far below when the breeze separates the threads a little. Now walk up to it until the threads rest on your face.

Stick out your tongue.

Someone coated the threads in sherbet.

A flash of Autumn

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Not a paper hat in sight

by on Nov.13, 2010, under Food/drink, Miscellany

avatarIt’s going to be my birthday soon and I’ve never had a party. Not a birthday party. Not like the parties to which I was occasionally invited as a child, with the party staples of small children running around screaming and arguing over cake, harassed parents and, importantly, ice cream and jelly.

Frood, because he am be wuvly, has said that this year I can have a proper birthday. There will be a few select people coming to our flat (I’d invite more but we have very limited space and it’s too cold to party outside at this time of year) and there shall be, as mentioned in a previous post, cake, jelly, ice cream and party games (most of which will be on the Wii, because this is the 21st century after all, and Sardines isn’t as much fun unless… Actually let’s leave that for the moment because you never know who’s reading).

While Frood may still have the mental outlook of a five year-old, I do not, Stitch obsession notwithstanding. Therefore I don’t want the sort of lime green jelly that comes from a Rowntrees packet and is set using stuff made by boiling pig hooves in a vat. I want a posh, adult jelly that has booze in it and is set using seaweed extract. My birthday party food is going to be proper adult birthday party food. There will not be half a grapefruit with cocktail sticks shoved in it bearing cubes of cheese and pineapple. There will be a substantial lack of platters piled high with mini sausage rolls and tiny triangular sandwiches filled with luncheon meat.

I might put out big bowls of crisps, but only because it’s easy and you need something to nibble on while performing the Wednesday afternoon dance slot on Rabbids TV Party.

This is where you lot come in. Party food. Suggestions? Particularly for the jelly. I’m contemplating attempting a gin and tonic sorbet, even though I don’t have an ice cream maker.

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Planet Sam

by on Oct.30, 2010, under Miscellany, Planet Sam, Rant

avatarI’m known to friends for my somewhat literal approach to advertisements. The commercial breaks in TV shows are more likely to provoke a furious reaction than the programme they interrupt. Here on Planet Sam, advertisements are a confusing brantub of mixed messages, inappropriate metaphor and plotlines that evidently haven’t been thought through properly.

I mean, really. Would you buy a stop smoking product that causes you to hallucinate giant cigarettes to the point of attacking them with a frozen chicken? Would you really want to buy a pair of running shoes that came with live scorpions inside?

So here’s my new project. TV ads as seen from Planet Sam, or Why I’m not the target market.

I’m going to start with one that is straightforward rant fodder. The Dulux Paintpod Compact Let’s Colour Campaign.

I shouldn’t have to point out how stupid this is as a piece of 21st century advertising. Mattel has a Barbie campaign that is admirable in telling little girls they can be whatever the hell they want to be, and I actually like the fact that this includes a ballerina. Because the freedom to be a fighter pilot or a policewoman or a surgeon or a bomb disposal expert should never get in the way of those girls who wish to dance.

So what if the baby turned out to be a girl? Is Dulux seriously telling us that their company is so stuck in sexist stereotyping that a failure to predict the sex of an unborn child correctly is a good reason for buying one of their products? A girl can become a footballer. A boy can become a dancer.

Frankly I think both pink and blue are horrible colours for a room, and that’s not just the synaesthesia talking. Blue is too cold a colour, and shading everything like that makes the room smaller and less inviting. The pink room is like being shoved into a vat of rendered animal protein before it’s turned into twizzlers.

What this advert says, on Planet Sam, is that the Dulux Compact Paintpod is the ideal product for those trapped in sexist stereotyping who have the aesthetic taste of an inebriated chicken.

That’s a market to which I can happily claim not to belong.

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A pleasing resemblance to food

by on Jun.11, 2010, under Food/drink, Miscellany

avatarThere used to be a food section on this website, before the grand redesign prompted by Blogger’s removal of ftp support (the bar stewards). It had recipes on it for things like the carrot cake recipe that makes the sunflower seeds turn budgerigar green; the rabbit and puy lentil stew that went down so well that time in Oxford; the salad dressing that had everyone from the Britwitch New Forest camp asking for it; and the chilli that has more chocolate in it than any sane person would think sensible, until tasting.

There currently is no food section on this website. In fact, most of the legacy pages — the science, the not-pagan, the megalithomania, the short fiction and the other weblog — have not made it across. This is mostly not much of an issue and I have no intention of putting it back. However, I think I might need a new food section.

Cooking is one of my interests. I take it seriously. It’s not because I harbour any great ambition to carve out my living as a chef, otherwise I’d enter Masterchef; I’m one of those people who takes any given interest seriously. If a thing is interesting enough for me to spend time doing it, it’s interesting enough for me to get good at it. I do things properly.

I’m also synaesthetic, and my synaesthesia is a taste/smell/shape sort of affair. Flavours and aromas are important to me because my life is imbued with them.

Recently I had a stomach upset, which has left me unable to tolerate animal products in any great quantity. I’m not best pleased about this. While I have no issue with other people making whatever choice they wish to make about their diet, I tried vegetarianism before, for a number of years, and I didn’t thrive on it. I’ve always been healthier with flesh in my diet.

The other issue is that I’m intolerant of tomatoes and peppers (and, more recently, of wheat) and we can’t have nuts in the house because Frood is allergic in a get-him-to-hospital-pronto sort of a way. This has left us with what would seem to be a fairly restrictive diet. And it’s about now that my years-long obsession with food and diet and nutrition comes into its own.

We’re eating more Japanese. We’re looking at classical cuisines from the Far East, where it took longer for the ubiquitous American foodstuffs of peppers, potatoes and tomatoes to penetrate. I’m discovering new ways of flavouring and balancing seasoning, and I’m doing it all without recourse to the junk food option of tubs with obfuscated ingredients.

I managed some vegetarian stovies recently, a recipe simple enough that it can be deduced from the series of photos on my Flickr site. They were quite nice.

What we were missing, though, was a recipe for macaroni cheese, one of the great comfort foods. I decided that I would make it my mission to come up with a wheat-free, dairy-free alternative. It’s not macaroni cheese and it tastes only very vaguely cheesy, however — and it does pain me to say this, for reasons with which Munky will be only too familiar — it does bear a comforting resemblance to macaroni cheese. And it’s quite nice in and of itself.

So, because it has been requested, here is how to make it,

Wheat, gluten and dairy-free savoury pasta in the style of macaroni cheese

Serves, er, probably 4. 2 hungry cyclists if served with garlic bread. Quantities are approximate because I was making it up as I went along.

  • 200g brown rice pasta shapes
  • 3 tbsp vegan margarine
  • 4 heaped tbsp Dove’s farm gluten-free all purpose flour (or use corn flour)
  • Half a cup (100ml) white wine
  • 400ml rice or soy milk
  • 3tsp vegetable bouillon powder
  • Pinch saffron threads (I suppose you could use turmeric)
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp white miso
  • 1 crushed garlic clove
  • (If using low salt bouillon) 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp plain soy yoghurt
  • Nutmeg and black pepper to taste
  • 1 cup (or approx. 200ml) nutritional yeast (available from health food stores)

Put the pasta shapes on to cook according to the directions. Use plenty of water in a big pot. Pre-heat oven to 170°C.

Make the bouillon powder up to about 200ml with boiling water. Add the saffron and stir in the miso and the soy sauce.

Melt the margarine in a medium pot over a low heat and fry off the crushed garlic gently, avoiding colouring it. Grate some nutmeg in there or add some pre-ground. Add the flour. Stir vigorously until the flour has absorbed all the fat. Add the wine, a little at a time, stirring continuously, to make a smooth paste. Switch your wooden spoon for a small hand whisk if you have one. Add the stock mixture, a little at a time, stirring rapidly so as not to create lumps. Once the stock mixture has been used, switch to the soy/rice milk. Add a bit at a time and then turn up the heat, if necessary, to bring to a boil and allow to thicken. Add the yoghurt. Add more milk-substitute if it gets too thick. Stir all the time. Any lumps can be whisked out. If it’s too thin, (or you want more sauce) mix a tablespoon of flour with 2 tablespoons of milk substitute until it is smooth and add it to the mix, stirring rapidly.

Grind some pepper in there and whisk in the nutritional yeast. Taste to check seasoning.

Once pasta has cooked to just al dente, drain and pour sauce over the top. Bake in the oven, uncovered, for 15 minutes.

Serve with garlic bread (gluten-free bread spread with crushed garlic in olive oil) or salad.

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Shopping online

by on May.21, 2010, under Miscellany, rambling, Rant

It's really not that hardI don’t review shops, online or otherwise, except in extreme circumstances. My disposable income, as discussed already, is swallowed by sport. Oh. And food. Food and sports kit. I don’t buy clothes, or a lot of music, or go out socialising very much… I’m pretty much a hermit with a carbon fibre and lycra habit.

This means that reviews of online shops aren’t very helpful unless you too are looking for a shop that will sell you esoteric sports kit and bike bits. If you are looking for a shop to sell you esoteric sports kit and bike bits, because you’re a habitual purchaser of such things, then you’ll already have your favourites and don’t need me to tell you where to go. Your favourites are probably the same as mine, because that’s the nature of the beast.

I, and other people like me who buy from these shops, are looking for an easily defined set of qualities. If you run one of these shops, here is what you should know about what the average recreationally competitive cyclist/triathlete wants from you (other than what you are selling):

  1. Fast turnaroundHacked offWhen we discover or decide that we want that Continental GP4000 in blue in 700x25c we tend to want it now. If not yesterday. And while we comprehend that there’s this thing called ‘the post’ we will be exceedingly happy if it turns up the next day and will definitely come back to your shop and deal with you again. We are competitive. We like things fast. We also like our toys. Ordering something is like setting the calendar to Christmas Eve. Imagine waking up on Christmas Day and being told Santa hadn’t got around to you yet. You would be disappointed.
  2. Shipping costs — Some shops sell the items really cheap and make up the money by charging an inordinate fee for postage. Things don’t cost that much to ship. I can and have sent a fully padded bike bag the size of a small horse by next-day special delivery and it costs about twelve quid. Do not charge me six quid to send me a carbon fibre stem cap, two caffeinated energy gels and a puncture repair kit. Especially if I won’t get them for a week. It will make me angry. I will not come back to your shop. If you charge me anything more than £2 postage and I’m not buying a bike (and if I am, shipping should be free because I’m spending so much already) that thing had better turn up the next morning or, at a pinch, the day after. This is even more especially the case if you have a free delivery option and a priority delivery option. There are shops out there who can get things to me the next day for free, FFS. This is particularly galling if your shop is one of those that charges my credit card upon receiving the order. That means you’ve got my money for far longer than I have my toy. This will also make me angry. I will not come back to your shop.
  3. The ever-awesome XKCD does it againOrder tracking — We order tracking. I love getting the email that says “your order has been dispatched”. Then it’s definitely Christmas Eve. If you offer me order tracking I will make use of it. My shopping experience is made so much better by being able to watch my package, in a virtual sense, as it wings its way to my excited little paws. If you offer me order tracking and a fast turnaround then I will forgive you charging me for postage when there are shops who will send things to me for free because you have just made the entire transaction an order of magnitude more engaging. Order tracking should be thought of as an extra layer of wrapping, and even if you already know what you’re getting, unwrapping packages is so much fun.Order tracking means I am much more likely to come back to your shop.
  4. Range of stock — I know this should probably go without saying, but anyone who is serious about a sport that involves serious kit, such as cycling or triathlon or kiteboarding or whatever, is impressed by a shop that sells things no one else does. I am likely to forgive you many failings if you happen to sell something I want and can’t get anywhere else. Mine!And here’s something else of which to be aware: we know what we want. We will consider all the options carefully and in many instances we will come to your shop because you have turned up in an internet search as having that one thing. You may make an additional sale on the back of that one thing. If you sell that one thing and meet all the above criteria, then you are likely to get a repeat customer. When you consider how much money people like us are prepared to spend, it’s worthwhile giving us a good experience. The corollary to this is: if you claim to have a particular thing and list it on your website and we find your shop because we want that one thing, and order it from you, it had better be there. If it isn’t there, make sure you contact us immediately and explain as much. Which brings me to…
  5. SwapsI'm not sure this is what I ordered As I’ve already said, we know what we want. Do not make a decision for us if what we want isn’t there. Pick up the phone. Email us. Tell us what’s going on and let us decide what to do about it. We gave you our contact details for a reason and thought that was why you wanted them. The only exception to this is if you have a specific section on your order form that asks us what to do in case of the item not being in stock (there is one shop I use that does this).
  6. Customer service — We want to give you our money. We want to give you our money and have you send us objects of delight that will make us happy/go faster/feel lighter/dance up hills/give us shiny bicycles. Just be niceIn other words, what we are doing here is exchanging cash for pleasure. This isn’t life or death. We’re not paying for something that we need and can’t live without. You do not have us over a barrel. Good customer service is therefore part of what you should offer if you want us to come back, because there are plenty of places that offer excellent customer service and we will give them our money instead if you don’t. We like to reward good service. Bad customer service is, more than any other factor, likely to make customers turn away. Not only will they turn away but they will tell all their friends about you, and not in a good way.

And this is why I’m posting today.

When I went across to Ireland to do the Galway Triathlon last year I had to drop into Nigel’s Cycles to pick up some CO2 canisters because I wasn’t allowed to take mine on the plane. While there I had a nose around, as one does in a bike shop, and he had the Hydrapak Gel-Bot bike bottle in stock, something I had not seen before. I came very close to buying it because it’s exactly the sort of utterly superflous, but dammit so intrinsically useful-looking thing that I find irresistable. At the time I was already over-budget for the trip by some way and couldn’t justify the expenditure.

Then I read a review of one of these things last month and was reminded of how cool it had been, and decided that I’d like one. I hunted on the internet for this item (see point 4) and found a range of places, including Ebay. Most of them had the running version, which I didn’t want. I wanted the bike version (see point 4, again). The three places I looked at initially were good enough to state that it was out of stock (see points 4 and 5). Then I found Pure-Sports, who said they had it in stock. It was a good price, too, notwithstanding the £3.99 postage cost, which set my hackles on end (see point 2).

I duly put in my order. They had order tracking. Excellent (see point 3). By that afternoon my payment had been processed and stock had been allocated, according to the order tracking. The countdown to Christmas had begun.

A week later my bike bottle had not turned up (see point 1). Santa was spurning me. I was disappointed. I called.

My item was not in stock. Not only was it not in stock it had been discontinued. Someone had ordered the replacement model on my behalf and they were waiting for it to turn up (see point 5). Ah, but did the replacement have the gel flask, which is why I wanted it? They couldn’t tell me. Someone would get back to me.

Nobody did. I emailed them. No response (see point 6). A further week later I called again. Apparently the replacement model did not have the gel flask and I was being refunded. Fair enough, but with this level of communication failure the shop had already lost any future custom. At this stage, however, I would merely have crossed them off my list of potential retailers.

Cut to a month later. I still haven’t had my refund. This is why I am moved to post about it. This particular shop has demonstrated complete failure at every one of the things I ask for in a shop. The turnaround was shocking. The shipping costs were excessive. The order tracking was there but it lied. (How can non-existent stock be allocated?) The one item I wanted from them wasn’t there and they did not contact me within seven days, which the website claims they will if there is a problem with an order. They made a decision about what to send me instead of asking me what I wanted and, finally, their customer service has been shockingly poor.

In contrast, I called All Terrain Cycles yesterday because they also had the Hydrapak Gel-Bot bike bottle on their website. They had three in stock. The nice man checked to make sure it was the bike bottle not the running version and was evidently appreciative that I knew the difference although he didn’t. I placed my order at just past 4pm and did not feel any need to quibble over the postage. This morning I received an email saying that it has been despatched by 24-hour courier, complete with tracking number (>click<). Now, even though I know I won’t get it until Monday because I had it shipped to my work address, I am already in a state of excited anticipation.

Pure-Sports: you’re doing it wrong and I’m telling all my friends.

All Terrain Cycles: you’re doing it exactly right and I’m telling all my friends about that, too.

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Close to home

by on May.09, 2010, under Miscellany, Triathlon

avatarI laughed so much watching this it made my ribs hurt.

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Proper scary

by on May.09, 2010, under Miscellany, rambling

avatarI watch horror movies when I get a chance — which isn’t often, as Frood isn’t a big horror film fan.

I have yet to see one that is really all that scary, although, to be fair, there is a difference between horror and fear. The gore-fests of the Saw and Hostel franchises aren’t scary. They serve as a form of titillation; provoking, if anything, disgusted fascination rather than fear.

I haven’t seen many things that have frightened me, probably because enough weird, scary stuff goes on in my head and it would be hard for a film or TV show to compete. Dead Calm bothered me so much I couldn’t watch it, because I practically grew up on a boat and it hit some buttons. For similar reasons I found Jaws pretty scary when I first saw it as a kid. (I watched Evil Dead not long after that and thought it was hilarious, for the sake of comparison.)

Estara posted about Glove and reminded me that one of the few films that has scared me is Yellow Submarine, in which the blue-painted forces of Greyface take on the chaotically-psychedelic army of creativity.

I instinctively recognised a depiction of the Introduction of Negativism when I saw one, and those things scared the crap out of me.

Of course, the Charley Says public information films they used to show when I was young scared the bejeezus out of me as well. It was the cat, with his alien gibberish that the boy could nevertheless understand, and the way the boy himself spoke like a drone who had already fallen prey to his alien kitteh overlords and was no more than a mindless mouthpiece for their propaganda and fear-mongering.

Yeah. I was a strange child.

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Adventures in lunch

by on Nov.25, 2009, under Miscellany

I have a bizarre and near obsessive relationship with food. I don’t mean necessarily in a way that could be described as a disorder: living with an invisible illness for as long as I have has meant developing a more intimate relationship with my bodily functions than the majority of people might consider to be normal. As much as I try to plan my meals, because the various dietary requirements and restrictions need careful planning, frequently all plans go out of the window as my biochemistry jumps up and down demanding something completely different for no apparent reason. More than once I have been asked if I’m pregnant.

It became clear to me about mid morning, shivering still from the ride in, which was particularly cold and wet, that my body wanted something hot for lunch. Not any old hot thing, either. It wanted — no, demanded — noodles.

“Pot noodle? You are not having pot noodle,” I informed it, quite severely.

Body observed that there are instant style noodle things that do not contain MSG, half a Swiss mountain of salt and the equivalent of a pig in lard.

“Fine. We shall seek out this fabled healthy noodle option.”

I needed to go to JJB for replacement weight-lifting gloves anyway (WHY are all the girlie ones in “champage” or hot pink?), and so I drove to the retail park down at Hermiston. Having found some men’s gloves in a size small enough to fit (black, thankyouverymuch) I dashed through the rain to Tesco’s next door. Therein I searched the shelves for noodley snacks that I could take back and either heat in the microwave or reconstitute with boiling water, thenceforth to nom upon with my chopsticks.

Pot noodle. Golden Wonder noodle. All manner of ramen-style noodley arrangements, every one of which, when presented to Body, Body sniffed at (literally, apparently able to smell the contents through the wrapping — man, do I get strange looks in supermarkets) and said “Ew!” before demanding, yet again, noodles.

I sighed and went to look at chicken noodle soup. It does, after all, contain noodles.

“But no!” sang the invisible chorus. “You may not have chicken noodle soup for that commits the great sin of mixing PROTEIN with CARBOHYDRATE and you shall become SICK and even, perhaps, VOMIT.”

“Noodles!!!” cried Body.

“OK,” said I, by now somewhat narked and fed up with wandering up and down the aisles of the supermarket. “How about some sort of vegetarian pasta soup? I mean, that’s nearly noodles. Then we don’t have to worry about mixing protein and carbs.”


“Well, maybe. But check the ingredients lest there be sin involved.”

And lo. It turned out that all the pasta type soups contained tomatoes, which are banned under the Nightshade Convention of 2009. By now I was ready to give up and go back to the office and starve myself over the course of the afternoon, as all I had at work was miso soup. That’s a meagre 29.5kcal per serving, which is about as much energy as you’d find in a single nosepicking of snot, albeit much tastier.

I plumped, instead, for some butternut squash and sweet potato soup, which contained a little dairy. Dairy is currently bordering on being sinful however I growled at the invisible chorus and told them to shut the fuck up because I was hungry. To placate Body I bought a packet of rice noodles, which we couldn’t eat at the time but they were there to admire and they are wheat-free and gluten free and organic and therefore devoid of objectionable content in any shape or form. Body had its noodles and so stopped behaving like a 3 year old wanting a pet rabbit, even if all it could do was hug them.

There are times when being a slave to one’s mutant biochemistry is a pain
in the arse.

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