Saturday, 19 January 2008

Mining for Gold

I stayed up to listen to Helen McCookerybook live on Resonance FM's 'Mining for Gold'. It went on long past my bedtime and then I dreamt of sheds, so today I feel wrecked, but it was worth it. The presenter, whose name escaped me, had a splendidly 1970s persona, giving it a lot of reverent 'Wows' after performances, like Bob Harris on Whistle Test. I don't think it can have been Bob though, unless he has a voice portrait in the attic in an advanced state of decay.

Helen sang a number of songs, familiar and unfamiliar, and was marvellously assured for a live performance on air. Even talking to friends over dinner I often have to do a retake. It drove home what a professional and subtle performer she is.

Also performing was a poet, Louise Levi. She played, amongst other things, a serangi. At least, I think that's what she said. That's a sort of Afghan lute, and made a 'Ravi Shankar meets the High Level Ranters' noise. Like a cello with a streptococcal infection, crossed with Northumbrian pipes.

The third guest was another singer/songwriter, Bonelli. This might have been the Federico Bonelli who dances with the Royal Ballet, but then again it might not. I am a stranger in the world of avant garde acoustic folk rock. His set was good, although I thought at one point he cheated by welding two songs together, which (as they were taking turns to do their pieces) ought to break the live wireless performers' code of conduct.

At intervals young Bob Harris interposed recorded tracks which bore no relation to the live content and got the polarised twin spermatozoa on Windows Media Player wildly overexcited, chasing spiralling fractal eggs in a kaleidoscopic frenzy. At times he was almost carried away in his enthusiasm. I think I heard him say, possibly after playing 'Stranded'; 'Probably the best record ever made'. Which it obviously isn't although we're all entitled to our opinions. He wound up saying something like:

"That was the Finnish band Tarvasjokiskogfunken from 1971, recently re-released by Thieving Bandicoot in a ludicrously small edition of 50. I'll play you out with some electronic cosmo-grunt from Two Bit Guinea and the Telstars. And if that sounds fun to you, get down to Stoke Newington for 26th January..."

Tuesday, 15 January 2008

Forgotten Friends and Pharmacies

It's a sign of age. I've got all these friends I've completely forgotten. They keep emailing me. There's Lara Robby and Kasey Delgado, who want me to check out 70% discounts in the January Sales. There's Jake Clifford, who must be dyslexic because he'd like to 'reffiinance my morttggage'. Candia Post and Leonel Kaplan are both interested in whether I want to be larger (if they'd seen how much weight I've put on over Christmas they wouldn't ask). Reginald Boggs appears to run a pharmacy, but I'm pretty sure the chemist in the village is called Norman. What is Vicodin anyway?

Louisa Denison has contacted me about what are definitely the final pictures (I'm wondering if she was the girl in that nice couple we met in the Trossachs last year, although I don't remember them taking any photos of us). Clint Makepeace, if you mean what I think you mean, I suspect you may have confused me with someone else; that's never been my bag, mate. Carla Marquez, you need therapy; it's got to be unhygienic doing that with discounted stocks anyway.

Monday, 14 January 2008

Brighton Nightingale

I was going through my slush piles of loose papers in the study on Friday, trying to make the place look respectable in case some visitors looked in (they didn't). Amongst them I found a tatty scrap of paper which must have been months old, with some scribbled hieroglyphics on it which might have been half-heard song lyrics.

After some Googling with different combinations of the words, I found it was 'Your Song' by Brighton singer/songwriter Kate Walsh, from her first 'proper' album, 'Tim's House'. Kate (not to be confused with the Hollywood actress of the same name) is better than raindrops on roses, chocolate and cheese straws, duck-down and daffodils. Her music is fresh, heartfelt and unencumbered. Listen to it instead of taking an aspirin, or having a quarrel, or sighing, or just because you're already happy. Close your eyes and feel the sun come out.

If you haven't heard her, then hit the Youtube link below, or visit her Myspace here and listen to 'Bury My Head' or any of the others. You won't regret it.

Tuesday, 8 January 2008

The Rules

Rule 13: Avoid Maidstone.

Rule 14: Don't answer the phone in a funny voice. The person calling is often considerably not who you were expecting.

Rule 15: Never try to impress your mother-in-law after your fifth Pimms.

Rule 16: You can't do handstands like you used to.

Rule 17: When visiting a hospital as an in-patient, remember to take pyjamas.

Friday, 4 January 2008

Little Known Facts: The Supernatural Significance of 2008

The year 2008 has spooky mathematical significance. For example, the square root of 2008 is 44.810713. If you subtract that from 2008, you get 1963.1893. 1963 was the year that Kennedy was assassinated. It is alleged that Kennedy had an affair with Marilyn Monroe, the star of 'Gentlemen Prefer Blondes', and 1893 was the year that the author of 'Gentlemen Prefer Blondes', Anita Loos, was born. 1963 was also the year that Kenya gained its independence. By an astonishing co-incidence, Kenya begins with the same letter of the alphabet as Kennedy while its second biggest city, Mombasa, begins with the same letter as Marilyn's second name, Monroe! K is the 11th letter of the alphabet. If you take the 4th and 7th letters of the square root of 2008 (44.810713), you get 11. If you add 4 and 7 together you get 11 again. If you add the individual numbers of the square root of 2008 together they make 28 - which is 4 times 7! If you divide 2008 by Pi (3.14) and multiply by 3, you get 1918, the year WWI ended. WWI included the battles of Anita and Loos, and began with an assassination in the Balkans, which contains a K!

Finally (and this is really spooky), if you add 1963.1893 to 44.810713 you get (you've guessed it)...2008!

How strange is that!!

Bring yourself luck and irritate your friends and workmates by forwarding this to everyone you know, otherwise bad things will happen somewhere probably, and it will be all your fault. Have a nice day.

Thursday, 3 January 2008

Ernest and the Avocado

Once upon a time in a big, open-plan office, where important things were talked about and written, a very nice man (let us call him Ernest) planted an avocado stone in a little pot. For many weeks he watched it, and watered it and whispered to it, but nothing appeared above the surface of the good John Innes Number 1 Potting Compost that he had bought for it.

One day, taking pity on him, a friend had a good idea. He melted a green candle, and dipped a cocktail stick into the liquid wax, layer upon layer, until the stick looked just like a shiny green shoot. One Monday morning he came in early and took out the avocado stone (which had gone all manky) and pushed the stick up through the hole in the bottom of the pot until it just broke the surface. Being a discreet and kindly colleague, he asked all the other hard-working people in the big, open-plan office not to mention what he had done, so that Ernest's happiness would be unalloyed.

When Ernest arrived he noticed the little shoot breaking the surface, and his joy was a delight to behold, as he spread the glad news amongst his work mates. Each day he watched and watered and spoke softly to his little pot and once a week, each Monday morning, his friend came in early and pushed it up a little bit from below, using a straightened paper clip (probably, because of course I could not know that).

It puzzled Ernest at first that his avocado shoot grew slowly in the week and quickly at weekends, but soon he realised that perhaps it did not like the heating and air-conditioning, which was switched off at those times. And his colleagues agreed; 'Who does like the air-conditioning?' they said. 'It makes us feel ill, so why not your little avocado?'

For many weeks this horticultural idyll continued, until one Monday morning, when his friend tried to push up the little shoot, it started to wobble. There was not enough stick left in the soil to hold it steady. His friend wondered what to do, and in the end he pushed the little shoot back in again a bit.

In the days that followed, Ernest confided his concerns that all was not well with his avocado plant, because it had stopped growing; indeed, it almost seemed to be getting smaller. And his colleagues, who were also kindly folk, were much moved.

At last, Ernest had an idea. He went out into the town that was nearby and bought some more compost of the very best kind, and a bottle of liquid fertiliser, and a larger and more expensive pot with a glaze of many colours, and a copy of the Guardian newspaper. And in his lunch hour he spread the newspaper across his desk, and began to re-pot his avocado plant.

And when he found that his little avocado was a cocktail stick dipped in candle wax, he was sore aggrieved. And his colleagues in the big, open-plan office were greatly affected, even to tears, and his friend remembered that he had a very important meeting to go to and left in great haste to talk and write about important things.

Wednesday, 2 January 2008

2008: Something for Everyone

2008 has been designated:

European Year of Intercultural Dialogue
International Year of Sanitation
International Year of the Potato
Australian Year of the Scout

European Year of Intercultural Dialogue: The European Commission has decided that 2008 should be European Year of Intercultural Dialogue, and has earmarked a budget of 10 million Euro to promote this. The intention is to respect and encourage cultural diversity by promoting greater cohesion through common values. That is to say, to preserve people's differences by getting them to think alike. (Oh God. Is it only the British who are cynical about the Commission?)

International Year of Sanitation: In 2001 The World Toilet Association declared 19 November World Toilet Day. Since then World Toilet Day has been celebrated world-wide. The World Toilet College was founded in 2005. This year the World Toilet Organisation will hold the World Toilet Summit in Macao in November. The summit will also feature the World Toilet Expo. (I'm sure this is the worthiest of causes, but Toilet College? As in, "I'm going to toilet college"? And a 'toilet summit' just conjures up an image of a porcelain pedestal perched atop the Matterhorn. Wouldn't a little creative branding help fire the imagination? 'Sanitation for Life Day? 'Freedom to Flush'? 'Health through Hygiene'?)

International Year of the Potato: 2008 has been designated international year of the potato by the UN. Garden Organic, an organic growing charity, will hold Britain's biggest potato event, Potato Day, at Ryton near Coventry. Potato Day on 2 February will be open to members only, although a public potato day will be held the following day. The organisers hope that thousands of visitors will come and pay homage to the potato. A special surround-sound exhibition will celebrate the iconic rĂ´le of the potato crisp in cultural change between 1900 and the Fall of the Berlin Wall. (Okay, I made the last bit up).

Australian Year of the Scout: To celebrate 100 years of Australian scouting, a presentation Good Turn token will be issued to all Australian Scouts. The tokens will be transferred from one pocket to another after completion of community good turns.

So much to look forward to. I can't wait.

Tuesday, 1 January 2008

Little Known Facts: Manuka Hangover Cure

Medical specialists in alcohol addiction and related disorders at the Surinder Tupaen Clinic in Southall are extolling the virtues of a recently developed 'morning after' remedy. The hangover-busting designer cocktail is exciting great interest after initial clinical trials.

If you are sceptical, try it for yourself; mix the following ingredients into a paste and swallow it direct from the spoon or, if preferred, on melba toast or as a dip.

A tablespoon of goose fat (turkey fat will do, but goose is better);
A teaspoon of Manuka Honey;
4-5 drops of Thai Fish Sauce (Nahm Plah)
If desired, sugar to taste.

These ingredients combine to provide the cruise missile of hangover remedies, zapping the recipient's beleaguered constitution in a unique multi-pronged attack. Goose fat, close to hand in many post-Christmas homes and now readily available at most big-name supermarkets, delivers a high monounsaturated fat content and associated vasoactive bi-nucleic peptides. Manuka honey includes hydrogen peroxide, twinning anti-inflammatory elements with unique gastric depilatory properties. Omega 3 in the fish oil confronts acetaldehyde residues at a molecular level, whilst EPAs (eicosapentaenoic acids) address post-alcoholic depression.

Brother Tobias brings you this life-saving recipe with best wishes for 2008.

(Warning: Prepared in an environment which may contain nuts)