Travelling Lady, Stay a While

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Until the night is over, as Mr Cohen put it.

I may have mentioned this before but Peter Cook’s standard response to people who said, I’m writing a novel, was, Neither am I. Well I am. I have. Two already and a third on the way. But I’m also writing a novella, which I’m over half way through, so I thought I’d share it with you in weekly instalments.

This is called
The Travelling Lady’s Cookbook
or
A Grand Tour in Twenty Recipes

I
A Risotto

As the evening sun began to graze the top of the island, catching the Sultan’s turret in a noose of light, Epifanea Tredwell stretched a lazy arm towards her wine glass, which was balanced precariously on the balcony parapet. She paused in mid-swoop, to savour the picture of the sun’s rays, which gave a honeyed glint to the straw-coloured nectar. Not for long. Thirst defeated aesthetic appreciation. She brought the slender glass to her lips and half-drained it in a single gulp.
xxx“Food,” she thought. She took in the view across the bay to the far side of the sunken volcano, the sun hanging level with the hilltop fortress; taking the half-empty glass with her, she went into the small but perfectly-stocked kitchen.
xxxOnions? Or garlic?
xxxThis risotto she usually threw together at home with ingredients always to hand in cupboard, fridge and freezer. Dried herbs and stock cubes, pancetta pieces, and frozen broad beans. But today the local market supplied fresh what her local, misnamed ‘super’ market only sold in packets. This thought reminded her that the newly-shelled broad beans were still on the balcony, by her lounger. She retrieved them, along with the colander of empty pods, and started to cut up the pancetta. What favour this local ham had. How small the extra effort in cutting it into cubetti, slightly larger than the tiny pieces she got from a packet at home. ‘Handy packs’, indeed. She’d never realised how bland they could be, compared to the ‘real’ thing.
xxxGarlic? Or onions?
xxxMany Italian cooks will insist, with a passion and even a threatening cleaver, that no dish should contain both. Others, especially Italian-Americans, will use them together in almost every savoury dish. ‘Going native’, even though not quite in Italy, Eppy went with onions. The more placid option, she told herself. The small red bulb she finely chopped, then softened slightly in a healthy splash of olive oil. She turned up the heat a little and added the cubes of cured meat, warming them through and even crisping them slightly, before she turned the heat back down and added the rice.
xxxLovely rice.
xxxRisotto rice. Arborio. Or was it carnoroli? The jar said only risotto. An expert could tell. Blindfold. Probably by smell alone from the next room. And other, less famous types. And the quality too. These grains longer than those at home. She seemed to remember that longer grains meant finer rice. Or did they? Who cares? Have a drink.
xxxShe shook the grains into the pan, measuring probably too many, by eye alone, and stirred them gently to coat each one with a thin film of the oil. After another sip from the large wine glass, she emptied the rest into the pan, the heat turned higher and prepared to add …
xxxOh shit! The stock. Her nagging feeling had been right; she had forgotten something. She turned down the heat under the rice, turned the neighbouring ring on full and half-filled the kettle with water, rushed to the cupboard and found with great relief a box of chicken stock cubes.
xxxThe wine by now reduced and absorbed, Eppy splashed a little cool water on the rice to buy some time. The stock crumbled into the kettle water in a small pan, she quickly stirred it and added beans to boil and slightly soften, sighed with relief and poured more wine into her empty glass.
xxxFor this relief, much thanks, her silent toast.  Gia mas, she said out loud in Greek, and ladled some of the stock into the pan. And remembered a small clear plastic box beside the stock cubes in the cupboard.
xxxI’m just wild about saffron, she sang, and saffron’s wild about me.
xxxMore expensive than gold; but the host said anything in the kitchen could be used. And it’s far cheaper here than back home. Must get some to take home and maybe replenish the host’s supply. This thought calmed her conscience as she opened the costly box. Mustn’t take too much. Not just the price: too much of a good thing makes for a bitter taste.
xxxLike love? She smiled and put a pinch of the vermilion stamens into the pan, adding a ladle of stock on top. Some beans came with it. A larger pinch of fresh-cut oregano and a gentle stir took enough effort to warrant another leisurely drink of wine, before the slowly-swelling rice called for another dose of stock and beans. The secret of a good risotto is to add the liquid a little at a time, all the while stirring frequently but gently.
xxxA bit like life, she thought, but wasn’t sure the idea worked.

Missing you already

xxxPilau, paella, jambalaya … most non-sticky rice dishes, you keep the stirring to a minimum; it breaks the coating and lets the starches out. But the starches in risotto rice need to be released, the make the dish rich and creamy.

Yes, me too

xxxShe sent a picture of her wine glass on the balcony in its sunset setting.  It made her answer less convincing.
xxxCucumber, tomato and plump black olives made a quick and easy between-stirs side salad, seasoned, drizzled with extra-virgin olive oil and splashed with white wine vinegar. The lightest dressing seemed more than enough, for salad and body alike.

Bikini bottoms and loose robe if you must know

xxxShe sent a stirring selfie with wooden spoon in her free hand.  She replied to his next request.

Dream on
Not even undressed salad lol

xxxLove this cheese grater. Another thing she mustn’t pop in her luggage when she left. It made quick rotary work of grating a lump of the excellent parmesan.

xxxShe tasted the rice. Nicely swollen, not too soft. A little salt and a generous grind of black pepper. And half the cheese and a knob of butter to melt in before turning out onto the plate and taking a photo to send home.

Heartless bitch
And me w takeout pizza missing yr cooking

OK don’t show me yr tits but spare me the food porn

xxxShe smiled but didn’t reply. Instead she cut a piece of the baguette, topped up the wine glass, and arranged the salad bowl and risotto with them on a tray. The sun was down now, leaving a pale glow on the far horizon; she sat happy on the candlelit balcony and ate, watching the twinkling lights of the town below and the boats out in the bay …

 

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No Comparison

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Dost thou compare me to a summer’s day?!
Dost think that I am nought but birds and flowers?
That I am hot and tiring dost thou say,
And only lasting four and twenty hours?

What is it with this current thing of indignantly accusing all comparisons of being simple identities? If I say you have a moustache that looks like Hitler’s, I am not saying you have any desire to slaughter whole ethnic groups in gas chambers. And ‘comparison’ can be shorthand for ‘comparison and contrast’, surely, anyway.

To be sure, such comparisons can be used to hint that there is more you have in common than just the facial hair, especially in a case where I could as easily have made comparison to a silent movie comedian, similarly arrayed.

But for fuck’s sake people, enough with the mindlessly sheepish and rhetorical indignation. It doesn’t help the argument get anywhere, which carefully chosen comparisons can (as long as we all accept they only apply for the qualities/hary lips under consideration).

And yes, I am comparing all of you to moronic sheep and yes I do mean you eat grass and go baa a lot. And taste good with roast tatties and mint sauce.


Meanwhile here are some portraits what I is doing on the monochrome camera in my trusty Huawei. They be going on Instagram to publicise the Scottish Portrait Awards 2018 exhibition commencing on November 3rd at the Scottish Arts Club.

Be there or be square format.

 

Sunset Beauty at Another Chinese Lake

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Translate my poetry, she said. I have written 500 poems since last November; you can publish them.

Yeah, right. 500 poems, at the same time as a novella/cookbook and making her face look more lovely in a painting. No worries. Who cares that I do’t recognise a character of Chinese (except my name, Dai: 大)?

They do seem to have some excellent imagery and cover a wide range of ideas and feelings, sometimes quite enigmatically.

Here’s one of her latest (yes, they’re still coming)

夕阳美

血色残阳
地平一线
稻谷成熟的远方
没有晚霞
满是山的轮廓
村的线条
无尽余晖正脉脉含情

公路往西
向着鄱阳湖靠近
冬天观天鹅
夏天用长焦去打鸟
行摄把痛的膨胀
身的压榨
释放,还原,归零
现实世界又充满能量

 

and this is how google translate renders it.

Sunset beauty

Blood color
Ground level
Rice matures far away
No sunset
Full of mountain outlines
Village line
Endless afterglow

Highway west
Approaching Poyang Lake
Winter view swan
Playing birds with telephoto in summer
Taking a picture of the pain
Squeezing
Release, restore, zero
The real world is full of energy

It’s going to be a strange process of iteration, word for word, check back, does it really mean that?! and trying to tune my poetic sensibilities to her idiosycratic ones.

I’ll need some of that energy.

 

PS Poyang Lake in Jiangxi province is the largest freshwater lake in China.

Cack, Bloody Cack, Bloody Cack!

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‘Twas June 2016 when this ‘ere blog first mooted the idea of Ofpoff (the Office for the Promotion Of Facts and Fairness), which would, among other things, provide a philosophical linesperson to shout fault from the sidelines of all debates and speeches.

There is a tiny groundswell of opinion that all opinions should not be given equal weight, just out of some twisted idea of democratic fairness. That they should all be heard is fine, but that those which can be corrected by reason and demonstration should not go unquestioned in the media is sloppy and downright naughty journalism.

Especially, he ranted, in the case of the mantras, obviously drip fed to us intentionally, being used by those doing Brexit on our self-destructive behalf (and swallowed, if a conversation I overheard recently and any number of ‘liberal’ tweets) — the mantras that insist that going ahead whatever the current state of public opinion is the correct and ‘respectful’ democratic thing to do.

As Alexei Sayle once said, Cack, Bloody Cack, Bloody Cack!

The people have spoken and we must democratically respect and honour that decision.

Are you proposing to disrespect the wishes of the 17 million people who voted to leave the EU?

How many times do you rerun the vote until you get the decision you want?

Another referendum would only lead to discord the other way and they’d call for another.

All rhetoric, all utter cack.

As I and many others have said before, the flaw was allowing a simple majority to decide a major constitutional change. To allow such a change on the basis of less than a two thirds majority could only be divisive (note that though the simple majority had been proposed for the 1975 plebiscite which took the UK into the Common Market, the actual vote to join was 67% anyway).  But even when stuck with that, a second vote now looks likely to be carried by a sizeable swing (how much greater that could be if reason rather than insult was the dominant form of discourse in subsequent discussions, which only serves to reinforce the jaundiced view of the ‘metropolitan elite’).

If the people now think differently it is utterly undemocratic to ‘respect’ the decision they would now wish to alter.

Would we prefer to disrespect the views of the 16 million who voted to remain plus the millions that polls suggest would now change their vote to that?

If the people still want to leave, it shouldn’t matter how many times you rerun; you’ll get the same result. Unless of course the real reason for this bollocks is a fear that that is not what ‘the people’ now want.

Either way, a repeat of the same result or a huge swing (as in Denmark over Maastricht) to remain would put the question to bed for a generation.

There is no totally satisfactory way out now. But what we have at the moment is a terrifyingly bleak future, at least in the short term. And we’ll still be drowning in that sea of cack — unless someone somewhere installs some Ofpoff on the sidelines.

Poet, Escaping

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I’m Back! Did you miss me? Did you notice?

Yes, I’ve been to Cádiz, my little city by the bay and by Jove did I not want to come back.

A few more pics may be shared in the coming weeks, but I mostly want to share with you the discovery of a poet previously unknown to me (and even most of the Spaniards I’ve spoken to since).

In the Alameda Apodaca, 100metres or so from my AirBnB, where I’d gone to look out over the broad Atlantic, I discovered (along with International Bear), this plinth …

Back at the bar on Calle Zorilla, I used their interweb to look the guy up. Still later I even bought a couple of his books, including 2003’s Melos Melancolia.

He is (or would be if he was still on his plinth), ‘postist’ poet, Carlos Edmundo de Ory; born 1923 in Cádiz, died in France in 2010. You can read more about him in his English Wikipedia entry. Suffice it to summarise him as some sort of Spanish Ginsberg (who apparently translated him but never published), which no doubt fails to do him any justice. He seems a sidenote from a fizzled sideshow movement.

But I like what I’ve read very much. So much so that I’ve already tried my hand at a first-draft translation of one of his Melos.

MONOSTROPHE

Here is the other page that reveals the winds
For sure let’s do it in the shelter
of mysterious lips accustomed to
the huge silent words of the heart
and let me hear someone who adores sadness
Decent as it may be I always praise the gifts
that I profess to be of a strange nature
touching the dreadful bells of my being
like when I hold long conversations
with a soul-mate who is staying
at the same inn as me and gives me nourishment
for the breaking of my great silence
And who behind closed doors agrees with me
who listens to the danger of knowing
subordinated to my talkative melancholy
My blood went up to the word and he who tells me
if you want what you think from the world
Keep everything I say a secret from yourself
because it’s night and I tremble every time
these sunless hours seize my reason
at the expense of intense astonishment
It is my business to speak and be heard
like a radical authority of the scandal
of poetry devoid of rococo spells
except for those metaphors finally responsible
for all the angelic art and its fascinations
But I do not deceive anyone and those who dare to dive
into the grave reading of these nocturnal voices
to lie down with me in my bunk
even if I missed the blackness of the sheets
Pain is not healed by dawn or whitenesses
My son whoever you are if you come by my side
respect the nostalgia and anguish I possess
and cherish the hope of yourself in the world
not being the you who suffers as you see me suffer
You know that I encipher arcana and consult alone
echoes of echoes coming from unfathomable wells
and in the poem I set the pearls of silence
In poetry to the end of speech my conduct
consists of shining the golden candlestick
in the solitary bedroom I inhabit
as if it were a dungeon of the spirit
where I store corks and pins
Enough I will say no more in this long stanza
And they call me a madman a poet

trans. Dai Lowe 19/9/18

By the way, I did find Mr de Ory, seconds after I found the plinth. Only about ten metres away, sneaking off into the bushes …

… from what I’ve read about him, he’s heading off for a drink.

poets may escape
how far away can they get?
the sculptor decides

My leg hurts

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Most Fringe performers come down with Fringe Flu. I get Fringe Gangrene. Not only does the whole emotionally agonising experience cost me a few hundred pounds I can’t afford but, in putting stuff back after our PBH ‘Free’ shows, I caught myself with a chair and removed a load of skin on my right leg.

I only hope it gets a bit less sore and doesn’t really go bad on me before I go off to Spainland in a week and a bit.

Meanwhile I want to lay down a vid of my latest work, a translation of Trafferth mewn Tafarn, by Dafidd ap Gwilym, which went down well with the few folks we laughingly refer to as our ‘audiences’ (despite the ineffectiveness of shouting “Fourteenth Century Welsh poetry!” as a flyering pitch). Watch this space; next week, hopefully.

Deuthum i ddinas dethol,
A’m hardd wreangyn i’m hôl.
Cain hoywdraul, lle cwyn hydrum,
Cymryd, balch o febyd fum,
Llety urddedig ddigawn
Cyffredin, a gwin a gawn.

Canfod rhiain addfeindeg
Yn y ty, mau enaid teg.
Bwrw yn llwyr, liw haul dwyrain,
Fy mryd ar wyn fy myd main.
Prynu rhost, nid er bostiaw,
A gwin drud, mi a gwen draw.
Gwarwy a gâr gwyr ieuainc —
Galw ar fun, ddyn gwyl, i’r fainc.
Hustyng, bum wr hy astud,
Dioer yw hyn, deuair o hud;
Gwneuthur, ni bu segur serch,
Amod dyfod at hoywferch
Pan elai y minteioedd
I gysgu; bun aelddu oedd.

I shall be attempting to render it in the voice and manner of Welsh comic Rhod Gilbert, as I did (reasonably) well in our shows. And who should be on the next table in the Bar Napoli restaurant that night but Mr ap Gwilym himself?!

No, it was Rhod Gilbert. Mr ap G’s long dead.

Last London Day’s Travail Blog

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I should be blogging about the sodding saga of my struggles with the utility company. After last week’s no show, the phone call I made an appointment for this morning, after three phone calls last week (the last a booked call to arrange for today’s booked call to arrange for someone to come for the third time to fit a working meter) … guess what … didn’t bloody happen. A curse on you, Scottish Power!

(And don’t say why don’t I switch providers — I can’t do that until I have a working meter and no outstanding bills or disputes with the current one).

But no, let me calm down and finish the tale of my London trip.

Day Four

Next morning, hot and sunny once more, they were due to go to a family barbecue, so he dropped me at the station, and I went back to the big city.

There is now a baggage store company called BagBnB, so for a fiver I left my rucksack of smelly clothes at a hotel near Victoria Coach station, which took a load off both my mind and my shoulders.  I went (slowly) up to Hampstead on the 24 for a day of nostalgia. The old flat is still there and very little has changed (except the old post office below (we were on the very top floor) is now a hair salon. And the five-yearly works must be going on, as the side and back are scaffolded.

I even had lunch (for my imaginary son, Ralph’s 45th birthday) at Dominique’s café, which is still on South End Green and still does a very nice eggs Benedict (yes, I know it’s a comedown gastronomically, but associations add flavour). Then a nostalgic and melancholy wander on the Heath …

… and through the leafy back lanes of Hampstead, before I headed back to Kensington for the Beethoven 9 Prom for which I had won two stalls tickets on Radio 3’s weekly quiz (I’m on a roll!). I met a Facebook friend, an erudite Bengali from Glasgow who works near Heathrow, for a drink then we went to the gig.

Having had first class train travel down, stayed in a luxurious bedroom, eaten at three top-class eateries and had £52 stalls seats for the concert, my £14.50 bus ticket back to Edinburgh was a comedown. Especially as I had to leap out of my seat and run to a cab as soon as the symphony ended. Hardly necessary as I waited in an unruly queue for 25 minutes before they’d let us on the bus.

I once again proved Wilde’s dictum that no good deed goes unpunished. Arriving late, a young Polish couple looked saddened at having to sit far apart, so I let one have my seat, so they could be together … then found I was next to a very large woman, who snored a lot.

This is not body-shaming. This is Megabus seat-shaming. One wide person and one tall one in seats ‘ergonomically’ designed for the average arse and the average human height (ie midget) combined to give me a painful left buttock and what felt like incipient dvt — and no sleep. The rough-looking chap with the two fractious young kids in front of me and the loud-spoken Sheldon Cooper tribute act just behind didn’t help, but at least they were quiet after midnight.

I thought there might be some respite at Woolley Edge Services, where the driver took his compulsory break, but no doors were opened and no services made available.

I did get to move at Newcastle-upon-Tyne, next to a suspicious looking, sulky but wonderfully tiny Chinese student, who kept falling asleep onto my shoulder and then jerking awake and away (while I pretended to be asleep). But I was straight to bed when I got home at seven-thirty, and slept until two pm. Hashtag false economy, hashtag never again!


And there are only four more gigs to do at the Edinburgh Fringe. Boy, will I be glad when that’s over. I refer the reader to my previous hashag. Don’t be fooled by the jolly exterior in the team pic…

Never again!

Past Roaming on Rye

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Day Three

Dungeness (you will of course know it from Derek Jarman’s Garden) is the largest area of shingle in Europe and the only place in the UK where the rainfall is so low, it’s officially a desert. There is a fish shack there which does amazing seafood, which one simply eats at the counter in the open air. And John has his classic Mazda MX5 convertible.

At sixty-five, I had thought that I, like Lucy Jordan at the age of thirty-seven (in the song), would never ride through Paris (or Kent) in a sports car, with the warm wind in what was left of my hair. Now a combination of a long, hot summer and a snazzy-carred friend offered that belated experience.

We’d not been gone fifteen miles when the rain started and we had to put the hood up. It was my first time in an open convertible. It lasted half an hour. I got wet. Story of my life.

And it rained and rained. At the fish stall, we crouched under an umbrella and had an instant coffee; then we drove into Rye for a whitebait snack and a beer in a quaint — and dry — pub.

We strolled round the picturesque but damp town, childhood holiday haunt of my host, and headed back to the dryness of his apartment. In the evening we collected Doreen and went to a very good restaurant in Tunbridge Wells, called Vittles and Swig.

The return to London and the hell-ride home, next week.


Meanwhile I’ve waited in all morning for a new electricity meter and no one has shown up. This is the second attempt (they brought the wrong one last time), but they’re still charging me estimated bills and I’m getting more and more frustrated, when I should be out trying to tempt punters to come and see the very wonderful …

Fringe Magnets (and more London)

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So, five nights of Well, it’s Woody under our belts, average audiences just over seven, and average, split-two-ways takings, fifteen quid (plus one US dollar). And a few walk-outs, including tonight’s which I liked to think was due to being offended by my rendition of Hamish, the teenage masturbation pome, but may just have been part of this growing trend of seeing forty minutes of a 55-minute Free Fringe show and leaving to avoid making a donation.
Isn’t politeness odd? It feels less rude to leave during a performance than to walk past a starving artist with a collecting bucket and not put anything in. From the receiving end,it feels ruder (just in case you were wondering).
We do it to entertain. If we also get money so we can eat occasionaly, that’s great, but there’s no need for awkwardness or embarrassment just because you’re a tight-fisted bastard.
Only jokin’.


Anyway, back to my London trip … where were we?

Day Two

A former member of the now defunct Albemarle Club, one Oscar Wilde, said, ‘only dull people are bright at breakfast’, and despite (or because of) its theme of sodality, the Savile has a ‘no talking at the central breakfast table’ rule. As there was no one else there, I had my fruit and yogurt in silence anyway.

Then I headed off into town. On Jermyn Street I bought a shirt in the Scottish Arts Club colours of pink and blue (despite the heat, I had to wear jacket and tie for my visits, and I sported the Club bow tie at the Reform, see pic) and then a Gatsby from my old favourite hat shop (see pic).

           

No wonder I had to take an Elsie with Geaorge ‘Beau’ Brummell …

A friend of a friend, who’s a friend on Facebook, works as a volunteer at the Tate, so she got me in free to All Too Human (the body in art, mainly in British art, Sickert, Spencer, Bacon, Freud etc) and Aftermath (art in and just after 1918).

And then I met with my old colleague, John ‘Bonker’ Harries for part two of the gastronomic pilgrimage: the Savoy Grill, for a meal starting with Omelette Arnold Bennett, made for the writer in the 1920s and a permanent fixture on the menu ever since, and a dish I have often cooked for myself since I came to live in the land of smoked fish.

Absolutely delicious, though their modern, starter, take is lighter and smaller than my old-fashioned main course version, which I tend to call Omelette Gordon Bennett because of the mess I make trying to serve it up neatly (which they get round by serving it in the pan). The guinea fowl which followed was equally delicious as was John’s liver (not in the Hannibal Lecter sense f-f-f-f).

Future visits to a bar in Buffalo (chicken wings), a convent in Mexico (molé poblano) and a Piedmontese battlefield (chicken Marengo) will probably remain flights of fancy.

Back in the real world, we then headed out to Tunbridge Wells, where Bonker (now retired) lives.  In the evening, we went down the area known as the Pantiles for an evening of outdoor live jazz and to meet Doreen, his lady-love.

Over swing jazz and a pint or two, we discussed the trip he and I were to go on in the next instalment …