Wednesday, May 19, 2004
Todayís happy shopping experience: my local supermarket is selling two duck breasts for £5.59. From the very shelf below, you can buy the whole duck for £4.99; and yes, this does indeed include two breasts, as well as two legs and a couple of wings and the carcass with all its lovely stocky soupy Marx Bros goodness. This means, evidently, that you pay the company extra money and give them back all the best bits of the bird, in exchange for some minimum-wage slaveís spending ten seconds slicing off the breasts and dropping them into a polystyrene tray for your convenience. Go, as they say, figure.
Last weekís much happier shopping experience: I am now the proud possessor of an Aerating Stick, of whose ownership I had never dreamed, whose existence, to be frank, I had never imagined...
The story goes like this. Last year, my local council announced that in its oh-so-vigorous quest for green credentials, it would sell compost bins to residents for £5 (usual price £30+), so that we could turn our kitchen and garden waste into lovely wormy earthy compost instead of letting it rot down into methane gas and slime on the nearest landfill site. So of course I phoned the Compost Hotline and got an answering machine, and left a message. And heard nothing, so I phoned again. And again. My messages got ruder, their silence grew more deafening; in the end I gave up and drilled some airholes in a plastic dustbin, to make my own compost bin.
That is now full, but after a year of virtue I canít revert to old bad ways and throw out what is eminently compostable; so I needed another bin. The council is again advertising its Compost Hotline, so I tried again; and mirabile dictu, this year it works. At least, the answering machine gives another number. So I called that, and a nice woman asked me what size of bin I wanted. Thankfully, I had the wit to ask for the smallest available (despite the temptations of the super-deluxe £15 model). She took my fiver and told me to expect a delay of weeks and weeks before delivery, because they were very busy. Okay; I worried a little what to do with my coffee-grounds in the meantime, but I have buckets.
Two days later there was a thump outside, and something came through my letter-flap; I went to check, and there was a leaflet about composting. How sensible, I thought, sending the instructions in advance of the object, let me learn the theory before I advance to the practical...
An hour or so after that I was on my way out, I opened my front door, I found the compost bin on my doorstep. Itís the size of a small Dalek, four times the size of my dustbin edition, and I am already obsessed. I have whole conversations about composting; Iím thinking of buying a book on the subject (I know there is one, I saw it a couple of years back, and how can I resist..?). But also, joy of joys, inside the bin was an Aerating Stick. It looks - Jean says, after I drew it for her this morning, words having failed me entirely - something like a harpoon. Sheís right, it does. Its use is obvious, it is to agitate the matter; it may be very good at its task, I donít know, I havenít tried to use it yet. I think Iím a little scared, to be honest. When itís not looking, Iíll try to sneak a photo, post it up here. The horror, the horror...
Posted by Chaz at 03:50 PM GMT [Link]
Friday, May 14, 2004
I should definitely get out more. Preferably, out of town.
Iím just back from a swift one-nighter in Lincoln. We had a Murder Squad gig booked in, for their literary festival, and I wasnít sure I should have agreed to do it, because a rail journey of any length plus an overnight stay usually means no writing in the days on either side. But I was committed, so I went; and I went earlier than I needed to, because I would have just kicked around uselessly at home else, Iím not generally good at fruitfully using the odd couple of hours here and there.
So: three hours down to Lincoln, and a couple of hours to kill at that end before I meet up with the Squaddies. Obviously, the sensible traveller in an unfamiliar and pretty city spends this time looking round. Chaz spends this time finding a bookshop with a coffee franchise, annexing a corner table and writing a thousand words.
Then Iím heading off to meet Margaret Murphy off her train, and bump into Ann Cleeves in the street on the way; and we go to the venue to find John Baker waiting for us, and we have a really good evening. My favourite kind of gig: a panel discussion between the four of us, with Margaret chairing; quick readings; questions from the audience, and then selling and signing books.
And so to restaurant, to drink, to bed, flushed with the knowledge of a good day done; and I woke this morning knowing that if I didnít sprint to the station before 9am, I couldnít leave before midday. So I didnít try. A leisurely breakfast with Margaret, a wander up the hill - the exceedingly steep hill, helpfully called ĎSteep Hillí - to the cathedral (where Iím rather shocked by their practice of soliciting donations just inside the door and then charging an entrance fee once you reach the aisle, but hey, let it pass...), a happy chat with one of those elderly women who know their cathedrals from the bones out, a quick shop in a cat shop (ĎOmniPussí - believe it!) for a friendís birthday bash tonight - and I didnít even go into any of the second-hand bookshops (should that be second-hand-book shops, I wonder?), just straight back to the coffee franchise in Ottakarís to write another 500 words before my train. Virtue, my name is me.
Posted by Chaz at 06:01 PM GMT [Link]
Tuesday, May 11, 2004
From the Dept of Conspiracy Theories: I went to the theatre last night (okay, a divagation, from the Dept of Contrasts: I went to the theatre on Friday night, to see the Dance Theatre of Harlem - who I always think of as the National Dance Theatre of Harlem, which is just a mindslip, but actually it feels kind of fitting - and they were marvellous, magical, an extraordinary evening; and then last night it was Footloose, a musical version of the movie with Kevin Bacon, and - well, not marvellous, not magical, not at all extraordinary. A song íní dance show about a town where youíre not allowed to sing and dance - they could have had so much fun with that, but I think they failed to spot the irony. Certainly I failed to spot any use of irony. Mílearned friend went home at half time; I stuck it out. Not exactly grimly - hey, itís still a musical, young people strutting their stuff for my entertainment, there are compensations - but stoically for sure) and I came home and unlocked my door to find that only one of the locks was actually locked. Which is weird, peculiar, because it is my absolute habit to lock them both. And I shrug, and come upstairs, and find that a favourite picture has fallen off the wall in my office, where itís been hanging for the last eight years. Much broken glass and mess. And okay, this is just coincidence, you need a third element to say itís enemy action - but oh, the temptation, the vision of the govt agents picking my locks, sneaking up here by torchlight, going to plant a bug behind the picture and knocking it off the wall, no time to fix anything, just get the hell out of there and forget to work the bottom lock as they go... Itís so easy. This is how paranoia begins. When I was a young man, half my radical friends were convinced their phones were bugged, Ďcos they got all these clicks and buzzes on the line, and hey, they belonged to CND, yíknow...? Even then, I tended to put it down to cheap phones and bad connections, but it must be such fun to be a believer, to see causal links where I only see casual happenstance. At least I get to do it professionally, though; this is how a novelist works, building connections between ideas and events and emotions, constructing a textual web. Conspiracy Theories íRí Us, really.
Posted by Chaz at 10:36 AM GMT [Link]
Sunday, May 9, 2004
I keep having conversations that reveal the most unexpected people reading this (you know who you are) - but a lot of them apparently read it for the recipes, and Iím getting complaints. Not enough food, people are telling me. It used to be recipe-rich, but no longer; how can you talk about scallops Mornay, they say, and not give a recipe?
Well, theyíre right, of course, itís shameful. Thing is, though, Iíve been working so hard this year, I havenít been anywhere near as experimental in the kitchen as I sometimes am; Iíve largely been falling back on staples, making big pots of chilli and curries and such. And when I have cooked something new, itís generally been from someone elseís recipe, and there are issues of honour as well as of copyright that prevent my reproducing those. I will seek to restore food to its proper position, as a major theme of this weblog, I promise - but not yet. Give me a month.
Itís true, I may just possibly be within a month of finishing the novel, if I can keep going at the present rate. That is, perhaps, unlikely; consistency was never my strong point (and the deadline is the end of this month, and I never never meet deadlines, so...). At the moment, though, Iím hammering along. And having fun with it, which is terrific and unexpected. Usually by this stage Iíve lost all confidence and all pleasure in a book, and itís just a blind charge to the end; this one, Iím disturbingly content. Partly I think thatís because my agentís already seen the first half and approved it; itís unusual to have that kind of mid-term test, but special circumstances - an interested UK publisher - made it a good idea this time. In fact the publisher decided not to read it till itís finished, but hey, I still got the benefit of an intermediate thumbs-up. Which does help, seemingly.
So yeah, thirty-five pages so far this month, though none today; Iím having an official day off. Apart from reasons else, my hands are really hurting; RSI run rampant, despite a divided keyboard. Hasnít been this bad for years, but then I havenít worked this hard for years either; a hundred and ten, hundred and twenty thousand words this year, something on that order. And of course one types far more than one keeps. I donít really think one dayís rest will make much difference - and I am, I observe, typing this - but one might as well make the gesture. Besides, though, as I say, there are other reasons. Went to my friend Pegís housewarming last night, so I was late astir this morning, barely had time to run into town for some yellow bean sauce before the Spanish Grand Prix. Iíve said in these pages before, I am the worldís most unlikely Formula One fan, being a car-hating pedestrian and all, but oh, I do love Ferrari. I am of the tifosi, me. And we got a one-two today, which is just exactly perfect. And now Iím going to spend the evening watching movies and cooking. Fillet of pork, slathered in yellow bean sauce and hoi sin sauce and soy sauces and garlic and such, roasted ever so slightly pink, and eaten with noodles and soup. You donít really need more of a recipe than that, do you...?
Posted by Chaz at 10:11 PM GMT [Link]
Saturday, May 1, 2004
The trouble with having a bee-loud glade (well, all right, a narrow but south-facing back yard painted white and full of lavender) is that on a sunny day, if you leave the back door open as I like to do, what you get as well is a bee-loud house, and all the fun of trying to snare bumbles with a glass. In a house with a lot of stairs and some very, very high ceilings. Sigh...
Posted by Chaz at 04:06 PM GMT [Link]
© Chaz Brenchley 2002/2006
Reproduced here by permission of Chaz Brenchley, who asserts his moral right to be identified as the author of this work.