Tuesday, May 07, 2013

Forgot the title...

The scene: a dark corridor. A high door in a steel frame, red padded leather. A darker corner beside the door. Stealthy scritching.

“Oh hello. You can’t be?”
“No… Surely not… That was years ago.”
Unobtrusive bounce.
“Really, it can’t be. But you look so familiar: eight legs, round brown body. I mean, how many of you can there be? Besides, I’m sure I recognize that left foreleg.”
Left first front foreleg twitches.
“It’s the music, right? I mean, last time you were in the corner of the loo. Now you’re by the door. Or… Are you here to say goodbye?”
“No, I’m just being silly. I mean, it’s been years, and besides, that one’s very purpose was to terrify me by threatening to run over my toes in the middle of the night.”
“What do you mean, you were only joking? How on earth was I supposed to know it was a joke?”

“It is you. That is so weird. But really, could you stop the Czech laughing? It doesn't really tell me it's funny. It just sounds creepy.”
“You’re right. I’m sorry, that was mean. But it does sound sinister. Really. Maybe it’s the accent on the "a"? Look, I’m sorry about all the hoovering lately. And the mop of death to cobwebs. It’s just, I need my deposit back, you know?”
Scornful bob.
“Oh. Yeah. The music. That is kind of annoying, I know. But the internet’s been cancelled, and I’m left with what’s on this knackered laptop.”
Resentful twitch.
“I agree. I mean, I don’t even understand why it has to be the soundtrack to Glee. I guess it’s fun? And Mercedes’ voice is pretty good.”
“But you’re right, it’s pretty irritating the 6th time around. And the Imogen Heap was making my voice weird.”
Baleful leg waggle.
“So… will you miss me?”
“Um. I’ll miss you? I mean, I’ll miss this flat. It’s been lovely.”
“I mean, I’ll really, really miss this lovely flat. Spiders, weird scritching and all.”
“I guess I’m supposed to be missing the amazing cultural opportunities, the buzz of life in a glamorous Central European city?”
Bob. Bob. Waggle. Bob. Bob.
 “It is beautiful. Absolutely drop dead beautiful. And new location is… well… it means comparisons are pretty painful.”
Scornful twitch.
“And I never really did take advantage of the many cultural opportunities. I mean, I hardly learned any Czech. I never learned to like beer or dumplings, or the finer nuances of Czech wine and Slivovice. I don’t own any interesting antiques, and I haven’t developed a deep knowledge of Czech landscape artists of the 19th century, or Nationalist poetry, or similar. Basically I’m a failure when it comes to living abroad.”
Backleg sproings a filament.
“But I’ll miss it. I’ll miss it so much.”
Sproing. Sproing.
“Odd really, since it was supposed to be such a short stay. Five months… Seven years… I guess I’ve done a lot of growing? That’s good, right? That I took advantage of the growing and learning stuff?”
“You’re right, I could have grown anywhere. But I guess if you have to grow, it’s nice to do it somewhere pretty. There’s something very special about being able to walk somewhere beautiful and brush up against a memory. Good or bad.”
“But really, this move is good generally. Better job, closer to family, old friends, and so on. Nice to be back somewhere where I understand things easily, where things aren’t quite so hard.”
“Just that nothing is ever wholly good or wholly bad. Sometimes you have to give things up. Even really nice things. And it hurts even when it’s the right thing to do.”
“God, I’m going to miss it.”

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

In which some things are typed upon a keyboard. Which is progress.

Interestingly, Google has not forgotten that I exist, although I may have forgotten it exists?

It's all very existential, I'm sure.

In the meantime, and in the spirit of truth, harmony and justice, gently nudging along my blogging muscles*, here's a straightforward extract from Peter Ross' The Curious Cookbook which is a collection of historic recipes with editing and commentary. Because of course, my life can only be improved by knowing how to roast a swan, make cock ale, porpoise with wheat porridge, and that once upon a time a pastry case was called a "coffin".

So without further ado, here, verbatim is "Triumphs and Trophies in Cookery, to be used at Festival Times, as Twelfth-day, &c." by Robert May in "The Accomplish't Cook", 1660. Because clearly this man is a master of the art of party-planning in a way that Ms. Pippa Middleton can only dream of being.

Make the likeness of a ship in paste-board (cardboard), with flags and streamers, the guns belonging to it of kickses (odds and ends), bind them about with packthread, and cover them with close paste proportionable to (modelled in) the fashion of a cannon with carriages, lay them in places convenient as you see them in ships of war, with such holes and trains of (gun)powder that they may all take fire; place your ship firm in the great charger (serving dish); then make a salt round about it, and stick therein egg-shells fill of sweet water.

Then in another charger have the proportion (model) of a stag made of course paste (pastry), with a broad arrow in the side of him, and his body filled up with claret-wine; in another charger at the end of the stag have the proportion of a castle with battlements, portcullises, gates and drawbridges made of paste-board, the guns and kickses, and covered with course paste as the former; place it at a distance from the ship to fire at each other. 
At each side of the charger wherein is the stag, place a pie made of coarse paste, in one of which let there be some live frogs, in each other some live birds; make these pies of coarse paste filled with bran and yellowed over with saffron or the yolks of eggs, gild them over in spots ...being baked, and make a hole in the bottom of your pies, take out the bran, put in your frogs, and birds, and close up the holes with the same coarse paste... Being all placed in order upon the table, before you fire the trains of powder, order it so that some of the ladies may be persuaded to pluck the arrow out of the stag, then will the claret-wine follow, as blood that runneth out of a wound. 
This being done with admiration to the beholders, after some short pause, fire the train of the castle, that the pieces all of one side may go off, the fire the trains, of one side of the ship as in a battle; next turn the chargers and by degrees fire the trains of each other side as before. This done to sweeten the stink of powder, let the ladies take the egg-shells full of sweet waters and throw them at each other. 
All dangers being seemingly over, by this time you may suppose they will desire to see what is in the pies; where lifting first the lid off one pie, out skip some frogs, which make the ladies to skip and shriek; next after the other pie, whence come out the birds, who by a natural instinct flying in the light, will put out the candles; so that what with the flying birds and skipping frogs, the one above, the other beneath, will cause much delight and pleasure to the whole company.
Now that, Ladies & Gents, is a party.

Saturday, January 28, 2012


The scene: An English-language bookshop, somewhere in Prague.

The players:
The bookshop salesperson, earnestly pretty
A well-spoken customer, elegantly dressed

A new customer enters. She appears to be constructed entirely from wool.

Salesperson: Hello, can I help you?
Woolly customer: No, no thanks. Just looking.

Removes enormous fuzzy hat and begins to unwind two layers of scarves. A nose emerges.

Salesperson: Ok, just let me know if you need some help.
Woolly customer: Yes, thanks.

Leans casually against a bookcase in an effort to push her right arm towards her coat buttons. Attempts to look nonchalant.

Well-spoken customer: So anyhow, I was saying to P. that next time I came we simply had to review this. It's quite extraordinary, and so very moving.
Salesperson: Yes, of course.
Well-spoken customer: But of course, I really should have come on Friday not on the Saturday, so I'm very sorry about that.
Salesperson: Really, it's no trouble at all.
Well-spoken customer: Well thank you, dear. And heavens isn't it cold? We've had eleven metres in Bucharest, if you can believe it, and it's been minus 16.

Meanwhile, the woolly customer catches sight of her hair in the glass and discovers that the removal of her hat has back-combed random sections of hair into three poorly-executed fuzzy quiffs.

Tries to smooth hair down. Removes gloves. Tries to smooth hair down again. Realizes she has a choice between looking mad because of mad hair, or looking mad because of her attempts to de-madden her mad hair. Decides to remove all her outer layers and leave her hat on.

Pauses in satisfaction at clever resolution of seeming insoluble dilemma.

Salesperson: It's been very cold in Slovakia too. Minus twenty or twenty-one I think.
Well-spoken customer: Heavens, that's terrible. It's supposed to be moving here too.
Salesperson: Yes, it's already getting quite cold.
Well-spoken customer: And later, moving towards England.
Salesperson: Next month I hear.

Woolly-hatted customer worries that the wearing of a solo outdoor hat indoors might appear vaguely trendy and hipster-esque. Wonders if the armload of woolens is sufficient to counter this impression. Remembers that anyhow she is now closer to the mad cat lady age anyhow. Wonders if she should get a cat.

Well-spoken customer: Anyhow, dear, I really must be off now. Thank you again very much for your help.
Salesperson: It's not trouble at all, thank you. Here are your things.
Well-spoken customer: Goodbye dear.
Salesperson: Goodbye.

Well-spoken customer leaves in a blast of cold air. Woolly-hatted customer wanders over to the cookbooks and thinks about stew. Somewhere, an espresso machine grinds on.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Sweeping up

So, now that we have that dreaded catch-up question post out of the way, what else is new?

Well, there’s all the various scandals, storms and tempests that have been going on in the corners of blogland that I used to frequent, and occasionally lurk in. Here is a totally scientific and accurate statistical assessment.

1. 1,394 internet squabbles over who has the right to review books.

2. 2,587.6 arguments about the fairness of “mean” reviews, and whether the only criticism permitted should be constructive, helpful, and gently eased by the presence of fluffy chubby cupids and rainbow unicorns.

3. 982.92 monologues about why Bad Reviews Are Good For You and should be swallowed by authors, preferably whole and before breakfast, rather like castor oil.

4. 1,187.3 monologues about why Bad Reviews Are Not Your Business If You Are An Author. If Bad Reviews did not exist, tender, delicate and easily-led readers would otherwise fall for the seductive wiles of Harriet Klausner & co. These fiendish producers of uniformly sunshiny reviews have but one foul aim. They are trying to convince Poor Innocent Readers that Every Book in the World is Brilliant, Wonderful and Amazing.

This is of course, all part of a plot to ensure that Poor Innocent Readers lose significant chunks of their lives lurching from one ill-penned book to the next, constantly lured on by yet another review promising, “The greatest Secret Virgin Doctor Billionaire’s Sheikh’s Secretary’s Love Child in the Magically-Endowed Camper Van novel to ever exist, both now and in the hereafter.” The sunshiny review producers are doing this because

a) they lack critical faculties

b) they aren't actually reading the books they review

c) they are in it for the free books, even if they are crap

d) they are succumbing to the dominating cultural norms inculcated by the patriarchy that women must always be kind, sweet and nice and never say anything nasty to anyone.

e) they are a bit odd

f) all of the above

5. Some stuff that I mainly skimmed about why ebooks rule. See 2 posts below for the why of the skimming. Anyhow, death to paper. Death to paper publishers. Death to the old model of publishing. Oh, but it must be CHEAPER. Blabla long tail, blabla wisdom of crowds. And stuff.

6. A frustrating number of competitions, largely useless to me as I live outside shipping distances. That said, I tend to regard said competitions with a largely unbothered eye, since I don’t particularly worry if the book I’m reading carries the signature of the author (unless maybe the author is Eric Hobsbawm). The frustrating part is more the way the frenzied posts clutter up the more entertaining blogs.

7. Breath by breathless tweeting and live-blogging from assorted conferences and whatnot. Again, geography.

8. 35,843 arguments about what constitutes either acceptable romance, or acceptable tools of romance marketing. They kind of blur after a while, presumably due to shock value.

9. Some people who write blogs now have published, or will be publishing books (paper or otherwise). Good on them. More importantly, does this mean they are allowed to blog any more? Or only on certain posts? Discuss, or just pull it out as an ad hominem argument in the middle of any of the kerfuffles of your choice.

10. The thrills and excitement about a hot new YA author making the rounds and everyone writing about how they are so much MORE than just YA, and why YA is the bestest ever and we should not be ashamed to read YA because really it’s better than some of the other things that are published. It probably is, but I don’t see how this becomes a moral question.

11. Jean M. Auel has published a new Clan of the Cave Bear Book. Suppressing my suspicion that we have another Virginia Andrews on our hands, I am compelled to cry out with unmitigated prehistoric pleasure. Long Live Ayla, the Mother of All, the Creator of Everything, the Inventor of the Bra! She who will invent the internet and dining-table centerpieces of ochre-glazed pinecones! After she tames the dinosaurs and turns them into ostriches! Long Live Dongelar! Long Live his most significant asset! Long live the improbably-named cave lion, Baby!

12. Fan Fiction. Le Scandal. Le Kerfuffle. Le Distress. Les up-mixeds wacky relationships that ruin your reading of the original text forEVAH. Never more can I read the Big Book of Dinosaurs. I am forever plagued by the memory of that disturbing piece of fanfic involving the pachycephalosaurus and the procompsognathus. And the velociraptors. Oh the humanity.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Enter, pursued by a bear

Once upon a time there was an evil auntie who had a blog. First, she was a fake auntie, then a real auntie, but always there was the blog.

Sadly, the evil auntie had a job, and as the years progressed the job sucked up more time and energy. And so the blog withered and dwindled.

However, it had not been wholly forgotten by the evil auntie, who would occasionally drop by to see if it had been infested by spambots, or turn around post ideas in her mind. But the actual writing of the actual post, well, that was always going to be trickier.

However, as is the wont of evil aunties everywhere, this evil auntie was somewhat bloody-minded and couldn’t quite give up the idea of the blog. And so she eventually returned. And thus, the most evil entry to date came about. The dreaded, fearsome and horrific catch up question post.

1. Where have you been?

A. Busy. Stuff. Slow internet. Work. More work.

2. But geographically, where have you been?

A. Prague. Still Prague, more Prague. Some holidays.

3. Gosh, you must be older now.

A. Yes.

4. And that monkey? You know, the one that, er…

A. Monkey? What monkey?

5. Umm… that monkey? You know, the one that got bored with writing Shakespeare sonnets, and… er…

A. …awkward pause… I think you may be confusing me with someone else.

6. Yes, yes of course. No monkey. So Prague? Still? Wow, you must really like it? Job going well, that sort of thing?

A. There has been that world economic crisis.

7. Ah, yes. Haha. So, um… what have you been reading?

A. Cookbooks.

8. Oh, FF’s sake. Now you’re really being bloody-minded.

A. I’m interviewing myself in a virtual vacuum, and vaguely annoyed by the fact that I felt the need to euphemize my language. Of course I’m bloody-minded.

Next time: the dreaded what-have-I-missed post.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

The story of last month (mostly)

Look! Ebook
Look! Ebook
Ebook! look!

This nice e-book!
This nice e-book!
I cannot read
This nice e-book!

Do you like,
E-ink displays?

I do not like this,
Ebook haze!
I do not like
This ebook maze!

Would you like it

I would not like it
I’ve said this to you,
Are you deaf?
I do not like
This ebook maze
Although I like
E-ink displays.

You can buy A
or PM.
Would you like it

I cannot shop A
And PM
I do not like this
I do not want it
I’ve said this to you
Are you deaf?
I do not like this ebook maze
Despite their nice e-ink displays.

Please download our
Free software.
A table here lets
You compare.

No free software.
No questionnaire.
A or P M
I do not want it PDF
I said before, are you quite deaf?
I do not like this ebook maze
Despite their nice e-ink displays.

Would you? Could you?
On a MAC?
Encrypted files,
Ever hack?

I would not
Could not,
On a MAC.

You must find your
Then plug in the

I cannot find my USB!
Nor anywhere my PID!

I clicked the link for free software
But these devices cannot share.
Why can’t it read acsm?
Sod this bloody DRM.
I’ve lost all these old PDFs
Why did I change IP address?
I’m lost inside an ebook maze
Seduced by nice e-ink displays.

A Palm! A Palm!
A Palm! A Palm!
Could you, would you,
On a Palm?

Not on a Palm! I cannot see!
Not on a MAC! No! Not for me!

I downloaded the new firmware
No memory! None left to spare!
I like to read things now and then -
Reboot connection, yet again.
The plastic case does not impress -
I click and wait for its refresh.
I fear how fast my temper frays,
Sharp shocks can harm e-ink displays.

In this shop!
Here in this shop!
Would you, could you, in this shop?

I would not, could not,
In this shop.

Would you, could you,

I can not, CAN not Amazon!
Geography bars tech’s new dawn.
Interest here may start to dwindle
In the distant light of Kindle.
Not in this state. Not with this card.
Two years to wait. Why is this hard?
E-hopes have turned to e-dismay
Dust forms on my e-ink display.

You do not like
This nice ebook?

I do not
Want this
Ebook pain.

Could you, would you
Join th’e-club?

I would not
Could not
Join your club.

Why not try out
With ePub?

I will not, still not, join th’e-club
I want to read books in the tub.
My favourite books I pass along
In ebook world, this would be wrong.
I’m geographically constrained
The books I want, I can’t obtain.
I do not want to tweak software
Converting files makes me despair.
I do not have a shiny MAC
Encrypted files, refuse to hack.
I do not like this ebook maze
No love left for e-ink displays.

I do not like
This strain.

I will no longer
Take a look.

You do not like them
So you say
Read here! Click there!
And you may.
Click here and you may, I say.

If you will let me be
Once more I’ll try
You will see.





The download worked. Take a look!
I’ve found and filed my first ebook!
And I can read it in my bed
And it can bookmark what I’ve read.

And I can read it on the train
And in the dark, but not the rain.
And I can buy, A or PM
Although I still hate DRM.

So I will read it in my flat
And I must stick to this format
And I must read on my PC
Until I find my PID
And I still hope one of these days
Won’t just admire e-ink displays

At last I've read
My nice e-book!
I should’ve took.

(with apologies to Dr. Seuss)

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Strangely wistful

"Hello, Evil Auntie Peril. This is AYSAVMCL speaking."
"Hello, Attractive-yet-shy-and-very-married-Czech-landlord. Why are you calling apart from a strangely unsettling attempt to freak me out by introducing what seems to be a chick-lit-like element to my unsuspecting blog?"
"I do not understand."
"Oh yes, I forgot that you are very literal, which leads to some very awkward silences if I don't concentrate on the meaning of the actual words I am saying."
"Maybe it is bad connection?"
"No, it's okay, AYSAVMCL. How can I help you?"
"I am outside your flat. Can I please enter to read gas meter?"
"Sure, no problem."
"I will only go just inside to look at gas meter."
"Yes, that's fine."
"I need to check it today, but I will only look at gas meter."
"That's okay."
"So I will go now into your flat, and just look at gas meter in toilet."
"Of cou-- No. Wait!"
"I am entering your flat now."
"No! AYSAVMCL! Stop!"
"I am sorry, I could not hear what you have said because of noise of the key."
"AYSAVMCL! I forgot to say! There is a spider!"
"I don't understand."
"There is a spider in the toilet! You must be careful!"
"It is okay. I will only check gas meter."
"No. You don't understand! A big spider!"
"Yes, yes. This is fine. I am checking gas meter no-- arrrrgggghhhh!!!"
Crunch. Crunch. Sinister laughter.

...or, in a Clue: The Movie-style alternate ending:

"Yes, yes. This is fine. I am checking gas meter now."
Crunch. Crunch. Rustle.
"The number is 6945833002. This is very good. Thank you for respecting my request about control of the thermostat in colder weather. I have killed the spider for you. Goodbye."