Monday, 29 October 2007

Cafe culture.

Arg. Someone very earnestly taught me how to mop the floor today. I couldn't quite believe it. And then told me I'd done very well for my first day. Oh how dull. Meh. I hope I can work busy shifts, or I'm going to go spare. It's money and it's near home. Hopefully the dullness will spur me into getting a real job. I don't think I actually said I got the job, but clearly I did. It was funny today - at least two people walked in asking for work to be told 'the position has been filled' (a line which always makes me think of a snooty lady telling a dog that...way to tell if you watched Mary Poppins too many times as a child). It made me suspect I should be a little more grateful for the job.

I only had a few 'I'm WAY more qualified than this' moments. I did already know that the manager has a psychology degree, though I don't know from where or anything more about him. I suspect he's almost exactly my age, though looking at him I'd say younger. The owner is German and about 50 and cool, and everyone else is a teenage girl or a foreign girl, but nice enough for all that.

Other than that, the weekend had a lot of housewarmings in it. The first one, for John and Fish, was more than a little debauched, and I tried to get hammered, which I've been needing to do for AGES. Didn't succeed, really, though I did have a lot of really strange things to drink and an enduring hangover. It was just one of those long and slightly high nights instead of one of those reckless crazy ones that I wanted it to be. Good fun though. It was a night involving semi-nudity AND cheesecake. What more could be required?

I've got Wednesday off. Sadly I have nothing to do in it other than try and find some jobs to apply for. And then I have Saturday, when I'm watching James and the Giant Peach in Cambridge and pondering trying to get myself some Cam producing work.

Shifts worked: 1
Number of teachers served coffee to personally: 0 (though Mr McGuinness was in today, but he didn't recognise me)
Job interview to rejection ratio: 1:4

I'm missing people - if you suspect I mean you, I do. No more than that, but I thought you'd want to know. xxx

Tuesday, 23 October 2007


Colin 1
Originally uploaded by hazelsheard
This is (a bad photo of) Colin. He's Azrael, Boris and the snails' newest friend. I wanted to call him Simon, because he has amazing whiskers and is equally difficult to find, but Colin fitted better with my naming scheme (guess my naming scheme). He's decided the back of the filter's a good home, and has gone black because that's a good colour to be on the filter. He can CHANGE COLOUR though. Yay. He's one of these, specifically Ancistrus spinosus or a bristle or bush nosed ancistrus. Mostly, he's awesome. There's a picture of an albino version on wikipedia.

My birthday was lovely, though a little stressful what with one thing and another, and being ill. Thanks for all the good wishes though! I had curry on Brick Lane, and went to the theatre. Was nice.

I had second birthday in Cambridge on Sunday night - sang in Robinson and then went for dinner in Pizza Express. Robinson Choir is now HUGE - it's expanded way beyond anyone's wildest dreams of last year. Granted it's got a lot of non-Binsonites in it, but it's THIRTY odd strong, and just sounding great. We went expecting to be singing stuff in two parts that bored us stupid, but we sang Rachmaninov (Bogoroditsye Dyevo, or Hail Mary to you and me), and Locus Iste (by Bruckner). AND all the graduation hymns. It was fantastic. Came out on a complete high, augmented by the new organ scholar saying nice things after the service. He's someone drafted in from Sidney because we didn't have one. He's a composition student, and is clearly very musical and has a great rapport with the choir, but his conducting's a bit crap. That, though, he can learn. All in all, things look great for them this year, and I definitely intend to be singing up there plenty.

I came home to a heap of job rejections. Pleasant. Meh. Ah well. Hanna and I had a good bitch about job stuff at the weekend. Today I went into Cafe Roma and handed them a CV. Advantages to working there: I can fall out of bed and into work. Disadvantages: Chance of serving a former teacher = pretty damn high. Bah. I really had better get that job. I'm likely to feel myself utterly and completely without hope or point if I don't. Will mean that I don't have to feel so desperate for a job though.

Tuesday, 16 October 2007

It's my birthday tomorrow.

Well. If there are any lingering veggies and I didn't scare them off with the previous meaty offering, the following is something loosely adapted from a Delia recipe, which I decided was infinitely more like chilli than any pasta sauce I'd ever seen.

Easy Pepper Chilli

(I do per person, because I'm all on my own these days. Test those basic maths skills...)
1 red pepper, de-seeded and cut into 5mm strips
2 smallish cloves of garlic, finely sliced
1 quite large tomato, roughly chopped
0.5-1 tsp cumin seeds (I like cumin - go for half if you're not me, you can always add a bit more!)
Dried chilli flakes or chilli powder to taste. Again, start with a few and add more.
1 tsp tomato puree
10ml or so of olive oil. Enough to fry things in to start with.

To serve:
Plain rice, lots of grated cheese (story: I wrote 'greater' instead of 'grated' the first time round...and there's no auto-correct involved, here. There must be something Freudian there.)

  • Heat the cumin seeds in a dry pan until fragrant, then add the oil, pepper, garlic and chilli. Stir it all around to coat, then put a lid on it, put it on the lowest heat possible and go away and do something else for 20 minutes - nipping in now and again to stir it. Don't worry if everything looks a bit dark, this is part of the flavour. Having said that, don't let it ACTUALLY burn - dark brown gooey is fine, black and dry is not. Take it off the heat for a few minutes if you need to.
  • At the end of 20 minutes, the peppers should be pretty soft. This is the point to start cooking rice. Add the chopped tomatoes to the pan and stir it a few times, then add the tomato puree about a tablespoon of boiling water. Put the lid back on and leave it to simmer for about 5 minutes, until the tomato collapses and you have a very thick sauce.
  • Serve, over rice, with cheese over the top to melt, and some black pepper. Garlic bread and salad would be good, too. And some sport to watch and a beer to drink if you're so inclined. Watching other people play with the Wii and drinking cider is probably my choice, but whatever tickles your fancy.

Monday, 15 October 2007

Cheat's Greekish meatballs.

I had a craving when I got in from my mad weekend yesterday evening. I wanted meat, probably because I have a cold and that's the kind of thing my body does when it's ill. The following is based on something I had an actual recipe for once, but I've no idea where it went. Anyway - that one was a bit fiddlier.

Prep time: about 10 minutes
Cooking time: about 40 minutes, but you can leave it alone once you're sure it's at the right temperature.


Per person:
3 good quality sausages
Half an aubergine
1 large or 2 smaller tomatoes
Half a clove of garlic
Olive oil

You will also need a pan, ideally non-stick, big enough to fit all the meatballs in a single layer. Ideally, they should fit quite snugly, but it's not the end of the world if you haven't got a pan EXACTLY the right size. It does need a lid of some sort, even if the lid consists of a piece of foil and a tin plate.

  • Squeeze the sausagemeat out of the sausages. Rather yukky operation. Roll it into rough balls about the size of walnuts. There will probably be about 6. (The original recipe called for a mixture of lamb and possibly pork, with mint, I think - I don't entirely remember, and anyway it was more complicated. This works fine, and you don't have to faff with anything.)
  • Slice the aubergine quite thinly (no thicker than half centimetre pieces) and fry off the slices until they have a little bit of colour on them on both sides. Unless feeling extravagant, don't keep feeding them oil every time they soak up what's in the pan - they will quite happily have a whole bottle. Remove them from the pan when done - if you're making this for more than one person you'll have to do them in batches anyway.
  • While that's happening, slice the tomatoes to a similar thickness, and chop the garlic finely.
  • Oil your selected pan for cooking the meatballs lightly, then cover the bottom with the sliced tomatoes in a single layer, as fully as possible. Sprinkle over the garlic, and then place the balls of sausagemeat on top of the tomatoes and garlic. Put the aubergine slices on the top, overlapping them in scallop fashion to make an attractive lid.
  • Cover tightly with a lid or foil and a plate - the meatballs need to steam. Put the pan on the lowest heat you can manage for about 40 minutes. All the vegetables will release their juices and the meatballs will release their fat, and then that will steam the meat. When it's all evaporated and the tomatoes are forming a sticky dark layer at the bottom, the dish is done. Probably worth testing a meatball with a fork to check that it's changed colour all the way through.
  • Serve with boiled potatoes and a green vegetable - peas, for instance.

Friday, 12 October 2007

Mists and mellow fruitfulness?

Well, maybe fruitful in the very tentative sense that I remembered today that I had £250 of cheques to pay in, and discovered that I had £100 in another account I'd forgotten about. Necessary, that. It's misty in that there is mist. And if you want to metaphorical about it, in the sense that I still have NO CLUE what I'm doing and anything. Not sure about the mellow, really. Of the £250, only about £5 is new money, which I subsequently spent on the new Radiohead album, deciding that a fiver was a sensible price to pay for a recording that they weren't paying the record company for, weren't really publicising, and weren't pressing CDs for. Sal still owes me petrol money from last weekend, but when that's in, I'm going to be back to sinking into the overdraught. Meh. I know I should get some temping, but I know if I do that I'm really not very likely to apply for real jobs, and anyway I frankly don't want to do it. I've done my fair share of shoddy little jobs, and I'm bored of them. I want to get paid to do something I'm actually interested in now. I've done enough working for the money. I appreciate that I'm young and naive and that that's never, in reality, going to happen, but I want to TRY at least. Even if the job's not difficult, I want to be involved in something that I can be vaguely entertained by. I do not want to be responsible for paying other people's bills, serving customers food I don't like and they complain about, or filing exam papers, to name but a few.

I appreciate it's not a position I can keep up for long, but probably another month won't destroy me utterly. Meh. Probably not that long, really. In two weeks time, I will go back to the agencies and get some proper work. No actually genuinely I will. I suppose it might not be agencies - shop work, part-time/shift would do me. In some ways that'd be better, except I'd probably find myself working Saturdays. It also works if I get the job I had the interview for yesterday, actually - that's part-time, so I could keep the two jobs going together in a way that would make one full-time job. Perfect. Yesterday did actually go quite well - I came out on a high, and then recalled I'd not mentioned ANYTHING about PGP, which is one of the biggest parts of my work experience. Dumb. Meh. Anyway. I got on quite well with the two women interviewing me, and I didn't feel it went too badly. It was first round interview, anyway, so if I get a second round one I can make up for that. And if I don't, well, I know what to think about next time around and I'll be better prepared. It's a really very pretty job. I'd really like to do it. It's SUCH a shame it's part-time, but I think that's mostly to do with money on their end. I did mention that the part-time bothered me, but they also said there was potential for it to expand to a full-time job of for me to be able to get some more part-time stuff through their partners. Yay. I should hear how they thought it went sometime today if I'm lucky.

I went to Oxford on Wednesday to see Eleanor. She's in a pretty bad way because her Dad, who is almost exactly one year younger than my Dad, had a stroke 10 days ago. It's a funny type of stroke, in that it was a bleed into the space between two of the membranes between the brain and the skull, rather than a more conventional clot inside the brain tissue itself. I think she almost knows too much for her own good at the moment, as a medical student. She knows what all the consequences are and the likelihoods and so on. I can't work out whether it's helpful to her to be that well prepared or more painful than not knowing. Anyway, she's understandably jumpy, nervous, and unable to concentrate. They've let her postpone the latest set of exams, which is definitely a good thing, but she's flitting between Oxford, the Royal Free Hospital in London, and her home in Knebworth. We went walking somewhere west of Oxford on Wednesday because she needed to get out of town and out of the familiar for a bit. I'm trying to persuade her that she should come and stay with me for a while, too. There's a vague (very vague) possibility that I'll head to Cornwall for a weekend at some stage in the next while and if I do I'll take her with me if I can, for both our sanities. But it was nice out. There was mist and greyness and all sorts, and completely no wind, so I could take pictures like the ones in this post (although not like them, because I've been playing with these...). Lots of cows and labradors and that kind of thing. Then we headed back to her house in the evening for dinner, and then I came back down to St Albans so I could be here in time to faff about what I was going to wear to this interview all of yesterday.

I need to see more London theatre, like shows at some of the places I've been applying. Should really do that. I'm going to see something on my birthday now (more because it's the only day possible than specifically because it's my birthday), and I really ought to organise that Royal Court trip to see The Arsonists that I mentioned on the DVD list. I'm feeling poor and lazy, so haven't done it. Bah. I am in the process of organising a viewing of the Return to the Forbidden Planet DVD that I haven't seen yet. Sadly, this doesn't really count. Bah.

My weekend is filling up - I'm meeting Pete McDonald at the Tate Modern on Saturday afternoon, then watching a film and eating with Melissa on Saturday night at hers and Kate's new flat, and going out with Mel, Kate and Graham on Sunday to do something. Don't think we've worked out what yet. Back here Sunday night to feed the cat. I like having a cat, she's lovely. And pleased to see me when I come in and EVERYTHING. The only downside is cleaning out the litter tray, but I suppose nothing's perfect.

Tuesday, 9 October 2007


Andy and I broke up last week. I haven't blogged about it because I haven't known really what to say. It seemed to have become a bit of a shell, and I was feeling like I made life harder rather than better for him, and that his feelings about me were lukewarm. He tells me now that this wasn't the case, but I didn't feel that at the time. I could probably have gone on living with the frustrations I had for quite a while, but it would have ended up with a more bitter break up than the one we've had. Stuff happened with someone else while I was in Cornwall, and I suddenly realised how many things had been missing from me and Andy for so long.

This all sounds horrendously callous, and all the worst possible reasons for ending things, but I've cried enough in the last 2 weeks, and right now I don't want to go into real details. I've agonised over it, and tried to work out the right ways of doing things and do them as much as possible. I'm not sure I succeeded though. Meh. I really, really hope he and I will stay friends, because I think if we can get past this we'll still have an awful lot to offer each other. I'm massively sorry for what's happened between us. There were amazing bits of our relationship, and it's sad that it's over.

I spent my weekend singing for Salvador's ordination in Portsmouth. Dramatic. Had good fun on Saturday rehearsing the Byrd Mass for 4 Voices and some motets. I ended up singing soprano with Sarah Lambie, which was actually really nice. I had been intending to sing alto, but the girl singing alto was really good and I was more use singing sop. We headed down to London on Saturday night. At 6am on Sunday morning, we discovered our tenor wasn't coming. GRRR. VERY rude of him. So I ended up singing tenor, typically. And we had to cut the Byrd Mass and just do the motets. Very annoying. I got paid to sing though! Yay! And proved to myself that my sightreading isn't as bad as it might be. The place was very weird though - Traditional Anglican Communion. Scary lot of people. I've never been to a mroe formal service, and the last mass I think I went to was a Catholic one in Milan, of all places. There were more clergy than congregation, for a start, and all of the clergy had lace on. And there were TWO bishops, for one ordinand. Madness. Lots of bells and incense - and about 5 small boys to do it. I had fun afterwards baiting the priest in charge. Very odd.

Drove them all back to Cam on Sunday night, and then helped Will catch some fish for his tank from Fish's tank. I eventually stayed in Fish's empty house, because I was KNACKERED by this point. Headed back here yesterday in time to clean the house for my dad.

OOOO - someone's given me a job interview! Not for a job I massively want, though. Well, the job itself is nice enough, but it's part time. Grr. 2.5 days a week isn't enough for me. My dad was looking at the description last night and saying he thought it must be a job share, looking at the duties. Bah. How irritating. Anyway. Whatever I decide, it's my first interview, so it doesn't matter too much.

Monday, 1 October 2007

My literary leanings.

Something I found while I was drifting through the books on a coffee table. In the form I found it in, it was presented just as a paragraph, which gave it an air of simplicity and unpretentiousness which made it nicer I think. No idea what the original format was, and, right now, don't think I want to research it. It's interesting to think that this was written inter-war, though inter-war in America which is a bit different to Europe I guess. Anyway. I've been wanting someone to tell me what to do for a while, and since I ditched religion for anything other than the music and a chance to spar with people, art will have to do. Divide it from philosophy at your peril.


Go placidly amid the noise and haste,
and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible, without surrender, be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others,
even to the dull and ignorant; they too have their story.

Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter,
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.

Keep interested in your own career, however humble;
it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs,
for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
many persons strive for high ideals,
and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself. Especially do not feign affection.
Neither be cynical about love;
for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment
it is as perennial as the grass.
Take kindly the counsel of the years,
gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.

Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself.
You are a child of the universe no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be.
And whatever your labors and aspirations,
in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace with your soul.
With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world.
Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.

Max Ehrman (1927)

The dude does appear to be a one poem wonder, though. It's not really poetry, anyway. There isn't much in the way of artifice of language in there - the thoughts are good though.

It also occurred to me today, completely unrelated to the above, that I don't think I ever told anyone why this blog and indeed the old blog have the titles they do. One person (that I can think of) will know as soon as I say and may well know anyway, and some of the others may do, too. Who knows. Depends how much twentieth century poetry you've all read. Anyway. This is why:

The Thought-Fox

I imagine this midnight moment's forest:
Something else is alive
Beside the clock's loneliness
And this blank page where my fingers move.

Through the window I see no star:
Something more near
Though deeper within darkness
Is entering the loneliness:

Cold, delicately as the dark snow,
A fox's nose touches twig, leaf;
Two eyes serve a movement, that now
And again now, and now, and now

Sets neat prints into the snow
Between trees, and warily a lame
Shadow lags by stump and in hollow
Of a body that is bold to come

Across clearings, an eye,
A widening deepening greenness,
Brilliantly, concentratedly,
Coming about its own business

Till, with a sudden sharp hot stink of fox
It enters the dark hole of the head.
The window is starless still; the clock ticks,
The page is printed.

Ted Hughes (1957)

Ted Hughes's Birthday Letters was one of my earliest collections of poetry, and I adored it absolutely. I think my copy's in Cornwall. When I named my blog, I just remember liking the idea of a page becoming written without the volition of the author, and a blog is a bit like that. A place to dump thoughts and words and pictures which come without conscious composing and which result in entries where when you read back you find you've written something different from what you intended but which is nonetheless more accurate. I also like the threatening, almost violent undertones of the poem - there's a feeling that the thing which controls that writing is sinister, uncivilised, beastly. Hughes had a thing about the underlying nature of man, reaching out to the primal instinct that we share with beasts, and that's visible here, I think. It's not a nice idea, really, but it sums up the way I often feel about my life - that it's beyond the control of conscious will.

I'll have to get my dad to bring that and my Sylvia Plath books up with him when he next comes up with any space to carry such things. I still know chunks of the Ariel poems by heart after a friend introduced them to me when I was 17. They date from my Sarah Kane phase, but have slightly (slightly!) less of the teenage angst about them. Not that I count Kane as less than art myself, but people perceive her that way. (Incidentally, the quotation in my profile is from Kane's play 4.48 Psychosis.) Plath never wanted to write poetry, but did in a sort of manic, unwilling way, which fits so well with the emotions of the Hughes poem I've posted here. Well. I think. Anyway. I could go on forever with poems than mean things to me, but it's really not very interesting to read, so I shall leave you with those two to think about.