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Archive for June, 2007

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The English Summer (again)

Saturday, June 30th, 2007

Raindrop on Window

In Germany we have a saying: “You look like seven days of rain” (i.e. miserable).

Seven days?

In England, we had a month of rain, and it looks as if there’s going to be another to follow.

And I suppose I have to be grateful that we don’t live in Yorkshire, which is flooded 🙁

Weather Cock


Wednesday, June 20th, 2007

Busy with other projects.

We spent a magical weekend in the countryside, but more of that later.

Lonesome Bench

Alone on the Road?

Thursday, June 14th, 2007

Looks like we’re not going to Japan together. But I could go on my own. The question is: do I want to?

The answer is (perhaps surprisingly) no.

As is the case with every conference and convention that I’ve attended so far, Nippon 2007 will be held in some convention centre surrounded by posh hotels miles away from the city centre. If I stay in my chosen budget accommodation, getting to the centre will involve at least two train rides and I have to play the party-pooper in order to catch the last train home.

That’s off-putting. I know what I’m talking about, because it was like that in Glasgow (there, as in Yokohama, public transport was so involved that I ended up trekking to the convention centre in my dress shoes—my feet still ache at the memory).

But that’s not all.

If you want to experience more on your travels than the average tour-party member, loneliness comes with the territory. But that doesn’t mean that it can’t turn on you and bite you on the arse. This is why I now shy away from prolonged solo trips.

However, there are different flavours of loneliness. There is that quality feeling you get if you’re riding on the roof of a train with your rucksack as your pillow and the stars overhead, or when you exchange some sweets and a smile because you would really like to talk to each other but neither of you knows the words. And then there is the kind of loneliness that you get in a big city, when you can overhear everybody’s conversations but nobody wants to talk to you. Or—multiply that by ten—everybody else is having a great time and just assumes that you do, too. “See ya!” they say with a wave and turn around to talk to their mates. That the kind of loneliness you get when you attend a festival or a convention on your own.

No thanks, I can be lonely at home, free of charge. And in the meantime I can get on with some work.

Being home alone isn’t a bad thing.

P.S. Bollocks to that! I’ve just booked myself into the Hotel Senai opposite the youth hostel and within walking distance from the con. My hubby said that if he isn’t coming, I don’t need to rough it and I should stay somewhere nice.

I’m still in two minds about travelling anywhere else in Japan afterwards. I may not bother. But going to Worldcon is important to me, I want the first draft of ‘The Centuries Summer’ finished by then and seriously shop around for an agent or publisher. I’m attending this con as a writer—that is why I have to go.

The End of an Era

Saturday, June 9th, 2007

By late afternoon, the sky was lead grey, but the threatened downpour didn’t happen. And even if it did, would I stay at home?

For twenty-two years, the peacewomen have camped by the side of the Friendly Neighbourhood Atomic Weapons bomb factory almost every month; come rain or shine, in freezing temperatures, howling winds and chilling damp. And in the two-and-a-half years that I have been living in the neighbourhood, I did not once go to join them, or even visit.

Why not? Because it was inconvenient.

And yet, I have been invited to the party. We all have. Tonight, the Aldermaston Women’s Peace Campaig(-n) would celebrate its twenty-second birthday in style: a cocktail party with music late into the night and a dress-code of ‘fabulous’.

So, I dug out my mother’s vintage cocktail dress (which fits, because the rubber band broke long ago, so the skirt has to be tied under the loose-fitting top) and set off, equiped with a bottle of sparkling Chardonnay, a punnet of local strawberries, a big bag of tortilla chips and some kick-ass home-made guacamole.

22 Years of Peace Camp at AWE Aldermaston--
(Artfully blurred)
Me in front of our Friendly Neighbourhood Atomic Weapons Establishment

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Party Invite!

Friday, June 8th, 2007

I’ve been invited to a Cocktail Party (9th June), and you can all come too, if you’re female.

The Women’s Peace Camp(aign) at our Friendly Neighbourhood Atomic Weapon’s Establishment is 22 years old. What better occasion to celebrate the introduction of new byelaws which are designed to protect the MOD from peacewomen (LoL).

Contrary to what most of you may think, I don’t often get invited to parties, much less to ones where the dress code is ‘fabulous’. With that being the case, and with the British weather being what it is, I’m now too fat to fit into any of my fabulous cocktail dresses.

Well, I’ll just have to improvise.

Tonight we’re going to the pub to sink a few pints with some people who work inside the base. It’s kind of strange to live in a village like this. The police are taking pictures of everyone who participates in the demos, and I’m curious of what they’d make of ‘suspected terrorist’ peace-campaigners hob-nobbing with nuclear weapons engineers…

Traditional Sülze

Wednesday, June 6th, 2007

I promised a few summertime cook-out recipes, but as I see, my old blog entry from way back already describes the procedure.

A bit of background:

Head-to-tail eating has become trendy lately, but I’ve grown up with it.

I mean that literally—both parts of said anatomy made regular appearances on my dinner plate.

Back in the Sixties and early Seventies, people were not as removed from their food as they are now. (Disgracefully, this is even true of some chefs, such as Leslie Waters who gushes in the current issue of the Good Food Magazine (June 2007): : ‘Offal—I hate it, too much information for me. I’m not into all that, nor stuff like pig’s trotters.’. Mmmh…)

Back then, it was quite common to raise pigs on smallholdings (even the nuns at my boarding school did this). My elder sister’s best friend came from a farm, and her parents raised their own pigs and cured and smoked their own bacon. One year, we decided to share a pig with them (we acquired a big chest freezer, taking up almost an entire wall of the cellar entrance, for the occasion).

I remember watching black pudding and sausages being made. And while my sister’s friend’s parents went on to brine the legs and belly for ham and speck, my mother surprised me by making her own Sülze, or headcheese (unlike brawn—which is set with only a tiny amount of stock, much like a low-fat version of rillette—Sülze is jelly-like, with cubes of meat and garnish set in a clear stock).

Making Traditional Sülze
I’ve just send this to various Flickr food groups, including Mosaic Cooking (which I would have founded if it didn’t exist already). Let the backlash begin…

Along with other off-cuts and innards (the term ‘offal’ reminds me too much of the German word ‘Abfall’—yuck), pig’s heads and trotters are still for sale at some traditional butchers (they may have to be ordered in advance) and at the Greenfield Pork stall at Basingstoke Farmers’ Market, where I saw it for the first time two years ago. And remembering my mother’s cooking during my childhood, I took up the challenge yet again.

Summertime Cook-out

Monday, June 4th, 2007

I haven’t been around much lately, but that’s because nothing much of interest has been happening. Except for the odd weekend, travel is pretty much over with until we’re going to Japan for Nippon 2007.

That’s even though flights to Central Europe are so cheap that some of them are free.

Why? I hear you cry.

Because getting to either Stansted or Luton from Tadley is an expedition in its own right, and would cost about as much as a week’s package holiday in Ibiza.

And because, in the Summer, England is one of the best countries to be in. I have no particular desire to go anywhere for the time being.

And finally, because at long last I’m working on that novel. I hardly dare mention it, in case I’ll dry up again, but it’s kept me on my toes for the past month and that’s what I’m doing whenever I’m not procrastinating (the technical term for that is ‘cat-vacuuming’, but the neighbours’ cats have been avoiding me recently).

Well, today is one of those days, because today I’m having a cook-out.

With my hubby working late and weekends otherwise engaged, we haven’t had any fresh ingredients in the house for about two weeks. Only when I threatened to serve up spaghetti hoops on toast from the Co-op across the road, did hubby agree to take me shopping on Sunday.

It was the occasion of the bi-monthly Basingstoke Farmers’ Market. —That’s living in the sticks for you: what should be a twice-weekly occurrence for people to buy seasonal and local produce has still not quite penetrated to these parts, but I’m keeping my fingers crossed.

Basingstoke Farmers' Market

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