My father used to make fun of folk singers:
“They put on their stinking woolly jumpers and stick their fingers in their ears. They spend their time in pubs drinking warm beer and picking the fleas out of their overgrown beards. No-one likes them.” He would then do one of his impersonations. It often made me laugh, if only just to see Dad making a fool of himself in front of our relatives.
Now I really wished I had a phone with me. I’d have filmed the performance of this lone singer and shown it to my father. This was far too profound to be made fun of. This was powerful and moving. This was not any sort of modern day middle class old fogey in a pub pretending he could sing. This was real. As he came to the end of another verse, I was completely taken in. Then as everyone around joined in his roaring jolly chorus, I thought His Lordship was going to scream. The chorus was loud. Its force shook the frame of the carriage. It punched my ribs. Now with his hands over his ears His Lordship began to shout directly at me:
“They sing of joy and gladness as though it is their right. They will get to the city and find nothing but misery.” The singing stopped. His Lordship placed his hands back down on his lap and continued in a quieter voice:
“The city teems with lost souls, displaced from their land and left to beg on the streets. There is plenty of work here but it is harsh work in dreadful stinking conditions. Families will be broken apart in their quest to find employment and lodging. Gangs of cruel men haunt the public places offering them work but it is little more than slavery. Men may speak their fine words about the rights and wrongs of sending slaves to the new world, but no-one bears witness to our own cruel practices. All generations work all day and night for nothing bar a roof over their heads and a morsel of bread.” He paused to wipe his foaming mouth. “Some will take the king’s shilling and sail with the navy. They are tricked or tempted into it. They may think that life at sea is exciting and full of adventure but they will find nothing but cruelty, starvation, disease and death.”
He closed his eyes briefly and took a long swig from his flask. I caught the whiff of its contents as he put it back into his pocket. The hard serious stare returned:
Here are the tools of the trade:
I can’t give this a specific title as it doesn’t follow any specific national cuisine. Is this what we call fusion cooking? Perhaps confusion cooking? Somewhere way out east obviously.
It’s inspired by the discovery of miso paste and late drunken nights gorging at Reggie’s Chinese restaurant in Wallasey; Rake Lane just down from Stanley’s Cask.
The amounts are a bit more specific to get a nice blend of hot, sour and sweet.
12oz rump sliced in strips across the grain
small sliced onion
1 medium green pepper sliced in strips
thumb of ginger coarsely sliced
2 cloves of garlic chopped
tbs miso paste
2 tbs tomato puree
juice of one lime
2 tbs sesame oil
2tbs wine vinegar
tbs light soya sauce
2tbs sesame seeds
tsp ground black pepper
Stir into a bowl, cover and leave for an hour. This will give you time to dust down the wok or fret about the lack of fresh vegetables. (Have a starter or a side-dish of fresh salad. You will never EVER find me using the word “side”. The American succinct is evil and should be avoided 24/7. Oh no, it may have me already!)
Heat a big pan, add 2tbs of tasteless oil and stir fry for three to four minutes on a high heat.
Turn the heat down, cover and simmer for about 15 minutes or until the meat is tender. Test for seasoning. It might need a little salt. The miso and soya sauce was enough for me.
If you want to be really poncey, use a wok and chopsticks.
Serve with plain rice. It should serve two but if you’re like me, ditch the rice and eat it all yourself. It also works very well with sliced field mushrooms instead of the meat.
Thank-you for reading.
Now that’s a snappy funky title isn’t it? Enough to make you swallow your mouthful of morning muffin the wrong way?
That brief moment of blind panic; the realisation that in half a second you will be choking uncontrollably in the heightened prestissimo of a frantic tarantella. In a desperate attempt at discretion and control your arms will flail as try not to launch the hybrid semi solid mess of partly masticated cake and frothing saliva at the beautiful pair of hipsters on the next table.
You know, the ones you smiled at as you sat down with your Sunday paper, assuming some level of equality with people fifteen years your junior.
Well of course it didn’t. A Sunday morning coffee and cake can be a delight. And what are you doing switching on your phone to read this when you have a newspaper in front of you? Mind you, if you were to look around at the clientele of your chosen establishment you’d see plenty of noses buried in phones. But that’s the way it is these days. Is it just these days? I’m old enough to remember commuting on a train being confronted with the expanse of a daily broadsheet. It was so tempting to ask someone not to change page as I was still reading the headline story.
This is the danger of time on my hands. Today is Sunday. It’s already mapped out for me. I woke up late with a tune buzzing round my head. I think buzzing may be rather inappropriate for the subject of the song. Floating would be better. Either way it set me up for a creative slow burn of bloggery. I’m not expecting much to happen today. A parcel is due and I don’t want to miss it.
So that’s it! I’ll sit and tap away before watching two football matches and then think about the details of dinner. It’s already in the fridge because I only consumed half of the pork curry created yesterday. I will drift in and out of a daze consisting of sitting still and pressing buttons on a remote control, lost in a pool of languid indifference. It’s a pool of green turgid treacle where only the biggest rocks create a ripple.
Today, I don’t like those rocks. They are boulders of burden. These are the things I know I should do but I don’t want to do. I need more fruit so I need to charge the scooter. This involves a yedious sequence of opening doors and sitting on my indoor chair whilst guiding out my travel chair with yet another remote control. But while the chair is electric, the remote control isn’t.
When said chair is awaiting the arrival of my corpulent frame, I must delve into the cupboard of disaster. And there is another boulder of burden. If I bothered to spend an hour or two sorting it out, it would not be a potential avalanche of domestic jetsam, poised, waiting to rain down over the confines of the hallway carpet as I tug away at the charging box and plugs for the scooter.
And yes, I know I misspelt tedious but I rather like the sound of it. It helps me elongate the first syllable for emphasis.
Then the dishwasher ceases its pulsating beat; like an incessant Phillip Glass masterwork. It’s a moment of sweet relief. Outside, the inevitable parade of cars create another backdrop of bland monotones. As the washer revives its constant thrum, the two combine to give me the music of the Avant Garde.
Now I realise that my ramblings are little more than introverted whimsical notions so I will conclude with a flourish of something mildly higher than the stratosphere of cerebral daze.
In Muswell Hill, I was always amused by the sign at the top of Cranley Gardens which said “The Avant Garden Centre.”
Secondly, I have the power to raise my day with the blessings of music. I have an endless choice with which to direct my spirits. Now what was that song gently cascading across my mind this morning?
Thank you for reading.
Then remembering the stern man’s advice, I thought it best to make a swift return to Saint Paul’s. Not wanting to attract any attention, I kept my eyes fixed on the ground in front of me. But it was too late. Three pairs of booted feet stood in my path.
“I pray sir has not upset the lady,” one of them muttered.
“One would not like any manner of impropriety here,” said a second voice using one of those false “posh” accents you might expect in a comedy film. They were mocking me. I looked up and caught the eye of the third one as he spoke:
“Our master needs some education.” He smiled a crooked smile. His teeth had gone completely. Even though I was a good few paces away from him, I detected the foul odour of his festering breath. The stench of body odour increased as they inched towards me, cackling quietly, opening out their arms to block my escape. I had no idea how I was going to get away from this. I knew I could run but there were three of them-and even if I did escape, I was afraid of getting lost. I thought of Miss Elizabeth back at the house and how she was the only link between here and my own time. Now I was really anxious.
But I had to run. Turning to go another way I bumped into a fourth person. Now the smell and terror was all around me. With two thumping bony palms he pushed me back to the others. Then came the whip. I heard its shrill swish.
The person to my left let out a yelp and fell onto his knees holding his face. The two alongside him reeled back in surprise. From behind me I could hear the fourth man running away. The whip thrashed again. The man in front of me shrieked as it caught his raised arm. Then the fat outstretched arm of Mr Kenwood grabbed my shoulder. This was no rescue however. I was going from one nightmare to another. He dragged me away:
“Young sir does not listen,” he shouted breathlessly. “Young sir walked away. Young sir is a fool. Young sir will never be a lord with such a manner as this.” Being so close to him was repulsive. There was no avoiding his slobber and sweat. I felt a complete failure. Nothing was in my favour. I had felt helpless with the beggar girl and now I felt helpless in the clutches of the coachman. My whole situation was hopeless. Peeking out from around a corner was Mr Slug. My heart pounded fiercely. I was beyond speech. There was no way of talking my way out of this! Approaching His Lordship, I could sense the curious gaze of everyone else around us. I saw his hands shaking. His breaths were short. I knew he was livid but I just couldn’t look him in the eye.
“Is there no-one of any trust within my company,” he shouted, waving his arms at all that was around us. “I cannot even trust those I do business with. And I certainly have no trust for those I dine with.” He leaned right into my face. I stared straight ahead. “And now I cannot place trust on my only son and heir.” Mr Slug was now by the cathedral door laughing. So was the stern man and all those who were begging around him.
I was embarrassed and frustrated: Embarrassed because I was being shouted at while people laughed at me and frustrated because I knew I was out of place and no-one seemed to care. No-one would have listened to why I wanted to help. No-one knew that I was genuine and that I’d helped people before. Yet I knew so much more than these people; I was better educated, I knew how to behave, and I knew how to be kind, for no other reason than kindness itself. There was no way I was as short sighted or as ignorant as those who were standing there laughing at me. I wanted to tell them how little they knew. I wanted to tell them about the future and all of its wondrous advancements and inventions. But I was being laughed at. I was just a figure of fun; an impudent young pup getting his just desserts for disobeying his master. There had been times at school when a boy or girl has become frustrated and lost their temper. They stood in the playground shouting and screaming at anyone and everyone. It never did any good. I would always feel sorry for them. I thought about the girl I had tried to help:
“What if she came into the square and started shouting about the injustice of her hardship? Who would listen to her?”
I remained silent. It is rare for me to feel close to tears. I could usually deal with most situations, but here I had to think really hard about keeping my composure. It was not easy. The odious Mr Kenwood continued to grip my upper arm while Mr Slug hovered nearby with his damp, yellowing greasy forehead. I focused on my absolute hatred of both these repulsive characters-it helped! After a brief moment of tense, silent, suspended animation, his Lordship waved me away before taking a long drink from his flask.
“Take the boy home.” His tone was final. “I will stay within the city tonight. Fetch me on the morrow.” He walked off, waving at someone in the distance. “Sir you are most elusive,” he called, swishing his cane above his head. A man turned round waving. It looked like the man who was staring at me in the Corn Exchange. I never had the chance to find out.