Overdosing on Food TV

Today I think I finally overdosed, at least that’s what I think happened. My brain finally snapped as I switched TV channels and saw yet another food-related show. I could take it no longer. The mere thought of watching some poor soul melting down at the same time as their desert crumbled during preparation sent me to the fridge for a beer. And not just any beer, a decent strong continental one – something that was guaranteed to numb my senses quickly.
I thought that I could change channel and watch something else, but no! There was a celebrity chef swanning around some part of the world wearing a smug expression while making cooking seem really easy, safe in the knowledge that if it was so easy, people would not be coming to his restaurant and paying his wages, let alone watching him guzzle food in some exotic location.

So, after another trip to the fridge I changed channels again, only to find that was being verbally assaulted by some over-tanned bloke trying to sell me something called the Nutribullet. Not only could it vapourise food with its mere presence in the kitchen, or at least blend it into some sort of unappetizing gloopy mess, it could do the same to your brain simply by watching it on the TV. That was the only reason that I could come up with why people would part with their hard-earned cash for such a contraption. Time for another beer – no this time I got two.

I was now onto channel number four, but there was no respite there either. Bear Grylls was cavorting around topless eating some freshly slaughtered wild animal, or perhaps it was a slug, I can’t remember – the screen was getting blurry by now, but I think he was cooking it with the pure heat of his manly stare. It was beer o’clock – again.

Finally, after a fifth attempt at finding a channel with something unrelated to food, I found a movie – about food – Chocolat to be precise. So, I quickly flicked channels again – and there it was, Pirates of the Caribbean. By now I was only vaguely aware of time passing, and even though this movie had only been on last month, and the month before that and, possibly, only last week on one channel or another when I watched it for the 947th time, it was not food related. The beer was working now, and I was close to dozing off while Jack Sparrow camped it up and Captain Barbosa wished he could just taste an apple – and there it was. Food. Again. There was no escape. I think that was about the time I passed out.

Sad Story

A Sad Sad Story

No flicker of the eyelid,
no sparkle in the eye,
no frown of concentration,
no friendly conversation,
no warmth to the touch,
just a whirring mechanism,
a cold and calculating chip
reducing me to PIN numbers
a point within a database,
that talks to me through cold machines,
that haven’t any human grace.

A short poem about critics

Critics

Writers who take life too seriously
Quite often will act most deliriously
By trying to write too mysteriously
And criticising others imperiously

The thing that is most fundamental
Is that critics are often quite mental!
And in fact they are inconsequential
So ignoring them is preferential.

The War Cabinet (Part 3)

In Phestring the cabinet members all shuffled into the room, rubbing their eyes at this early morning start. These meetings were being held every day now. The Prime Minister sat silently at the head of the table and waited for everybody to become seated. Now was the time to talk about money.
‘I have some grave news,’ he said, leaving a pause after the sentence that dragged out as they all subconsciously leaned forward towards him. He let the silence continue until he judged they had suffered enough. ‘I have carried out some investigations into the state of our finances and I have come to the conclusion that we cannot afford our war with Barmia. We need to be conscious of our interest repayments to the Northern Kingdoms. You know we owe them a lot of money and we can’t afford to default on the payments.’
The Treasurer sighed and shook his head. Here we go.
‘Why hasn’t the Treasurer picked up on this?’ demanded Foreign Affairs, giving the Treasurer a nasty look, but the Prime Minister was ready for this.
‘I think that the Treasurer has been telling us about the perilous state of our finances for the last six months. He has his faults but sloppy reporting is not one of them.’
The Treasurer winced at this insult and compliment in the same sentence. The other Cabinet members shifted and fidgeted in their seats.
‘Who the hell reads the reports from Treasury?’ muttered Foreign Affairs. ‘They’re just full of figures and mind-bendingly difficult statistics. They’re the most uninteresting and tedious part of each agenda.’
The Prime Minister ignored him and continued on in a matter-of-fact tone. ‘I’m sure that you all read the monthly reports that he has provided with his customary conscientiousness. It was, in fact, his most recent couple of reports that persuaded me to look into this matter. We can’t afford to pay the army.’
‘Can’t afford? What do you mean, can’t afford?’ spluttered Defence. ‘We have our soldiers on the ground. In fact they are camped on the border.’
‘That may well be the case, but the fact remains that the coffers are almost empty. It appears that our members have been spending a great deal more than we thought on their own pet projects. We are technically almost bankrupt. And that includes the army’s wages.’
‘That would be most unwise,’ said Foreign Affairs. ‘The last thing we need is a bunch of heavily armed soldiers wondering why they have no money. That sort of thing starts them thinking in ways that we wouldn’t want. Don’t you agree Defence?’
Defence nodded vigorously. ‘Damn right I do. You can’t not pay those who might have to die for you. It’s not ethical.’
The Prime Minister fixed him with a steady gaze. ‘You have ethics? You surprise me.’
‘Of course I do,’ snapped Defence.
‘And yet you are happy to invade Barmia just to cover up an expenses scandal. I can’t see the ethics in that, can you?’
‘We’ve all agreed to this. Just remember that,’ snarled Defence.
‘Yes,’ agreed the Prime Minister, ‘but none of the rest of us are pretending to have ethics. However, the fact remains, we need to raise money for this war. What do you suggest Treasurer?’
‘Me?’
‘Well you are in charge of the Phestring finances, so I would presume that you would have a plan to raise money if needed. After all, when writing all of those reports I’m sure you put your considerable talents to the task of solutions.’
The Treasurer had indeed thought long and hard about how to extract Phestring from its current and self-inflicted financial crisis. None of the remedies he’d thought of would be popular. Time for some improvisation. After a moment’s thought he said, ‘We could get it from the assets we gain in Barmia.’
‘Not quick enough,’ said Defence. ‘My soldiers will not wait for their pay. ‘
‘We could borrow the money to pay them, and the use the assets we gain from the invasion to pay back the loans,’ suggested Arts.
The Treasurer shook his head. ‘I don’t think that there are many countries out there that will loan us money at the moment. We are up to our eyeballs in debt. We already have to pay back way too much interest. It’s crippling our economy. We really cannot afford more debt even if we found somebody stupid enough to loan us money.’
There was a short silence as the cabinet digested this news.
‘So if we can’t raise money from other countries, why not increase a tax or two,’ suggested Foreign Affairs.
‘Or even implement a new tax,’ suggested Education.
The Treasurer squirmed in his seat. Taxes were never popular with the general public, but he was in a spot. This was no time to have his loyalty to Phestring put into question. He decided to see if anybody else would help him out. ‘I am not a great believer in excessive tax,’ he told them, ‘but I am always open to suggestions.’
‘What about a general tax on services,’ said Foreign Affairs. ‘Ten percent should do it.’
‘Sounds good to me,’ said Defence. ‘I’m sure that the common Phestringian would be only too happy to help out in the war effort.’
Others around the table nodded.
‘Really?’ asked the Prime Minister. His cabinet colleagues were an amazing group of people with very short memories.
‘We’ll need to get it through the parliament quickly if we’re going to raise the money as quick as we need it,’ said Defence, ignoring the Prime Minister’s comment. ‘We’ll have to start lobbying everybody to make sure we get the numbers and don’t have any delays.’
‘Is there no other way to do it quicker?’ asked the Prime Minister. Surely one of them would jump to this bait.
‘There is always the Emergency Cabinet Powers Act of last year,’ said Education. ‘That lets us make decisions in here if we feel that national security is threatened. Do you think that the act is relevant to this situation?’
Defence jumped with both feet. ‘Yes it is, and I think that we would all agree that national security is threatened. Are we agreed on that?’
‘It certainly will be if your gomans don’t get paid,’ muttered the Treasurer.
Defence ignored him and looked to the Prime Minister. ‘What do you say?’
‘I say, Defence, that you all seem to have this under control,’ he replied. The Treasurer gave him a long, hard stare. He smiled back at him.
It was put to a vote. The Treasurer, much to his dismay, was given the responsibility of implementing the new tax, which would come into effect from six o’clock the following day. The Prime Minster fairly floated back to his office. He hummed a jolly tune to himself and ordered a cup of tea. Things were moving nicely.

5 from Blancmange

Time for another musical journey – this time back to the early 80s. Yes – I’m talking Blancmange. Now, this great little duo was only really around for a short time, although they recently released another album a few years back and went touring again, but they came out with some absolute early 80s classics. I make no apology for liking these tunes. Neil Arthur and Stephen Luscombe made pop at it’s best.

1. Don’t Tell Me – great synthesiser melody, fun lyrics, cheesy 80s video. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SYQ1TZG6xZM&list=RDSYQ1TZG6xZM

2. Living on the Ceiling – the first real hit. Atmospheric intro, and another cheesy video. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aQ8qPOk0Zvc&list=RDSYQ1TZG6xZM&index=2

3. The Day Before You Came – a cover of the ABBA song – and I reckon it’s better. Great lyrics as you would expect from the Swedish masters, but Blancmange give it more oomph than ABBA did. And possibly the best video clip http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0QuikTJzYWw&list=RDSYQ1TZG6xZM&index=5

4. Blind Vision – possibly my favourite, but they’re all good. And another example of the obscure 80s video clip. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0YAvhMTgE8o&list=RDSYQ1TZG6xZM&index=3

5. Waves – a change of pace, a bit more reflective. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IbMi1Wg3uQU&index=8&list=RDSYQ1TZG6xZM

Lemon Tea

I think I wrote this on the Snowman Trek – it was at the top of a mountain pass somewhere

Lemon Tea

There is little oxygen up here
at five thousand metres,
just desiccated air,
but there is Lemon Tea
that pierces placid tongues.

I could reach out and touch Tibet,
sat here in glorious exhaustion;
just scoop snow from distant peaks,
but only after Lemon Tea,
so sharp, so slick, so sweet.

The War Cabinet (Part 2)

In the Cabinet room in Phestring Defence was champing at the bit. ‘How long do I have to keep the army waiting? They’re liable to get restless and cause trouble if we’re not careful!’
‘What? Not the well disciplined army of yours? Surely not,’ said the Prime Minister. ‘Have you managed to kill the humans yet?’
Defence squirmed in his chair. ‘No, not as yet, but…’
‘I hear that there are more new humans in Barmia. Do we know who they are?’ asked the Prime Minister.
The Minister for Defence glanced up sharply. ‘I hadn’t heard about that. Are you sure?’
‘One hundred percent,’ said the Prime Minister.
‘I haven’t heard anything,’ insisted Defence.
‘My sources might a bit better than yours then, wouldn’t you say?’
Defence crossed his arms and scowled.
‘Time to invade then. We don’t want to be overrun by humans,’ said Foreign Affairs, who then looked at Defence. ‘Is your army ready?’
‘It’s always ready. You know that,’ he mumbled. ‘And they need something to do.’
‘Don’t be daft,’ said Foreign Affairs. ‘They’re just five humans.’
‘Six now, according to my sources at the castle,’ said the Prime Minister.
‘Six? Where did the other one come from?’ asked Foreign Affairs.
‘No idea, but it just goes to show,’
‘Show what?’ asked Defence.
‘That there just might be something to this prophecy.’
‘Rubbish. It’s just a load of hogwash,’ scoffed Defence.
‘Can we afford to take a chance?’ asked the Treasurer.
‘Oh be sensible, Treasurer. It’s just a fairy story.’
‘Even so, your inability to kill them so far isn’t just because your army is incompetent…is it?’
‘They’ve been unlucky so far, that’s all,’ insisted Defence.
‘Unlucky to the extent that five of them died at the hands of the humans yesterday?’ asked the Prime Minister.
Defence flinched. ‘I hadn’t heard about that. Who told you? They were probably outnumbered.’
‘I have my sources. They tell me that it took only two of the humans to kill a whole unit of five gomans. That is a bit worrying, don’t you think. Weren’t they supposed to be your elite scouts? ‘You’re not exactly filling me with confidence. Maybe there is something to this prophecy, after all.’
‘I’ll…er…investigate,’ stammered Defence.
‘Yes, you do that. And while you do, I will get some of our best researchers onto the subject of Barmian prophecies and their substance, if indeed they have any. I won’t have to take control of your army myself, will I.’
The Treasurer smiled. There was a sentence with a double meaning if I ever heard one, he thought.
Defence glowered at the Prime Minister. ‘You will not need to become any more involved in army affairs. You can count on that.’
‘How long will the investigation take?’ asked Foreign Affairs.
‘Not long,’ replied the Prime Minister.
‘How long?’
‘It’ll be done soon enough.’ The Prime Minister shuffled his papers and made as if to leave. The meeting was clearly over and he soon left and went back to his office, where he found a pigeon sitting on his desk, crapping on its polished wooden surface. He carefully removed the message from its leg and opened the note. The humans had found Griselda and were off on a quest of some sort. That was encouraging.
Despite the good flow of intelligence they were providing it might soon be time to pull his special unit out of Barmia. They wouldn’t be able to stay hidden for too long once the invasion started. And they’d already come close to being discovered by some of Defence’s patrols a couple of times. But perhaps just a little longer.

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