Friday, 19 December 2008

Beware of Mince Pies...

My festive cheer has been dampened somewhat this morning. Boo and hiss and humbug and much baaahing.

After cramming four days worth of advent calendar chocolate into my gob and kissing Mr Blokey goodbye, I clambered into my car and set off for work. When I'm driving alone, it’s imperative that I have music to facilitate a party / nu-age rave for one, complete with whilstles, recreational drugs and glo-sticks. Smack yer bitch up, etc. You see, in a previous life I was very possibly Elvis, or so I like to think, even though I was still alive when he ate one burger too many and slipped off life’s dish. Oh well.

Anyway, my current selection of CDs weren’t tickling my festive fancy today, so I opted for the radio. With my eyes firmly fixed on the road, I randomly pressed the buttons on my car stereo, searching in vein for Radio 2 and the soothing yet comedy genius tones that constitute Terry Wogan’s breakfast show. Sadly, I stumbled across The Chris Moyles Show, where the host thought it right and proper that he eat down the microphone. Immediately my nostrils flared in manner of Trevor McDonald reading news pertaining to murderers, floods in the third world or obese kids in bad clothes at fat camp eating cake on the sly. I hastily hit the scan button and came across Heart FM. Not in the mood for dated 80s pop with a tinny beat, I scanned again and came across Magic FM.

Aaah, good old Magic. Can’t beat it… One minute, you’re depressed as the traffic jam you’re in seems endless… Next thing you know, Magic FM comes on and it’s as though Karen Carpenter is sitting on your lap (before she got fat), singing On Top of the World directly to you. As Karen finished seducing me with her velvet voice, "Dr" Fox, the host of the show, filled my car with his early morning musings. And then he floored me. His revelation that the average mince pie contains almost 400 calories made me almost drive into the double decker bus in front of me whilst screaming obscene things that should not be uttered as we look to celebrate the birth of Baby J. 400 calories? This should not be allowed. In days of yore, when I actually utilised my gym membership, I would spend three days at a time, huffing and puffing away on the treadmill, looking like a panting beetroot, only to find - as the emergency services tried to resuscitate me -that my slavings had only managed to rid me of 5 calories. Imagine my horror, then, as my mind cast itself back to the previous evening when I found myself inhaling four mince pies in succession. I don’t know what came over me, but I was like a man possessed. Possessed, I tell you. That’s 1600 calories, all in the space of time it took to watch the adverts during Coronation Street. No wonder my love handles have been fingered as advertising space by huge blue chip conglomerates.

Apparently, in order to burn off these evil calorific inventions, you need to walk something like 268 miles. Okay, 5 miles then. This is not good. This means that I may have to use the gym I’m currently paying £50 a month for… Alternatively, Santa might just spurt forth Winter Vomiting Disease from his unrelenting sack, and I'll honk it all up in a heartbeat.

Monday, 15 December 2008

Pity the Poor Pie of DOOM!

Whilst compiling a (sadly quite extensive) list of things I’m not terribly good at, cooking would feature towards the top somewhere… Over the years, I’ve dropped some comestiblic howlers, if I do say so myself and I can’t even blame it on the fact that the cooking sherry missed the pan and landed – purely accidentally you understand – in my mouth. Damn and blast. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve mastered the basics: I can conjure up any form of toast… Except that I can’t: French toast is off the menu as I don’t know what it is and as for Melba toast… That just sounds ridiculous. You’d get beaten up where I’m from for admitting to eating Melba toast and anyway, isn’t it some form of peach yoghurt? I have a few signature (snigger) dishes… Chilli, toast, spag bol, cheese on toast, beans on toast with a sprinkling of cheese, boiled egg sandwiches, Pot Noodles... erm... That's about it...


One Christmas I put myself in charge of dinner and the kindest way of describing it would be… brave. A brave attempt at a festive feast on my part (naturally) and a brave (although failed) attempt by my father and brother at eating what I served up. Temporary madness must have set in when I came up with my menu... I compiled a starter consisting of Marmite Surprise, which, if you must know, consists of cheese on toast with a thin smattering of Marmite secretly stashed under the cheese, so when the consumer bites into it, they are, ahem, surprised by the unexpected twang of yeast extract. Yum! Main course was a gastronomic disaster on a grand scale: the meat was undercooked, the vegetables overcooked and I forgot to retrieve the Yorkshire puddings from the oven. By the time I remembered – which was when the smell of burning and a thick haze of smoke clung lazily in the air - they had been reduced to what looked like conker-sized balls of soot. For pudding – oh yes, there was pudding! – I smothered a couple of Kit Kat Chunkies in custard. Needless to say, dinner was a fun-free, silent affair, apart from the odd groan after a particularly troublesome mouthful of my hard graft.

After moving into the new place t’other week, I took an extra day off to try and get the last bits finished off… Poor Mr Blokey, bless his cottons, had to go back to work, so after I’d finished pottering, I thought I’d surprise him with dinner… After raging through the isles of Tesco, I came home, washed my hands and prepared the following menu…

Starter: Cup of tea.
Main: Steak and Ale pie, Mash, roasted veg, some extra broccoli (as it’s a special superfood and I like the fact that it looks like a baby tree) and gravy.
Pudding: Me. Ho, ho and thrice ho, etc…

Everything was going well. The veg was roasting away happily, the mash was all ready to go in the microwave (what did you expect? I mean, really…) and the pie… The pie was looking tremendous as it sat proudly in the middle of a preheated oven at 200 degrees… After 40 minutes, I looked through the oven door and could’ve wept with pride. The top crust was golden brown and the smell engulfing the kitchen was mouthwateringly beautiful… After getting the plates ready and quickly laying the table, I turned the oven off and opened the door… At this point, I reached for the oven glove, only to realise that I didn’t own one. Three seconds of lip chewing and head scratching ensued before I had a brainwave as to how to get my lovely pie out. A beach towel and an oversized wooden spoon would facilitate the manoeuvre handsomely, I surmised. Only it didn’t. The beach towel wasn’t thick enough to withstand the heat and the wooden spoon was as much use as the next waterproof tea bag.


Somehow, the pie appeared to be stuck on the shelf. I tapped it gently with the spoon, but nothing gave, so I gave it a whack. Still nothing. By this point, I was choking on the heat and my patience was running on empty. After one more hearty thwack, the pie suddenly came free and lurched itself brazenly towards me. Faced with a 200 degree pie hurtling itself dangerously towards my head, I pulled my hand round and attempted to catch it with the beach towel. Unsurprisingly, I missed. Time slowed down (oh yes it did) as I watched helplessly… the pie flew mesmerisingly through the air before gravity claimed it, pulling it unsympathetically towards the cold tiled floor. It plummeted downwards and landed with a dull thud. My dream of cooking a pie was over. Sob, etc.


I got to my feet and shut the oven door, an eerie silence filling the room; its leaking innards acting as my sorry muse of failure. I was gutted. The silence was broken moments later when Mr Blokey, looking handsome and dashing in his suit arrived home, wishing me a cheery hello before asking what was for dinner… I looked ruefully at my cookery malfunction, took a deep breath and breezily answered him with another question: ‘Don’t suppose you fancy nipping to the chippy do you?'
Below: the pie of doom, weeping openly on the kitchen floor. Bless.

Thursday, 11 December 2008

2008 in Review: The Wisdom of Doreen Corkhill

Once upon a time in 1987, I was 10 years old and addicted to Madonna, eating, terrible hair cuts and Brookside. In said (now-retired) soap opera there was a woman called Doreen Corkhill, who my Dad referred to as ‘Light Bulb Head’, such was the unfortunate shape of her bonce.



Above: A lightbulb
Below: Doreen Corkhill's noggin. Not to scale, etc.

Now then, during one cheerful episode, Light Bulb Head was going on about the family’s inability to pay the ‘leccy bill’ (or something equally drab) when she started talking about luck running in cycles of years – with one year being fab, and the next, crappy mcshitster. Fate economics made simple. As a ten year old, I took this particular pearl of wisdom to heart and, thinking about it, I suppose I still define each 365 day span in the same way. With this in mind 2008 has scored almost a perfect 10 on the Doreen scale.

The year didn’t get off to a great start, admittedly – I found myself suddenly single and very unemployed and without a proverbial pot to piss in. Much gloom and fed-up-ness ensued, where I imagined a future consisting of Findus Sad Loner Meals for one before finally being found defunct and semi mummified, on New Years Eve, by a neighbour who got sick of the funny smell coming through the walls. In terms of a career, I was a loss greater than Lehmann Brothers’ creditors. I just didn’t have a clue. After scouring the internet and registering with a cacophony of bored recruitment consultants, I found a job near to my house. That was the only good thing about it: whilst it paid the bills, it was bollocking awful. All awful, all of the time. The people who I sat next to were lovely and made it semi-durable, but my God, it bored me to the point where I would consider poking my eyes out, just to sex up the day. You know things are bad when you get rely on a sandwich van’s sweaty cheese rolls in cheap white bread as a daily highlight – especially when you have no intention of buying them…

I was supposed to be heading up a team of socially uncomfortable soap dodgers who smelt of grease and sponge cake but they hated me and I hated them. As a result, I would spend all day firing off emails demanding that they do their jobs rather than while away their working week on websites for people you wouldn’t leave your kids with. Outside of work, life was plodding along. It was okay, but that’s a state I’ve never wanted to settle for. I was bored and unfulfilled, so one day I got sick of myself and decided to become a holiday rep, as you do as you’re about to hit 32. One interview and a training course later, I found myself living and working in Mallorca. It was incredible. I had a fantastic six months… Even now I’m back, I can’t believe that I’ve done it – that I jacked it all in and went away and I’ve come back refreshed and everything’s fallen into place. I can’t believe how far life has come on in the last 12 months. Nothing seems impossible and life sparkles - 2009 is going to the same if I have anything to do with it, so sorry Doreen, take your crap, pessimistic theory and stick it where the lightbulbs don't shine.

Friday, 5 December 2008

Christmas Wishes...

Dear Santa,

For Christmas, would you be kind enough to joyfully furnish me with the following gifts… Before you read on, may I remind you that Chrimble is a time where giving is allegedly better than receiving, so you’re getting the good end of the deal here. I know, I’m a kind soul. It is Christmas after all…

1. Please, please, please pretty please can I have a 32 inch waist? I lost mine in the summer of 1982 after inhaling six chocolate bars and a sherbert dip too many and I’ve been unable to locate it ever since. Please don’t heartily scoff that you’re sorry, no can do, that they’ve gone out of fashion or the shop ran out, because that’s a lie. Put it this way, if you do, I can arrange to get Rudolph kneecapped. See, love handles bring out the rancid old bitch in me.

2. Please can I have a golden larynx to sing with? At the moment, mine is like brass. Rusty brass. With mould and bird do-do on it. I sound like a newborn being drowned in a septic tank. Yes, that nice. And I want to sing All I Want For Chrimbo Is You-a-hoo by Mariah ‘the Banshee’ Carey at some kind of festive Karaoke bash. If you could arrange for some form of express delivery (I’m thinking, anytime now would be lovely, if that’s okay), I’d be ever so grateful and will dedicate a Karaoke song to you too. Aren’t you lucky?

3. Can I have my sun tan back whilst you’re dishing out the gifts? I spent six months bronzing my bod this summer. Six months of having to skive off work to languish on my roof terrace in Spain using nothing but tin foil and cooking oil to achieve the desired results. By the time I got home, I looked like something between a Caramac and Ghandi. As I walked through customs upon my return to the UK, an man with a surprisingly high voice (given his robust build) asked me if I had anything to declare. ‘Just my outrageous tan!’ I said in a butch, non-camp manner. Next thing you know, I’m being stripped searched and he’s donning a rubber glove whilst coughing self-consciously. Don’t worry, it wasn’t that bad. In fact, I was grateful – it was the most sex I’d had in six months, if you ignore the time a seemingly rabid dog vomited on my flip flop. Anyway, within a week, I’d stopped walking like John Wayne but my tan had done one. You win some, you lose some. But it’d be lovely if I could start 2008 with a bit of colour. In fact, if you can’t provide a 32 inch waist, why not just make me black? It’s thinning!

4. Can you gift me with the luxury of a good night’s kip? I’m not sleeping too well. Dunno why. And no, I haven’t got a guilty conscience – bar that Bosnian man’s wallet that I need to return at some point soon – I just don’t sleep too well. And when I do, I snore that badly that Hertsmere council are threatening to slap me with an ASBO. This simply cannot happen. I am a pillar of the community. I dispose of my litter responsibly, say please and thank you and drive a sensible car. Do I look like I wear tracksuits and smoke cheap cigarettes? Well then.

5. Tea with Madonna would be nice. In fact, if you sort wish number 2 out, she might take me on as a backing singer. If you grant wish number 3, she might adopt me. I’m cool with either. Whatever is easiest. You know me, I’m no bother.

Thanking you in advance for your uncompromising generosity and kind spirit throughout these special times. Hope you and Mrs. Santa have good one. Don’t work too hard, etc.

Johnny Red Pants xxx