Thursday 26 January 2017

#181 Two degrees colder

I'd never been a fan of Haribo. Those little sweets reminded me of the jelly-like substance sometimes used for sealing large envelopes. They seemed to require an unreasonable amount of chewing. I wasn't even convinced that the creator had deliberately set out to make something edible. Perhaps the rubber end of a pencil had been accidentally dipped in some peach juice and inadvertently chewed. There I was though. Lying sprawled across a hotel bed on Saturday night, my tongue wrestling frantically with a sugary fried egg. It turns out that in the right company, I eat Haribo.

There's a quietness about the more modestly sized of UK cities that could easily become mundane for two urbanites over the course of a longer trip. There are only three things to do in Durham: visit the cathedral, browse the market and walk along the river. We managed to keep our 21st century attention spans engaged by making a 24 hour speed run up the up to the Land of the Prince Bishops and back. A brief burst of relief from the usual smog and bustling tube stations.

The countless fields whizzing past the window on the journey up had been coated with a thick layer of mist since the midlands. I didn't mind the greyness. It provided a feeling of escape into the unknown. This was a place I knew well though and upon catching the first glimpse of the cathedral on our arrival, I'd realised that I'd been away for much too long.

Aware of our accents, we successfully managed to communicate with our hosts in order to procure sustenance. One of us tried some chilli sauces. The other tried a stottie cake. Culture box ticked. We were even fortunate enough to catch a traditional northern display outside a local pub at closing time.

Despite feeling, upon trekking uphill, which is necessary to get anywhere in Durham, back to the station on day two, that we had not five minutes ago arrived, we emerged from the north in a recharged state. 

I have enjoyed longer trips less.

"If you have never been to Durham, go there at once. Take my car. It's wonderful." - Bill Bryson

Monday 16 January 2017

#180 Macy by Dan Stone

The beat of a high quality trance track 
is far more substantial than a rock beat
It's a thud
A persistent, low-frequency assault
Like the sound of bombs penetrating concrete roads
at velocities that cause the surrounding streets 
to be ripped apart as the shells makes their way
further and further into the earth below

Coupled with this is a derivative of the snare
but it isn't let loose too much
it's tightly wrapped so as to minimise any reverberation
A hiss might escape from the middle of every bar
but this is not a grand affair
Like a trip to the kitchen at night
it quietly tiptoes into the gap between the bass beats

You can tell how popular - and I maintain this -
a track is going to be, to some extent at least
by how crisply and lightly the higher pitched arpeggiator
frolics in contrast to the depth of the drum
while eerie strings cause a plunge
in the listener's perceived body temperature

During those first few seconds
The shock. The realisation 
of how beautifully the tune might come together
once the melody has been hugged enough 
to feel ready to brave the outside world
is like looking down 
from the highest level of the CN tower on a clear bright day
without having been forewarned
that the floor is made of glass

Tuesday 10 January 2017

#179 Better than Jamie's

I'd made risotto before. Boil some rice. Add in veg, stock and cheese. What could go wrong? This time was different though. I had a guest, which meant I had to do more than just make it. I had to make it edible.

The trial run that I'd executed two days before had gone disastrously but that's only because I forgot to add in the cheese. It turns out that rice and vegetables on its own doesn't really taste of much.

There'd been a number of comments on Facebook earlier in the week about the Naked Chef closing six of his restaurants. I tended to agree that he shouldn't blame Brexit if the customers were getting bored of the brand, or the food. At the height of his fame, the scruffy-haired Essex boy's persona might have been enough to pull punters away from the likes of Zizzi and ASK but this was 2017. Did people even watch TV anymore?

Meanwhile, my own attempt at serving Italian food was going rather well. The onion spat and sizzled. The rice let out little gurgling noises to let me know when it'd drank all of its water. My housemates, having misinterpreted the message that I was having someone over as an invitation to congregate in the dining area had eventually taken the hint and cleared out of the way. After about twenty minutes I took the rice off the heat, mixed in the rest of the ingredients and served it up.

The feedback was positive. I like to think I can tell when someone is just being polite. It's not always possible but that's where the bread and the salad come in. If they'd disappear too fast then you know that you should've ordered pizza.

At one point I even got told that I'd cooked the dish better than some restaurants. So there you go Jamie. Up your game, son. Up your game.

Monday 2 January 2017

#178 Beat after beat

When I was eighteen, I visited the doctor complaining of chest pains and was told that I had a heart murmur. An unusual but completely harmless whooshing sound that followed every thump of my pulse. The sound is caused by a slight leak in one of the heart's four valves. The chest pain was unrelated and probably due to stress or something.

2016 was a year of avoidance. It had long since occurred to me that I should get checked to see if this thing had got any worse. Leaky valves often do deteriorate over time although the process can take decades. If a person is really lucky, it might never happen. People often tell me that I should get it checked. Afterall, if it did turn out that there was something wrong, wouldn't I want to know about it?

No, not really.

Instead of going to the doctor, I spent eight months and about two grand visiting a therapist every week to talk about it. It only takes so long to say "a part of me feels like I should go see a doctor but I'm too scared" though, so instead we talked about everything else under the sun. Work, family, dating, philosophy, how the mind works according to whatever textbooks she read to become a psychotherapist. No wonder I enjoyed it.

Now it's 2017. The year in which I do actually go to the doctor, to find out whether I belong to the paranoids or the paramedics. I expect that I dramatise everything a bit too much, getting selfishly wrapped up in my own little story. If only to have something to write about, for the one or two Facebook friends who might take a look when they have nothing better to do.

It wasn't a bad year. I completed ten years at the company and then tied it off and set to work on finishing and editing my book. Stayed in touch with friends and family. Moved house. Dated. Ate burgers.

The beat goes on.