The Lundiary: Lunday!

In this strange temporal limbo, which I have seen best called ‘Winterregnum’, where days do not seem to follow each other in their usual, disciplined manner, I almost failed to realise that today is – technically – Sunday.

This means it is time for the next instalment of the Lundiary when finally the fabled isle is reached…

Lunday

In which our hero arrives on the island, talks geology and cooks dinner.  Nobs are hobbed and a warden is heckled…

Rising early(ish), I betook myself of an exceeding hearty breakfast: when I’m paying for bed and breakfast, there is only so much I can use the bed – particularly given my chronic insomnia – and so need to maximise my value through the breakfast portion of the deal.

It was then time to continue north and west to the very edge of the land in order to cross the water to Lundy.  This short journey did offer the observant passenger a couple of items of interest.

  • A sign to Griffin Loveland: given the current shortage of living lion-eagle hybrids, I must assume this business is not proving a financial success.
  • A small wooden hut selling jam (and chutney) which I’m afraid left me singing (a slightly modified) version of the 1990 hit by Beats International: Dub Be Good to Me

Tank fly boss walk jam nitty gritty

You’re listening to the boy from the big bad city

This is jam hut!  This is jam hut!

And then we made it to the edge of the land, the Grey Havens of North Devon, to be greeted not by Círdan the Shipwright, but by A and H: the two last members of the Fellowship who had driven down that morning and had been the first to arrive on site.

The Hartland Point Heliport was rather more agricultural than I had been imagining.  It comprised 3 or 4 wooden sheds and a field, which at the time was playing host to a small herd of cows.  The bovine occupants of the facility seem to take the comings and goings of a noisy helicopter very phlegmatically.  The chopper flits back and forth from the mainland to Lundy throughout the day until all the necessary passengers and cargo have been transferred in each direction.

Check-in included a weigh-in for the passengers, unlike the airlines I usually fly with who only check the rest mass of their luggage.  Very fully clothed, to reduce the weight of my luggage, and in my hiking boots I came in at a very reasonable 80kg. This turned out to be a very useful weight as it was precisely what was needed to complete the carrying capacity of the second flight of the day: and the first flight available to a mere civilian.

While my own check-in went smoothly, poor A despite being the first man, measured by both name and arrival time, had his check-in “lost”.  As a result, he found himself spending many hours of (low) quality time in a hut at Hartland before being carried to the island on the last flight of the day – some 4 hours after my own departure.  My mind turns, as it does on such occasions, to Matthew 20:16.

Oddly, A is not my only friend who appears to be all-too-forgettable and has only a fugitive existence in the minds of others.  Am I drawn to forgettable people? Or am I somehow draining them of the ability to become fixed in the memories of their fellows?  Is this another facet of my terrible humanity: am I literally being memorable by eliminating all competing memories in the minds of those who meet me?

In the relatively brief period I was detained at Hartland, and after the largely inaudible safety video, ironically drowned out by the noise of the very chopper it was trying to keep us safe in, I found myself in conversation with A and H.  It was noted that the lanes of North Devon looked the kind of place where the fae might be encountered and mention was made of hobgoblins. This led to speculation as to the meaning of the modifier “hob” to the word “goblin”. Facetiously, I suggested it meant “hot” (from my extensive knowledge of the kitchen) which somehow led to speculation about the hobnob – which would clearly by a nob at, or close to, the point of maximal excitement (as well as a biscuit).   I couldn’t help but notice that, at this point, several members of the Fellowship began to worry about spending 72 hours trapped on a small island with a mind that could so readily (and rapidly) move every conversational gambit towards the gutter.

However, there was no time to dwell on such matters, as I was called to another shed to have my luggage weighed before boarding the chopper.  This is always a nervous moment as I lack functional scales for the appropriate weight range. We were allowed 10kg of hold luggage and 5kg of hand luggage (which also goes in the hold) and my total luggage barely made it to 5kg.  I couldn’t help feeling that this represented a waste of 10kg of allowance, an amount which could cover a good 16 pints of Steam Town West Coast IPA (to give but one example).

The brief flight was a glorious thing: the helicopter is so much more elegant as a way to travel than the aeroplane.  There is none of the desperate hurling a chunk of metal down a runway and then straining into the air. There is just a gentle lifting followed by a lean back and then forward.  The ride is quite noisy, but I think I shall insist on all my future airborne journeys being made by helicopter. 

After a mere 10 minutes, I emerged, blinking, into another (cow-free) field and was given back my hand luggage.  I was now committed to spending the next 72 hours on the island – I was trapped! – and probably had a fair wait until the rest of the expedition arrived.  It was 11:30 on Friday morning and I (felt like I) was monarch of all I surveyed!

Checking into the ‘office’, I discovered that our house would be ready in about 20 minutes, so performed some reconnaissance of the main conurbation on Lundy.  OK, I had a look around the pub, The Marisco Tavern (which also serves as the restaurant, library, departure lounge, lecture theatre etc), which was not yet serving beer, and the surprisingly well-stocked shop and started planning possible menus for the weekend.  It was then time to wander down the steep path to the Georgian splendour which is Millcombe House which was to be my home for the next 3 nights.

It was great to be able to explore the house on my own: it has a large kitchen-diner, a formal dining room, a sitting room and a drawing room: from which there were views of the sea.  There were also four bathrooms of various forms and seven bedrooms plus a utility room. The drawing room held a fully functional brass bell, I assume recovered from a shipwreck, which clearly I was compelled to ring (and I was not alone in this compulsion).  The house also had, mounted – in pride of place – on the landing above the stairs, the creepiest painting of small children I have ever seen. Luckily, I understand the tropes of horror movies and was reassured that I am not an attractive blonde (and haven’t been for nearly 50 years) while quietly cancelling any plans to visit an unlit cellar on my own.

After a couple of hours spreading my DNA to every room of the house (don’t be too swift to judge, we are all constantly shedding our dead cellular coating), I was finally joined by H: the second of our party to make it to the island.  The rest were on much later flights so, after showing off the delights of my new new demesne to my first subject, we went for a stroll down to the landing stage (where in the summer, visitors arrive by boat) and up to the southern lighthouse (one of three on the island).  This walk took in some excellent views and some rather fine rock formations. Thanks to some light Wikipedia reading in the week prior to the expedition, and some remnants of my schoolboy knowledge of geology (from a time when, it must be admitted, the rocks were quite a lot fresher than they are today), I was able to provide some vaguely reliable geological input to the conversation.  Well, I could at least safely recognise the granite and slate portions of the island…

Not too long after our return, almost everyone else made it to the house and we headed up the shop for victuals before it closed.  The decision was made to eat “in” for two evenings and breakfast and eat “out” for lunch and the third evening. Given that there would be no fresh supply-drop to the shop until we left the island, I felt it important to “stock up” our larder.  I quickly cornered the island’s entire supply of cooking apples (well, if I’m honest, apple) and most of its eaters too. Sadly, I fear we may wind up eating my position: rather than converting it into massive profits. We returned to Millcombe, laden with food and wine, to finally be reunited with A – and soon after our hold luggage was delivered to our door by Land Rover.  Again, FlyBe could learn a thing or two here – not forgetting A, but home delivery of one’s heavier luggage (again, not a reference to A).

With everyone safely arrived, it was time to pick a bedroom (all of which were named).  As the only unattached (both to another human and my sanity) member of the expedition, I found myself with a choice of four rooms.  For the first night, I have chosen Christie: probably not named for Agatha, but with an odd number of people in the same house on an island off the coast of Devon, and with murder in the air (or at least on my mind), it seemed appropriate….  

Rooms chosen and some initial unpacking accomplished, we walked back up the valley to the Marisco Tavern to check out the beer offering (two shades of brown – I don’t think the good news about hops has made it to North Devon or the island, yet – but entirely potable) and to learn something of the island and its fauna thanks to a talk by one of the wardens.  I found myself at the back of the lecture room, sharing the ‘naughty’ table with A and H. Having already explored a little of the island, and seen a fox moth caterpillar, H and I felt able to contribute some positive interjections to the talk and ask cogent questions. H though went somewhat off-piste when, following the discovery that the island contained the remains of a pair of Heinkel He111 bombers, asking what we should do if the Germans arrived.  The poor warden seemed somewhat nonplussed by this query and suggested the coastguard be contacted. In an attempt to save a slightly embarrassing situation, I suggested that as members of the European Union they would be entirely welcome: well for the next few weeks at least. A diplomatic incident narrowly averted, the remainder of the talk proceeded along less controversial lines.

While the talk focused on the island’s fauna, reference was also made to its very wide range of fungal inhabitants: more than 60 species and still counting!  While it is most famous (like Barbour) for its wax caps, it does boast a number of highly poisonous fungi. As a child, I was something of an expert on deadly fungi (and plants) but sadly have failed to remember whether their use is traceable during a post mortem and have no access to the internet to check at the moment….

All this learning helped to build an appetite, so it was time to return to Millcombe and for me to don my virtual toque and dust off my internal Profanisaurus.  I do enjoy cooking for others, but rarely do so as I’m usually out of an evening: perhaps I should introduce the five course breakfast (with wine) as a concept? (Though I fear it could impact adversely on productivity for the rest of the day.)  One of the joys of cooking in such a large kitchen, with only limited forms of alternative entertainment available, was that I had plenty of volunteers to take on the role of commis chef. Cooking is even more fun when someone else does all the tedious chopping et al while I can focus on supervision and standing over a hot stove looking imperious.  I believe I offered H her first exposure to rubbing in, an experience she seemed to relish.

There proved to be a small challenge to my cookery as while the kitchen was very well stocked, it did lack any scales.  There was a sort of measuring cone, but one labelled with relatively obscure ingredients. I think there must, once, have been another primary cone, but the cone that remained gave no clue as to what volume of flour or caster sugar represented 4oz but had you totally covered for cornflour and icing sugar.  I was forced to muddle through, taking a guess at the relative density of related dry goods of different granularities.

We ate in the kitchen and the food seemed to go down pretty well: nothing like hunger to reduce the critical faculties, well hunger and plentiful red wine!  My quorn-based spaghetti bolognese was pretty successful, though if I had my time again I’d have used a third tin of plum tomatoes to increase the sauce to spaghetti ratio.  My apple and summer fruits crumble was, frankly, a triumph though the few remnants clinging to the dish proved hard to dislodge.

For our second dinner in, it was decided that we would make use of the formal dining room, which would give us all a chance to make use of the formal wear we’d brought to the island.  In jest, I did propose that I could roast a nut – an injury oft associated with over hobbing of a nob – but practical considerations, lack of a memorised recipe and the contents of the island’s shop, meant that I will need to come up with a more sensible plan. 

Leaving my team to set the dishwasher(!) in motion, we retired to the sitting room to consume beer and attempt to make both music and fire (I know where my expertise lies and stuck to the beer).  We were all safely tucked up in our respective beds (so far as I know, I think any swinging was limited to the music) before the power went off on the island at midnight. I myself shall attempt to sleep, despite some concerns about grinning, blue-eyed Aryan toddlers gruesomely murdering me while I am unconscious…

By next Sunday. the week should have returned to a more regular rhythm and GofaDM will regale its readers with further island adventures…

The Lundiary: Lunday Eve

In the real world, the frenzied preparations for Frankenmas are reaching their climax – amidst the traditional worries that the festival has become too commercial and that we’ve lost its true, horrifying meaning.  I myself may put up my Frankenmas tree later today, decorating it with silvery lightning bolts and, indeed, actual bolts.  Meanwhile, here at GofaDM, it is Sunday which means its time to turn off your phones and out the cat: this is no time for interruptions.  Yes, it’s time to settle down in a comfy chair for the next, thrilling instalment of the Lundiary…

Lunday Eve

In which our hero travels to darkest North Devon and starts a narrative….

The day started much as any other: filled with the quotidien elements of normal life admin along with the emails, MS Office documents and conference calls that make up my soi-disant working life.  Meals were a tad more eccentric than usual as I attempted to use up any scraps (some fairly sizeable) that seemed unlikely to survive in a viable state in my fridge while I was away.  I do feel that refrigerator hygiene is very important for any life to be considered truly civilised!

The morning was also spent with one eye on the weather forecast and another on my mental state as I finalised the packing for the expedition.  How could I best optimise the balance between warm and waterproof clothing? How much entertainment in the form of books (physical and electronic), podcasts, music and episodes of Only Connect and various BBC4 documentaries would I need to maintain my fragile grasp on sanity?  As a friend had noted the previous day, I would be alone on the island (other than for my friends and its other occupants: human and otherwise) with just my demons for company.  There would be none of my usual psychological props: cultural events or my continuing commitment to make the internet a stranger (and in my view, better) place.

Eventually, the die was cast and I just had to hope that my decisions would prove to be sound and enough to avoid my being airlifted from the island in a strait-jacket…

Despite my antiquity and two (count them, two) Geography O Levels, I am constantly surprised how far this country stretches to the west of Southampton. In consequence, I was rather glad that C+N had offered to fit me into their car for the drive into the setting sun: the distance to cover was rather larger than anything I have attempted in a single run for many years.  A significant chunk of this journey took place on the fabled A303: which I like to think of as the West Country’s answer to Route 66 – though it has yet to be celebrated in song (to the best of my knowledge), just in the name of a rifle. Thankfully, hold-ups were only modest – nobody wants to see a bare road – and so we reached our overnight billet in time for a sensibly-timed dinner.

We were staying in the Hoops Inn, a hostelry which worked hard to conceal its basketball theme from the casual visitor, in a settlement called Horns Cross.  Coming so soon after another settlement called Fairy Cross, I did start to wonder if the denizens of North Devon have some unresolved anger issues.

The Inn offered a very decent dinner: the rack of vegetables was particularly fine.  Don’t judge me, sometimes you do need to use enhanced interrogation techniques to get the best from a courgette.  The meals did have one little foible: every course (except desert – though I did only sample a single exemplar) was accompanied by a small mound of rocket.  Not just any mound, the rocket had clearly been pressed into a ramekin (or similar chalice) in order to hold a specific shape. I promptly decided to rename the inn as the Rocket and Ramekin  to more accurately capture its unique vibe: let’s face it, it had never really committed to the NBA.

It was over dinner that I first properly read the information pack about the island and where we would be staying: some might say this was a trifle late in the process.  It was the inventory that particularly piqued my interest. In a kitchen which seemed very thoroughly stocked with utensils, cutlery and crockery the inventory went out of its way to make clear that neither axes nor saws were provided.  By this stage, it was clearly too late to bring my own. This was clearly going to make dismembering the bodies significantly more of a chore…

Later in the evening D+J joined us, having had a few navigational issues on their journey to the west.  Equanimity had been restored by the time of their arrival and we shared a few (rather brown) ales together before retiring for the night.

My room at the inn was pretty decent, though the window proved unwilling to close (and I had no access to Task Manager to force matters).  As I lay supine in my bed, with the open window to my left and a hard-working radiator to my right, there was quite the thermal gradient across the room.  Despite this potential for the spontaneous generation of within-room weather, I slept pretty decently by my standards.

I believe I can promise that, next Sunday, the diary will actually make landfall on Lundy: stay tuned…

The Spirit of Frankenmas

While it would seem that I am writing as we enjoy a brief interlude, perhaps while the celestial cistern is refilled (frankly, I think the directing deity should probably be looking at the ballcock), I find myself living through a period of permanent precipitation.  As the waters rise around me, it is proving a little tricky to manoeuvre my mind into some semblance of the appropriate festive spirit.  The default faith of these isles does seem to lack a suitably watery festival: its key books do mention that a small sea was parted and a stormy lake quieted, but I don’t recall much mention of rain or broader climatic change in my Religious Studies O Level syllabus.  I can’t help feeling that there is a gap in the market here for any worshippers of Tlaloc to fill…

A week today, I shall be driving east to spend the statutory days with my family: and this year it will be nice to be to do this without a medical emergency as the inciting incident.  So, I have roughly 168 hours left to complete my welcome of the three Christmas spirits into my life (and sober up afterwards to enable safe and legal command of a motor vehicle).

One of my attempts has involved my continued creation of a range of chilli-infused Frankenfoods.  I am now on the third incarnation of my Frankenballs (or Frankenkugeln, for the more Teutonic reader) which are my hot-take on the chocolate truffle: I like to imagine that these would be a suitable offering to Tlaloc (though should perhaps be more cartioid in form to satisfy his particular predilections).  In order to retain the childish joy of offering people my balls, it has been important that I should be able to form my ganache into broadly spherical sweetmeats.  This has proven quite the challenge!

My first attempt involved rolling the chilled ganache in my hands.  To prevent sticking, my hands were pre-chilled (under the cold tap, rather than detached and placed in the freezer) and coated in cocoa: this was an abject failure.  For some reason, my body chooses to run my hands very hot (there would seem to be no major issues with my circulation: though it might explain my generally inability to gain weight) and so they quickly overcame any cooling and almost instantly melted the cocoa.  As a result, my balls were horribly amorphous and my hands became increasingly coated in melted cocoa and ganache.  As I dislike my hands getting dirty, this was not an enjoyable process and the balls grew ever larger as I attempted to bring the process to an earlier conclusion.  This would have been my last attempt to make Frankenballs had they not been so annoyingly moreish…

For the second attempt, I acquired a double-headed melon baller and dipped this in boiling water to improve its ability to cut through the cooled ganache.  This produced more even balls, though there is a definite knack to using the baller which became trickier as the remaining material became more distributed round the bowl.  However, the large problem was with the second head.  While head #1 struggled to cut through the chilled ganache, head #2 found it all too easy to cut through the flesh of my right hand.  I think I managed to keep my life blood from entering the ball-mix but they did come perilously close to going “full Aztec”.  I’ve also found that all the thinking about a baller that this project generated has left me with Skee-Lo‘s 1995 hip-hop hit stuck in my head.  Despite considerable thought, I remain unable to see how a rabbit in a hat, even one with a bat, fits into the broader life goals set out in his treatise.

Once again, after the second attempt, my thought was to leave ganache and move on with my life.   However, a chance pub conversation suggested that without a chilli-heavy starter, the Frankenballs could be a tad eye-watering and they could use an additional buffering agent.  Somehow, the idea of adding spiced rum to the ganache arose, in what passes for my mind, to creative a more festive set of balls.  I researched a range of alternative recipes to try and come up with a less stiff ganache and also acquired a single-headed baller with a thick, padded shaft.  And so we came to the Mark III: this used a different (butter-free) recipe and was chilled less severely which I think created a slightly looser ganache.  It might have been a smidge too loose, next time I shall chill it for longer, but the combination of a thicker shaft and my improving wrist action led to a very satisfactory conclusion.  I also feel that the addition of rum helped to tame the Frankenballs blood-lust: my hands even stayed mostly clean!  Having sampled the more deformed, early attempts with the baller, I can report that the Mark IIIs are dangerously delicious: people may find themselves unable to keep their hands off my balls (should I ever release them to a wider audience)…

However, it struck me that chocolate is more associated with a later festival and the current season is more about dried fruit.  (Well, that and Frankenscents – but my signature, chilli-based perfume will have to wait for next year.)  So I decided I should attempt a Frankenmas cake: this would be like the more traditional Christmas cake but the marzipan and icing would be replaced by chilli.  I feel this is a good time of year to celebrate Frankenmas as the original story by Mary Shelley is very much about a birth; though Easter could also work as it is, in many ways, also about a resurrection.

It must be a good 30 years since I last made a rich fruit cake but I found a plausible looking recipe to adapt and gave it a go.  The recipe was basically very simple, though did require the tin to be double-lined (rather annoyingly labour intensive) and to be wrapped in two layers of newspaper!  I haven’t taken a physical newspaper in years, so it had to make do with some A4 work print-outs awaiting shredding.  While the Frankenmas cake cooked, the flat was suffused with the most glorious aroma: it was like Father Frankenmas was in the room.  On its emergence from the oven, in its best business casual, the cake smelled divine: it was all I could do not to drool.  Instead, I allowed it to cool and fed it with spiced rum before wrapping it and putting it away to mature.  Only after a couple of weeks, on Tuesday, did I take it to the Swing Steady Session at the Guide Dog to be eaten and act as an interval refresher.  For me, it was everything I want in a cake – moist, chilli-infused and mostly alcoholic fruit – but it also seemed to go down well with the swingers.  I have already made a Bride of Frankenmas cake for later, but have also considered stockpiling Aldi’s Specially Selected Brandy Infused Fruit Mix – which I consider a key element of its success – to last me through the next eleven months…  Let’s face it, I think we are going to need all the brandy infused fruit we can lay our hands on!

I have not just been relying on food to prepare for the twenty-fifth.  I’ve been to a couple of gigs with a seasonal flavour.  For example, last Friday I headed out to the edge of the land to the Lookout at Lepe – a very superior beach hut – for Sound Level Events‘ monthly residency.  On paper (or a screen), this was in many ways a dream line-up of local musicians for me: Tenderlore, Jack Francis and Bad Cat.  With some Christmas-infused numbers added into their usual repertoire and an appreciative audience, this has to go down as one of my top gigs of 2019.  It was a ridiculous amount of fun and I was sober(!) throughout.  I’d had to drive to the gig as Lepe is not accessible by public transport on a winter Friday evening and it was rather a long bike ride in torrential rain.  Still, it is good to know I can have musical fun without the aid of alcohol, I drank tea and ate cake to support the venue in lieu of my usual drunken excess…

Inspired by the message of the Muppet Christmas Carol, last night I took the bus to a very wet Bishopstoke for the festive Folk and Acoustic Session at Steam Town Brewery.   Despite the sad lack of West Coast IPA, I had loads of fun joining in with a bunch of seasonal songs and, coincidentally, discovering that the guitar chords for most lay well within my grasp (I just need to add a suitable G7 into my repertoire: which I vaguely remember Mr Owen teaching me back in 1978, that and English).  I may have to take my instrument east next Wednesday to ‘entertain’ my family: that’ll teach ’em!

I think after my traditional viewing of Arthur Christmas and, perhaps, of Die Hard, added to some more festive food and a few gallons of mulled wine, my festive spirit may be ready to peak in the middle of next week.  I shall aim to do Father Frankenmas and his monster proud!

The Lundiary: Prologue

It is Sunday, which must mean that it is time for the first instalment of the Lundiary!  Before we enter the Lundiary proper, today we have the prologue…

The Lundiary: The Prologue

In which we set out pertinent background information to allow the reader to understand the diary entries that follow.  We will also seek, insofar as possible, to establish the state of mind of the protagonist before he sets out on the expedition.

The writings presented below are taken verbatim from a leather-bound diary discovered, by a member of the island’s maintenance staff, concealed in the cellar of one of the houses on Lundy.  The document had clearly deteriorated with age and some text had been lost as a result of rodent damage: hungry shrews are the most likely culprit. The handwriting is generally of a poor quality.  In some places, the Institute has attempted to interpolate missing or unclear letters or words. At least one page had been savagely torn from the document, the destruction apparently contemporary with its creation.  Given what was allowed to survive, the crimes (or puns) that appeared on this page must have been of a truly shocking nature.  

The reader must bear in mind that the document was written in November of 2019 and reflects the very different morals and social mores that existed in that far gone age.  We should perhaps try and view the writer as a product of his pre-lapsarian time: he may appear monstrous today but may have been able to pass as normal in his own era.

Our research in the archives that survive from the time indicates that the expedition was not planned or organised by the writer but rather by the person referred to as “C” in the diary.  In the end, seven travellers set out on the expedition – all of them known to the writer, but some clearly had closer acquaintance with the writer than others in advance of the events which unfold in the diary.

From his other writings, it is clear that the diarist was in two minds whether to join the expedition and only finally committed very late in the day.  It is unclear whether the diarist himself truly understood his motivations. The following rationalisations for not going appear to have been in play right up to the fateful decision:

  • A desire not to miss a range of interesting gigs in Southampton and the first weekend of the Cambridge Jazz Festival;
  • Concerns about a sudden deterioration in the condition of one or both of his parents;
  • A fear that he would be unable to conceal his true nature from his fellow travellers over the course of a long weekend, trapped on a small island.  Would his monstrous nature – previously concealed by regularly admitting its existence – finally be revealed?

In the end, two lines of thought appear to have been key in his decision to travel:

  • The fear of missing out on the adventures and narratives that would develop on the island; and
  • The fabled nature of the isle itself, appearing as it did, for so many years, in the late-night litany of the Shipping Forecast.

We now present the re-constructed diary.  It is written throughout in the first person and while some of the events described can be independently corroborated, the author should be viewed as an unreliable narrator.

The first instalment of the diary proper will be published next Sunday…

Perchance to dream

I should perhaps start by stating that I have no real reason to predict my imminent demise: though I shall leave you, the reader, to decide whether my toes will soon be turning up and my clack rattled.

Looking at the weather forecast, I could be swept or blown away today: a particular concern given my rather high surface area to mass ratio.  I’m also struggling to shift some form of cold-like infection from my lungs – and yesterday’s cold snap, brief though it was, did little to help – but I’m not expecting this to carry me off.  Similarly, there is no reason to believe that the multiple cuts to my right hand incurred attempting to form chilli-chocolate truffles (or Frankenkugeln as I have named them) with a melon baller are life threatening: merely annoying.

Nor am I planning to indulge in any unusually risky activities in the near term.  I will not, for example, be sharing a photo of my sweetheart with any trench-mates while claiming that we plan to be wed as soon as this war is over and I return to Blighty/Omaha, probably before Christmas.  I may be an idiot but I am no fool…

No, the primary intimation of impending mortality was the decision of my rather tired brain, bouncing as it was between insomnia and hypnogogia, to flash my entire life before my (closed) eyes.  Well, I say ‘my entire life’ but large chunks had clearly been forgotten beyond recall and some rather curious editorial decisions had been made about the memories that were retained.  A largely uneventful walk home from Honor Oak Park to Crystal Palace in the early 90s was given far more screen time than it justified while more major life, and interesting, events were rather rushed through.  The replay also took place in an order far from chronological: which was somewhat confusing to me and would have been incomprehensible to any other viewer.  I shall not be allowing my subconscious to write, edit or direct my life story!

My actions in many parts of this showreel were frankly mystifying to the current me, but were true (insofar as any memory can be thought of as true) records of past events.  I was struck by how useless and unworldly the young me was: which contrasts rather unfavourably with the young people I know today.  Other memories suggested a stronger strand of consistency in the self than I usually recognise: despite overcoming much of my original programming, I have changed less than I sometimes like to imagine.

In popular fiction, such a flashback – poorly constructed as it was – should be an almost immediate precursor to the sweet embrace of death.  However, in my case, I have had time to get up, eat breakfast, carry out some work for my employers and now write a blog post and still seem to be numbered among the quick.  Either this is another oddly vivid and detailed – and very dull – memory being recalled or this veil of tears may be stuck with me for longer than I was expecting.  In the latter case, I can only apologise for raising your hopes…

 

A GofaDM Scoop!

After a savage bidding war, I am pleased to announce that GofaDM has won the right to serialise the most explosive publishing sensation of the 21st Century: The Lundiary.

Eschewing the modern vogue for bingeing, GofaDM will be ‘dropping’ (as I believe the modern vernacular would have it) one episode of The Lundiary for each of the next six Sundays.  This will allow any readers with access to a water cooler to discuss the latest revelations with colleagues or loved ones (which need not be mutually exclusive categories) in a stereotypical ‘moment’ on Monday morning.  Readers without access to a water cooler need not despair: while such sources of cold water loom large in the modern imagination, they are, in fact, entirely unnecessary adjuncts to the art of conversation.  Humankind managed to talk together and discuss matters of mutual interest without such devices for many thousands of years prior to their invention.

As well as its serialisation, a limited edition of physical copies of the The Lundiary will be produced: ready to grace the coffee table of even the most genteel of homes.  Actually, scratch that thought: a genteel home may wish to keep their Lundiary under lock-and-key, away from the eyes of servants and minors who could become inflamed, or develop a complex, on reading some of its more salacious content.

While the binding of the Lundiary is yet to be finalised, the fine art that will grace the cover has already been created.  Any reader who has had the misfortune to be exposed to my attempts at creativity in the visual arts will be pleased to know that only my patronage, and a degree of life modelling (my offers to pose nude were firmly rebuffed), were involved in the creation of this artwork.  While I know many talented artists, sadly they lead busy lives and would, quite reasonably, expect some form of financial remuneration.  So, my plan to commission the Aleksandr Rodchenko de nos jours had to be downsized to meet my budget and location in South Hampshire in 2019.  Luckily, I knew someone with time on their hands who was willing to bring their meagre skills in the art of photomontage to the project on the promise of a pint of West Coast IPA and the occasional chilli-infused sweetmeat.  Yes, once again I fell back upon my partner-in-crime and co-conspirator in (N)YTMG: gawpertron.  While I manage the data collection and data entry and can, if required, be expected to show off in public, gawpertron handles all the coding, web and visual design for the site.  Where something more than a data-entry-clerk-cum-gob-on-a-stick is needed, they are to whom you should look for satisfaction.  Despite my low expectations, I have to say that watching this artwork grow over the last week has made a foolish middle-aged man very happy and occasioned regular laughter: a commodity of inestimable value in these dark days…

In an attempt to build ‘buzz’ around the forthcoming serialisation, I am concluding this post with the Lundiary cover art.  Like a truly great artist, I believe gawpertron has managed to capture the essential truth of their subject (The Lundiary) in this arresting image.  While one should not judge a book by its cover, I believe this cover does allow for a degree of judgement: though I do worry that its contents will fail to live up to the glory of their visual herald…

the-lundiary-final-less-red

John the Badpost

This is not the post that you might have been expecting but, like the figure to which the title alludes, it can be considered as the forerunner to that post.  It is the post that comes before and prepares the way…

I am willing to reveal that I did go to Lundy and, unless I am haunting the internet, survived the experience.  I will give no further details in this post, much of what occurred – and much that did not – will be revealed when the Lundiary is released into the world.  A first, rough draft already exists and I spent a very foolish morning yesterday IMing with a friend (or more accurately, accomplice) preparing additional visual content to accompany this forthcoming blockbuster.  So vast is this tome that it will be serialised, over a number of instalments, on GofaDM: once I have obtained the necessary clearances from the team of lawyers I’ve retained to keep me out of the courts and/or jail.

While I have spent much of my time since my return in my writer’s shed (or the couch as come might call it) drafting the world’s next publishing sensation, I have still found time for the usual busy schedule of gig going and disparate range of other activities that form my life: music, acrobatics and baking (to name but three).  New Franken-bakes have been brought forth from my laboratory including my first attempt at a Frankenmas cake: which is still being fed (spiced rum) on its slab before it is chased from my kitchen by a mob of villagers wielding torches and pitchforks towards the end of the month.

You will be pleased, if perhaps surprised, to hear that I shall not regale you with tales of all of my cultural activities: just a few selected (by me) highlights (or, to be more accurate, opportunities to pun).

One Friday evening, I found myself at Humanities Late: part of a broader festival of the humanities organised by the local university.  Along with the rather stunning current exhibition of work by Haroon Mirza.  This was my second visit and this time I had the acoustically rather fine white box in Gallery 1 to myself.  It really does flatter to deceive when I attempt to sing a clean note I sounded like a bass angel.  If only I could have those sort of acoustics whenever I sing, I might be inclined to greater diligence when it comes to practising

However, my highlight was a musical/sonic event which took place in the building’s goods lift: sadly, we were not allowed to travel between floors during the performance but I feel that our spirits were still raised by proceedings.  The lift had a three second reverb which made it a stunning setting for the Prelude to Bach’s 1st Cello Suite (I assume only the economics prevent all performances from being staged in goods lifts) – but a disaster for Steve Reich’s Clapping Music.  There was also a sonic evocation of a cave and a short piece written especially for the space by Drew Crawford.  It was, by some distance, the finest 20 minutes I have ever spent in a lift: despite manage to achieve no change in altitude.

The event also gifted me, for free, a white post card with the words “I am human” printed in a clear, pink font which I now carry with me at all times to answer the doubters and sceptics.

That same weekend, I headed up to Cambridge to catch a little of its annual jazz festival: including my second time seeing Marius Neset in 72 hours.  I had a lovely, if slightly inebriated time, and also had a chance to catch up with an old friend.  On the Sunday, I needed to get to Lewes and so had my first ride in the new(ish) Class 700 Thameslink rolling stock which delivered me to a replacement bus service at Three Bridges to continue my journey.  The Class 700 does have very swanky information displays: though my rake did believe we spent the entire journey at King’s Lynn: a destination not served by Class 700 rolling stock.  I can only assume that the onboard computer harboured a secret longing to visit England’s most important port (in the 14th century).  The passenger experience was rather austere with something of the feel of the monastic cell about the hard, very upright and rather close together seating.  Unlike refurbished older rolling stock, the Thameslink passenger is expected to supply their own power.

I was racing (albeit slowly) to Lewes to see a friend sing in a choral concert of French works with Duruflé’s Requiem headlining.  This is a fine piece of choral work, though my highlight was the first act closer: Vierne’s Messe Solennelle.  As with the Duruflé, the choir was accompanied by the organ (in theory two organs, but St Michael’s could only offer the one so the chap at the console had to work harder), and as the programme notes had advertised was not always the most subtle and reflective piece.  I am sometimes thought to be “good” audience but this is at best partially true.  Despite being a sober as a judge, the presence of an organ sends a large proportion of my brain off to work on finding the very ‘best’ doubles entendres.  This was my effort from the night in question:

The choir delivered a few introductory motets before the main meat of the first half.

To fill the church with their messe (solennelle) they needed the help of a chap running his hands up and down his mighty organ.

Let’s just say that he brought Gloria to a noisy climax…

I find that I am simultaneously proud and ashamed: very much “on-brand” if not wholly appropriate for a place of worship.

The final gig I shall mention was on Monday and featured the Chris Potter’s Circuits Trio at Turner Sims.  This contained some quite stunning jazz and quite the burliest piano player I have ever seen, clearly the master of all four keyboards he was using.  However, it was perhaps most notable for the huge audience: not far off a sellout which is not usual for a jazz gig at the Sims in my experience.  The jazz was very good and Mr Potter may well be famous (just not in this flat) – but I wonder if the timing was important.  The gig had been re-scheduled and so rather than being in the usual Thursday-Saturday evening slot, it was on a Monday.  I saw a lot of musicians in the audience, who would have been absent for a gig later in the week as they would themselves be gigging.  I suspect that it is not only musicians who find they are busy on Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings but who do have leisure time as the sun sets on a Monday: and such gigs could also ease the way into the working week.  I did ponder whether Monday nights have been unfairly neglected by the city’s venues: while there are often just too many gigs later in the week…

Anyway, I should return to editing the Lundiary prior to its serialisation. Prepare yourself people: this is the (or at least, a) big one!