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Wednesday 28 August 2013

More snippety stuff - The Toilet Saga continues.

Here's another instalment on the toilet story. I'm kicking around titles for this since it seems to actually be going places - The Toilet at the End of the Universe was one idea, Monsters Bog was another. If you have one you'd like, post it in the comments.

Usual warnings - first draft, no strong language, things may change.

Thursday, 06:47
Jason was cooking pancakes for breakfast when he heard Emily chatting away to someone in the hall. Tabs was upstairs trying to find Sarah's Guinea pig, which had attempted The Great Escape during feed time the night before. Both adults had a nagging suspicion the satisfied look on the cat's face this morning had nothing to do with the cream in her bowl.
"Are you visiting for the day? Have you seen my dolls? I've got one looks just like you, and she lets me plait her fur. What colour ribbon would you like?"
Jason shoved the pan off the heat and ran.

There is a certain look of helpless terror most adults get when accosted by a babbling, determined child. Jason realised that particular look transcends the species barrier when the werewolf currently occupying the loo looked up at him in mute appeal. Emily was plaiting its toe hair, tying the results off with various coloured ribbons.
So far she was four toes in, and the werewolf looked like it had stepped in a Rastafarian. 
Jason looked at the little cardboard tube the creature was clutching.
"Ooooaaar," the werewolf whimpered.
"Right," Jason said. He looked down at Emily, who'd finished the left foot and was eyeing a hairy knee speculatively. "I'm so sorry," he told it, and bolted for the hall cupboard. 
He grabbed a roll of super-strength triple-ply, closed the door, then opened it again, plucked the rose air-freshener from the shelf, and ran back.
The werewolf now had eight plaited toes and a braided knee-cap. Emily held up a ribbon, and the werewolf eyed the selection, then pointed to one.
"Pink sparkles?" Jason asked. "Really?"
"Dad!" Emily said. "It's pretty!"
The werewolf shrugged and nodded.
Jason sighed and handed over the air-freshener and toilet roll. 
"Arroooooarr!" The werewolf hesitated, then patted Emily gently on the head before Jason hauled her out of the way and closed the door.
Flush. Spray. Whistle. Silence.
Jason leaned against the wall with his loudly protesting daughter in his arms, and closed his eyes. 

Wednesday 21 August 2013

Snippety Stuff - Toilet humor warning

The toilet humor warning is, I'm afraid, pretty literal. I have no idea where this is going to end up. A couple of months ago I wondered what would happen if someone opened the toilet door and found some sort of beastie already occupying it, and pleading for more loo roll. Pretty much everyone has ended up in that situation before, so it's a universal moment of desperation.

The usual warnings apply, although there's no strong language in this one. First draft (written on the phone this morning, actually), changes may happen. But if nothing else, I gave myself a good giggle during this morning's commute.


Thursday, 06:45.
Jason opened the door to the downstairs toilet, stared at what was already sitting there, and closed the door again. 
"I only had one beer last night," he muttered. 
He opened the door again.
It was still there.
"Honey?" Tabs called from the kitchen around the corner. "What are you doing?"
"Uh..." Halloween was still months away. And it had moved. "Erm."
"Jason!" She said from behind him. 
He squeaked and jumped. Tabs put her hands on her hips and shook her head. "Why are you playing with that door?"
He looked at his wife, shrugged, and opened the door.
"Jason," Tabs said, after a moment's silence. "Why is there a zombie on our downstairs toilet?"
Jason considered this. He took in the mouldering skin, overlong fingernails, tattered clothing and clumpy hair. The beseeching gaze and outstretched, wizened claw holding a small cardboard tube. 
"I think … it … needs toilet paper?" He guessed.
The corpse perched on the pot nodded frantically.
"Cupboard in the hall," Tabs said, and elbowed him. "Get the poor thing a roll, Jason."

Jason grabbed a roll from the family pack, ran back to the toilet door where Tabs still stood, and gingerly extended it into the room. 
The zombie took it, inclined its head at them with thanks, and firmly closed the door.

Tabs and Jason stared at each other.
Behind the door, the toilet flushed. There was a sudden whistling noise. Then silence.
"Now what?" Tabs asked, glancing at the ceiling nervously. The kids would be down in just a few minutes.
Jason braced himself, and opened the door again.
Nothing. The toilet was empty, apart from the lingering stench of grateful zombie.

"Oh. Oh, that - that's really bad," Jason whispered.
"Air freshener in the hall cupboard," Tabs said, eyes watering.
Jason lurched over to the cupboard, gagging gently.
"Lavender or rose?" He asked.
Tabs closed her eyes. "Whichever one will make my toilet stop smelling like an ex-constipated zombie, honey." Because the alternative involved some sort of flame-thrower, and she didn't think they had one in the house.

Wednesday 14 August 2013

Face-punching Tuesday (Right up there in moments of WTF)

Every so often I reach new levels of WTF (At the moment I'm averaging one a week), and I have to take a couple of days to process what I just did to myself.

Take Tuesday. Wednesday has gone by as a (relatively) normal day. We've moved the strange day of the week to Tuesday.

I managed to start this particular Tuesday off by punching myself in the face. In my sleep.

That bears repeating: I was asleep.

One moment I was in happy dreamland, tanning on a really nice beach. There was sun. There was golden sand, and the gentle lapping of waves. I WAS A SIZE FRIGGING EIGHT. This was a nice dream, ok?

And then my body punched itself in the mouth.

There was no warning. No sudden giant wave, no jellyfish pitching up and giving me attitude, no ominous dark fin in the water. 

One moment I was blissed out, the next, I was blinking in a daze at my ceiling, wandering what the hell I'd just done that for.

A few minutes later my alarm went off. I restrained myself from throwing it across the room, probably because it hurt too much to move fast at this point, and lurched down to the bathroom.

I'd split my lip, and facial cuts… well, they bleed a lot. From the base of my nose to my chin, I looked like an escapee from a bad horror movie. My knuckle was swelling. 

I rinsed my face and grabbed ice, and spent the next hour alternating between numbing my lip and my hand. I also *sigh* texted my boss, who might be up for sainthood at this point, to tell him I'd be late.  

The headache lasted until around four that afternoon, my lip hurts when I eat or drink, and my knuckle is still slightly swollen. I can safely say I pack one hell of a punch.

I'm also very, very grateful I got my mouth and not my nose or eye, because I think there would have been a lot more damage.

I'm hoping this closes Tuesday off for strange days, because I don't want to have anything top that. This makes the dwarf episode look positively normal.

Wednesday 7 August 2013

Death by Chocolate recipe & holiday stuff

View from the beach front, across the bay
I've spent the past few days galloping around Westgate-on-Sea with fellow author Mhairie Simpson. She lives there, and I'm a little jealous - it's gorgeous. Right on the sea-front, with a micro-climate that means it's a good bit more pleasant weather-wise than a lot of the UK.

Of course, getting there was an adventure - I had an argument with the ticket machine, which promptly ate my outbound ticket, and spat out my return and a coupon that said it was printed about 8 days earlier. The guy at the gate got this horrified look in his eyes and waved me through, probably on the theory of Making It Someone Else's Problem. Then I got to her flat and promptly tripped over the door jamb.

The Tickets of Doom
Her folks are lovely - mum is a textile artist, and I never knew you could DO that stuff with quilting. I'm hoping to get her on the blog in the near future. Dad is an ex-pilot, and a natural-born story teller (and a really good cook). Little brother is one of the best saxophonist's I've ever heard. That family has so much talent it's terrifying.

The two dogs were awesome. Pandora is like a large, talking powder puff. Mojo was camera shy and vanished every time I hauled out the iphone.
Pandora, commenting on the weather.

On my last night there, I cooked up Hong Kong Chicken and Death by Chocolate. I uploaded a picture of the Death by Chocolate to Facebook, and the response was gratifying. It's one of the easiest things to make, and the recipe is below for you:

Death by Chocolate
Death by Chocolate recipe

1 x 200ml double cream
1 x large slab white chocolate
1 x large slab milk chocolate
Olive oil
Mixed spice (cinnamon, ginger & clove if you don't have the ready mix version)
Optional extra - a couple of squares of dark chocolate to grate over the top.


Place a glass bowl over a pot of boiling water. Break the milk chocolate up and let it melt in the bowl. Add a pinch of salt. Add +/- 50ml cream when melted, and whisk briskly. Remove from the heat, add 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil, whisk again. You'll end up with a quite sticky texture.
Pour it into the glass, or whatever container you want to use. To get the effect of the dark chocolate running up the sides of the glass, simply tilt the glass for a few seconds in each direction.
Rinse out the glass bowl, break up the white chocolate and melt in the bowl over the hot water again.
Add a pinch of salt, and the rest of the cream. Add the mixed spice. Whisk everything well, remove from the heat, and add 1/2 tablespoon olive oil. Whisk well, and pour it onto the milk chocolate mix in your container.

Once it's cooled, grate your dark chocolate over the top. You can add a ginger biscuit base if you'd like to stretch this further; I got four glasses out of this mix, and it's a very rich desert. I skipped the biscuit base as my friend needs to avoid gluten as much as possible.

Tips and hints:

Do NOT refrigerate. The olive oil adds a lightness to the mixture (and you can't taste it), but it means it will congeal if refrigerated. This is great if the fridge is already full and you need a quick pudding; this took about fifteen minutes to get together, and about three of those involved the cook's privilege of licking the mixing bowl.

Use normal chocolate rather than cooking or coating chocolate; it has better flavour.

Enjoy, add your own twist, and have fun with it. A splash of brandy in the milk base would go down rather well.

Thursday 1 August 2013

Wednesday Travel Woes, with WTF, Universe as added bonus

Exactly one week after my first disastrous attempt at this trip, I set off again. I'd checked my email ticket reference repeatedly, so I knew I was headed to the right city.  I checked the weather report the night before - sunny, a mild 22C. (HAH!)
I timed my journey so I'd have half an hour to spare at the station, so I could grab a coffee, and I ended up leaving slightly earlier than planned because I was ready.
Things went great, right up until the Victoria line ground to a halt with me in it.

We had a fun time not moving in a tunnel, with an increasingly apologetic driver telling us someone had pulled a passenger alarm in a train ahead. By the time we pulled into Seven Sisters, I was twitchy. My half hour lead time had dwindled to ten minutes, but if we went to schedule from here on I'd make it.
And then they closed the station, and kicked everyone out. I stood on the pavement and watch the road fill up with police cars, which isn't something they normally do when someone gets sick on a tube train in the morning. Not even puking on a senior member of the CID is likely to get that response in London morning rush hour.
With the line now suspended until further notice, I grabbed a taxi. I had fourteen minutes before the train left London, so it was now a case of trying to get the next train. Seven sisters to Kings Cross in fourteen minutes could possibly be done if you closed every road and stopped traffic, and figured out how to beat the sound barrier. It cannot be done on a Wednesday morning at 08:42.

I watched the clock on the dashboard flick over to my departing time, and texted my boss. (Deja vu is only fun when it happens to someone else, and it isn't work related.) Thankfully, he'd been on the Vic from the other direction, so he knew I wasn't trying it on. Plan approved: grab the next train and head out. I'd be late, but better than cancelling again.

The taxi fare spanked me for just over £20. I fed my card into the machine and watched the rail service rape it to the tune of £105 (and if you think the barrier staff would let me on with the previously booked ticket, I want to live in your world), lurched up the escalator as the next train was called, and dropped into my seat. I left London coffee-less.

My destination (weather forecast, sunny and mild) greeted me with a great deal of rain. After the work stuff was done, I headed back to the station. I'm sure it's a lovely city, when it isn't raining on me; I'd worn a dress and crochet style slip on shoes, and I squelched onto the train back to London doing a passible imitation of a half-drowned rat.

The girl who sat next to me clucked her tongue and issued long, dramatic sighs for two and a half hours. I reached London damp, cold, and inching towards homicidal.

I still hadn't had any coffee.

Kings Cross is a big station. The overground section is massive, with a hall full of shops and boutiques; St. Pancras is just across the road and has a daily influx of European tourists. The loo's are free - the only place I've come across in the UK on a major station where you don't have to pay - and when you head down to the tube section, you walk for a while before you hit the branch you want.

I finally lurched onto the Victoria line platform to head for home. Ten seconds after I got there, someone slammed into me from the side and behind, and I landed on my butt. The bruise that was fading from last weeks falling off the seat incident flared to sullen painful life once more. I looked up to see who had just knocked me off my feet, and watched a little person marching down the length of the platform at a fair speed.

I had just been knocked on my ass by a dwarf.

Short of a meteor strike (NOT AN INVITATION, UNIVERSE), I'm not sure how Wednesday will top this one, so maybe my strange day of the week is about to change.