Things That Happened The Day We Went To The Big Town To Buy A New Table

On our way to the train station we pop in to see the future King and Queen of the Library.  They are listening to music and dancing around their living room but once they notice that we are watching they stop and open the door.  The future King makes hot drinks for us all and we chat about what we are going to do today.  They have library business to attend to, whilst we plan to go to the Big Town and buy ourselves a new table.  They ask how we will get there and we tell them that we will go on the train.  “Oh, you’re going to bring a table back on the train?”  “Ye-es,” I say, uncertain.

On the train we sit and watch the country go by, and when either of us sees something we want to draw the other’s attention to, we squeeze thumbs.  A little barn with a hole blasted in one side; a young family working their allotment; a copse of trees in the shape of a keyhole.  I wonder what kind of key would open such a lock.  I eat a sandwich and get some chutney on my sleeve.  We arrive in the Big Town and get off the train.  In the Big Furniture Shop we look at tables, squeezing thumbs when either of us see something we think might be worth considering.

And then there is a sudden commotion.  A man has climbed up onto a large trestle table and is threatening to jump.  We join the other distracted shoppers and crowd around the table to see what will happen next.  Shop assistants and security guards are trying to talk the man down.  He keeps shouting at them, “I’ll do it!  I’ll jump!”  He is about three feet off the ground.  The situation is tense.

The Chief of Security is a small man who looks wizardly-wise.  He pushes through the crowd and carefully approaches the table from which the man is threatening to jump.  “We’ll get this sorted, no problem,” he tells himself and the crowd of shoppers.  “And then you can all go back to buying furniture.”  He exudes an air of authoritative calm as he reaches the table and beckons the man towards him.  The man stops ranting and looking embarrassed, suddenly unsure of himself.  The two men converse in whispers – reasons, doubts, wizardly-wise secrets.  We squeeze thumbs as we watch.

The Chief of Security breaks the conference and turns to the crowd.  “Now, this man is going to climb down from this table.  Please let him remove himself quietly from the situation.  Do not stand and watch as he climbs down.  Let him climb down and get on with becoming an old, old man.”  Instead of watching the man climb down from the table, the crowd follows the Chief of Security as he walks away.  They applaud and whistle and shout his name.

After all that commotion we start looking at tables again.  Not much thumb-squeezing is going on.  Soon we decide that we should go home and look for a new table another day – it would have been a struggle to get it home anyway.  We sit opposite each other on the train, a table between us, and we squeeze thumbs at the sight of more interesting things.  An old bridge covered in old graffiti; golden crops swaying in the breeze; an ancient stone table standing on the crest of a hill.

On our way home from the train station we pop in to see the future King and Queen of the Library.  The future Queen makes us hot drinks and we sit around their table and talk about how our days went.  They tell us that things did not go well at the Library – things will be better when they are in charge.  They ask whether we managed to find a table we liked.  “No,” I say, “there were no tables we liked.”  We do not elaborate and they do not ask any more questions.

It is getting dark so we thank the future King and Queen for their hospitality and make our way back to our table-less home to sit and squeeze thumbs, and to get on with becoming old.

Time Of The Season

If only the mail merge had worked first time, maybe we could have sent them out earlier and saved everyone.  But there is a mix up.  These things happen.  And we are under a lot of pressure, you have to remember that.  We are trying to get the letters out before the-  And then there is the whole row about how we are going to word it.  “We can’t use that word!”  “Zombies?”  “Yeah.”  “Why not?”  “It’s… it’s alarmist.  People will panic.”  “They’ll know what we mean though.”  I am overruled and we go with ‘The Undead’.

Once we get the mail merge right, the race is on to print the letters and put them in envelopes in time for them to be collected and go out in the last post.  Some dim wit makes a joke about it being the very last post and after he is shouted down we all sit in pessimistic silence and stuff endless envelopes.  Four floors above street level, we are in no imminent danger but from the window we can see that outside there is something of an undead riot going on, complete with puddles of blood and gore.  Many of the civilians on the street are reacting to the undead assault with uncoordinated and inadequate retaliations.  “That’s why we need to get this letter out,” someone says as we watch.  I re-read it: ‘Arm yourself with a blunt weapon.  When confronted, aim for the head.  Try to avoid prolonged combat.  Work in teams if necessary.’  They need this advice.

It is mid-Autumn.  The fallen leaves have taken heavy rain and heavy footsteps and been turned into a mass of brown slush that lines every street, like some kind of slowly decomposing seasonal undead.    We watch from the window of our office, four floors above street level, all the letters packed and ready to go and we are all crowded around the window.  We watch as the postman drives his van up towards the building, a few of the Undead bouncing off the front of the vehicle as it goes.  He gets out of his van.  He is carrying a baseball bat.  He steps onto the brown slush.  His feet slide from underneath him and crashes heavily to the ground.  We watch in horrorific fascination as the Undead descend on him.  From his position on the ground, the dazed postman can do little more than jab the baseball bat ineffectually in the direction of the midriffs of the Undead.

Looking For Sparks

We did eight episodes and then it was all over.

I was still kicking and screaming when they pushed me onto the set to film the final scene.  “It can’t end like this!” I shouted at the director, undignified.  “This is all wrong.”  Indignant.  “I love you-“  Embarassing.  “ACTION!”  And then I was tearing possessed around the control room, wailing and trying to tear rubber props apart while the lights grew hotter and brighter, and dessicated coconut fell all around us.  One of the special effects gurus had explained to me that they used dessicated coconut to make it look like everything was disintegrating, burning up and falling apart in bright white shards as the ship re-entered the earth’s atmosphere.  Our staged oblivion smelt like, and tasted of, macaroons.  I ranted and raved.  “CUT!”  End of episode eight.

A few months later, episode eight was broadcast.  I was sitting alone at home in a comfortable armchair, watching on a widescreen telly, safe in the knowledge that the show had been resurrected and that I would be back on set in a few months’ time to reprise my role as Captain Biff Tendermouth.  A new director had taken the project on, the writers had found a way for us to survive, I should have been happy.  But watching the final scene, I found that I could not suspend my disbelief to see a despairing Captain trying to keep control of a crashing and burning spaceship.  All I could see was myself – crumbling, clawing, clutching, burning up and falling apart for everyone to see.  This was nothing to do with fiction, this was me.    

Coconut sparks erupted all around as the world shook and broke.  Salty tears dripped from my cheeks into my packet of ready salted crisps.

Day #10047

The Toasted Sandwich Handbook, Part Two (Man v. Toastie – Four New Toasties In One Week)

Monday 3rd October:   Jarlsberg and Potato Waffle.  I love Jarlsberg.  It is probably my favourite cheese.  I had a think about what I could use with it to make a super-tasty toastie and decided that it might be interesting to see if it was possible to incorporate a potato waffle into such a sandwich.  This recipe is a little more involved than most toastie recipies as it involves grilling the potato waffle before assembling the toastie.  Once the waffles were done I cut slices of Jarlsberg and assembled two rather fat sandwiches.  This was a slight problem as the toastie maker had to be persuaded quite forcefully to shut.  But I was happy with what emerged after five minutes toasting – something I can only describe as being a bit like a cheese and potato pie, a kind of budget potato pie perhaps.  I was satisfied with this toastie and will make it again.  Thumbs up!

Tuesday 4th October:  Spring Onion, Honey and Cheshire Cheese.  Credit for this one must go to Rach who suggested we made toasties of the ingredients above in order to use up some spring onions we had left over.  Apparently Cheshire was the best cheese to use with these ingredients – I don’t know why!  It worked though so I have no complaints.  There were meant to be pine nuts as well but they had disappeared from the cupboard.  The honey was also Rach’s suggestion, though it may have been because I always want to put honey in savoury dishes.  Anyway, this made it very sweet in a nice way.  The spring onions gave it some crunch too.  Thumbs up!  Nb:  It should be noted that as this was a teatime toastie, as opposed to a lunchtime toastie, I prepared a salad to go with it.  The fact that I now serve salad with toasted sandwiches is the surest evidence I have so far that I am actually growing up.

Wednesday 5th October:  Jarlsberg, Apple and Raisin.  I had some Jarlsberg left from Monday and there were some apples and some raisins around.  What could go wrong?  I cut slices of Jarlsberg and slices of apple and then hid raisins in and around them.  I don’t know what I was expecting, but I wasn’t pleased with what came out.  It was not that this was a bad toastie, it just didn’t really taste of much – it had no punch, nothing to make it stand out from the crowd (of toasties).  This was not good enough.

Wednesday 5th October: Bacon, Peas and Wensleydale with Stem Ginger:  Annoyed at myself for the casual ineptitude which blighted my lunchtime toastie, I decided to try and redeem myself at teatime.  I needed a big ingredient to make this a good toastie and decided that (as is so often the case) bacon was the answer.  Not only this, I then did some research.  If I was going to come up with a new hit I needed to take this more seriously and so I reached for The Flavour Thesaurus and searched through the list of foods it suggested would complement bacon.  Some were things I didn’t like, whilst others would not work in the context of a toastie.  I settled on peas.  I suppose I liked the idea that it might be a bit like ham and pea soup… with cheese.

I thought it might be good to get some soft cheese so that I would have something to stick the peas in (so they did not just roll away) but ended up coming away from the cheese aisle of the supermarket with some Wensleydale with bits of ginger in.  How did that happen?  I spent about five minutes picking up cheeses and putting them back as I changed my mind and then in one mad moment I had swooped on the aforementioned Wensleydale with ginger, and that was it.

Back in the kitchen I grilled the bacon and arranged slices of cheese and frozen peas, pressing the peas into the cheese to stop them rolling away (somewhat less successfully than if I had got a soft cheese).  I lay the bacon on top and brought down the lid of the toastie maker.  I was pleased with the results – the bacon was good, the ginger in the cheese gave it an interesting kick and I don’t think I have ever tasted toasted peas before, so that was nice.  The spread of bacon and peas was somewhat inconsistent but at its best it did taste like a gingery ham and pea soup.  Thumbs up!

Conclusion:  It’s been a busy week and there have been some good discoveries as well as some disappointments.  I would suggest that if you try only one of the above, go for the potato waffle and cheese toastie.  Until next time, keep on toastie-ing!

A Pint Of Milk

“Heads will roll…” the doctor said.  He broke off from the conversation for a moment, covering the phone with one hand and coughing loudly into the other.  “…But if they are caught quickly they shouldn’t get too far… Yes, it’s happening here too… I know… Yes, I’m fine… Look, I should go.  I have rather a lot of patients to see.”  The door to his practice, a basement office down a short staircase, was firmly shut and had been for days.  He had locked the door and wedged a hockey stick under the handle as an extra security measure.  As he coughed hard again he tried, and failed, to remember how there had come to be a hockey stick in the corner of the room.  This made him laugh which should have been a nice change from coughing but wasn’t because he had seen these symptoms before.  He heard the thud-thud-thud-bash of another human head bouncing down the steps and hitting the door, before landing amongst the other heads that had already fallen there.  They all started up their wailing again and the doctor started laughing again.  All these people –  coughing then laughing then sweating and then their heads falling off and no one with any idea what was causing it to happen.  The phone rang again and when the doctor answered he had to shout to be heard over all the wailing.  “Yes, hello again…  It’s pretty manic here too… I said, It’s pretty manic here too.”  He took his handkerchief from his pocket and wiped the sweat from his forehead – it was getting terribly warm in there.  A bad sign.  “Maybe you could try freezing the heads as soon as they fall off,” he said.  It was something he had been thinking about ever since the epidemic began.  “I don’t know… It could work, I mean what is there to lose… If we freeze the heads we might be able to re-attach them later… It’s a long shot.”  The doctor continued to explain this idea to his colleague and then made an excuse and rang off.  He started to think about his own situation.  He did not have a freezer in his practice – he had a hockey stick but no freezer.  This should have been funny.  He got up from his desk and found that he was soaked in sweat – he had finished coughing and laughing and now he did not have much time to find a freezer.  There was a shop on the corner of the street which had a large freezer full of ice-cream.  If he could get there… He removed the hockey stick from under the door handle and opened the door to a pile of heads which rolled and bounced past him and into the practice.  They got under his feet and he slipped and fell amongst them and then scrambled up the steps before going back and grabbing a couple – after all, he was still a doctor and he still had a duty to look after his patients.  He made his way out into the street and ran as fast as he could, a head under each arm like a rugby player involved in two games at once.  He crashed open the door of the corner shop dramatically, one of the sweaty heads slipping out of the sweaty crook of his arm.  “I need your freezer!” he exclaimed loudly.  The shopkeeper was at the till, serving a customer who was buying a pint of milk.  They were both red in the face and their skin was shiny, wet with excessive sweat.  As they turned to look at the doctor, their heads fell off with a crunch, dropping casually onto the counter and then rolling onto the floor.  The doctor squealed in dismay, his head feeling more and more loose with every second.  Where was that freezer?  He dropped the other head and set off towards the other end of the shop.  His head was still where it should be but becoming a perilous balancing act and as he hunted for the freezer he moved quickly yet carefully, as if he were in an egg and spoon race.  There it was!  His heart leapt as he moved towards it, quick and careful step after quick and- THUD.