Thursday, 23 September 2010

Recipe for Disaster

Recipe for Disaster

I know I must be a real grown up now. It wasn't being old enough to vote (that was a long time ago) or the 4 children which gave it away but something else. I made chicken soup because I needed to. I've done chicken soup lots of times before, varying the recipe according to what's in the fridge or garden and whether it's a chicken carcass or lamb leg bone. Sometimes, I add rice, sometimes, lentils. Whatever's at hand. But recently, I've started slipping packets of frozen casserole vegetables into my shopping trolley, thinking about the future, almost as if I suspected what was coming and yet barely registering that I am doing it. So who's responsible for such inevitability? Is it an age thing? The economic climate?

I don't specifically remember being fed chicken soup when I was ill as a child although I do remember a lot of soup in general. As integral to everyday life as politics. But here, today, the urge for chicken soup slipped out from under the mat of my consciousness and I didn't brush it back. Feeling bad? Chicken soup to the rescue.

On this grey, damp September morning I boiled up the chicken bones and added my frozen vegetables. I was heartened by the first hint of it wafting up the stairs as it came to the boil and then the sound of the huge saucepan lid tinkling and under the pressure of steam. I was convinced that it would do good things for me. Except for one thing. I'd run out of chicken stock cubes. Impetuous as ever and wanting to feel better about everything immediately, I threw in two mystery stock cubes, escapees from their box. I watch the colour of the bubbling water turn brownish. Thinking I had ruined it, I began to feel worse. Vegetable cubes would be OK but beef in my chicken soup? What kind of creature shall I tell the everyone it's made from? A feathered cow? A mooing chicken? A coalition. I didn't choose that on purpose either.

Lost for Words

Let's try and get to grips with the scale of things. Just imagine that Dr Samuel Johnson was lying there in his coffin with a rubber and his dictionary. Naturally, I expect he'd need a torch in there too which in turn would need batteries and the whole thing's getting overly anachronistic but stay with me if you can. Say he rubs out the word 'writing' for example. All of a sudden, amongst widespread confusion over such a lexical absence, the whole English-speaking world has to think of a new one and agree upon it. Would the government step in? The Queen? After all, it's hers, isn't it? Perhaps she would stop writing letters. Maybe she'd reply to her correspondences by text. Or start phoning people out of the blue. You could be driving and, unable to resist picking up Her Majesty's call, you crash and afterwards, you couldn't even remember why.

We might find that the easiest solution would be to abandon all forms of proper writing. But there's a hidden danger here too and one we're already facing. Viruses. You know that computer keyboards are the dirtiest, germ-ridden items we touch regularly? Well, next time you switch on, be aware that brushing your fingertips across the keyboard is leaving you vulnerable to attack. You won't feel a thing, that's the clever part. The fingers are in on it already. Logging on to your computer without thinking about it? Touch typing? Then you know what I mean. It's only a matter of time.

One day, someone, somewhere will invent a virus and you'll be in the middle of a conversation - maybe with your work colleague – and you'll be offering them something to improve their sex life. Maybe you'll even do it with particularly bad syntax or lacking any grammatical structure whatsoever. Or worse. If you shook their hand that morning, you'll have already passed it on. The meeting you would have had then turns into utter filth and badly-spoken nonsense. The only way to deal with it will be to delete and reinstall the lot of you and no one wants that in these times of austerity, do they?

Be careful out there, won't you?

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

The Bronze Age

Here's something I wrote the other week:

The Bronze Age

It wasn't Kerry's fault that she'd lost her job. It was crap anyway. Over the weeks, she shut out everything else too. Just at the point where she'd stopped even bothering to dress and begun eating her main meals in bed, the television lit a firework of inspiration. She could be that girl everyone talked about. Even if she was a little dumpy now, with all the money and attention, things would change. People would want to interview her, ask her opinion about fashion and make-up. Politics, even. That job she'd had, that wasn't the real her. She would show the nation, the world, the real Kerry. On TV.

Kerry was lucky that she got on the show when she did. Outside studios, queues of unemployed office girls and waitresses shoved each other, trying to edge their way forwards to the front of the line. Doors slammed in the faces of the disappointed millions. The rest of the nation sat at home, watching the select few. Widespread unemployment pushed up viewing figures for such shows as the one Kerry appeared in. The trouble was that the TV schedules had to be balanced. For some reason, some people wanted to watch news and documentaries about people dying in other countries. Budgets were at an all time low and so there was only one way to quench the thirst of the public for a reality outside of their own restricted, little lives. Repeats.

At first, Kerry blossomed. It didn't matter that she came across as an idiot, that she thought that Houston was in London or that there was a railway station called St Pancreas. The excitement caused her to lose weight. She got freebies from exclusive beauty salons, was sprayed bronze and her hair was tamed, smoothed and cut so that it swung and fell gracefully back into place. Kerry's introduction to the show made tabloid headlines, her gaffs endearing her and giving hope to others who saw themselves as much more likely to be successful had they only managed to get past the front of the queue that day.

Six months on, Kerry walked down the High Street. She only wanted to buy some cotton wool. She'd learned to park her Porsche in the darkest corner of the car park, well away from the footfall of window shoppers along the main thoroughfare. She couldn't sneak around to the back of the chemist's because knocking on the door itself would attract attention. It was pointless trying to disguise herself because she'd tried every combination of glasses, hats and big coats already. She'd have to tough it out.

Wealth did have some advantages. She could afford to educate herself. From home, of course. She was studying for a degree in archaeology. It was always interesting to know how people lived, even if it was in the past, wasn't it? The field trips weren't a problem because no one there watched the endless, daily repeats of the show featuring Kerry.