Week-end: from Discworld with cats

Name badge for Kathleen Jowitt on lanyard with text 'Discworld Convention 2022' and a red pompom

The good

I’m at the Discworld Convention! This hasn’t happened in four years, and it’s a joyous thing to have it back again. I often say that I married into Discworld fandom; this is the family reunion. My approach to conventions is going to every panel I can squeeze into my weekend; my husband’s is sitting in the bar catching up with old friends. This is probably the best way round (see Difficult and Perplexing, below). I’m having a lot of fun admiring people’s costumes and listening to, and occasionally engaging in, erudite literary discussions. Plus fowl jokes about chicken polishing.

Also, rain. I woke yesterday morning and heard the lovely sound of water pattering on the conservatory roof. (I don’t sleep in the conservatory, you understand: the sound comes in through the bathroom window.)

Edited to add: also, less than a week ago is a foreign country and the portal effect is strong. I had a lovely Sunday afternoon with friends and Tuesday evening with extended family. Was that really this week?

The mixed

Well, the con is great, but it is an awful lot of people in the same place, and…

The difficult and perplexing

… there is something about the acoustic of this hotel that captures and intensifies sound, and there is something about my brain that is really not coping with this. Certain areas – the lobby, the bar, the breakfast room – just get so loud that my head short-circuits. It got particularly bad at breakfast this morning and I had to walk out and cry outside. The staff were incredibly kind and sorted me out with a plate of beans on toast in the bar area (not crowded at half past eight in the morning, obviously).

And, continuing the tedious chasing of symptoms around my legs, my left knee is very achey and so are both calves. I often wake up with aching calves, but it’s going on most of the day at the moment.

What’s working

The three-three-three rule of eating. Three meals, three snacks, no more than three hours apart. I think I got this from the Fat Nutritionist. Either way, it’s worked at work (when I breakfast – reluctantly – at six in the morning, it then makes perfect sense to have an apple at my desk at nine) and at the con (mealtimes are a somewhat nebulous concept, but events tend to happen on the hour, so it’s reasonably easy to keep track of whether or not I’m due some food). Early days, but this does seem to be keeping me happier and saner. Making sure that I do eat, rather than trying to power through to whenever the next meal might happen to be, is a definite shift in practice, but one that I think might be worth sticking with.

Reading

I reread Lords and Ladies ahead of the con. I’m sure I heard somewhere that it’s the one that got Terry Pratchett the most hate mail, more even than Small Gods. Apparently some fantasy fans can’t cope with the idea that elves might not be nice.

Also picked up CATS: Cycling Across Time and Space, which I started reading when I got my author copies last year and then never got round to finishing.

And the new Jill Mansell was 99p on Kobo this week, so I picked that up too.

Writing

Three thousand words of space opera. I’m as surprised as you are. A bit on Households’ Rancour too. (I’m playing around with using the working title in casual conversation, like this, to see whether it sticks.)

Making

Still working on the mystery patchwork. I had hoped to get the top finished in time to take the whole thing to the con and do the quilting there, but it hasn’t happened. I probably wouldn’t have got around to it anyway.

Watching and listening to

All sorts of diverting performances and interesting panels. Highlights so far: Queering the Discworld (I am an English graduate; I will queer anything you like); Bedtime Stories (this turned out to be the unofficial and the official biographers of Terry Pratchett swapping notes, and went on until getting on for midnight); Staging Discworld: the challenges of dramatising Terry; and A Night at the Discworld Opera. (Disclaimer: my husband was in that one. It was genuinely very good, though. There was a lot of appropriately modified Gilbert and Sullivan, and Rossini’s Duetto Buffo di Due Gatti, aka the Cats’ Duet, which I haven’t heard in a long time. We sang that at our wedding. I’m not kidding. It’s probably still on YouTube somewhere.)

Cooking

Greengage chutney. This is probably a bit of a waste of greengages, which are good raw, but I wanted to deal with them before we went away.

Eating

On Wednesday I had a falafel wrap from my favourite falafel stand (the one in the garden at St Pancras new church). The queue was so long that I then didn’t have time to do the other things I’d meant to do that lunchtime, but it was worth it.

Watching

Sunday afternoon included the first two episodes of Heartstopper (me: ‘Is that the one about vampires, or is it something about doctors? No! I do know! It’s the queer teen rugby players, isn’t it?). Now I’m invested! But I don’t have Netflix! Options: buy the comics (but I haven’t yet read any of the books I bought the last time I went to Gay’s The Word); obtain Netflix (but we are already subscribed to a different streaming service); go and see my friends again (clearly the best option).

Moving

Swimming, again! This hotel has a pool.

Noticing

On my train journeys, I’ve seen quite a few deer sloping across harvested fields.

In the garden

Greengages, as noted above, and a handful of tomatoes and french beans. The pears are looking good; the apples seem to be more of a mixed bag. The drought has killed a lot of the weeds and, I think, the ornamental ginger I bought a couple of months back.

Appreciating

Wonderful kind hotel staff. Impressive intricate costumes. Rain.

Line of the week

Has to be Lords and Ladies, really. The way that Pterry stacks allusions three high and then pulls the tablecloth away to show that it’s just chipboard underneath when you realise who he’s talking about

But that was a long time ago, in the past1. And besides, the bitch is…

… older.

1 Which is another country.

This coming week

Three days off! One to travel home and two to recover, do laundry, and prep for a planning meeting on Saturday. I’d like to have a safe and stress-free journey, for all to be well at home, and to be able to devote some of those two ‘free’ days to making some real progress on Households’ Rancour.

How was your week? What are you hoping for from the next one?

Week-end: Pride and preliminaries

Bouquet of flowers in shades of pink, blue, mauve, and pale green, against a red wall

I’ve been wanting to post more on this blog, and also wanting to record more of what I’ve been up to and what I’ve enjoyed. So this is the first of what I hope will be an ongoing series of weekly… check-ins? reports? I like neither of those terms. But I know what I want to do, even if I can’t describe it. So I’m just going to start doing it. Expect varying length, disparate headings (stolen from various people across the internet), and weeks where nothing happens at all.

The good

Ely Pride. This started last night with a talk at the cathedral from Rev Dr Charlie Bell. I am not sure that I can convey how very good it is to have one’s church say in so many words that LGBT+ people are welcome, so you’ll just have to take it on trust. The main event was today, and it was joyous.

Gorgeous flowers from my in-laws, extending my birthday a little further.

The mixed

Sad to see a great colleague go, but her leaving do was brilliant. A couple of ex-colleagues turned up, too: good to see them again.

The difficult and perplexing

A load of internalised biphobia (this has been going on for a while, and nearly stopped me going to Pride today; I’m glad it didn’t succeed). And a stubbed toe. And an hour of (unfounded) family panic.

Noticing

Dragonflies whizzing around the green spaces. Sunflowers in the allotments (you can see the Royston ones from the train). Starlings.

Reading

Wanderlust: a history of walking, Rebecca Solnit. This was one of the two books I got from the Book Bus. (I am, this year, a model of restraint.) I’m enjoying this: Solnit talks about walking as a political act as much as anything else, and she talks about all sorts of walking. Some things I did know already and a lot that I didn’t.

Rough Music, Patrick Gale. My mother’s been recommending this author to me for ages, largely on account of the Isle of Wight connection, but I finally got around to reading him in this book from the sale at Ely library, and it’s mostly set in Cornwall. Very readable; one of those dual timeline narratives. A potential entry for The Reader’s Gazetteer – B for Barrowcester. Reading the notes at the end, it’s based on Winchester. I didn’t pick that up at all despite having been born in Winchester, but then I’m usually there to look at buses.

Husband Material, Alexis Hall. Well, this was where my Tuesday evening went. I lounged on the sofa, chuckling away. Delightful. It felt a little strange, because it felt very, very familiar. Hardly surprising: when I was writing The Real World I spent quite a lot of time wondering if after all Richard Curtis hadn’t said it all better in Four Weddings and a Funeral, and Husband Material is very much riffing on that seminal romcom. Anyway, it is refreshing to see something else that really digs into the question of marriage. Even if it did get me thinking that it is as well that Issues in Human Sexuality has nothing to say about lemon sorbet. (There’s one other person in the world who’ll find that funny. Oh well.)

Making

Patchwork. Secret project.

Cooking

Pickled plums. And an improvised sort of pie made of plums and very old filo pastry from the freezer. The rest of the plums got frozen, though I should probably go and see what else I can harvest before the wasps get it.

Writing

A post for the Ely Cursillo site.

Looking at

Summer Open Exhibition at Babylon Arts. This was fascinating for the sheer range of artists and styles on show, and my reactions to them. I like bright textiles but not bright acrylics. I like moody pastels of Fenland skies. I dislike the self-consciously quirky except where it was made of steel. I am fascinated by the intricate. I am predisposed to like linocuts. It takes a lot to impress me with a photograph. I did know that @smolrobots is based somewhere in the vicinity, but I’d forgotten. And so on. Eavesdropping on other people’s reactions was also fun.

Listening to

I’ve been to Evensong three times this week (another of those things that I could do far more often than in fact I ever do). There’s been a visiting choir, and they really got into their stride today. Jackson in G (used to sing it at Guildford, but haven’t done it for years) and then something called Song to bring us home by Tamsin Jones.

Drinking

Sidecars. Or, as they somehow ended up getting called, Sidehorses. Don’t ask, or, at least, don’t ask me. I also had a strawberry slushie today, the first in a very, very long time.

Line of the week

This is from the Rebecca Solnit:

Imagine it doing seventy on the interstate, passing mesas and crumbling adobes and cattle and maybe some billboards for fake Indian trading posts, Dairy Queens and cheap motels, an eight-cylinder Sistine Chapel turned inside out and speeding toward a stark horizon under changing skies.

This coming week

More patchwork more patchwork more patchwork.

The broccoli problem (an update to yesterday’s post)

close-up of a romanesco cauliflower
This is not broccoli. I do not have a photograph of broccoli. Although apparently in the 1950s ‘broccoli’ was the name used for cauliflower.

My library fine was 25p.

And my friend Lesley found broccoli in Maria Rundell’s New System of Domestic Cookery, 1819. According to the delightfully cranky food writer Jane Grigson, it was introduced by a seed merchant in the 18th century, with sales bolstered with leaflets on how best to prepare this exotic and delicious vegetable. It would probably show up at show-offy dinner parties, not (as in the book I was reading) as a dull duty vegetable for the children to force down.

So no, it would not be impossible for the characters in the book to eat broccoli. It would, however, be highly unlikely for them to be wasting it on nursery tea, particularly if the ungrateful little brat doesn’t even like it.

And this is why the Tiffany problem is still a problem. The author might very well be correct, but that’s small consolation if the reader has already been hurled out of the book (and sent their friends off down research rabbit holes). Don’t get me wrong: I still think it can be made to work. I just think it takes work. You’d better start off having your Tiffany addressed as Theophania a couple of times before you use the diminutive. Have her born at Epiphany. Then work out how to explain the connection without bringing your whole plot to a stop for a tedious infodump. It ought to be possible. I can’t say that I’m inclined to try.

Which is to say that I’d have been charmed by the appearance of broccoli at a Regency dinner party, particularly if it had been accompanied by some one-upping commentary on how very talented and superior one’s gardeners were, might I help you to a little macaroni, my dear? I just can’t swallow it (ha!) as a way for the cute moppets to get their greens. Other brassicas are available.

But that’s me. What I’ve really learned here is that this author’s historical stories don’t work for me: they’re not interested in the same things as me. A pity, because I’ve enjoyed their contemporaries, but there we go. I shall have to write snobby broccoli stories myself. Or just cook some.

In fact, says Lesley,

Eliza Acton says that it is boiled, if the heads are large served like cauliflower; the stems of branching broccoli peeled and the vegetable tied in bunches, dressed & served like asparagus on toast. Hardly nursery food!

That sounds rather good.

December Reflections 26: delicious

IMG_20191226_112034_119

Boxing Day tends to involve a lot of food: either leftovers, or food that is not technically leftovers, but only because nobody got around to cooking it. And when you’re combining British and Polish traditions, you end up with two huge meals, and even more food that needs eating afterwards.

This morning I cooked omelettes topped with smoked salmon, which would have been the fifth or sixth course of Tuesday’s Wigilia (Christmas Eve vigil) meal, if we hadn’t been full after several other dishes of fish/soup/pierogi/carrots/more fish. And I meant to take a photo of them for this prompt, but between cooking them and then eating them I completely forgot about it. So here’s a slice of Christmas Eve bread instead.

It really doesn’t matter. Everything I’ve eaten over the last couple of days has been delicious.

December Reflections 12: best meal of 2018

DSCF7545

The best meal of 2018 was undoubtedly breakfast in Bratislava. I quote from my diary:

… not overpriced at all, because there was a huge amount of it. If anything, the menu undersells it. Nicest breakfast I’ve had in ages. Orangey sausages – presumably with paprika – cherry tomatoes, red peppers, courgettes, squash, mangetout, French beans, various salad leaves; poached egg; toast.

In Slovak, assuming I copied it down correctly:

klobásky s. gril. zeleniou a pošírovaným vajcom

I ate an awful lot of bread and cheese when I was InterRailing, and by the half-way point a breakfast that consisted of bright colours and all the major food groups was very welcome. Dinner the previous night had been very good, and cheap (gnocchi with sheep’s cheese; white wine; Slovak whisky: just over €10), but even allowing for the stock of apples I’d been hauling round Europe I thought I was probably running a vitamin deficit. This was a delicious way to put that right. And the menu had some good advice, too.

April Moon: day 11: permanent święcone

I am trying not to talk about food.

No, that’s not true at all.

I am trying not to talk about food in a certain way, with certain people, but they’re not making it easy.

Recently I cancelled my Graze box, partly because it kept going to someone else’s desk and I found it embarrassing to go and track it down, and partly because they insist on labelling their cake ‘guilt-free’ and filling their covering notes with irritating little screeds about the nutritional superiority of their snacks over anything else I might happen to be eating. I have yet to find a replacement, which is irritating, because if I don’t eat something on the train back from work then I’m a total wreck when I get home.

Once last year I tweeted angrily at Riverford because they included in the box a recipe brochure divided between ‘good’ and ‘naughty’ options – complete with halos and horns. They haven’t repeated the offence so far; I doubt my tweet had anything to do with that, unless perhaps it was echoed by many others. I don’t know. While the parts of the internet that I frequent tend to recognise the value of food, offline I seem to be surrounded by people who assign moral virtue in inverse proportion to nutritional content.

I want no part of this culture of guilt and ingratitude. I need to eat. So does the rest of the human race. Food is good! Food is a blessing! One of the loveliest things about marrying into a part-Polish family is the Holy Saturday ritual of putting together a święconka, a basket of smoked sausage and cake and hard-boiled eggs, and taking it to church to be blessed ready for Easter. It is the most refreshing interlude from the outside world, which is busy beating itself up because it tells itself it has eaten too much, or the wrong thing.

Last year I had a practice of silently giving thanks as I ate – not just for the food itself, but for the labour that prepared it and brought it to me. I’d like to revive that. I would like to live in permanent święcone. I would like to appreciate the food in front of me, rather than tell myself that I don’t deserve it.

Oh, but it would be so much easier if people in the office were not dieting, or, if they were, didn’t feel the need to tell me about it! I keep meaning to make a list of suitable alternative subjects, so that when this particular one comes up I can change it.

Reverb 19: nourishing

Day 19: how did you nourish yourself?

How did you nourish your beautiful body in 2012?

What self-care practices will you take with you into 2013?

In February I got into a useful habit of making a large batch of soup on a Sunday, which could be heated up in the work microwave, and did three or four lunches, and got me eating more vegetables with less faff. This went on for some months, but I have got out of the habit again. The problem is that Sunday is my busy day, and I do not always find time between morning church and evening church to cook – sometimes, to cook twice. Not to mention shopping and all that.

I went through a phase of consuming daily multivitamin pills and St John’s Wort (in the vague hope that they would sort out my immune system and the brain slugs respectively) but got out of that habit as well. I’m no good with pills.

At the moment I am eating a lot of clementines and satsumas and things, because they are easy and cheerful.

I have been wondering (vaguely, again) about getting a veg box delivered. I do tend to use food up if I actually have it in the house (unless I have completely forgotten about it). We did decide against it a while back, on the grounds that the market is so good, but we don’t actually go to the market, because of having to carry everything back. (I suppose the trike would help with that; but it is still a journey that I don’t necessarily have time to make.)

Also, try not to fall over so much. And go to the dentist.