‘Oh my god, that’s the haggis exploding!’

In case you are thinking this is some kind of Scottish Armageddon, I would like to put your mind at rest and assure you that whilst it was something of a minor cataclysm, it was extremely localised.

As one of my two readers is aware, I have returned briefly to the UK to top up my rust levels, visit family and do some work on the house (not necessarily in that order)

Rust levels? Yes, when people from the UK appear to be tanned don’t be fooled. It isn’t a sun tan you see, but rust, on account of all the rain we get.

Scottish Breakfast
Scottish Breakfast By Jeremy Keith – Flickr, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3253929

Anyway, I digress. One of the essential ingredients of a visit to my homeland is that British tradition, known as a fry-up (or a fry, if you are from Ulster.) There are many variations on this wonderful British institution, bacon and eggs being the central core of all of them. Get beyond that and basically anything that can be fried, can be added, with the exception of baked beans which must never be fried! (Mexicans, please note.)

As I live north of the border (Scotland, for those of you who are geographically challenged, or unaware that England is not the entire nation but only one quarter of it,) there are two items that no self-respecting Scottish breakfast would be missing – black pudding (also favoured in England and Ireland) and haggis.

Should you be unfamiliar with haggis, it is a large sausage made from things you don’t wish to know about, onion and oatmeal (wild haggis is an entirely different beast.) It is exceedingly tasty. The breakfast variety comes sliced, ready to fry and you just pop it in the pan with the other ingredients to cook up instant arteriosclerotic vascular disease and heart attack.

So, there I was on our first day back in Scotland, cooking a hearty breakfast with said ingredients, along with Portobello mushrooms. Given the size of the pan and some of the ingredients, especially the mushrooms, it was necessary to cook in batches, keeping things warm in the oven whilst the rest were cooked. Unfortunately, one of the haggis slices got damaged in the process, leaving behind quite a few pieces of oatmeal.

Into this pan, I added some oil and heated it before adding eggs, the final

Wild Haggis
Wild Haggis with its favourite food – tatties. By Emoscopes – Own work, CC BY-SA 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1420068

ingredient. As I started to flick some hot oil over the yoke there was a small popping sound and I was suddenly hit in the face by something hot, this was followed by a barrage of noises and a scene worthy of being included in the opening sequence of Saving Private Ryan, as pieces of oatmeal exploded, spreading their fiery destruction far and wide across the kitchen.

It was at this moment I uttered the words to which my wife replied, ‘that’s not something you hear every day.’ – ‘My god, that’s the haggis exploding.’

In case you are worried that this could be utilised in some way by the Scottish Liberation Army as an IED, I don’t believe exploding haggis will be on their list of ordnances anytime in the near future, although it will undoubtedly be on the breakfast menu.

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When the (micro)chips are down

As both of my readers know by now, rather than write my novels, I spend my time trawling the news sites to find things of interest (well I do have a PhD in procrastination, ask my wife.)

Anyway, I digress. I was looking at that well known news site (you know the next bit so well – the one run by the Broken Biscuit Company,) when I came across this fascinating but scary story.

Microchips. The future of the human race? Honda Asimo
The future of the human race?
CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=140450

A Wisconsin company is to become the first in the US to insert microchips into its employees. Yes, you did read that right, people are being microchipped just like your dog or cat. The company in question is offering to implant the tiny chip into workers’ hands for free – and they suggest everyone will soon be doing it. The rice grain-sized chip will allow them to open doors, log on to computers and purchase food, all without any effort on their part. A spokesman for the company was very upbeat about the whole thing, focusing on the benefits of having the device, and so far, 50 of the 85 employees agree with him and have signed up to the deal.

Of course, I can see the advantages, but do we really need them and have we looked far enough ahead to see the problems on the horizon? The idea of mobile phones was sold on the basis they would simplify communications; make it easier to stay in contact with friends, relatives and, unfortunately, even your employer. And yes, that has happened – but the downside is that now, we only seem to be capable of communicating with people who are not in our presence. Next time you are in a coffee shop, take a look at around, I can guarantee most will be on their mobiles, texting, watching videos, playing games, anything except communicating with their present company,

Then there are computers. Sold as a device to make our lives a lot easier, freeing up our time to do all manner of things – except our time is spent tending to our new masters, trying to get them to do what we want, not what they want. Whether you like it or not, we have become their slaves. Not to mention the thousands of people who are now unemployed, replaced by a computer.

First edition of Orwell's 1984
First edition of Orwell’s 1984

For those of you, like me, who are thinking of Orwell’s 1984 scenario, a spokesman for the company believes this is the way forward, the advantages far outweigh the disadvantages. When the inevitable question about tracking arose, he assured the reporter the device had no GPS technology and was the same as the microchips in your credit cards.

Forgive me for being a little cynical here. It may well be the case the microchips are simply an identity device, such as in your credit card, but how long before some government, or business, sees the enormous potential of tracking the whereabouts of every citizen and works clandestinely to put that tracking technology in place. It doesn’t need to have the GPS technology in the chip; that handy little mobile phone I mentioned earlier, can be tracked from its signal strength at the cell towers.

This may be a conspiracy theorist standpoint, but do you trust your politicians to tell the truth, be open and honest and have your best interests at heart? Sorry, it may well be advantageous to pay with the wave of a hand and have the light come on when I enter a room; I don’t need to be turned into R2-D2 in the meantime. The more someone tells me something will never happen, the more I believe that will be the most likely outcome. That’s not cynicism, nor conspiracy theory, it’s experience.

The only chips I want inside my body come wrapped in paper and are liberally covered in salt and vinegar (sorry, my American cousins, those things in a foil bag are called crisps; you’ll get the hang of it one day.)

Have a good one.

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When a dog’s life isn’t a dog’s life

Dog with no name

As a Jedi, no – seriously, I am – anyway, as I was saying, as a Jedi, I believe things happen to us for a reason. We aren’t always sure what the reason is, and it may never become obvious to us, but it is part of your destiny, young Luke. On Sunday, one such thing happened and whilst it is a tiny thing, figuratively and literally, it is going to have an enormous effect on our lives.

Bahrain has a massive problem with stray dogs. Initially, these would have been dogs abandoned by their owners when they left the island, (just how someone can do that to any animal is beyond me, but that’s another story,) but now they are breeding amongst themselves and it is not unusual to see and hear large packs of dogs roaming around in the late evening and during the night. How they survive in this heat, with virtually no water, I am not sure, but survive they do and we see mothers with pups on a regular basis.

Dog with no name
© 2017 Glen R Stansfield. All Rights Reserved.

So, when our cleaner told us she had just found a puppy at the entrance to the compound, with no mother in sight, we were not prepared for the tiny, dehydrated, tick infested, bundle that was lying on our back doorstep. Her respiration rate and lethargy told me this dog did not have long for this world.

We cooled her by wetting her and she responded by trying to lick the water on the ground, so we gave her small amounts of water to drink and brought her into the house in a cardboard box. Mindful of the tick infestation and our two resident cats, the box was placed inside a plastic carrier bag to contain the myriad of ticks that were now dropping off her.

My wife spent the day looking for signs of the mother, as we weren’t sure if this little bundle was even weaned. Sadly, she was nowhere to be found and the poor little thing spent the night with us, hardly moving.

The following day she had regained some of her strength and found the cat food, not a good diet for dogs, but in the interim it was preferable to no food at all. Clearly, she had been weaned and was perfectly capable of wolfing down food as well as lapping the water, although still somewhat unsteady on her feet.

One trip to the vet later, the dog with no name has been estimated to be  just five-weeks old, de-ticked and de-wormed, supplied with suitable food and my wallet depleted.

A long discussion ensued as to what we were going to do with her in the long term (the cats never moved their position on this; one now lives upstairs and the other lives in fear of this overgrown mouse.) This resulted in us buying the inevitable chewy rubber toys, (which she ignores in preference for the tassels on the rug,) two feeding bowls and a litter tray (how she knows to do it on paper already, is beyond us)

I knew after day one, this little bundle of mischief was destined to be with us and was going to stay.

I am just looking forward to the day when I can teach her to drive like this owner has. What a dog’s life, eh?

Dog Driver
© 2017 Glen R Stansfield. All Rights Reserved.

The way to curry favour – or in this case, soup.

When I first started this writing malarkey, my intention was to write a novel, just the one, and that would be it. The malarkey however, was not prepared to let me do that, so not only have I now written two novels, have two more in progress, with a further two in the planning stages, I also make a monthly contribution to Bahrain Confidential, a local glossy magazine and write a weekly cookery feature for another Bahrain based publication, Weekender .

Titled, Around the World in Eighty Dishes (thank you, Jules Verne,) I cook a dish from a different country each week, photographing the ingredients and finished product, as well as writing a brief history of the food or the country, and supplying the recipe.

Selection of Dishes

Shortly, we will be arriving in the Caribbean, and as I like to be a couple of weeks ahead with the articles, this week I cooked a traditional recipe from Jamaica.

As is usual with these dishes, the quantities I cook far exceeds what the two of us can reasonably eat in one go; sometimes we have the same dish over two days and sometimes we freeze a portion. On this occasion, I decided to combine the leftovers to make a soup.

As is often the case, something that is effectively thrown together, as this

Curried Goat Soup
Curried Goat Soup

soup was, far exceeds your expectations, so much so, I decided to turn it into a recipe so you can give it a go yourself.

It is time consuming, with each stage taking several hours, and that is probably what made this dish taste so good, the final ingredient – lashings of time.

The full recipe can be found here.

Sixty – going on twenty-five

When I was twenty-one years old (some four or five years ago…if you believe that, would you like to buy a used car? One careful lady owner, never raced or rallied,) it seemed to be that anyone reaching sixty years of age could be considered to have had a good innings. Let’s face it, once you reach that age you’re past your prime, physically and mentally, ready to be put out to pasture Old Man in a Bath Chairand see out your last couple of years in a bath chair, covered with a blanket, living in a world of your own, right?

On the twenty-fourth of June, I had what they call a significant birthday. As far as I’m concerned, all birthdays are significant because it means I’m still alive, but this was one of the biggies, apparently. I have reached the age I once considered to be the turning point, and you know what? It is.

I am not ready for the bath chair just yet, although my joints ache enough for me to consider one; it’s too hot here to be covered with a tissue, let alone a blanket, and my wife would tell you I already live in a little world of my own, but mentally I don’t think I have ever gone past the age of twenty-five. Combine that with another thirty-five years’ experience of living on this planet and you have a pretty awesome combination; experience and youth.

No longer how I imagine sixty years of ageI will continue with my writing, which like me, can only improve with age, I will continue to have an opinion, tempered with experience meaning I won’t necessarily voice it (who am I kidding?) and I feel ready to take on the world.

Does that mean I’m not ready for retirement in a few years’ time? You bet, I’m ready, but retirement for me will mean having the time to do all those things I don’t have time to do now, because someone expects me to turn up every day to work for them (okay, I need the money too.) I have a list as long as your arm of things to be done and they are just the ones my wife has waiting for me, but I’m not ready to be put out to pasture, not by a long chalk.

Sixty is no longer the new forty, it’s the new twenty-five; I say so.

 

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What a Hullaba..loo

As both my readers know by now, I am constantly trawling the news sites for snippets which are worthy of inclusion in this esteemed literary masterpiece (okay, it’s a tatty old blog, but my first version sounds far better.)

Once again, the famous news site, run by the Broken Biscuit Company, has come to my aid in finding something on which to comment.

Man on a toiletNow, we Brits have always found both embarrassment and humour in the most basic of bodily functions, number ones and twos, tinkles and poos, call it what you will, but there is a love-hate relationship with the process that every human, and indeed living creature on this planet must go through, the excretion of waste.

We all know a least one person who delights in the passing of gas at the most inappropriate times, and another who never seems to visit a toilet, ever, but it would appear embarrassment far outweighs entertainment for many people, regarding all matters toilet.

Renowned for being something of a reserved nation, I thought the Brits would be at the top of the league in this department, but according to the article I read, the Swedes are up there too. What we sometimes refer to as schoolboy humour isn’t at all humorous to schoolboys after all.

One town has come up with an idea to drown out the nefarious sounds of the

Brass Band
This may be a common sight in toilets in the future..
By NawlinWiki at English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3960443

loo by installing music in the school toilets. It seems that both primary and senior high school students are loath to use the loo for fear of being overheard.

According to Centre Party Councillor Cecilia Cato, in the town of Tingsryd, some children are so concerned that they refuse to use the toilet all day. She suggested the musical solution to the local council.

“I don’t think it’s just about number two on the toilet, but many also don’t do number one,” Ms. Cato said.

I just wonder about the choice of music. Would that be left to the individual concerned, depending on their circumstances? On occasion, I have been in public toilets when the person concerned would probably require Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture, complete with cannons and for some, maybe Korsakov’s Flight of the Bumble Bee would find favour. Then of course there is Handel’s Water Music….perhaps I should leave it right there.

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A Day in the Life of an Author

Walk into any bookstore or library and you are walking into a multitude of worlds; worlds created in the mind of a writer or author. The books you see are the result of hundreds of hours of angst, perspiration, joy, anger, tears, frustration and relief. Relief? Yes, relief that finally all those ideas spinning around in your head have wormed their way from your brain to the paper, in what you hope is a meaningful order.

Have you ever wondered how those words got there? I have created a snapshot of a typical weekend in the life of an author, (an author who has a day job,) so you can see how all those random thoughts are processed to create the wondrous work you see on the bookshelves.

10:00pm          Decide on an early night to tackle a full day writing tomorrow, starting at 8am.

11:59pm          Stop looking at silly cat videos on YouTube.

01:00am          Think of a marvellous plot twist as you are finally dropping off to sleep, one so brilliant you are certain to remember it in the morning.

05:00am          Wake up at your normal weekday time. Find a cat pawing you in the face looking to be fed (cats do not understand weekends and neither does your body clock.)

05:10am          Get up. Trip over the other cat lurking at the foot of the bed (cats work in pairs to trap humans; even cats who hate each other do this. It’s a basic instinct.) Feed the cats to keep them quiet.

05:15am          Go back to bed for a further half-hour sleep.

09:30am          Wake up and realise your day is off to a late start.

09:40am          Decide you should have a full English breakfast before getting to work. Spend the next ten minutes debating with your wife whether to cook or to go to a café.

09:50am          Having decided on the latter, start writing a shopping list to kill two birds with one stone. No sense in going out and not doing the shopping at the same time.

09:51am          Remember you had a brilliant idea for a plot twist the previous night. Fail to remember what it was. Resolve to buy another notebook to put at the side of the bed, along with a pen (the previous twenty-three notebooks and pens appear to have been taken by aliens. What they are going to do with all those notebooks and pens, you have no idea, but the germ of an idea for a sci-fi novel pops into your head.)

09:55am          Complete shopping list, failing to add notebook and pen as you have been distracted by the sci-fi book plot.

10:00am          Leave the house resolving to be back by midday.

02:15pm          Arrive back with the shopping.

02:30pm          Having packed the shopping away, decide to have a cup of tea before getting to work on the next chapter.

04:00pm          Stop looking at Facebook and open your writing program.

05:00pm          Having written six words, which do not quite convey what you have in your mind. Decide to cook the evening meal.

05:01pm          Open a bottle of wine while you and your wife decide on what to cook.

05:20pm          Order a take-away as you don’t fancy any of the food you bought that morning.

05:25pm          Have another glass of wine while you wait for the take-away to be delivered. Pointless to start writing now, only to be interrupted by the delivery driver.

07:00pm          Get back to work on the next chapter, glass of wine in hand.

07:05pm          Open another bottle of wine because the first one seems to be empty. Squint at the old bottle to see if it is cracked anywhere and has been leaking.

07:20pm          Look at the thirty-seven new words you have written and try to think of a better way it could be worded.

07:25pm          Start researching on the internet for a suitable location for your two main characters to have a meeting.

09:35pm          Stop looking at silly cat videos on YouTube and resolve to finish this chapter before bed.

11:55pm          Wake up with a stiff neck because you have been slumped on your desk for the last two hours.

12:01am          Go to bed.

12:15am          Remember the marvellous plot twist as you are dropping off to sleep. Also remember you forgot to buy a notebook and pen.

This is likely to be repeated the next day, shopping included as many items were missed off the list the first time around while you considered the sci-fi plot.
So, next time you complain the sequel to your favourite novel is taking too long to appear, give the author a break, you now know why.

Situation Vacant: Waste Management Specialist – (Extra-terrestrial)

Photo Credit: NASA

Ever since I was a child, I have had an interest in space exploration. Growing up at the same time as the Apollo missions was a magical experience. I was immensely disappointed when the programme was cut short and I couldn’t understand why the average person could not see the benefits that space exploration brings, not only to life on earth, but for the future of humanity which ultimately will have to move off this planet.

As I write this wee blether, several projects are on the go with the idea of sending people to Mars. NASA intends to set up a kind of base camp to support future missions, while Elon Musk and SpaceX have an eye on colonising Mars in the future, but in the meantime, intend to have crews spend time on the planet before being rotated back to earth. A Dutch project, on the other hand, promotes the idea this should be a one-way mission, with people signing up to live permanently on the red planet.

Now, this got me thinking (run for cover!) There are individuals on earth whose sole interest is making money. They don’t care how they do it, what harm it does to the environment, who it hurts in the process, or they have reached the point where making any more personal wealth is pointless. Making money is the focus of their lives.

Then there are a number of politicians who only have an interest in furthering their careers, not serving the people they were elected to serve (did your careers officer ever mention to you that ‘politician’ could be considered a job? I know mine didn’t.) There are very few politicians who could say, no fellow humans were harmed in the making of this career.

Suggested use of first deep space mission

And what about the death and destruction caused by armed conflicts, still happening over one-hundred years since the start of the war to end all wars? We didn’t learn our lesson then and we are still not learning it. I saw a meme on the internet the other day, Once, weapons were manufactured to fight wars. Now we manufacture wars to sell weapons.

The world is in a dire state, so I have an idea. Space exploration is vital to the future of the species, but could we not make the first few extra-terrestrial missions a sort of garbage disposal run and send the politicians, arms manufacturers, unethical business men and anyone else who cares not a jot about his fellow man, on a one-way trip to another world? It would make this one a much better place.

Nominations on a postcard please, to the usual address.

Tree Fellers Wanted….Only One Found

I was engaged in my third favourite occupation the other day, browsing that well known news site run by the Broken Biscuit Company (no, I am not telling you the first two!) when I came across a little piece about a van driver; not a white van for once, but a blue one…well, blue when you could see it.

Brings a whole new meaning

This enterprising (not quite sure if that is the word I should use about him, as you will see in a minute,) young chappie came up with what he thought was an ideal solution to his problem and gave a new meaning to a road sign many of us are familiar with.

Now, as is often the case in these situations, he didn’t quite think it through. Like many people, he set about the task entirely focussed on what he needed to achieve, without considering the wider implications of what he was doing. The task? To take a newly felled tree and transport it somewhere else. We are not talking mighty oak or Californian redwood here, but what looks to be a leylandii that may have got a little too big for its boots, or the owner’s garden.

Whether this chappie was the feller (sorry about the pun) who cut down this tree, or whether he saw an opportunity to grab himself a bit of timber, I don’t know, but I do know what you should do to avoid making the same mistakes.

First and foremost, don’t do the equivalent of the male thing with the shopping; you know what I mean. It doesn’t matter how many bags there are in the car, they are coming in the house in one go, even if the circulation of several of your digits will take days to recover, you are not making a second trip. If this is what you are going to do with a tree, you will either need to make more than one journey or use something substantially larger than the average Transit van; here is the vehicular equivalent of the loss of circulation in your

The Police were looking for tree fellers, but only one was found. Photo: BCH Road Policing

fingers.

Secondly, if you insist on overloading your vehicle, then avoid driving it through the town centre disguised as a small forest because it is

probably going to attract a bit of attention if you do, and indeed, the Sherriff of Nottingham (sorry, Hatfield), in the form of Her Majesty’s Constabulary, duly noted the arboreal expedition and decided to investigate.

And finally, should you still be contemplating ignoring the advice above and do it anyway, you should perhaps ensure you have the relevant driving documents in place to present to said Sherriff for inspection. This gentleman had a provisional licence and should have been accompanied, but perhaps his designated supervisor was at another branch.

I suspect the only trees this chap is going to be carrying in the near future are bonsais in a basket, on his bicycle.

Lies, dam*ed lies, statistics…and the News.

As both of my regular readers know, I often trawl the news sites looking for, well, news. Yesterday was no exception and I read a couple of articles on that well known bastion of current affairs based in the UK (yes, of course, you know where I am going with this; it’s the one run by the Broken Biscuit Company.)

What I am about to tell you will come as no surprise to some; the news we receive these days is the news that someone wants us to receive and in a way, they want us to receive it. In other words, it is at the very best spin, passing through propaganda and arriving at the very worst of news, lies; nowadays referred to as ‘alternative facts.

By The original uploader was SilkTork at English Wikipedia – Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons.→This file has been extracted from another file: GravityCask.jpg, CC BY-SA 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1754095

The two articles I mentioned were published on the same day and both on the front page of the UK section of this particular site.

The first was about alcohol consumption in the UK. Apparently, the Brits have fallen out somewhat with having a bevvy, a wee dram or getting blootered. In a poll carried out in 2016, just under 60% had had a drink in the past week. This apparently is the lowest rate since 2005. The report did urge caution as the survey was based on the personal recollections and for those who drink to excess, that may not be too clear. It also stated the young are not big drinkers… I think that certain European destinations may not agree with that. Perhaps the fall is due to that very fact, with the amount of tax placed on alcohol it could well be cheaper to book a flight on SneezyJet to Prague and have a few glasses there.

The second article suggested that a fall in public violence had been offset by an increase in domestic violence. In a request made under the Freedom of Information Act, a report highlights the move away from violence in public places into ‘private’ places.

The report went on to suggest the Police believed the increase in violence may be down to an increase in the consumption of alcohol and the use of psychoactive drugs.

So, there we have it;

  1. The British are drinking less.
  2. The British are drinking more.
  3. The statistics are being manipulated to suit the teller’s tale.

I think I know which my money is on and of course if you want to see the finest

By Rwendland (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
examples of this, watch any politician in the run up to the election; except Dianne Abbot, who has gone back to primary to learn to do sums.

This was a party political broadcast on behalf of the , When Is Somebody Actually Going To Tell The Truth? party.