Does it really matter?

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I recently had an interesting afternoon with a psychotherapist. It had taken some time to find the courage to make the appointment, but as the bus turned into Camberwell, a renewed sense of optimism came to the surface.

The whole thing was a bit of a getting to know you experience. It was a comfy double appointment. No hurry and plenty of iced water to make me feel at home and anaesthetise at the same time.

Dr G (let's call her that) seemed fairly amiable. After fifteen minutes of friendly chit-chat, it was kind of inevitable that she asked me what was on my mind. I guess the best idea here would be to try and reproduce the conversation.




Me: G [we we getting less formal by this point] Are you familiar with the TV show,
MR BENN
.

DR G: Yes, yes I am. Does this have some connection with how you're feeling right now?

Me: Well, yes. But, not in the way you think, I guess.

DR G: Suppose you explain it to me.

Me: Well, G, I'm not from this world. I mean my world is very similar, but it isn't this one.

DR G: Can you clarify?

Me: From what I can understand: I somehow dropped into a parallel world.

G: This world?

Me: Yes, this world. This world from my own.

G: You believe that you're from a parallel universe?

Me: I do.

G: And what evidence do you have for this?

Me: That show. You know, Mr Benn?

G: Yes.

ME: You remember the basic premise of it?

G: Of course. Business man goes each week to a costume shop, tries on a themed costume, walks out of magic door into the world of the theme. Like the world of a medieval knight, a king's servant or a spaceman.

Me: Exactly, exactly! A spaceman.

G: Yes, like a spaceman or wizard or something like that.

Me: Look. In my world, right. The world where I'm from; Mr Benn is about a spacemen.

G: He's a spacemen?

Me: Yes.

G: And it's a space show? Sci Fi?

Me: [exasperated] No, no, listen... It's just the same. He's a spaceman. That's Mr Benn. That's who he is. He visits a costume shop and it's the same magic door thing.

G: He's not a businessman then?

Me: No, that's just one of the costumes in the shop.

G: Are you sure you're not just confusing the show with something else.

Me: Absolutely not. I grew up watching it. Everyone my age knows about Mr Benn, the spaceman who visits the funny guy in the costume shop.

[I will admit to becoming agitated at this point]

G: Would you mind if we just parked the whole Mr Benn issue for a moment? Let's consider. Now let me ask you a question [long pause]. You said that this world, your 'parallel world' is much the same as this one we're in now.

Me: Absolutely.

G: Now apart from the Mr Benn question, could you point out to me anything that you've found to be truly different here now in this world to the one you feel you left.

Me: Doctor. I've given this a lot of thought, as you can imagine. And I have to admit that, no, there isn't much of a difference.

G: Now I'm conscious that we're running out of time for this session, but if I can then I'd like to draw together what you've said into some kind of focus. That way, I hope, you'll feel like we've made progress here today.

Me: Okay.

G: Now, you claim to be from a different world, some parallel world. Ultimately this world is very similar to our own. 'you agree.

Me: Nodding.

G: Okay then. Further, my impression is that this world is virtually identical to the one you claim to have left.

Me: Yes, but..

G: But. But for the fact that you claim that in your world, Mr Benn is a spacemen, not a businessman. In fact, the businessman is one of the characters that Mr Benn dresses up as one day. Am I right?

Me: Yes.

G: So then, we, largely, are faced with two possibilities.

Me: Which are?

G: Firstly, you are, as you state, a refugee from a parallel world.

Me: And the second possibility?

G: The second? Isn't it far more likely that you just misremembered the programme? [I shake my head]. Life is stressful sometimes. It can play tricks on the mind.

Me: So that's it. Two possibilities?

G: That's it. But there's one thing I'd like to say as we finish. Well, it's more of a question really.

Me: Yes.

G: If you forgot the exact details of a 1970s children' programme, fine. But, say, I did believe you and you really were from a parallel world.

Me: Okay.

G: If everything else is the same here...

Me: [interrupting] Except for Mr Benn?

G: Yes, if everything is the same here in this world except Mr Benn then...

Me: Then what?

G: Does it really matter?





I'm still working through this whole thing on my own. It's an ongoing process.

Diverse diversions

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There are any number of diversions we're capable of inventing to stop us completing any vaguely unappealing task. Lately I've found myself on a desperate search for a web retailer of Mullhouse Onions (a fearsomely strong wine onion from Alsace). Meanwhile, I'm waiting till the last minute to do things like work prep, going swimming and unpacking the last of our belongings after a recent move.

It isn't that I would never do these slightly more left-field activities. It's where they would be prioritised. 'amazing what you can get done when you're trying to avoid doing something else, or are liable to fall into vaguely obsessional behaviour. In 2011 I found myself fighting through an epic 450 page biography of Thelonius Monk. Why? I simply remembered my dad having one of his records.

The crux of it is this. It's been so long that I can't now actually remember what it is (the big thing) that I'm putting off doing. As Charles Middleton's French Foreign Legion commandant says exasperatedly to Stan and Ollie in Beau Hunks: "You forgot what you came here to forget!" Yes, Sir.


The weather is warm and yet the leaves are making a b-line for the ground. This time next month the likelihood is we'll all be looking back trying to remember what blue skies are like. But in this early spring, rubbish summer, blazing Autumn London, I'll take anything I can get.


Mariella is taking the first tentative stages to walking. She likes to stand and take a few steps while gingerly holding my hand or K's. Where exactly she has plans to walk to is anyone's guess. One thing is certain though: she'll be getting there soon.

The two and a half litres of sloe gin I made recently has now been steeping for a month. Every now again, when I'm in need of a minor physical and spiritual reassurance, I go and turn the storage jars over a few times. It makes a gratifying slosh of a sound that very much appeals. Some days I just need a couple of sloshes. On others it's more.

Dorset Days

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K. and M. are off to the beach. This leaves me here in Dorset, doing a job application. As ever, the word 'hopelight' comes to mind when I have to sell myself to people. It's very tempting to think that I just turn-up, but I'm sure it's more complicated than that.

M. grows every day. There are random word-sounding noises coming out now on a fairly regular basis. It's tempting to add more meaning to them than they actually have. Is M. actually saying 'Daddy' and 'Look'? It could be anything really.

K and M are away. They won't be back till Monday. I miss them and this makes me sad.

Some people thrive on living alone. They structure their time naturally, get things done and do not (generally) waste time on pointless introspection. As you may have guessed, I am not one of those people.

Where is my life going? Why does my weight loss always seem to hit a wall? Why do I read wine literature in times of great spiritual need? All these questions and more have been running through my head over the last few days.

Now, thank Dawkins, I am saved by having to work long hours for the next few days. Back to the groovy grindstone. Yay!

THE BEST TURKEY EVER


You need 4 basic elements. A Turkey, Turkey Stock, Stuffing, and Gravy.

I am going to assume that your turkey weighs between 10 and 12 pounds (5.5 to 6.5 kilos). And that it comes with giblets. If it doesn't, you can get Turkey Stock from Granville Island, I guess. If neither, use good chicken stock.

O.K. Action. Create all the dry elements of your stuffing the day before. It saves a lot of time on cooking day. You need:-
Lots Of not quite fresh breadcrumbs
2 Onions
Thyme & Parsley
2 Eggs
4 Ounces Melted unsalted Butter
Between a quarter & a half pint of hot chicken stock or water
Salt & Pepper

Ist Stage. Chop the onions finely and mix with the breadcrumbs, chopped fresh herbs, pepper & salt. Leave overnight.
Beat the eggs and mix in to the dry stuffing mix. Melt the butter and mix in. Bring the chicken stock to the boil and mix in enough to moisten the stuffing so that it is not too dry nor too runny.

If you have giblets, make your turkey stock by putting them in a pot with a carrot and an onion cut into decent size chunks, a few peppercorns, and a bouquet garni of a piece of celery, some thyme, some parsley, and a bay leaf. Add a pint and a half of water and bring to the boil. Skim off the crud and simmer for an hour and a half. Strain and keep.

Now for the turkey. Take it from the fridge two hours before you cook it.
With kitchen paper, dry the inside and the outside skin. Remove the scaly leg bits. Now stuff the turkey. It's messy but strangely fulfilling. Now, because you want the meat to be moist, cover all the breast, leg, and wing surfaces with rashers of streaky bacon. Then prepare a cooking parcel of foil. Get two really good sized sheets of foil. Lay the turkey on them so that you can draw up the edges to create a roomy parcel with a pleat running the length of the bird. This gives air space around the old gobbler and helps the moistening process.

Pre-set your oven to 220C(or 200 if fan assisted)/Gas Mark7/425F.

In goes the turkey and cooks for 45 minutes. Then, reduce the temperature to 170C)150C fan-assisted/Gas Mark 3/or 325F and cook for31/2 to 4 hours.

Then turn the heat up again to the higher temperature, take the turkey from the oven...carefully...remove the foil, taking care to ensure that the juices inside the foil go into the roasting tin and not onto the floor. Discard the bacon strips. Baste the turkey with the juices, and return the glisteningly ivory coloured bird to the oven. Cook for a further 40 minutes or so, until you have created a beautifully bronzed work of art.

Remove from the oven. Place on a large plate and cover with a foil tent and leave for at least 35 minutes, while you carry on with veg and gravy. Fopr the gravy, use the juices from the roasting pan, scraping up all the lovely bits, and add the turkey stock. Cook on high heat to reduce a bit. Check for seasoning.
Thicken if you must.

Yipes, what a corker!! Yum YUM...and cold turkey sandwiches the day after.

God Bless you, my children.

My first daughter, Mariella (2 months old today!) enriches my life every single day. The extent to which birth is the opposite of death only really hit me at 07.17 on the 17th of September 2010. It doesn't 'make up' for those we have lost, but it does seem to make it easier to carry. Sorry if this sounds trite.


I note that Prince William and Kate 'Charles' Middleton are getting married. Why did he give her his mum's old engagement ring? Given that Diana Spencer's marriage was a disaster and she died in a car crash then it could hardly be described as a good luck charm. Still, it's one less thing we have to pay for.

I had a dream about Steve Jobs. He was standing on stage telling everyone about an upgrade to the IPhone 4. You know, the usual Moses addresses the plebs-type party.

Anyway; the presentation seemed to be going okay. Much clapping and whooping was going on and Jobs was on top form. The event had started out an apology to users but seemed to be ending in the usual spirit of triumphalism.

At this point I became aware that a resurrected Benny Hill had ventured on to the podium. Repeatedly, Hill ran up to Steve Jobs and gave him a few quick little slaps to the centre of his balding head.

Ever the pro, Jobs carried right on and mumbled something about Security needing an alarm clock ap. Hill was not done yet though. No. Not by a long chalk.

He emerged again. This time, slowly walking up behind Jobs. SJ didn't even register the intruder was there. BH placed his hand above the head of the Apple boss. I'd say, Hill's hand can't have been more than two inches from SJ's head.

Why was he doing this? What was Hill trying to prove? The truth is that I don't think anyone in that room was really sure. All that can be said is that after about twenty-five seconds, Jobs whole body appeared to start shimmer and fade.

You'd have thought someone like SJ would have been aware he was dropping out of proceedings at such an alarming rate. I have to hand it to the guy though. He just carried on with the presentation.

I woke up at this point. It was Friday, 6.10am and K had kindly brought me some tea. 'weather outside seemed okay though.

Whatever took place during my sleep, I prefer to think that Jobs would have faded back into existence once Benny Hill removed his hand from the top of SJ's head. We can only guess though.


And so the UK suddenly becomes aware of what of having a (largely) unwritten constitution can actually mean. Two unelected Prime Ministers in a row? Why not.
Anything goes in Blighty.

David Cameron's negotiating team can only bend so far in their increased offer to the Liberal Democrats. Possible support of some watered down version of Proportional
Representation, er, maybe. Perhaps if the Tories were to pitch up today with a few homemade cakes then it may help tip the balance of the negotiations.

In other news.... I was fascinated to come across a video showing a sommelier's analysis of the beverage/legend known as Buckfast. How the wine chap stopped himself from bursting into laughter, I don't understand. Heavy editing was, no doubt, required.


Delusions of mortality

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The older I get, the younger I seem to feel mentally. Perhaps this is the result of spending my 20s worrying about everything under the sun. Who knows.

It all means that I'm actually enjoying the illusion of feeling younger thanks to my previous status as a 'young fogey'.

A strange old business.
A rum kind of do.
Some defiance of logic
but somehow strangely true.


Amen.

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