Thursday, October 27, 2005

2005-10-01 040Rule number 1 for [temporary] housemates who are cooking badly for their loud, and American*, girlfriends, thereby hoping for a romantic evening and all that entails: Never invite the flatmate's brother to join the meal (especially not the bolognaise has uncooked chunks of onion about the same size and shape as a piece of Toblerone, mixed in with a pound of mince, a couple of bulbs of garlic [yes, I do mean bulbs], three small mushrooms (with possible secondary fungi), and a single tin of tomatoes tipped over it at the end, so there's a nice light pink wash over the plates, which you can use to rinse them. Oh, and did I mention the garlic bread? Which was off white, still with chunks of unmolten butter between the slices. Still at least it wasn't frozen, and he did remember to take it out of the wrapper before warming it) and then a game of Trivial Pursuit after it (maybe I'm out of sync with current wooing techniques, but impressing the other party with one's knowledge of the trivial...).

* These two attributes may be linked. They may also be linked to why she complains her voice is hoarse the whole time. I don't know why some people, and it tends to be Americans, have such loud voices. She's attention seeking, slightly too liberal with the application of her opinions, and just very loud. Oh, and at night she sounds like a cross between a fox and badger, with a hint of magpie. But I'm sure you don't need to know about the nocturnal sounds of two random people, even though he rather oddly sounds like Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario (a terrifying and peculiarly memorable sound) when they've making their vocal volleys. You can almost visualise the hairy balls bouncing back and forth (insert suitable lame tennis-sex pun, along the lines of "new balls please", "love all" and "first service", here).

But back to the Trivial Pursuit. Because it's a game, it suddenly stops being trivial. So when I'm there purely to make up numbers, it's a bit rude to trounce the other two, and then win before they've got more than 3 bits* put together. I think there was a little annoyance lingering beneath the astounded expressions.

In mitigation, they shouldn't have been so surprised. After all, they were both drinking and I wasn't. He knew my brother at university, and knew him by his former nickname of "Random" (is there a more overused nickname?), which my brother had gained by his knowledge of random bits of information, which he would add to every conversation. Bizarrely, I'm related to my brother, despite what hair and eye colour, and bone structure, would suggest, and so I too have this ability to know the truly pointless.

Hence, when asked "what became popular in the Nineteen Eighties and would fit on a tatami?", I know the answer to be a futon. Cue bewildered shock, and the inevitable question "how do you know that?"

Well, Trivial Pursuit deals with such broad generalities that it would have to be a fairly big trend, and futons were a major fad in the 80s. Plus a tatami is a Japanese mat, but it's also a unit of area in Japan.

From the resultant looks I'd assume the "how do you know that" was a rhetorical question designed to express disbelief and not an actual attempt to seek greater knowledge. Such strange illogical people.

Of course it start to get a bit odd when I'd be able to answer a misread question, and the proper question. Although explaining why I knew the answer and my logic behind it didn't work so well when it was the wrong answer. I blame the American girl saying "Santa Claus" in a tone which I assumed to be sarcastic, when Santa Claus was actually the answer. And a bloody stupid answer it was too. I still think mine was better. And anyway, it's Father Christmas, except it's in Mexico, so it'd be Papa Noel, but in Spanish (because all "foreign" is basically the same with different accents).

But arguing's half the fun (and most of the misery), as is correcting the out of date and inaccurate answers. Take the Railtrack question - is National Rail a private company? Answer came there none.

Then the next day roast pheasant with roast potatoes, carrots and beetroot, and peas. Respective reasons: reduced to £1.49; do potatoes need a reason? Carrots because Sainsbury's has adverts everywhere telling me to roast them with thyme, but I had no thyme, and needed another vegetable, and couldn't be bothered with more intensive chopping and doing two pans of vegetables; beetroot were 20p for five, and I like beetroot, apart from the few seconds of panic when I go to the loo (But I haven't been playing rubgy); peas because I didn't have enough broccoli for two and I had no other vegetables.

All this with a thermostat-less oven. So when it says to cook it for 20 minutes on 8, that just means put it in, and when it says to cook for a further 30 minutes on 5, that just means stick a baking tray between it and the element.

It nearly worked. When I tried to see if the juices would run clear before I put the peas on, I could find no juices. And turning the oven off to save the bird then steamed the previously roasted vegetables. But it tasted nice, if a little hard or crispy in places.

And that's about it for tellable stuff. And someone remind me that the point of not-stepping-back-fast-enough/volunteering, is because it is something the volunteer wants to do, not something they feel they ought to do, or feel would look good on a CV (or if not look good, at least provide recent filler). It could just be that after years of looking in wonder at perpetually busy dynamos, who do everything (and occasionally everyone), while yawning and trying to work out how to fit not very much into a big gap which doesn't feel like it's big enough, I've decided to try the alternative Tardis based theory that the more one does, the more time one has.

So when, in about a fortnight, I start blogging regularly again, you know I've got a null result.

Oh, and never attempt a flying visit anywhere. Either you'll stay for ages being talked too and bogged down in mundane issues (like washing the apples before eating, because they got picked after the sewer blocked, and some of them got dropped in the aftermath. You know, details like that would be more helpful when I first enter the house, not about 4 hours and various bits of fruit later) or taken on a wildgoose chase, otherwise known as a Ghost Walk dry-run, dry being said in particularly sneering tone.

Have you ever tried timing and recording such a thing, when it's still in the formulatory stages, and without any light? If I could make out my watch, I couldn't see to write. The only torches available either played maniacal laughter and flashed, were in use for special effects, or was in the hands of the narrating guide who had the annoying habits of leading the group, then turning round to address them, while shining the torch right in their faces.

One of the main concerns of the group was how the people lurking in the woods could get to their next haunt (so to speak), without being seen by the punters. I did point out that they already had a fairly good way of stopping people seeing shadows in the woods, or shadows anywhere.

Then back to the pub for planning the next rehearsal (altering the route to avoid tripping off security floodlights, which rather ruin the effect; deciding just which try is the X tree - although people walking out of an unexpected [and completely wrong] place can work quite well to shock) and for food. Well, a glass of water, then the discovery that food's been ordered, and as I'm scrounging I can't really get away with placing a separate order which will come later. So I get an offer of "you can have some of my cheesy chips" and despite leading questions about the preparation times on chips, and various other hints, nothing more. The cheesy chips come, and then I remember just where I am.

Yep, cheesy chips a la Surrey. Made with Stilton (well, it was probably a more expensive and refined blue cheese, but I'm not a fan of blue cheese; it's the way it tastes like badly mouldy bread that does it).

And then the group starts up for the next preparatory round, and I depart as my friend stalks off, and about 20m away remembers me with an "Oh, bye". I know she's absent-minded and I have the ability to merge into the wallpaper/daub, timber, brick with odd prints, paintings and unused lumps of brass and leather hung upon it, but still...


* Cheese, pie, wheel or round? Chunk, segment, quarter [sic], slice, wedge or bit? ^

Might I use this comment forum for some grandstanding / personal commentary to others?

"See! It's not weird! If I go to a pub quiz or play Trivial Pursuit it is *not* "just a bit of fun". It is the way those of us with photographic memories, but awful filing and recollection systems avenge ourselves upon the Aranxa Sanchezs' of this world"... But of course we're then accused of memorising the questions and answers........
But you'll be there and do that or convert the last sentence to the past tense.
Maybe it's the long weekend of organic vegetarian food, or maybe I'm just a bit too tired, but I'm having problems working out what you're apologising for. Oh, and I probably should have mentioned I'd be away at the weekend, perhaps even before the weekend.

You have a photographic memory? You must save a fortune on development costs.
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