Friday, 30 October 2009

inspiring photo essay iii, pt. 9: new kitchen

And so we reach the final curtain. Will anything ever be the same again? No. That is how time works, you fool.

I will finish off with a round-up I am amusingly calling 'Housekeeping'. You deep-down didn't believe what I said about B&Q and Kafka calling Kathy 'Mrs K'. Here is Capa-esque photojournalistic proof after they tried to deliver a replacement piece of rubber but we didn't notice because we were upstairs and there is no doorbell:

Yes, we now have a dishwasher (for washing dishes)

and a clothes drier (for drying clothes)

and never the twain shall meet unless this is the future and they are sentient, because they are right next to each other. If they are sentient, though, then they are probably part of a single all-encompassing electric intelligence, which means that they wouldn't 'meet' any more than a liver would meet a heart. Or, to be more precise, given the processing power in these machines, and the likely size of an all-encompassing electric intelligence, any more than two neurons would meet each other. So, all in all I think I am covered and: never the twain shall meet.

The clothes drier is made by White Knight. 'Like the hockey kit manufacturer?' you are thinking, a thrill of recognition coursing through your loin or loins. Similar, but not the same. Here are the two logos:

So, this is it. Nothing remains to be done, probably? Well, that depends. Look at this picture closely and you will see that around the handles are little bits of plastic.

A recent visitor thought these were the last bits of plastic that we hadn't removed from the doors and started peeling. What a tangled web he wove, because they are actually the bits of plastic roughed up by the attachment of handles. The rest of all drawers and cupboards are covered in thin transparent plastic film. It is the capitalists' job to remove this, is my take. Why remove a layer of protection you can only see a bit?

What's the time, Mr Wolf?

It is 11.23.

Where do you keep your sugar, Mr Wolf?

In a Fortnum and Mason stilton pot.

Was the extractor fan replaced in the end, Mr Wolf?

It was and here it is. It extracts, too. I cooked the traditionally kitchen-heating meal of ham, red cabbage, haggis and multiple-root-vegetable mash and then four of us ate comfortably in the kitchen, including John Finnemore who is over there on the right (he was the clear-film-peeler, there, I've said it). It was an astonishing and heartwarming sight.

So you would really place Kathy and Ian in the pantheon of heroes, then, Mr Wolf? With EM Delafield, Ken Fraser, your mother and Kenny Dalglish?

You didn't link to Ken Fraser, Mr Wolf. Why not?

So you would ask that question. Partly because I wanted to be called Mr Wolf one more time, I find it sexy, and partly because I wanted to finish with this picture, which was taken in our kitchen before we got it redone. (It is of Ken Fraser.)

So it's the end.

Thursday, 29 October 2009

inspiring photo essay iii, pt. 8: new kitchen

Tomorrow will be the last day of this nonsense. This is me preparing you. The future will hold further IPEs, of course, when suitable subjects arise.

Long ago I pictured Kathy, our inspiring heroine, but I couldn't picture the heroic Ian for fear of giving away the end results of his labours. Now I can.

The amount of things he has thrown out is inspiring and heroic. I didn't let him throw out my golf clubs and the towel I use when I go swimming. He is like civilisation and we are like Nature, in that Nature abhors a vacuum and Ian loves a vacuum. He vacuumed everything, and he wouldn't mind if everything we owned was thrown by him into a black hole (which is a sort of hyper-vacuum) and replaced by newer things. Especially the television.

He asked if we wanted a bread bin. I said, 'Er...' and he said, 'It's for keeping bread in.' I think I wondered aloud whether, even in the brave and glittery world of bread bin ownership, we would actually keep the bread IN the bread bin. Ian dismissed this. Pre-use:

In 'use':

What's the time, Mr Wolf? It is 15.31.

Among the many reasons they are my heroes is that Kathy and Ian somehow uncovered my big tupperware. I had totally given up on this, and imagined it stolen or wandering the streets in a tiny skirt.

Kathy and Ian pay lip service to the belief that I cook, but they don't really believe it. Thus, they put all the pots in far cupboard corners and put the battered roasting tins under the stairs. This was a tiny piece of rough amidst a sea of smooth, like if Gary Lineker shagged around. Here is the bigger pot than you have (not shown to scale). I picture it to prove that my mother put a name tape on it, though why you don't believe me I don't know.

A question someone once asked me: 'Do you have an old broken stuffed fish hidden out of sight the other side of your sofa that you caught in Africa about the only time you ever went fishing?' Yes.

'But surely you don't also have Christmas mugs memorialising your adopted home town of Bishop's Stortford and demonstrating the artistic ability of your small cousin Nicholas?' Shows how much you know.

'All well and good, but I have been in a state of suspenders (assuming I am a character from Wodehouse) since yesterday with respect to the forlorn former new extractor fan, which had been removed from the wall for NO REASON I CAN UNDERSTAND. Put me out of my misery!' Only you can put yourself out of your misery - that is something all the authorities are agreed on and I think I should know because I once went out with a girl who owned a book called Escape Your Erroneous Zone.

But the extractor fan. First: it was broken. It rattled like crazy because one of the fan blades was knackered. Almost certainly it was delivered like this, though there was a funny period when Ian was showing me and Kathy how to remove the grease filters and he dropped them five times in a row.

Anyway, within a day of Kathy and Ian leaving the kitchen, the lumber section of the room looked like this.

Entropy, entropy, all is entropy. OR WOULD A PHOENIX ARISE FROM THE ASHES! Tune into tomorrow's thrilling finale to find out.

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

inspiring photo essay iii, pt. 7: new kitchen

Quickly, because a blind horse is after me and that is apparently a sign I am in denial of my anima.

We are on the final stretch. Here is the fridge. It is a terrible fridge since it has no pictures of me and girls on it. In the plus column, it opens in a new way to the old fridge. Having to remember this fact and all the new places for mugs is like having a free brain trainer (I mean a brain trainer that cost thousands of pounds).

A new hob also, with oven of the kind that I used recently and burned my thumb. Downsides: I might burn my thumb again. Upsides: it is unlikely that this oven and grill will melt the plastic cupboard above it with terrifying gouts of flames that make dinner guests squeal when you put them in charge of sausages (I always put dinner guests in charge of sausages for this reason).

'My God, Robert, you are a heartless swine!' you remember to say. 'All of that build up over weeks of this agonising photo essay re the boiler-controller, then the empty wall, and then NOTHING.' Sorry about that. But it was a false alarm. The controller was off the wall (not 'wacky' but 'taken off the wall') but that was not the end:

'Hooray! How valiant! I love the old boiler-controller! I bet it survives forever!' You lose.

We do not know how to use this controller. All we could do with old one was turn it on or off. That is all we can do with this one. There is a guidebook. If you are Kathy and Ian, I am joking, we have read the guidebook and have programmed the controller to within an inch of its soulless life. If you are not Kathy and Ian, we haven't.

'Oh well. But surely the Garibaldi lampshade evaded the cut. I mean, apart from anything else, who would touch it?' I don't know the answer to the second half of this, but the Garibaldi lampshade has gone the way of all flesh and lampshades.

'Oh. Oh wow! How modern. And the ceiling is so white! It must have taken hours to clean off the thick film of grease.' Well, maybe that is what happened. But maybe they just painted over it. If so, I expect a few-microns-thick sheet of brilliant white to separate from the grease at some point and float down into a half-made pan of kedgeree.

'The south face of kitchen, previously devoted to hampers. What of that?' This of that:

'Amazing. If this is the case, then you must have TOTALLY FILLED the already full understair cupboards which were previously so full that you kept the mop and hoover outside it along with a couple of hampers full of mugs and t-shirts. Also christmas decorations.' No. Miraculously the understair cupboards are ALSO much emptier. (I know that Henrys are cynically done to look cute, but this one really does.)

So it's all change at the old corral? Not quite. Here, to the inch, is where we used to keep drink.

Notes relating to this picture:
- The Stones Ginger Wine is some that I have been carrying around as a sort of mascot since 1992. The only time I remember anyone drinking any was in the spring of 1997. It was my friend Mike. He's fine.
- You will have noticed a ridiculous over-focus on one particular drink: yes, it is true, we have two bottles of Angostura Bitters. One bottle of bitters lasts a pub twenty years. There is no reason for us to have two. We don't understand it either.
- Do not think from the presence of a bottle of Sailor Jerry rum that we recommend Sailor Jerry rum. We anti-recommend it. It tastes like deodorant. We use it only on already very drunk guests.

You are thinking what a magical treat it must be to eat at the table, on chairs, in a cool and un-oil-be-sauna-d kitchen, thank to the fancy new extractor fan, previously photographed on the wall. So, suspense fans, WHAT DOES THIS PICTURE OF IT ON THE FLOOR MEAN?!

Answer on a postcard please. I mean, I will tell you tomorrow.

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

inspiring photo essay iii, pt. 6: new kitchen

Ian, half of the heroic figures who brought about what is increasingly being called 'The Miracle of the Kitchen', doesn't think you can have too many sockets. He has been involved in various renovations of various things, and sometimes someone has said there were too few sockets. Never too many.

I do not think we have too few sockets now, but I am not saying we have too many. This is the before picture for one of the two four-socket banks (also planned at this stage were two two-socket banks):

But then we decided that this was too many sockets, and we decided to keep our collection of dangerous futuristic pets with plastic legs in a wall-cavity.

Just kidding! That is what sockets look like before you put the plastic on the front.

Oh. I've remembered an interesting story about electricity that I am not quite sure how to illustrate. Here is a picture of what it looked like from the pool of where I went on holiday last year:

Electricity: it became increasingly apparent that earlier electricians in the house had done odd things. The main evidence of which was that when the electrician, a lugubrious non-English-speaker called, it seemed but this can't be the case, Mossad, fiddled with the sockets in the kitchen, he cut the electricity to my imposing bedroom/study (where the magic happens). The rest of the house was fine. My room was connected to the kitchen in some way analogous to the head bone being connected to the shin bone. Thus, periodically, Mossad would turn off my computer and I would lose whatever inspiring piece of writing I was working on at the time. I hope that the long-ago cowboy electrician can live with how much poorer he has made the world by the loss of these inspiring pieces of writing.

Here is the final form of the socket-set previously illustrated, also including a cooker switch (which is bizarrely in our experience connected to the cooker) and a light switch:

Here are two of the others as proof that I was not exaggerating for effect.

I never exaggerate for effect. I am like one of those Russian realist film-makers, assuming I have remembered what they were like, and it is like me.

Remember those pictures of the lounge/kitchenette? You must have thought that the extraordinary thing about those pictures, beautifully composed and Russian-revolutionary-realist as they undoubtedly were, was how little stuff seemed to be in them compared to what you would expect to find in a kitchen once famous for its fullness, especially in the department of hampers.

I have not given you a glimpse of the terrace-based storage solutions employed by the heroic Ian and Kathy (or, as the Kafka-esque B&Q delivery system insisted on calling her, 'Mrs K'). Here is part of it.

All you can really identify through the plastic is a salad spinner and a huge pot my parents bought me in the late nineties while I was still a student. It's a really good one, and bigger than any pot you own. My mother put a name tag round the handle, which you cannot see in this picture.

On the other side of the terrace:

In the foreground of this picture you can see some apples from Kathy and Ian's garden. In the end, the apples went rotten. This is a metaphor for the futility and absurdity of all things.

If you look closer at this section, you can see what is in at least one of these boxes.

Yes. It is our databases.

Monday, 26 October 2009

inspiring photo essay iii, pt. 5: new kitchen

There is a brilliant bonus feature today. I have found a picture of the kitchen in its pomp. Hold your horses for it. This is where we'd got to:

There are cabinets. There is a new sink a little to the left of the old sink, and it is covered in blue plastic:

But what about the controller for the boiler? Is it still, as you promised what seems like a lifetime ago, still fighting a rearguard action against the forces of modernisation? Yes.

Was the mysterious cooker-switch ditto? No.

(Did this disconnection deprived someone else somewhere else of their working cooker? Almost certainly not. Our flats were not built as a surrealist experiment.)

So was the boiler-controller fighting alone? Was it the boiler-controller against the world? No. The lampshade-cum-flytrap was still in full operation.

Those of you who are running away with the idea that our kitchen was a backwards-looking place will notice, embarrassedly, that we use energy-saving lightbulbs.

The previous extractor fan didn't work, which made the room so hot when I was cooking meals that guests had basically to strip and then drink liquid like gin and rum at incredible speeds. The below will impact negatively on parties and my love life.

This is a picture of what the kitchen looked like during the World Cup in 2006. It was an experiment in making it look as horrible as possible, and of teasing the local football-hating capitalists. The LFHCs didn't rise to the bait, never, not once, to my face. Not to my face is a different story. Observers of these events declared that the LFHCs had won this mental battle. I say: it's a mental war, not a mental battle.

'Wait! Wait a second! It is only just registering that you said the sink had moved slightly to the left! Why the hell! Aren't you scared you will not be able to find it in the dark?' Yes I am, and you make an excellent point, but there is method to the madness. What I may never have told you is that one slight problem with the kitchen has always been that the sink never really drained properly, because the pipe was pitched at an angle so close to the horizontal that water knew which way to flow, but only after thinking about it. This meant deposits of gunge built up and periodically we would have to call Dynorod to send down their snake affair. Even in the good times, there was a sort of sewery smell when you used the washing machine and sometimes the water from it bubbled up into the sink. By moving the sink left and knocking a hole in the wall and drilling a new hole in the main pipe, we have created a more conventional draining system. Here is some evidence in case you don't believe me. (Why don't you believe me?)

I finish today's instalment with a picture of the place where the boiler-controller used to be before the boiler cabinet was built.

Oh no! Is this the end for the boiler-controller!

(Also: will this inspiring photo essay ever end? I increasingly think not.)

Sunday, 25 October 2009

any given sunday

If you have come here for the ongoing and inspiring new kitchen photo-essay, fear not. It will return tomorrow. But here is the second edition of my all new experimental NFL column.

Yo Sushis. Before we get onto why I am considering benching Ronnie Brown, what I think about Malcolm Gladwell, dogfighting, helmets and rugby, and what I am doing to defeat my various deadly enemies, let me tell you about my sitting arrangements. I am on one of those rubber balls. It's ok, but I tested out a kneely chair last week, and that seemed as if it might be better. I sat on it for 45 minutes in the shop. The people in the shop didn't look too pleased, but they sell chairs for £500, so they have to pretend not to mind. This is the one I am probably going to get:

It's a lot of money, so I checked online. I'm sorry, real world shopkeepers, but this is the real world. Some guy on gumtree was selling a £350 model that was also very comfortable for £50. It was tatty. I phoned him up and asked if it was for real, and literally made by Hag, and was one of these? Yup, he said. Sticker and everything, although, he reiterated, tatty. 'Full-working order?' I pressed. Absolutely, he assured me.

I was very insistent because the guy was in Mottingham. This is not a misprint of a place near Meicester that you have to get to on a train from Ping's Pross in Kondon. It is literally a place in far south London. Who knew? I didn't, but for a saving of £300 I was prepared to travel. I made it clear that I was public transporting from north London. No problem, he said. I travelled hopefully and then arrived, and it turns out that it is true about travelling hopefully and arriving, because the gadget that raises and lowers the seat was broken, and my nemesis pretended he didn't know, but he obviously did. I told him that I knew he knew, and we parted. If someone ever asks you to go to Mottingham, don't go in case it's this guy.

Dogfighting and Helmets
A couple of weeks ago, the New Yorker's Malcolm Gladwell wrote an article comparing dogfighting and American football. The hook for this is that the Atlanta Falcons' former superstar quarterback Michael Vick was jailed for his part in a horrible dogfighting ring a couple of years ago. It's abhorrent because the dogs are raised to do something everyone knows will lead to them being mutilated and killed, and they do it willingly because they are conditioned to please us.

Gladwell described how NFL-players - like boxers - are incredibly prone to Alzheimer's-like mental problems caused by repetitive sub-concussive head-trauma caused by clashings of helmeted heads.

Now we know this, are we colluding in a brutal spectacle that we know will lead to the brain-damage of a ridiculous percentage of the participants? Yes, the players want to, but the dogs 'want' to. But of course the players are not dogs. It's complicated. I don't have conclusions, but I have thoughts:

If you grow up in England playing rugby, you joke about how soft Americans are playing sport covered in tons of padding. This is stupid, it transpires, like most of what we think when we're young. The padding allows the huge hits. I am reminded of something I once read about bare-knuckle boxing: it was bloody and looked brutal, but no one died.

If you are hitting someone with your bare fists, you don't hit their head. It's like hitting a rock, you break your fingers and you lose. Gloves look like protection for the head, but they are protection for the hands, and opened boxing up to head trauma, which doesn't look as bad as the claret, but it kills you.

Rugby players are less susceptible to brain damage because they don't clash heads so often, because they'd get knocked out. What would happen if you played American football without helmets? I am absolutely not advocating this, I love American football, and this would obviously change the game radically, but if the game becomes medically untenable, nothing should be off the table, and removing people's helmets to protect their heads is counter-intuitive but might be worth at least a test.

Department of Great Rhetoric
As previously stated, one of my main reasons for loving American football is the quality of the writing and broadcasting that surrounds it. There is a level of earning-its-effects rhetoric, humour, deftness and self-awareness that you just don't get very often in talking about sport in Europe. There's some good stuff, obviously, and maybe if I was in America just picking the plums like the Guardian's gossip column, and not being deluged with all the daily nonsense, I would think differently. We have nothing even faintly as articulate on telly as NFL Total Access, though. The NFL preview programmes before today's game have been excruciating.

I posted this beautiful thing about 1960s racism earlier in the week, but I am absolutely posting it again. It's one of my all-time favourite things of any kind.

This one is funnier, and it again features Bill Curry, who I can't get enough of. 'This guy's not a regular human being. If we don't irritate him, he might not kill any of us this week' is a great moment, but my favourite bit is about the storm sweeping across a Kansas farmhouse.

What My Nemeses are Doing

Mike Tanier still has the job I want writing a matchup column at the NYT. Here are some of this week's highlights for the non-NFL aware:
Forcing the Rams to play the rested, healthy, post-bye Colts is like asking the wounded gazelle to wait in a narrow canyon until the cheetah catches its breath.

California native Mark Sanchez reacted to a windy autumn day as if he expected to see Emperor penguins huddled on the sidelines

This is an important game for Bengals running back Cedric Benson, who wants revenge against the team that cut him just because he was ineffective, unreliable and mired in controversy.

Josh Cribbs led the Browns in rushing last week. He also threw two passes (one was intercepted), scored one touchdown, set up the other by forcing the Steelers to squib kick in the second half, and returned a punt 26 yards. He’s the only player on the team with two touchdowns, and his hard work on special teams led directly to the Browns’ only win when he helped pin the Bills inside the 5-yard line on several punts. Cribbs’s salary is roughly an eighth of what Brady Quinn makes to stand on the sideline looking like the singer for a My Chemical Romance cover band, but the Browns refuse to renegotiate Cribbs’s contract or trade him to a new team. Think about that the next time you feel underappreciated by your boss.

One of my other Nemeses is Gregg Easterbrook, who writes Tuesday Morning Quarterback for CBS. He is my Nemesis because he gets to write at length about the NFl while doing long sections on how many planets there are, Mayan prophecies and how the Large Hadron Collider is being interfered with by particles from the future, which is a good thing because there is a small chance that the Large Hadron Collider, if it works, will create a black hole and that will be that.

Do you remember this film? I do. It seemed, at the time, to be a serious competitor for Star Wars. As it turned out, not so much. I have just been to the imdb trivia page associated with The Black Hole, and learnt:
Robert Forster was slightly hurt on the head during the storm in the greenhouse.
That really is trivial. Better is:
Dr. Reinhardt's dying words, "more light," were supposedly Johann Wolfgang Goethe's final words as well.

The London Pigeonsharks

At Football Outsiders, there is talk of some of the practicalities behind moving an NFL team to London, which gets discussed every year when the NFL says things to please the local British media. Yes, they should replace the Bills, IF it happens, and I don't think its really likely, so long as we don't have to take Trent Edwards. What would they be called? I like Bobbies, assuming this is a joke. Otherwise, birds and cats are the most popular mascots in the NFL. Pigeons? I like Crows, but it's not as good as Ravens, and that's already taken. I like wolves, but I don't see many around here. The London Foxes has a ring to it. Wait, I know, I know! The London Least Weasels.

The least weasel is incredibly fierce. Wikipedia says also that they are highly solitary and even mating does not occur without a fight. I know that feeling. If we don't go for least weasels, maybe mythological creatures. Or fish! Why didn't I think of fish! The London Tuna. The London Sharks. The London Eels. The London Cod. I'll stop now.

(They will, if it ever happens, be called the Bulldogs, and there is nothing that can be done about it.)

Fantasy Dilemmas

Because I am new to fantasy and the NFL, I spend too long looking at matchup trackers and ranking lists. Nothing between humans is more than 3 to 1, said Damon Runyon, though he didn't spend much time watching the 2009 Rams, and on any given Sunday even a wide receiving corps of the Giants' Steve Smith, Greg Jennings and Vincent Jackson (ok, he did ok) can leave you in the lurch. This week, I am debating whether to replace Jennings and Smith with Welker and Colston (yes, yes, it is a ridiculously shallow league, there are only five of us, but we're learning, and next year...).

I am also considering starting LT. In fact, I am going to. Then it is Cedric Benson or Ronnie Brown. Ronnie has been a saviour to me all season long. So it will probably be him.

I presume I will not be able to write at this length every week. Just be warned. Or grateful, according to choice.

(I know I have still not written about Ryan Leaf. I have to talk to my friend who's a primary school teacher first.)