Bloody Soup

I’m still feeling a bit under the weather, and decided last night that the perfect antidote to the cold and the sore throat and the dark and the rain was home-made soup. Initially, my soup started out as vegetable broth, until I realised that I hadn’t planned far enough in advance to soak the peas or the soup mix. As the vegetables were bubbling away merrily by this stage, I shrugged and decided to just add some lentils and chilli flakes, and blend it to make a thick, spicy chowder-style soup instead. Just the ticket.

Unfortunately I had not allowed for the orange-to-green vegetable ratio, and the carrots and lentils were not enough to outdo the leafy green things. I was left with a disgusting-looking pot of green gunk. The thing is, it tasted absolutely delicious, but I couldn’t bring myself to sit down to a bowl of it while it was that particular shade of green.

From somewhere at the back of my mind I recalled a memory of last weekend, when Jay had dyed our dinner red for no real reason. Logically, this would suggest that the neighbours had in their possession such a thing as red food colouring, and, I reasoned further, if I were to add a few drops to my delicious green gunk, it would be transformed into a more edible colour (e.g. orangey-reddish).

I went next door, where E2 located and donated the food dye, while asking a series of questions about why I was making soup at 11.30pm, why I was dying it, why I couldn’t just eat it green and that type of thing. “Just don’t put it in the whole pot straight away,” she called after me, warningly, “try it in a little batch first. In case it goes… weird.”

I was very glad I heeded her advice, as when I opened the bottle and tipped it upside down into the bowl of soup I had just poured, I really was expecting it to have one of those dropper-style heads. I didn’t realise – nor did I see – that it was just a plain, ordinary, wide-open bottle neck. My first clue to my mistake was when the contents of the bottle went glug-glug-glug as opposed to drip-drip-drip. My second clue was when my bowl of green gunk turned rapidly into a bowl of blood-red soup.

I did learn from this test experience, and the main pot of soup was consequently transformed into the originally-intended orangey-reddish colour. Obviously I didn’t want to waste the other bowl, so I ate it in front of the TV, in the dark, so that I couldn’t see the disturbing colour I was consuming.

I think I could be a TV chef. I’m creative, and watching me work could not fail to be entertaining.

Game On

It is freezing, and I am trying to drive to the gym without touching the icy cold steering wheel. Dirk, beside me in the passenger seat, is complaining bitterly about the temperature. Jay is half-asleep in the back seat. We are not really morning people, but we are trying.

“I stupidly stayed awake really late last night,” admits Dirk. “I was talking on the internet to friends back home.”

“Well… I guess that’s understandable,” I reply. He agrees. “Yeah, but I went upstairs at about 3.30am and found Jay still up, too.” He sounds scornful, and a little hypocritical. “It’s OK for you to stay up half the night, but it’s not OK for Jay?” I ask pointedly.

Dirk snorts. “At least I was doing something purposeful. Jay was sitting up, on the internet, on YouTube… watching videos of… people playing video games.”

This is the saddest thing I have ever heard. I used to consider myself geeky for getting addicted to computer games and sitting up half the night on the gaming monitor playing them. But watching videos of other people playing them? I stare disbelievingly at Jay in the rear view mirror.

“It was, like, people completing the games in the fastest time ever… like setting records…” he explains somewhat lamely. Dirk and I laugh disparagingly at him. “No, but listen.” He sticks his head between us, looking more animated. “I think… I think I can beat one of them.”

You have to have something to live for, I suppose.

Things I really must sort out soon

1 – The 20+ boxes that came from Red’s attic when we cleared out the house several weeks ago. These boxes have since sat haphazardly around the conservatory and in one of the spare rooms, smelling fusty and causing me ankle-and-toe-related injuries. Kat also enjoys rummaging through them, and as a result I’m finding strange and unpredictable objects randomly dispersed throughout the house.

2. On a similar theme, the two suitcases full of clothes I retrieved from our old house. This area of ‘sorting out’ is a mammoth task involving not only sorting but also the taking to charity shops of unsuitable clothes, and the washing, drying, ironing and putting away of wearable ones. I really cannot be bothered, to be quite frank.

3. Rio the Clio. My visit to Ballymena Police Station on Saturday was largely unfruitful and – some might suggest – a complete waste of time. My visit to the CCTV records place was even more so, largely due to the fact that it’s closed on Saturdays. I can get no further with the insurance company until I know whether or not I can prove that it wasn’t my fault, for which reason I need the CCTV people, and the garage man is too busy to give me a quote unless I leave the car with him, which I can’t because I sort of need it. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t be worrying about all this hassle. I’d just scrap it and be done.

4. The housework. My house is a disgrace. But I have been sick, and very busy. It’s not like I’ve been sitting on my backside eating crisps and watching DVDs. Well, apart from Monday night, but that was a necessary part of the recovery process.

5. The outside gates. All three of them. There’s the front gate, which Jay kicked open in his first week here and watched in dismay as it promptly fell off its hinges. Red kindly ‘fixed’ it for me, and as a result I found a lot of force was required to open it. Now the cold, wet weather has swollen it so much that it won’t actually open at all, so if someone mistakenly shuts it, you’re trapped forever. Then there’s the side gate separating the back yard from the front garden. Some children swung on it and pulled it off. It is just lying there, sadly redundant and as pointless as the Ballymena Police Station. As for the back gate, it’s hanging by one hinge and is going to kill someone if it happens to fall off as they’re walking past it.

5. A job. I really, really need to get this whole career thing organised, or I’m still going to be doing this job by the time I’m 30. And let’s face it, I’m running out of time as far as that goes.

6. Christmas. Decorations this weekend. Presents, I’m afraid, will be cheap and cheerful. Maybe I can just give Christmas kisses?

So much to do, so little motivation to actually accomplish any of it.

The Time Has Come

I think I might put up the Christmas decorations this weekend.

It’s fine – I’ve held out till December. Which, I might add, is more than can be said for the people across the way from me, whose house has boasted a display not unlike the Blackpool Illuminations since the end of October. This is the same house that was raided by the police a few months ago. The police emerged, triumphant, with several hundred pounds’ worth of… fireworks. Bravo. Always good to know that they’re dealing with the underlying problem of firework abuse in our estate; everyone knows that’s the really big issue.

But I digress. It’s Christmas soon! I am no longer going to be a killjoy who says “But it’s too early” and moans about money and consumerism and materialism and whatever other isms are lurking underneath the surface waiting to suck the joy out of the festive season. I’m only complaining in order to fit in. Let it be known: Hails loves Christmas. Not just ‘Christmas’, but all the things we associate with it. I love Christmastime.

I love twinkly lights, I love carols, I love nativity scenes, I love tinsel, I love Santa hats, I love cold weather and woolly hats and scarves, I love festive Coke ads, I love Christmas trees, I love Bailey’s on ice, I love glitter and snowflakes and sparkly stuff, I love carol services, I love cards, I love The Snowman, I love Quality Street, I love Christmas special episodes, I love crackers and their silly hats and bad jokes, I love the smell of glazed ham, I love Christmas parties, I love snow-in-a-can, I love warm fires and cosy nights in.

Christmas. Love it. The whole shebang. And it starts on Saturday in my house. Hooray!

Risky Cuisine

“I think it’s probably best that we avoid the kitchen,” comments E1, coming back into the girls’ bedroom, where the three of us are taking refuge in the suddenly male-dominated household. A couple of their friends are visiting, and the testosterone level has risen sharply. To my distress, even though one of the guys is incredibly good-looking, the entire conversation seems to revolve around farts when the four of them are together. A football is bouncing around the house, the aroma is pungent, and a remote control car has been taken apart in the name of science.

Nevertheless, they are cooking dinner, so we are keeping silent and out of the way in the hope of eventually being fed. E1 has just returned from her trip downstairs, the purpose of which was to ascertain why the words “red food colouring” kept floating up the stairs.

“Is the chicken pink?” asks E2 sadly, as E1 shuts the door firmly behind her and looks around as if considering wedging it shut with a heavy object. “Yes,” she affirms resignedly. “But I think it’s going to be edible.”

“Wait a second,” I ask in some confusion, “Why is the chicken pink?”

E1 sighs heavily as she sinks back on to her bed. “Because,” she explains wearily, “someone left Jay alone in the kitchen.”

Sometimes just one sentence can explain so much.

Ode to a Starbucks’ Gingerbread Latte

With apologies to the Bard.

Shall I compare thee to a regular coffee?
Thou art more lovely and more intense:
My tongue dost find other lattes too bland,
And as for the frappé, I sitteth on the fence:
Sometime too hot the capuccino can be,
And oft’ is his foamy top too large;
And every Americano, although heavenly, is the same,
The element of surprise gone, the pleasure thus marred:
But thy unique flavour shall not fade
Nor lose possession of that buzz thou owest;
Nor shall Espresso brag thou wanderest in his shade,
When in caffeine thou satisfiest and in taste thou growest:

So long as the mouth can taste, or the nose can smell,
So long thou art above all coffees, and pleaseth me well.

Fevery Thoughts

You see, this is what happens when you sleep all day. You find yourself awake in the middle of the night, googling your own name and looking up recipes for homemade ‘flu remedies.

If I go to sleep, will I dream about more traumatic and distressing things?

If I stay awake, will I ever be able to get up for work in the morning?

My ears are making a weird buzzing sound. I don’t mean that they’re going ‘buzzzzzzzzz’ in a manner that other people would be able to hear them (that would be weird), I mean in a more internal way. Buzzzzzzzzzzzzz, they’re going, internally. Buzzzzzzzzzzz.

It’s foggy outside. Cold and dark and wet and foggy. Kind of spooky. If there was a Mysterious Creature prowling around the estate looking for sick people to eat, this is definitely the sort of night he would choose to appear. You can almost hear the orchestral horror movie soundtrack when you look outside.


Did I lock the door?

It’s very cold, but I’m trying to make the heating oil last till Christmas so that I can buy more with any money I receive from relatives, so I try not to switch the heating on when I’m here by myself. I’m in bed with a dressing gown and a furry, purry cat. I would also have my hot water bottle, but the lid is missing, and I feel it wouldn’t work just as well without the lid.

I’ve just realised I can still say the entire alphabet in French.


Fever is a little like being drunk, only with a sore throat and buzzy ears as well.