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She’s an Easy Peeler?

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09.03, Friday 5th September 2014

My hair is damp from the shower and my appetite is unsatisfied after a not very easy to peel, yet pleasingly sweet clementine. I’m moderately irritated that I was deceived into parting with fifty pence extra to taste the difference and improve my access to fruit. Surely this marketing implies that fruit for fifty pence less is not tasty. If this is the case, why is it being sold in the first place? If you cannot afford tasty, easy peel fruit, you must battle through thick-skin that will inevitably wedge itself uncomfortably under your thumb nail to reach a meagre reward of pithy, bland, stale-tasting citrus.

Supermarkets have cashed in on the fact that consumers prefer to get to their fruit effortlessly. Consumers want convenient fruit with a thin, supple skin that comes away from the inner flesh in one, aesthetically appealing spiral. We want easy, quick pickings. A commercial genius realised that varying prices can be applied not only to the edible part of the fruit but also to the skin, nature’s very own biodegradable packaging.

Bananas, although readily willing to give up their soft, sweet, yellow flesh to any remotely dexterous creature, have an easily bruised package.  Consumer distaste for mushy, brown bits and our fondness for the finger-herb at a rate of consumption of 100 nanas per Briton per year, that’s over 5 billion bananas eaten every year in the UK alone, inspired the invention of products like the banana guard and the ridiculous use by it’s makers of the term ‘banana trauma’.

Mango, papaya, passion fruit, kiwi and melon, although delightful exotics, require preparation and are perhaps consumed more at weekends when people have time to peel, scrape and chop.

The dragon fruit’s hot pink skin belies its disappointing lack of flavour. So once one has ventured beneath the vibrant surface, you learn that dragon fruit simply does not provide bang for your buck. Nature is a liar, the dragon is a myth that haveth not fire.

The pomegranate that has reached the dizzying status of superfood is frustratingly messy and time-consuming to access with endless tapping to remove its reluctant jewelled seeds. Its juice is so tricky to extract that some health seekers will pay the exorbitant price charged by one popular brand of £5.01 per litre!

And don’t even talk to me about coconuts. I have battled with hammer and blunt knives against the woody shell of that sweet, white fruit. Anyone who buys a coconut more than once, is almost certainly an expert with a machete and is probably best avoided, if not reported to the local constabulary.

Supermarket misrepresentation of citrus fruit has highlighted the following things:

1. I am an unfocused, irritable, trivial and hungry human, just cellular gunk with a wavering conscience applied to matters of little consequence and I am in need of a leaden piece of yeast extract-smeared rye toast.
2. I abhor the cunning of a market that capitalises on fruit peel.
3. I am angered by my own suggestibility.
4. I shall not pay Lord Henry Super Money Bags Market more money to get into my fruit. To hell with it! I might even buy an orange next time.

In the words of the young Russian chap in the unmissable blockbuster film below entitled: ‘You’ve Been Peeling Clementines Wrong’,

‘Don’t get offended. Boom! Just pull it off and eat it, pull it off and eat it.’

love

Fruitloops

Cue tenuous musical exit

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Fruitless

pregnant-woman-and-death-1911-artist-Egon-Schiele (1)

Pregnant Woman and Death, Egon Schiele, 1911

 

The embryologist played Sade’s ‘Your Love is King’ to Ovum and Speirin.  I reclined on the bed in the operating theatre in shower cap and gown. We watched an old black and white movie. Mind you, the tickets were £5000 a pop and they didn’t even give us flat, warm diet coke and unevenly salted popcorn.  I didn’t like to complain though, best not when someone’s got their hand up my Veronica.

A steam train catheter chugged onto the big screen and with one jerky jolt, two tiny white dots; two potential people, disembarked at Womberloo Station. They were swallowed up by the big smoke. Dazzled by bright city lights and a fast-paced, rat-race. But they couldn’t afford the real estate so they got the 17.17 to Burton Pidsea.  The third one was mistaken for a bit of fag ash. She was deposited in a rubbish bin and last we heard, she was on her way to a big, fuming, waste-recycling plant in Bermondsey and we haven’t seen her since. It is unexplained.

Nonsense aside, there is a rawness with me. It sits in the pit of my stomach. I wake up in the morning and for a moment, it is not there. Then it seeps into my day. I lost them; quite careless really. P’raps it’s for the best. I’d only fuck them up.

Trouble is, even though I am convinced I am still sixteen, my body is coming to the end of its reproductive life. Perry Menopause it’s called. Then one day, in a few years I’ll look out of the bedroom window and Impendia Menopause will emerge through a gathering mist and glide eerily down Scabbard Street. It will not be long before I hear her frightening, thud-thud-thud at the front door.

‘I’m not ready!’ I’ll shout.
‘No one ever is,’ she’ll reply.

She will break the door down. Her menacing footsteps will clomp up the staircase and the floorboard outside the bedroom door will creak under her impressive weight made of her prized Menses Collection. I will cower under the duvet. She will creep up from the foot of the bed, like that terrifying scene in The Grudge where a ghost with a wayward neck climbs into bed with a Japanese schoolgirl and fails miserably to enunciate the word ‘toast’.

‘Can’t I keep them a bit longer?’ I’ll plead.
‘No love, you’ve had them for over thirty years. I’m taking them away.’

And I’ll miss them. Periods that is. Menarche is a celebrated time in a girl’s puberty marking the beginning of her fertility. It marked my transition from girl to woman. I feel earthy during monthly or moon-ly cycles. I am connected to a natural order of things and other women.

Menopause, on the other hand, does not seem to come with a Happy Ovary Retirement banner or a flag-waving commemoration. Don’t my ovaries deserve a long service award?  A Royal Doulton lead crystal trifle bowl for the credenza.  Perhaps they don’t. My ova never made a baby or breakfast.

What was all the blood for? Just to keep Tampax in business. My capitalist ovaries contributed to the economy then. And at least I didn’t have to fashion papyrus into a cylinder and shove it up me thanks to Earle Haas’s unusual preoccupation with the discomfort of his menstruating wife.

I just can’t seem to get used to the idea of never having a child. Sometimes I think that I’m ok, then I see a pregnant woman rubbing her swollen belly in proud contentment and I am overwhelmed with the impulse to yell: ‘What’s so great about you? Why do you get to have one? Stop rubbing it in my face, walking around showing it off…Ooh look at me and my special bump, I am the creator, I am Mother Earth, bare-footed and bleeding pregnant!’  Fortunately, I keep the crazy in my head and turn away filled with yearning and envious sorrow.

I feel cheated. I feel like my biology is wasted. To reach the end of my reproductive life and not have made life leaves a gaping whole. I just cannot fill it.  I can’t ignore it any longer so I am breaking down my self-constructed glass wall of isolation on subject Ferre.

Is there anyone out there who feels like I do? And if so, does it ever go away? Your thoughts, ideas, musings are very, very welcome here.

Thank you for listening. 🙂

I find the best way to process things I don’t like to process is to accompany them with totally irrelevant irreverence.  So…watch Streetbands ‘Toast’ for a very funny lightner!!  I promise it will make you smile.

 

Image source: http://www.egon-schiele.net/Pregnant-Woman-And-Death.html

Life after Life – Review

Life After LifeLife After Life by Kate Atkinson

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Life after Life is a story about a baby, a child and a woman called Ursula who is gifted, or cursed, with the reliving of the same life and the ability to remember her previous lives. The story spans two world wars and its robust historical context provides a tumultuous and fascinating stage for the lives of Ursula and her family, lovers, friends and foe.

In each life, the protagonist effects a change in response to the last, and profound questions are raised both in her individual life stories and as a philosophical theme throughout the book about whether we have the capacity to change our fates and if we did, would it really matter?

It took me seventy pages to get into the story as it leaps across time and lives. This may just be my de-cluttering from the last book I read or a rather slow warming up period to adapt to a new type of narrative structure. But once I was in, I was definitely in and my struggle was rewarded handsomely.

I found the meditative circular rhythm of the many-ended story simply entrancing, soothing and strangely nourishing. Atkinson’s deliciously sophisticated structure serves to build up intrigue in Ursula’s life choices, events and relationships and a commitment to staying with her and finding out if she could and should make a difference.

I only finished reading this book a couple of weeks ago and while the concept, structure and context of the story has stayed with me, the characters are long gone and I’m struggling to remember their names. This is unusual for me. I normally remember people, even fictional ones.

Ursula has several lovers in various lives, but I did not get a sense that any of them were significant and they were quite forgettable. The only real tenderness seems to be for her brothers and her father Hugh, who was perhaps her only true love. I could attribute this to a learnt mistrust of men but her female relationships are all quite absent of emotion at the same time.

There is a distance in each character that keeps them on the historical stage, rather than bringing them to life. If it were only one or two characters, I’d assume it were intentional, but as it is most of them, for me, perhaps there is something about writing people into history and in emphasising the popular notion of a ‘stiff upper lip’ war-time mentality, contact with the frailty of human emotion is sacrificed or lost.

Having said all that, I thoroughly enjoyed reading Life after Life. It is a brilliantly engaging novel for its intelligent narrative structure, grounding historical context and the philosophical questions it tantalisingly toys with on the cyclical nature of life and its infinite possibilities.

View all my reviews

The Distance Between Us – Review

The Distance Between UsThe Distance Between Us by Maggie O’Farrell

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This story of two strangers, Stella living in London and Jake living in Hong Kong is woven together cleverly. The chapter-less structure of the story where you hop back and forth from one paragraph to the next between the parallel lives of the two love interests manages to gradually entwine Stella and Jake beautifully in the readers mind. The past is unravelled with evocative and viscerally described childhood and coming of age experiences that explain the relationship between the two sisters, Stella and Nina, in all its gloriously unhealthy insularity as well as inviting the reader to witness and relate to the complicated and competitive love between siblings.

I realise I may be biased here in relating to the female characters more, but I suppose Stella is the protagonist and as such I was given more reason to invest in hers and Nina’s story. I found a lack in Jake that left me a little cold and the emptiness in his character does not resolve itself at any point, but perhaps it is not meant to. His mother Caroline, on the other hand, is very interesting and I enjoyed the dialogues between Jake and his down to earth friend Hing Tai, who, to me, has a warm and immediate humour about him and a certainty to counter-balance Jake’s watery nature. But Jake himself seemed a little undeveloped. Consequently, I don’t think I cared too much about what happened to him.

There is something about the strength of the peripheral characters in this book, like Stella’s mother, Francesca, and her friendship with Evie, who we get to know just enough about to like and engage with, that add a quality whereby the field of vision is extended widely beyond the main plot. Because of this, because they are not too prescribed, the characters stay with you and grow organically and effortlessly.

I read The Distance Between Us in three nights which for me, as a SLOW reader, is pretty quick and testament to very well placed hooks and shows. I’m sure a normal person could gobble this lingering and resonance-rich novel up in no time at all. Overall, an enjoyable and sensory read.

View all my reviews

The Shock of the Fall – Review

The Shock of the FallThe Shock of the Fall by Nathan Filer

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book made me Google ‘Is Shock of the Fall’ based on a true story, because I believed wholly in the protagonist Matthew. Nathan Filer, as a mental health nurse, clearly has a powerfully empathic understanding of the behaviours of the mind. This is a touching reveal into the inner world of a boy, boy-man, man living in a type of mental and, consequently, physical and social isolation while coming to terms with a tragic event and feelings of loss and shame that accompany it.

But it is an enjoyable, entertaining and surprisingly light read given the subject. He manages to bring a kind of Adrian Mole humour to the story while teaching us from inside what it feels like to be Matthew. I can relate to Matthew’s thought processes throughout the story and there is a clear logic behind his version of reality. Matthew makes insightful observations on human relationships and communications, both with him and between each other, that make me smile or chuckle and think: yes, I know that, I know that person, that Steve, that awkwardness. Behind the beautiful simplicity of the words Matthew uses and thinks in, there is a non-judgemental and perceptive wisdom that comes from living on the outside looking in.

The Shock of the Fall is a great book. It’s funny, thought-provoking, touching and warm. Read it.

 

View all my reviews

Akenfield Book Review

Akenfield: Portrait of an English VillageAkenfield: Portrait of an English Village by Ronald Blythe

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a beautiful insight into village life. It is full of prose.  The transcribed interviews of the villagers have a quality of simplicity and a stillness that seems to come from a kind of acceptance of life stemming from a connection with the land and its natural cycles.

Blythe’s introductory descriptions of each villager, before the transcribed interviews, are an excellent lesson in character development. He has a way of describing people’s physicality and character that is intricate, visceral and contains a kind of profound and distant love for the people of his Suffolk homeland.

I highly recommend Akenfield as a refreshing antidote to the over-done, urban-centric view and a tender and thoughtful representation of rural life.

View all my reviews

21 Things I Irrationally Hate

 

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21 Things I Irrationally Hate are: 

1. Clicking jaw during mastication

2. Blue bottles hammering their heads against a window pane and threatening to fly into my forehead while hurling around the room at speed in a misjudged figure of eight

3. Uncontrolled screaming, shouting, running, hitting, breaking, pigeon-chasing wayward children en masse in cafes, parks, museums, aquariums, where, by the way, you will inevitably find a deranged five year old boy    hammering on the glass shouting ‘Nemo!’ while the parents stand idly by enjoying their momentary respite at the expense of the longevity of an institutionalised Clown Fish, and other places of interest…keep them on reins until they are at least thirteen or take the little blighters to an open field where you can unleash them, for the love of Mike!

4. Squeaking sound of cotton wool and the repulsive feel of it in my fingers as it catches on my nails and causes skin tingling shivers

5. One wintry, dark and drizzly evening, I was waiting in traffic at a roundabout and noticed a small boy, perhaps eight years old, in a burgundy school blazer, trying to cross the road. He kept stepping into the street one foot and then back on the curb and he just could not get across because the cars were coming thick and fast from all directions. It was my turn to go and I stopped my car on the roundabout so that he could make it. A couple of people gave those long, angry hoots on their horns that sound like shouting because I blocked them from rushing to wherever they were going but I didn’t care. I just hated that no one let that boy cross the road. I hated the humans we can be when we’re consumed with our own squinty-eyed, selfish, single-mindedness. I hated the city. I hated the rushing. I hated it so much I cried when I got home because no one let the boy cross the road.

6. A gang of wasps trying to share my lunch

7. Nine inch heeled torturous, posture damaging, toe squishing, foot crippling death trap shoes…I watched a girl on a night out with her date teetering around on stiletto heels before flapping her arms like a demented seagull and taking a mean tumble down long escalators in Euston underground. I hate that we women feel like we have to be taller and our legs have to be longer to be attractive. I have been there and now I truly hate those killer heels. There are better ways to feel taller…try a penny-farthing or stilts if you need a rush.

8. Canine faecal matter on the pavement down the hill on the way to the train station

9. 4am rumblings of a Boeing 747 over the roof of our home that is just the beginning of the relentless air traffic that congests the skies 9 km above our fitfully, slumbering heads

10. Man-made fibres drive me potty. If I wear viscose then I am so wired, so electrically charged and I can get a shock from anything…even the ruddy cat and neither of us are happy about that.

11. Someone’s tendency to place his dinner plate at the very edge of the table so that the plate’s rim overhangs the floor and is far easier to knock off in spectacular fashion when there is an entire empty welcoming middle to the table. No need to exist on the borders I say. I hate unnecessary risk-taking with a perfectly good piece of crockery and a nice meal.

12. That single, wiry black hair, that before forty had never shown itself and now sneaks up on me under my jaw and that other one that grows out of my moustache, it’s darker than the rest and does not respond so easily to my friend Jolen. What do you want? Why are you here? Is it because I, having been the maiden and the harlot, must now become the hag? I hate it but then again perhaps I could nurture it and come Halloween it will be a new accoutrement to my witch’s costume. ‘Are you a real witch?’ children will say and I’ll show them that loathsome chin hair as proof of my new found identity as the neighbourhood Crone!

13. Seams in the toes of socks are an abomination. Why do sock designers ensure that your little toes will be rubbed raw to blistering by poorly placed seams? Perhaps, they assume that women won’t have little toes anymore after all those years of wearing pointy toed foot breakers which in fairness, in my case, is almost true but I still have enough toe to rub.

14. Bad queuers

15. Mean bus drivers who accelerate really fast, take corners at 100mph and slam on the brakes throwing old ladies and their shopping bags down the centre of the aisle till they fall on top of a poor Mum who’s trying to remain upright while holding onto baby in buggy. Mean, mean, mean bus driver. Not all of them, just too many is all.

16. People looking

17. Sitting next to fidgety, twitchy legged people on flights, train journeys, buses.

18. Nose pickers in traffic jams…I can see you!

19. The low, top shelf in the newsagents. Even a child could see 21 year old Kent-born, Denise’s mammary glands galumphing out from the cover of a lads’ mag. Really, I don’t know who should be more insulted; perhaps the men who these over-paid media twits have reduced to fodder chewing, video game-playing brainless idiots that only pause from Streetrace 5 to have a mid-afternoon w***.

20. Pouting

21. Dust

 

A very funny and brilliant blogger posted her list of irritations here: http://rarasaur.wordpress.com/2014/03/24/21-things-i-irrationally-hate/  She invited people to do the same.  And so I have, thanks to positively radiating Rara!!  Reading hers and writing my own provided some well-needed amusement for which I am very grateful. :>)

 

Image: The Angry One by Francis Hodler 1881, Source: http://www.wikipaintings.org/en/ferdinand-hodler/the-angry-one