Thursday, 26 June 2014

This could be interesting

I'm going to make a sweeping generalisation here... I'm going to go ahead and assume that everyone who's reading this, can read.

I mean it's not much of a stretch, this blog is about 98% text, with only the odd gratuitous picture of a discouraged rat or a glowing bottle of cannabis imbued vodka.  Word-heavy pages on the Internet tend to attract people who can actually read.

Here's sweeping generalisation number 2 - Hold on to your hats - The chances are, if you're actually reading this on purpose and you've not just found your way here via Google, (because I cleverly added the words 'Naked', 'Virgin' & 'Schoolgirl' to the Page-tags to trap fans of seedy porography) - You're happily residing towards the top of the 'Pretty bright' scale.

What, traditionally, do pretty bright people enjoy?

Ok, smarty-pants, apart from feeling superior...

That's right, they like to read books.

Books are flipping great, aren't they?

As Groucho Marx once said: "Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend. Inside of a dog, it's too dark to read."

Wait... No... I was trying to be serious there wasn't I?  Let's try that again...

Prolific Writer, "Cleaner', Newsreader, Pizza Delivery Guy, Cemetery Caretaker, Truck Driver and serial ATM User, Stephen King announced, "Books are the perfect entertainment: no commercials, no batteries, hours of enjoyment for each dollar spent. What I wonder is why everybody doesn't carry a book around for those inevitable dead spots in life."

(LOL, Stephen King said 'Dead Spots')

And I agree with Mr Bachman, I always carry a book with me... Admittedly, it's 'usually' in my head, and I'm 'usually' just about halfway through writing it, but it still counts.

Can you remember the last book you bought?  More importantly, can you remember where you bought it from?  I'll wager that the vast proportion of you just answered Amazon, or something similar.  Now, I'm not going to berate you about how buying books from the online sheds is terrible and how it's slowly strangling the life out of real, bricks and mortar bookshops (Even though it is) because... Well... To be frank, it's CURRENTLY the only place you can buy any of my books.  And I'll bite a lot of things, but not the hand that feeds me, because that would be silly.

Why don't we all shop in real bookshops?  Well, there just aren't that many of them around any more, in fact, there are now less than 1,000 independent book shops left in the UK - That's about one bookshop for every 64,062 people. When you think about it, that's pretty sad - There's a whole generation of kids who, if we don't do anything about it, will never know the joy of wandering around a maze-like bookshop, feverishly clutching their birthday money in their jammy little fists, finding a book they like, figuring out whether they can afford it and finally plucking up the courage to approach the friendly, but still obscenely scary person behind the counter to complete their purchase.

But I suppose Amazon have a huge selection, and they deliver don't they, usually when you're out, so you get one of those notes from the postman that says "We tried to deliver this parcel that you've been waiting for, but you were, like, out, or having a poop or something, so we've taken it back to the depot, and / or thrown it over your fence and into your pond.

We're all getting lazy, and fat, and relying too much on technology to make our lives easier.  Reading a book is a fairly sedentary thing to do in the first place, the least you can do is actually get off your well-read butt and go out hunting for a book 'in the wild' as it were.

And here's the perfect opportunity:

Next week is Independent Booksellers Week, why don't you take the time to go out, find your nearest purveyor of fine reading matter and spaff your spare cash uncontrollably all over their shelves.

You might even actually want to get involved yourselves, that's what I'm doing (But as you all know, I am a HUGE show-off so it was a bit of a no-brainer really)

On the afternoon of Saturday 5th of July, I'll be at the wonderfully independent Southcart Books on Lower Hall Lane, in sunny Walsall, jewel of the West Midlands.

Scott and Amy - Give them ALL of your money - They deserve it.

Why will I be there? Well, ostensibly to eat all of the cake and drink all of the tea and coffee*  But I will also, hopefully, find time to read a couple of stories from both volumes of 'The Collected Chimping Dandy'.

Ah, here's an idea... Should you be in the area, by which I mean 'able to get there if you set out now, with a loyal team of Sherpas and a dozen barrels of Navy Rum', you should totally come and see me look embarrased, go red and mumble, and say "ummmm.." and "errrr.." a lot whilst one chap and his dog claps nervously as I tell the story about the exploding pigeon.  Other authors should also be there, it's not just me, that would be weird.

It might be fun... No, it will be fun - I'm just not sure yet at whose expense...

*Please note: I've got no idea whether there will be refreshments... But there's a bucketload of shops in the general area - You can sort yourselves out.

Friday, 20 June 2014

'Indian Curry' does not exist.

Now, I don't want to worry anyone, but the above statement is completely and totally true.

There is no such thing as an Indian curry.  Surprised?  That's a reasonable response for someone who has had the very foundations of their takeaway food experience rocked to its very... erm... foundations.

But I hear you shout "No!, I went for a curry last Saturday! It was great! There were free popadums and a pickle tray! And we drank Cobra! I spent the whole of Sunday pooping rusty dishwater!"

And I reply, "No, you didn't, you might have gone for Indian food (Although I doubt it) but you didn't go for an Indian curry."

THIS is a curry

The curry tree (Murraya koenigii)

I bet that wasn't what you had was it? Unless you're an elephant, and I'm sure that you would have let me know by now if you were.

OK, of course I'm being fatuous, it's what I do.  Although you should all know by now that I'm a great fan of people using the right words to describe things (queue thousands of readers pointing out where I've used 'Affected' instead of 'Effected' or 'Breath' where I meant 'Breathe')

Let me take you on a little jaunt through time, all the way back to 1764.  The Honourable East India Company (Whom you may have heard of as the posh, British villains from 'Pirates of the Caribbean') had opened up trading routes with India and were making insanely huge profits by exporting spices and anything that was of any actual value back to the Motherland.  In turn, they used the profits from this to expand further into the country, and by expand I obviously mean wage war with the locals until they were sufficiently decimated that agents of the company could just wander in and claim their land out from under them as I've described before. Then they'd employ local labour to grow pepper and nutmeg and things, which they'd trade for cotton and swordblades and suchlike (One of these turned out to be a huge mistake... a huge, huge mistake... See if you can guess which one it was).

Oddly enough, after almost 100 years of this kind of behaviour, there was a 'mutiny' or 'rebellion' depending whose side you were on, followed by a couple of massacres (Because we Brits do enjoy a good old massacre don't we?) and then Queen Victoria stepped in, dissolved the E.I. Company and kindly made India part of the Empire, with all the wonderful things that that entailed, like the wholesale introduction of HP Sauce, Camp Coffee and syphilis.

What this meant, for our purposes, is that for the entire hundred year period there was a fairly regular rotation of Public-school educated men called "Bunty" and similar, with double-barreled surnames, demure wives, and unfeasibly splendid moustaches going out to the Subcontinent, almost getting used to the food, and then going home after a year of so retire to a mansion in Sussex with a selection of 'unpaid house servants', because slavery was a terrible thing and had been abolished many years earlier... *cough*

Actually, here's a fact for you... For all intents and purposes, slavery of 'Foreigners' had been abolished in England by about 1780 - But, you could quite legally buy and sell people from Scotland right up until 1799.

So, where were we? - Oh yes, Bunty Tavistock-Heckmondswycke had retired to 'DunColonising' near Tunbridge Wells and realised that the food he was eating tasted a bit bland.  He rings for his faithful manservant, who informs 'Cook' who starts putting rice and something new called 'curry powder' into his smoked haddock in the morning... And thus Kedgeree was born!

Curry powder was a ground approximation of the spices that they got used to eating whilst they were out doing their bit for Queen and country in the mid-day sun.  They didn't get it completely right of course, another popular English tradition, but it was close enough for them.  They shared this new flavour with their chums via the medium of the dinner party and the rest is history.  Coffee Houses started adding 'Curry' to their menus so that the hoi palloy could give them a go.  In fact, in 1810, the 'Hindoostanee Coffee House' opened in London serving all kinds of different spicy meals.  Unfortunately it only lasted a year... Maybe people weren't ready for being so different.  Although to put that in context, England's first Fish & Chip shop didn't open 'til about 50 years later.

The Curry, as we know it is a purely English invention, it has very little to do with anything Indian apart from using some of the same spices and occasionally being served to you by Bengali people in white shirts and bow ties - If you were to wander down Chittagong high street looking for a curry house, you'd be unsuccessful.  It's much easier to get hold of something like a nice a bowl of Shukto, or some saag and kashundi.

A word of warning, the food that Indian people eat themselves is so far removed from what you buy from the takeaway that it's virtually unrecognisable.  Usually it's significantly spicier, I mean, proper 'Let's teach the loud-mouthed football hooligan who asked for a super-hot curry a lesson' hot, and that's just the stuff they give teething babies.

Our next door neighbour brought a pot around last night, she often does if she makes too much, or one of her sons goes out unexpectedly.  She was wearing welding goggles and carried it using those tongs that people who smelt steel use... We had to put it on two baking trays in case it melted through the first one.

I made the mistake of sniffing it this morning, my nostrils sealed themselves up and my eyebrows fell out.

That reminds me, I must go to Tescos and buy all of their yoghurt.

Monday, 2 June 2014

Ding!-Ding! Round Two!

No, this isn't about that Mr Groves being taken down in the eighth by a 'Georgia Peach' delivered by Carl Froch.

It's about me... Because: My Blog.

Some of you will know that in early November of 2013, I published a book called 'Mumblings of an Irate Pangolin' Volume 1 of the Collected Chimping Dandy- The link will take you to Amazon UK, where, if you have no financial or literary sense whatsoever, you can buy a copy.  It looks a bit like this:

Yes, I know it looks a bit amateurish, it was my first go.

But, I hear you say, "I've already got a copy!"  Well, you both have and haven't. You see, this is the second edition, it has a picture of a penguin in a bowler hat on the frontespiece and some spelling mistakes and grammatical errors have been removed.

(Not all of them though, as the nine year old MicroDandy informed me last night... Technically it's considered 'Bad Grammatical Form' to end a sentence with both an exclamation mark and an ellipsis, as you're finishing what you're saying with a *bang* but implying that there's more to come.  My considered reply was "Just go to bed." which may sound a bit draconian, but in fairness it had been a long day.)

Anywho, back to me.  On Friday, I released Volume 2, 'The Pangolin Yodels' (Again, the link points to Amazon UK, go now, buy many copies.) Which looks considerably more professional, which is odd, because it was thrown together by the same person, i.e. me.

Can't you almost smell the professionality?

It's pretty much more of the same really, lots of idiot things my younger self has done, some rants about idiot things other people have done and continue to do, a couple of serious essays that I wasn't actually going to include (But I had to really, because they were so popular.) and even some fiction.  If you enjoyed the last volume, you'll probably not completely hate this one... Well, not completely.

This one also has a picture of a penguin in a bowler hat in it, and this is important.

You see, this book wasn't as much of a one-man-band affair as the first edition of 'Mumbles' was.  It was produced with the assistance of 'The Penguin's Head' <-- This link takes you to their Facebook page, you should go there and like it immediately, you'll be glad you did, in the long run. 

Who are The Penguin's Head?  Well, they're a group of friends for whom writing is a real passion, I mean, you might think that bacon's important, and it is, but for them, writing is like having a bacon sandwich, but replacing all the bread with bacon, and the brown sauce, and probably the bacon itself too - It's like bacon cubed (Which is different from cubed bacon - which I call lardons, because I'm posh)... They're sort of a 'Writers Collective', if you like, but without all the post-gulag socialist ideals and scruffiness that that usually entails.  Currently, there are three of them:

James Josiah - Founder of the tremendously popular The James Josiah Flash Project, which launched the careers of many popular young authors. And has, spookily, also spawned a couple of (Kindle only) books Which you can download Here, that despite what it says, wasn't written by me & Here, which wasn't written by me either, but I did illustrate the cover 

Neil Sehmbhy - Who gets all of his writing published in massive anthologies written on real paper and keeps winning writing competitions and making me feel inadequate.  He is hugely prolific and was one of the main contributors to TJJFP - A couple of my favourite pieces of his flash were 'Derailed' & 'Finding Danielle' If you like your writing dark, you'll like his stuff.

And... Erm... Well... Me really.  I won't bore you with any more links to my stuff, but if you troll through the pages of TJJFP you'll find plenty of my flash fiction there. Plus, you know who I am already, right?

Here is a picture of a penguin in a bowler hat (Yes, it took ages to get the suit on it, and it panicked as we tightened the tie, and none of us are allowed to go to the Antarctic anymore, but it was definitely worth it):

The excellent logo of The Penguin's Head

This is the sort of thing that you can have displayed in your book if you decide to let us help you with it.  Did I mention that we help people write books?  Well, we do.  If you have an idea for a book then we can probably help you get it in print - Whether you just need someone to talk to about the process involved, or if you need a proofreader, or an editor, or you'de just like to hand a full, but scabby, notepad to us and eventually get a stack of stylish 6x9 paperbacks shoved roughly through your mail-slot then we're your men.

We're reasonably cheap and reasonably good at it.  Well, pretty cheap, considering...

Anywho, get in touch with us, it costs nothing.  You never know, you might be the next E.L. James. (Please note: Proofreading erotic fiction can take slightly longer than the more vanilla subjects, you know, when you take into account cramp and having to stop for a bit of a lie down and stuff)

OK, that's it for today... Hopefully, I'll have more news for you all tomorrow.