The Basics of Burgers

Recently I have been feeling really gross. Everything is disgusting. Everything smells bad and makes me gag. You know what smell makes me the most sick? It’s WASHING POWDER, folks. Yes, the stuff I use to make my clothes clean. I cannot STAND it. I take one whiff and I am done for. The very thought is making me heave.

why do you look like you’ve been slapped in the face? my husband asks, innocently, munching the instant noodles he has just cooked, oblivious to the fact that he has let out an instant-noodle stink bomb which has slowly spread its foul tentacles throughout the entire house.

because you’ve slapped me in the face with that abhorrent smell!

I have not been eating much, suffice to say, and as such I have been making myself more sick, and yes, more hungry. It really is a vicious cycle!

Which is why, yesterday, I let my husband drag me to a restaurant/’diner’ in Manchester called the ‘New Yorker Diner’.

It is set in an area which is practically the definition of Manchester. It’s on the same street as the Britannia hotel, which, despite its name and its grand exterior, has only been labelled a 3-star hotel. A horde of nightclubs and gay bars are situated on every corner, and if you walk five minutes in a straight line you will be passing under the majestic arch of Manchester’s Chinatown (does every city in the world have a Chinatown?!). Parking is scarce, or really expensive (I am staring at you, NCP. I have a massive beef with you. £7/hour in MANCHESTER?! Dirty piece of crap), and there are dubious goings on in the narrow streets behind the fancy main roads. Dolled up girls and dapper dudes, and sometimes dolled up dudes and dapper girls line the streets when the sun begins to set on a Saturday evening, laughing and drinking in readiness for a classic British night out with the lads and the girls and the both. Sometimes groups of women in a loudly stated ‘Hen’ huddle waddle and totter along, carrying massive blow-up male genitalia and declaring their nightly intentions with vivid pink sashes emblazoned across their fronts. Mottled-looking folk with extra large jackets trot nervously down dark alleyways and exchange goods behind filthy, overflowing bins. Groups of girls in hijab laugh and joke amongst themselves along the streets, as the night gets darker, and despite the strong smell of alcohol and weed and the dubiousness of the surroundings, one feels safe on the busy streets of Manchester. Everybody is out, everybody is intermingling.

The New Yorker Diner itself is designed to look like a cross between an underground bunker and an industrial site. You have to go down metal steps to be seated in an underground room, with naked retro bulbs dangling from wires which wrap around metal beams and line brick walls. Neon signs flash in the windows which are half covered on top by the ceiling, and you can watch people’s feetsies walk by. Very hipster indeed, but does look faux-grimy too, which, perhaps, is New Yorky? I wouldn’t know.

Anyway. I tell you I was retching all the way through the streets, passed the rubbish bins and plumes of weed smoke, holding my breath as I entered the restaurant. What if I couldn’t stand the smell? What would I do?

I took a tentative sniff and my goodness, I felt fine!

And when my burger arrived, handmade in a brioche bun with all the regular fixin’s; melty REAL cheese, sliced pickles, lettuce and tomato, and some beautiful sauce that was a little spicy and a lot I don’t know what, with a side of fries tossed in some kind of spice mix, and I took the first bite, I was transported, folks.

Transported and sublimed. I inhaled that burger, and those fries. Well, not the whole thing, I had the other half for breakfast the next day, but my GOODNESS.

I don’t know if it was because by that point I was half starved from being sick, so any food would taste like heaven exploded in my mouth, but man oh MAN I have been thinking of that meal ever since.

That SAUCE, what was it?? They call it ‘Brooklyn sauce’ but there is no indication of what might be in it. It is yellow, and very tasty, and so divine. It definitely isn’t mustard. Please, if you know, share your knowledge!

The basics of a good burger, I find, is to have a solid but tasty bun. The burger must be real meat, seasoned adequately and griddled to juicy perfection. The sauce must be hot, the lettuce fresh, the the tomato turgid. The pickles should be sliced generously, not too skinny that they flop flaccidly, and not too thick that they hinder the bite. And the cheese should be generous, yet not overpower the rest of the ingredients.

Also, New Yorker Diner? 10/10. No questions. You have to be comfy in a fast-foody-looking setting, though, because you order at the till and get one of those buzzy things that tells you when your food is cooked, and boy oh boy is it COOKED. Sizzling hot and melty and just divine. I am already planning my next sojourn there.

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NOT my photo – but this is the burger I had.

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I Stopped

I stopped washing the dishes, and doing the laundry.

I stopped cooking.

I stopped hoovering after every meal, and rushing around with a broom.

My skirting boards are in desperate need of a dusting – but who cares?

I used to care. I used to rush home from work, become anxious that dinner wasn’t done, that the house was messy, that my things weren’t sorted for the next day.

I used to spend all day at work, then all evening (what was left of it after my commute) cooking, cleaning, tidying, preparing.

And my husband would chill out in front of the TV.

Why won’t you help?! I would cry out, in anger.

Because I am tired, I need to rest. I’ll do it on the weekend. Leave it, chill out, we can do it on the weekend.

But I was not having it. And live in a messy house?! And leave dishes overnight?!

Oh, the abhorrent thought.

But soon I began to be stressed. It crept up on me, and poked its bony fingers down my throat and in my ears. I was surly all the time, constantly frowning, nursing a perpetual headache. When I visited my family, I was mean to them too, resenting them for stealing my personal time.

Finally, one day, I came home from work, got undressed, and flopped into bed, where I napped for a solid hour. What a glorious nap that was.

When I woke up, we had mashed potatoes and baked beans.

What a delicious, easy dinner that was.

I left the dishes soaking overnight. I didn’t even choose an outfit for work… no, I lounged about on my laptop and read people’s blogs.

And I felt so free.

And I thought, what was all the fuss about? Who cares?

So now, when my house is messy, when both of us lie like zombies on the sofa, I don’t care anymore.

Because the house WILL get clean, eventually.

It just doesn’t need to be cleaned everyday.

I don’t need to prep my work clothes or gym clothes the night before. I can grab whatever in the morning, if it saves my sanity. We can eat easy dinners, and wash up later. We can rest our minds and bodies after a gruelling day, because housework and all other work will always need doing, every single day, so why stress over it?

I stopped caring you see, and my mind and body are so grateful, even if my house is not.

Eff him.

Donald Trump came to the UK and everybody gave a f*!#.

They tramped and shouted and trumped and stood in the park near Trump’s hotel so he wouldn’t be able to sleep at night. Sadly they were made to go home promptly at 9pm as the park keepers needed to shut the gates, but kudos to them for trying.

People in the UK don’t like Donald Trump, and they really aren’t afraid to say so. I can’t tell if that is British, or modern. To be British is to be coldly silent on matters one doesn’t find savoury, and turn the other cheek. There was warm and passionate and hearty hatred on the streets of Britain, and in true Scottish fashion, the Edinburgh festival signs told Trump to Fuck off Home. Hah. Even his motherland doesn’t want him.

France won the world cup and I really couldn’t care less. My dad said today, while we were watching the match, ‘Who would you like to win?’

‘nobody,’ i said.

He found that really funny for some reason. Now that England are out, I couldn’t care less. poor england, they were crying on the pitch. I felt like giving them a hug, even though their sweat and constant spitting makes me queasy. Meanwhile when one of the Frenchmen scored a goal he stuck it to the Croatian fans in the stadium. That Lacked Class.

Meanwhile, back at the ranCH, I fell asleep in the last 15 minutes of the match, and ran to the toilet to throw up when France was awarded the world cup. It really is not because france mAkes Me Sick.

iT’S because I am

pregnant.

 

So..

hEre we go.

BECAUSE it is still very early stages of

pregnancy.

I am not out of the danger zone.

Last time I got

pregnant

I didn’t last beyond the fifth week.

So this time we are hoping and praying and taking it easy

in the hopes that this

pregnancy

carries on fine.

How strange. We feel like we are kids, still. So we are going to have to do a great deal of growing up very quickly.

You Made My Day

You made my day, I said.

I laughed.

To show

how happy she had made me.

And my cheeks hurt, because they were being forced to do what they would normally have done spontaneously.

Only this time,

My brain had ordered them to stretch,

against their will.

You made my day, I said, honestly.

And she smiled, because she made someone’s day.

You

made

my

day,

I lied through my teeth,

through my smile

which began to feel

stale

On my face.

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Image credit: River Darling

Love Letters #46

To the night.

As the day wanes, and the sky gives way to the ever-lurking darkness, the sounds of life retire.

Alive.

But not quite so.

Under a darkening sky, the stars begin to wink. Off and on, in and out, and the purple tendrils of space creep in between them.

And the earth begins to hum, a strange hum that nobody notices by day.

In the silence of the night, they say.

But the night is never silent.

A small face, from the third floor window, upturned towards the sky. It stretches beyond, forever. Stars upon stars, and when you look away, more stars appear, only to be wiped out when you focus on them. And the more you look, the more she looked, layers of stars appeared, until the sky was alight with them, hundreds of thousands, how had she never seen that many before.

And through the years, when life takes her up in its arms, harassing and tugging and screeching like an unstoppable machine, the night still hums with the sound of the earth. Not heard as often, when sleep embraces her warmly, when she snatches at what little she can, she forgets that the earth hums. Hums with the sound of millions, droning through the dark. And the wide silence of space, above.

The night has sounds, you see. Far away freight trains, spilling their hoarse roars into the atmosphere. A dog barking, yowling over the distance, like a banshee over the hills, distorted by the long shadows of trees and the loud silence of night. A car driving by, the engine obscenely loud. And lights in houses, everybody tucked away, except those who dare venture out in the echoing dead of it all. Breathing, as a whole. Breathing, as one.

Dead, but alive.

Alive, but not living.

And the stars, the same, but different. Through older, wiser eyes. Twinkling that same old story, through thousands of years.

And the sound of the earth humming its hum, uninterrupted by machine life.

The sound of the earth, humming, louder and louder, as the inky blackness of the sky spreads its fingers down to earth.

And the stars wink brighter, one by one.

This, this is the night.

And she is at peace, in the thundering hoarseness of earth, the trains in the distance, the snippets of humanity, the wind rustling through blades of grass, the insects, teeming at her feet. She is at peace, as the world sleeps around her, and the earth keeps on humming.

She is at peace. For now.

Don’t Cry

You’re so noisy.

Don’t speak, don’t breathe.

Heavily behind me.

Through your nose.

Long toes. nails. Harsh.

Scratchy voice, cackling.

And heat under an old green coat.

You’re so noisy.

Don’t tell me I’m wrong.

Don’t fake your beliefs, to make me happy, and then curse what I believe, when you’re tired of the lies.

Don’t swear

don’t SHOUT

Don’t breathe, just stop. Stop breathing. Just sleep.

Don’t blame, don’t bemoan, don’t lament. I am not your beacon of happiness.

I am not made to suffer your fury, your happiness, your pain.

I am human.

And when I leave, don’t cry.

You’re so noisy.

I want out.

But

I’m scared to go

Because you think you’re entitled to me.

You’re so noisy

So ill

so broken.

When i LEAVE

Fix your bones

don’t smoke.

And for heaven’s sake, don’t cry.

Don’t cry.

Those hacking sobs

those tears

not of pain

but of bitter selfishness.

 

N.B. this was real. not is. a v long time ago. thank goodness.

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Image credit: Carmen Renn

Idaho

When I was studying my Creative Writing module, as part of my English Language and Literature degree, my tutor spoke about a feature of writing that incorporated film techniques. She tried to make us incorporate some of these techniques in our own writing, and cited the example of Charles Dickens’ ‘Great Expectations’, where the visual descriptions of Pip’s parents’ graves provide vivid imagery, almost like a camera panning out over the gravesite and then the view of the countryside spilling over the hills.

But that was where it stopped with Great Expectations.

And if you want to read a book that makes you feel like you are watching an emotive film, not just visually, then Idaho is the book for you.

Emily Ruskovich has a natural affinity for words. Her words are like vines, growing around the pages and entwining with her story, so they cease to be black letters on a white page, and instead become a blurred window into her motion picture.

She doesn’t just describe things, she adds a voice to them, increasing the volume when she needs to and beaming radio silence when the moment shouts for it. And what a loud silence it is.

And behind everything is the soft piano music, gently playing to the rhythm of the characters’ lives and they go forward and backward in time.

It is all very well for me to lament on the poetic nature of Ruskovich’s writing, but I expect the burning question you have is what is this book about?

And I shall tell you, and not tell you, all in one breath, because I can’t tell you what it is about without doing the book justice.

It’s about a family, both past and present, shattered by uncontrollable and controlled, horrific events, and a degenerative disease. It is breathtaking, yet slow paced. And it rises and rises in pitch as the book goes on, crashing loudly and beautifully at its highest peak, and then softly trundling down a rocky mountain towards the end. Ruskovich uses her writing talent to create a written film, and I mean this quite literally.

It took me three months to read this book. I know because I started it when my tulips started to sprout, and finished it today, when my tulips are long withered away and the summer flowers are in full bloom. It is a slow read, there is so much to take in, and the pace leaps about between timelines, so it is hard to keep up. I was also left frustrated at the end, because there were questions there that I felt weren’t answered sufficiently.

I sat back and thought about that, however. The book was written in such a way as to reflect real life themes, emotions and human growth and change, and in real life there aren’t always answers, there are only humans dealing with questions, and growing with them, until they become part of what defines us.

I thoroughly was mesmerized by Idaho, Emily Ruskovich ensnared me with her beautiful poetic prose, she flabbergasted me with how she dealt with such treacherous topics and yet managed to make something so vibrantly, painfully beautiful.

 

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Love Letters #45

She didn’t.

ever.

doubt

that she wouldn’t have,

their support,

their endless love,

Their silent encouragement,

despite her constant irritation with them,

and theirs with her.

But every day,

she was gripped by the

hopeless

despairing

certainty

terror

That she

would eventually

lose them all,

to the cruel,

yet inevitable

Cycle of life.

Joined to her every nerve ending

Spread so far around the globe.

Close to her heart and soul

Voices crackling over miles of choppy ocean,

Lump in her throat

Smile through happy tears

Oh to see that darling face again,

So swift, so soon, so long

and then it’s goodbye

Until next year.

Sore, aching heart,

Her family.

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Image Credit: Katie M Berggren

Written because in the past year, I have only seen my father over a series of sporadic occasions which amount to no more than 15 days. And this breaks my heart, because he is getting older, and so am I, and so are we. 

Running on Empty

Why do people say that they are running on empty?

They aren’t running.

They are just empty.

The sun can suck your energy out.

Especially if you live in a country where the sun is consistently shrouded by cloud.

Clouds of shroud.

Covering its beaming face.

When the sun comes out all and sundry scuttle from their hidey holes.

And it drains energy.

So lobster arms and legs sprawl, blistering, in the heat, empty cans hanging loosely from fleshy claws.

And people are truly, then, running on empty.

And when the sun sets, and the ashen dregs of barbecues are ground into the floor under hardened soles, the cold night air surges again, and the stars pop out to twinkle, one by one.

We never run on empty.

We just run.

Thoughts on Things

Hello. How are you? It has been a while, hasn’t it. Now, what on earth have you been up to?

Here are some opinions.

Donald Trump is trying to blame the democrats for his horrific child-separation policy. I don’t understand. Am I being stupid? I thought the president is the one in power, not the democrats.

A celebrity had a female child. Immediately after reading this piece of news, I thought, I would like to have a female child. Does that make me sexist? I might prefer a female child over a male child. I am worried about having children because I fear I will lose my correct body shape and become misshapen and lumpy. Ok. Fat. I don’t want to get fat. There, I said it.

They are debating whether to legalise marijuana for recreational use here in the UK after a high profile case of a severely epileptic child who could only be treated with cannabis oil had his vital medicine taken off him at customs when he arrived in the UK. His mother fears for his death and is tirelessly campaigning to have medicinal marijuana legalised. Without knowing the full story, I think, my goodness, what is wrong with the UK. Just legalise medicinal marijuana, and then, once the boy is out of the danger zone, discuss recreational marijuana! It really doesn’t have to be such a long-drawn-out process.

The World Cup. As a mixed-race, multinational person who is British but certainly hasn’t spent all her life in England, I am sorry (not really) to say that I do not support England. I think their flag is bland like their over-boiled meat. Everybody here is happy that they won, and flags are flying out of windows. As somebody wryly put it, this is the only time people can hang their flags from windows without being seen as racist. Also, the police force recently put out a statement to warn the general public that if England loses, domestic violence could rise by a third. Accompanying this piece of news was a photograph of some England supporters standing passionately on some bleachers with their shirts off and their beer guts hanging out. I have to say, I don’t like English people at the best of times, and this just made it worse. Domestic violence indeed.

So who DO I support?

What? You have to support somebody, in the nation of football lovers!

I could support Morocco, Spain and Pakistan (haha, if they qualified). But the truth is…

Well..

The truth is, I don’t care.

What do you think of the world cup?

Apparently Americans don’t care because the whole world calls it football, and to Americans, that is just not what football is. Although I really don’t understand why the game they call football is called that, since they don’t ever kick their ball.

Americans have to be the odd ones out, don’t they. Illogical nation.

Those were my opinions for this stretch of 40 minutes. I will have some later, I am sure, but I shan’t bore you with them.

What are your opinions? I am curious to know.