Saturday, September 22, 2018

I offer guidance on Village Social Event Food

After 18 long months, I have finally been permitted to contribute some "nibbles" for a village fundraising event.  "At the back, and if they're warm, put them on top of the radiator"*, instructs the Controller of Village Events (COVE) when we get to the church.  "Made those, did you? How GRAND."

Things involving plates of food are commonplace in our village and because we have Incomer's Fear, we go to almost all of them. The result of all this event-going is that I am now a 100% Top Expert on Village Social Event Food. The even better news is that I am prepared to share my considerable expertise with you, my adoring readers and/or fans, ensuring that anyone about to make their debut as a provider of "Village party nibbles" will seamlessly integrate alongside Jean and her cheese straws. 

I will, first of all, delineate my Village Context. From this, you will be able to extrapolate how relevant my Village Social Event Food will be in your own Village Context.

Village Context

Average age: 69
Average name: Tony, Jean, Bob
Average occupation: Historian, head of OFWAT, Architect to the Queen's Lavatories, thermo-nuclear physicist, biochemist, home visitor
Best description of village so far: "650 alcoholics clinging to a hill"
Chance of:
- seeing someone dressed as an elf being pulled on a trailer anytime in December: 100%
- donkey falling down storm drain having escaped from the Living Nativity: 100%
- spending over £10 on raffle tickets at village event: 100%
- there being a prize in the raffle that is not alcohol OR a 'basket of goodies' featuring old apples and jar of jam: 0%
- winning prize in raffle:  0% (if you are me)
Numbers of things to fundraise for: approx. 10, including church tower, church loo, church kitchen, vicar's gym membership, rehabilitation for donkey (see above)

Village Event Context
Setting: Church 1 (Anglican); Church 2 (United Reform); Village Hall; Open Gardens; Cricket pavilion; playing fields
Drink: Warm white white; red wine (non-specific); Cava (Prosecco = infra dig); Peter's Punch (inexplicable); Hamish's Pimms (90% Pimms, 5% lemonade, 5% gin)

A Beginner's Guide To Suitable Village "Nibbles"

Vol-au-vents: Full size but half-risen, containing Mystery Chicken in Undiluted Chicken Soup

Jenny's Famous Sausages: Cocktail sausages in mustard and honey so sticky that your fingers are glued together for the rest of the evening, thereby making it impossible to get your paws into ...

...Curry Puffs:  overcooked choux filled with sweet chicken curry

Paste on a Disc: Chicken liver pâté applied in a perfect circle on a perfect circle of bread, left out just long enough to crust up at the edges before being garnished with a small slice of green olive, enclosed in cling film and left to sweat for up to (and including) 3 hours (N.B. there is always half a plate of these left at the end and surreptitiously scraped into the vestry bin "so as not to hurt Jean's feelings")

"That looks Interesting, Peter!":  Concoction created by recognised local 'epicure and gourmand' (i.e., man over 70 with a Robert Carrier cookbook) involving aspic, a small fish-shaped mould and something orange

"A moment on the hips!": Joyless rye cracker with a squirt of Primula chive spread, topped with a single defrosted prawn and some curly parsley

"How GRAND": smoked salmon on blini that everyone stuffs down, pushing each other out of the way to get to the biggest one whilst sneering at vulgarity of having something delicious to eat

"Not for me, thanks": anything involving either feta cheese OR cumin

Brown Thing: "Malt loafy-thing that flops down when you hold it with chicken liver paste and a bit of tiny gherkin that fell off when you lifted it."**

Sausage roll. Variations required are as follows. Unfortunately it is almost impossible to tell which is which using your eyes alone, which invariably means the heart-stopping, roller-coaster ride that is Sausage Roll Russian Roulette:

  1. Home made: warm, slightly too big, always delicious, crumbs stuck to face that no-one tells you about. Later that evening, you realise that you talked to at least 12 people between sausage roll ingestion and seeing crumb-encrusted face in mirror at home
  2. Supermarket Special (Everyday Brand): were half-heated up but not quite enough, and are now cold; strange paste-y texture; often sprinkled with sesame seeds; perfect 1 inch width; favourite of portly gentlemen 
  3. Waitrose Poshest Chorizo and Ptarmigan Rolls:  See smoked salmon on blinis, above. Seen to be slightly vulgar and showy-offy, which doesn't stop the sneeriest clambering over each other to stuff them in their gaping maws.
I will be surprised if you tell me that this guide is not useful. I will be even more surprised if you don't have contributions of your own to make (I direct you to the comments section below), and I am interested in hearing them.  

Pip "Touch my cocktail sausage if you dare" Pip


* Do not do this. Last night, at the opening of the new church loo, a towel keeping some sausage rolls warm on top of a radiator caught fire
** Live review from my 'husband' who, as regular readers will be aware, is a French-Canadian veterinary histopathologist

Sunday, January 07, 2018

The Draft Diary of a Country Non-Working Something Or Other

There is much to relate, except I can't, because I live in a village and it is insane and I don't know where to begin (donkeys stuck in storm drains, windmills, sloe gin competitions, a trumpeting minister at the chapel, choir stuck in a snowstorm, owning a nouveau riche Aga). 

In desperation, I have started going through old drafts seeing if, perhaps, there is something I can revive for the sake of you, my adoring readers and/or fans.  Here is (almost the full) list of draft titles. (Sadly, there is no Christian Nudist colony in the village, otherwise I'd be right there - without my apron.)

"Cottaging, Pt 2"
"The Country Diary of A Non-Working Monkey"
"A Good Day, Middle-Aged Stylee"
"When A Monkey Is Tired Of Cauliflower"
"What Is A Millennial?"(i) 
"Lost Weekend"
"Bryan Adams"
"Grey's Anatomy" (ii)
"Still Not Much Happening"
"I Am In London (And Hastings)"
"I Am In Austin Again"
"Too Many Hotels"
"Hullo!!!" (iii)
"I Am Tied Up"
"I Am Invited To A Christian Nudist Brownie Bake-Off (No Aprons)"
"I Reveal My Celebrity Pals, 2000-2005" (iv)
"I Am In Texas"
"I Will Not Touch Your Lobster"
"I Suffer From Post-Traumatic Prog Rock Syndrome"
"Je Suis Dépaysé"
"I Find A New Use For Boris Johnson"
"I Receive A Radish From A Pathologist"

I'm going to try very hard to revive "The Country Diary of a Non-Working Monkey". With an eye on the future (i.e., we would like to stay here for a long time and I like my neighbours), I will be taking some 'poetic licence'.

Wish me well, dear readers and/or fans.  Wish me well. And if there are any aspects of country life you would like to hear more about, just say the word.

Pip pip!


(i) Some early promise here: "Please write a short exposition on the meaning of millennial", writes MonkeyMother, frantically puffing on her pipe. "Our friend Jane will keep calling them milleniums (sic)."

(ii) "I have started watching Grey's Anatomy. This is because I am" And there it stops dead.

(iii) "Ring ring. Ring ring. Ring ring. Who is there? Yes. It is me.  I phoned myself yesterday from my office phone.  "Why is the office calling me?", I asked myself, mobile in one hand and landline receiver in the other.  These are strange days, my friends; days that, as they pass, build and fold into a possible screenplay that no-one would believe, not even a person 'tripping' on LSD c. 1968."

(iv) This is VERY FUNNY in places, but also VERY RUDE in places about some 'living celebrities', which is probably why it's a draft (although it is highly unlikely that anyone would drag me, a monkey, through a court of Law).   Includes accidentally seeing the manstick of Nick Bateman from Big Brother c. 1987,  an encounter with Lisa Riley and a flying harness, home decoration tips from the (genuinely fabulous) Laurence Llewellyn-Bowen and a physics lesson in a Winnebago from none other than Johnny Ball.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

We are buying a house in England

"Hold your nerve", I say to my husband, the French-Canadian veterinary research histopathologist with whom I share my life (and fleas).  "Buying a house is not easy in this country".   I use both of my tiny little monkey hands to lift the 3L bottle of Co-Op London Gin up onto the kitchen table, and get the winch out.  I realise he is only partially aware of what 'Grade 2 Listed' means, and I am not in any hurry to get into any sort of deep chit-chat about the ramifications of living in a house with a thatched roof.   The winch is winched; the bottle tips; the drink is 73% gin.

In Canada (where we have been), buying a house is sort of like it is in Scotland: you say you want to buy it, you sign a thing, you do some surveys and that and then - assuming you haven't got cold-resistant termites or bodies in the converted basement - 5,000 square metres of fine Canadian real estate is yours for the price of a one bedroom flat in Shepherd's Bush.   There isn't any of this 'gazumping' nonsense; agents don't seem to be massive cocks and people tend to do what they say they will.

In the England, it is different. Our offer has been accepted and the house is "Sold STC",  but someone could pop up offering 30p more than us and - in theory - the owners could take the offer and we would be back where we are, i.e. living in nice but leaky rented house with carpets like those you would find in an office just outside Coventry,  surrounded by sinister people who live in bungalows, drive top-of-the-range Audis and shout 'THIS IS A PRIVATE ROAD' after you, the suspension on your 2007 Ford Fusion Zetec audibly snapping as you speed away, bouncing over potholes on the way to the Co-op.

But. But.  I think it will be OK.  The owners (Scottish, very nice, fine taste in gardens and basins) seem excellent, and want to get back to Scotland.   While we wait, we wake up at odd hours in a cold sweat trying mentally to fit our enormous Canadian furniture into a house built by toothless Tudor cordwainers; even if we grease it up good and proper it's going to be a struggle worth buying tickets for, and some things will have to go, or go into storage (e.g. collection of fezzes, furniture built purely to hold your television set, The Complete Ant and Bee, etc).    I have spent 23 minutes looking up "How to cook on an electric Aga", an hour being put on hold by various 'mortgage providers' and 15 minutes talking to a solicitor who tells me there is nothing she likes more than 'dicey permissions'.

I will not go on more.  We will have to see what happens. It is too soon to show interest in the fact that the Parish Council have had to buy a new Dog Poo Bin themselves because Cambridgeshire County Council simply REFUSE to pay for it themselves.  I also have ZERO interest in the fact that pub (6 minutes' walk from our front door) has a Pie Night every Wednesday. Of even less interest are the quality of our cricket teas, and whether we will be featured in the monthly village newsletter, which makes a point of welcoming new people to the village. "Please welcome the new arrivals to Monkey Cottage at 1 Bingbong Lane.  They have just moved back to the UK from Canada. Say hello to NWM, JM and their cat, Steve".

Talking of Steve, this was the picture on his cage at the rehoming centre.  We got him two weeks ago. He is excellent but now gigantic, and chews on our toes in the night.

Pip pip!


Thursday, September 15, 2016


We have put an offer in on a house. The house is in fact a cottage with a thatched roof in a village with a cricket club, the WI, two pubs and a very low threat of flooding.  It is what North Americans think most houses in England are like (if they are not Downton Abbey or Buckingham Castle). 

I realised tonight that if this thing (that we weren't planning) happens, there's a very high chance I may 'take to my blog' again. Why? Because I know that you - my adoring readers and/or fans - will want to know every detail of the WI talk about "Swedish Customs, Cakes and Coffee" that I plan to attend in late November, and I want to tell you every detail about 'Fruits de Mar Panini' on the menu at Pub 2. 

Are you in?  I know I am by Christmas, if all goes according to plan. 

Pip pip!


Sunday, April 24, 2016

English Items (Various)

An update for you, my adoring readers and/or fans (should you still exist).

I Now Live In The Almost-Country
More precisely, a village that is technically in Cambridgeshire, but has a Royston postcode ERGO is not 'real' country (i.e., you don't need wellies and Ocado offer a number of convenient delivery slots).

Good things about the village:
  1. I live in a (rented)  Georgian house with 3 bedrooms, a garden full of gigantically fat pigeons and a leaking conservatory (that's big enough, should the village hall burn down, to host the Am Dram Soc's peformance of Pirates of the Penzance, inc audience). The entire house costs the same to rent as a 1 bed flat above a chipshop in Shepherd's Bush (actual fact). It is very pretty and very wonky and after 8 years in Canada,  it is just the ticket. My husband, a Canadian, keeps bashing his head on the doors which, bearing in mind the Georgians weren't THAT stubby, tells you something about his extraordinary manliness.
  2. There is a very good butcher that also sells a) 'loave cakes' and b) 'home fashioned fruit pies'
  3. There are 2 other shops, notably a corner shop they call "Dips' Shop", a magical emporium that sells a range of items including sausages (of high quality), dustpans (and brushes should you need them), firelighters, 3 types of crumpet, papers, broccoli, discounted Valentine Chocs and party hats.
  4. It is a 15 minute walk across a field to train to London that takes an hour, and you can always get a seat.
  5. There is a really good GP full of excellent doctors and receptionists and people who are complaining. To these people I say: leave the UK for 8 years. (Try living in Canada, even, which allegedly has a health service of its own.) Then come back, experience the NHS again for 5 minutes and weep hot tears of gratitude. 
  6. There is a kebab van in the car park (6-10pm every night inc. Sundays) that has the mystery meat on a pole, but also has meat on a stick.
  7. We are not in London. I am from London. Born there, went to school there, lived there most of my life. But I do not want to live there anymore. 

Bad things about the village

We have 3 pubs and they are all shit.

  1. Parvenu Hotel Resstrunt Bar. High gloss textured wallpaper, does weddings. Rolls-Royces parked outside. Slacks. Slippery 'Chesterfield style suites', Chef's Snack Platter. No. 
  2. Pub of Danger.  It is where you go if you want some crack cocaine. Driving past it you would take one look and shriek "Oh this MUST be in The Sunday Times' 50 Best Pubs Within Commuting Distance of London 2012 Guide!!!". It is all wattle & daub glory and creaking signs. Then you park up and cross the road, feel your way through teenagers with tiny eyes sucking hard on cheap cigarettes, and find that the pub is full of people that would probably kill you and put you in the ham sandwiches given half the chance. "How charming!", you shriek, necking your pint in record time as you leg it out the back through the car park.  
  3. Pub of Laminate. Is the pub that you think, well if nothing else we'll go to there, for it is managed by a reputable - nay, celebrated - nearly local brewery,  surely it'll be OK. But it is not. It is over-lit and full of laminated menus and you feel genuinely indignant that you don't qualify for the Pensioners' Weekend Meal Deal.  There are fake fires and people in their late 20s silently eating a Sunday Roast Meal Deal (your choice of chicken, beef, pork or lamb with an alcoholic beverage of your choosing) with their parents. Everyone is on high stools, and no-one is comfortable. 
I am now a headhunter
The irony of this is not lost on me and yet. And yet.   In this job, the idea of work is an abstract. There are headhunters that headhunt headhunters to go and work for other headhunters.  We don't earn commission (no no, we are not THAT kind of headhunter) and I am paid a salary to sit and talk in the abstract about work all day long. It is probably the perfect employment for a Non-working Monkey.

It is fucking ace to be back
So great, in fact, that I have not been able to write it down. I keep wanting to start and then don't know where to, because there's so much.  But I have been inspired to get to it again because ....

....A great person has written a great book

It is Emma Beddington, AKA Belgian Waffle, and her book is really, really good. I read half of it in one day and I am wanting to chomp more of it down.

I told her it was a relief it was good, like when your pal has a baby that doesn't look like a potato with marshmallow eyes so that when you say "oh isn't he/she LOVELY', you actually mean it.  Have a look. (I also found out within the first 10 pages that she lived next door to the man who let me in to the University of York, where I got a Desmond and got up to no glorious good for 3 years).

I find Faceswap 3 years too late and laugh until I can laugh no more

Here I am as a dog, for example:

I wrote a post about a Barbour when I got back that was a bit odd, so I've got rid of it but there were some very good questions in the comments that I will go back to and try and answer. In the meantime, if you have any items you wish to discuss with me I encourage you to fill the comments box(es) with your topicks.

Pip pip!



Blog Widget by LinkWithin