Friday, 21 March 2008

Long and Dusty Road - Starts Here

As of yesterday I've joined the ranks of the unemployed. I've shaken off the after effects of a rather generous leaving party (supper with whole company at a local pub - surprisingly good quality - shared with another leaver), said my farewells and read through the messages on the leaving card. Funny how several of the messages concerned gin and that among my leaving presents was a bottle of Gordons. Funny because I don't think I've ever supped a G & T with any of the employees. Pints of beer and glasses of wine, oh yes, but gin - never. It must be because of a famous office conversation which went something like this:

Monday: "J, why are you looking so glum?"
"I've decided to lay off drink for a month - give the liver a bit of a rest".

Tuesday: "J, why have you got that sticking plaster on your hand?"
"Cut myself chopping up a lemon for my G & T last night".

Anyway I dare say I'll miss the slightly monastic open plan office work ethic. The long silences disturbed only by a ringing phone, the arrival of a cup of coffee "oh, thanks", or a deliveryman. The continuous traffic of emails between employees all sitting in the same room; the lady LARPer's attempts at excellent customer relations on the phone with a foreign person who speaks no comprehensible English apart from a demand to know why the book he ordered from Amazon hasn't yet arrived; other employees bafflement that the Rambling Nappa's hearing is so bad that when some sort of conversation breaks out at the far end of the office he is totally oblivious to it, whilst everyone else is hanging on every word - whether involved in the conversation or not.

Anyway, time to move on. Time to take a rest from books on politics, computing and finance. Time to close down a chapter in my life and to start a new one.

With a lot of help from the long-suffering wife we've cleared out much of the retained debris left over from my physical bookselling days - dozens of files, electrical muddle (computers and miles of network cable, security gates, broken price guns and sticky labels, all these went to East Hampshire civic amenity refuse sites (trying to avoid the watchful eyes of the attendants looking to pounce on anyone disposing of trade waste). The keys of our storage garage have been handed back.

The long and dusty roadbeckons, and I'm off to France on Monday to seek inspitration and to accelerate the sale of the chateau.

I dare say that as a result of this blog I'll get a call from the amenity site people levying a fine, and another email from the daughter-in-law on the subject of copyright infringement (use of a photo taken in Dubai desert).

Saturday, 15 March 2008

Duck W-rap

While the Rambling Nappa's broadband was off the air there was a lot of stuff on TV about factory farming of poultry. Jamie Oliver and Hugh F-Whittingstall seemed to be going on about free-range all the time.

In a moment of insanity last year, I got a bit cheesed off with a Waitrose duck wrap that I purchased (for a lot of money) one lunchtime. It didn't taste of much and I felt sorry for the bird - so I wrote a (nonsensical) rap. It's time it came out of the cupboard...

Duck W-rap is a two parter. Words in upper case are spoken by a duck (f), the rest by a drake (m) – tempo fastissimo. It is neither rap nor poetry, more like music hall opera, partly set to music with soft percussion and additional instrumentation from a decoy duck caller*.


Ugly maybe, Muscovy or Aylesbury,
Nothing in this world beats a really good duck*.
Wind-dried. Pan-fried. Roasted ad dilectum,
Just a little sore with an orange up my rectum*


For wherever you go, America or China
I figure on the menu as an apt reminder
That entrée, main course, bitten or chewed
I’m what is classed as a luxury food.


When you see me on the pond swimming in the water
Followed by my sons and my wayward daughter
The colours of my feathers, my big webbed feet
My quacking voice it’s all a big cheat


Now the male of the species, he’s no duck
He’s really a drake but the name’s just stuck
His role in this world like mine is to feed
A zillion hungry mouths – a global greed


In locked-door factories you like to call farms
Exalting in all of their free-range charms
They stuff me with corn with my sons and my daughter
Cooped up in cages ready for the slaughter


But it’s not just the food thing that gets up my nose
It’s the way that we figure in your toys and your clothes
You shoot us at the fun fair, float us in your bath
Yellow plastic plaything – make me laugh


Then there’s Daffy and Donald, Jemima and a Soup
The duck-arse hair thing, and a duckling troop
For your pillows its our feathers that you like to stuff
A bloody billed platypus, but enough’s, enough


Shelduck, Sheldrake, Shoveller, Mallard
Doused in vinaigrette and put into a salad
Hugh Grant’s “Duck Face”, wasn’t he a hero
While at cricket all I am is a big fat zero*


I’m warming to my theme, so you’d better listen well
And lower your heads* for a vision of hell
From the kitchens of Peking, Hong Kong and Shanghai
A new way of cooking comes and it’s not “stir fry”
Cut yourself cucumber, then spring onion slices
Roast me in an oven with some eastern spices
Warm up some pancakes, then shred me because
Next you’ll embalm me with rich plum sauce.
Goldeneye, Redhead, Blue Wing Teal
What in God’s name do you think we feel
As our meat is torn up for a pancake roll
A glass of white wine and we’re swallowed whole



It’s a supermarket thing, a sandwich filler
Duck in Hoisin Sauce in the lunch-snack chiller
And to finish it all – the ultimate to cap
They’re marketing us as a hoisin duck wrap


©Rambling Nappa 2007

Saturday, 8 March 2008


There are people like me – who troll their way through life. And there are those who are good at everything (just about). Mrs Rambling Nappa used to work with a distinguished surgeon, who was also a qualified architect, who was widely travelled and spoke fifteen languages (most fluently). I seem to remember that he was also a lay preacher or something, virtually built his house, and on, and on.

I’m rambling on about this (enviously) because I recently had one of those “I wish I could write like that” moments when reading an article in The Spectator about Suffolk of all things. Try this:

“But then in this last year Suffolk and I started seeing more of each other. Tentatively at first. I spent some time in Newmarket painting portraits of horsemen under protestant blue skies…”

Or this:

“Meanwhile my dates with Suffolk were coalescing into something of, if not a ‘journey’, then at least a ‘character arc’: sleeping off a wedding in an Elveden graveyard; kissing a girl on a roof; bareback-riding with under-10s across potato field in perfect magenta bloom; the low September sun lens-flaring off a lake and across the stirring silhouette of my girlfriend; losing a few rounds of ‘Escape & Die’ to the sheep; making friends with smoker exiles outside A-road pubs in the bitter Christmas cold: and all against a year of party-blasted dawns imprinted straight into the amygdala, a misty North Sea radiance fading up over crumbling cliffs…”

Wow! I am supremely jealous of that kind of skill with words. And who wrote them? Someone called Thomas Leveritt. I googled him and (to quote) found out that he is half-American, half-British, and 32. He has won the Carroll Medal for Portraiture from the UK's Royal Society of Portrait Painters, and twice been runner-up at the National Portrait Gallery's BP Competition. He has a CV that looks like it ran over an improvised explosive device (his words), with pieces of soldiering, law, computer programming, import-export, film production, signmaking, and teaching scattered all over the place. No matter where you come from, he has a slightly different accent. He published a novel in February 2008 variously described as 'dazzling' (The Guardian), 'crazed and hilarious' (New Statesman), 'radiat[ing] a certain clued-up, slacker intelligence' (Metro).

Damn him! I guess I’ll have to buy his book.

Saturday, 1 March 2008

LARPing Around

I was bit confused when one of my staff requested Friday off - so she could prepare for a LARPing weekend. Needless to say I had no idea what she was talking about; but did I care? I certainly did.

Discreet enquiries to other staff members revealed that the gentle lady in question liked to partake of Live Action Role Playing, meaning dressing up in fanciful costume (leather apparently) and beating the hell out of other participants using latex and foam weapons. A strange way to vent your frustrations, but then again...

Needless to say I googled LARPing and found loads of specialist clothing companies and armourers (as well as pinching the above photo off some-one's site). And it's not just ladies from Petersfield that like this sort of thing. LARPing is everywhere - Belgium, across America, and Germany. They've moved on from the old roundheads vs cavaliers re-creations of Civil War battles. Your modern LARPer will have a specially themed event (Conan the Barbarian meets Godzilla in the Temple of Arkan, sacrifices at 4.00pm, bar opens at 6.00pm, bring axes).

Somehow I feel quite pleased that I'm leaving my job in less than three weeks. I do work with my back to the lady LARPer and I just feel a little uneasy about her. I don't think I'll ask her if she enjoyed her weekend when I go back to work on Monday.

Masterchef - First Cake

Ouch! It doesn't look very good does it? My first attempt at baking a cake (an educational process intended to climax with the production of a Rambling Nappa Christening Cake in the summer) did not impress the judging panel. Here are a few of the comments.

1. It would have been sensible not to have iced the cake while it was still hot (so the icing simply ran straight off like molten lava)
2. What's that strata of fat running through the sponge?
3. It hasn't been cooked long enough.
4. More baking powder.
5. No, Nigella's all wrong. You don't just bung everything in the mixer and hope for the best.
6. What do you mean it has gone down the waste disposal unit? (the mother of the child)

Oh well. Back to the drawing board.