Sunday, 9 August 2020

Traditional Artisan Beaker Chutney Recipe

It's that time of year again, even in a year as weird as this. It's the warm weeks after Trinity. The cherry tomatoes are hanging red on the vine, the early apples have come in crops greater than anyone could feasibly eat. And people are asking me "do you have any traditional, folky recipes for this time of the year? The sort of chutney the Beaker Folk would have made, 3,000 years ago, while recovering from Summer Solstice and wondering what to eat with roast pork at the big YuleFest?

And I say of course. This is precisely the sort of summer-made chutney the Beaker Folk would make ready to eat with their annual hog roast. High in brown sugar, rich in tomatoes and robust enough in cider vinegar to make the journey from anywhere in Great Britain to Stonehenge, to add a bit of a kick to the midwinter revels.

Ingredients

  • 2 kg Discovery or Katja apples (or some other apples), red as a setting sun and sweet as lovers' first kisses
  • 1 kg tomatoes. Ripened on the vine in the Neolithic sun, washed by the soft rain of the early Bronze age, picked by Beaker maidens and crushed by hand. These aren't just any tomatoes. These are Beaker Folk tomatoes.
  • 350g (about 17 pebbles) of soft brown sugar, grown in the Amesbury sugar fields
  • 8 red chillis, ripened on the vine etc etc
  • Pinch of artisan salt, panned from the Doggerland seas. Or just table salt will do.
  • Minced garlic - about a teaspoon
  • 500ml (about 18 fl oz) of cider vinegar

Method

  1. Prick the sun-ripened, rain-washed tomatoes individually and put in boiling water for two minutes. Ideally the water will have been boiled in authentic beakers on large stones removed from the camp fire. But failing that, just use a bowl and some hot water from the kettle.
  2. Remove the skins from the tomatoes, scalding your fingers, and reflecting you should have used a couple of forks or something.
  3. Add the sugar in the cider and stir till dissolved. Use hot rocks and beakers or a large saucepan according to availability.
  4. Chop the chillis and tomatoes. Peel, core and chop the apples.
  5. Add everything to the mix and boil for a couple of hours until it's starting to burn.
  6. Ladle into one small jar.
  7. Wonder what on earth happened to the concept of "conservation of mass".

Small half-filled salsa jar


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Wednesday, 5 August 2020

Not Going into a Church for Private Prayer

Had a slightly sad experience today.

Out in the country, walking Arthur Smith, the Beaker hound. We got Arthur Smith a while back, when designer cross-breeds were very trendy. And he's an Alsatian/German Shepherd cross.

We were following the footpath through a church I visited years ago. On the front gate was a sign telling me that they were now open for services on Sunday mornings. On the south wall, a sign telling me it was closed till further notice. And the door was open. 

As I say, I'd not visited this church for a few years, so I was happy to see the door was open. I popped my head round the door. There were two people there on "watching private prayer" duty. Both fully masked. So I stayed there on the porch and chatted across to them.

I asked if they'd been there all afternoon. Yes. I asked if they had had any visitors. No. I asked what the point was them sitting there all afternoon, if they had no visitors. And wouldn't it be better to just leave the church open and leave people to follow their own common sense. And they said, no - they were there to make sure they knew where to clean, after their non-existent visitors had been for private prayer and left.

Now I don't know about you. But I don't like going into a church for private prayer, while being watched by two people. Feels less private, somehow. And I was only popping in from curiosity.  And they were of an age when they were both venerable and, likely, vulnerable. So I wasn't going to enter the church while they were there, in case I was unknowingly infected, and passed it on to them. 

But I asked them the question again before I left. Given that by being in the building to watch it, they were exposing themselves to risk of infection, what was the point of them being there? And they told me you can't be too careful. And what would be the alternative - locking the church up?

So I left them. I didn't rest awhile on the bench in the churchyard (which was not sealed off and, according to the logic used in the church, was a potentially contaminated surface which nobody was watching or cleaning). Instead I opened the gate that leads from the churchyard out into the field next door, where the footpath leads. I opened it with my hand so had to remember not to touch my face (since there were no masked guardians of the gate either), and sanitised when I returned to my car.

And I know they're doing what they think is for the best, and I know guidance has been terribly muddled. But I do think it's a shame two people gave up their afternoons to sit in masks, in an empty church, to put off the one visitor the church had in in all that time. I do think it's a shame that, due to their and my different perceptions of the concepts of "risk" and "private prayer", they were right - they might as well leave the church locked. And I'm not saying my view is right (though I think it probably is), but I'm just a little saddened that we're in this situation.

Please note for Sunday's worship in the Moot House, all Beaker People are now expected to sit in their bubbles, in the hastily-erected Georgian box pews we have "borrowed" from another church. I don't think they're planning to re-open for a while, so with any luck we can get them back before anyone notices. 


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Monday, 27 July 2020

Liturgy of Masks: 3020 AD - The Rite of Fourfold Sanitisation

Archdruidbot VCL XI: Lift up your masks.

All: We lift them to our ears. 

Iobfe: But not until after we have sanitised our hands.

All: Mustn't be too careful. 

Archdruidbot VCL XI: Let us join in the Prayer of Fourfold Sanitisation.

Iobfe: Oh God, bless us in our sanitising before the removal of our masks.

All: And in the removal of our masks.

Iobfe: And in our sanitising of our hands after our removal of our masks.

All: And in the sanitising of our hands before the putting-on of our masks.

Iobfe: And in the putting-on of our masks.

All: And in the sanitising of our hands after putting on our masks.

Iobfe: And in our going out.

All: At carefully considered intervals.

Archdruidbot VCL XI: As it was taught to us by our ancestors.

All: Though we can't remember why.

Archdruidbot VCL XI: Let us have clean hands and pure hearts.

All: And be clothed in the masks of purity. Amen. 


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Sunday, 26 July 2020

Collateral Damage in the Mask Wars

Imagine the scene. You're an 18-year-old worker in one of those little local supermarkets. Let's say, for the sake of pathos and interest, a 5 foot nothing young woman. You're wondering what on earth grades you're gonna get at A Level in this weirdest of all summers and you've no idea what the job market is going to look like in the autumn or alternatively what university is going to imply. But you managed to convert your former part-time job to full-time, and it's only 7 quid an hour, and you've been exposing yourself to Covid 19 infection from customers since March, and Boris Johnson hasn't announced a pay rise for you and most people didn't put up rainbows for you, but at least you can make a contribution at home.

You've been in the shop since half five this morning, and amongst your jobs have been  dealing with respectively:
  • cleaning a freezer,
  • a 15 year old kid with his brother's ID who's trying to get booze,
  • the group of youths who arrived together and didn't socially distance and whom you suspected were 
  • someone who is angry that a local convenience shop doesn't stock tahini or agar jelly,
  • trying to distract you while one of their mates tried to nick a bottle of whisky from behind your counter, 
  • marking down hundreds of sandwiches, 
  • and one poor soul who wandered in with their mask on back to front and wondered why it wasn't working. 

So it's just an ordinary day.

You're just at the end of your shift. You're knackered. You're dreaming of the home straight and a glass of whatever 18 year old shopworkers drink when they get home these days. You've pushed a trolley load of flour out to stock up the shelf, so you know you're going to go home looking like the Homepride Flour Monster. You look up. And, worst of all nightmares, it's a right-wing libertarian controversialist journalist. No mask on, grinning smug face, taking selfies to get "likes" from his (or her, but on this occasion his) weird fans on social media.

You could ask him to put a mask on. But then he's from a cossetted background - aren't all the edgy ones - and his father used to own a factory, so he's got hundreds of years of patronising the working classes behind him. You could call the manager. But she's 5 foot 2 and even if she were 6 foot 5, what's she going to do? Refuse to serve him? Irrelevant - he didn't come here to buy anything. He came here to show off. Throw him out? Then he's got a video and he's a martyr for the Dim Right Wing. Call the police? Seriously? 

So you ignore him. You hope that one day, he might grow up.

Unfortunately for you, at that very point a member of the opposite faction in the Mask Wars comes in. Takes a selfie of himself, resplendent in a mask emblazoned with the words "I am wearing a mask and I even have a slight tendency to hay fever." Sees the grinning idiot mask-less and demands to know what you are going to do about it.

You look up at the two of them, standing there. Shrug and go off to serve the bloke who's buying six Jaffa Cakes and eight cans of Stella for a big night in. And the masked avenger tells you if you don't do something about it, he's going to write to your Head Office, mention you specifically by name (you have a name badge. Just your first name, to ensure people don't have it too easy to track you down), but it'll do for identification purposes) and tell them that if, in future, you don't throw grinning manboys from the shop for non-wearing of masks, he is going to demand a boycott on Twitter.

It is unfair that weird libertarian show offs can bully people like this for their amusement and lols on Instagram. It is unfair to put the policing of weird libertarian show-offs into the hands of poorly-paid staff - predominantly young and female. It is wrong that the government put into place penalties so poor that it's not worth the police enforcing them. Penalties that the average libertarian right-wing show off could pay with pocket money from their dads. It you're going to penalise them for endangering human health - and remembering there are very good health reasons why some can't wear masks - penalise them so hard it hurts, and it makes the papers and the police think it's worthwhile.

And for the rest of us, it's tricky. You don't know whether a given person has a genuine reason not to wear a mask, or whether they've swallowed some drivel posted in Facebook and need to be educated. But if you can see the person concerned is a nearly-famous columnist, do us all a favour. Don't smack them in the face - it only makes them a mask martyr. Just mutter something mildly offensive under your breath from a distance of 2m. Tut, if you must. The only oxygen a mask would stop them receiving is the mask of publicity. So don't give it to them.

I wish I wasn't even writing this, but it's not about the idiot libertarians or the masked avengers. It's about the poor sods that work in shops and get caught in the crossfire. Don't make them collateral damage in the Mask Wars.


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Saturday, 25 July 2020

Advice on Ocarina Playing in Church Services

People have been asking for my guidance on the use of ocarinas (or is it "ocarinae"?) during services in church buildings.

The advice is quite clear.

Don't.

This has been in place for 5 years now and I see no reason to change it just because there's a virus about.


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Tuesday, 21 July 2020

How to Stop Your Glasses Steaming Up While Wearing a Mask

Obviously, as a leading spiritual leader, in a leadership role, people often come to me for leadership.

And one area where they've been asking for leadership is in how to stop their glasses steaming up when wearing a mask.

I've no idea why they ask me. I have perfect distance vision, so I never wear glasses when out and about. I am long-sighted. Which is, to be honest, a bit of a pain if I'm needing to check packaging for ingredients or "do not use this on gerbils" type warnings. But on the other hand, you can't go fishing glasses out of the Archdruidical Handbag every thirty seconds to read packaging. And you can't wander around shops wearing reading glasses without crashing into walls and other shoppers. Which is not advised in these days of social distancing. So what I tend to do is  just buy the stuff anyway, go home and use it on the gerbils anyway.

But obviously I can still apply the traditions of folklore and a bit of faith and quantum mechanics to the problem. So here we go.

  1. Wash the lenses of your glasses by the dew of morning, the day after the first full moon in August.
  2. If you rub your specs on the back of a badger, the resultant static repulsive force can repel moisture for up to 13 minutes. So remember to take a badger shopping with you. Ideally a tame one. 
  3. Don't wear your glasses. Just walk around squinting. This has the advantage of encouraging people to socially distance.
  4. Get special demisting lenses, on the principle of car windscreens, powered by hearing aid batteries in your ears.
  5. Always walk around shops backwards. It takes your mind off your steamed-up glasses.
  6. Say the ancient Beaker Glasses-clearing Spell. But be careful. It's only one consonant out from the ancient Beaker Death-Dealing Demon Summoning Spell. We've lost a lot of good, if short-sighted, Beaker Folk that way.
  7. Wear a mask that covers your glasses as well. Then you won't notice if they steam up.
  8. Get a tattoo that makes it look like you're wearing a mask. Then you won't get hassled to wear one. 
  9. Get a mask that looks like a half-face tattoo. Then everyone will leave the shop and it won't matter if you walk into things because your glasses are steamed up.
  10. Tiny little windscreen wipers on the lenses. A staple joke of 1970s comics whose time has finally come.
  11. Just wipe the steam off them occasionally. But remember to scream "I'm touching my face now! Everybody sanitise!"
  12. Get someone else to do the shopping. Let their glasses steam up instead.
Personally, I suggest the last one. Speaking of which, if anyone is going shopping, can they pick me up a couple of gerbils from Petsmart? I'm afraid there's some sad news about Val and Brenda.



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Monday, 20 July 2020

The Dead Cat Prophecies

We've already had Boris Johnson sharing pictures of his baby. The convenient announcement that Jeremy Corbyn's revelation of a post-Brexit NHS sell-off was arranged by the Russians. And Dominic Cummings wearing a stupid hat. But what could possibly be announced tomorrow to try and get the Russia Report's publication off the front page of the Internet?

We've put our best brains onto it. And let's face it, even Burton Dasset's brain is about as good as Dominic Cummings'. And here's tomorrow's news, as we're sure will happen.

  1. Boris Johnson's wedding date announced.
  2. Mark Francois to be the new James Bond.
  3. Priti Patel announces a crackdown on immigration. 
  4. Tap-dancing horse closes down West End. 
  5. Jacob Rees-Mogg seen in Fortnums wearing a tweed facemask.
  6. First UK Freeport declared to be The Brunel Centre, Bletchley.
  7. War declared on the Faroes.
  8. Boris Johnson "accidentally" seen nude on Zoom.
  9. Chris Grayling walking to work with one brown and one black shoe on.*
  10. Dominic Cummings "accidentally" drives over Humphrey the No 10 Cat.
  11. British to land a piloted space ship on Jupiter.
  12. Graham Brady officially declared Britain's Most Useless Man. For the fourth year running.
  13. Hedgehogs blamed for Covid, and a cull announced.
  14. Dominic Raab announces that he has attained enlightenment, and is now a Visionary of the Temple of Dionysus.
  15. The Sun claims that an army of badgers are tunnelling under Buckingham Palace.
  16. Rancid cheese runs amok in the village of Stilton.
Or maybe the Russia Report just won't be as interesting as people expect?

*same as every day, but you know... 


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Wednesday, 15 July 2020

The Sourdough Also Rises

OK, so the Sourdough, having achieved sentience, is now being worshipped as a god by some members of the Boris Johnson Gaslight Appreciation Society. Mostly because it's a lazy thing with little brain, but unlike Johnson it doesn't insist they have masks.

It's lost a few followers, however, after apparently Johnson made a joke about Calvin Klein pants today which they all enjoyed. Some would say his job was to stop the people of this country dying rather than making pants jokes, but he went to Eton so I guess we're lucky he doesn't just shove them on his head and sing a song about boating.

The Sourdough is pretty grumpy, though. It was thinking it had a chance of getting the gig at the Commons Intelligence Committee, if it was up against Chris Grayling.

So it's got a gnawing psychic emptiness and - being a sourdough starter - middle class pretensions. So there was nothing for it.

It's gone to Waitrose.


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Tuesday, 14 July 2020

The Boris Johnson Gaslight Appreciation Society meets the Sentient Sourdough

I have no idea how this happened. But during lockdown, a group of the more reactionary of the Beaker Folk - whether through Facebook, Zoom, shouting through walls or simply just going outside for a chat - formed the Boris Johnson Gaslight Appreciation Society.

They're an odd bunch. They like old-fashioned lighting mantles, and Boris Johnson. They hark back to a time when toffs were real toffs, and the peasants were grateful. They hate Labour, Theresa May, Keir Starmer, the BBC, Europe and, since Black Lives Matter, football. And they love Boris Johnson and Priti Patel. And they think they're the normal ones.

But they're in a right dilemma. Because face masks.

There's a right schism. There's two possible alternatives to Boris Johnson saying we all have to wear face masks in shops. One is to declare that they will continue to follow their tatty, chubby little God of the Blond Comb-Over, worshipping him as the deity they have always believed. The other is to declare that, because Boris Johnson has decreed compulsory masking of faces, that he's a terrible blasphemer and false prophet.

And then there's the sub-argument. Some people are saying that no freeborn descendant of Angle the Saxon should ever wear masks. While others are harking back to the gas masks that "we" wore in World War II. The World War none of them can remember. But they all fought.

It's a recipe for disaster, already. And then you have to add into the mixture - as it were - the Sentient Sourdough Starter. Saturated with the earnest loneliness of Bernie's lockdown - the frustration of all those unrisen meringues and au-bout-de-souffle soufflés - all those rare stakes that were gray in the middle and those bullet-textured boiled potatoes that he's served up over all the years. The Sourdough starter has escaped from the translators we drafted in, screaming that it will rule the world. And legged it into the countryside. If a blob of flour and water, saturated with wild yeast and yoghurt bacteria, could be described as having legs.

But if a power-crazed fungus should manage to make contact with a bunch of weird Boris-worshippers, many disappointed at being asked not to infect other people with a deadly disease and looking for a new idol - what can happen?

I dunno. But I've got the old Slazenger V400 out. It may come in handy. 
 

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