Stolen Watermelons

It’s an odd thing to steal, but it wasn’t just the watermelons. Somebody came into our garden on Wednesday during the day and had a good rummage around. They trampled on our tomato plants, cut out a ripe watermelon and some nearly ripe ones, and also made off with quite a few unripe apples. Which was less than pleasant to come home to, especially since Stacie was going to cut the melon that night and take it to share with some other people that don’t despise watermelon (it’s just nasty!).

We’re at the intersection of a fairly busy road, so it could have been anybody, really. We had been idly thinking about getting gates to close off the driveway entrances to let Mukhi roam free, but sadly, it seems they’re going to be obtained somewhat sooner than we planned to keep people out as well as keep our dog in.

Meanwhile, Oscar seems to have taken up residence in the room full of boxes and meows loudly any time you come near him. Not sure what that’s about. Maybe he’s signalling that he wants to build a cat adventure playground with the leftover cardboard. I, however, am thinking about bouncy castles for a housewarming party, so I guess I can’t criticise him too much about wanting adventures.

Today saw my first attempt at making chocolates in the smaller kitchen space in the new home. I miss Trinity’s kitchen. Things were somewhat cramped, even after I made a makeshift island out of leftover boxes (and yes, Oscar did give me a filthy look as I took some of his boxes away), but I eventually managed to get a batch of strawberry ganache chocolates made and packed away for tomorrow. I’m thinking that one large island and one smaller cart may be a good idea for adding work surfaces but not cluttering the kitchen up too much. And! I’ve just put the dishwasher on for the first time.

I have become a middle-class bore. I might have some interesting news for you all this week, though.

Life In East Durham

It’s been a while, hasn’t it? Turns out that moving house can suck up quite a bit of time. Though the actual move didn’t take too long in itself; TROSA came early on a Saturday morning, picked up all the boxes and unpacked them across town in just over two hours. What takes the time is unpacking. Especially when you have twenty-seven boxes of books. Ahem.

It took a weekend to get them together and the house in a position for being able to sleep and shower. And it wasn’t until this weekend that we unpacked most of the kitchen things and used the purple oven for the first time.

No really, it’s very purple.

purple oven

It’s starting to feel like home. I’ve worked out the route to work (it takes about three times as long to walk, but there’s buses, and heck, I could use the extra few steps), clothes are unpacked and have been washed, Transformers are out, and books are arranged into something resembling order. Oh, and I now have chocolate shelving.

chocolate room

And I have a special chair. A Dazzle Chair.

dazzle

It’s a housewarming gift from Tammy, who has sadly left us this week to go live again with her family in South Carolina after graduating in her Pathologist’s Assistant programme at Duke. And no, she is never allowed to talk to Bonnie to swap tips. It would not be good for my health, I think. Anyway, it’s very dazzling, and I don’t think it’s possible to have a chair more suited to me. Unless it was made from concrete as well. Maybe for Christmas? Maybe? Maybe?

So, settling in. And hopefully, updates will be better from here on out…

Mold

It started innocently enough. I was attempting to start packing up the copious amount of books that occupy the WALL OF BOOKCASES in our current house ready for the movers to take across Durham this upcoming weekend. And, as you might remember from a previous installment, I packed everything into boxes back in Bicester almost two years ago, and those empty boxes were in the basement. Oho! This wouldn’t take very long at all.

Except, when I got downstairs and started checking out the boxes, there was a slight problem. Well, not so much slight, more of an increasingly panic-stricken realisation that almost all my boxes were exhibiting signs of mold growth. Some of them had quite a considerable amount of it.

I ripped open boxes of CDs, pulling out jewel boxes that were showing signs of damp and mold spores. I pulled out old papers that were damp to the touch. I grabbed a box of Transformers, including my boxed European Overlord. The box started disintegrating in my hands as I pulled out the styrofoam, white beads of foam having turned to black.

These are just things, of course. But they’re not just things - a CD collection that took decades to amass, where each and every CD has a memory associated with it, from almost freezing to death walking into town to buy Don’t Look Back In Anger, to buying Slow Riot For New Zero Kanada in the high humid heat of Wilmington, straight from the set of Dawson’s Creek. There are notebooks, legal pads full of the writing I did from 2002 until 2011, including all the notes for my interviews and reviews when I was working for Static. Almost every Transformer I have ever owned. And other boxes full of irreplaceable items and memories.

Let’s just say, I didn’t take the possibility of losing all my childhood and teenage things very well. Everything that could be potentially saved is now in plastic tubs and drowned in rice. We’re hoping that this will be able to kill the mold and dry everything out (and thanks to Tammy, who happened to be dropping by to wish a happy July 4th, and instead ended up going on a late-night adventure to Wal-Mart to buy all the rice. So much rice).

On the bright side, we do finally have a washer and drier over at the new house, so we don’t have to venture in the basement here ever again. Which is one of the few bright spots of the week (along with getting the Nest connected, so we can now control our thermostat from our phones. It’s like the future, but only without hoverboards and jetpacks)

Happy Canada Day

Remember, Canadians - next year we can all celebrate two hundred years since we burnt down The White House. I do plan on making a cake. But only if I get my permanent green card in the meantime. Don’t want to unnecessarily chance these things, you know.

Not a huge amount to report this week. Well, a few things, I guess. Our current house appears to be rented from August as of this evening, I managed to donate three entire boxes of things to Goodwill today, which I think absolves me from hoarder status for another ten years, we finally have an Internet connection at the new house, and I finally finished watching I’m Alan Partridge. Only late by over a decade.

Oh, and I started working on a book that will be published later in the year.

(nothing too fancy - but it will be in English this time, which is a step up from the last one!)

So that was my week, mostly. I feel like these weekly updates end up being little more than a few disjointed sentences about things that have happened, and I never up saying anything of use. Not that I did much more before, but they seemed to have more of a purpose. Even if I was just going on about Johnny Boy.

Now, though, to bed and Ambien. For I need to sleep for the new week.

Various Beards

The beard The beard The beard

The Beard

Warning, this post contains a horrible excess of hair.

Normally, pictures of me would be fairly well hidden, but I’ve been told there needs to be some documentary evidence of The Beard. So, then, after a week, here we are:

The beard

The only reason it exists is because I was worried that the cellulitis could have spread to my face if I cut myself shaving. So the reasonably sensible thing to do was stop shaving until I was sure that the infection had passed. I now have a beard of many colours (seriously, I have bits of jet-black and ginger in this thing. WHERE DID THEY COME FROM?).

The decision has proved almost universally popular with everybody in Durham except for me. I’m looking forward to this upcoming weekend, wherein I will take a fresh razor blade and shave the entire thing off. And then in a bid to re-establish my hipster credentials, I shall make cronuts, perhaps with a bourbon vanilla pastry cream filling. Oh yes.

(also, yes they are new glasses, but they’re not that much different to the older ones, only slightly more hipster, coming from Warby Parker.)

Back to work tomorrow, and for the first time in over a week, I will wear shoes! AND SOCKS! Standards have slipped around here, I tell you.

Two Wednesdays

There were two potentially life-changing events last Wednesday. The first happened in the afternoon when I signed lots of bits of paper and then became the owner of a house over four thousand miles and an ocean away from where I was born. The second was the period between 20:00 and 22:00 where I was running a high fever and we were wondering whether I would have to be rushed into the hospital on a suspected MRSA infection.

Thankfully, the latter, while stubborn and annoyingly impervious to the first round of drugs, doesn’t seem to be MRSA. Hurrah for keeping a foot. Still, I’ve spent most of my first week of homeownership confined to bed, with incidental trips back to Urgent Care and then Duke ER when it looked like the infection was spreading up my ankle. I haven’t quite got over the craziness of handing over a credit card whilst laid up in a hospital bed (this past week has cost me over $300 so far), but thank goodness I have health insurance, I guess. Also, I don’t think I’d have got through the week without Tammy watching out for me - even if her medical diagnoses were somewhat hampered because she couldn’t simply cut me open like her normal subjects (she’s a pathologist’s assistant, so most of them tend to be on the dead side, too).

In my absence, work has begun on the house - contractors started today on the foundations and the fireplaces, while on Thursday, the entire roof will be ripped off and replaced with shiny new energy-efficient shingle. And apparently, it’ll take at most two days unless they uncover something hideous under the existing roof. After that, it’ll be pretty much done. We have a few shinies that we’re splurging out on, but we’re not trying to go too crazy. Indeed, our new couch didn’t cost us anything except the petrol between Durham and Cary.

We hope that after we’ve got things set up (and the water gets turned on!), you’ll all pop by @314Driver sometime soon…

Hard Drivin'

I think I’m almost over the jetlag now. Took a lot longer than expected, and my lunch-time encounter with a person that wanted help building a computer that could interpret his out of body events to predict the future did make me wonder if I was hallucinating after being awake for about forty hours. Fun times.

Barring any unforeseen complications, I will own a house from Wednesday at 2pm. Stripping the roof starts a week Monday. If all goes well, we’ll be moving at the end of July, or if things go really well, a little before that.

(on that note, if you happen to be living in the Triangle area and are looking to rent a three bedroom, two bathroom house that’s merely a block away from Fullsteam and Motorco, why not get in touch with me?)

The new house will be taking over our current house’s Twitter account in the coming days - follow along at @houseofpi. I’ve been picking up little sensors here and there with the idea of creating a tweeting, data-collecting house. And then Tom Coates got there first. Damn his eyes. But I figure that there’s room on Twitter for a few tweeting houses, so get ready for a feed full of temperatures and humidity values. I know that’s what you want. It’s also quite handy that our new house has the same number as our current one, so I don’t have to come up with a new name.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to trawl Amazon to try and find a decent deal on a mattress in the Memorial Weekend sales. Who knew that they were so expensive?

A Return To London Village

It would be fair to say that I had a few expectations for this trip to London. Not once, though, did I have a thought that I might find myself on the 1938 to Bedford in order to get to Luton Airport. And yet…

Every time I’ve visited London in the past few years, I’ve been struck by an urge, or a melancholy feeling: I should have lived here. Unlike New York, Chicago, or Los Angeles, I feel like I could cope with the scale of London Village (to be fair, I guess I did cope with LA for half a year, but I was starting to go crazy at that point). There’s so much to do, so much to see, and if you ever got bored on a Saturday, you could just head out and lounge on the lawn in front of the Tate, or see what’s happening at the ICA. They even seem to be getting Mexican right at long last. Well, they seem to be improving, at least.

In lieu of actually living there, then, I did the next best thing: rent out a place from Airbnb in Shoreditch. Home of Doctor Who, Rough Trade, and the greatest concentration of hipsters east of Williamsburg. It didn’t disappoint: Thomas The Tank graffiti, neon outfits, a vintage market full of East German army wear, and a shopping centre constructed from shipping containers. Of course.

Biggest surprise of the trip? Blackfriars is finally open after three years of construction. No longer is there a diversion from the Tate to the South Bank - you can walk along the waterfront all the way back to Waterloo (okay, so you do have to leave the riverside to actually get to the station, but you get the idea). Second biggest surprise would be Tabea flying into Luton on our final night in London en route to Ireland.

So, not only did I get to see Blackfriars open, I even ended up leaving from there on a train to London Luton Airport (hoho), and then a very early trip back to London the next morning in order to see Stacie off at Heathrow. And then came home and went to bed. Let’s not do that again in a hurry.

One thing that did sadden me a little: the encroaching invasion of America. Every time I come back, there’s more seeping in. Abercrombie & Fitch, J. Crew, and now Chipotle. It seems a little wrong for me to complain, seeing as I now live in the US, but I do feel as if parts of our culture are being a little subsumed with all this. I wonder when Asda & Boots will drop the façade and become Wal-Mart and Walgreens.

(insert standard rant about how the history of the 80s computer games world in Britain is vastly different from the US or Japan’s, despite the Internet’s attempt to minimize cultural differences. Also, Transformers UK.)

Anyway, back home now. London is still London. Lots of new buildings, but the South Bank is still reassuringly concrete and alien.

Dinner

It’s apparently the ninth best restaurant in the world right now. And we ate there on Thursday night. Dinner by Heston is seemingly the result of Heston Blumenthal’s research for all his TV shows in the last last ten years; a restaurant dedicated to recreating British dishes from yesteryear. No 21st century food here, not even 20th century; the age of the dishes ranges from 1390 to 1890. Which, at first glance seems to be at odds with Heston’s usual modus operandi of grinning like a madman as he uses liquid nitrogen and gellan to make a liquorice enveloped salmon. But if you’ve ate at The Fat Duck, glanced through his cookbooks, or caught him on Channel 4 in the past few years, you’ll know that this has been an interest, or perhaps an obsession, of his for some time now (and you’ll be able to buy the book at Christmas time, of course).

Dinner, then, isn’t the Fat Duck slimmed-down and shoved into a fancy London restaurant. Well, apart from the triple-cooked chips. And the ice-cream trolley which can come along to your table and make instant ice-cream using liquid nitrogen (though even here, the mixer on the trolley is hand-cranked to give it a semi-vintage feeling). Oh, and a £70,000 clockwork spit-roasting contraption in the kitchen that’s Alton Brown’s nemesis: it only exists to make the roasted pineapple for the Tipsy Cake dessert.

(to which I say hurrah, as I find Brown’s uni-tasker crusade to be intensely puritanical and mis-guided)

Okay, so that’s the pitch, but how was it? You can take a look at the menu to see what’s on offer. Stacie got the marrowbone as a starter, whereas I took a long hard look at the menu and realised there was something in every dish that I wouldn’t eat. I’m a picky eater, although picky in odd and annoying ways. Anyway, I’m told that the marrowbone was great. For the main course, I had the fillet, while Stacie got the spiced pigeon. And…well, it was a hunk of meat on a plate. A great hunk of meat with amazing beef gravy and triple-cooked chips, mind you.

But, this is me, so the important thing was always going to be pudding. As a lover of pineapple upside-down cake, Stacie was always going to order the Tipsy Cake, but I went for the brown bread ice-cream (what I didn’t realise until after was that choosing this meant that my entire meal came from 1830). This was served on an olive oil shortbread and drizzled with salted caramel. And was amazing. I seriously don’t think I’ve ever had an ice-cream that was that smooth and so perfect.

And then Heston walked by. Admittedly, he did have Jeremy Clarkson in tow, but it was a wonderful cap to the night. Does it deserve to be almost ten places above Alinea in that latest listing of restaurants? I…think not, but it’s not quite aiming for the same thing (and only about the third of the price!). Plus, you know, you can book on OpenTable rather than having to fight the insanity of Chicago’s reservation system.