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Book Launch: As Simple As Hunger

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, and people who do not identify as any of the above! Bug enthusiasts, fantasy fans, people who just want to read something new and different and before everyone else – I have great news for YOU. You have the chance to pounce on a novel of ferocious novelty, an epic of epic quality, the fantasy fiction saxonpunk universe with giant bugs and zeppelin cities to end all fantasy fiction saxonpunk universes with giant bugs and zeppelin cities. You will quake with terror at the vastness of the spider citadel! You will gasp in awe at the aforementioned zeppelin city! You will make a series of conflicted faces about a number of locations and scenes in which all kinds of dastardliness and arthropods dwell!

teaser 1 teaser 2

As Simple As Hunger is poised to crawl among us, spreading fascination, wonder, tears, laughter, and some REALLY BIG INVERTEBRATES wherever it goes.

‘Well we’re not going to sit around and wait for you to write it’, I hear you cry, as a rhetorical device. Not to worry! The manuscript is already written. It is edited. It is ready to fly! It is sitting on the runway awaiting clearance to swoop into your personal library and change either your life or at least a couple of days where you might have succumbed to some other, lesser book.

WHEN? When is this happening?

Soon. So soon. Hold on. It’s coming.

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A Snippet: As Yet Untitled

In Pig’s experience you could learn a lot from names.

Doubtless Foley had read too much into his own choices – assumptions of guilt and servitude came with Pig, with Foley instead of Dick. He had his own assumptions – Dick, not Richard, or Cyril. Retaining his youth, his veneer of friendliness.

It was, he though, like his brothers – half-brothers – who had begun life as William and Michael, and gone away to become Billy and Mike, then Lance-Corporal William John Ridel, deceased, and Ridel,  Michael John. Then Dear Michael, I Hope You Are Well. Then Dear Sir, I have been empowered by a solicitor to act on behalf of Michael John Ridel, and finally, with no small amount of relief, Michael John Ridel, May He Rest With The Angels.

Around this time his sister had progressed from Little Mabel to Dear Mabel to Hasn’t Mabel Blossomed to Stay Away From My Bloody Sister, later amended to Mrs Mabel Simpkins. Pig himself had acquired the name Your Bloody Layabout Brother and the accompanying epithet Well If You’d Just Help Him Find A Job.

At which time he’d learned the name Golding Holdings and come, like a rock falling to earth, back to the name Captain Dick Foley, to Pig, to the mediation on names, and to Maureen Phillips staring at the same spot on the side of his head while she brightly informed someone on the other end of the phone line that they absolutely had received his information and he merely needed to repeat it to her before she would happily provide him with a letter on the state of his insurance accountants.

Maureen made a face at him and continued her bright, breezy, Home Counties lying.

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Reviews: Rainshader Umbrella

As a British person, certain problems obsess me. One is the weather: there are few truer steretotypes than the idea that the Briton is continually preoccupied with meterology. Explanations to the effect that our weather is robustly changeable have been tendered. Personally I think the complete lack of decent heating makes me reluctant to be caught in the rain, but the fact stands: I’ve spent a dog’s age trying to find a umbrella that meets with my requirements.

  1. I can carry it about, while not in use, without my hands. There is no point in having a brolly which incapacitates me, especially one which I will almost inevitably leave on a bus or on the tube when I need it most.
  2. It doesn’t immediately slow me down by acting as a bloody sail and turning itself inside-out constantly. I’ve missed trains before through trying to struggle to the station without becoming a solid collection of waterlogged clothes, as my arsehole of an umbrella celebrated every intersection by trying to escape my clutches and dance off down the street. A lot of brollies bill themselves as windproof, but few actually are.
  3. City-dweller special: in the name of all that’s holy, I need to be able to both see where I’m going and not jab people in the eyeballs with a selection of metal spikes.
  4. I’ve owned a clear plastic dome umbrella before so my further requirement is that any prospective umbrella does not tear, bend, puncture itself, or render itself unusuable as quickly as possible.

This does seem like quite a reach. I’ve looked at all kinds of peculiar geometry, pocket umbrellas, the Nubrella in which one  just encases one’s head and shoulders in a bloody bubble for the hands-free carrying experience… I’ve had a Fulton Dome knock-off that punctured itself, a light-up handle one like out of Bladerunner which almost instantly went out of alignment, a clear orange one which melted by a radiator, a pocket one which got kicked the length of Kings Cross Station and abandoned after its persistent shenanigans made me miss the train home after work… umbrellas and their bitchy attitudes, losability, and failure to umbrell have been the bane of my pedestrian existence, in short.

Enter Rainshader, a British umbrella company who specialise in umbrellas for festivals and sporting events.

The Panoramic Model

They’re dome-shaped, allowing others nearby to exist in harmony with their eyeballs still in their sockets, reducing the lip under which the wind can intrude, and channelling rain and wind abruptly downward.

They’re clear at the front, meaning I can see where the goddamn hell I’m going, and to the side just by rotating the umbrella a little in my hand, even when I’ve pulled the thing down low over my head. As an added bonus, as I discovered while trying to wrestle with my phone at the Kyoto Garden at Holland Park, you can also balance them on your head and stay dry, which is more than can be said for the conventional umbrella.

They’re vented, meaning that wind that does get under the canopy gets out again without causing strife, and have a handle fitted to your hand so that the likelihood of being divested of your brolly in a gust is dramatically reduced.

They come in a sheath that has an adjustable strap, allowing you to wear it across your back like a flipping sword, and meaning you can combine hands-free with active badassery.

On the downsides, my stupendously massive rucksack sticks out the back of the tidy circumference of the brolly and gets wet, and the scooped-out front means that wind occasionally blows rain directly into my legs. Delightful Boyfriend complains that he feels like Michael Keaton in the Batsuit when turning his head at road crossings, but overall Rainshader, at twenty-five quid, is at the perfect intersection between utility and affordability.

ALL HAIL THE BROLLY OVERLORDS.

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It’s Like Following Me On Instagram

In the absence of acceptable content (work getting fairly horrendous because of the upcoming election, also the election itself: fairly horrendous), why not look at some calming photos of the food I’ve made lately?

Stuffed potato skin, roast carrots, spinach, pineapple lolly, cup of tea.

Mini pancakes (one teaspoon of batter each).

Vegetable stir-fry and tea.

Stuffed pepper, stuffed potato skin, tea. I didn’t actually make anything except the tea.

Melon and pineapple, strawberries, and macarons from Ladurée (lily of the valley, rose, and pistachio flavours, thanks to the generosity of a recent houseguest).

Rice and omelette.

Tinned ravioli, vegetable stir fry, tea, and some Hidden Raw Carrots.

Vegetable stir fry (are we noticing a theme?) including potatoes, soy sauce, and a 2 x quail egg omelette.

Rice, pickled lettuce, salmon furikake, miso soup with fried bean curd and tofu, blackberry and blueberry tea.

Mixed veg, fake!rice, asparagus stir fry with a quail egg.

The process of making onigiri using cling film and old Lush hair goo pots.

Tea, rice cake, and a fried egg.

Quail egg breakfast baskets made with garam massala and a garlic dough base.

Roasted carrots, shallots, garlic, and beetroot with mini jacket potatoes, a rice-flour oven pancake flavoured with almond essence, tea.

Fake!noodle vegetable stir fry with smoked tofu.

Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki and cranberry and raspberry tea.

Chocolate jelly cubes, made with cocoa, milk, agar agar, and sugar.

Sake, soy sauce, mixed steamed veg, rice with salmon furikake, cod steamed in cabbage.

And some stuff I’ve done

Elk burger and a massive stack of chips covered in mayo, from Fika on Brick Lane.

A cocktail from Fika which had a stupid name involving elves and came in a fucking sweetie jar because when you go hipster, you really go hipster.

The Resident Australian forced me to go and say hello to a peacock in Holland Park. I’ve yet to reconcile myself to long trousers.

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New Prints/Art Finished

I am a slow worker, but at least the recent dissolution of my laptop’s functioning parts (since resolved) gave me the impetus to spend a while working on some old line art:

Victoria and Albert Museum Panorama


(A print on here might be easier to see).

The Real Greek, South Bank


The print.

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Tiny Product Reviews

Things have been busy. I passed my probation at work, which is nice, so here is some of the stuff I’ve been spending my money on:

Blender Bottle Go Stak Starter Pack

As part of my mission to hunt down the most convenient and least space-consuming equivalent of a bento box, I acquired these. Enormously useful: one helping of yogurt will fit into the second-largest pot a little TOO exactly. So far so good: easy to clean, easy to transport, leakproof, easy to dismantle.

gostak
Bubi bottle

Roll-up silicone bottle with clip and retainer. So far okay. It doesn’t retain fizz in carbonated drinks and imparts a slightly weird taste, and has leaked a couple of times presumably due to the weight of liquid pulling the bottle out of the closure ring: I have yet to test claims that it is a) microwaveable, b) flame-resistant, c) great as a cold or hot compress, d) good for waterproofing electronics. I would be more confident doing that had the aforementioned leaking not occurred. On the plus side, it rolls up when empty to take up almost no space and the 400ml one, which I have, fits in a pocket in that state.

Compleat Foodbag

A massive disappointment. It might very well be a great, waterproof way of transporting your food which packs down small and doesn’t let things get crushed. I wouldn’t know. I haven’t been able to get the strap around the to to remain closed over the fold when there is anything inside it whatsoever, thus rendering it pretty much useless.


Skorpion Skates.

I have Quadline Street Skates, as mentioned in this brief update, and I am increasingly pleased with them as I get better at using them. The suspension leads to a weird noise, and they do take some getting used to, particularly if you’re used to skates with a toe stop; but so far they’ve been durable, comfortable, not too hard to get the hang of, and easy to put on and remove. Sooner or later I plan on using them to get to and from the station on my way to work, but that’s definitely going to have to wait until I’ve figured out hill stops and am not so stymied by uneven paving slabs.

Skorpion Skates

 

Aromhuset drinks flavours, coffee flavours, sweetener.

The answer to my perennial and evolving question: how can I make drinks taste better without consuming any extra calories? Elderflower and sucralose added to sparkling water gives me elderflower presse as sweet or not-sweet as I want it and is pleasantly portable; the range of coffee flavours works just as well in tea or hot chocolate. The coffee flavours come with a pipette; the entire business fits into a tiny kitchen drawer and causes no further bother. Exactly what I was looking for.

Lekue Cooking Bag

Lekue? Yes, I’m sorry, I’m middle-class and occasionally that fact refuses to remain as discreetly hidden as it ought. We shall not dwell upon what horrors I have acquired in the tiny kitchen my flat is equipped with, but this is not the only Lekue item I own.

It isn’t bad: the primary use so far as been to marinade fish, which could be easily achieved in a bowl, I suppose. Also to cook fish after marinading them in, in the microwave, for which it is very convenient. I rather hear it’s good for freezing things as well, giving rise to the possibility of removing something from the freezer, defrosting it, and cooking it (and probably eating it) all from the same silicone bag. Not so bad.

Nothing But… (fig and apple)

I’d already tried their savoury snacks – the sweetcorn and pea, the peapod and red pepper, and found them a conscience-salving alternative to crisps, even if the sweetporn and pea packs were somewhat difficult to eat at times. Freeze-dried vegetables are all very well, but freeze-dried fruit struck me as a lightweight way to satisfy a sweet craving and potentially just story fruit until I was ready to eat it.

I was right about that: this is delicious, weighs less than a bag of crisps, and in combination with a GoStak section full of yogurt and a couple of hours in the fridge at work the fruit rehydrates as if fresh and I have a tasty, healthy snack. Strongly recommended. I shall report back on the beetroot and parsnip chips when I have the opportunity to try them.

Bear Fruit Yoyos

I discovered recently that the name for the stuff these are made out of is “fruit leather”, which is a wildly unappetising term for what is in fact a wholly delicious substance. It basically tastes of highly concentrated fruit, because that it what it’s made of, and has a chewy, tacky texture. It comes in rolls – like the old-style liquorice “Catherine Wheels”, and keeps me both entertained and fed on 2-mile walk back to the station at around 6am after work. Frankly, I could ask for little more, but apparently one packet also constitutes one of your 5-a-day and frankly I could very easily eat five packets a day of these.

Kid-Stop Adult Strap On Heelys

Easy to resize, easy to put on, fun to look at, FLASHING LIGHTS. Downside: they are going to take a lot of practice to get used to – heel skating is something I have no experience with and unlike conventional skates there is no axle give so you can’t really steer by throwing your weight around.

Obviously as someone who loves throwing their weight around, this presents rather a challenge!

EatWater Slim Pasta Penne

I love pasta. Loved pasta, I should say, since I basically never get to eat it now except in witheringly tiny quantities. It’s a staple food for a lot of reasons and one of those is that it imparts a lot of energy, which is great if you’re working in a field all day and less great if you a sedentary PR monkey who spends their life either swearing at the news or finding new ways to avoid movement. EatWater doesn’t sound like a very appetising brand and when I first tipped these out of a packet I’d bought from Holland & Barrett my initial response was “slugs”.

However. They cut down on the cooking time of ordinary pasta-and-sauce significantly, and mean that I can have a much more tasty sauce than I would ordinarily be able to (pro-tip: add a Knorr stock pot to pasta sauce while you’re cooking it), and when thoroughly cooked in the sauce – well, the texture isn’t too dissimilar to well-cooked pasta. Granted, I prefer pasta more al dente, but I liked it enough to buy another five packets.


Other products I should be able to review soon include the Tube Vault, the Charge Card, and maybe even the DL58 bluetooth printer if I can ever get the stupid thing to cooperate with any of my devices. If you’ve a strong desire to see me review something in particular and help me out at the same time my Amazon wishlist is here and here and here. If you have products you’d like me to review (in more depth) then get in contact at [myname]@gmail.com

 

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New Hobbies

So far this has not resulted in bruises, grazes, or death, but there’s always time:

Those aren’t convention quads – that would be too sensible, and I already have a cheap pair of those … somewhere in my house – but these:

Skorpion Skates

Skorpion Quadline Street Skates

My justification is that they’re commuter skates and there’s a 1 mile commute between my station and my workplace, but my actual reason is “WHEE!”

It’s amazing, they’re like skateboards for each foot and they look so stupid and I fell into a hedge today.

There’s a glorious circularity to this. It was windy, I clutched the Resident Australian nervously by the hand as she wandered along with a large Canon camera around her neck, occasionally snapping photos when I wasn’t clutching at her. I was wearing skates that strapped on over my shoes.

Basically the same as a couple of decades ago, when I clumped along Plymouth Hoe for a few hours in the wind and an anorak, Fisher-Price skates over my shoes, and my mother occasionally taking photos with the (analogue) Canon around her neck.

Sunnier today, though.

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New Print All Over Me

New products on my POAM account:

Click through to see in more detail

The shoes are only available for a very limited time, though. Hurry hurry!

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Packetsu Part 2: The Linkening

Wait, more on Packetsu?

Yes, more on Packetsu. Trawling through invention listings at frightening o’clock in the morning has gifted me with a number of discoveries, which either make the business of packetsu more feasible, or fit into the general theme.

This printer recycles plastic bottles. Perfect for cheap packaging. You could even print your own Packetsu containers at home with downloaded blueprints.

Edible cupcake wrappers. Edible wrapping is a definite factor in Packetsu. It reduces waste and means you’re getting more food for your money!

Plastic which biodegrades in two weeks. Again, perfect for comparatively guilt-free Packetsu packaging.

Edible anti-bacterial film. Absolutely 100% perfect for food wrapping in Packetsu, especially for meat or fresh veg components. Could be a real game-changer in terms of fresher elements in Packetsu, and you can eat it so no waste!

And staying on the theme of edible packaging – edible water bottle!

But how will you eat your packetsu concoctions? Why, with edible spoons, of course!

And then I Blue Petered it:

The stock pot (left) has since been replaced with an Oxo cube as they dissolve more quickly, although in general powder would be best.

The stock pot (left) has since been replaced with an Oxo cube as they dissolve more quickly, although in general powder would be best.

Another packetsu experiment: fish stock cube, vegetable stock cube, dried smoked squid, dried seaweed, soy sauce (in a fish-shaped bottle because there's a theme).

Another packetsu experiment: fish stock cube, vegetable stock cube, dried smoked squid, dried seaweed, soy sauce (in a fish-shaped bottle because there’s a theme).

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BurgerBurger, A Concept Brought To You By Insomnia

Everyone is, I assume, already aware of the bitter burger battles. Waged between ones’ friends, the apparently ceaseless and bemusing as hell wrangle over In ‘N Out vs Habit burger joints has spilled out of California where it belongs and spread to encompass Five Guys, as typified by a spread in A Popular Marvel Comics Title which had Clint Barton and Spider-man squabbling about the relative burger benefits. Even a Kiwi friend of mine has pitched in, blurting that Murder Burger is the best selection of additions to a patty of minced meat that the planet can offer.

I’m growing kind of tired of burger chains. Years ago I was briefly excited by the first Byron Burger place, because the burgers were genuinely a cut above the usual glurge, and Hache’s gourmet burgers are worthwhile, but since then everything has either been “okay” or “why are you wasting my time with this rubbish”, and nothing has lived up to the hysterical Twitter hype.

Recent months have seen the aforementioned spat movement into comics, a disappointing visit to the much-lauded Shakeshack in Covent Garden, and a report from Delightful Boyfriend that Five Guys was “nothing to write home about”. I’ve quizzed the sparring Californians (North vs South, of course) and the Kiwi and the other burger noisemakers and much to my perennial disgust have discovered that none of them are even arguing about the burgers.

They’re arguing about the “fixings”. The accoutrements. About Animal Style. About beetroot. About sauces. About, in short, Not-Burger. Personally when I’m squandering precious calories on burger, what I care about is the burger, but this kind of meat puritanism is, I am assured, the province of Beard Hipsters With Stupid Tattoos Who Care Too Much About Cow Lineage.

This suits me, as but for the shocking lack of testosterone and agricultural college qualifications, I am a Beard Hipster With Stupid Tattoos Who Cares Too Much About Cow Lineage.

Tuesday night my brain/melatonin levels hadn’t quite recovered from the rigours of a week on night shift being disappointed by the national press in exchange for coins, and I was awake between the hours of 1am and 5am inclusive, pondering the nature of existence and, repeatedly, burgers.

Pop Up London

A thing has happened in recent years, to my city.

The rents have turned into the kind of deranged joke that boggles the fucking mind and which ought to be left on April Fool’s along with ideas like “UKIP Majority”; it’s murdering Chinatown, done away with Food For Thought (a forty-year-old vegetarian restaurant in Seven Dials), and will probably hasten the end of Soho if property developers and Crossrail don’t nail the coffin shut first.

Because the denizens of this rat hole are historically enterprising and inventive people, we’ve gotten around the impossibility of renting a permanent food-making space without being an actual nation with our own GDPs each, and done it by acquiring an unceasing flow of pop-up eateries.

Here one day, gone in about three months, they rock up in warehouse spaces and converted double-decker buses, in food stalls and markets, out of the back of cars, on scooters. The foodie militia. The concept corps. They’ve come and they’ve pushed Gloucester Old Spot sausages with silly names and vegan brownies that you can only find once a month and everything has a tie-in blog and half of them have an app and all of it requires more organisation than someone like me can muster.

On the one hand, I applaud wholeheartedly the response to the rent bullshit and the problem of money in this city (the problem being almost all of it is in the hands of complete pricks); there’s an adventurous feeling in blundering through rows of stalls in an alleyway in search of comestibles new, a victorious pioneer sensation in uncovering some new delicious vendor. However – and I realise this is very fuddy and non East-London of me (because I don’t live in East London) – sometimes I want to eat the same thing twice.

I’d like to be able to take a leisurely approach to eating, or take an occasional visitor to the metropolis out for dinner to somewhere I know is good and have it still be there. Leisurely is, now, expensive. Haste is cheap. Well, cheaper. This is, after all, one of the most expensive places on earth.

Frustrating though the pop-up scourge occasionally is, it is exactly the right low-risk climate for what I have in mind regarding burgers. Maybe the space in Granary Square that recently hosted the Winter Sun bar.

Mongolian Barbecue, Tiger Lil’s, Have It Your Own Bloody Way

It seems to have gone out of fashion now, but about ten years ago there was a time-slot approach to all-you-can-eat buffet cooking. You took your bowl, you dumped whatever you wanted from a vast line of options into it, and you left it with a cook, who either shovelled it across a hot plate with massive flat knives at the Mongolian Barbecue, or pranged it about a wok at Tiger Lil’s. You gorged yourself, and you went back for more as many times as you physically could in your two-hour time slot.

The possibilities were endless. Customisability at its height, the choice economy in glorious food formation. I think I put on about three stone in one evening.

BurgerBurger; Hipster Pop-up Meat Heaven

The background laid, here is the brief:

I want a fully-customisable, assembly-line burger place that focusses on the meat. I want to be able to go in and make my selection from a variety of bowls of naked mince (lean, fatty, extra lean), of different meats (beef, pork, ostrich, kangaroo, llama), of different breeds (longhorn, Hereford, Highland), to different amounts (small, medium, large, custom-charged-by-weight). To be able to set how much egg is used to bind it (or what egg substitute), what is added to the patty (onions, capers, chives, spices, chopped garlic), then select how I want it cooked (rare, medium, well done, basically-steak-tartare, cinderblock, no-thanks-just-bag-it-i’ll-cook-it-myself-at-home), then a bun (plain white, wholemeal, granary, ciabatta, brioche, gluten-free, tortilla, no thanks), then hot toppings (egg, bacon, portabello mushroom), then cold toppings (salad leaves of several types, tomato, gherkin, cheese of several types, beetroot, pineapple, cucumber, whatever). Then take the damn paid-for construction to a sauce table for eating-in (ketchup, relish, mustard, mayonnaise, djionnaise, that disgusting liquid cheese people like, ranch, salad cream, hoisin) or squirted in before it’s dumped in a bag.

I mean you can go somewhere else for fries. Get your stupid can of Coke from the fridge. But I think it is a bit weird that there’s all these Exciting Burger Chains that are fixated on fixings, crazy about chips, mental over their milkshakes, and not one of these fuckers that I’ve seen has taken the obvious, sensible route of ensuring their burger is brilliant before they start plastering it in everything else. Where is my red-centred tennis-ball of Special Cow Parts?

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