|7-20 August 2005|
|Last week and some of this week in pictures|
|Still life of teenager's bedroom|
|The business plan. Goats to be reared for local small-but-prosperous Muslim community for sacrifice during Eid festival following Ramadan. On-site slaughtering, to avoid phone calls to police from outraged hicks, at no extra charge. Estimated net profit - US$150 per head.|
|Tidy octogenarian matriarch Lucy Hemlock's bedroom|
|We've got a thousand points of light...|
|Ed Hopper was here|
|The Exorcist Steps|
|Drummer with low-cost kit at the Washington Mall|
|The Heartland visits the nation's capital|
|Sun, 14 Aug
Somewhere out there, according to the news, dreaded Liberal Science Advocates are dragging the land of the free into the immoral and depraved depths of legal research on embryonic stem cells. Inspired, I perform an experiment of my own. I cut chicken breasts (pardon that word) into large (2” by 2” by 1”) chunks. I spear them with a fork and marinate for six hours in a mixture of plain yoghurt, lemon juice, salt, cayenne, crushed cardamom, cumin, turmeric, garum masala, etc (curry spices, basically). I then impale the chunks onto wooden skewers (previously soaked in water for 10 minutes). We lay them out on the top level of an oven pre-heated to as hot as possible – 500F or more. After seven or eight minutes they are ready to be served on a bed of pilau rice with yoghurt. Extra succulent tandoori chicken.
“Bless us, Lord, and these gifts which we are about to receive from Thy bounty. Even though we ran out of yoghurt. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.”
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It can get worse. Next stop – the UK.
|Wed, 17 Aug
The old home town looks the same
As I step down from the train
And there to meet me is…
No-one. Of course. So much for my aged parents’ claims of telepathic powers. But then, even if I had told them I was coming, it is unlikely they would have dragged themselves a whole 10 miles just to greet their most successful, handsome and interesting offspring after he had flown in from the other side of the world. After a half-hour journey by trap and pony through rutted lanes scented of horse manure, I arrive at Stonegallows Hall only to find the place deserted. The mouldering books sit on their sagging shelves, the shards of Roman pottery gather dust on the drawing room table, and a half-eaten, slightly burnt mangelwurzel pie lies, uninviting, on the kitchen sideboard. Perhaps they did, indeed, sense my impending presence and have fled to the hills, leaving me with the Marie Celeste of crumbling family seats to myself for a week before returning to the Big Lychee.
To my relief, I find no evidence that they have succumbed to the amazingly tedious pastime known as Sudoku, a fill-in-the-numbers game that has become an obsession among the more illiterate parts of the British population who find The Times crossword too difficult. I do, however, find a three-tape set of The Lord of the Rings. I am faced with a choice. I can remain the only person on the planet who has never seen the film, let alone read the book, or I can watch it and see what the fuss is about. Since there is no-one to witness this moment of frailty, I switch on the video and sit back to watch the first in the series, the Fellowship of the Ring.
There are two ways to dispose of an unwanted ring. One is to throw it away. And then there is the hard way. In this case, a creepy looking boy and some equally unappealing companions choose the latter. Essentially, it is a Harry Potter movie without the humour that goes on and on and on, interspersed with occasional flashes of King Kong and Monty Python and the Holy Grail. After much running across collapsing stone bridges over rivers of fire, the action fizzles out with no conclusion. Presumably, I am intended to be so gripped that I have no choice but to watch the second and third parts of the series. Instead, I decide to sit and stare at the pottery shards. Within minutes, I hear my hopes of an idyllic week alone being crushed between the tyres of a rusting Range Rover and the gravel of the driveway.