Monday 28 August 2023

Unfitted kitchens and jam cupboards.

Personally, I like kitchens to feel unfitted - a friendly slightly chaotic jumble of loved crockery, pictures, furniture and - depending on the time of year - garden/gathered fruit or veg waiting to be made into jam or frozen for the less abundant months. I think all the kitchens I've ever owned or shared have had these elements, even the more squalid rental places - maybe not the ex-student share in West Norwood . . . there were natural things in that kitchen, but not things one would want to eat, raw, cooked or otherwise . . .

Our current kitchen is the best so far: large, heated by a sturdy wood stove, interestingly shadowy and cosy in the winter months and very cool in summer. We added flea market sofas, the table that has been with us in various houses these last twenty years or so, and built basic units adding recycling emporium cupboard doors and marble work tops. The huge and ancient dresser came from le bon coin, a very useful second hand site, and was said to have been hauled out from a chateau in the area - true or not, it certainly has great age and is so heavy I doubt it will ever move from its new home.

The latest addition is the strangely slim and tall dark wood cupboard which now resides next to the fireplace. I spotted it in 'Aspire' a charity emporium in our local town, and knew immediately it had a mission to become our jam storage facility. This years crop is filling its shelves: blackcurrant, strawberry, peach, spiced blackberry and marmalade. Next up: pomegranate and fig.

Peach bottling - experimental....

Sunday 27 August 2023

Dog walk stories. Number 2

See previous post for explanation of post title...


The Curist   © Kate A Hardy 


Curist, Ethelred Gruber lowered his face slowly from the machine's viewing frame. He blinked hard, eyes tired from staring so intently for many minutes. 

The woman sat still, obedient, awaiting his command to remove her face from the machine's black curtained box. He hated this moment. Some didn't. Some felt a certain power - a playing of God; a giving of prized or feared information that would change the course of a life.

This news was not to be good. The dancing patterns and textures he had seen within her grade seven, green irises spoke of more than the allowed number of illnesses she was destined to house within a not at all distant future.


A further, deeper look had revealed thoughts she had tried to conceal; thoughts he would have to tap into the verity consul. If he didn't, those thoughts would rest in his own mind and would be in turn unveiled during his bi-monthly verification which was to fall during the next Sevday, a Wedsdy to be precise. 

Harbouring other's thoughts was worse than thinking up the thoughts oneself. Unless one trained one's mind relentlessly the thoughts became meshed with all the others imbibed through these interminable sessions.


The woman moved her position a little, her cheek bones probably hurting from the metal band; too polite to complain, or perhaps overanxious to appear compliant as if being so would alter the truth if it were to be bad. 

These days too few people left the string of Curists' bays with a pass added to their medicomp and relief shining on their faces. It was more common to witness people leaving the bays with blank, staring expressions and instructions on their medicomp that would send them - within the corpoguv's allowance of time - to the finality zone. 


She, this woman with bright copper hair, coughed very slightly, shifting in the uncomfortable seat. She held less than thirty years in her life. It was a vile thing to have to inform her of the outcome. But it was time; there were four others to welcome in as brightly as he could this aft.

The Curist pressed the button that would release the band. "Right, Miss Harper . . . you can sit back now . . . sorry, that took a little longer than I thought."


Time he had spent in morbid musings, the residue of which he would have to scrape away from his mind during downtime, lest anything betray his own secret misgivings about the system.

She peered at him over the machine rather like one of those reconstructed animals he had seen in the museum of beforehand. A lemming . . . or was it a cat? they seemed to look eternally surprised, which perhaps they had been if they had realised they were about to be annihilated by a megagath green gas bomb.


"Curist? Is everything . . . as it should be?"

He jumped a little, surprised out of his extinct mammal daydream. "As it should be?"

"You know . . .  all right."

He hated the fact he had delayed; he should be sharper with the truth, give it to them direct, matter-as-fact as the steel of this surface his sweating hands lay upon.

They were not to engage overly with the person. No apologies, no remorse, no empathy. It's how it was. Everyone knew. You had a fifty-fifty chance although it appeared to him increasingly that sixty-forty might be the new normal.

"Miss Harper . . . it is not good news."

It was a lemming. He was sure of it now. Her eyes protruded; the small sharp nose losing its colour. Her cheeks flared as rapidly as the Southern Lights that swirled around the sky above the desert peaks.

"You mean . . ."

"I'm afraid so. It'll all be on your medicomp within a few clockfaces."

She started to stand up, unsteady, unsure of her movements. He wanted to take her in his arms, pat her comfortingly on the back, but he did what he was supposed to do; gestured with a steady hand.

"If you could leave by that door, thank you. As I say, it'll all be listed."

"Was it the thoughts, Curist? Or do I have diseases?"

"I'm afraid I am unallowed to discuss this further."

She moved towards the door, her rubber soled shoes causing a slight shriek in the silence. She might say something else, right at the point when her hand clasped the door handle. They usually did. A question about their personal defects; the thing that would rob them of life.


"Miss Harper?"

Why do they call you Curists when you don't cure anything anymore?"


She didn't wait for a reply, even if there was to be one. He searched for a response. There was none.

The door closed with its gentle click. 

Gruber risked the eye of the view-all lens and let his head loll into his hands. A few tears wetted his palms. A red light winked through his fingers as the view-all closed in on where his face should have been. 

He straightened up, changing his hidden expression of despair to one of comfortable self-control, and prepared to wait for the next client.

Friday 25 August 2023

Dog walk stories. Number 1

I've probably gone on about this before - the fact that I'm a writer who is finding it difficult to write, not from lack of inspiration but from an annoying face pain complaint which rears up after about fifteen minutes of typing, whether computer old old typewriter, even pen and paper. It's a bit like walking carefully past an open gate knowing there's a pretty nasty dog that could shoot out and maul oneself. I tiptoe past in effect - words issuing forth onto screen watching out for the curled up dog that sleeps but could awake at any moment. If I hesitate too long the dog/pain does wake and hurtles towards me. Time to run, or stop writing in this case.

So . . . one way might be to write small stories rather than immersing myself into a massive story - which I prefer to do, something that needs deep concentration and half hours flashing past. Below is the first of my Dog walk stories. Dog walk, as I have most ideas while walking, and an average dog walk is about half an hour. Time to let a story suggest itself then rattle it out as quickly as possible in a stream of conscious fashion on my return, which I also enjoy. 

Instagram: kate_a_hardy

The scratch card.  © Kate A Hardy 

Sam left the canteen with its clatter of china and voices. She took the stairs - not the lift, in order to wear off the cinnamon bun effects. Of course it wouldn't work. You had to run about fifteen miles to forget you ever ate a burger and its associated fat elements, didn't you? or was it ten miles, or three . . . no matter, these days running to catch a bus as it reverberated towards setting off was almost an impossibility, let alone a mile. 

A mile. That's what it was to her new flat. Old flat - very old; part of a mouldering, Victorian, bay windowed, once-elegant house situated in a once-elegant part of London which had somehow been overlooked by ravening developers and estate agents.

Four hours until she could nod a casual goodbye to Sean who worked in the next booth to her. Four hours until she could buy fish and chips to take back to the depressing wallpaper, plastic sofa, reality TV crap . . . and . . . no-one. She could smell the off-white paper packet already, beguiling grease leaching slightly from its so-satisfying contents. 

That bloody sofa. Beige, pretending to be leather, not convincingly - those telltale signs of aging plastic, a certain smell of a churn-em-out factory on the outskirts of Basingstoke, or somewhere. Jon had taken the other one; the Heal's couch squatting self-importantly in palest grey wool. And he'd had taken the decent coffee maker, the good towels, the new printer and himself to a flat on the edge of Battersea - near to where she lived. Bitch.

The four hours passed somehow. She wasn't sure what she actually did anymore. The slinking lines of figures on the rectangle of illuminated glass made no sense, but it must have made sense enough. No-one complained from higher up on the hallowed seventh and eight floors of Snapesville and Crabbet. She glanced up from the screen. People were moving, coats being shuffled on, goodbyes dashed about across carpeted office intersections.

Sam glassily checked and saved whatever she had been doing, scooped her phone into her bag, slipped on her jacket and left the building along with everyone else keening to reach the safety of their own abode, glass of wine in hand, Netflix choices scrolling, tomorrow pushed firmly to back of their collective minds. 

The chippy was quiet, just the eternally cheerful whistling Italian dude cracking the frying basket into the recesses of a stainless steel chip box.

"Heya, love. The usual?"

"Please. And a cold Fanta if you have one."


He whistled. The fat sparked and chuckled in the fryer. People came in and consulted the board, complained cheerfully about the weather. Her order was wrapped with the practice of a million previous orders. He grinned, canine teeth oddly longer than in most mouths, eyes dark rimmed with heavy lashes. She imagined him singing in an ochre-stoned church somewhere hot. She paid. He nodded and handed over the blue plastic bag.


"I will. Thanks."

And she would. Too much. No-one to suggest a few chips could be left - reheated tomorrow. Disgusting but weirdly nice.

He'd forgotten the Fanta. So had she. Too busy wondering about his teeth. The red neon sign of the newsagents zizzed a few paces away morphing the raindrops into garnets. She stepped in and approached the cold drinks fridge, slipping out a beaded can of fizz. The sofa shuffled into her mind again, the thought of sitting on its squeaky surface, holding this cold can was unappealing. The Heal's couch had been warm and inviting - and extremely expensive. Oh for an extra two grand or so . . . or a bit more - new towels, a coffee maker, all the stuff he'd somehow managed to cram into a van that Sunday morning. 

The newsagent turned tired eyes onto the customer before her.


The customer pointed to the shelves behind the weary guy. "Twenty Marlborough, ta . . . and a gold edition scratch." He snorted a quiet laugh, "yer never know, eh?" He took the goods, peering at the card on his way out as if the numbers might reveal themselves mistily through the silver-grey patches. 

Of course, people did win money - just like that. Just like that . . . a quid, then suddenly you had thousands, millions even. She'd had only ever bought a card once, at the start of the whole national lottery thing, quietly convinced that she would be propelled to notoriety with a windfall of some outrageous sum. Nothing, of course. She had flicked the scrap of paper into a bin and dropped the whole idea. Until this moment. Her eyes scanned the choices. Treasure hoard. Golden millions. Champagne life. Super winner. AI dream ticket.

"What's the AI dream ticket?" She asked the newsagent.

He shrugged. "No idea. I just stack the things - new one, I think."

Dreaming was for her. "I'll take one of those, thanks."

Out in the street the rain had changed to a gentle mist; early evening lamps wore their halos of orange. Sam stopped under a cone of warm light and slipped the smooth rectangle of card from her pocket. The bag of food beckoned but her curiosity won. Her other pocket revealed a ten pence piece. She scratched hesitantly at the first grey patch. Won! the square revealed a tiny photo of a sofa - a pale grey sofa. Her fingers trembled a little was she dragged the coin's edge over the rubbery surface of the next square. Won! A stack of blue towels emerged. The coin scratched again - an ivory coloured Smeg coffee maker appeared, followed by a printer in the next square. Sam felt dizzy, like when she had looked out over London from the Shard on that last time she had seen Jon. This probably was a dream. She would awake on the plastic sofa in a moment, a plate of ketchup-ed chips sliding down her better office trousers.

Rain replaced the mist again, soaking her face as she looked up into the lamp's glow. The fish would be cold. She should get back. The card was obviously a dud of some sort, or she'd misinterpreted its function - she'd go back to the newsagent in the morning. The plane trees of her road loomed in the increasing darkness. Crap sofa or no crap sofa it would be good to get inside, switch on the gas fire and curl up for the evening. She turned into the gateway, nearly slipping on the autumnal leaf sludge part covering the black and white checked tiles that led up to the door. In the porch she scrabbled for her keys, dislodging the scratch card. She caught it as is tumbled. One square remained. Whatever . . .

The coin scratched away the grey once again. Won! Won what? The space was blank. Then as if emerging from a soft cloud a man appeared. Dark haired, holding a bottle wine, a wide inviting smile. This was getting more than surreal. Annoying even. Sam shoved her key in the lock and turned it, bashing the almost certainly cold fish in its bag against the door. The door opened but not from her doing. A man stood in the hallway, dark hair glowing from the shadeless central bulb. He held a bottle of wine and his smile was what she might have termed electric.

"Ah-there you are. Thought I'd cook us a carbonara - just been out to get the wine. You look chilled - shocked? Is everything all right?"

Tuesday 22 August 2023

An august day in 2023

                     A bee just being a bee in our front flower bed amongst all the craziness of this world...

Friday 18 August 2023


Mark's new four hands piano duo. 

As has happened many times in the past he flung me a challenge - name for new group/duo/trio/orchestra. I was quite pleased with this one - four hands, twenty fingers and eighty eight keys.

Here are the very hands and rest of persons (Alice Diéval and Mark Lockett) playing a marvellous piece called Mattachins by Peter Warlock, composed, surprisingly, in 1926.

If I could have any job in the world - and indeed if this one exists - I would like to be a band name generator (human one!)

Current favourite: Taxidermyaccident.

Tuesday 8 August 2023


We listen/sort of watch stuff on Youtube while doing exercise in the morning - yes, every morning! beats the gym, costs nothing and keeps all the joints more or less functioning. Arg, getting old-er.

Anyway, yesterday, I opened up the also old laptop and demanded we be shown the Youtube choice selected for my profile. It refused as I had to re-sign in and couldn't be bothered to go and find the phone, so rather than my usual selection of climate concerned stuff, permaculture, Climate Town, Adam Something (both excellent channels!) Steven Garnett, John Oliver, documentaries on Chatbots, food production, North Korea, etc, Masterchef USA and A different Bias, and all the other channels that mysteriously appear, there was a page of rectangles containing films about mega yachts, what Taylor Swift happened to be thinking about yesterday, Smooth Summer Jazz, football, worst dating fails, scary Japanese TV shows involving eating random objects, and . . . Shopping Hauls.

I was aware of these and had gawped haplessly at a few in the past. A shopping haul for us consists of going in Noz - bizarre French shop I highlighted a few posts back - and purchasing a few daft products such as never-should-have-been developed croissants filled with pink custard or failed-to-sell chocolate hyenas. We rarely spend more than ten euros and it satisfies the lingering browsing urge from years ago when we occasionally used to go shopping for pleasure

I scrolled through a few steroid-fulled, pink-fonted hauls. Hauls to fill a car. Hauls to empty a bank account. Hauls to keep consumerism more than alive and kicking. I watched one in its entirety as it was oddly impossible not to, which would explain why she - glamorous, slinky-haired, size 4 - woman I can't recall the name of has many, many thousands of followers, most of which, according to the comments, appeared to be mentally fragile adolescents whose new found goal, thanks in part to her, was to become very, very rich. One of the most striking things about the video was the perpetual and exhausting excitement and associated language. Oh. My. God. These are just SO pretty. These are just So cute. These are just SO gorgeous. This is just So pretty. This is just SO cute . .  and so on.


I'd like to do a film parody of us going round a vide grenier (car boot sale) with the same enthusiasm but . . . well, other things to do like garden taming. Here's a written version. 

Mark: OMG, d'you see that cute little LP of Japanese C18 court music. It's SO . . . flat!  SO shiny.

Me: Cool! but look at THIS! a real galvanised chicken water feeder - SO grey! SO metaly. SO adorable, SO . . . farmy.

Mark: Get it! And, did you see! Look! OMG. He's got reconditioned secateurs! 

Me: No way! What colour? Red! Oh, SO cute! They'd go with the chainsaw . . . and that new spade - except it's green. 

Mark: OMG! No!

Me: What?

Mark. That guy there.

Me: The one with the Elvis is alive! I saw him eating chips in Cleethorpes T-shirt?

Mark: No - him! He's got a pink Art Deco tea set that would look so like amazing in our salon.

Me: OMG! It's SO cute! And . . . no way . . . LOOK! he's got a first edition of Capitalism Will Eat Itself by Barbara Cartland - you know the Mills and Boon apocalyptic sub-series.

Mark: And it's got the gold cover . . . You ask him. I'm scared. It'll be far too expensive . . . Oh no. Wait.

Me: What? WHAT?

Mark: That - there!

Me: The 1970s food processor?

Mark: No - that! Is it . . . No, it can't be . . . It's SO COOL!!!! Fender Rhodes keyboard . . . with . . . original . . .  (musician faints).

Me: Thanks. If you could just put him over there - under that tree . . . Hey! Excuse me! We're having those secateurs No . . . we have to. Look - (gets out phone). See - the chainsaw? same perfect red.

Other person: OMG. That is SO gorgeous. To die for! Jean-Paul - JEAN PAUL! viens voir . . . look at that chainsaw -did you ever see one SO red!

Other person's husband: OMD (oh, mon dieu). C'est pas possible . . . tellement joli! take the secateurs - you must. Your shed would never be complete without them . . . sacre bleu, il me faut un café.

This was actually the recent vide grenier haul: rather CUTE and v old lamp. Ancient Japanese drinks coasters, two bird shaped cake presses from the 30s I think, coffee pot and jug for the gîte, a I-went-to-Paris ashtray from the 20s, a lovely Italian vase and a dark pink floral bomber jacket. All for the price of a couple of scented candles or a mid range eyeliner.