Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Rock & Reel

The word 'roadkill' accurately describes how I felt yesterday morning after spending the previous night with a demented crush of teenage banshees at a Fall Out Boy concert in Brussels. I was so tired I never even got up to my grumpy morning default setting. It couldn't be the one beer I had, decorous by my standards. And it wasn't that the music was concert loud, because I love that kind of loud. No, it was the non-stop pandemonium in the audience that wiped me out. Teenage hormones in full spate and at ear-splitting decibels will sap the juice out of anyone, even a life-long party animal and adrenalin junkie like myself.

As concerts go, it was a great evening; Fall Out Boy are a terrific band with a big brash sound. What made it special for me was the fact that it was Noodle's first ever rock concert. Being present at this rite of passage was a privilege for his music-mad mama. The look of utter delight on my son's face when FOB hurled themselves into their first song will stay with me forever. He was easily the smallest person there and glad to have us by his side. He'll feel differently in a few years, so we're grateful for today's small mercies.

A disapproving friend wanted to know why I would even take a 10 year old to a rock concert on a school night. (Legs stayed home studying for exams.) Not knowing how to explain myself I simply replied, "Because I like to have fun with my son." But it got me thinking about why Skunk and I do it. We've been taking Legs and Noodle to concerts for about 3 years now. The fun element is crucial, yet there's more. On the practical side, teaching the kids basic street smarts is part of our brief as parents. Noodle and Legs aren't too young to learn about concert protocol, especially how to be safe and enjoy themselves at public events. Stay away from drunks and people who are high or aggressive, we caution them. Know where all the exits are. Don't accept drinks from strangers, I sometimes nag. If the volume's too loud, ask for free ear plugs at the bar. Stay close to the security dudes if the mosh pit vibe gets uncomfortable, et cetera. Luckily, in the 20-odd years we've been going to the Ancienne Belgique, we've never had a spot of bother. It's a mid-sized venue, clean, well-policed and generally attracts a good-natured crowd. Still, better safe than sorry.

But back to the real reason why we take our children to concerts some people deem inappropriate for their age. A singular magic unfolds when good music is performed live. Live music creates fellowship in a way that bottled music can't. Aging rock chick that I am, I have much more in common with the dread-locked heavy or the wispy redhead with multiple piercings gyrating next to me than any of us can ever imagine. Barriers fall, smiles are traded. Kind strangers sometimes turn into new friends. Important discoveries are made about ourselves and what makes our cells hum with joy. We emerge, temporarily deaf but years younger. The happy buzz lasts for days, the memories a lifetime.

Besides, the thought of my children listening to dreck by the likes of Britney Spears or James Blunt is more than I can bear. Give me roadkill mornings any day.

Fall Out Boy performing "Thanks for the Memories" at their Brussels concert, the last gig on their European tour. The footage is shaky in parts due to jostling by deranged teens, but audio is okay. (Length 1:43)

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Calming The Snark: When IS ain't necessarily so.

Gotta hand it to Facebook. Or specifically to the little window at the top of my profile page that prompts me to share what's on my mind. Unbeknownst to me, these little status posts have worked like literary WD-40 on the corroded parts of my brain where my writing used to live. Updating my status posts regularly feels a bit like hitting a tennis ball against a wall and observing my wonky swing grow steadier over time. It tells my friends what's going on with me and helps me stay in the now.

However. I get this frisson of irritation when I log on to Facebook to see what my friends are up to, and read the following status post yet again:
Joe Blow is.
Is what? Yo, Joe Blow, in your IS-ness, have you truly achieved the Zen-like state of being that continues to elude me? Or are you just a bloody bore with neither the imagination nor the gumption to come up with something more interesting to say about yourself? What's the point of friending (I fucking hate that verb) me on FB and then not interacting with me at all? When I agree to, ahem, friend someone on Facebook it's because I'm genuinely interested in what they've been up to since I last saw them in 1981, and I enjoy reading their status posts and seeing pictures of their family. Why have cyberspace friendships gotten so superficial that the only way some people can show others they're thinking of them is to throw sheep, race virtual cars, take idiotic quizzes, pat virtual pets, send virtual Ferraris plants drinks mandalas pizzas Prada handbags snowballs Christmas ornaments Valentine hearts Easter eggs and mysterious chocolate objects that look remarkably like dog turds? That's just lame. And it feels like being stalked. In a friendly way of course, but it's still stalking to me.

But what do I know? Perhaps they're busy with other stuff like falling in (or out of) love, texting, watching TV, driving their kids or being driven mad by them, digging a garden, playing golf, studying for exams, hanging on to a job or looking for one, trying to make ends meet, going to therapy, shopping, taking a loved one to chemo, trying to stay sober, blogging, eBaying, wrangling laundry, gaming, cooking, meditating, writing code, having plastic surgery, learning to belly dance, looking at porn, going to the gym, painting, going on holiday, saving coral reefs, getting Brazilian waxed, making music, making whoopie or whatever it is that takes up people's time these days.

Below are some of my status posts since joining FB in July last year to the most recent. Snapshots of The Snark.
  • M is wondering if summer will ever come to Belgium (my first FB post on 17 July 2008)
  • M and Skunk are off to Ireland for a week: to Norrie in Carrickmacross for Jin Shin Jyutsu, and to Galway, Connemara and the Aran Islands for regeneration.
  • M is enjoying the dog days of summer. They, too, shall pass.
  • M thinks iceberg lettuce is the polyester of all vegetables.
  • M is trying to keep her cool against an onslaught of teenage hormones.
  • M makes plans, Life makes others.
  • M is trying to get her taichi groove back. Everything aches! Serves me right for slacking all summer.
  • M is listening to Mission Control at CERN as the first beams are injected into the Large Hadron Collider. What a moment!
  • M feels humbled to witness the birth of a new era of understanding about the origins and evolution of the universe. Now where'd that Higgs boson go?
  • M is disgusted by all her shoes. Is there a 12-Step program for shoe addiction?
  • M misses the good old days when Skunk used to dance like the guys in this Duffy video.
  • M has been over-doing it and will now sit still and have a cuppa and listen to John Coltrane.
  • M is having a Saturday morning wake-up booty shake to The BPA featuring Dizzee Rascal & David Byrne – ‘Toe Jam (Stanton Warriors Remix)’. Woohooo!!!
  • M's lunchtime guests have just waddled off into a dark, rainy night, leaving half their possessions (cell phones, jewelry...) behind. Food coma in progress.
  • M is celebrating 20 years of two-getherness with Skunk today.
  • M is getting a bit nervous about cooking for a real-life chef on Sunday
  • M is still half asleep and is making Belgian waffles for breakfast.
  • M has just made a killer curry, saffron rice and a pile of triple chocolate chip cookies and hopes everyone's hungry.
  • M is still buzzzzing from last night's unforgettable performance by the Dave Holland Quintet, and is now looking forward to Seun Kuti & Fela's Egypt 80 tonight.
  • M is lost in the magic of Juan Luna's Revolver by Luisa A. Igloria.
  • M is ready for change and prays that Obama wins!
  • M's still thrilled about Tuesday and glad to see that woman (Palin) back in Alaska where she can think paranoid thoughts about socialists.
  • M would love to see a rescue pit bull as the new First Puppy at the White House. They could call it Sarah! Arf!!!
  • M is vampire-proof. (garlic-related, natch)
  • M is off to a monastery in the Flemish countryside to study more Jin Shin Jyutsu.
  • M is still tingling from the pleasure of discovering Bob Brozman's music last night.
  • M is ignoring the messy house and making fish curry with Persian steamed crusty rice pilaf for Jaki tonight.
  • M is grateful she's not rich - no sleepless nights obsessing about the state of the economy.
  • M has just woken up to heavy snow. Beautiful. Now I gotta drive in this shit.
  • M is having even more fun now the snow has melted and turned to black ice on the roads. Oh, the joys of winter!
  • M is dreaming of siopao. Does anyone out there have a siopao recipe they can share with me please?
  • M's head is still spinning from Cirque du Soleil's Quidam. Amaaaayzing!
  • M is tired after baking 9 Christmas cakes.
  • M is thoroughly flummoxed!
  • M & Skunk are taking the kids to an all night dubstep/triphop/drum'n'bass/hiphop/crunk/ragga/electro-funk/techno meltdown at the AB on Saturday. Must be mad.
  • M thinks Christmas can be one great big pain in the arse. There. I've finally said it.
  • M is having a Christmas bypass.
  • M is wearing a silly red hat (thanks, Legs) that makes her look like a demented cupcake. (on Christmas morning)
  • M has a date with some dead bodies.
  • M's just been to Gunther von Hagen's Bodyworlds exhibition and is both awed and humbled by the majesty of the human body.
  • M is getting ready to end the year dancing and wishes everyone a Happy New NEW.
  • M is paying a heavy price for last night's excesses and is trying to ignore the bright-eyed and bushy-tailed were-gerbil she lives with. (first real hangover in 15 years)
  • M has proof that older does not always mean wiser.
  • M hopes that the global economic downturn will motivate more people to go back to the garden.
  • M is laughing at Mia doing zoomies in the snow. It's minus 12 Celsius and flipping c-c-cold outside.
  • M is grateful for the warmth of Aran sweaters, insulated boots and ALL her body fat.
  • M wishes L and B a big, phat, insanely joyful Filipino wedding and wishes she could be there too.
  • M is DELIGHTED that a Filipina chef will be doing the cooking for the Obamas. Next step: plant an organic garden to supply the White House kitchen!
  • M thinks it's FANTASTIC that the next US president is black and has Hussein as his middle name. And if some FB friends don't like my opinions, well, tough.
  • M is glad that Obama can say "nuclear" correctly, and won't be mangling the English language like his predecessor or that Alaskan moose murderer. Also, he's hot!
  • M has the house to herself and is listening to Marvin Gaye while eating dark Belgian chocolate with Malabar cardamom. Bliss.
  • M is grateful to Barack Obama for making smart the new cool.
  • M is bowing her head in prayer, watching Barach Obama claim his place in history. (posted the exact moment he was being sworn-in, 21 January 2009. Can't cry and spell at the same time.)
  • M is feeling very wobbly after seeing a dream come true and thinks some champagne might steady her. BARACK the WORLD!!!!!! (And good riddance, Dubya!)
  • M wants to know if teenagers have a sell-by date. Because her patience is nearing its expiry date.
  • M has surrendered to dark chocolate and a bag of Cheetos. Too many late nights and frozen brain cells can result in bizarre food pairings.
  • M has orange fingers and hiccups.
  • M is lovin' her handles. (that would be love handles)
  • M has evil designs on a friend's neighbour's Aston Martin.
  • M has just come down to breakfast to find six bottles of red wine from her love. (on Valentine's Day, because he knows cut flowers make me sad)
  • M curses Mondays. And bugger the dirty laundry too.
  • M is listening to the birds trilling the earth awake.
  • M is going to make dark chocolate brownies marbled with dulce de leche, just to avoid having to wash her car. (photo doesn't show how filthy my car really was)

  • M is keeping it locked to breakbeats on Annie Nightingale on the Beeb. Oh lordy, my chi is UP!
  • M is staring at hillocks of dirty laundry. The thilly theathon ith over. For now.
  • M wouldn't mind roughing it in a hot smelly tent in Darfur if George Clooney would be my roommate. Seriously.
  • M is now vacuuming books, for crying out loud.
  • M is convinced that only a 10 year old boy would think that Chaume cheese and Skippy Super Chunk Peanut Butter on the same piece of toast is a good idea.
  • M is up at sparrow's fart to take Mr. Chaume&PeanutButter to swim training.
  • M is tending to sulking orchid plants and wondering what on earth made me think keeping orchids would be a good way to learn patience?
  • M wishes all her Brent schoolmates a great Centennial reunion. Will you guys please let rip, you're too damn old to still behave yourselves.
  • M is getting ready to groove to John Legend in Brussels tonight.
  • M is fed up with the indiscriminate use of the word "like."
  • M wonders why God created teenagers and early mornings. And He expects me to combine the two? In a sane and loving way? Hello!
  • M wasn't sure a hiphop concert was what I needed but dancing to Q-Tip with a full live band sure chased my big blue funk away. (the day after our cat Trouble died)
  • M delights in the abundance and creativity of the number 13.
  • My kids are being bolshy, I have workmen underfoot, and the dog wants to supervise me in the kitchen. Get me outta here!
  • M is looking for that Rumi poem where he says there is no room in the small heart for a separate "I" - can anyone help?
  • M just spent 10 minutes trying to explain what a leprechaun is to a deaf Walloon farmer. Now we're BOTH confused. I need a Guinness, now! (on St. Patrick's day)
  • M is giving up Worry for Lent. Chocolate would have been easier.
  • M loves the way her kids say, "Oooh, can WE bake this chocolate caramel tart," when what they really mean is can I do it so THEY can inhale it in 15 minutes flat.
  • M salutes friend & hero Roger Doiron for his work in persuading the Obamas to plant an organic vegetable garden on the White House lawn. It's finally happening!!!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Prat du jour

Though I've always been a passionate eater, I came late to cooking. In fact, when I arrived here in 1987 I couldn't boil the proverbial egg. This didn't bother me at the time because I had a job that allowed me to eat out often and extravagantly. As an events organizer for a global telecommunications company I was regularly wined and dined by hotels and restaurants angling for the company's business. I also had a generous expense account, and a harried boss, god bless her, who barely glanced at my expenses before signing them. This made it possible for me to live and travel like a rich person without actually being one.

Then I met Skunk. He lived in London; I lived in Brussels. Our daily long-distance calls and weekend commutes to be with each other eventually broke the bank (this was before cheap flights, internet or Skype) and we found ourselves having to eat in more often. I began to fret that our romance would not thrive for long on soups, sandwiches and omelettes. They were the only things I could make at the time, although, hey, I made them from scratch. Then came The Blow. Skunk casually mentioned one day that in his opinion no one made a Sunday roast as good as his mother's. He also said that his Last Serious Girlfriend, the one I was secretly jealous of, made a mean curry that he still missed.

Uh-oh. I didn't like the sound of that. At all. I have a Leo-sized ego and a ruthless competitive streak, and if there was anything I couldn't stand, it was not being top banana, at least in Skunk's world. I needed to do something about it. So I spent a fortune - okay, a month's salary - calling my mother in the Philippines and asking her to teach me how to cook rice.

"Buy a rice cooker," she told me. "It's easier. And it makes perfect rice."

"No, Ma. It has to be authentic rice," I insisted.

After reminding me that I really should have learned to cook while I still lived at home, she gave me the first of many tutorials on how to cook rice. I might add that apart from his occasional forays into Chinese and Indian restaurants, the only rice Skunk had ever eaten up to that point was the parboiled Uncle Ben's variety. Over my dead body would Uncle Ben darken my door.

It took me over a month, three pots, most of a 15-kilo bag of Thai jasmine rice, a great deal of swearing in the kitchen when the rice water overflowed, and many frantic phone calls to my mother before I could make a respectable pot of rice. My first two pots had to be thrown away. The rice was burned so badly to the bottom that no amount of soaking and scrubbing would get it unstuck.

Until I got the hang of cooking rice I'd swallow my pride, walk to the Chinese restaurant at the end of my street and ask the grouch in the ratty t-shirt at the take-out window for one order of plain white rice to go. Our exchanges usually went like this.

"What you want with lice," he demanded impatiently. "Today prat du jour beef bloccoli. You want?"

"Erm, just plain rice, thanks," I replied meekly.

"Madame, we are lestolant ha, we not sell only prain lice. You want prain lice, you cook yourself ha."

I stared at my shoes.

"Aaaiyee," he squawked with glee as the penny dropped, attracting stares from passersby. "You not know cook lice? Hahahahaha. You buy lice cooker ha."

I'm certain I made this wretched man's day, because he would then make a big production of scooping cooked white rice into a styrofoam box and bellowing to the cashier - and indeed to the entire restaurant - "One prain lice, lothing else!" I'd pay and scurry home to eat it with a practice pork chop. Never did like the taste of humble pie.

On my next business trip to Hong Kong I bought myself a rice cooker. Today I own three of them, ranging from small to enormous, and they're all in use.

But I can also make a perfect pot of rice over a flame, the old-fashioned way.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Gratitude Walks.

Facebook reconnected me with an old school friend last year. We didn't hang out much when we were at university. She was busy raising a young family, writing poetry and getting cum laude grades. I was busy raising hell, mostly. I always admired her but felt we lived in different worlds and I was too shy to strike up a conversation with her for fear of sounding stupid. Luisa is now a mother of 4, an associate professor of creative writing and other wondrous subjects at an American university, and continues to write the astonishingly beautiful poetry that is winning her awards at about the same rate I'm collecting love handles and extra chins. My old shyness with her is gone, and we've both discovered to our great delight that we walk large tracts of common ground together.

One day last November we were ruminating by e-mail on the things that draw us to wonder. I decided to tell her about my gratitude bowl. With a few minor alterations to reflect some changes in my life since then, this is what I wrote:

I have an old Igorot wooden bowl with a scalloped rim that holds a ragtag assortment of stones found on beach walks, some of Noodle's bright marbles, a few large, mysterious seeds from Cartagena, Colombia, two sanded glass eggs from a flea market, a small knob of polished turquoise, two tiny fossils from the Moroccan dessert, et cetera. I take everything out of the bowl, and try to put each item back one by one. For every stone/thing that makes it back into the bowl, I have to find something in my life today that I am grateful for. So for example: "Today I am grateful for my health, for the fact it's Saturday and I had a lie-in, for this beautiful Aran sweater that keeps me warm as we try to save on heating oil, for the damp stain on the ceiling because it means I have a roof over my head, for Mia snoring on her pillow, for Skunk and the laughter I share with him, for my dishwasher, for Luisa's poems and the places they take me to, for the back rub Skunk gave me last night that allowed me to sleep deeply, for the cold winter we had because it might mean fewer mosquitos this summer, for the still-warm pound cake in the kitchen that I am trying to ignore, for the kids squabbling upstairs because it means they're not arguing with me for a change, for the smell of this coffee, for the beautiful salt-glazed mug I'm drinking it in and the hands that made it, for the immense healing Jin Shin Jyutsu is bringing to all aspects of my being, for the John Martyn CD playing on the stereo..... et cetera et cetera."

I love doing this because it reminds me how blessed I am and how rich my life actually is. It's so easy to focus on the negative and on what I lack, but it takes real mindfullness to acknowledge what's good. Some years ago, my life was pretty miserable - or so I thought - and I spent all my time feeling sorry for myself. A wise friend, sick of listening to me moan, suggested I find a way to practice gratitude daily. I devised this little game. I began with 10 stones. It took forever for me to find 10 things I was grateful for. But I eventually managed it, so she told me to increase it to 20. I groaned and told her she was nuts. I eventually found 20 things to be grateful for, so she said why not 30? And so on. I think my bowl has well over 50 things in it now. It's literally overflowing, and so is my heart. Legs and Noodle, who are now wise to what this bowl is about, keep adding things to it - a fallen chestnut, a chipped chevron bead, an old Danish coin with a hole in the middle.

Whenever I'm having a crap day, or even an okay one, I take my bowl and practice this simple spiritual exercise. In 10 minutes or less, abundance has banished gloom. Gratitude walks again.

The large round stone at the bottom with the jaggedy lop-sided smile is my Skunk stone.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Good-bye, old friend

Our dear cat Trouble died tonight. We found him at the bottom of the cellar steps just before dinner, lying peacefully, as if asleep. Legs and Noodle are very upset, and although Skunk and I tried to appear brave and grown-up about it, we failed. We brought Trouble home from a trip to the supermarket one day. A pair of siblings had stationed themselves by the entrance, giving away kittens. He was the last one in the box. Skunk and I argued all the way home about the wisdom of such an impulse; mine, of course. We had the pleasure of his company for 17 years. He used to sit in the kitchen and watch me bake all night, back in the days when I had insomnia. Sometimes I would read poetry aloud to him. He liked Stanley Kunitz best. He never cared much for our current dog Mia.

We shall bury him in the garden between the cherry tree and the honeysuckle, next to our previous dog Banzai, a Rhodesian Ridgeback who was his best mate.

I miss him already. Good-bye, Trubbie.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Fear of Frying

Now and I again I yield to popular demand and do a fry-up supper. I'm definitely not one of these people who shun fried food because "it's bad for you." I personally think any food that's made without love or imagination is no good for you anyway, and that includes badly-made salads. I absolutely adore fried food when it's done right. Over the years I've taught myself through trial and countless errors to overcome my fear of frying. The only reason I don't cook this way very often is because cleaning up is such a drag, and the smell in the house drives me crazy the following day, no matter what I do to dispell it.

My frying pan of choice is a cast iron chicken fryer by Wagner that's 10 inches across and 3 inches high. I paid about $25 for it 15 years ago and it will probably outlive my children's grandchildren, if they look after it as lovingly as I do. One crucial step many people skip is getting the pan hot (but not smoking) before pouring in the oil. My theory is that heat causes the surface molecules of the cast iron to expand, creating a sealed, non-stick surface. It doesn't matter whether you're deep frying or sautéeing, or whether you use an expensive Staub or Le Creuset pan or something much cheaper like a Lodge or a Wagner. If you add the oil before the pan is properly hot, food will stick. It's as simple as that. The other important thing to remember when frying anything is that the oil in the pan must be very hot, but not smoking, before putting the food in. I'm too ornery to mess around with thermometers, but I always test oil temperature by putting in a few drops of the batter into the hot oil. If it puffs up quickly, I'm ready to rock and roll.

Over the years I've fiddled with many recipes for batter, some of them absurdly complicated. I eventually came up with my own and it's fool-proof. It gives meat, fish or vegetables the ethereal lightness and crunch you find in Japanese tempura. And it's dead easy to throw together. Do not make this batter ahead of time because the yeast in the beer, which is the rising agent in this batter, goes flat. And flat means boring, in batterspeak.

1 cup flour (or 2/3 c. flour and 1/3 c. cornmeal)
1 teaspoon salt
a good pinch of cayenne powder and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup COLD beer (and I mean damn cold)

This gives you enough batter to make fried chicken or fish-and-chips for 4 hungry people. Prepare what you want to cook and pat dry with paper towels. Patting the food dry before dunking it in the batter is important, unless you think getting splattered with boiling oil is exciting. It isn't; it fucking hurts. Get the pan hot, pour in enough oil to cover what you're cooking, and then get the oil hot. Throw the batter together while the oil in the pan is getting up to heat: put the dry ingredients in a large bowl, add the cold beer, and whisk lightly until smooth. That's it, and if you have any leftover beer, for Pete's sake, don't waste it, drink it! Dip the fish/chicken/whatever in the batter to lightly coat it and carefully lower into the hot oil using tongs, unless you have asbestos fingers like me. You'll hear a satisfying sizzly-swooshy noise as the food makes contact with the oil, and you'll see the batter puff up almost instantly - if your oil is at the correct temperature. Watch food like a hawk when frying, and ignore the urge to fiddle with it. You don't want to puncture that thin outer shell and end up with greasy, soggy food. When one side has turned golden, carefully turn it over. When it's a gone beautiful golden brown all throughout, take it out with tongs or a slotted spoon, drain it on a wire rack, and cook the next batch. At this point I usually call out to the troops and tell them to get to the dinner table prontissimo because if there's anything that makes me truly grumpy at meal times, it's when people let my food get cold.

This was our fish-and-chips dinner the other night, or what was left of it by the time I remembered to take a picture. I used about 800 grams of catfish fillets, and the "chips" were not potatoes but courgette (zucchini) wedges that were dipped in the same batter as the fish and fried in the same pan. You can serve this with ketchup or lemon wedges. I like to make an evil dipping sauce of mayonnaise, lemon, garlic, chopped scallions, Tabasco and a slug of Kikkoman soy sauce.

It makes for total silence at the table. There are never any leftovers.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Getting a grip

Hurray! Legs and Noodle are back at school after a week off for Carnival Break, and I'm enjoying the quiet. It's just me, our dog Mia snoring on her cushion, and the usual hillocks of dirty laundry which I'm choosing to ignore. The beginning of the week is my special "me time," a chance to relax after the chaos of the weekend. Thought I'd sit down and give this another go.

Only now I've got a bad case of the jitters. After the rush that followed birthing my first and only post so far, Blighter's Rock is back. I've just checked to make sure my page is still there and discovered to my delight and, perversely, also to my horror that I now have 3 followers. Hellooo, followers! Oh my giddy aunt, I now have a readership - a tiny one, granted, but nonetheless still a readership. You see, the Committee that lives rent-free inside my head went into overdrive at 4 o'clock this morning and told me I was doing everything wrong. Of course I'm doing lots of things wrong, darn it, I've never blogged before! It probably doesn't help that I've been comparing my timid first attempt with other people's blogs which have hundreds of erudite, amusing posts, jam-packed with cool graphics and exotic photographs. I'd like one of those all-singing, all-dancing blogs too. Note to self: look but don't compare!

In setting this blog up, it took me ages to get to grips with a new language. For example, would it have adult content? Might my occasional use of the F word qualify as adult content? Even if kids in grade school use the F word these days? What does reverting widget templates to default do? What on earth is a wysiwyg editor? I've worked as an editor but have never met a wysiwyg. Did I want transliteration into Hindi? If it comes with kulfi, sure! What's a Post Feed Redirect URL? Will it reduce our electricity bill? My blog can have up to 100 authors? Really? So why the hell am I sitting here pulling my hair out when 99 others can do this for me? Why don't my photos go where I want them to on the effing page? And finally: why oh why don't I have any geek friends within farting distance who can explain all this stuff to me?

I think I'll tackle those smelly socks after all.

P.S. The 2 photos show our garden emerging from a hard winter into spring, looking wild and strangled. I wanted the photos to go down here but they refused.