Thing 15: Go to Mexico/fly alone – part one

I’ve only ever been good at air travel when I was too young to know any better. Between the ages of 18 months and about 10 years I was a dream companion: slept well, excited about the plane, talkative, finished meals – even on the ten hour trawls to Vancouver we made semi-regularly throughout my childhood to visit family. From the age of 10, however, the unreality of it all struck me and I became the worst traveller you could luck out and get stuck with. It’s not that I’m scared of flying, or falling, but the whole experience is so alien and there are just so many aspects I can find to dislike! Something changed in me, and previously comfortable air travel turned into a nightmarish, long, experience; packed like sardines into a plasticky, cold and yet unfresh-air conditioned tube with tens of other passengers, terrifyingly loud suction toilet flushes and – worst of all – the cloying small of overmicrowaved, tinfoil-covered food… ugh.

tinfulofpeople

I’m still convinced now that flight is a myth: they surely just rearrange your surroundings while you sit, distracted, in your metal tube with other passengers…

Anyway, the point really is that I hated flying, to the point where the fear of being ill onboard (usually during the sickening landing process) brought me out in a cold sweat and I avoided eating pretty much throughout the travel experience, and probably in advance as well. A tip: just because you don’t eat, doesn’t mean that your body won’t try to be sick – but it will be much worse.

Now, I have to admit, I’ve made some progress. For last year’s birthday, two friends and I spent two weeks in New York and the seven-hour flight together was pretty uneventful (aside from an elbowed water glass onto a sleeping friend on the return journey – oops). I even enjoyed the food!

But when my boyfriend was successfully awarded a three-week travel scholarship to Mexico, courtesy of his course of study and work at Kew Gardens, and suggested we make a holiday of a final fourth week to mark the end of my MSc – I was a little petrified. The flight would be long, I’d have to eat more plane food, and I’d have to get out there on my own. There would be nobody to hold my hand, or the sickbag, and I would be solely responsible.

But hey, adults fly alone all the time – why shouldn’t I be one of them? So, pushing my fear to the back of my mind for most of the process, we happily went about booking a one-week stay in a beautiful all-inclusive resort near Cancun, on the Caribbean coast and near the second largest reef in the world. We booked everything in January, and up until about three weeks before I would still hyperventilate from time to time at the thought of flying, let alone flying on my own.

17th May came along, my parents kindly (so kindly!) drove me to Gatwick airport where I checked in, remembered my passport, and we ate M&S samosas. I made it through security, through duty free almost unscathed (new eyeliner! Still in the box!), and then onto the departure gate.

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At this point I was actually not as terrified as I look in this grainy photograph. (Also, can someone tell me if taking photos in airports is illegal? I’m still waiting for the knock on the door.) I felt oddly calm. Resigned. Confident. The plane was there. I was there. My only toothbrush was aboard and I was going to follow that bastard to Cancun.

Through the tube, onto the plane, past the space-age booths and vastly-abundant legroom section, into cattle class where I was seated happily in an emergency exit seat. Apart from a mild disaster trying to extricate the tiny screen from under my seat so that I could fall asleep in front of Marvel’s Thor 2: The Dark World and fail to hear any of Inside Llewyn Davis, and a weirdly dehydrated salmon sandwich – all went well. Having selected a special ‘low lactose meal’ I was fed first – score! Unfortunately, low lactose was equivalent to low taste, and my salad, chicken with carrots, and fruit wasn’t as exciting (and almost as low lactose)as the thai curry and chocolate pudding that the couple next to me ate. But hey, what can you do? Despite a new selection of Kindle books, and far too  many viewing options I was sufficiently bored and hungry about 8 hours in that I began to feel totally sick – not a good sign. But in spite of a rather graphic nature documentary (thanks for nothing, Attenborough) I managed to doze off long enough that by the time we arrived in Cancun I was ready and excited.

In Part Two: the trip to Mexico.

As a final few words here, however: I FLEW ALONE! I WASN’T SICK! I REMEMBERED EVERYTHING I NEEDED! For me, this is a big achievement. Since my anti-plane tendencies developed I’ve been worrying that the sickness or fear of sickness would really prevent me from going places in future – quite literally, if you’ll pardon the pun. I now know that I can do this thing along with a lot of other humans, and I have it in me to not only tolerate flying, but kind of enjoy it. I do know what I’m doing, and I don’t have to just keep it together long enough to get to the other side, but I can actually relax up there and eat my weird low-lactose food and read my books. Thing 15: firmly ticked off.

 

Thing 28: Operation Chocolate Fondant

I’ll admit it, I watch a lot of Masterchef. And at least once every elimination round, someone will choose to wow the judges with a chocolate fondant. Each and every time, there’s a collective gasp from the judges. ‘Not a chocolate fondant!’ we cry. ‘Don’t they know how difficult that is?’ ‘I thought isolating the Higgs Boson was going to be hard, but… a chocolate fondant?!’

And yet, every single time (in my memory, which is as scientific as it gets, clearly) the chocolate fondant bounces out of the oven and oozes seductively over the plate, eliciting gasps and (chocolate – geddit?) brownie points from all concerned. ‘This person is clearly a culinary genius!’ they shout. ‘For surely no-one has ever made a successful chocolate fondant before. All hail…’

Yeah, sure. Apart from every bugger to grace the Masterchef kitchens. Sounds so difficult, I reckon even an idiot like me can make one. And so, I’ve decided to begin 30 Before 30 with the chocolate fondant challenge. And we’ll see if I’m laying it all on a bit thick…

Take One. I’m using Nigella’s Molten Chocolate Babycakes recipe, because it was number 5 on the list when I googled ‘chocolate fondant’, and I trust Nigella to make things as effortless as possible. Also, I halved it because there’s only two of us in the house at the moment, and while I’m sure someone once told me halving baking recipes willy-nilly is a dangerous affair: I like to live on the edge.

Onto the pictures!

These are my ingredients. If for some reason you want to listen to me instead of Nigella above, please remember this is half of the real recipe and makes only three little fondants.

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After buttering three tiny pudding tins and putting a circle of baking paper in the bottom (top?) of each, I started by melting lots of lovely chocolate, and adding 25g butter to 175g caster sugar. Then I spent about 10 minutes wishing I’d let the butter get to room temperature first. Super top tip, that (maybe where all those Masterchef contestants went wrong?).

choc

Eventually we got it to behave, then added two beaten eggs, 1/2 tsp vanilla extract and 75g flour. It was a terrifying batter that just looked horrible and eggy until the chocolate was added. Then it immediately became heavy – or it was seizing up… Here it is going into three little pudding tins.

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So then the tiny pots went in the fridge for most of the day until we’d had dinner. Until this point, I was pretty calm, feeling pretty smug about the situation. What could go wrong? I yell at the TV weekly that Masterchef contestants are doing it wrong, so I must know what I’m talking about, right? It wasn’t until they went in the oven that the tension set in. What if they didn’t work? How cocky could I be without deserving some sort of karma?

200 degrees C, straight in the oven from the fridge, for 12 minutes.

The moment of truth…

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They worked! To be honest, they started sinking as soon as they were put on the plate, but ha! Take that, Masterchef! I will forever be unimpressed by your chocolate fondant-ing. Although I probably shouldn’t pretend I can make my own pastry, or macaroons, or anything too hard… We ate them with raspberries (and some of us with ice cream) and they were SO rich. Very much worth it. Cheers,  Nigella. I knew you wouldn’t let me down.

28. Make a chocolate fondant.

Thing 28 is done. The first thing ticked off the list. (And I haven’t quite finished my real target of a Masters dissertation yet. Yet!) 29 things to go.

What else should I learn to cook?

_kimguin x

 

 

 

Two Point Oh.

OK, so I  lied.

Since I’ve been studying for my MSc I’ve been quietly making a list in the back of my mind of Things I Would Do If… And now I’ve come to the end of it (almost) it’s time to live the dream. There is a list of 30 Things I aim to do before I’m 30 above, and starting most likely from next week I’ll be beginning actually achieving some things!

For some reason, and I think I’ve moaned about this here, I don’t like writing goals for life. I kind of fall into things and adapt to them. It’s going pretty well. And people who plan things have always scared me a bit (and rarely stuck tot hem, in my experience). But when I noticed that I’d be developing  a wishlist this did seem like the sensible thing to do.

So this is just a holding post, to be honest, a preparation for the real thing. I hope you’ll keep reading and give me tips – there’s still 3 more things to fill on the list!

Thanks!

_kimguin

Swim, you bugger. Swim.

So I finally finished listening to Radio 4’s adaptation of Alan Sillitoe’s Saturday Night and Sunday Morning and totally loved it. Why haven’t I read this book?!

Seaton is terrible, and prejudiced, and wants to believe he’s entitled to everything, but in the arrogant, mistake-riddled way he carries on – he’s kind of lovable. My favourite scenes by far were those in which he was fishing – suddenly he became philosophical, thoughtful, calm. I thought these scenes were very well done; quiet, with Seaton’s voice taking centre stage in contrast to the clatter of the pubs he so often frequents, and the clamouring of other voices alongside his own. These quiet moments, and the scene in which he buys Doreen chocolate and finally admits to be courting, are lovely interludes that would be nowhere near as interesting if it weren’t for the rest of the play.

In absolute contrast to this, my second favourite moment – if I can call it that – was the haphazard abortion enacted by Arthur on his married girlfriend Brenda, alongside her angry and loyal friend, whose name I helpfully can’t remember. I listened to this at work, and had the distinct feeling of the walls closing in on me, as Arthur continued filling the bath with hot water, and Brenda threatened to throw up the pint of gin she was forced to swallow neat. As she sobbed, and Arthur raged, the scene built to a saddening crescendo, and after it was over the silence was, to be cliche, deafening. It’s a scene I both look forward to reading, and wish I wasn’t already aware of.

While listening to these scenes the contrast between Seaton in public and Seaton in private really struck me. In my currently-failing attempt at a novel, I’m falling victim to self-censorship. The protagonist is too plain, too boring, and won’t contradict herself. Or rather, I won’t let her. I noticed (stupidly) that Seaton is two very different people, and that made him more, rather than less interesting. So I was indeed being quite dense and obstructive by failing to admit that my protagonist could also have this sort of flaw.  Obviously, now the problem is that I have to work out what her flaws are (SO many problems, where to begin), but at least this was something.

In other news, I was pleasantly surprised to find that two lovely humans had commented on my old review of another R4 radioplay: A Special Kind of Dark. Many thanks! And thank you for reminding me that I have a blog…

I’ll leave it to the excellent Timwilldestroyyou to explain:

In other other news, I am seriously considering getting a Tumblr account. But then what will this blog be for, I hear none of you ask? Well, indeed. I don’t know. But given that in the past 6 months I’ve written two draft posts that never got published, it looks like PGP is dying a death. And don’t I need a place to reblog gifs and angry rantings?

As ever, thoughts and comments appreciated. Although I might go behind your back and do it anyway. No offence, duck.

Poem: Eating Mangoes

My mother taught me
to eat mangoes.

Sliding the long knife through
amber flesh,
hopscotch, tic-tac-toe-patterned.

We would push from beneath,
the leathery skin against our
fingers. A broken rubix cube
of bitesize fruit unfolded,
origami-like, above.

We stood together,
gulping down morsels
before the kitchen sink.

The juice ran down our chins
spotting sweet, onto the immaculate steel.

Pretty

I just watched this, and you all should too:

In all seriousness, I wanted to cry/cheer. Once when she said ‘fuckable’ and once when she said ‘no.’ I’m not sure I have much more to say on this, other than I really needed a kick up the arse and this might be it.

Nerves

White cool box
that pulses, remembers, can’t know for sure.
Inanimate.
Emptied in a February freeze,

Contents tipped down white, crumbled cliffs
to a tealgreen, icy sea.

The spark is gone.
Quenched
in the water. Sweeping debris out to the expanse.

Sometimes driftwood takes years to resurface.
A polished piece planed and smoothed by salt and sea
is quite different the second time around.

When you cut off a chicken’s head, it’s
the nerves
Which keep it running round
for hours afterwards.

Cancelled

Dear Sir,

I write to inform you of my
- oh, well how to put this delicately?

At first I was smitten, needing, and sure
That you were mine and I’d always be yours.
The thought of you with another – why -
My little heart would pound, tears fill my eyes…
The notion of exclusivity I so had bought;
I was smug in the sureity we’d never cut short
Such a wonderful wisdom, a lesson taught
In every book/song/film that came my way…

Apologies, I digress – I write then, to say -
That since we’ve parted, I just can’t make this stay:
My subscription to your traditional ideals of love has ended, and I do not wish to renew.

All best wishes,
                             A Girl Who Used To ‘Belong’ To You

 

 

- Sept. 2012

Sept. I

Once upon a time
I was fairly certain we would never be apart.

Like fresh-picked peas in a pod
      the metaphorical chalk and cheese
hair gel and teenage boys
the stake in a vampire’s heart
marmite on toast
dirt encrusted in a bicycle chain

      the rule and its exception

Now
           it has been an age since I breathed you in
– even accidentally.

Electrons in an atom are part of the same system; separated
only by a fizzing eternity they might not even know is there.

At our fingertips is every form of connection
but we cannot make the link.