Sick

I’ve been sick today.

I’m drinking wine now, and I feel a little better, so I may just have been hungover. There was a free beer related event I attended last night. I can’t help thinking these things may be connected, but I won’t make a judgement.

In other news, I’ve finally gotten my sense of smell back. As someone without much in the way of a sense of taste (this might cause you to ask after the veracity of my previously published recipes, but I use an independent panel of judges) the return was like the reopening of a forgotten world.

I wandered Smith St, my senses assaulted by the new layers of information. I knew the sewers beneath the northern stretch were acting up. I knew dogs were crapping on the pavement before I rounded the corner. People lit up with new layers like a colour filter, glows of beer or perfume or sickness.

So that’s a thing. One sickness in and another out I suppose… but as of next week I’m into actual full time work. Which I’m sure will be great for my health.

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Frying the Trickster

It was a thought that startled a friend of ours when we stayed with her in the UK.

I said that I had never seen a fox alive. I know they’re a massive pest here in Australia, but the only time that I had ever seen one before this point was as a mangled shape on the side of the highway. Usually the Hume Highway, between Sydney and Canberra. I don’t know if that’s significant.

So our host put out some chicken offcuts in her backyard, leaving a low light on and keeping a firm hand on her little West Highlands Terrier. Soon enough, to the Westy’s unhappy growls, we watched through the glass door as a trio of foxes, barely more than pups, hopped over the rear shed and dropped into the back yard. They warily snatched up the chicken before departing again, and I couldn’t help but feel like these strange animals were more like possums than dogs, leaping and clambering over fences and knocking over bins. Maybe I’m just more used to having possums near the house. For any imaginary readers who haven’t been to Australia or New Zealand, consider it a mercy to have not heard a possum’s voice at night. Scary shite right there.

Anyway, I was talking about foxes. I had met them in another context, in which they were neither flesh and blood creatures or flesh and blood road markers. Fox Shrines dot Japan, often in wild and partially forgotten places, or clinging quietly to unseen corners in the grounds of larger shrine complexes. There is a beautiful one to the side of Kamakura’s Hachimangu whose approach seems little more than a narrow forest path, leading to a flight of weathered stairs and, for me at least, a haunting sensation of being watched.

What all this fox related jabbering is leading to is the noodle recipe that follows.

Now there’s a leap of logic for you.

To explain: not long ago I attempted to make some Kitsune Udon for my partner and Ghorb, who is currently living with us. A rough translation would be Fox Noodles. I’ve never understood what appeal fried tofu has to foxes, but then I’ve never really felt much of an urge to delve into it either. Just sort of took it as given that the folkloric tricksters of Japan’s unforgiving ecosphere would , like me, be really into soy products.

So here’s how I did it.

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First, I chopped up a whole bunch of Shitake Mushrooms for broth. Because mushrooms are great.

Arrayed behind said mushrooms are my other ingredients; red miso paste, sesame seeds and firm tofu. You’ll be able to tell from these that I’m not making a traditional broth… this is really more an homage to a memory than a real recreation.

Because I’ve tried to arrange for silken tofu to hold its shape through the frying process before, and we all remember how that went.

Well, you guys don’t I suppose… it didn’t end well. Silken tofu just kind of disintegrates when you try to fry it, and this little blogger had to walk all the way back to the supermarket, which is… admittedly, right across the road, to get firm tofu.

So remember: Firm Tofu.

Here’s what you do with it.

You slice it into little steaks. I made triangles, but you could equally make rectangles or any other shape your knife skill wpid-20150629_183335.jpglevels allow.

Give them a quick skin mixed from flour, salt, pepper, and garlic powder.

Fry in oil until crispy.

Fry the mushrooms, then drown them in hot water and add a goodly dollop of miso paste to make a tasty broth. Sprinkle in some finely chopped spring onions, and your golden. Throw in noodles for your audience and… hey presto.

Get those noodles and that broth into a bowl, place the nice little tofu guys on top, and sprinkle with sesame seeds.

Much more attractive than most of the foxes I’ve encountered, to be sure.

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Selling Out

Well, it happened.

It took a while. Hell, last time I worked I was on the other side of the world in a winter that we will never see on account of the odd vagaries of our planet’s hemispheres.

But I have finally sold out and jumped on the megacorp bandwagon.

Henceforth, imaginary readers, it appears that yours truly is once again employed. Once again a wage slave, a punchcard minion, a low level villain or shill in any cyberpunk set dressing. Unfortunately, the shadowy underground took their sweet time calling, and I gotta get tofu money to keep entertaining you guys somehow. And no matter what the 9 to 5 throws at me, you’re always gonna get something from me on my Saturdays.

So quorganism is now, during business hours at least, a travel agent. It could have been a lot worse. Hell, I was selling light bulbs for a fortnight and that was a lot worse. But I’ll certainly be busier.

And with that said, my computer remains, unfortunately, exploded. I’m currently typing this on my good friend Ghorb’s machine, so forgive any haphazard behaviour my apparent loss of connection with reality (aka the internet) causes.

Normal transmissions will resume as soon as possible, dear imaginary readers, and you’ll soon get your first teaser of my current super secret project. But for now, here’s a picture of a plane while we all think of bright and beautiful times.

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Photo “Plane Spotting at ORD”, courtesy of H. Michael Miley aka Mike_Miley on flickr. Creative Commons Attribution Sharealike

Five Days, Four Beds and Two Thousand Klicks

Well, in the last week I’ve spent about five days driving.

There’s not a whole lot that can be said for that much highway.

But we’ve made it from Melbourne to Canberra to our childhood home in the Blue Mountains, and then back in the same direction.

Historic Chiltern, near Ironbark, Victoria
Historic Chiltern, near Ironbark, Victoria

The long haul through country New South Wales and Victoria is like a churn through Australian colonial folklore. We lunched in Chiltern, a town all too willing to cash in on its proximity to Ironbark, and we found no trace of any barber around. Chiltern is also incidentally one of the few words that has managed to stump me in Articulate.

We took the Road to Gundagai, and found a very quiet small town winding down on a Sunday afternoon, with hills surrounding that reminded me of the monstrous Sentinel Hill in H.P. Lovecraft’s The Dunwich Horror. It wasn’t so worrying, in truth, as Tarcutta, which touts itself as the true centre point between Sydney and Melbourne despite the popular myth being that Canberra was built in such a place, and I have to say the real median has a slow buildup of dereliction that evokes an inland Innsmouth. The place feels haunted for all the traffic it sees, though it stands on the false grounds of a mythic capital that never was.

Hilltops of Gundagai
Hilltops of Gundagai

There’s also about five turnoffs for Wagga Wagga, spread over maybe a hundred kilometers, which is a bit strange. Gives the feeling your going in a big circle.

My insomnia got worse across these myriad towns, though we stayed in familiar places with friends and family. Part of that must have been the strange exhaustion of driving that leaves your mind burned out but your body unable to rest.

There’s Glenrowan too. They have a monochrome image of Ned Kelly in his famous armour on the road sign. We didn’t stop.

Imaginary readers, I wouldn’t usually post something as aggressively referential as this, though I don’t imagine my analysis is anything particularly special.

The point is that this road is a terrifying object, to my mind. You move along it, and you and hammered with the scale of this place when you see just how much colonist culture is crammed into a thin stretch not far off the Eastern seaboard, what a tiny part of this country has provided so many of our stories and how much of our discourse.

There was more than once that I pondered just how much trouble we’d be in, how far we were from help, if the car were to break down along that road. I can cover ten kilometers in an hour at a run. For how many hours, I do not know. You ask yourself if that would be enough. You find yourself asking these questions, or maybe you don’t. Maybe that’s just me.

The land is huge and it is hungry and so many of its stories fail to reach our ears.

Strange how much can be said of a stretch of highway.

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So… I Live In Melbourne Now

Hey again imaginary readers.

I probably should have warned you all before this happened, but I moved to Melbourne about a week ago today, and thusly lacking an internet connection my capacity to send my charming diatribes to you was reduced to naught. So, for I think the second time in the history of the Next Best Plan, I will say this.

I’m sorry.

Now, to mark my triumphant return to internet land, here’s a spooky black and white photo of Elizabeth Street! I’ve got some more Changelings of the Outer West coming up, as well as the return of the Young Thief to Scenes from the City, so thanks for sticking around!

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Kookaburra

I saw a Kookaburra mere minutes ago.

Given I’m in the Blue Mountains this should not be a strange thing. But it felt like it had been a long time since I had seen one, and then I realised that was because it was.

So the bird was, happily perched up on a power line, before flitting away into the foggy trees, and this returnee is watching something perfectly normal.

There was no time for me to take a photograph, and I find that the lens usually fails to capture what the eye sees in moments like these.

So instead, here is a much better picture from a much sunnier day, courtesy of Tatters (or tgerus) over on Flickr, and I hope you all have a good weekend.

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Also, I’ve realised that I’ve been slacking off, relying on a bit of a backlog of work I’d built up. You shall receive said work soon, as if I’m just resting on my laurels then the motivational element of this isn’t working.

Once again, having used Tatter’s photograph from Flickr, you are free to use any part of this article in your own work as long as the relevant folks are credited (and in the picture’s case if is isn’t for commercial use), so take that and run as far as you like with it.

Home Again, Home Again

Well, we did make it back to Australia alive. The heat is refreshing after the relentless cold of the Scottish winter and the plague pit that is 22 hours in economy class. So we’ve come to the end of our big adventure, for now at least. Back to what passes for reality here.

Anyway, we had some friends come in from out of town, so we took them around the cliffs of the Jamison Valley to see the Three Sisters. Figured I’d share the piccies with you.

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And finally… well, I told my buddies in the UK that this stuff didn’t exist in Australia. Guess fate showed me…

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A Scene in Verona

I see this fierce looking lady in the town square in central Verona.

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She’s crowned, standing on a fountain there, and from behind it looks as if she’s staring down the clocktower with a pair of broken shackles hanging impotently from her wrists.

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She looks a little different from this side. They’re not shackles in truth, but the ends of a scroll running between her hands. Maybe this changes the meaning.

I like to think it doesn’t.

A Hill in Inuyama

There is a hill in Inuyama.

I know it says that in the title. I figured I’d repeat it for emphasis. Anyway, there’s a hill. Its beautiful, the whole thing set out DSCF3336as a woodland cemetery, the sun kind of crests it perfectly. There is a pathway that leads up the slope from the east side of the train station, and winds is way up to the crest of the hill where it disappears.

I’m probably going to need to explain this a bit better.

My partner and I went to Inuyama about two years ago. Its not a big place, a couple of hours north of Nagoya by the winding local services. Its high enough into the mountains that winter clings on a few weeks longer than it does on the coast. I had chosen to come here on a whim; the city is mentioned in Lian Hearn’s Tales of the Otori, and those books have always been favourites of mine. I admit, as we approached, it appears disappointing. The whole place looks like a burned out wreck of partially abandoned light industrial buildings, the shattered remnants of a once working body that all the life has drained away from. And for some parts of the city, that may be true.

DSCF3338But you get off the train, you take the north exit. The wide river greets you, and you follow it down a waterfront walk drawn in a vaguely European style. You take that corner, and everything changes. On arrival we saw a white castle, older than the written history of my country, was flying over a landscape of cherry blossoms and the river darkening like ink in the sunset. The winter wind bites, and turning on to the main street you find that the cars, lights and other trappings of modernity are politely ignored in favour of Edo era facades. We were lucky enough to catch the end of the city festival, purely by accident. It is a beautiful place.

In the twilight, we couldn’t see the detail of the hill I mentioned. That came later.

It was on the morning we left that we were able to really see it. The path over the hill captivated me. I considered taking that walk, but we had a bullet train to get to that would take us to Kyoto. I’ve wondered about it since.

I get the sense that walking over that hill will kill me.

In a kind of narrative sense, it feels like that action carries that finality. I have marked this place, and if I go past it the story ends. Like Enkidu ripping the life from the Bull of Heaven before the gods destroyed him, I can almost smell the weight of fate carried on this place.

And it has come to be reflected again. My partner and I have been traveling in Europe for the last seven months or so, intermittently working in Scotland. Our date of return is confirmed now, and I begin to feel the weight of things left undone. When we had left Australia, we had hoped to go on a Gaudi binge in Spain. To get a taste of Stieg Larsson’s fractured Sweden and its endless aurora riddled winter nights. Hell, we got within miles of Vienna before getting distracted. This is not to say I haven’t enjoyed our time here. I’m just seeing another hill, and wanting to cross it.

You can’t do everything. On a logical level my brain knows this, that the world is just too damn big to see it all in one lifetime. For all that we say we will have another chance to see the places we missed, for some reason it feels like the jig is up. Because once I’m on that plane, Europe as we experienced it will begin changing into something new, and will never be what it was in this time and place.

I have been haunted by a mantra of late, wandering through countries that by all rights seem to be driving themselves into the ground. It always looks like the end of the world from where you’re standing.

And I suppose that encapsulates the feeling. The world is going to be moving on regardless of where I am, and to be honest I am not entirely sure what home is going to look like when I get back there. But I’ve had a rifle around in the old brain box, and I’ve reinforced myself with the idea that I have done this before, and for all the years I accrue I can still adapt and change along with the world. Maybe I’ve been a different person than I was before, in these seven vagrant months, and maybe I’ll put that person in the grave when I step back into Kingsford Smith airport as summer turns to autumn and the world is again turned upside down.

We leave, and maybe Europe will disappear. It might fall to the Russians, or to anarcho-communism in the face of the near DSCF3339sighted idiocy of its corrupt governments. Maybe Tony Abbott’s gleeful curb stomping of the Australian economy will render us forever unemployed on our return, and leave the other side of our planet forever out of our reach, and my partner and I will be forced to live out our days as arse kicking cyberpunk bandits, crushing fascists and their corporate paymasters beneath the wheels of our murdercycles. Maybe these things will happen. But I don’t think it will be any of these things that will kill me.

In a week I will be back on the continent of my birth.

I suppose part of being human is that we so often live beyond the end of the story. The narrative would say that I cross the grand threshold, and that will be that. One day I’m going to front up to that damn hill, or any other hill in Poland or Haiti or bloody Tuggeranong, and I’ll cross the damn thing, Bull of Heaven or no. Maybe I see the other side, and maybe I don’t.

The hills gonna stay right there either way, and the old story is just going to keep on ticking along.

Still not sure if I’m ready to accept that.

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Radical Reinterpretation

Your in Amsterdam, you get art. Some of it goes to pretty scary places, admittedly. We find this little girl in an underpass where homeless people were understandably reluctant to shelter (there was an abandoned pair of boots on a pillar, but I wasn’t sure if they were meant to symbolise something).

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She’s just hanging around in a tangle of gremlins imprisoned in leafy vine tentacles. Her little clown doll is a tad weird, but she seems fairly sedate in her portal. I mean, she’s covered in pigeon crap, but I guess that’s an occupational hazard.

Then again, there is this spooky creature inhabiting the wall of our hostel.

Just a painting, and stalking centre gremlin kinda looks like her clown. So… that connection kind of makes the whole image a whole lot worse.

Then again, neither of them really hold a candle to get brother.

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Who somebody decided to give a Crow makeover. So there’s that.

No, this post doesn’t really have a point. Just figured I’d give y’all some of my holiday snaps. Funny the connections you find.