Tuesday, 23 October 2012

In which it may or may not be THE LAW

The other day, my flatmate discovered that the school where she teaches had been accidentally paying her too much. And they wanted it back.

“But they can’t!” I spluttered. “They’ve given it to you, it’s yours. You’ve won the luck lottery! It’s in your bank - it can’t come out again, it’s like… a ship in a bottle! It’s.. it’s.. THE LAW.

It isn't the law, of course. It's the law of being embarrassed to say you can't give it back because you spaffed it all on ASOS.com. I realised as I said it that: firstly, my knowledge of this legal area is based entirely on the time in Friends when Phoebe’s bank gave her money by accident and let her keep it, and secondly, that there are many things that we all assume are THE LAW which really aren’t the law at all.

Such as a shop being legally obliged to sell you something cheap if it’s marked at the wrong price. Why do we believe that? Do we think it’s, like, punishment for their clerical error? “You got sloppy with the pricing gun, chump, now flog me this discount ceramic puppy ornament and choke on the bitter taste of your own incompetence.”

I imagine these shonky misconceptions are about 20% based on things we’ve seen on telly, 15% on our innate sense of human fairness, and 65% on things our mums say, because their mums said them, because their grandmothers said them, because in 1894 you could probably demand your neighbour’s best goat as penance for them giving you the shifty eye in the post office.

Another classic is: places that serve food must have a customer toilet! It is THE LAW. We know of course that this one can’t actually be THE LAW, because if it was then all the Pret A Mangers within Zone 2 would have been shut down. But we continue believing it, presumably based on some warped digestive science logic that says if you can put it in one end, you must provide means for it to come out the other. You hear it, every day, every hour probably, echoing around the cafes and kiosks of the nation – somebody’s mum, saying, “Well they must have a toilet, they serve food! It’s THE LAW” whilst doing an agitated wee dance by the napkin dispenser.

My absolute favourite, however, is the enduring urban legend that says a pregnant woman caught short can relieve herself in a policeman’s helmet. Everybody loves this one, despite knowing really that finding a policeman in a helmet these days is more elusive a mission than finding a functional loo with paper and an antibac hand gel dispenser.

But I’m happy to say that after much extensive googling on the topic (one of my favourite things about the internet is that you can type in “pregnant wee helmet” and it knows exactly what you mean), I haven’t found anything conclusively saying it isn’t true. So by THE LAW of believing things are THE LAW unless you’re told they absolutely aren’t, it must be THE LAW. Go, find a pregnant lady looking desperate in a toiletless cafĂ© and tell her about it now.

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

In which we don't name that tune

I know this is a long shot, but do you know what song this is?


“Dum dum, do-do-duuuuh duuhh duhhh”. No? You must know it! “Dum dum, do-do-duuuuh duuhh duhhh”. Seriously? Come on. “Do-DO-duuuuh duuUUH”- oh I give up.

I’ve spent hours scouring the whole internet for this song. Scouring. Page five of Google. I’ve hummed it into a Shazam app, whistled it to my flatmates and sung it down the phone to my mother, but all have failed to identify it. My boyfriend and I heard it in a restaurant on Saturday and, in a move of predictable lethargy that we’ve regretted ever since, didn’t ask anyone who was singing it.

We think it might be glam rock. It sounds a bit like Slade, but definitely isn’t Slade. Although while on the hunt for the song, I’ve rediscovered just how much I love Slade - aside from a flagrant disregard for spelling that I can only assume slipped under the taste radar in the 70s because everyone was so zonked on Blue Nun and angelica-topped trifle - they had some really solid tunes. Coz I Luv You; Everyday; the one that was on the advert for the Fiat Cinquecento. Slade are for life, folks, not just for Christmas.
It isn't Status Quo either

Back to the song hunt – we thought it might have been Kiss, but it isn’t. We thought it might have been any of the related artists that Spotify points you to from Kiss, and spend a full two hours clicking through them on a musical breadcrumb trail (“The Sweet! COR I love The Sweet. YOU KNOW. Oh wait, I was thinking of Mud”). But it isn’t. 

Later we begin to think it might not be glam rock at all. It sounds a bit like the chorus from John Lennon’s Instant Karma, so maybe it could be an elusive Beatles song that we somehow managed not to hear during the last 24 years. It would help if we knew any of the words, or more than two bars of the tune. As someone who spends half her life frantically whistling music for others to identify (I can do all seven minutes of Bo-Rap without stopping for air), this has become my Everest. 

Eventually, we begin to think it perhaps doesn’t exist at all. Maybe we wrote it together in our heads – in which case, we should probably book ourselves some studio time pronto and lay this baby down, because it’s going to be massive. Bigger than Slade, even.

Basically, this has been a roundabout, 454-word way of asking: do any of YOU know what the song is? And if so, could you tell me before I flip and punch through a wall or something? Ta.

Thursday, 4 October 2012

In which I avoid making a 'custardy' gag

I have developed a new approach to autumn meal planning: start with the custard and work backwards. Now, everything I eat after 3pm is simply warming up for the evening custard. Paving the way. Vegetables, rice, protein; all just a digestive chore until I reach the river of golden reward that is the custard.

Since I hit on this new regime, it’s made the lesser aspects of seasonal shift all the more palatable. Rain? Custard. Dark? Custard. Getting dressed under the covers, because you can see your own breath in your bedroom? Excellent, more custard.

Of course, some people don’t like custard. I didn’t, for a portion of my childhood. I didn’t trust it. For one thing, it covered up my pudding to the point where I worried it was gone forever. It introduced an unwieldy liquid element into formerly solid desserts. It looked like the gunge from Get Your Own Back and tasted like… well, like yellow.

But soon, I began to recognize custard’s supreme power as an accompaniment. It can transform even the most dismal of dessert options into something comfortingly stodgy and sublime. Put a rich tea, the pauper’s tea-dunker, into the bottom of a bowl of custard and it instantly gains the kudos of a far superior biscuit. Add some cut up banana and you’ve got a pud so wholly delicious that it forgets it has anything to do with fruit.

All the coolest people are into custard. Doctor Who, who famously eats it with fishfingers (a combo which makes more sense when you acknowledge that hollandaise, as my friend Daisy pointed out, is just ‘savoury custard’); Custard from Rhubarb and Custard. In the process of writing this, I even found a wikianswers article called ‘Does Zac Efron like custard?’, to which the answer was a resounding ‘yes!’.

The best thing I have ever done with custard was melt a chocolate Freddo in the middle of it. The second thing was invent custard porridge. The third was the thing everyone has done with custard, which is to add a little water to the powder and make a freaky moving liqui-solid, like the kind of science experiment enthusiastic parents do with their children in half term to make sure TV doesn’t turn their brains to bin juice.

 I’ve had fancy custard, of course, made with cream and vanilla and all manner of heavenly manna, but it was almost too delicious to be allowed as a genuine foodstuff – like sticking a spoon in some cake icing and calling it dinner. Bird’s custard, however, with its exciting powder-mixing ritual and vague whiff of wartime austerity, feels like the more everyday treat.

Naysayers would argue that without egg, it isn’t proper custard at all. But then, naysayers would probably also claim you can’t write a whole column about custard, and I’ve just proved them wrong.