Friday, 28 May 2010

Rotting Flesh

Now that we've had some daylight I've been able to investigate the stink-in-the-flowerbed situation further. I did have a theory at one point that I was about to discover something dead... and it seems now that I was right. It wasn't a stinky toadstool.


Sunlight revealed maggots, slimy gloopy stuff, and a bone.

And that half-a-potato thing? It was half a bloody potato! The whole thing is next to our compost heap, which might explain that. The bone, we think, was buried by our dog in the first place. It was probably Sunday Dinner pickings, stolen and then carted off. The potato may even have come from the same source, because after all why would we put half a potato into the compost? We don't put foody leftovers in there, just veg that have gone off / sprouted. And peelings. And tea leaves.

It must have had a lot of meat still on though, to have gone so foul. But there was no hair or skin or fur or anything, and only one bone, which was too large to have come from the kind of small creature that might die naturally in our garden.

So. Dead lamb. Or maybe chicken. Or pig. But still no explanation for any previous stinks. I feel slightly dissatisfied. This ain't over yet.

Thursday, 27 May 2010

Caninus Mutinus


I reckon it's a dog stinkhorn. Mutinus caninus (what a great name).

Look! Half a potato! Apparently these are called the "eggs":

I haven't yet seen these things (I suspect the dog obliterated them), but aren't they utterly, magnificantly phallic?

"It has some disgusting mushroom fruit that looks like a dog d*ck with the tip dipped in sh*t."

Although I've never actually seen one of these dog-dick thingies. Anyway this one will be bagged and binned tomorrow. Apparently they don't normally sprout dicks until July, so it might still have been at the egg stage. Gawd knows.

Mysterious Stinky Thing in my Flower Bed

So, every year at about this time we have had Bad Drain smells in our garden. This has been going on for over ten years. I always spend a few days sniffing at drains and being mystified when our drains appear to in fact be fine.

A few times I've decided the stink was coming from the earth in our flower beds, but could never narrow it down to a specific location. I've wondered a few times if it was actually a Bad Drain smell that was heavier than air, sinking down to ground level and then drifting about aimlessly, hence hard to locate.

I've had this lingering paranoia that we have a broken sewer gradually seeping shit into our earth, but had no idea how to ascertain whether this was true or not, or what to do about it if it was, so shoved it to the back of my mind.

ANYWAY. Tonight I went in the garden and was hit by how strong it was. And also found the dog had got through the makeshift fence and into the bit she's not allowed in, where she had happily dug a new hole in a flowerbed. Got the dog back inside, and suddenly the stink was all over the house. Took me a while to realise that it was only in whatever room the dog was in. And her feet stank of it. So I checked out the newly-dug hole... yup, it stank of The Stink. Oh no, I thought. I was right. We have earth full of sewage. So I took the torch out, and found... really weird stuff in the earth, where the dog had dug a hole.

There was a load of crumbly whitish-coloured stuff, a bit like soggy chalk or crumbly cheese. It stank of The Stink. There was also a thing that looked rather like a potato chopped in half. You know the patterns you get in the cross-section of a potato, kind of radiating out from the centre? Kind of like that, and shrivelled at the edges, like a dried-out half-potato. But also slightly spongy, and grey. I didn't investigate very far, cos it was dark, and it stinks. Although you have to get your nose quite close to it to smell it. But sadly I got some of the crumbly stuff on my fingers and the smell won't wash off. But again I have to put my nose close to smell it. But anyway. There was a significant quantity of the weird crumbly stuff, like, more than a handful, and it looked like it might extend deeper. The half-potato thing looked like it might also be crumbly and like the other stuff if I was to break it apart.

So, could it be some kind of stinky fungus? Maybe it's been there for years and comes into some kind of Pong Season at this time of year? Any Smelly Fungus experts out there?

[update: see here]

Friday, 7 May 2010

Same But Different

I've lived in this house for 21 years, since 19 short years old.

It's changed several times and in various ways, with me twice moving out then returning. I arrived at the start to an upstairs flat in the wake of minor disasters. Myself due to crutches and metal in my leg, the flat due to recently-disappeared amenities. When I needed the loo I went downstairs to our neighbour's flat, itself full of rubble from our collapsed bathroom floor.

It's no longer two flats - we converted it back to a house. What used to be my single-student-staying-up-all-night kitchen is now my baby son's bedroom. The sitting room, where I laughed and played and danced and slumped, is now my bedroom.

My memory is atrocious. People tell stories of memorable adventures and I look at them blankly. But I remember one morning, or possibly a series of several transposed events, 5am or so. I'd been up all night and was sitting in an old-fashioned wicker chair, my feet on the living room windowsill, listening to Enigma and watching the sun rise. It was still a flat, and this was my sitting room. The carpet was somebody else's used shag pile, which had sounded attractive in the Loot advert but was a pain to bring home and fit. And far from being the foot-sinking luxury it claimed to be it was dusty, dirty, crumb-filled and had dead insects collected about its roots. It got sticky.

There was a bed in the corner, the spare bed, used as a sofa. I covered it with an old curtain - rosebud pattern, the centre of each bud a hole. In some previously-hanging state, the sun had sought those flower-centres out - something to do with the nature of the dye, I surmised - and rotted them away.

The whole flat was like that. Faded beauty, make do and mend.

And now it is a house with a family, and no single party girls in sight. And tonight, as I aimed for the curtains on my way to bed, I paused. I remembered. I changed my mind. I didn't want to close the world away and lie down on my orthopaedic mattress. I wanted to draw up my ancient wicker chair, leave the curtains wide open and watch the quiet world. Like all that time ago, of which I remember little, but those window-side moments have stuck. Why them, and not others? What was indelible about those small snatches of time?

It's not the same place. I can stand with the same feet on the same floor and remember being here, at this view, in this night. But it wasn't here. It was another place, a one that lives in my head. A one connected with here, but not here. The passage of years has taken it as far as though it were miles and miles ago. I have moved through this space and each step on the same-worn ups and downs has moved me further away.

Even the ceiling is lower.

But that former me and all those others besides are here in the air and the walls, and they make this house be what it is - a pulsing repository for all that has gone before. 138 years of history. I could live to be the age of my grandfather - a century old this year - and still my life would be nudging just half of the story of this house.

It holds me in its bricks.

I like that.

Saturday, 1 May 2010

Pictures, Lovely Pictures!

Me and Him Indoors (or rather, Him Indoors and I) spent the evening last night looking at book covers and thinking about what we want mine to look like.

A few days ago I had one of those "Doh!" moments when I was reminded of the fact that Him Indoors runs a small community magazine for a living, and spends a goodly chnk of his life tinkering with design software, pdfs etc. And he has a whole team of designers who are itching for exciting projects to get their teeth into. Which means that not only can Him Indoors do the typesetting and formatting of the text for the book, and create one of they mystical pdf doodahs the printers keep asking for, he can also help with the design of the cover. I have an extremely talented ilustrator lined up, but although he has some experience of design he's not a designer, and also doesn't have the correct software available. But Him Indoors does. Hurrah.

So anyway. We looked at book covers, we looked at books illustrated by our illustrator, we mucked around a bit on Him Indoors' computer, and we came up with a tentative idea for how the book might look. And crucially we came up with what the illustrator has asked for, which is a brief for what we want him to draw.

I've just spoken to the man himself on the phone, and what a lovely man he is. He's an old friend. Well, I've known him for about six years, but it feels like I've known him forever. I met him on the internet. I just happened across his website, and liked a picture of a tiger I saw there so much that I emailed him and told him I wanted to be his friend. Several emails later and he was just that. Then he came to my first book launch, and now he is my first choice of person to stay with or otherwise catch up with whenever I'm in London.

(that's one of his)

(he's called Francis Blake)

Anyway, we had a lovely chat and I described what I think we want and he's going to do some rough sketches and then we're going to see what we think. The best thing about all this is that he has a naturally collaborative approach, but also he is a librarian and a bibliophile and is as excited as I am about making this book a really wonderful thing. Although he won't be doing the actual design, he will be acting as consultant in the design process, and hopefully between us we can come up with something great. We're aiming for a vibrant, slightly anarchic, humorous, irreverent feel, with bright colours and strong design.

If all goes according to plan, we'll have an image in four weeks' time which will then form the basis for the design of the cover. That may be ambitious, but we'll see. In four weeks I will also do a revised edit on the text, and create a rough review copy in Lulu which I can send out to a small number of people to get reviews and quotes. Then a month after that (early July) I will hopefully have reviews, quotes and a finished cover design. Then I can go about getting advance orders, and if I manage to get at least 50 of them I can send everything off to the printers and get a book printed! EASY!