Saturday, November 26, 2011
Freelancers, teleworkers and remote employees; part-time contracts, multiple employers and, of course, the global financial climate: just some of the long list of factors that have conspired to create a very different image for the World of Work (or lack thereof) in general. But amidst the flurry of changes, one tradition has endured against all odds: the Christmas office party, it seems, refuses to die a dignified death.
At their worst (or best, depending on your point of view), the COP is an infamous breeding ground for bad behaviour. Got an urge to make a pass at a co-worker, tell your boss what a tosser he/she is or spill the beans on an inappropriate crush/liaison? After three pints of lukewarm wine-in-a-box glugged in an awkward environment, your moment has arrived. At their best (or worst, ditto previous parenthesis), the COP exists to remind us that the season of goodwill to all men (yup, even those you secretly despise) is upon us once again, in which case you put a bit of glitter in your hair, dump a fiver’s worth of destined-for-the-charity-shop novelty gift in the secret santa sack and leave before the inevitable chaos sets in; whichever way you look at it, the scene is set for yet another rerun of a farcical sitcom wearied by endless multi-media/gossip mill analysis every December. But those armchair social commentators should make hay while the winter sun shines; as the 9-to-5, Mon-Fri schedule is fast becoming obsolete, this year’s corporate Christmas shebang might well be the last.
Like most of my immediate contemporaries, I’m a self-employed freelancer who spends the vast majority of my working hours glued to a keyboard in front of a computer screen in the corner of my living room at home; as a result, the terms ‘team building exercise’, ‘lunch hour’, ‘contract of employment’, ‘paid annual leave’ and ‘appraisal’ just aren’t in my working life lexicon - and neither are seasonal team building get-togethers. So for me, any COP I’m invited to is a freelance contract too, either making it a far more enjoyable proposition than it might be for those who are obligated to attend...or making me feel like a complete outsider if I do. But let’s spare a thought for the record-breaking 56% of workers in ‘traditional’ employment that have undertaken countless hours of unpaid overtime this year in an attempt to guarantee job security (source: YouGov), and the millions more who have accepted part-time/job share agreements in order to avoid total redundancy. Millions more again, meanwhile, have embarked on short-term contracts, work three part-time jobs or have no option but to accept ‘total job insecurity’ as an unwritten part of any contract they’re lucky enough to have, while a whole raft of sad souls know already that they’re facing redundancy in 2012. Given such circumstances, is it really possible to party like there’s no appointment at the Job Centre waiting in January’s cruel wings... and should the office really be blowing budgets that could be put to much better use (for example, paying those unpaid overtimers, perhaps?) on flaccid mini-sausages and cheap Chardonnay? The ghost of Christmas future predicts that the office mum might not be visiting Iceland at all next year.
But perhaps Scrooge isn’t ready to gatecrash yet another Great British Tradition just yet. As long as there are inappropriate liaisons to be had, cleavages to be photocopied, grievances to air and bitter sorrows that need to be drowned, the COP will live on. As for me, I’ll be decorating my monitor with tinsel, putting a plate of cold mini-quiches on my desk and raising a plastic beaker of warm wine to myself on the last working day of December; here’s hoping I behave myself - after all, I’ve got a great boss.
Saturday, November 5, 2011
Summer 1979: John Wayne dies, McDonalds sell their first Happy Meal in the UK and a song about rabbits dying of myxamotoses dominates the airwaves. Meanwhile, an exhilaratingly gaudy, tastefully vulgar, brazenly flamboyant role model was about to change my life forever.
To a geeky, plump kid completely devoid of any of the qualities that offer membership to a network of peer support, Adam Ant symbolised escapism in the true sense of the word. As the tumultuous, hormonal storms of adolescence blighted my path across the bridge between childhood and the brave new world beyond, he literally represented the new royal family and wild nobility of which he sang. More accessible than David Bowie, not as whimsical as Marc Bolan and infinitely less challenging than the New York Dolls, here at last was a pinup that I could directly relate to.
At the very start, Adam and the Ants were more punk than pantomime in their inspirations, as their debut album ‘Dirk Wears White Sox’ (1979) - a jagged, wiry collection of angry, angst-ridden nursery rhymes set against a raw, discomfiting backdrop of mismatched beats - will attest to. Ugly, rough and deliberately stupid, punk was never really my thing, but in Adam, I saw a diamond sparkling in the rough. That diamond eventually attracted the attention of the now-legendary impresario (and arch manipulator) Malcolm McLaren, who introduced the Ants to the Burundi drums of Africa: qua qua diddly qua qua! A whole new musical concept was born. At around the same time, clothes designer (and Malc’s then-beloved) Vivienne Westwood gave Adam a brand new dressing up box to plunder. Having already made her mark by styling the Sex Pistols (as Dolly Parton once said, “looking cheap ain’t that cheap”), Vivienne dragged Adam out of bondage and into a wardrobe of lavish costumes that blended 18th century fop regalia with North American Indian and pirate-inspired flourishes; already a massive fan of the original romantics (I’m talking Shelley, Keats and Coleridge here), that was a look that I could understand. It was also a look that would eventually define the burgeoning New Romantic movement, but while bands such as Visage, Culture Club and Spandau Ballet were starting to make their mark on the independent charts by offering a faux-glamorous, studiously capricious alternative to the aggressive, spiteful brutality of punk, the Ants remained to exist in an alternative microclimate of their own; having developed into a restless, unruly misfit of a 16 year old, escaping my own confusing, uncomfortable nest to hitch a ride on the tail of Adam’s ascending star made perfect sense.
On May 24 1980, I paid a sweet transvestite a fiver to help me bunk on a fan club coach trip to Manchester to see my hero strut his stuff. The following day, I was one of around 20 adamant Adam fans to hide in various loos of a British Rail train to Birmingham before we crawled through the badly-lit service corridors backstage at the Top Rank club to be in his company yet again. Acknowledging that a dodgy, perilous precedent was being set, my dad - not known for his skills as a parental outlaw - forbade me from following the rest of the tour. And so it came to pass that, when a fleet of police vans arrived at the Sheffield gig a few days later (hitchhiked; made it!), I was convinced that they’d come for me - as it turned out, they hadn’t (my dad had, erm, other things to think about by that time), but the boys in blue still had the good grace - or, perhaps, the sense of humour? - to escort me safely home after the gig had ended. Six months later, I didn’t have to make such difficult travel arrangements to meet Adam again (which is just as well; frills, flounces, ruffles, corsets, fishnets, thigh boots and fake beauty spots don’t do public transport, with or without a ticket). The Ants Invasion tour invaded my home town in November; by that time, it was a case of stand and deliver! The Kings of the Wild Frontier had gone mainstream, and I was forced to share my personal Prince Charming with the world. But hey, I could handle it; I was, by this time, not-so-sweet sixteen...but I still hadn’t been kissed, not by Adam or anybody else.
Despite an infatuation that drove me to beg, steal or borrow my way into Adam’s limelight, it wasn’t lust that motivated my ‘go get him’ thrust. While he was indeed indisputably beautiful, Adam represented something far more significant than the possibility of a tumble in the New Romantic heyday. He was the ultimate fabulous Frankenstein: androgynous angel, smutty slut and camp pantomime dame in equal measure - a heady cocktail indeed. But what girl wants to smudge their makeup on a boy prettier than herself? And anyway, seedy sex was, to me at least, a distinctly underclass pastime; if my beau couldn’t quote Byron, he wasn’t worth the price of a Red Witch (the de rigeur New Romantic cocktail of choice). Goody two shoes? In one way, yes. But despite such a flimsily-constructed, pseudo-aspirational, absurdly snooty philosophy, the surprisingly straight-laced ethos at the heart of a movement that was fast becoming a fully-formed subculture (and one which I, at last, was on the guest list for) gave me the confidence to believe that, despite my limitations, I could be whatever wonderful creature I chose to turn myself into without wasting my time and efforts on having my already confused, fragile ego battered by broken promises made by dull inadequates. For any teenage girl (and indeed, adult woman), that’s not a bad principle to uphold...and it was Adam who waved that magic wand of enlightenment over my carefully coiffeured, jet black pompadour wig.
Decades have passed since Stuart Goddard (oh come on, you didn’t think he was really called Adam Ant, did you?) and I grew up and grew apart, but he never quite left my field of vision for good. Like many of his peers, he’s endured an eclectic career mapped out by a turbulent journey across many peaks and troughs. But at the very start of that epic adventure, Adam Ant was the icon that this former Cinderella used as a blueprint to turn herself into the somebody else that she eventually became. Uniquely captivating, brazenly audacious and apparently totally unafraid of ridicule, he’ll always be Prince Charming to me.
Friday, June 17, 2011
At last, the nation is calming down again in the aftermath of Willy Wales’ marriage to Kate Middleclass. So, did you have a street party - or was it a festival? Because these days, if it ain’t a festival, it ain’t nothing to celebrate at all. Come summertime, nightmares about leaving the house without a pair of flowery wellies, a packet of Wet Wipes and a fair-trade cotton tote bag bearing the faded logo of WOMAD 1999 replace classic anxiety dreams about shopping in Asda naked. Talking of which: right now, a TesMorrBurys TV ad is suggesting that you ‘have a food festival at home this summer’: cue soft-focus scenes of mythological happy families chowing down on cut-price burgers to a Snow Patrol-inspired anthem while daddy dude strums a battered guitar and yummy mummy gazes fondly at a corn-fed tween wearing an over-sized t-shirt bearing the faded logo of the (I presume fictional) Festival Daze 1999 shebang.
Back in the good old days, ‘festival’ was a cover-all term for a not-for-profit, free-for-all, often spontaneous get-together organised by culturally/politically subversive types to celebrate all-things-non-corporate (and therefore good) in the world; today, the F-word represents an event as mundane, sanitised and corporate as that bloody awful TV advert, sponsored by global conglomerates, promoted by a barrage of robotic PRs - and fully endorsed by the ‘rents. In a recent posting on the Guardian’s online Family Forum, a worried mother bemoaned the fact that her son balked at the idea of being given a ticket to the Glastonbury Festival for his 18th birthday “even though it’s just been announced that U2 are headlining!”. Rather than running a “Teenager proves he has a Mind of his Own” news item in the newspaper the next day, the forum published advice from concerned parents ranging from ponderings regarding depression to a suggestion that the boy might be showing signs of autism - all because he has the audacity to not want to waste three days of his youth (and wads of his parents hard-earned cash) bored out of his mind and scoffing really bad, over-priced food in totally unacceptable discomfort while waiting for Bono to deliver yet another lecture on how great the world would be if he was president (or something).
Meanwhile, the non-music based festivals are equally pernicious money spinners, designed to snatch cash from well-heeled middle class folk who need to be seen being cultured - in other words, the mummies and daddies with the good grace to realise that their days of being stoned off their faces in a muddy field are long gone, but want to prove they can still pa-a-a-a-rty (with, erm, Kazuo Ishiguro and Robert Winston; good luck with that one!). But please, ageing parents: don’t foist your frustrations on your kids. Even though Brian (the scientist who looks like he could have been the bass player in Blur, appearing in this year’s Cheltenham Science Festival) Cox’s TV superstar status may temporarily encourage Generation Text to consider the universe around them, it’s going to take a lot more than a live appearance by a man with floppy hair, a toothy grin and puppy dog enthusiasm for Einstein’s Theory of Relativity to get most under-23’s to consider not squandering their student loans on an event that doesn’t involve cheap lager, counterfeit E and the possibility of a muddy fumble in a stranger’s damp tent.
Festival Fever is putting us all in danger of forgetting that it’s still possible to enjoy music, books, family life, food, local traders, politics, scientific theories, country villages, town centres and even bloody Jane Austen without being obliged to spend a fortune publicly proving your allegiance by mingling with a herd of self-conscious lemmings in a location that really doesn’t cope well with crowds. Meanwhile, if a contemporary festival totally free of a dictatorial/egocentric/profiteering motive exists today, then ma-a-a-a-n, I’ll eat a TesMorrBurys Festive Falafel-flavoured kebab.
Wednesday, March 30, 2011
This monologue features a combination of the words ‘I’, ‘me’ and ‘I’ll’ 8 times; ah, if only everybody issued such a disclaimer before embarking on the kind of one-sided jaw-workout that I’m regularly subjected to over the course of an average day.
Casually throw a ‘how are you?’ in the direction of someone you haven’t seen for a week and you’re likely to glean one of two responses: either the standard, apathetic “yeahgood” grunt (usually delivered with a gaze firmly fixed on anything other than you), or a detailed account of how a tickly cough turned into a phlegm fest while a suspected bout of athlete’s foot actually turned out to be a rancid verruca. Hear this, people: just because Dr Christian has turned Embarrassing Bodies into a prime time TV career, we don’t all want to hear a warts and all account of your latest ailments. Similarly, recounting the results of your latest search on Genes Reunited is only interesting to other self-obsessives who have signed up for the same service, and as for the latest spiel from your regression therapist: oh come on, if you really were Lord Byron/a Parisian showgirl/the Queen of Sheba in your last incarnation, surely you might have morphed your way into a life less ordinary this time around? A reciprocal riposte in the form of an enquiry as to your own wellbeing, meanwhile, is unlikely to be forthcoming - because, you see, nobody cares how anybody else is (or what they think) anymore; The Sound of Your Own Voice is currently riding high in the social communication charts, and it’s apparently so catchy that it’s set to dominate the Number One slot for a very long time to come.
I recently had to shelve a travel plan because I’m currently in the middle of dealing with a funding crisis affecting a project I’ve been involved with for several years. I didn’t want to leave the situation hanging in midair, and the cut also meant that I’m left struggling with a personal cashflow crisis; in other words, times are hard. I duly emailed the person whom I was supposed to be visiting to explain my situation. Did she respond with, perhaps, her commiserations, a few kindly words of support or an enquiry as to how things might turn out? Of course not! Instead, she emailed me back to reassure me that she’d made alternative plans for the cancellation period so I wasn’t to worry about her (and don’t worry, I won’t - not ever again). At a recent dinner party, a traveller’s tale from a guest who’d just returned from a stint driving across France swiftly turned into a bland volley of one-upmanship across the table: someone else once drove across America, but a friend of somebody’s friend had trekked across the Sahara desert. Everybody talked across each other and the white noise of egomania filled the room for hours on end, until taxis were called from mobile phones that themselves provided yet more one-sided conversations with no thought for others at all.
Cultural trend-spotters may blame the current (anti)social climate on the rise of Facebook and Twitter, both of which offer an accessible soapbox for the ‘Me, Me, Me!’-ers to waffle on from. But the MMM’s were thriving long before issuing acquaintances with an update on our lives was restricted to a bulletin of 140 characters or less, telling people at bus stops about the dream they had last night (can there be a duller subject than somebody else’s dream?), blathering on about needing ‘me’ time and spending a fortune on ‘pampering sessions’, ‘treats’ and increasingly expensive, ever-more-complicated accessories in a (literally) vain attempt to make themselves interesting.
An over-developed, inflated, misplaced sense of self is, in my opinion, a singularly repulsive character trait. If I can get a word in next time I encounter someone suffering with the ego mania virus, I’ll tell them why I’m right.
Friday, February 18, 2011
As soon as the Bath Literature Festival publishes its programme I snap up tickets for events until I’ve drained my overdraft facility dry. This year I’ll once again be all over the whole shebang, from the Love-in at the Bath Poetry Cafe on opening day to Rumpole of the Bailey with Timothy West in the final hours. I’ll be clinging on to every word uttered, snapping up signed editions and developing fleeting, inappropriate crushes on cultural icons on a daily basis; yup, the BLF is my version of Glastonbury (without, of course, the loutish crowd, the uncivilised accommodation and the vulgar weather). But this year more than ever before, I know my annual arty indulgence represents little more than a tourist excursion to a cotton-wool wrapped satellite orbiting the culturally-depressed, cash-strapped real world where libraries are living on borrowed time, 9% of boys (and 6% of girls) begin secondary school with a reading age barely above that expected of a seven year old and Jamie’s 30 Minute Meals, George Bush’s autobiography and The Secret (don’t ask!) top the UK’s best-selling books charts; given such a climate, I’m acutely aware that a lit fest is a chocolate teapot sitting on the fringes of the surreal Mad Hatter’s tea party that Britain is swiftly turning into.
Given this depressing reality, it would be easy to write off lit fest fans as a drooling flock of head-in-the-sand sycophants who slavishly read everything on the Man Booker shortlist so they know which author’s names to drop at their next dinner party, but to do so would only serve to highlight my own confused, contradictory state: after all, I’ve already outed myself as being firmly ensconced in their swooning, star-struck ranks. But oh, how I wish the BLF would, for once, relieve me of the guilt that nibbles away at the corners of my temporary pleasuredome and mash things up a bit in order to address the state of the (increasingly non-bookish) nation.
Although I’m ridiculously excited at the prospect of attending an audience with Howard Jacobson, wouldn’t it be ace if he was in conversation with, say, Dave Eggers - a writer whose work with disadvantaged, vulnerable, illiterate American kids really is a Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius - about how to raise support for similar projects in the UK? As well as chairing the debate I’m most eagerly anticipating (Does Feminism have to start all over again? March 5, the Guildhall), I’d love to see Kate ‘Labyrinth’ Mosse - co-founder and Honorary Director of the Orange Prize for Fiction - involved in a prime time, rabble-rousing call to arms to Get Girls Writing rather than heading up what’s likely to be a polite, genteel chat attended by well-meaning lady lunchers killing time between the two Jane Austen-related events taking place at the Guildhall on the same day. And although there will indeed be a debate billed as an opportunity “to explore how educators are rising to the challenge of delivering high-quality, creative education in a time of budget cuts and an unpredictable future,” (Tuesday 1 March), I wish this crucial subject had been allocated a bit longer than the 60-minute time slot scheduled to take place when most of the people who’d benefit from (and input to) such a discussion are at work (or actually, maybe they’re not any more - in which case, the ‘no concessions’ edict on the ticket price is a farce too). And imagine if, instead of supporting the 5-day, non-stop God-book binge that is the ‘Bath Bible Challenge’, the BLF’s Great and Good embarked on a tour of Somerset to protest against the proposed closure of 20 of the 34 libraries in the county. But hey, at least there are still a few tickets left for Jonathan Bate’s introduction to the romantic imagination; at every lit fest, the most one can hope for is an opportunity to dream on.
Thursday, February 10, 2011
Love is in the air as “the most romantic date of the year” takes centre-stage spotlight halfway through February. But while many of us busy ourselves booking intimate tables-for-two, hassling Interflora and urging Cupid’s to programme his GMS properly, many more have an entirely different interpretation on the meaning of content coupledom...and the verses that put their feelings into words ain’t gonna be found on a Clinton’s card.
If you Google the term “advice on sharing fantasies”, you’ll be presented with a list over 5m sites focusing on the subject. The first 30-40 hits largely constitute beginner’s guides, translations of what particular fantasies mean and confessionals from people who claim that turning their dream life into reality has spiced up their love life no end - hats (and everything else) everybody involved; after all, nobody wants the words “sadly, he never did get his wife to wear stockings while she did the housework” included in their obituary.
Keep on clicking, however, and you’ll soon be cruising deeper and deeper into far murkier waters infested with bottom-feeders offering easy access to real life, “discrete” encounters with like-minded people, contact details for pay-as-you-go escorts who claim they can “make your wildest dreams come true”, horror stories that started with a kiss (albeit often on a studded leather gimp mask worn by a man who insisted he be called ‘Master’) and - sadly but perhaps inevitably - direct links to child pornography; within a matter of seconds, your back-of-the-mind idea about recreating “that” scene from An Officer and a Gentleman this Valentine’s Day could be likened to taking your loved one for a curry and ordering a korma when what you really want is a phal.
Now I’m not for one moment suggesting that harbouring a personal amorous fantasy is the first step of a journey into far more sinister zone; imagination is widely acknowledged as the most powerfully erotic outfit in our sexy dress-up box and makes a very interesting bedfellow indeed. But unlike Quality Street, fantasies aren’t necessarily made for sharing (who wants to be bullied into biting into the Toffee Penny when they’ve always been happy with the Vanilla Fudge?) and that weary old platitude involving being careful what you ask for never has more resonance than when it’s used within the context of a love life debate. The self esteem of all parties involved in your little bout of selfish indulgence is subject to severe threat: if your partner urges you to consider taking on an entirely different image, attitude and personality in the bedroom, might he/she actually be subliminally wishing you out of their life altogether? And what if the “new role” simply doesn’t wear well? A woman who believes that “sugar!” is a suitably expressive expletive when riled probably isn’t going to be comfortable telling you exactly what kind of dirty whore she is next time you’re in bed, a 21-stone, rugby playing macho man isn’t, in reality, going to look all that fetching wearing a nappy and few people have the emotional largesse to accommodate three in a bed for long; whoops, it looks like we’ve suddenly got a nightmare on our hands.
But the “Me!” generation is used to being encouraged to “go for it” in all aspects of life, and instant, egocentric gratification is the order of the day. Almost every relationship pundit in almost every from of everyday media concur that our private, innermost fantasies must be outed, offering hints and tips on how to broach the subject (over an intimate supper; by sexy text message; by downloading a template of a ready-written letter/email - honestly!) and even suggestions for fantasies for those with no imagination at all to consider making their own; only the very best professionals in the bunch offer warnings about the emotional havoc that the multilayered pressure of attempting to recreate a fantasy can wreak. Do you dream in X-rated Technicolor? Lucky you! Now keep it to yourself and dream on.
Thursday, January 27, 2011
If, as Twelfth Night head honcho Orsino mused, music be the food of love, why have we yet to ditch the idea of ‘a romantic meal for two’ instead of simply letting the band play on instead? If we’re totally, utterly honest about it, eating isn’t the ultimate sexy, aphrodisiacal pastime we’ve all been force-fed to believe it is. Yes, the women in the Cadbury’s Flake/Galaxy/Baileys adverts turn otherwise prosaic food and drink into soft porn fantasies, but that’s because they’ve been primped, preened, softly-lit, digitally enhanced and directed by an army of experts. Nigella Lawson? Ditto. Juliette Binoche in Chocolat, the oyster scene in Tampopo, the arty stuff in Eat Drink Man Woman? Ditto, ditto, ditto. And anybody who may be considering replicating ‘those’ scenes in 9 ½ Weeks this Valentine’s Day, take note: blindfolding your loved one and feeding them the detritus from the back of your fridge might well lead to scenes more akin to some of the more gruesome bits in The Wrestler - you have been warned.
First date dining, meanwhile, is strewn with anxiety attack-inducing potential. Too many women obsess over details such as how much make up/cleavage/perfume is too much/not enough, whether ordering anything but salad will/won’t make them look like they’ve got an eating disorder and whether pasta will make them fart, to the point where they’re so wound up by date time that all they can manage is three large glasses of wine for a starter (in itself, never a good look). Many men, on the other hand, don’t obsess over any subtle details at all, tending to focus entirely on their badly dressed, ill mannered, unselfconsciously greedy selves as those cringingly awkward hours drag by. Fancy ‘coming in for a coffee’ after negotiating that particular minefield? No thank you very much; I’d rather go home and put some music on.
Wednesday, January 5, 2011
It’s January, and suddenly it feels as though the whole world has gone back to work at once. The weather in the UK - just a few short weeks ago, sharp, sparkly and properly winterish - has gone back to business as usual too: grey, dreary and bone-chillingly cold, some days it feels as though even the daylight can’t be bothered to do its thing. Some people have embarked on diets, others have given up drinking, more are attempting to give up smoking, and coughs, colds and other nasty, bitter bugs are rife; for me, the only light on the horizon is in the kitchen.
The Family Disco treated ourselves to both a bread maker and a slow cooker in the January sales; ah, what bliss! As I write, I’m eating a bread maker bread roll filled with slow cooker Seville orange chutney and a wedge of cheddar cheese while chicken and barley melt into each other in the electric pot in the kitchen (aided and abetted by a few sprigs of sage). Last night I made slow-cooked goulash and rosemary ciabatta; the day before, beef curry and flat breads (you don’t need a bread maker to make flat breads, but I couldn’t have done them without the help of a recipe from River Cottage Everyday, a Christmas present that I intend to have eaten my way through by the middle of February). Okay, I do know that neither a bread maker nor a slow cooker are absolute kitchen must-haves; both bread and stew have been around for longer than electric wall sockets, and I’ve been comfortable around both yeast and a traditional crock pot for years. But still, there’s something nice about convenience that doesn’t negate creativity. This weekend, I intend to slow cook either lamb shanks or oxtails until the bones are close to dissolving, and I’ll be adapting both sourdough and bagel recipes until I’m satisfied with the result. With the oven freed up for other projects, I’m going to make Nigel Slater’s coffee and walnut cake tomorrow (in the ‘traditional’ manner, natch) and there’s a lemon tart in the freezer that I rustled up yesterday ‘just because’ but haven’t been presented with an occasion on which to serve it.
The other bonus that the current blast of kitchen creativity is that it’s inspired me to get blogging again; Happy New Year to all.