Tales From The Ridge

Monday, November 28, 2005

If Gabriel García Márquez had been a chef

Béchamel Sauce

This recipe was passed to me in Caracas by an itinerant Jewish merchant who told me that it was all that prevented him from being choked by the jungle whilst he searched for his father's grave, his eyes sparkling with a sadness that can come only from knowing the exact day of one's own death.

425ml milk
a few parsley stalks
1 bay leaf
1 blade of mace
10 whole black peppercorns
1 slice onion, 5mm thick
40g butter
20g plain flour
1 lemon

To begin with, burn the lemon. This will cause the air in the kitchen to grow so pungent that the silvery ghost of your dead mother will not enter the room, thereby leaving you to cook in peace. Then pour the milk into a saucepan - the saucepan I use was given to me by a small-breasted whore named Carlina in a Maracaibo boudoir suffocated by red velvet, but any heavy-bottomed pan will do - and add the parsley, bay leaf, mace, peppercorns and onion. Turn on the heat and stir until the slow spirallings of the liquid remind you of the melancholy descent into madness of an ancient dictator ravaged by syphilis. Strain the liquid into a jug, and do not forget to pick over the strainings for any diamonds that may have appeared.

Gently melt the butter, add the flour and stir vigorously until the mixture resembles the congealing tears of a dying man. To this, slowly add the infused milk, all the while stirring like a man cursed by the demons of lost loves. When half of the milk is added, pour in the rest and switch to a balloon whisk. Lower the heat to the kind of temperature that one might feel on kissing an innocent man's brow as he feels the unblinking eyes of the firing squad trained upon his heart, and cook for about five minutes (or for the time it takes for the cloud of silver butterflies to pass, whichever is the sooner).

If you wish, the above instructions may be carried out by a semi-transparent Indian, although I would caution that he be supervised lest he transport your cutlery to the spirit realm as a gift for his mulatto bride.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

One sided conversations #1

"We're not sure really, he was in there when we bought the place. The previous owners didn't say anything about him."

"That's right, just swimming around in there all day. He can't get out, he's too big to fit through the pipes. I suppose he must've got in there when he was a baby, don't know how. He seems happy enough though."

"No, he's not a great white, that would be absurd. He's a mako shark. We called in a marine biologist to give us some advice and that's what he told us he was. It was him that told us they're a protected species."

"So we couldn't just kill him, exactly right."

"Well yes, but to get in there we'd have to shut down our whole system and dismantle half the vats. Besides, even if you did have a tranquiliser gun, would you want to get into a vat of lemonade with one of them swimming around in there with you? And makos aren't native to the British Isles, we'd have to transport him a hell of a long way."

"Before we got here, we simply don't know, but we throw in a few fish for him every now and then. The biologist said he looked in good health, so we can't be doing much wrong. I suppose the sugar in the lemonade gives him some nutrition. We did make sure we routed the 'regular' rather than the 'diet' through that particular subsystem."

"No, they don't mind. Some of them even bring their kids in to see him at weekends. They call him Mikey."

"Oh no, not at all. It's all completely purified before it goes into bottles and cans."

"I don't think so. It might even be a selling point. I mean, you've heard of Gatorade...need I say more?"

Monday, November 21, 2005


...a haiku.

Cold leaf, defiant,
Clings still to frost-feathered branch.
Like snow, it will fall.

Thursday, November 17, 2005


I'm going to heaven. This isn't just something I believe, it's something I know. For sure. I'm safe, God told me. Told me himself. But not like those nuts you hear about, though. Not me. This was really God talking. The big man. He said I was sure-fire, grade A, top-of-the-class guaranteed for a place up there. You know, on high. Told me I'm a shoo-in. Pleased? Damn right I was pleased. I admit it, I was surprised too. Sure I was. Who wouldn't be? I mean, I've done some stuff in the past, some booze, a few assaults, a little petty theft, but nothing, you know, major. Some drugs, naturally. Who hasn't? I mean, I'd even taken a whole load of drugs just before God spoke to me, so I guess that just means that He's got different ideas of good and bad to us. And who am I to argue with the big guy? Nobody, that's who. Apart from being one of the lucky few who He's chosen to save. Man, it feels good, I can tell you.

So I figured, if I'm definitely heading up there when I die anyway, then what have I got to worry about down here? Not the police, that's for sure. If God himself says I'm cool, how the hell can they judge me? So I thought to myself, why not have a little fun before I go, huh? Do some stuff I always wanted to but thought I shouldn't? I mean, wouldn't you? Come on, you can answer. What's the matter, cat got your tongue? Oh, no, I almost forgot - I have it right here. Anyway, that's why you're tied to the chair there, and that's why I'm going to kill you.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Green day

There was a ceremony when the last tree was uprooted. Shiny blue pennants fluttered in the summer breeze as the Mayor made a great show of tipping concrete into the earthy crater out of which ghostly white roots still poked.

"Now the whole town is clean and orderly," he said, "And we need never sweep leaves from the streets again."

Autumn arrived, and the evenings stretched further into the afternoons until it was winter, but no leaves lay crisp on the streets, and the Mayor was pleased. Winter's hoar-frost fingers chilled the grey streets and eventually melted into spring.

One day, as he was walking after breakfast, the Mayor noticed cracks appearing in the concrete outside the Town Hall. He stooped down to see green shoots poking up through the concrete carpet.

"Oh, no no no," he said, "This will not do. If flowers grow they will attract wasps."

So he called for the lorries to tip another layer on top of the cracked concrete.

Summer came and the wasp-free air shimmered above the baking concrete, and the mayor was pleased. Summer gave way to autumn, autumn conceded to winter, then once more spring arrived. Walking out after breakfast, the Mayor noticed cracks appearing in the concrete outside the Town Hall. He stooped down to see green shoots poking up through the concrete carpet.

"Oh dear me, no," he said, "Flowers and grasses will give people hayfever."

So he called for the lorries to tip another layer on top of the cracked concrete.

Every spring was the same until eventually a committee of residents arrived at the door of the Town Hall.

"Mayor," they said, "You've added so many layers of concrete that the ground has risen to the level that we can't open our doors."

"Oh my," said the Mayor, "This is a most unforeseen problem. Well, we can't take the concrete away, and of course we can't live our lives choked by plants, so our only option really is to build a new town elsewhere."

So the residents took their belongings and moved to a new site speckled with trees and nestled between verdant hills.
"It's not perfect," said the Mayor when they arrived, "And it'll take time, but eventually we'll build the town we want once more, right here."

A year later the first houses were finished, and the first roads to link them. The people suffered from hayfever and wasps in the summer and the streets were clogged with dead leaves in the autumn, but the Mayor assured them that in time these problems would be solved.

One day the Mayor returned to the old town. Down the middle of the main street ran a long, deep vein, a crack in the asphalt out of which sprouted an abundance of green shoots. He looked upon this and shook his head.

"In time this will all be fields again," he said, "Such a shame."

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Long John's Lament...yarrr.

I've stole molasses in Caracas and bananas off Havana
I've pillaged from St Lucia to Beijing
But beers drunk in Tangiers and a sloop moored in Guadeloupe
Don't compensate fer lonely pirating

Me hat's from Montserrat, me beard be always freshly sheared
Me wooden leg be finest beech veneer
But the parrot on yer shoulder don't much console ye when ye're older
Why must I be a lonely buccaneer?