All posts by death and the penguin

Peanut Butter Sandwiches in the Year 2079

Maybe it has to do with reaching the threshold of adulthood, but lately I’ve been thinking a lot about the future.

It’s not just me: whenever my friends and I meet in a cafe, the conversation inevitably turns to what’s going to happen in the coming years. We hunch over cups of Horlicks, BBC News open on our phones, and prophesy doom about global politics, Brexit, graduate schemes, house prices in London. That kind of thing.

To be honest, when I’m on my own, I rarely think about such lofty aspects of future life. When I’m done with my homework and I’m too lazy even to watch Netflix, I like to sprawl in my armchair, wrap myself in my duvet, and think about how life will be in the year 2079.

What will people do for work 81 years from now? I ask myself. Where will they live? What will they do for fun?

I will be an old lady in 2079 with squadrons of great-great-grandnieces and nephews, and I think it’s important to catalogue my expectations of society so when, bribed with sci-fi sweets and glow sticks, they gather around my atomic rocking chair I can bore the kids with stories of retrofuturism.

“Put down the nanoflobuliser and stop messing with your sister’s space suit,” I will say, “and come listen.”

As any dedicated bland-blog reader will have discerned, approximately 60% of my brain power at any one time is spent considering food. It’s not surprising, then, that one of my favourite things to wonder about is food in the future. Will, as my parents believed, the next generation grow up on pills, spurning regular food for lab-generated, vitamin-balanced supplements?

No. That’s science fiction, and on this blog, dear reader, I’m concerned with facts. I’ve studied global food trends and conducted surveys with consumers and with giants of the food production industry, and now, after years of painstaking research that’s had a huge impact not only on my degree but on my private life as well, I present to you my findings. This, I can tell you with 84% accuracy, is the food that will dominate the dinner table of the future:

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Your eyes do not deceive you. That is a peanut butter sandwich.

More specifically, it’s smooth peanut butter spread on white bread with a garnish of sliced bananas.

Maybe you’re disappointed: maybe you were hoping for something futuristic and unrecognisable – a plate of concept food you can barely comprehend. Test tubes of gloop or strange, fluorescent orbs full of a viscous jus. Compared to the science fiction food of your fantasies, the humble peanut butter and banana sarnie must be something of a disappointment.

The science doesn’t leave room for interpretation. The peanut butter sandwich is the food of the future, and, if you think about it, it makes sense. As the meat industry loses its capacity to sustainably feed a growing population, more of the world will become vegetarian. And the vegan’s treat of choice – a spoonful of peanut butter scoffed over the kitchen sink.

In the year 2078, the status of the peanut butter sandwich will have been elevated. Now a guilty midnight snack, in the future it will be the very zenith of haute cuisine. The Queen (yes, she will still be alive) will spurn roast swan for her Christmas dinner in favour of a toasted peanut-butter-and-banana delight; the top restaurants in London will boast about the superiority of their bread:spread ratio; and cooking shows, from Saturday Kitchen to Hairy Bikers, will be centred around making your own peanut butter from scratch.

People, living in their biodomes on Mars, will stockpile bread and jars of peanut butter and the artisan coffee shops of the Martian capital will be rated based on the quality of their sarnies.

Also, and I don’t want to believe this either, instead of pudding, people in the year 2079 will eat ham yoghurt. To be clear, that’s a regular greek yoghurt with Billy Bear ham stirred through. Stuff like that is just hard to swallow.

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On the Dangers of Taking Smiths Songs too Literally

Sweetness, sweetness, I was only joking…

About a month ago, Steven Morrissey did another thing that made us all realise what an arsehole he is.

morrissey

This time, his comments had to do with Halal meat and London mayor Sadiq Khan, and, as the tweet above so rightly puts it, none of us should have been surprised. Morrissey’s questionable-at-best-downright-toxic-at-worst opinions have been bothering his fans for a while now, and many people are asking themselves whether art can be separated from problematic artist.

The problem is, as far as I see it, all of us went through that Smiths phase. The band wrote the gold standard of anthems for misfit teenagers, and who amongst us didn’t have at least a few months of Doc Martens, t-shirts printed with that Verve album, and vinyls of the Smiths?

The music of the Smiths is an important part of our cultural landscape – even now, thirty-something years after the release of Hatful of Hollow, people still stick This Charming Man on when the party is drying up and listen to Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now to remind themselves that, no matter how low they feel, they’ll never be as blue as Steven Morrissey.

We all lost a bit of faith in him after he wrote that dire book, but, nonetheless, Morrissey’s lyrics are part of our consciousness. How else do you explain the upward trend of vegetarianism?

Sure, some of the things he wrote are just true – belligerent ghouls do run Manchester schools – but I’m hopeful that as Morrissey the man reveals his true colours, I’ll be able to reassess some of the weirder poetry I’ve been subconsciously living by.

What does “hand in glove” even mean, anyway…?

Ode to Flakiness

“Rosamund M. Danny,” a good friend of mine said in exasperation, “you’re flakier than an overbaked croissant.”

I looked up from my steaming mug of Horlicks. We were in an aggressively hipster cafe a stone’s throw from our university, and outside the rain was lashing down on the heads of the people waiting for the bus.

I’d been watching them: no buses had come for twenty minutes, and they were getting agitated. An androgynous figure in a grey mack had stomped to the corner, apparently to try and see the bus coming, and then huffed back shaking waterproof head.

It was true: I am flaky. When I type “plans” into my phone, it tries to autocorrect it to “unplanned unavoidable occurrence.” When I try and put an event into my calendar, the software doesn’t even try and hide its incredulity: “Are you sure?” it asks. “You’ve planned to go to York with Jade four times already; what makes you think it’s gonna happen this time?” My phone is a little passive aggressive.

I’d been trying to get into the habit of physically turning it off when I was with my friends – I’d noticed myself becoming one of those “checks Instagram any time the conversation stops flowing to feel less self-conscious” people – and no one likes that. It lay on the table beside my mug now, black screen reflecting the ceiling. I wondered whether, one day, screens would become so hardy that people would use them as coasters; for the time being, I thought, taking a sip of my drink, it was best not to risk it.

The Horlicks was substandard today: they’d not stirred it properly and there were undissolved lumps floating in the top. I took a pen from my pocket and swirled the liquid about, but to no avail: the surplus powder seemed chemically incompatible with the rest of the drink.

I couldn’t blame the cafe – a good mug of Horlicks is an art, after all. You have to introduce the water very slowly, stirring the powder into a thick paste. You can’t rush it: that’s how you end up with a watery monstrosity like the one I was faced with. A good Horlicks is a combination of time and care, that’s what I always say. You have to put your soul into it.

My friend was finishing her cappuccino with an extra shot of espresso. She looked het up and tense.

“What did you say?” I asked.

For all there is to give I offer: bread, barn and halter.

But what, I ask myself, is halter? Maybe it is this the thing that I feel I have been missing, the unnamed unworking cog that makes me such a mess. Bread I have, barn I have visited, but halter? I added it to my shopping list thoughtfully, between eggs and eiren.

 

Beauty Regime

“Rosie,” they say in awe, “your skin is so grainy. Your hair defies all known laws of physics. Did you know irons exist?”

I’m used to the public’s veneration by now; I nod modestly and try and change the subject, but my admirers are unstoppable.

“You look like an extra in a film about rickets,” they say, “Have you put eyeshadow under your eyes or have you not slept for twenty years?”

I smile a Mona Lisa smile, sip my Horlicks.

“Tell us your secret,” they beg. “Tell us how we, too, can look like a background actor in Peaky Blinders.”

Up to now, I’ve always brushed off requests to share my beauty regime, but the time has come to tell all. In this, a bland-blog exclusive, you can find out how to achieve my sought-after look.

Cucumber

Throw it out. You’re in Russia now; the only vitamins you’re allowed are from the piles of dill added to every dish. Don’t worry, though – this monochrome diet will give you the wide eyes and pallor of a Victorian urchin. Very chic.

Shave ur head

More specifically, have a friend of a friend do it for you.

Sick of my fringe getting in my eyes, I let my most stylish friend drag me to a part of the city I’d never visited before. We ducked into his mate’s barbers: “Do exactly what you want,” I said to her, more proud of the fact that I’d formed the imperative correctly than actually wanting a haircut.

“Exactly what I want,” she said thoughtfully, and whipped out the scissors. A couple of minutes later, she said, “I’m going to use the машинки, are you ready?”

I’ve got used to having no clue what people are saying to me. “Yep, ready,” I said. Turns out машинки are hair clippers.

 

 

Sounds stupid but I really didn’t expect my ears to look like that.

In other news, it turns out having a cool haircut doesn’t make your selfie game any stronger – I don’t know why I didn’t take the fucking toothbrush out of my mouth.

Stay humble

Sure, you look incredible, but keep in mind the envy you’re bound to be inspiring in everyone who sees you. Drop in the odd self-deprecating comment (or, if you’re feeling extra, full-length blog) to keep yourself grounded.

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Humility’s a virtue

 

Cats

Here’s a secret: when you’re having a bad hair/face/overall appearance day, use cats to distract people. They’ll look at your adorable furry friend and your bedhead will be overlooked.

Case in point:

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Bet you didn’t even notice I’m in that.

Mate with massive camera

It turns out a talented photographer can make anyone look cool as fuck, even me.

 

Side note – on the day we took those pictures, I was hungover as shit and wearing yesterday’s clothes.

“Shouldn’t we wait til I’m having a good face day?” I asked.

“This is your look,” he replied. “Now go stand by that wall and look miserable.”

Go figure.

Essential Russian

Before coming to Petersburg for my semester abroad, I spent many hours hunched over dusty travel guides and dictionaries, feverishly trying to memorise as many essential phrases as possible.

I knew that my two years of university of Russian, whilst enabling me to decline irregular nouns and whip out past passive participles at a moment’s notice, had not prepared me for basic day-to-day conversations. Sure, I could tell you that noun’s gender with a 87% rate of accuracy, but could I book you a table at a moderately-priced restaurant?

Could I fuck.

To give you an idea of my ignorance – and this is not an exaggeration – I had no idea how to ask to pay for something by card. The first time I was asked whether I wished to pay by cash or with plastic, I just stood there, gawping, mumbling about not understanding, until the cashier physically took my roubles from my nervous hands.

As most students on their year abroad will testify, no matter how much preparation you put in, you’re gonna feel lost those first few weeks in a foreign country. This has been especially true for Russia, where the culture shock has been even more striking than the language barrier.

That said, there are things you can do to ease your transition – amongst the most helpful of these is getting some simple phrases under your belt.

I’ve decided to compile a list of the most important words and phrases I’ve learnt since coming here; learn these, and your time this strange, lovely country will be that bit smoother…

  • Карточкой or Наличными

This is pretty straightforward: you finish your meal and wanna pay with plastic, say the first word; if you have cash then it’s the second. This is one of those ridiculously simple bits of vocab that you’ll use every day – one of those things that is so basic that you’ll be shocked you got through two years of intensive university-level Russian without soaking them up somehow.

  • Я напилась / я напился.

Classic. Of all the Russian stereotypes that abound in the West, one of the most accurate ones is the drinking culture. Russians love a tipple. Like, it’s 4pm on a Wednesday and we’re four shots of vodka down – might as well go to the pub and turn this into a night.

For those moments when you’ve really had enough and someone’s still trying to top you up, use the verb напиться to express having drunk one’s full.

Fair warning – this might not prevent your glass being refilled, but, hey, at least you gave it a go.

  • Данетничего

This isn’t technically a word – it’s actually three words (yes, no, nothing) stuck together. It’s a great one for those whose Russian isn’t perfect; there aren’t many situations when you can’t use it, and it has the added bonus of making you sound like you know what’s going on.

It might sound nonsensical to say yesnonothing, but it means something similar to “whatever,” “yeah, sure.”

It’s one I use when I’m coming home a little tipsy and my host family ask me how my evening was, or when I mishear something someone says in a bar but can’t be arsed to ask what they said. Use liberally, is my advice.

  • … … …

Silence. This is certainly the most important “phrase” I’ve learnt since coming to Petersburg – it turns out that English speakers are oftentimes far wordier than Russians; where my classmates from home and I want to explain something verbally, Russians will often prefer silence.

The classic example is on the bus. In Britain, you board, tell the driver where you’re heading, and pay; and when you get off, you say thank you.

In Petersburg, all bus fares cost the same, so locals simply board, wordlessly hand their money to the conductor, and then get off without so much as a “Спасибо.” I got this wrong a bunch of times and it caused a fair bit of confusion.

“Tulskaya ulitsa!” I announced to the conductor as I boarded the trolleybus for the first time. She, phone pressed to her ear, eyed me in confusion. I repeated myself, and then, in an attempt to clarify, continued in my broken Russian: “I want to go to Tulskaya ulitsa.”

“…Alright,” she said, taking my money, and looking at me and my friend as though we’d just cheerfully announced our attention to set loose a hive of bees in the bus.

It took us a few trips to realise why we were getting so many funny looks. It turns out that it’s not only unnecessary to tell the conductor where you’re going – it’s outright weird. We spent our first few weeks in Petersburg convinced bus conductors in general were constantly bemused.

That said, a combination of our dreadful accents and abysmal street smarts meant that conductors recognised us as foreign; and whilst most just let us get on with it, a few went out of their way to help us out, going as far as to tell us when we were approaching our stop, and even wishing us a pleasant day. This was a far cry from the image of the aloof, unapproachable Russian I’d developed from Western stereotypes.


Learn these few simple phrases, and you too will make the most of your semester abroad in Russia!*

 

*provided you also speak decent Russian

Excellent ways to name your pets: Volume VIII

Be a visionary in your community: call your dog Mouse.

Excellent ways to name your pets.

Generic Animal Names

‘Proper’ nouns.

“Proper” nouns.

Proper nouns!!??? Pfffffff!!! Stick it to those pretentious words by calling your pet by a supposedly unproper noun.

Hell, I’m all for calling a spade a spade: if it’s a dog, “Hello, Dog!” If you’ve got a cat, “Hey there, Cat!” If you have a lesser spotted Eurasian hedgehog, …

You get the idea.

I know what you’re thinking. What if you have more than one of the same kind of pet? You can’t exactly have an entire pack of dogs called Dog, can you? That would be ridiculous. Luckily, I’ve thought of a few solutions which might solve your problem:

  1. Be more specific: Chihuahua, Labrador, Mixed Breed Rescue, and so on.
  2. Be less specific: Mammal, Being, etc.
  3. Misname. Call your Husky Wolf and your goldfish Shark. This has the additional benefit of allowing you to intimidate your neighbours by yelling “Bear!!!!!!!!” at all hours of the day.