Mushroom Mushroom Mushroom

I received a “grow your own mushrooms” kit recently.

After the initial, spooky procedure of submerging a bag of substrate in cold water for 12 hours, I managed to misread the instructions and keep the boys sealed in a box for a few days until it was pointed out to me that I’m an illiterate idiot by the Resident Australian.

Fortunately oyster mushrooms are more forgiving than the live-in garderning expert, and with the correct conditions in place the ‘shrooms diverted their energy:

Once underway they made rapid progress:

Quickly assuming classic Oyster Mushroom shape:

It seemed like every time I turned my back they grew:

Making them an ideal kit for me, as I have very little patience! They came out a lovely shade of pink and grew to a prodigious size very quickly:

And as I have very little truck with growing things I can’t eat, unlike the Australian and their featured collection of succulents there:

Mushrooms ended their autonomous existence:

And became instead:

Two delicious and attractive meals!

Espresso Mushroom Kits, then: forgiving, simple, and fast. Results as pictured.

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My very first Gymmiversary

“Gymmiversary,” you’re thinking, “is the worst possible neologism, Derek, and I’m disappointed in you.”

It’s okay, I have an excuse for my execrable lack of creativity. Two, in fact. One: I work in, or adjacent to, the press. I have an NUJ card and everything (it’s good for free drinks and pay negotiation which, considering my current salary, tells you a lot about how much worse things would be without unions. JOIN A UNION). Two: All of my energy is now spent on lifting lumps of painted metal while grunting.

Admittedly in the year preceding my foray into being a representative of the gym-membership-owning classes I already had weights in my house (and still do) for the purpose of clogging up the bathroom every morning with my heartfelt struggles with dumbbells, but since January 8th 2017 I expanded my repertoire to include things like “failing to complete the NHS Couch to 5K programme” (I got to about week six, lost count, got a dodgy knee owing to the complete absence of knee cushioning on one side, thank you 2006-self and your belief that you could do a paratrooper landing on paving slabs, minus the parachute; also lost most of the skin off the back of my foot, a condition I am currently imitating thanks to NYE, borrowed brogues, and champagne. And champagne’s insistence that I can definitely get my knees up to my nipples while skanking. But I digress; oh, how I digress).

I think the purpose of January is probably introspection, reflection, good intentions, repetentitive digestion (so many ascetic dietary changes that don’t last the month), and a purge of all things connected with the previous year. A spring clean for the body and mind; and souls, if you believe in them, which I personally don’t. Leaving more time for things like “what the fuck are you doing with your life” and “why can’t I see my own knees over my stomach”.

Structure is a panacea in a complicated life, or the four or five complicated lives I suspect everyone feels like they’re actually living. Finding the right structure for me has been A Challenge which is still ongoing; no sane person goes to the gym 7 days a week but to begin with I did attempt that. Since – with one blip for a hideous cold – I’ve settled into a happy routine of four days a week, although the year has seen varying tinkering with how long I need to be there (hint: not the TWO TO THREE HOURS I got stuck into for a while), what I need to be doing while I’m there (hint: dear autumn self having a panicked eating disorder relapse after some unexpected weighing-in at a doctor, you don’t need to do 1000kcal+ workouts. You definitely don’t need to try to burn off your entire day’s calorie allowance in the gym. That’s crazy person behaviour), and which exercises were going to make my knee feel like it was falling off.

I’ve been bullied by my own muscles into accepting that stretching, yoga, and foam rollering are not optional but compulsory if I want to be able to move at all the next day; I’ve undergone the mandatory metamorphosis in thinking of breakfast as a huge macronutrient-heavy hit required to fuel whatever’s happening in the gym instead of a skippable nuisance occurring sometime before an abstemious lunch (something the generation which birthed mine is still struggling with: lunch is a meal, not a collection of depressed snacks served at a table, you dysfunctional hippies) and the translation from “cake is bad” to “cake is a really effective way of being able to deadlift 120kg”. I’ve successfully acquired blisters on: my heels, my palms, my armpits, my thighs, my arsecrack, and other areas even less suitable for mention in a publicly-readable blog. My gym kit smells like death pretty much constantly. I know every single song on the gym’s playlist and there’s a massive overlap with G-A-Y Late; I know what all the regulars look like and which equipment they’re not going to put back and which of them is an obvious lunatic and which one is definitely going to be in prison again soon.

I’ve also signed up for multiple “protein filth companies” (terminology © the people I live with, one of whom is allergic to the entire concept of the gym and the other of whom signed up at the same time as me and goes about once a month a most) and have acquired a worryingly encyclopaedic knowledge of which vegetables have more protein in them than carbohydrates.

For a while I was convinced this was having no effect, as one often is when things are difficult. Then I ran to catch a bus and didn’t die. Then I started marching up the large hill by my house without really noticing it was there. Then, in December, I went for a 19-mile walk purely to see if I could (I can: I regretted it immensely because it was extremely cold and that many hours alone with your thoughts is Not Healthy). I’ve watched in the mirror as my silhouette changes and changes and considered the possibility that my inconsistency, oft-lamented by so many caretakers in the dawning of my life, might actually a blessing after all: the proper term is “chameleonic” when someone changes drastically and frequently.

Aside from all that, time spent grunting around with lumps of metal (and semi-clad sweaty men, let’s not forget) is a refreshing break from being barked at by the news, time when I can’t berate myself for not working on projects, time when my mind is free to concentrate on other things, like how intensely much my shoulders hurt and good grief that man’s biceps are the size of my head.

It’s slow going so far. I’ve only been doing it for a year, and my additional interventions have been few. I don’t – can’t – run much with a buggered knee. I’ve never been a particularly strong swimmer and since exchanging fat for muscle I don’t even float very effectively. My bike’s hidden behind clothes in my wardrobe thanks to some Altercations with the people who own our building regarding whether or not a bike standing out of the way in public storage space constitutes a fire hazard. And I can’t afford as many dance classes as I want to take, or club nights as I feel are my right as an ageing homosexual with no dependents and a flexible work schedule.

But still. I can lift much heavier things than I could before, and less of me wobbles, and I can touch my toes, although with the state of my trainers, I cannot really imagine why I’d want to.

Onwards to Year Two of the Gym.

How to Birthday:

Two days of birthday food in photos with accompanying recommendations:

A Sunday Dinner

Sourdough boule, bangers and mash (and watercress and jus), chocolate brownie with hazelnut ice-cream, from The Starting Gate in Alexandra, North London.

A Bombay Cafe breakfast

Chocolate Chai (unlimited), date and banana porridge (unlimited), bun maska, and sausage and egg naan roll from Dishoom in Kings Cross, N1C.

Drinks and small treats from wanderings

A limited-edition Halloween Vampire Frappuccino from Starbucks; takoyaki mini portion and a green tea soft-serve taiyaki ice cream from Hawker Street in Chinatown.

Afternoon tea

Warm strawberry bubble tea, and matcha azuki on brioche toast with flaked almonds, spray cream, and a dipping bowl full of honey.

Decor and dinner theatre
Strange dining

Dinner at Archipelago, a rightfully multiple-award-winning restaurant that provides an entirely unique culinary experience. Starter: “Burmese Embrace” features python carpaccio; Main: “Rajasthan Snap”, curried crocodile meat with jasmine rice (alas, no bugs. I was promised bugs!); Dessert: “Pharaoh’s Treasure”, a chocolate pudding with excitingly powdered and smeared sweetnesses, a pleasantly spicy ice-cream and some gold leaf; digestifs of Cà phê sữa nóng (Vietnamese coffee) with chocolate “sticks and stones”. The place does a wide and very interesting array of cocktails but as I was somewhat Feeling It after an excessively successful Halloween Party on Saturday I frankly never wanted to see alcohol again at this point!

Is everyone ready? I’m not!

It’s nearly time for NaNoWriMo again! I’m definitely on top of this:

Whose stupid idea was it to be a writer

Definitely.

I think it would be foolhardy to claim that I’m “ready” to write this blasted book but I’ve at least finished cutting and pasting the reference material I have so far

Entirely on top of it.

I mean I may have been stress-baking 2kg Christmas cake until midnight and I may have had to run away to Leighton House Museum to catch the end of their exquisite Alma-Tadema exhibition and then sort of … refused to come home and deal with my planning document and kind of… stayed in Holland Park stalking peacocks in the sun instead of actually doing any preparation prior to the aforementioned CAKE PANIC…

But I’m ready now. In the sense that I’m NOT ready, but all my reference materials are in one place.

Also this post is scheduled to arrive before you on my 35th birthday. Happy birthday me, you are presumably not dead yet! INCREDIBLE.

[Publishing] Pick Your Poison by Owl Hollow Press

Alright yes I promise I shall, at some point, make blog posts when I’m not saying “I wrote something, buy it,” but I’ve been (altogether now) busy. Busy trying to fit work, frantic book research, belly dancing classes (no, really), bodybuilding (again, yes, really), beginners’ Turkish lessons (why), and occasional social life (ukulele singalong down a shaft in Rotherhithe, attempts to gain personal low-earth orbit via a swing at the Tate Modern, etc) around each other.

Fortunately then this particular book was handled by professionals as opposed to solely by me.

Poisons come in all shapes and sizes, often resting in that murky, gray area between too much and too little, between right and wrong. Some poisons help; some poisons hurt. Some do both in the proper doses. But one thing is certain—whether good or evil, figurative or literal, fact or fiction—we can’t escape its potent charm. Throughout this anthology, poison takes many forms, both literal and metaphorical, in a wide variety of genres and styles. And they’re all yours to enjoy. So go ahead. Pick your poison.

Featuring: George BrewingtonJason RubisLawrence SalaniDiane ArrelleKatie ShermanLeigh StathamNichole CelauroMichael Harris CohenDerek Des Anges (Meeeeee), Leslie EntsmingerChristine EskilsonTom HowardCara FoxSharon Frame GayCharlie HughesAaron Max JensenKevin LankesFrank OretoCary G OsborneColleen Quinn, and Angela Raper.

Pick Your Poison is published by Owl Hollow Press and available in paperback and as a Kindle eBook.

Continue reading “[Publishing] Pick Your Poison by Owl Hollow Press”

Heavy times fall upon us.

Would you like to know why I spent a large part of yesterday stalking the streets of London in search of a pig’s head, before finally alighting upon the kind people at Godfrey’s of Highbury, who allowed me and my glamorous assistant (the author behind Transrealities and mistress of multiple musical instruments) into their chopping room to take photographs and refused payment for the same?

Well, you’ll have to wait a little longer. Heavy is on its way, but a few more activities, including some with the pig’s head, await prior to publication.


Recently, the author has: cried a lot in a theatre, had a gazebo lobbed at him by God in the middle of a seaside thunderstorm, cried a little bit in a cinema, and got slightly too drunk watching a childhood movie in a park with a bunch of similarly drunk Millennials who finally get all the innuendo we missed when we were seven. He has also been hard at work editing Heavy, planning a new book, and submitting short stories willy-nilly to some remarkably accommodating small presses, and this is why he hasn’t been updating his blog. It’s definitely not because he temporarily forgot that it existed. That would be madness.

Normal service may or may not resume soon

In the meantime enjoy the snazzy new blog layout.

I’ve been off being Loudly Gay in the middle of London in my small gold pants, with additional Loudly Gaying in a railway tunnel for a few hours afterwards; I hope everyone else had a nice Pride, except that douchebag who was squirting people with a water gun regardless of whether they wanted it or not, I hope he had a terrible Pride or at least had real trouble getting glitter out of his contact lenses.

Highly Professional Adult Individual, signing off to try to massage some life back into overworked limbs and probably have another nap.

I want to fail in a grander case.

For Reasons of Research, I’ve been reading Downriver by Iain Sinclair recently (aside from the normal heave-ho of life, visiting the Making Nature and Electricity: The Spark of Life exhibitions at the Wellcome Institute; drinking All The Wine in the company of a skittish cat; re-acquainting myself with old drawing habits and new gym ones – and novel heave-hos in life, such as “dealing with a blood-soaked stranger”; and my personal favourite “being evacuated from the office for a bomb scare”, which was nowhere near as much fun as you’d hope).

I have a lot of Ian Sinclair books to read, because Delightful Boyfriend has inherited psychogeographical scholarship from his Colin-Wilson-reading father, and my globe-trotting book patron/occasional whip hand (Amy Parker, who has recently published a short story in Bourbon Penn magazine, which rather unusually for any short fiction written after about 1901, I’ve read and loved – please sit down and have a go yourself! It’s a good one) also deluged me in copies before I had a chance to remove them from my research wishlist and plead exhaustion (there is a reason I don’t link to that on my blog).

In reading, I encountered this intriguing quote:

There is, I assure you, a measure of safety in being the one who holds the pen. ‘I’ is the man in possession, but he is also possessed, untouchable. ‘I’ is immortal. The title of the survivor. There always has to be one witness to legitimize a massacre. [etc]

Downriver, Iain Sinclair.

Long-term readers may be aware that I have a tattoo reading “ha bloody fucking ha” prominently on my writing wrist.

It is the abbreviated form of this quote:

Why? you have to ask yourself. I think it’s a way of claiming immunity. First-person narrators can’t die, so long as we keep telling the story of our own lives we’re safe. Ha bloody fucking Ha.

The Ghost Road, Pat Barker

From a firmly-formative trilogy (one of the more respectable formative texts of my adolescence, which featured more heavily the lurid gay erotic horror of Poppy Z Brite in the vampire years and innumerable interchangeable Hardy Boys Casefiles), that of prize-draped Pat Barker: The Regeneration Trilogy.

It is a conceptual echo that concerns me greatly: I’ve been keeping a regular, if occasionally sparse or incoherent and evasive diary, since September 1997. If I am still doing it in September this year (if global rise of fascism hasn’t dispensed with my gay, trans self by then – always proviso these days), it will be a solid 20 years of diarism.

Leaving aside the horror of a diary that can legally vote, marry, drink, drive, and star in extremely depressing pornography in the country in which it is written, what have I done to my longevity with this? All of my life choices so far – dabbling in alcoholism, obesity, cocaine, transitioning even – all of them should calculatedly have shaved off decades from my genetically accursed lengthy lifespan (no bloody cancer or coronary here, alas), at least according to the bastion of scientific rigour and life-extension that is the Daily Mail.  I live in a society that can’t afford my pension and soon won’t be able to feed itself. Have I unthinkingly undermined my sensible exit strategy with ego-centric nonsense?

Well, I shan’t be the first or the last. If I am still committing my life to language in another 20 years we shall know something has gone horribly, horribly right.


Readers already horrified by the above will be thrilled to learn I’ve taken up time-travel, and have transmitted a novel from the Edwardian period.

Becoming Visible

Earlier this month, for International Women’s Day, a friend on Facebook was making frustrated noises about an acquaintance of his who had whipped out the tiresome “BUT WHEN IS INTERNATIONAL MEN’S DAY” apparent-gotcha (it’s November the 19th, when these men mysteriously go quiet about male suicide levels, male rape victims, male domestic abuse survivors, the role of toxic masculinity in capitalism, or junk like that. Half of them don’t even use it as an opportunity to talk about cis-centric but well-meant topics like prostate/testicular cancer, for God’s sake); I tried to cheer him up by pointing out how angry the guy will be when he discovers greedy, greedy trans people have TWO international days! TWO! One to remind cis people we exist, and one to remind cis people that THEY KEEP FUCKING MURDERING US.

[Trans Day of Remembrance is also in November. Fairly close to International Men’s Day, in fact. Last year rather cruelly gifted me with someone to add to the list for the Day of Remembrance; I owe him a lot, and one of the best things I can think of to do is to pass on his assurances to others like him and like me].

It’s not all murder and toilets and gate-keeping insurance-providers and places where your actual existence as a human being is illegal, although those things do rather play on the mind (nothing so refreshing as needing a piss and having to wonder if you’re about to die from it in the literal, rather than figurative sense). It’s not even all continual rejection from people who are Absolutely Fucking Obsessed With Genitals and sudden, self-made (and wrong) experts on chromosomes.

[at point of taking, that’s 13 months on testosterone & 5 months after surgery]

I mean, my life has 100% improved since I stopped pretending I was ever going to Female Correctly. Side-effects have included health! Fitness! Confidence! Abandoning the need to check with other people whether I was allowed to like things, think things, believe things, or walk or talk a certain way! No longer shrivelling up like a dried plum in company! Finally making eye-contact! Enjoying being alive! Not constantly fixating on death.

Years ago I used to write regular blog entries acknowledging Self-Harm Awareness Day (March 1st), because, well, I did a lot of it. Continuously, from about 11 years old, until my early thirties, I hacked up parts of my body with a variety of sharp implements. There are scars everywhere as a result, from calves to face. Some people find them disturbing; some of them are very prominent.

There are lot of people I’d like to see change their position; there’s no arguing with some of them (committed TERFs who want to shout about “mutilating your female body” or whatever their bio-essentialist nonsense is this week; the creepy few of the cis lesbian world who feel entitled to any body born with a vagina but somehow angrily rebel against lesbian trans women who’ve had vaginoplasty; extremely paranoid cis gay men who are unnecessarily fixated on dick; homophobic & transphobic straight cis women convinced they’re being “lied to” because a trans man genders himself correctly; The Daily Fucking Mail, etc), but to the salvageable…

Cis men, straight or otherwise: please, if you think your masculinity isn’t tied to your noodle and nobbles (and it shouldn’t be, or you’ll have about forty crises all at once if you get fucking testicular cancer or the like, as a mate of mine did at 16), try to consider your feelings towards trans men. If there are cis men you admire for their masculinity or their achievements & trans men have managed the same kind of shit, your feeling should be the same. And yes while transitioning is hard for us it… actually needn’t be. There should be no fear involved, no terrifying social and bodily risk; so “these dudes are really brave” shouldn’t be the basis of your admiration, either. Jumping out of a burning building into shark-infested waters isn’t brave: we do it to save our lives. Making sure we don’t land in the fucking shark-infested water, to labour the metaphor, would be the sane and upstanding thing to do. Make that courage unnecessary by making it clear you already view trans men as men and admire at least some of us for the same goddamn reasons you admire any other men.

I’d apologise but I’m going to keep doing it

Hello, internet land. I’ve been very busy which is one of the many reasons I haven’t been updating here much, that and the overwhelming horror of the world and a complete lack of motivation…

What have I been doing?

Since the start of 2017, which I ushered in using the “start as you mean to go on” method of dancing drunkenly on a stage in West London, half-naked, covered in gold glitter, with at least one Radio Four comedian (how and why? Who knows), I’ve been engaged in a determined battle against middle-aged spread using the NHS Couch to 5k plan and various other gym-like things, having finally succumbed to Modern Life and begrudgingly forked out for a gym membership. This is partially mitigated by my workplace paying me some of the cost back (part of their attempt to encourage us into healthier habits than spending all night necking coffee and attempting to fight each other, which… we’re still doing), and partially by the fact that I’m very definitely getting my money’s worth.

Owing to a spectacular wobble in which I managed to get a wretch cold, bugger my Achilles’ tendon and inflict a fetching chest haematoma on myself, I’ve been stuck on Week 6 for what feels like eternity, but progress has been made on this front.

I’ve attended one (1) dance class, and learnt some of the basics of the Charleston, which I like to practice at the bus stop after work at around 5am, to the amusement and occasional horror of anyone else travelling at the time; my place of work has moved from the cosy hipster environs of Shoreditch to the alarming identikit irrational platform-borne archipelago of Canary Wharf, which is full of people I would ordinarily cross several roads to avoid and who, judging by the restaurants available, have the blandest and most middle-of-the-road tastes my snotty hipster palate can imagine.

I’ve been to a tribute club night for the late, great George Michael, seen two Oscar-nominated movies, both excellent (The Eagle Huntress was sweet and uplifting; Moonlight was emotional torture, both were An Experience), had a sushi-and-matcha afternoon tea at Tombo in South Kensington, and taken a a Finnish friend to Chinese New Year celebrations and an accidental drag queen pub quiz over dinner in Soho. So far, Mission: Try To Live A Full Life Before I Am Inevitably Murdered By Nazis is a success.

That doesn’t mean I’ve been entirely slack on the creative front, although due to the constraints of employment, physical needs, and the linear nature of time I haven’t been as awesomely productive as my hallucinogenically ambitious 4am self thinks I ought to be: the year to date (and indeed the majority of December) has involved laborious attempts at editing 2015’s NaNoWriMo project Heavy (a semi post-nuclear apocalypse military espionage novel about the unreliability of memory, mutability of truth, and the intersection between loyalty and gaslighting, which seems horribly prescient now); what the late Terry Pratchett cheerfully refers to in his nonfiction collection A Slip of the Keyboard as “blind research” for the next project (working title: Tourist’s Guide to the Ideal London) and outlining and brainstorming thereof; two short stories under my queer-romance-writing pseudonym Melissa Snowdon, one commissioned but not-yet-published blog essay under an entirely different (anonymous) pseudonym which ended up running to around 3,000 words…

Let’s just say I’ve been keeping busy, and intend to remain that way. Exciting news may shortly be arriving on your blog feed. Eyes peeled!