Author Archives: cookie queen

About cookie queen

English/American

Recipes from the Cookie Kitchen – Even Better Than the Real Thing Vegan Fudgy Brownies

I sell more vegan brownies than I do the Classic Fudgy Brownies,  That is not because they are better, but because they are more hip.   Do not underestimate them though. They are just as good, and some say even better than the real thing.

As with the Fudgy Brownie recipe, this too is the exact recipe I use in my business. Follow the recipe to the letter.  Do not attempt to tweak it.  I did already.  These are as fudgy as brownies should be.  No cake-like brownies on my watch.

INGREDIENTS

Attention.  You will need a food processor or a blender.

90 grammes of SILKEN tofu.  I prefer what you get in the Asian stores, but you can buy it wherever so long as it is the silken kind.

1/2 cup of oil.  (about 120 ml)  I use rapeseed oil, but sunflower or peanut is fine. A tasteless oil is best.

1/4 cup non-dairy milk (about 60 ml)  Oat, soy, almond ….  Whatever.

1 cup of sugar (half soft brown and half white if you want)

1 cup of flour — about 160 grammes (I often use half spelt, and half wheat.  All spelt is too much!)

1/2 cup of the absolute best cocoa powder you can afford.  I use Valrhona.

2 teaspoons of vanilla

1 level tablespoon cornstarch.

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

METHOD – as ever, read this through several times before you start.

Line your 8 inch square brownie tin with greaseproof paper/baking parchment/backpapier – whatever you call it.

Have a mixing bowl ready for the brownie batter.

Preheat the oven to 325°f or 162°c (Well, 160°c is fine!)

As with all recipes, put the ingredients out and in front of you.  Double check.  It is the only way to prepare to bake.

Sift the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, cornstarch and salt into a bowl.  Put it on the side.

Have the sugar ready of course.

Put the tofu, the nondairy milk, and the oil into a food blender/food processor.  Put it on high speed and whip the crap out of it, it will become smooth, and fairly thick and creamy.   Scrape the sides down as necessary.

Put this tofu mixture into the mixing bowl, add the sugar, and whisk with fervent zeal. Add the vanilla and stir in.

Add your flour mixture,  ideally sift it in, but you don’t have to.  Fold it into the wet ingredients, until it becomes smooth.  You need to maybe use a bit of oomph, it will be pretty thick.

Put the batter into the pan.  You can push it down and into the corners with the back of a spoon.  It will be too thick to spread out on its own.  It will spread out a little during baking so you don’t have to get too manic about spreading it out precisely.

I put pecan nuts on the top because they are so delicious and have a great crunch.  That is optional though and you do not have to do that.

Bake them for about 30 minutes.  Do not overbake.  You will see when they are set it is pretty obvious.

Let them cool.  Eat.  If there are any left over you can keep them in the fridge or just covered.  Depends if you like cold brownies or not.

CQ.  

IMG_0357.JPG

IMG_0358

IMG_0361.JPG

IMG_0366.JPG

IMG_0372.JPGIMG_0374.JPGIMG_0376.JPGIMG_0378.JPGIMG_0379.JPGIMG_0380.jpg

The above photos are all pics from me doubling the mass.  Just so you know.

17 Comments

Filed under Food & Drink

Recipes from the Cookie Kitchen. Classic Fudgy Brownies.

I have had this need to feed people since quite a young age.  I could analyze this, go to a therapist, or do yoga.  But I decided just to accept it and make money out of it instead. We have had a year now  of Strange Tales from the Cookie Kitchen and there are more to come. But today I want to share some of the recipes that contributed to me to becoming the Cookie Queen.

IMG_9928

Brownies are of course named for their colour, and they have been around since the late 1890s.  They are really an American speciality.  And as much as we like to complain about a lot of American foods, their home baked goods are fantastic.  I have after all had a business based around them for more than twenty years.   Brownies are divided into two basic categories; cake-like and fudge-like.  You can skip the cake-like, there is only one kind of brownie, and that is a fudgy one.

This recipe is exactly the one that I use for my customers.  If you do what it says you will have perfect brownies.  (It may surprise you the number of people who tell me that their stuff does not turn out like mine.  And when I question them closer it is always because they did not follow the bloody instructions. “Oh I did not have an 8″square pan, so I used a casserole dish instead.”  FFS.

INGREDIENTS.    

100 grammes of unsweetened chocolate MELTED.  (You only need about 90 but have to allow for tasting or something remaining in the bowl, so use 100 to start.). Use the absolute best quality as this is not Rumplelstiltskin, crap chocolate does not turn into gold.)

4 ounces of softened butter (112g).

1 cup of brown sugar (the soft moist kind). If you cannot get it use white, it is not as good.

1tsp vanilla extract

2 eggs at room temperature

2/3 cup of flour (about 85g)

Good pinch of salt (added to the flour)

170 grammes of chopped chocolate.  (I use about 2/3 milk and 1/3 white but whatever … )

Line your 8 inch square brownie pan with greaseproof paper/baking parchment/backpapier – whatever you call it.

METHOD – read this through several times before starting!

Preheat the oven to 350°f or 170°c.

Get everything ready and in front of you.  Always.  it is the only way to work and to avoid making mistakes.

Now then, I melt my chocolate, which I have cut into very small pieces, in a microwave. Yes, I know you are not supposed to.  Melt it slowly and on a LOW wattage.  Open the door every 20 seconds and give it a stir until it is all beautifully liquid.  Make sure the bowl you use is totally clean and dry before putting the chocolate into it and melting it.

Beat the butter and the sugar together with an electric hand mixer, or Kitchen Aid, or with a wooden spoon if you have nothing else.  Add the warmish melted chocolate to it. (Not boiling hot of course, otherwise it will melt the lot!) Add the vanilla.  Beat it all together, but no need to beat it to death.

Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each one.  Add the flour and salt.  You can fold it in with a spatula, or slowly blend with the machine.  And then add and fold in your chopped chocolate chunks.  Turn the batter into your lined pan, and level the surface.

Put into your PREHEATED oven.  Mine take about 28 minutes to bake but this time could vary with different ovens,  I cook with a fan oven. I would say between 25 and 30 mins max.   You can see if they are done by the way the top will look kind of shiny and dry. Don’t be scared to open the oven and put a toothpick into the middle of them and see if it comes out with crumbs or dripping batter.  Gooey crumbs are ideal.

Take them out.  Let them cool.   I then take them out of the pan, and carefully take the paper off, reline the pan with waxed paper or whatever, and put the brownies back in.  I then keep them there until they have been eaten.  Unless I am selling them, obviously, Then they get packed.

And remember a brownie is not a cake.  Very rich.  Adjust size accordingly.  You know how to tell the difference when looking at recipes?  A fudgy brownie will always have more sugar in it than flour.

CQ

I forgot to take a picture of adding the chocolate chinks, but I think you can imagine it huh?

IMG_9916.jpgIMG_9917.jpgIMG_9918.jpgIMG_9919.jpgIMG_9920.jpgIMG_9921.jpgIMG_9922.jpgIMG_9923.jpgIMG_9924IMG_9925.jpg

IMG_9927

 

17 Comments

Filed under Food & Drink

Strange Tales from the Cookie Kitchen*

“Watch TV go goggle-eyed, See a horror movie get petrified, Go dye your hair use peroxide, Smoke a spliff and get red eyed ….. From the dance floor I can see, Decadent society, And that’s bad, so bad ……  Attitudes of some would say, I got money, I’m okay, and that’s bad, so bad ….. These are the things that drive me crazy, These are the things that make me bad …..”  BAD. Big Audio Dynamite. 

Even though I was at times pretty heavily into the drug scene, (to say the least), I still had my standards.  A line I would not go below.  Never use needles, never go without, nor leave the house without, a red lipstick, and always have a good hair cut.  To credit my vanity with saving my life is not an understatement.  Self-respect is everything, and I saw many people lose theirs.  And most of them are dead now.   But this is a fun Strange Tale so….

Mick Jones.  Co-founder and songwriter, co-lead vocalist and lead guitarist of The Clash until 1983.  In 1984 he formed Big Audio Dynamite with Don Letts.   Favourite lyricist. Favourite bands.  (I saw The Clash a number of times.)

BAD

AMSTERDAM 1985

I never went anywhere without my red lipstick. In the early days of my relationship with Chris, he would ask why that was such a thing.  It was always perfect and reapplied as often as necessary.   I would answer the same each time: “You just never know, one day I just might bump into Mick Jones.”

AMSTERDAM JULY 1987.  LIPSTICK AND POP HEROES.

I worked at the Melkweg in Amsterdam.  It was and still is a famous music venue, and cultural centre.  It used to be a milk factory, hence the name.  It had a music hall, theatre, restaurant, cinema, and tea house.  It was in the tea house that you could legally buy hash and weed.   I saw bands too numerous to mention there.  One of the more memorable gigs was The Ramones who played a three night stint; I still have some of their monogrammed guitar picks.

melkweg

One summer night we were in the Paradiso, (also a music venue, a converted former church) watching the Hoodoo Gurus, when half way through the gig a colleague of mine from the Melkweg, tapped me on the shoulder and yelled into my ear.  He said that the boss of the Melkweg wanted me to come over and look after an English band who were visiting.  I had absolutely no intention of leaving the gig, but of course asked him who it was.  “Big Audio Dynamite,” he replied. I  kid you not.   I yelled at Chris that I was going over to the club because Mick Jones was waiting for me.  I touched up my lipstick and legged it.

paradiso

Chris stayed until the end of the gig at the Paradiso and then came to join me.  We hung out with them for the rest of the evening, which included helping them to sort out some of their uhm, needs.  We met up again for breakfast the next morning.  Don’t ask. What happened in Amsterdam, stayed in Amsterdam.  B.A.D. were touring with U2 as their opening act, and had a couple of days off,  which explained their presence in the city.  We got tickets for the gig in Rotterdam.  Very cool.

Of course we did not become friends, but when we were in Boston, 1989, B.A.D. played The Channel Club on three nights, and guest listed us.  That was Big Audio Dynamite at their height and three of the best gigs I have ever been to.  And then again in 1990, at the Paradiso,  back to where it all started with that tap on the shoulder.  We went along to that and spent time with them afterwards, taking them some Afgahni Black (superior hash) and it rendered them comatose.  No stamina, those Brits.

Never underestimate the powers of a red lipstick.

red lipstick

I don’t wear red lipstick at the moment.  I prefer to wear an extremely high shine clear lipgloss, amusingly called Crystal, and a lot of dark blue and black eye make up.  Both together would be too much.   But I still don’t leave the house without it in my bag.  Just in case.

val hair

Val

“So when you reach the bottom line, The only thing to do is climb, Pick yourself up off the floor, Anything you want is yours.”  The Bottom Line.  Big Audio Dynamite.       

CQ of APJ      

*Parts of this Strange Tale first appeared on Australian Perfume Junkies in 2015.

26 Comments

Filed under Stories

Strange Tales from the Cookie Kitchen

“I said mama we’re all crayzee now.”  SLADE. 

 

In fairness to Mum, she never turned up to visit me unannounced.  Once in a blue moon she would ask to drop by and I would spend a week cleaning up, hiding a million things, including the fact that my boyfriend was living with me.  And sometimes a number of other strange people at any given time, most of them with aliases.  (Pedro and Budgie? Yeah, I’m talking about you.)

I said never, it would be more correct to say once, she did.  It was early evening and a group of us were hanging out, smoking and listening to music.  We were expecting another couple of friends, and had not yet been busted, so were not as paranoid as we would be in the future.

There was a knock at the door.  I got up and went to open it.  Mum was standing there.  I panicked, surely turned white, said wait a minute and slammed the door.  Right in her face.

“Clean all this shit up!” I yelled at everyone “and hide”.  You have never seen a bunch of stoners move so fast.  I could hear loud banging on the front door.  Bang, bang, bang, CRASH.

door

Mum, and those who knew her will surely remember this, wore a ring on every finger, on some she had two.  I particularly remember a bishop’s ring on her pointer, with a stone the size of an small egg in it, and a half sovereign mounted in a setting that had the ring standing about half a cm above the finger that she wore it on.  The other eight, were bits and bobs.  Yes, eight, her thumbs had rings too.

We had an old door with a stained-glass window in it.  Mum’s thumping on the door smashed two pieces of the glass out, and she seized the moment.  Putting her fist straight through the gaps, she opened the door from the inside.

She walked into the empty living room, windows open, music playing and a still warm bong in the middle of the table.  My boyfriend sat on the sofa sketching on his drawing block, a picture of innocence.

Now that I am a mother myself, I can only imagine that she was as scared as me.  How on earth could I have know that at the time?  I told her that I was so surprised to see her, and so ashamed at how messy my flat was, that I could only think of keeping her out until I could tidy it up.  She asked me what the pipe thing was, and I explained it was from the guy next door who smoked Turkish tobacco.  Luckily I did not have to come up with a reason for the five people hiding in the bedroom, clutching rolling papers and album covers.  She did not find them.

Mum was a fireball.  The kindest person you could meet,  but also (seemingly) the scariest.  She stuck to her religious values so fiercely it felt like she was not able to accept things that fell outside of that zone.  I know now of course that it was her way of protecting and forgiving  herself from her own past;  falling pregnant with me out of wedlock, being adopted and not finding out about it until she was about to marry my father, a severe nervous breakdown when she was just 25 ….

 

val baby

Val with her mother

For many years after the fist through the window episode I thought I had successfully gotten away with hiding my life from my mother, and that she was in a way naive. Maybe she was, I don’t know.  She never asked, and I never told her.

It was those fierce religious values that gave me a foundation strong enough to save my life.

CQ of APJ

 

This was the same apartment that I had my first bust in, as told in my first Strange Tales. You would think I would quite simply have just not ever opened the door.  But you live and learn.  As we moved onto other flats, we started to have coded rings (no pun intended) and knocks.  One learns.

16 Comments

Filed under Stories

Strange Tales from the Cookie Kitchen

“You get under my skin, I don’t find it irritating, You always play to win, But I won’t need rehabilitating, oh no, I think I’m on another world with you, with you, I’m on another planet with you.”  Another Girl, Another Planet.  The Only Ones.  

 

Pete and Christine were a couple.  They were also junkies.  They loved each other, in the codependent way that heroin addicts do.  Christine worked the streets at night to earn the money.  Although I never used needles, end of the seventies, early eighties, if you smoked weed you inevitably came into contact with a harder scene.  Each evening she would paint her face heavily with make up, sometimes with shaking hands, pull on a low top, a short skirt, scuffed heels and leave the house to stand on a street corner, probably hoping to make it back with cash and in one piece.  I never asked.

The two had been together long enough that each set of parents knew each other.   Out of the blue I was handed a wedding invitation.  The parents had gotten together and come up with a plan to save their kids.  They talked with them and said if they gave up drugs, and got married, they would give them six thousand pounds to start a new life with.   I have no doubt whatsoever that Pete and Christine believed that they could give up anything for such an offer, and in turn would have persuaded their folks of the same.   There is nothing as convincing or believable as a junkie who is about to give up and get their life together, they will have you believing black is white.   Whether or not any of Christine’s family knew that she was a prostitute, I don’t know.

It was a registry office marriage.  Pete in borrowed suit, and Christine in a long-sleeved white satin dress, chosen to cover the needle marks on her arms.    There was a mix of guests, from their parents and relatives, to their friends and neighbours.  Those who knew could see that the couple were shaky from lack of drugs, and those who didn’t would have assumed shaky from nervousness.   Despite this there was still an air of happy anticipation and the registry was signed.

 

wedding

 

We went off to a local hall of some sort, where the reception had been booked.   There was a buffet out on tables, and someone playing the music.   Christine disappeared at some point and was gone for a while, but not quite long enough for everyone to notice.

Having slipped off for a hit, she returned heavily stoned,  a few drops of blood along the long arm of her satin dress.

“Golden brown, finer temptress …… never a frown with golden brown.”  The Stranglers.  

CQ of APJ

 

This is the first Strange Tales that I have felt a need to add something to after the Tale.  I have never forgotten the feeling I had when I saw this junkie-bride return to her reception.  It broke my heart and the scar has never quite healed.  I left their reception and I know that they moved into another place.  I doubt that there was any kind of happy end to the story;  but perhaps Christine was able to quit her street work.   As I have said before I am thankful for the religious teachings I was brought up with, and the strong foundation that it laid.  It prevented me from going too deep into a dark scene, so that a story like this did not become mine.  As a parent now I can only imagine the desperation that their parents had, willing to do anything to rescue their children. Nearly forty years on, Christine will sometimes appear in my dreams.  I hope that she got out of the scene and found happiness.

 

 

22 Comments

Filed under Stories

Strange Tales from the Cookie Kitchen

“This is England, we can chain you to the rail, this is England, we can kill you in a jail.” Joe Strummer/Bernhard Rhodes.

ENGLAND. THE FIRST FIVE HOURS.

I went home to England to stay for a month, sometime in a September, at the end of the eighties. Chris had never visited the UK and came over from Amsterdam to join me for my last week. It was in the days of getting buses and ferries, cheap flights were not yet a thing. As he was on a bus heading for Victoria Coach Station, London, I was on the bus heading to Victoria from Bristol to meet him.

I found him waiting, leaning against a wall at the grubby coach station. Thin, punky hair, eyeliner. Him, not me. Opposite him was a skinhead, with a wrench the size of a small dog in his hand. Chris said the guy had been there for the ten minutes that he had been waiting for me to turn up, just staring straight at him.

 

 

We rented a small van for a week and drove back to Bristol. We would bring it back up a week later and return to Amsterdam together. This was his first time driving on the right hand side in a car, although he had ridden a motorbike in Thailand. Apart from attempting to enter a roundabout in the wrong direction, we made it safely to King`s Square in Bristol. It was here that Chris needed to maneuver a tricky bit of parallel parking. As he pulled into the spot, and then out again to straighten up, another car zipped in straight behind him and took the space. Absolutely stunned that someone would do that he jumped out of the car and asked the guy what exactly he thought he was doing, in a fairly marked Austrian accent. The aggressive bloke looked straight into Chris´s eyes and said, “Why don’t you just go back to your own sodding country?”

(Over the years it has become a catch phrase in our home, and used many times in arguments, guaranteed to have us laughing and to end whatever bickering we might have been doing.)

ESCAPE TO WALES.

After staying in Bristol for two nights, we jumped into the van, along with sleeping bags, blankets, food and a water cannister, and took off across the Severn Bridge for Wales. Autumn is the season of magic mushrooms. The Liberty Caps are insignificant in their looks, a tiny parasol with a nipple-like point on top of the very thin stalk. They are found in grasslands, usually with sheep or cows in them. Hard to find until you spot a couple, and then the eyes tune into what they are looking for. They grow in many places around the world but if I remember correctly the British Liberty Caps are amongst the most potent.

 

 

We ended up somewhere fairly deep in the Welsh countryside, I cannot remember exactly where, but there were a lot of sheep. We parked up and had an early night, ready to go out hunting mushrooms the next morning. We struck lucky and within a couple of hours had a fairly full bag. Suddenly in the distance we saw a horse and rider galloping full tilt, heading straight for us. We quickly hid the mushroom stash. A woman started to yell at us that we were on private land and what did we think we were doing, and were we looking for mushrooms? Chris immediately spoke with her and said he had no idea that we were on private land, and that in Austria, even if the land is private, you are allowed to walk in the fields.

This time his cute Terminator accent, worked in his favour and she invited us to follow her back to her farm and invited us to share some the cider they had made. A long conversation ensued between her and Chris on how cider should be made and that his dad too made cider every year. She said that she had troubles every year with people stomping her grounds looking for mushrooms and that was why she had been a bit sharp with us. Nice tourists like us were always welcome. She sent us on our way with some homemade bread and a chunk of cheese.

We got back to the van and decided to spend one more night in it, and drove off a few miles to park up in a different place. It was at the top of a slight hill, sheep yes, but no farm, horse, or person in sight. We woke up around three in the morning, and heard some rustling sounds outside the van. (There were no windows in the back to look out of.) After listening on paranoid high alert, the rustling subsided and we decided that it must be the sheep, and went back to sleep. A few hours later we awoke and opened the back doors of the van, and stumbled out to see that we were completely surrounded by the army, and about fifteen of their tents. No vehicles, no noise. Completely shocked, and wondering if we were still stoned from the night before, we got into the van and drove away as fast as we could get our backsides out of there. Army manoeuvres at the crack of dawn.

 

We made it safely back to Amsterdam, with the fungi, and memories of Chris’s hearty welcome to England.

CQ of APJ.

16 Comments

Filed under Stories

Strange (Music) Tales From The Cookie Kitchen .

“One shot, this is it, Did you delay?”  Click Click.   The Beat.  

1980 saw the Iranian Embassy siege in London.  My best friend at the time, let´s call her JM, and I, followed it for the five days, smoking weed and listening to music.  This included the Special Air Service of the British Army abseiling off of  the roof of the embassy and going in through the windows.  This was broadcast live, at peak time on a bank holiday Monday, watched by millions of people. We turned the music down and the sound up and watched what would become a defining moment in UK history, and the end of the siege.   Journalists from all over the world were gathered outside the building.  Exciting stuff back then.  The Thatcher years.

1980 also saw The Beat explode onto the music scene, with the album  I Just Can’t Stop It, to become one of the most influential bands of the British Two Tone Ska Movement.  It was a time of social and political upheaval.  Love and Unity was their message, set to a combination of soul and reggae, pop and punk.  The Beat came from the industrial, working-class areas of Birmingham, as did JM.  She had moved to Bristol early 1979, the year that The Beat’s first single, a remake of Smokey Robinson’s Tears of a Clown entered the charts.   JM had been and still was a friend of Roger Charlery, better known as Ranking Roger, toaster and vocalist with The Beat.

IMG_6738

When their tour dates were announced JM called Roger and we were on the guest list.  The show, first of at least twelve that we attended, was superb.

“Say too much war in the city, yeah, Say too much war in the city, whoa I sing I said a love and unity, the only way, And unity, the only way …. ”   Whine and Grine/Stand Down Margaret.  The Beat.  

Roger and a couple of the other members of the band, plus a few road crew, came  back to JM’s place after the gig, where we smoked and listened to reggae they had brought with them, until the small hours of the morning.

We joined them for a fair number of dates on that tour.  Sometimes helping on merchandise, sometimes with the catering crew, more often than not rolling spliffs, and always at the side of the stage during the gig.   We travelled with them to Belgium and Holland for a few shows too.   One of the happiest and most memorable years of my life.

As was the way back in the heady days of the punk scene, reggae music was played before the gigs would start, so heavy on the bass your inner organs would vibrate.  That was where I got my early reggae education.

The Beat played the album Heart of the Congos by the Congos before each show.  It was produced by the mad genius Lee “Scratch” Perry in his Black Ark recording studios.   An absolute masterpiece.  It was at the time only possible to get a hold of it on import, if you could get it at all.  Many of the Jamaican pressings came with a number of small potholes on the vinyl which although very authentic was quite annoying.  My memory is vague as to how The Beat hooked up with the Congos, perhaps I never knew, but they did.  And they then released the Congo`s album onto Go-Feet, their own label. so that everyone could have access to it.  JM and I were invited up into the studios in London for the laying down of, and mixing of the tracks.

We spent twelve hours in a dark studio, so much smoke you could hardly see through it, listening to the production of the album.  The Congoman, the mighty Cedric Myton, was in the studio with us, overseeing the production. This was a pivotal moment in my life, something so amazing and such a privilege that I cannot believe it happened.  Each track was shortened for the album, fading out the dub that each track would go into.  I was given a cassette of the original tracks including the dubs, but sadly over the years I have lost it. The album is an exquisitely spiritual and beautiful piece of work;  Roydel Johnson’s tenor, Watty Burnett’s deep baritone, and  Cedric Myton’s luxurious falsetto.  I cannot recommend it highly enough.  I have kept the album with me for the last nearly forty years.

I continue to play The Beat, their music as fresh and bright and politically on-point now, as it was then.   I closed my recent radio show with them, saving the best for last.

“Say goodbye everybody, Goodbye everybody, Goodbye everybody, yeah, I say I’m sorry to say but I’m on my way, I won’t be back for many a day.”  Jackpot.  The Beat.  

IMG_6760

Ranking Roger.  1963 – 2019.  RIP Rude Boy.

CQ of APJ   

 

 

 

 

14 Comments

Filed under Perfume Reviews

Strange Tales from the Cookie Kitchen.

“But today there is no day or night, Today there is no dark or light, Today there is no black or white, Only shades of gray.”   Shades of Gray by The Monkees.

I returned from the Dominican Republic to find MJ dead.  He had overdosed the night before.  My first love, my partner of eight years, the person I had moved to Amsterdam with.

My father died in 1971.  MJ´s father died in 1975.  No one teaches you how to deal with the pain and we both carried the scars.

College 1978.  I was sat in the common room, listening to Spirit’s The Twelve Dreams of Doctor Sardonicus, when MJ walked through the door.  Barefoot, ripped jeans, long curly black hair, an earring, and John Lennon glasses.   It was love on the spot.  Who hears warning bells at eighteen?

I was fourteen when I went to see Stardust. It was the 1974 sequel to the film That’ll be the Day.  It follows the fictional band, the Stray Cats,  who were David Essex, Keith Moon, Paul Nicholas and Peter Duncan.  Essex, a real-life pop star, playing the rise and fall of Jim Maclaine, fictitious pop star.  Managed by Mike, played by Adam Faith.   Kind of mixture between fiction and reality.

Spellbound from the start,  I was in the film every step of the way.  The music, the clothes, the drugs, the glamour.  I was living it.   Jim Maclaine, who had become a megastar and split from his band, was being used and abused by the business; and eventually goes to live in Spain in a castle, becoming a  recluse, his manager in tow.  No one has seen him for two years,  at which point he is talked into giving a live interview, in his castle, which he absolutely does not want to do.   As he sits in front of the cameras, he starts to talk,  but makes no sense.  Publicly there was triumph but privately disintegration.  Mike realises that Jim has OD’d, calls an ambulance and goes and pulls him out of the press circus.   You see him carried out and put into the ambulance on a stretcher.  And then he dies.

I was absolutely blindsided and started to cry.  I could not stop.  I wept all the way home, and as I went into the house, my mother came running, asking what was wrong.  I kept crying.  She told me it was only a film, but it was so much more than that.  I felt that I had known Jim, and my heart was broken.  I cried for the rest of the night, a deep pain in my chest.

MJ and I spent the next nine years together, the last two of them in Amsterdam.   A couple of busts.  A shitload of fabulous music, the punk years, the club years, the festivals years.   No TV but always a good sound system.  Music day and night;  reggae, punk, hippie, psychedelic;  Stooges, Velvets, The Clash, Stones, Talking Heads, Grace Jones, the music that accompanied the slow descent into a heavier scene.  Funny stories, sad stories and some quite terrifying stories.

MJ. 1959 – 1989.  I loved not only him, but his amazing family too.  And still do.

I had not been back in Amsterdam for 36 hours from the Dominican Republic, when I found myself on the way to the airport to meet his mother and brother. off of a plane.  I was in total shock.  It would be some time before I was able to cry, my heart so broken that the pain had not yet set in.

 

MJ

 

“It was easy then to know what was fair, when to keep and when to share, How much to protect your heart, And how much to care, But today there is no day or night, Today there is no dark or light, Today there is no black or white, Only shades of gray, Only shades of gray.

CQ of APJ

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

21 Comments

Filed under Stories

Strange Tales from the Cookie Kitchen

I was brought up in a strong faith. However far I wandered from its teachings, the miracle of prayer has never left me. I was taught that I could pray any time, and anywhere, on my knees, or walking down the street. It is a habit that has never left me.

“Little boy kneels at the foot of his bed, Droops on his little hands, little gold head, Hush! Hush! Whisper. Who dares! Christopher Robin is saying his prayers …” Vespers. A. A. Milne

christopher robin

February 1989 saw us heading back to the Dominican Republic for another few months. This time with two bikes. In hindsight I should have known that more than spelled trouble. We booked our tickets, Amsterdam – Miami – Port-au-Prince – Puerto Plata. The bikes went for free, unlike these days where you have to pay. (Yes, my husband still takes bikes on planes and I should have known all those years ago that it was going to be an ongoing thing. But let’s face it, I had no idea he would end up as my husband at that point in my life.)

When we disembarked in Miami, things took an unexpected turn. Chris had no visa for the US, which was OK as he was in transit, but he was taken off in another direction to me. I had to leave the airport and check back in again because I was British and did not need a visa.

Bloody Americans and their general paranoia and this was way before 9/11. So yeah, I did that, went back through passport control and sat down hoping Chris would appear again. But he didn’t. He had been made to board the plane that I should have been on with him, despite him telling them that I was not there yet, they seated him. Meanwhile I waited and missed the plane. Don’t ask, because to this day we do not know why they did not call my name. Chris and the two bikes heading off without me.

They put me on a plane to Santa Domingo, 232 km away from where Chris would be. He had no clue as to where I might be. I was exhausted, wired from no sleep and had been about twenty-four hours without a joint, and that is only half the story. I felt as gray as I looked. I had some pesos with me and travellers cheques. I got into a taxi at the airport in Santa Domingo and asked to be taken to a good hotel. It was ten o’clock at night, I was alone in what seemed like a rough city (it was), and I could not think straight. The first two hotels would not take me. A young white woman alone meant prostitute, which meant no, you cannot have a room. The taxi driver had waited for me at each hotel, thank goodness.

The third hotel he took me to let me have a room. It was an expensive hotel and I guess they took pity on me. I had to pay upfront. I was given a room and told that if I wanted room service I would have to pay cash for it, they would not let me put it on a bill.

dom map

I knew where Chris was but had no idea of the phone number of the hotel, which was not quite as much of a problem as not knowing the name of it. We had stayed in the hotel the year before but in-between then and now there had been a refurbishment and that included a name change. The owner, a friend, had written and told us as we made plans to revisit, but damned if I could remember.

I was about at my wit’s end. (As I write this I cannot tell you how much I love the era of technology that we live in, all I would have to do is send a text or make a call. Unimaginable to feel that lost now.) I knew I had to get in touch with Chris, let him know I was on the same island and not back in Miami. (Hated Florida ever since, and never been back – two hours at the airport was more than enough.). It was around midnight. I called the operator and asked for the number of the Hotel ………, that used to be, but now had another name. Right. I burst into tears.

I knelt down by the side of the bed and prayed my heart out, begging for God to help me out of this situation. Bone weary, it felt like my only chance.

Does a prayer answered show there is a God? An unanswered one that there is none? I do not know. But as I asked for help, the name of the hotel was planted within my mind. I could see it as clear as day. Things do not happen by magic, and I had read the name in the letter we had received; I knew it was there somewhere, but I had absolutely no memory of it. An immediate answer to a prayer, when I had to have it. I was so thankful and it has never left me.

I called the operator again, this time getting one that spoke better English. I knew the town and the name of the hotel. And got the number. I remember my hands shaking as I dialled the number.

Within a few seconds I was talking with Chris who was as relieved to hear from me as I was to talk to him. He told me he was jumping straight into a taxi and coming to get me. A good three-hour trip on a less than smooth road, from the north to the south of the island.

dom hotel

The right hotel in Puerto Plata

With utter relief, I peeled the small hidden piece of sticky black hashish off of the back of my watch…

“When troubled times begin to bother me, I take a toke and all my cares go up in smoke.” Up in Smoke by Cheech and Chong

Chris arrived around five in the morning and by breakfast time we were in a taxi heading back north to our original destination. Not only had he lost me, but the bikes had disappeared off of the plane in Haiti, when his plane stopped there for an hour. Thanks to an observant Lufthansa pilot and Chris not giving up looking for them, we got both bikes back three days later.

dom bikes

Val with the hotel owner/friend.

dom val

The trip had not started really well and little did I know that when we returned to Amsterdam three months later, my life would be blown apart.

CQ of APJ

28 Comments

Filed under Perfume Reviews

2018 From the Cookie Kitchen

 

“House is haunted, I just wanna go for a ride, Out and on, before I set this room alight, Left alone, Forever, and for crimes unclear, With my patience gone, Someone take me far from here.”  Gasoline by Audioslave

April, 2018.  Tara invited me to guest post for the time that APJ was out-of-action.  Little did I imagine that I would still be writing here at the end of the year.  I returned to APJ in the summer and after talking with Tara, remained here to start my monthly Strange Tales From the Cookie Kitchen.

Today I’m sharing some of my 2018 highlights from the spheres of film, literature and music.

MOVIES

 

val black

BLACKKKLANSMAN Spike Lee’s true story of the first African-American detective to serve in the Colorado Springs Police Department, early 19070’s.  And how he sets out to infiltrate and expose the KKK.

The Dawn Wall  The story of free climber Tommy Caldwell, and his climbing partner Kevin Jorgeson and their climbing of The Dawn Wall, a 3,000 foot rock face in Yosemite. Six years of meticulously plotting and practicing their route.  It had never been done.

 

val dawn

Widows  Anyone remember the ITV series?  It is based upon that.  The basic plot follows four women, whose criminal husbands are killed on a botch job, planning a heist to pay back a crime boss.  Directed by Steve McQueen, (12 Years A Slave) who has the ability to allow you to see into a character with just a single frame.  Superb.  Go see it.

 

val widows

 

Isle of Dogs Wes Anderson’s stop-motion-animated science-fiction comedy-drama film.  It is set in a dystopian Japan, and it is the story of  young boy looking for his dog.   All dogs have been banished to Trash Island, to prevent a flu virus they have crossing over to humans.  It is a wonderful as every other Wes Anderson film.

 

val isle of dogs

Taken Yes, the movie with Liam Neeson.  I knoooow is is from 2009 and not 2018, but I only just watched it.  No, I have no idea what took me so long.  Cult.

 

BOOKS

 

The Handmaids Tale by Margaret Atwood

Chasing the Scream and Lost Connections by Johann Hari 

The Life and Rhymes of Benjamin Zephaniah – The Autobiography

How to Change Your Mind by Michael Pollan

Clothes, Clothes, Clothes, Music, Music, Music, Boys, Boys, Boys by Viv Albertine

 

val books.jpg

GYM TUNES

Gasoline x 1000, Audioslave.  Top Tune.

val audioslave

 

Lose Yourself and Venom, Eminem


val eninmen

 Wake Up, Brass Against

 London Calling, The Clash – the whole album.  Not one bad track.

 

val clash

 

I can’t finish 2018 without thanking my amazing, kind, patient, seriously batshit crazy trainer, Eric.  He has changed my life.  And the incredible Crikey/Slowlight who has cyber-motivated me to push myself to the limits, as she pushes beyond hers.  Big love to both of you gorgeous things.

And eternal thanks for the enduring friendship with Tara and Vanessa;  who keep me sane.

CQ of APJ

Hop over to APJ if my top perfumes of the year are of any interest!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5 Comments

Filed under Book Review