Again with the words

Sunday, February 24, 2013

It's been too long since we talked about words (my backwards post about Canadianisms notwithstanding) and my list of glossary items just keeps growing.  This week it's time to cross a few off and talk about some more uniquely English words and phrases:

Tea = In its plainest context tea is, of course, the hot beverage that England is so famous for.  And you've already heard about the fancy and filling Afternoon Tea. However, in a more colloquial sense, "tea" can also refer to the evening meal. Wikipedia specifies it as a meal of the working class, served earlier in the evening, probably between 5 and 7pm, though I've heard it from all types.  Class distinctions aside, tea has a plainer, more everyday connotation than dinner. You make tea for your family. You invite friends over for dinner or supper.

Chippie (or Chippy) = a fish and chip shop. As in, "Stop at the chippie on your way home and pick us up something for our tea."  One will have a local chippie just as one has a local pub, though only the pub would ever be referred to simply as "my local".

A typical Chippie.

However, chippie is a remarkably versatile word because it has at least two other distinct meanings...

Chippie/Chippy = a cheap, common, promiscuous woman. A slag.

Chippie/Chippy = a carpenter. I'm not sure if the word is used in this context outside of Show Biz, but it's certainly the default colloquialism in that industry.  A chippie is distinct from a stagehand and is the one with the table saw and the sawdust in his/her hair.  I've even heard it used as a verb as in, "We need to start early on stage tomorrow because there's a lot of chippyin' to do."

Job and Knock = A favourite phrase of the tool-wielding type of chippie.  As opposed to having to work to the end of a stated shift, job and knock means "finish the job at hand and then knock off."  Useful for motivating an unenthusiastic work force, as in, "It's job and knock, boys! Get this truck loaded and you'll be at your local before last orders."

Local = Ah, the local.  Your local pub.  Likely to be the one closest to your home, or at least within stumbling distance.  To have a really good local with a few taps of well-conditioned real ale is a precious thing.  Like "Cheers" you should be known at your local, and expect to know other regulars such that you could pitch up by yourself and still find friendly faces to share a pint with.  I have a friends who lives a short bus ride away from his local, but it's such a good pub it's worth the trip.  All he has to do is remember which bus to get home after last orders.

Prince Regent
The Prince Regent near Brockwell Park, where I have been known to visit, though in fairness, not nearly often enough for it to really be called my local. 

Last Orders = Last Call. All pubs (or at least any pub worth its ready-salted crisps) will have a brass bell mounted near the bar, which will be rung ten or fifteen minutes before last orders, normally 11:00pm.  The ringing is often accompanied by a shout of "Last orders!" or the more genteel, "Time, please gentlemen."  As in North America, this is the signal for hardier souls to get the last few pints poured and for the more sensible patrons to make a move.

A last orders bell.  Obviously.

Make a move = Leave. Exit. Depart. As in, "He's rung last orders luv, I'm going to make a move.  I think I've got half a bottle of Bailey's in the cupboard, fancy coming back to mine?"

Mine, yours, his = Short form of "my place", "your place", "his place".  The place where I/you/he live.

On yer bike! = Get out! No way! You must be joking!  The woman who's been invited for a glass of Baileys might well be insulted at this casual solicitation and tell the poor bloke, "On your bike! Do you think I'm some kind of dirty stopout?"

On Your Bike
Not surprisingly, the phrase gets used a lot in the cycling community, as with this bike shop near London Bridge.

Stopout = Or dirty stopout. Or dirty little stopout. A woman who stays out all night, the implication being that she's sleeping around and quite possibly a bit of a chippie (and not the kind who knows where their framing hammer is...)

Own goal = An own goal is a goal scored against your own team.  It's used in its literal context in football and rugby commentary, but it's also used in a more colloquial sense to mean you've screwed up in some way that's injurious to yourself.  For instance, our man in the pub has scored an own goal by implying that his female friend might be a dirty little stopout, thus pretty much ensuring he'll be going back to his alone.  He's made a schoolboy error.  Not only that, he might also be sent to Coventry.

Schoolboy error = Rookie mistake.  The most basic of errors, a naive or careless one that would normally only be made by someone still in training for a particular task.  Often heard (again) in sports commentary as in, "Ooooohhh... what a terrible pass by Rooney! A real schoolboy error!"

Sent to Coventry = The Silent Teatment.  An idiomatic phrase meaning to ostracize someone, usually by not talking to them or acknowledging their existence.  Coventry is a mid-sized city in the west midlands and it's thought the phrase may derive from the belief that a monastery at Coventry was considered to be the strictest country, thus any monk who was punished by being sent to Coventry would be subjected to a strict vow of silence.  In the 19th century it was a term used in the military and was also regarded as the ultimate punishment for a girl in Enid Blyton's boarding school stories.  In mid 20th century the phrase was used in labour disputes when workers who refused to support job action might be sent to Coventry by their co-workers.  Someone who's been sent to Coventry may well be a Billy No Mates.

Coventry Cathedral Ruins
The ruins of the medieval cathedral at Coventry, bombed during WWII and now left as a ruined shell.  Still, it seems like it wouldn't be such a bad place to be sent...

Billy No Mates = Someone with no friends.  Also a phrase you might use if you've been abandoned or stood up by your friends. As in, "I arranged to meet everyone at the pub but the bastards never showed up!  And there was I, Billy No Mates."

Chinese Whispers = The English version of the party game Telephone, where a phrase is whispered around a circle, emerging back at its origin in a completely altered form. Also used to describe rumour or hearsay.  As in, "I heard Clive invited everyone to the pub last night and no one showed up, but that may just be Chinese Whispers."

And that's all I've got for you this week.  In other news, both the shows I'm working on are now quite busy meaning I'm actually having to set the alarm every day and go to meetings and call people and sit at a computer a lot.  I'm glad I've had a chance to ramp up to this, though it's still a bit of a shock to the system after four months of almost complete idleness punctuated only by the occasional afternoon spent in a coffee shop or aimless wander through Brixton Market.

Also, Thomas Heatherwick is not returning my emails.

Thomas Heatherwick, will you marry me?

Sunday, February 17, 2013

That might seem a rash question, but honestly, the man is so comprehensively, startlingly brilliant that I bet he gets these kind of proposals all the time. Thomas Heatherwick is, of course, perhaps Britain's greatest living designer.  He first swam into my consciousness as the originator of the London 2012 Olympic Cauldron, which was, of course, the most perfect cauldron ever designed. (And has fittingly been nominated for a "Design of the Year" award.)

The cauldron was codenamed "Betty" by Ceremonies to maintain utmost secrecy, in honour of the executive producer's dog, a friendly black cocker spaniel looking thing.

I think we can all agree that Betty was surpassingly fantastic in every way, except possibly one. You probably all know the concept for the cauldron by now: the 204 copper petals, one for every country competing, arriving with each team during the athlete's parade before being affixed to the stems of the cauldron under the stage.  Lovely.  Poetic even, in theory. But being of a cursed with an overly practical nature, what I heard in my head was this:
"Guys, I've got this great idea for the cauldron. You know - the single most important bit of kit in the ceremony? How about we partially dismantle the thing and then hand bits of it - the important bits that we can't fire the thing without - to children. And then we'll get the kids to do a lap of the stadium carrying these really important bits that they've never seen before, and then hand them off to technicians who'll reassemble the cauldron, during the ceremony that a billion people will be watching, in time that it's all put together and functions without a hitch even though there'll be no chance to test it once it's been reassembled. Great idea huh?"
It sounded frankly like the biggest gamble in the history of ceremonies. Luckily, Betty was in the hands of a brilliant team of people who worked like Trojans to make it all happen (mostly between one and five o'clock in the morning to stymie nosey journalists).  Mercifully for all involved, I had nothing to do with it beyond helping to supply 204 plastic orange buckets to act as rehearsal petals for the kids.  And of course it all worked out in the end, so I'm sorry I ever doubted you Thomas. Please forgive me.

Thomas Heatherwick was also behind the design of something I've already blogged about: the new Routemaster bus. I still haven't managed to ride on one of the new Routemasters, but now that I know Thomas is behind it I see it in a different light and I will redoubled my efforts and report back.

New Routemaster
The new Routemaster, with its two interior stairs and sweeping, winding windows. Lovely.

Routemaster stairs
The back stairs of the new Routemaster, which have a lovely vintage feel that makes it look like they belong in a nightclub in the 1920s.

But this blog isn't really about Betty or buses. It's about a fantastic little bridge also designed by Thomas Heatherwick, that I went to see on Friday afternoon when the weather was warm and the sky was clear and blue. Some of you may know that I've got a surpassing fondness for bridges in particular and for clever engineering in general, and this outwardly unassuming footbridge is a perfect synthesis of those two loves, which is how I know that Thomas Heatherwick and I are meant to be together forever.  I went to see it on Friday, arriving just before noon.

A nice but apparently unremarkable bridge.

At just after noon, and in front of a scattered crowd of twenty or so people, a pair of yellow-jacketed technicians emerged and plugged a hydraulic controller into a locked pedestal near the east end of the bridge and then stopped the casual pedestrian traffic from crossing.

Hmmm... interesting. What can be about to happen?

What happened was this:


And this:


And this:


And finally, this:


I'll let Thomas explain:
"The aim was to make the movement the extraordinary aspect of the bridge. A common approach to designing opening bridges is to have a single rigid element that fractures and lifts out of the way. Rolling Bridge opens by slowly and smoothly curling until it transforms from a conventional, straight bridge, into a circular sculpture which sits on the bank of the canal."  From the Heatherwick studios page on the bridge.
Thomas Heatherwick I LOVE YOU. Next you'll tell me that you've recently developed a recipe for quintuple chocolate and caramel cupcakes that are only 15 calorie each and that as your wedding gift to me you will be designing a secure, weatherproof and low profile bicycle storage system made from post-consumer recycled materials that will sit in an unused corner of our back garden and double as a chicken coop for heritage breed hens thus simultaneously providing a ready supply of organic free-range eggs and keeping my fussy derailleurs out of the weather.

Here's Thomas himself speaking about the bridge in his TED talk, and a nice little video of the bridge in action.  (Note the endearingly dishevelled hair and charming accent):

The ends of the bridge kiss each other!  And it all happens perfectly silently and smoothly.

Amusingly, as the bridge was almost finished performing its trick on Friday, a breathless guy with an American accent and a large DSLR camera jogged up and jokingly asked one of the Yellow Jacket Men, "Can you start again?" He was astonished when the guy said, "Yeah, we can do it again" and then proceeded to do just that.

I stayed for the second showing and watched again with a big stupid grin on my face because this bridge is both beautiful and clever at the same time and I because I love that it exists in the first place and that the people who look after it recognise that it's a beautiful and clever thing and let people come an enjoy its beauty and cleverness every week and will even run it on a whim for latecomers.

Me at the curly bridge, in deference to continuing requests from RobH for more pictures of me in blog posts.

And then wandered off in the warm afternoon sunshine feeling sublimely happy with London and trying to decide whether Thomas and I will have a big wedding, or just sneak off to the upper walkway of Tower Bridge with a Justice of the Peace and a few close friends, and then go for chocolate cupcakes.

P.S.  February 17 (the day this blog is posted) is also, in a coincidence so startling that I have to regard it as fate sealing us together forever, Thomas Heatherwick's 43rd birthday.  Happy Birthday Thomas!

P.P.S.  What?  Thomas Heatherwick is ALREADY MARRIED?

P.P.P.S.  I need some chocolate.

Off the tourist track: Mudlarking

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Astute GSWPL readers will remember that I'm a big fan of London Walks.  It's a rare day when I fork over my £9 for a walk and feel like it wasn't well worth it at the end.  Most London Walks follow a fairly standard pattern - arrive at the appointed tube station, hand over your money to the guide who will be waiting there, follow that person around for a couple of hours learning more about London than you thought possible, and repeat as necessary.  There is, however, one particular and quite different walk that's been on my list for some time now - the Thames Beachcombing walk.

(Aside about the London Walks website... I love London Walks.  I really do.  I think they do great work and deserve all the praise they get.  However, the writing on their website is just a tad over the top - and this is coming from someone you know is not above a bit of purple prose on occasion.  Certainly the website functions well enough - you get the information you need about what walks happen on what days and what times.  But when you start to read the descriptions of individual walks the system falls down a bit.  Yes, you learn what each walk is about, but the more descriptions you read the more you realize that EVERY walk in the schedule is described in such ridiculously glowing terms you start to get just a tad suspicious. I submit the following randomly selected quotes in evidence, all describing different walks:
"This is the cornerstone, the great seminal London Walk. Miss it and you've missed London."  OR:
"This is a great walk...they just don't come any better than this." AND:
"This one is really special." AND OF COURSE:
"Okay, time to take the gloves off with this one. GO ON THIS WALK."
I could go on.  Lets just say that whoever writes the copy for the London Walks website needs to calm down a bit and probably cut back on the caffeine.)

So the walk is called "beachcombing" but the more proper, more London-y term would be "mudlarking".  As the ever-faithful Wikipedia says: "A mudlark is someone who scavenges in river mud for items of value, a term especially used to describe those who scavenged this way in London in the late 18th and 19th centuries." These days the term mostly applies to people with metal detectors looking for old coins or other items of value, and dilettantes like your humble blogger.

A modern mudlark at work.

Key to the whole activity is the fact that the Thames in London is tidal, which means that twice a day the tide comes in, possibly bringing or uncovering new stuff with it, and twice a day the tide goes out, leaving large stretches of rocky beach for exploring.  Of course you don't need to go on a guided walk to explore the shoreline.  I've been down on the banks of the Thames a few times already - there are access gates and stairs that lead down from the embankment in a few spots and anyone can go down if they want to.  The difference with a London Walks trip to the beach is that you are accompanied by an intertidal archeologist, a particular species that I confess total ignorance of prior to last Saturday.  And having that person along for the ride makes all the difference.

Our guide was Fiona, described in the typically breathless fashion of the London Walks website as "the world's leading authority on this stretch of Thames foreshore" (that's also highlighted in bright yellow, in case you might miss it). Fiona turned out to be a lovely woman who had indeed been studying the tidal Thames for much of her career and had come to the walk more or less straight from the airport where she'd got off an overnight flight from some kind of dig in South Africa. So she was not only qualified, but also dedicated.

We started on a cold but sunny Saturday morning at Mansion House station and quickly made our way towards the river, with Fiona spouting typical London Walks info the whole way... with one slight difference.  I've done quite a few walks and I've never before been warned of the possibility of gruesome death as a result of the walk's activities.  In this walk though, Fiona took great pains to warn us about the dangers of Weil's Disease, a malady charmingly know by a few other names like mud fever, swamp fever, haemorrhagic jaundice, swineherd's disease, and sewerman's flu.  It's a bacterial infection transmitted through contact with animal urine, usually in contaminated water.  Despite its reputation as a deadly and fetid swamp, the Thames has actually come a long was since the days of the "Great Stink".  It's a healthy, living river again, with more than 120 different species in it. Nonetheless there's still a risk, as evidenced by the unfortunate death in 2010 of one of Britain's Olympic rowing hopefuls, Andy Holmes.  So Fiona was quite insistent about keeping us safe, and had boxes of rubber gloves that she made everyone put on before we got down to the beach.

The history of London is inextricably linked with the history of the Thames; the city just wouldn't be here without it.  The fact that the river has strong tides is what made the Romans settle here instead of on a nice bit of coast somewhere like Brighton, where they could have enjoyed a walk along the pier and a stick of rock candy before heading north to try and subdue those pesky Picts.  The tide meant that ocean-going supply boats could ride the tide into the city for unloading before riding it back out again, which turns out to be quite handy when you're running an empire.  And the river back then was much wider and curvier than it is now.  A lot of the curves are gone, meaning that the current is unexpectedly fast and potentially deadly.  During the Queen's Diamond Jubilee River Pageant last summer they had to raise the Thames Barrier to slow the current and make the river safe for the man-powered boats.  And generations of engineers have reclaimed so much land from the river that this street is now more than 500 feet from the current embankment.

You can tell by the name that this street used to be much much closer to the water's edge.

The river has been affected by man in other ways too.  The tides today are measurably greater than they were hundreds of years ago; high tide is higher and low tide is lower.  In Roman times its estimated the tide measured about six and a half feet, now it's more like eight.  Global warming is the likely culprit.  You can see this in the architecture around the riverbank, particularly in the causeways built to allow you to board a boat safely (any drily) at any tide.

This is a causeway under Southwark Bridge.  See the lines in the paving of the flat part that extends towards the water line? Those are areas where the causeway has been extended - three times - to try and reach the ever-receding low tide mark.

If the history London depends on the Thames, then a lot of the history of the Thames surrounds its bridges.  It was the Romans (of course) who built the first bridge across the Thames, approximately where the modern London Bridge stands today.  It was followed by a succession of bridges in that same area.  The medieval stone bridge is perhaps the most famous incarnation, and the most long-lived.  It's the one you see in pictures with the shops and houses and heads-of-traitors-on-a-pike on it.  That bridge was built on 19 heavy stone piers that obstructed the flow of the river so much that the water level could be six to nine feet higher on the upstream side than on the downstream.  The build-up of slower-flowing water on the upstream side of the bridge also contributed to more frequent freezing of the river, and to the Frost Fairs that accompanied those freezes.  And the dangerous flow of water through the bridge piers made passing under the bridge in a boat recklessly foolish.  It was said the bridge was "for wise men to pass over, and for fools to pass under." Though those wise men had better not be in a hurry.  Since London Bridge was the only bridge across the Thames (in London) until the 19th century, it was often so congested it could take hours to cross.

"An engraving by Claes Visscher showing Old London Bridge in 1616, with what is now Southwark Cathedral in the foreground. The spiked heads of executed criminals can be seen above the Southwark gatehouse." (Thanks again, Wikipedia!)

For centuries the Thames was the main artery through London and often the best way to travel quickly and safely through the city.  At some times in its history there was so much river traffic that you could actually could cross the river by hopping from boat to boat.  And the port became so busy that a ship arriving with cargo might have to wait up to a year to clear customs before it could be unloaded.  In the 1850s London was the world's busiest shipping port and shipping remained a vital industry until as late as the 1960s.  The advent of shipping containers killed the port of London by diverting container ships to outlying ports like Tilbury where they had room for the large machinery needed to load and unload containers and acres of space to store them.  There's still some commercial traffic on the river today - garbage collection on barges, for instance - but it's mostly used for recreation now (Weil's Disease notwithstanding).

The black metal structure overhanging the shore in the middle of the picture is a crane for loading garbage barges.  And that's right in the middle of the City - that's Canon Street rail bridge in the background.

I started out to tell you about mudlarking, and all I've done so far is prattle on about the history of the Thames. But really, that history is actually central to the activity.  The whole reason that the riverbanks contain enough interesting effluvia to make it worth risking haemorrhagic jaundice to poke around on them is precisely because of the incredibly ancient and teeming history of the river and the people who've lived on and around it for hundreds (well, actually thousands) of years.

But back to the riverbank.  Suitably gloved up, we were set loose on a section of the Thames foreshore just in front of the Tate Modern, where there's a handy gate in the railings on the embankment and a very comfortable stone staircase that leads right down to the beach. Fiona let us poke around on our own, but did tell us the rules.  First and foremost - no digging allowed.  Digging would require a Thames Foreshore Permit.  And we're not only talking about shovels-and-backhoes kind of digging either.  Using any kind of implement to scratch the surface is considered digging, so we were even warned against nudging things around with our feet.  Nonetheless, the Port of London Authority did not descend in black helicopters to arrest anyone in our tour.

Fiona encouraged us to grab anything that looked interesting (we'd been warned ahead of time to bring a bag to carry what we collected).  And after about twenty minutes she gathered us up and had us lay out our treasures on a few heavy wooden posts sticking up from the riverbed, so she could tell us about what we'd found.  That's the great advantage of mudlarking with a pro.  You might find something interesting on your own, but would you really be about to identify it? Or understand how interesting it really is?

For instance, would you be able to tell that horrible black boot at the top of the picture is Victorian? It has hob nails in the heels and everything.  

The most common finds are shards of crockery, animal bones, bits of ship-related metal like nails, and pieces of clay pipes.  These clay pipes are a particular favourite.  Tobacco smoking was introduced to England in the late 16th century, and by the 17th century disposable clay pipes pre-filled with tobacco were as common as cigarette butts are today.  The pipes used to have very long thin stems and though it's exceedingly rare to find whole pipes these days, it's exceedingly common to find fragments of stem.  And a few lucky people in our group found whole or partial pipe bowls.  You can see a few pipe stem fragments just downstage of the boot in the middle of the photo above.

The area of shore we were on also once contained a glass bottle factory, so there were quite a few interesting chunks of glass found.  I found an odd bit that Fiona thought might be part of the neck of a Codd bottle, named after the brilliantly-baptised Hiram Codd.  He invented the Codd bottle for carbonated drinks, and versions of it are still in use today (in Japan, for instance...).  The basis of the system is a metal or glass marble that resides in the specially shaped neck of the bottle.  When the bottle is filled with a carbonated liquid the pressure inside the bottle forces the marble up against a rubber washer, sealing the bottle.  Clever Hiram!

Codd Bottles
Here's a picture of some rare, intact Codd bottles

It's virtually impossible to find complete Codd bottles anymore because after growing weary of licensing his product Hiram took to allowing anyone to manufacture the bottles, as long as they bought the special marbles from him.  This lead to a small cottage industry, mostly among children, in recovering discarded bottles in order to smash them and retrieve the marbles.  (Please let's refrain from commenting on poor Hiram, his marbles, and the loss thereof.)

My treasure from the morning of mudlarking, including the chunk of Codd bottle (it's about two inches across) a few tiny bits of broken crockery (some with pleasing patterns) and a microscopic piece of pipe stem.  Fiona encouraged us to take only a small number of piece away with us.

And that was the mudlarking.  It was certainly more fun to do with someone who could actually tell you what you were looking at than to bumble around on your own with the tide coming in, and I came away with enough random facts and photos to write an over-long blog about it all.  But eventually the fun wore off, mostly because it was actually quite chilly and I started losing feeling in my double-gloved fingers and my uncovered ears, and really just wanted to get somewhere warm and eat soup and then curl up with a few episodes of "Dr.Who".

And so I did.

Steve's Weird Food: It's payback time.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Those of you who immigrated here from my wildly popular travel blog, Go See Run Eat Drink, will remember the Steve's Weird Food project, and the joy and heartache (or at least stomachache) that it brought about.  For those of you who don't know about GSRED in general, or Steve's Weird Food in particular, two things:
  1. What the hell? Really? You should get yourself over to Go See Run Eat Drink and check out those archives  'cause that was some damned good writing (she said, modestly).
  2. Remember Steve? He should be well-known to you now, after the Tower of London, and Afternoon Tea and the Monolith Tour.  Steve was the last of my Winnipeg friends to see me off before I left on my big Around The World trip (see blog above).  As I left he gave me a big hug (and grabbed my ass... but that's just Steve) and gave me one last bit of advice: "Eat something weird everywhere you go."
Fateful words indeed, and ones I really took to heart.  Along with all the sightseeing and international flights and border crossings and overnight bus rides, I genuinely endeavored to find some kind of weird food in every country I visited, and attempt to eat it.  Thirty-seven times I faced the challenge, and though I occasionally took the easy way out (deep-fried twinkles, for example, and the fantastic eggs-on-a-stick) more often than not I found myself staring down various forms of offal (tripe and intestines, for instance), or animals that we in the west don't traditionally consider good eatin' (worms, dog, snake), or things that I couldn't even begin to classify (Black jelly? Pan?).  And though I generally enjoyed the project, there were times that I cursed Steve and his glib little suggestion.

So when we realised that Karen and Steve would be traveling to visit me, to a country they'd never visited before, it seemed only right and proper that I dig up a nice weird English food, and make Steve eat it, and blog about it.  Fair's fair.  The obvious choice in my mind was jellied eels, served up in a proper East End Pie & Mash shop.  Sadly, the schedule got away from us and we just didn't manage to find time to get to the Pie Shop, so we had to do a bit of quick thinking.  That's when I remembered this:

In the cupboard
The infamous All Day Breakfast in a can, lovingly saved in the back of my cupboard (though in truth "banished" might be a more appropriate verb than "saved").

So it was that poor Steve ended up posing for the camera at 7am on the morning of the Monolith Tour. Poor guy.

Steve and the can.  He's smiling here, but that did not last.

Let's just have a close up look at that label, shall we?

"Baked Beans in tomato sauce with sausages, button mushrooms, chopped pork and egg nuggets with cereal, and bacon."

Not only is that a culinarily dodgy collection of words ("nuggets" is a definite red flag), it's also somewhat grammatically challenged.  Baked beans, yes.  Sausages and button mushrooms, ok so far.  The next bit... I can't even tell if that's one thing or three things or what.  Are we talking about chopped pork, and separately about egg nuggets, all served with a side of cereal? Or, much more terrifyingly, does this can contain nuggets that are actually comprised of chopped pork AND egg AND cereal? And if so, how is that even possible?  And what the hell is cereal doing in the middle of a "full English breakfast" (And I use that term exceedingly loosely. Perhaps in the same way one might say "musician" when describing Justin Bieber).  Read on for the awful truth.

Let's break this down:
  • Baked beans:  Yes, there were beans, and Steve admitted that they were the most edible and most real items on the plate.  Thank God they made up a large percentage of the contents of that can.
  • Sausages:  It may be a bit of a stretch to call these things sausages, because I'm pretty sure that legally requires a reasonable percentage of actual meat.  Nevertheless the sausages were edible, though decidedly "texturally challenging".
  • Button mushrooms:  Second only to the beans, the mushrooms actually seemed to be a product of nature.  And there were two so the plural was justified, if only barely.
  • Bacon:  Again I think legal definitions were stretched here, as I've never encountered a perfectly round slice of bacon the size of a toonie (or a two pound coin).
Pan of Doom
The contents of the can, bubbling on the stove (hob).  
With handy labels to help you identify all the component parts.

And, finally, and most heinously:
  • Chopped pork and egg nuggets with cereal:  Indeed, the worst was true, these little nuggets of doom really did seem to be a combination of chopped pork, egg and cereal.
Close up nugget, chopped in half. Oh God, the horror.

This is all speculation, since none of the "foodstuffs" involved in the nuggets were particularly identifiable, but my best guess is that the outer coating is the chopped pork part, even though texture was largely mush.  The inside must have been the egg and cereal but really, what the hell is that combination about anyways? I tried half of one nugget in solidarity with Steve and the best way I can think to describe it is "damp sand encased in the bastard child of Spam and Satan".

Steve eating. He's a brave man.  And a smart one - notice that he supplemented the canned slop with a nice piece of whole wheat toast and actual fresh tomatoes.

Nevertheless, Steve cleaned his plate with only a small amount of grimacing.  Though he did admit to some digestive discomfort later in the day, which is significant since Steve is rather known for his cast-iron stomach.  I translated his mild complaints as equivalent to a normal person writhing in pain and begging for a stomach pump.

And what did Steve have to say about the whole experience?  When approached by the Go Stay Work Play Live editorial staff for a quote, he replied:
“'The All Day Breakfast' in a can tasted like nothing I ever want to taste again. Although I have to admit that it did stay with me for most of the day.”
Steve and his clean plate.

Nice work Steve.  Now about those jellied eels...


P.S.  In other news... the job situation has improved markedly!  I've got a gig as a freelance production manager for a show at a real grown-up theatre in Soho, which is a big boost.  The fee will barely stave off starvation, but it's a good start.  And I've got a meeting on Monday about another show at a different theatre, so things are definitely looking up.  And perhaps most interesting of all, I had a conversation this week with a man hiring for the props team on the Winter Olympic Opening and Closing Ceremonies in Sochi, Russia.  It turns out that a lot of my colleagues from last summer have moved on to that gig, so I thought I'd look into it.  On the plus side, it would pay well, and I'd be working with a lot of the good people I was with last year, and it would be another big exciting project.  On the downside, I'd have to live in Russia for about nine months, and the obstacles of producing a big show in Russia would be mammoth compared to London, and due to the Games schedule would likely not make it home to Canada for Christmas, all of which is Not Good.  Nonetheless, I'm seriously contemplating it so all I can say is... watch this space.