Dry dock boat, somewhere in Donegal


Risotto is my favourite recipe to impress; it’s relatively simple, quick and you can put anything in it. This is one of the more basic ways to cook it, with just a little bit of saffron. Of course, you can add cured meats to the pan before the rice or seared vegetables for the last 5-10 mins of cooking just to mix things up and Presto, you have yourself dinner.

Stock on the boil
Butter for frying
Finely chopped onion
Risotto rice
Glass of white wine
Salt and pepper
Grated parmesan cheese

With some chicken or vegetable stock on the boil, I fry the onions in a lake of butter until they’re soft. Turn the heat up and add the risotto, which I stir everything until it glistens and sticks to the spoon.

A glass of white wine such as Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio with strands of saffron immersed in it is thrown in and begins to bubble around the rice. I cut lines around and across the pan with a wooden spoon, dividing over and over until the wine is absorbed, the rice beginning to cloud and showing its first signs of creaminess. Knock the heat down again before getting onto the main part.

The stock should be simmering now and a ladel or two is added to the pan at a time. Keep stirring, mixing, weaving the risotto as the water is absorbed and evaporated, adding another ladel each time the spoon leaves a clear trail in the pan.

After about 15 minutes, taste the risotto every minute or so until it begins to soften and the grains don’t crumble into little rocks when bitten. I think it’s ready when I don’t have to lever crushed grains from the crowns of my teeth with my tongue.

Mix in more butter and grated Parmesan to make it even creamier, then a little bit of black pepper and salt to taste and serve with the rest of the bottle of wine.

I evade my personal responsibility for the things I choose to do. I blame the government, the oil companies, George Bush, the economy, the wealthy and anybody else I can think of for the destruction that my lifestyle causes.

I put my comfort, my convenience and my conformity ahead of the lives and livelihoods of thousands of future generations and I try not to think too much about my daily contribution to the destruction of the world, bequeathed to me by thousands of past generations. I put myself far, far ahead of my ancestors and descendants and take from them for the most trivial of reasons.

I ignore the real human pain, suffering and death that my behaviour causes. Do I turn the page, switch the channel, or change the topic of conversation? I tell myself there is no point in changing before others do, and I convince myself that ‘Science’ will come up with a technological solution that will make my lifestyle and me OK.

I avoid, I deny, I justify and rationalise, I pretend, I project, I squirm and squeeze and do whatever I can to maintain my concept of myself as a good person while still doing what I do. I evade my moral responsibility a day at a time in the hope that reality will somehow be different tomorrow morning.

I steal from those who live far away from me, and who I do not know because I see their pain as cartoon pain, and not fully real. I casually destroy what future generations will depend upon to live because they have yet to be born and it is only me, and my time and my normalcy that is important.

Am I any better than those who, sixty years ago, did their jobs and lived their normal lives and didn’t ask questions about where their Jewish neighbours had gone? When they came for the Communists, i did not speak up for i wasn’t a Communist. I am like those who participated in slavery and other atrocities, except that the effects of my crimes will outlast all those others. Who will be left to speak up for me then?

And it is OK, because today I am part of the ‘normal’, busy, with other things on my mind and, if what I do is really so bad then so many others wouldn’t be doing the same, would they?

But when, in the hours before I die, I think back upon my life and what it has meant, I must do one thing. I must hope and pray that there is nothing more than this; nothing beyond life, beyond time or beyond myself, that there is no balance, no karma, no morality and no justice. This is what I seriously believe with a faith as strong as any fundamentalist, but, as so many fundamentalists fail to grasp, just because I believe in it doesn’t make it true. I can but hope that there is nothing more than this.

Because if there is, and I do what I do, knowing what I know…

Well, lets not think about that.

I’ve always held a certain respect for the type of person who can listen to some 1960’s funk and not be too busy dancing to think: Hey, That’d go really well with Easy Motherfuckin E laid over the top of it.

That being said, Mash-ups, blends whatever, using Jay-z have never really hit the spot for me. Mostly it used to feel like sacrilege, now it just seems pointless. This track, however, works. It’s slower, it’s chilled and it’s perfect for summer.

Download it and a load of other tracks by the same fine fellow Prince of Ballard here.

I’ve had a pineapple in my fridge for ages. I had intended to put it into Sweet & Sour but, for reasons lost in the past, didn’t. So it’s been sitting in my fridge for a fair few weeks. I think it’s safe to say it’s ripe. Possibly too ripe.

Now, the usual idea would be to marinade it in alcohol and keep for a few months to snack on at a later date, but today I’m impatient so I decided to bake it instead.

Large, ripe pineapple
Caster sugar
½ Lime, juiced
1 Split vanilla pod
Flaked almonds

Trim the skin from the pineapple, and cut into 1cm thick pieces.

Put the fruit in a baking dish big enough that the pieces half fill it, sprinkle on the almonds, sugar, lime juice, cognac and some water, and submerse the vanilla pod in the ­liquid.

Cover with foil and bake at 180°C /gas mark 4 until hot and tender.

Transfer into serving bowls and serve with vanilla ice cream, remembering to pour any leftover syrup over the lot of it. Don’t want to waste the cognac!

I was too young to vote in 1997. My memories of that election are scant: a few posters advertising Nu Labour on Smithdown Rd, Tony Blair’s smile and the “Things Can Only Get Better” theme tune, but even at the tender age of 13 I could tell that something significant had happened – John Major, that “big bag of fuck all” had been ousted and 18 years of calamitous (for Liverpool at any rate) Tory rule had come to an end. Out in the schoolyard the day after, we pretended we knew what we were talking about and Michael Gandy, the friend voted ‘most likely to enter politics’ went around telling everyone what a momentous day it was.

A lot of things have changed since then, Mike never did enter politics, Tony Blair’s smile has long since faded (like his hair colour) and we’re again at the stage where, if things can’t only get better, then they really can’t get much worse, can they?

Except there’s no doubt in my mind that they can.

Back in 1983, on the eve of what, up ‘til then, had been the lowest point in Labour’s electoral performance, Neil Kinnock addressed a nation about to extend Thatcher’s reign with the words, “I warn you not to be ordinary. I warn you not to be young. I warn you not to fall ill. I warn you not to get old.” He knew Labour were about to lose and he knew what the era of Thatcherite politics would mean for the people of Britain. He was right on both counts.

Even without the certainty that tomorrow will bring a new Tory Prime Minister, the possibility that David Cameron could get into Downing Street is still very real and then, in my mind at least, things will get a whole lot worse.

My hatred for the Tories is instinctive, after all they’ve done nothing to me. I was 13 when they left power and spent most of the 80s and 90s playing Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and riding my bike, so Tory economic policy had little effect on me at the time. Now, however, I can see what they’re up to. I can look back at misery and destitution they forced upon millions and I can look at them now and see not much has changed. Despite Cameron’s claim that it’s “the most vulnerable, the most frail and the poorest” that he cares about, there is nothing I can see that suggests that this time, things will be different.

Cameron joined the Conservatives in 1988. He saw what they were doing, to the poor, to the miners, to the rising unemployment and thought that it was right, that it was proper. That he agreed with Thatcher’s policies and thought “these are the people who best represent my interests”. If they do get to power, and even if he has changed, the Tory backbenchers haven’t. With their anti-EU, anti-AGW, anti-gay, pro-big corp agendas, they will keep the Tories as the party for the rich, the privileged, the upper middle-classes, despite Cameron’s rhetoric. He has no power over them, and they hold powers of veto over him. They will make sure he toes the Party line. They’re the ones we have to watch out for.

I have no ties to Labour. Politics wasn’t much discussed in our house when I was growing up; the closest we ever got was my uncle running for the Acne Party in the Chesterfield by-elections of 1984, in which he received a grand total of 15 votes. In the two elections in which I’ve been eligible to vote I’ve used it once for Labour and once for Lib Dem. I’m still unsure about who to vote for tonight; with the country in the state it’s in I don’t think it much matters at the moment. Yet I know who I’m not going to vote for.

I may not care who wins, but I hope to God the Tories lose.