Five Minute Review: The Classic Cocktail Bible

How do I sum up this book? Alcohol, that’s how. Lots and lots of alcohol.

Amusingly you open the cover and see not a Drink Aware message, but instead a warning against consuming raw eggs (a foodstuff that features in some of the recipes.) Sandwiched between the hard covers of this recipe book are some very attractive looking images and nice little introductions to each drink (where their name comes from, the type of ingredients in the drink etc.). You’ve got the classics, your Mojitos, Bloody Marys Martinis, but you’re also got the different, for example Kinky Witch, Rusty Nail and Bobby Burns. In many ways there is something for everyone here* (unless you’re teetotal or under eighteen, in which case no, there isn’t).

All this however doesn’t detract from the simple truth that, as with all cocktails, you need about 100 different spirits and mixers tucked away in the cupboard to make them. The Classic Cocktail Bible is a classic by name and a classic of its genre; it is a book which sits on one’s shelf for many months/years until one day you think “oh, I really fancy a Cosmopolitan right now, I’m sure I can make that”. You open this book to mild disappointment when realise you can’t so instead you reach for a can of cider and consume that instead.

The Classic Cocktail Bible is a must have for the coffee table of the young professional or the kitchen cupboard for the impulsive buyer but be warned, it takes more than vodka and coke to make a good cocktail.

Come Sit With Me

Come sit with me. Come sit here in the caffeine filled haze we call paradise. The legal high that our fathers and their fathers before have relished, for here we are one. The mothers, the students, the disapproving men with broadsheets in hand, everyone has a home here.

Let me pass you this extra I have acquired. Do you take milk? The sugar is over there. The chair next to me is a little worn and mismatched, but that is the norm. Brush off the crumbs of the previous tenant and join me in weekend conversation.

The background music will lull you into a false pretence of your own class and status. The type of music you recognise but do not know. They are the backing beats that serve as melodic distraction from the mess surrounding us. I have heard in booksheleved corners that it improves the taste, what do you think?

See that man behind my left shoulder? I know him to be a regular. The frustrated writer who huffs and sighs over work that will never make it to print. Chomping on cheap nuts and downing brown goo in paper cups, for he cannot afford the china. He is a freeloader of the establishment, clinging desperately to an image that cannot be sustained. I remember when he used to sip on only the finest quality beans and nibble on pastries with young women, but those days are gone. We have all changed since those days.

My friend, you look a little troubled. Don’t be. In this world we are all addicts of our own making. I only seek to show you the truth that lurks in the steam. Save your pity for Africa, it is a wasted emotion in this Latino supplied space. I see you have finished your drink. Would you like another? It would be my honour. They serve only the finest cheap substances here, it is why we never leave.

I am so happy you came to sit with me my partner. Now stress no more and relax, the fresh coffee will be here soon.

 

182fa7ce696bc3321e96765c83c13bd7

I’m The Classiest Thing to Happen to Swindon Since Billie Piper

With a title like that you’re probably thinking one of three things, “too right Alice is”, “this girl has got right up herself since she set up a Facebook page. Who is she, Donald Trump?” or “huh, I did not know Billie Piper came from Swindon”. Either way, I’m going to say it loud and proud* (*not in real life you understand? Just online).

Two weeks ago was carrying an unzipped suitcase down the stairs when all my belongings tumbled out. At that very moment I thought to myself “you really are a piece of something” and now I know what that something is. It’s pretty obvious that I am the embodiment of class and comedy gold (I’m also the embodiment of a minor caffeine addition and sleep deprivation, but I’ll leave that to the obituarists).

Backtracking a little, with a name that translates as “Pig Hill” not a lot of celebrities have graced the streets and houses of Swindon. Case in point: when was the last time you saw Jude Law in the Canal Walk McDonald’s? Exactly. And don’t get me started about the fact Canal Walk is no where near water. I’m going off on a ranty tangent here, but Swindon needs to have a serious rebrand. Why not change the name to, say, “Swingdon” and make the place full of jazz or “Richdon” (subliminal messaging for the dumb rich people)? I pay you enough ruddy money in taxes, sort it out council.

Until a new name is implemented or Jude Law decides to unleash his offspring into the concrete jungle that is Swindon’s Tented Market (really, it is made of that – WHO WORKS IN BRANDING?!), then I’m going to claim the title of classiest female to grace Swindon. Sure, I spill tea quite literally everywhere and yes, I can be reduced down to a child-like mentality when presented with new pillows, but given my competition is Billie Piper then I think I have good grounds for asserting my case. For anyone not in the know, Piper made her name in the late 90s/early 00s as a pop star and then as an actress (more commonly known for playing Rose Tyler in the reboot of Doctor Who). She’s good, don’t get me wrong, but Swindonians don’t half like to harp on about her like she’s a big claim to fame. You know who my local town of Stratford-Upon-Avon had? Shakespeare, that’s who. Trust me, there’s no beating that, however competing against this I think I could take Piper on:

(Seeing bins melt into men, billboard cartoons come alive and rhino bouncers? Yep, it’s called a standard Saturday night out in Swindon.)

I write stuff, good stuff, and despite my frequent Calamity Jane moments I like to think I represent a good role model. I walk to work, go to the gym, I even do the occasional bit of baking. I tell you what, get Anthea Turner (star of How to Be a Perfect Housewife) on the phone, she’ll support me (and in doing so knock back Feminism to 1969 but hey, we’re talking about me here.)

In short, I’m a ruddy aspirational professional.

And you know what? I think my presence is having an effect on this town. For instance back in 2014 you would never see this type of thing out and about:

 Glass.png

You might have come across a cider can or an empty beer bottle, but never a wine flute carefully placed on a window ledge. It’s a sign!

Not wanting to brag, but I’m the classiest thing to happen to Swindon since Billie Piper.

(Disclaimer: before writing this post I had consumed a large, strong, coffee. This may explain pretty much all the comments made in the above. Do I regret them? Not at all.)

Catherine Mayer on Equality, Red Heads and the Manifesto She Wants You to Steal

“Crossing the stage, Catherine Mayer strikes a formidable figure as she throws down her bag and proclaims, “will there be rock?!””

Check out my review on Catherine Mayer here:  Catherine Mayer on Equality, Red Heads and the Manifesto She Wants You to Steal

catherine-mayer

Francesca Martinez: “I may be Disabled but at Least I’m not a Pot of Hummus or Donald Trump”

My recent review on the brilliant comedian Francesca Martinez:

http://www.theswindonian.co.uk/francesca-martinez-i-may-be-disabled-but-at-least-im-not-a-pot-of-hummus-or-donald-trump-swindon-literature-festival-2017/

th

 

Five Reasons Why I Can Never Become Famous

No two words fill an office with more dread than “team” and “photos”. I mean it’s effectively a modern-day, corporate, form of torture. It doesn’t matter if you’re Angelia Jolie or if you look like the back of Wayne Rooney’s head, nobody jumps for joy when faced with the prospect of having a camera being shoved in one’s face for use in the office team chart. Just thinking about my face filling a wide angle lens makes me naturally tense up and feel queasy.

At the time a few people laughed off my concerns. “It’ll be fine!” they said, “no nobody wants their photos done, we’re all in same boat,” they reassured. But they were wrong. It wasn’t alright, we weren’t in the same boat. For while all of my colleagues were able to at least obtain one semi-decent photo for the team structure chart, these are the best I could pull off with a professional photographer…

Jesus Christ they’re awful.

Needless to say the hunt is now on to find a photo where I don’t look mad/confused/infected with some terrible tropical swelling disease. I’ve also decided that as a result of this I cannot ever have my photo taken for semi-formal purposes ever again. If people need to know what I look like they can ruddy well come over and say hi. I’d rather have the profile picture of a happy owl than my constipated face.

f393b96b729f4cfe170dc8856243b696
The look I wanted to pull.

 

4. A Poorly Timed Toilet Stop: House Viewing #2

While the last house viewing had been preceded with relative calm, my second dip was a much tenser affair. For one, I was going to be the first person to view the house (“you want to view number 22? But its only just been put online!”) and secondly I didn’t want the agents to know my current situation. If they knew I lived next door it would provide them far too good a hand to use against me should I need it in negotiations. As before, my property guru parents had ventured down to Swindon to assist me and together we hatched a cunning plan to prior to the viewing. It went something like this:

1.       All three of us would arrive in Mum’s car, I was not to walk there as it could be a giveaway that work was close by.

2.      Dad wasn’t to park the car on the drive of my current rented house.

3.      All three were to downplay the location and/or act naïve.

4.      (As with any house viewing) we were to remain poised and calm throughout.

5.      After the viewing, we’d linger on the drive until the agent went, then dash into my house next door to discuss further over tea and shortbread.

That was the plan and, in an ideal world, that’s exactly how the second house viewing would have gone. But then nothing is ideal, especially when it comes to houses.

Owing to dad’s parking a mini scrap broke out over point two before we’d even got out of the car.

“Why do you need to straighten up three times? You’re not going to be parked here long!”

“It’s no good, I can’t get it fitted into the space right. I’ll park over there.”

“For God’s sake! It’s an IQ, it couldn’t be any shorter if it tried! Mum, please can we just get out, the agent is stood there!”

“One more time…”

“Get me out!”

With some awkwardness, I clambered out of the back of the three door car.

“He’s being ridiculous.” I complained to mum, before performing a quick personality change to greet the agent.

After some mild surprise from the agent when I was presented as the potential buyer, Mum and I entered the property, with Dad following shortly behind. Point three on the plan worked, I kept very cool when it came to the location and held back the urge to get too overly excited about the property.

Unlike the first house, number 22 looked exactly as it did in the pictures. Everything was clean, tidy and all the rooms were nicely decorated. There was no clutter in sight. I wouldn’t go as far to say it was perfect but it was certainly near to it. Sure, the list price was a bit higher but then I was prepared to pay more just to be on a nice estate and away from the dreaded prospect of surface wiring. The only drawback was the issue of the third bedroom. As demonstrated on the floorplan, bedroom three was an odd L-shaped space, used for nothing but storage at the time of the viewing. Having sacrificed some of its space to allow for a bigger utility room, the room was now too small to be a suitably sized double bedroom, but too big to be ignored. The pre-existing tenants had the same dilemma themselves for in the room was a random trio of items: a chest of drawers, a bedside table and a massive American fridge.

Having mentally prepared myself for this scenario, I subtly got Dad to inspect the nature of the dividing wall and whether, at a glance, he thought it could be knocked down and moved back. The quick answer was yes.

As I took another look at the fridge and wonder what it was doing in a ground floor bedroom, a voice chipped in from behind.

“I had to put it somewhere.” The tenant commented.

Compared to the previous house, the presence of another human in number 22 bore none of us any problems, in fact it reassured me that the tenant held no grudge over a potential eviction.

“I want out of the contract,” came the blunt response when asked, “that’s why the seller has it up for sale. As soon as I can, I’m gone.”

Nice house, tenant on positive terms, all things were going well so far. Something had to slip up.

I was stood in the kitchen when I saw three people milling about outside the house. Trying to stop calmness jumping out of the first-floor window, I chose to ignore the group and tell myself they were just random people, before pressing on. Another floor up though and I could see they were still there. I got Mum into the master bedroom alone and muttered to her in an urgent fashion, “there’s other people waiting outside, look out bedroom two’s window.”

Mum popped into the other room while I made small talk with the agent.

“Did you say you had many viewings booked on this property?” Mum called out from the other room.

“Well, you are the first people to view the property, you got in really quick there,” replied the agent, “and yes, we’ve got a couple of people lined up. This one won’t hang about, it’s on the market at a very good price.”

“There are a couple of people stood on the driveway! More like couple of hundred” I thought.

We were starting to head downstairs when, to our annoyance and horror, a second agent came in leading a string of people.

“Morning Phil!” our agent cheerfully greeted one of the viewees.

I felt sick. Here I was in a house I really liked and the agents had the cheek of bringing round a property tycoon before I’d even exited myself. With mild panic setting in, I wanted to finish the viewing so I could discuss things outside. Mum agreed, but insisted we give the third bedroom one final look before departing. It was at this point we unfortunately got tied up in further conversation with the tenant. Awkwardly shuffling on the spot, I was becoming increasingly concerned that I could be discussing theoretical building works on a property I was about to lose. When the tenant started telling us about the quiet student neighbours, (“humph! I am not a student!” I remarked), I decided it was time to make a speedy exit.

Unfortunately Dad was less on the ball. I hissed through gritted teeth repeatedly for him to exit number 22, desperately trying to not let my panic show overtly, but, like many fathers, my Dad felt no sense of urgency.

“I’m putting my shoes on!” He called back at me as I manically waved to him from the car. I sighed in frustration and, having dropped the plan to go next door, Mum and I hopped into the IQ instead.

 

Young man experiencing road rage
“Hang on, I’m just tying my shoe laces.”

We must have waited no more than two minutes for Dad, however in that little car it felt like the Second Coming would happen first. (It was only months later I discovered the real reason why Dad had taken so long to vacate the property. Far from engaging in heavy conversation with the agent or tenant, my father had been making use of the downstairs toilet at quite possibly one of the worst times to do so.)

By the time Dad sauntered into the driving seat the Mum and I were in absolute hysterics.

“Where were you? Don’t you see what’s happening?! I’m going to lose this place!”

“We don’t have time to mess about, these people are investors. They could be making an offer as we speak!”

“So, you want the place then?”

“Yes!” I cried out, “it’s like my current place but ten times better. I know the area, I know it’s a good place to buy and nicely done out inside. Unlike the other place I could move in straight away. In short, I really like it Dad.”

Just then, the second viewers exited the property. As they parted with the agents it was all smiles and handshakes. We eyed them suspiciously from the cramped silver car as they walked back up the road.

“They’ll put an offer in if she doesn’t do it first,” Mum said, “there’s no time for laid back discussions over tea and biscuits. It’s now or never.”

What followed was the most heated discussion ever carried out inside a Toyota IQ. Over the next 90 seconds the car temperature increased by several degrees as figures were suggested and then retracted to only be put forward again seconds later.

“The house went on the market a couple of days ago. You should offer a sensible price for what is on offer. Don’t let your heart rule your head.” Mum warned me.

Once I’d decided on a starting offer (with the help of my parents), Mum put the call in. With her many years of property experience I felt it best she entered negotiations on my behalf. It was the right decision, her no-nonsense tone and straightforward presentation of the facts (that I wasn’t in a chain, that I had the deposit to put forward) helped convince the agents that I wasn’t there to mess about. That didn’t mean that the agents were about to make my life easy though. Before they were prepared to even consider the offer they wanted documented proof I had the funds to back it up. Luckily this information was all present and correct, loosely collected in a folder in my rented bedroom.

Keen to escape the claustrophobic tin can, we jumped out of the car and crashed in the living room of the house next door to the one I’d just viewed. Several cups of tea later, I handed my bank statements to my parents and left them to take the information to the estate agents while I tried to settle back into the pace of work back at the office. As lunchbreaks go, it had been the most stressful I’d ever incurred.

After reviewing the documents the agents put the offer to the vendors. As half-expected, the first proposition was rejected, only to be countered by one far exceeding my budget. I supplied my ever faithful negotiator with a final offer which was crushingly rejected.

“Tell them no more,” I said on the phone, “it’s a shame, but I’m not paying a penny more. It’s Swindon, they’ll be other houses.”

Half an hour later my phone buzzed. Expecting it to adopt the nature of a “chin up chuck” conversation, I calmly popped away from my desk to make a tea. I hit the dial button while I was en route.

“They’ve accepted the offer!”

“What?”

“I know, I can’t believe it either! The vendor has had a change of heart and he’s accepted your final offer!”

I slumped against the corridor wall and went into a state of what I can only describe as ‘offer-acceptance shock’.

“Really?”

“Yes! The other guy doesn’t want to make an offer on account of that third bedroom and the vendor has been talked round by the agents. It’s official, you’re going to buy your first house!”

Once I ended the call I didn’t know what to do, I was shaking. Placing the silent phone to my ear so as to look purposeful, I turned to face the wall I took in a couple of deep breaths. I gently closed my eyes and suddenly could see the future.

This post is part of “The First Time Buyer Diaries”. To read the entire series (so far) click here.