¦ dialling in from the sky bunker ¦
15:56 GMT, Christmas Day. Arctic winds are gusting around the house, making the whole roof above my head creak and groan ominously. I’m on my own now since everyone left this morning to go do the English thing with their families. I celebrate Christmas Eve. Last night Oj and I were joined by Sharky – who’s come over from Spain and by Miss Scarlet; both long time friends, officially part of the Fellowship and so by definition great people to spend time with.
I cooked up an absolute feast.
- One long, whole fillet of salmon, stuffed with fresh crabmeat, folded over and oven roasted.
- Sprouts mixed with onions caramelised with dark muscat sugar and fennel seeds, and a syrupy sauce made from a broth and herb reduction.
- Rice in a zesty, cherry-tomato and broth, with cumin, chilli, thyme and freshly squeezed lemon juice
- Baby charlotte potatoes tossed in butter and olive oil, glazed with marmite and oven roasted until golden brown.
- Eggs, oven roasted in espresso cups with a fresh basil leaf and sliced anchovies to give it a salty taste; tip upside down to extract from cup and serve.
It came close to disaster at one point, but I’d already warned Oj and Sharky to expect a lot of shouting and swearing as I banged around the kitchen, furious that my timing was off and certain things were not reaching the state of being ready along with everything else.
Never mind, several large guzzles of red wine smoothed down my feathers.
The wine was a 2001, bought by Sharky and brought over from Spain to symbolise the 10 years he’s been joining me and my family for Christmas.
A bitter-sweet thought; parents are now dead and the traditional journey to the North, of being at Jesus Mound for Christmas, as per the past 31 years, is no longer possible.
It’s at this time of year that such realities come crashing down on you. Most of the year you can keep busy enough not to really think about it, but Christmas is a socially enforced phenomenon, a massive pause button pressed down on the track called LIFE. It’s now that you stop and look around and really feel what’s missing.
But last night for the most part I was wrapped up in the joy of cooking and the bliss of great friends and the lady of my world, Oj.
Early in the afternoon I’d chopped up a ton of wood and built up a roaring log fire in the lounge; cast-iron wood burner with ornate wrought glass facade… by time the evening swung round, we could turn the heating off in the main house and enjoy the heat radiating through the furnace orange glow. There’s something so primal sitting with people in front of flickering firelight. Ameretto sours in hand. Strong black coffee and a black forest buche from Heston Blumenthal for desert. OMG! Yum-city.
Eventually, long past midnight, we began to drift-off, slumped on sofas, wrapped in layers of thermal radiance.
Today’s been a little difficult. Everyone left to go do their family thing and I drove into the city in my rocket, roof down despite the arctic winds, big fluffy Russian tank hat flapping about my head; I did the harbour walk but my mind was in Newcastle. For the past 20 years since I moved to Bristol, Newcastle was the place I always went back to for the holidays, the place I considered home.
So I walked around the Bristol harbour and thought about Jesus Mound, the Dene, Lord Armstrong’s Banqueting hall and horse-shoe bridges made of sandstone crossing the river down there; of the handsome tower of St George’s church, based on St Mark’s Campanile in Venice and the inspiration of the incredibly atmospheric and eerie Cthulhu Mythos (Lovecraft) short story, Corrupt Moon; of Acorn Road and Osbourne Avenue; the city centre walk and the tour I’d always do of all my old haunts along the way. Memories and nostalgia swirling through my mind and my heart.
Tynemouth Pier hit by a huge wave - I come here every time I go back to Newcastle. Great to walk right out into the moody ocean, exposed to howling winds and the smell of brine
The house I grew up in - winter forest scene beyond windows
Tower of St George's Church in Jesus Mound - based on St Mark's Campanile in Venice and inspiration for the atmospheric and eerie short story: Corrupt Moon
Jesmond Dene the waterfall and bridge by the old mill: a place I often go to, standing with one leg resting on the wall, leaning forward, gazing at the thundering water.
David J Rodger at Tynemouth
My friend Big Pete and myself both lost our parents that year, so we drank whisky and lit a huge bonfire to remember the dead
Jesmond Dene view from Lord Armstrong's banquet hall - location of Iron Man Project
Jesus Mound, the Dene, has been an incredible shaping influence on my imagination. The dark and eerie woods behind my parents house at night, the view from my old bedroom window, and the alternative, uplifting, majestic atmosphere of the place during daylight hours. Also the location of several key scenes in the action-packed sci-fi (cyberpunk) novel, Iron Man Project – including a renovated version of Lord Armstrong’s Banquet Hall.
Back home, I’m now settling down to a few days on my own. I’ve got the overhaul of Yellow Dawn – The Age of Hastur (2.1) to keep me company, currently working my way through the chapter on the Occult and Cthulhu Mythos. I’ve got a stack of H.P.Lovecraft audio stories lined up on my MP3 player to entertain me through my 15 minute power naps whilst I push on using polyphasic sleep patterns (my da Vinci technique). My company closes down over Christmas and New Year so I’m not due to return to reality until 3rd Jan. I’m suspecting Oj will return in a few days to find me wild-eyed, hairy and dressed in crumpled house-clothes and my Starsky cardigan.
The fridge is stacked with great food. I’ve got enough whisky to see me through several nights of chilling out with Skyrim, Sherlock Holmes and Poirot.
All in all, a great place and mental space to be in.
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David J Rodger – DATA