Hayjax is in Nottingham

This is what happens when you drop a Canadian into the East Midlands.

How to make Hayjax laugh

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I’m currently working on a project that involves some research on “how-to” ebooks, and the titles currently on offer at Lulu, a self-publishing site, are giving me giggle-fits.  A sampling:

  • How to summon demons
  • How to speak southern
  • How to succeed in murder
  • How to breathe
  • How to be Irish
  • How to get your husband to listen to you
  • How to argue with an economist
  • How to pass a polygraph guaranteed
  • How to make a snake hook
  • How to cheat on your wife
  • How to keep chickens at home
  • How to woo a spinster
  • How to work with a dragon
  • How to appreciate a Vietnam vet
  • How to seduce a Texan

I just want to retreat with all of these titles for a deluxe makeover weekend and emerge on Monday a southern-speaking, chicken-keeping, snake-hooking, demon-summoning murderer.  Now that’s the kind of superhero this crazy, messed-up world needs more of.

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Written by Hayden

April 24, 2010 at 4:59 pm

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Easter in Nottingham

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This country does not mess around when it comes to Easter. I have never seen such wanton egg-buying in my life. I guess you mix English people’s two favourite things together—Christianity and milk chocolate—and it’s bound to result in an unseemly frenzy. People in Marks and Spencer were standing in line with five or six Easter eggs in their trolley. I am told that in this country, it’s quite acceptable for grown-ups to buy one another Easter eggs, an exotic cultural fact I passed on to my husband several times. He didn’t take the bait.

For some reason, chocolate Easter bunnies are not such a big thing here, and I missed the iconic sight of all those side-facing rabbits lined up along London Drug shelves, each with its single white icing eye staring out crazily. Chocolate rabbits always look homicidal, which is probably why biting their heads off is such a supreme pleasure. Take that, Hopsy McKill!  So, no bunnies but lots of very inventive riffs on the egg theme, including a Mr. Potatohead version from John Lewis which came with a handful of candy facial features and a tube of chocolate glue to stick them on with.  Which, wow, I can’t say enough things about how brilliant that is.  Other contenders include the rocket ship eggs and dead clown eggs.  Also brilliant.  And puzzling.

Other Easter surprises included the fact that the entire town shuts down for three days. Coming from a godless country where Christmas Day itself barely dents store opening hours, it was an eerie sensation to walk through the empty streets of downtown Nottingham, past shuttered shops and malls in an advanced state of lockdown. The only thing open that day was McDonald’s, probably because there’s only room for one Messiah at McDonald’s, and he wears floppy shoes.

I saw no egg-rolling, or “pace-egging,” which is supposed to be a big part of Easter festivities in this country. But I did find this really amusingly silly pace-egging song on Wikipedia:

Roodle oh my doddle oh
Roodle all the day
Now all you gay bachelors listen oh to me
Never get wed if you want to stay free
Billy cock, Billy cock
For who will boggle me gander
When I am far away?
Roodle oh my doddle oh
Roodle all the day

A message as relevant today as it was in times of yore. Aren’t we all wondering how our gander will get boggled when we’re far away, what with the increasing pressures of globalization and so forth?

The day after Easter is traditionally a time for sugar-dependent cheapskates like me to stock up on some deep-discount chocolatey merchandise. Since stores were still closed on Monday, I wandered into town today with the intention of getting me some cheap-ass eggs.  It’s an Easter ritual.  But lo, just as Jesus disappeared into the heavens three days after he died, so, too, did the chocolate Easter eggs vanished from the store shelves three days after Easter. It was spooky. Entire Easter wonderlands of chocolate had folded up and vanished overnight. Where did all the eggs go? Have they transubstantiated to a better and more ethereal realm? Or are they all being melted down to make next season’s Santas? It’s an Easter mystery.

Written by Hayden

April 6, 2010 at 9:53 pm

Dame Hayjax

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I bought something online from Marks and Spencer, and I hated myself for not having the cojones to select “Dame” or “Lady” from the drop-down menu.  And I guess using the word “cojones” pretty much disqualifies me from consideration for any future ladyship.

Written by Hayden

April 5, 2010 at 9:59 pm

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Hayjax went to Italy

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I went to Italy and permanently skewed my blood sugar by eating two plates of pasta every day.  The white kind, because Italian people don’t believe in the mealy brown fibre-rich stuff we health-conscious North Americans bravely pretend is an acceptable substitute for the real thing.

Before I got to the part of the trip where I did a number on my metabolism, I spent an hour hanging around Heathrow airport, where I fell in love with a chocolate Mr. Potatohead Easter Egg from the Harrods kiosk:

This was a very important part of the trip for me.  I loved that thing.

We went to Milan first, where the people all look like Karl Lagerfeld. Enormous sunglasses, haughty miens, perma-tans, sleek designer clothes and tiny dogs tucked under their arms wearing equally sleek designer clothes and haughty miens.  Being a philistine, I was only mildly impressed by the Duomo, which was very… pointy.  I was much more captivated by the barmy English translations in the shopping guidebook in our hotel room, and spent many an evening reading and rereading sentences such as this: “The fleeting length of the different styles and ideas and the hard efforts to be successful are some clear aspects that are indissolubly connected with fashion, art and creativeness, this is the origin of the difficulty to be successful and to remain in the crest of a wave.”  This guidebook also advertised live theatre events, including a play about Shakespeare that promised to explore “an obscure part of Shakespeare’s personal ambition, longing for power, murder and rigging,” and Hello Kitty, the musical:

I will forever regret not taking the time to see an Italian musical about a Japanese cat with no mouth.

Other interesting cultural artifacts include a shop window full of crazy-eyed lamb cakes:

That is the birthday cake Hannibal Lecter would send Clarisse.  And then there was this store display, which pretty much sums up Italian culture:

Flagrant sexuality, the pope and the cult of the Virgin Mary all hanging out together doing their thing.  That, plus crazy-eyed lamb cakes is pretty much my nutshell version of Italy.

Written by Hayden

March 24, 2010 at 10:46 pm

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Marmite cheese is wrong

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Ew.

Written by Hayden

February 28, 2010 at 11:08 pm

Posted in All posts, Food

Hayjax went to France

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I’m back from France and my pants are tight.  The wine, the cheese, the pastry!  Everything in France tastes like it’s been basted in concentrated Essence of Fabulous and then smothered to death with a pillow made of butter.   There is a thing called a Paris Brest au Pistache which basically you need to try before you die.  It’s like a donut made of helium-light chou pastry and stuffed with matcha-green pistachio cream.  Tim Horton’s is but a distant, sordid memory for me now.

Those of you in Vancouver will be gratified to know that the customs official looked at my British passport, saw that I was born in Vancouver and said, “Vancouver.  Where they have the Winter Olympics, yes?” and then smiled.  That’s right, you cracked a French customs official wide open and let the human out.  It was beautiful.

You can all stop envying those chic, slim Parisian women. Dip your copy of “French Women Don’t Get Fat” in batter and eat it, because they’re all just about as muffin-topped and sloppy as us North Americans now, mooching around in their polar fleece and jeans.

They eat like us, but they don’t bank like us.  Buzz yourself in through the triple locked door, past the phalanx of security cameras ,and ask the clerk if you can buy some francs.  She will bridle as though you have asked something indecent and tell you, while surreptitiously mauling the under-counter emergency button, that they have no money.  “We are a bank,” she will explain nervously.  “We ‘ave no monnaie ‘ere.”  To get money, see, you have to go to the post office.  Makes sense.

I wanted to ask for stamps at the post office, just to watch them look aghast and explain that they were a post office and therefore had no stamps, and that I would have to go to the ironmonger’s for that sort of thing, but I decided it would cut into valuable Paris Brest au Pistache-eating time.

As well as being fat, French people also confounded my expectations by picking up their dogshit.  As proof, here is a little doodie-bag kiosk I saw in La Ferte Vidame:

What I like best is the unmistakable hauteur of these cartoon dogs.  They are saying, “Peek up my sheet, you sad ‘uman!  Peek eet up!”  It’s like the French, in becoming more like North Americans, have entrusted all their chauvinistic snobbery to their dogs.

I also saw a very bizarre enclosure in a park in Chateaudun that I can only describe as a poo zoo.  It was a little tiny fenced-in compound with a little tiny gate where your dog marches in to do its natural dog business and then marches out again, with no scooping involved.  This creates a rather revolting fecal ghetto where droppings of all shapes and sizes lurk behind the bars waiting to be let out for good behavior.

I went to a farmer’s market in the tiny town of Brou and bought some kind of cheese that I forget the name of, but it’s wrapped in cedar bark and the cheesemonger told us to pour wine on it and bake it in the oven and then smear it all over plain boiled potatoes and we did and it was so good it made me want to light a Gauloise and ask the scraped-bare cheese rind, “Was it good for you, too?”

There was another kiosk at the farmer’s market that sold nothing but garish accordion CDs:

Love of the accordion is apparently another nutty French foible, like their love of Jerry Lewis.

I flew home on BMI Baby, a comically rickety and casual airline where the flight attendants all wore messy, just-woke-up buns and grubby polar fleece and went up and down the aisles like street vendors, hawking chicken tikka masala and scratch-and-win raffle tickets.

Written by Hayden

February 26, 2010 at 10:53 pm

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Merry Cashmas!

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Did you know the English have found a way to monetize snow?  Not the civilized way, by allowing people to ski on it, but by allowing them to bet on it.

Every year, thousands of British residents lay bets on whether it will snow on Christmas day.  The English will bet on anything that moves, and if it isn’t moving, they’ll slap a bet on the amount of time it takes to start moving again.  There are betting shops everywhere–one of them is called Ladbrokes, and when I made a joke about how it might be a bad idea to put the word “broke” in the name, I was coldly informed that it was pronounced “brook.”  Lesson being, don’t make fun of betting shops.  Or fruitcake, for that matter–don’t make fruitcake jokes unless you want the frosty shoulder. These twin pillars of British culture are sacrosanct.

There’s even a handy online map of the snow odds across the UK. Nottingham is currently 11/8 against, although we’re ankle-deep in the stuff at the moment.  Betting shop William Hill has announced they will have to pay out 1 million pounds to the punters if it’s a white Christmas.

Forums where people can talk about their White Christmas bets are springing up all over the Internet, a phenomenon called “snow-cial networking.” That’s not me making a bad pun, that’s an actual fact.

Obviously, this is bananas, but there is a kernel of wisdom in there somewhere.  I’m thinking we should have weatherpeople put their money where their mouths are.  It’s all very well to stand in front of a bluescreen wearing a sharp suit and making those vague, sweeping hand gestures at incomprehensible “weather systems.”  What if they had to bet fifty buck of their own scratch on the outcomes? Wouldn’t they take their own predictions a lot more seriously, and wouldn’t we feel a lot more reassured?  And wouldn’t we see them as more sympathetic creatures if we knew that every time we walked out of the house without an umbrella and got drenched, they would be feeling the pain along with us?  It’s win-win.  More accurate weather forecasts, more likeable weatherpeople.

Written by Hayden

December 21, 2009 at 1:34 pm