How To… Get Baking

There is quite definitely honestly and truly a one hundred per cent chance that there’s absolutely no way we’re going to get through this particular period in history without the aid of snack foods. Specifically baked goods created with love and, for those moments when everything seems as dark as it can possibly be, a sprinkle of surreptitious pot (not that I go in for any of that of course. Please don’t search my sock drawer, there’s nothing whatsoever to find).

Because getting busy in the kitchen serves a whole variety of purposes. For one, everyone needs to eat and a little bit of home cooking is one of those universal comforts (naturally provided that the chef in question either has some prowess with a wooden spoon or is diligent when it comes to following a recipe). Another point in its favour is that, what with the way things are headed with women’s rights – the global gag rule should scare you, stripping women of basic healthcare is a big deal and incredibly petty to boot – a gal tethering herself to the kitchen lends the illusion that she’s recognised it’s her rightful place. Confused? Bewildered? Well, I can sympathise.

It’s a distraction. You can hardly focus on the catastrophic ramifications of the latest clownish executive order when you’re debating the relative merits of millefeuille versus strudel. Once you get yourself started you may even find it difficult to stop. You’ll begin to theorise as to whether the Italian or French method is superior in the production of meringue. You’ll travel the globe in a safer than real way by diving deep into baking techniques from various countries.

Crack out the trays and the specially designed paper, nip to the shops and come back laden down with different genres of flour and dried fruit and at least one type of butter. Even if it all comes out burnt and lethal looking to the point that even glancing at it causes you to become afflicted with food poisoning you’ll have done something constructive with your day.

Get baking – Tom Howe


How To… Talk to the Animals

I make it a general rule in life to say hello to pretty much every dog I meet. Maybe you’re different, you might feel it more important to ingratiate yourself with cats or your heart might lift with uncontained joy the moment you see a wild bunny or whenever you encounter a really nifty lizard. Or perhaps you have no joy in your soul and eschew all contact with animals wherever possible. If that’s the case then you definitely need to start having conversations with the critters.

There’s a particular tone that automatically gets adopted. A variant of baby talk. So do bear that in mind as you prepare your icebreaker. You may well be under a slight misapprehension that it doesn’t completely matter what you choose to converse about because they’re only dumb animals who couldn’t possibly hope to understand you. Well, maybe you’re the one who’s dumb and people take plenty of, apparently undue, care to keep you included in the general discourse.

Therefore, it is of clear and real importance to select subjects to keep the animals engaged with what you have to say. This might well be something that they have previously expressed an interest in such as small fluffy things they may want to devour or areas with prime snuffling potential. Or you could get them into the loop on subject matter they’ll find of value.

At the end of the day, conversation with anyone can turn into practically anything. You have to walk in with an open mind but also have done appropriate preparation. Then again, you shouldn’t have to do all the work, they really have to put in their share in proceedings, meet you at the very least halfway. Unless, for some strange reason, you’re barking up the wrong tree. But that would be sheer madness.

Talk with the animals – Sammy Davis Jr.

How To… Adapt or Die

Generally, you have to admit that when it comes to a whatever it might be or die situation ninety nine times out of a hundred (if you’ve been in more than that many circumstances along those lines then you might just have a little bit too much excitement in your life) you’ll opt for the path that doesn’t lead to your untimely demise. That’s my roundabout way of saying that you probably won’t find it particularly difficult to adapt when a meeting with the reaper is the only alternative open to you.

It’s certainly worth evaluating your situation and finding out precisely how you’ve managed to find yourself confronted with this delightful little scenario. Or perhaps you’re being a little bit more dramatic than the situation warrants. If you fail to adapt the odds are highly in favour of the eventuality that you probably won’t die. You’ll simply find yourself gently or otherwise pushed to the edge and all the way out the door. By the sharks you work with who are either out for your blood or your position or quite possibly both.

But maybe you’re more than a little perturbed by various goings on. You’re uncomfortable with the feeling that when you change it’s not for the best or in such a fashion that will aid your general survival. You’ve become terrified by the prospect of being left out in the cold for rabid wolves to feast on your swiftly dessicating corpse.

So, just to make you feel that little bit more comfortable with what’s going down I’ll lay out just a few tips for your continuing safety. One, make some friends in important and lofty places. Two, equip yourself with a hefty bank of resources be they cash or potable water depending on the situation. Three, learn how to throw things at people and run away very fast. Only to be used in dire situations or when you don’t like where the conversation’s headed.

Adapt or die – Giraffe Tongue Orchestra

How To… Put the Book Back on the Shelf

I like books. Oh, calm those shocked expressions, fetch the smelling salts and buckle up because we still have a ways to go in the general vicinity of this topic. I’m a fan of books in general, I tend to have at least four or five on the go at any one time (at the moment the main focus is Ultima by Stephen Baxter with a few rereads currently under perusal and I do keep meaning to successfully tackle Daphne du Marier’s Rebecca. You know, so I sound ever so slightly more cultured than I actually am). Organising them on the other hand, not such a strength of mine.

It’s easy enough to begin with the very noblest of intentions. A gloriously tailored system is put in place with larger volumes designated for the bottom shelf, fiction and non fiction (let’s be honest, it’s largely fiction) separated out and then I will inevitably get bored with the task only half completed. And then if I do somehow manage to lay the tomes out in their proper order it’s highly unlikely they’ll remain in that carefully curated arrangement. At this particular moment in time there are two abandoned books on my bedside table having been taken out and not put back on the shelf.

Then there’s the matter of the generic electronic reader. Even though it grants me the delicious power of hiding some of the less than brag-worthy titles I read it also prevents me from adorning my bookcase with all those terribly impressive classics and the like I have in fact worked my way though. How to put the book back on the shelf? Well, I’m rather saddened by the fact that you haven’t been able to work this one out for yourself. Go and ask your local librarian if they can help you. Loudly. They’ll love the request.

Put the book back on the shelf – Belle and Sebastian

How To… Shuffle

I love playing games (the board variety. When it comes to the kind obsessed with messing about with the inner workings of the mind I’m somehow less than enthusiastic. And then there are those who insist on sullying the nobly exciting intentions of games by associating them with war) but I’m generally not a fan when it comes to the shuffling so often inherently involved.

There are card sharks (or should that be sharps? People simply don’t enunciate like they used to. Sure, received pronunciation makes you sound like a total berk but boy is it consistently easy to tell what people are attempting to say) who can riffle and just generally dazzle with their dexterity. It will approach wizardry that only coincidentally distracts you so that they can stuff their sleeve with advantageous cards. It’s been a while since I’ve played poker and even then the shuffling was far from overwhelming.

But anyway, you’ve determined that you want to impress your fellow players with your skilful fingers. That totally came out wrong. When you’re looking for people to swoon at what you can do with your fingers (it’s going to get a lot worse before it can have any hope of getting better but if we focus as hard as we can on powering through then it’ll be over before we know it. Oh, just lie back and think of England) it’s best to get on with that sort of nonsense on a one on one basis.

At any rate, shuffling comes down to a few key moves. There’s riffling, there’s… other stuff too. As far as I’m concerned, my own patented method of trying to force the cards together is good enough. Well, it definitely isn’t, the cards hardly change order at all and I get cross by the boring repetition. I just don’t have the coordination for anything more sophisticated. I might have to buy an automatic shuffler to do it for me. That’s the way to do it.

Shuffle – Bombay Bicycle Club

How To… Tell Me a Story

Let’s get away from the crushing disappointment of reality and dive into some fiction that isn’t in any way dystopian. But in a delicious subversion of expectations for once you’ll be the one spinning the mistruths and feeding them to me. Don’t get any ideas mind, if you start coming out with outrageous alternative facts I swear that before too long I will definitely cotton on and have something decidedly emphatic to say about the whole situation.

But this is no ordinary run of the mill garden variety story. I’d like it to be magically special and ingeniously captivating because there are myriad troubles to dispel at the moment. So the pressure’s on buddy, you need to don your thinking cap and get devising.

You are not totally alone though, I’m right here to inspire and to aid you in your storytelling endeavours. An excellent jumping off point would be to imagine some characters. Do try not to be too obvious if you’re struggling against a certain paucity of ambition. Don’t give them the same name as the ones you or I bear, for example. Think about their personality, their dreams and ambitions, hopes, fears, likes, dislikes and so on ad infinitum.

Then plunge your captivating character into some variety of situation, strange or familiar as you desire. Add an exciting incident, some troubles for them to struggle against, perhaps even a foe to combat. If you’re feeling especially daring you can even have a stab add mixing in a twist to the narrative. Stoke fraying tempers and darkening situations all the way until a galvanising climax presents itself.

However, do remember that we are looking for a little bit of happiness so make sure that you have your characters home and safe in time for tea. Tea at which there really ought to be buns. Do tell me about it.

Tell me a story – Grace Petrie

How To… Rule the World

Yes, it’s developed into something of a rancid festering obsession, do you want to fight about it? It’s reality television, captivating, grotesque and overly aware of how to manipulate the audience’s attention. Plus it makes me really angry and this is a more acceptable outlet (to me at the very least) than hollering at great length about the situation of social media.

When it comes to ruling the world it can be a daunting prospect. You could well feel that you’ve loaded your plate with a little bit too much and are in the process of biting off rather more than you can reasonably chew. Let’s kick off with a few don’ts if you’re unsure of how to proceed.

Don’t immediately dismantle your predecessor’s handiwork (if they weren’t straight up evil that is). Don’t cling to lies and falsehoods supposedly in order to build up to everyone precisely how incredibly great you are – you’ll only end up looking petty and distinctly mad. If someone doesn’t think you’re amazing you can’t shout at them to try and change their mind, you’ll have to convince them with worthy actions.

Don’t spread division and derision, tearing people down in the hope that you’ll look better in comparison. Don’t continue as if you’re running a campaign, whether your win was legitimate or not, whether people believe it or not, for better or for worse you’re in. Act like it. Don’t stop people from talking about what you’ve been doing. If you’re afraid of a media backlash then behave as if you were worthy of praise.

Don’t sweat the small stuff. Don’t send your flunkeys out to spout untruths to make you look even weaker and pettier. Don’t lash out at vulnerable sections of society just because you can (strip women of access to contraception and abortions and you’ll reap nothing but hurt).

In terms of dos… well, do not be a complete dick and you’ll probably be alright.

Rule the world – Take That