Ruminations and recipes from a small kitchen in a big city.


Is Skylab still out there?

I went out to the letterbox and fished out the mail.

There was an insurance bill. It was heavy. I tore it open.

A book fell out.

Terms and conditions.

One hundred and seventy-seven pages.

Gloss cover in heavy stock. Perfect bound.


They don't call it terms and conditions any more. They call it a 'product disclosure statement'. With capitals. To make it sound important.

Now, let me see. What could they have usefully fitted between the front and back covers?

The Postman Always Rings Twice, by James Cain? You'd get that in almost twice. Albert Camus' The Stranger? Conrad's Heart of Darkness? Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby? James' Washington Square? Animal Farm by George Orwell? Lawrence's The Virgin and the Gypsy?

Easy. Most of those novels have chapters, of course, meaning plenty of blank pages; but this product disclosure statement just ploughed along, type falling on page after page like a concertinaed train wreck.

And what a wreck. Check this - about roofs - from page 141. Roofs are important, as anyone who lives in a house will be aware. This is what they say about your roof, when it gets torn away in a storm or a plane hits it or your hot water system explodes and blows it off:

"(When) roof sheeting is damaged we will only replace the damaged roof sheeting, not the undamaged roof sheeting, even if the closest match available to us is a different shade or colour to the undamaged roof sheeting."
Great. Multi-coloured roof. Same deal with the walls.

One hundred and seventy-seven pages.

Perfect bound. Four colour offset.

The bill part itself, the bit that tells you how much to pay, was still in the envelope. I pulled it out. It was eight pages long.

On a positive note, from page 71 of the 'book':

"We cover damage caused by the impact of space debris."
I went back inside. There was a burning smell. I'd been cooking. I'd cut up two onions and set them to soften in oil in a heavy pan.

They were past soft and back to hard again.

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