Real meals: Bubble tea

“You’ll find it a little weird to begin with,” said the man in the bubble tea kiosk, “but you’ll soon get used to it.” This turned out to be a grotesque understatement, coupled with a patent untruth, the instant my first slurp of bubble tea shot up the special wide-bore straw and filled my mouth with globules. The kiosk man had already told me these were made out of tapioca flour, which was just as well, because without this pappy foreknowledge I would have spat them straight out. Drinking bubble tea didn’t feel “a little weird”. It felt as I’d imagine performing cunnilingus on an android equipped with latex genitals might feel like: the tiny clitorises slipped between my lips and oozed between the gaps in my teeth while my tongue swam in sweetly mucosal gloop.

On location: Plymouth

Plymouth should, I think, be twinned with Hull: both are oddly remote-feeling cities for our right, tight little island. Hull, unlike Plymouth, at least has a motorway connection, but the Devonian capital must have felt like ultima Thule last winter when the mainline rail connection was severed in the storms. The cab driver who took me from the reconnected station to my hotel descanted on the depredations of wartime bombing, and how the brutalist/modernist and now postmodernist rebuilding of Plymouth has never compensated for the dreadful damage caused by wartime bombing. I must say I’m beginning to find this excuse – which can be heard in South­ampton and Coventry et al as well – a little grating; I mean, it’s been nearly 70 years since VE Day, surely time enough to effect civic beautifying.

Shark published in US

Shark cover US

Shark is published in hardback by Grove Atlantic in the US today, RRP $26:

“May 4, 1970. A week earlier, President Nixon ordered American ground forces into Cambodia to pursue the Vietcong. By the end of the day, four students will be shot dead by the National Guard on the grounds of Kent State University. On the other side of the Atlantic, it’s a brilliant sunny morning after an April of heavy rain, and at the “Concept House” therapeutic community he has set up in the London suburb of Willesden, maverick psychiatrist Dr. Zack Busner has been tricked into joining a decidedly ill-advised LSD trip with several of its disturbed residents. Five years later, sitting in a nearby cinema watching Steven Spielberg’s Jaws, Busner realizes the true nature of the events that transpired on that dread-soaked day, when a survivor of the worst disaster in the U.S. Navy’s history—the sinking of the USS Indianapolis—came face-to-face with the British Royal Air Force observer on the Enola Gay’s mission to bomb Hiroshima.

Madness of Crowds: Texting charities

The Gadarene swine fallacy states that simply because a group of individuals are maintaining a formation, it doesn’t mean that they’re on the right course. You can see the logic of this: Jesus casts out the demons, they enter the swine, and the swine all charge along in a swinish pack and tumble straight into a lake. Only an ideally placed observer – Matthew, say, or possibly Mark or Luke – is able to see that the demoniacal swine are heading for disaster, while the poor little possessed positivist piggies keep on keeping on until their squeals turn into splutters and they sink beneath the lacustrine scum, all the time frantically maintaining the wisdom of their chosen course.