All / Originally Posted on Skirt

The Soup Gnomes of Despair

The weekend started off well.  A friend invited me to a barbecue at his workplace in a lovely square in central London–one of the locked ones you can’t normally get inside.  Not only was there free food (see previous post on graduate students’ attachment to free wine) but I always like to explore a secret little part of the world. 

We then proceeded to Norwich.  I’d been planning to visit Norwich, where my friend and his partner live, for ages but of course only managed to get round to it when it came time for them to move away. 

I really wish I’d gone earlier, for Norwich is beautiful.  My friends live(d) in a very charming old house with a big sweeping staircase and the comfiest sofa I’ve ever seen.  There’s an idyllic lazy river winding around fields, 18th-century houses, and crumbling old fortifications.  There’s a charming marketplace, a brand-new lyceum that looks like an airport for books, and a big pointy cathedral. 

In the big pointy cathedral was a film set for a movie that is to be called “Jack the Giant Killer”. We didn’t see anyone famous, (Ewan McGregor’s in it!) but we did see some oddly named equipment.  There was a cart with a slot labeled “magic arm.”  It also had a label for something involving the word “baby” that I foolishly didn’t write down at the time, but I suspect may have been “baby legs”.  For reasons about which we could only speculate, there were miniature blimps floating near the ceiling of the cathedral draped in black cloth.  Perhaps something to do with lighting.  All very mysterious.

But the best part of the cathedral was the baptismal font.  It is a very beautiful copper modernist font, with a nearly perfect half-sphere for the font itself balanced on a copper base.  Reading the inscription we discovered that it was originally used in the manufacture of chocolate at a factory in the city.  We agreed this was the best possible font at which to get baptized, but only if they found a way to work chocolate into the ceremony.

Wishing I’d had more time, I returned to London.  Then the next day I woke up feeling dreadful.  My throat felt like it was being attacked by a knife-wielding porcupine.  My head started to stuff up.  You know the drill.  So for the past few days I’ve been housebound (though productive!  Various projects are ticking over on the academic front.  Perhaps one day I’ll even be able to tell you about them…  For now I will pretend to be an international woman of mystery.  Oh wait, that is what I am.) 

Then today: disaster. 

I ran out of soup.  When you are ill, and particularly of the head-stuffy, nose-runny, throat-hurty kind, you crave nothing like a good bowl of soup.  And the soup gnomes had sucked the fridge dry.  (Or it could have been me.  But I prefer to think it was the gnomes.)  But then I remembered that I had some frozen homemade soup stashed away for an occasion just such as this!  Once again, despite the appearance that all was lost, I managed to get one over on the soup gnomes.  It was pear and parsnip soup, too.  Somewhere the soup gnomes are dancing a jig of impotent rage and cursing my ingenuity.  That’ll teach’m.

originally posted on