In what may or may not become a long-standing tradition, Alan Moore has answered questions at Christmas set by the members of a Facebook group called The Really Very Serious Alan Moore Scholars’ Group, who are, as the name might suggest, a bunch of people who are interested in his work. This set of Qs & As were done over the month of December 2016, and in what has also become at least a short-running tradition, we’re presenting them here for a wider audience. You can find a link to the first two groups through the links below, where you’ll also find links to the previous year’s set of Qs & As.
Alexx Kay: What was your favourite book to read aloud to your children? Do you read to your grandchildren?
Alan Moore: I always enjoyed reading Raymond Briggs’ Father Christmas to Leah and Amber on Christmas Eve, partly because this didn’t seem to be as traumatic as some of the other stuff I liked reading to them. The trauma probably came from the fact that I’d insist on doing all the different voices, as much as from the material itself. For example, while they both seemed to enjoy most of The Butterfly Ball, there were a couple of my animal renditions that seriously creeped them out, notably the bat and my Grand Guignol performance as the fox.
Less defensible was my delivery of Tim Powers’ magnificent London fantasy The Anubis Gates, while we were home-schooling both of them and they were around ten and seven respectively. Technically that was probably abuse, but I like to think that other than the terrible recurring nightmares they both sort of enjoyed the experience, and I would point out that they have both trusted me to read to their own infant offspring when the occasion has presented itself, although sadly not from The Anubis Gates.
When we were on holiday with everybody last year, I got to read the opening chapters of Diana Wynne Jones‘ The Ogre Downstairs to Eddie and Rowan, and a book the title of which I’ve forgotten – it’s about this little space kid who accidentally becomes a megalomaniacal super-villain and really annoys the entire universe until his mum sorts it out for him – to James and Joseph. And of course, Each Peach Pear Plum is a timeless trans-generational favourite.
Mark Needham: Do you like Tim-Tams, Hob-Nobs, Chocolate Digestives or any other kind of biscuit with your tea?
Alan Moore: These days, I find that my love of biscuits is increasingly abstract and theoretical, like my love for the comic medium, and that much of the actual product I find deeply disappointing on an aesthetic level. While the chocolate malted milk biscuit with the cow on the back is of course a timeless classic and a continuing source of consolation, why oh why has no one yet devised the glaringly obvious dark chocolate malted milk? We have a spacecraft taking close up pictures of Pluto, for God’s sake, and yet a different sort of chocolate on our cow-adorned teatime favourites is apparently too much to ask.
A dependable staple has always been the Nice biscuit, which I find admirable in its unassuming stoicism. In fact, I was outraged when ostensibly caring, left-wing performer Josie Long, in her magazine Drawing Moustaches on People in Magazines Monthly Magazine, Bi-Monthly, made a wounding satirical jab at this most vulnerable of biscuits, which was a biscuit-themed crossword clue along the lines of ‘Despite my name, I am actually not very (4 letters).’ In the same crossword, however, she praises the Party Ring, which I’ve always thought of as the upper-class call-girl of the biscuit world. In fairness to Josie, I should point out that the above sentiments were expressed when she was much younger, and was probably politically naive. There may be those out there who fail to see biscuits as an abiding political issue that has played a significant part in guiding human history, but I would suggest that such people have never properly considered the fact that the revolutionary Garibaldi was locked in bitter conflict with the Bourbon monarchy.
Of the biscuits you mention, chocolate digestives would be most suitable, given the obvious proviso that this is dark chocolate digestives we’re talking about here. While unfamiliar with Tim-Tams, I must state that I despise the Hob-Nob for is faux-rustic pretension and generally regard it as the biscuit equivalent of Alex James out of Blur, with its private education undisguised by the addition of a pair of wellingtons. Before leaving the subject, I’d like to call on environment secretary Andrea Leadsom to look into the preservation of biscuit habitats, and would suggest that some endangered or even extinct species of biscuit (such as, say, the magnificent Coconut Crumble Cream) could be gradually re-introduced to the landscape as long as they didn’t start savaging the domestic varieties, or at least not beyond acceptable margins. We have to encourage bisco-diversity if we don’t want our children to grow up in world of Duchy Originals and those shitty pink wafer things.
Pádraig Ó Méalóid: Are you a good cook? Do you have a signature dish you cook when friends come round?
Alan Moore: On the general subject of cookery, yes, I’m a decent cook when I actually get around to doing any proper cooking, which these days is relatively seldom. We don’t tend to have people round for dinner, as a restaurant meal generally turns out to be much more comfortable and convenient – my living area and my work area are the same space, which tends to be an unwieldy mess that is completely organised around the principle of me being able to find whatever obscure book or partially-burned piece of paper I need to complete whatever I happen to be working on.
One fairly basic dish that I do tend to find myself preparing more than others is a kind of penne-rarebit-cheese thing that seems to go down quite well. Basically, you grate a huge amount of cheese into a big mixing bowl. Obviously, you can use whatever cheese you like best, but I find that a mix of around two thirds strong cheddar to one third creamy Lancashire works pretty good. Into that, grate a couple of red onions: slice off the bottom of the bulb, peel back the top layer or so of skin and grate into a purplish pulp from the bottom up to avoid too many tearful moments.
Next, add a generous spoonful of mustard to the mixing bowl, a couple of jiggers of Tabasco, a shot or two of dark soy sauce for colour, and then two or three glugs of a traditional ale like Speckled Hen or something. Stir this mess up into what should be a thick paste, and then put on a saucepan over a low heat with maybe a quarter pint of milk in it.
A little at a time, spoon your mixing-bowl mess into the slowly warming milk, stirring each spoonful until it has dissolved into the milk and then adding another. (While all this is going on, you could be usefully boiling up a big pot of penne, tearing a few slices of bread into a largish cereal bowl full of roughly-torn breadcrumbs, grating another load of cheese, and slicing a load of baby plum tomatoes into two. Oh, and you might want to switch the oven on to a moderate heat and roll yourself a joint.)
When the penne is cooked and drained…it never hurts to rinse the pasta in just-boiled water to remove any excess starch…you should tip it into your biggest casserole dish, and then pour the flour-free cheese/ale/onion/mustard/Tabasco/soy sauce over the pasta.
Mix the breadcrumbs and the extra grated cheese together, and then cover the top of the pasta and sauce with the resultant crumbly mixture. Dot the halved baby plum tomatoes over the whole surface area, stick the casserole dish into the moderate oven, and then go and smoke the joint while reading, say, a short David Foster Wallace essay or story, and by the time you’re done with that your dinner should be ready.
If you’ve cooked up a really big casserole dish of this stuff, any remainder will taste even better next day if heated up again with a bit of oven foil covering the soggy edge to prevent burning or too much drying out. Wolf it down in a hurry by all means, but notice and appreciate the marvellous lingering aftertaste.
Isaac Allan: I have very long, curly hair and it can be…difficult to handle. Alan’s looks like it might be similarly unwieldy. What is Alan’s hair care process? Does he use a specific kind of conditioner? Does he ever just want to shave it down so he doesn’t have to worry about it any more like me?
Alan Moore: Other that brushing it every day, I never used to think much about my hair, just like I don’t tend to think about any part of my physical body as long as it’s working okay and isn’t getting uppity.
On the recommendation of my daughter Amber, around fifteen years ago I familiarised myself with the concept of conditioner and since then my daily regimen has been something like the following: get up, have breakfast, feed the birds, run a bath with some luridly-coloured Lush bath-bomb foaming away in it, roll myself a jazz cigarette while its running, go up and get into the bath while it’s still uncomfortably hot and then wash myself before I get around to the hair.
I tend to vary my shampoo according to meaningless impulse, but a reliable standby is Lush’s ‘Big‘ shampoo, which is mostly sea-salt and which is apparently responsible for giving me my traffic-stopping shine and volume. After rinsing all that away, I tend to alternate between two different conditioners, these being either Lush’s ‘American Cream‘ or ‘Happy Happy Joy Joy.’
Then, when I’ve rinsed those away, I give my hair a final cold rinse, which is actually the most enjoyable part of the process, when there’s a curtain of clean and separated hair, all streaming with cold and silvery water, between me and the rest of existence. Then, sometimes, I’ll go and get myself a couple of ice-lollies – if the bathwater has been bombed bright blue then I’ll probably go for a Valencia Orange lolly, just for the high-contrast visuals – and maybe a glass of ginger beer and a copy of New Scientist or Fortean Times, and then go and get back in the still-hot bath for some peak aesthetic and intellectual experience, although I’m not sure that these last details are having any noticeable effect on the condition of my hair.
I’ve certainly never thought of cutting it all off, as this would have involved thinking about a subject as dull (despite its traffic-stopping shine) as my hair, when the whole point of letting it grow all over the place was that I wouldn’t need to have any intellectual or physical involvement with the process. If you add up all the visits to the barber’s and shaving sessions that I’ve avoided over the last forty years, you’ll probably get a good idea of where I found the time to write Jerusalem.
Oh, and I can’t be bothered with a hair dryer, so I let it dry naturally. This means that it’s sort of damp for around half of any given day, which perhaps explains why my hair has gone on fire relatively few times compared with my address book and the rest of my immediate environment. If that helps at all.