Another year

Guido regularly tells me I should try not to over analyse thoughts. Keep it simple. Look in-front of you; don’t look back, otherwise you won’t see what’s ahead of you. He should be a psychologist and if he was analysing me let’s just say he’d be kept pretty busy. I guess he gives sound advice because 99.9% of the time, he’s deliriously happy. I get it. Really I do. But, there is but.

“But, what would you describe was your biggest personal highlight of this past year?” I asked Guido in bed this morning. It was very late. I’d eaten a croissant which was messy and there were buttery crumbs between the sheets.

We were also back at The Spanish Onion and I’m pleased to report we were slowly “recovering” from a hectic few days in Spain with his parents. Visiting Andalucía family members turned into more like a month shacked up with The Adams Family. They make my own clan seem perfectly normal, and that’s saying something.

“I hope you’re not expecting me to get all deep?” Guido asked, punching his pillow with his hand.

But I already was in deep, and like the windmills of my mind, it didn’t take that long to cast it spinning back to this time last year.

A dear friend lost. But new ones found. My parents in love (again). We gained dog called Brian and Guido got his man bun back. I put on 6 pounds around my waist. Then the cabbage soup diet lost 3 pounds around my thighs. There was a hell of a lot of work. Grind. Airport departure gates and lonely hotel rooms. Then home again. Great sex and, dare I admit it, mediocre mayonnaise. Brexit, Barbarella and Pie-gate.

“Can our lives really be compartmentalised into a few simple words?” I sighed – obviously deeply.

“Oh yeah that’s so easy,” Guido said seemingly without even having to think about it at all, “and it has to be my Baked Alaska. I distinctly remember it was June.  It was hot. There was a round soft sponge cake base with a vanilla ice cream centre and I blow torched a merengue topping which I burned to absolute perfection.”

His eyes seemed to momentarily glaze over. Which just goes to show what thoughts of a calorific desert can do for you in bed. Add 6 pounds to your hips probably.

I rolled over and kissed him.

“Thanks for the memories,” I said. And in those few words, I meant every one of them.

There’s a quiet lull in London tonight. It happens at this time every year, and in some ways it makes everything seem quiet and so much more straight forward too. Perhaps you don’t need to analyse too much. I’ll make it my new mantra. And here, too, online we blog. Regardless of our location. We create a peaceful mosaic of all our lives for others to read and enjoy, and perhaps  it doesn’t get any simpler than that.

Happy New Year everyone.

JP

To catch a thief

There was an article in The Times newspaper last week about the increase in theft from hotels, and how guests were becoming more daring with their exploits. Forget pocketing a mini shampoo bottle or a sewing kit – we’re talking V-Spring mattresses and grand pianos going walkabout. It was only when the weekend pianist turned up that bar staff even noticed the latter had gone. Well let’s just say we’ve had our own spate of things going missing at The Spanish Onion Cafe, so I’ve been put on high alert. And no one is above suspicion.

It all started with the cushions and pillows in the booths. 4 went missing in 2 days. Salt shakers and pepper pots and glass sugar bowls have also been swiped. The vintage chalked “specials” stand outside was even pinched. A bag of cheese scones from the counter top and a cold quiche from the chiller also vanished Tuesday afternoon. It’s what I’d call daylight robbery.

“Perhaps one of our customers has taken on the mantle of a modern day Robin Hood?” I said to Guido who was icing a doughnut at the time, “robbing the rich to feed the poor.” Naturally my thoughts salaciously turned to Guido wearing a pair of green tights whilst squeezing a piping bag.

“Well we’re not rich,” said Guido. “It’s more like Fagin’s rascals from Oliver Twist. The pillows I can live with – but HOMEMADE CHEESE SCONES!”

Well I suppose we all have red lines to cross but can I just point out to readers that those cushions were from Abigail Ahern, nor were they on sale. These thieves had taste.

I decided to set up position at a corner table during lunch service. It afforded me a perfect view of the place – plus I could simultaneously eat a hot salt beef sandwich with American mustard. Catching thieves is hungry work. I eyed the clientele.

Candidate 1. Woman with frizzy perm staring at foam on cappuccino. No eye movement or blinking. Could be brain dead. Maybe just been dumped by her secret lover and in urgent need of a cheese scone. Ruled out.

Candidate 2. Crazed business woman with shoulder pads harpooning frankfurter with a fork. Anyone who loves a sausage I obviously warm to. Ruled out.

Candidate 3. Man studying iPhone whilst eating cheese toast. Every time he raised the sandwich to his mouth he paused, then put the bread back on his plate without taking a bite. Ruled out on the basis that we could have been there all day.

Candidate 4. Groucho Marx lookalike. Possibly wearing false glasses, nose, and moustache. No food or drink. Appeared to be having a conversation with himself. Definitely had kleptomaniac potential.

I told our waitress, Barbarella, what I was up to.

She surveyed the room.

“I used to be in the Israeli army – I can break a man’s neck with my bare hands,” she said flexing a bicep. She’s such a liar.

“Okay, but I want to catch a thief, not get banged up for first degree murder,” I said.

After the cafe closed I counted the cutlery. I’m staying vigilant and, just to warn customers in advance, I may be introducing random bag searches followed by a quick pat down.

Though an in-depth body search will be mandatory for any men wearing muscle shirts or those with appealing beards. Needs must.

Where’s the beef?

“Are you ever tempted to do it?” asked my friend Marc yesterday morning.

“Huh?” I said. “Do what?”

I was concentrating on scraping the foam from the top of my cappuccino. It was sticky with chocolate sprinklings. It was totally lush. In fact I’m licking my lips as I type those words even now.

“You know, things you know you shouldn’t think about, but things you think you might be tempted to do?” said Marc, winking his left eye cryptically. I hate cryptic winks, I never get the nuanced meaning.

I looked around the cafe and sucked my spoon pensively. I could see the glass chiller and in it was a fresh slab of Black Forest gateaux oozing cream. It was right next to a huge baked New York cheesecake which had collapsed perfectly in the middle.

“Sure,” I said, “I think about temptation like that all the time.”

Mostly cake. Pancakes for breakfast. A hot cheese croissant for lunch. Shortbread for tea. A Chateaubriand dinner anyone? The list is pretty endless actually.

“Yeah,” said Marc, “I thought so. Even people in annoyingly perfect monogamous relationships like you have to succumb to temptation once in a blue moon.” He winked with his left eye again.

I stopped sucking my spoon. The penny dropped. I suddenly realised we weren’t talking about a sugar rush. But possibly a rush of pleasure which was a completely different ball game altogether.

“Are we talking about what I’m thinking about or what I think you might be thinking about?” I said this without even one wink of either eye. “When you say, tempted, what exactly do you mean by, tempted?” I asked.

There was a short pause. Marc sat back and let out a long sigh.

“Hot sex, with hot men, who are not your partner.”

Marc is nothing if not direct. Don’t worry, I’m not his type.

There was another short pause.

“I see,” I said. “In that case, no. I’m a one man woman.”

Of course I do occasionally flirt outrageously with George Clooney and Alexander Skarsgard. Hell, Nick Jonas and I even had a thing. But let’s face it, nothing was ever going to get serious. I mean, for starters, I’m obviously too good for George.

“But, why do you ask?” I asked despite probably already knowing the answer.

Marc dated an Italian called Secondo who cheated on him. Then he dated a Portuguese guy called Santiago who also cheated on him. Now he’s dating Tong – who’s from Hong Kong (there’s a limerick in there somewhere) so I was assuming Marc was trying to make a pre-emptive strike by sleeping around first. I guess there was method in his madness.

“I’m happy with Tong but I’ve met this really terrific barber from Turkey. What he can do with a pair of clippers makes the mind boggle.”

And I must say Marc’s hair did look great, though it brought a whole new meaning to his “messy top with an undercut fade.”

Later in bed I asked Guido if he’d like to confess to any illicit or sordid thoughts of temptation which he’d had during his day. He’s not usually shy in bed so I braced myself.

“Well only one,” he said, “and unfortunately it involved a piece of beef,” said Guido from the darkness.

Need I say more?

War and Peace in South London

“Well, Prince, so Genoa and Lucca are now just family estates of the Buonapartes.”

Trust me this isn’t Tolstoy but it is a kinda, War and Peace.

Sorry to suddenly get all la de da literary on you but I was reading an article about a collection of short stories which has just been published. It’s called “Short Stories For Plants”.  It’s for people (complete fruit cakes) who want to talk to their plants but need a point of reference – so rather than just bore their aspidistra to death they read the poor thing a bedtime story.

I have not lost the plot.

Readers who have been following this blog for more than 12 months – I continue to wholeheartedly commend your loyalty – will know I’ve a love hate relationship with our apartment’s heating system. For ease of reference let’s call it – The Boiler. At this time of year when it gets much colder in London me and Guido and, The Boiler, tend to grudgingly re-acquaint ourselves. It sometimes feels like we’ve never actually been introduced but I still like to think we’re great friends who just happen to have lost touch during the warmer months. The Boiler, however, is a little more contrary. You know where I’m going with this, right?

“But I warn you, if you don’t tell me that this means war, if you still try to defend the infamies and horrors perpetrated by that Antichrist – I really believe he is Antichrist – I will have nothing more to do with you and you are no longer my friend, no longer my ‘faithful slave,’ as you call yourself!”

I was reading this aloud to, The Boiler. If I’m honest I was a little worried about using the “slave” word but for obvious reasons I didn’t want to deviate from pure Tolstoy.

“Who are you talking to?” Guido shouted, mid-beer, from the sofa.

It was a perfectly reasonable question to ask but my logic is, if you can read a story to a stupid plant, I reckoned you could read a classic to a cranky heating system.

”Oh, just an old friend,” I yelled, casually stroking The Boiler’s metal casing.

I know some people don’t like to have their personal space invaded but me and, The Boiler, seemed to be getting on like the proverbial house on fire. Let’s just say the flame was lit baby.

“But how do you do? I see I have frightened you – sit down and tell me all the news,” I read, stroking some more metal. I felt like I’d been transported to Siberia yet was still on the floor in our hallway.

If I’m honest I wasn’t really expecting a response from, The Boiler. What was he going to tell me – his duel flue was blocked? But I heard foot steps and suddenly Guido was peering into the cupboard. I didn’t have the heart to say, hey, three was a hot and smokin’ crowd.

”What you doing?” Guido asked. His tone was a cross between accusatory and incredulity.

“Reading War and Peace to The Boiler,” I said completely casually in a – don’t you know we’re at the mercy of artificial intelligence – sort of way.

There was an awkward silence.

“You know you’re bonkers nuts?” said my husband bluntly.

Frankly I don’t agree.

Though Tolstoy is probably having a really good laugh.

Full frontal

I am using this blog to offer a public apology to a woman who was sitting on the upper deck of a London bus last night. I hope she wasn’t too traumatised by what she witnessed and that the memory will slowly and permanently fade from her mind. If not, I think she’ll sue.

I should explain.

Our apartment above The Spanish Onion Cafe is one story up a flight of stairs and has windows which look right out onto the busy street below. There are cars and buses and very determined people who walk very fast carrying brief cases and satchels who get on those buses. Did I mention buses? They honk and they hoot and their engines shudder but like every other white noise in a big city you just get used to it. In fact you forget they’re even there or that they pass parallel to our lounge window to a strict timetable. You could probably even set your watch. Contrary to what you’re thinking this is not a review for London transport.

I should also explain my husband Guido has never had a fear of being seen naked. I think it’s a European thing. In Spain the people there let everything hang out. But over here in England it’s cold and wet and explains why I’m all buttoned up – metaphorically speaking. Well let’s just say I think that woman on the bus last night was wishing Guido had been zipped up too – and I’m not metaphorically speaking.

My husband watches TV in his boxers but sleeps in the nude. Occasionally he’ll take all his clothes off on the journey between the sofa and our bed yet inexplicably get distracted by something en route between the two. Like washing the dinner dishes or pumping up the back tyre of his mountain bike stark naked. I’m not complaining because it elevates what could be mundane domestic activities to a new and hugely entertaining level. Well, there’s nothing quite like it on Netflix and I like my thrills cheap.

“The roller blind looks wonky,” I said. We were both on the sofa.  I was laying down after a good lasagna. “It’s unhinged,” I said.

Like a lot of things around here.

“Yeah,” said Guido, “It needs 2 mins with my power tool.”

There’s nothing like a good drilling on a chilly Saturday night, and, Guido’s boxer shorts were already half way down so he’d pricked my interest. He got up and balanced one leg precariously on the arm of our chesterfield. A feeling of impending nudity swept over me.

“I’ll try a good jerk,” said Guido as he pulled hard on the cord.

There was a predictable – TWANG! – as the curtain hook screws sprang from the plaster, which fell at exactly the same moment as my husband’s shorts. And you see, it was then that the bus stopped right next to the window and a woman on the top deck slowly, and innocently, turned her head inward to our home.

It’s hard to describe the exact expression on her face. Eyes widened, jaw dropped, a mouth opened. There was shock and a whole lot of awe. It was like the porn version of the “Eleven O’clock Diet Coke Break.”

So, whoever you were, I’m sorry.

Guido, on the other hand, reckons you’ll be back tonight.

Three men and a jockstrap

Readers of a nervous disposition are warned that the following text contains a description of three men (one currently unknown) a discarded jockstrap, and a bacon sandwich. However, to those readers who are emotionally stable and who have been actively trawling the internet in the hope of one day finally finding a blog post about three men (one now going commando), dodgy knicker elastic, and, a pork rasher – then please read excitedly on…

But first, indulge me for a moment. Let me draw your eyes up above the front door of The Spanish Onion Cafe. There hangs, appropriately, a Spanish onion. It’s made of hard plastic, about three times the size of a soccer ball and it’s swung contentedly there on a chain since 1974. Guido’s father still unhooks it periodically to lovingly rinse it with car shampoo. The reason I’m telling you about the onion is because there is now an indefatigable link to it and the amazing objects members of the public choose to discard on a London street.

In Bermondsey I’ve come to expect the unsolicited beer bottle, cigarette packet, rolled up copy of Metro Newspaper, or shoe even, into our window boxes. So please picture the cafe door swinging open this morning and a very excited pedestrian shouting loudly – “Has anyone lost a jockstrap?” It’s certainly not the sort of random question you want to be bothered considering whilst quietly enjoying a crispy bacon sandwich on rustic bread with a generous squirt of ketchup. It is, however, if you’ve ever lived in Bermondsey, the sort of question you should never be surprised you’re being asked.

A hush descended. Another customer dropped a knife on a plate. Someone politely coughed. The bald guy opposite me drinking a latte suspiciously felt his crotch. Our new waitress Brenda, showing an unhealthy sign of interest in jockstraps, went outside to investigate. Brenda has quickly made herself indispensable. Brenda doesn’t actually call herself Brenda, she insists we all call her Barbarella because she thinks this sounds more exotic. Which of course it does. However, although she wears tight faux leather clothing and stiletto boots that’s where any resemblance to Jane Fonda in outer space ends – but she can carry two espressos and a plate of hot soup simultaneously; so who am I to judge?

Once back inside Barbarella covertly leaned over my sandwich, which momentarily disappeared into her cleavage.

“Sweetheart, brace yourself,” she said surreptitiously out of the corner her mouth, “there’s a jockstrap hanging from your onion.”

I stopped chewing. The bald guy opposite felt his crotch again.

I fetched Guido out of the kitchen and onto the pavement and both of us looked up. The soggy jockstrap looked grey and limp like it had been on one too many fast spin cycles and the elastic had decided to give up all hope of future support.

“I wonder where that came from?” I said squinting.

Guido looked at me like I was an idiot.

“Well you’ll have to get up there and pull it down pronto,” said Guido, “I’m busy with three full English breakfasts and an egg Florentine to go.”

Honestly he’s always got an excuse.

Later, Barbarella suggested we post a sign in the cafe widow –

“LOST YOUR JOCKSTRAP? – EQUIRE WITHIN”

Apparently, she has a foolproof way of ensuring underwear is always re-united with its rightful owner. Like I said, she’s indispensable.

Love is in the air

I left a random comment on my friend Blobby’s blog about a month ago. In it I described how I’d been in a cafe in North London minding my own business, but had slowly become aware of a man and a woman seated behind me. Both of them were talking loud enough to be overheard. I won’t bore you with the exact details of their diatribe but their views were that homosexuality was a shameful abomination. It absolutely shocked me. Yet what had made me particularly mad about that day was not, ironically, the man and the woman. It had been my own reaction. I was so furious with myself that I hadn’t been able to confront them with a cutting or biting or witty or sarcastic put down. Instead, I’d just gotten up and walked right out into the street with a cold coffee and a half eaten cookie. And then I’d fumed about what I should have said all day long.

Needless to say when I got home Guido put things, as he always does, in complete perspective.

“What does it matter what these sort people think? They’re a dying breed.”

He was tossing a mixed salad at the time and I’ve never realised how leaves in a mustard dressing could be so hypnotically therapeutic.

“It’s who loves us and how we show love back that’s important. Forget all about their hate because the only person who’ll feel bad about it – is you.”

He was right.

Fast forward to yesterday when Guido’s father celebrated his 70th birthday. It was time to show him the love. Inexplicably my mother, Cruella, had actually called me to say she thought it would be a terrific idea if she and my father threw Juan a surprise party. Honestly, ever since my parents remarried my mother’s been acting like a Stepford Wife resident. She’s either had a personality transplant without telling me or is having a hell of a lot of sex. But let’s not go there.

Anyway of course the idea ended up with Guido catering and tables set and candles lit in the courtyard at The Spanish Onion. There were lots of Juan’s friends at the party I’ve never even had the opportunity to introduce readers to; other you’d have known. Guido’s mother, Rosa, sang an interesting version of happy birthday in the style of a Hispanic Marilyn Monroe. My parents were embarrassingly loved up. The Twins (remember them?) were back from an ashram in India. They’d both shaved their heads so it was still impossible to tell which was which. My artist friend Elton turned up. His latest show is proving a blockbuster. Marc introduced us to his new Portuguese boyfriend, and I have to say both were positively glowing. Fingers tightly crossed; I’m hopefully optimistic. Ethel and Bethany from the laundromat next door brought some of their lethal homemade hooch and later, Gary finally flew in. Brian wagged his tail.

When it got dark I went back into the kitchen to get some more candles and cold wine, and after a moment or two I glanced out of the open window because the most wonderful sound seemed to be wafting though the air. It’s hard to describe it in words but let’s just call it; love.

And I’ll choose that over hate every time.