On the final Saturday night of each month Guido pulls out all of his culinary stops and throws a Spanish themed evening at the café.  It’s becoming a bit of a tradition in Bermondsey.  They have a real party atmosphere.  It involves a lot of eating, a lot of drinking and a good old fashioned Spanish sing song.  In previous months Guido has given these evenings theme names which only he thinks are inventive.  Frankly it’s a miracle anyone has ever bothered to turn up.  Let’s recap for you.  Clams and Castanets.  Salted Cod and Sangria.  Tapas and Torros.  He’d never work in advertising, that’s all I am saying.  Despite this, the evenings have been surprisingly big hits with the locals.  I suppose you must get pretty desparate in Southwark on a Saturday night if you’re not already booked in at The Ritz.  

Guido placed a great big handwritten ad in the café window a couple of days ago to try to entice people to come along.  I’d say that he surpassed himself with his latest public relations coup but perhaps you should be the judge of that.  Zucchini and Zorro!  There was even an exclamation mark.  If you’re anything like me then you’ll probably never have considered a courgette to be one of the more versatile vegetables on the planet.  What I now know Guido can do with one has completely changed my opinion of them.  Let me tell you no one can stuff a marrow like he can.    

It all kicked off at six o’clock.  The café was fully booked.   Tables were laid, candles were lit and I even switched on the twinkling fairy lights in the courtyard.  The smell of zucchini fritters filled the air.  Guido’s father, Juan, mixed up big jugs of sangria for each table using his ancient recipe.  He says he plans to take that recipe to his grave and I think last night it almost sent some of our diners to theirs prematurely.  The Twins were waiting on tables despite the fact that they had inexplicably made it through to round two of Britain’s Got Talent.   Simon Cowell must be losing it.  Rap rehearsals in their garage in Rotherhithe have been pretty intense by all accounts but thankfully they still managed to turn up last night as instructed and were wearing bandanas, capes and black eye masks.   Zorro costumes were not compulsory for diners but were actively encouraged.  Sword carrying accessories were not allowed as that would have been dangerous and illegal and I would have been required to frisk the paying guests on entry.   

A band called Los Chicos De Palma played the music.  They are four guys from, yes you guessed it, Palma.  They are extremely diminutive.  They sing, they clap and they bang their little boot heels together at exactly the same time.  The first time I saw them my immediate thoughts were, Honey I Shrunk The Gypsy Kings.  

Around midnight some diners started a deranged congo dance chain through the café.  They went out the back door into the courtyard and then back in and out through the front door.  I counted twenty out and twenty four back in, so somewhere along the way they’d picked up several complete strangers.  The Twins started jumping repeatedly from the fire escape whilst simultaneously flapping their capes as if they had the ability to fly.  It all got crazy, as in stark raving mad, for a bit.  Against all odds I downed another jug of sangria. Then we closed at two a.m. to the sound of the Los Chico guys falling into a mini cab. 

“In September I am going to cook a squid,” said Guido getting into bed.  “Squid.  Mmm, squid and.. what rhymes with squid?” he asked. 

All answers gratefully on a postcard please.


My life on a post-it-note

I always used to carry a notebook with me. Sometimes I even carried two in my satchel.  One was to write down completely random ideas I had for designs or interior plans or for when I noticed unusual colour combinations around town.  The second notebook was for the equally random but more mundane thoughts on real life – such as reminding myself to telephone my mother or that I absolutely must remember to wash Guido’s socks.  Not surprisingly the first notebook was a lot more fun to read than the second one.  However, there has been a worrying development on the note taking front.  My books have been unexpectedly closed.  I blame my assistant Toby and his obsessive compulsion for the use of post-it-note pads.  I now know that these come in an exciting and addictive range of shapes and sizes.    Until very recently I’d say I was a post-it-note virgin but now I can’t get enough of them.  My satchel is stuffed full of sticky stars and speech bubbles and little perfectly formed clouds to scribble on.  I leave a paper trail of my aide memoires throughout London and where ever I go.  I think it’s probably costing me a fortune.  Yesterday at work I found myself writing down my telephone number onto a post-it-note which just happened to be in the shape of a pair of puckered red lips.  I then stuck it to the hairy hand of a burly contactor on a building site.  I have to say I am not sure it’s sending the right message professionally as I swear he then called me honey.

These sticky notes are now papering all over the cracks in my private life too.  On Monday I stuck one to the soap splashed bathroom mirror which simply read, PLEASE BUFF ME UP TONIGHT.   When I got home later Guido told me to take all of my clothes off. 

“Let me know whenever you are ready,” he shouted from the kitchen, “and I’ll go fetch a wet sponge.”  It wasn’t exactly what I had intended to happen but if you’ve had a hard day at the office I can’t recommend a brisk rub with a foaming loofah highly enough.  Especially if you’re not the one doing it. 

I also thought post-it-note labelling our underwear drawers with their contents was a terrific idea.  White briefs first drawer, white trunks second drawer, mixed boxers third drawer, black socks fourth drawer, sports socks fifth drawer.  Each time Guido opened the wardrobe one of the labels would come flying off and as his attention to detail isn’t as acute as mine he’d just stick it back up any old place.  Which meant that black socks suddenly became jumpers and mixed boxers confusingly became belts.  I’ve noticed it’s taking considerably longer to get dressed in the morning these days.   

Today I found a post-it-note in the shape of a sheep stuck to my satchel.  It had Guido’s handwriting on it and read, GET A LIFE on it.  I thought that was particularly rich coming from someone who had spent the hour before telling me that when poaching, the consistency of a duck egg is always superior to that of a hen. So I left Guido a post-it-note stuck to the pocket of his apron.  You can probably imagine what it said.    


Sunday in the park with Guido

Guido likes to go to the park on Sunday afternoons.  I think this is because he spends all morning chopping, slicing, prepping and then cooking food for three hours during a busy lunch service. He orchestrates all of that cooped up from his kitchen which is the size of your average rabbit hutch.  It can get particularly frantic on Sundays if his roast potatoes don’t golden and crisp up or his sage and onion stuffing balls go to mush.  I stay upstairs until I hear the pans being washed up and figure the coast is clear.  So to restore his sanity Guido likes to go to the park in the late afternoon and get out his Frisbee.  Guido often goes to the park on his own on Sunday afternoons and then comes home and tells me he has made life long friends with very fit octogenarians who can do cartwheels or stand on their heads, all without the aid of oxygen or any medical intervention. 

I hate the park.  Well, perhaps I don’t hate it but I don’t like it as much as Guido does and he always has to try very hard to whip up my enthusiasm for it.  It can get busy there.  The ground is often damp from the rain the night before.  There are ants lurking in the grass and almost certainly perverts flashing in the bushes.   If you have ever been to Bermondsey you’ll also know it’s not exactly the greenest of places and the Spa Gardens don’t actually have a spa.  I’ve certainly never been offered any kind of tantric massage there.   Otherwise I have to tell you it’s a great day out. 

“Let’s go to the park,” Guido said yesterday.  He’d packed lots of random lunchtime left overs like chicken legs and asparagus tips neatly into his impressive collection of Tupperware.  He was also carrying a big thick rug and a vat of bug spray which blew gaping holes in any excuses I had to be able to say no.  I sensed he was daring me to try.  

“What a terrific idea!” I said utterly confounding him.

“Really?” he said, “great!” and then spontaneously changed into his Maui shorts by way of a celebration. 

When we got there the sun was shining.  We played Frisbee.  I bonded with some shih tzus and a couple from Bratislava.  I met several octogenarians who looked about thirty years old.  I wondered if there was a fountain of youth they routinely drank from which nobody had bothered to tell me about.  Guido bought me the kind of ice cream I last ate when I was five years old.  We sat on our big thick rug and I remained utterly dry and not one single ant tried to dine on my thighs.  Unfortunately I was not molested by any perverts.

On the way home it began to thunder and rain.  This is London you know.  Both of us got completely soaked to the skin.  When we got home we stripped off and got in the bath together.  I was at the tap end and Guido sat on the plug. 

“You kind of looked pretty hot wearing a wet tee-shirt,” said Guido.   

Naturally hearing that was the perfect end to my trip to the park.  I may even suggest going back there next week.    


Exploding atoms

I have been working all morning with my assistant Toby on the interior plans for the show apartments I’m designing in the East End of London. Well, last night in bed I had a blinding flash of inspiration whilst listening to our lesbian neighbours next door having explosive sex. There’s a sentence you don’t read too often.

“I want you to surf the net and find me some technical wizard who will be able to craft me an exploding atom mobile to hang in the duplex show apartment,” I said to Toby. “It will be an astounding centre piece which will visually blow away potential buyers and as a result the apartments will sell faster than any other apartments the builder has ever built, ever.”

“For real?” Toby said.  He wasn’t looking blown away by the idea. “An exploding atom, like, as in physics and molecules and stuff?” Of course I have no idea what a molecule is but I nodded as if scientifically I knew what I was talking about. “You sure do come up with some pretty weird arty stuff you know. Exploding atom? Hey, you’re the designer.”

“If they hate it, what is the worst that can happen?” I said incredulously.

“Fire you?” said Toby like it was inevitable.

To date I have only ever been fired once and, just for the record, it had nothing whatsoever to do with me.  Years ago when I was still at college I worked the Summer for this Greek guy called Yannis who imported clothing. Naturally to impress everyone I knew I told them I was working in fashion. In reality, considering what I actually did on a daily basis, I have to say that link was pretty flimsy. Which, as it turned out, was just like the clothes. Yannis had an office just off Bond Street in the West End.  This implied high end quality but his outfits made Primark look like haute couture. I often found myself talking to very angry customers on the telephone who would tell me that either the arm or the leg of the garment they were wearing had just dropped off. Yannis always used to wear a pinstriped suit which I doubt was made by any of his suppliers as it remained in tact for the entire time I worked for him. Nothing came apart at the seams, except him.

My job was to match orders with invoices and delivery notes. I didn’t have a clue what I was doing because Yannis never had the time to explain anything.  He also had a terrible temper. One day he asked me to produce a stack of delivery notes urgently.  When I failed to do it he literally picked up a filing cabinet in a blind rage and threw it out of an open window.  Fortunately we were actually based in ground floor offices at the time so it was not completely life threatening to any random dude who might just happen to be strolling by below.  Yannis then fired me on the spot. I don’t speak Greek but I got the gist of what he was saying. I imagine “You’re fired!” sounds pretty similar in any international language and is pretty easy to work out if your boss is pointing at the door as he is shouting it. The following morning, as I had nothing special to get up for except to look for another job, I was still in bed when the telephone rang. It was Yannis. “Where are you?” he asked.  He couldn’t figure out why I hadn’t turned up for work that day.

What do you mean where am I?” I said lifting my head off the pillow, “You fired me, remember? I am no longer in your employ.”

Oh that was nothing, just a little something” he said, “Come back, come back.” And like an idiot I did. Then after the third anger management incident which involved a paper shredder, a Chinaman, and two rolls of denim, I left and I made sure I’d unplugged the telephone at home.

“I mean, what’s not to love about an exploding atom mobile hanging from living room ceiling?” I asked Toby, but noticed he’d already put on his noise cancelling ear phones so I was actually talking to myself. I worryingly found myself thinking again about the stitching on Yannis’ clothing.  “What’s the worst that could possibly happen?” 

Toxic Bubbles

Right next door to The Sanish Onion café is a laundrette called, Toxic Bubbles. Its name sounds like the place should slowly poison you to death rather than clean your laundry.  After what happened last night, poisoning is now something which I think could possibly be added to their list of services.  It’s run by two lesbians. You must be thinking it’s like Queer Street going on over here. If only a bisexual and a transgender would move into the neighbourhood we’d have the complete set.  They live in the loft adjacent.  Bethany is Welsh.  Her wife is from someplace in France. When she speaks she sounds like a female version of Charles Aznavour.  She doesn’t look like him but when she sings To All The Girls I’ve Loved Before in the shower she does sound a bit like him.  When she first introduced herself to me I thought she said her name was Crouton.  I said, “pardon moi?” for obvious reasons.  She said “Crouton” again with a French flourish and I said “I didn’t quite catch that” and she said “Crouton” again.  There are only so many times you can ask someone if she is called Crouton before it looks like you’re the one who’s the freak.  Mercifully Bethany calls her Ethel and now so do I. I have to say she does look more like an Ethel than she does something you’d drop into your soup, if you get my meaning.   

At least three times a week Bethany and Ethel have a lot of noisy sex next door.   Guido calls their place The Love Shack. I have this mental image of the pair of them leaping naked towards each other from the rafters.  There is always a lot of sound of crashing and moaning and groaning. They certainly seem to have a lot of stamina.  I really don’t know what their secret is.  I think they may also use plug-in sex appliances to spice things up because every so often our lava lamp flickers on and off involuntarily. In the sex stakes they make Guido and me seem like a pair of Trappist monks. Then the following day one of them will come round with a small gift to apologise for all of the commotion the night before.  Yesterday Ethel delivered two bottles of her homemade wine.  Apparently she keeps a stock brewing quietly behind the tumble driers.

Guido and I opened the first bottle with dinner last night.  I can tell you the first two glasses slipped over very quickly with a Spanish tortilla and a green salad.  By the time we had finished the bottle Guido was trying to tell me why it was vitally important to add bread crumbs to an omelette mixture (so there’s another little insider tip for you), but rather than call them bread crumbs he kept referring to them as cread trumbs.  Then I said, wouldn’t it be a terrific idea if we opened the second bottle? For some reason my vision was sort of blurry, and I couldn’t quite feel the tips of my fingers, so it took me a while to properly aim the corkscrew into the top of the bottle and twist it open.  Guido thought that was very funny.  So did I.  We both laughed until our sides hurt and then we fell off the sofa onto the floor – which didn’t hurt a bit by the way. And, I could still reach the bottle from the floor so we had another glass just to celebrate.

After that neither of us remembers much but I think there is a strong possiblilty there might have been some crashing and moaning and groaning. I am just glad we have such understanding neighbours.


Things we think about in bed

What do you think about when you are laying in bed at night? That is a serious question I am asking any readers to consider, even if right at this very second they don’t happen to be between the sheets.  I ask because late last night both Guido and I were laying awake in bed and I was sure at least one of us must have been thinking of something pretty important. 

“When you lay awake in bed at night, what do you think about?” I asked Guido, as I lay there in the dark pondering the possibilities of how finger food might just work at our wedding.

“Oh all sorts of things,” said Guido with a big sigh. “Things that I’d like to give proper thought to but I never seem to be able to find the time to do it during the day,” he said. I was hoping he was seriously thinking about important topics like redecorating our bathroom yet funnily enough I wasn’t getting that particular vibe.

“Like what?” I said.  Guido paused only for a moment, then he reeled off ten things he thinks about in bed – boom boom boom just like that. You will see below what he thinks about has a bit of a food and drink theme going on. It must be the chef in him:-

1. Baking a decent focaccia 

2. Antonio Carluccio recipes

3. French Laundry menus

4. Scottish lobster claws

5. Does drinking Guinness in Dublin taste any better?

6. Stuffing olives

7. Hiking to Osteria Francescana in Modena

8.  Stir frying in Bangkok

9. Diving for clams

10. Tobogganing

For obvious reasons number ten on his list kind of threw me a bit.

“But enough about me, what do you think about?” Guido asked. You’ll see there was also a particular theme going on with me but I can assure you all of the things I think about in bed have been fully and vividly played out in my mind and not just once but completely successfully on several occasions:-

1. Strip searching Thierry Henry

2. Being smothered in peanut butter and then Zac Efron licking it all off

3. Wearing David Gandy’s white briefs

4. Going skinny dipping with that guy in the Davidoff commercial 

5. Re-enacting the shower scene from Beauty and the Beast

6. Playing strip poker with Bradley Cooper

7. Bears – the hairy human variety

8. Going commando with a commando

9. Macaroons

10. Guido and I having sex whilst he’s dressed as a matador

Strangely when I said the words, Zac and Efron, out loud last night at that exact moment I heard a car honk its horn twice in the street outside our window.  I think it was some sort of a sign, I just don’t know which kind.

“Goodness,” said Guido, “I never realised so much went on in this bed at night.”

I had to agree but let me tell you I was already excitedly viualising Guido in full costume and flashing his big cape. I am totally astonished either of us got to sleep.

The bear

As a general rule I don’t try to tell jokes.  I forget where I am going with them or I get to the punch line and mess it up and nobody laughs.  Sometimes people laugh at me.  There is a big difference.  I also only happen to know one bear joke, but trust me, never before was that bear joke more relevant than at work today.  So please bear with me.  If you didn’t laugh at that last sentence don’t worry, it wasn’t the bear joke.  I just threw that in as a sort of added extra bonus.

A couple of weeks ago I asked my assistant Toby to source a stuffed moose head.  It’s the sort of crazy thing I do actually ask him to do.  I have a client who is building a log cabin in his garden in Chelsea and I am turning the interior of it into a Scandinavian boudoir.  Well, I found out today that Toby accidentally clicked on the wrong box on the taxidermist’s website in Anchorage and, rather than order a moose head, he requested the urgent dispatch of an eight foot tall two hundred and fifty pound stuffed white bear. I knew nothing about this small error until this morning when I opened my email account, only to find an email message from my landlord.  He was threatening my eviction from the building on grounds of health and safety if I did not remove the bear from the basement immediately.  Apparently it was scaring security on a nightly basis.  I told Toby we must urgently go to the basement, at level minus two, put the bear into the elevator, then take it to my office, on level plus four. When we got back there I would then fire him.  I wasn’t really going to fire him.  It was a little joke of mine which had no punch line to speak of, and one which I noticed Toby wasn’t laughing at much. 

I am not sure if you have ever personally tried to manoeuvre a two hundred and fifty pound stuffed white bear into an elevator but it is not as easy to manhandle as you might initially think. This one had its arms outstretched like it was about to start sleep walking or simply maul its next victim so it all got a bit complicated when we wanted to close the elevator doors. The paws kept getting stuck and the electronic voice in the elevator kept repeating “doors are opening doors are closing doors are opening doors are closing.” If we had just been able to get the arms off it we would have been be okay.

Go to maintenance,” I said to Toby, “and borrow the closest thing they have in their tool kit which resembles a hack-saw.”

What will I tell them I want it for?” Toby said. 

Just make up some excuse but keep things simple and don’t say it involves anything whatsoever to do with livestock.” He came back five minutes later and said it had gotten a bit tricky what with the hack-saw request on account of the fact that maintenance didn’t like the idea of any of the tenants making building adjustments without prior written consent. So they’d asked if a pair of scissors would do instead?

Oh don’t be so ridiculous,“ I said. “How on earth are we supposed to get the arms of a bear off with a pair of scissors?”

Needless to say I tried, but Toby said if we didn’t make any alterations to the bear the taxidermist in Anchorage was still willing to swap it for a last minute moose head replacement.  So in the end its arms stayed on and it only took us about fifteen minutes to get the bear up to my office via the building’s central staircase.  However, once you get past the ground floor level of the building the staircase does open up onto glass conference rooms along the way. This meant that the vacuum cleaner sales team meeting taking place on level plus one, and the annual advertising company award ceremony on level plus three, now know about the bear. Otherwise I think we totally got away with it, though I don’t recall seeing anyone laughing. 

A man goes into his local cinema and sits down to watch a movie.  He notices what looks like a big hairy big bear sitting in the seat right next to him. The man turns to the bear and says, “Pardon me for interrupting your popcorn, but, do you mind if I ask you a question?”

“Sure,” says the bear, “shoot.”

“Ok,” says the man to the bear. “Are you a bear?”

“Why yes,” says the bear, “I am indeed a bear.”

“Ok,” says the man to the bear, “what are you doing in a cinema watching a movie?”

“Well,” says the bear, “I did love the book.”