Real men wear Speedos

Guido’s cousin, Carlos (With The Feet), is twenty one years old next week. On Friday we fly to Palma for a big family celebration and I’m already bracing myself.

Every time I meet Guido’s Spanish relatives they sound like they’re speaking Klingon. It’s very disconcerting unless you happen to be James T Kirk. On my first trip there Guido told me that if I was ever in any doubt about what to say to anybody I should simply smile and repeat the following sentence over and over. Esta tiene un sabor muy bueno!  To readers unfamiliar with the Spanish language that means, this tastes very good! Which is all very well until you find yourself in a room full of Klingons but no tapas.

So in this lull before the storm I feel a little bit like the NASA guy who sits in Cape Canaveral moments before lift off. He’s the one with the headphones pointing at the big electronic tracking screen shouting, “T Minus Blah Blah Blah” and “Ground Control to Major Tom – We’re Good To Go.”

Well here on the launch pad in South London, although the countdown has begun, we’re still stuck on amber. I’m not sure Buzz Aldrin ever had trouble with his Speedos, but the pair I removed from my closet last night to pack for the beach just won’t fit. Somehow I’ve gotten too big. And you can read into that whatever you please.

“I’ve told you a million times already,” said Guido dipping his finger into the peanut butter jar, “you’re too big, they’re too tight.”

I looked down at the piece of cloth stubbornly stretched mid-way between my knees and my thighs. Where there’s a will there’s usually a way yet clearly there wasn’t a way that wasn’t going to involve lubricant and a shoehorn. The question, does my bum look big in this, loomed large in the room.

“But,” said Guido licking his finger slowly, “what I’m looking at is still aesthetically pleasing nonetheless.”

Houston, as they say at NASA, we have a problem. I honestly didn’t think I’d gotten any bigger myself. The Speedos must have shrunk.

“We may have to go to Plan B,” said Guido raising an eyebrow. He had a worrying sparkle in his eye.

I knew what was coming. And be afraid people. Be very afraid.

There’s a beach in southern Majorca called Es Trenc. Let’s just say clothing requirements are kept to a complete minimum there and when I say a complete minimum what I really mean is, it’s optional. The last time Guido and I went to Es Trec we were the only people on the whole stretch who had any clothes on. Unfortunately we ended up on sunbeds right next to a German couple who insisted on paying ping pong on the sand all afternoon. It’s hard to convey in words of one syllable what I saw that day. Lifeguards should’ve issued us with a warning. Something like – this ping pong game contains scenes of a graphic nature and may be injurious to health. Wear a helmet.

So today I played it safe and bought a replacement pair of Speedos. They make me look super slim. I managed to get in them and Guido’s already managed to get me out of them.

We have ignition. As they say at NASA.

 

Brainwave in Bermondsey

I was reading an interesting article on-line in New York Magazine last week. It said that neuroscientists had scanned Sting’s brain. It certainly got me thinking.

“I wonder what they saw?” I said to Guido as I coiled a piece of his super rich and creamy spaghetti sauce around my fork at dinner tonight.

Here’s another one of my insider tips for you guys on the spaghetti front. Guido fries his lardons first until they’re really crispy, whisks and tosses free-range egg yolk into the hot pasta and then, lastly, parmesan – the cheese is sliced. I defy you not to grate it.

“I expect they saw Fields Of Gold,” said Guido cracking black pepper liberally without a hint of sarcasm.

There was a point to Sting’s brain being scanned, it wasn’t just some random cranial nose around. It was to do with trying to identify what creativity looked like.

“I reckon neuroscientists might be interested in screwing open my head to take a look inside my brain,” I said, “I think it could possibly be one of the more complex specimens they’ll ever come across.”

Helping progress medical science has always been something of an ambition of mine. Though, as someone who blogs about his worrying addiction to sausage, I realise this may not be something regular readers will instantly associate me with.

“It would be good to understand what goes on up there,” said Guido tapping my temple, “and it would help a lot to know what you’re really made of.”

As a child I always hated that old nursery rhyme. You know the one where, in a politically incorrect universe, idiots used to tell boys they were created from slugs and snails and puppy dogs tails. Needless to say growing up with a highly developed interest in soft furnishings, scatter cushions, and an unhealthy appreciation of Mary Tyler Moore, I couldn’t exactly relate.

“What do you mean, really, made of?” I asked. He was making me sound like a dummy.

“I’ve got this weird image of what I’d see,” said Guido, “and I think it might look a bit like the contents of this bowl of pasta.”

I looked at the half eaten remnants of his dinner which was gooey and glutenous and messy. I truly got where he was coming from. I tried to imagine my head cavity packed full of carbonara sauce and, honestly, I quite liked the idea. I could certainly think of worse things to find. Like angst and guilt and randomly obsessive thoughts about hefty slices of Boston baked cheesecake for breakfast.

“I think it’s probably just as well you can’t,” I said, “see what I am thinking right at this second.”

I have to tell you it’s pretty awkward when graphic thoughts of Guido’s hairy thighs flash before my eyes when I’m absolutely least expecting it. Let’s just say I’m not sure what the neuroscientists would make of it.

“What do you think they’d see in my head?” said Guido. That was a tough call. I didn’t want to jump straight in with cliches. But obviously, I couldn’t resist.

“Well,” I said, “off the top of my head? A fixation with aubergine pesto, strong signs of Latino madness, and a general dislike of Nigella Lawson recipes.”

I’m pretty confident Sting’s brain couldn’t compete in any way whatsoever. I don’t care what the doctors say.

Tale of the unexpected

Unlike Guido, I love the unpredictability of life.

“If you had three minutes left to live and someone said you had to make a choice between eating mayonnaise or salad cream,” said Guido chewing on a salami in our bed last night, “which would you pick?”

Well of course that would depend where and on what it’s being spread. Not to mention who’s doing the spreading. But let’s just be completely clear, if I’d three minutes left to live I seriously doubt I’d be sharing them with a lettuce.

“I’m not that fussy,” I said, “as you know I’ll happily squirt anything.”

I pinched my nose to avoid the overpowering scent of garlic emanating from Guido’s breath.

“And I do like surprises,” I said, ever the hopeful.

I know what you’re thinking. Levels of excitement in my life must fluctuate wildly as I appear to now be getting my kicks from discussing condiments. My mother, Cruella, could possibly call this – the insanity of marital domesticity. I never listen to her advice though I can see her logic. I think it probably explains why she started drinking large volumes of gin and dates very young men.

Guido’s the only person I know who doesn’t like surprises. In fact he doesn’t like anything being sprung on him and I’m not just talking about salad dressing options.

“I hate surprises,” said Guido. “if I was about to nibble a tortilla but it turned out to be an omelette, I would not be amused.” There was a long silence. “Just saying.”

This is the same guy who once freaked out over a clam chowder cooked with mussels. What can I tell you.

“The thing is,” said Guido, “I’ve always known what I’ve wanted in life. So I’ve never considered alternatives along the way.”

Goodness was it just me or was this conversation getting deep. Weren’t we just innocently talking about mayonnaise? What next, how to achieve world peace? As far as I was concerned we hadn’t even exhausted the possibilities surrounding Thousand Island or Calorie Reduced Blue Cheese yet.

I thought about life choices I’ve made in the past. I winced. Clearly the majority weren’t part of my masterplan. Of course that wasn’t strictly true. When I met Guido in the cafe for the first time and he was happily stuffing my ciabatta I instinctively knew I craved a big hairy Spaniard. Especially, as it turned out, he had a curious obsession with sausage. I mean honestly, what’s not to love?

After Gudio switched out the lamp we cuddled up under the blanket like we always do. Predictability felt pretty good after all.

“How do you feel about a trip to Majorca?” Guido said totally surprising me. He rested his chin on my shoulder. “My cousin, Fernando With The Big Hair, emailed me. He’s throwing a surprise birthday party for his son, Carlos With The Big Feet. It’s in September. We’ve been invited.”

I opened my eyes. This surprise was getting better by the minute.

“My parents will cover the cafe whilst we’re away, so I’ve said we’ll be there. Just try not to stare at his big feet.”

I love big feet. I especially like licking Guido’s toes which taste equally good whether they’ve been dipped in mayonnaise or salad cream. As you now know, I’m really not that fussy.

DIY SOS

Readers of this blog might just be able to remember an old post I wrote months ago about the ongoing saga which became globally known as, Our Unpainted And Flaking Bedroom Ceiling. Fortunately no one will yet be familiar with the other possible internet sensations now happening in my life but include, A Very Wonky Kitchen Floorboard, or, The Incredible Leaking Bath Plug.

You certainly read important and internationally breaking news here first folks.

This week Guido inadvertently added yet another item to the ever growing list of DIY disasters. Whilst drawing up the window blind in our bedroom he successfully managed to rip it completely free from the bolts holding it to the ceiling which were clinging on for dear life – old and fatigued, I expect. God, I know just how those screws must have felt.

“Don’t worry,” said Guido brushing plaster dust from the top of his head at the time. “Keep calm. I’ll re-hang tomorrow.”

That was six days ago and I’m still waiting and I’m still counting. I feel I’ve now got no other option but to call this latest unfortunate incident, The Unhinged Pelmet. This should not in any way whatsoever be confused with, The Unhidged Front Door. Opening that currently involves performing something not dissimilar to The Heimlich Maneuver on the lock and handle every time we want to get into our home and, frankly, it’s becoming tedious.

Well last night, whilst Guido was cooking dinner, I decided to strike whilst the pan was sizzling hot.

“I’m thinking about hiring a man,” I said completely casually, “and please don’t feel it’s at all a reflection on what you can do or cannot do with those big strong hands of yours. But to be honest, I’ve decided I’d be more than happy to find, and pay, a professional.”

Guido started to stir his risotto anti-clockwise in a blind panic. Then the penny eventually dropped who I was hiring, and why.

“Well,” he said, “if you’re talking about the VERY few MINOR bits of DIY which I’ve promised to fix over the last fifteen years, let me make absolutely clear, I’m perfectly CAPABLE.”

Please note the capatalization in the sentence above.

No, it wasn’t lost on me either as I sat listening intently on our, Sofa With The Missing Left Foot, which is currently being propped up with a 2014 curled and tattered copy of the South London Yellow Pages.

“If I can fry mushrooms in a Dutch Oven without crowding them in the pan then I can screw down a wonky floorboard,” said Guido smugly. There was an ominous ping, as he kept stepping on it.

“Okay,” I said, “but just promise me one thing, you’ll take your time and you’ll use the proper tools.”

Well, when I got home from work tonight boy was I in for a very pleasant surprise. Picture it. I found Guido standing in the loft, wearing cut off Levis, Caterpillar boots, a tight fitting white vest, and a very chunky tool belt buckled round his hips. Never before had home improvement pricked my interest so overwhelmingly.

“Where d’you want me to start?” asked Guido obligingly revving up his drill bit in anticipation.

“How about the bedroom?” I said naturally.

Needless to say there’s been a lot of screwing going on.

Guido pops up

Tuesday night Guido and I were in bed. Lights were out. I was tucked up fantasizing about how Alexander Skarsgard and I might both crash land in the Amazon jungle together. I wondered if he’d mind wearing a loin cloth and if he’d consider swinging through the trees towards me, preferably with his legs wide open. You Tarzan, me Jean-Paul.

“I’m thinking about getting out and popping up,” said Guido unexpectedly.

In the blink of an eye I’d gone straight from a Brasilian rain forest to a lumpy mattress in Bermondesy. I stuck my leg over the edge of the bed and happily yanked off my Justin Bieber pyjama bottoms.

“Okay,” I said, “But I hope you’re cool with just a quick one? I’ve got a ten o’clock tomorrow morning with a Russian in Chelsea who wants to discuss designing a replica of Ceasars Palace Casino in his basement. I could really do with the shut eye.”

“What?” said Guido. There was an embarrassing pause. “I said I was popping up, not getting it popped up.”

I got back into bed frankly feeling quite disappointed.

“Did you read that article in the local newspaper about the pop up brothel around the corner which got busted by the police?” As you can tell our neighbourhood’s real classy. “Well,” said Guido pensively “naturally it got me thinking about rock buns.”

I’d no idea what the hell he was going on about.

“I’m talking about starting a pop up bakery, silly,” he said. “Selling artisan bread and cakes direct.”

You’ve got hand it to him. Guido’s ideas always sound amazing laying in bed in the dark at midnight. Unfortunately it’s in the cold light of day his plans sometimes turn out to be more fruit cake.

“Ted and I’ve been talking about it and he’s willing to help.”

“How much?” I asked sceptically.

“Oh he’s very enthusiastic,” said Guido.

“Yeah,” I said, “But how much money? Has Ted any idea of the cost of flour these days?” I was talking convincingly like I did.

“Oh I couldn’t accept an offer of money,” said Guido.

“Why not?” I said.

“Well he didn’t offer any actually,” said Guido.

Ted’s our semi-retired millionaire city banker friend and best man with the dodgy legs. Him and Guido bonded on a bakery course at Peggy Porchen. Nobody plaits a croissant like Ted. Well tonight Ted and Gary and their super intelligent Jack Russell, Brian, came round to the cafe to play poker and talk dough. I’d half expected Brian to be trained to shuffle, cut, deal – and now knead.

“I’d do spelt loaves and poppy seed rolls,” said Ted winning the first hand with a Royal Flush.

“Hmm,” said Guido getting pensive, “I’d do chocolate roulade and Victoria sponge. Let’s keep gluten-free on the back burner for now.”

“And what would Brian do?” I asked just for a laugh. Brian looked up at me confused. I guess he’s not mastered the perfect doughnut yet.

“Oh he’d just entertain customers,” said Gary. “We’ve already taught him to effortlessly balance a muffin on the end of his nose whilst simultaneously walking backwards.”

Picture it.  A seven foot Spaniard, a guy with nobbly knees, and a dog walking backwards, all selling bread and cake from a rucksack on the Southbank. Goodness, Martha Stewart sure would be proud.