In the bathtub

Our horribly temperamental boiler has been up to it’s old tricks again. It’s making banging sounds in the dead of night. It’s like sharing our loft with a sadistic poltergeist who gets his kicks from rationing our hot water. So on Monday Guido had what he thought was a really terrific idea. We’d start sharing our baths until we booked U-benders Plumbing back in.

It certainly proved to be one of his more insane suggestions.

When I fill a bath I flick out the lights, burn a scented candle and switch on a relaxation CD which sounds just like waves lapping on a beach in Barbados. If I shut my eyes I can imagine I’m swimming with dolphins. Unfortunately it’s when I re-open them again I discover I’m actually doing the breastroke in a chipped metal bath in Bermondsey.

Guido’s approach to bathing is polar opposite. He jumps in with a bar of cheap soap and a old flannel and then he leaps straight out again. That particular tsunami spills a shed load of water all over the floor. If you go in after he’s come out you’d best take your flippers.

“I like my bath to resemble an extra hot and steaming cappuccino,” I said, “warm and milky underneath with a comforting coating of froth on top.”

“I know you do,” said Guido, “but I prefer my bath to resemble, well, a bath. Nice and wet and full of water and not a single trace of a mud face pack floating on it.”

He doesn’t exfoliate anything like I do.

“Okay here’s how it’ll work,” said Guido, “we’ll both strip off then, as you’re smaller than me, you’ll climb in first. I’ll lower myself into whatever space is left whilst you distract the poltergeist by turning on the taps. Oh and while you’re down there, soap my loofah would you?”

It was an offer no husband could realistically refuse.

I slid naked into the empty tub whilst Guido began a very weird nude balancing act. He placed both of his elbows on each side of the bath. Then he pressed his huge feet onto the tiles behind my head. He looked like he was levitating above me. Which is more than I can say for the hairy vital statistics hanging ominously between his legs. If he moved they started to swing hypnotically from left to right. Though I was worried that when they eventually hit the water they’d projectile towards me like a couple of rogue scud missiles. They could’ve taken one of me eyes out.

“Quick, turn on the water,” said Guido, “I’m not sure how long I can keep this up.”

I twisted the left tap. I twisted the right tap. Water from both was stone cold. As it gushed past my chest I suddenly realised how Leonardo Di Caprio and Kate Winslet must have felt when the Titanic hull got breached. Let’s just say there were definitely no Dolphins. In fact the last thing I can remember yelling was – call a priest.

Later, as I lay corpse like on our bed shivering, Guido said that he’d once seen Bear Grylls say on TV that the best thing to do for someone suffering from hypothermia was to rub the victim very vigorously.

Well, I thought, it was the least Guido could do.

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Charles Aznavour and me

Now that I’m married to Guido I’ve been toying with the idea of changing my surname.

“Don’t be so ridiculous,” said Guido in bed last night, “what on earth do you want to do that for?”

My surname is Smith. It’s not exactly the most exciting surname in the world and his is Vasquez, which sounds more, well, exotic.

“Ok, I could double barrel it and call myself Jean dash Paul Smith dash Vasquez,” I said. There was a moment’s silence as that grammatical option sank in for both of us.

“How could any normal person possibly go through their day to day life and still manage to keep up with all of those dashes?” said Guido. And for once he made perfect sense.

I’m also a person with an eye for aesthetics so the longer I pondered it the more I thought it would look odd without another dash strategically placed somewhere in between the Paul and the Smith too. That would mean three dashes between just four names and in my opinion it was beginning to verge on overload on the hyphen front.

“Like I said,” I said, “I could cut to the chase and just drop the Smith altogether and fully embrace the Vasquez.”

At that point Guido switched off the lamp and did that thing where he pretends to instantly go to sleep.

Here’s an interesting fact you don’t know about Guido. His middle name is Guillermo. His mother told me that when he was a baby what she really wanted was to call him Guido Geronimo Vasquez. Not surprisingly his father put his foot down.  I assume he didn’t want his son being mistaken for an Apache. Though apparently Geronimo originates from a very rare Italian form of Jerome. As you can see his mother has a terrific sense of humor, though I have to say I’m somewhat relieved his parents didn’t split their differences and call him Sitting Bull instead.

On this blog I call my mother Cruella. She isn’t really called Cruella. She doesn’t have hair the colour of a skunk and she doesn’t wear a Dalmatian fur coat. Though she does have very bright red lips and she has been known to smoke using a long cigarette holder. But she definitely does act like someone who could be called Cruella Smith or possibly even Cyanide Smith. Her name is Catherine but sometime around about 1974 she started calling herself Cookie. The name Cookie evokes something sweet and syrupy and melting, and trust me, the Cookie Smith I know is none of those things.

“Why Jean-Paul?” I once asked my mother inquisitively when I was much younger.

“Just before I met your father,” she said, “I had a torrid affair with a small Frenchman who looked just like Charles Aznavour.”

Knowing my mother he could actually have been Charles Aznavour. I’m not sure if the particular Frenchman she had the torrid affair with could sing but let’s just say every time she hears the song, She, Cookie comes over all peculiar. The worrying thing is, from a certain angle I share a passing resemblance to a younger version of Charles Aznavour. We do both have very bushy eye-brows and big noses.

I lay in bed in the dark thinking. Jean-Paul Aznavour. It does have a certain ring to it.

The drawing board

When Guido and I arrived home from Spain last weekend I sat for a moment silently staring around our tiny loft above the café. After a week of Mediterranean sun, open countryside, and sea air, all I could see were red topped London buses dizzily whizzing past our first floor window and an apartment stuffed with the detritus of life. Let me re-phrase that last sentence. All I could see was an apartment stuffed with the detritus of Guido’s life.

Propped up against the back door was Guido’s mountain bike, two broken pumps, muddy running shoes, a ripped chef’s torque hat, weeks of unread copies of the Sunday Times newspaper and a precariously stacked bundle of twenty French cookbooks. They’re printed in French. Despite being unable to actually speak French, Guido remains undaunted. In fact he’ll often pick one out at random and casually thumb through it excitedly in our bed at night. Then drool. It’s what’s they call food porn. Though it’s a little depressing knowing that whilst I lie as seductively as I possibly can next to him, my husband is still more interested in coq au vin.

When we were abroad my architect friend Ruben left a message on our ansaphone. He offered me his old drawing board. I’ve often fantasied about sketching on a proper architect’s drawing board at home, but we’ve never had the space.

“We haven’t got the space,” said Guido when I told him.

“You could padlock your mountain bike downstairs in the courtyard,” I said.

“Well I hope that’s not being written into your blog,” said Guido frowning, “you never know who reads that. On the face of it your readers may appear to be the sort of people who enjoy hearing all about the exciting adventures of two gay men living in South London, but for all you know they could turn out to be unscrupulous locals with big chain cutters.”

I very much doubt the criminal element of Bermondsey wait with baited breath for my next post. But if they do, and they can keep their thieving hands off Guido’s bike, then I’d be more than happy to offer them a vintage copy of, Entertaining Parisian Style. It’s a bit tattered so I’d throw in a couple of second hand bicycle pumps if anyone’s interested?  The offer’s on the table.

On Sunday, the board and paper arrived and battle lines were drawn before even one sketch took place.

On Monday night when I got home Guido had inexplicably scrawled U-BENDERS on it, which turned out to be the name and telephone number of an emergency plumber. Trust me, you don’t want to know.

On Tuesday night when I got home he’d scribbled the words GONE TO FOOTBALL THERE’S AN ENCHILADA IN THE FRIDGE IF YOU’RE INTERESTED? at the bottom corner. Just for the record, I was interested.

Last night when I got home he’d drawn a huge smiley face slap bang in the middle of the board. Underneath he’d written DON’T WORRY I’VE REMEMDERED THE VANILLA CUSTARD FOR FRIDAY NIGHT! Given our history with mayo I predict a very interesting weekend ahead.

But does Guido really think I’m so naïve that I’d consider ditching my drawing board space for his bike just because he’s now promising to drive me insane with uncontrollable desires and passionate urges connected with runny custard?

Yes.

Wild capers

Guido and I have been staying with his Uncle Gustave. His property is just outside Puerto Pollenca. It’s a gorgeous old stone farmhouse with a big dusty yard with chickens roaming around, and one very serious and anxious looking turkey who clucks a lot. Let’s just say you’d cluck a lot too if you were a turkey and it was just over three months til Christmas.

Once I’d turned up at the celebrations for Cousin Carlos (with the two left feet), Uncle Gustave decided to take me under his wing. I think it was something to do with the fact that I insisted on wearing my Vivienne Westwood suit to the party. It’s bright, it’s red, and it’s a big plaid tartan. But it’s more than that. It’s made of wool, it was thirty one degrees in the shade, and I was sweating like a hog. Is your new husband, Uncle Gustave asked Guido tentatively, a lunatic? Well, yes but I do feel now we’re related everyone should know I’m a complete basket case. Anyway, late on Saturday night Uncle Gustave decided to step in. With the help of Google translate and a lot of hand waving he told me he was going to take me out on one of his infamous hunting trips.

Much later in bed, as I listened to Guido’s deafening snoring, two important thoughts kept whirring around my brain:

1. This bedroom would look so much better with a Ralph Lauren throw and matching lamps, and;

2. Had Uncle Gustave ever seen the movie, Deliverance? It could explain why his turkey looked like he was constantly on the verge of having a nervous breakdown.

So bright and early with sun up at seven a.m. the following morning I heard a rat tat tat on our bedroom window. It was Uncle Gustave’s bony old knuckle. Guido was still completely unconscious when I left so thankfully he was blissfully unaware that I was climbing onto the back of a clapped out old scooter with an arthritic octogenarian and a completely null and void travel insurance policy.

“Rapido!” waved Uncle Gustave, “Rapido!” What will be will be, I thought. I’m not religious but I said a brief prayer.

Of course I needn’t have worried about killing anything, or shooting my foot. Our “hunt” involved a pair of rusty and blunt old scissors and a half dozen wild caper bushes. They were just where you’d least expect to find them. A tumble down bridge, a deserted finca, a fountain in a local square and Uncle Gustave’s neighbour Rita – with the bell tower. Ring a ding.

But who’d have thought that he’d be to salted pickling vegetables what I am to saving South London from random and thoughtless wall papering?

In the yard tonight Guido wrapped freshly caught hake, garlic butter, and a sprinkling of capers in foil. He set it over hot coals on the bar-b-q. Then, after dinner, I happily listened to him and Gustave talking Spanish. Every so often Guido would take his uncle’s hand, or they would gently embrace, or they’d just raise their wine glasses in a knowing toast.

Watching them gave me that warm tingling feeling. The one that makes you feel everything is good in the world. And that if only once in our lives, everyone could get the chance to go hunting with someone just like Uncle Gustave.