Roses round the door

Whenever I was asked as a child to draw a picture of my ideal home, I’d get out my wax crayon and sketch a flat fronted two up two down cottage with a door and a crooked chimney with corkscrew smoke puffing out of the top of it. Then I’d swap colours and, with flair, add a rose flower winding over the porch. I’d never heard of the word, quintessential (let alone spell it), but even back then I knew what I wanted.

I’ve spent five nights alone at the new cafe premises in Denmark Hill. I use the description, cafe, in its loosest possible terms. Let’s just say it’s no longer a kebab shop. It’s hard to describe what it is, because it’s just a shell. A few weeks ago I took the decision that Guido and I should make the living space upstairs habitable first. I could stay there and oversee the work downstairs. That way I’d be on site to deal with emergencies.

If I ever come up with such a hare brained idea ever again in my entire life – shoot me.

Our builders are from Romania. There are lots of them. They travel in a pack. They arrive at six o’clock in the morning in a caravan of trucks. Regular readers will know I consider six o’clock in the morning still to be the middle of the night. They dig with shovels. Unfortunately I’m unable to speak fluent Romanian which, in current circumstances, would be advantageous. The head builder is called Roman. I’m not making that up. In my opinion he has the biggest “builders bum” crack I’ve ever seen. Those of you unfamiliar with this anatomical term may want to Google it. You’ve been warned. I try very hard not to get too close to Roman’s. It’s like some horrible cosmic black hole. I fear I may inadvertently be sucked into it like quick sand and be unable to escape; never to be seen or heard of again this side of the universe.

On the language front Roman isn’t that brilliant with English but he does understand the words yes and no. He definitely uses the word, no, more than he uses the word, yes. Which when you ask him the question –  is your construction plan on schedule? – and the answer is no, it’s pretty disappointing considering the number of shovels involved. However, if I ever ask Roman if he’d like coffee and sandwiches, the answer is always, yes.

“What do you mean the construction plan isn’t on schedule?” said Guido when I called him in the middle of a very busy lunch service at The Spanish Onion to tell him the construction plan wasn’t on schedule.

“The lasagna’s for table 3!” I heard him yell.

I could almost smell the cream sauce.

“Are you a complete idiot? Stop making coffee and sandwiches immediately,” he said.

His rationale was that this may be making it impossible for Roman and his team of completely professional builders to focus on our looming deadline.

Personally I’m not sure this approach will go down too well with so many men with shovels.

By the way, there’s a climbing pink rose around the cafe back door. I’m hoping that’s a good sign. It’s certainly as close as I’m going to get to quintessential in Denmark Hill.

Patio Daddio

Boy, do I enjoy Guido’s sausage.

God this blog is getting utterly predictable. And, talking of utter predictability – The British Weather. It’s a sad but indisputable fact that in my warped mind there’s a delicious connection between Summer time and sausages.

I’ve always been in love with our Summer. It’s quirky and it’s unfathomable. It’s an enigma. It has a life all of its own. The sun can turn up unexpectedly and scorch slap bang in the middle of February then, for the whole of August, I’ll be wearing a plastic poncho.

Well this year it swept in right on cue a few weeks ago only to blow straight back out again.

“It’s here again,” said Guido staring up at the sky last night. “Up there, behind those whispy clouds is the sun, and it’s shining bright,” he said, pointing upwards with his index finger.

I took off my glasses and looked up hopefully. I half expected a big old drip from our leaky gutter to drop straight into my eye. I blinked. He was right. There it was.  I could immediately imagine sipping white rum, orange curaçao and a twist of lime.

There’s another big phenomenon when the sun eventually decides to shine in Bermondsey. In the first flush of a warm June I can guarantee the same thing always happens.

“You know what?” Guido stood on the steps to our loft.  “I’ve got that balmy June feeling,” and he said it like he meant it in a way that might involve sausages.

This was good.

“I’d say conditions are pretty terrific tonight.”

There was a pause.

“I’m going to get it out.”

This was better than good.

I accept that on a cold night when Guido says the words – I’m going to get it out – it usually involves at least one of us having to take all of our clothes off. But what he meant last night was he’s got a rickety old handmedown hibachi grill his father used to burn on the beach in Malaga. It’s seasoned by time and decades of spatchcock chicken and burnt old bamboo kebab sticks. It’s the foolproof and well oiled secret ingredient to Guido’s perfect barbecue.

I telephoned our friends Ted and Gary.

“Brace yourselves,” I said, “Guido’s getting it out.” I could almost hear them salivating down the line.

Ten minutes later they showed up at our place with Brian their super intelligent Jack Russell. All three of them were panting with their tongues hanging out.

“Where’s his big sausage?” asked Ted hopefully.

Guido lit the hibatchi.

Then there was a tap tap on the back gate. It was Bethany and Ethel, our hungry neighbours from the laundrette next door.

“I could tell by the smell of smouldering wood chips Guido had got it out,” Ethel said. “I’ve brought you a bottle of my homemade hooch.” She had the mesmerised look of someone with a blackened pork chop praying on her mind.

I should have known Guido isn’t really like other guys who grill. Until last night I’d never had smoked oysters with roasted garlic butter and romano, toasted vegetable quesadillas with kale pesto, then baked barbecued bananas and vanilla ice cream.

I’m really loving the start of Summer.

I just hopes it sticks around long enough for Guido to get his sausage out.

You grunt, I’ll groan

Ever heard of the expression about the morning after the night before?

“So,” said Guido looking at me sort of smugly as I walked through the cafe kitchen this morning. “Tell me, just what exactly were you doing under the sheets in our bed late last night?”

I never usually have to be asked to explain.

Guido was simultaneously scrambling eggs in a very hot frying pan, cooking bacon under a flaming grill, and toasting waffle batter. And with great aplomb I might add. As I’m someone who can barely do one thing at a time, I always admire someone who can do two. Let alone the ability to do three.

I cast my mind back to last night. I was struggling to remember anything because, if I’m completely honest, I was trying very hard to resist the temptation to eat the eggs. Guido scrambles with unsalted butter and a splash of cream.

I looked at him blankly. I blinked obliviously. From what I could recall, we’d both had a quick kiss and a grope then one of us had flicked the lights out. Then we’d gone to sleep. It’s with great regret I have to tell you he hadn’t passionately wrestled my Justin Bieber pyjamas trousers off. Trust me, I would’ve remembered.

“What?” I asked.

Then I had one of those horrible creeping thoughts. The kind you get when, although you know you’ve done absolutely nothing wrong, you can’t help keep thinking you should feel guilty about doing something.

“Well,” said Guido, “you sure were making a lot of strange groaning noises from the dark side of the bed.”

He was still stirring and flipping and toasting.

“Really?” I asked innocently. “I seem to recall I was having another one of my highly enjoyable dreams about George Clooney and me. We were in a gondola.”

I’d just made that up. George and I have done a lot of terrific things together but doing them in a gondola was unexplored territory.

“I see,” said Guido, “I expect with all of that groaning it must have been a bit of a nightmare. Doesn’t say much for George’s charisma after all.”

I laughed.

“I suppose it could have been worse,” I said, “I could have been grunting like you usually do when you’re fast asleep.”

I’d just made that up too. Guido sometimes snores noisily with his mouth open wide enough to catch a fly but I’d never heard him grunt before.

He stopped multi tasking.

“Grunting?”

I started walking.

“Grunting? You’re just making that up,” he stopped doing what he was doing, “you’re making that up just because I said you were groaning.”

I kept walking.

I sat down in the cafe and ordered a big frothy cappuccino. I even pushed the boat out and had marshmallows on top. I could smell the faint whiff of a burning waffle and I could hear a lot of crashing and banging and shouting coming from the kitchen. There may even have been some loud and intentional grunting.

I got out my iPhone and Googled – Groaning In Bed. There were some accompanying pictures too. It was quite a eye opener I can tell you. Then I Googled – Grunting In Bed.

Let’s just say I’d much rather be groaning than grunting.