The Italian job

I met my friend Marc. He’s the one who moved to Italy to live with his incredibly athletic lover, Secondo. It turns out he was a complete schmuck after all. He wasn’t just having sex with Marc but successfully entertaining half the male population of Naples as well. If you get my meaning? Their reconciliation was doomed from the start.

“Tell Marc we’re all out of pathos over here otherwise he might end up sobbing in our bed again like the last time,” said Guido, unsympathetically whisking an egg.

“Yeah, well, but for the grace of God there go you and I,” I said. “If you hadn’t met me your life could well have turned out just like that egg – scrambled.”

We went for lunch to Village East in Bermondsey. I picked the toasted aubergine.

”You know I’ve been back from Italy for two weeks and I still find it difficult to look at a smoked mozzarella without bursting into tears,” said Marc pondering my appetiser. I think he was welling up.

I thought about changing my order to avert an emotional melt down which might involve our mattress.

“It must be very difficult,” I said realising total betrayal, rather than cheese, was probably the greater of Marc’s worries at the time.

“I guess there are worse things in life than having an affair with a delusional sex maniac,” Marc said.

I sipped my wine. I have to admit it took me a moment to think of one.

“What would you have learned from an experience like that?” he said sagely.

I wished he hadn’t asked.

You see, I’m not part of that hippy dippy naval gazing brigade. I try not to over analyse things. I don’t see life as a never ending learning experience where even if something is so awful you still manage to scrape something “good” out of it to weave into a silver lining.

Sometimes life deals you a completely crap hand and that’s as good as it gets. The only way to make it better is to try to extradite yourself from whatever the situation is. A job sucks. A boss is a complete ass. A relationship is totally toxic. And you move on, because sticking around won’t ever make any of it any more acceptable. Of course, there are occasions when you simply can’t walk away. No amount of chanting or stroking crystals or hand wringing is ever going to make you feel better. I know, because I’ve been there. And the only way I got my head round it was to hope that tomorrow was going to be a better day.

“Goodness,” I said, “I don’t know – what d’you think?” I said annoyingly answering a question with another question.

“I suppose I wish I’d never met Secondo and never tasted his tagliatelle al fungi,” he said. And he definitely meant it.

Later, at home in bed, I asked Guido if he’d any regrets which involved a mushroom.

“No,” he said pulling up the bed clothes to his neck, “but never underestimate how awkward they are to stuff into a pastry vol-au-vent.”

“Ok, but how do you feel about delusional sex mania?” I asked hopefully.

There was a brief pause. Guido turned the lamp back on.

”I don’t know,” he said, “but I’m willing to give it a try.”

Chop! Chop!

Life can be extremely stressful for the best of us. It’s a complete jungle out there. Work. No work. Awkward clients. Financial obligations. Attempting to cross the road at the London Bridge intersection without being flattened by a Number 43 bus. Recurring thoughts of my divorced parents having sex again, and unfortunately with one another. My lumpy waistline. The list is limitless.

“Meditate, drink a green tea, listen to music. Read a good book like I do,” said my personal assistant Toby.

By the way he’s still a complete fruit cake. For those of you who don’t know, he has paranoid manic acrophobia with a dash of obsessive compulsive disorder thrown in for some good measure. Obviously he’s a real laugh a minute to have around at the office. When I hired him a few years ago he was a student fresh out of Agricultural College. Unfortunately, back then, there wasn’t much demand for a privet hedge expert in Bermondsey so the employment agency sent him over to me where he started obsessively sourcing mosaic bathroom tiles.

I raised my eyebrows. It was an involuntary reaction. By the way they’re bushier than ever and continuing to grow worryingly closer together. Give it another six months and I’ll be a dead ringer for Frida Khalo.

“Or anything else which helps you to de-stress,” Toby added witheringly.

Naturally my mind turned to my biggest go to stress reliever.

Guido’s sausage.

I’m not fussed, it can be a big smoked variety or a hot spicy Italian with decent girth. Either way I get into a Zen like state when Guido starts waving about his big chopper. If any of you are feeling freaked out by life you should call ahead and come round to the cafe to watch him get it out. I can guarantee you’ll be in Nirvana in no time.

So when I got home tonight, I naturally went straight into the kitchen.

“How was your day?” asked Guido cheerily.

Tantalisingly he already had his apron on. I sensed he was ready to get straight down to business. It was like he could read my twisted and insatiable mind.

I looked at the slab and checked out his solid chorizo. It lay there, calling out to me, from the work top.

“Oh never mind how my day went,” I said pulling up a stool, “let’s get this show on the road.”

He looked at me strangely.

“I’m guessing you’ve had a bad day?” he said, “and thankfully I know how to help.”

There was a moment’s silence and then – Chop! Chop!

I’m telling you, all hell broke loose.

I ooohed.

I ahhhed.

I salivated. I thought about doing things to that sausage which probably defy my blogging skills.

DO NOT try this kind of activity at home unless you’re in a secure area with a highly trained professional. All I know is that chopping really started hitting my spot. It’s kind of a blur now but at one point I think I was on my knees. Hell, it was better than a ylang ylang candle and a tub of Hellman’s Full-Fat Mayonnaise on a rainy Sunday morning.

Later, after a fried frittata and a cuddle, I can report I felt completely calm.

Read a good book? Hmmm, I’ll be sure to tell Toby what he’s really missing.

Still in love

Against all of the odds – and I’m really not a betting man – inexplicably my long divorced parents are still conducting their rekindled love-in. In fact, they flew to Dubai for a holiday today. This will mean sitting next to each other on a plane for more than seven straight hours and then spending every waking moment (and I assume every sleeping moment) together. If you’d asked me twelve months ago about the likelihood of that ever happening I’d have laughed out loud and said there was more chance of Trump and Kim Jong-un slapping one another on the back. So, what do I know?

”Life’s full of surprising twists and turns,” said Guido tonight whilst serving up a great big pasta dinner.

The cafe was shut but tantalisingly the lights were still on. Every so often there’d be a tap tap tap on the window by someone looking desperate, gesticulating wildly, and then mouthing the words – ARE YOU STILL OPEN?. I’d mouth the words right back – NO SORRY WE’RE SHUT – and then provocatively suck up a long buttery strand of spaghetti. If looks could kill, I’d be a dead man.

”Maybe your parents will tie the knot again,” Guido said swirling his fork. I let out a groan.

”Urgh,” I said, “Can you imagine it?”

That would elevate my parents into the same marriage category as twice wed Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. And, co-incidentally, my abiding memory of their union the first time around was like living through a groundhog day of Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf. They’d slug it out, night after night, like a couple of mud wrestlers. Trust me. No one swings a frying pan like my mother, Cruella, and no one ducks his head faster than my father. Honestly, I’m surprised I’ve turned out as well adjusted and balanced as I have.

You can stop laughing.

”Well, sometimes two people are just meant to be together. Time, maturity and the realisation that the grass isn’t always greener on the other side,” mused Guido.

He opened a bottle of Rioja with a pop.

I stopped chewing.

“Thank you Dr Ruth,” I said. “Though I suppose the upside would be I’d finally get to fulfil my childhood ambition to be a bridesmaid, and, you could lay on a fish inspired bridal finger buffet.”

Weirdly my thoughts strayed to a mental image of my mother in a cream organza dress with Guido tossing a calamari.

”My father actually owns a blue velvet wedding suit. No really he does,” I said.

He really does. Apparently he bought it for his first marriage to my mother and then wore it to his next three ceremonies. I should know, because I’ve seen it. I’ve been ring bearer, best man and, a hopeful witness. I swear if he threw that suit through the church doors it would probably walk up the aisle all by itself and say, I do.

”Don’t be mean,” said Guido, “some people just aren’t meant to be alone.”

I heard a tap tap rap sound. I mouthed the words – NO SORRY WE’RE SHUT – and sucked loudly.

Later in bed I lay staring at the ceiling wondering if my parents’ plane had landed and if they’d tried to kill each other yet.

Of all of life’s emotions, love, is still definitely my favourite.