In our bed

As you know there are many mysteries in my world, but none was more pressing to unravel last night than this – who, and what, was in bed with us?

As you know I love our bed. It’s six feet wide and six feet six inches long. Guido jumps out at five a.m. in the morning and collapses back in at ten p.m. at night. At some point we collide in the middle of it. Every day I zhoosh up the sheets and every week I wash them on a very hot non-bio wash and then tumble. If I think sex might be on the cards on a Tuesday afternoon I’ll even iron them. My mother, Cruella, once told me if you want to fully satisfy a man in bed you should use a good hairspray and practice hospital corners. That’s the sort of inane advice my mother still gives to me to this day. Which says a lot about my bed making skills and the state of my mother’s hair.

“Have you been eating Ritz crackers in bed without me?” I asked Guido accusatorily last night. “It feels like there’s salt between my toes.”

There was a short but defiant pause.

“The last thing I ate in this bed was a salami on Monday night and that’s the God’s honest truth,” said Guido blankly. I don’t know about you but anyone who says, and that’s the God’s honest truth, usually turns out to be a liar.

I shuffled my feet because now the mattress looked lumpy.  I flapped the blanket. It still felt uncomfortable. I tutted.

”If you want to know what’s happening down there why don’t you go take a look for yourself,” said Guido.

This is exactly the sort of suggestion Guido makes on a regular basis but invariably turns out to be both time consuming and completely exhausting for me. Though it’s not without certain reward.

I lay there perfectly still thinking about possibilities and how much time was left before lights out. Then I remembered I kept a torch under our bed. This is for emergencies, like an unexpected power outage. Or sometimes in the middle of the night when Guido’s soundly asleep, I’ll shine it up one of his crevices just for the hell of it. This is for my own personal and twisted pleasure, which just goes to show what a combination of insomnia and boredom does to my brain.

I switched the flashlight on and crawled down between the sheets. It was a whole different world under there. I imagined it must be what diving 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea was like. Full of dark shadows and unidentifiable hairy objects which occasionally twitch and are prone to pop up in your face.

It was a good 10 minutes before I came back up gasping for air. Here’s what I have to tell you about what I found.

It’s exactly three days since that bed was fully laundered but I retrieved; a pair of contorted underpants, the TV Guide rolled up tightly, one sock, a plastic fork, and a fully intact Oreo cookie.

“So,” asked Guido nonchalantly thumbing through the page of last night’s entertainment options, “did you find what you were looking for, or will you be going down again?”

Honestly, there’s only so much excitement a guy can take.

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Someone like me

It was my father’s third wife who told me, then as an awkward teenager, I was somebody who was really special.

“Always remember,” Flora said, “someone like you is born to sing their own song.”

I, of course, instinctively knew right at that moment, she knew, that I knew, exactly what she was talking about.

“And don’t you ever be afraid to sing it,” she said.

Flora was all of the things that draw you to a person. Compassionate, unconditionally loving, prone to drama, but a whole bunch of fun to be around. She thought absolutely nothing of baking me a chocolate gateaux for weekday breakfast. Which regular readers will now know probably explains a great deal about me. Although she didn’t have any children of her own, she had the ability to tap into what was crackling over a gay adolescent’s frequency like an untuned radio; yet still able to make perfect sense of it to translate for the listener.

“ When you’re older – listen out for someone else singing the same song,” she went on, “and if you hear it, promise me you won’t be scared to listen to it.”

I’ve never forgotten about that conversation with Flora, and was reminded of it again when I saw two young guys in our cafe courtyard this lunchtime. It’s one of the first occasions Guido’s set up tables outside in the Denmark Hill garden. And when I use the term garden, it’s in the loosest possible sense. The place has had a brush up and a lick of paint. You’d be impressed.

I watched them both. They were laughing. They ordered club sandwiches with extra ketchup, they shared a Coke from the same iced glass and for the longest time they stared at one another. Then one reached out and held the other’s hand.

That’s when I heard a familiar song playing in my head. Someone like me can’t miss it.

“Why d’you have such a happy smiley face on?” asked Guido when I strolled into the kitchen.

“I just heard a song I like,” I said.

I pulled a stool up at the counter top where he was mixing the contents of a cake batter. It looked wet and thick and luscious. It took a great deal of self restraint – of which I have very little – to stop me from sticking my finger into it.

“Yeah?”  he asked, “which one?”

He had a dap of flour on his left cheek and his apron was crisscrossed around his muscle shirt. When he flashed me a wide smile I reached out and stroked the back of his hand.

“Let’s just say” I said, “it’s a favourite of mine.”

A little while ago, when the cafe closed, I came back out into the courtyard. The sun is still casting shadows on the tops of the roofs here in London. I know Guido’s inside tidying up because I can hear the sound of pots clattering from the kitchen. The window’s open and he’s just started singing along, at the top of his voice, to a tune on the radio.

He’s the worst singer. Yet in that little nano second of a moment, I got the feeling that everything is good around here. Just maybe it’s all going to work out.

And you have no idea how happy that really makes me feel.

Only when I laugh…

I’ve been reading about an interesting discovery made by researchers in Canada. It turns out a misconception that smiling makes people look younger is actually doing the opposite and is making us all look older.

You read it here first folks.

A group of people were asked to guess the ages of 35 men – some of whom were smiling and some who had neutral expressions. The results concluded that those who were smiling were judged to look older than their true age. The Pysconomic Bulletin and Review (there’s a publication which trips off the tongue) concluded that wrinkles around the eyes when smiling were to blame.

I stared apprehensively into the bathroom mirror yesterday morning and smiled and guess what? The scientists were right. However, there remained a small crumb of hope. If I closed the bathroom blinds to make it dark, and then straightened my face I reckoned I could easily pass for several years younger. The trick was to make sure I didn’t twitch a single facial muscle.

I strolled through the cafe kitchen on my way to work. An aroma of warm vanilla pancakes filled the room. My nostrils were flexing but my face was totally poker. In fact it was more poker than when I’m actually playing poker. I passed Guido who was methodically stirring a small pan of porridge. He was smiling – so he’d obviously not read Pysconomic Bulletin and Review any time recently.

“Good-bye husband,” I said. Only it came out more like a ventriloquist whose lips weren’t moving. Unfortunately this sounded as if I was saying “Shood-guy dachshund.”

Guido stopped stirring, and then smiling.

“What the hell’s gotten into you?” he said.

I could’ve stopped to explain but I was worried it might age me so I kept walking. Honestly, I could feel the years dropping off with every step.

When I arrived at the office my assistant, Toby, got increasingly alarmed by my new demeanour. He doesn’t like change of ANY kind. Readers may remember Toby has Obsessive Compulsive Disorder which obviously makes him a laugh a minute to work with. I don’t think spending all day trying to fathom my totally random filing system helps. It’s really not that surprising he’s always so miserable. Although bearing in mind recent Canadian research, this could explain why he looks about 13 years old, despite being 25.

Toby kept trying to cheer me up. He made hot chocolate. He even put snipped up marshmallows on top into the shape of the Eiffel Tower.

“I could tell you jokes?” he said after an hour.

I’d been completely silent because I’ve also discovered that when I talk I excessively raise my eyebrows.  That creases my forehead which doesn’t help on the wrinkle front.

“This Rabbi and this Priest were playing golf…,” said Toby suddenly.

“Oh really,” I said, “you don’t have to do that.”

There was another pause.

“I know one about a penguin who goes into a bar,” he said.

Last night in bed Guido told me laughing was good for me. Apparently it’s scientifically proven that the more you laugh the longer you’ll live. So I told him the penguin joke.

“A penguin goes into a bar and asks the barman if he’s seen his brother. I don’t know, says the barman – what does he look like?”

I sure hope it works.

Orzo and tears

Last Wednesday night I was in a funk.

Well, I defy you to feel overly ecstatic about a return trip all the way to the outer reaches of the Northern Line to deal with an awkward builder. He thought an avocado coloured bathroom is a perfectly acceptable design option in this day and age. Oh and in the process my big toe got stubbed.

“You won’t believe the day I’ve had,” I said.

Guido was standing in the cafe kitchen in full experimental mode. His man bun was twisted into a knot with a pencil stuck in it. His reading glasses were perched on the tip of his nose, and his gravy splattered recipe notebook was propped up against a huge Spanish onion. Apparently he calls this – culinary improvisation.

“Don’t you just think Orzo is the most under-rated of all pastas?” he said sagely.

I dropped my portfolio bag on the floor with a great clatter.

“Listen, if I ever wake up and tell you I’m planning a trip to Edgware Road in the middle of rush hour – tie me tightly to our bedhead, would you?” I said. And I really meant it. Though I have to say, a fleeting thought about that was not entirely unappealing.

“Now that Spring has sprung I feel invigorated by nature’s ingredients,” Guido said. “Out with stodgy one pot stews I say!”

He waved a wooden spoon in the air with a flourish.

“Can you believe that idiot could seriously consider saving a green bath tub in the middle of a total renovation?” I tutted VERY loudly, “I mean, what a pinhead.”

“1 and a 1/2 cups of dried Orzo fried in some garlic and olive oil to start,” Guido said, tipping everything into a skillet. After about a minute he added 3 and a 1/2 cups of hot vegetable stock and some chopped fresh thyme. “Now I’m going to boil this little baby for exactly 8 minutes.”

He set an egg timer and started scribbling into his notebook like a madman.

I sighed. Then I slowly, but theatricality, wrestled off my shoe. Then my sock. They landed unceremoniously someplace near the freezer. Then I lifted my bare foot onto the counter top in front of Guido. I sighed again, only louder.

The timer went ping. Guido added 1 and 1/2 cups of garden peas and the zest and juice of a lemon into the broth.

My toe throbbed angrily but silently.

“I think I may have fractured a metatarsal in my big toe,” I said, “because at exactly the same split second I told that moronic builder to rip out the bath he dropped a sledgehammer on my shoe.” I could’ve cried.

He’d said sorry with a wild grin on his face. But, he had more muscles than me so to compromise I agreed to describe the colour as, chartreuse.

Guido started grating a lump of Parmesan.

“Are you listening to anything I’m saying?” I said.

“Here,” said Guido, placing a bowl of steamy, sweet smelling, fresh, pasta in front of me, “this will make you feel so much better.”

I dipped a soup spoon into it and tasted. I added a twist of pepper and a generous sprinkling of cheese and I have to tell you I think Orzo is the most under-rated of all pastas.

I was sure to tell Guido so too.

Would you go to bed with me?

Here’s the rub.

The rules of attraction can be extremely complex. Who you want to get between the sheets with is completely up to you but personally I’m drawn to a six-pack and a man bun. However, I’ve heard a great big fat tummy does it for some guys too. Which, when Guido looks at me naked, is probably just as well.

“Did you know that in a recent survey, 84% of gay men felt under intense pressure to have a terrific body?” I asked Guido yesterday morning.

We were still in bed at the time. It was almost 11.30 a.m. The sun had been up for hours and hours but our blinds were still resolutely pulled shut and I’d just energetically eaten a large bowl of Cocoa Pops. The milk was cold and chocolatey. I have to tell you I was in a sort of nirvana state. It could possibly have been called post-coital, but in a breakfast cereal sort of way.

”Only 1% felt fully satisfied with the way he looked,” I said slurping the last morsels from the bowl.

I knew which percentage point I belonged to.

I lay there admiring Guido’s gorgeous flat stomach. It’s very different from mine which resembles a small Alp. Guido’s ripples in a tight muscular formation which I could only ever dream of replicating, unless I underwent extensive liposuction. But the problem with cosmetic surgery is you get one thing done and it shows up your next defect. Then before you know it you’re hooked and looking like The Bride Of Wildenstein.

”I suppose it depends on what you consider to be a terrific body,” he said -throwing my statistical analysis into total confusion as usual.

”But would you go to bed with me?” I asked boldly.

There was a moment of silence.

”What do you mean, would I go to bed with you? – I AM in bed with you,” said Guido.

”Yes, but if we’d never met before and I was a totally random stranger with a protruding belly laying here naked on this here bed, would you want to get in it?”

I suddenly realised I had a milk moustache. Add that to the bed head hair and buttonless pyjama top I was wearing, boy, I must have looked hot. Guido was lucky to have me; what a catch.

”It’s not all about looks,” he said.

I chewed my nail. I wondered what Nick Jonas would say.

”What else is it about?”

”Personality you big dummy,” he said.

”Yeah, yeah,” I nodded, “of course – a personality. Fortunately mine is as disproportionately large as my waistline is.”

Guido put his arm around me.

”I like you just the way you are,” he said reassuringly. “Let me explain it this way, I can’t possibly imagine licking guacamole from between the toes of just any other guy.”

He had a point and it wasn’t only mashed avocado we had history with down there.

”Dont worry about statistics. There’s only one thing you need to know,” he said.

”What?”

“That I have terrific taste in men,” he said smiling.

It goes without saying, I naturally agreed.

I’m weird, you’re weird

I always eat a sandwich in exactly the same, but, bizarre way. And it doesn’t matter what the filling is. Yesterday it just happened to be a delicious BLT Guido had made for me.

The bread was powder white, the iceberg lettuce was shredded, the tomato was a juicy red buffalo and the bacon was grilled to perfection. It goes without saying things went flaky when I started to eat and I’m not referring to the sandwich. I have culinary musts.

1. Must be served on a plate. Preferably oval but any shape will do in a crockery emergency.

2. Must be cut into two horizontal parts. Four triangles? I’m not a three year old.

3. Must peel back the top slices off first and eat those both separately before anything else. Which then obviously necessitates an urgent need for cutlery.

4. Squiggle a line of ketchup precisely. This should be exactly 6 centimetres in length but absolutely MUST NOT touch the bread.

I could probably carry on right beyond number 10 but I’ve limited word count.

“Do you have any idea how weird you are?” Guido asked me staring at my deconstructed lunch.

”Yes,” I said, “and it’s taken me years of careful practice to get to this point.”

”In fact I’d go so far as to say you’re possibly the weirdest person I know,” he said.

Which I have to tell you was pretty rich coming from Guido, who always religiously reads the back of a shampoo bottle whenever he’s in the shower.

”Though I have to say you have some peculiar idiosyncrasies yourself,” I said measuring my squiggle.

Here’s the thing. When Guido gets dressed in the morning he insists on putting his clothes on in a strict order. He never deviates. Boxers first. Socks. Shirt. Then lastly, jeans. If he throws everything on in a rush he can get quite discombobulated and has to strip off and start all over again. Which is a pretty big deal at 5.30 in the morning.

”Prove it,” he said slouching back in his chair.

I crunched a piece of bacon. I drew up a long and extensive mental list. I wondered what to pick first and which to leave out and what would make him sound even more of a freak than I was.

”For starters you read newspapers backwards,” I said.

I lifted the top left hand piece of bread and nibbled the gooey bit first.

“You always set the volume level on the TV to 10, even if this means neither of us can actually hear it. If I turn it up to 12 you turn it back down to 10.”

By the way, I leave the crusts for last.

”You’re afraid of birds. Particularly one randomly landing on your head.”

I lifted the top right hand piece. It was gooey too but not overly. This was good. Infact on a scale of gooeyness it was a 5. Having a scale of gooeyness is not in any way weird.

“I once saw you eat ice cream with a fork,” I said.

Speaking of forks – I needed one.

“And, you have the ability to sneeze with your eyes still wide open.”

There was a brief silence.

“But hey some of my weirdness I know you definitely like.” He cocked an eyebrow.

There was another brief silence. I was happy for him to prove it.

Stuck on you

Sometimes people have a very specific view about their lives and unfortunately it isn’t always exactly the same as someone else.

”If your life was suddenly turned upside down what would you do?” asked Guido over lunch today. “I mean, think about it. Imagine everything you thought was real and dear to you, wasn’t.”

This is what happens round here. Guido ambitiously decides to substitute grilled chicken strips for jumbo prawns in his paella, then starts to question the meaning of life.

”Like what?” I said sipping a very cold glass of white wine. By the way it was barely noon but I was drinking alcohol, and I’m making no apologies for that.

I had some terrific Sauvignon Blanc in one hand and a Greek olive on the end of a cocktail stick in the other. Everything was normal and real and as far as I could tell I was the right way up. The wine was cold, the olive was salty and earlier, when Guido and I had been in bed, we’d had terrific sex without any extraneous assistance. Sometimes you just have to live dangerously folks.

”Well,” said Guido crunching a breadstick, “Arnold, the guy who delivers the sacks of potatoes to the cafe every week, told me Friday his wife Alice had just run off with his best friend.”

I’ve actually met Arnold. He has a very small body with tiny little arms and legs but a very large and oversized bald head. What he can’t tell you about a potato probably isn’t worth knowing about in the first place.

”Look on the bright side,” I said optimistically with my mouth full, “I expect Arnold will probably be much happier without her.”

”Nope,” said Guido shaking his head. “The bank account with all his savings in it is in his wife’s sole name. Arnold thinks they might have both fled to Belgium.”

Which, if you’re serious about fleeing a husband who resembles a Mr Potato Head then, it’s probably just as good a place to go as any.

“Okay,” I said, “then maybe there’s no bright side to look on after all.”

Guido took another crunch.

“Arnold wanted to know if I had any idea how to alert Interpol,” Guido said in all seriousness. Which just goes to show the sort of idiotic questions a humble London cafe owner is expected to field these days.

I took another sip of wine.

”Poor guy,” I said, “I suppose for us it would be a bit like me running off with your best friend Ted.”

And trust me, you have to perish that thought for my sakes. For a start Guido has no money to steal and the dire condition of Ted’s boney knees means I don’t think he’d be able to flee much further than just south of Pimlico without being on the verge of collapse. Let alone the watery shores of Antwerp.

”Hey kiddo,” I said, “you’re going to be stuck with me for a very long time indeed. I won’t be fleeing any where any time soon. Our world is exactly the way it should be.”

I thought about Alice blissfully enjoying a potato free existence on continental Europe. For her sakes I just hope it’s all worth it.

Oh by the way. If you ever need Interpol you can call them on 616-9000.