My mirror has two faces

Sometimes there’s a difference between what sort of a person you believe yourself to be and the sort of a person everybody else thinks you are.

I try to be a good person. Really, I do. As a general rule I’m outwardly pleasant to most of the people I meet (except for the klutz who pushed me in line for the bus this morning). However I’ve never formally introduced everybody to what I call my bitter and twisted inner voice. It lives happily in my head and it really isn’t very pleasant at all. I still say good morning, or, hold the door for a complete stranger whilst smiling sweetly, but sometimes I’m thinking – God what a horrible suit, or, could you hurry up please I really don’t have all day you know. I’ve always thought that’s how everyone’s head operated. I’ve assumed they’re all doing exactly the same straight back at me in equal measures (I see you’ve not managed to lose any weight then, still can’t believe you’re screwing that hot chef, and so on).

Last week I was asked by a tutor friend of mine to give a presentation about creativity to an evening class full of enthusiastic mature students at a night school. Rather than names on badges I noticed they’d been specifically asked to write two words on a sticky label to reveal their personalities. During the coffee break I found myself chatting to a blonde called, Vivacious Fun, and a guy with a very intense stare called, People Person. It struck me how they really didn’t live up to their labels. She wasn’t the life and soul of the party, and the guy with the stare turned out to hate everyone in the room.

I told Guido all about it when I got home to the café.

“When I began high school,” I said, “a sheet of paper with our names on it was passed around my classmates and we were told to write underneath two words to illustrate our first impressions about one another.”

“Why do I get the feeling this is one of your stories which ends horribly and you’ve been mentally scarred by it for the rest of your life?” said Guido warily.

“Well, naturally I was heartbroken to read that someone had scribbled under my name, Total Wacko,” I said shrugging. “But what could I do?”

“I guess their first impression about you was wrong,” said Guido diplomatically. What else could he possibly say?

“Yeah, but, no.” I said. “You see it’s true, underneath I am a total wacko so whoever wrote that was actually very astute for an eleven year old.”

“All I know,” Guido said lounging on our sofa in a pair of super tight boxer shorts, “is if I had to write two words on a sticky label that best described me right now I’d be totally honest about it. No kidding. No lies. Total undiluted truth.”

I knew Guido was trying to make me feel better.

“I believe you,” I said, “so what would the two words be?”

I cynically braced myself for something altruistic like, Amazing Chef or Under-rated Footballer, or as is much more closer to the truth, Sex Maniac.

Lucky Guy,” he smiled.

That’s the great thing about Guido. What you see is what you get.

Us

Every evening when I get home from work, after Guido turns the café kitchen lights off and we climb up the fire escape steps to our loft apartment upstairs, he’ll always do this weird silly thing. I’ll use romantic licence here and call it an, “us” thing. He’s done it for years ever since we started living together. He’ll stop right next to our refrigerator. He’ll pull open the freezer compartment door. He’ll peer inside. Then he’ll pause for a moment, slam the door shut again and spin around and say – “Did you eat all the chocolate chip ice-cream?”

Whilst opening your freezer and discoverng a tub of chocolate chip ice-cream in there should not be completely unexpected, we never, ever, have it in our fridge. This is on account of the fact that I’m always on a diet. By the way the only food I’m eating this week is bananas and so far I’ve lost another 3 pounds. At this rate I’ll practically be The Invisible Man by the time we reach Christmas.

“How often do I have to tell you,” Guido will ask me with mock shock, “do not finish the chocolate chip ice-cream, okay?”

No matter how many times he says that, it still always makes me laugh out loud.

Sometimes, if Guido knows I’m going to be home very late because I’m stuck on the midnight train back to London Bridge, he’ll leave a handwritten note taped to the refrigerator door. It’ll usually read something tantalisingly provocative like – “Sorry, but I ate the last of the ice-cream.”

When I find it I’ll smile and take my clothes off and get under the sheets and climb into a warm bed with him and trust me it’s not a chocolate chip that’s the first thing going through my mind.

“But you don’t usually eat dessert, dear” said my mother when she once heard that conversation between us.

“Oh it’s just an “us” thing,” I said dismissively. And poured her another gin. No matter how many men my mother has dated over the years I doubt she and they ever had an “us” thing.

“Why, for the love of God,” said Ted with raised eyebrows when he opened a kitchen cupboard in our loft earlier this week, “would two middle aged gay men have two whole shelves stacked with jars of mayonnaise?”

We buy bulk.

“Oh it’s just an “us” thing,” I said dismissively, “when we have nothing better to do on a wet Sunday evening I usually get out the Hellmann’s, a spatula, and spread Guido’s big hairy feet.”

I often wondered if it was only us who did weird or silly “us” things and I don’t just mean with ice-cream and my husband’s feet. Then, the other day, I found a website devoted to sentimental vintage photographs of gay couples, all captured decades ago. There was one touching photo which particularly caught my attention. At the bottom of it was a single, handwritten, word. And it summed up the image completely. If you click on it below you’ll see exactly what I mean.

I couldn’t possibly begin to guess what these guys might have gotten up to on a wet Sunday evening, but I could tell they were definitively just like “us”. And there was nothing weird or silly about that at all.

us

 

Crimes against ice-cream

This week in London something unexpected happened.  The sun started shining. The temperature hit 76 degrees. Unpacking my beachwear was absolutely out of the question until I rushed to do what any other self-respecting, utterly vain, and VERY white gay guy like me would do. I got a spray on tan.

Now, I’ve no problem whatsoever having skin a fluorescent tangerine shade but I definitely think I’ve got Guido worried about our wedding photographs. But I’m so grateful he doesn’t care at all about his own skin tone because when the outside temperature soared it triggered one of his astonishing money making brainstorms.  Selling homemade ice-cream out of the café window.

I’m very open minded – but when it comes to ice-cream I’ll admit I’m totally vanilla. Of course I’d do everything to help sales, especially if it involves eating, so happily agreed to blind test Guido’s new recipes.

You won’t be in the least surprised to hear that we did that in bed last night. And it got Guido noticeably excited under the sheets with his wet scoop and a black satin blindfold. If you catch my drift.

“Tell me honestly what you think,” he asked as I stretched open as wide as I possibly could before snapping my lips shut.

“Hmm…,” I said, “this tastes remarkably like one of your smelly old socks,” I said, because frankly it did.

I lifted the blindfold just to make sure I wasn’t actually sucking on a damp one. Apparently this particular recipe was Wild Garlic and Honey flavour so that gives you an idea what the content of our laundry basket stinks of if you’re ever in the unfortunate position to have to lift up the lid. So you have been warned. I put the blindfold back on feeling strangely relieved. I had high hopes for the next mouthful.

“What do you think?” Guido paused tentatively as I took a big lick.

Avocado and Sour Cream flavour tasted just like avocado and sour cream but Curry with Mango flavour tasted of bleach in my opinion. Tequila flavour I could tell straight off. It was totally intoxicating. But I absolutely can’t begin to describe to you what Brown Bread and Orange flavour was like. I obviously had to take a peek. Bizarrely it was exactly the same colour as my new skin.

“Ok,” said Guido, breathing a heavy sigh of relief, “that’s the tasting over but can I say I’m getting pretty hot and turned on staring at your naked and helpless body wearing a blindfold.”

I felt what I could only assume was a spare spoon proding me through his tartan shorts.

“I have a suggestion,” he said, “why don’t I keep you blindfolded whilst I feed you the rest of this tub of Tequila flavour and just see what develops on the sensation front?”

I’ve done something similar before in bed with Guido though on that particular occasion it involved the two of us and a lobster. I have to tell you it certainly was an interesting way to pass an hour or two, so if you’ve got the time and the inclination I can certainly recommend doing it with a sorbet.

Just so you’re aware. Apparently Fake Tan flavour sales are outstripping Smelly Old Socks two to one. I’m not at all surprised; they’re a funny lot in Bermondsey.

If I’m honest I’m just really disappointed this stuff hasn’t made the customers change colour yet.

Nuts in London

There are cat people and there are dog people.   I’ve been asked which I love more and I have to say my reply depends on who’s doing the asking.  So, I usually just say I have this weird thing about hedgehogs.  It’s not the most convincing answer when you happen to live in built-up Bermondsey.  If you’ve ever been there, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about.  

To maintain neighbourly relations I tell the lady who walks her toy poodle to our café every day that I am a dog person.  She’s called Gloria. She has a polkadot ribbon in her hair and wears a little coat and a little scarf. She’s about 100 years old.  I sometimes pat her on the head.  Every few yards she squats and cocks her left leg and I’m not talking about the poodle.  Then when Bethany, who lives in the loft next door, shows me Polaroids of her oversized pussy I can’t help but tell her I’m definitely a cat person. Who’s to know?

When I was a kid I never owned a pet on account of the fact that my mother was like Cruella De Vil whenever she was around animals.  She’d have cut a pair of gloves out of a hamster given half the chance.  Then when I met Guido he told me he was allergic to sheep (I didn’t ask how he knew) so we haven’t gone down the domestic pet route for obvious reasons.  Well, two weeks ago I was sitting on a bench just outside Tate Modern when I heard this strange rustling noise in the birch trees above me and I saw these two grey squirrels swinging up there.  So I fed them some crusts from my hummus sandwich.  Then the next day I went back and threw some brioche crumbs at them and then the next day I swear they were looking out for me so I left a trail of macadamia nut.  They went totally berserk.  Since then I’ve practically become the all new Mary Poppins.  

Last Friday morning I snuck some mixed nuts and some crushed hazel nuts and some almonds from the café larder but I didn’t ask first.  When I say snuck what I really mean is – stole.  And apparently hell hath no fury like a chef with no nuts that’s all I’m saying.  Heard of “Watergate”?  Well this was “Nutgate” and in one jump I’d gone from Mary straight to Deep Throat.   Just to offer you a word of warning.  If you talk about squirrels in bed one night and then the next morning a whole bunch of nuts goes missing from your home, you are very likely to get busted. 

“Have you any idea what it’s like trying to serve a chocolate ice cream nut sundae to a customer, but with NO nuts?” said Guido.  So you get the whole picture, he was pointing his finger when he said that.  I think Guido’s ancestors may have participated in the Spanish Inquisition. 

I’m hoping for babies in Spring.  Little bushy tailed ones with pert ears and big buck teeth.  I’ll call them names like Scamp and Scruff and wave to them and look out for them.  But I’ll be buying my own nuts from now on.  I am pretty sure it’s what Mary would do.