To catch a thief

There was an article in The Times newspaper last week about the increase in theft from hotels, and how guests were becoming more daring with their exploits. Forget pocketing a mini shampoo bottle or a sewing kit – we’re talking V-Spring mattresses and grand pianos going walkabout. It was only when the weekend pianist turned up that bar staff even noticed the latter had gone. Well let’s just say we’ve had our own spate of things going missing at The Spanish Onion Cafe, so I’ve been put on high alert. And no one is above suspicion.

It all started with the cushions and pillows in the booths. 4 went missing in 2 days. Salt shakers and pepper pots and glass sugar bowls have also been swiped. The vintage chalked “specials” stand outside was even pinched. A bag of cheese scones from the counter top and a cold quiche from the chiller also vanished Tuesday afternoon. It’s what I’d call daylight robbery.

“Perhaps one of our customers has taken on the mantle of a modern day Robin Hood?” I said to Guido who was icing a doughnut at the time, “robbing the rich to feed the poor.” Naturally my thoughts salaciously turned to Guido wearing a pair of green tights whilst squeezing a piping bag.

“Well we’re not rich,” said Guido. “It’s more like Fagin’s rascals from Oliver Twist. The pillows I can live with – but HOMEMADE CHEESE SCONES!”

Well I suppose we all have red lines to cross but can I just point out to readers that those cushions were from Abigail Ahern, nor were they on sale. These thieves had taste.

I decided to set up position at a corner table during lunch service. It afforded me a perfect view of the place – plus I could simultaneously eat a hot salt beef sandwich with American mustard. Catching thieves is hungry work. I eyed the clientele.

Candidate 1. Woman with frizzy perm staring at foam on cappuccino. No eye movement or blinking. Could be brain dead. Maybe just been dumped by her secret lover and in urgent need of a cheese scone. Ruled out.

Candidate 2. Crazed business woman with shoulder pads harpooning frankfurter with a fork. Anyone who loves a sausage I obviously warm to. Ruled out.

Candidate 3. Man studying iPhone whilst eating cheese toast. Every time he raised the sandwich to his mouth he paused, then put the bread back on his plate without taking a bite. Ruled out on the basis that we could have been there all day.

Candidate 4. Groucho Marx lookalike. Possibly wearing false glasses, nose, and moustache. No food or drink. Appeared to be having a conversation with himself. Definitely had kleptomaniac potential.

I told our waitress, Barbarella, what I was up to.

She surveyed the room.

“I used to be in the Israeli army – I can break a man’s neck with my bare hands,” she said flexing a bicep. She’s such a liar.

“Okay, but I want to catch a thief, not get banged up for first degree murder,” I said.

After the cafe closed I counted the cutlery. I’m staying vigilant and, just to warn customers in advance, I may be introducing random bag searches followed by a quick pat down.

Though an in-depth body search will be mandatory for any men wearing muscle shirts or those with appealing beards. Needs must.

Where’s the beef?

“Are you ever tempted to do it?” asked my friend Marc yesterday morning.

“Huh?” I said. “Do what?”

I was concentrating on scraping the foam from the top of my cappuccino. It was sticky with chocolate sprinklings. It was totally lush. In fact I’m licking my lips as I type those words even now.

“You know, things you know you shouldn’t think about, but things you think you might be tempted to do?” said Marc, winking his left eye cryptically. I hate cryptic winks, I never get the nuanced meaning.

I looked around the cafe and sucked my spoon pensively. I could see the glass chiller and in it was a fresh slab of Black Forest gateaux oozing cream. It was right next to a huge baked New York cheesecake which had collapsed perfectly in the middle.

“Sure,” I said, “I think about temptation like that all the time.”

Mostly cake. Pancakes for breakfast. A hot cheese croissant for lunch. Shortbread for tea. A Chateaubriand dinner anyone? The list is pretty endless actually.

“Yeah,” said Marc, “I thought so. Even people in annoyingly perfect monogamous relationships like you have to succumb to temptation once in a blue moon.” He winked with his left eye again.

I stopped sucking my spoon. The penny dropped. I suddenly realised we weren’t talking about a sugar rush. But possibly a rush of pleasure which was a completely different ball game altogether.

“Are we talking about what I’m thinking about or what I think you might be thinking about?” I said this without even one wink of either eye. “When you say, tempted, what exactly do you mean by, tempted?” I asked.

There was a short pause. Marc sat back and let out a long sigh.

“Hot sex, with hot men, who are not your partner.”

Marc is nothing if not direct. Don’t worry, I’m not his type.

There was another short pause.

“I see,” I said. “In that case, no. I’m a one man woman.”

Of course I do occasionally flirt outrageously with George Clooney and Alexander Skarsgard. Hell, Nick Jonas and I even had a thing. But let’s face it, nothing was ever going to get serious. I mean, for starters, I’m obviously too good for George.

“But, why do you ask?” I asked despite probably already knowing the answer.

Marc dated an Italian called Secondo who cheated on him. Then he dated a Portuguese guy called Santiago who also cheated on him. Now he’s dating Tong – who’s from Hong Kong (there’s a limerick in there somewhere) so I was assuming Marc was trying to make a pre-emptive strike by sleeping around first. I guess there was method in his madness.

“I’m happy with Tong but I’ve met this really terrific barber from Turkey. What he can do with a pair of clippers makes the mind boggle.”

And I must say Marc’s hair did look great, though it brought a whole new meaning to his “messy top with an undercut fade.”

Later in bed I asked Guido if he’d like to confess to any illicit or sordid thoughts of temptation which he’d had during his day. He’s not usually shy in bed so I braced myself.

“Well only one,” he said, “and unfortunately it involved a piece of beef,” said Guido from the darkness.

Need I say more?

Love is in the air

I left a random comment on my friend Blobby’s blog about a month ago. In it I described how I’d been in a cafe in North London minding my own business, but had slowly become aware of a man and a woman seated behind me. Both of them were talking loud enough to be overheard. I won’t bore you with the exact details of their diatribe but their views were that homosexuality was a shameful abomination. It absolutely shocked me. Yet what had made me particularly mad about that day was not, ironically, the man and the woman. It had been my own reaction. I was so furious with myself that I hadn’t been able to confront them with a cutting or biting or witty or sarcastic put down. Instead, I’d just gotten up and walked right out into the street with a cold coffee and a half eaten cookie. And then I’d fumed about what I should have said all day long.

Needless to say when I got home Guido put things, as he always does, in complete perspective.

“What does it matter what these sort people think? They’re a dying breed.”

He was tossing a mixed salad at the time and I’ve never realised how leaves in a mustard dressing could be so hypnotically therapeutic.

“It’s who loves us and how we show love back that’s important. Forget all about their hate because the only person who’ll feel bad about it – is you.”

He was right.

Fast forward to yesterday when Guido’s father celebrated his 70th birthday. It was time to show him the love. Inexplicably my mother, Cruella, had actually called me to say she thought it would be a terrific idea if she and my father threw Juan a surprise party. Honestly, ever since my parents remarried my mother’s been acting like a Stepford Wife resident. She’s either had a personality transplant without telling me or is having a hell of a lot of sex. But let’s not go there.

Anyway of course the idea ended up with Guido catering and tables set and candles lit in the courtyard at The Spanish Onion. There were lots of Juan’s friends at the party I’ve never even had the opportunity to introduce readers to; other you’d have known. Guido’s mother, Rosa, sang an interesting version of happy birthday in the style of a Hispanic Marilyn Monroe. My parents were embarrassingly loved up. The Twins (remember them?) were back from an ashram in India. They’d both shaved their heads so it was still impossible to tell which was which. My artist friend Elton turned up. His latest show is proving a blockbuster. Marc introduced us to his new Portuguese boyfriend, and I have to say both were positively glowing. Fingers tightly crossed; I’m hopefully optimistic. Ethel and Bethany from the laundromat next door brought some of their lethal homemade hooch and later, Gary finally flew in. Brian wagged his tail.

When it got dark I went back into the kitchen to get some more candles and cold wine, and after a moment or two I glanced out of the open window because the most wonderful sound seemed to be wafting though the air. It’s hard to describe it in words but let’s just call it; love.

And I’ll choose that over hate every time.

Food for the soul

I’m one of those people for whom music can trigger very vivid memories. Which would explain why whenever I hear The Gypsy Kings track “Bamboleo” it makes me want to rip all my clothes off.

I was reminded of this fact last night but first let me rewind you, by way of a silly explanation, to when I used to regularly stop by The Spanish Onion cafe during my lunch break. This was before Guido and I were dating, simultaneously removing each other’s clothing, or liberally spreading condiments onto each other’s bodies on a regular basis. Though I was definitely thinking about all of that. I was younger. I was thinner. I was still hopefully amoral.  I was also totally unaware how a tiger prawn fried in garlic butter could change the course of two gay men’s lives. Yet there Guido would be – behind the chilled glass counter with his big chopper – whipping up something utterly delicious for me. Of course all I’d be dreaming about was him whipping everything off me.

The reason I’m telling you these sordid details is because, in the background, The Gypsy Kings CD would be playing loudly. Naturally all that plucking and strumming would work me up into a post lunch frenzy. So there you have it folks, it was inevitable; sooner or later all my clothes would drop off.

Fast forward to last night and let’s just say familiarity breeds familiarity. That predictable but comforting end of week routine where Guido collapses on our sofa wearing nothing but his underpants. By the way, one leg of our leather chesterfield is still broken and is now propped up precariously with a can of chopped tomatoes. Anyway, I lay next to Guido debating whether it would be completely revolting if I added spray cream and vermicelli sprinkles to sliced banana on toast (by the way, it’s not).

“I guess this is what we’ve sunk to on an ordinary Saturday night,” I said, “you letting it hang out in all directions and me stuffing it in,” I licked my lips. “I mean, what the hell is next for us?”

Guido shrugged.

“This is what domestic bliss looks like kiddo,” he said waving his arm enthusiastically across the empty room, and I don’t think he was joking either.

I let out a long “hmmm” noise.

“Are you happy Guido, I mean, are you really happy?” I said staring at the ceiling pensively whilst considering another slice of toast. It was tempting.

“Oh God. We’re not going to have one of those conversations, are we?” said Guido sighing.

So I waved my arm just as enthusiastically as he had across the other side of the room.

“I mean, when you see me at the end of a long day, do you still feel the same way you did all those years ago?” I said picking a stray piece of banana stuck between my front teeth. Let’s just say it felt icky.

“Look. Why don’t we listen to some music and have some wine?” said Guido deftly changing the subject, “or is that too predictable for you?”

I hear a cork pop and the music start.

However after that my memory is kind of blurry. I’m not sure which came first. The wine or the music. Suffice it to say, you can probably guess what happened next.

Aioli, and other vices

I try to be good. Often I fail. There is a very annoying saying – everything in moderation – which I’ve noticed is particularly popular with people who have slim hips and high metabolisms. And, whilst I like to think I have admirable genetic attributes myself, regular readers will know restraint isn’t one of them.

We all have our own personal holes in the road on the “being good” front. Sometimes I manage to swerve and sometimes I just go straight in head first. Cheesecake, clotted cream, a large Martini and a soggy croissant spring instantly to mind. Thought not all on the same plate at the same time.

But, it’s those small hidden vices which insidiously drip, drip, away.

We have a salt shaker on our table. I like to shake it. I shake it because it makes a weird noise like an angry rattle snake. Sometimes when Guido is quietly sucking his spaghetti I’ll jump up behind him and give it a twist. It’s amazing the combined pleasure a generous dusting of salt and scaring my husband half to death brings me. We also have a sugar bowl. In fact, we have two. One with demerara cubes and one with white granulated in a glass jar with a silver funnel on top. I sometimes plonk one lump in my coffee just for the hell of it. If I’ve got an early morning meeting in Shepherds Bush – which let’s face it, has to be depressing at the best of times – I’ll just pour an avalanche straight onto my Coco Pops and start slowly digging my way out. This could explain why I see pound signs in my dentist’s eyes when I visit his surgery every six months. You’ll also now understand why I have routinely resorted to The Banana Diet – a rare kind of masochism reserved for people with a highly developed but twisted interest in condiments and their alternative uses.

“Where d’you think you might want to spread this?” asked Guido last night somewhat provocatively in my opinion. He just happened to be holding a small dish of his freshly homemade mayonnaise at the time.

I’d just watched him put garlic, egg yolks and mustard into a blender. It sure beat what they were showing on Channel 5, I can tell you. He blitzed it to a paste and then slowly dribbled in olive oil to make a thick mayonnaise-style sauce. When everything came together he added lemon juice, then seasoned to taste. If you want to try making it, it should keep covered in the fridge of a normal person for up to 2 days. But obviously we’re not normal.

“It depends what you’re planning on serving it with,” I said as quick as a flash.

I was pretending to play it totally cool but I was secretly hoping for a bowl of something deep fried to use to start dunking. I do like a good dunk, and aioli is perfect. So there’s another item (vice) to add to my ever burgeoning list.

“I’m open to ideas,” said Guido, “but I’m definitely done in the kitchen. If you know what I mean?”

The aioli tasted good. I imagine it’s great with cold chicken or flaked tuna. Alternatively – try spreading liberally across a hairy thigh. Though I can’t promise what effect this will have on your hips.

Ted

I wrote the following post – Imaginary Friends – back in November 2015. I’ve reposted it in loving memory of our friend, Ted, who read this blog avidly. We lost him on Christmas Day.

Last night, after the café closed, our gay friends Gary and Ted came around.  It was their monthly pilgrimage to The Spanish Onion to play poker.  I don’t know why Guido and I bother.  We might as well open our wallets at the front door and just hand them all our cash.  Not surprisingly, after a few drinks, the conversation drifted to my high school reunion trauma. As it turned out Gary and Ted had a couple of revelations of their own to reveal.

“I think you were very honest,” said Ted sucking an olive, “and brave too.”  He threw a card and drank some wine.  “I’ll raise you.”

“Be yourself, everyone else is taken,” said Gary profoundly staring at his cards.  “Though Ted hasn’t always followed that advice,” he sniffed, “you don’t know about Mary, do you?”  He threw a card too.  “I’ll see you and raise you.”

“Ah lovely, funny, sweet, silly Mary,” said Ted.  He lifted his glass and made a toast.  “To the woman I used to go out with.”  He chewed a macadamia.

“Mary?” I said.  “The woman, you used to go out with?”

“Mary dated a gay man?” said Guido.  “What was she, headless?  I’ll see you and raise you.”

It turns out that before Ted was, well, out, and before he married Gary, he had an imaginary girlfriend. Mary cooked cordon bleu, spoke fluent Cantonese, and played the oboe.  She was quite a catch.  It’s just a pity she hadn’t actually existed and Ted wasn’t straight otherwise I reckon they would’ve been perfect for one another.  The helpful thing about Mary was that she also had an irrational fear of crowds, so didn’t get out that much and none of Ted’s friends ever got to meet her. That was convenient.  I have to say I thought the oboe was a terrific touch.

“I didn’t care if people knew I was gay, but I did care if they thought I was sad and single,” said Gary.  So Gary’s imaginary boyfriend was named Eric.  Apparently he was quite a looker.  They pumped iron together at the gym.  That is unless Gary did actually happen to be at the gym, in which case he told people Eric was an eye surgeon and was busy mending someone’s detached retina.

“When I was a little boy I had an imaginary friend,” said Guido staring into space, “his name was Jose R. Sanchez.”

“Well I didn’t see that one coming,” I said raising my eyebrows.  “Your imaginary friend had a middle name?” I asked.

“Yes, but I have no idea what it was,” said Guido. “Gimmie a break, I was only six years old.”

Just for the record I’ve never had imaginary friends.  And frankly I was beginning to feel left out.

“Perhaps Mary and Eric could adopt Jose R. Sanchez and then live an incredibly happy imaginary life together,” I said.

Later that night I lay in bed next to Guido.  I couldn’t help but think about Jose R. Sanchez.  I imagined what sort of life he might have had and whether he would have grown up to be incredibly hairy.  I wondered if he might have a man bun.  I wondered if he would cook a decent risotto and whether he’d be partial to acrobatic sex.

I reached the sad conclusion these were yet more mysteries on which I can give you no further details. But please feel free to make one up.

16, going on 17

Last night Guido and I were in bed.

Relax readers. This isn’t going to be another one of my interminable posts about our athletic extracurricular activies between the sheets involving mayonnaise and an unidentified kitchen appliance which makes a dull, but highly pleasurable, buzzing sensation. Absolutely nothing was happening. I’m guessing Guido was just laying there next to me minding his own business and thinking. I can’t tell you exactly what he was thinking about because, unfortunately, I’m not able to read his mind – but, whereas you and I might count sheep – Guido usually spends his last moments of consciousness carefully weighing up the benefits of a short crust pastry over a sweet puff. If you’ve ever eaten one of his melt in the mouth apple turnovers, then you’d know why.

“How do you feel?” I said. I said this in the style of a caring and kindly physician. The sort of doctor who has just taken your pulse and is alarmed to discover your blood pressure is 140 over 90 yet still smiles at you as if all vital signs are perfectly normal.

At first Guido didn’t react. He does this sometimes just after lights out. If he thinks I’m about to launch into a heated debate which has absolutely nothing to do with baked apples then he’ll just pretend to be fast asleep.

“What I mean is, how do you really feel?” I was still sounding caring and kindly and wasn’t in any way whatsoever concerned about the possibility of rapid heartbeat.

“I feel fine,” he said from the darkness, “I really do feel fine.” Then there was further silence for a bit until he finally added without any prompting, “But, why are you asking me?”

Okay, I’d been reading about a Dutchman, who is legally seeking to change his biological age from 69 to 49. It was reported he thought his true age was damaging his ratings on the dating app Tinder.

“Perhaps I should rephrase that question and simply ask you, how old do you feel?” I asked.

Forget legal. I think if you were able to rewind the clock it would be a terrific idea. You see, I quite like the thought of having the swimmers body of a 19 year old but the 70 year old brain of someone smart, like Einstein. That way I could casually discuss the laws of physics in figure hugging Speedos with a poolside hunk. As opposed to the reality of actually having the body sag of an Albert yet annoyingly still the complexion of a spotty teenager.

“That depends on what I’m doing at the time,” said Guido wisely. “I like to think I still have the staying power of someone a third of my age. Yet I know these knuckles can’t knead bread the way they used to.”

It’s funny what getting old means to some people. We made a pact right there and then. I promised I’d stop fretting about my body (on account of the wrinkles) if Guido promised to stop worrying about his sweet pies (on account of the dough).

Thankfully I’m not on, and nor have I ever been on, the Tinder app. I’ve got Guido to thank for that. But if you are, and you chat to a Dutchman who tells you he really doesn’t feel his age, he really is his age.