Scenes from a marriage

I’ve been working hard in Manchester. It’s been lonely.  I’m home for four days. On the plane I calculated this meant I’d have around 5760 minutes to eat copious amounts of Guido’s food and fit in as much hot sex as I could before I had to fly back. I’ve figured if I eat faster it’ll free up even more time to take my clothes off.

Last night, in the middle of a mouthful of ravioli, my father called.

“Have you spoken to your Mother?” he asked.

No hello, it’s me, or a how are you?

“No,” I said quickly, on account of the parmigiana sauce.

“I see,” he said, and then hung up without saying a good-bye.

About thirty minutes later the phone rang again. This time it was my mother, Cruella.

Just to set the scene for you – the pasta was over and we’d happily moved on to the hot sex part. Guido and I were naked and re-enacting a love scene from The Adventures of Robin Hood. Guido loves to fire his arrow. We’d just got the part where Errol Flynn throws Olivia De Havilland up against a column and he tells her that he’s nothing to offer but a life time of hardship and danger. Which sure rang a bell.

“I was wondering if you and Guido would come over for lunch tomorrow?” Cruella purred.

There was an awkward pause on my end of the line for obvious reasons.

The last time my mother “cooked” it involved a pineapple chunk and a cube of cheese on a cocktail stick.

“Perhaps, Guido would rustle up something wonderful?” she asked.

I sighed. I suppose she wasn’t to know he was going to be busy for the next 4320 minutes. So I said yes and hung up and then went straight back to Sherwood Forest. Hey, don’t judge, the clock was ticking, right?

We took the Underground over to her apartment this afternoon. Guido had a Tupperware box stuffed with a potato watercress salad and a salmon under one arm. When we got inside I knew my mother meant business because she’s taken the plastic cover off the sofa.

“There’s something I want to tell you,” she said.

Then she just sat there staring at me like I should’ve been the one telling her something. So I just stared back.

“And?” I said, finally.

She took a sip of Gin. The ice rattled.

“I suppose I should just go right ahead and tell you,” she said.

I stared.

She took another sip of Gin. The ice still rattled.

“It’s your father,” she finally gasped dramatically, “you see, he’s asked me to marry him again.”

I stared.

“And,” she said, “well, after much consideration, I’ve said yes.”

Tonight Guido has a pot roast on the stove. I think there’s a chicken in there. I’ve drunk almost a whole bottle of wine, but I don’t care. In fact, I’m about to open another. I’ve spent a whole hour trying to talk Guido into buying a pair of green tights so that we can make our love scenes together more authentic but I’m sensing he’s not that keen.

Tomorrow, I’ll call my mother. I’ll tell her I’m very happy for her.

Then I’ll call my father and ask him if he’s insane, and if he knows whether it’s hereditary.

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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.

I’ll have what he’s having

We’ve had snow in London twice now in a single month. That’s almost unheard of around here. The way some people have been behaving you’d think the whole world was teetering dangerously on the brink of some sort of Armageddon. And don’t even get me started about the public transport system.

I was standing in line for the bus last week when a random dude pushed right in front of me.

I’m late for work – with a capital F!” he shouted at me. “Fine,” I yelled back, “with a capital F!

“That’s what I love about this city,” said my friend Marc, “in times of need total strangers still have a complete disregard for their fellow man. I’m surprised he didn’t take your head off.”

Marc had stopped by the cafe for a bowl of something hot and steamy. He chose a cup of Guido’s carrot coriander soup. It’s been flying out of the door all day. I can highly recommend it if you’re having a day with an F in it.

“Yeah, whatever happened to the Blitz spirit that glued us all together?” I said, “All I know is my mother resorted to panic food shopping at Harrods. Apparently she ended up back at her apartment and all she had was a bottle of raspberry flavoured gin, a jar of pickled turnip tops, and a home macaroon making kit.”

I tried to imagine what my mother would do with all of that stuff. She’d call it – Hors D’oeuvre, Entrée and Dessert. Of course if she was hungry enough she’d have ended up over here at the cafe picking something delicious from the specials board.

“Listen, I think if we were denied copious amounts of food for a few days we’d all be in much better shape,” Marc sighed slowing patting his mid-riff.

“Are you kidding me?” I said, “God forbid.”

I tried to imagine a dinner without linguine smothered in garlic oil and trust me it wasn’t pretty.

“As you know I act like a crazy person when I’m hungry.” I said.

I dipped my bread crust vigorously into my Miso broth. It instantly went pleasingly soggy.

“I remember starving myself through my last banana diet. One night I found myself sobbing uncontrollably on the sofa during an episode of Hawaii 5-O. Rather than admit to a perverted craving for rocky road baked cheesecake I told Guido I was moved by the rugged beauty of Steve McGarrett’s chest hair.”

There was a pause for obvious reasons.

”I get it. At times like that baby,” said Marc, “all you want is comfort food.” He licked his spoon when he said that.

I thought about what comfort really meant to me. Naturally I thought about maple syrup. Who wouldn’t? I thought about the endless possibilities of good mayonnaise.Then inexplicably my brain made a connection to Guido’s thighs. Imagine if all that was rationed and in short supply. Life wouldn’t be much worth living.

”We all appreciate the special things in our life,” said Marc. “I guess that’s why I keep eating here.” He took another mouthful of soup.

That was reassuring.

So if the real Armageddon ever does happen, do take the time to stop by. In the unlikely event there’s nothing you fancy on the menu, I’ll get Guido to quickly rustle something up for you.

Music to make love to

When Guido and I lived in the loft above The Spanish Onion our immediate neighbours were a lesbian couple called Bethany and Ethel. We always knew when they were having sex because of the groaning emanating through our walls. Sometimes the electricity power would inexplicably fluctuate and the floor boards would creak like they were manoeuvring a baby grand. One morning after a particularly passionate session I bumped into Ethel in the street outside.

”Did the earth move for you?” I asked.

Everytme they got amorous after that they’d turn up their music system to try to mask what they were up to. Let’s just say their taste in music was eclectic. Guido would always wait until everything had gone completely quiet, then he’d rattle our headboard against their bedroom wall and crank up “It’s Raining Men” at full volume. I honestly don’t think they saw the funny side.

There is a point to this story.

My father came round to the cafe for breakfast yesterday.

“I’m taking a lady friend back to my place tonight,” he nibbled his buttered toast furtively, “and I want things to be perfect.”

“Who is she?” I’m nothing if not direct.

”Let’s just call her special,” he nibbled, “I want the ambiance to be absolutely perfect.”

He’d bought toxic wine, he had scented candles, and was planning on scattering floor cushions. What woman would not be utterly seduced by this? Except now he was stuck on appropriate music. This was not surprising as, Amber, his nubile ex-girlfriend would only ever take her clothes off listening to One Direction.

”Things squelch when you make love over 60 so I want something to drown it out,” he said.

“Hmm, “ I said, “in that case you don’t want anything with too quick a tempo, unless you’re planning a premature ending.”

He stopped nibbling.

”Listen kiddo, at my age I need something that takes a while to build up to the big crescendo, but, doesn’t turn into a full-on marathon.” He sipped his coffee, “I’m not the man I used to be.”

Beethoven’s 5th was obviously out then.

“So nothing too shmaltzy or anything that could turn into a singalong,” I asked.

”The last thing I want is to hear her breaking into song and throwing me off my concentration.” He unconsciously nibbled faster.

”Well Guido and I have our favourite tracks, but obviously depends if we’re using mayonnaise or melted chocolate at the time.” I dunked my donut. “Listen, I’ll email you a suggestion,”

Later that night I called my mother.

“I can’t talk long darling,” she said all breathy, “I’m seeing a man friend later.”

”Who is he?” I asked.

“Let’s just call him special,” she said.

It was 2 a.m. when I woke up in bed. My eyes were wide open and it wasn’t because Guido was snoring like a fog horn. The penny had finally dropped. After forty years of happy divorce my parents were making love to each other again.

Anyway, here’s the track I picked. If you do try listening to this whilst making love, don’t blame me if you start thinking about two sixty five year fruit cakes having weird sex with a scatter cushion.

Though I really wouldn’t blame you if you did.