Another year

Guido regularly tells me I should try not to over analyse thoughts. Keep it simple. Look in-front of you; don’t look back, otherwise you won’t see what’s ahead of you. He should be a psychologist and if he was analysing me let’s just say he’d be kept pretty busy. I guess he gives sound advice because 99.9% of the time, he’s deliriously happy. I get it. Really I do. But, there is but.

“But, what would you describe was your biggest personal highlight of this past year?” I asked Guido in bed this morning. It was very late. I’d eaten a croissant which was messy and there were buttery crumbs between the sheets.

We were also back at The Spanish Onion and I’m pleased to report we were slowly “recovering” from a hectic few days in Spain with his parents. Visiting Andalucía family members turned into more like a month shacked up with The Adams Family. They make my own clan seem perfectly normal, and that’s saying something.

“I hope you’re not expecting me to get all deep?” Guido asked, punching his pillow with his hand.

But I already was in deep, and like the windmills of my mind, it didn’t take that long to cast it spinning back to this time last year.

A dear friend lost. But new ones found. My parents in love (again). We gained dog called Brian and Guido got his man bun back. I put on 6 pounds around my waist. Then the cabbage soup diet lost 3 pounds around my thighs. There was a hell of a lot of work. Grind. Airport departure gates and lonely hotel rooms. Then home again. Great sex and, dare I admit it, mediocre mayonnaise. Brexit, Barbarella and Pie-gate.

“Can our lives really be compartmentalised into a few simple words?” I sighed – obviously deeply.

“Oh yeah that’s so easy,” Guido said seemingly without even having to think about it at all, “and it has to be my Baked Alaska. I distinctly remember it was June.  It was hot. There was a round soft sponge cake base with a vanilla ice cream centre and I blow torched a merengue topping which I burned to absolute perfection.”

His eyes seemed to momentarily glaze over. Which just goes to show what thoughts of a calorific desert can do for you in bed. Add 6 pounds to your hips probably.

I rolled over and kissed him.

“Thanks for the memories,” I said. And in those few words, I meant every one of them.

There’s a quiet lull in London tonight. It happens at this time every year, and in some ways it makes everything seem quiet and so much more straight forward too. Perhaps you don’t need to analyse too much. I’ll make it my new mantra. And here, too, online we blog. Regardless of our location. We create a peaceful mosaic of all our lives for others to read and enjoy, and perhaps  it doesn’t get any simpler than that.

Happy New Year everyone.

JP

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?

War and Peace in South London

“Well, Prince, so Genoa and Lucca are now just family estates of the Buonapartes.”

Trust me this isn’t Tolstoy but it is a kinda, War and Peace.

Sorry to suddenly get all la de da literary on you but I was reading an article about a collection of short stories which has just been published. It’s called “Short Stories For Plants”.  It’s for people (complete fruit cakes) who want to talk to their plants but need a point of reference – so rather than just bore their aspidistra to death they read the poor thing a bedtime story.

I have not lost the plot.

Readers who have been following this blog for more than 12 months – I continue to wholeheartedly commend your loyalty – will know I’ve a love hate relationship with our apartment’s heating system. For ease of reference let’s call it – The Boiler. At this time of year when it gets much colder in London me and Guido and, The Boiler, tend to grudgingly re-acquaint ourselves. It sometimes feels like we’ve never actually been introduced but I still like to think we’re great friends who just happen to have lost touch during the warmer months. The Boiler, however, is a little more contrary. You know where I’m going with this, right?

“But I warn you, if you don’t tell me that this means war, if you still try to defend the infamies and horrors perpetrated by that Antichrist – I really believe he is Antichrist – I will have nothing more to do with you and you are no longer my friend, no longer my ‘faithful slave,’ as you call yourself!”

I was reading this aloud to, The Boiler. If I’m honest I was a little worried about using the “slave” word but for obvious reasons I didn’t want to deviate from pure Tolstoy.

“Who are you talking to?” Guido shouted, mid-beer, from the sofa.

It was a perfectly reasonable question to ask but my logic is, if you can read a story to a stupid plant, I reckoned you could read a classic to a cranky heating system.

”Oh, just an old friend,” I yelled, casually stroking The Boiler’s metal casing.

I know some people don’t like to have their personal space invaded but me and, The Boiler, seemed to be getting on like the proverbial house on fire. Let’s just say the flame was lit baby.

“But how do you do? I see I have frightened you – sit down and tell me all the news,” I read, stroking some more metal. I felt like I’d been transported to Siberia yet was still on the floor in our hallway.

If I’m honest I wasn’t really expecting a response from, The Boiler. What was he going to tell me – his duel flue was blocked? But I heard foot steps and suddenly Guido was peering into the cupboard. I didn’t have the heart to say, hey, three was a hot and smokin’ crowd.

”What you doing?” Guido asked. His tone was a cross between accusatory and incredulity.

“Reading War and Peace to The Boiler,” I said completely casually in a – don’t you know we’re at the mercy of artificial intelligence – sort of way.

There was an awkward silence.

“You know you’re bonkers nuts?” said my husband bluntly.

Frankly I don’t agree.

Though Tolstoy is probably having a really good laugh.

Vote, Jean-Paul!

It’s times like this, where there are no obvious political leaders across the political divide, that desperate times call for desperate measures.  It’s why I’m now stepping up and offering my services to take over the running of my country.

I realise this will probably involve getting up out of bed before 8 am on weekdays, and limiting myself to one and a half bottles of wine a night, but if Churchill could do it then so can I. For the sake of a prosperous future I’m prepared to make any reasonable sacrifice – as long as there’s a big official car and unlimited access to business class air travel. Hey, I’m not a complete idiot.

So here follows my 10 point, though in no particular order of importance or implementation, election pledge:

1. Free maple syrup for all citizens. This will develop strong economic links with the people of Canada. This is a good thing as I’ve never met a Canadian I haven’t liked.

2. Men with beards will proceed straight to the head of any bus queue. This is in recognition of their selfless devotion to facial grooming.

3. Mastering the art of paella making will become a compulsory subject on the school curriculum. This will mean our country’s youth will be equipped with one of life’s vital skills.

4. Alexander Skarsgard will be recruited to read the evening news. I haven’t decided yet what, if any, clothing he will wear. But he’ll obviously have to be flexible.

5. From the date of my election, skinny jeans will be banned in public places. They can, however, be worn in the privacy of citizens’ homes for their own twisted personal pleasure.

6. My mother, Cruella, will be exiled to someplace inhospitable (possibly northern Norway) with only intermittent access to forms of telecommunication. My father will be free to visit her at any time to perform conjugal acts, but obviously will be forbidden from discussing this with me.

7. L’Oréal will appoint me as their goodwill ambassador. Looking my best will be critical. Especially if voters expect me to get out of bed before 8 am.

8. Vacuuming will be declared a new Olympic sport. Citizens must aspire to good suction and neat rugs.

9. I will let them eat cake. Especially anything with a coconut frosting.

10. My husband will become deputy prime minister and will carry my briefcase with the nuclear codes in it. Listen, if I carried it myself it would invariably be left at the front of a bus queue whilst I mingle with bearded voters.

“I’m not sure the general public will see immediate merits in sending your mother to the Arctic Circle,” said Guido slurping up a plate of spaghetti last night, “and neither would your mother.”

I tutted.

“It’s also weird that three out of ten of your pledges involves food. I mean, what about your stance on the European Common Fisheries Policy and any negotiations on a Bilateral Trade Balance?”

I tutted again.

“A mere trifling footnote in history,” I said.

Obviously until Guido’s attitude towards my premiership bucks up I’ll be scrubbing pledge number 10 (see above) and to hell with the nuclear consequences.

“Listen up kiddo. You can please some of the people all of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time,” I said.

I stirred my pasta.

Abraham would have been proud.

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.

Recipe for disaster

I love my husband. I really do. How he’s stuck with me all this time is nothing short of miraculous because when we first met I really don’t recall dating him with the same conviction he did me. I just thought I’d suck it and see for a fortnight to find out how we got on. I never realised all these years later that the same man and a full jar of Nutella would still make me so very very happy.

However. 

There’s always one area in a marriage which will cause an argument. And for us it’s when I “help” in the kitchen.

When I was single I didn’t starve to death. I knew how to burn toast and incinerate a can of beans. But when someone keeps telling you, you can’t cook, it slowly erodes your confidence. You begin believing it. So any mention of “help” and Guido will shudder but grudgingly assign me a task, well let’s call it – a damage limitation exercise. Like scrubbing a potato.  I, on the other hand, like to imagine myself as the late, great, Antonio Carluccio.  Chucking any old rubbish into a crock-pot with gusto, but still creating a culinary masterpiece. In reality this is probably more like a disturbing episode of Gordon Ramsey’s Kitchen Nightmares.

The problem with frying is that one minute everything’s sizzling away looking just like it should do, but, take your eyes off it for just one minute to read a short text message from your mother and it’s turned into a sort of molten lava. And no amount of stirring or scraping will resuscitate them. Well that’s what happened last night, so I did what any novice chef would do with a skillet smoking dangerously and on the verge of bursting into an uncontrollable fireball. I tossed it into a sink of freezing cold water. For those of you who’ve never done this, please don’t try it at home unless you have the fire brigade on quick dial.  Apparently it has a very similar effect to what happens in the core of a nuclear reactor when they expose the plutonium rods. There’s a big whooshing noise and steam erupts with enough piston power to generate free energy for most of the East End of London.

Confronted with this unfolding scene, Guido began to look and act just like Gordon does. He went a weird crimson colour and you could see the veins in his neck all pulsating like he was about to throw the mother of all tantrums.

At this point I had a horrible flash back to the last time I “helped” grilling an aubergine so I knew what came next. After the vein throbbing comes the teeth gnashing and the feet hopping and there’s a lot of colourful language. Let’s just say if this blog post was a podcast it would have an “R” for restricted rating.

Well, I defy anyone to remain calm under such trying circumstances. So I did what I did when I was single and had one of life’s catastrophes. I ordered Chinese. I had sweet and sour pork and Guido had a stir fried chilli beef. It arrived in fifteen minutes and was absolutely delicious.

You know this “cooking from scratch” thing – I really don’t think it’s all it’s cracked up to be.

And then there were three

Brian moved in with us a week ago. Brian is owned (if dogs ever actually belong to anyone) to our friend Gary but, on account of Gary’s extended shifts at the airline, we’ve agreed to look after him (if dogs ever actually think they’re looked after) on a purely temporary basis.

That was a very long sentence to describe a week which has seemed to have been very very short. Just like Brian’s incredibly small Jack Russell legs, which I have to say can move very very fast.

I feel like Brian has lived with us for a month, if not a decade. He’s set himself right at home. I’ve half expected to see him wearing slippers, throw on a smoking jacket and pull up a chair by the fire. In fact he’s made himself so alarmingly  (disarmingly) comfortable he’s now like a part of the furniture, or at the very least a sort of furry foot stool or writhing hot water bottle. That is except for when Guido or I move towards the back door and Brian will leap up like grease lightening with the kind of enthusiasm for extended exercise I could only fantasise about. Since he’s lived with us I think I’ve lost more than five pounds. If he stays long term I may shed so much weight I could be in danger of completely disappearing. I’ll be like the incredible shrinking man taking the dog for a walk. I’ll have to wrap myself in bandages – invisible man style – so I don’t get run over by a London bus when I take Brian to the park.

Boy, does Brian LOVE the PARK. Did you see how I shouted that one out by putting the words, love, and park, in capitalisation and bold? If this blog could add bells and whistles it would be ringing and resounding.

Pre-Brian, when I used to go to the park with Guido, it would usually involve me lolling on the grass on a rug reading House and Garden or eating a muffin or slurping an enormous ice cream. Invariably there were ants. Often there would also be perverts lurking in the trees. The perverts I could live with but the ants were a right royal pain in the arse. That’s, ass, to North American readers. Well when Brian and I go to the park now there’s no laying around. He wants me running and jumping about like Usain Bolt. Its absolutely exhausting. Sometimes Guido will come with us too and throw a frisbee or a ball, or both, and then after an hour when we get back home to our loft Brian will be all frisky and wagging his tail but Guido and I will be like we need to get hooked up to oxygen masks.

“How long do you think this temporary Brian arrangement,” as Guido has started calling it, “will last?” said Guido flopped out on our sofa and drinking a beer straight from the bottle this afternoon.

Brian was sighing periodically at Guido’s feet.

I was also drinking a generous glug of white wine – for purely medicinal purposes you understand?

Brian didn’t look happy.

I don’t think he approves of our reckless habit of drinking alcohol in the middle of a Sunday afternoon. I guess proper hosts would at least have offered him a glass.