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.

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Home again

Sometimes it’s the very simple things in life which are the most enjoyable. Take, for example, a fresh egg French omelette flipped over at home for me by my husband on a quiet Saturday. Last night I’d say I had a Mmmh… moment; and that definitely came with a capital M.

I’ve been staying away with work for what feels like forever. But now I’m back in the sack. So to speak.

“I wanted to give you a great welcome,” said Guido.

And boy did he ever give me one.

He was standing shirtless at the stove, and trust me Guido’s no sack of potatoes. He’s big. He’s hairy. He’s fit. From where I was standing he was cooking with gas in more ways than one. I raised a wine glass in a very appreciative salute.

The eggs bubbled.

I put an arm around his waist and randomly squeezed his jogging pants. You won’t be surprised to read my hand was drawn to somewhere around the crotch area.

“You know,” I said, “ I can detect you’re not wearing any underpants.”

I reluctantly loosened my grip. I took a slug of booze.

“Hey,” he said holding up his spatula defensively, I’m only frying an omelette here.”

All the more reason to be wearing underpants, I thought.

“It’s true, you know what they say, about absence making the heart grow fonder.”

I knew he meant it because when he flipped that omelette I could see it wasn’t the only thing rising to the occasion.

You know I’ve missed his company, the chat, the laughs, picking up his smelly socks. I’ve even missed that weird sound he makes in the middle of the night like his throat is a dripping tap.

“I suppose there were some up sides to staying in a hotel,” I said. “I didn’t have to make the bed, and, being alone it’s meant I’ve made it half way through Dr Zhivago. You’ve no idea how gripping Boris Pasternak can be under the sheets.”

“That all sounds pretty heavy and worryingly intellectual,” said Guido frowning.

I sliced my hot omelette with relish. At that exact second you have no idea how thankful I was not to be anywhere near post a revolutionary Russian.

“So, I’m intrigued, how d ‘you fill all that time here without me?” I asked.

There was a short but thoughtful silence.

“Hmm… working in the cafe and GAY porn,” said Guido blinking.

This was not sounding in any way pretty heavy or really intellectual. It was veering more to the Neanderthal and sordid but nevertheless still obviously fun under the sheets.

“Hang on,” he said, that’s not strictly true because sometimes I surfed the net for sticky rib recipes.”

There was another short silence.

”But yeah, mostly it was GAY porn.”

I had to admire his honesty. Sticky rib recipes are hard to find.

“I see,” I said, “well I’m back now. I doubt I’ll be progressing much further with turning the pages of Dr Zhivago but I’m not in any way promising you I can deliver an accurate snapshot of Dino Does Dallas.”

Just so you know, I’ve never actually done Dallas.

Much later, when we were both tucked up in bed and Guido was fast asleep, I lay there thinking just one thing.

There’s really no place like home.

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.

The Italian job

I met my friend Marc. He’s the one who moved to Italy to live with his incredibly athletic lover, Secondo. It turns out he was a complete schmuck after all. He wasn’t just having sex with Marc but successfully entertaining half the male population of Naples as well. If you get my meaning? Their reconciliation was doomed from the start.

“Tell Marc we’re all out of pathos over here otherwise he might end up sobbing in our bed again like the last time,” said Guido, unsympathetically whisking an egg.

“Yeah, well, but for the grace of God there go you and I,” I said. “If you hadn’t met me your life could well have turned out just like that egg – scrambled.”

We went for lunch to Village East in Bermondsey. I picked the toasted aubergine.

”You know I’ve been back from Italy for two weeks and I still find it difficult to look at a smoked mozzarella without bursting into tears,” said Marc pondering my appetiser. I think he was welling up.

I thought about changing my order to avert an emotional melt down which might involve our mattress.

“It must be very difficult,” I said realising total betrayal, rather than cheese, was probably the greater of Marc’s worries at the time.

“I guess there are worse things in life than having an affair with a delusional sex maniac,” Marc said.

I sipped my wine. I have to admit it took me a moment to think of one.

“What would you have learned from an experience like that?” he said sagely.

I wished he hadn’t asked.

You see, I’m not part of that hippy dippy naval gazing brigade. I try not to over analyse things. I don’t see life as a never ending learning experience where even if something is so awful you still manage to scrape something “good” out of it to weave into a silver lining.

Sometimes life deals you a completely crap hand and that’s as good as it gets. The only way to make it better is to try to extradite yourself from whatever the situation is. A job sucks. A boss is a complete ass. A relationship is totally toxic. And you move on, because sticking around won’t ever make any of it any more acceptable. Of course, there are occasions when you simply can’t walk away. No amount of chanting or stroking crystals or hand wringing is ever going to make you feel better. I know, because I’ve been there. And the only way I got my head round it was to hope that tomorrow was going to be a better day.

“Goodness,” I said, “I don’t know – what d’you think?” I said annoyingly answering a question with another question.

“I suppose I wish I’d never met Secondo and never tasted his tagliatelle al fungi,” he said. And he definitely meant it.

Later, at home in bed, I asked Guido if he’d any regrets which involved a mushroom.

“No,” he said pulling up the bed clothes to his neck, “but never underestimate how awkward they are to stuff into a pastry vol-au-vent.”

“Ok, but how do you feel about delusional sex mania?” I asked hopefully.

There was a brief pause. Guido turned the lamp back on.

”I don’t know,” he said, “but I’m willing to give it a try.”

Chop! Chop!

Life can be extremely stressful for the best of us. It’s a complete jungle out there. Work. No work. Awkward clients. Financial obligations. Attempting to cross the road at the London Bridge intersection without being flattened by a Number 43 bus. Recurring thoughts of my divorced parents having sex again, and unfortunately with one another. My lumpy waistline. The list is limitless.

“Meditate, drink a green tea, listen to music. Read a good book like I do,” said my personal assistant Toby.

By the way he’s still a complete fruit cake. For those of you who don’t know, he has paranoid manic acrophobia with a dash of obsessive compulsive disorder thrown in for some good measure. Obviously he’s a real laugh a minute to have around at the office. When I hired him a few years ago he was a student fresh out of Agricultural College. Unfortunately, back then, there wasn’t much demand for a privet hedge expert in Bermondsey so the employment agency sent him over to me where he started obsessively sourcing mosaic bathroom tiles.

I raised my eyebrows. It was an involuntary reaction. By the way they’re bushier than ever and continuing to grow worryingly closer together. Give it another six months and I’ll be a dead ringer for Frida Khalo.

“Or anything else which helps you to de-stress,” Toby added witheringly.

Naturally my mind turned to my biggest go to stress reliever.

Guido’s sausage.

I’m not fussed, it can be a big smoked variety or a hot spicy Italian with decent girth. Either way I get into a Zen like state when Guido starts waving about his big chopper. If any of you are feeling freaked out by life you should call ahead and come round to the cafe to watch him get it out. I can guarantee you’ll be in Nirvana in no time.

So when I got home tonight, I naturally went straight into the kitchen.

“How was your day?” asked Guido cheerily.

Tantalisingly he already had his apron on. I sensed he was ready to get straight down to business. It was like he could read my twisted and insatiable mind.

I looked at the slab and checked out his solid chorizo. It lay there, calling out to me, from the work top.

“Oh never mind how my day went,” I said pulling up a stool, “let’s get this show on the road.”

He looked at me strangely.

“I’m guessing you’ve had a bad day?” he said, “and thankfully I know how to help.”

There was a moment’s silence and then – Chop! Chop!

I’m telling you, all hell broke loose.

I ooohed.

I ahhhed.

I salivated. I thought about doing things to that sausage which probably defy my blogging skills.

DO NOT try this kind of activity at home unless you’re in a secure area with a highly trained professional. All I know is that chopping really started hitting my spot. It’s kind of a blur now but at one point I think I was on my knees. Hell, it was better than a ylang ylang candle and a tub of Hellman’s Full-Fat Mayonnaise on a rainy Sunday morning.

Later, after a fried frittata and a cuddle, I can report I felt completely calm.

Read a good book? Hmmm, I’ll be sure to tell Toby what he’s really missing.

Still in love

Against all of the odds – and I’m really not a betting man – inexplicably my long divorced parents are still conducting their rekindled love-in. In fact, they flew to Dubai for a holiday today. This will mean sitting next to each other on a plane for more than seven straight hours and then spending every waking moment (and I assume every sleeping moment) together. If you’d asked me twelve months ago about the likelihood of that ever happening I’d have laughed out loud and said there was more chance of Trump and Kim Jong-un slapping one another on the back. So, what do I know?

”Life’s full of surprising twists and turns,” said Guido tonight whilst serving up a great big pasta dinner.

The cafe was shut but tantalisingly the lights were still on. Every so often there’d be a tap tap tap on the window by someone looking desperate, gesticulating wildly, and then mouthing the words – ARE YOU STILL OPEN?. I’d mouth the words right back – NO SORRY WE’RE SHUT – and then provocatively suck up a long buttery strand of spaghetti. If looks could kill, I’d be a dead man.

”Maybe your parents will tie the knot again,” Guido said swirling his fork. I let out a groan.

”Urgh,” I said, “Can you imagine it?”

That would elevate my parents into the same marriage category as twice wed Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. And, co-incidentally, my abiding memory of their union the first time around was like living through a groundhog day of Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf. They’d slug it out, night after night, like a couple of mud wrestlers. Trust me. No one swings a frying pan like my mother, Cruella, and no one ducks his head faster than my father. Honestly, I’m surprised I’ve turned out as well adjusted and balanced as I have.

You can stop laughing.

”Well, sometimes two people are just meant to be together. Time, maturity and the realisation that the grass isn’t always greener on the other side,” mused Guido.

He opened a bottle of Rioja with a pop.

I stopped chewing.

“Thank you Dr Ruth,” I said. “Though I suppose the upside would be I’d finally get to fulfil my childhood ambition to be a bridesmaid, and, you could lay on a fish inspired bridal finger buffet.”

Weirdly my thoughts strayed to a mental image of my mother in a cream organza dress with Guido tossing a calamari.

”My father actually owns a blue velvet wedding suit. No really he does,” I said.

He really does. Apparently he bought it for his first marriage to my mother and then wore it to his next three ceremonies. I should know, because I’ve seen it. I’ve been ring bearer, best man and, a hopeful witness. I swear if he threw that suit through the church doors it would probably walk up the aisle all by itself and say, I do.

”Don’t be mean,” said Guido, “some people just aren’t meant to be alone.”

I heard a tap tap rap sound. I mouthed the words – NO SORRY WE’RE SHUT – and sucked loudly.

Later in bed I lay staring at the ceiling wondering if my parents’ plane had landed and if they’d tried to kill each other yet.

Of all of life’s emotions, love, is still definitely my favourite.

The truth about lying

Tonight night Guido and I were tucked up in bed like a right couple of old crocks. The lights were out and the sheet was pulled up to our necks. The faint whiff of French mustard betrayed what we’d been up to only moments earlier. It’s amazing the fun two grown adults can have with some pretzels and a spatula.

“When was the last time you told a lie?” I asked Guido.

There was a long and suspicious pause.

“I’m sensing this is a trap to trip me up?” he said from the darkness. “What do you know, that I don’t?”

I was prompted to ask him as earlier in the day I’d been reading a fascinating article about something called – The Honesty Experiment. Three astute British subjects, who were hooked up to state-of-the-art electronic lie detectors, were then challenged to get through a whole week without telling a single fib. The premise was to see if we could ever create a world in which we could not lie.

“Think about that question very carefully before you reply,” I said, “because statistically we all do it at least nine times a day.”

Nine times? That didn’t sound so much to me. I fluffed up my pillow and mentally rewound the previous 24 hours. Hmmm. It didn’t take long for my trustworthy persona to descend into a Machiavellian plot.

“I can’t remember,” said Guido with an air of smugness, “I like to be totally honest.”

Well obviously he was lying.

I chewed my nail. Even before lunch I reckon I’d racked up a whole pack of lies. Astonishingly my entire daily quota was gone in less than three hours. I can be very generous you know, even when I’m lying. And at least two of them were absolute whoppers. I wondered if there were any rules about borrowing some of tomorrow’s lies if I could trade some on a particularly slack day. The scientists would’ve had an absolute field day with me. A world without lies? I was trying to rationalise their supply and demand.

“What about you, Pinocchio?” asked Guido.

I tutted, but of course Guido was quite right. My nose was bigger than the Lizard Peninsula. In fact, the more I thought about it, I realised I was some sort of pathological liar. Only in a good way.

“At least I consider myself a polite liar,” I said.

Guido rolled over, “What exactly does that mean?”

“I tell nice lies.” You know I can be as smug as the best of them. “I like to practise the kindest form of dishonesty.”

He groaned and rolled over again.

“When Donna came into the cafe this afternoon she wanted to know if I could see her black hair roots – and I said no – but what I really meant was – hell yes. When that guy who wears the suit – with the limp – got to the bus stop I told him to get on the bus first – even though I suggested I was second in line when actually I was first. And this morning – when you asked me how my porridge tasted and I said it was fine – well what I really wanted to say was – it needed more salt.”

And I apologise to readers for my high hyphen count in the preceding paragraph but that’s what happens when I lie. Apparently I add dashes.

Guido flicked the lamp on.

“That porridge was perfect,” he snapped.

You know – some people just can’t handle the truth.