Love lost and found

My parents got remarried yesterday. I’ll spare you every minutia of detail. But suffice it to say there would have been enough drama in the run up to write a blog post every day for the next twenty five years.

What I will tell you is my mother wore pink chiffon (now I know where I get my interest from) and my father wore his usual blue crushed velvet number. Which he was still ominously referring to as his “marriage suit.” Let’s hope this (number 4) really is its last outing. It’s a miracle of modern tailoring, and his ability to suck his stomach in for extended periods, that he still fits in it. After they exchanged vows my parents stared into each other’s eyes. It was actually quite moving. Outside the Registry Office Guido said I threw a box of confetti over their heads with particular gusto. I guess it was the relief it was all over. Then we took a cab to Boulevard Brasserie in Covent Garden where we met a whole bunch of their friends. I’ll give them this – my parents sure know how to throw a terrific party. They both looked very happy; like people who, whatever they have found again, had been given a second chance.

Today, in stark contrast to love (re)found, was love horribly lost. This morning I met Gary. We drank a coffee and split a double chocolate chip muffin at the cafe. I’ll be honest. The conversation was difficult. We spoke about him returning back to work at the airline. He was keeping busy working extra shifts – he said. I asked him if he was eating properly. He was trying to but keeping busy working extra shifts – he said. I asked how he was coping. He was coping by working extra shifts – he said. Everytime I mentioned Ted’s name, Gary wept. You cannot simply wash away all those years of loving together in four months. Bereavement is such a lonely torture.

“Somebody told me that how I feel will never change,” said Gary, “but how I deal with those feelings eventually does.”

As he left I hugged him and said we’d meet for lunch. He was busy working extra shifts, but he’d try – he said.

Later, when Guido finished lunch service, I asked him to come upstairs with me and we decadently had sex right in the middle of the afternoon. It was sex of the making love variety – as opposed to the sex of the jumping off our chest of drawers enthusiastically holding a tube of spreadable cheese variety.

I guess you could say Guido and I are neither a love lost nor one newly found. We’re in a category all by ourselves that’s called an ongoing “work in progress.” But what I do know is, whatever we’ve got, I never want it to end.

[Apologies for the technical glitch. And to any readers who get this post twice]

Melvin, and me

The rumour is that there are now two Melania Trumps. Or so conspiracy theorists seem to believe. This got me thinking and it didn’t take me long to begin to love the idea of having my own doppelgänger. Seriously, the possibilities could be endless. So over a lemon risotto last night I asked Guido what he’d think if there were two of me.

“Two,” he said, “of you,” he said, “at exactly the the same time?” he said. There was a short pause whilst he furrowed his brow. “I’d say one was more than enough.”

Personally I thought it was a terrific idea; everyone should have a spare. Provided I could find someone with convincingly bushy eyebrows, a nose shaped like a banana, and a pathological love of baked cheesecake, I reckoned it would be almost impossible to tell us apart. And I’ve already thought of a name for the other me.

I’m calling him Melvin.

With the right tweaks and a few days coaching I reckon Melvin would be completely interchangeable in everything I do.

Ever woken up on a week day and felt like crap? Call Melvin. Late night grocery store shopping on a budget? Call Melvin. A tedious lunch with my mother? Call Melvin. My mother would be so busy drinking gin and talking about herself she probably wouldn’t even notice it wasn’t me.

“Well, not at exactly the same time,” I said. “it’s not like I’m looking for an identical twin to hang out with and wear the same clothes.” I mean really, I’m not a complete freak. “Just someone I could call up once in a while to come over and fill in for me.”

Honestly the more I explained this the more convincingly logical it was becoming.

“Sounds complicated to me,” said Guido, “What if this Melvin guy turns up when you weren’t expecting him and you both ended up in the same place at the same time? How would you dig your way out of that one?”

You see, that’s what I love about my husband, his ability to seek answers to what is already ridiculously implausible. Though I suppose I only had myself to blame. I suddenly found myself wondering if Melania ever had similar conversations with Donald. I’d bet she did.

“And would Melvin be able to do that weird thing to me with his tongue in exactly the same way that you do?”

I almost dropped my spoon. As far as I was concerned the only thing Melvin was going to do with his tongue was talk.

“Well let me tell you something mister,” I said, “ if you think for just one minute that anyone is going to do that weird thing to you with their tongue – which has taken many many years of practice and most of it in the dark I might add  – it’s going to be me. So if this Melvin imposter ever suggests any tongue action I want to be the first to know.”

Mervin’s got some nerve. I didn’t like this side to him one little bit. I was hoping he’d be satisfied with office work, shopping, and lunch with my mother. Hell, I was even going to throw in cheesecake, but no, suddenly Melvin has to go and get his big tongue out.

I ate my risotto. Then later in bed I did that weird thing to Guido with my tongue. And I’m telling you – Melvin doesn’t stand a chance.

I won’t have what he’s having

I think it was Shirley Conrad who once said “life’s too short to stuff a mushroom” but if someone bakes one then I’m happy to eat it. Especially if it’s got crushed garlic, chopped parsley, smoked ham and a topping of crispy breadcrumbs.

“Hey, snap out of it,” said my friend Marc clicking his fingers impatiently. I met him for lunch yesterday at The Spanish Onion. There were no mushrooms on the Specials Board and I was getting the distinct impression that, whilst life may not be too short, he was definitely measuring it.

For some strange reason he was wearing sunglasses (indoors) despite the fact it was dull outside. Worryingly, since we last hooked up, he’s also become a devotee of Wellness. Something of a craze round these parts. I don’t know about you but as far as I’m concerned, wellbeing, isn’t about an extreme lifestyle choice. It’s about not getting sick.

“I’m having on average 7 hours and 36 minutes sleep – I’m timing it,” he said. “When I wake up I immediately turn on the infrared light at the end of my bed and meditate. It helps focus my mind for the day ahead. I shower using only organic products. You do know shampoos and gels are totally toxic? Then I weigh myself and use a litmus strip to test my urine pH levels.”

Goodness, I thought, no time for Cheerios then?

“I take shots of activated charcoal or an isotonic supplement. The latter comes from plankton. That way I stay hydrated. Oh, and by the way I’ve converted to vegetarianism. It’s been scientifically proven that when an animal is killed the cortisol they release into their bodies ends up flowing into yours. However, I’m finding eggs a colonic challenge.” I guessed an omelette for lunch was out.

Apart from the words – it helps keep me hydrated – I didn’t have a clue what Marc was talking about. But I couldn’t help wonder when was the last time he had decent sex. No wonder he was still single.

“So, Greta Garbo, what’s with the sunglasses in January?” I asked.

”They’re a blue light block – it cuts out negative junk,” he said. “Did we high five? I like to share magnetic energy.” He raised a flat palm so naturally I slapped it. Afterwards I could feel a slight tingling but no magnetism. I suppose I should’ve been grateful he wasn’t asking me to take a piss on a colour chart.

This kind of wellness sounded torture to me. I’m all for feeling fit and happy but why does the journey there have to be so monastic? What next, laying on a bed of nails? By all means I’ll cut my cholesterol and even shed a few pounds in the process. Hell, I’ll try not to drink so much alcohol too (ok let’s not get carried away folks), but where’s the joy? The peanut butter? The custard? The immoral thoughts of bearded men with no clothes on?

Later when Guido and I were in bed I asked him if he thought life was too short to appreciate a good mushroom.

”Not if it’s got crushed garlic, chopped parsley, smoked ham and a topping of crispy breadcrumbs.”

Which just goes to show my husband and I know what we like stuffed. And I feel perfectly fine telling you that.

All of us

In the story, A Christmas Carol, Scrooge gets home on Christmas Eve and is visited by three phantoms. One is Christmas Present. His purpose is to take Scrooge all around town and prove that both the wealthy and the poor seek solace in the cheer of the company of others. He’s introduced to people who are invested in sharing with others, and being grateful for whatever they have, regardless of their means.

The great thing I’ve discovered about blogging is that there aren’t any town boundaries. On line there’s no actual material distance or time zones. Visitors check in on you. If you’re lucky they’ll read you all the way to the end of your post. Then if you’re very very lucky they might even leave a comment about what you’ve written to tell you what they think.

Over the past three years I’ve had a bunch of regular visitors who have turned out to be a happy band of followers. For them it makes absolutely no difference what colour, gender, sexual orientation, politics or religion the writer holds, as long as he or she has conviction in what they believe and holds his or her own. Of course you can’t expect to agree with all of what you read. Left or Right. Blue or Red. Straight or GAY. Maple Surup or Mayonnaise. We keep our own moral high ground over individual differences because we’re invested in reading about each other’s lives. We cast a hook when we write and then reel each other in. That band of bloggers post poems, recipes, music, writing, pictures (of all sorts), personal thoughts, hopes and sometimes their dreams.

I’m no Scrooge but I know what I’ll do if Christmas Present stops by tonight. We’ll go on a blog tour. I’ll show the phantom the true meaning of what it’s like to seek solace in the virtual company of like minded others who are grateful for what they have. Who invest a bit of time to catch up with one another, regardless of our means.

So whether you’re a reader who’s never commented, you’ve done it only once and never again, or you’re a serial visitor, I hope you’ll join the band. All are welcome.

Have a Happy Christmas everyone.

Someone like me

It was my father’s third wife who told me, then as an awkward teenager, I was somebody who was really special.

“Always remember,” Flora said, “someone like you is born to sing their own song.”

I, of course, instinctively knew right at that moment, she knew, that I knew, exactly what she was talking about.

“And don’t you ever be afraid to sing it,” she said.

Flora was all of the things that draw you to a person. Compassionate, unconditionally loving, prone to drama, but a whole bunch of fun to be around. She thought absolutely nothing of baking me a chocolate gateaux for weekday breakfast. Which regular readers will now know probably explains a great deal about me. Although she didn’t have any children of her own, she had the ability to tap into what was crackling over a gay adolescent’s frequency like an untuned radio; yet still able to make perfect sense of it to translate for the listener.

“ When you’re older – listen out for someone else singing the same song,” she went on, “and if you hear it, promise me you won’t be scared to listen to it.”

I’ve never forgotten about that conversation with Flora, and was reminded of it again when I saw two young guys in our cafe courtyard this lunchtime. It’s one of the first occasions Guido’s set up tables outside in the Denmark Hill garden. And when I use the term garden, it’s in the loosest possible sense. The place has had a brush up and a lick of paint. You’d be impressed.

I watched them both. They were laughing. They ordered club sandwiches with extra ketchup, they shared a Coke from the same iced glass and for the longest time they stared at one another. Then one reached out and held the other’s hand.

That’s when I heard a familiar song playing in my head. Someone like me can’t miss it.

“Why d’you have such a happy smiley face on?” asked Guido when I strolled into the kitchen.

“I just heard a song I like,” I said.

I pulled a stool up at the counter top where he was mixing the contents of a cake batter. It looked wet and thick and luscious. It took a great deal of self restraint – of which I have very little – to stop me from sticking my finger into it.

“Yeah?”  he asked, “which one?”

He had a dap of flour on his left cheek and his apron was crisscrossed around his muscle shirt. When he flashed me a wide smile I reached out and stroked the back of his hand.

“Let’s just say” I said, “it’s a favourite of mine.”

A little while ago, when the cafe closed, I came back out into the courtyard. The sun is still casting shadows on the tops of the roofs here in London. I know Guido’s inside tidying up because I can hear the sound of pots clattering from the kitchen. The window’s open and he’s just started singing along, at the top of his voice, to a tune on the radio.

He’s the worst singer. Yet in that little nano second of a moment, I got the feeling that everything is good around here. Just maybe it’s all going to work out.

And you have no idea how happy that really makes me feel.

Only when I laugh…

I’ve been reading about an interesting discovery made by researchers in Canada. It turns out a misconception that smiling makes people look younger is actually doing the opposite and is making us all look older.

You read it here first folks.

A group of people were asked to guess the ages of 35 men – some of whom were smiling and some who had neutral expressions. The results concluded that those who were smiling were judged to look older than their true age. The Pysconomic Bulletin and Review (there’s a publication which trips off the tongue) concluded that wrinkles around the eyes when smiling were to blame.

I stared apprehensively into the bathroom mirror yesterday morning and smiled and guess what? The scientists were right. However, there remained a small crumb of hope. If I closed the bathroom blinds to make it dark, and then straightened my face I reckoned I could easily pass for several years younger. The trick was to make sure I didn’t twitch a single facial muscle.

I strolled through the cafe kitchen on my way to work. An aroma of warm vanilla pancakes filled the room. My nostrils were flexing but my face was totally poker. In fact it was more poker than when I’m actually playing poker. I passed Guido who was methodically stirring a small pan of porridge. He was smiling – so he’d obviously not read Pysconomic Bulletin and Review any time recently.

“Good-bye husband,” I said. Only it came out more like a ventriloquist whose lips weren’t moving. Unfortunately this sounded as if I was saying “Shood-guy dachshund.”

Guido stopped stirring, and then smiling.

“What the hell’s gotten into you?” he said.

I could’ve stopped to explain but I was worried it might age me so I kept walking. Honestly, I could feel the years dropping off with every step.

When I arrived at the office my assistant, Toby, got increasingly alarmed by my new demeanour. He doesn’t like change of ANY kind. Readers may remember Toby has Obsessive Compulsive Disorder which obviously makes him a laugh a minute to work with. I don’t think spending all day trying to fathom my totally random filing system helps. It’s really not that surprising he’s always so miserable. Although bearing in mind recent Canadian research, this could explain why he looks about 13 years old, despite being 25.

Toby kept trying to cheer me up. He made hot chocolate. He even put snipped up marshmallows on top into the shape of the Eiffel Tower.

“I could tell you jokes?” he said after an hour.

I’d been completely silent because I’ve also discovered that when I talk I excessively raise my eyebrows.  That creases my forehead which doesn’t help on the wrinkle front.

“This Rabbi and this Priest were playing golf…,” said Toby suddenly.

“Oh really,” I said, “you don’t have to do that.”

There was another pause.

“I know one about a penguin who goes into a bar,” he said.

Last night in bed Guido told me laughing was good for me. Apparently it’s scientifically proven that the more you laugh the longer you’ll live. So I told him the penguin joke.

“A penguin goes into a bar and asks the barman if he’s seen his brother. I don’t know, says the barman – what does he look like?”

I sure hope it works.

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.