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

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.

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.