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Clothes horse, claret and Claridge September 18, 2011

Posted by normanmonkey in Food, Friends.
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What a difference a week makes. Today a home cooked Sunday roast with the girlfriend and domestic harmony; last week I was at the fag end of a ‘Gentleman’s Three Dayer’, surrounded by brimming ashtrays, empties, take away containers and manly pursuits with old friend Ed Wells and a cameo from Robbie Gale who lingered long enough for his wife to call him back home.

What was supposed to be a civilised Friday fine dining lunch at Drake’s in Ripley was somewhat fraught thanks to a murderous hangover as we got carried away on the good stuff the night before. Chit chat and decorum went out the window in favour of Ollie Reed style bravado and dancing around the house. Drakes is worth a visit (go for the duck) but ideally don’t enter with shakes and the eloquence of Dappy from N Dubz when confronted with a menu discussion with the front of house.

What can also throw the fragile diner is a somellier the spitting image of obscure character actor Paul Giamatti,  star of Sideways where he plays a neurotic wine obsessive so for reasons only those who were present on the Thursday night could possibly understand, I was watching his every move like a hawk. I in turn managed to knock my glass of wine – the one included in the set lunch price – flying across the restaurant thanks to a lack of spacial awareness and was humbled when Giamatti cleaned up my mess and refilled my glass.

‘What did you do for three days?’ asked the new girlfriend. We talked a lot I replied.

‘So did you talk to Ed about me?’ asked the new girlfriend. Yes, I replied, but when she asked what I told him I was at a loss. I mean, I told him she existed and she was very nice, but that’s about the extent of it and that’s the thing women don’t get. When two men of a certain age get together in a moment of freedom the last thing they will ever talk about is their partner.

‘So what did you talk about for three days then?’ she asked baffled. Well, after the initial two minutes confirming our respective partners were alive and probably well, the remainder of time drinking and breathing fire on the wheat fields of human mediocrity. Particular mention should go to the 41-year-old unemployed man in that day’s paper who was killed by his clothes horse. It transpires he’d tripped backwards and fallen into it after a marathon gaming session on his console. What did his 18 year old daughter ‘Shawnee’ (yes, we covered the name, the spelling and the wretchedness of modern names) have to say in tribute to her father at the inquest? He loved his X-box. The verdict on his death was accident. ‘More like natural selection!’ we concluded.

Other mentions must go to footballer Jack Wilshere who was pictured with a new tattoo of a praying Virgin Mary up his arm (‘Prat!), the purchase of a new mouse that came with an instruction manual, people who eat out at Bella Pasta (‘Why do people pay go to a place that manage to fuck up a carbonara’) and a mutual acquaintance whose recent Facebook update was ‘I love my wife’ (that’s the sort of sentiment to keep to oneself and one’s wife – the update ‘I hate my wife’, however, has potential).

What else was on the list I can’t remember what else, definitely the football punditry of Steve Claridge (whose retort to anyone who disagrees with one of his opinions is a chippy ‘You aint never played the game’), but we filled 72 hours with a few pauses for broken sleep, made ourselves thoroughly angry and ill in the process and intend to do it again as soon as possible.

Straight Outta Compton August 29, 2011

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‘As I l leave, believe I’m stompin’, but when I come back, boy, I’m straight outta Compton’ – Ice Cube

In days long gone an August bank holiday was a perfect excuse to not go to sleep for 72 hours in the company of other itinerants a backdrop of thumping beats. Not anymore. Those same itinerants are now hollow-eyed and sleep deprived on account of their kids or running businesses and marathons, possibly at the same time.

As per usual I had been taken by surprise by the sudden arrival of an August Bank holiday. Where on earth do they spring from?  While trapped in the killing fields of commuting and the 9 to 5 (make that 6) ] I’d fantasised and whinged about  could be done if only I’d had the time the time. It was all visions of a weekend break in Rome or a bohemian day in Brighton and yet when the time came I realised it was too late to actually do anything meaningful.There was a mad scramble of phone calls, texts and tweets like a manager without a squad on transfer deadline day at 10.55pm and discovering that even Marlon King isn’t available.

So what did a Thirtynumbthing do with three days to fill?

Left to my own devices led to the usual distractions of writing a to-do list, losing it, giving up, and then forming a nest of papers, magazines, endless cups of tea,  and an interminable feed of live sports. That was Saturday morning. By Monday however the mind-numbing effect of Sky Sports News and fermenting scent of stale sweet and sour sauce tends to lead for a call to action. What was needed was escape from the detritus of my own mounting detritus. My kitchen had turned into a scene from a William Burroughs novel. Something had to be done!

Straight Into Compton
There comes a moment when a man doesn’t want cocktails or to be surrounded by hipsters and urban attitude. I’d hit that moment and what I craved was a radical departure reassurance and twee harmony. Above all that I wanted cake.

In what may prove to be a defining turning point I went online not to Time Out but Surrey Life.  The pleasurable afternoon I had as a result could be a portent of the comfortably numb future that will befall us all before incontinence.

If anyone goes to Compton in Surrey in a confused pilgrimage to the place made famous by Niggaz With Attitude they will be sorely disappointed.  Among the cottages and rolling green hills there’s a distinct lack of gang warfare, bitches or LAPD brutality.  I, for one, would still very much like to see a twin-town exchange programme and the resultant fall out in a fly on the wall documentary.

What Compton lacks in crack houses is made up for with the Watts Gallery Tea Rooms and a fine lemon sponge for starters. The Watts is precisely the kind of place a person can end up and lose an afternoon watching middle-England in full throttle. I’d been transported to another England, one well away from the London of my work week, the one of traffic, uppity bar staff, drunks on the Jubilee Line, wasabi popcorn, feral kids, feral social media gurus or cabbies moaning about ‘the fackin’ Spurs’.

This was a haven of scones with jam and clotted cream, genteel old ladies, upstanding families, children (and even dogs, come to think of it) seen and not heard. Everything and everyone had a place and permanence to the point you could practically hear Elgar playing in their footsteps. It was, in the words of Vivian Stanshall, ‘English as tuppence, changing yet changeless as canal water, nestled in green nowhere’.

The only hitch was that I’d left my wallet at home. What would Ice Cube or Eazy-E of NWA have done in Compton when faced with only enough change for the tea room or the Watts exhibition, but not both?  According to ‘Cube’ when he’s called off, he’s got a sawn off, squeeze the trigger and the bodies get hauled off.
Wise words, but armed only with a lighter and a copy of The Guardian, violence was not an option. It meant forsaking the Victorian art and sculpture of George Frederic Watts in the Gallery favour of Welsh rarebit and cake in the cafe. Yet again, my stomach triumphs in a mismatched bout with the arts. I shall be back.

What did I learn? Firstly to plan future bank holidays well in advance; second to remember my wallet if I do should venture out and finally, next time I’m heading down to Compton to pack a sawn-off just in case I can’t pay for a cream tea.

This article first appeared as Thirtynumbthing @blokely.com

One wedding and a wardrobe February 13, 2011

Posted by normanmonkey in Food, Friends, Single London, Thirtynumbthing.
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‘So lets get this straight’, I said to one of my oldest friends with whom I was having dinner (Entree in Clapham – go for the venison with a Malbec), ‘We’ve spent the last two hours talking about random shit, including our respective man-flu and mid-life crises, QPR’s home form, you going for a 72 hour round trip job interview to China and how you thought Facebook had been started by Bill Gates, but you forgot to tell me that since I saw you three months ago you got married?’.

– I thought I’d told you?

– No. You hadn’t told me. Now the wedding ring on your finger makes more sense than it did earlier

It is refreshing there are still, in this blighted age of cuts and austerity, friends whom never fail to deliver 24 karat surprises. Even more so as earlier in the evening I’d asked about the whereabouts of his partner and how things had been going in his relationship. ‘She’s gone on holiday to India with a girlfriend of hers’, he replied, ‘We get on much better when we’re not together. I enjoy the peace and quiet.’ Hardly a good prognosis for a new couple, let alone a marriage.

I asked what happened to the wedding that was supposed to be happening at a villa in the South of France, the one that sounded like a scene from an F. Scott Fitzgerald novel. ‘All too complicated, expensive and too many rows’, he said. So it was decided to do something very low key, just immediate family. ‘How was it?’ I asked. ‘Horrific’ he replied.

– ‘Her father doesn’t approve that I’m not Jewish or converting to the faith. He even wanted me to be circumcised’

– ‘Well, I think we’d all support him on that one’

And so there we were, the Saturday before Valentines, two professional men for whom our numerous relationships have never delivered a chequered flag but a chequered past, enjoying a romantic dinner for two in a high-end French restaurant to the sounds of live dinner jazz in the background, sniffling with colds, pondering our own insanity and that of the opposite sex, surprised at his turn of events and my making the decision the best thing we could do with our evening is go to a bar and drink heavily.

The poor sod. He looked genuinely shellshocked at how his situation had changed so rapidly. Once the man about town, he’d been, hung, drawn and neutered. Life used to be a lot simpler. We’d go to these same bars a decade or so ago in a pack, but that pack is dispersed in pram pushing duties and the money once expended on Saturday night is now saved for school fees and people carriers – or in his case toward shoes and handbags. ‘She’s obsessed!’, he said, ‘And I’m not allowed to buy anything for myself”.

He had to be virtually dragged to a bar, reluctant because of the noise, complaining he was too old for this and visibly flinched in horror- to the comment of queueing strangers who witnessed it – when I turned from the bar and didn’t hand him the vodka and lemonade he’d requested, but a Jagerbomb. Several more followed and we smoked fags, reflected upon old times and current predicaments and agreed it was essential we did this more often for mutual support. All until it came for me to think about getting the last train home to West Byfleet.

– ‘I would suggest you stay at mine’, he said, ‘But I’m afraid I can only offer you the sofa’.

– ‘What happened to your spare bedroom?’

– ‘She made me turn it into a walk-in wardrobe’

With that I depaerted, comforted by the realisation the only woman presently in my life is ‘The Bulgairan’ who visits no more than once and week and her demands rarely exceed more than a new mop and a bottle of Harpic.

This column first appeared as Thirtynumbthing

Leaving Marbella September 15, 2010

Posted by normanmonkey in Food, Travel, West Byfleet.
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San Pedro, Marbella

There was a time when four days in Marbella was defined by emerging mid-morning from nightclubs, blackouts, coming to on golf courses, sleeping through the daylight hours and on at least one occasion, knocking a girl backward off the port wall in Puerto Banus harbour during an Errol Flynn style embrace.

A mid-morning stagger across the ninth hole in a party shirt whilst trying to ask in an advanced state of dehydration where and whom I am is certainly the closest I’ve come to playing a round of golf. The last night here, of which there has been many, has almost always involved incidents that one can largely place in the file charitably marked ‘Regrettable’.

Yet, this trip has been defined by long walks on the beach, grilled fish, the memoirs of Christopher Hitchens and spending the last night indoors listening to Ipswich-QPR on the internet with a single glass of rose. Normally listening to QPR would be good cause to go out and end up waking up in a bunker the next day, but times have changed. Another 3-0 win and still top of the league. The rest of the bottle of the rose had to be consumed to help numb the shock of looking at their standing in the Championship.

In fact, that’s one of the few things that will make returning to a rain-sodden West Byfleet and Bermondsey bordering on bearable. That and the matter of a night out tomorrow courtesy of 72 Point who are celebrating the opening of their London office. They’ve rightly gauged what will entice me from my post-holiday malady and it being the word ‘bar’ rather than ‘seminar’ .

The invite decrees that invitees are drawn from the London media set: journalists, opinion formers and the major players in the PR industry. Plus me and Dan Turner making up the numbers. In fact, Turner wangled an invite sometime after hearing about mine and I swear we’ve commissioned far more surveys than necessary around the time he was angling for an invite: we’ve probably got data on how slavery may come back into fashion, France being the country the great British public would must like to bomb to take their minds off the recession (come to think of it, one for the Daily Mail) and the Taliban’s favourite rom-coms of all time (Four Stonings and a Funeral?).

Whichever way one cares to at it, that’s tomorrow night sorted and Friday ruined. I hope last weekend is more successful than the last. Against better instincts a friend and I ventured to a crappy West Byfleet Italian restaurant by the name of Trevi where I’d been once before an served off-skate that tasted heavily of ammonia.

Just to prove a point I again ordered skate. One thing their kitchen could never be accused of is inconsistency. Again the skate was off and inedible.  Ideally the  portion of the evening which immediately wouldn’t have been spent locked in that toilet thanks to a jammed door. Thirty minutes is a long time in a cubicle, especially so when you were irate in the first place, your wine is getting warm and would actually be quite welcome not only to lift the spirits but wipe away the unshakable taste of ammonia.

After some time negotiating and explaining my predicament to an assortment of aging Italian waiters on the ‘other side’ I started to empathise with the predicament of the Chilean miners except for they got served far better food down a tube 2km underground.  The sound of a serious voice intervening with the words ‘Let me sort this. I’m a builder’ capped my night out. It seems the the skills endowed at building school on freeing a trapped media type from the karsi consists of trying the handle repeatedly (if only I’d have thought of that) and then beating the sdhit out of the door when the handle failed, something I’d been doing for some considerable time.

There were no well wishers, camera crews or garlands of flowers to greet me when I surfaced. Just a bewildered looking friend and a bill.  Not even a brandy on the house. Instead a grinning waiter said ‘You must be really embarrassed’. Well as a matter of fact yes I was rather and not as much as they should’ve been, but I’m glad he found it funny. Poisoned, incarcerated,humiliated and left for dead: who did they think I was, Rasputin? Which reminds me – not only is the Boney M track on him a great pop song, it’s also historically accurate. Stay in, check it out, avoid Trevi and spare yourself the indignation.

Twin Palms June 1, 2010

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Twin Palms, Surin Beach, Phuket

Anyone who knows me well enough knows I’ve been contemplating retirement around the time I finished University. Deep down in this troubled soul there is the realisation that deadlines, Powerpoint slides and the indignity of scrumming for a standing place on the Jubilee Line are not the ultimate fulfilment in life. Throw in QPR home defeats, hangovers that require the head being placed upon a marble floor, the haranguing of personal trainers in the mix as available forms of leisure escape and one can hardly look in the mirror and say ‘Aristotle Onassis, eat your heart out!’.

Where I truly do excel is in the dark art of of doing absolutely nothing. If the IOC had any foresight and made this an event at London 2012, I’d clean up and become a national icon. Sir Chris Hoy could rest easy that I’d not impinge upon his Shredded Wheat deal, Instead I could be the face of Silent Night with a nod to Linda Evangelista:”‘I wouldn’t get out for bed for less than $10,000…because I can’t move”. That kind of thing.

As anyone with any sense of style knows, the couplet of the words ‘backpack’ and ‘holiday’ should never meet. You ever heard of a backpack give you immaculate service or cool your fevered brow with an iced towel pooside as it correctly suspects you are about tohave a moment? This all brings us neatly to Twin Palms. I embrace the idea of lounging in the sun as adorable Thai women scurry around to tend to my carrot juice needs; that my residential suite has its own pool; that within it there’s two floors of open plan living space with a specially tailored mix of ambient music easing me through every gradual movement. There’s even my personal attendant, Pond (see, I’ve got a pool and a Pond) who is just the push of a buzzer away.

This place is manifest tranquility. We’re all so soothed by every touch and detail we don’t know quite what to do with ourselves so that’s why nothing seems best right now. Yesterday was spent lounging by the tree lined pool, a light lunch of seared tuna, idly turning the pages of Juliet Gardiner’s ‘The Thirties: An Intimate History’ (I wonder what J.B Priestly or Orwell would’ve made of this) as reality seeped out of the pores.

Couples walked hand in hand. I, meanwhile, walked chilled sauvingon blanc in hand – a partner that always gives and never answers back. Yet this is no place to take alcohol in great measure. There’s already so much in the detail here that it would spoil it. better instead just to sip, take it all in and think of those poor wretched bastards on the Jubilee Line and hope in all hope that time will freeze in its passing to prevent a return to all that.

In the evening the three of us (the English contingent from the Kuala Lumpur wedding if you haven’t been keeping up) ambled across the road to the deserted Surin Beach to take dinner on the sand at a simple, no-frills local restaurant called Two Brothers with a backdrop of lapping waves. Barbecued prawns the size of dogs, a tremendous take on pork with chilli and ginger and a spicy tom yum soup that blew the brains out ensured my night ended by going back alone to my residence to immediately jump in the pool to cool off and regain compsure that not even the Singha beer could provide.

There’s neither kids nor a single herbert in football shirt in sight. Quite frankly, I dread going back to Albion in the grip of World Cup fever that can be loosely translated as full of lager, idiocy masked as pride and naked aggression directed at television sets.

Having just breakfasted on fruit, muesli, coffee and a Marlboro Light, the pool and a relaxed session in the gym beckons for the duration of the day. We’re a million miles away from the Irish pubs, go-go bars, whisky buckets, ladyboys and ping pong balls of Patong. But also only thirty minutes. The plan is to go there tonight and that’s where it will, no doubt, all start to unravel.

I am with Leon and that’s not good news and I know he is updating his Facebook or what not saying exactly the same thing about me. It painfully reminiscent of the other week when Dan Turner and I found ourselves set to be abandoned by some Cow colleagues in Village East. I only found out the next wretched morning that we’d both taken turns to take the same person aside, grab them by the lapels and plead ‘You can’t go…you can’t leave me alone with him!’.

Check on me back here tomorrow morning. Pond, who is rapidily replacing my Surrey domestic Iliana in my affections, may well have her work cut out. And maybe the Jubilee Line or someone presenting to me in monotone about search engine optimisation with all the panache of a dead dog will not seem so bad afterall.

13 minutes to go May 11, 2010

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The ten day old flowers are faring up better in this kitchen than I am. This is self-imposed exile from London and Village East.

Last Friday ended up with half a dozen others pouring into the flat of a random Scotsman who had that week moved to London and had gone to VE for a quiet drink. Unluckily for him he met us.

Among civilised company, introducing guests to his flat with a beam across the ceiling would at best elicit nothing more than brief comment. I can think of few other people other than my colleagues who would see this as something to be straddled or swung from. Or taking over his Spotfiy and putting on Boney M’s ‘Rasputin’. Poor man. I wouldn’t blame him if he woke up in the morning and got the first train back to Peebles.

A Saturday afternoon spent in the Bermondsey Kitchen did not revive. After a full English and several bloody marys that best we could do was a crossword, slumped twitching on the sofa, and repeatedly impersonating a woman who answers the phone of a Chinese takeaway in Fleet.

This left very little time to get back to West Byfleet to meet a friend for dinner and cocktails at the newly opened Brooklands Hotel, a short hop away from Wisley House. Her cat Cuddles passed away last week and I was hoping to provide consolation but after a few Espresso Martinis the only thing I was able to do was sit on a bar stool and impersonate a woman who answers the phone of a Chinese takeaway in Fleet.

The Brooklands is worth a visit, though not after a night at Village East and the beamed flat of a Scotsman. The food was average, the re-interpretation of art deco tastefully done, but the people watching was spectacular.

Some of them looked more disoriented than I did and that takes some going. A man of a certain age thirty years older than a girl of an uncertain age, a show of leopard print; a couple in wild west shirts and jeans; and a couple in Adidas who looked like they’d missed the turning to Tesco by mistake. I mean, did they actually plan what they were going to wear out or simply roll around JD Sports covered in glue for a bet?

Anyway, that’s why I’m here now. Another night alone in the kitchen. Yesterday I actually did a runner from the office at 6pm to avoid being part of a Cow team in a pub quiz. A new recruit, Al, managed to dislocate his kneecap and so requires a taxi to take him to Waterloo. Myself and another colleague have taken full advantage of what has been labelled the ‘crip wagon’.

Honestly, I have never seen Mark Teale so mixed with excitement and agitation. Each journey he sits there twitching with his bag strap in disbelief that he and Al are both going to make the 6.23 to Fleet (hence the calls to the New Era – try saying that and hello with a Benny Hill accent – takeaway that have happened in the past fortnight) which is uncharted territory – like the breaking of the sound barrier.

There was an involuntary puff of the cheeks from myself as he explained why, with all the conviction he could muster, ‘It makes such a difference than getting the 6.36’. Well, yes, thirteen minutes.

What can one do with an extra thirteen minutes of an evening? As it is I struggle to fill thirteen in one night, let alone celebrate another batch. One shudders to think what Teale gets up to though I suspect it may involve home comforts. For me, it either means an earlier thirteen minutes in the gym or buckling to uncorking a Barolo one minute earlier than intended. That’s the options beyond Village East and a Scotsman with wooden beams leaving one to wonder if there’s the possibility of something inbetween. I doubt it.

Sunshine and dining: from Errol Flynn to Sid James April 7, 2010

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Nueva Andalusia, Marbella

Being the sole male in a Marbella apartment with three blonde girls may sound like the premise for a Jackie Collins novel, but the reality is more like being in an editorial meeting of Reveal magazine that lasted for five days with breaks for costume changes.

Beyond a soundtrack of heels and the application of slap, I now know more about Danielle Lloyd’s private life than I do my own and I swear mine is more interesting if only I could remember it.

Getting out at all proved to be a minor triumph given the time taken to get ready. By then I was already past my best after polishing off the chilled rose whilst in waiting and clock watching. I imagine it was all so different for Errol Flynn, which brings me neatly onto dinner.

The highlight of any trip to Marbella is a visit down the coast road to Robbie’s in Estepona. Robbie has been serving up up flamboyant food in fabulously kitsch and camp surroundings for over thirty years and never disappoints.

Any menu that contains delights such as cheese souffle David Niven, scrambled eggs and smoke salmon Errol Flynn, langoustines pil pil Betty Grable, Lemon sorbet with vodka George Michael and marinated figs Barbara Streisand is always going to sound potentially dubious to the outside observer.

Yet, throw in an array of antique furniture and objects d’art; Sinatra, Holliday and Fitzgerald playing in the background; a Mariyln Monroe fixation, original vinyl LPs as place mats, candlelight and every inch of wall space adorned by pictures of stars from Hollywood’s golden era (plus a smattering of Bowie. Clooney, Madonna and DiCaprio) then you are stepping into the right direction.

Beyond unique, the considered over-the-top decor and ambience the hospitality, cocktails and exquisite food seal it. There’s four varieties of fillet steak – all named after leading men and include the likes of dates, blueberries and a smoked salmon wrapping topped with caviar in their offering. It shouldn’t work, but it does.

This is no novelty restaurant. It’s the real deal and a work of art. Like any artist, Robbie doesn’t advertise or make his venue easily accessible. You have to seek it out and it is not at all easy to find.

It is somewhere that is discovered, anonymously tucked away on a cobbled side street in an antiquated building. Behind the inconspicuous double doors one steps into a world of fantasy, a full size statue of Marilyn, chandeliers and within seconds Robbie, looking not dissimilar to a shorter, cheerier version of Barry Gibb to welcome you into his world.

Over the past decade or more I’ve been there with a fair few female companions. Just weeks into our courtship I took the Last One there on a whirlwind trip to Andalusia and Robbie greeted her, praised her looks and turned to me asking aloud ‘Do you think you’ll keep this one?’. That’s a conversation starter, let me tell you.

A return last summer and he congratulated her on the fact we were still together and waved his hands in the air declaring our gorgeousness as a couple. One thing he hasn’t got is a crystal ball because it all fell apart a day or two later with an evening in Cordoba that still makes me curl into a foetal position at the mere memory of it.

So, to turn up with three women prompted a ‘Goodness, you’ve now got a harem!’ and has insisted I post a photo I took of he and harem together for a place on his wall. Alongside portraits of Rita Hayworth, Judy Garland, Clark Gable, Montgomery Clift and Esther Williams, that is the highest form of flattery anyone can get. That is apart from being a famous regular and getting a dish named after you – hence the presence of apple crumble Cilla Black on the menu.

That was the Easter weekend. After a flight back where for three hours I was pressed against the window by a fat family who presumably won their holiday in a competition on Ceefax, we’re back now to British weather, South West Trains and neighbours not speaking to me after the somewhat Babylonian all-night birthday party at Wisley House the previous weekend (which, thanks to certain colleagues was transformed into G.A.Y).

Call me insightful, but I don’t think the champagne cork blowing challenge on the front lawn at 8am won many admirers from Neighbourhood Watch.

The closest I can get to recreating the holiday vibe at Wisley House or Cow PR is naming my meals after celebrities. Tomorrow I can barely contain myself at the thought of waking up to a bowl of porridge Jeremy Paxman and tuna baguette Stan Bowles followed by a fruit salad Kenneth Williams from Sainsburys in Bermondsey Square. Oh, the glamour!

Coffin and wheezing February 8, 2010

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So much for a return to personal training. One session on Friday rendered me handicapped by Sunday as my arms seized up to the extent I would’ve not even made a convincing cast member of Thunderbirds This was unfortunate as my friend Lucie was coming over to West Byfleet for Sunday lunch.

She’s not been having the best of times and hasn’t so much been burning the candle at both ends but thrown it on the incinerator. Only the other morning she was walking down the road and saw something padded and enticing in the corner of her eye in a shop window and thought ‘Ooh, that looks comfy, I could settle in that’. Upon further inspection it transpires her eyes had been drawn to a coffin at a funeral directors.

Yet, instead of being looked after, Lulu had to adopt the role of nurse, especially after my driving for 15 minutes meant my arms had locked into an outreaching position and I entered the Running Mare in Cobham like an unlubricated robot, also requiring assistance removing my coat (and putting it back on when I required a cigarette).

However, she did concur that the pub does the best Sunday roast bar none (a mixed roast of lamb, pork and beef with home made potatoes and Yorkshire pudding is a rare find and to be celebrated), even if it did also involve performing arm stretches for me across the dining table, resulting in the occasional agonised scream from me and offended stares from other patrons.

So much for personal training. Another few sessions like that and I’ll be in that coffin and it won’t be for a snooze.*

*My personal trainer has just contacted to tell me that I’ve got microtrauma, stop whinging and it’s a good thing. Could’ve fooled me. Since when was any form of trauma a good thing? Trauma was me being trapped in the gents cubicle in the pub when it stuck and having to hold part of the lock and do the twist with my body because there was no strength in my arms

Blame it on the Culross January 28, 2010

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It was one of those mornings where one gets out of bed, immediately recalls what happened the night before and needs to lie down again. There is an inclination to blame an old school cocktail from the 1920’s called Culross. Look it up. It’s very good, certainly moreish but the cumulative effect of that is one’s female companion thinking it a perfectly reasonable idea to teach me how to do the Waltz in the bar of the achingly fashionable Soho restaurant Hix (go for the lemon sole with clams).

Naturally I was useless, again I blame the Culross, and it’s a good job the proprietor and chef Mark Hix (the man behind the food at both Scotts and The Ivy) had left sometime before this spectacle. Plus the partner of a colleague who happened to be there by coincidence. I felt relief when he came over to say goodnight. Even before careering into someone else’s table attempting the Cha-Cha there was the dawning awareness that the evening was going to head into a tailspin.

It all reinforces the conclusion that neither she nor I should be allowed out. Certainly not together. Far too combustible. I relayed the specifics of the evening, none of which I can share beyond that, to my friend Ed Wells. He’s given up being appalled, but instead simply asking ‘What now?’

After months of persuasion he has finally got round to going on Twitter and already i’m thinking it was a humdinger of a mistake to encourage my colleagues to follow him to get him started. if he starts he may not stop and I’ll have to leave the country under an assumed name.

We also discussed the matter that I will be forced to leave the country soon because I and a couple of our mutual friends will be going to Kuala Lumpur for a wedding in May. One of whom I don’t know that well, but as Ed reliably informed me ‘He’s a social grenade n’all!’. Ed suggested that, as we’re going to a strict muslim country, we might as well put a four figure sum in an account now and give him the code to sort out the inevitable transfer of funds for bail.

This is exactly the kind of preparation those of us without an ‘Off’ switch have to consider when visiting different cultures, especially for a wedding.

For the second week we are planning a beach holiday in Thailand. That sounds like a recipe for disaster. Leon Dale has been doing the thorough research and concluded Phuket is the place to head. Everyone I’ve subsequently spoken to has looked aghast and said ‘Don’t go there…it’s just like Blackpool!’.

For the record, Leon is from Blackpool so that explains the extent of his research. He probably thought it a home from home, just the difference is you;ve got sunshine instead of interminable drizzle and it’s lady boys wearing ‘Kiss me quick’ hats and not some boozed up fat shaz from Accrington. Maybe they have ‘Kiss me quick five dorra!’ hats instead. I don’t intend to find out as there is definitely calmer, more tranquil options for a Thai beach holiday and we’ll doubtless show ourselves up in those places instead. By then, the cha-cha-cha may have improved.

J Sheekey, I Shakey January 25, 2010

Posted by normanmonkey in Consumer PR, Food.
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It pays if you go on a wayward night on the tiles of a Friday night to remember that you’ve got a new bed being delivered and an old bed taken away at 9am on Saturday morning.

The shock of waking up bolt upright alone in a kitchen chair was made worse by having three large, unsmiling northerners marching through the house with a bed, discovering that I was utterly unable to communicate and having to scuttle off into hiding until confronting the situation was absolutely necessary. The upshot is I pointed to the wrong bed in the wrong room for them to take away.

At the time I, after the banging and crashing sound of a bed being assembled, was simply relieved to be done with it and have anything to lie down on.

It’s been that kind of week and certainly has there been little time for composition. Sudden deadlines meant that I did a 20 hour working day on Monday. Or was it Tuesday? I’m not entirely sure. There is a school of thought that time is a social construction, but as days of train journeys and unhinged hours writing up pitch ideas alone in the office merged into one i didn’t see anything social about that particular construct.

That is until I met the Last One for dinner in J Sheekey. Most people would typically ensure there was time for an aperitif before dinner, but typically we allowed for ninety minutes – normally the maximum allotted time it takes Queens Park Rangers to send a man plummeting into existential torpor – working our way through an assortment of bloody marys, kir royales before moving onto the Sancerre. Dinner was excellent – the hake with wild boar meatballs merits another visit – and the company was good. There’s no agendas anymore. We can relax and conspire to put the world to rights.

At the table next to us was a famous British fashion designer with a trio of braying Ab-fab types. On my journey I’d seen a news piece in the Standard about the surprise engagement of a very famous comic actor to an anonymous model. Sure enough, comic actor swanned over to the table next to us and there was much air kissing and sincere congratulations.

‘You must be so thrilled!’ they cooed. More air kissing, fluttering and posturing ensued then comic and anonymous model bade their farewells. Ensuring comic was out of earshot the table next us all screamed ‘But he’s GAY darling!’.

Somebody really should tell her and I bet she thinks she’s got quite a catch. It doesn’t take a genius to see there is more than a touch of lavender there, but it just goes to prove how vapid and clueless models are. The Last One didn’t look impressed and rightly so. People get what they deserve. On that note we had a big pitch win last week and it was thoroughly deserved and almost unexpected. Celebrations were splendid in Village East on Friday night, though more understated than the previous Friday when there wasn’t much to celebrate other than it being Friday and not Monday.

In scenes more reminiscent of Ibiza Uncovered than West End shi-shi, that particular foray saw a colleague physically carried out of the bar of the Sanderson (it pays to eat and youngsters going on about eating is cheating should be ignored), hauled out onto the pavement with even less dignity than my bed on Saturday. At least, with my form for assisting with removals, I wasn’t asked to identify who needed shifting or some poor sod minding their own business and perfectly functional would’ve been emptied into a taxi.

Finally, if you are going to have a night like that and recount it in all it’s unfettered shambles and indiscretion to a colleague the next day, before you go on a ten minute rambling monologue ensure you’ve called the right colleague and not the straightest person in the office who was quite rightly appalled. ‘What?…You mean this isn’t? …oh God…HELLO!…erm..this is recorded message by someone impersonating me…’.

The memory of that sudden sinking snap of realisation of my has come flooding back. I need to lie down again and any bed will do.