DISCLAIMER- blog: standard student behaviour. woops. please humour me, by forgiving me for occasionally projecting the (generally inane/mundane) ponderings from my brain into a pretty font. it's just that blogging's quite relaxing. like sudoku, but with letters.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Davey Jones' Dinner Table

The ever ominous, but irritatingly knowledgeable "they" say that the way to a man's heart is through his stomach. "They"'re right again; it seems Portugal is bringing out the bloke in me, because, after only five days, I find myself being gradually seduced, one plate at a time.

And that's how time should be categorized here- not daily but dishly: 5 days translates as minimum 15 full meals, plus drinks, plus snacks plus bites-of-other-peoples-stuff-that-looked-nice. A telling cultural idiosyncrasy: Brits tell the time by how much the sun isn't there, the Portuguese by how close it is to lunch-time.

Here's some of the gastromagic that's been enchanting me over here:

From 3 hot plastic chairs, the Duck ordered us "Bacalhao no chupa", because it sounds fun and it might not be a burger. Maybe fish would turn up? Maybe some veggies? What swiftly, nonchalantly arrived was more: it was Fish. And. Veggies. And some kind of beautifully unnecessary onion-mayo octopus, lurking in the shadow of a stout crown of Lemon.

The day after the night before, it was decided that we would do something nutritious/wholesome- cue "Mariscos Kivos": the kind of fish restaurant where you can adopt the air of a firm but fair ruler, casting a discerning eye over a fish tank, before making your deadly selection....anyway, as this seems creepy/ power-trippy, we took the indirectly carnivorous approach. The Aardvark, the Duck and I blearily ordered, "Arroz do mariso especial", before lolling table-ward, eyes still gilded with a lucid film of Super Bock.

Cue cutlery chimes and a muffled, dense sound, not unlike a hefty object dropped through the waters onto a sandy seabed. Squinting back into focus, we saw a cauldron, billowing brine steam, had landed. It could have casually housed 6 generations of rampant generations of be-pincered seabeast and scampering aqua-critter....coincidence? Trust the Portuguese to whack in a saucepan what we put on a pedestal- amid saturated, aptly sand grain shaped, rice grains, we dredged three lobster halves (does the remaining half still battle out its days, teetering round in inevitable circles, featuring in rubber-necking Channel 4 documentaries; "Extraordinary Bodies: Severed Stew Survivor"?).

3/4 of an hour later, the Aadvark could be found star-fished on her mattress, a sign groggily pinned nearby, "Please wake me up when I don't have all of the sea in me? xx".

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Cerebral Breeze

(rather sizeable flag by the Duoro river in Porto)

(my pasty knees appreciating a beaching at Povoa De Varzim)

It came to my consentingly ultra-violated attention this afternoon, as I positioned myself spine-to-sand and space-to-face, that I'm not sure why beaches haven't completely ousted spas from the luxury leisure market. It's not as if beaches haven't got economies of scale on their side (given that there are roughly 356,000 km of coastline in the world, at least 2/3 of that must be deck-chair friendly). Although not all of them are accompanied by a glossy minimalist pamphlet or satisfyingly gravelly circular driveway, the beach rivals the spa in all the core credentials - simply trade fluffy bathrobes for charmingly frayed beach towels, flannel slippers for skinny dippers, candles and Perrier for Cornettos and pier-jumps; suddenly spas start to look like a primitive prototype for their sandy counterparts. Especially considering the luxury spa claim of the "all inclusive" notably excludes the smooth, cream-crested cerulean depths, freezer fresh Magnums and invitingly tanned locals called Pedro or something- it's a wonder tourists haven't thrown in their cucumber slices for sunglasses years ago.

A brisk sea wind rolls a soft jostle across my towel, through my toes. Tousling loose hairs, like the reassuring hand of a relative, it insistantly hustles out the pedantic strains and petulent stresses that, drainingly unwelcome, bustle and stagnate in every nerve ending, naggingly sensitive to every touch.

I'm relieved to feel them dusted away; those dredges and bundles of frantic fret that silently leeched from an otherwise sunny dispostion. The seaside is medicinal, purifying in its granular swerves, its blunt unhuman denial of repitition, disregarding of habit and the practical. Not one shore the same, not even the same stretch matches from second to second; but like James Bond's varying but inevitable successes, or Jordan's perennial demises, each more reliably and predictably embarassing than the last , the coastline reassuringly supplies a fret-draining fix at each and every port. Except Weston-Super-Mare, which remains life re-affirming solely for Jeremy Kyle's producer.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Harrow, Goodbye

"How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard."
— A.A. Milne

Blustered and mingling whorls of heeled up, tanned up, tanked up shadows ebb and flow. Road to road, house to taxi, they lace the wet air with the evenings jokes, amplified by lambrini. Looking out from my attic window, I'm about to go out and be one of them, all sparkles and picture-posing and quid-each-to-Broad-Street-yeah?. I can't wait. But, after tonight, I'll have to wait. The year abroad is so near now I can smell the gelato on its breath; the thrill of change so close, its almost tangible. Glancing back at my old, and someone else's new, room, I remember how it's quietly held it's own this past year.

The blue tack blemishes, pin pockmarks: evidence that it, fleetingly, held up posters, treasured photos, cards, decorations- flimsy projections of a personality that worked, rested, played and shortly stayed in these four walls. Housemates joined me here for the lows and the highs:

There's the high-flying Landan Gal, with a faff here and a Gallo there, she'll make the headlines (literally).
Our forever-birthday Performer Princess is the fun and glamorous star of the show, and the boss of it, naturally.
The Fresher's Choice and all-round bloke's bloke (but don't forget, Cameron's HIS main man) is always there to supply logic, reason and advice, fuelled by Coco Shreddies and Pot Noodle (that is unless it's Forrest'O'Clock).
There's the Main Mod, whose media technology, music knowledge, love of Smiley Faces and upholding of personal style remain unsurpassed.
And who could forget Chef Celtic: he's your man for football, films, cooking up hilarious disaster out on the town, and always for a hug and a glass of Papa Murdie's finest.
Last but not least, honorary member Top Tough Cookie, which I now know is a soft cookie really: together we should make bipolar opposing mayhem, but instead, I'm glad to know that her brusque, stylish self is always on the end of that award-winning phone.

So I turn and teeter downstairs to join them all for a drink and a party, altogether, once more with feeling. See you soon 53, you'll be missed.


Sunday, June 6, 2010

Chocolate Marble Cheesecake- patience is a virtue

So I had a balmy afternoon, a newly spangly-clean kitchen (thanks Shires) and the end of a terms loan dawdling in my debit card. What's a girl to do?

Each marbled segment a glistening portal to a peaceful 3 minutes or so- it was worth the wait, worth nearly buying blue food colouring instead of vanilla essence, worth actually waiting the proper time for it to chill instead of just shoving it in the bottom of the freezer. Cheesecake, an enigmatic delight: no matter how much double cream, creamy chocolate, sour cream and cream cheese you cream together and ladle onto butter biscuits, it inevitably results in fresh, soothing forkfuls, like clouds condensed. Oh goody, I can use my cake stand .... but why are there a pair of diamente grills and a stack of frat-party style cups living on it? Selly Oak, how I'll miss you...
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