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Showing posts from October, 2010


I learnt the secret of a good Bolognese sauce from a man who looked like George Best.
It was 1979. I met him at the bar of Lord’s Discotheque in St. Helier, Jersey. He said his name was Joe, that he drove tourist coaches for a living and he came from Argentina.
I don’t know if he was a particularly good liar, or perhaps a particularly good impersonator – he even went to the trouble of carrying a coach driver’s license tag on his key-ring – but I was twenty-one and particularly na├»ve. I believed that his jealousy, sullen moods and tendency to show up at my place at all times of the day and night were proof that he loved me.
This was my first Bolognese, courtesy of Robert Carrier, whose precise instructions I followed to the letter, slice and ounce for hours on Sunday morning. Joe was due at my flat at one o’clock. He turned up two hours later in full defensive bluster, blaming a football game he’d forgotten about, trying to make me laugh about the whole thing, and, when that failed, res…

James Bond, License to Cook

I saw 'Goldfinger' at Butlins in the summer of ‘66. A woman painted gold. Private jets. Quite a lot of kissing. And a man called Oddjob who sliced off people’s heads with his bowler hat. My sister and I blinked out of the cinema into the heat and light of an afternoon we’d forgotten was there. At eight and eleven, it was the first ‘grown-up’ film we’d seen and it was even more special to us because a welsh woman, Shirley Bassey, sang the title song.
It was on commercial TV yesterday afternoon. This time around, different things made an impression: the champagne: Dom Perignon ‘53 the meltingly good cut of Connery’s clothes (the all-in-one towelling sun-suit aside) the not so good join in his toupee the women's pointy triangular breasts the theme: the obliteration of the world economy which in the light of current events didn’t even have a glimmer of fantasy about it. Eight years ago, over Christmas and New Year, we stayed on Hillsboro Beach, north of Fort Lauderdale on Florida’s…

Out of the dark

I am sitting on her lap in the dark, the rubber studs on her suspender belt pressing into the back of my legs, my knees grazing the velvet seat in front. When the heavy curtains slide open, the light is almost too bright for my eyes. The usherette in a pink and white uniform walks back up the aisle with her tray of ice-creams. The scent of perfume and cigarette smoke. The swing doors softly bump against each other as they close. On the screen a man with an oiled chest strikes a big brass gong.

I thought I was four, but the film we saw, ‘The Three Lives of Thomasina’, was released in 1964. I would have been five or six. My brother was born the year before. My sister would have been nine. But they are not here. I am with my mother, in a space where we do not speak, a space that belongs only to me.
She liked Cadbury’s Bournville so I decided to like it too. When my sister and I started going on our own to the Saturday Matinees, at The Odeon in Bethany Square, I’d buy a big bar from the sw…

Little tricks

‘Do you want a sandwich?’ I ask Summer, my grand-daughter. If she chooses what she wants for lunch she might end up eating it.
‘How about an avocado?’
She is four. ‘Do you know what an avocado is?’
‘Yes. It’s green, like a pear, and it has a big stone inside.’

 There were no avocados when I was growing up in South Wales in the early 1960s. The most exotic thing I remember was Vesta Beef Curry and Rice, reserved for my dad when he was working shifts. And Ski yoghurt. My mother bought one pot in the Co-op so we could all try it. 'It tastes like junket,' she said.
I didn't know what junket was but it sounded like it would come in a shiny aluminium bucket.

I didn’t like eating until I was around eight. Or, more accurately, I didn’t like eating dinners: breaded plaice with chips, peas and bread and butter, or roast beef, roast potatoes, carrots, cabbage and gravy. Food spread out and nudging the rim of my plate. I can’t remember having a reason …