Friday

Florida calls. And writing prompts.

We're flying to Florida on Sunday. We'll land in Miami around 5.30 in the afternoon, pick up a rental car and head north on I95 to Hillsboro Boulevard then turn east for the A1A and Royal Flamingo Villas on Hillsboro Mile, in the town of Hillsboro Beach. We'll drop our bags and go out for steak. Not any steakhouse and not any steak. It'll be Outbacks in West Boca and we'll both have the Victoria Filet, 'Pittsburgh' medium rare. ('Pittsburgh' is a steak cooked with a seared crust.)

There are a few branches of Outbacks in the UK. We've tried a couple but they're a completely different species to their American counterparts as far as quality of food and service are concerned. It's a chain restaurant with chunky wooden tables and no ceremony but I have yet to find a steak that's better. I've eaten ones in London, other parts of Florida, and Manhattan that have been equally good but at two, three and four times the price. So when we want steak we stick to Outbacks and the one in West Boca is our favourite because it's miles away from any tourist area and generally frequented by locals. And us.

They also (unlike the UK chain) have a great selection of Californian reds and they have an ahi tuna sushi entree that melts like butter in my mouth.


I've had that photo on file for two years. Just look at the spiced crust, the thin rim of cooked tuna and the rose pink hearts of sweet fish. Oh bring on Sunday evening!

This is food cooked simply, both  the steak and sushi, as close to their origins as possible. No cloak of sauce or cushion of stuffing. No culinary fireworks.

The last few years have seen me writing more simply, without the poetic fireworks that tended to garnish my first collection of poetry. My subject matter has changed too: my new book, a collection of haibun called forgiving the rain (due from Snapshot Press later this year) mostly deals with memoir, stories that have made me who I am, events from family life, memories of friends and places. The pieces of prose (many of which started life as posts on this blog) blended with haiku poetry approach their subject matter directly rather than obliquely. I don't seem to need the masks (and protection) of metaphor and persona that I leaned heavily on 8 years ago. This direct approach risks, every now and then, tipping the scale from strong emotion into sentimentality for some potential readers. But I would rather take that risk that not take it at all and produce writing that is competent and crafted but fails to make people feel.

The ocean at my doorstep
on Hillsboro Beach.
Our Florida holidays always encourage me to write; there's something about the location next to the Atlantic Ocean, the limitlessness of the view, the big skies, that infects me with expansiveness too. I hope to share some with you over the coming month. And some steak. And some wine. And there's a little hippy home-made burger joint on Hillsboro Boulevard that I want to try this time too: paper napkins, rackety tables and chairs but the char-grill aroma leads you by the nose to its door.

The downside of all this food and wine over the course of a month is that I'm likely to fly back as cargo. But I can always run up and down Port Talbot's mountains when I get back.


Hungry writing prompts
  1. Write about flying.
  2. Write about eating in a restaurant.
  3. Write about a sweet heart, or a sweetheart.
  4. Write about a time you were gripped with strong emotion.
  5. Write about expanding, literally and metaphorically.