So I was really in the mood for some fish soup. In the outhouse I happen to have a couple of food freezers, one of which contains seafoods various, both freshly caught and some from the fish market down by the riverside. I decided on a whole coley, a couple of recent John Doreys and a handful of prawns.

To start, one roughly dices a carrot, an onion, a small bunch of celery and one drops them in a pan in which one has heated a good puddle of the virgin oil, along with a couple of cloves of garlic, still clothed but slightly squashed. When the veggie bits are soft and deliciously translucent looking, one chops the boney fish into good sized pieces and adds them to the pan, flesh, heads, fins and all, along with a good squeeze of tomato puree and a handful of fresh herbs from the garden, in my case bay leaves, parsley and oregano. You pour in a quarter of a bottle of white wine and squeeze in the juice of a lemon, in my case a huge one what my friend Pat brought back from Turkey last week.

At this stage it smells good. So you pour on three quarters of a pint of fish stock, which I made a while ago with prawn shells, bass bones and loads of stock vegetables and herbs and then strained and froze, bring it to a simmer then you put a lid on it and turn down the gas. Then you sit out in the garden for about forty five minutes with a good book and a  couple of bottles of cold German Einkorn Weissbier. When you are jolted back to reality by the oven timer thing hollering at you, you saunter indoors, take the soup off the gas and pass it through a fine sieve into another saucepan.

Wash out the first pan quickly, melt a gobbet of butter in it and quickly fry the prawns until they go pink, signifying that they are cooked. Then pour on the lovely tomatoey fishey broth, which should actually be a little bit thicker than a broth, bring it back to just under the boil, then stir in a good bit of cream, double preferably but you’ll get away with single; I won’t judge your stinginess too harshly this time, and throw on a good sized pinch of freshly chopped parsley and a fine dusting of black pepper. Your mouth will fall in love.

On such evenings, with the heat of the day held still in the evening air and the honeyed scent of the lavender and astilbes masking the stench from the cathouse in the garden of the maniac who backs onto us, one could be forgiven for mistaking life as something of a blessing.

I’m adding this about ninety minutes after writing the stuff above, having just got home after my regular evening ride along the coast and back. Coming back, heading west as I have to into the setting summer sun, I swept gorgeously past a couple of cornfields. It was quite a sight as the sun, sitting relatively low above the horizon, was casting a blinding gold reflection off  the sea. And the fields of wheat and barley, as well as the long flowering grasses in the verges, stole all the silver and gold you can picture from the light and scattered the colours around them. It was a nice experience seeing it. I thought someone might like to know. It’s been a quite shitty year so far, and it just looks now like things might be picking up. My youngest daughter, who has spent far too many long nights since February in hospital cramped up with pain is improving, so I can have a week away at least. Going away next week.  So I’m getting a bit fucking happier.  Is that alright with you?


Man in a Shop

So there was this man, quite tall, quite good looking I’d say, and standing in my shop with a slightly bewildered, possibly hurt look on his face. If you’re interested, I’ve spent this evening since returning from my bike ride tonight listening to the gorgeous Pistol Annies at a very loud volume. Gawd, but I’m getting deeper and deeper into this shit kicking music. It helps that my new music system can cope with the volume. Girls’ vocals and twanging guitars. I like it loud. It stirs parts of me.

So there was this man. As I was saying. I was standing on my side of the counter, he was on the other and he was sort of looking at the pastries displayed before him. He’s quite new to town and he’s become a regular customer.

“I’ve just had a rather surreal experience,” he said, with a slight tinge of self doubt in his voice. I have to tell you, I had a moment of self doubt myself the other evening, while I was cycling along the beach. I’d paused, as is my wont occasionally, and was gazing out to sea. The sea and the sky had adopted a cloak of no colour. The sun had cast a silvery sheen over the whole, with a distinct absence of colour except for a band of the strangest yellow on the horizon. I kept thinking it was an optical illusion, but I gave them up a long time ago. Yes! There was this band of, to me, unexplained yellow light on the horizon. It was probably a reflection of sunlight in a band of distant haze, but I’m happy to leave it in the unexplained drawer in the cabinet of experience and carry on doubting myself, my eyes and if you must know, my own sense of existence. We like our colours, don’t we? And our commas.

“What experience was that then, dear customer?” I asked the man in my shop. God damn! That Ashley Monroe is hot. Yes she is. He looked up at me from the cakes.

“I’ve just had my hair cut. Have you ever had your hair cut by Richie? Across the road?” He had an uncomfortable look on his visage, so I tried to reassure him.

“Yes, I wouldn’t go anywhere else. He’s unique, isn’t he?”

“Unique?” He paused. “It’s like being a one man audience at a one man comedy routine in which the only word you hear is ‘fuck’, and you can’t heckle the maniac on stage because he’s constantly holding a lethal implement two inches from your eyeballs or your jugular.”

“That’s my old mate Richie,” agreed I. “He shows an absolute lack of restraint and self awareness there, doesn’t he? You’ve missed him at his peak though. He used to have a young assistant named Wee Fraser. It never mattered to them who was in the shop. Mums with young children, Guppy the Quaker, whoever; when the two of them were together it was like being caught up in a maelstrom of obscenities. Richie once accused me of being a homosexual purely on the fact that I hadn’t sexually assaulted a randomly selected geriatric holiday maker in Corfu last year. Me! Look at me. I’m fucking rampant, I am. He’s a man in a million though, is our Richie. Which reminds me, I need a trim. I’m off to Thesprotia next week, and I can’t go on my hols looking like a fucking tramp now, can I? So I’d better have a haircut soon. Lucky fucking me! ”

Yes dear reader, it’s true. Next week I’m off to Greece. A bit of coastal mainland Greece which I’ve sailed past on the odd boat a couple of times but never yet set foot on. I’ll hopefully be climbing up to one of the monasteries at Meteora, and doing all kinds of other exciting stuff like walking in the hills, swimming in the sea, drinking lots of Mythos and Ouzo, and eating dead creatures. If they offer me a job as a monk I’ll probably take them up on it. After all, I look pretty damned good in black, it wouldn’t take me long to grow a beard and I reckon I could convert to Orthodoxy without causing too much damage to my local space-time continuity, and the views would be extreme. So I’ll probably report back to you on it all, but there’s a chance in about 49 million that I won’t.

The man bought a couple of sweet pastries and left. He’s settling into life here nicely. Chin chin!

Tall Man on a Bike.

If you were real, I thought, I’d make you a cup of nettle tea in a bone china cup with a picture of a cat on it and I’d even pluck out the stings. I’d serve it to you on a matching saucer and I’d make believe that I was always doing this sort of thing.

That’s just about how relevant it all is. I was watching the beautiful Rachel earlier on the television, doing the local BBC weather forecast is what she does, though I reckon there’s something else she does better than forecasting the local weather. I’m listening to a Dusty Springfield record while I’m writing this. She reminds me of my childhood. Anyway. As the weather girl was doing her stuff, I was unusually listening to what she was saying.

In the normal course of events I give her forecasts my undivided attention, yet immediately afterwards, although I could describe to you every single swell and curve of her figure, every glisten of her lips and every sparkle in her eyes, I wouldn’t be able to remember a single fucking word she’s said. It’s a hormonal thing, I believe. Anyway. Again. All of a sudden I realised that I actually exist in a parallel universe. The beautiful Rachel, who was wearing a figure hugging peacock blue dress and had her hair dressed in an upward type style, a look which I find very stimulating, was talking very convincingly about the beautiful sunshine and warm temperatures what we’re currently enjoying here on the channel coast. Except we’re not. Rachel was lying. We’re currently enjoying being smothered in a very low, very grey, very wet and very cold blanket of sea-fog and have been for the last two days. I looked out of the window. I saw it with my own eyes.

So I told my wife that I was going out on my regular evening cycle ride along the coast to Splash Point, and I’d try and see if I could find any sunshine. I often see friends, acquaintances and objects of lust and desire on my evening rides, so sunshine’s always a possibility.

My wife was going to work at the Dr Shipman Memorial Rehab and Elderly Relative Disposal Centre for the night so she didn’t really care what I was going to do anyway. That’s what she said. I went on my bike ride, all along to Splash Point. It was wet, it was grey, it was cold. Even the gulls weren’t flying. They were huddled in delinquent groups on the esplanade, facing out to where the sea hid beneath the mist, listening as I was to the distant horns of invisible ships, some close to shore, some not so. I thought I was the only cyclist out there.

But as I reached the final half mile, I got to a bit of the path where you come out quite sharply from a blind bend and if you’re raunchy like me, you swing out across the path and create a graceful type of zig-zag movement from side to side of the now wider path and then get back over to your own side and carry on alongside the main road with a particularly annoying nonchalant air about you. And there, forty or so feet ahead of me was an ancient cyclist wearing the helmet, the gloves, the tight, uncomfortable looking cycling gear, and looking contemptuously at me in my shorts with a streak of permanent black marker pen clumsily covering the bleach mark from the other week and no concession to the wintry chill other than a blue fleece jacket.

“Keep to your own lane!” He shrieked at me. “Don’t come out so wide!”

“It’s alright, I saw you,” I told him.

“Keep right! To the right!” He shrieked again. As we drew closer I saw he wasn’t ancient. He was probably ten years younger than me.

“I didn’t see you!” he shrieked yet again.

I was going to tell him to fuck off but it was too late by now. I’d passed him.

And anyway I was thinking about cold misty weather and how you’d keep a gorgeous weather girl warm if you were marooned with her in a remote cabin in the hills with no prospect of rescue for a day or two. I expect I’d make her a nice pot of nettle tea and I’d probably pluck out the stings for her first. Because I’m nice like that. Maybe we’d have a shag or two as well. I’d try my hardest not to crease or stain her well fitted peacock blue dress, but you know, accidents happen. Especially with me.