It’s been a while since the last riveting instalment, I know, but what I thought was a case of writer’s block (and its sister condition, getting off the arse and doing anything at all block) has actually turned out to be a case of low-level viral infection. In addition to the huge amounts of bugger all achieved over the last few weeks, I had been getting aware of mysterious pains in my neck and under my chin, so, like all blokes, after the statutory three weeks’ or so of putting it off, I slothfully took myself and my hurty neck off to the quack’s, where I was told that the source of the pain was a nice pair of swollen glands, and that once the bit of goo extracted from the glottis on an elongated ear bud which for all the world looked as if it belonged in a Dali painting has been sent off for analysis, we’ll know for sure the full extent of my lergy. The funny thing is, during the statutory three weeks’ or so of putting it off, there was a concomitant three weeks’ worth of nodding off last thing at night imagining the worst, and so discovering that I was not a victim of bubonic plague, tonsillitis and/or malaria came as a considerable relief. So much so, that upon being deemed to have a minor infection which could be staved off by gargling brine I virtually skipped out of the surgery like Fotherington-Thomas singing songs to the flowers, trees and sky, and started to catch up with all the tasks accrued in the intervening period of bugger all.
Mind you, it’s not been all fervid inactivity here at The Gables. As I was finishing the last missive, I was girding up the loins to spend a forty-eight hour stretch looking after Her Indoors on the road in my capacity as the Dennis Thatcher of British jazz. The first leg of this took us up to Southport, where H.I. was due to give a Sunday lunchtime recital of syncopated classics as the guest artiste with the local big band. It was an early start, so we were to check into the hotel the night before and enjoy the sights that Southport had to offer. Aside from the topography of the town, which must be fairly unique for a seaside resort in that the glorious regency front doesn’t actually overlook the sea, the sights were many and varied. They ranged from a nice old-fashioned pier with an amusement arcade and hall of mirrors, to a charming family teaching their children by example to spit and swear in public.
Disappointingly, and probably in some way due to the possibility of the unique charm of some of the resort’s visitors, the sit-down chippy tea we’d hoped for wasn’t going to materialise as all the chippies in town seemed to shut up shop at around 6.30.
Jung would have it that all events are linked, and proof came with our visit to Southport. As a chap treads his way down life’s stony highway, he can formulate theories of existence drawn up from his experience. Two of mine are-
- Gravity is alive, and is also a bit of a bugger
- There’s something funny about Hotel Food
Incidents have occurred over the last couple of weeks which seem to have confirmed both of my suspicions. Taking gravity first, I’ve had a love-hate relationship with it for years. Newton missed a trick when the apple fell on his head, I think, because if my reading of the facts is correct, he only observed that the apple fell. He didn’t consider that the bloody thing fell on him. At the exact moment he was under the tree, in exactly the right place. Gravity, it seems, is only mostly constant, generally when it can’t be naughty. Physics would have it that it is a straight force of attraction between objects which increases in proportion to their size. The largest nearest object to us is of course our planet, which is why things fall on top of it. It is why we can have swimming pools and lying down. Whilst this is true, it is, in my view, not the whole truth. Consider the simple act of hoovering. In order to hoover the Televisual Leisure Suite, or Front Room, here at The Gables, I will often put the occasional tables, Her Indoors’ furry owl slippers, the TV Times, my half eaten Chicken Phal from last night etc. etc. temporarily on the sofa, in order to get a good old go at the rug. It is now clearly marked to Gravity, or Madame G as I call her, that the purpose of this exercise is to not have the recently repositioned items on the floor. This new status quo will last, generally until I am no longer looking, or have become distracted by the phone, an itchy nose or Her Indoors mellifluously addressing me from up the stair. As soon as I look away, there is what gravity experts refer to as the Inevitable Cascade. Inevitable cascades of all forms, be they the simple hovering trauma illustrated here or the rumble and crash from the cupboard under the stairs, display some evidence of conscious input. Generally occurring twenty seconds after you get settled into the armchair or bed, an Inevitable Cascade will often display ingenuity and attention to detail. We are all familiar with the buttered toast thing, but any opportunity for irritating minor destruction will be seized upon. Taking the Hoover and Sofa incident, for example, it came as no surprise that the now partially upended chicken Phal now proudly boasted my fountain pen, cap off, as one of its ingredients. Anything that can ooze will, but only if it can ooze over or into something porous and valuable. Madame G is adept at keeping up with technology too. A few years ago, I was busily toiling away at the desk, and because I had lots of clutter about I had a large flat mobile phone sat flat across the top of a small round mug of tea. If you tried to fit the phone into the cup, you’d have a job since it was only just big enough, and you’d have to get the phone straight in, in a perpendicular manner. Predictably, the phone rang, and the buzzy thing inside it wobbled it just enough for Bloody Gravity to get hold of it and suck it down so it was completely immersed, writing off both the phone, and as I recall, some of the tea. This is beginning to sound like whining, so I’ll get to the proof.
So far, we have ascertained that gravity will have a go at any teetering pile of things at the moment of maximum irritation. Anything put on top of anything else will slide off at the crucial moment. So what does she do when we have a teetering pile of things which we’d like to fall over? It was Her Indoors who spotted this, at the penny shovers in the arcade on Southport Pier. There we have an exhibition class pile of tuppences, not only teetering and wobbling, but also being moved on hydraulic arms. If I so much as have eight or nine coins on the kitchen table, one of them will be on the floor within fifteen seconds. Madame G. just can’t keep her fingers off. All the laws say that an Inevitable Cascade should be happening any second, but what happens? Bugger All. And that’s if you’re lucky. Gravity is alive and naughty. The defence rests.
Hotel food now. After the great gravity revelation on the pier, Her Indoors and I made our way back to the hotel, where we thought we’d try the restaurant, which was advertising itself as Fine Dining, and smelling enticingly of chip fat. Delicious as it was, the menu was somewhat eclectic. H.I. plumped for a main course of Tandoori Chicken on a tagine of wilted greens, with peas and roast potatoes. I had a barbecued pork chop (bacon joint) on couscous with new potatoes and steamed veg. I must say here that the lad in the kitchen could certainly cook- it all tasted lovely and the tandoori chicken, although patently not done in a Tandoori was a masterpiece in tenderness. Where this is all leading is, given that a hotel restaurant must presumably be decked out with the same kit as a regular one, and governed by the same council regs, why is hotel food so weird? Anyone who has done as many weddings in hotels as your jaded scribe here will be very familiar with mass produced chicken in white wine sauce, and will know all too well the explosion of oral ecstasy when something that tastes of anything other than humidity rumbles across the taste buds. Funnily enough, Her Indoors and I found ourselves in a swanky spa hotel the other week, and as the restaurant looked dead posh, and we had the run of it for free, we gave it a go. Lovely service, great menu, and all the grub looked amazing. Unfortunately, like the mass produced wedding grub, our bespoke boutique dinners ended up tasting of, as far as I could tell, and with the exception of the bits of my rare steak which were still raw and hadn’t been exposed to the taste-annulling sorcery, sand. On the other hand, I am currently sitting writing this in room 37 of the Ibis in an industrial estate in Coventry, waiting to get a taxi to the Jools Holland gig. I’ve just had their room service green thai chicken curry. Even though the bits of chicken had the texture of the inside of an old tennis ball, it tasted more of curry than anything else, so perhaps more research is necessary.
Another quick food story before I go. I was with Jools last night too, in Skeggy. Mr. Holland is a generous employer, and often when we’re out for a night he arranges for a take-away to be in the bandroom at the end of the show. Last night it was Pizzas. Tour manager Steve told us that when he got up to the pizza place, he was having a spot of bother understanding the menu consisting as it did of unusual choices which you might find, say, in an hotel in Southport, and so the lady serving informed him that their best-selling line was Doner Kebab pizza. Steve asked if she could do anything more Italian, to which she replied “Chicken Kiev Pizza”. If it wasn’t true, you’d not believe it.