Play With Your Food

22 08 2012

This evening was my turn to cook (caponata with brown rice, in case you were wondering) but no sooner had I begun than I got… well… a little distracted! What can I say? I was in a slightly whimsical mood!

So much to my wife’s displeasure, dinner was somewhat delayed. The result? Well…


Simple Pleasures

13 09 2011

At our midweek small group the other week someone asked the question, ‘what are your top three simple pleasures?’ The results were fascinating. It’s amusing how the smallest things can bring such joy: often cheap, rudimentary or fortuitous experiences – popping bubble wrap, finding a coin down the side of the couch, sleeping in a bed with new sheets. Not that you would ever actually plan time in the diary to do any of these things as an evening’s entertainment: “Come on love, tonight’s the night we’ve been waiting for… we get to open and sniff a new bag of coffee!”

It got me thinking about the things I like and dislike, and why. There are some things that just rile me up for no discernable reason, and many more things that bring a smile to my face, but when I stop to think about them are a little peculiar.

It also reminded me of this brilliant bit of narration in the film Amélie:

‘Raphaël Poulain doesn’t like peeing next to somebody else. He doesn’t like noticing people laughing at his sandals or coming out of the water with his swimming suit sticking to his body. He likes to tear big pieces of wallpaper off the walls, to line up his shoes and polish them with great care to empty his toolbox, clean it thoroughly, and, finally, put everything away carefully.

Amélie’s mother, Amandine Fouet, doesn’t like to have her fingers all wrinkled by hot water. She doesn’t like it when somebody she doesn’t like touches her, or to have the marks of the sheets on her cheek in the morning. She likes the outfits of the ice-skaters on TV, to shine the flooring, to empty her handbag clean it thoroughly, and, finally, put everything away carefully.

Amélie Poulain likes sportsmen who cry from disappointment. She doesn’t like it when a man is humiliated in front of his kid. She doesn’t like to hear “le fruit de vos entrailles est béni” … She enjoys all sorts of little pleasures, putting her hand in a bag of seeds, piercing the crust of crème brûlée with the tip of a spoon.’

What are your simple pleasures (or displeasures)? What are the things that amuse you or get under your skin?

Elephant Café

25 07 2011

Brixton Village has fast become one of the coolest areas to hang out in South West London. With an eclectic vibe, a plethora of interesting places to eat, and the brilliant Federation Coffee, there is always something new to do and see in this fast-evolving little arcade. Each time I visit, I come away with a mental list of new places I need to try…

Our latest experience: Pakistani street food at Elephant Café.

This tiny little restaurant is a great find. Tables spill out onto the street, and the kitchen area is so close that it’s positively exhausting watching the chef’s head bob back and forth as he turns out dishes at breakneck speed, inches from his customers. We were very grateful to get a table on Thursday night, being a group of five out for a birthday meal.

The menu is short and succinct – no messing – which meant we got to try virtually everything between us. Samosas and Pakoras were a perfect way to start. Both the lamb and vegetarian options were equally good, packing just a little spice; enough to excite the taste buds, without killing those of a faint disposition. Then the main courses: a choice between curry and thalis. Most of us went for the thalis (and the poor guy who took one for the team, deciding to dissent from the common option, looked a little sad as ours arrived!) Lovely, simple, warmly spiced lamb mince curry, served with a punchy daal, rice, raita, salad and naan. The chicken was equally good, with a little more sauce than the lamb. There was plenty of food, and none of us left hungry.

The restaurant has no license, so we took our own drinks: a couple of bottles of wine helped the food go down nicely. And as if the great food and fun environment wasn’t enough, the price was a real surprise: a meal for five, excluding drinks, came to £42. A bargain!

We ended the evening with a stroll through the village, enjoying the bands playing in various aisles, and the colourful lanterns dangling overhead. The newly opened ice cream parlour beckoned to us, but our full stomachs resisted… An excuse to return in the not too distant future.

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead

2 07 2011

Yesterday we went to see Trevor Nunn’s production of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead by Tom Stoppard. Nunn has recently taken over as Artistic Director at The Theatre Royal Haymarket, and this is one of three plays he’s directing there this year (we’ve also got tickets for his production of The Tempest with Ralph Fiennes in September.) If this production was anything to go by, his appointment could be a great asset for the theatre.

The play focuses on two minor characters from Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, but transposes them into a typically absurdist ‘wasteland’ setting, where normal elements such as time, memory, chance and logic are suspended. It is an hilarious, whimsical, beautiful, existential piece of theatre playing with all sorts of lofty themes like death, art, reality, madness, determinism and language.

This production was, simply, faultless. In fact all told I enjoyed it more than the production of Waiting for Godot I saw there last year – which I wasn’t expecting. The two main characters were brilliantly portrayed by Samuel Barnett and Jamie Parker; their timing and intonation were flawless, and they really brought out the humour of the play superbly. The ‘question game’ was executed brilliantly and had me in stitches. In fact, I’ve read the play three or four times and hadn’t quite appreciated how consistently humorous it was.

Chris Andrew Mellon did an outstanding job as The Player (replacing Tim Curry, who was originally meant to lend his malleable, creepy face to the role). He looked like a peculiar concoction of Jeremy Beadle, Ross Noble, Matthew Kelly and Beetlejuice… but if you could see past that, his performance was incredibly strong.

I could rave about almost every element… I’ve not been so enthusiastic about a piece of theatre in quite a while. It’s not ‘fresh’ in the sense that it’s a classic piece of absurd theatre (if you’re ever seen any Stoppard, Beckett or Ionesco you’ll know what to expect) but it is absurdism done to perfection. I do on occasion feel that absurd plays can come across as a little tired, with their torrents of futile dialogue and typically minimalist sets, but this had enough energy and focus to keep you rapt in expectation and intrigue.

And to make it better, we had amazing seats in the stalls, and for some unfathomable reason, the people in front of us didn’t return after the interval…

So if you can, you really should go. It runs until 20 August and if you shop around, I’m sure you’ll find some decent offers. I’m sure it’s not everybody’s cup of tea… but you can’t drink tea all your life! Branch out. A splendid time is (almost) guaranteed for all!

Asterix is bad for your health…

17 06 2011

Probably my favourite article of the week… ‘Asterix books contain 704 victims of brain injury, study finds.’

The conclusion: “The role of helmet protection has been stressed by the authors, especially in view of the fact that strap-fixation should have been taken more seriously by the Roman besiegers and others.

I give it six months before we get a road safety advert featuring Asterix… And I also can’t wait to see a comparative study about how many of Tintin’s enemies were gnawed by Snowy! What a worthwhile use of funds and time…

I always knew there was something funny about the French.

The Octopus

16 06 2011

A whimsical poem on octopus shoe-shopping…

Polvo Niquel Moedas

The Octopus (16/06/11)

An octopus I can excuse,
For owning quite so many shoes,
But still I cannot fathom why,
Some women act like octopi!

Brand on Dawkins

14 04 2011

This morning i enjoyed reading an article in the New Statesman by Russell Brand entitled ‘Why Richard Dawkins is the best argument for the existence of God.’

Leaving aside the transcendental meditation stuff, it’s worth a read. It’s typical Brand: verbose, sesquipedalian, witty, not thoroughly watertight, but amusing nonetheless. Enjoy!