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I love my husband. I really do. How he’s stuck with me all this time is nothing short of miraculous because when we first met I really don’t recall dating him with the same conviction he did me. I just thought I’d suck it and see for a fortnight to find out how we got on. I never realised all these years later that the same man and a full jar of Nutella would still make me so very very happy.

However. 

There’s always one area in a marriage which will cause an argument. And for us it’s when I “help” in the kitchen.

When I was single I didn’t starve to death. I knew how to burn toast and incinerate a can of beans. But when someone keeps telling you, you can’t cook, it slowly erodes your confidence. You begin believing it. So any mention of “help” and Guido will shudder but grudgingly assign me a task, well let’s call it – a damage limitation exercise. Like scrubbing a potato.  I, on the other hand, like to imagine myself as the late, great, Antonio Carluccio.  Chucking any old rubbish into a crock-pot with gusto, but still creating a culinary masterpiece. In reality this is probably more like a disturbing episode of Gordon Ramsey’s Kitchen Nightmares.

The problem with frying is that one minute everything’s sizzling away looking just like it should do, but, take your eyes off it for just one minute to read a short text message from your mother and it’s turned into a sort of molten lava. And no amount of stirring or scraping will resuscitate them. Well that’s what happened last night, so I did what any novice chef would do with a skillet smoking dangerously and on the verge of bursting into an uncontrollable fireball. I tossed it into a sink of freezing cold water. For those of you who’ve never done this, please don’t try it at home unless you have the fire brigade on quick dial.  Apparently it has a very similar effect to what happens in the core of a nuclear reactor when they expose the plutonium rods. There’s a big whooshing noise and steam erupts with enough piston power to generate free energy for most of the East End of London.

Confronted with this unfolding scene, Guido began to look and act just like Gordon does. He went a weird crimson colour and you could see the veins in his neck all pulsating like he was about to throw the mother of all tantrums.

At this point I had a horrible flash back to the last time I “helped” grilling an aubergine so I knew what came next. After the vein throbbing comes the teeth gnashing and the feet hopping and there’s a lot of colourful language. Let’s just say if this blog post was a podcast it would have an “R” for restricted rating.

Well, I defy anyone to remain calm under such trying circumstances. So I did what I did when I was single and had one of life’s catastrophes. I ordered Chinese. I had sweet and sour pork and Guido had a stir fried chilli beef. It arrived in fifteen minutes and was absolutely delicious.

You know this “cooking from scratch” thing – I really don’t think it’s all it’s cracked up to be.

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Brian moved in with us a week ago. Brian is owned (if dogs ever actually belong to anyone) to our friend Gary but, on account of Gary’s extended shifts at the airline, we’ve agreed to look after him (if dogs ever actually think they’re looked after) on a purely temporary basis.

That was a very long sentence to describe a week which has seemed to have been very very short. Just like Brian’s incredibly small Jack Russell legs, which I have to say can move very very fast.

I feel like Brian has lived with us for a month, if not a decade. He’s set himself right at home. I’ve half expected to see him wearing slippers, throw on a smoking jacket and pull up a chair by the fire. In fact he’s made himself so alarmingly  (disarmingly) comfortable he’s now like a part of the furniture, or at the very least a sort of furry foot stool or writhing hot water bottle. That is except for when Guido or I move towards the back door and Brian will leap up like grease lightening with the kind of enthusiasm for extended exercise I could only fantasise about. Since he’s lived with us I think I’ve lost more than five pounds. If he stays long term I may shed so much weight I could be in danger of completely disappearing. I’ll be like the incredible shrinking man taking the dog for a walk. I’ll have to wrap myself in bandages – invisible man style – so I don’t get run over by a London bus when I take Brian to the park.

Boy, does Brian LOVE the PARK. Did you see how I shouted that one out by putting the words, love, and park, in capitalisation and bold? If this blog could add bells and whistles it would be ringing and resounding.

Pre-Brian, when I used to go to the park with Guido, it would usually involve me lolling on the grass on a rug reading House and Garden or eating a muffin or slurping an enormous ice cream. Invariably there were ants. Often there would also be perverts lurking in the trees. The perverts I could live with but the ants were a right royal pain in the arse. That’s, ass, to North American readers. Well when Brian and I go to the park now there’s no laying around. He wants me running and jumping about like Usain Bolt. Its absolutely exhausting. Sometimes Guido will come with us too and throw a frisbee or a ball, or both, and then after an hour when we get back home to our loft Brian will be all frisky and wagging his tail but Guido and I will be like we need to get hooked up to oxygen masks.

“How long do you think this temporary Brian arrangement,” as Guido has started calling it, “will last?” said Guido flopped out on our sofa and drinking a beer straight from the bottle this afternoon.

Brian was sighing periodically at Guido’s feet.

I was also drinking a generous glug of white wine – for purely medicinal purposes you understand?

Brian didn’t look happy.

I don’t think he approves of our reckless habit of drinking alcohol in the middle of a Sunday afternoon. I guess proper hosts would at least have offered him a glass.

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Regular readers will know I have a habit of popping up just when you least expect it.

Well, this time it’s thanks to Daal. See the link below.

Guest Blog Post: Who are you calling stupid? by Jean-Paul

JP x

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Sometimes in the morning I’ll be in bed asleep upstairs in our loft and my eyes will go from being tight shut to wide open in a nanosecond. It’s because at that moment I get the scent of cherry pie coming out of the oven downstairs in the cafe. Well, that’s what happened last week – only rather than cherry it was apple and raisin with a generous sprinkle of cinnamon. Trust me I can tell the difference between a baked cherry and a baked apple. It’s taken years of sniffing to get it down to such a fine art. In fact, if anyone is ever looking for a professional pie sniffer then look no further than me folks because I’m your man. Eating pie is, of course, the obvious progression and, whilst I’ve never actually entered a pie eating competition, pass the spoon.

Anyway the reason I’m telling you this baloney is because something rather awkward has happened between me, my husband and a piece of crust. Yes, to coin the phrase by the late Princess Diana, “there were now 3 of us in this marriage”. Whilst thankfully my marital competition has proved to be completely edible, Guido has started referring to this weird episode as, Pie-gate. You know where I’m going with this one.

Baked especially to sell front of house, it was about the size of a cartwheel in circumference; cut into 16 perfectly proportioned slices. The surface was golden and crispy and was oozing lusciousness from every possible angle. Guido, surely, wouldn’t miss just one solitary slice?

Yes he would.

No he wouldn’t.

Yes he would.

No he wouldn’t.

There isn’t that much that turns my brain into indecisive mush except possibly Bear Grylls topless and a sugary filling, but there I was like Dr Jekyll transitioning into Mr Hyde in a cake shop. I picked up a knife and I cut. I hesitantly looked left. Then I craftily looked right. I checked for any possible witnesses to this unfolding crumb scene and then; and then I just ate it in greedy guilty gulps. It was like feeding time at the monkey house – both hideous and hysterical all rolled into one. As you can see I live a gloriously hedonistic lifestyle for a professional pie sniffer. I looked at the remaining pie. There was an obvious gap. Hmm. I had a light bulb moment. If I just moved all of the other slices 6mm to the left then 16 slices magically became 15. I let out a deranged Mr Hyde cackle of laughter. It clearly takes a while for his maniacal sugar rush to wear off. But who am I to judge.

However, the real test was to come 2 hours later.

“When I cut this here pie,” said Guido holding a cake slice confrontationally, “there were 16 slices. Now there are 15. Care to elaborate?”

I glanced over my shoulder like he was talking to someone else. However the problem is, when I lie, I blink excessively. It’s a dead give away.

“I have no idea,” I said blink blink, “what you’re talking about.” Blink blink, and double blink.

“Really?” said Guido.

He knew, that I knew, that he knew.

“Absolutely,” I said blink blink blink, “Pie, what pie?” Blink blink blink.

And I know what you’re all thinking. But let he who is without sin, cast the first slice.

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My parents got remarried yesterday. I’ll spare you every minutia of detail. But suffice it to say there would have been enough drama in the run up to write a blog post every day for the next twenty five years.

What I will tell you is my mother wore pink chiffon (now I know where I get my interest from) and my father wore his usual blue crushed velvet number. Which he was still ominously referring to as his “marriage suit.” Let’s hope this (number 4) really is its last outing. It’s a miracle of modern tailoring, and his ability to suck his stomach in for extended periods, that he still fits in it. After they exchanged vows my parents stared into each other’s eyes. It was actually quite moving. Outside the Registry Office Guido said I threw a box of confetti over their heads with particular gusto. I guess it was the relief it was all over. Then we took a cab to Boulevard Brasserie in Covent Garden where we met a whole bunch of their friends. I’ll give them this – my parents sure know how to throw a terrific party. They both looked very happy; like people who, whatever they have found again, had been given a second chance.

Today, in stark contrast to love (re)found, was love horribly lost. This morning I met Gary. We drank a coffee and split a double chocolate chip muffin at the cafe. I’ll be honest. The conversation was difficult. We spoke about him returning back to work at the airline. He was keeping busy working extra shifts – he said. I asked him if he was eating properly. He was trying to but keeping busy working extra shifts – he said. I asked how he was coping. He was coping by working extra shifts – he said. Everytime I mentioned Ted’s name, Gary wept. You cannot simply wash away all those years of loving together in four months. Bereavement is such a lonely torture.

“Somebody told me that how I feel will never change,” said Gary, “but how I deal with those feelings eventually does.”

As he left I hugged him and said we’d meet for lunch. He was busy working extra shifts, but he’d try – he said.

Later, when Guido finished lunch service, I asked him to come upstairs with me and we decadently had sex right in the middle of the afternoon. It was sex of the making love variety – as opposed to the sex of the jumping off our chest of drawers enthusiastically holding a tube of spreadable cheese variety.

I guess you could say Guido and I are neither a love lost nor one newly found. We’re in a category all by ourselves that’s called an ongoing “work in progress.” But what I do know is, whatever we’ve got, I never want it to end.

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Last night Guido and I were in bed. The lights were out. Guido was laying next to me boring me to death about how difficult it is to roll out a decent sweet pastry pie; whilst, bizarrely, all I could think about was how long a rubber plant’s tentacles might grow.

You see, I’ve discovered a wonderful Instagram account called “Boys with Plants”. To be clear. The photographs on that particular site have nothing to do with boys – they are all men – but it definitely involves plants. Some men have their clothes on, some (tantalisingly) do not. Every branch or leaf is strategically but super tastefully placed; if you catch my drift.

“When you embellish interior spaces with houseplants, you’re not just adding greenery,” I butted in abruptly. Guido was right in the middle of describing how he dusts flour on a work surface then kneads vigorously to a dry paste. “These living organisms interact with your body, mind and home in ways that enhance the quality of life,” I said. Spookily I sounded like a member of Royal Kew Gardens and if you visit “Boys with Plants” you’ll realise just how happily you could become one of their latest devotees too.

“Yeah. Anyway,” said Guido, “getting back to my pastry pie mix…”

Place several plants together, and you can increase the humidity of a room, which helps keep respiratory problems at bay. Studies at the University of Norway document that even using plants in interior spaces decreases the incidence of dry skin, colds, sore throats and a hacking cough. And if anyone had bothered to tell me any of this before Winter I’d have just stripped right off and caressed the nearest Begonia.

“Just imagine if we had a fully erect fiddle leaf fig in here,” I said. “At night, photosynthesis ceases, and plants typically breathe like humans, absorbing oxygen and releasing carbon dioxide.”

Well at least I thought that sounded like a good idea, though, if I’m honest, it did have a touch of The Day of The Triffids about it.

“Look,” said Guido rolling over, “you’re a complete disaster area with house plants. You either starve them to death until they crisp up and wither or flood the hell out of them. You’re like the horticultural equivalent of a serial killer.”

That was harsh. But realise there are at least six feather ferns out there who would agree with him. I tried to imagine holding a big prickly cactus between my legs and, frankly, I think it would take far more skill than knocking up a buttery pastry which crumbled easily. So I battled bravely on.

“Okay,” I said, “but how would you feel about being photographed flexing arm muscles whilst grappling with a Monster Philodendron. If you’re feeling shy I’d be willing to throw in a Chrysanthemum.”

Guido rolled over groaning. Sometimes talking to him in bed can be such a tough gig. I could certainly tell selling this – naked with plants thing – was obviously going to be way more difficult to pitch than the – naked with maple syrup thing. So I closed my eyes.  I tried to clear my mind of any mental images of Guido slowly taking all his clothes off and then getting to know a big Geranium better.

But it’s amazing what a fertile imagination can do.

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The rumour is that there are now two Melania Trumps. Or so conspiracy theorists seem to believe. This got me thinking and it didn’t take me long to begin to love the idea of having my own doppelgänger. Seriously, the possibilities could be endless. So over a lemon risotto last night I asked Guido what he’d think if there were two of me.

“Two,” he said, “of you,” he said, “at exactly the the same time?” he said. There was a short pause whilst he furrowed his brow. “I’d say one was more than enough.”

Personally I thought it was a terrific idea; everyone should have a spare. Provided I could find someone with convincingly bushy eyebrows, a nose shaped like a banana, and a pathological love of baked cheesecake, I reckoned it would be almost impossible to tell us apart. And I’ve already thought of a name for the other me.

I’m calling him Melvin.

With the right tweaks and a few days coaching I reckon Melvin would be completely interchangeable in everything I do.

Ever woken up on a week day and felt like crap? Call Melvin. Late night grocery store shopping on a budget? Call Melvin. A tedious lunch with my mother? Call Melvin. My mother would be so busy drinking gin and talking about herself she probably wouldn’t even notice it wasn’t me.

“Well, not at exactly the same time,” I said. “it’s not like I’m looking for an identical twin to hang out with and wear the same clothes.” I mean really, I’m not a complete freak. “Just someone I could call up once in a while to come over and fill in for me.”

Honestly the more I explained this the more convincingly logical it was becoming.

“Sounds complicated to me,” said Guido, “What if this Melvin guy turns up when you weren’t expecting him and you both ended up in the same place at the same time? How would you dig your way out of that one?”

You see, that’s what I love about my husband, his ability to seek answers to what is already ridiculously implausible. Though I suppose I only had myself to blame. I suddenly found myself wondering if Melania ever had similar conversations with Donald. I’d bet she did.

“And would Melvin be able to do that weird thing to me with his tongue in exactly the same way that you do?”

I almost dropped my spoon. As far as I was concerned the only thing Melvin was going to do with his tongue was talk.

“Well let me tell you something mister,” I said, “ if you think for just one minute that anyone is going to do that weird thing to you with their tongue – which has taken many many years of practice and most of it in the dark I might add  – it’s going to be me. So if this Melvin imposter ever suggests any tongue action I want to be the first to know.”

Mervin’s got some nerve. I didn’t like this side to him one little bit. I was hoping he’d be satisfied with office work, shopping, and lunch with my mother. Hell, I was even going to throw in cheesecake, but no, suddenly Melvin has to go and get his big tongue out.

I ate my risotto. Then later in bed I did that weird thing to Guido with my tongue. And I’m telling you – Melvin doesn’t stand a chance.

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Yesterday Guido and I flew down to Tenerife for a much needed Spring break.

“The first thing I’m going to do is jump into the ocean,” said Guido with a big smile on his face.

So when we landed and my bag and I were happily re-united at the carousel, I felt a pang of guilt when Guido’s case never made it. I’d have thought that would throw a dampener on the idea of jumping into the ocean, but apparently not.

”Hey, I’m still going in!” Guido said – with an exclamation mark. The combination of Guido and an exclamation mark always makes me nervous.

Although he’s not the best packer in the world, I’ll concede it’s one thing to forget to stash something crucial but it’s a whole other ball game to lose it all. And if you’ve ever seen us stand side by side you’ll quickly realise our swimwear is not something we can easily interchange on account of my stomach, and his washboard.

But what I hadn’t anticipated was that Guido would be willing to substitute his own underwear with his Speedos until the latter showed up. So after checking in, we checked out Playa Del Duque beach where he stripped off his Levi’s and revealed his ability to improvise. It turns out to be one of his biggest assets.

“No one will know I’m wearing boxers instead of beach shorts,” said Guido idiotically. And with that he strode off confidently towards the waves. I wasn’t so sure.

Let’s just say in my opinion those underpants were loose. They didn’t look like anything anybody else was wearing. I could see things dangling through apertures which really shouldn’t be visible to the naked eye in public.

I wandered up to the bar and ordered a Mai Tai and a big plate of French fries. But it was only when I got back to the sun beds that the excitement really kicked in.

Two women with no bikini tops on and with very large breasts laying behind me started “ooing” and “ahing”. One also had a very large pair of binoculars. I’m not in any way attempting to make a humorous connection between large breasts and large binoculars. I thought maybe there was a glamorous Russian’s yacht on the horizon or rare bird on a palm tree. But goodness me, no.

“He’s coming back out,” one of the women with no bikini tops on but with very large breasts said breathlessly. In fact she sounded practically gaga.

I looked over, only to see Guido emerging from the sea.  I dropped a chip. Unfortunately his baggy underwear was now completely water logged and listing ominously below the waterline. Well, about eleven inches below, to be exact. And every one of those eleven inches was crucial, I can tell you. Then he’d yank it all up and jump back in the water.

“Pass the binoculars Veronica,” said one woman with no bikini top on with very large breasts to the other, “you’re totally hogging them.”

And it was absolutely hypnotic. If I’d had a pair myself I’d have been zooming in too. I’m surprised nobody called the Police.

After half a dozen leaps Guido got out of the water and lay next to me dripping.

“That was terrific,” he said, “I feel like I’m tingling all over.”

And he certainly wasn’t the only one.

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I try to be good. Often I fail. There is a very annoying saying – everything in moderation – which I’ve noticed is particularly popular with people who have slim hips and high metabolisms. And, whilst I like to think I have admirable genetic attributes myself, regular readers will know restraint isn’t one of them.

We all have our own personal holes in the road on the “being good” front. Sometimes I manage to swerve and sometimes I just go straight in head first. Cheesecake, clotted cream, a large Martini and a soggy croissant spring instantly to mind. Thought not all on the same plate at the same time.

But, it’s those small hidden vices which insidiously drip, drip, away.

We have a salt shaker on our table. I like to shake it. I shake it because it makes a weird noise like an angry rattle snake. Sometimes when Guido is quietly sucking his spaghetti I’ll jump up behind him and give it a twist. It’s amazing the combined pleasure a generous dusting of salt and scaring my husband half to death brings me. We also have a sugar bowl. In fact, we have two. One with demerara cubes and one with white granulated in a glass jar with a silver funnel on top. I sometimes plonk one lump in my coffee just for the hell of it. If I’ve got an early morning meeting in Shepherds Bush – which let’s face it, has to be depressing at the best of times – I’ll just pour an avalanche straight onto my Coco Pops and start slowly digging my way out. This could explain why I see pound signs in my dentist’s eyes when I visit his surgery every six months. You’ll also now understand why I have routinely resorted to The Banana Diet – a rare kind of masochism reserved for people with a highly developed but twisted interest in condiments and their alternative uses.

“Where d’you think you might want to spread this?” asked Guido last night somewhat provocatively in my opinion. He just happened to be holding a small dish of his freshly homemade mayonnaise at the time.

I’d just watched him put garlic, egg yolks and mustard into a blender. It sure beat what they were showing on Channel 5, I can tell you. He blitzed it to a paste and then slowly dribbled in olive oil to make a thick mayonnaise-style sauce. When everything came together he added lemon juice, then seasoned to taste. If you want to try making it, it should keep covered in the fridge of a normal person for up to 2 days. But obviously we’re not normal.

“It depends what you’re planning on serving it with,” I said as quick as a flash.

I was pretending to play it totally cool but I was secretly hoping for a bowl of something deep fried to use to start dunking. I do like a good dunk, and aioli is perfect. So there’s another item (vice) to add to my ever burgeoning list.

“I’m open to ideas,” said Guido, “but I’m definitely done in the kitchen. If you know what I mean?”

The aioli tasted good. I imagine it’s great with cold chicken or flaked tuna. Alternatively – try spreading liberally across a hairy thigh. Though I can’t promise what effect this will have on your hips.

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I’ve always happily followed the belief, it’s not how big it is, it’s what you do with it. However now, it’s not what you do with it, but how often you get it out. Are you folks still with me?

You will not be surprised to hear that Guido wasn’t too pleased with me when I once divulged on this blog that we routinely had sex twice on a Saturday and every other Tuesday afternoon – especially if it happened to be raining. So in the – how often you get it out stakes – I’d always thought my husband and I were having more of it than the London average. But not so, according to an article I read by a sex therapist published in The Times.

According to The Dr, as I’m now affectionately calling him, you don’t have to go the whole nine yards, instead just simply get each other worked up a bit sexually on a daily basis. This regular toe dip in the shallow waters of arousal feels good and gets you going. Didn’t you know the most sexually satisfied couples amongst us get a buzz this way every day? But instead of a full on screw-a-thon they gaze, they touch, they sniff. I have to say this does sound less exhausting and time consuming, especially if it’s raining.

As you know I like to bring readers hot news on, well, getting hot, so The Dr calls this latest craze Simmering. In reality I’d call this “getting all steamed up”. More of that, below. So naturally in the interests of modern science I decided to warm things up a bit myself on Sunday morning. But more of that, also below.

In the cafe kitchen yesterday I found Guido contentedly frying three eggs sunny side up. All four of them were a pleasing sight and whilst I do like to sniff a fried egg when I can, I decided to make my first “Simmer” move whilst I had the chance. I snuck up when Guido least expected it and sniffed him wildly around the neck. What can I tell you about that other than to say there was the faint whiff of Givenchy For Gentlemen and extra virgin olive oil.

“What the hell are you doing?” he asked flinching whilst simultaneously catapulting his spatula high into the air.

The Dr never said anything about catapulting. I had to think on my feet. What, I thought, would Zac Ephron do? I suddenly realised I’d sniffed before I’d touched or gazed so decided to do everything in reverse order. I stared deeply into Guido’s eyes fluttering my eye lashes. Then I reached out and took a firm hold of him. Nothing seemed be going hard other than his yolks. This was extremely disappointing. Nothing simmered.

The Dr says, by all means Simmer by text. I thought this was a terrific idea so later I sent Guido this to his mobile.

“Every time I think of you I get all hot under the collar…”

The three dots were crucial in my opinion.

Then I got this zapped back from Guido.

“???”

Today is now Monday. I’ve been Simmering for almost two days solid. And in the interests of modern science I can’t tell you how pleased I am tomorrow is Tuesday.

I just hope it’s raining VERY hard.

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