What I’ve Been Doing
A couple of weeks back I slipped over to Barcelona to pay bills, do repairs and clear up our flat after the upstairs neighbours had 1. flooded it for the third time and 2. projectile-vomited from their balcony onto ours, which really takes some doing. And this is in a good part of town. Of course Barcelona is a city where life is played out on the streets, so anything can and does happen in full view of everyone.
The city felt as if it had fully returned to normal. The skies were sapphire, the air sharp, fierce and hot/cold in the way southern places are in winter. I have a limited amount of energy to use each day – I think of it like being on the moon and having to regularly check my oxygen supply – but it’s getting easier to move around, so I walked the city only to find that most of my favourite quirky tourist shops had gone.
One resident friend says British tourists aren’t much missed; they were usually on a budget whereas other European countries have more to spend. ‘You let those public school scumbags line their pockets with the profits made from Brexit,’ he said, laughing at our stupidity.
I’m not angry at things I can’t fix, but it’s still depressing to be ridiculed.
I finally got my tastebuds back, so we went to the worst restaurant I’d ever been to. A good friend, reliable, urbane, a gourmet, recommended it. It has a bazillion Likes on Instagram and Tripadvisor (the Tripadvisor motto: ‘Why not take advice from a stranger you’d never want as a friend?’).
The restaurant had an elegant setting, high quality ingredients, great service, interesting wines…and a completely wrong-headed chef, like Aubrey in ‘Life Is Sweet’. And like Aubrey’s recipes for Liver in Lager and Pork Cyst, dishes arrived that made us that made us burst out laughing.
Every dish was drowned in truffle oil. A slimy bowl of mushrooms was submerged in cheese and truffle liquid. A fine Argentinian steak turned up in a thick peanut sauce with crunchy discs of dried plantain sticking out like coins in a Christmas pudding. Plain green vegetables were covered in vinegar, pistachios and…gold leaf. I stuck to a piece of salmon that arrived lost beneath a mountain of fluorescent lime green foam. It looked as if it had just been fished out of a bowl of Fairy Liquid. This must be pea, I thought. But oh no, it was peppermint. A honey ice cream was heavily laced with truffle oil. None of it was remotely edible. Five stars on Tripadvisor, apparently.
I’m doing a little exercise now, just to get me started again. Life exists between treatments. One day the news won’t be so positive but I remain upbeat until then. I think of myself as Jack Lemmon as Professor Fate in ‘The Great Race’. He’s discovered the iceberg they’re on is melting fast, but sidekick Peter Falk thinks he should be quiet for the sake of others. ‘I’ll shut up about it for now,’ Lemmon fumes, ‘until the water reaches my mouth, then I’m sure as hell going to mention it to someone!’ So that’s my attitude to illness.
While I’m waiting in hospital queues I play word games, read and watch films (tricky, as you have to listen out in case your name is called), and have ended up watching things I’d never normally see. However, just as author Rob Young’s viewing affected his childhood in his memoir of television ‘The Magic Box’, my choice is skewed away from anything even vaguely approaching kitchen sink drama. Instead, it’s Korean drama like ‘All Of Us Are Dead’ and Spanish series, with ’30 Coins’ now filming season 2. Can’t wait!