#3 – Joy In The Simple Things

#3 - Wasabis

In the picture are two of my favourite things: coffee, particularly that festive specialty ginger bread latte and wasabi peas which have been out of stock at the shop next to work for a while. Which is why I went a little over the top once they were back in, ordered four little packs.

#Bliss

Brunch…

brunch

The things with kids – at least non-Nigerian ones, if my experience was indicative – is that they do not hesitate to call BS-ing adults out. In a moment of subtle pressure – and not for the first time – the unofficial God daughter got me to agree to take them for a meal to the Frankie & Benny’s across the road from mine. At the time, I was only slightly worried – it was late August, and the school holidays were not till October. I assumed that the kids, being kids, would have forgotten by the time October rolled along. My bunch didn’t, which was how I ended up dragging two children – with a third, the chief instigator, planning to arrive after a birthday party – through the doors at just past 12.30 on a Saturday afternoon; as far removed from my typical Saturday as could be. No gym, or light cleaning or an early Cineworld movie to look forward to.

Having managed to get everyone seated, and settled in at our assigned table which thankfully was tucked away from the hustle and bustle, we ordered our drinks – a diet Pepsi for me, a Tango for their father, fruit shoots for them; and then food. The peace and quiet that came with their intense concentration on food lasted no more than a few minutes, the first toilet break the precursor to a game of me too in which both V and M alternated toilet breaks. It didn’t help that the adjoining table was chock full of excitable children either, whose craned necks and general restiveness captured the attention of my crowd, once they had downed their meal.

F, who has evolved into a precociously talented – not young, her words not mine – nine year old, joined us an hour later. Being the bundle of energy she is, she lit the place up like a banshee, getting her usually more reserved baby sister a lot more agitated in the process. I think we did OK – between her father and I – also managing to catch up a few key issues deferred from our last proper catch up a couple of months ago. All told, we were pretty much done in two hours flat, bar last minutes requests for ice cream instigated by F, and channeled through her baby sister. In fairness to her, she did pick up toilet escorting duties after she’d downed her meal, allowing the adults a bit more catch up time.

Plenty of positives all round, if I say so myself, not least of which was my Favourite Uncle creds surviving in tact for another season. Labouring up the stairs to my house having bade all and sundry goodbye, with my jacket fitting a bit too snugly from all the food, the one niggle at the back of my mind was a sense of slight unease. If the strategic five year plan comes together, this – without the get away clause and with the potential for diapers and late nights – could be my life. That, is still more than a wee bit scary.

First World Problems

Thirty odd people, myself included, cluster around a table in a somewhat private corner of the Monkey House. Once a quarter, the guys and girls from work all pile in here to de-stress, and let our hair down. Rumour has it that after enough beers have gone around, fortuitous slips centred around what certain bosses actually think about certain staff have been known to occur. Usually, the evening starts with a few beers and nibbles – fish fingers, spring rolls, and all the other light food we’d collectively call small chops  in my other world, the small matter of a few thousand miles away.

Three beers in, I find myself somehow wedged between two women from a different group within my larger team. Besides the odd ‘Hi’ tossed across the hall way as I have passed them on the way to the shared printer, or the even more occasional chit-chat at the coffee machine, these are not people I would consider myself particularly well acquainted with.

In allowing myself to be stuck at this end of the table, I have perhaps made my most grievous mistake. The conversation that begins around my being single – uncomfortable enough as it were – eventually segues in to the even less comfortable territory of botched spray tans, gelish application and removals, and endless harping on about a perceived slight; a contractor had used one of the ladies’ parking space without asking.

It takes all of my will power to not physically run, but I survive, long enough to seize the arrival of a fresh platter of nibbles as an escape clause.

Phew!!!

Baguette days

 

unionsq_sunny_post

Given the decidedly appalling weather we have had out here, the very first signs of sunshine returning are enough to tempt people out of their various hiding places on to the public spaces again. Walking down my usual route back to work  – after a quick lunch hour detour into town – I notice the forecourt at the Square is a lot busier than usual. There are people seated on the wooden benches,  others standing in little groups and more , like me, passing through,  all united by the desire to soak up the rare sight of the noon day sun.

I make my way to my baguette place and order the usual – a freshly baked baguette stuffed full with plain chicken, crispy bacon and mozzarella cheese. I add a bag of potato chips and a coke and then join the queue slowly snaking its way towards the till. It is one of the regulars manning it today.

 – I think you not come anymore today, she says. She is Polish, speaks English in a decidedly belaboured manner, and smiles a little too enthusiastically at times.

 – Had things to do in town today. Totally forgot the time, I say shaking my head for emphasis.

 – No sauce for you?  Her tone is flat, almost listless, delivered in that half-question half-statement tone that masks resignation at the fact that I am short changing myself – or so she thinks.

Nah, I reply. You know I like it dry.

 – Your money, four pounds, she says.

I rummage in my wallet, find a five pound note and hand it over to her.  She unlocks the till, finds  two fifty pence coins and hands them over to me.

 – Tada.  That is the one Scottish quirk of language that is default out here. Even she, knows that.  I nod her my reply, grab my stuff and head out the door.

Outside I find a spot on a bench,  settle in to attack my greasy carb fest and soak in the sunshine. Knowing this city, there is no telling when the next opportunity will come.

About Town: The chicken tikka edition

My memories of previous encounters with Indian cuisine are not exactly fond. The last time – an impromptu appearance at a leaving do for an Indian expat from work – I ended up tossing and turning through the night, tormented both bodily and mentally by masala dosa. Thanks to that, and my well documented lack of adventure when it comes to food, it was my last attempt at eating anything Indian- a full five years ago.

Without any prior planning we end up standing and chatting outside an Indian restaurant. There’s me, my Iranian buddy and a third guy who he once worked for. We have spent the last few minutes catching up and reminiscing on the various bits and pieces of the shared lives we have missed in the intervening months.

The thing about these meetings is that they invariably segue into a catalogue of cynical musings. We moan about the lack of excitement in our line of business, gleefully swap stories about former bosses whose careers have gone awry, and self deprecatingly (in mock humility) discuss what it is we are currently working on.

As we stand in front of the Indian restaurant, someone suggests we go in and grab a bite. My Iranian friend is ambivalent, his ex boss is keen to try something new in the city and I am positively petrified, but for lack of a coherent excuse I agree and we walk in.

There are several empty tables available and we grab a seat by the window, in a smaller section of the room. I skip the starter, some sort of corn wrap with mixed sauces.

When the main menu arrives, it is a curious mix of names I am blissfully unaware of. I eventually order a chicken tikka with some rice, only medium spiced. When it arrives, it has a soft, light aroma. The chicken is slightly salty but tastes great, as does the accompanying rice side dish and the curry sauce. As I eat it, I half expect to suddenly throw up and massively embarrass myself, but I survive; washing it down with a sweet cider.

All in all it’s a great evening out, one more place to file in my places-to-take-a-prospective-love-interest-to and more importantly there’s one more flavour to my international food basket.