Hardeep Singh Kohli: Silent sambas with a committed cleaner
NATALIA is great. I see her once a week, for a few hours. It's a strange sort of relationship if I am honest; not the sort of nexus I ever imagined would develop in my life.
I never reckoned that I would become attached to her, develop a commitment with her. But I have. I'm sure my life would be markedly changed if Natalia were to go. There is much I would miss about her but mostly the fact that she leaves my flat really clean and tidy. Natalia is my lady that does, my cleaner.
Every Wednesday morning, she arrives bright and early and removes the detritus of a debauched, sometimes decadent, week from my apartment, returning sanity and normality to my most humble of abodes.
We have a curious relationship defined by the most intimate of encounters; she sees me first thing in the morning, the gruff hairy pre-shower bear and the sweet-smelling corduroy-clad post-shower gent. She sees my kitchen and bathroom at their worst, the every secret of my life strewn unselfconsciously everywhere. And without complaint or restraint she noiselessly moves about my space delivering status quo.
For the past few weeks I, myself, have been up at the crack of dawn every Wednesday, off out the door prior to her arrival and so have missed our silent sambas around the flat, each eager not to interfere with the other. This week, normal transmission resumed and I felt hugely comforted by her diligent and loving presence around me. And the flat seemed cleaner than ever.
Pear and cheddar crumble? Don't knock it till you've tried it
Cooking is all about combinations. Salt and pepper; spaghetti and bolognese; fish and chips. We take great comfort in the familiarity of such pairings, and almost philosophical sense that while lamb is accompanied by mint, pork with apple sauce or beef with horseradish, then all is good and right and becalmed in our world. Yet, in the pursuit of excellence, of innovation, of change, new and bizarre combinations of food are attempted. These endeavours have at their very heart a desire to shake the complacency out of cooking, to shock and surprise the palate with untried and untested flavours.
I have attempted such collisions: rhubarb and roast pork; oxtail and hake; chicken and satsuma. Luckily for me, my combos, while not always attaining the hoped-for level of excellence, certainly were edible. Unlike my cousin Teji, whose level of kitchen-based experimentation makes Heston Blumenthal look decidedly pedestrian: Teji was astonished that a fish finger and digestive biscuit omelette wasn't utterly delicious.
And while Blumenthal has shocked and awed us with avant-garde notions such as snail porridge and the like, his mastery of combinations comes from years of experience and an innate sense of creative brilliance. Unlike my beloved friend Miss Campbell and her pear and cheddar crumble. That's right: pear and cheddar crumble. Every ounce of my being wanted to cry foul of the idea of combining a strong Davidstow cheddar with sweetened baked pears. It just seemed so very wrong. Miss Campbell's husband and I discussed at length the well known postprandial pairing of pears with stilton, but I was fascinated by pears and cheese combined and cooked. It just sounded so very wrong. And it was, until you tasted it. I would have never considered pears and cheddar to be such a heavenly match, the testament to which was the fact that long after my guests had left, I polished off the remaining crumble. The proof of that pudding was most certainly in the eating.
More than a match for the Clapham omnibus
The bus is a great leveller, a very different way to look at the world. I love the notion that the word bus itself is the contracted form of the Latin "omnibus", meaning for everyone. Everyone travels together, in a single vehicle, unlike a train. What I love is that each stop can be identified solely by those who alight there. The 55 that takes me from the East End to town passes through a variety of neighbourhoods. Because it's a town bus, the make-up of passengers seems always so varied, so cosmopolitan. From day-trippers from the suburbs to the workaday commuter and everyone in between.
While ghosting our way through urban London, surrounded by beautiful architecture and splendid sights, it seems the most interesting views are those of the people gathered uncomfortably on the top deck of the 55. I like to watch folk and work out who will be getting off where and why. I call it bus bingo and it keeps me entertained for hours.
On Tuesday, I met a pal on the bus, a photographer called Brendan. He is studying at the painfully cool Central St Martins School of Art and the 55 is his bus of choice. Brendan is very ahead of the curve fashion-wise: he dresses in a unique way – he revisits the 1990s with his shirt, the 1980s with his flares and the 1970s with his footwear. His hair is best described as being a Hoxton fin, and his pierced lip sets his whole look off perfectly. He's a lovely lad. We chatted the five-minute journey away, and as the bus juddered to a standstill at his stop and he rose to alight, I looked around the fellow passengers that were jumping off. They were to a woman and a man, uberhip, ultra chic, painfully cool kids, all off to Art School. The 55 was significantly less hip once the art school kids had alighted, dissolving into the city streets, diluting their cool among the thousands of city folk.
What a picture! Tourists fall for the candid camera
Sunshine and tourists. Somehow they seem to go hand in hand. The cacophony of foreign voices, the overlong shorts, the gathered looks of bewilderment and the clinical obsession with photography remind me of an old trick I used to play on visitors to our country, a trick that kept me entertained and hopefully kept them bemused.
As I wandered the streets I would happen upon a gaggle of tourists posing for a photograph, a keepsake from their visit to London. I would, unbeknown to them, stand immediately behind them at the very moment at which the shutter opened, thereby including myself forever in the memory of their trip abroad.
I had the jolly notion that upon returning and looking through their snaps they would all wonder who the big hairy fat guy with the turban was. Ah, simple pleasures.
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Weather for Edinburgh
Friday 24 May 2013
Temperature: 3 C to 12 C
Wind Speed: 18 mph
Wind direction: North east
Temperature: 7 C to 17 C
Wind Speed: 13 mph
Wind direction: West