PC 68 Eating Out ….. and In


In the last few days we managed, unplanned but actually delightfully, to eat out on three consecutive nights. You might think that this is a simple reflection on the social whirl in which we live here in Hove, but you would be wrong. We, I suspect like most people, eat out occasionally – it just happened that this time the evenings out were all bunched up together.

The local Ristorante Italiano, Orsino’s, is actually run by an Iranian, as is its sister restaurant, Otello’s, across the street. Not the same Iranian, but a relative; rumour has it some years ago a few staff at Otello’s walked across the street to open up a new place in competition! Some lovely neighbours, having decided they were done with having people for supper at home, asked us to join them for a meal at Orsino’s. Ramin, the manager, was able to be as obsequious as the ubiquitous Italian manager, but after the expected small talk returned to entertaining a couple of Iranian female models. The small-of-statue waiter Cassio was out of central casting, but we had, as expected, a good meal. Do you know, you can still have Insalata Tricolore in 2016, here in Hove? The offer of a complimentary glass of Grappa, or was it Limoncello (?), was graciously declined and we walked home down Albany Villas.

The UK’s Green party’s manifesto encourages the development of a local economy. In their warped sense of moral righteousness they envisage us driving cars made in a local factory, the cars running on petrol from a local oilfield, the pedals operated by feet wearing shoes made from local leather etc etc (Forgive me, I might be a little mean and selective here!). Sadly, like most idealistic endeavours, they failed to live up to their published dreams when they ran the City Council, and it came to the commissioning of the latest structure in Brighton – the BA i360, a 160m tall observation tower which will open this summer. All of the manufacturing was made on continental Europe, either by the Dutch steelwork specialists Hollandia or by the glass company Sunglass of, er, Italy. It’s also, I guess, a rather stark reflection on the UK’s dwindling manufacturing capability.

Not so ‘Isaac – at’, a restaurant in the North Laines area of Brighton (www.isaac-at.com). Personally the name is just on the too clever side of clever (particularly when you email info@isaac-at.com! (just read it aloud.) but I heartily support their aim, to provide food and drink that is sourced as locally as possible. For those of you who live in countries renowned for their wine, watch out. The sparkling Brut that preceded dinner and the Horsmonden Dry Davenport 2013 both came from Sussex vineyards and were apparently delicious. The menu is only decided when Isaac has been out and about, finding what he can: this evening for example it’s cuttlefish (from Newhaven) and Cucumber (from Chichester).

And it’s a little like a staged play, we the punters merely enjoying the creations of the chef artists. A ‘tasting menu’ was the offing, but even that was preceded by a little appetiser – a smoked salmon creation that tasted like a smoked salmon sandwich without the bread. The starter was asparagus, egg yolk, pork scratchings and scurvy cress  …… and so it went on, creation following dish, small, simply beautifully presented and unctuous. Occasionally the chef’s imagination ran away with itself …. “…. and it’s finished with the mist from steaming Kale.” Er? Really? Why? Highlights were poached cuttlefish with a smoked apple puree …… and a desert of chocolate and lavender ice-cream.

Cuttle Fish

poached cuttlefish with Bok Choi, smoked apple and cauliflower puree

We have dear friends who aren’t the greatest cooks on the planet and it’s recognised by them and us. One memorable ‘apple crumble’ was so hard that rumour has it it went into the footings for a fence post after we had all tried to eat it. They have had suppers with us and if there is anything as ‘our turn’ so it was. We offered to bring along some of the food (‘once bitten twice shy’ you might say), an offer greedily accepted, Oh! and we should help in its cooking …… and we had a great evening, no hassle, no pressure, just four people enjoying each other’s company. We drove back rather later than planned, a lovely Buttermilk Yellow moon, just off full, hanging in the night sky above the South Downs. April can be a month of changeable weather in England and the temperature outside was only 2°C. By the time we got down to sea level, the northerly wind was screened by the hills and at home the temperature had reached a balmy 6°C!!

So different from the evening before and the evening before that – and each in its own way memorable, sharing food with people you love. And tonight? Just the two of us, so we’ll probably look in the fridge, look in the cupboard and concoct something; you can probably guarantee it will be what we want!!

More scribbles ……..

Richard 28th April 2016                                       richardyates24@gmail.com

PC 67 A Short Break


London Gatwick Airport North Terminal. Wednesday afternoon in April. What are all these people doing, where are they all going? Judging by the coats and scarves all are off somewhere cool, although the extra clothing may simply reflect the rainy weather outside. What I can never get my head around is that this number of people, from everywhere within a radius say of 100 miles, are here today, just like the similar number who were here yesterday and will probably be tomorrow; we just happen to be seeing them today ….. as we join them on a short break.

We got here two hours before the advertised departure time as the traffic was slight; never want to be stressed before I fly! So now we sit, temptation at ever glance; for instance – ‘world duty free’ – but how do you know if it’s a good deal or not? You know from your local bank that their currency exchange rate is worse than the travel agent along the street, and they tell you that the rates at the airport are dreadful. So we continue to sit, wondering about a cup of coffee, people watching – families with children, the elderly in a special area as if they need protecting from the unseemly rabble, people in business clothes contrasting with those in shorts and flip-flops. I am not a shopper, hate ‘shopping malls’, but when I have time to kill I wander into shops I would not normally visit  – Jo Malone, Swatch, WH Smiths, ‘Duty Free’, Boots, Dixons – with its confusing display of every available new technology known to man. It goes on; Pret a Manger, Sunglasses Hut, Estée Lauder and the other scent outlets – eventually having tried them all you smell like some third rate brothel.

Last call for passengers Brian Walker and Louise Br..w ..te, flying to Lanzarote with Thompson Holidays, please make you way as quickly as possible to Gate 201 where your aircraft is waiting to depart.” The airport tannoy can be loud and intrusive …… and unintelligible sometimes!

Last call to the loo for me as I’m in the middle seat and the loo is the end of the aisle. I resist drinking too much water as I’ve sat on board after take-off, looking at the illuminated seat belt sign, praying it will be turned off and I can dash to the loo – and the more you look at it, the longer is seems to stay on. On a short break you can make do with one ‘carry on’ but I’m pleased it has wheels.

A coach out to the aircraft and we load. When flying became affordable for all, luggage went in the hold, passengers embarked and were seated quite quickly. Nowadays it takes 20 minutes or so, as people struggle to lift their ‘cabin baggage’ into the overhead lockers and when they’re putting it up there, they’re blocking the aisle! Some bags are just too big; so how were they allowed on? I get the advantages of not having hold luggage, as we didn’t, and on EasyJet they charge you for each piece of hold luggage, but the time saved in loading the aircraft with passengers would easily offset the time waiting for your bags at the other end. We take off, a little late due to the aforementioned problem!

After two hours plus we start our decent and touch down, that little squeal of rubber touching concrete the sound of ‘relief’. If you didn’t go to the loo on the flight because of the trolley blocking the aisle, now is the time. Before or after passport control? ‘After’ you decide …… and then find the cleaners have closed it off. And at the ‘Ladies’ the queue is snaking out onto the concourse!

We grab a taxi to the Sabóia Hotel in Monte Estoril, dump our bags and walk off to the nearest restaurant for supper with Celina’s brother and sister-in-law. Back in the hotel, we’re on the top floor; it’s windy on this coast most of the year and there’s something on the roof that bangs and scrapes all night. And the loo seat wouldn’t stay up!! To my female readers this doesn’t mean anything. To us males, you need a hand to hold one’s appendage and if the seat doesn’t stay up, another to hold it up! You could always sit down I suppose.

On our second night we ate in Cimas, a Irish Manor House replica from the 1940s; the current family have owned it for over 50 years. Old hunting prints and social cartoons cover the walls – one entitled: ‘A Day Trip to Brighton’! Home from home you might say! Portuguese waiters attend, I think, the same school as the Italian ones. They are all male, all over 50 and all impeccably well mannered. Good grub too!

I sat on the 6th floor balcony on a white plastic chair in the weak morning Spring sun, looking at the view. To the west, my right, the old town of Cascais and its modern marina denominated the view. The wind was strong and the tops of the waves of the Atlantic were whipped into a fine spray. To my left, far away on the shimmering sea, I could just make out the lighthouses guarding the entrance to the Tagus River and the Portuguese capital city, Lisbon.

Short breaks are, er short and suddenly we’re in the taxi returning to the airport. It’s Friday evening and the European school holidays are coming to an end; the airport is crowded, people finding food or running to get to their gate in time. Easyjet post their departure gate and we join the queue; we’re still in the queue when the scheduled departure time comes and goes, with no apology! We board, we taxi and we wait, another queue (!) Half an hour before midnight we touch down at Gatwick and taxi ……. and taxi ……. and taxi …… 15 minutes to find a parking slot (a little like finding a parking spot for your car on a Friday evening in busy Hove!). You have to have the patience of a saint. I join the small queue for the ‘eye recognition software’ passport control; fortunately I’m recognised and ‘in’. Off to call the car parking valet service, and find that my iPhone battery has suddenly decided to show ‘10% remaining’!! We get the car and head home; a refreshing couple of days in a different country. Just a short break, just a short scribble!!

Richard 21st April 2016                                       richardyates24@gmail.com

PS If you think I have a fixation about knowing where the loos are, you’re right. One of those irritating physical aspects of middle age!!

PC 66 Molars and Wisdom (continued)

For those of you old enough to go to the cinema in 1976, you may remember a film called “Marathon Man” with Dustin Hoffman and Laurence Olivier? If not, rent it! Following the murder of Babe Levy (Hoffman)’s brother, ex-Nazi Szell (Olivier) believes that Babe was given information about a diamond-smuggling operation that Szell is running. His henchmen grab Babe when he is out running, and handcuff him to a …… dentist chair. Szell had a reputation as a torturer in the war and applies his skills to one of Babe’s teeth cavities, using a dental probe. At this point most people in the cinema couldn’t watch and cover their ears to the screams of Hoffman. Did I suggest you rent it? Maybe not!

We are always urged to clean our teeth more regularly, more efficiently and if there is one area of dental hygiene that has improved it’s here; or maybe as I get older I recognise more and more how critical this is. The ordinary tooth brush now comes in all sorts of shapes and sizes or you can use an electric one. Both need the brush replacing regularly or they begin to look at though you clean the dog’s food bowl with it. Clearing food from between our teeth has become much easier, but if you leave it for too long, you get that slight whiff of rotting food when you do – disgusting! I should follow Celina’s example and clean my teeth after every meal but, except after eating spinach or pineapple, rarely do. Tooth picks, floss, interdental brushes, mouthwash and now the electric ‘AirFloss’ assist. Diligently use this latest gadget and you feel you’ve been to the hygienist, but haven’t paid £55 for the privilege! And if you floss, please do NOT do it in public at the dinner table (See PC 38 March 2015).

As the King’s Fund, a London-based Health pressure group, says of the changes taking place: “Sadly the lower socio-economic group and those less educated have not been giving up unhealthy behaviours as fast as the rest of the population and this does not bode well for our future.” Smoking tobacco, for instance, is bad for your teeth and for your gums. It doesn’t cost a great deal to look after your teeth, but if you need treatment, you need money. If you can afford it, you can look after your teeth.

There has been much discussion here in the UK about a tax on sugary soft drinks as one way to combat growing levels of obesity and diabetes; the government has just announced it will impose such a tax in 2018. But we don’t help ourselves, do we? The modern coffee houses like Starbucks and Costa, visited by 20% of the population every day, sell some concoctions that contain 24 teaspoons of sugar – three times the recommended daily intake in one drink. The ubiquitous Jamie Oliver went to Mexico where the poor quality of drinking water has caused villagers to only drink Coca Cola; the result has been a huge rise in Diabetes and tooth decay. Oliver’s TV documentary was a sad reflection on modern life. Children as young as 5 are having rotten teeth pulled out. In the UK projected costs to cover diabetes and dental decay could overwhelm the National Health Service (NHS) budget.

And here’s the funny thing. When the UK’s NHS was set up in 1948 it was trumpeted as ‘free for all, free at the point of delivery.’ Not everything is free; people are expected to pay towards the cost of their dental and optical treatment, and towards the cost of their prescriptions, except if you’re pregnant or under 18. So it is possible to get limited dental cover on the NHS, but it’s very restricted and any treatment needed is not free; only some £3.8bn per year is set aside to cover dentistry, from an overall budget of £116bn. When I mentioned this to the Practice Nurse at my local Doctor’s surgery, she said she didn’t go to the dentist as she knew she would need treatment, and couldn’t afford it. Maybe the old man on the bus was in a similar situation. But couldn’t he have had dentures, those revolting things that people kept in some Sterident beside their bed overnight? Maybe they are no longer available such is the advances in implants etc.

The advances in techniques may explain the huge increase in cosmetic dental work. Braces are now ‘normal’, often for adults as well as teenagers. Implants have become routine if you have the money, and the variety of claims for toothpaste seem never ending. It was ever thus. At school in the last century I regularly sent an empty toothpaste tube to Colgate as the box said: “if you don’t notice the difference, money back guaranteed.” Who could really tell?  Today the same company claim ‘maximum cavity protection whitening plus sugar acid neutralisation’ – wow! We do need to accept that teeth are a natural part of us and as such will rarely be too uniform and level. It’s so obvious when someone has had too much cosmetic work; their teeth no longer look natural, the smile is so synthetic; pity, I think.


A natural look?

When you meet someone for the very first time, you instinctively look at their eyes. If these are friendly, you look down the face to the mouth, to a welcoming smile. So teeth are important in making that good first impression huh? I had a client who mumbled when he spoke, didn’t open his mouth to enunciate the words well – and you know what? They were ashamed of their teeth, all crooked and not too clean. Three months and a few hundreds of pounds later, they were a different person, projecting their personality and ability with confidence!

So it does matter, it matters enormously; smile with confidence, laugh with love ……. and if you can, keep paying your dentist for those check-ups.

Richard 10th April 2016                                        richardyates24@gmail.com