Posts Tagged ‘coffee’

Things I have said to famous people while making them coffee: the reblog

A few days ago, while talking about art, I mentioned a photograph that is in the National Portrait Gallery, of the Last Supper but reconstructed with actors. One of these actors is Simon Callow. This reminded me of the time Simon Callow and I became best friends, sort of…..

Simon Callow

Now you must bear in mind when reading this, that I had not had a television since leaving home when I was 18 and had not really been absorbing anything I did watch, even then. This is attested to by the fact that I have no idea whether I have watched loads of really classic films that I’m guessing I probably did watch at some point in my childhood. That is my defence.

This incident happened about six years later, when working in a little coffee kiosk in a train station.

A man came in one day and got an espresso and an orange juice. His face looked really familiar. When he left, I asked the others if they recognised him. One was Portuguese and the other Polish and they hadn’t recognised him at all. I’m not sure how well he is known outside the English speaking world but neither knew his face.

The next day he came in and I decided to be brave and asked him.“Sorry, I don’t mean to sound over familiar but I recognise you from somewhere and I can’t think where. Are you off TV?”

Yes. I said that. Those exact words – “off TV.” Are you off TV? Like some chav who can’t speak properly. Me. I said that. To Simon Callow.

Simon.

Callow.

What an insult.

He good-naturedly said, “Well, some of the things I’ve been in have been shown on television, yes.”

After he left, a poster on the station wall caught my eye. A poster for a pantomime showing at the nearby theatre. The man was on the poster! I quickly googled his name on my phone and realised, with a sinking feeling, that it had been Simon Callow. The famous Shakespearean theatre actor, Simon Callow. Yes, him.

And I’d asked him if he was “off TV.”

The next time he came in, I apologised and he was lovely and gracious about it, obviously. He asked my name and every time he came in, most days for the next few weeks, he always popped his head round to where I was tucked away making coffee and said, “Hello, Laura.”

Thank goodness he was so nice about it!

Gita from Eastenders

This one is from the same coffee job. A lady had been in every day for a few days and I had a real feeling that I knew her, or had known her, from my childhood in Liverpool. Now Liverpool isn’t the whitest place in the world but in comparison with London’s ethnic make-up, you just do notice people of different ethnicity a bit more because there are fewer of them.This lady obviously had an Indian background and a slight Indian accent and, for some reason, my first thought was of my Maths teacher at school, who was also of Indian origin but had a Liverpudlian accent. So the picture didn’t match exactly but I couldn’t think of anyone else Indian I had known during my childhood. Other ethnicities, yes, but not Indian.

But she was really familiar so I knew I knew her somehow.

“Hi, I hope you don’t think I’m being rude but I feel like I know you somehow. Did you ever live in Liverpool, I grew up there. Have you taught before?”

“No, I’ve never lived there. I was an actress about ten years ago though. You might have seen me in something?…”

It started to dawn on me and my face started turning red.

“I was in Eastenders. My character was called Gita.”

And there it was. That was how I knew her. My mum used to watch Eastenders so I’d been peripherally aware of her via TV. And then, years later, I’d seen a face that I knew from my childhood and asked her if she used to be my Maths teacher! What a let down for someone who spent a significant amount of her life doing a job she presumably loved, being recognised at the time and being in a well established television series which has won awards. Then you go for coffee ten years later and someone says, “Did you used to be my teacher?”

Big fat fail by Laura. Oops!

O, I do like to be beside the sea

Happy birthday to you,
Happy birthday to you,
Happy birthday to Danda!
Happy birthday to you!

Hip hip hooray and all that.

As you’ve probably guessed, it was Danda’s birthday yesterday so, in true birthday style, we ran off to the beach for the day. And it was glorious. The weather stayed warm enough to spend all day walking around but breezy enough to not be uncomfortable.

The day started with fancy lunch. I love a fancy lunch, as some of you may already know. I love fancy lunching. I love Michelin stars. I love pretty food.

This lunch did not disappoint.

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It started with bread, after which we were presented with calf’s tongue with piccalilli. Did I ever mention how much I love the free extras at nice restaurants?
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We had the same starter, a leek and potato soup with white truffle cream. My goodness, do I love a truffle! I love a truffle. I went crazy for this soup. It was really really good with some of the fresh bread dipped into it.
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Next up, Danda’s main was mackerel with mashed potatoes, spinach and tomatoes.
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Mine was a confit duck leg on a bed of lentils and bacon with cavolo nero and thinly cut, fried potatoes.
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It was easily the best duck I’ve ever eaten. It was so soft and fell off the bone without any resistance at all. The skin, which I worried about because it can be quite fatty and disappointing, was crispy and beautiful. The jus was fantastic too. I just ate and ate and hoped it would never end. Sadly, it did so off we went, out into the daylight, to seek our next adventure.

We found it on the Brighton Wheel, looking down at the seaside town from the sky.
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We then went for the longest walk ever in search of the Naturist Beach. O, what? Wait. I mean. I meant. I didn’t mean we went looking for it. I meant we were walking and then we saw it. By accident.

There was one bloke with a cap on chatting to a fully dressed couple and that was it. Disappointing.

We headed out to the marina to see what fun could be had there.
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There were a lot of generic could-be-anywhere shops near the marina so we decided to wander back to the beach but not after spotting an amazing ‘5D’ ride thing that we just had to go on. It was one of those rollercoaster simulator things and it was really good. We got given 3D glasses and were splashed with water or blown with wind. It was fast and furious and I yelped quite a lot!

We finished the day by splashing about in the water and lying on the beach looking at the sky.
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Getting spooked (part 2)

Last week, if you remember, I had a bit of wierd bulb-smashing incident when looking for ghosts in Ham House. I thought that was the end of it. And maybe it was. But something else happened that makes me think it wasn’t

Well, on Wednesday, there I was, working away. We were quite quiet in The Orangery so there was just me out front, making tea, talking about cake, etc etc. All the usual.

The coffee machine and the till are opposite each other so that if you have one person working at each, they’ll be standing back to back. I hadn’t made any coffees, just lots and lots of tea. The tea is made further along and I hadn’t touched the coffee machine at all. As I stood by the till doing money stuff with a customer, a coffee cup fell from the coffee machine (we keep the cups on top so they stay warm) and smashed on the ground next to me. It might interest you to know that it smashed on my right side, as did the light bulb.

Unperturbed, I continued serving. The man I was serving when it happened asked me if I was ok. I was like, ‘Yeh, I’ll clear it up in a second.’

But then as I was passing him his pot of tea, there was a shard of smashed coffee cup on the work surface near him. That bit was quite wierd because there is a fairly big gap between the coffee machine and the till and the rest of the cup was on the ground. How did that one shard manage to get across the gap and over by the customer?

I’m not saying anything, right. I’m just saying it happened.

The time I went on a French exchange

I was about 14 years old, I think. No, younger. I guess 12 or 13. I signed up to go on the French exchange trip at school. Goodness knows why. I wasn’t any good at French. I was in the third set of five in my year so I was by no means a high flyer. Anyway, I think it was partly because a friend, Sarah, said she was going on it so maybe I thought it’d be way fun.

The girl I stayed with (maybe her name was Collete or Marie or something, I don’t know) lived on a little farm thing and they didn’t lock their doors or worry about leaving the car running. It baffled me. Collete/Marie must have thought us dirt-poor when she came to stay in England and was given a small room in my Mum’s flat.

There was a lamp thing in the room I was given at Collete/Marie’s house which you touched and it turned on or off. This was the highlight of my French exchange.

As I was at a girls’ school, we combined the trip with the local boys’ school and we all went on a coach together with a few of the teachers. God, they must have had an awful time with us pre-teens, all giggling and working out which boys we fancied the most.

There was one boy on the trip called Stephen Fanning. I think that was his name. Anyway, we all teased him. I forget why. He must have shown a weakness that we, predictably, jumped upon. He was getting on quite well with one of the French students on the exchange and so we teased him about that too.

On the coach ride home, he finally flipped. Like, absolutely… flipped. And he said something along the lines of, “Well, I don’t care what you all think because I’ve got a girlfriend in France and we love each other!”

Well! Readers! I don’t even need to tell you how that story ended! Needless to say, the teasing increased. By 500% percent.

Another thing I remember was a guy called Seb telling me he’d been given coffee in a bowl by the family he was staying with. I spent the rest of the trip praying I wouldn’t be handed coffee in a bowl by anyone.

We also went to a little theme park. They had a pirate ship ride and as the place was empty, we kept shouting, “Encore!” once the ride had finished. We stayed on there for 11 cycles of the ride. When we got off, a girl called Danielle vomited next to a bin. Next to. Not in. Next to.

I didn’t really learn any French. Collete/Marie had good enough English that she translated for me. I did, however, learn the French version of the Macarena dance and develop a crush on a boy called Graeme who I saw five years later walking down the street and his jaw was all square-y. Had it always been square-y?

X is for…

X MARKS THE SPOT. (From Indiana Jones, although I think the quote is “X never marks the spot”. It’s a very vague connection but I’m a bit like Indiana Jones in this post, hence the quote.)

And so to my last day in Italy… sniffle sniffle.

Two days previously, we had tried to visit the amphitheatre in Pozzuoli and it had been closed but we really wanted to see it. After a quick breakfast at the hotel, we set out again, hoping it would be second time lucky.

And it was! Woop woop! It was so quiet. Apart from a group of school children when we first entered, we saw no other people while we there. And it was amazing. We were allowed under the stage and into all the corridors once used by the gladiators to enter the stage from underneath through trap doors.

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The cut out sections in the second floor up were used to keep cages with animals in to be released onto the stage too.

After a little while, we found a section where the corridors and stairways were accessible, although they were blocked off elsewhere. It was dark and cold and silent and I felt like I was an archaeologist, discovering it all for the first time. The Indiana Jones of the Roman world, if you will. Minus the baddies.

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By the time, we came up by the stage and seating area, it became clear that the section downstairs had never meant to be left open. It was too quiet, too secretive. But we were in by then and it was like a heady mix of discovery and disobedience. Being so quiet, there was no-one to tell us off so we kept exploring.

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We found rooms under the seating area where statues and other bits and pieces had been stored during excavations.

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Eventually, creeping about amongst all these amazing discoveries, we suddenly emerged into sunlight and were in the seating area.

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(I’m cheering an imaginary gladiator, in case you were wondering.)

After all this merriment, we were on a high and, even though we only had a few hours til we needed to be back in Naples to check out of our hotel, we went on a search for the seafront and some coffee. It took us far longer than we realised it would and by the time we got there, we barely had time to sit down before we had to start trekking back up the hill to find the station.

We asked directions at a roundabout and sped off in the direction we were told.

Now, one of two things must have happened here.

1. We were told the wrong direction.
2. We didn’t understand the directions properly.

As we walked down the road, it suddenly became really countrified. We were surrounded by greenery, there was no sound of traffic, only birds singing and we seemed to be walking out of town, not towards it. After fifteen minutes, we admitted defeat and turned back but the diversion had added half an hour on. We now had forty minutes to find the station, get a train back to Naples, get back from the station to our hotel, grab our bags and check out! We were up against it.

We ended up doing it in 43 minutes and burst through the door to reception, panting and apologising and explaining that we had been lost in Pozzuoli and we’re really sorry! Thankfully, they were horrified enough by our sweaty faces and profuse apologies that they gave us an extra hour on the room without charging.

We spent our last few hours after checking out, wandering around a nearby castle and taking photos looking over to Vesuvius…

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…before getting a taxi to the airport where, annoyingly enough, there was a problem with our plane and they had to fly a new one out from London, which meant we took off at 22.20 instead of 19.35. Airports are boring when you’ve just had three hours added onto your departure time!

Anyway, we got home without any more hiccups and have spent the last two days lying around letting our stomachs recover from the carb-and-icecream-onslaught that is Italian food! Mmmm….

U is for….

UNWILLING…

…which is how we left Capri on Monday morning. We had our fruit, yoghurt, granola and honey combo which has become our standard breakfast in Italy, checked out of our room and went to a little gelateria we had visited a few times already to get our last coffee on Capri. We then headed to the funicolare and down the hill, away from the quiet relaxing ambience of ‘our’ part of town…

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…to the crowded buzz of the port below.

Boat tickets bought, we headed sadly for our ferry and left the perfumed streets of Capri for the unknown shores of Napoli. We had read a few different things about Napoli, things like ‘dirty’, ‘run by the Mafia’ and ‘untouristy.’

I shall now give you my first impressions of Napoli.

1. Lots of graffiti. Everywhere. And I mean everywhere.
2. Lots of washing on lines hanging off people’s balconies.
3. Lots of concrete apartment blocks. In fact, I don’t think I’ve seen any houses. Everything is an apartment block. Painted yellow or pink.
4. Lots of people running. Not to get places. For exercise. But not even doing it properly, like putting any effort in, just kind of plodding, like they’re running lazily for a bus or something. And not even wearing sporty clothes. Strange.

The reports about it not being touristy were right. On the waterfront, it is a little. But most other places, people are just going about their lives and there has been no nod to tourism, no sugar coating, no gelaterias sprinkled inbetween every shop. It’s gritty and, yes, a little dirty and lively. It’s a completely different kettle of fish to Capri.

But the waterfront, where we are staying, is beautiful. The water is blue, the sky is blue, our beloved island is just across the bay, tantalisingly close, as we debate throwing in the towel and just going back and staying forever.

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By the time we got to Napoli, it was afternoon and we had read about a place called Pozzuoli, with an amphitheatre better preserved than that at Capua. We were excited. We jumped on a train and headed over there.

We went first to the top of the highest hill in the town, to see the Solfatara volcano, which is semi extinct and is described as having a ‘rotten egg ambience’ in our guidebook. We didn’t need much more persuading!

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And yes, it really, really does smell like rotten eggs when you get up close to the sulfurous gases.

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As the wind changed and the steam was swept into my face, my nostrils were filled with it. The warmth of the eggrot smell travelled into my nostrils and down into my throat and the steam heated up my face. Mmmm…. Happy birthday…. Egg-face. For indeed, it was my birthday on this day. And what better in the absence of candles to blow out, than some egg-steam in my face?

After being egged out for a while, we headed back down the hill to this amphitheatre. Danda was so excited. He loves a Roman ruin. And he loves an amphitheatre. Since seeing the Colossuem in Rome last year, I had been wanting to see one where I could walk all around, unrestricted, and see the area below the stage.

We found it near the train station and looked in through the side gates…

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It looked fab. We found the main gate and…. Come on, put your hand up if you got it? I’ll give you a clue, it happened twice in yesterday’s post… Yes, you at the back in the red, would you like to guess what happened when we got to the gate? Yes, well done! You got it! It was closed. Closed.

So we got on the train, came back to Napoli and dealt with our disappointment by eating bruscetta and pizza.

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Hearts on stuff

Although I had an interview with Danda planned for today’s blog, he’s having a major lie-in and, sadly, the prerequisite for my interview is that he is conscious. So I’m whipping out my back-up blog idea, which is to show you pictures of hearts I have found on stuff, because they pop up in unusual places. All you need is love and all that….

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Ok, I made this one. But I thought it was a good place to start.

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Milk splat heart

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Egg heart

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Latte heart

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Train ticket heart

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Flat white heart

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Another milk splat heart

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Cake heart

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Garlic heart

And now, to finish, another man made heart but it’s full of chocolate so I wanted to show it to you. Mmm…

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