Sunday, 15 February 2009

Girlies doing it for themselves

On the off chance that you’ve been off world for the last week or so, yesterday was Valentine’s Day.

Now in the dim and distant past, The Other Half announced to me that he isn’t “romantic”, so over the years I have become accustomed to 14 February being just like any other day. At least when it’s at the weekend, one doesn’t have to put up with hearing colleagues announcing their own plans for the evening debauch.

It does all, of course, beg a few questions. We’ve been together for almost 20 years and, for the first 10 or so, I’d send him a card but was quite used to the lack of any reciprocation. Yet in the second half of that sentence, I have begun to feel differently. There is even, occasionally, a little sense of annoyance. Why? Have I perhaps decided that I actually deserve a bit of that “romance” – however soppy it may sound? Or, worse still, have I started to succumb to the dread god of commercialism, and am merely now hankering after what Hallmark tells me I should have?

Whatever the answer, instead of pondering too long, I have the chance for a little girlie indulgence today – and fully intend to make the most of it.

Super League – the pinnacle of European club rugby league – has recommenced. So, packed lunch in his rucksack, The Other Half set off at 8.50 this morning for the twilight zone. Or Yorkshire, as it’s sometimes known.

Girlie plans can now be put into place.

Actually, most of those “plans” flew right out of the window at the first hint of reality – I can do (or not) what the hell I want: there is nobody else to answer to. In a fit of indulgence, I took a stroll to the nearest shop that I know of that sells crumpets, salving my conscience by buying an Innocent smoothie (two of my five a day) as well as the crumpets, which later dripped with good, unsalted French butter.

I took the time to sit in a café-bar near Colombia Road flower market and browsed the music section of the Observer, feeling so at one with the world that I even enjoyed a lengthy piece about Saint Bono of the U2 without feeling the need to snarl cynically.

Later, I messed around with the camera at home, producing nothing of value except a few lessons in lighting.

Then I chilled in front of the TV and watched some cricket.

Those plans had included serious amounts of this and serious amounts of that. And all of it worthy. But here I am now, a risotto on the hob (yesterday’s stock smells glorious as the Arborio absorbs it), tapping away on my laptop in the kitchen, feeling relaxed and at ease. Usually, this is the point at which I start guilt-tripping, as that old time Protestant work ethic invades my leisure, leaving me with a sense of having wasted hours simply by relaxing, but rest has a great deal of value all of its own. And for today at least, I have successfully banished such guilt.

The risotto is a simple one – more Jamie Oliver. Take ye basic rice dish, add lashings of wonderfully fragrant thyme, fresh stripped from the twigs, stir in rich Marscarpone at the end and serve with a topping of toasted breadcrumbs and slivered almonds. I promise you, I’m not depriving myself.

I have a single-portion almond and pear tart for dessert, which will be perfect as I will pour myself into my armchair and watch a film. Since this is still my post-Valentine girlie day, I’ve selected Summertime, David Lean’s beautifully shot tale of a repressed Anglo-Saxon spinster (Katherine Hepburn) on the holiday of a lifetime to Venice, being swept off her feet by a touch of Latin passion (Rossano Brazzi).

I can’t claim that there are any great artistic reasons behind this choice – although one could perhaps suggest that Brazzi was a piece of Italian art in his own right (and oh, he had taste – his beloved wife Lydia was more my shape than that of an Ava Gardner). I shall lech in quiet pleasure. I first remember seeing him as Emile de Becque in South Pacific … “Some enchanted evening” … oh ye Roman gods (even though he was a Bologna boy).

In those days I didn’t know what lust was, imagining naively that what was going on was love. Ah well, we all grow up – and I am unapologetic. I like the story too: all we girls, brought up with that Protestant work ethic and repressed senses, could do with a little of the Latin in our lives.

The Protestant work ethic has been shut in the cupboard in the hall, where it's thumping the door and squeaking in protest. But it can bang all it likes – it’s not coming out tonight.

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