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August 2011
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Goldsmiths Ltd.

Vodka and Pig Ears

Last weekend  was a bit middle-aged – there was a dinner party, an antique shop session (where, embarrassingly, I bumped into someone from work, destroying any remaining notions that I do cool things with my weekends) and a golf course.

On Thursday night I made a Nigella chilli con carne, containing – true to Lawson form – two whole bottles of sweet chilli sauce. Nigella’s culinary formula is to take a dish of average calorie content and lace it with butter, cream, sugar, lard, goose fat, chocolate, melted mars bar, cheese, golden syrup, mascarpone, or any other readily available ingredient packed with heart attack, so the final dish contains enough calories to fuel an arctic circle platoon for six months straight.

It was pretty good though – the next day I discovered two of my end-of-the-night guests had scraped the cold leftovers straight from the dish before they left at 2am. Among these guests was Kenny, who arrived with his trademark 24 pack of Carling, hefting it onto the kitchen worktop with the grim purpose of a builder positioning a pavement slab, and George, who decided at 1.30 that it would be a good idea to throw the bung of Dave’s full whisky bottle out the window so we’d ‘have no choice but to stay and finish it’.

Sadly no-one felt particularly bound to this impromptu whisky pact and we got halfway through before things began to wind down and Dave nipped into the kitchen to cover the unfinished bottle with a bit of clingfilm.

Having refused to play golf with me on faintly sexist grounds, Ed agreed to meet me halfway with a Sunday evening date to the driving range. We took a few of his clubs (drivers, or maybe they were irons. Actually, they could have been drivers. I can sense you don’t care – they were golf clubs) on the bus through Tooting and walked for twenty minutes to a sorry-looking public course. I think the lovely green ones are only open to the sort of men who own expensive whisky and trouser presses. There is a sign by the golf club in Elie (Scotland) where we went on family Summer holidays for fifteen years that says ‘No women or dogs’. This isn’t tongue-in-cheek, it’s deadly serious – golf courses are the last refuge of the pompous. Judging from the ones I have seen before being shooed away (along with a couple of daschunds who’d turned up on hind legs to try their luck) I can see why the men might have tried to keep golf courses to themselves for so long; they’re the male equivalent of a spa – nice and quiet, plenty of neatly mowed lawns to look at, the theraputic whack and plunking of balls carrying through the air.

Ed and I got a basket of 100 balls and stationed ourselves in a booth, next to a man trying to instruct his 5 year old son (‘you’re NOT going to be any good at this Freddie, unless you hold the club PROPERLY’ – poor little sod)

‘It’s not a very big distance to the end’ I remarked to Ed, observing the 50m long netted area in front of us, littered with hundreds of little white balls.

‘Trust me, you’ll be OK with this distance’

‘I’m not so sure’

‘Seriously – you’ll be fine’

‘But I’m just going to keep hitting the end’

‘Yeah, OK. Tell you what – I’ll give you a pound for every time you hit the end’

At first, he may have had a point – even the five year old boy was sailing them past me. But after a while I got the hang of it, and Ed, to his alarm, found himself ten quid in debt as a succession of beauties sailed into the end netting.

‘You do know that whenever you do an air shot, it’s minus a pound’

‘What? You can’t introduce a new rule halfway through just because I’m doing well!’ I said, hitting an air shot.

‘Oh dear. I’d be careful. That’s minus a pound’

If we’d played by the rules I would have walked away with twenty-four of Ed’s pounds; twenty four more than he was expecting, I think. As it was, my air shots brought the figure south to twelve, an amount I have stolen from his change drawer in the last few weeks to pay for my morning coffees, so we called it quits.

I’m writing this post from Estonia, where I’ve come for a few days to review a hotel. It’s an hour until dinner and I’ve succumbed to the packet of expensive mini bar nuts while writing this, the shells of which are now strewn in little triangular piles all over the room, as if I’ve just been paid a visit by a pistachio Blair Witch. The building is very old and, according to the general manager, haunted by a female ghost who turns the pile of books in the master suite upside down when you leave the room.  

Yesterday it bucketed down with rain, and we were given an umbrella tour of the Talinn old town, embroidered with plenty of fabulously grisly medieval stories from our tour guide: the monk who was executed for axing a maid to death because she served him an omlette ‘as hard as a shoe’, a neck shackle in the square where they used to put gossiping women, and an old pharmacy with dried deer penises used to help restore libido.

We tried some local cuisine on Friday night – roasted boar, pig ears, and (in an impressive Estonian attempt to incorporate meat into absolutely everything) bacon infused bread. Last night was Russian food (caviar, vodka, miniature apples, herring and beetroot) and a eurotrash club called Déjà vu, where we sat on a VIP table with the cover girl of Estonian playboy and a group of men who all looked like variations on the baddie from Grease.

The women here are all beautiful; the men are not, an imbalance evidenced by the amount of drop-dead gorgeous women who seem to have very little clue as to exactly how drop-dead gorgeous they actually are. Meanwhile, the template of male beauty is best summarised by this shop mannequin we passed this afternoon. Though – I’ll admit – I do like the jumper:

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