Happy new year
Needless to say I’m not in the greatest frame of mind.
I’m back at my fucking desk after what must have been one of the best Christmases’ I’ve had since I was a kid. I made extensive notes in order to recall what happened but looking back on that cheery handwriting under the fluorescent glare of the office lighting just adds to the gloom. To add insult to injury IC is buggering off to Singapore after work on a business trip today… I’ve decided that anyone ‘de-toxing’ in January must be sectioned.
So here’s a potted summary of my Christmas, which begun in the almost-snow walking away from the office Christmas party at 8-ish following 3 hours of ill advised drinking. Once I reached home following a mercifully vague journey IC and I began to celebrate our new found freedom, we had a few hours to kill as we weren’t due to set off from Hackney until 2am. By the time we did I was completely pissed.
I can’t remember much about getting to Milan. I remember waiting for the coach outside Liverpool Street station because it was dangerously cold and I wanted to be warm so much I was almost crying. When the coach did finally arrive and we alighted, I slept, I’ve no clue how I got off the coach, through check-in, passport control or on the plane (or how I was even allowed on) because I remember nothing of the flight at all, not even the takeoff and landing which doesn’t really inspire much sympathy for the so-called ‘terrified flyer’ I’m supposed to be. I slept the whole way. No, my first recollection of any part of the journey was walking into the airport lounge and noticing it smelt very pleasantly of coffee, and that I was still inebriated.
IC bought said coffee and shortly after I was bundled onto a second coach which took us to Brescia, I slept on this one too, and we arrived at some point mid morning where IC’s mum was waiting for us to take us home. The rest of the day was hazy to say the least, pork mince and fennel for lunch (the first of many excellent meals, we’ll get onto that bit shortly, of course) then according to my notes IC and I went shopping and returned home for supper, a decidedly delicious vegetable broth with broccoli which aided 13 hours of solid sleep afterwards.
I’d bought some traditional Christmas fare from England, Pork Pie, Stilton, Cheddar, which I imposed on IC’s mum at lunch the following day. IC’s mum served this with leftover broccoli and fennel that, initially, caused my stomach to retract, until I followed protocol and generously sloshed it with oil and vinegar and thereby converted the veg into instant pickles. Marvellous. After lunch IC went to visit the first of many relatives that preceded the first of many an Apperativo.
Forgive me if I’ve harped on about this before, the whole Apperativo thing, but it’s fucking wonderful and something I’d like to see in the UK but would be impossible to adopt. Essentially it’s a pre-dinner drink consisting of Prosecco and Apperol (like Campari) soda water, ice and a slice of Orange, served with finger food and/or snacks -crisps, nuts and the like- between about 5 to 8 pm. Traditionally you have Apperativo in a bar before going home to eat dinner. As cited, this wouldn’t work with the British because we wouldn’t go home to dinner, we’d stay until closing, and bars don’t really close until about 2-ish over there, which is great because you’ve plenty of time after dinner to carry on where you left off.
So, after dinner at home, tortellini with soft cheese and honey (which sounds horrific but works like a charm) we went out to meet some of IC’s friends at a local bar. We walked to the centre of town in the freezing bloody cold and arrived at a crowded little bar that was all ‘cool’ and knowing with a DJ slap bang in the middle of the room twiddling knobs. IC pals were already there and I liked them both instantly, this was going to be the norm, and they both had a fairly decent command of English that was embarrassingly helpful. I got stuck into the Negroni, a favoured Italian cocktail with a gin-base and loosened up. The DJ was getting on my tits though, apparently he was from Detroit and thought as much of himself as the bar did of him. A frankly toe curling exchange took place in the smoking area when he did a sort of ‘peace and love’ speech that his obsequious audience could’ve never understood as most of it was in a sort of faux jive, but despite this they hugged him like he was the second coming. It was good to move on to the next bar that was like a perverts living room, red and black and covered with monochrome S&M based photos and paintings and punctuated with lots of mirrors on which were scrawled quotes from the likes of Woolf, Bataille and Crowley
The owner, a charismatic gravel-voiced dude, spurned our orders for our desired cocktails preferring instead to mix his idea of what he thought they should taste like. My Negroni became ‘A Cardinal’ a combination of gin and three different types of Martini and my drinking companions were equally delighted with their offings too. I didn’t want to leave but leave we did, IC and I were still feeling the effects of the journey and all that had gone with it. The walk home was extremely cold and it had begun to snow. By 2am we were in bed, shattered.
I was dimly aware of buying a rabbit in the supermarket on the Saturday of our arrival. IC’s mum had asked for one so we bought a whole one, it’d been skinned and that was that. It was fucking disgusting looking but didn’t prevent me from doing a rendition of Bright Eyes as I waved it in the faces of the children it’d been stored out of sight from. It was a just action. Italian supermarkets are magical places; particularly in the salami and cold meat section where you could be forgiven you were buying an edible toy rather than the remains of slaughtered animal matter, now it was my turn for justice. On the morning of Monday I was woken by IC who asked me for a small favour. Apparently her mum was used to her rabbits being sectioned by the butcher and ‘did I mind if I cut the bugger up?’
Not being particularly squeamish I agreed to give it a shot but I hadn’t reckoned with the little bit of hangover from the previous evening. I wandered into the kitchen where the rabbit, now out of it’s cellophane wrap, lay glistening on the table with one eye off and it’s little tongue lolling between its rictus grinning gob. IC’s mum handed me some butchering secateurs for the bone and a serrated knife for cartilage and sinew and I tentatively started to cut the leporids head off. After a few snips I crunched through the neck causing its other eye to pop happily from its socket but try as I might the knife wasn’t really doing the business with the meat-wiring holding it’s head on. I was forced to pick up the entire creature and hold the dangling head against its chest and saw up through the neck which caused me to retch somewhat, the neck came apart so suddenly the rabbits barnet shot out of my grip and hit the floor with a fat plop inspiring more retching from the bellend butcher stood over it. I concluded I didn’t want to be a butcher anymore but faced without choice I decided to violently attack the carcass without any mercy, limbs off, torso quartered and its tiny organs plucked from the chest cavity and laid on a plate for risotto in under 5 horrific minutes. As unpleasant the task was, the feeling of compromised satisfaction was oddly reminiscent of giving a tramp some loose change.
Outside it was snowing hard, IC and I decorated the tree as her mum prepared the freshly butchered creature, which was served for lunch. By god it was good, one of the best things I ate on my holiday, I’m sure the fact I was part of its making had a part to play in its taste but beyond this I’ve come to the considered decision that rabbit may just eclipse lamb as my favourite meat.
After the remains of the bunny were put onto a slow-boil for stock, we all hopped in the car to visit some relatives in town, it wasn’t easy going, the snow was settling and the conditions getting a little fraught. We arrived and walked into the grounds of the beautiful cemetery, a Romanesque building not without a hint of Rococo splendor. The large grounds were pure white and the snowed creaked underfoot. All was still save the falling snow and the breath curling from our mouths. It was very beautiful though not without a hint of ghostly other, I was happily munching up M R James stories during stolen moments in the house and I almost willed a figure to appear in irrational circumstances in the distance, behind a tree, pointing the way to a staircase that leads down to the vaults where nothing living stirred.
We dropped off IC’s mum on the way to finish off the shopping but the traffic and weather conditions forced us into a gridlock. I remember the whining and moaning when London got a day off following a heavy snowfall in February last year, if it’s any consolation the Italians were dealing with the fucking stuff as badly as we, and they’re supposed to be ‘used to it.’ IC and I sat for a hour in traffic, we moved no more than 10 yards so at the next possible junction we turned off, found a space to park and went off to take Apperativo at the bar we’d visited in the spring before popping off home with some difficulty.
As soon as we were home some friends came by to pick us up and take us for dinner, the traffic had cleared but the snow hadn’t. The snow was now at least a foot deep and showed no signs of stopping, which was sheer childish delight; in fact, I’d not seen snow fall like this since the 70’s. Mikey and Sophia took us to the oldest restaurant in Brescia, a modest looking place slap bang in the middle of town boasting traditional local food and waiting staff that resembled the Franciscan cast of Name of the Rose. My tortellini to start with was richer than Croesus but so delicate and nothing like the shit we call pasta over here. In the traditional of the nativity I chose a special local delicacy, braised donkey which was very similar in texture to braised beef but much richer and with less fat in the sinew. I was pig-stuffed after the first mouthful but cleaned my plate. The accompanying wine was very Moorish too and IC and I thought it best to continue this drinking aspect in the bar we’d visited earlier where the former seemed to know everyone by sight if not name.
When we left it was still snowing but not a soul was to be seen, it felt like we had the city to ourselves and we rolled about in virgin snow like a couple of wankers before buffeting each other with snowballs. Winter holiday cliché? Yes, nothing to do with me, I was just there.
More of this balls tomorrow but first, it’s Gerry’s 2009 top 100 chart with a tune that has no relation to it at all.
NO. ARTIST SONG TITLE POINTS
100 Pearl Jam Got Some 102
99 The Doves Winter Hill 105
98 The Wombats My Circuitboard City 107
97 Echo And The Bunnymen Think I Need It Too 107
96 Papa Roach Hollywood Whore 107
95 Absent Elk Sun And Water 107
94 Paramore Decode 107
93 Mindless Self Indulgence Evening Wear 109
92 Anthony And The Johnsons Epilepsy Is Dancing 110
91 The Walkmen In The New Year 110
90 AFI Medicate 112
89 Hot Melts Edith 114
88 Preston Dressed To Kill 116
87 Ou Est Le Swimming Pool Dance The Way I Feel 116
86 Hollywood Undead Undead 117
85 Marmaduke Duke Rubber Lover 117
84 AC/DC Anything Goes 117
83 Baddies Battleships 118
82 Gallows I Dread The Night 119
81 Gallows London Is The Reason 119
80 A Place To Bury Strangers In Your Heart 121
79 Hockey Too Fake 124
78 Slipknot Dead Memories 124
77 Shinedown Sound Of Madness 126
76 30 Seconds To Mars Kings And Queens 126
75 Green Day 21 Guns 129
74 Coldplay Life In Technicolour II 134
73 Graham Coxon Sorrow’s Army 137
72 Empire Of The Sun We Are The People 137
71 Glasvegas Flowers And Football Tops 140
70 Depeche Mode Peace 140
69 Silversun Pickups Panic Switch 144
68 Green Day East Jesus Nowhere 144
67 Eagles Of Death Metal Anything ‘Cept The Truth 145
66 Marmaduke Duke Silhouettes 147
65 Yeah Yeah Yeahs Zero 148
64 Enter Shikari Juggernauts 152
63 Five Finger Death Punch Hard To Sea 153
62 Kasabian Fire 154
61 Cage The Elephant Back Against The Wall 156
60 Ladyhawke Magic 157
59 The Prodigy Take Me To The Hospital 158
58 Bloc Party One Month Off 158
57 Red Light Company Arts And Crafts 159
56 Foo Fighters Wheels 159
55 Marilyn Manson Arma (Goddam Motherf**kin) Geddon 160
54 Pearl Jam The Fixer 162
53 Lacuna Coil Spellbound 163
52 Baddies Holler For My Holiday 168
51 The Temper Trap Sweet Disposition 169
50 Dead Weather Treat Me Like Your Mother 173
49 Athlete Black Swan Song 175
48 Pink Please Don’t Leave Me 176
47 The Grammatics The Vague Archive 177
46 Sparks Lighten Up Morrissey 178
45 Fightstar Mercury Summer 179
44 Maximo Park Questing Not Coasting 183
43 Maximo Park The Kids Are Sick Again 185
42 Them Crooked Vultures New Fang 186
41 Oasis Falling Down 188
40 Paramore Brick By Boring Brick 188
39 Kasabian Where Did All The Love Go? 192
38 Lily Allen The Fear 193
37 Twisted Wheel We Are Us 194
36 Ian Brown Stellify 196
35 Eagles Of Death Metal Wanna Be In L.A. 197
34 The Prodigy Warrior’s Dance 198
33 Paramore Ignorance 200
32 Placebo For What It’s Worth 200
31 The XX Crystallized 203
30 Chase And Status ft Plan B End Credits 204
29 Funeral For A Friend Wrench 205
28 Muse Uprising 206
27 Death Cab For Cutie Meet Me On The Equinox 208
26 Biffy Clyro The Captain 214
25 Muse Undisclosed Desires 214
24 The View Shock Horror 215
23 Airborne Toxic Event Sometime Around Midnight 217
22 Innerpartysystem Don’t Stop 219
21 White Lies Farewell To The Fairground 222
20 Shinedown Second Chance 223
19 Five Finger Death Punch The Bleeding 224
18 Arctic Monkeys Crying Lightning 226
17 Placebo The Never-Ending Why 229
16 White Lies To Lose My Life 236
15 The Gossip Heavy Cross 238
14 The Doves Kingdom Of Rust 248
13 The Mars Volta Cotopaxi 253
12 Billy Talent Rusted From The Rain 257
11 The Prodigy Omen 257
10 Rammstein Pussy 261
9 Blue October Dirt Room 267
8 Skunk Anansie Because Of You 272
7 Yeah Yeah Yeahs Heads Will Roll 279
6 Lostprophets It’s Not The End Of The World…… 299
5 Depeche Mode Wrong 306
4 Gallows The Vulture (Act II) 307
3 Starsailor Tell Me It’s Not Over 311
2 Biffy Clyro That Golden Rule 313
1 Editors Papillon 384