I’ve slept in, no morning run. I haul myself into an upright position and put my feet on the cold floor, moving them about a bit so they can find my slippers while I wait for my eyes to open. My head is pounding and breathing has been relegated to my mouth. That’s right, I have slippers. My lips are dry and cracked and there is a mountain of unwanted material in my nasal passages. I get to the bathroom and jettison the material. It’s the worst head cold I can remember and to top it all, K seems to have caught it so she’ll be feeling like this soon, and blaming me.
A lot of washing up. Bowls and pots and a thousand implements and items of cutlery; a never-ending litany of them. Worrying smell of gas in the kitchen which I really should tell the landlord, P, about. The chickpeas have soaked so I put them on to boil. They will take two hours or so. K thinks I’m mad to soak my own chickpeas. Maniac was the term she used, which I think is a bit strong.
So, a picture emerges; he wears slippers. He soaks his own chickpeas. He washes up in the nude. I didn’t mention that? Well, there you have it. There is laundry to be put on and the machine is upstairs in a communal area so I do the decent thing and put some clothes on even though the other two apartments are empty for the winter. You never know when you’re going to run into P on the stairwell and I don’t want him distracted while I tell him about the gas smell.
I sit down with my first coffee of the morning and remember the dream.
I dreamt about birds again, but these birds were very big.
Bigger than a person, they were half-bird half-person and had come from somewhere else to invade us. Their leader was very unpleasant indeed and was Daniel Craig.
They looked good initially as they filled our skies in scattered formation and we didn’t know whether to be afraid or to cast our heads back and admire them from the rooftop dining terrace where we had gathered to celebrate something. The top of a very tall building is a bad place to be during winged invasion especially where talons are involved; several of us were picked off and then we knew to be afraid.
The Daniel Craig one came and sat at our table. He sat across from us and shed infernal dark debris onto the beautifully white tablecloth and hissed his plan at us.
They were here to breed with our women!
A generation of misshapen children were produced; irregularly deformed and poorly proportioned. I saw three of the children throw a baby off a roof. A different roof. It was a very big baby (it took the three of them to carry it) and they could never have fed it. They weren’t happy about throwing the baby off the roof but they didn’t seem too troubled either. I don’t think these were your run-of-the-mill children, mentally.
I need some bread for breakfast and an onion for the goulash. Downstairs and out onto Castelar, then across Nuestra Señora de la Luz and through the Calderon de la Barca with its pretty, nameless little square and on into Plaza Paz, then through the Rincon de Trigo and into Plaza San Martin, where the herbolario and the panaderia are. In the herbolario I wait with my onions. The elderly lady in front of me is explaining to the girl that the fruit she is buying has been recommended by her doctor for this thing that she has, which I do not catch, which she has had since she was born. The girl reaches over her in the end and takes my onions from me.
Onions chopped and put in some butter on the hob. Coffee poured. Caraway seeds added, as are finely chopped celery and leek. Carrots into chunky cylinders. Bread in the toaster. Unidentified root vegetable diced. Giant mushrooms brutalised into shreds. Toast buttered and spread with apricot jam. Veg added to the pot. More butter stirred through. A decent bit of salt. Taken off the heat. Toast eaten. Hungarian paprika added with a few more caraway seeds. Stock poured in and back on the heat.
Chickpeas are still al dente but definitely cooked, so I drain them and add them to the pot. They are finally joining their colleagues (carrot et al) fifteen hours after I began preparing them. Maybe I am a maniac. They do look good though. Pert little things, firm but tender.
I email K to remind her to bring some sour cream or creme fraiche this evening. Shame to eat goulash without it. It looks good; we’re here long enough now to enjoy the novelty of foreign food again. In Dublin this weekend I had an Irish stew and roast beef the next day. Flavours we don’t get over here. Wonderful in the winter, just as goulash is.
Shower and shave. Check in on the laundry. Locate keys, wallet, phone , history of the Spanish civil war. Leave. An afternoon of screaming children awaits. I won’t trouble you with the details – you had them last week.Follow @RobinJGraham