Spring is here and along with it steady downpours, heavy clouds which drift lethargically carrying their immense weight across the sky, beautiful sunsets, and the ongoing roar of cars around and around the roundabout (christened ‘The Roundabout of Death’) on which I live.
In a hotblooded display of manliness Calum ripped down the bent and dusty metal blinds in the sitting room and bedroom yesterday so sunlight streams into the rooms – the most distressing part is the glare of natural light on the TV – but everything seems cleaner, brighter and more spacious. I can now sit on the bed and watch the traffic roll around the roundabout in an absurd yet addictive version of people-watching. With the spring comes the seasonal clean which we just embarked on whole-heartedly, running around with the hoover and duster, attacking the skirting boards with vigour. I even emptied the freezer draw of all my frozen brown bananas – over-ripe bananas that no one could enjoy eating but perfect for banana bread – which had flummoxed my male housemates when they opened the freezer for chips and hash browns. This is all in preparation for the best part of spring cleaning – the trip to Ikea.
We went for a shoe rack. We eventually left with everything but a shoe rack so we’ll have to go back and buy one. Most of the paraphernalia we bought was necessary, for example a shelf for the sitting room, curtains, a cool angular bedside light, but then Calum got distracted by an enormous retro clock which looks like a giant fob watch so that was purchased as well.
On Tuesday I met my friend Anthony for a spontaneous dinner-date. Dinner with your best friend usually involves a bottle of wine or two and stumbling home after extended hugs goodbye. In this case we still stumbled home after long cuddles at the tram stop but we were drunk off milkshakes, orange juice and slushies; intoxicated by sugar. We had descended on Rudy’s, a low-key pizzeria on the outskirts of the city centre. When I say low-key I mean it’s so simple and good that everyone knows about, has been there, has taken their pet, their mother. (As a matter of fact someone did take their pet; the couple next to us brought their pug puppy who lay complacently on the cushion next to Anthony, who’s conversation skills immediately lapsed in order to coo over and stroke the little guy’s soft head). Recommended by Google, by friends and by colleagues, I couldn’t avoid it any longer and off we trotted huddled under one umbrella in the heavy, hair-curling drizzle. Inside it was packed and it wasn’t even 6pm; the tables were full and people crowded the bar around the open kitchen to eat dinner for one as they watched the burly chefs pile dough with toppings and sling them into the pizza oven. Once at a table with a small romantic candle between us we dove into the menu – Anthony selecting pizza dotted with salami, while I went for smoked mozzarella, wild broccoli and Tuscan sausage.
Slurping on orange juice and olives (to extract the stones) we chatted and awaited our pizzas which came fresh and hot, soft and drippy with toppings. I don’t know about you, dear reader, but when I visit a place which I have eagerly anticipated, received the seal of approval from other food-fanatics, the disappointment is so much greater. The first bite of the white pizza was delicious; intensely salty from the garlic speckled sausage, the combination of which with the smokey mozzarella gave a flavour reminiscent of smoked bacon. The dough was thin yet soft, floppy like a sandwich, with a wide pale crust, scorched from the oven. That said, however, the pungent flavour was too much for a large pizza base, especially with the scattered chilli flakes bringing heat and intensifying the rich pork. Each mouthful was hotter and more potent than the last, resorting me to eat my crust merely to cleanse my palate. Meanwhile, Anthony devoured his pizza in five minutes yet was disappointed by the watery tomato sauce and the straggly pieces of salami, resembling ham more than cured sausage. Thus, milkshakes in an empty American diner playing A-ha were an essential pick-me-up after our respective disappointments, which swiftly slid into chaos with brain-freeze slushies and wild cackles as we gossiped joyously. I will definitely visit Rudy’s again; a one-off experience is not enough to judge a place. The friendly atmosphere and soft pizza bases are all you could want for a dinner excursion and they do it beautifully.
Don’t you find when you have few expectations for a restaurant, only as a destination to shelter from the rain, see a friend and catch up, your impressions are so much the better for it? On Thursday I saw my friend Jacqueline. We only had vague plans – ‘want to get lunch?’ ‘yeah sure’ – so we headed to The Art of Tea; a small and cosy cafe, somewhat gloomy and dim, with a dusty and positively packed bookshop hidden in the back room. Bookshelves line the walls and fill the centre of the room, leaving less space for visitors than the books themselves. Books are haphazardly stacked on chairs, small tables, stools, and one wrong step causes a book avalanche which saw Jac and I stoop to pick up those on the floor at least twice. Books are propped in front of books so it is no easy feat looking for something in particular. I picked up one at my eye level titled ‘Conjugal Love’ and flicked to a random page which, to our morbid delight, likened the protagonist’s wife to his dog, his motor car, and other possessions. The temptation to buy the book for group reading sessions was great, until we saw the price of £8.
Settling down in the shadowy cafe we ordered our lunch. After a few years as vegetarian Jac has recently taken the step into veganism thus selecting a vegan breakfast of avocado, smokey baked beans, fried potatoes, mushrooms, tomatoes and toast, albeit she was quite happy to sacrifice her new diet for something including cheese or egg as a treat. Changing your diet must take adjustment, and looking at her plate I was constantly thinking there was something missing whether it was a fried egg or a couple of sausages. In complete and obscene contrast to her meal, and luckily she doesn’t get offended by meat-eating, I chose black pudding hash for lunch. A girl needs her meat! Or in this case, a step further than meat. Small pieces of black pudding were tossed with fried potatoes in a mustard and maple dressing, topping a bed of sweet peas. Normally, my pea consumption is relatively low as it is one of my least favourite vegetables but these were so sweet that they balanced the meaty savouriness of the black pudding.
Drugged by my high meat consumption I made my way home, avoiding the rain filled puddles that signify Manchester in spring, and already picturing the banana, chocolate, crystallised ginger bread I was going to make with my frozen bananas.