What goes around comes around, so they say. My life has become that phrase a little too literally. Here I am back in Manchester again. Having only left it last July. And before that the previous autumn. And before that I was at university here. I am a broken record in human form, repeating the same actions, packing my bags and moving to and from this city, year after year. Maybe I have ants in my pants, maybe I like behaving as a personified yo-yo, but now it’s time to take that old broken record off the spindle. A new one is slotted into the player as now it’s time for my life to play out with permanence instead of flitting hither and thither, wherever the fancy takes me.
You see, Manchester is where the heart is. I moved in with Calum last week, dragging up boxes and Ikea bags full of possessions from the car park to the flat. After a few minor spanners in the works on finding out his flat has limited storage and we will be climbing over my bags of books and an empty suitcase for a couple of weeks we have once again slotted easily into living together; the shared enjoyment of cooking for one another and excitedly playing house. Home to Calum and housemate Brian, the flat had the appearance of a boys’ gaming den. Gaming consoles, a beanbag chair, an ironing board permanently left out and the Christmas tree was still up. Now, said tree is packed snugly away in its box and, without further ado, we took another trip to Ikea.
Once again, we went for a shoe rack and, once again, we came back with everything but (does Ikea just not sell them?). Of course, we had various other essentials to purchase – a vast chest of drawers for us to share (so cute), a book case for all my enormous and ever-increasing supply of cookbooks, a lamp, lampshades, and tea towels – one can never have enough tea towels. The other night Calum tackled the chest of drawers while I worked, occasionally sneaking covert looks over at him as he meticulously lined up planks and hammered away, feeling slightly flushed at this macho performance.
In the midst of change it’s reassuring to return to food you love; some old favourites that have stuck with you through thick and thin, no matter in which city you live or how long you live there. I have spouted endlessly about my and Calum’s shared obsession with seafood and it’s now an ideal dinner to celebrate this new chapter. Paella is our special-occasion, pull the all stops out, wine, dine and woo extravaganza, bursting with all our favourites; prawns, juicy calamari and sweet meaty muscles. On a holiday in Barcelona a couple of years ago we ate at a restaurant over-looking the beach, the sea gently crashing in the background, and feasted on paella marina studded with langoustines and prawns, ready to be stripped of their shells and slurped at hungrily. Stuffed and sedated, the platter cleaned between us, we lounged sun-kissed and sleepy with glasses of wine and some liberally stained napkins.
When it comes to paella I fluctuate between different recipes depending on ease – and what I have in the fridge. Some are filled with chicken and some with spicy chorizo (and some with rabbit which makes me screw up my eyes and put my fingers in my ears while singing, ‘Lalalalala!’). I cooked this recipe last night (omitting the rabbit…) partial to the chewy chorizo sausage seasoning the cooking oil with its smoky paprika flavour and the dance of freshly squeezed lemon. And so we feasted and sipped wine, the Ikea packages propped against the sofa, a new record playing out at last.