For breakfast this morning I am enjoying a large pot of coffee and a cinnamon bun delightfully laced with almonds, glazed cherries and a not insignificant splash of dark rum to bind it so very well together. I'm a creature of both comfort and habit. I have a morning ritual which has changed very little over the years. I eat light, I drink good coffee, I poop in my own private bathroom, I like it that way, why change now? This morning however, sees me raw-eyed and contemplative as I choose a somewhat quiet corner of the mock Piazza Navona seating area of the airport to ease myself into the day. I curse softly as the uneven feet of the metallic bistro table sends waves of hot coffee into the saucer. I brush away a tiny speck of sugar crust from my crisp white shirt sleeve as I lean dejectedly with my right hand supporting my weary head. Travel leaves me self conscious about a lack of dignity due to my size. I need to scratch sections of my appendage freely without creating attention for other people watchers hunched over laptops as I too disguise my movements behind my 17" screen. Size really does matter when it comes to scratching that itch! Departing and arriving is only one short stride away from other peoples comings and goings. I miss my wife, I miss my morning view from the upstairs windows, most of all I also miss my immaculately clean bathroom and toilet.
The human traffic that haunts most airports at this nonchalant hour never ceases to amuse me. I am a self-confessed people watcher. I have whiled away many an hour amusing myself at others unaware displeasure's such as facial twitching, grimacing, blinking and the flicking of hair. I have found myself awarding imaginary points for involuntary noises, such as coughing, grunting, clearing the throat and sniffing. Wrinkled noses and the widening of eyes is a favourite trait of senior citizens during the consumption of hot beverages it would seem. Japanese ladies have a penchant for spitting into handkerchiefs, while German ladies pull lightly at the concealed wax from many a conical ear. I cast an inquisitive eye over the tall Italian looking woman in her early 30s who on several occasions has risen from her chair and wandered off in the general direction of a quiet corner near to the discount luggage store. Her expensive suit tells me that cheap luggage is not what holds her attention. I notice how she coyly glances behind her before possibly passing a gust of silent wind. Her elegant hands smooths her suit as she flicks her expensive bangs before returning once more to her seat. High above us, a small cluster of pigeons flap hectically away from my view. Coincidence maybe, who really knows but me and her and of course the birds.
I immediately award her double points, but feel somewhat sympathetic towards her plight as I also overindulged myself the previous evening when it came to the rather rich food on offer. At 3am I had precious little time to empty my own ballast tank between hotel reception and awaiting taxi at the kerb as the doorman advanced to assist with my luggage. The expression on his face as we drive away tells me he has suspicions by way of the street drainage and its reliability to function correctly. I'm a man, I rarely feel guilt. I do however feel strangely disappointed that for all these years my mother, my wife, sisters, aunties and female cousins have all lied to me. Women, it would seem, also need to toot in order to refine their early morning relief. We all do things when we believe that other people are not watching.
My attention turns to the latest arrival to the seating area. A tweedy looking gentleman, in what could only be described as English clothes, flops seemingly rather lackadaisically into a waiting chair. He seems red of cheek and appears to have left home in the middle of a frenzied shaving session with a cheap blunt disposable razor. I notice the long wispy strands of nasal hair as they converge scruffily a small distance from his top lip. The bridge of his nose seems to have come out in sympathy with the intruders from his nostril, three wiry silver bursts of bristle tell me that he seldom spends much time in front of the mirror. Comically, his eyebrows in order not to be outdone by the explosion in a spaghetti factory lower down his face, thrust long tendrils of wayward hair skywards as if waving at pewfodders invisible ghod. I picture him saluting at magpies, picking his nose at traffic signals and wheeling an antique lawnmower around an allotment somewhere in deepest darkest Hampshire.
I am about to rise when a rotund guy in a cream khaki jumpsuit enters my vision. He jabbers constantly into an unfashionably large phone which must have been plucked from the Velcro pouch attached to his belt. I genuinely fear for his safety should he need to bend down. I mentally run through the procedure for administering oxygen to those large people who run the risk of passing out while wearing tight clothing. I am half way through my minds rehearsal when I catch sight of the rather visual pee stains that appear to have formed an outline of Jamaica in his general crotch area. My interest immediately wanes. I can only hope that in his current state he doesn't fall over and becomes akin to a large woodlice on its back, feet waving frantically in the air. As if from heaven a mysterious booming male voice announces that flight 371 to Glasgow is about to board. I fall into line a few steps away from a young lady whose shapely bottom appears to be lip syncing with her underwear, either that or it is an extremely clever human advertisement for taking in washing.
This evenings meal will consist of steak, I can already feel my red blood cells rising as I smile my best 5am smile at the pretty princess in the flight attendants uniform as she checks my seat number on the ticket. Our hands touch for a brief moment, just long enough for me to notice an ever-so-slight facial tic. Here we go again, the in flight entertainment is about to commence.
Chefs Steak Fix
When choosing a steak, sirloin is a fine choice due to its tasty, melt-in-the-mouth succulence. Good sirloin has just the right amount of fat and nice marbling. Rump steak is slightly cheaper than sirloin but it’s still a great steak for griddling or frying, with more flavour than sirloin. However, it does tend to be slightly chewier, especially if it has not been matured properly. The age of the steak is extremely important, as the hanging process develops the flavour and tenderises the meat. So ask your butcher how long the beef has been hung for. If need be take him for a drink and ensure that his glass never falls empty if you are to ensure a fine feast for the dinner. As a rule, 21 days as a minimum and 35 days as a maximum is a good range to go for. Hanging is important, especially if the meat is freshly
Good beef should be a deep red colour, check the beef has good marbling – little streaks of fat running through the meat is a given! This melts when heated, helping the steak to baste itself from within as it cooks. A good layer of creamy-white fat around the top of sirloin steaks is also essential.
Heat your griddle or frying pan over a high heat, until smoking hot. Lightly brush the steak with a little olive oil and season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. For the love of all things beefy, don’t griddle more than two steaks at a time, and keep them spaced well apart. If you add more than two steaks to the pan at once, the temperature will drop and the steak will stew, rather than fry.
Don’t turn the steaks until good seared markings are achieved, then turn them over and cook on the other side. You must let the steak rest for about 3 minutes before serving, to allow the juices that have been drawn to the surface to relax back into the meat. Serve with a good red wine or / and ice cold beer.