It wasn't that long ago when I first put big fingers to little keys, extolling the virtues of taking early retirement, no time restraints and the general feel-good factor of no longer having to obey the clock. Strangely enough, that now appears to have changed. Siobhan, who used to bemoan my early morning zest, now likes to hurry me along after breakfast so that we can be assured of taking our much favoured table in a small, but very busy alfresco coffee shop near to the town square. From our vantage point we watch the world go by, sip endless espresso's, sample at least one-a-day of their endless, exquisite array of Utopian desserts, as more or less the same people go about their day. People watching, if you have a like-minded partner with a sharp wit and a good eye for detail, is fun. Siobhan excels at our watching game and is very astute. She notices every small detail about our daily subjects, of which we collate and compare before awarding points for tardiness, the very often lack of table etiquette and of course sheer entertainment factor. We are not vain enough to believe that we have been overlooked by the other 'watchers' out there. We merely enjoy the characters in our now matutinal game.

First up on our 'regulars' list is a fellow, late 60's. He wears outlandish sunglasses and a different matching watch every day. His dress code is strictly supermarket slacks, sandals and tee-shirts with varying different foofaraw on both back and front. Today it is Steve McQueen, Andy Warhol style. He badly needs an appointment with a good tailor and a new razor. He has ordered thick pea soup in a raised bowl. I notice the chef has adorned the surface with chopped sweet red peppers and a scattering of thin scallions and mint. He munches noisily on large, rather odious cold sausages, of which he slices delicately into perfectly vertical strips. He is meticulous, always ensuring that his spoon is immaculately clean before making the dreadful faux pas of drawing the spoon and its contents towards him. In the ashtray, a thick cigar, half smoked and with the makers name on the band still in place. Och... no etiquette at all. Strangely, he doesn't look the slightest bit Australian. His bush of silvered hair is backcombed in such a way that it resembles a chickens wing. Every so often he will look around nervously before easing his rump casually to one side to emit, what we can only imagine to be a somewhat borborygmus moment. He agonises over his daily newspaper crossword puzzle. Sometimes to the extent where he sucks the end of his pencil as he throws back his bulbous head, searching for a 3-letter riposte. We both note, to our constant amusement, that he sometimes bends the words to fit by using the blacked out squares.

Behind him is the Lambretta man, tall, late 40's. He arrives at precisely the hour, never before, never after. His fastidious punctuality tells me that he cannot possibly ride far through the dense and seemingly chaotic mid morning traffic. The fact that he always wears white socks is also an indication that he lives somewhere close with an elderly mother. He converses loudly in honeyed, but broken, French clichés, into a Samsung Galaxy phone, the one with the sparkly case that looks as though it was designed for 'Fiddy Cent'. He scurries from his scooter in a hubris manner and strides into the restroom to ensure that his seemingly unnoticeable hairpiece hasn't slipped during the short journey away from his momma. He collects his usual tutti-frutti milkshake from the counter, pays by card and perches himself theatrically on the wooden stoop inside, legs akimbo, displaying the fact that he has quite purposely neglected to wear under-crackers. Siobhan laughs as she recalls the significance of the pickled walnuts her wee granny puts out in a jar at family occasions. I notice him covertly trying to look at my wife as his lounge lizard lips pucker at his straw. His gaze shifts between her breasts and her legs. He is obviously people-watching himself. He catches my eye, squares his shoulders and tilts his head in an amusing alpha-male moment. I give him my best full on psychotic Glaswegian smile, the one that says 'if you continue to appraise my wife, I will happily come over there and slowly eviscerate you with a blunt spoon.' I normally accompany this smile by tracing my index finger v-e-r-y slowly the entire length of the scar that hangs off the side of my mouth. He looks quickly away, convinced of my seemingly chthonic connections in regard to his health. His legs close like that of a butterflies wing. I continue to smile. I sense that his bravado is rapidly disappearing along with the swift gathering of cloth  that is currently hurrying to safety up his rear end. I continue to stare. I am totally fascinated by the millions of tiny diamonds of glistening light that reflect so beautifully from the glue attaching his hairpiece to his scalp.

Next up, our table waitress, a rather unhappy young lady, aged somewhere in her mid-teens. Her choice of clothing is never consistent with both the weather and the surroundings. Oversize shirts, various dark leggings, on occasion even a rather baggy sweater that does nothing for her. As parents we feel a wave of protectiveness rather than mockery at her appearance.

"Teenage pregnancy, Catholic upbringing probably, the poor wee soul" whispers Siobhan, "and I bet she is still to tell her parents about what we already know"

Knowing what some Catholic fathers can be like on finding out such news, we always like to leave her a larger tip than is usually required. Just in case she needs to leave in a hurry. She constantly scans the piazza, clearly looking for someone. Possibly the weans father? Maybe...  I would gladly give her the keys to the remains of the "on loan" Fiat 500 that is sulking against the kerb only a few streets away if it meant she would find happiness with the obviously worried young man who enrolled her into the pudding club. If only they had gone to the cinema instead of that quiet place on the beach on the night in question. It could have course been much worse. Wiggy Lambretta himself might have offered her a ride home on his scooter while momma was away out at the bingo. His tutti-frutti wouldn't have been the only thing with a cherry on top, that much is for sure. Eventually, a teenage boy carrying boxes of fruit catches her eye. She flushes slightly and we notice a secret wee smile. He makes an unnecessary detour towards the wooden stoop. I hear Siobhan make that now familiar female "awwwww" sound.

Finally, a person  of whom we are both loath to watch has finally arrived. Tall, slightly military in stance, possibly Cuban, always resplendent in a perfectly pressed white summer suit, lilac shirt and a weather-beaten brimmer hat. 'The General' as we have christened him, is lead into the seating area by a very dedicated Labrador. A kind young couple, freshly arrived from Britain with their pale faces and polyester windbreakers, move their chairs for him. The General, still in his mid-50's is officially blind. Not partially sighted. Blind. It says so on his dog. Yet we once witnessed him in another part of town, stoop down and collect a large denomination bank note that had been carried off in the wind and deposited rather conveniently in front of him. There is not a seeing-eye dog in the world that can pass that information on to its owner, that I am certain of. A large bowl of ice cream is brought to his table. It is deliciously vanilla. The young sad-faced waitress has forgotten the spoon. He already knows it is not there as he clumsily forgets to grope around for it. She returns with the spoon and the owners harsh words still hanging in the air. I notice that the proffered lagniappe is both malted and expensive. It is accepted without thanks. He has a vague resemblance to W.C Fields, his nose a broad red button in the middle of his round face. We discuss quietly how he manages to notice a tiny silent drip of ice cream on his jacket lapel. His little secret is further rumbled when he pulls out a pocket watch and tells the time without the use of either braille or holding it out in front of his seemingly telepathic wee dog.

I afford him a knowing smile and a discreet wink as we stand up to leave. He glances away to hide the exposed egregious habit of which he is undoubtedly the master. Meanwhile, the cockerels wing, has as ever departed in the direction of the leather market, while Wiggy Lambretta continues to babble loudly into the cell phone that we doubt is even switched on. A small stubborn weave of synthetic hair protrudes alarmingly at a rakish angle. I glimpse a smooth pate beneath, ivory in colour, a glaring inlet to the nothingness beyond. The waitress and her bump bend lissome-like on a cleansing pilgrimage to wipe both spilled sausage and melted tutti-frutti from the sun bleached wooden floor. Her eyes never leave the fruit carrying boy. I make sure she sees the folded tip beneath my plate before the General decides to enhance his detestable daily take. Siobhan suggests that perhaps there is a hell after all, an eternal dinner party with at least three of the above gracing my table. I pray to a god that I do not believe in, my soul is indeed eventually placed into a fiery brimstone lake instead.

Time for lunch.


Chef's Autumnal Soup

1-2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 small Spanish onion, diced
1 stalk celery, chopped
1/4 cup of fresh scallions, chopped
1 clove fresh garlic, minced
4 cups vegetable or chicken stock
1 dash of agave sisal, blended until it reached liquid form
1 cup kale, ribs removed, chopped
1 cup Swiss chard, ribs removed, chopped
1 zucchini, chopped
1 cup fresh spinach, chopped
1 builders handful fresh green parsley, whole
1 small handful cilantro
1/2 – 3/4 cup cashew cream, to taste
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice or high-quality vinegar
Sea salt and cracked black pepper, to taste

Heat the oil in large pot and add onions. Cook over medium-low heat until starting to brown. Add celery, half of the zucchini, scallions and garlic; saute for a few minutes, but no more. Add vegetable stock along with kale, chard and a dash of agave liquid. Bring to a boil, then quickly drop to low heat and cook for a minute or two until the greens are slightly wilted.
Transfer soup to high speed blender, in batches if necessary. Add reserved zucchini, spinach, parsley, cilantro and cashew cream and blend until creamy. Return soup to pot and reheat gently over low heat. Add lemon juice or vinegar, if using. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
Garnish with a drizzle of cashew cream, cracked pepper with large dods of crusty bread to serve.


There is something irrefutably damaging to a mans dignity when he has to be pulled headfirst out of the deep damp midday sand as the receding tide trickles slowly back out to sea along with his pride. If the fall had been any harder or nearer to the waters edge I may well have required gills in my buttocks in order to be here this morning relating the tale. Amidst the mêlée of concerned onlookers, I was conscious of a pair of young female hands reaching for the clasp that hid not only my dignity, but also the tightening noose that realistically threatened my current air supply. It is not often that a certain part of me puckers at the touch of the warm gentle probing of a woman's delicate fingers. Like a perfectly prepared egg, I lay damaged, spilling, my inner most self-humiliation laid bare for all to see, the yolk soaking irrevocably into the wet and clinging sand. Like a grand 16th century warship covered by shell, I lay broken and unsalvageable at the waters edge, possibly never to fire my great gun of war ever again.

It is at times like these that a man, as he stumbles ever forward towards middle age, has to remember that his days as a happy-go-lucky hobbledehoy are at an end. The age old pendulum swings ever closer my way. No longer can I allow myself to dally in all night drinking sessions, unless of course I am visiting the in-laws over in jolly old Belfast and the drink to hand just happens to be corner-shop cocoa. Oh, how I have often prayed for a single biscuit dipped in cyanide during those long jejune weekends watching faded sideshows on Northern Ireland's underground drainage systems. It was not to be. So here I am, still in paradise, not lost, but only to find that my 'builders knee' continually thrums, along with a strange fungal infection from not wearing a verruca sock during my wife's swimming aerobics classes at the local lido. Why she couldn't stick to flower arranging is beyond me.

Luckily, throughout history, many scholared men have taken time out to write extremely labour intensive works of pure reading gold. Due to the fact that my rather truncated hobble has forced me to seek comfort in the stretched canvas of a hired beach chair, I have taken advantage of their literary genius with a good book or two whilst I heal. Of late, I have been pummelled, had my knees tapped so malevolently that I nearly offered the gentleman a full time career back in dear old Glasgow. Penetrated with all number of metallic Machiavellian objects so macabre that both my body, mind and arsehole may well be scarred for life. Had copious amounts of Celtic blood stolen from my battered, beleaguered veins, so much so that I teetered on the brink of necromancy in order to make ready for the after life. I began to suspect that somewhere, whole Nigerian villages were growing fat from the illicit sale of my precious blood in order to stave off various ailments brought on by rogue monitor lizard bites, the accidental ingestion of fossilised excrement and of course repetitive strain injury from writing many, many, many bogus begging letters. I have been consistently spiked by seemingly every myopic student nurse in the kingdom of Spain, for bodily fluids from every hanging or protruding infundibular about my person. From pee to poo, then back again it would seem. Only to find that my charts have mysteriously vanished, left on a train or in the smoking section of Starbucks by some poorly paid boeotian laboratory technician, busily conversing in iphone clatterfart, for the general public to entertain themselves with.

I am old school. I like to believe that I can heal myself through hard work, castor oil and a good long walk on the beach to purge the fact that pain is merely weakness leaving the body, to clear not only my fungal infection in the medicinal salty waters, but also my troubled head over the fact that I am convinced I am soon to expire. I remember as a boy my father returning early from his work with a bloodied bandage upon his head and both severed legs tucked under each broken arm. After polishing the shoes of his entire brood, setting a cold fire in the hearts of each room, peeling a bucket of grand oul spuds for the dinner that night, only then did he relent enough for others to seek help as to his injury. I was informed by the mother that I was to run along the snowy streets and fetch the blacksmith, who also doubled as a vet, from his warm place beside the open fire at a local bar to attend the father. Old habits die hard it would seem. Hence my wee stroll along the shoreline. It's been a real bugger trying to find a blacksmith out here though, that much I can tell you.

Yet, as I wait for the many multiple agonies of apoptosis to set about my weary beaten body, I take heed by the sight of so many other bedraggled human specimens who come to my island to play. I mean, come on. Have you stopped lately and taken note of your average German wearing the ubiquitous, inevitable garish thong? Parading about with little left to the imagination other than the white patch on their thigh where a well-oiled Luger pistol is usually strapped? Lank of hair, ox-jawed and synthetically muscled, still with their terrible siderodromophobia before them as they push past incandescent local peasants with half-folded pushchairs bigger than a small mortgage. Their men are no oil paintings either. There is no mistaking them as they kick sand in the face of every eastern European, fustigating  with each other as they attempt, and fail, to play volleyball on the beach, trying hard to forget the strictly cabbage aroma that permeates the lime mortar that awaits them back home in some ruined castle hidden by a forest. Spittle drips from their lips as they hiss at the soigné of the French. A resistance instilled, as they march in three's towards the sausage buffet and potato salad feasts, chocolate gateau and lager breakfasts. "No more" I cry, A feeling of great tintinnabulation brings me to my senses. I shall not succumb to life just yet. I shall continue to halt this usurp of Germanian schadenfreude.  "For Scotland and for glory", I cry.  I will retake this magnificent holiday isle. I have much tarradiddle to write, books to read and comments to decry. My time is no longer nigh. Besides, my empress is picking me up at three and I am badly in need of a shave.

With a new found vigour, I gather up my fallen verruca sock and limp lissom-like back towards the car park. A feeling of ataraxia enfolds me and gives me wings upon which to walk. And then, once more, as swiftly as a smoking Messerschmitt straight out of the mist...  I fall straight back down that same fecking hole...

Scottish Salmon with Rice Noodles

2 salmon fillets (delicately borrowed from the magnificent depths of Loch Duart) 
3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 (5cm) piece of ginger, chopped
4 tablespoons sake or white German wine
3 tablespoon sugar (preferably brown sugar)
4 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon groundnut oil (vegetable or olive oil is also fine)
1 knob of butter
For the noodles: 
2 tablespoon of groundnut oil (vegetable or olive oil is also fine)            
350g of rice noodles
3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 (4cm) piece of ginger, chopped
1 medium sized onion, sliced
1 red pepper, sliced into strips
1 yellow pepper, sliced into strips
1 green pepper, sliced into strips (can you see a pattern forming here?) 
4-5 pieces of closed cup mushroom, sliced
Soy sauce, to taste

First, combine garlic, ginger, white wine, sugar and the soy sauce in a bowl. Mix until sugar is dissolved. Marinate salmon fillets for one hour. Boil the rice noodles and simmer. Drain water.
In a pan, heat oil and sauté garlic and ginger. Add onions and cook until soft. Add all the peppers and mushrooms. Once the vegetables are cooked, add noodles and soy sauce. The amount of soy sauce depends on your taste. I wouldn't put too much in as I will use the salmon marinade as well.
In another pan, heat 1 tablespoon oil. Pan-fry salmon, starting with the skin first (if your salmon has skin). Add 1 knob of butter onto the pan. Once it's cooked, remove salmon from pan and cook the marinade. Wait until the marinade becomes thick. Place noodles on plate and put salmon either on top of the noodles or on the side. Pour or drizzle the sauce over the noodles and salmon. Accompany with a good German wine, something sweet, possibly a chilled Spätburgunder on ice.


Rules of Engagement

Whenever I travel somewhere, all be it foreign or domestic, cold, hot or maybe just slightly tepid, I have a wee custom that I try and aspire to without fail whenever I can. I have little doubt that it is a familiar trait shared by gazillions of others across the globe. The indolent purchase of shockingly cheesy items for family members has become a treasure hunt for sarcasm gold. I have them lovingly gift wrapped, then sent to a dear aunt in Killarney. I'm not the only member of our family that plays this unsuspecting little game with her and twice a year when we all traipse across for our annual exophagy rituals, we get to secretly compare the wonderfully tacky trinkets proudly arranged in her glass sideboard in the parlour. Yes, I know it is not a particularly nice trait to poke fun at ones relatives, however she started it by knitting her very own versions of Bridget Jones jumpers as gifts at Christmas since 1977. Stop for a moment if you will, picture the angst we suffered every January entering a school playground with the entire crucifixion debacle picked out in sequins and mother of pearl upon our chests. Other kids received great seasonal gifts, such as tangerines and swirly, clanky things made out of discarded bobbins and bits of rotted wood which had fallen off the roof. One particular year she excelled at her craft and Mr Christ was depicted using actual real nails. It took forever to find the bloody things when they fell out in the washing machine. Being the broadest of my brothers, it was always a The Last Supper scene for me, in full panorama, with Mr Christ having such real lifelike flowing hair that it used to dangle into my free school milk.  And you wondered what it actually was that shook my faith in religion? Now that you are glimpsing behind the scenes of my childhood backdrop, you can see why I favour an often lumpen, if not caustic, iambic pentameter to my biblical dietary fibre.

This year the 'extra cheese' award goes to my second eldest son Liam for his remarkably well discovered miniature, illuminated figure of Mary Magdalene fighting a bull. Finished in pure 2 cwt gold diamante stud work, it promises to entertain its audience with thirty second blasts of  'Ave Maria ' in Chinese!  Honestly, poor Schubert must continue to spin in his grave. It is a remarkable coup for the Asian design studios of utter tackiness, emphasis for inspiration must surely lay with their growing resentment of the west! I was slightly disappointed to lose out with my holy holographic waterfall scene, complete with ruby red woollen catholic dolphins, interwoven with threads of metal lamé halos, it took most of my powers of acquisition to obtain it. Especially as I had to do glorious battle with a wonderful gentleman, originally from Sicily, but now living in New York. Luckily for me, he opted instead for a rather fetching version of a garish yellow submarine, complete with headlights that flash whenever you touch the conning tower. Exactly how it represents the nation of Espana I am still unsure, but he seemed very pleased with it. I may at one point have suggested that if he looked hard enough he might actually be able to pick out John Lennon, complete with bushy beard, at the controls. However, it could also have been Sean Connery, Kris Kringle or Charles Darwin for that matter.

We continued a further interesting engagement, this time in regard to our accents, when we again rubbed shoulders outside in the street. On noticing my recently purchased brummagem trinket protruding from its near cloistered wrapping, he began the conversation in his best, if somewhat irked eastern coast drawl, by asking me for directions to the nearest Starbucks.

 "Turn left onto Avenida Garcia Morato," was my reply, ...three times, until he finally grasped I also wasn't a local inhabitant.

"I like your quaint English accent", was his reply.

"Thank you, so, exactly what part of Canada are you from?" 

The words fell from my lips before I had a chance to stop them. The rules of engagement had been set, the gloves were now off.

Like two great rutting mountain stags, snorting and bumping heads in the misty morning Highlands heather, we eventually found common ground without any further need for bloodshed. To be fair, it would have been very ugly if it had turned physical. I was alone, while he had the entire cast of the Sopranos for company. One Glaswegian against so many Italians heavily stacked the odds. I would have at least had to wait patiently while they sent out for their reinforcements. Remarkably, our war of nations had taken place outside of a well known panaderia. The waft of doughy goodness soon melted any hostilities and we became further like children as we stood with our noses pressed firmly up against the glass. I should point out that him being of Roman extraction, his nose made sure that he stood further away from the glass than me. We conveniently forgot that he had commented that the United Kingdom were cowardly limey assholes in not following the infamous panjandrum, Mr O'Balmy, into yet another untenable act of war. I couldn't remember the name of the current UK Prime Minister, a dreadful fop of a man by all accounts, so I glossed over the important fact that the Scots throughout history have probably detested the English more so than the current mob of murderous Pashtuns, Tajiks, Hazaras, Uzbeks, not forgetting the other suicidal donkey enthusiasts, along with anybody else wearing a ridiculous raggedy bandage hat in Kandahar of late. By way of response he kindly glossed over my frank comment that the entire world now sees America for exactly what Hollywood wants them to be. Shooting scenes for the new Rambo DCLXVI movie. (Well done to all those who worked out the in-joke with the Roman numerals without having to use Google. A somewhat late, but still sumptuous education is money well spent, eh?)

Happily, we did agree on the fact that Mel Gibson did more harm to the Scottish/American relationship due to his dire accent and severe lack of height in the screen portrayal of William Wallace than any other actor in the history of film. I'm still to meet another fellow Scot who didn't squirm in his cinema seat when the wee runt rode out on his stunted horse, his face painted entirely with a protestant flag and then butchered the fictitious line about freedom. With those silly facial expressions he pulled every five minutes, the only way he could have portrayed Wallace any camper than he did would have been to add a smattering of buggery in between the magnificent scenes of Ballachullish countryside (actually filmed in Ireland by the way.) The fact that he is unfortunately a typical agrestic Australian with an unequivocal phobia of Jew-hating, must make for some interesting conversations around many wholesome U.S dining room tables. Apart from the director of the so-called evocative movie Braveheart explaining to his audience, quite nicely actually, how the 'fuck' word was actually derived: Fornication Under Consent of the King, it was all rather bland to anyone looking for something slightly more juicy to get their teeth into. Wee Mel can eat his own heart out should anyone kindly offer to help him down from his wee stumpy pony, because we had also agreed that the fresh loaf of cassata currently being displayed in the bollerya window was without doubt the most extremely enjoyable, aromatic, non farinaceous dessert on the planet.

There are few things as wonderfully evocative as food. Good or bad, just one taste of a dish can catapult you back in time, conjuring up the sights and sounds, even the emotions you experienced. A perfectly ripe strawberry, warmed by the sun, leads itself to reminiscing about idyllic late summer afternoons picking your own berries at a local farm in middle-England. The dry scratch of yet-to-soften bran flakes recalls the sensation of trying to choke down a hospital breakfast after a tonsillectomy when I was nine. Re-fried beans repeatedly remind me of a long weekend mistakenly spent in a drunk tank in Mexico in my youth, a place where no fingernails are too long, no queue for the shower is too short. I won't try to pretend to be the first person to have made this link; there's a whole genre of food memoirs that testify to the power food has to transport us through time and space. I had one of those moments tonight when I made French onion soup, served with the cheese toasts we call crostini when we used to have this dish back in the '80s. The sweet silkiness of the onions, buttery broth and the soup-soaked bread took me back to those Sunday evenings when my auld fella would roll up his sleeves and peel and slice scallions galore to make a huge pot of this classic soup. The house would fill with the aroma of caramelised onions, fresh thyme, bay leaves, stock and a healthy splash of brandy; the kitchen window would steam up and I would start my not-so-stealthy campaign for more crostini and less soup.

But it is from Sicily that I have chosen this particular dessert dish of cassata. Sicily, the land of fresh tomato's, chintz table cloths, great big huge melting scoops of yellow custard-based gelato flavours, including zabaione and crème caramel. And the fruit.... don't get me started on the fruit!  So when the rain-fed locusts are not dive bombing your patio garden and eating the sun drenched lizards as they land in your lap after falling asleep in your sitting room curtains, making cassata is a wonderful way to use up some of the dried fruit in your pantry that would otherwise be relegated to use in the cooler months. While this dessert is a straightforward make-ahead mixture of sweetened ricotta cheese and savoiardi (sometimes called lady finger) biscuits, it’s best eaten within 24 hours of making it because of the fragility of the cheese.
Your choice of flavourings is entirely your own. In this case I started with the summer flavours of Seville oranges, fresh honey, dried apricots and vanilla, then added grilled peaches for a perfect end note. The one ingredient you can’t substitute is dark chocolate. But of course. For the ladies, that goes without saying, eh?

You will need:

250g ricotta
½ cup pistachios (or substitute for slivered almonds)
 ½ cup dried apricots;
 50g dark chocolate, roughly chopped
 1 ½ tbsp honey
1 tbsp mixed peel
 1 or 2 drops of vanilla extract
 18 savoiardi (lady finger) biscuits;
 ½ cup of freshly squeezed orange juice
 4 nice plump ripe peaches
 2 tbsp soft brown sugar or raw sugar

Place the ricotta in a bowl and beat well then whisk until smooth and softened. Roughly chop the nuts, dried fruit and chocolate and add to the ricotta, together with the honey, mixed peel and vanilla. Mix well to combine. Before we go any further I will suggest that a slug or two of a decent brandy improves the recipe even further. Fill half a crystal tumbler and with one quick lunge ingest it without the use of ice for the sake of decency. Replace the bottle and continue to prep.
Pour the orange juice into a large ceramic bowl. For the love of all things holy, please do not use plastic during the preparation as it will in my opinion, taint the finished taste. Dip the flat side of nine savoiardi biscuit briefly into the orange juice. Lay the soaked biscuits in a layer on a serving platter or plate.
Spoon half the cheese mixture over the soaked biscuits and smooth out the surface as evenly as possible. Soak the remaining biscuits, one at a time, in the orange juice and top the cheese mixture, then finally spread the remaining cheese mixture over the top. Cover with cling wrap and refrigerate for two hours.
Slice the peaches in half (I keep the skin on as I am an unabashed heathen) and remove the stone. Sprinkle with a little sugar and place on a tray. Place under a hot grill for five minutes or until the sugar melts and caramelises the peach. Remove and allow to cool for a minute before slicing the fruit.
Top the chilled cassata with warmed peaches and serve at once with a good dry cider and at the very least a rotund Sicilian-American for company.

Buon appetito


Wham, Bam, Thank You Ram

Oblique yet enticing, we sat beneath a poetic melancholy evening Spanish sky. Laughter abound, I enjoyed many glasses of fine wine beneath the dusky painterly beauty that bathes nearly everything and everyone in sleepy torpor. Tempered by the poignancy of our anniversary supper beneath the stars we inhaled deeply upon the most wonderful essence of peace.

And then, in a moment of weakness, I checked my phone messages while my dear lady was away powdering her nose and whatever else that ladies do in those wee secret rooms at the back of every restaurant and bar across the globe..

Raoul, the pool guy, is a seemingly fine example of unflappable male Spanishness. He is calm of voice, slow of word and totally devoid of either haste or panic. His dexterity with a pool net and chemical cleaners is legendary and sits slightly above the achievements of Don Quixote himself. His ability to speak clearly into a phone however has the same resonance on the ear as a walrus vomiting onto rough cobbled stone. Raoul's swiftly spoken words and my lack of encapsulating the local language in its entirety had us both reaching for the divine intervention of the restaurant waiter.

"Señor, it would seem as though the sky has fallen in and there is much damage. You must go now and meet with the end." 

Siobhan, with her succinctly (sober) feminine wisdom, decided that she would undertake the three hour long drive back to our home while I frantically made calls to both a suddenly deaf Raoul and our neighbours to try to discover the extent of the Armageddon that awaited us. Alas, it would seem that during our short ten day sabbatical inland our neighbours had become devout Buddhists and now no longer required the complexity of answering their phone. Either that or they too had succumbed to whatever fate had befallen our hillside home.

Forty-five minutes into our journey, Siobhan managed to swerve to avoid 'a rather large moth' of which had become 'bedazzled' by the luminous white beams emanating from the headlights. A swift tug to the left and my beloved new 4x4 managed to collide with the only tree within a fifty mile radius. Luckily no injuries occurred, however I doubt very much whether the tree will bare much fruit for the remainder of its solitary lifetime. Many hours passed by the time the local polis had arrived, scratched his unshaven chins, removed many folds of surplus material from the crack of his arse, smoked the obligatory cheroot, coughed up something usually found growing profoundly in a petri dish, urinated against the side of my vehicle, shook his head a dozen times before declaring that we had hit the only tree within a fifty mile radius and left. We had contacted the vehicle recovery people (European AA service, ghod bless them) and help was on its way.

Just before the dawn broke across the morning sky, we trundled up, battered and bruised, still in our somewhat wrinkled evening refinery,(no, not a spelling mistake, just plenty of spattered oil from the impact) after a nightmare journey in a rather small lemon yellow Fiat 500. For those unfamiliar with small Italian motor vehicles, can I ask you at this point to imagine trying to place two thick cut raw pork sausages into a matchbox?

Raoul had gotten bored with waiting. He had left a brief note pinned to the wooden gate.

Señor... just over a week ago a large wild ram leaped 9mtrs off of the adjoining hillside and crashed through your glass sun roof. In its brief moments of remaining life it destroyed the patio furniture, completely smashed the glass furniture, barbecue, most of the potted plants and now resides in the bottom of the pool.

We stepped gingerly across many splintered slivers of shrapnel sized glass fragmented beads. My wonderful aluminium man-toy barbecue with its lifetime guarantee lay on its side broken and abused. My carefully smuggled imported herbaceous border plants lay dishevelled and forlorn amongst my prized broken glazed pottery and now looked as though the little singing fella had stayed the weekend. I've seen similar in my many years of suburban Saturday night soirees in busy down-town Glasgow of course, but it still hits you hard in the chest when you see your belongings strewn willy-nilly across a curiously disorganised courtyard, of which less than a fortnight ago had been anally manicured within an arse whisker from gardening perfection

As I knelt down amongst the sheep shite beside the pool I was met with the somewhat bloated corpse of a large dead ram the size of a small Belgian dwarf bobbing about quite merrily. Corpses tend to sink when water saturation becomes too immense, but after more than a few days in the hot sun the gases inside pop them back up to the surface where they can either give you a wee start if you are not expecting such a sight, or fifteen years in prison if the corpse happens to be of the human kind. Don't ask me how I know so much about corpses, let's just say that being Glaswegian I appreciate the value that the dead weight of a five kilo bag of quick drying cement can bring to a man's life. Unfortunately, I've seen my share of waterlogged corpses over the years, they aren't pretty and can empty the contents of a weaker mans stomach at the blink of an eye. Fortunately, my rather sheepish intruder didn't have to worry about blinking any of its dead eyes. There wasn't any. They were missing. No doubt eaten by the many large birds that frequent the Spanish hills eating prey only slightly smaller than a baby rhino. What it did have however, was an uncanny resemblance to John Travolta. The fleshy lips were curled back in a rather macabre smile. No doubt due to the fact that he had completely fecked my previous evenings planned bout of romance with Siobhan.

John Travolta had tumbled down the hillside, fell through my glass roof trying to break the long jump record from the last Olympics and now lay rotting in my pool whilst blindly laughing at my misfortune. I donned my gardening gloves while Siobhan set about making us a cup of tea. It's not only the English who revert to strong tea in times of crisis, especially when there is man's work to be done. I grappled it towards me with the extending mop handle and after a much frenzied mish-mash of J.T refusing to dance his way over, I finally managed to take hold of his front legs and heaved him starboard bound as I lay atop the small, rather bendy, diving board. Bad move...  Rotting flesh and brute force do not good bed fellows make. I was left with two ragged woolly shoulders of muttony fetlock, while J.T pirouetted away as if the delightful Olivia Newton-John had entered the pool naked and up for a wee paddle herself. Another bad move was me standing on top of the diving board and throwing the mop handle like oul Capt Ahab spearing the white whale from the fore deck of the Pequod.

In Glasgow we have an underground glossary of people providing a corpse-with-a-hole-in-it removal service. Usually these people can be found outside most city centre pubs smoking hand rolled cigarettes, wearing camouflage jackets and speaking in whispers. For the price of a pint they will also shotgun your enemies, dismember body parts and fill your car with stolen diesel while you wait. Sadly, not here. I was on my own while Siobhan, despite the last traumatic 24 hours, was wetting herself with laughter in the sanctuary of the kitchen with her husband busily demonstrating his hunter-gatherer skills in the wild eventually used a  perforated plastic shower curtain to scoop up the bloated gassy corpse. Decked out in scuba mask and snorkel, marigold gloves and a straw hat to protect myself from the greasy sludge that now oozed across the waters surface, I finally managed to bring Moby-John back to dry land. If only it was as easy as disposing of the weans goldfish by flushing them down the kludge, eh?

Have you ever tried  to dispose of a very gassy dead sheep full of pool water? The idea sounded good until the water from the less than golden fleece put out the fire and left the usually fresh breeze carrying the scent of a Jewish offal shop in London's back streets during the war. You can't just pop them outside with the trash here in Spain, they have laws against it apparently. Run over a dog and the polis will stand around it smoking until one of them eventually pulls out a gun and shoots it in front of a family of visiting German schoolchildren. But desecrating a woolly hillside beast usually prettier than some of their wives/mothers/girlfriends and you will spend a long night in a grey bar, cockroach infested cell while they play cards with the money from your confiscated wallet and argue about who now owns your shoes. Of course if my trusty 4x4 had not now lay upon a mortuary slab due to Siobhan's love of large ugly cabbage moths, I could have slung it in the back and driven off into the hills returning it from where it had originally derived. Trust me, you cannot fit the belly button lint from a polyester shirt in the back of a Fiat 500! I have tried...

Various rumours would appear to be grossly exaggerated in the community these last few mornings about dismembered bodies being removed under the cover of darkness from our home. I'm happy to let them continue, because strangely enough, my daily newspaper is now never delivered anywhere but onto the porch. The local plumber, uncontactable since he installed my iron guttering three months ago, has refunded the money owed in regard to his oversight with my rumbling pipework above the garage and we never have to wait for a table in our favourite restaurant any longer. Disconcertingly though, the local Spanish Nazi's have arranged a boys night in featuring cards and mutton broth, so should I vanish for a few weeks you will know that I have been pulled in for questioning due to the fact that a stinking, oozing, recently deceased ram has popped up in the town well. Och, you can take the man out of Glasgow....

This mornings recipe was to be lamb shanks, roasted to perfection and served on a sea of spiced and aromatic rice. Of course you will understand that lamb, not to mention ram, is now off the menu for the foreseeable future.

Honey Glazed Ribs

3 tbsp of soy or fish sauce
2 tbsp Heinz tomato ketchup
4 tbsp fresh honey
4 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tsp paprika
Grated zest of 1 lemon
4kg of fresh free range spare ribs, each cut into 2 or 3 pieces
Preheat the oven to 200°C (gas 6). Put the soy sauce, ketchup, honey, garlic, paprika and lemon zest in a small pan. Bring to the boil gently, then reduce the heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat. Place the pork in a lightly oiled roasting tin, in a single layer, and brush with the warm sauce. Cook for 15 minutes, then lower the temperature to 160°C (gas 3) and cook for a further 45 minutes, turning halfway through the cooking and basting regularly with the sauce in the tin. Add several spoonful's of water to the tin to prevent the juices sticking and burning. When cooked, the ribs should be golden and sticky on the outside. Serve immediately with jacket potatoes and seasonal salad. Wash down with chilled bottles of lager with fresh lime.