Scotland has finally grasped the nettle (or the thistle) and decided to do something about the massive alcohol problem that the country suffers. No doubt it will be unpopular and there will be accusations from every quarter. But legislators had no choice. Scotland estimates that it spends £2 billion on clearing up the medical mess from drinking. Liver for liver, you are more than twice as likely to die an alcohol-related death in Scotland than in England or Wales. I have direct experience of Scotland’s rabid drink culture. I was suspended from my august fee-paying Jesuit school in 1982 for buying and supplying a gang of my peers with Merrydown cider and cheap imported lager (and Bacardi for one boy who was a bit too New Romantic for the rest of us, if you know what I mean). I was the only 13-year-old in Glasgow who could pass for an adult. Turbans are hugely deceptive when it comes to age-determination. And I was, even then, built like a brick outhouse. Thanks to Hoodie and his inability to vomit in the direction of a dustbin, I and my cohorts were rumbled and I was gifted a week off school to consider my behaviour. My parents made me sit in Langside library and study the entire human dental system and muscle groups. No doubt had prices been higher and alcohol more difficult to get hold of, Merrydown-gate would never have happened. Equally, I wouldn’t now be so expert on masseter and temporalis muscles as well as closed and open root systems.
You probably haven’t heard of Sweet Baboo. Few people have. He is a geeky singer-songwriter from Wales who singlehandedly has redefined the word quirky. He released an album some months ago that is of unparalleled beauty. It is funny, poignant, weird and melodic. There are few comparisons I could draw that would be of any help in understanding the myriad texture of his work. I went to see him play a short set at the ICA the other evening. It was the first time in a long time that I had been excited about attending a gig (not since Bucks Fizz reformed with their Velcro skirt songs). I was disappointed that Baboo played only a solitary track from his album. He announced a little before ten o’clock that he was about to play his last song. Shrouded by the darkness and unable to contain my excitement I shouted out, ‘Play “Mario”.’ (‘Mario’ is a beautiful song about how his pet rabbit Mario was attacked by a local fox). I’m not sure what I expected by way of a response. The last retort I would have bargained for was a direct ‘f*** off’. Baboo he may be; sweet he is most certainly not.
Anya has invited me to her wedding. I always feel so honoured to be asked to a wedding. Unlike Indian weddings, which presume that half the village will be in attendance, along with any visitors they have that day and any friends they meet on the way (Indian weddings are seldom RSVP’d. You takes your chances…), Anya’s was to be a small affair; a few score folk, nearest and dearest, and I have been so very much looking forward to it. Then, completely out of the blue, I was asked if I would be an usher on the day. That’s the beautiful thing about friendship; the simplest of requests elevates a good friendship to greatness. Now all I need to do is work out how to ush; surely that’s what an usher does?
A few years back, when I was toiling as a participant in the first series of Celebrity Masterchef, I was sent to the rather imposing Sketch to cook for a couple of days. Under the watchful eye of head chef Pascal Sanchez I was expected to conjure up complicated creations involving a cornucopia of components. Sketch had always been a daunting place. It never felt like the sort of place I would go, not my sort of people; it felt cold and unwelcoming. That was until I cooked in the kitchen. Pascal displayed great patience at my cack-handed attempt to do something astonishing with salmon; the staff were adorable, and to this day have continued to greet me with great warmth. And the food …well the food is amazing, well deserving of a Michelin star. Alas, Pascal is taking leave of these shores and venturing off to fresh challenges: Vegas and marriage, although not necessarily in that order. I’d like to thank him for the education he gave me, the kindness he displayed and for introducing me to one of my favourite restaurants, Sketch.
You’ve probably heard of the social networking site Facebook. Five years old, this online community has revolutionised the online world. I have to confess to being unable to live without it. However, you may also know Facebook has been surpassed by a thing called Twitter. Twitter is bizarre. You have just 140 characters to convey a message or a response to a message: that’s about 27 words (not including hypallages). Rather than let this technology ruin language and life, I have decided to form a new sort of cyber-poetry. Like a haiku, the twitteru is confined to a certain number of words, in this case just 27. Which, interestingly enough, is nearly the same number of words as constitutes a limerick. Coincidence? I think not…
There are three sure signs that spring is imminent. 1) The clocks change and we let more light into our lives. 2) The daffodils appear and carpet our world in that most intense of sunburst yellows, and 3) I take my lilac turban out of the cupboard. I can never remember when the clocks change; I saw some daffodils on a table at the Ivy last week and I sported my lilac turban for the first time in 2009. I can almost feel summer approaching….