How do I sum up this book? Alcohol, that’s how. Lots and lots of alcohol.
Amusingly you open the cover and see not a Drink Aware message, but instead a warning against consuming raw eggs (a foodstuff that features in some of the recipes.) Sandwiched between the hard covers of this recipe book are some very attractive looking images and nice little introductions to each drink (where their name comes from, the type of ingredients in the drink etc.). You’ve got the classics, your Mojitos, Bloody Marys Martinis, but you’re also got the different, for example Kinky Witch, Rusty Nail and Bobby Burns. In many ways there is something for everyone here* (unless you’re teetotal or under eighteen, in which case no, there isn’t).
All this however doesn’t detract from the simple truth that, as with all cocktails, you need about 100 different spirits and mixers tucked away in the cupboard to make them. The Classic Cocktail Bible is a classic by name and a classic of its genre; it is a book which sits on one’s shelf for many months/years until one day you think “oh, I really fancy a Cosmopolitan right now, I’m sure I can make that”. You open this book to mild disappointment when realise you can’t so instead you reach for a can of cider and consume that instead.
The Classic Cocktail Bible is a must have for the coffee table of the young professional or the kitchen cupboard for the impulsive buyer but be warned, it takes more than vodka and coke to make a good cocktail.
Come sit with me. Come sit here in the caffeine filled haze we call paradise. The legal high that our fathers and their fathers before have relished, for here we are one. The mothers, the students, the disapproving men with broadsheets in hand, everyone has a home here.
Let me pass you this extra I have acquired. Do you take milk? The sugar is over there. The chair next to me is a little worn and mismatched, but that is the norm. Brush off the crumbs of the previous tenant and join me in weekend conversation.
The background music will lull you into a false pretence of your own class and status. The type of music you recognise but do not know. They are the backing beats that serve as melodic distraction from the mess surrounding us. I have heard in booksheleved corners that it improves the taste, what do you think?
See that man behind my left shoulder? I know him to be a regular. The frustrated writer who huffs and sighs over work that will never make it to print. Chomping on cheap nuts and downing brown goo in paper cups, for he cannot afford the china. He is a freeloader of the establishment, clinging desperately to an image that cannot be sustained. I remember when he used to sip on only the finest quality beans and nibble on pastries with young women, but those days are gone. We have all changed since those days.
My friend, you look a little troubled. Don’t be. In this world we are all addicts of our own making. I only seek to show you the truth that lurks in the steam. Save your pity for Africa, it is a wasted emotion in this Latino supplied space. I see you have finished your drink. Would you like another? It would be my honour. They serve only the finest cheap substances here, it is why we never leave.
I am so happy you came to sit with me my partner. Now stress no more and relax, the fresh coffee will be here soon.
“…Right, so how are you going to get the Jammy Dodgers out of the country?”
“Well you’ll have made friends with a gigolo in the airport flying out.”
“When would you do that?”
“At check in. You get talking to her and strike up a friendship at that point. Then you find a way to damage her case at the airport on the other side, you apologise and offer to replace the damaged case. She accepts and then you supply her with a case with the goods stitched in on the inside.”
“You got a Roman chariot style attack planned? You’re going to attach spikes to the wheels of your case? And when are you going to get the Jammy Dodgers sewn in?”
“Alice, you know Jammy Dodgers is a euphemism for something else? We’re not talking about smuggling biscuits into Britain.”
“Is Lanzarote even the best place for smuggling drugs? I’d have gone for Latin America.”
“No, other than Alice’s smuggling of apricots I don’t think this island has much going for it. You’d do this in Mexico or the like.”
“What if the woman you befriend has a bright pink case? She’s not going to accept your scrotty old substitute.”
“Come to think about it, how are you planning on making friends in check-in? ‘Hello, nice case. You could stuff a lot of Jammy Dodgers in there’? No offense Dad, but I would hardly rush to exchange numbers if you randomly approached me with that opener.”
“I have a better idea. Why don’t you just pay her to bring the drugs in whilst you’re abroad and then murder her in the car park?”
“Well yes, but in doing so you’ve committed a worse crime than the one you were trying to cover up.”
“Remind me again how we ended up on this topic?”
“Pull over here! I need to post something!”
“You’re not posting your local election ballot are you?”
It was 3:30am, the car was filled with baggage and the village post box was one letter fuller. I hopped back into the Volvo and we sped on towards the airport.
The Bennett holiday had begun.
This Easter the destination of choice was the Canary Island of Lanzarote. Spanish by nationality but located just off the coast of the African continent, the Canary Islands are uniquely blessed to have pleasantly hot temperatures early in the year while maintaining a laid-back Mediterranean culture. The warm climate was far from an automatic pleaser for everyone. As we stood waiting for our bags at Arrecife airport, a fellow passenger could be heard complaining down the phone over the amount of cloud cover outside. Trust a British tourist to moan about the weather thirty minutes after landing.
This wasn’t the first bemusing thing to happen on the holiday. That award would go to the poor directional signage that resulted in the entire plane accidently bypassing Spanish boarder control. As we walked down the ramp parallel to the booths, the border guards watched the heard of pale faced Brits with a mixture of confusion and disinterest.
“I wonder if they’ll be so lax once we’re out of the EU.” I muttered to India.
Bags collected, the reps verbally directed us to the buses. We hopped onto our coach and listened to the mumblings of a secondary rep (“what’s she saying?” “I don’t know, I think something about Pablo Paella’s Casa or the welcome meetings. To be honest I’m barely listening.”) The young lady leapt off, the coach doors closed and we departed.
This time around we were headed to the resort of Costa Teguise on the South-Western side of the island. Because we’re middle class this was to be the fourth time at the resort, although this time around the holiday planner (alias Mumma Bennett) had booked the hotel Teguise Grand Playa which was considerably closer to the pretty town of Teguise compared to the one we’d been to four years ago. After the terrible sun burns of 2013 when we badly misinterpreted the strength of the UV rays, we learnt several valuable lessons. A) always pack sun cream b) remember the pastiness of one’s skin and c) town is never a “fifteen-minute walk away”.
Anyway, to get back on topic, the Costa Teguise Playa is a lovely hotel, situated right on the beach (it is quite literally a stone’s throw away). This location suited me very nicely. During the day the beach was a hubbub of activity in the form of sunbathers, scuba divers and swimmers, but at dawn the little piece of man-made coast was completely empty of all human-shaped life. Granted it took me about five days to get into the practice of early starts, but for those few mornings where I ventured down to the beach at 7am the views were wonderful. I could listen to the sea, yoga a little and relax.
Within the walls of the hotel I learnt a couple of new things. Firstly, this man has a very high voice:
And secondly I discovered that Leo Sayer is still as relevant a figure today as he’s ever been. At least four times Papa Bennett got mistaken for the 70s pop star/icon/legend. For anyone not in the know, here’s Sayer’s music/photo next to Papa Bennett’s…
Don’t get me wrong, at first it was utterly hilarious seeing drunk British tourists rush up to Papa Bennett and ask him to sing You make Me Feel Like Dancing, or say “my wife absolutely loves you!” But in time it got bit much. When you’re put on edge because someone stumbling towards you way want an autograph, or ask what it’s like being Leo Sayer’s daughter on tour you start to wish Leo Sayer had been a one-hit wonder.
As well a large consumption of sparkling Cava wine which was served from breakfast to midnight free of charge (this post’s title being a choice quote by yours truly), our merry quartet also partook on an island tour whilst visiting Lanzarote. We’d already done the volcano tours some years ago, so this time around we went on a voyage of discovery to learn about the famous contemporary artist César Manrique who lived on the island. The tour stopped off at a number of the sculptures, paintings and buildings Manrique designed. Here is a summary of that tour in the form of a collage:
We saw some really beautiful things and all took away something different from the trip. Mumma Bennett was overwhelmed by art:
I meanwhile struggled to comprehend why anyone would have a semi-transparent (external) bathroom wall.
India on the other hand had her perceptions on nature and art transformed by a Cactus Garden, from this…
(Coming soon to MHAM, a post dedicated to the Jardin de Cactus. The transformation will be explained!)
And as for Papa Bennett, well he felt compelled to do this:
(And we still don’t know why.)
Other than that we all took pleasure in having a very laid back holiday. In the daytime we’d explore the local area and sit on the beach/by the pool and at night we’d drink cocktails and sip on spirits and chat away the hours. Some would probably look at this as mundane and very predictable but in fact it was anything but. Only after a few rounds of seemingly harmless drinks would the most random conversations come up. The opening of this post is one such example, another was a theoretical debate over how one would go about committing suicide with a Christmas Tree. Admittedly these were not conversations which one walks into at 10am on a Monday, nor are they discussions which anyone walking past, English or not, would be able to jump straight into. They are odd, random and sometimes a bit wrong but they are so the conversational glue of the Bennett family unit.
The local shops near to the hotel were filled with the standard tourist tat and other random items including mug clocks and washing machine covers.
I also think it says a lot about us as a family when we gather as one to admire this:
As we got to the end of the holiday I felt it was time to leave Lanzarote and return to normal life in the UK. I had obtained my fill of sun, sea and endless sangria and was ready for a cup of tea and a bowl of Weetabix. I’d also a) taken a good couple of kilos of apricots and tea from the hotel to bring back home and b) broken our tour operator’s information board.
To stay any longer would be putting me, my family and Brexit negotiations in danger.
Overall, it was a great holiday in a fabulous location (as per usual, thanks to Mumma Bennett). And it shall always be remembered as the Lanzarote holiday where three of us worshipped the sun and art while Leo Sayer worshipped the sparkling wine.
With a title like that you’re probably thinking one of three things, “too right Alice is”, “this girl has got right up herself since she set up a Facebook page. Who is she, Donald Trump?” or “huh, I did not know Billie Piper came from Swindon”. Either way, I’m going to say it loud and proud* (*not in real life you understand? Just online).
Two weeks ago was carrying an unzipped suitcase down the stairs when all my belongings tumbled out. At that very moment I thought to myself “you really are a piece of something” and now I know what that something is. It’s pretty obvious that I am the embodiment of class and comedy gold (I’m also the embodiment of a minor caffeine addition and sleep deprivation, but I’ll leave that to the obituarists).
Backtracking a little, with a name that translates as “Pig Hill” not a lot of celebrities have graced the streets and houses of Swindon. Case in point: when was the last time you saw Jude Law in the Canal Walk McDonald’s? Exactly. And don’t get me started about the fact Canal Walk is no where near water. I’m going off on a ranty tangent here, but Swindon needs to have a serious rebrand. Why not change the name to, say, “Swingdon” and make the place full of jazz or “Richdon” (subliminal messaging for the dumb rich people)? I pay you enough ruddy money in taxes, sort it out council.
Until a new name is implemented or Jude Law decides to unleash his offspring into the concrete jungle that is Swindon’s Tented Market (really, it is made of that – WHO WORKS IN BRANDING?!), then I’m going to claim the title of classiest female to grace Swindon. Sure, I spill tea quite literally everywhere and yes, I can be reduced down to a child-like mentality when presented with new pillows, but given my competition is Billie Piper then I think I have good grounds for asserting my case. For anyone not in the know, Piper made her name in the late 90s/early 00s as a pop star and then as an actress (more commonly known for playing Rose Tyler in the reboot of Doctor Who). She’s good, don’t get me wrong, but Swindonians don’t half like to harp on about her like she’s a big claim to fame. You know who my local town of Stratford-Upon-Avon had? Shakespeare, that’s who. Trust me, there’s no beating that, however competing against this I think I could take Piper on:
(Seeing bins melt into men, billboard cartoons come alive and rhino bouncers? Yep, it’s called a standard Saturday night out in Swindon.)
I write stuff, good stuff, and despite my frequent Calamity Jane moments I like to think I represent a good role model. I walk to work, go to the gym, I even do the occasional bit of baking. I tell you what, get Anthea Turner (star of How to Be a Perfect Housewife) on the phone, she’ll support me (and in doing so knock back Feminism to 1969 but hey, we’re talking about me here.)
In short, I’m a ruddy aspirational professional.
And you know what? I think my presence is having an effect on this town. For instance back in 2014 you would never see this type of thing out and about:
You might have come across a cider can or an empty beer bottle, but never a wine flute carefully placed on a window ledge. It’s a sign!
Not wanting to brag, but I’m the classiest thing to happen to Swindon since Billie Piper.
(Disclaimer: before writing this post I had consumed a large, strong, coffee. This may explain pretty much all the comments made in the above. Do I regret them? Not at all.)
No two words fill an office with more dread than “team” and “photos”. I mean it’s effectively a modern-day, corporate, form of torture. It doesn’t matter if you’re Angelia Jolie or if you look like the back of Wayne Rooney’s head, nobody jumps for joy when faced with the prospect of having a camera being shoved in one’s face for use in the office team chart. Just thinking about my face filling a wide angle lens makes me naturally tense up and feel queasy.
At the time a few people laughed off my concerns. “It’ll be fine!” they said, “no nobody wants their photos done, we’re all in same boat,” they reassured. But they were wrong. It wasn’t alright, we weren’t in the same boat. For while all of my colleagues were able to at least obtain one semi-decent photo for the team structure chart, these are the best I could pull off with a professional photographer…
, English Heritage, Swindon, Wiltshire, UK
, English Heritage, Swindon, Wiltshire, UK
, English Heritage, Swindon, Wiltshire, UK
, English Heritage, Swindon, Wiltshire, UK
, English Heritage, Swindon, Wiltshire, UK
Jesus Christ they’re awful.
Needless to say the hunt is now on to find a photo where I don’t look mad/confused/infected with some terrible tropical swelling disease. I’ve also decided that as a result of this I cannot ever have my photo taken for semi-formal purposes ever again. If people need to know what I look like they can ruddy well come over and say hi. I’d rather have the profile picture of a happy owl than my constipated face.
After the failings of the first house viewing I was ready for a couple of weeks away from house hunting. It was November and the whole world was gradually gearing itself for the hype of Christmas, so much so I wondered if it was a sign from God that houses were not to be considered when you have fifty clients screaming for their branded posters. For all of about two days I accepted this and for those two days life without property searches was good. Blog posts got uploaded, newspaper articles written, outside of work life was a very productive affair. However my brief moment of tranquillity was not to last. On the third day I started involuntarily twitching at the site of Rightmove’s consumer-targeted advertising.
“Oh no, not the twitch!” I thought, “it’s the very reaction mum has to house programmes. The property twitch.”
I tried to hold my finger back, I even went onto various other non-property websites to distract the demonic spirit inside, but it wasn’t working. By the time day five came around I found my eyes wandering the streets to look at the bright bill boards outside properties for let or sale. (Some of the feelings I felt towards the sight of a new ‘For Sale’ board are too disturbing to be described anywhere on the internet.)
A particular low point came when I realised the property twitch had spread from my hands to my feet and, scarily, my brain. A house on a nearby street was undertaking
substantial building works around this time, a thirty-something male and his mates were ripping the place to shreds. One morning the need to be near the smell of brickwork became so great that, without thinking, I crossed the street to walk past the house and thereby straight through a mini-building site. Without thinking, in my black pump shoes and office wear I strolled through the mud and brick dust that covered the street. The two builders who had witnessed this from the comfort of the doorway with their tea couldn’t believe what they were seeing. It was only later down the road I realised what I’d done and subsequently cringed and made for the nearest patch of greenery.
“Christ, I need help” I muttered as I wiped my leather shoes on the dew covered grass.
Help (of a sort) came shortly after this event. I was watching Pointless on TV which to me represented a bit of a low point in my viewing choices (pun not intended), when an email flashed up in my inbox. No surprises for guessing who it was from.
“THE HOUSE NEXT DOOR IS FOR SALE!! ON RIGHTMOVE! LOOK!”
(It was as if there was a sale on exclamation marks.)
Thinking her to be either a) insane b) nosey or c) a combination of both, I gave in to my inner twitch and logged onto Rightmove. Immediately my body relaxed, it was as if it was destined to spend many nights on this website. As I started entering in my search criteria into the various boxes all I could think to myself was “what monster has my mother created?” A few clicks later and I was able to track down the property. It wasn’t hard to find, as mum had correctly identified it was indeed the house next door. My housemate’s white car sat proudly on the driveway to the left.
As I scrolled through the property images one thing that kept coming to mind was simply “this can’t be the house next door, this can’t be the house next door”. For starters it was a heck of a lot cleaner and minus the clutter of the house I was sat in, but it was also just so different. Fewer bedrooms had resulted in a different approach to space layout and planning. A bigger kitchen, normal straight staircases, access to a patio area! All things which number 22 lacked and suffered for. I was in my own bubble and couldn’t help but smile reading through the description. The agents needn’t have gone to so much bother, I was already sold.
Meanwhile, in the reality of number 22, a roommate set off the kitchen smoke alarm, triggering the property’s hard-wired alarm system. Shouts from other housemates rippled around the house while I sat staring at images of a tenant free property with its clean carpets and stylish bedrooms. I sighed. Carefully avoiding the spring that was starting to protrude from my mattress I took the one stride needed to cross the marked carpets to where my phone sat quietly charging. God knows I had tried to ignore the call of the housing market, but enough was enough. I made the call.
This post is part of “The First Time Buyer Diaries”. To read the entire series (so far) clickhere.