Cheese Twists

2015-01-01 11.12.11

I picked up a loaf of bread and stood in line waiting to pay. On the counter to my right were all the croissants and cakes and slightly strange combinations like green curry pie which we get in Bangkok. There were plastic trays, tongs and rolls of paper at the far end. And, I noticed, among all the reduced bread, what looked like a few packets of cheese twists. I walked over to them and picked up a packet. It was priced at 50 baht. I put them back and joined the line again which was now a few people deeper.

Cheese twists. A variation of the cheese straws that mum used to buy from the bakery in town. Cheese straws were flaky and greasy and cheesy and soft. They were a bit messy. Pastry crumbs and grease marks were left in the paper bag, on our fingers, around our lips. (The ones we tried to replicate at home were never quite the same. Always slightly too burnt, or crunchy, or not cheesy enough.)

Cheese twists though. These were the grown up version. They were crunchy and less likely to leave a mess. They were a bit posh. At Christmas, for our birthdays or Burns night, we would go over to Grandma and Granfer’s, only a few minutes away. Out would come the cheese twists, probably bought from Waitrose. Several wine glasses would be filled at least half full with sherry, as was Granfer’s measure. Elderflower cordial possibly for us two teens. Maybe a gin and tonic or two for Grandma. And then plenty of wine with the meal. I don’t really remember the details of conversations had around the table, but I do remember the laughter, smiles and shining eyes. Also Grandma’s loud burps.

After the meal there would be biscuits from the biscuit tin, a slightly rusty round box with blue patterns on it. It contained all the treats, more than at home. Tunnocks, Rocky bars and the occasional Penguin laid on a sheet of kitchen roll. Tea for Granfer and mum, coffee for Grandma and Dad.

On one evening there was supposed to be a meteor shower, and so after eating and drinking we all went out to the front of the house to look up into the sky. Grandma and Granfer’s house was an end of terrace, and on the corner of a small crescent a little way off of the main road, so it was quiet. Only the occasional car drove past. There were a few lights from windows and street lamps. Unfortunately one of these streetlamps was right in the way of our view, and it made it difficult to see any glimmers in the sky. Slightly drunkenly, Grandma and Granfer tried to block out the light by each covering one eye with a hand. I don’t know why they thought using one eye would help… in any case it’s possible we woke up the houses around us with all the giggling.

I miss them.

I put my bread down in front of the cashier. I dashed back around to the end of the line and grasped the cheese twists and handed them to the cashier. On second thoughts…

Early bird

 

CowsinBruges

One of my favourite things to do on my days off is get up early.

Let me explain. My working week consists of midday starts and 9 pm finishes, meaning that by the time I get home it’s half 9 at least, if I’ve gone to get some food it’s 9.45, by the time I’ve eaten it, probably 10.45 to be honest. And I find it almost impossible to go to bed straight after I’ve eaten. All in all it means I go to bed relatively late. And so inevitably… get up late (ish) the next day. I leave my house at 11, I do have time to do some things in the morning, but always have to consider work, what time to start getting ready… etc etc.

I deliberately set my alarm early on a day off because that whole day is mine. I get up, and do things that need to be done – and do far more in the morning than I would on another day. Then, the time when I would usually be at work is time for relaxing, doing whatever I want to do. I don’t have anything hanging over me.

My days off are often not at the weekend either. This month I have Thursday and Friday off. Meaning that I am relaxing while my colleagues are at work, and while most other people are at work.

There’s something I love about not working when other people are. It feels almost naughty, and somehow makes me relish my free time even more than if everyone was off too, like at the weekend.

I remember being ill one day, not going into school and staying at home. I must have been… in year 7 or 8 I think, so maybe 12. My dad had the day off too, as he works shifts at the airport, and so he looked after me. He had a dentist appointment – and took me in the car with him to where his dentist had a private practice in a housing estate. I sat in the car when he went in. And… there was silence. Everyone else was at work. The dentist was at work. There were no cars at any of the houses, no people walking on the streets. It was an eerie kind of silence – and I loved it. What was everyone else doing? Rushing around, thinking about things they had to do, maybe feeling stressed, finishing things for deadlines… and I could just sit here. I wasn’t bored, I wasn’t lonely, I wasn’t fed up (though I suppose I must have felt ill). Just content.

It’s the same feeling I’ve had before when I’ve had interviews in London. I lived close, but not in London so I had to take the whole day off, (or I was unemployed at the time). I would go up on the train, to London Bridge, or Victoria, get the underground, go for the interview. And then, because I had no real reason to get back.. and the train journey probably cost me a fortune… I would stay in London for a bit. Sure there were tourists around and people in suits on the phone, people meeting other people… but, especially around London Bridge and by the river, it was considerably quiet. Around the docks too, Canary Wharf. I could feel the low gentle buzz of the city, coming from inside offices and tall buildings, all the thoughts going on, the strategies and new ways forward being created.  All the quiet energy. And then suddenly at lunch time it would come bursting out onto the streets. An hour of free time was grasped and people would make the most of it by rushing around to get food, get things done, talk to friends, anything they needed to be done. Then back to work again.

This morning I got up and went out to buy breakfast. A bit later than usual on a day off I have to admit, the early morning fruit lady was packing up her stall and the daytime fruit lady was just setting hers up. ‘Sawatdii ka’ to the daytime fruit lady as I walked past and popped into 7/11 – I hate them and I love them at the same time. I hate them because they are a chain, and I’d rather not take business away from little corner shops. However – they do sell some amazing stuff…and so a Big Pao Moo Deng (Red BBQ pork steamed bun), a yoghurt and a bottle of green tea richer, I stepped back outside onto the pavement (sidestepping the rather porky soi dog that lazily sleeps outside the entrance). I can’t not buy some fruit now… it’ll be the second time I’ve walked past fruit lady… and so I stop to get my usual ‘sabarot’, (pineapple) already cut up into bitesized chunks and with a stick so I can eat it without any washing up.

As I walk back up my soi (lane) I am hit with a terrific urge to go to the beach. The sun is shining, so much so that I cross over to the shade, the street barbecues are out, and the smell of charcoal and cooking meat is everywhere. It makes me think of barbecues in the back garden when I was about 8 – me and my younger sister taking control and donning our shades to stop the smoke getting in our eyes. Barbecues on the beach with friends and digging out the sand so the flames wouldn’t go out all the time. Sitting on Brighton beach drinking cider during Pride festival.

Note to self – need to look up any possible daytrips from Bangkok to the beach. I think there are some if your own car is available, sadly I don’t own one.Hua Hun or Cha-am soon. Then Koh Chang.

Now I’m sitting here, listening to Chopin Nocturne number 2 and wishing I could play the piano. The whole day ahead of me, I’m going to go to the park (when it’s a little cooler) and read, practise guitar (just bought a new one and am soo excited to be teaching myself again). I need to study Thai today too, I have been somewhat lazy as of late. If I had a pool I would swim. Unfortunately I don’t. When I have my medical certificate back I’ll sign up for the public pool down the road. Then this evening maybe a catch up with friends.

And you…? Early bird or late riser?