Wednesday, April 30, 2003


Okay, much better now. Needed that.

Finished translating the CV; even found a typeface that lets me do enyaes. I'll get it printed out and start agency hassling. I also plan to try and make a few inroads into the local fet. scene. There's a new club starting up and I'm thinking of emailing them, see if they need an aware and symathetic janitor. Hargh. And a freind of a freind of a freind who I approached weeks back about teaching work has been making encouraging noises and wants me to phone her. Things are looking uppish.

Had an interesting day on Sunday. Took a walk (along with LA) in the woods'n'fields bit that I can see from my living-room window. Close to it was all surprisingly woodsy and picnic-spottish. Sun was shining, birds were singing, little brown lizards were scuttling around at my feet, mozzies were biting seven kinds of hell out of me, etc. I was surprised by how swiftly the Flower Nerd within was awakened. I noticed a lot of familiar species: broom, hop-trefoil, cinquefoil, poppies, coltsfoot and stuff, but there were plenty that I couldn't name. I particularly noticed a variety of thistle with really pretty varigated leaves, and something very similar to vetch but lacking the usual creeping habit and having little red flowers. Kept thinking about how great it would be to have a copy of Rev. Kebel Martin to hand, then going all culture-shocky because-- duh! "Concise British Flora In Colour", remember? I would really love a good book on local plant species. I could go for walks and stuff, and then write about the things I see... ex-pats like to read that kind of thing, don't they?

Anyway. Having had a good ol' fractal fix, we then grabbed a towel, hopped on the train and hit the beach. While we had a couple of possible secondary targets (maybe get a cozzie and, should a cozzie hove into view, go for a quick dip), we had one very clear mission: Lunch On Beach.

We wandered up and down the seafront for a while, and finally found a restaurant that wasn't crammed to the gunnels with other red-faced Brits. Despite the assurances of the nice young lass who was touting for business outside, the was no menu del dia, so we picked our way through a menu that was written in about six different languages, none of them Spanish.

Now, I'm a big green veggie, but before coming to Spain I'd decided to relax the rules a bit and allow myself seafood I was eating out. No Quorn casseroles out here, y'know. You know what the man said: it's okay to eat fish, coz they don't have any feelings. (Mind you, the same man also filled his viens with shite and blew his head off with a shotgun.) When it came down to it, though, I chickened out. Until Sunday I'd been looking for the vegetablest thing on the menu, and then laboriously quizzing the poor waitress as to its ingredients.

"Umm... [pointing at menu] el insalata-- es sin carne, si?"
"Es sin, umm, pesca?"
"Si. Es sin pesca."
"Es sin jamon?"
"Si! Es sin carne! Es sin carne, es sin pesca, es sin jamon! Si, si, si!"

And then the salad arrives and it's loaded with tuna anyway. So, I decided to just bite the bullet and break my fish abstention thing altogether. I ask for the seafood paella. Lurid Archive goes for the same.

So they bring this thing and I declare it's the size of Gondawaland. Massive prawns lie curled on top, like something from a '50s radiation pic. I watch Lurid dig in as I nibble the last of my pa amb tomaquet starter.

I take up the big metal spoon, and pile some of the paella onto my own plate. It smells... well, fishy. I'd forgotten that fishy-smelling things could be food. I start with one of the prawns; they were one of the last things I gave up. King Prawn Ceylon, prawn crackers. The way I see it, it's no different to eating an arachnid or an insect. (I've wanted to eat a spider for years; not one of the little ones, a big one, like a Goliath spider or something. Maybe boiled, with some sweetcorn. However, I digress.)

I've totally forgotten how you peel these guys. I've got the sketchiest idea that you start with the legs, or something. I give them an experimental tug and one or two of them break off at the knees. I turn the big pink sea-bug over in my fingers, examining it. I pull at the head and it snaps off, taking most of the legs with it but leaving a thick smear of green goo. I flick it off with my knife, smear it on the side of the plate. The meat looks juicy and appetising, but there's this long line of charcoal-coloured stuff inside. It's not a spine; is it a nerve? Is it prawn crap? I'm not sure it's good to eat but I eat it anyway, along with the rest of the prawn. It's nice, sweet and chewy. I poke around in the rice a bit more.

"Dude," I say, "are those tentacles?"
"Mmm, hmm."
"Squid? Or what, octopus, or..."

I stick my fork in and fetch up this sad little appendage, with teeny tiny suckers. Really delicate. I have a lot of respect for cephalopods. One day there'll be bod-mods so we'll be able to change colour, like they do. Mood tatts. Squid are living fossils. I read where you can teach octopuses to count, but I don't know how true that is.

Lurid chuckles.
"I'm not used to having my lunch wave at me," I say.
"I think that's a British thing," he says. "Everywhere else, they eat this sort of thing without worrying about it."
"I'm not worried. It's just that I've never eaten tentacles before."
"It's just that the British really seem to have a problem with meat that actually looks like meat."
"I think that's an industrial revolution thing, dude. You know, preserving things to transport them and stuff."
"Like Spam. Or tripe or whatever. And there's not a huge tradition of eating meat amongst the skint, it was a rich people thing. The whole Sunday roast thing... I thinks that's quite new. Poor people just ate all the bits no-one else wanted."

We discuss the subject. I tell Lurid about whole roast peacocks, which was a big thing in Elizabethan (?) times. First you skinned the peacock, then you roasted the peacock, then you put the skin back on, then you served the peacock at a huge rich people's banquet. Salmonella city.

I tackle another prawn. Lurid helps himself to more paella. We chat. I'm cutting up my tentacles really small, but they still look like tentacles. They're not bad: chewy, but not rubbery. I get why people like them. I run my tongue over the suckers, little grains. Fascinating.

"I'm not doing this again," I tell Lurid as I finish off a few more appendages. "I'm still a veggie. This just isn't working."

I'm glad I had my little experiment. I'm especially glad that I went for something that looked like a once-living animal, rather than an amorphous nugget of protein. Like Lurid said at the time: more honest that way. But I'm back on the wagon now, big time.

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