Monday, June 23, 2008

The Dead Man’s Hand

Once, quite some time ago, I agreed to go on a holiday. My wife and I had decided to ‘start a family’ and it was suggested, not by me I hasten to add, that we should go to Barcelona – Europe’s party town – for one last hurrah before we entered the tiresome world of babysitters and early nights.

As chance would have it, sometime between booking and checking in something untoward must have occurred, because my wife was demonstrably up the duff by the time we landed in Barcelona.

Consequently, the entire week was marked by eposodes of morning sickness, early nights, and afternoon naps. It was fortuitous that Spanish TV was showing George Lucas’s original Star Wars trilogy on a non-stop loop that week, dubbed into Spanish of course but I already knew who everyone was and what was going to happen and I’m not too bad at Spanish. Well, I say not too bad. I only know a few words but I’m astoundingly cocky so I’ll just have a go and expect to be understood.

By the end of the week we’d hardly spent any money. Now you can’t possibly come back from a city break without having bankrupted yourself. It was time to book the most expensive restaurant in Barcelona.

Which is, if you weren’t aware, some Catalan gaff where everything is painted white and the menu, by dint of being printed in Catalan, is upsettingly hard to read. Catalan isn’t like proper Castilian Spanish, the kind you get in phrase books. Catalan is more like cryptic Welsh Sudoku. There are more Xs on a Catalan menu than there are in a teenage girl’s email. No-one can read the things. To exacerbate matters, the waitress had formed the distinct impression that I was a cocky Londoner who spoke Spanish at approximately toddler standard and had chosen to punish me by electing to negotiate my dining options exclusively in Catalan.

I struggled for quite some time with the menu. My various food intolerances (gluten, tomatoes, foreign muck) weren’t helping much. Eventually I found something that looked as if it might be rice-based. Rice is great. You can make pudding out of rice.

The only issue was, I couldn’t quite make out what might be with the rice. My entreaties for guidance from the waitress were met with bloody-minded Catalan jibberjabber that I probably could have understood, had I but been brainier or more Spanish or something.

Anyway, the one scrap of information I could elicit was that the rice contained ‘marisco’. I had no clue what marisco might be, but frankly the explanations had gone a bit too long, and it was getting a trifle embarrassing. My wife’s contribution to the sketch was to say “ooh, marisco, nice” . That was good enough for me I went with the marisco rice.

As soon as the waitress had gone I asked Mrs Moran what I’d ordered. She had no idea either. She’d just said something positive to defuse the tension.

It later transpired that marisco means, if it means anything, seafood. It can cover a multitude of evils.

The evil in this case was a bed of rice surmounted by a white, five-fingered something that was bony, and possessed of a pallid, rubbery flesh that tasted mostly of nothing.

To this day, I have no idea what I ate. And I don’t want to know.

George Carlin: If you you thought it was all about Bill and Ted, you missed a lot

Splendid, very funny fellow. Few comics retained their early edge so deep into their careers. Few comics had so much to say about airline announcements either.