Sunday, 27 June 2010

Being American in Britain during the World Cup, Spanish Dancers, and Art in Squash Courts

MONDAY: I'm sitting in the Winter Garden again enjoying some peace and quiet, interrupted only by a faint rumble of voices and the bladder-stimulating splash of at least 2 water features. I have a very special treat for lunch today: homemade feta, created by my friend Albert, famous for Albert's Pies at the Nottingham House. Not as dry and salty as your typical feta, it more closely resembles haloumi and is absolutely gorgeous, made with love a very short distance from my own front door. I was a bit worried this morning when I realised the crusty roll I hastily bought yesterday is actually a cheese roll. But not to worry: the cheddar in the bread is very mild so the feta still shines through. Although I've added a tiny bit of red pepper and spring onion, this feta can easily stand on its own, as if it's a Greek version of my nostalgically favourite sandwich Camembert which consists of nothing more than a good French Camembert on a buttered baguette.

TUESDAY: It's another Winter Garden lunch on an unusually cold June day. I'm wearing 3 layers and thinking of my mother, undoubtedly withering away in Southern California heat and wishing it were still winter. Ah, well, no pun intended, but everything's relative.

Including the time. My Bay Area friend Mistah Rick has just told me how one of his favourite Oakland pubs is opening early in the morning to show the World Cup matches from South Africa. I remember one of my local pubs doing the same thing during the last World Cup that took place in Japan and Korea. Although the idea of having a pint at 9:00am is decadently intriguing, I'm afraid my own personal sun doesn't cross over the yardarm until noon -- with the exception of champagne brunches, of course. But I don't experience those very often these days.

The first 2010 World Cup match I watched was England v. USA last Saturday night. After spending the afternoon at the Peace In The Park festival at the Ponderosa, encamped between 2 drumming circles for the last 2 hours, I was feeling quite burned out on drums; so the nonstop drone of the vuvuzelas only heightened my sense of inner short-circuiting.

As I watched the match, my head feeling like a large bottle filled to capacity with mosquitoes, I admit I was quite relieved by the outcome: UK nil, USA nil. I realise this is a bit selfish, but it means I won't have to endure a fresh round of stupid questions and comments by my British acquaintances asking me how I feel because a.) my team, USA, won, or b.) my team, USA, lost. I mean, I live in the UK, I'm American, I love Mexican food as well as cask ale, and as far as I'm concerned I'm both American and British. So I'd be happy for either side to win. But I won't go on about that because some people just don't get it...

WEDNESDAY: As it's a sunny breezy day I'm spending today's lunch in Tudor Square, sitting on some inset seating in one of the new planters, with the Crucible Theatre on my right, the Winter Garden on my left, the Lyceum behind me, and a view of the top of the Sheffield Wheel to the front of me peeking out behind Starbucks. And some sort of distant live music. Is there a concert in the Peace Gardens? Or is it someone's portable stereo? As I enjoy the view and the sounds I'm eating my second Albert's Feta sandwich for the week.

I've just gone inside the Winter Garden in search of the music source, and now I'm sitting on a bench under the palm fronts and glass ceiling watching a bevy of Spanish dancers. How thoughtful of them to have provided me with some lunchtime entertainment. I have no idea who they are and what part of Spain they're from, because there are elements of bellydancing as well. Oh dear, the recorded music has been miscued and the girls are angry…

THE FOLLOWING MONDAY: Lunch on this warm sunny Summer Solstice is an orange Orkney cheddar with red onion, sun-dried tomatoes, and fresh thyme in a brown breadcake. The cheese, although not very sharp, is very flavoursome. Dining on Orkney cheese makes me think of the 8-mile walk I took across the Orkney main island almost exactly 3 years ago with two friends, where we reached the most northernmost point I've been on this planet: the village of Twatt.

In a much shorter feet-related feat, yesterday I walked/sprinted/sprang 5K in Sheffield's Race For Life to raise money for cancer research. I did this with the 10 other members of the Cobden View Girls, all of us wearing pink ruffly knickers as we battled our way through over 6000 other pink females. I've never dived between so many bodies and bounded over so many prams in my life. At least we raised a good chunk of money.

THURSDAY: Today's lunch is at a secluded table in the university's atrium, with a view towards the building I had been told was Ponds Forge but isn't. I spent a half hour this morning searching for Ponds Forge, an extremely out-of-the-way sports and conference centre, but I'm glad I finally found it because I was there to see the Sheffield College Creative Exhibition 2010. Unable to find the exhibit of a friend whom I had come to see, I was about to leave when I ran into Josh, who took me over to his out-of-the-way exhibit wall in this out-of-the-way exhibit hall. As a young photographer who wants to become a successful photographer, he was pretty pissed off about the lack of exposure, if you pardon yet another pun, for this exhibit. (I learned later that this exhibit room is normally used for squash courts.)

After the trek back to the University I have just enough time to eat my lunch, an oddly precarious sandwich consisting of very dry and solid hazelnut tofu and sun-dried tomatoes glued to a sesame seed bagel with a bit of nontoxic cream cheese. My fruit is a gorgeous sunset of peach, strawberry, apricot, and peace/apricot hybrid slices. It looks loaded with Vitamin A, the better to help me view my art.

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