Wednesday, 10 April 2019

Sardus Cucina, Altrincham - a Review


It’s many a year since I had a date in a restaurant. Usually I dine with friends or a carer. I wanted somewhere nice to take my date-friend. Somewhere that would be intimate enough for conversation, but not claustrophobic. Sardus Cucina looked perfect. (There is a nice gallery of images on their website (q.v.).) Plus it was an opportunity to try genuine Sardinian cuisine. I had driven past the restaurant front in the day-time and the modern façade appealed. Whilst not situated right in the centre of Altrincham, it is only a five minute or so walk from the transport hub and only a couple of minutes from where we chose to park.

In the evening the subdued lighting and candles drew us in like moths to the flame. We were cordially welcomed by the young maître d’. And, as we passed the bar, the young bar-keep also greeted us. We were shown to a table for two at the end of a long banquette. My date took the place on it and I the suitable-for-me hard-backed chair on the opposite side. The subtle lighting, the low-level music and the candle at table all added to the relaxed - hopefully romantic - ambience.

The maître d’ offered to take our coats then brought over the main menu, the wine list and the specials list. He bubbled over with enthusiasm for the food, explaining a little of the distinctive culture and cuisine of Sardinia. Whilst I was snapping the photographs for this blog-post, he came over and chatted with us about his photographic hobby and how he takes the images for Sardus’ Instagram page (q.v.). An altogether pleasant, polite, enthusiastic and interesting young man.

From the maître d’s explanations and from reading the various menus, I found I was so heavily salivating I had begun to drool a wee bit. This is not a customary reäction to my being in a restaurant. Thankfully thick napkins were to hand! I was quite astounded at the breadth of the selection on offer. Even with my food allergy, I was not severely limited as in many eateries. The vast majority of dishes are made from scratch when ordered. This is a boon to anyone with a true food allergy or food intolerance.



We ordered a non-alcoholic cocktail whilst we ploughed through the offerings. Regrettably it is not included on the published mocktails menu but was itemised on the bill. It’s called a Crodino. The beverage has an orange base and was described as being similar to Apérol (which I personally do not like). The flavour was simultaneously sweet and bitter. It was so light on the palate and literally evaporated. These were served to us with complimentary flat-breads, a Spanish-style dip (not for me, but date loved it) and fresh, creamy, soft pecorino - absolutely delicious. (These items are all included in the photo above.) I did not even know that pecorino came in a variety other than the famous hard version (housemate’s fave cheese). The Flat-breads were delightfully thin - thinner than any Indian poppadum I have ever had. They seemed to melt on the tongue. Incredible buccal experiences and this prior to actually ordering!


For starters (image above) I ordered coratella, chicken livers cooked with red-onion, chestnuts and Sardinian “Sherry”. Housemate is not at all keen on liver, so I never purchase to cook at home. For me just having liver is a treat. However, this dish was perfectly prepared. The onions were beautifully soft and the meat-flesh required almost no chewing. As I write this I am salivating again. Perhaps that gives a sense of just how delicious I found this dish.



My companion ordered the frittura di mare (image above), which consisted of calamari & prawns and thin juliennes of carrot & courgette coated in a tempura batter. I sampled a courgette strip after picking it off date’s plate with my fingers - it was so light and no greasiness at all.  This dish was served with aioli, which I cannot have. He ate the lot; from his plate, not a scrap went back to the kitchen. So thumbs up for the frittura and the coratella.

As my date was driving our starters were accompanied by sparkling mineral-water. Normally I should not comment on water. This was branded Ferrarelle and was very light on the palate. It is a true mineral-water, but did not have the salty flavour that many have. Definitely worth looking out for in the shops.



My main dish was fregola frutti di mare. I had to try it: firstly because, well sea-food; secondly because I had never tried fregola. It is a pasta made from semolina dough and then toasted. It is supposedly similar to berkoukes from North Africa and to moghrabieh from the Middle-East. It was a tasty dish and an interesting experience. Definitely worth trying.



Date selected a specials item for his main. Alas it is only listed as TODAYS SPECIAL (sic), so I cannot let the reader know what it is called in Italian. It consisted of boar in a thick ragoût (‘ragu’). He mmm’d and ahhh’d whilst eating. Again the plate was scraped clean. I think we can safely determine that it too was scrumptious!

These days I can rarely eat three courses; but Italian ice-cream was on offer for dessert. Apologies to the Cornish (my second favourite), but Italian ice-cream is the best in the world. I could not pass on a walnut & maple confection served with aranzada & crushed biscotti. Divine! My companion also managed to squeeze in a chocolate soufflé, zicculate, made just for him. Heavenly!

The bill for food & drinks was under £80. This represented excellent value for money in respect to both quantity and quality. Service levels throughout the repast were excellent if at times a tad (justifiably in my opinion) enthusiastic. The staff are all young and delightful on the eye. I truly hope Sardus stays with us for years to come. I have already made arrangements to visit again next month with some of my neighbours who also have tried Sardus once and wish to return.


Saturday, 6 April 2019

Male-Parent


*TRIGGER WARNING*

This poem and blog-post reference parental child-abuse and abusive parents.


*



Male-Parent



Inevitable murder
  death on the TV-screen
  episode of “Wallander”
Father’s downfall
Ineluctable patricide
          of a failed exemplar

Does it matter
  what has been?
Absent
  emotionally
  bodily
Violent
  physically
  torturously
Ale-stinking alcoholic
Rôle-model to no-one
What do I feel
          for my stereotypic
  parent?
His addled personality
  schizophrenic
  curmudgeonly
  toxic
Churning
  the unremitting Past


Yearning
  for a blissful Future
  for the perfect friend
  for a cinematic
  happier end
  that will endure
Sure it will last
But yet
  still none


Nobody to emulate
Much better
  in the moment
  to live here
  mutable Present
Practice one’s yoga
Meditate
  mindfully
Respirate
  quietly
Breath in
Hold it
Pause…
Out
Repeatedly
  ignoring totally
  external reality
Necessary movement
  towards holistic
ideality


Whilst growing
  surrounded by female-love
Nowadays
  just a need for what was absent
  storgē - parental-love
  philia - amity
  eros - male-love
  amour-propre -
  towards a better self-love
I suppose I want protection
  to be fathered
Hence my attraction
  to older daddies
  oh so erotic
  greying, grey
  white or silvery
  moustachioed or beardy
  hirsute and sturdy
  beefy
  beary
  burly
Wrapped in strong arms
Cuddling assurance
  I am loved
  I am wanted
  I am worthy
Don’t stop
Please foster me
And I will reciprocate
  commit
  to mutual affinity


Caged in a nervous stupor
Strong advice for
  disavowal
  of each parent
  without delay
  for renewed sanity
  from my psychiatrist
  from my family doctor
  from my psychologist
  for my self


And what of my Pater
  his ultimate demise?
No tears or false-piety
Disdain and pity
  I shall not disguise
No grave-side
  last-minute hypocrisy
He’s already excised


Now no longer
  a victim
  rather
  a Survivor
  confident
  happy
  free
  calm
Welcome
  the new
  Me


*





Normally when I publish one of my poems: I do not give any kind of hint as to what I was aiming for; no explanations as to my reasons for using specific vocabulary; no structural analysis. In short no cues nor clues. This poem is one of two recently written. I am very slow, as mostly I create the poems in my head first. Obviously, for those familiar with this blog, the reader is aware I have memory issues. I frequently lose whole poems created this way. However, this has been my modus operandi for as long as I can recall.



This one was created slightly differently. I started with a conversation I had on line with a good friend. He gave his permission for me to use our chat as the basis for a poem. I explained my usual MO and that, if he wished, I should send him my drafts. In this instance there were three: my first was the structure; my second some minor tweaking; my third additional lines and some word changes, which added twenty percent or so to the word-count.



The basic structure is as follows:



Stanza 1 - violent intro; trigger for St.2

Stanza 2 - the past

Stanza 3 - the wished-for future

Stanza 4 - the present

Stanza 5 - the types of love, the love yearned for & why

Stanza 6 - external advice on dealing with the past in the present

Stanza 7 - attitude to future parental demise

Stanza 8 - result of following external advice & pondering parental death





My friend very kindly responded in writing. His thoughts and comments follow.





*





I wanted to respond quickly on a couple of things in this poem to give you something to chew on. Please see these below in a list (since I love lists):



I love the format of having the multiple options below a starting word or phrase. This was especially successful when describing the older daddies.



Thanks - I call them “shopping lists”!



Loved the breaks and disjointed manner of the piece, especially in the "Wrapped in strong arms Cuddling Assurance I am loved..." section. 



At this point I sent the structure, as outlined above.



The paragraph (for lack of a better term) that starts "And what of my Pater..." was especially strong and I felt really hit the heart of our long conversation in just a couple of short lines. I especially liked "No grave-side last-minute hypocrisy" line because that's a very relate-able thing that people may go through or do.



In poetry the usual term is stanza, but verse is also acceptable. I use stanza as I consider verses would be of similar length & style, whereas I rarely conform to equal length nor necessarily stylistically.



Do you need the concluding line of "Welcome the new Me"? I didn't feel like it added much to the piece for me, personally. It felt like a repeat of a previous idea, despite being novel. I'm not sure if that's what you were going for or not. 



It’s the conclusion to the rest of the discussion - as outlined. Additionally I wanted to include the term “Survivor” and contrasting it with the more usual “victim”. Personally, this is because I no longer feel like the victim with no control, for I have asserted Myself over the Past. This is the result of taking & acting upon advice in St. 6 and echoes the “holism” referenced in St. 4. Additionally - ay! - the new-me parallels birth from parent, rebirth from me.



In the first paragraph, "of a failed exemplar" feels like a pretty kind/weak description based on what I know about you and the situation. Did you mean to start off softly and ramp it up through the poem?



Exemplars are more than examples, they are rôle-models. Parents are meant to be the exemplars that progeny wish to emulate. They are cutting-dies, if you like. This is a much stronger term. However, this latter term is no use here as it contains double meanings with reference to self-harm and death which I did not wish to use at this point. Parents are meant, after all, to be loving & caring as opposed to hateful & oppressive.



Though I really liked the pacing and feeling of the yoga paragraph, I wasn't sure that it felt like it totally belonged. Were you including it as an example of the type of self-care required of your up-bringing? Or as a contrast to your experiences with the violence described above it?



Mindfulness is a technique for being in the moment, i.e. not in the past. I am also gently lampooning this trendy technique. Nonetheless it is actually helpful in the armoury that deals with the effects of post-traumatic existence.



I really appreciate the effort you put into responding to my poem. None of my friends with degrees/interests in literature have ever gone to such lengths.


Hopefully, my break-down of the stanzas and the reason(s) for their inclusion goes some way to explaining what my intentions are. I am still not totally happy with St. 5, but consider it necessary so the reader can understand the gamut of loves that exist. The issue with English language is that we do not differentiate: every type is covered by just the one word. We borrow either from Greek or French. So I am accepting of having to include some clunkiness, due to this linguistic failing.

J., once again, thank you so much for your thoughtfulness and for taking the time to respond so thoroughly. I really appreciate it and you!


*


I normally do not encourage debate about my poetry. I consider they are entities in their own right and deserve their own existence. On this occasion, I am willing to engage in discussion, criticism, comment, whatever, if the reader wishes to respond in some manner. Please feel at liberty to comment in the section below this blog-post.



Tuesday, 12 March 2019

Artistic Doubts


The following are some questions and some responses to the artistic doubts of a friend. I am publishing them as they may be useful to other artists, whatever their medium. For context purposes, it may be useful to know: he is primarily a visual artist; I am primarily a poet with some experience in visual arts.

The Questions

“I'm thinking about my appreciation and desire to be a positive artistic force. Is it enough for me to just include diverse bodies in my art? Do I need to do less of the stereotypical beautiful and desirable people? Should I feel guilty that I don't do more? And how do artists bridge the gap between the art they create, which may be due to sell-ability or accessibility of models, and their own values and desires? … And, does my art have to reflect me?” JB

The responses

My uncle and two of my cousins are printers: they can produce very arty looking stuff using other works. So, perhaps my background has tainted my perspective of what is Art. They produce beautiful stuff, but being æsthetic in itself does not (in my mind) make something Art. They do not see themselves as artists. They are craftsmen who know how to make things look lovely so that they sell. They in turn can make a living.

Artists should be able to make a living: but the primary function must be to pursue Art, their Art.

Bodies: you have shown a range of ethnicities/races and body shapes. I should suggest doing some extra large and ultra skinny (size-ism works both ways) bodies, which would add to your artistic reputation. Also, maybe use disfigured/amputated individuals and those with vitiligo. But that is your choice. You have the freedom to pursue a broader range, as you are not primarily needing to make a living out of your Art.

Guilt: guilt that makes you feel down is of no use; guilt that is perhaps a prompt to move or change direction can be a positive.

Desires: some artists never move out of their comfort zone, sticking to what they know and like. I think you have to have some passion for your subject or if, not for the subject, be really excited to use your style & techniques - otherwise an undesired subject-matter would stymie.

Out-put: how can you possibly feel guilty about your œuvre! You are prolific given you work full-time. Also, life-work-art-partner have to be kept in balance.

Pride: I only believe in pride in as much as it ensures a good amour-propre. Pride that gets in the way is of no use to one-self nor to others. It leads to arrogance and a lack of sympathy, let alone empathy. So, someone with a well-balanced level of pride can listen to and accept constructive criticism; someone with out-of-kilter pride cannot. Positive pride wants the criticism to help the artist move forward and develop.

Semantics: how are people viewing the artist’s work and what does the Art mean? I suspect only you can truly know the initial meaning. In your case, if you do not think that your work truly reflects what you think, feel, want, do, only you are in a position to do something about that. In the UK we quite often use the analogy of a football team: eleven players, standing in a line. Most of the players will have a middling view and a couple each of players will be more extreme and have opposing views. In other words: whatever one does, it will be interpreted and misinterpreted by others.

I write poetry. Once my poems are published I treat them as children who have grown up and left the nest. They are their own entities. Some readers will like; some dislike; some will be ambivalent. It does not matter to me. I have done what I had to do, due to passion; and, I have intellectually accepted that I took the poem as far as I could, to where I want/ed it to be.

Whatever work an artist produces will always be contingent. Art MUST be done for the artist one-self: whether to express meaning or to follow the flow of one’s Art. Art is intrinsically selfish, egocentric in its outpouring. Its use is a different issue. Even if one has good intentions for one’s work, it is still the ego that processes and then outflows into creativity. The making of Art cannot be self-less; the use to which Art is put can be. But your intellect is also part of yourself and connects to ego. If you decide on an intellectual level that you wish to broaden your subject-matter, and if that is a genuine desire, then your emotions should kick in and you will feel passionate towards the work. On the other hand, if your brain says do such and such, but your heart is not in it, then the work will not happen, or at least not in a personally meaningful way. Doesn’t mean it won’t sell though! My personal opinion is that one should highlight failures occasionally, just to remind oneself of where things can go awry.


If you desire to do something, do it. It is your choice what to draw & paint. It is your choice to continue with an artwork or discard it. It is your choice whether to reveal and display at a later point. It is all your choice.


[Image description: the writer looking doubtful.]