Thursday, 29 January 2015

La Italiana, Estepona: a Review

Last year I thoroughly enjoyed an outing to Estepona (West of San Pedro de Alcántara, heading towards Gibraltar) and compared it to a less developed and less touristy Marbella. My companion and I discovered a clothing chain called Baileys - mainly due to their shop being one of the few open during siesta. Rico, my friend, discovered that the Spanish body-shape used by the store’s suppliers suits him better than that used by UK clothing retailers. And so we decided on another visit. Rico ended up with a couple of pairs of new jeans and some new tops. Even I was persuaded to purchase a lightweight over-top, which has come in rather useful here in Benalmádena, where the days are more often than not as warm as an English summer, but where, once the sun sets, the coolness of an English Autumn quickly saps the diurnal heat.

Naturally, after some serious shopping, we were in need of refreshment. We would have settled for tapas, but Rico espied a small square (more rhomboid really!) we had not discovered previously. We crossed the road and were pleasantly surprised to determine that it was solely filled with eateries, other than a classy (high-end) lighting emporium.

La Italiana’s outer façade (see image above) is nothing special: it appears as hundreds of other café-bars in Spain. What lured us inside was the enticing aroma of fresh coffee…

Inside (see image above), we were still prepared to go for savoury until we spotted the cake counter (see image below), filled with mouth-watering confections.

I opted for a meringue-topped, vanilla and light pastry concoction; Rico for the world-renowned Torta de Santiago [de Compostela], a dense yet unexpectedly light almond cake. Yet even the sweetness of the cakes did not detract from the smooth, delicately nutty, just the right side of bitter, Lavazza coffees.

The Italian waiter was on his own whilst the waitress was away on her lunch-break, but he coped admirably - with grace, amiability and politeness - with the large numbers of constantly changing covers. As ever in Spain (unlike in some Italian tourist spots), there was no rush for us to go. We took photos; we people-watched; we used the spotless conveniences; we had a second coffee. And so we were totally relaxed when it finally was time for us to take our exit.

Monday, 26 January 2015

"UNI.Formed": Fran Quesada Art Exhibition

[Image description: a detail of one of © Fran Quesada's images]

On 15th January my plus-one and I arrived half-an-hour later than the due time of eight o'clock at Kipfer & Lover at Calle San Juan de Letran, 21, just across from Málaga's main theatre, Teatro Cervantes.

[Image description: Kipfer & Lover logo, courtesy & © the aforesaid]

I was there for the launch of Fran Quesada's latest exhibition which is entitled:

Exposición Tematica "UNI.Formed" homoerotismo y Uniformidad

Roughly translated that is, "UNI.Formed": an Exhibition on a Theme of Homoeroticism & Uniformity.

[Image description: the poster for the event; courtesy Kipfer&Lover]

The fetishising of uniforms has been a constant of queer artists and communities for more than a century (at least): from the off-duty soldiers roaming London pubs and bars, who could be picked up and paid a sixpence for a quickie up some dark alleyway in the nineteenth century; the Nazis who originally contained many gay members till the infamous purge of 1934, and glorified in works such as those by Tom of Finland; to the police-officers who hunted and persecuted us in the fifties to the beginning of the more open nineties; and so on.

There is a love-hate relationship with all those in uniformed power. There is, or perhaps was, a taboo to developing affinities with those who bullied and maltreated us. And this perhaps added a frisson to sexual encounters with those in powerful positions.

Nowadays, of course, at least in the UK, all three of the armed forces are filled with non-heterosexual service personnel and even made the list of the past year's one hundred most gay-friendly employers. Additionally, many police services throughout England, Wales and Scotland have their own LGBTI associations. There is even a website, just to find dates with uniformed folk, whatever their sexuality.

Across the spectrum, folk themselves and/or their sexual partners enjoy dressing up in uniforms. It is seen as slightly kinky, but not especially perverted; rather simply some fun and games for the bedroom.

All of Fran's models are muscled, Caucasian (I include Arab North-Africans), chaps; a heterogeneous selection of homosexual fantasy. They are æsthetically good-looking, openly sexual and apparently available and/or narcissistic. The very uniformity of these men in uniform challenges the viewers' perception of mainstream queer culture. There was no handicapped soldier revealing suppurating wounds. There was no policeman bearing the scars of attacks from criminals. There was no black man, no Asian man, no man of any obvious ethnicity other than the hegemonic Caucasian West. Every man looked picture perfect. A fantasy in which to cocoon oneself and shelter from the vicissitudes of homophobia and gay-bashing and hiding in the closet.

I love the fact that I am challenged to see the narrowness and totalitarian nature of contemporary queer culture. The conformity to uniformity must be challenged. And Fran has done so in the most direct manner possible, by highlighting the homogeneity of what can be an asphyxiating ideal; forcing the vast majority of us to at least occasionally question our own looks, ignoring how very much more important character and personality are to a rewarding amour-propre.

So impressed with Fran's œuvre, I immediately snapped up one of his original pieces. Supporting artists to seek out new work and to make us question our world is a must for any who can afford to do so. Attending exhibitions a must for those who wish to grow and experience fresh perspectives on life. So, naturally, I heartily recommend Fran Quesada's exhibition, UNI.Formed. Go and see! %D

[Image description: group photo; from l. to r., the writer, my companion, the artist himself, the couturier Jesús Segado, Luis Segovia Toro & a friend]

Thursday, 22 January 2015

Parrilla Cosquin, Fuengirola: a Review

Córdoba is a beautiful Andalusian city in Spain; but there are eponymous places around the globe, so christened by Hispanic travellers. One such is in Argentina. Said city hosts an annual music festival promoting the local folk music, a chilled-out Latino vibe.

A resident of the Argentinian Córdoba has settled on the Costa del Sol, in Fuengirola, and established himself as a restaurateur of Argentine cuisine. He has named his restaurant after the aforesaid musical gala, Cosquin, so “Parrilla Cosquin”.

[Image description: sated & happy at the end of our meal]

I was pleasantly surprised on arriving at Parrilla Cosquin (on Salvador Rueda) for there is a ramp for those of us with mobility impairments beside the steps for the more ambulant. The interior is decorated with traditional South American artefacts, including the in/famous bolas,

a missile consisting of a number of balls connected by strong cord, which when thrown entangles the limbs of the quarry.

In the background quietly plays the sounds of the Cosquin musical festivities, lulling one to eat, drink and siesta.

My host and friend is himself a child of the Argentine, but currently lives in Benalmádena for his sins. My Spanish friend, Ana, and I left the culinary decisions to Dani. And we were not disappointed.

[Image courtesy & © Ana Maria Moreno]

The first course was an empanada (see image above); but totally unlike the Spanish varieties. The pastry was light and the delicately herbed and spiced, finely chopped mince was lip-smackingly tasty and not a spot of fat dripped from the delicious package.

[Image courtesy & © Ana Maria Moreno]

Next was a hot, melted cheese dish with a piquant tomato, olive oil and chilli sauce (see image above). Dani advised us to consume whilst still hot as the cheese congeals once cooled and is not such a pleasant textural experience!

[Bottom image courtesy & © Ana Maria Moreno]

Finally, the main event; the MEAT (see images above). I was completely unaware that the cuts in Argentina are totally different to the way in which carcasses are butchered in Europe. For example rib-cuts are carved in such a manner that there is a large amount of flesh attached to the bone.

From the images one can see a sausage, which I found okay, but somewhat insipid and in the mouth rather uninspiring. The morcilla, on the other hand, was bursting with flavours and perversely reminded me of a vegetarian black pudding (blood sausage). For me this was the culinary highlight of the repast: satisfying texture, delicious tastes and, once again, not a trace of fat.

To accompany our meat-fest, we all immediately opted for a Malbec, when the wine selection was revealed. The Pequeña Vasija 2013 (image above) partnered our feast as if a love-match. If we had not been lunching but dining, I should have gone for a second bottle.

Due to my disabilities, the chances of me ever flying to South America are very slim: so, it was wonderful to be transported to Argentina for a couple of hours. If you happen to be in the neighbourhood, do give Parrilla Cosquin a try!


Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Meson Tío Blas, Arroyo de Miel, Benalmádena: a Review

[Image description: toasting at table]

What does one do of a Wednesday evening in a fishing town? Correct: one seeks out the best fish restaurant the town has to offer - well according to one’ s local chums! Oddly, this eatery is not in or around the world-class marina & port of Benalmádena; nor on the front by the splendid beaches; but rather in the commercial district, better known as Arroyo de la Miel. The name is Meson Tío Blas, or Tío Blas for short (which is how it is known on Tripadvisor). It can be found at number 3 on Calle Poleo. It is a short walk from the local train-station or the centre of arroyo if taking the ‘bus or car. As far as I know it does not have its own website, so here is the local telephone number for making enquiries and reservations: 952-44-14-33.

My friends and I arrived at exactly the same time as a separate party, but the eponymous owner ensured all were personally greeted and led to table. Blas is unassuming and, rare for a restaurateur, a tad shy, which to some might come across as surliness; but mention your appreciation of the food cooked by his own fair hand and his mien breaks into a smile.

For starters our quartet shared a large platter of the house salad (ensalada de la casa, grande, @ €6), an assemblage of: grated carrot; grated (fresh & sweet) beetroot; lettuce; tomato; tuna and onion. Not a scrap was left. For mains, two of the party opted for cod served with a cheese sauce (bacalao con queso @ €10). We all sampled. The two that ordered were delighted with their selection; but for me the cheese over-powered the flavour of the delicately cooked cod steaks, although the dish as a whole was deliciously light and creamy in texture. My Spanish friend, Ana, is - surprisingly for this part of Spain - no fan of cod, only consuming it when in Cuba. However, knowing the reputation of Blas, she plunged for the bacalao a la plancha (@ €6). She devoured it whilst reminiscing about her Cuban holidays. I opted for my favourite Andalusian fish-dish, jibia frita (@ €6.75), that is deep-fried cuttlefish. I wolfed it down as fast as etiquette and conversation would permit!

[Image description: empty plates, a tell-tale sign of a good meal]

No-one had room for desert, we were so full. However, we did succeed in swallowing two bottles of semi-seco, medium-dry, Freixenet Cava (@ €14).

The total bill came to under €72 for two courses each and the equivalent of half-a-bottle of sparkling wine apiece. Including tip this worked out at €20 per head. A bargain!

Totally recommend. %P

Saturday, 3 January 2015

Best Month EVER for Viewings!

It is quite astonishing to me that December was by far and away the best ever month for visits to this blog. There were 35,185 separate viewings. I suspect the release of the film, The Imitation Game, based on Alan Turing's life has led to many more individuals looking him up on the internet and thence being guided to my blog-post on him, which resulted in said post now having exceeded 100K views (see article from December 2014).

[image description: graph of all views to]

I do not take my readers for granted and I genuinely do appreciate those who visit my pages, read them and especially those who take the time to give feed-back and/or follow the blog. As ever, thank you so much for reading.

And wishing us all: a happy, healthy and wealthy 2015;
happy new year, folks!


Friday, 2 January 2015


[For Georg, my Austrian friend]

“Und Du,
wie ich an Dir immer erinnere,
lächelst und lachst.”*


Strange how laughter
your laugh
echoes through my mind
happy pealing
I hear you chuckling
and cackling
and guffawing
as if in the room
right this instant
but the memories
if unfaded
are years old
the heartiness
the joie de vivre
the vivacity
invigorates me
revivifies me
even now
as your laughter
as you
did then
such capacity
for joyfulness
on the web a business photo
shows you smiling
with brio
an emailed private photo
shows you laughing
with gusto
never giggling
or sniggering
only paroxysms
of ebullient
pleasant reminiscence
enveloping sense
warming glow
I smile,
sigh, Heigh-ho!
then chuckle again
at my Austrian friend
and his dégagé laughter

* "And you, as I always recall you, smile and laugh."