Monday 13 January 2020
I made what turned out to be one of my favourite dinners tonight, completely by accident. It was a prawn and chilli linguine dish and the ingredients were relatively unspectacular and uncomplicated – otherwise I wouldn’t have been attempting it in the first place. The pasta was cooked “according to packet instructions”, which I always took to be ten minutes, while the rest of the meal was prepared. I successfully deseeded two red chillis for the first time, having previously just chopped the things up and hoped for the best when it came to eating them, and fried them off with a couple of cloves of garlic for around a minute. Next I added a packet of king prawns and cooked them until they were turning pink while I took half a punnet of cherry tomatoes and halved them. It was tempting to think of the outcome as being a quarter of a punnet of tomatoes, but even I knew that I couldn’t get away with saying that out loud in front of other people. They were added to the pan and cooked for three minutes, at which point things started to go pear-shaped, if not literally then at least figuratively.
By the time I squeezed the juice of a lime and sprinkled some basil into the bubbling mixture, there was still around four minutes before the linguine would be cooked, according to my interpretation of packet instructions. That was four additional minutes for the cherry tomatoes to soften and weep far beyond the healthy blush portrayed in the photographs which accompanied the online recipe. The tomatoes became a mushy mess, more of a sauce than a juicy plate fellow, but once the whole thing was combined with the linguine and some starchy pasta water, it worked. As I sat down to enjoy the meal, I was struggling to think of another time that one of my mistakes had turned out so pleasingly.
Tuesday 14 January 2020
The basement of Bar Rio was flooded with six inches of water from the storm last night. There were videos on Facebook of the tide crashing into the bay and up over the railings onto the road, as well as photographs of the fire service pumping water out of the restaurant. I was exchanging messages with a friend at the time it was all happening. She asked if I could see any lightning, but from the time I arrived home from work I had closed the living room curtains and been playing a playlist from Spotify, so I hadn’t seen nor heard anything. A live-action recreation of the final fight scene from the Avengers movie could have been taking place on Combie Street and I probably wouldn’t have been aware of it. Someone asked me today where I would be going for my cocktails now, but I have never been for a cocktail in Bar Rio.
Wednesday 15 January 2020
There was a funeral happening in the Parish Church at lunchtime, which wasn’t so remarkable an occurrence as a funeral seemed to be taking place most afternoons. However, outside the church, as the service was underway, two black horses were waiting alongside a carriage, which was black and had gold trimming around the windows. The horses were elegantly dressed in these long black feather plumes and they appeared much more patient than I imagined any human would be standing in the bitterly cold wind. Almost like they knew that this wasn’t a place for fooling around and they had to be respectful. It wasn’t something I had ever seen at a funeral, but it immediately struck me as being a much nicer idea than the large black hearse typically seen outside a church on these occasions, though I was reluctant to stare too much, especially when I was returning from Lidl with a litre of semi-skimmed milk and a packet of four pork loin chops in my hands. People said it was traditional at a traveller’s funeral, but I had never heard of it before.
Thursday 16 January 2020
It never seemed to matter how often I brushed the flooring in my flat, a leaf would always turn up somewhere. I don’t know how leaves constantly ended up in my flat, but they did. I mean, I knew how they probably found their way inside – on the bottom of my shoe, but I couldn’t fathom how so many of them were attaching themselves onto my shoes when I wasn’t in the habit of walking through Oban’s leafy areas. It was difficult to think whether there was even a tree to be seen on my daily walks between my flat and the office, travelling via the Esplanade. Apart from the lack of trees, I hadn’t even taken the route that often over the last week or so with the stormy conditions making it difficult to walk any great distance without my trousers being soaked. As well as wondering how these leaves kept appearing on my floors, I was made to question why I was still persisting with wearing grey trousers in winter.
Friday 17 January 2020
I’m not sure if it was the incident with the leaves which led me to take my periodic swipe through Tinder, but I ended up with a rare ‘match’ last night. I only ever used the dating app when I was feeling truly miserable and at my most hopeless, and it hardly ever did anything to change that. In a way it was no different to thumbing through the Argos catalogue; it passed a minute or two of boredom. When you are matched with someone on Tinder you are taken to a private text-based conversation, which I always imagined would suit me better since I wouldn’t have to worry about things such as eye contact or whether she had smiled when I made a stupid pun. Sophie* had seventy-seven words in her biography, which read like a shopping list and was punctuated at the end with a text smiley – the sort I remember using on MSN Messenger when I was eighteen-years-old : )
The seventy-seven words ranged from ‘anime’ and ‘vegan’ to ‘glitter’ and ‘faeries’ and I immediately endeavoured to find out more about them.
“Hi Sophie. There are quite a few words in your bio. Which would you say is the most important one?”
“[Emoji of a tongue sticking out of a mouth]”
“Very efficient; two words for the price of one! Do you jockey discs for a living?”
When I next checked my Tinder account on Friday night, Sophie had unmatched me, which I supposed would be the equivalent of trying to talk to a woman at the bar who smiles awkwardly at your joke before turning her back to eye the table of rugby players.
Saturday 18 January 2020
Last night in Aulay’s, the barmaid with the bandana placed a £5 in-play bet on the Rangers vs Stranraer Scottish Cup fourth round game finishing 1-1 at odds of 70/1, even though she was a Rangers supporter. The score was 1-0 at the time, and I told her that there would be more chance of me pulling a woman that night than there was of Stranraer scoring. “In fact,” I insisted, “there is more chance of me pulling twice.” Rangers won the game 2-0.
Sunday 19 January 2020
This afternoon I witnessed a woman running past my window, on the other side of the street, with a dog running alongside her on a lead. She was wearing running clothes, black and fluorescent green, I think, so the jog was obviously a sporting endeavour and not because they were late for an appointment. As a contest, the race seemed unfair and rigged. The dog was always going to be limited in how far it could go, and if it ever threatened to build up a real head of steam, the woman could just pull the canine back and level things up. All things considered, it was hardly on the same scale as the Russian doping scandal, but it was unsporting all the same, and the scene bothered me. Like the leaf on the floor in my hallway, I couldn’t understand why I was seeing it, where it had come from or where it was going. But the dog didn’t seem to be concerned by it as far as I could tell from my brief insight into their dynamic. It was respectful and accepting; all that was missing was a black plume.
*Sophie’s name has been changed.
This week I have been mostly listening to…