I feel flattened today. A day to forget. I somehow lost my house key, work key and work ID. In the morning a security guard at the government offices deliberately confused me by leaving me waiting outside the wrong office. And I have a nasty sore throat. When I get a sore throat, it hangs around for months.
They are not huge problems. Just little annoying bastard ones where you kick yourself and say, “Why the f–k don’t I take better care of my things?” Poor Pamela is shaking her head and thinking, “What the f–k am I marrying into?” Sometimes my hypothyroid makes me dopey. Other times I’m just too chilled (or stressed), but I’m self-pitying, which doesn’t help us learn anything. If anyone can give me tips, please do. I had a jab today, but I should make no excuses. Poor concentration.
Wednesday 22nd July 2014 continued
In the evening, we met up with my old friend Mary Sheard for a typical Birmingham dish named a Balti. For those not in the know, it comes from the immigrants from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh (please let me know if I have left any countries out). And yes Fox News, some of them were Muslim, as well as non-Muslim (their terrorism expert is never going to live this down on this side of the pond) and is a fusioned curry dish with British-Asian ingredients and spices, eaten from a “bucket” (which is the translation from Urdu and Hindi) or rather a wok-styled bowl with a great bit spanking naan that if hit with, it would send your head into orbit. There are a great variety of mild to hot dishes. I always like a spicy coconut one although I can’t remember the name. You can then choose the main ingredient from a selection of Halal blessed meats or seafood.
Some argue that the fusion started in Birmingham. The city’s blessed with so many Balti restaurants (some better than others ) which might make you believe it, although whether that is a hard fact is hard to say. It’s most likely from Baltistan, an area of Pakistan. It used to be that they were the cheapest food out there, along with kebabs, taking over from fish and chips as an Briton’s poor man’s nourishment (and drunk man’s nourishment, although the farts the next day are like Pomeii part deux, as Pamela was going to find out).
We went to Al Frash on Stoney Lane, a long road known for its Asian cuisine and convenience stores (Asian in the UK refers to India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. Chinese and Japanese and Thai is Far Eastern. Why it is that way, I don’t know. It’s like asking why we drive on the other side of the road). Throughout the year the road lit up at night. In summer, it reminds me of holidays in Turkey, with the Middle Eastern flags, shops with Urdu or Arabic writing, the different aromas floating around. Pamela noted that too, especially as it was warm and the sun was setting. Think 8th Street in Miami in the Latin quarter. Think Brixton in London for the West Indian community. Think Little Italy in New York. Pamela was especially intrigued by the veils worn by women passing by. She has ancestral blood hailing from Iran.
Mary was already there, champs in hand as a congratulations gift. I was made to get her ciders. Mary is a close friend. She is quite a bit older than me. We met at a creative writing evening class at Swanshurst School on the edge of Kings Heath. I had been going through depression, starting over going back to college, etc. I was 21, I think, in 2001. Mary kept me under her wing for a long time. Even though when I said I was fine, she kept pushing me back under. Very protective in a maternal way. She’s stuck by me through hard times. Given me a dressing down, or a dust down, when it’s been necessary. She played a big part in me organising a poetry night to raise me money to come to Honduras, getting many of the raffle prizes and poets together, as well as selling tickets aplenty. She’s baked me many cakes for birthdays and bought me many pints. Sometimes I don’t think I’ve done the same for her and I feel guilty about that. I’ve always tried to encourage her to step out the box, like getting a mobile phone (she got one 10 years after everyone else. I kind of respect her for it. She says I bullied her into it. She needed some robust pushing, certainly), go on holiday more often, write a book or meet someone new (she ignores me on this last point. She enjoys reminding me that men are, quite frequently, useless, especially to her). We used to go to the MAC (Midlands Art Centre) a lot. One of the first movies we ever saw there together was called Journey to the Centre of the Earth (I think) and the synopsis stated there was a stripper in it. We weren’t quite prepared for the first scene where the stripper put a Chupa-Chup in her vagina and then licked it. The elderly couple next to us walked straight out. There was also a man greviously masturbating later in the film. We still laugh about it, but it was graphic for even us, and we both possess liberal minds, to an extent. We have a lot in common, especially in the arts. Only football we disagree on. She thinks it’s shit. I obviously don’t. But she loved visiting St Andrews once upon a time.
She has a sharp tongue on her and she laughs at people quite loudly, which I sometimes have taken issue with. It’s a survival technique she’s developed through life. She has a disability and she claims and I no doubt believe her that she has been discriminated and bullied against at various points in her life. She’s not one to sit down and take it. This part of her personality has hardened through working in probation with tough ex-convicts, who I am not surprised try to give her a hard time. Her bossy personality puts them in line. Not only that, I’m positive it terrifies them. Most the cases she has ends in success. I wonder if she considers me a case? If so, I hope a successful one.
You get the poppodoms first with a nice yogurt, then you get starter (a samosa, a bit like a fried empanada but more spicy), then the balti. Pamela has since been looking for curry dishes in Honduras. The only ones we’ve found a Thai, which are great. But wants a naan though. Not as easy to find. Especially in a Honduran Thai resturant. Drink flowed, as did the questions. Maternal instincts made sure that Mary made the questions hard, but I think Mary was taken aback by Pamela’s quiet feisty Latin spirited responses, which can be as direct and engaging as an English parole officer.
Mary has since told me that I have picked well, with the wife choice, and that I will get cauliflower ears from her if I mistreat Pamela. No such threat was made in Pamela’s direction, by the way. Another sisterhood had been formed. Shit.
We took Mary home, and Pamela trooped all the way through the night. The power of the balti. The power of Mary Sheard.