Today was decisively selected to be a turning point in my life: the day I learnt to cook. It’s the beginning of autumn, the decade is drawing to its close, and at the end of the month I am going off on a writing retreat at which I will be required to share cooking responsibilities with other budding writers. The expectation that I am going to cook for other people is the only thing that’s really worrying me about this retreat. Not that I’m terrified of spending a week away from home with total strangers on the other side of the country – that bit will be a piece of cake. It’s the cooking that scares me, it’s the cooking that has always scared me. When it got to this afternoon and I couldn’t put my big lifestyle change off any longer I went online and printed a simple but nice recipe for spaghetti bolognese, something I used to cook a lot at University because it was easy. Unlike before, this time I was going to make everything from scratch, including the sauce. I wouldn’t have had a clue where to start without the recipe that I used to guide my every move today. After printing it off I went across the road to the supermarket that I rarely visit these days, and I spent just under £9 on all the ingredients. I had been expecting to spend more like £20, but there you go. When I got back home I started cooking immediately, immersing myself in the excitement of the moment as I chopped vegetables, fried meat, poured sauce into pans, boiled spaghetti sticks. I’ve cooked for myself before, but I’ve never made anything from scratch, and it’s been a long time since I actually cooked anything that wasn’t a ready made processed meal. I would have been happy with something that was just edible; in the end the thing I produced turned out to be rather nice. So nice that I ate it all and licked the plate clean! It might not have been the nicest meal ever cooked in the world, but it was the nicest thing I’ve ever eaten, just because I made it, without any help.
Last night I celebrated the end of summer by going into town to watch a showing of ‘My Beautiful Laundrette’ at a small but perfectly comfortable independent cinema in Leicester Square. For those who don’t know it’s a gay-themed film made in 1984, one of the earliest examples of gay cinema. It’s a cute little love story about two young Londoners running a laundrette; one is of Asian descent, the other is a reformed fascist thug. The acting’s a bit wooden and some of the dialogue is a bit all over the place, but I liked it. I like supporting these things – more and more cinemas and institutions are having gay ‘festivals’ these days, and they’re always fun to go to. None of these things I ever did in my drinking. It’s a cliché that in my drinking days I only ever went to the pub, but it’s so glaringly true that I wasted those years, I really did. Not to sound big headed or snobbish but I actually like doing things that are a bit cultural these days, things that mean something. I’m discovering a world outside of the pub, and I don’t think I can ever go back.