As a teenager, still at boarding school, we boys were granted the occasional opportunity to experience or, more precisely, to observe, the seedier side of the fleshpots of London. This was not the intention of our educators but occurred as a by product of organised visits to the National Gallery, or some other educational treasure trove, from which we were able to skive off and wander the streets, for a hour or two, unsupervised. Having very little money and very little intimate knowledge of the vast city in which I was temporarily liberated, it was of great importance to associate myself with a boy who did have or, professed to have, such knowledge. Soho, home to all temptation and offering a far greater number of sins than the biblical seven, was and is situated directly behind the National Gallery so it was to that land of promise that we debutants were drawn as bees to honey. In those times, before computers and mobile phones, the red London telephone kiosk served a multitude of purposes aside from making a telephone call.They provided shelter from the rain, served as public pissoires and, above all, functioned as advertising hoardings offering impossibly varied and, to my naive mind, inexplicable services that were very definitely of a sexual nature yet so obtuse as to be beyond my true understanding. The services were displayed on individual visiting cards that sported a glamorous picture of a semi naked lady, her phone number and a précis of what one would expect to be doing with her should a call to her be made. A well endowed lady called Gloria was offering trips around the world, one of her colleagues was looking for people who were interested in water sports and yet another was offering Greek tuition. I knew that even Phineas Fogg would be pushed to get around the world in the time we had, I hadn’t brought my swimming trunks so water sports were out of the question and, however sensual the teacher, the thought of Greek lessons was not arousing.
Using the telephone kiosk as a symbolic Tardis, the years have fallen away and I find myself older and wiser. The exotic euphemisms of ” water sports” and “travelling around the world” were long ago resolved without the aid of Gloria and her cohorts. I did not, however, escape totally unscathed from this traumatic experience for which, in the current litigious climate, I should be suing the pants off British Telecom. Since that fateful day I associate Greek with salad, yoghurt and anal sex. In old Sparta they would have enjoyed all three on a daily basis, a habit that may well be current in gymnasiums all over the world to this very day.
There is always Greek yoghurt in our fridge and, at this time of year, there is also soft fruit. Nigel Slater’s “Fruit Brulee” is a wonderfully quick, simple and delicious dessert which also looks very sexy. I don’t have the text to hand so I can’t be sure if his original version has Greek yoghurt as the base, but this version does. The way to great pleasure begins by spooning dollops of creamy yoghurt into a white bowl. Into this wet pillow, stir a handful of sweet deep purple blueberries and some sheaths of sharp fruity raspberries letting the swirling streaks of juice commingle lusciously. Fill some ramekins to just below the brim and dust them with a thick layer of brown demerara sugar. Adding a frisson of pain to the pleasure, torch the sugar until it melts into unruly molten gobs of mirror……and enjoy.