No matter how awful you think sanding a huge floor and a half is going to be, it's always ... worse. Given that John only has to look at a sanding machine for gouges the size of a ditch to appear miraculously in the wood, his contribution was limited to collecting the machine from the hire shop, and following me around holding its power cable. It was, of course, Muggins here who had to spend a twelve-and-a-half hour day wrestling with the thing, followed by the same the next day on my hands and knees, sanding all (51 metres worth ... groan) the edges.
I'll spare you more pictures of me in tellytubby overalls and the orange Etap headgear thingie I picked up from the Tour de France caravane; suffice it to say that three days and seventeen showers later the job's finished, with 'just' the more artistic bits - as in at least seven days on my hands and knees - to come. Fortunately the weather shone on us, so to speak: after the recent long and very hot spell, it proceeded to absolutely p*%! down, without break or let up (but with thunder, lightning and the usual array of power cuts), for 48 hours, during which time it was so dark that you could be forgiven for thinking that the sun had migrated to warmer climes.
Even floor-sanding tellytubbies have to eat, though, and when you've got sawdust in every orifice the need for feelgood food that will cut through all the crap becomes paramount. And so there was nothing for it but an ag and og.
Ag and og (or spaghetti aglio e olio, to be more precise) is so much a part of me that I've just had to rack my brains to think how I first came upon it or to remember when it wasn't a part of my life. In fact, I was introduced to it by an ex-partner-turned-friend, who arrived in our relationship with a little cook book, now sadly I think out of print, called something like Lotsa Pasta and Oodles of Noodles (yes, honestly) which contained a great, if rather garlickly-challenged, ag and og. Then I went to Italy, and there was The Proper Thing, from which is derived our current version. Ag and og is the ultimate convenience food, designed for those times when you really want something with a bit of oomph and pzazz but don't know what it is. When you don't want to feel clogged with cholesterol. When you're too knackered, or just can't be bothered, to fiddle around with lots of preparation or lots of ingredients. It does it for me, always and without fail. Here it is:
For two people:
6 to 8 big, fat, juicy cloves of garlic
a decent glug - half a small cup - of really good extra virgin olive oil
2 servings of pasta of your choice - long and thin works better than short and round, and anything with egg in it is a no-no
Peel the garlic cloves and cut them in half if they're really large, removing any green shoot-y bits from the centre. Put them with the oil into a saucepan and warm gently. Now, how you do this bit is really the key to the whole dish: you don't want to fry them - what you're doing is letting the warmth of the oil draw the flavour from, and at the same time gently soften, the garlic. If you go at it like a bull in a china shop you'll end up with brown, bitter, horrible garlic and it'll end in tears, you mark my words. Reckon on it taking 20 to 25 minutes at the lowest or next-to lowest hob setting. As the cloves soften you can break them up a bit in the pan with a wooden spoon; they should end up slightly golden, lightly caramelised, meltingly soft and highly aromatic (sorry to drool, but it really is that good ...). Cook the pasta, toss it in the oil and garlic, add a tablespoon of dried crushed chilli pepper, season, and serve, sprinkled with a little parsley, and with good bread for serious mopping. And wear an apron.
Oh, and for another taste of garlic, you might like to have a look at Keith Eckstein's impressive 'blog on blogs' that someone has just pointed me to. Keith has set himself the task not just of listing, but also reviewing blogs about living in France. As it happens, he's just reviewed this one. And I like his style: he really makes an effort to get underneath each blog (and blogger) and find out what makes it tick. And even if he does seem to have an obsession with 2CV driving, lingerie wearing nuns, he knows how to use apostrophes.