Those of you who know me well will gasp at the next piece of information. Until yesterday midday I had not eaten for 65-hours! A personal record indeed but one which gave me absolutely no pleasure in achieving. For the first time in nearly a year I was laid low by a stomach infection which came at me unbidden and sweeping low under the radar did its work and laid me out flat for two days straight (which might also be another record). Wow, down like a nine-pin. A
It was during the second night of this period of incapacitation and enforced starvation that I had a fully lucid and sensory overload of a dream about breakfasts. All those Sunday mornings when one has the time and the necessary provisions in the house to conjure up a great English breakfast – and variations thereof. Obviously The Full Monty was in there: a fried egg, smoked streaky rashers, a sausage, a grilled Portobello mushroom, baked beans, grilled tomatoes and wholemeal toast thickly buttered. Then, floating before my eyes, a personal family favourite, mushrooms in a béchamel sauce flavoured with nutmeg sitting atop wholemeal toast and crowned with several rashers of smoked streaky bacon. Next came scrambled eggs with bacon on toast followed hard by the same but with smoked salmon in lieu of bacon. Then came tomatoes grilled with basil, chives and olive oil again with streaky bacon on brown toast. A bacon and egg sandwich eaten on the hoof skated across the screen and it all ended rather regressively with a runny boiled egg with thick white toast ‘soldiers’ slathered with the slightly more adult variation of an anchovy and chive butter. And plenty of hot, freshly made coffee as a given. It will not take a genius to recognise that the defining component of any truly great breakfast is without doubt smoked streaky bacon.
However, to move the story on a bit from breakfast recipes, the morning after the dream found me in as sorry a state as I had been the day before. I tried some soup at midday but it did not take. A Doctor was called and in a little under half an hour one appeared at the door. Prodding and general signs were taken and a diagnosis made. Strict instructions were written down, a runner sent to the ‘Farmacia’ and notes on what food to prepare given to the lady of the house. Grace and Dr Alexis chatting away in Spanish was a huge comfort to me as I lurked beneath the sheets. Drugs came, pain eased and sleep closed in.
The following day Dr Alexis arrived resplendent in baseball cap, jeans and T-shirt. “Arriba, desayuno!” He cried, indicating that I should get my sorry self out from under the sheets and back into the world of the living. Dizzy and weak though I was breakfast was something of a turning point and more time upright combined with a few short strolls was beginning to work. At 2pm Dr Alexis bounded in again for his third and final call. Kisses were distributed to the whole of my medical team, made up of mother, grandmother, daughter, Grace and a neighbour. I was pronounced ready for my Honeymoon and given a hearty backslap as token of such. You can say what you like about socialism Cuban style but my recent personal experience of their health care has been excellent. Where else in the world could you have a doctor at your bedside within half an hour, the drugs you require in an hour and two follow up visits and all for under £20. Vas bien Cuba!
Postscript: Well if we are such stuff as dreams are made of then last night’s episode could take a little unraveling. There is an interesting phenomenon known to students of sleep as REM Rebound (REM being the Rapid Eye Movement stage of sleep in which we dream) whereby a night or two deprived of good quality sleep due to illness or overindulgence, and a resulting lack of sufficient periods of REM sleep, can lead to a catch up session when good sleep conditions are next enjoyed. Having had three nights of extremely poor sleep – the ‘bacon fantasy’ aside – I was a prime candidate for a good old REM Rebound. Morpheus did not disappoint. It started beautifully with art and architecture: the stunning Art-Deco Bacardi building in Havana broke into a million shards before morphing into a piece of pop art by Frank Stella that then went on its own meandering route to form a cluster of exquisite female faces whose necks and chins then evolved delicately into ornate Baroque balconies. Building and paintings came and went, at times it seemed as though the entire city of Havana and the contents of the Museo des Belles Artes Cubano were parading through my mind. It was a tour de force and that was just the beginning. There was some weirdness, a little violence, and a rather jolly erotic interlude in a tent in a desert, but not at the same time of course! Much was lost on waking but much remains. Buenos suenos.