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Back Buzz - August 4, 2003

pumping heartGood Taste, 73 Western Road, Hove, East Sussex

On a recent warm sunny weekend we made a visit to Hove, Brighton's seaside neighbour to the west. During our stay I read in the paper that this well-behaved and rather conventional town is due to be livened up by four seafront highrises designed by Frank Gehry, the architect responsible for the wonderfully wild and wacky Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao and the Music Experience Project in Seattle. The Hove highrises will resemble crumpled-up cigarette boxes. Call me crazy, but I do like unique and original architecture, and this will be a perfect reason for me to return to Hove.

In the morning the three of us took a walk in search of breakfast and a decent coffee and found ourselves at Good Taste. Although the pavement out front was invitingly shady and breezy on this exceedingly summery day there were only two tiny tables available, so we had to settle for sitting in the airless inside room where the huge window overly radiant with sunlight made us feel as if we were sitting next to a nuclear reactor. With a little furniture rearrangement we managed to ensconce ourselves into a mildly shady corner, which was a wise move, especially for any future children any of us might produce.

The decor at Good Taste, aside from all the excessive sunshine, consists of pleasing neon Lucite chairs and high-tech decor laced with a bit of Mediterranean country charm. Our double macchiatos were huge, looking more like cappuccinos, and the taste suggested already ground beans. When I went to investigate I was relieved to find a real espresso machine and a burr grinder, so it must be the smooth nature of the Bewley's beans, coupled with the fact that the espresso shots were a bit weak and there was too much steamed milk. I don't mean to sound prejudiced, but Bewley's is an Irish coffee company, so that could account for the lack of Italian oomph.

Our English breakfasts were fairly basic -- egg, sausage, ham, beans, and toast -- and we had to allow more time for them to prepare my veggie version. But my veggie sausage was quite good and the toast was very nice; sadly Andrew's regular sausage was bland and disappointing. Our meal was livened up when Giles picked up the salt shaker and the lid fell off, spewing volcanic mountains of salt all over the table. These were nearly accompanied by lahars of ketchup when the lid flew off the ketchup dispenser next. Perhaps, at the risk of sacrificing a bit of the high-tech feel, the cafe should consider investing in better designed condiment containers. But then again, where's the fun in safety?

To Good Taste's credit there is a very pretty view across the road of a flower-filled park, making those cool, shady pavement tables even more inviting. Ah, well, perhaps next time...

Speaking of hot and cold things reminds me of an e-mail exchange with my Bay Area friend from last year about hot and cold water:

The strangest things keep happening in our Sheffield home. From strange sounds in the walls, to a toilet that refuses to flush large solid turds, to the little piles of reddish brown dust that quickly form on windowsills and in the corners of drawers, signs of poltergeists are fairly common. Fortunately all this is outshadowed by the big bright orange kitchen, the wonderfully underground-smelling cellar, the two fun flights of stairs I fly up and down at often hourly rates, our blueish-white office aerie with its spectacular view, the flower-pot-filled garden in the back, the neighbourhood cats, the footstep proximity to great pubs and the best bakery around, and the wonderful brown stone buildings visible from every window.

This morning I ran the water in the sink and discovered something very strange. Although the bathroom and bathtub hot and cold taps have the classic separate spigots the kitchen sink has just one, allowing you to mix the hot and cold water so you can wash dishes without scalding or freezing your hands. But I noticed this morning when I stuck my hand under the flow that I could distinctly feel hot water in the left side of the stream and cold water in the right side. I kept pulling my hand out and sticking it back under, then trying the other hand, and I still got the same effect.

Is this more poltergeist activity? Or my aging hormones? Or do we truly have separate hot and cold water?

That sounds like a question for Dr. Science! My guess is that British utilities provide alternating current in water as well as electricity. The plumbing at your place must be out of phase. Each hot water molecule comes out of the tap in sync with a cold anti-water molecule, and vice versa. They never will mix to make warm water. In fact, the risk is real that - if you rub your hands under the tap with too much vigour, or if a catalysing agent such as a corkscrew or garlic press is held directly under the flow -- the pro- and anti-water particles will combine in a violent explosion, levelling your lovely neighbourhood, if not annihilating the universe.

I would recommend that you have the plumbing inspected immediately. Ask them to install a three-phase system, which includes an insulating tap of real ale on a hand pump. It will eliminate the potential for disaster and make your life much happier.

Incidentally, I too have experienced the sensation of unblended hot/cold water at least twice. One occasion did involve a tap in a hotel somewhere in Europe, but I can't remember where. The other was at a geothermal area near Mammoth Hot Springs, California, where I soaked in a stream after backpacking for three days in the eastern Sierra with friends from Big Pine. Due to the presence of a hot spring the stream was half hot and half cold. But, like your household water, these must have had repelling charges, because they never blended. To avoid getting scalded or chilled you had to position your body right in the middle and rotate at a slow, steady rate, thus exposing your flesh to both extremes. On rare occasions some poor soul would get caught in a current flux that induced a water/ anti-water reaction and spontaneously combust.

But with this three-phase system will the ale come out at the proper temperature?