“Balmy days, sweet sangria.
She’s been gone, have you seen her?
Señorita shyly turning away,
Leaving me our fading flame.” ~ Tori Amos “Sweet Sangria”
I’ll never forget the darkness in my sister Michelle’s voice when she told me her best friend Martin Poyser had suddenly died. The shock in her voice echoed the pain of having part of her heart torn away. Martin had filled a special place in her life and he could never be replaced.
Michelle and Martin were a marvellous two-some supporting each other’s ups and downs and always laughing boisterously through it all. Michelle always said that Gordon Ramsey, the “Hell’s Kitchen” chef, was remarkably similar to Martin. Their energy, passion, fiery tongues and British accents along with their physical similarities were uncanny.
The love they had for each other was more profound than a romantic love. Martin helped Michelle navigate the her new world of singleness after her separation, treating her to meals and pampering her any way he could. While Michelle appreciated the joy of Martin’s relationship with his partner Martin. Yes, two Martins! She called them “Big Martin” and “Little Martin” – because her Martin was taller than his partner.
Michelle gesturing at one of her gallery openings with “Little” Martin and “Big” Martin. (I am extremely proud of my sister and the vision she brings to her art. www.MichelleJohnson.ca)
You can see the sparkle & joy in all their eyes in the next beautiful photo below. They all knew how to have fun!
By Michelle Johnson
I answer the phone and an English accents calls out, “Get your dimply ass over here. The sangria is ready!” My heart fills with love. I put on my lipstick and dash out the door knowing that soon Martin’s cozy kitchen will be noisy with laughter and frivolity. Upon my arrival, someone announces, “The wife’s here!” It’s a label I earned due to my tendency to lean on him. The guest list could have filled a mansion so this party spills out onto the lawn, both front and back.
Martin is like an oak tree that allows all kinds of strange birds to perch on his branches. Lucky enough to be one of those birds, I’m greeted with a huge warm hug. Martin says, “Go on, Love. Serve yourself a tall glass. You gotta catch up – it’s in the crisper!” The nibbly food is out for munching, the BBQ is ready and the fridge is filled to capacity. I nudge my way over to the fridge. Grab a glass and slide open the crisper drawer. Oh, a beautiful array of colour awaits. Scooping it out with the soup ladle the glass quickly cools my hand. One sip and I know it’s gonna be a fun and “oh so messy” evening.
Martin Poyser, a dear friend, a keeper of secrets, a partner in crime and expert when it comes to “Takin’ the piss.” He suddenly passed away a few years ago of a heart condition. Gone much too soon.
Martin taught me many things, mostly by example.
“Little” Martin, Michelle, “Big” Martin and their close friend Stephanie
Here’s one of the lessons I learned.
1. Invite everybody over to your house – trust me, it’ll be fine
2. Throw out your vegetables.
3. Clean your fridge crisper drawer so it gleams a welcoming shine.
4. Line the bottom with fruit – raspberries, strawberries, oranges, pineapple, lemons, kiwis, blueberries, plum, grapes.
5. Add some spirit – cover the fruit with brandy or whiskey, add a splash of triple sec.
6. Let that sit for an hour or two… resist the urge to nibble or the guests will be hungry and you will be too tipsy to care.
7. Add your favourite cheap and cheerful red wine to fill the crisper 2/3’s from the top.
8. Add some sparkly water or lemony pop to add some fizz.
9. If you are a bitter person, add sugar.
10. Using a soup ladle, serve, toast, sip and … at every chance you get, lovingly “take the piss.”