When we last chatted, the less feeble minded amongst you will recall that I was tracked down by our illustrious editor, and that under considerable duress, I was coerced to pen a substantial amount of drivel that ensured my grandchildren would not be propping up the new runway at Heathrow 3 or whatever it is going to be. The more feeble minded however will only recall that it’s macaroni cheese for supper tonight, which of course is their favourite.
What followed subsequent to that last publication was very much a rum do and I shall now describe this event. In my considerable experience of such matters rum has never been rummer and executed in such a memorable way as it was in the early hours of this morning. I should emphasise that I am considered rather an authority on the grading and quality of rum do’s, both locally and further afield, even extending to some parts of Lincolnshire. I generally find that on the rare occasions when I quantify the level of rum doing, it is with an air of gravitas and authority which the reader will find reassuring.
Perhaps I should explain exactly what the circumstances were that have led me to open this discourse with such uncharacteristic self- aggrandisement. Only you can be the judge as to my veracity, only you can decide my fate. Are you in the presence of a grand master in the perception of rum doing or merely a puffed up bumpkin with ideas way above his station, the latter seems unlikely but it is not for me to say, although I just did.
You might recall, following my recent encounter with Swiss Bob, that I was forced grudgingly, to yet again pen ‘an outstanding piece of humorous prose’, my quotation marks not his, for this esteemed journal. Shortly after that incident I reluctantly left my Tahitian hideaway realizing he had discovered my whereabouts, my cover was blown, I was a fox on the run, my goose was cooked, my location had been exposed, I was now a moving target and so on, you get the picture.
I upped sticks from my Polynesian bolt hole on a forged Lithuanian passport, incidentally, for personal safety always up sticks, never down them, downing sticks means something quite unpleasant in some parts of South East Asia and caused an uncomfortable experience for me once in Cambodia. Fortunately I was able to walk away relatively unscathed as I was able to offer two live chickens from my rucksack to the offended party. They don’t tell you that in HSBC commercials, do they?
The forged passport was kindly supplied by my acquaintance Wladek for the princely sum of five hundred Euros plus my rather natty Daks herringbone overcoat which was, in any case, far too heavy for the climate of the region. I fled, via the fleshpots of Zanzibar and Naples and eventually, tiring of both flesh and pots, I found myself back home in England at what I believed to be a secure location.
On arrival at the airport I first kissed the tarmac of sweet Albion and then dined at a private establishment near my home, I stressed the need for complete discretion and secrecy from the staff and perhaps, as events unfolded, I may have been too trusting a soul for my own good. Perhaps the £1.20 gratuity I left to buy their silence may have been insufficient but it was all the English change I had with me. I did have a substantial quantity of Tanzanian shillings which were heavily weighing me down but I felt leaving these would be tantamount to a major insult which could have led to ‘an incident’, as these items are often described in local police reports.
Once home I immediately burnt the passport, as Wladek had instructed, it had a bar-coded travel by date apparently, I then scattered the ashes near a fine specimen of Laurus Nobilis in the shrubbery. Now much fatigued by my travelling and fleshpotting, I decided an early night was called for. I had great plans for an article, a denouncement of food photography that would be widely syndicated and I needed to be both rested and in fine fettle, specifically in that order.
The article would be a searing indictment of people who photograph their intended dinner and share it with an undiscriminating audience. It would be stunningly brave and on point, it would alter the way people use social media for all time, it would alter perceptions from Aachen to Zwolle, I know that is only from Germany to the Netherlands but it’s the best A-Z example I could find.
It would save billions of Terabytes of photographic storage, obviously benefitting the environment in some unexplained way, I would get citations from dolphin sanctuaries and Jamie’s Turkey Twizzler campaign would be an amuse bouche by comparison. Indeed the Pulitzer people were buffing my award, even as I typed this opening segment of my withering critique;
I despise the Facebook generation and its deification of the detritus from the bargain basements of sparse supermarket sustenance. On reflection, that sentence works equally well if I just use the first five words, albeit it is then desperately lacking in alliteration.
You’ve seen it and ‘liked’ it or have been responsible for it, don’t look away coyly because I know of your involvement, it’s my job to know. The iPhone image captured for a social media eternity, the supermarket pulled pork with stuffed peppers, garlic bread and some Doritos for ‘added colour’ accompanied by a strawberry daiquiri. This culinary affront is always followed by the ubiquitous, nom nom LOL. Someone, somewhere photographed this, in the mistaken belief that anyone else really cared, they actually recorded this and chose to share it with their undiscerning gaggle of followers.
Of course, they have just sentenced their entire digestive system to hours of hard labour, Messrs. Pancreas, Liver, Stomach, Colon, Digestive Tract and all the other attached bits have to now make sense of the rubble that they have shoveled into their gut and then process it, grade and separate it, channel all of it until, in the early hours of the morning, the photo perpetrator wakes with stomach cramps and says, “I know I shouldn’t have had that glass of Andrews before going to bed, that’s the culprit.” LOL indeed, lacking even the basics of self awareness they actually photographed it, shared the horror globally and then consumed it.
I have seen many such images on social media, images that pale even beyond star ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. Things that burn into the retina, things that have disturbed my uneasy slumber. In those clammy, dark hours of the soul I wake suddenly and cry, “It wasn’t really a sausage!” A rudimentary, badly focused image claiming to be a Cumberland sausage on a bed of spinach and chick peas, but it wasn’t was it, what was it really? As the late Stone, Brian Jones would say, if he still walked amongst us, “It’s a bad scene man, it’s bringing me down.”
For this very reason I do not subscribe to public viewing of images of my intended meal, it’s a very private thing, it’s actually mild pornography, it’s for me to enjoy but not for anyone else to know about. This is me with a Weiner Schnitzel, sorry but no, that is between me, a piece of veal and some breadcrumbs, you will never see it or find out what happened. I was raised a Catholic and it shows.
This brief excerpt above, from my intended article now leads me back to the matter of the rum do, not in a neat segue manner, I grant you, but we can’t all be Radio One DJ’s fortunately. What followed next utterly defies description yet I shall still try. You will recall, I am on the run but I have now found sanctuary, I am free at last from my nemesis.
In the early hours of the morning I am finally at home in my bedroom, on the top floor in my Georgian townhouse, as it is early summer the humid night air has caused me to leave a Velux window slightly ajar, nonetheless, finally I considered myself perfectly safe and secure. As per my nightly ritual I had randomly recited the QPR first team from the 1975-76 season, the year we almost won the league and I drifted off gently.
Some count sheep, for me it’s the recital of Bowles, Francis, Givens, Parkes. I’m usually in the arms of Morpheus, at least I think that is what he said his name was, before I even get to Gillard and Clement let alone the balding one, Mick Leach, the one only Hoops cognoscenti remember.
I guess it must have been around 3.13am that I woke uneasily, sometimes I wake easily at 3.13am but on this occasion it was quite the opposite. I was aware of a presence in the room. In the diminished light of the Velux blackout blind I could just make out an outline of something or someone in the room, I glanced up and the Velux was now open, open wide enough for someone to have gained entrance.
It could only be accessed utilising the skill of many years of military training, it could only be one man. The gentle, spicy aroma of Aramis Gentleman confirmed the identity of my uninvited guest, there was just a hint of ginger and black pepper notes redolent in the night air and I knew it was him. Dressed head to foot in black with a rather, in my opinion, undersized Balaclava to conceal his numerous, unsightly, facial battle scars, I knew it was him.
“How did you find me, Bob?” I asked, a quaver in my voice. I idly wondered how a Walker’s Quaver crisp had got into my voice but I suppose no two are the same, albeit they look uniformly curly.
“I asked Magda, the waitress at the Mocamba Club, she seemed to know you quite well. Isn’t that the place you eat your Weiner Schnitzel, in the ‘private member’s’ dining room?” His voice was rasping, too many Embassy tipped, too much supermarket whiskey, too many memories and considerably too much innuendo. Private members and Weiner in just two sentences, really?
“Are you going to kill me, Bob? If so can I put on my Stan Bowles shirt with the number 10 on the back? I don’t want to die alone.”
“You are a silly goose” he murmured softly, “I just need an article for GP, something in the style of those twats who photograph food.”
Somehow he had known or eerily, even sensed my intended future article, I had only confided the idea to my agent, Spiro Szymanski and I knew Spiro was the soul of discretion or if not the soul, then at least a very close relative of it. I decided to bluff it out.
“There will be no more articles Bob, I thought we had agreed that? Look, I photograph the food, I describe it, that’s four lines, maximum. I can’t pad that out to an article, don’t make me do this.”
“You’ve done pretty well with the padding, I guess you already have about four pages, judging by the crap you’ve written above.”
“How…how did you know about that,” I faltered, I usually falter in such situations, faltering and floundering frequently is my default.
“I know nothing, but I do know where your grandchildren go to school, on my desk by 7am, there’s a good boy.”
With that I was alone, like a will-o’-the-wisp, somehow he was gone, I can only imagine the skilled training that kind of exit would entail. In fact I’m still trying to imagine it now.
I went down to my kitchen, my Tom Howley kitchen has a contemporary industrial feel, lots of exposed pipes and bare brickwork, shiny chrome and rivets, in fact a lifetime’s supply of chrome and considerably more rivets than in a very substantial rivet warehouse, rustic tractor seats on chrome springs by the breakfast bar, that sort of thing. My unsteady hands made a Waitrose Galia melon smoothie with just a dash of Lucy Bee’s organic cinnamon and a pinch of Mr Fothergill’s lemon basil, in my Miele blender. I sat down and I began to write, I wanted to see my grand children again, if only for a few minutes, in fact a few minutes was usually enough.
I should point out, I am contractually obligated to some product placement in my articles, Mr Szymanski said it helps with the upkeep of the rather large boat that apparently he keeps for me in the Caymans. Of course, I always use these products, they are all excellent and I wholeheartedly recommend them to you.
I was in a pickle and no mistake, the gamekeeper had now turned poacher, the Pulitzer was on hold, the global campaign against food photography was a distant memory. I had to write in a style I despise, I had to laud the thing that my spirit, my very being was opposed to, fortunately for me I find that sort of thing comes naturally. Give me a Domino’s menu and I will sit for hours vacillating between the New Yorker Half N’ Half and the Garlic Chicken and Bacon, principles for life are, by comparison, a breeze.
In those night hours, in those long, dark, desolate hours between twilight and the chatter of bird song at first light I wrote this and I mean every word, nom nom LOL.
So here we have tonight’s meal, I’ve gone for the poached salmon this time, prepared en papillote with lemon, mixed herbs and a little mix of crushed garlic and dill oil, about 12 minutes at 180 fan oven. The Jersey Royal kidney potatoes are arranged in a feng-shui grouping which symbolises long life and a medium sized but benign prostate gland, the potatoes are lightly seasoned on serving, with Himalayan pink rock salt. I tend to use a rock salt grater nowadays for the salt, I’m not a savage.
The culinary cavemen amongst you need to be aware, you no longer use salt from a salt cellar or a grinder, you actually rub a chunk of rock salt on a grater, on to your food. I really wouldn’t have the imagination to ever make that up, I would never lie to you about such a thing in any case, there would be no point unless money was involved.
The salad comprises a ‘living salad’ of lettuce leaves that are alive until you wring their little salady, lettucey necks. These are accompanied by some tomatoes that are almost certainly still alive whilst you rip them asunder from the mother vine. Sometimes in my industrial kitchen all you can hear is the screaming of lettuce and tomatoes as they are torn from their organic, umbilical cords. It’s salad slaughter at suppertime and their plaintive pleas and cries haunt me at nights, what have I become?
The salad is augmented by thinly sliced cucumber and spring onion with a mix of home made coleslaw and, for colour and to make the first passing of water the following morning more of an olfactory experience, I’ve added a few spears of lightly steamed asparagus.
The plate is presented on a placemat which was given to me by an ex girl friend who worked at the RHS and it’s something to do with Kew Gardens to commemorate blah blah or something similar, it wouldn’t have been my own personal choice but a placemat is a placemat in these difficult times. We parted ways as she implied I was not only an ingrate but also a very poor listener, women eh?
I have checked with an acquaintance who choreographed Cats at the Palace Theatre last year and he assures me the placemat is at least 85% gay. He seemed pretty certain it only required a nubile, slightly dusky, lightly oiled man-child dancing in the background, in the manner of the woman who did Tales of the Unexpected, to achieve the maximum 100% rating and that’s really good enough for me, I trust his judgement.
I was going to go with a white Rioja to accompany this but opted eventually for a ‘craft’ beer which was slightly citric, Adnam’s Ghost Ship Pale Ale, more fartisan than artisan but acceptable.
The cutlery is Habitat I think, left by another ex, the knife is white handled whilst the fork handle is black, she described this cutlery mix as ‘fun’ which was her idea of fun and also possibly explains why we are no longer together.
The table is a bleached beech wood, as I know you were going to ask, this was bought solely by me and has no connection with any woman I have ever associated with, living or dead. On reflection nearly all of them were living, or gave that impression, I’m working from memory here.
I will draw the line at describing what carpet the table is standing on except to say that it leans towards a Berber weave and it is sturdy and durable. Minor stains like blood, tears and despair are easily sponged away and leave very little residue or marks.
And so, I dine alone, surrounded by small reminders, if only in placemat and fun cutlery form, of those I once loved, wondering if I will ever see my grandchildren again, wondering if this is enough padding to qualify as an article, wondering what sort of padlock I can put on a Velux window, wondering when my results will be back from the clinic, that sort of thing.
It does strike me though that the meal I have described actually existed, shamefully there is even a photograph, living proof of an excellent, nutritious meal which cost considerably less than any Doritos and supermarket pulled pork imaginary meal. It is also infinitely more satisfying than heating something up from Beelzebub’s bargain basement and considerably better for the body and soul.
I add this only to assert my own personal culinary probity, I do not seek to vilify those who would rather have Doritos etc. I make no judgement whatsoever other than that they are woefully wrong and I am right. I believe it’s this kind of fairness, openness and tolerance which has made our society what it is today.
In the distance I can just hear a solitary blackbird announce that dawn is breaking, the word count is well over 3000, well padded sir, I feel my work here is nearly complete. I will leave you to judge exactly how rum this entire do is, in my not very humble opinion it is probably in the top three or four since records began.
It only remains for me to finish, as I frequently do, on a profanity for the audio file listeners. I know Sue GV and Neil JtB were partial to the occasional vulgarity so in tribute to them and any other fallen GP heroes I just need to say, fuckity fuck off. I always enjoy hearing that read aloud, I know they would have and I hope you will too.
© Viciousbutfair 2019
The Goodnight Vienna Audio file