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Friday, 23 January 2009

not for me

Catty languished on the pillow. Flu, apparently. F10 was most solicitous. He and Catty’s New Best Friend, a lambswool ceiling duster from IKEA, bore down heavily on the patient. Crowding him, some might say. The san was growing claustrophobic. F10 announced that he had to stay off school to look after Catty. Catty, a stuffed toy of indeterminate colour looked quite desperate; if his whiskers hadn’t have been chewed off in an earlier session of tough love, they would have twitched.
I intervened. I said that ill cats had to swim to Japan to get their medicine (where DO these lies you tell come from?) and that if F wanted to go with him, then he wouldn’t be back in time for karate. F10, while sensing a con, trudged off with the ceiling duster to get ready for school and Catty gave me a big fat thumbs up and prepared for a day’s dossing. We cancelled the swim to Japan.

I dumped the lad, his clarinet and karate suit, all 3 at school and took me into Cheltenham. Mrs Northern Posh had made a killing in the week at Per Una, snaffling a three piece outfit for £7 and a fine jacket and scarf for a fiver. I had high hopes which, in the way of all high hopes, were doomed to be dashed. The sale rail was in a far and inauspicious corner and fear became fact when it was found that the rewards for the tardy bargain hunter were few.
A bikini bottom, jade, size 22. Even the £2 price tag couldn’t tempt me down that particular road of madness.
Nor could the lone bikini top, in a cheerful Hawaiian print and shaped in an optimistic bandeau style. Size unknown but, to the untutored eye, about 56 MM. It was not to be mine. Everything else was oddly slippery and seriously undesirable, so I queued instead for 20 minutes to return a jumper I’d bought for T12 which had lasted all of 2 days. I then spent an hour in search of a groovy but cheap backpack for him and sort of triumphed in Animal but it was a dull morning made duller still by the chill memory of Mrs NP’s crowing.
The only thing which comes even half way near to being called a "win" was snaffling a load of pooperscooper bags free from the library. Libraries multi-task these days.

If shopping is an utter waste of time, then so is catering. First it was peanuts on the naughty stair, then kiwi fruits were public enemy number 2 and suddenly, Heimlich manoeuvre was being worked into every sentence. A note came back from school urging us to cut grapes in half. Indeed it was worded in a “for the very few who don’t already…” sort of way. It seems that grapes choke, chaps, and the tyranny of the lunchbox is made more tortuous still, slaloming round the banned list and now the cutting up of grapes. Careful with that knife, Eugene.*

It’s only a matter of time before they demand of us parents, carers and guardians that the food is all pre-masticated and from there but a step before it’s liquidized or mashed into tablet-form.
But it’s not just at junior level that the fun’s been sucked out of food.

I had had the meeting of my second book group last night. It was a massive waste of being a host when I could have been the driver since E and I don’t drink in January, but I got in a load of wine for the others and was stunned that between them they got through but one bottle. Yes, one bottle. Surely my temporary sobriety cannot alone account for the quartering of consumption? The apple & mango and cranberry & pomegranate were hit hard though which all seems a bit dismal and I rose bright and beady (safe from Catty’s flu) rather than semi-destroyed and wondering, with a Magda** gloom, if my wild days were behind me. Battling with a tetrapak not being the same at all as cheerful grappling with a corkscrew. Still, the thing is, it’s so easy not drinking. Something, up there with “Let’s get another puppy,” that I thought I’d never say.

Last night was the first time that I fully realised just how annoying they all are. That’s the absence of rose-tinting wine for you.
Remembering that at least one was a vegetarian, I had cleverly ensured that all the small bits and pieces on plates, canapés if you must, were meat free. The room we sat in is stygian by night, meaning a minefield of stray sausage rolls, however amusing the reaction, was always going to be a no-no. So, there were olives and smart crisps and then I assembled little smoked salmon and cream cheese on blinis and some half price cranberry and brie pastry things. Lolly showed a fine interest, bustling near, an ill-chosen bridesmaid, eager but incompetent, breathing hell-hound fumes on all and sundry. Bearing my laden plates, I anticipated an eager clamour and the unseemly reach of greedy human paws. Instead of which, little hands of horror were being shown, small traffic warden stop signs placed up to ward off the evils of my offerings.
One, it transpired hated cheese (what!), another hated fish, a third wouldn’t eat on Thursdays***, and only Mrs NP and I were what I would call normal, a pairing which shows that things have come to a pretty pass. So she, me and the vegetarians and Lolly ate the lot and I tried not to roll my eyes excessively.
It concerns me sometimes how intolerant and fierce I can get. I think it boils down to laziness. I want the chat bit without the pfaff.

In a few days time, we have a dinner party with another lot of foible-heavy friends. Dearest people all, but another vegetarian, naturally, casting a meat-free blight on proceedings, and across the table from her will sit another fish-hater. I thought it was a woman thing all of this, but no, one of the men has murmured that he hates pasta. How can you hate pasta? Not that I’m an unsympathetic soul, I think you know that by now, but it only remains to get on the blower to the coeliac and the one who’s dairy-intolerant (whatever the fuck THAT is) to have a full house of dietary unstables boasting a shared interest in quinoa. I'm not beyond the odd reasonable fad myself: never will I be in the queue for lights, brains or knuckles, for instance, and I flinch at the thought of the foul filth clatter which is quaintly dubbed seafood, but I force it down if it's put on a plate in front of me. I even say thank you. I've slurped soup and chomped on lamb, liking neither but one, erstwhile, friend actually puts in orders: don't like this, don't like that. Fuck Off, I think, while creepily complying and then having to self-loathe for being so wet.

Catty’s got the right idea, loll on a pillow and fake illness, even if an occupational hazard of being a stuffed animal in this house might involve swimming to Japan.
* I know it should be “Careful with that AXE, Eugene.” But, don’t be silly, you don’t halve grapes with axes
** Magda is a sullen cleaner in “Lead Balloon,” next to whom Eyeore exhibits a certain joie de vivre
*** Joke


Mud in the City said...

Having recently managed a dinner party for The Man Who Can't Eat Anything - I feel your pain. At least he wasn't a veggie.

Tell them all its a Safari Supper (very 70s) and they each have to bring a dish - hopefully they'll turn up with one that they, wiht weird and wonderful affectations, can eat.

Either that or you'll just end up with a surfeit of quinoa.

Maybe it is best to give up the non drinking and get stuck in....

Dumdad said...

Cutting grapes in half? I thought you were joking to start with then realised you weren't (incidentally, I got your axe reference and Pink Floyd without your footnote!). What is happening over there in my beloved country?

There are many things that irritate me about France but food and their attitude to it isn't one of them.

I mean, food should be savoured and enjoyed. I understand people who are veggies and people with real allergies but others'
picky, picky, picky ways drive me mad.

softinthehead said...

I think my mum would have said "there are children dying of hunger in ....well you name it....get it down you!". And I have to agree with her, this of course is from someone who is not known to turn her nose up at much..er anything :) BTW nice to have you back!

Edward said...

I agree, SoftInTheHead, nice to have you back. Where HAVE you been, you bad girl? Swimming to Japan? Fine blog, though, as per; I came in just as despised nibbles were served and got at least some of them - very nice too. I needed something cheerful after a night listening to the most inept motivational speaker in the Western hemisphere (Note to self: there could be a blog in that)

Elizabethd said...

Japan? Swimming? Milla what lies, oops, sorry, stories you tell! Poor little son, he may be traumatised forever!
Catty sounds a sensible sort of thing, he's got the right idea, stay in bed.
As to people who tell you before they come, accepting your kind invitation, that they 'dont like' this or that...words fail me. But then I'm a war baby, when food was scarce and everyone was grateful.

You always make me laugh!

Fennie said...

Its great to have you back but I don't know how you get away with it.
My children - both girls - were twigging from the age of four when I was fibbing. But then I have a mischevious glint that comes into the eyes that is a dead give away. Still with YD about to pop I reckon I shall be able to get a new lease of life in the weird tales department. But SWIMMING TO JAPAN? No wonder you are surrounded by faddy eaters. You could of course try the surrealist approach: invite everyone and give them harmonicas and chopped clarinet to eat, explaining that the Japanese are so healthy (but also rather small). Besides swimming to Japan isn't a problem - the currents are with you - but its an awfully long walk home via Siberia.

mountainear said...

Faddy eaters. 'Eat wot's put in front of you' was my parent's mantra - a mantra reinforced with a clip round the ear (another of life's forbidden pleasures).

Put it before them Milla, light the blue touch paper and ....retire?

Pondside said...

We have them here too. The rules about peanuts and grapes and sugar.
At Christmas we had, at the table, a fish allergy, a poultry allergy, an onion allergy (I find this the most difficult) and a lactose intolerance. I wanted to claim a guest intolerance or a hosting allergy, but I had invited them, so had to accomodate.

Expat mum said...

"Wouldn't eat on Thursdays..."? - almost as strange as not drinking in Januarys, (although a few of my friends seem to be doing this.)

Pipany said...

Oh I loathe faddy eaters too Milla, especially as I fall in the piggsh eater of everything category. Don't these people know how lucky they are to have any food provided for them? Ha, send it my way next time (I'll even eat it if Royal Mail have flattened it!) xx

Crystal Jigsaw said...

I don't do dinner parties and rarely entertain but I wouldn't want faddy folk picking at this and that. I admire your patience. Yes, Japan is long way to swim.

CJ xx

KittyB said...

So - what's wrong with kiwi fruit?
I thought I was a faddy eater (yuk to seafood and mince and offal and so on...), but my next dinner guests don't eat anything with cow's milk. How do you make a meal without butter and cheese and cream and milk and so on. I could use goat's but it does rather taste the way a goat smells.

snailbeachshepherdess said...

worst I have had - spent a fortune in money and time on a venison dish - only to have the comment 'Oooo couldn't eat that - it might be bambi' - I went up the wall! I am still reminded of it at regular intervals - 'the night mother said F*** Bambi!'

Jaja said...

Happy new year!!!!

Exmoorjane said...

And Happy new year to you too, Jaja!
Now then, Milla, that bikini top was my size, so would have been a perfect little gift....
but just cringe and wimper at your nasty picky snippy book group - I HATE that hand gesture, accompanied, as it usually is, with the little moue of distaste. Whatever happened to eating what you were given with as much good grace as you co uld muster? Can clearly remember heaving over runny egg florentine and scraping my chair leg each time to disguise the retching. Slap the lot of them or tell them about the starving children in Africa and elsewhere... Grrrr, it makes me SO cross.

muddyboots said...

l really can't be bothered to do dinner parties, especially after helping a friend organize the catering for her 50th. 'Cool that rice FAST' but the food police .... hell woman you should see what l have to do just to sell a slice of cake, perhaps tubes of astronaut munchies would be better.

Mean Mom said...

It's an odd thing, but I always find that, once all of the sale stuff is lumped together on the sale rail, it all looks like tat.

Food for lunch boxes sounds like a nightmare, these days. My friend's daughter did get a grape stuck in her throat, once, but she was under school age. I don't know what these schools are thinking about. Can't they just get more staff trained in first aid to deal with these situations? ;0)

The book group sounds like a dead loss. Are you sure you did join the book group and not Alcoholics Anonymous?

Great to be reading something of yours again!

nuttycow said...

Oh Milla - come over to the dark side and start drinking again. My "I'm not drinking in January" thing lasted about 2 weeks.

LittleBrownDog said...

I was wondering why the wine shelves of Tesco were suddenly groaning with Secret Sauvignon... Oh, invite me round, Milla - I eat everything. And twice as much as usual on Thursdays. The thing I find most difficult about book club (ours is a similar sort of arrangement to yours, I think) is getting there early enough to position myself in closest proximity to the food table. So often do I find my mind straying from the subject of the book towards the more pressing matter of "can I really get away with lunging across the table for the thirty-sixth time to snaffle another cheesy football*.

And, Oh, the depressing spectacle of the sale rail. I fear those jade bikini bottoms are doing the rounds. I'm sure I came across something very similar in the Brunel Centre in Swindon.

Super-excellent blog, by the way. Don't leave it so long next time.


And can you really get poop-scoop bags in the library? How very multi-functional.

*Not really. It's not THAT kind of book club.

ChrisH said...

I'm SO sorry - I missed this. Where were you? Where was I/ Feeling a bit sh*te actually, must be the January sobriety that Tom and I are also doing. The cold light of day has slapped me round the face. So glad I don't have to worry about dicing grapes anymore, sheesh! Or dinner parties. Or sales - you've summed up my experience of sale rails exactly. Especially the slippery stuff.

Zoë said...

Think your mates would go pretty damn hungry in my house!

LittleBird is a veggie with a life threatening nut allergy, she spent the first week of Uni being hospitalised on a blue light after a close encounter with a Chicken Tikka Masala (cashew nuts in the sauce) in the shared student house kitchen where she lives! Now consigned to carry an Epipen with her at all time. All these people with intolerances though?? There was an interesting debate about it on the One Show last night - consensus was, they were hypochondriacs and attention seekers! I would go with that!

Loved the Catty story, and so glad he/she didn't have to swim to Japan! Never know what those whalers might mistake for scientific study!

CAMILLA said...

Ah, Milla honey.... fab blog, as for those Grapes being axed in halved, goodness.!

There has been many a meal time when others have a pickety choice, one could almost end up doing meals en- masse with soo many different non likes, when I was a gal it was eat it or go hungry, and I cannot help but think about those starving children in other countrys.


Milla, my darling, I don't call not drinking in January 'NORMAL'! Surely it is the BEST time to drink? I've certainly been hitting the sherry rather heavily lately...it's the only thing that get's me through the grim reality of it all!

Don't do lunch boxes.
Don't do fussy eaters.
Don't do allergies. Except life-threatening ones. Coeliacs allowed.

You had me laughing, as ever. Thank you.


Ps: particularly loved 'oddly slippery' !