So, Hazel and I had lunch yesterday. I’d been on a train all day with no breakfast – which turned out to be a huge mistake actually, because on arrival, without even a cursory glance at the lunch menu, we swept straight in to the bar. Well, Hazel swept – I was more like following on with the dustpan and black plastic bag.
I swear I asked for a tonic water but no one seemed to hear me. I think I repeated myself several times and deafness fell upon the land. I tried again but with the tinkle of Christmas Magic my words were somehow transformed into ‘I’ll have a glass of wine, please.’ I’m certain I could hear the pump-action of a fairy wand from somewhere behind the Christmas tree.
Well, so far – so festive, and determined to shed my Accent-bestowed reputation for being an alcoholic lightweight, I got stuck in.
I have to say it was good wine and I was sipping with enthusiasm when they told us our table was ready. Obviously, I took my wine with me and damn me if there wasn’t another glass on the table because apparently, prosecco automatically comes with the festive meal. So now, I had two glasses of alcohol and, after a rapid machine gun exchange between Hazel and the waiter, yet another wine turned up and I now had three – count them – three glasses of alcohol in front of me.
Actually, after the waiter had run an assessing eye over the state of me, a fourth glass appeared but this one was water.
We ordered. I couldn’t see the menu very well – possibly because I’d had an eye test the day before and I don’t know about anyone else, but I really don’t like it when they puff great hurricanes of air into your eyes. In Turkey, they regard the British test as a bit girlie – the man’s version is to poke each eye with the optician’s hairy forefinger. If you’re eye is soft – congrats, no glaucoma. If your eye is hard – bad luck lady, join the glaucoma queue over there. Sensibly, they do this at the end of the test because it takes an hour or so for the pain to subside and your eyes to stop streaming. I’m betting the hurricanes don’t look so bad now, do they?
Anyway, obviously the effects of the test had lingered on, which was why I couldn’t read the really extremely small print on the menu, so I boldly went for the turkey on the grounds it was a festive menu and therefore turkey was bound to feature on it somewhere. Sharp thinking for a blind, befuddled author, I think everyone will agree.
I sat quietly, combating wine evaporation by building up quite a nice little drinking rhythm. Sip, smile, sip, beam, sip, wonder where I was, and so on.
The food was lovely and everything was fine until I got to the sprouts. Of which there were rather a lot. With the incisive clarity for which I’m famed, I realised immediately that they’d given me everyone else’s sprouts as well, which was a bit mean because while I’m all for heroic sacrifice – especially if it’s someone else heroically sacrificing – this alp of sprouts they’d plonked in front of me was a bit above and beyond. However, I’m British and I know my duty – which is never to complain – not out loud, anyway – and just got stuck in.
Over the years, I’ve developed several techniques – sprouts for the dealing of. There’s putting them on someone else’s plate. Chucking them under the table, is good. Hiding them under the mashed potato works well, but my favourite is to eat two. Only wimps eat just one and eating three or more is plain foolishness. Two, however, demonstrate backbone and fortitude and something else I can’t quite remember at the moment because I’ve got a bit of a headache.
So I ate my two sprouts – well, no, actually, the first thing that happened was that the ends of my scarf fell in the gravy but we got that sorted out and the lovely waiter helpfully pushed my glass of water a little closer, bless him. So, scarf trauma dealt with, I ate my two sprouts – you have to eat them at the beginning of the meal because after you’ve done that everything else tastes great, even the gravy covered ends of your own scarf.
Unfortunately, they’d put something in them. The sprouts, I mean. I know they’ve invented all sorts of new-fangled ways to tempt people to abandon all common sense and spend the next twenty-four hours farting furiously – but I had some sort of reaction to them. The sprouts, I mean, not the farts. There’s no other explanation. The room blurred. The table tipped. Hilariously, I couldn’t pick up my fork while at the same time becoming incredibly witty and clever. I had to keep sipping the wine to take the taste away but top-class stuff though it was, nothing could prevail over the sprouts. Little green monsters.
Eventually, and with no memory of dessert at all, I was decanted back to the station where I climbed onto a train. Don’t ask me which train – the sprouts had me in a firm grip by now – but I do know it was a train. The people in the carriage were lovely and it would have been nice to have had a friendly chat with all of them but I fell asleep just outside Newport so a bit of a missed opportunity there.
Today will, I think, be quite a gentle day. I’ve fired up my laptop and pulled up Doing Time but we all know that’s not going to happen. There’s a cheese and marmite loaf with my name on it somewhere and I intend to track it down.
So – take heed, gentle readers. For heaven’s sake, lay off the sprouts. No idea what they’re putting in them but they won’t catch me again. My life, will, henceforth, be gloriously, wonderfully sprout free.
This is the last blog of the year. And my last blog with Accent Press. So, to everyone there – many thinks for everything over the years. And there have been a lot of things, so thanks for every one of them. To Accent Press, to my new overlords at Headline, and to all my lovely readers – and you know who you are – a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.