Doigts de poisson et petits pois surcongelés November 7, 2006Posted by BiB in Uncategorized.
Don’t tell anyone but I’m blogging from the middle of nowhere. I’m so excited to have been able to get wired up to technology in this outpost of civilisation that I can hardly think of what to say. I’m on a sponsored sitathon. Every now and again, I visit my old lady friend, which isn’t a euphemism for visiting a prostitute. Anyway, it would have to be a very special fetish to want to visit an old lady – I’ll leave that to Wayne Rooney – or quite an extravagance to fly in from Berlin when I could just pop down to Oranienburgerstraße instead. And who’d be prepared to fly eAsyjet for the sake of a paid shag? No, I mean I REALLY visit an old lady.
My old lady is very old. Indeed. Even her daughter says she looks a thousand. Which is fun because she’s from a world which barely exists any more. There are some corkingly good stories. And some corking misbehaviour. And cases of temporal culture shock when I see her and her male teenage great-grandchildren – loping about like lazy lions, looking as if they’d happily shag, eat or kill something – in the same room.
Yet in spite of the fun, I have made a mental note to myself to make sure I remember to die before I am utterly helpless. Although it must be quite fun in some ways to have an NHS retinue that The Queen might marvel at, it can’t be that much fun to be rooted to the spot for much of the time and when any movement is roughly as difficult an engineering task as lugging Stonehenge’s stones from Wales to Salisbury Plain.
My old lady is rather posh and from the most interesting family in England (perhaps). So it is rather surprising that my diet whilst here is a tad on the… well… unposh side. “Old lady, what would you like for lunch?” I ask dutifully. “BiB, darling, there are some delicious fishfingers in the fridge and lashings of frozen peas,” and so I dash to the kitchen to make the slap-up meal enumerated in this blog-post’s title. “Darling, do you think I might have some heavenly toast and marm to take to bed with me?” she might then ask, marm being an abbreviation for both marmite and marmalade so there is a moment of unbearable tension as I wait for the -ite or -alade suffix to be appended.
Entertainment is thin on the ground in this neck of the woods – I’m almost sad I can get online – so we make our own. My old lady finds old age lonely, but in fact has a racingly good social life that most thirty-somethings might envy. There is a poetry meeting once a week, when she and other posh old ladies sit around and read and discuss poems together, tea being provided by some saintly neighbour and long-time friend. (“Darling, she was a terrible boozer once, you know. Almost permanently blotto.”) The theme is set a week ahead, and this week’s theme was love. “So which poem are you thinking you’ll read, old lady?” “BiB, darling, I just don’t know. Darling, be a darling, and fetch me that book,” she says motioning majestically – queen of all she surveys – shelfwards. I shuffle off and come back with a dusty old volume bound in a way reminiscent of Latin verbs. I flick through. “BiB, darling, you’ll think I’m awfully demanding but will you fetch me that other volume too… Darling, what IS taking so long? Poetry is the top shelf.” I reappear at her propped-up ankles, like a trusty retriever, with both volumes. I find one poem by my old lady’s grandmother, and another, lovelier, though I’m not sure it’s got the official thumbs-up, by Edna St. Vincent Millay. “American,” announces my hostess with a combination of shock and disdain. Earlier, the old lady’s lesbian granddaughter came to visit with her “eccentric family” (wife, two daughters. Daughter one: granddaughter, earlier heterosexual liaison. Daughter two: wife, internet, turkey-baster) and we sang as best we could.
But the visits are mostly a time of quiet contemplation. The old lady in her chair. Me shuffling around when sitting at the fire, rustled up by my own fair hand – no easy task for an inner-city homo, but I think I’ve mastered it now – gets too hot and then back when, two centimetres away, it is soon too cold again. Telling the old lady who is dead as she insists I turn immediately to the obits when the paper is delivered by another saintly neighbour. (“No-one I’ve heard of, darling.”) Watching as my hostess struggles with her pipe and pipe-cleaners and refusing when offered a pipe myself, though I agree that Gauloises do somewhat lower the tone given the circumstances, though at least they have the benefit of being the brand her husband – dead for over 30 years and adored to this day – smoked himself to an early grave with. Looking out the window to a perfect English landscape, dazzling in the crispness of an early-winter morning and ultimately agreeing with my old lady, when I have given up on trying to be positive, that, yes, old age is shit.
An NHS woman with terrifying hair arrives. I repair to the kitchen and make Soupe aux Tomates à la Heinz.