Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Not noodles . . . !

Laughter is good for us. Would you like a laugh at my expense on the subject of noodles?
I'm sure you would!

A few weeks ago I was one of a small group invited to represent our local residents' association at a Supper Party, a party that was being given by the Mayor at the Town Hall.
Such an event had never happened before, it was an unexpected and generous idea. On the invitation was a request to notify the Mayor's office if you had any dietary requirements. I duly 'phoned to say that I was a vegetarian, and thought little more about it.

The evening of the Supper arrived and we all made my way to the Town Hall, curious as to what lay ahead.
If this was the Mayor's definition of a supper, I thought, as we were greeted with champagne in an ante-room, what could possibly classify as a dinner?
My suppers, often enjoyed from a tray on my lap, were in a totally different league to what was on offer at the Town Hall. But I wasn't complaining!

After quaffing champagne and meeting our fellow guests, we were escorted to the dining hall. Here we were shown to allocated seats at the elegant, candle-lit tables.

As a vegetarian, the first course presented me with no problems. For the main course there was duck. This was duly served to everyone else together with roast potatoes and runner beans.
What, you are wondering, was I given?
You can imagine my dismay as the waitress placed before me a plate piled high with the longest, thinnest, most slippery noodles I've ever encountered!

Can you think of anything more difficult to tackle at an elegant civic reception than a plate of wriggling noodles?
The ones that actually reached my mouth were delicious. But, try as I might, the others slipped from my fork, evaded my knife, and even fell into my lap. To make matters worse, I had been provided with a knife and fork, but no spoon. How can you twirl your noodles around your fork without the aid of a spoon?

Everyone else munched their way happily and delicately through the duck and roast potatoes. I alone, unhappy and self-conscious, struggled to cope!
Finally, despairing of ever coming to terms with the willful and slippery noodles, I abandoned my futile efforts . . . and accepted defeat.

Turning to a fellow guest, I tried to make light of my predicament.
"The sort of meal," I said sadly, "that should be eaten in private with a towel on your lap and no-one to watch!"

The Mayor had done his residents proud . . . the setting was memorable . . . the guests impressive . . . it was just the greatest pity about the noodles!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Under The Skin

Come, meet me in the dark with outstretched hands,
I would not know your colour or your kind;
And do not speak, in case my biased mind
Forms judgement long before it understands
The words you use. Conceal from me the lands
You've travelled through, the culture that's entwined
In all your thoughts, the politics you find
Acceptable, the ground where your faith stands.
If I could come as nakedly as you,
Abandoning my way of life and creed,
Forgetting those ideas I'm closest to
And recognising what I really need;
Could we, for just a moment, see right through
Our diverse layers to our common seed?

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Going Up . . . !

Would you like to hear about the latest accomplishment of my wonderfully supportive cat? I knew you would!

Little did I appreciate, when Chloe first shinned up her cat tree and went on to target the trees in Holland Park, that I would be the beneficiary of her love of climbing.

When you live, as I do, in a third-floor flat, you need a lift. Or such had been my reasoning for twenty-five years. The antique lift, that had regularly and reliably transported me and my baggage, had become a valued friend. How else to carry up the shopping? What other means for moving weighty cat-litter and heavy parcels? Then, a few months ago, we learned with a shock that our much-loved lift was not just antique, it had become obsolete. No longer was it possible to obtain spare parts. The entire lift would need to be replaced.

How long does it take to replace a lift? Believe it or not . . . three months!

With three months of disruption inevitable, it was decided that the public parts of the building would be rewired at the same time. Those of us who live in the building would have three months of filthy chaos.
But, or so we were promised, it would all be worth our suffering. At the end of those three months there would be a sleek, modern lift, state-of-the-art wiring, beautiful new carpets . . . all we had to do was to patiently endure the chaos and await the promised Golden Age.
What wasn't mentioned was that those of us who lived at the top of the building would also need to develop muscles of steel to cope with three months of climbing . . . but Managing Agents like to gloss over such minor details.

My concern was not just for myself, but also for Chloe. What chemicals were being used by the workmen? If these chemicals got onto her paws, would they do her any harm? Best, I decided, to carry her. This aim was achieved on the first journey down, but Chloe was having none of it on the way back upstairs.

Frantic wriggling resulted in her leaping from my arms and charging triumphantly up the dusty staircase.
She charged . . . she pulled . . . and, towed in her determined wake, I followed!

When you are past your first youth a little help is not to be scorned. This, I decided, was an excellent idea. With a damp cloth waiting inside the door to clean her paws on arrival, Chloe now happily pulls me up the seventy-two stairs on a regular basis!

I wouldn't dream of suggesting that you're in need of similar help, but . . . should that time ever arrive . . . well, you might consider taking advantage of Chloe's generous towing services!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Which marmalade . . . ?

I feel a little guilty at raising this subject, it's one of the sacred cows of modern society and no-one is more respectful of cows than I am. But do you mind if we give a moment's thought to the subject of choice?

I'm not sure whether or not you like marmalade, but it was on my shopping list this week. Have you any idea how many varieties of marmalade there are available to the casual shopper? I didn't actually stop to count, I was too bemused. Instead my wandering gaze strayed from coarse-cut orange marmalade to fine-cut lemon marmalade, to ruby grape-fruit marmalade, to mandarin marmalade, to marmalade with a dash of honey, to marmalade consisting of no other fruit than lime . . . to every variety of marmalade that a pernickety shopper could possibly be expected to fancy.

And, at the end, when I'd finally put a pot of marmalade in my shopping trolley, was I satisfied? Did I feel that I was purchasing what
I truly wanted? Far from it! Having entered the shop with a simple, uncomplicated desire for marmalade, I was now wondering whether my choice had been the right one. Mightn't the coarse-cut orange marmalade have been tastier? And what of the lime? I had never tried lime. Such a wide choice hadn't made me any happier, quite the reverse. It had merely made me question the wisdom of my choice.

I could be wrong, but isn't this problem inherent in the very context of choice? It leaves a nagging sense of uncertainty . . . what if your choice has been the wrong one?

And there's another aspect to choice . . . this doesn't apply to marmalade, but it does apply to oranges and many other fruit. If there were less choice in the range of perishable goods - food that is often imported from halfway round the world - would it mean that less would be thrown away on reaching its 'sell-by date'?
To travel across continents only to end up producing methane gas in a distant landfill site . . . well, it does seem a little absurd.

In my childhood I was told each Christmas how lucky I was to be going to the pantomime. Convinced of my good fortune, I couldn't wait to enjoy this annual treat.
Would I have anticipated this event with such a sense of excitement and privilege had I been invited to choose between the pantomime and the circus? Or would I have ended up slightly dissatisfied with the one whilst feeling slightly deprived of the other?

Now, as an adult, I wonder whether a myriad television channels (each devoting more and more time to future promotion in order to capture and keep their viewers) are going to offer a more satisfying evening's entertainment than the previous four or five?
In much the same way, had I less books on my shelves to choose from, might I value them more?
For an undisciplined, impressionable person, such as myself, choice and confusion frequently go hand in hand.

There is, perhaps, only one area where I would unreservedly support the need for choice . . . the choice to share my thoughts with you . . . the choice to study what I will . . . the choice to make my own mistakes and to follow my own path.

But when it comes to cosmetics . . . or soap powder . . . or marmalade . . . ?

Choice . . . ?
You can keep it!