For dinner we had Lancashire Hot Pot. A dome of sliced potatoes, the upper slices crisp and neatly edged in brown. Absorbed slices lying tastily below. Thin-cut carrots because nobody wants a mouse’s dartboard. Lamb diced small, greatly superior to chops which impart too much grease and leave bones behind. Over a pool of clear, spoonable broth, flecked with brown, offering flavour a wine lover would say “had legs”.
A Farewell to Arms, which got better and better, was finished. I didn’t care to find out whether Ian McEwan, William Boyd or Margaret Drabble had anything to say. These days I re-read to avoid being disappointed. Mainly to wallow. So here’s to Joyce’s Portrait Of The Artist As A Young Man, a 1928 edition, the dust-jacket flap shorn of its price, a gift to my mother whose unmarried name, D. H. Stringer, is written neatly on the flysheet. From my father, coming a courting? Perhaps. He once bought me Joyce’s Dubliners.
A mysterious opening; “Once upon a time and a very good time it was there was a moocow coming down along the road…” Then here’s Stephen Dedalus, eventually co-hero of Ulysses, reluctantly playing soccer at school (“… making little runs now and then. But his hands were bluish with cold.”), clever but unable to solve the hard sum on the board, admitting he kisses his mother before going to bed. At Christmas dinner overhearing a rip-roaring argument about Catholicism between devout Aunt Dante and Parnell-favouring Stephen’s father.
And I am Stephen and Joyce is playing me like a squeeze box. And this is great easy literature. And I’m reassured by hot pot and this book.