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Otherwise my novels, short stories, verse, family, music, memories, vulgar interests, detestations,
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Thursday, 14 March 2013

A domestic Methuselah writes...

Old age is a string of clichés. I forget things, am content to look like a tramp, insult people sometimes accidentally sometimes intentionally, and there's this growing relationship with the porcelain. Now I'm getting sloppy with food.

"Wipe your face," says VR not cruelly, "there's soup on your cheek."

"It's good soup."

"Of course it is, but let that be our secret."

"We need table napkins. And a dispenser."

I had in mind one of those tightly packed chromium-plated boxes best seen in context - on the table of a US diner. (I'm a great diner enthusiast. If I won El Gordo I'd endow a diner on the Abergavenny road.) Unobtrusive, always full, a single symbol to set the sentimentality motor off and running. But alas, British catering suppliers appear to regard them as luxuries, tagging them with prices I resent.

It took lateral thinking, perhaps even a paradigm shift, for me to realise that napkins could be dispensed upwards (as it were) as well as sideways. Hence the smoked brown plastic tray you see in the larger pic. But then came the much bigger question: what kind of napkin?

Tesco cheapies could handle soup (my eating habits haven't improved) but foundered on chilli detritus, eventually turning into disgusting tomato-coloured balls. We stepped up to much thicker napkins with pleasing patterns.

But these cost more. Never mind whether we can afford it, what cannot be gainsaid is my ineradicable West Riding urge to save. If the food smears are minimal I re-use and VR doesn't approve. Ostentatiously she crumples hers and stuffs it into an empty yoghurt pot.

Old age - the tube train that's going to end up in Essex (Noo Joisey for Yanks)..

8 comments:

Avus said...

Napkins?! Luxury! Our dad used beat us up, send us running to the outside "khazi" in the driving snow and collect squares of newspaper, which we had torn up ourselves - and one sheet had to last a week!

(To be exclaimed in a suitable Yorkshire accent.)

Rouchswalwe said...

Oh my, dare I admit to using half a sheet of paper towel when absolutely necessary?

Roderick Robinson said...

Avus: You may have noticed in my profile I renounced my West Riding birthright some years ago. As a result, I refer to history but don't wallow in it. These days I like to think of myself as a European since I admire Germany (as a political entity) and I have a varying degree of love for France. More than anything I take this view because I am sure it would get up the collective nostril of those West Ridingers I left behind.

The fact is that that Python sketch is thinly disguised sentimentality; Yorkshiremen adopt that attitude because deprivation is the only inarguable thing they can boast about. Since they suffer from all sorts of other more serious faults which they are less keen to go on about (or were in 1959 when I left for good) I tend to think of them in terms of the favourite insult employed by El Sordo in For Whom The Bell Tolls, but which is rather raw meat for this Lady Percy-inspired blog.

RW (zS): And yet, my dear, you often show photographs of groaning boards with all the appropriate accoutrements - meals you have prepared and laid out for your mates - wherein lack of a napkin would be a serious character flaw. Am I right, or am I right?

Lucy said...

VR's 'but let that be our secret' should win an award.

Imagine being rich enough to have a machine that dispensed those hot towels you get in some restaurants and airlines, wouldn't that be amazing? I often wonder how heavily made up ladies deal with those, perhaps they just forego the pleasure...

Roderick Robinson said...

Lucy: Honesty compels me to admit that that quote was arrived at by mixing and straining a dozen such observations.

Hot towels. Racked with the effects of rising early, blinded by excesses of saké drinking the night before, I kept on finding myself at yet another morning press conference on my nine-day tour of Japan. But those Japanese managers knew a thing or two and before saying a word supplied me with the aforesaid towels and a bowl of what looked like diluted pea soup but which was called green tea. I survived.

Lucy said...

What, no geisha to serve you the green tea?

Roderick Robinson said...

Lucy: That, or a variant thereof, occurred one evening when I was part of small group looking for booze in the Shinjuku area. We entered a tiny non-exclusive drinking club where the only customers were what turned out to be a Frenchman crouching at a low table with his Japanese girl-friend. As we also crouched round the same table, she detached herself from him, sat at one end of the table and acted as a staging post between us and the bar. I found this hard to take and was glad the disadvantaged male was French.

Joe Hyam said...

Soup and other items of food. Forgetfulness and clumsiness. I have the same problems. But it should be one of the privileges of old age not to worry too much about such lapses.

"You are old, Father William, the young man said,
And your hair has become very white,
And yet you incessantly stand on your head.
Do you think at your age it is right?

In my you youth Father William replied to his son,
I feared it might injure the brain,
But now that I'm perfectly sure that I've none,
Why I do it again and again...

...I have answered three questions and that his enough,
Said his father, don't give yourself airs!
Do you think I can listen all day to such stuff?
Be off or I'll kick you downstairs.

We old people must learn to assert ourselves.