Tuesday August 10, 2004
“Is there anything special you’d like from Spilsby?” I said, picking up my keys ready for a milk-and-bread run.
“How do you mean, special?”
“A nice treat. Cake? Chocolate?”
“No, ta. We have plenty of fruit in the bowl and the fridge.”
“Fair enough. I shall not be long but if I see a photo opportunity I’ll stop and snap.”
“Of course you must.”
And off I went into a rainy morning, leaving Graham in the middle of the study surrounded by stacks of books ready to be moved into the newly arranged Billy shelving units freed up by our purchase of rather more respectable cabinet furniture for the living and dining rooms.
This is a difficult house to get started on. Somewhere, in one of the rooms, there is the beginning of the domino effect that transforms an ordinary house into something with which we’ll be happy but we haven’t found it yet. When we moved in we did no more than lay out the furniture, set up the storage, unpack the boxes, and start living. That gave us a perfectly decent home for the summer but now we’re thinking ahead and wanting more. Or less. We inherited good quality but dreadful fitted carpets in most of the rooms, and a collection of the direst wallpapers we could imagine in our most fevered nightmares. They have to go.
The rain picked up as I drove over to Spilsby. There are several places along the road where I can pull in safely and wander about, camera in hand, and any number of landscape opportunities. I should have stopped, slipped my waterproof jacket on, and spent five or ten minutes snapping away but lethargy kept me motoring on, negotiating the rain, the heavy spray and the denser than normal traffic.
As I parked in Spilsby the rain fell away almost to nothing so I left my coat in the car while I strolled off to the post office and from thence to the supermarket for my little bits of shopping. I was tempted by a pack of really decent-looking fresh runner beans and stuck it in the basket without looking at the price. At the checkout I gulped a little to discover that they were just slightly over two pounds a pound [say three US dollars and a few cents]. It’s doubtless the tail-end effect of the drought, which has made vegetable production in this part of Britain a hit-and-miss affair, but even so. It’s a screwed up world when you have to pay more for the vegetables as you do for the meat when you put a meal together.
Back at the car I weighed up my options. Home, photography, or chips. The chips won and I purchased a small bag of the things, liberally dosed with salt and vinegar.
“He makes a good chip, does Brian,” said a really nice old lady waiting for her fish to fry.
“He sure does,” I replied. “So good I have to pass on the other side of the road most trips. My doctor doesn’t approve of chips.”
“Hard to find anything they do approve.”
“Ain’t that the truth,” I said, picking up my chips, neatly wrapped in paper that was growing good and hot from the contents. “The only thing I have here he’d approve of is the vinegar, and I’m not so sure about that.”
“Well, you enjoy ’em, duck. A little of what you fancy…” [‘duck’, pronounced to rhyme with ‘cook’. A Midlands term of endearment.]
I did enjoy them, too. I went back to the car, spread a napkin over my lap, opened my little parcel and sat there, savouring every mouthful. I had Mozart on the radio, and watched through the windows as damp people went about their damp business in a damp Spilsby. Slowly, steam built up to obscure the view. Didn’t matter. A blast on the ventilation would clear it quick enough when I was done. In the meantime, it was Mozart, chips, salt, vinegar and me. Can’t ask for much more than that.
“Did you get any photographs?” asked Graham when I got home.
“Nope. Too wet. I got runner beans, though, and I had chips.”
“Good on the runner beans, but you get a black mark for the chips.”
“Oh, to hell with it. A little of what you fancy does you good, so the old lady in the chip shop told me.”
“You should never listen to little old ladies in chip shops.”
“Don’t know about that. If they didn’t know what’s what they wouldn’t live to be so old.”
“Can’t argue with that. What’s for lunch?”
Hey ho. Not an exciting day. The runner beans were good, though, served with chicken breasts braised in a tomato and basil sauce, padded out with a few boiled potatoes. So I didn’t do too bad, all in all.