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Friday, 30 April 2010

The Angel of Death, the Angel of Mercy, a tot of vodka and a packet of peanuts



Yesterday I went to the gym for the first time in almost a fortnight, now that my brief stint as an angel of mercy was at an end. Loaded down with shopping, my larder having been run down to such an extent I was almost out of ingredients to make fresh meals with, I took the bus home. I gave up my seat at the bus stop first to an old lady and then to an even more infirm old lady, reliant on a Zimmer frame. On the bus a pregnant woman was offered a seat by someone else. I often observe people, usually women, readily offering up their seats to others on public transport, giving the lie to the idea that it no longer happens. Whenever a man offers me his seat I accept with a smirk, convinced I have stirred his instincts as one of nature's gentlemen confronted with a genuine lady. By contrast, I am somewhat mortified when I am the recipient of such generosity at the hands of younger women. It makes me paranoid as to whether they think I am a wizened crone or pregnant; the latter the perennial affliction of apple-shaped women, cursed with long slender limbs, a generous embonpoint and a pronounced tum. Once on a train, when there could have been no doubt as to my radiant youth and my figure was mostly concealed behind the scrum of other passengers, a woman came across to offer me a seat. Puzzled, I asked her why. She had taken it into her head that I was blind simply because I was wearing dark glasses. Her heart was in the right place unlike mine, which a medical technician was unable to find when I last went to hospital for an ECT several years ago.
Two women, who I took to be around my age, were seated in front of me and allowed everyone within hearing distance, in other words the entire bus,  to be privy to their conversation. It seems one of the women was concerned about her much put upon mother, who apparently waited hand and foot on her younger daughter.
“It isn’t right at her age”, said the woman of her mother, before revealing that her parent was a mere nine years older than me. I rapidly revised downwards my view of the woman’s own age, until she began to boast about her drinking binges. Vodka it seems was her favourite tipple and nemesis as it had frequently led her to vomiting in public and occasional injury, when she had collapsed through sheer drunkenness. I smugly realised that her heavy drinking had made her look as old if not older than me. I rarely drink, not on religious or ethical grounds but because I have yet to find an alcoholic drink I actually like. The exception is creamy cocktails. But their prohibitive price means I limit even them to special occasions perhaps once a year. If a stranger were to open up one of the cupboards in my kitchen they would think I was a dipsomaniac given my extensive collection of wine, liqueurs, champagne, spirits and even porter. Porter, a heavy dark brown ale, is my secret ingredient to add colour and flavour to stews and mince.




In the 1950s pregnant women and nursing mothers in the UK were regularly offered Guinness, a sweeter version of Porter on the NHS. It was believed that the iron contained in the beer would help supplement their own. The contents of my other bottles regularly feature in my cooking. However, I do not serve alcohol at my table and expect guests to bring their own wine with them as I am not a connoisseur of wine, regarding them all as equally horrid. Woe betides the guest who brings wine and no other offering for the host though!
Henry VIII was known to be rather partial to a glass of wine or two. His vast extant wine cellar at Hampton Court is proof of that. Now the general public can see a replica of what one of his great wine fountains would have looked like. The replica, over thirteen feet in height, has been erected outside in Base Court at Hampton Court Palace. For the princely sum of £3.50, the public can choose between a glass of red or white wine. I shall decline. When they reproduce a thirteen feet tall Tudor chocolate fountain, I just might be interested.

Before cooking an evening meal, I decided to eat some peanuts. They can give me indigestion but as I like the taste so much I decided to take the risk. I ate one handful without any adverse consequences so helped myself to another. I suddenly began to feel chilly and shake violently.  I went to bed and lay under the covers. Try as I might I could neither stop the shaking nor warm myself up. I began to get stomach cramps. Only when my stomach and the peanuts had parted company forever did I begin to feel better.

Today I looked up my symptoms on the internet. I either had an unusually severe reaction to the peanuts, diverticulitis or metal poisoning. Looking up symptoms on the web is an intriguing but potentially flawed past time. I remember dutifully entering symptoms into a search engine on another occasion. The good news was that I had found a medical diagnosis for my symptoms. The bad news was that it was a condition known only to cows.   

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