In a few days’ time I will be officially middle-aged. This doesn’t bother me tremendously – I’ve been shuffling (in my slippers and cardigan) towards middle age for quite a while now. About three years in fact, which – how strange! - coincides with the birth of the Boy. The following peculiarities in particular suggest that I may now be ready to embrace it – or it me - completely:
· I buy groceries once a week only, tackling the horror that is the supermarket with my shopping list – and my head - held high. The list is a complete inventory of every foodstuff which I’ve ever bought, highlighted as necessary, and cross-referenced to a meal-planner for the week, which in turn is narrowed down according to our social (ha!) diaries. I am proud of, and ashamed by, this in equal measure. Ashamed, because truly, nothing roars MIDDLE-AGE! more than a carefully constructed meal-planner / shopping list; proud, because I save both an hour’s shopping time and - I swear – at least £80 a week. (Worryingly I’ve recently found self admiring those shopping trolleys that (very) old women use, but I think I’ll resist. For the moment at least.)
· I look at high heels (80% of my footwear) and shudder. If the (rare) occasion demands it, I’ll still wear them, but only because I went to the bother and expense to buy them in the first place (albeit about 50 years ago). And also because clunky mountain boots don’t go too well with the frocks.
· As far as I‘m concerned, a smear of lipstick = dressing up. Lipstick + blow-dried hair? I literally cannot think of an occasion which would merit this. A court appearance, perhaps, where my life was at stake. But even then I’m not so sure I could be arsed.
· I find self gasping for an ol’ cuppa tae, at least twice a day. I don’t even like tea that much. But middle-age dictates that I must drink it, and so drink it I do.
· It goes without saying that there’s no event in this whole world which equals a cup of tea and bed by 930pm in terms of pleasure.
· I am seriously thinking of baking my own bread. Using yeast.
· Policemen are now only marginally older than the Boy.
· My favourite game with the kids is Play Dead. I can drag that one out for 20 minutes at a time (“Mummy! WAKE UP!”).
There are cracks in my middle-age veneer however. (That, as Leonard Cohen would say, is how the light gets in). I occasionally surprise myself with youthful anarchistic thoughts, usually as I’m being bombarded with ads in magazines for horrible garish plastic children’s toys (Why the fuck should I give my money to a corporation which plunders the earth’s resources and markets the fruits of that pillage, and its money-grabbing capitalist philosophy, to children, instilling the sin of avarice, while simultaneously preying on parental guilt?? They’ll have sticks and stones, and be glad of them...) I even considered heading up to St Paul’s recently, to have a look around and chat to the protesters, to, you know, find out what it’s all really about. (Alas I got side-tracked by the Archers, and then the Afternoon Play started, so I had a nice cup of tea and read books on baking instead. Maybe next week.)
And I’ve spent alot of this week guffawing aloud, in a most non-middle-aged (indeed, non-human) manner at this video. As well as being brilliant, and just so so English, I love it because it brings to mind recent park outings with the Boy (“Freddie! FREDDIE!!! OH JESUS CHRIST.... FREDDIE!” [cue manic middle-aged woman belting across Clapham Common in pursuit of a feral 3 year old chasing a pack of dogs]).
Those, coupled with my refusal to get my hair cut short, leads me (or, rather, the Man) to hope that all may not be entirely lost to a middle-age decline. In fact, in a further demonstration of non-conformity, we sat down last night to this:
(It may not look like much, but that bowl is almost 2 feet wide). Salad! At the end of November! Talk about anarchy. I’ll be daring to eat a peach next.
Salad Nicoise (Sort of)
You need: (For one middle-aged old trout and a younger – gasp! - adult)
· A couple of slices of bread. Any type. I had a loaf of sourdough, but regular sliced stuff is fine too.
· Tuna. Of whatever incarnation. I used a jar of nice tuna in olive oil, but tinned stuff is fine too. If you’re feeling very flash, you could rustle up some seared tuna steaks, but why could you be arsed?
· Some lettuce, tomatoes, cucumber, green beans, and black olives (stones removed) - in whatever quantity you like, depending on how many of you are eating, and how much you like / loathe any of the above.
· Some boiled potatoes, sliced or halved (if baby)
· One egg per person.
· Salad Dressing: Olive oil (as good as you have), vinegar, mustard. How much you make again depends on your requirements / taste. I half-fill the empty tuna jar with olive oil, add one third the amount of vinegar (any type, other than malt), and a tablespoon of mustard (any type). Salt and pepper. A squeeze of lemon if it tastes too oily. A squeeze of honey if I’m feeling creative. Only (entirely approximate) proportions to remember are 3 oil : 1 vinegar : ½ mustard.
· (I s’pose I need to mention – uuuugh – anchovies here. If your tastebuds allow you to partake in these hairy little delicacies, then by all means, pile ‘em high. Just don’t ever invite me over to eat.)
Hard boil / poach the eggs. I guess you could fry them instead, if you wanted.
Toast the bread. If you like garlic, cut a clove in half and rub the cut side over one side of the bread. If you don’t, leave it out. Drizzle olive oil on top.
Cut up all the salady things into whatever fun shapes you like, and dump in a bowl.
Drain (or, indeed, cook) the tuna, and add to the bowl.
Add as much dressing as you want to the bowl, and toss.
Make whatever fancy arrangements you like with the eggs, and place on top. Add the “croutons”.
Eat. Toast, if dry enough, can be used to poke in the face anyone who says things like “This time next week, you’ll be oooooooooooooooooold....”
* I’ve recently revisited this poem, having studied it in school (yes, there were schools back then). Jesus. What a work to waste on a seventeen year old. What’s really shocking is that Eliot wrote it when he was TWENTY TWO. Isn't there anyone who waited until middle-age to start achieving things?