breakfast

I Am So Angry I Shall Have To Have Sausages For Breakfast

This utterance from my good self sprang forth during a moderately tepid online conversation this morning and, indeed, having typed these immortal words I at once threw down my phone and marched to the kitchen to get some sausages out of the fridge. Being so incredibly British, I am not especially comfortable with either dealing with or expressing emotion that extends much beyond ‘I’m very well, thank you’ and rely heavily on food and drink to handle unexpected sensibilities. 

Sausages are a good failsafe food for all manner of things. They are appropriate at any time of the day or night and cover such diverse applications as the humble sausage sandwich to elaborate casseroles, toad in the hole to the mighty bangers and mash (with onion gravy). My personal favourites are the magnificent Newmarket sausages, but I tell you – there’s absolute nothing wrong with a Richmond, either. (Other brands of sausage are available). 

IMG_20171210_092053_247.jpg

And as I devoured with some ferocity my breakfast sausages, I began to think about all the times I turn to food in place of actually just expressing anything close to what would be described as ‘feelings’. The following is far from definitive and variants on the theme are of course influenced by availability of time and supplies, but this is a passable example of my menu of maladies…

Over The Moon – Steak and chips, with a huge salad and variety of condiments. And that pepper with all different coloured bits in. Whether there is something to celebrate or everything is just great for no real reason at all, nothing says utter delight like steak and chips. Sometimes I like an egg on my steak, sometimes cheese (a spicy cheese, if possible). I don’t mind if the chips are skinny or built like railway sleepers, but they must be crisp and piping hot.

Very Chirpy – Ideally I will have the time and energy to make a lovely curry from scratch and spend several happy hours doing so. The only problem with this is that the joy of making the curry is in danger of tipping me over the edge to ‘over the moon’ and then I want steak and chips. I see no reason why one cannot have both.

HPbreakfast

Delighted – Why, it can only be a traditional roast dinner! Whilst best enjoyed on a Sunday (when not playing cricket), a roast dinner is perfect any day of the week. For mid-week delightedness, a roast chicken dinner is wonderful. But nothing beats really pushing the boat out with, perhaps, slow-cooked beef or lamb, accompanied by crispy roasties (cooked in goose fat, if we’re really making a thing of it), honey glazed carrots and parsnips, asparagus in butter and the humble garden pea, gently steamed. Yorkshire puddings are an absolute must and, if you can bear it, chuck some of your lovely red wine into the gravy. I could go on all day about roast dinners and the endless varieties, but the most important thing is to get everyone you can find around your table and have a few bottles of the good stuff close to hand.

Happy – All of the food, all of the time. This is my default setting both in temperament and appetite, a fact for which I am very grateful. When I am consuming everything with gusto, I know that all is right with the world.

Subdued – When not exactly unhappy, but not quite full of the joys of spring, I turn to comforting and easy to construct food such as cottage pie or spaghetti bolognese. Levels of onion and garlic in both dishes can be adjusted according to the mood of the moment and there is excellent cheese potential here as well. It is good to make a huge version of either and then I feel comforted in the fact that there is now a lot of nice food at my immediate disposal. 

A Bit Fed Up – Cheese on toast or pancakes, if possible made by someone else – if not possible, then made while tutting a bit and sighing occasionally. Actually, I’m not fed up at all, but now I’ve written ‘pancakes’ I really fancy some.

Grumpy – This is not a good state of affairs as I have the tendency to be rather unreasonable when I am grumpy. The only recourse under grumpy circumstances is something like an all-you-can-eat Chinese, or tapas or a sampling menu. Lots of different flavours, textures and aromas are required to distract me from my hump and remind me what is really important in life – which would be eating, obviously.

Sad – Oh dear – this doesn’t happen very often, but when it does, I find it best to treat it with the same regard as ‘happy’ – all of the food, all of the time. That way, I fool myself into thinking I’m happy and – voila! – happiness descends once more.

Absolutely Furious – If I am especially volatile then it doesn’t really matter what I eat, but I would advise feeding me very quickly as the source of my fury is likely to be because I am hungry.

Smug – Crispy duck breast with plum sauce, horseradish mash and steamed green beans. I don’t know why, but this is my go-to dish when feeling particularly pleased with myself.

Love (unrequited) – Pies are the best way to deal with all kinds of heartbreak and romantic disappointment. I favour a sturdy beef and ale over something lacklustre such as chicken and mushroom, personally, but whatever pie it is, it must be a proper pie with pastry all the way around – not just a stew with a top on it. Shortcrust pastry, at that – save the puffy stuff for desserts and buffet food.

Love (requited) – Mostly eating absolutely nothing at all, or if I do, it is healthy and lean, just in case the object of my affection wants to see me in the nude. Once the first flush of anxiety-inducing  emotion is out of my system, I default back to delighted, very chirpy and over the moon. Because love is wonderful and should be celebrated with food. Except when it isn’t, and then grumpy and absolutely furious are both perfectly acceptable.

Important To Note – Remember that there is nothing that cannot be achieved when starting the day with a fine Full English Breakfast and a healthy supply of tea and cake throughout the day will overcome all challenges and obstacles. The only thing that can ever hold you back is hunger itself.

By the way, ignoring all your emotions is ridiculous and dangerous but some of us find it very difficult to quantify our own internal workings. I know I do and I’m a bloody writer for goodness’ sake! The best thing to do is have a friend at the end of your phone who is equally inept and will not baulk at messages or phone calls that begin ‘I am sad/angry/frightened for some reason and I want you to know’. I cannot tell you how invaluable this is. Thank you, emotionally inept friends, you know who you are.

Career-Defining Breakfast

And so it was that on a Friday morning, in a restaurant in Sloane Square, I realised that my life would never be quite the same again. Over eggs Benedict and a pot of tea, I agreed to an endeavour that will find me hopelessly out of my depth, yet no doubt in exactly the place I was destined to be.

But more of that later. In the meantime, as another frenetic year slips into its final act, I find myself contemplating my place upon the stage. Most pressing, of course, is the matter of finishing the third PorterGirl novel. I have been distracted by writing a Poirot parody when I should really have been working on this, but as the second book was only published in June, I don’t feel too badly about it.

 

Then there was the horror anthology, The Box Under The Bed, which went to number one in the Amazon charts twice and features two short stories by my good self. That reminds me – I have another anthology awaiting my submissions. This time the genre is much more familiar ground – humour – so a few thousand words should only take up an afternoon, at most.

FB_IMG_1507198892305.jpg

Rather unexpectedly, my satirical murder mystery nonsense blog Who Shot Tony Blair? is up for publication in novel form next year. It will require a fair amount of work to take it from its current state to something fit for a bookshelf, but the bare bones of it are there nonetheless. There is an appetite for post-Brexit, pre-dystopian satire, it would seem – which brings me neatly back to the restaurant in Sloane Square, London.

011_0326

People will often come to me and say ‘I’ve got a great idea for a book, you should write it!’ And quite often these ideas are very good, but if I spent my time writing other people’s books I would never get around to writing my own. However, when the people saying this are impeccably connected senior advisors to the not only the British government but governments around the world, people who have spent the best part of two decades at the forefront of politics and economics, I think it prudent to pay particular attention. Particularly when such people offer to buy me breakfast.

In a few short hours I learn more about how the world works that I think I ever wanted to know – the people pulling the strings, their ideologies and the true end games in a web of power, manipulation and politics. With the rise of extreme views on both the left and right becoming commonplace, Brexit appears to be the very least of our worries. People tell them they should write a book. But they don’t know how to write a book. They would very much like me to write the book. Ideally, a light-hearted, easy-reading fiction that will make the complex and dark possibilities of the near future accessible to a wide audience.

The problem is, the concept is rather too complex for me to get a handle on, let alone write the buggering thing. Not to worry. I will be taught and trained in everything I need to know. The royalty agreement is generous. The forward will be written by a prominent public figure and unfettered access to the national and international press means that marketing will be simple and extensive. Global, in fact. Despite the nagging inclination towards the feeling that I am getting in way over my head, I simply cannot not write this book.

I agree to write the book.

Work will begin in the New Year and we aim to publish in 2019. And what a lot of very interesting work it will be. As I make my way towards the King’s Road to meet a visiting American friend to discuss his outfit for the Brit Awards, I marvel at just how different life has become, since my days portering at a Cambridge college.

 

Up All Night

It won’t surprise you to learn that I didn’t sleep particularly well last night and am hence back at Old College at the very crack of dawn on the morning after the strange evening in the Chapel.

The day starts with an unseasonal warmth to the air and I decide to park at the rear of College to take the scenic route to the Porters’ Lodge; a meandering stroll alongside the River. The towpath is carpeted in a blazing swath of fallen foliage, which is sadly too damp to illicit the simple pleasure of scuffing and stamping. Actually, it is rather dicey under foot and I am persuaded to take a more leisurely pace than I would normally employ. This brings its own benefits, however, as it enables me to enjoy the scatterings of dew-laden spider webs, draped liked bejewelled gossamer upon the thinning shrubbery as it reluctantly surrenders its leaves to Mother Nature.

A moist haze gathers about me as I make my way beside the River and I feel that I could almost be in the middle of nowhere, until I spy a familiar figure making a jaunty approach towards me.

“Many greetings, Deputy Head Porter!”

“Good morning, Professor!” I reply. “You’re up early.”

“Oh not at all, see,” replies Professor Duke. “In fact, I am up very late. I haven’t been to bed at all so it’s still yesterday as far as I am concerned. It’s a wonder.”

“Oh, I see. What have you been doing all night?”

The Professor does not reply, but smiles and taps the side of his nose. It’s probably better not to know, I am thinking.

“But I’m on my way to see Mr. Dean,” the Professor says, adjusting his top hat.

“Is that hat still giving you bother?” I ask.

“It is!” he replies. “I think it’s cursed. Always itching; always vexing. In fact, I bet it has microscopic worms. But there is no time for that now. I shall drop around to the Lodge directly after my meeting. And if you are going for breakfast I should advise you to avoid the sausages. They are so horrid, you wouldn’t believe it. I should know – I ate at least five to be sure. Yucketh.”

This is useful information. The last time I ate a dodgy sausage it tried to kill me from the inside out*. I make a mental note of this and bid my unusual friend adieu for now.

As I reach the Lodge, the resplendent Night Porter is just leaving. How a chap can appear so dapper after being up all night never fails to astonish me. I should ask him what his secret is.

“Morning, ma’am,” Night Porter’s dulcet tones are as charming as ever. “I’d tip-toe in there if I was you. Our brave and fearless leader is having a little snooze.”

“Head Porter is in already?”

“He’s been in there all night. Tucked away in his office with the laptop. He has barely said a word to me all night. Whatever he’s been up to, it must be very important.”

I thank Night Porter for his advice, everyone is full of such wisdom this morning! and quietly make my way towards Head Porter’s office. I find him slumped across his desk, snoring loudly and dribbling with enthusiasm. He seems so peaceful that I decide to leave him and fetch us both the one thing that no morning should be without – a fabulous cup of tea.

When he finally stirs, Head Porter seems both confused and a little embarrassed to see me. I feel I must be kind to the poor fellow as he looks even worse than I do. Besides, I want to find out what he has been up to. A couple of inklings pitter-patter at the back of my mind but I want to be sure. It takes me several cups of tea and half a packet of hobnobs, but I get to the bottom of it in the end.

Finally, Head Porter beckons me into his office and indicates that I should close the door. He briefly pokes at his laptop before swinging it round for me to see. Aha. Before me I have what can only be described as a chaotic profile on an online dating website. The most prominent feature on the screen is a black and white portrait shot of a heavily airbrushed Head Porter, wearing silver rimmed sunglasses. Is that even his actual hair?

“I’ve decided to widen my net, Deputy Head Porter!” he says cheerfully as I eye him sceptically over the screen. “I’ve set up my stall on the global market. No doubt there are ladies far and wide who would want to sample my wares. What do you think?”

Well. Where to start?

“The photo is… accomplished,” I reply, tactfully. He seems encouraged. I look closer and read some of his profile. Oh. Lord.

“Head Porter – what is this?” I point out the offending passage on the screen. He squints at it, before smiling broadly. He is proud of this, I sense.

“They’re lyrics from a song! Music is romantic, you know.”

“Okay.” I clear my throat and read aloud the romantic missive Head Porter has deemed perfect for wooing ladies. “ ‘You and me baby ain’t nothing but mammals / Let’s do it like they do on the Discovery Channel’** “

“Yeah” Head Porter nods slowly and looks ridiculously chuffed. “I’m edgy.”

Before I can launch into a passionate tirade of all the many kinds of wrong that are happening on this screen, the office door opens abruptly. We both sweep our heads across to see a stiff-looking Professor Duke standing in the doorway. With a face that is difficult to read at the best of times, the array of thoughts fighting for a place in his expression make things no easier today. He narrows his eyes at us.

“I had my meeting with The Dean.”

 *This is actually true

**’The Bad Touch’ / Bloodhoung Gang / 2000 Geffen Records