Monday 12 January 2015

Who ate all the pies?

At the beginning of December each year I take it upon myself to do research into mince pies. Long and painful though the journey may be, someone has to find the pick of the crop so selflessly I systematically work my way through various supermarkets' basic ranges, as well as their luxury all-butter whiskey-imbued efforts. More often than not, I end up plumping for the home-made creations dusted in a little icing sugar and a whole lot of love, that come from the farmhouse down the road.

Sadly this year my annual project was brought to a screeching halt by my doctor, who was giving out about my blood pressure and telling me to lose weight.

Doctors are human beings and mine is an excellent bloke who was, on this particular occasion, having a bad day. He made no response when I told him that I’d lost a stone and a half in the last year. He didn’t twitch an eyelash when I pleaded that perhaps December wasn’t the best time to expect me to shed sugar as a way of life.

It’s bad enough when one side of a conversation is having an off day, but sadly I too was feeling rough and ready for bed. For the last 3 months I’ve been battling a series of infections following a viral bug, (yum, have I ever sounded sexier or more attractive?) so my mood was as low as my doctor’s temper threshold.

Struggling to process thought, I unwisely decided to try to think out loud, working out what else I could cut from my diet to help me lose more weight. My list of edibles has shrunk dramatically in the last few years, since I found out that my gut reacts badly to all citrus fruits, apples, onions, garlic and leeks, tomatoes and a host of other lovely things. I used to fill up on fruit every day (which may have been my undoing in itself!) and miss it more than I can say. Now that most fruit is forbidden, I find it harder not to snack on bad things.

So there I was in the doctor’s surgery, muttering out loud as I tried to find dodgy fatty sugary snacks that I could cut out of my diet.

“...well, there’s those Cuisine de France maple pecan thingies from the garage, they’re pretty evil, so they can go, and then there’s the mince pies and - ”

At the mention of pastry products my doctor lost his temper.

“What’s that about pies?”

“Oh, that’s my Mince Pie Research Project!” I let slip inadvisedly, “I’ll knock that on the head straight off! Gone. No mincers. None.”

“And what other pies?”

I hadn’t mentioned any other pies, but now felt duty-bound to confess that once or twice a month, me and herself dine on M&S chicken pies, served with three vegetables. Hardly the gastronomic equivalent of a nuclear holocaust, you’d think, but enough that day to tip my doctor over the edge.

“Look, there’ll be no pies!” he exclaimed, “And nothing that you can buy in a petrol station is ever going to be any good for you.”

Of course he was right, but by now I felt like a criminal, guilty of living on a diet he thought made up entirely of pies and cakes, which couldn’t be further from the truth.

Unbeknownst to him, neither chocolate nor biscuits had slipped my lips for three months before Christmas (now back on the menu until the last legacy of Christmas, the large tin of Belgian Chocolate Biscuits, is finally defeated) while the only reason I’d mentioned the pie word was because I was searching for foods to drop.

My body hasn’t changed its mass much in the last 40 years, but it has been arranged in several different shapes. 3 days away from exercise and the bulge begins. Two weeks of warming up on the rowing machine before walking the dog and the belly’s in, the pecs are twitching all is good.

Trouble is, each time I build that muscle, there’s more of me to turn instantly to fat when I become ill or injured.

To be honest, I care less about my weight than how I feel, and if that’s good then I’m set. It’s Sartre's hell - ‘other people’ - who manage to make overweight folk feel bad about themselves.

There are certain relations and family friends who think that the nicest way to greet me is to tell me that I’ve lost weight. Whether I have or not is immaterial and one of my least favourite ways to be defined.

Do they imagine I am truly so shallow a person as to feel more pleased to see them because they think there’s less of me than the last time they saw me?

Considering that the characters in question are almost all genteel English people of a generation that purports to care much about manners, I find their opening comments downright rude. All my life these people have said the same thing to me, and each time I have bitten my lip out of respect to their seniority, controlling my urge to come back at them all Churchillian (a man they would doubtless highly revere) and reply:

“Maybe I have lost weight and maybe I haven’t, but you are still ignorant and you are still ugly."

Weight is unimportant when compared to wit. Shortly after I scribbled about these matters a few years ago, I was confronted at the corner of William Street West by a northern compatriot, who also used to frequent Taylor’s Bar. Dryer and more abrasive than sandpaper, he shouted across the road to me:

“Hey Charlie, I read that piece you wrote about being a fat kid. 'Bloody ‘ell!' I says to meself, 'Bloody ‘ell! Ah’d never’ve thought Charlie was a fat kid. Who'd ever ‘ave thought that?' ”


 ©Charlie Adley

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