Monday, 21 March 2016

Salmon with noodles.

It’s a weekday evening and I’m cooking dinner. Salmon fillets this time, with spring onions, ginger, garlic, chilli, herbs, peppers and okra - or ladies' fingers as they call them in the shops round here - oh, and some cheap white wine, for the juice. I don’t really use recipes. I’m more of an emotional cook, reacting to the ingredients I find in front of me when I open the fridge.

"Maybe you need to see a doctor?” says my friend. 

She's leaning against the kitchen island, watching me cook. I pour some of the wine into a glass and hand it to her. She says she doesn’t want it because she’s on a health kick. I’m not on a health kick so I drink it, for both of us.

“Why, what will a doctor do?” I ask, popping a lid on the food to let it steam.

She looks over at the fencing kit on the kitchen table. “Well, he might be able to help with your procrastination issues.”

I just told her about the fencing kit. I bought it for the boys before Christmas and it was all the wrong sizes. It needs to be sent back and exchanged for the correct sizes. It’s been sitting in a box on the kitchen table since then, waiting for me to deal with it.

“I can’t see how a doctor will help with that,” I say.

Youngest comes in. He looks toward the hob at the simmering salmon. “Why do we always have to have middle class food?” he says. 

He only likes fish fingers and chips.

“Because it's an evil plot to make you suffer,” I say.

He flounces off.

“You might be depressed,” says my friend.

I think about this. I had a friend who got depressed, properly clinically depressed. She climbed into the shower one morning and then couldn’t move. Suddenly her arms felt heavy as lead. She wasn't able to lift them to shampoo her hair. She just stood there, water pounding down around her, unable to wash, or get out. After that she didn’t leave her house or answer her phone for weeks. We - all her friends - didn’t know what to do to help. In the end I left some chocolates, a note, and some nice DVDs, on her doorstep. Pretty lame I know but she liked it, and she still mentions it. That was a long, long time ago. She’s fine now.

“I don’t think I have the right symptoms for depression,” I say, although I don’t really understand what these are. “Perhaps it’s a menopause thing?”

“Could be,” says my friend.

“What are the symptoms for that?” I ask.

“Putting on weight,” says my friend, “hot flushes, mood swings, headaches, insomnia, loss of libido, lunacy, forgetfulness...”

“Wow," I say. "Sounds fun. I’ve lost weight, I’m always freezing, I’ve always had mood swings, I don’t get headaches, I love sleep, I’m not saying anything about that libido thing, and I can’t remember that last one.”

I have some of this lovely crockery, from Heals.

“What did you think of the book?” says my friend.

That's her way of tactfully changing the subject, I think.

“I haven’t read it,” I say. “I forgot. I haven’t even read the Wikipedia page. There’s no point my going to book group tonight.”

“What?!” says my friend, “You’ve not read it? You're not going! When I’ve come all this way?”

This makes me feel bad, because she makes such an effort to come back to south London, especially for the book group she set up. She always stays with us, and I always cook her a meal. I like having her to stay. In fact, I love it.

“Okay,” I say. “I’ll go.”

I’ll just have to fiddle with my phone or something, I think, while the rest of them sit around and intelligently discuss the book and I feel inadequate.

“My mum used to say, ‘stop the world I want to get off,’ when she got really busy,” I say, going to the pantry to find noodles to serve with the meal. “She was a teacher - a head teacher - so she never had time to sort out her cupboards, so she said.”

"I know that feeling," says my friend.

“I'm not particularly busy but I’d love the world to stop for a few hours," I say, "just so I could catch up with stuff: forms I haven’t filled in, books I haven’t read, films I haven’t seen, people I haven’t thanked, crap I haven’t taken to the charity shop, things I still haven’t sent back… and when I say I, I obviously mean you, too."

Middle One comes into the kitchen, just home from school, late, looking tired and cold.

“Have you been to school today without a coat on?” I say.

“Coats aren’t cool,” he says. “What’s for dinner?

“Umm...” I say.

“Because whatever it is, it smells amazing.”

"Thank you, honey," I say.

Love E x


P.S. "Why do we always do middle class things?" said Youngest, when we were out for lunch this weekend. 
"Why?" I said. "Are you planning to grow up and be a chav?"
"For god's sake, Mummy!" said Middle One. "No one says that any more. It's a roadman, now." 
"Really?" I said. "I thought that was someone who gatecrashes a party?" 
"Where the hell did you get that from?" said Middle One. 
"I think I read it," I said. 
"You really need to stop reading," said Middle One. 
He has a point, I thought. Except, of course, for the books for my book group.

The wonderful view from the restaurant.

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