Monday, 6 August 2018


I was standing in Tesco not long ago bewailing the absence of stuffed vine leaves. What? No stuffed vine leaves?! What would the avocado toast classes do now? Eke things out with a few artichokes or truffles, perhaps. Actually, stuffed vine leaves are delicious, digestible - and cheap. They are also excellent for offering to those of your friends and relatives who are currently vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, dairy-free or in any other way digestively-challenged.
Carnivorous and entirely gluten and conscience-free

There was none of this when I grew up. You ate what was put in front of you and if liver made you feel sick, you surreptitiously fed it to the cat. As for the majority of the impoverished population, they ate whatever they could get their hands on in order to stay alive. Including, I regret to say, the odd cat.

Jan Carson had a short story on Radio 4 this week about a family whose groceries had to come from the local food-bank but who had a magical, unending tin of beans in the fridge. I didn't like beans before and I like them less now. It was a poignant little story that stuck in your head like a bean in the throat. And now I read that 400,000 UK children don't even have a bed of their own to sleep in - and this in a part of the world where so many of us can afford to be picky about our food and complain about stuffed vine leaves being in short supply.

People without food, children without beds, families fleeing from fires or war, no government in Northern Ireland for - how long now? (And more power to Dylan Quinn who posted a video on the subject.) Sometimes it all feels a little hopeless, and if you were listening to Radio 4 the other day and heard some institution's failings being attributed, not to stupidity, incompetence or bad management, but to 'their own poor decision-making' you too might have banged your head against the wall. Mind you, it does explain some of our politicians. They're not a venal, intransigent, self-serving shower, they're just victims of poor decision-making - on the part of anyone who was stupid enough to vote them into power in the first place. But enough of that. As my mother used to say, when things are bad, all you can do is the next right thing. So I'll do what I can, when I can, and I'll put some treats in the food-bank collections along with the tins of fruit and fish. But definitely no beans.

Someone did us a good turn this week. I had remarked to Professor Gloom as we walked by the shore that the only thing wrong with our house was that we couldn't see the sea. And the very next day someone cut down a large fir tree, thereby revealing - a view of the sea!! I can now distract myself endlessly by sitting at my desk and watching the changing light on the water and all the little boats and ferries passing by. I haven't worked out whose garden the tree was in but when I do I'll be round with a bottle of wine. And maybe a few stuffed vine leaves.

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