Friday 27 March 2009

It just keeps getting better and better

15st 0lb, 4.8 units. Yes, I know; some diet, this. Unfortunately I had one of my more virtuous and productive days yesterday: little food consumed, the dog taken for a long and healthy walk and many words added to this blog (which is, I know, “productive” in much the same way as a day devoted to frenzied self-abuse over the more questionable sort of website). Be that as it may, by the time that Mrs H rang to say that she was on her way home after another hard day at the office, I felt that I deserved a treat and suggested that I might take her out for a meal. We agreed that we both fancied something Thai and walked purposefully in the direction of the appropriate restaurant, but unfortunately Mrs H’s special pregnancy dog nose picked up a whiff of Chinese cooking from the slightly glorified takeaway just around the corner, and she pleaded to be taken there instead on the grounds that she was carrying my child, and the less far she had to carry him the better.

So we walked across the forecourt of the garage and up the steep carpeted staircase to the little restaurant above the launderette. The ceiling was low, the décor of the “before” rather than “after” variety, the staff friendly, the tables remarkably close together – and all bar one of them full. So clearly the recession is not yet biting hereabouts, or they had all traded down from the tasting menu at the Simon Radley Restaurant at the Chester Grosvenor Hotel & Spa. Which might have been a more appropriate venue, really, for the obese foursome right next to us, who were celebrating no less an event than one couple’s 40th wedding anniversary. Or so they said, loudly, as they paid their bill to a chorus of satisfied belches, leaving behind enough food scattered across the tablecloth to feed a small Chinese village for the best part of the week. They were Geordies, too; a fact evident from their accents as well as their table manners.

It was not the most romantic of venues; the lights did dim suggestively from time to time, but only because someone had started up one of the big, industrial tumble driers downstairs. Still, I kept myself entertained drinking Tsing Tao beer and listening to Mrs H, who at one point almost made me perform the nose trick with my hot and sour soup by uttering one of those little maralapropisms [sic] for which, among many other things, I love her so much. Sadly I cannot now remember what this one was, but it was very much in the spirit of some other recent misunderstandings. Last weekend, for example, she was reading an article in one of the Sunday supplements containing some big words and relatively few pictures, when she suddenly stopped and asked me what an abacus was. Puzzled by this gap in her general knowledge, I began to describe the Oriental desktop calculator, only to be stopped short with, “No, not an abacus; an appercuss.” Bemused, I asked to be shown the context; the word was aperçus.

But please don’t get me wrong; Mrs H is a very wise woman, certainly far wiser than I am. To give but one pertinent example, she said as soon as we sat down in the restaurant that we would only need one main course to share between us, if we were also having prawn crackers, soup and crispy duck. And she was bang right, though unfortunately that did not prevent me from ordering what turned out to be a huge portion of deep fried chicken in lemon sauce and an additional portion of egg fried rice in addition to her somewhat healthier choice of shredded beef. To be honest, I was completely full by the time I had eaten my last pancake filled with duck, which was very tasty even if it did seem to have been prepared through some sort of dubious “two for one” deal with the local crematorium. Yet when the next course arrived, I felt bound to finish it, remembering my mother’s strictures about the starving children in Africa when I failed to clear my plate. I did so sweating, and with my eyes bulging unattractively; presenting much the same picture, in short, as the ruby wedding party of my compatriots who had been preparing to leave as we arrived.

We walked back home rather slowly. At least one of us was waddling, and it wasn’t necessarily the one with the pretty good excuse of being six months’ pregnant.

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