Friday 26 November 2010

A good time for Atkins

15st 12lb, 10.0 units. Yesterday we ignored the weather forecasts and drove from Cheshire to Newcastle. All was going swimmingly until we stopped at the last services on the northbound M6, because while we were admiring the facilities my sat nav panicked and decided that the A69 was more or less blocked with snow and that it was going to take about 2.5 hours to get from there to Newcastle, which would make us about an hour late for lunch. Luckily one of the people we were due to meet is habitually the best part of an hour late anyway, so it could have been worse. I sent a short e-mail to my guests warning them of my situation and bravely set off, adopting my best Captain Oates persona. It was rather entertaining watching the sat nav sheepishly knocking great chunks off our estimated journey time as we progressed at a perfectly normal speed, reaching Café 21 bang on time.

Originally the plan had been for me to drive up alone while Mrs H took The Boy for his weekly swimming lesson, then catch a train to join me in Newcastle later in the afternoon. But this plan fell down because Transpennine Express proved to operate direct trains from Manchester to Newcastle every hour throughout the day, with the solitary exception of the hour in which Mrs H wanted to travel, when their service terminated at York for some unspecified reason.

So I ended up asking my guests whether they would mind having the company of a toddler at what was supposed to be what we might laughingly call a business lunch. Then ringing Café 21, where the youngest customer I had seen before yesterday was a Newcastle United first team player, to ask whether they welcomed children. They claimed that they did, though the answer to “Do you have a children’s menu?” proved to be “Oh yes, sir, we have a special lunch menu and our full à la carte”, which is not quite the same thing. Still, a high chair was waiting in readiness at our table and The Boy liked the sound of the fishcakes and chips from the à la carte, and they cut down the portion size and charged pro rata, which seemed fair enough to me. He enjoyed it, too, and behaved impeccably. Well, he slung so much food onto the floor that it required someone with a zoo-keeper’s brush and bucket combo in more or less permanent attendance, but at least he did not scream. In fact, he was rather better behaved than I was the last time I was here with a couple of fellow columnists from The Journal, and we drank four bottles of wine between the three of us as we set the world to rights.

It was dark by the time I had had a haircut, and we had a slowish drive home in the snow, but it was clearly going to be very pretty indeed when we got up this morning. In fact I found myself lying awake remembering how exciting snow was when I was a child, and anticipating how thrilled The Boy would be when I took him out to play in it. Completely wrong, of course. He was quite pleased with it for a couple of minutes when he was standing on the back doorstep watching Mrs H and me chucking snowballs at each other, but pretty fed up by the time he had walked around to see our next door neighbours and positively howling by the time we had built a very small snowman.

Setting off on an exciting adventure
Can't we get a move on? I'm cold
The Boy helping to build his very first snowman
Really quite fed up now
Are you seriously trying to tell me that this is your idea of FUN?
We had to use a stick for the snowman’s nose as there were no carrots in the shop at Powburn where I went for supplies this morning, the road to our usual supermarket in Alnwick being firmly closed. In fact there were no fresh fruit or vegetables of any description. I stocked up with milk, cheese, bacon, gammon and sausages because they were what they had. If ever there was a good time to take up the Atkins diet, this was it.

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