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Concerning Under-leaping Ambition (and food … obviously)


Every day this week I diligently eat five or more items of fruit. I don’t take photographs of all of them, but I enjoy them all the same. The oranges are particularly nice. They peel happily and divide perfectly into segments (or bags, as we used to call them as children). There are certain signs that I am close to be completely happy with myself and eating oranges is one of these. Others include listening to early music, reading a novel that has previously appeared a bit daunting, walking the dog an extra time each day, making things with wood and using pencils and sketch pad.

January has dragged. I enjoy winter, but like a lot of people, find myself singing the blues a little more in the colder months. A burst of winter sunshine, or a shot of UV on a sun bed (I know they have become unfashionable and we must fear the melanomas that could follow, but ten minutes of lying in the dark being prickled with warm light twice a winter, does my psyche no end of good. Doctors are now doing the sums and the equation comes down heavily on the side of the benefits. The body needs ultra violet in order to produce vitamin D. A body producing its correct share of the happy vitamin is generally a healthy body and the scary downside turns out to have been vastly over-calculated.) changes me from a grump into  someone who sings songs from Mary Poppins while packing my briefcase.

I’ve also made an extra new year’s resolution and that is to eat fish 52 times this year. It would be once a week but I’ve let a couple of weeks slide by and I’m not counting tinned sardines.



I should also make a resolution to vary the vegetables that I use. I like peas. I like everything about peas. I love to watch them grow. The leaves are rather beautiful (what leaves aren’t?) the tendrils are clever and cute, the flowers unbelievable, the pods, one of nature’s clever tricks and great jokes, as well as a source of metaphor to Shakespeare and the boys in the writing shed. The actual peas are things of great beauty, good taste and they are the only vegetable that freezes well. Oh, and they are a superb colour.

I shouldn’t really have them at every meal though. Once I get a chance to get to a good green grocer or market stall, I’ll re-introduce variety.

Sunday usually means cinema which can mean calling in at Meadowhall, which makes Marks and Spencer within easy reach and they do first class Cumberland sausages, for less money than you would expect them to charge. I would travel to Cumberland (journey in space and time) for a good sausage worthy of the county name, so not to buy them from M&S would be folly. And, even if I had the finest globe artichokes and purple sprouting broccoli, I’d still have them with potatoes and peas.


Monday finds me dining alone. T has gone on a school jaunt to London to be a part of the audience for James Naughtie’s Book Club. (Disobedience by Naomi Alderman). I use the opportunity to empty out the freezer and find a packet of Barramundi fillets. Once de-frosted they poach in a few minutes and go beautifully with potatoes, peas (of course) and carrots. The Italian food book I have been reading is a little critical of the English habit of serving fish with cheese sauce. I have a great liking for parsley sauce as an accompaniment for fish but today I make a rather tangy mustard sauce. It may not please the fish lovers of Puglia, but it suits me.


For three weeks I have been wanting to treat myself for not giving up this teaching job. My usual way of treating myself is with a steak.  T’s London train is half an hour late getting in so I pop into Sainsbury’s (my first time for a long time) and see some Irish beef on offer. Since cycling around Ireland I have come to the belief that the reason their beef is so much tastier than ours; and I believe it is; is because they have five cows in a field that we would put forty cows into. It is yet another meal that goes perfectly with potatoes and peas, so why bother with anything fancy?

The celebration is timely. On Wednesday I resign (for the second time) from the teaching post. I’m not able to commit to the current priorities in the teaching of English. These seem to have a lot more to do with gaining marks than gaining knowledge and understanding and I am old fashioned and principled enough to forego a wage check in favour of personal dignity. It’s a pity. I like the school and I like the students. Unfortunately the people making the decisions that most affect me are more in tune with Gove than Plutarch. The parting of the ways is inevitable. I had previously asked to be replaced before Christmas but was prevailed upon to stay by the head who has greater educational vision. If I was working directly for the head, I’d have less difficulty staying.


Thursday needs a quick meal and a slow bath. I try a tin of Chinese style hotpot from Aldi. Basically a tinned vegetable soup with some rice and a hint of oriental spice. It does its job but I wouldn’t offer it to guests unless they had over-stayed their welcome.


Friday I mostly eat fruit and Tunnocks wafers and only took photographs of the fruit.


On Saturday I once again find myself alone. The perfect breakfast is poached eggs on toast. I feel like the perfect meal to celebrate my future return to having my time back. I was right. It is the perfect meal.


I write some letters and post them on the way to pick up the dry cleaning. On the way back I call in at The Oven Door for bread and cakes. Being on my own I treat myself to an “elephant’s foot chocolate eclair.” An awkward title for a very fine cream cake


I also set out the ingredients and make the filling for my first attempt at my own ravioli. We’ll be having that for Sunday tea and I’ll let you know how it went in next weekend’s food blog. I have no idea when the teaching will come to an end. I’ve told them I’ll stay until they can find a replacement and I will. There were no contracts; they’ve had some decent lessons for three months, I had a little more to spend on Christmas. We’ll part as friends with different agendas and I can go back to days out, dog walks and finding sometime to actually re-draft some of my work.