It’s Saturday morning, and both my kids are at a local birthday party: I’m not going, because it’s a Two Party Saturday and I’ve pulled the late shift. I’ll be at Jungle Jim’s tonight, watching all the sweaty midgets get high on e-numbers before bedtime. It’s no big deal: I’m used to it.
What I’m not used to is making lunch at my nan’s house. My nan lives very close to the location of the party, so I’ve escaped to get a convenient bite to eat.
…except it’s not turning out to be convenient. In fact, it’s proving practically bloody impossible.
‘Nan! Have you got any cheese?’
‘I’ve got MY cheese. It’s in the fridge. You don’t have any of YOUR cheese here: you live somewhere else. Remember?’
‘Can I have some of yours?’
‘I don’t want to go out shopping tomorrow!’
‘You go out shopping EVERY day.’
‘Yeah, well, cheese isn’t f***ing cheap.’
‘It’s TWO slices, Nan. I’m only making a ham and cheese roll.’
‘Is it one of MY rolls?’
I look down at the small brown roll I’ve taken from a packet.
‘YES! YES IT IS!’
‘I bet you’re using my marge as well, aint ya?’
‘YES! Shall I leave a pound on the sideboard?’
‘Don’t be so f***ing cheeky! Besides, that roll is worth more than a pound.’
‘The pack says you got FIVE for 99p.’
‘Yeah…but I’m not the one hungry so they’re worth MORE. Now just make yourself the roll and p*ss off home. I’m watching telly.’
I cut two really thin slices of cheese, and decide that I don’t have enough energy to fight for the ham. I do, however, want some pickle…and that I’m ready to go to war for.
‘Can I have pickle, Nan?’
There’s a long pause before the shout comes back.
‘Fine, but after all that bloody cheek you can get it yourself. Look in the cupboard!’
I walk into the living room. She was watching a rerun of the detective show she calls ‘Inspector Moss’ but now she’s just glaring at me….as if I’ve been charged with theft. In a funny way, I have.
I reach to open the cupboard, which is rammed – and I mean rammed – full of every bargain she’s found by haggling the 99p shop down to the point where they’re paying her to take the stuff away.
I have to rummage for a full minute before I find a brand of pickle the makers have ambitiously decided to call ‘Pickle’.
I’m about to open it when I realize that there’s a nasty smell of guff coming from the cupboard.
We used to say that a lot at school when someone farted, and there was once a shop in Ramsgate that smelled so badly of guff that it actually became popular because school kids dared each other to last more than a minute inside without gagging.
I can’t tell where the smell of guff is originating in my nan’s cupboard, but on a whim I turn the plastic bottle of pickle around and read: BEST BEFORE JUL 04.
July 2004 was ten years ago.
‘Nan! This pickle’s out of date.’
‘F**k you, Princess. Buy your own pickle.’
‘Nan – have you been putting this on your food?’
‘Course I ‘ave.’
‘It might be poisonous.’
‘Boll**ks. I’ve been eatin’ out of date stuff for years. Those warnin’s mean b*gger all. Just eat it, you bloody weed.’
‘It’s TEN YEARS out of date, Nan! This stuff is older than both my kids!’
‘And there’s STILL some left: that’s how careful I am.’
‘Nan – you can afford new pickle.’
‘I don’t want new pickle: I’ve still got some left. You havin’ some or not? Otherwise, put it back.’
I start to turn other bottles round: all sorts from both the main shelves. I don’t find a single container in date.
‘Don’t lecture me: you ate loads of out of date stuff growing up.’
‘What if I’m ill because of it?’
‘Ha! You’ve got two kids, ‘aven’t ya? If you want to stop bein’ ill all the time, get off the internet and all those bloody games: you look like a bloody vampire and you’re so thin I can see your RIBS.’
I peer around the cupboard door at her. ‘I’m doing okay actually, Nan: my mood is a lot better. I’ve even stopped drinking.’
‘Yeah? You should have kept it up: you look f***ing miserable.’
I grit my teeth. ‘Is that right? Well, let me ask YOU something: why do you need all this old food? What you’ve got here is a cupboard full of poison: AND it smells of guff!’
‘CLOSE THE BLOODY THING, THEN!’ she screams. ‘‘AVE YOUR SH*TTY ROLL WITHOUT MY POISONED PICKLE AND SEE HOW YOU BLOODY LIKE IT! GO AND CHOKE ON THE F****NG THING FOR ALL I CARE!’
I storm back to the kitchen, cobble together my roll and eat it as quickly as I can. While I’m finishing up, my mum comes in: she lives with my nan and, as far as servants go, is a bit like Mrs Doyle in Father Ted.
When I tell mum about the incident with the cupboard, she sighs and says:
‘Yes, she won’t be told. It’s the war, you see. Her family were hit very hard during the Rationing, and she never knew where the next meal was coming from. She keeps absolutely everything in case she ever needs it in the future.
For a long time, I don’t say anything….
….because I’ve remembered that there are times in life when I’m just a bit of dick.