There was a street version of a pub quiz outside my flat today. As I sat trying to watch TV, the quizmaster blared out through a little PA system, (this particular round was on local knowledge) -”Which famous person was a pupil at The Central District School- was it Winston Churchill, Charlie Chaplin, Margaret Thatcher or Sir Isaac Newton?” Ooh, I know this one, I thought, resisting the urge to fling open the window and yell, – Chaplin, it was Chaplin! He went to a school for paupers in Hanwell, after leaving the workhouse in Lambeth.
I turned off the telly, couldn’t concentrate with the street party in full swing. Full swing may be a slight exaggeration, as it was a fairly modest affair from what I could make out through the window. A few families at a handful of stalls. a bit of food, a coconut shy, a kid’s hockey game going on, and of course, the quiz. All this had been organised, according to the A4 poster pinned to a tree outside, by The Five Roads, one of those being the road that I had moved to a few months back. Now I found myself wondering, maybe the area is controlled by heads of The Five Roads. Are they like a mini Mafia, with five Godfathers, whose associates run the streets, slinking around and introducing each other as ‘ a friend of ours’?
I decided now would be an opportune time to nip out for a coffee and to the shops, maybe look in the little Tesco on the way back and see what ‘reduced items’ they might have. I usually pop in there on my way home. Who doesn’t love a bargain, right? But I must admit, it does bring out the worst in me, like the other day when I found one rather sweaty, obese individual, rummaging through the cheap stuff, shopping bags all around, blocking every other customer from bagging the cheap(er) booty until they’d had their pick of it. Move you fat bastard, I’d thought unkindly, and then corrected myself after glancing inside their basket, to the more accurate – move, you trans fat bastard.
Today I was lucky enough to have full access to the hallowed ‘reduced section’, and that was when I found myself facing what is known as The Jamie Dilemma. You see, I do like to cook and try to eat fairly healthily, and avoid too much processed stuff, which is, as Jamie Oliver has been at pains to point out of late, a bad lazy habit. But then I also find it hard to walk away from a dirt cheap bit of, well, what Jamie would call cheap dirt. Most of us don’t disagree. A lot of ready meals are overpriced, (until reduced) over processed muck. You shovel it down, often not hot enough because you didn’t leave it in the microwave long enough, and are too hungry to put it back, or alternatively you end up with molten slop that burns ow ow, your tongue. Either way, you snaffle it, then feel unfulfilled, dissatisfied and still hungry. For me, the best bit of any ready meal is picking the cold, saucy, crispy bits, off the bottom and sides of the plastic tray afterwards.
So I was browsing the coveted reduced items, thinking about Mr Oliver, and how he went from annoying, young mockney pukka tucker-monger, thru he’s alright really, would-be saviour of school dinners, to annoying fucker who needs a verbal slap. Because ee only went an dun that fing that that very rich mockney chef millionaires should never do, which is criticise the poor, working classes for having bad eating habits and big TVs. Arse. And then a few days later, criticised the British for being lazy. Even if you have a point, unfortunately you kind of lose your right to be taken seriously when it comes to slagging off the underclasses when you are valued at 150 mil. Go and enjoy your dosh and leave the poor alone. What next? I wouldn’t be surprised if he started lecturing us about life during the war, telling us how, money was tight, and food was rationed, but the poor still managed to afford massive radios. Silly fucker. I hear that food banks have recently reported a big rise in requests for kaffir lime leaves, from poor people wanting to knock up one of Jamie’s ‘budget meals’..
Talking of budget, I quickly grabbed what looked a good buy, only 44p for a smoked salmon, pea and wasabi quiche, before that big bastard coming towards the bargain section, barreled me out of the way. I made my way back home, street party all packed up, stalls taken down and road clear, musing on whether the Soprano-like associates of the heads of The Five Roads, had taken a skim off the coconut shy takings, and kicked it upstairs to the bosses.
Back indoors, I stuck the quiche in the oven, and had been about to discard the packaging, when I decided to stick on my glasses and read the tinily printed ingredients. – Poppy seed and wasabi shortcrust pastry (mmm) with petit pois peas, spinach, garlic and lemon (yum) baked with free range egg, double cream, topped with, ( mouth’s watering now, this all sounds too gorgeous) topped with reformed hot smoked salmon. Whoa, back up there. Reformed salmon? What da fuck? as the heads of the Five Roads Mafia might exclaim. That sounds a bit grim. Then I realised what a Jamiesque arse I had become when a chorus of voices, the long dead spirits of the pauper’s school in Hanwell, along with the malnourished souls from the Lambeth workhouse, resounded as one in my mind’s ear.
”You lost us at poppy seed and wasabi, you poncey cunt”.