Things are a bit unsettled in the Signs household. Having put these words down I realise that this is not particularly true. The household, apart from the cat giving herself therapeutic grass emetics and leaving mysterious puddles on floors and windowsill, is as normal. I am unsettled. Worrying too much is one of the things I secretly do, and the focus is often my children. Sometimes, though, there is good reason, as when distressed daughter telephones at two in the morning because of a volatile situation with boyfriend. The gremlin in my soul has whispered for a while that there would be trouble ahead and it does so now, but life goes on.
I have, as a direct consequence of the above, made a discovery: Fray Bentos steak and kidney pudding. I can explain. On a recent shopping trip to the supermarket (this kind of excursion being severely rationed at present), I decided to stock up with a couple of Useful items in case of worse to come in the way of M.E. debility, floods, snowstorms or any other kind of disaster, natural or otherwise. Anyone who has been here before will probably have picked up that I am pretty good about organic veg, lentils and such and eat, more or less, healthily and if I buy tins of anything it will tend to be of things like sweetcorn and kidney beans. I last had a Fray Bentos pie in the 1970s and here, I think, is a clue – that since the second series of Life on Mars began I, with Sam Tyler, have been beamed back to the 1970s and feeling a touch homesick for it. It is pure indulgence and escapism, but harmless unless you happen to find yourself stuck there. So I looked up at the flying saucer tins of Fray Bentos pies that I used to eat in the bedsit with the swarms of silverfish around the sink and fungus growing in the corner of the loo, and very acceptable they were too, eaten with Batchelor’s giant marrowfat peas. It would do for my son, I thought, when he needed something quick and substantial. It would be a novelty and I could sit and tell him about the good old days while he ate it. But my hand reached for the pudding instead. It was the promise of “made with Oxo gravy” that clinched it, and it was for me, not my son, that I wanted it. Food as mother never made it. I put it at the back of the cupboard and the back of my mind, but today, weak-limbed and worried about my daughter, with nothing in the house to eat but the hard end of a black unyeasted rye loaf and a jar of organic capers, and feeling hungry in the low blood sugar must-eat-soon way, I ate it. It was wonderful. There was too much of the pudding bit in relation to meat, but still. I wouldn’t have complained if I’d been served it in a proper restaurant with side-dish of steamed veg to accompany (which in this case I did not have). The down side is that I will need to schedule in another trip to the supermarket, and there may still be trouble ahead. I am, for the moment, fortified.