A cup of tea in hand, an old episode of Desert Island Discs on the radio (Justin Welby, in case you weren’t interested) – I am, having woken up on a Saturday in London footloose and hangover-free, feeling smug. There is much to be said for an evening in when the world is out. For all its dangerous comfiness (for where ‘loungewear’ ends and elasticated waists begin I know not), there is something infinitely luxurious about it. Why have dinner at Le Gavroche when you could have telly supper in your jimjams?
(In all probability it is because nobody has asked you for dinner at Le Gavroche. Me neither.)
It is particularly satisfying as, since becoming a grown-up person with a job, I have become all too familiar with a certain Saturday sensation. It is the demon cambion of that Friday feeling. Where once (last night, circa 5.30 pm) the world looked bright and the weekend full of hope; today is infected, stinking, marred. Not only does one think it might be possible to die of a headache (Dr Google can confirm this), but there is a niggling somewhere in that abused and battered brain. At some point over a cup of tea (two sugars this time) it worms its way out. ‘What did I say last night?’
In my case, this is rhetorical. I know perfectly well what I said the night before and, oh boy, I wish I hadn’t. There are women in this world who scream when they are drunk. They thunder about their exes and yell blood-curdling, toe-curling, shit-stirring slurs on the 59 bus; they might even call said exes. There are men who take all their clothes off and pretend their penis is a propeller. There are shriekers and streakers, weepers and sleepers. And then there are bores.
A bore – and I should know – can be categorised by his or her systematic return to the same subject over and again. Night after night after party after party. I hear people bemoan my fellow bores (‘Suzy’s talking about the sex lives of sharks again.’ ‘Why does Steve think anyone cares about fly-fishing in the 21st century?’ etc etc). The problem with the bore is they think they are interesting. In fact, that is what makes them boring, more than their chosen subject. They feel they are imparting esoteric knowledge on someone who simply isn’t fortunate enough (yet) to know what they know, but who, in reality, doesn’t give a shit and would rather their friend went on Mastermind.
Yet if you see me at a party I can almost guarantee you’ll find me in a corner, dribbling in some unsuspecting victim’s ear: ‘The amazing thing about Desert Island Discs is…’
I cannot count the amount of times I’ve told strangers and friends alike about Holocaust survivor turned Olympic weightlifter Ben Helfgott’s choosing of ten tracks he would take to his solitary atoll while recounting his past; or the story of neurosurgeon and PTSD-sufferer David Nott meeting the queen; or about Michael Parkinson’s clunky, sexist interview of Maya Angelou in 1988. I wonder how many people could look in their notes on their phone and find, typed in my shrill caps-lock scream, the typo-ridden names of the great and the good: Dustin Hoffman, Victoria Wood, David Attenborough, Dr Bill Frankland (103 at the time of broadcast), Prof Sue Black, Tom Hanks (‘HE WILL MAKE YOU CRY!!!’). I have told so many people that I want to become the next Kirsty Young (nay, I will be) it is going to be very embarrassing if I don’t.
Yet I can’t kick the habit. I have my own list, regularly updated, of the discs I would choose were I to suddenly get the call. I think (even when sober, would’ya believe it!) that it might just be the greatest programme on radio. It is about stories, and we humans love us a story, not least when set to music. (Except maybe not Phantom of the Opera. Or Jersey Boys. Or Cats.) We learn things about famous people or, even better, those excelling in their field that we may never have even heard of, from the tracks they choose and the tales they tell. We see little bits of ourselves in individuals normally portrayed only through the skewing, kaleidoscopic lens of media. They open and we listen. And so, in homage (and because I needed something food-related to put on this blog), I tried to think about what my desert island dish would be. If I could eat only one thing while stuck far from home, it would be this. It’s not clever or showy. You may even find it boring. But when I make it, stuck on my island, I’ll put Lily Allen on (whose choice, by the way, of Gerry Rafferty is inspired. Let me tell you). I’ll probably go and tell the monkeys in the trees about it, and then some.
Green eggs and ham, for a desert island
- A couple of slices of pancetta
- Frozen petit pois
- 2 eggs
- 1 tsp capers
- 10 mint leaves, torn
- 1 tsp pesto (optional)
- Olive oil
- Grated Parmesan (optional)
Grill the bacon. Meanwhile, cook enough peas for one person. In another pan, poach or boil two eggs. When the peas are rising to the surface, strain them. In a bowl, use a hand whizzer to blitz the peas, capers, mint leave, pesto (if using) and a slug of olive oil into a thick, glossy mash. Add the cooked eggs (peeled if boiled) and crumble over the bits of pancetta. Grate over some parmesan and serve with toast. Or not.