We have of late in our household become rather self-conscious about the food we eat, more precisely about the faceless animals which after a miserable life, get slaughtered in some grotesque abattoir and end up on our plate. Well, we have been conscious of it for quite some time now: eating meat and feeling guilty about it.
It was with these guilty thoughts in mind that we agreed recently to cut out meat from our menu and try and replace it with soya protein meals. But I have to admit this arrangement hasn’t been going too well, and a couple of weeks into it, the prospect of eating another battered tofu escalope has weakened my resolve somewhat. I decided to say nothing on the subject, opting instead to suffer in silence.
I am thus lost in thought, quietly brooding on this matter when the phone rings.
‘Hello?’, I answer. A heavy pause follows, which suggests either a stalker or an assassin – possibly both. Then I hear the voice of a little girl.
‘Helloooo’, she coos sweetly, in a pitch nature has devised for melting the hearts of hard-boiled old grumps like me.
‘Helloooo’, I coo back. ‘Who’s this?’, I say, in an unusually pleasant tone to a caller who clearly didn’t intend to speak to me. She lets out a little delighted giggle, as if me claiming not to know who she is was a regular teasing game we play.
‘You know who it is… It’s me, Charlotte’, she says.
‘Oh hello, Charlotte, and who do you suspect me to be?’
‘Stop it! You’re my uncle.’
A sudden life-flashing-before-my-eyes moment takes place in which I try to recall if any of my brothers have fathered a child named Charlotte. One of them does have an overactive gland, but it’s only a thyroid.
‘Charlotte, I think you’ve dialled th…’, but she interrupts me, ‘No, listen uncle, when you come for lunch later, if you come at eleven we’ll be taking the dog for a walk before lunch, and you can bring Amy too if you like. Mummy is cooking roast lamb.’
‘No, you see, I erm… Roast lamb, you say?’
‘Mint sauce too?’
‘Charlotte, sweetie, uncle’s memory is terrible lately. What’s the address again?’