A friend of Ro’s is coming to stay for the weekend. I’ve met him briefly a couple of times, delightful lad, but it’s at times like this that I notice how odd we are and how people might be a bit puzzled by the way we live. However, no point in glossing over this sort of thing, this is how we are and we just have to be matter-of-fact about it.
I was a little more taxed about feeding the boy. He is Muslim and only eats Halal meat. In effect, that means that he eats no meat when away from home. He is also teetotal. I have been asking Ro, anxiously, what other things I have to take into account. Fortunately, that’s about it. Apart from vegetarian cheese. And he does eat fish. And he is extremely polite, said Ro helpfully, so he will eat whatever you give him anyway. As long as it hasn’t touched meat. We had spaghetti carbonara last night, to use up the bacon and, apart from a jugful of stock, the fridge is now a meat-free zone.
I’m going to London tomorrow to spend the day with my sister, who lives in Wiltshire. She will come to Waterloo by train, I’ll go to Liverpool Street, and we are going to meet at the National Gallery and decide what to do. We’re meeting other friends, who are up from Somerset for the weekend to visit their son, for lunch and so, apart from the sheer stupidity of visiting London a week before Christmas, it should be fun, as long as we can move for the frenetically shopping crowds. My sister suggests visiting Fortnum & Mason for old times’ sake – she used to work in the Millinery department back in the late 60s, but I have been there at holiday times before and it heaves with humanity.
She sold hats to all sorts of people; she served the Aga Khan (she tied his helpful finger into the bow fixing the hat box), Michael Caine (he gave her peppermints), Dame Flora Robson (she was her favourite assistant and Dame Flora always asked for her). Awfully low pay, but there was commission and it was fun. In those days, my parents always used to have a big order sent from Fortnum & Mason for Christmas. A few years ago, my mother said, wistfully, “we used to spend about £25. What would that be now?” We though about it, and decided that it would be at least £600, after inflation. Actually, I suspect it would be more.