Rice

I was lying on the floor or our kitchen-cum-dining-room-cum-living-room at the top of the flat, waiting for the oven to finish cooking the supper. He was reading the paper by the radio/TV ready to switch Classic FM to mute when the adverts came on. What are you thinking about? he asked. And I told him. About a man I saw at Boston airport last year. I’d seen him first behind the till at one of the newsagent. He was Hispanic. Then I saw him again when he sat across from me in one of the eating areas by the big windows that look onto the runways. He was clearly on his lunch break. He was eating white rice. Just white rice. No sauce or vegetables or meat. Just cold white rice from a Tupperware container. He ate fast, hunched over the table, shovelling the rice into his mouth. He called across to another man just behind me, also airport personnel. (I could tell from his uniform.) He was West Indian. Whatya eating? The Hispanic man called out. The other man, also eating out of a Tupperware lidded bowl, tilted it towards the other to reveal what looked like a cold pasta salad. Nice? questioned the Hispanic man. Yeh, said the other. Neither seemed fazed by the spartan nature of the Hispanic man’s fayre. Just rice. I think about food a lot. Not out of greed but out of a wish to plan, to control what and how much I eat and to simplify. Just rice, is, can be nice. I hope it was choice and not poverty in the Hispanic man’s case. Sometimes just one foodstuff at a time is a good thing. You taste it then, really taste it. Like on a fast.

Serendipity. A joining up of ideas. I first saw the crumpets on an advert in his morning paper yesterday. With a picture of a middle-aged man smiling and talking about eating healthily for less. (Not quite sure about that.) It reminded me how I used to love crumpets as a child. Their texture was so singular. Mum would grill or toast them and I’d spread butter then honey on the hot, holey surface. I loved the way the butter and honey seemingly disappeared, only to wait beneath to catch in my throat and drip down my face after that first bite. I thought them so sophisticated, such an adult taste. Then later in one of the Hancock’s Half Hour repeats on Radio 4 extra Sid James refused a crumpet moaning that the melted butter always dripped on his tie. Then this morning walking to the harbour I walked past an open bin bag, its contents spilling out, amongst which were three whole crumpets.

The bag lady was out again today. You know the one I see on the Prom with her bag for life swinging as she trundles along in her trainers, always wearing that same pink sweat top. She never looks at me, though we must have passed each other countless times. I smell the cigarette smoke on her. She normally shops in the 24 hour garage on Mill Street. And then she walks. Is it a health thing, has the Doctor advised it? She doesn’t look as though she enjoys it. But there again I probably don’t either. The moon, which is full today, I think, makes a difference. All that light – I feel lifted by it. No Perygyl today. Too wet.

He’s asked me to go with him. Of course. I want to help, to put him at ease if I can. It will be an adventure, I said, like going on one of our trips. She responds to my email to say that her job is on the line. Her skills, which are legion are no longer wanted. I thought of her all day. Poor love.