Tag Archives: eating

some biggish news……

Regular visitors to rubiesandduels will have noticed the Hunger Writing Project – an exploration of food, eating, hunger, body image and restriction.

Most, although not all of these, have been written with performance in mind and several have been already performed at Open Mike slots in Leicestershire.

But, I’ve felt for some time that I want to do something more formal and larger with them………………….so…………………..

with support from Leicester Writers’ Club and Carol Leeming – local arts promotor, i am working towards a one woman show in summer 2014, with performances in Leicester and hopefully beyond.

There will be more new pieces and re-writes of some of the current work and some supporting visual inputs……I’m very excited, if a little nervous, I’m not a performer by training or even inclination.

watch this space for  updates and more information.

The fasting girls

Fasting girls

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

” Fasting girls is a Victorian term for young females, usually pre-adolescent, who, it was claimed, were capable of surviving over indefinitely long periods of time without consuming any food or other nourishment. Fasting girls were girls who not only refused food but who also drew attention to their fast by claiming to have special religious and/or magical powers.

Sarah Jacob

A tragic case was that of Sarah Jacob (May 12, 1857 – December 17, 1869), the “Welsh fasting girl”, who claimed not to have eaten any food at all after the age of ten.[ A local vicar, initially skeptical, became convinced that the case was authentic. She enjoyed a long period of publicity, during which she received numerous gifts and donations from people who believed she was miraculous, but doctors were becoming increasingly skeptical about her claims.

Doctors eventually proposed that she be monitored in a hospital environment to see whether her claims about fasting were true. In 1869, her parents agreed for a test to be conducted under strict supervision by nurses from Guy’s Hospital. The nurses were instructed not to deny Sarah Jacob food if she asked for it, but to see that any she got was observed and recorded. After two weeks, she was showing clear signs of starvation.

The vicar told the parents that she was failing and that the nurses ought to be sent away so that she could get food. The parents refused. They continued to refuse even when informed that the girl was dying, insisting that they had frequently seen her like this before and that lack of food had nothing to do with her symptoms. Sarah Jacob died of starvation a few days later, because she had actually been consuming very little amounts of food secretly, which she could no longer do under medical supervision.  Her parents were convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to hard labour”

This is fiction, based on my reading around the fasting girls [ see above for some basic background information].

This is one of the pieces I will be performing in my one woman show “The Hunger Writing”

Watch this space for more info !

She understands that it is her hunger that puts food on the table, bread in the mouths of the others. Her sacrifice is what keeps everyone else alive and besides, what sacrifice is there is this anyhow ?

To turn her face away from food, to close her lips, shake her head, a mute refusal sets her above the rest, the crowds that come to see her, to point and press closer, their fetid food breath on her and around her.

Hunger has always been her companion, her closest friend, sometime confidant, helping her to feel special and as Ma & Da keep pointing out, she is a star now, a good girl, keeping all the babies well fed, fat even.

She takes delight in their chubby arms, rounded bellies, pink and white skin, they are not like the ones they lost, pale, skin yellowed, eyes too large for faces and so silent,still.

Ghost babies even when they were alive.

She can remember the hunger then, before she learnt to embrace the emptiness, when it felt as if her very guts would tear themselves apart and food was eaten fast, arm wrapped protectively around whatever they had found to eat and her mothers’ plaintive cry of

” Leave a mouthful for the babbies……just a mouthful”

Disregarded in their driven desire to fill their own bellies, for that moment, that evening, that few minutes of near warmth, near satisfaction.

So, she knows how quickly hunger can come back, silence these babies, make wild animals of the half-grown boys, she knows that it is only her hunger that provides and she basks, unworthy, in the power that her hunger gives.

She is not stupid, knows that what is happening is trickery, but every day, she prays to someone, some ethereal creature, that today and tomorrow and the next day, there will be no trickery, no sleigh of hand, that finally, she will live on light alone and her family will never go hungry again.

It started in drink, like many of her fathers’ plan, hatched in liquor and desperation and the guilt only a man who looks into the eyes of his starving children, but still chooses to spend the money on cheap Dutch gin, can possibly feel.

“My Sarah doesn’t eat, hasn’t eaten for months, she’s a little miracle”

The other men reflect that in his house, not eating is no miracle, but simple every day occurence. they have watched his starving children, too weak to play or make sound and each has judged him and found themselves to be better, more man, more father, more provider, when set against him.

But he is insistent

” You pay  a small coin and you can see her, our own fasting girl. Any time, night or day, you’ll not see food pass her lips” and he creates a display, his own daughter on display in the stinking courtyard outside the hovel that even he rarely calls home.

She is, unsurprisingly, already very thin and has begun to turn her head away from food, so the performance has a ring of truth and as days go by and become weeks, the whole valley has heard of her and there is a steady stream of the slightly less hungry, who are prepared to sacrifice a tiny coin, a heel of a loaf, a block of cheese, to stare at the grey/ white  skin, the eyes that fill the face, the shoulder blades that protrude like the very start of angel wings.

In a place where everyone is hungry, there is some pleasure in seeing someone embrace this starvation which all the others fight and rail against.

And of course, there are additional services, secret touches, stolen glances. Her father takes charge of this and she lies still, face up to the heavens, mind blank, empty of everything, waiting for weightlessness.

For the first time that she can remember, her father, even her wispy, bend in the wind mother, are pleased with her, pleased with what she brings in, but, her father has plans. Not staving is no longer enough for his family, he has dreams of the gentry, the fine folk visiting his little miracle, the child who doesn’t need to eat.

In some part of his gin soaked mind he has managed to forget the crumbs of bread, the slivers of almost good meat his wife feeds the child when the courtyard is deserted, he has begun to believe that she is actually existing on air and he wants recognition and the fortune he is sure will come when others, not just the miners and the dirt poor farmers, come to look at her translucent skin.

He has managed to ignore exactly how thin and slight she has become and how quietly she lies, eyes to the sky, hour after hour.

The vicar calls, all thin nose, beaky face, seeking a miracle, anything to raise up the souls who struggle in a landscape designed to drag them down. He stands, hands behind his back , trying to emulate the expression of scientific detachment he has seen on the faces of the gentleman botanists.

The girl stares up at him, smiles and extends an arm so thin that every vein is visible, the vicar extends one hesitant be-gloved finger and even through the wool, he can feel the cold that emanates from her bones.

The father is in full spiel, he stands tall, chest puffed out, an angry robin of a man while he tells the tale, how his daughter exists only on sips of water, gains sustenance from light and air, is his little miracle and the vicar believes, needs to believe, wants to believe.

Everything changes then, the big house sends linen sheets, blankets. Her bed becomes a nest, a refuge, where she lies, day after day, staring up at the sky.

More visitors arrive, dresses lifted to avoid the filth of the courtyard, the ever-present spillage from the midden.

The father retains some animal cunning, understands that asking for money would set a jarring tone, instead, he smiles, twists the brin of his filthy hat in muck incrusted fingers and calls out the other children, still, by any standards, thin and allows them to stand, mute witness to his poverty, his desperation.

The visitors understand, bring little and not so little gifts, food, meat that is close to spoiling, but good enough, yesterdays’ white bread, cakes. The children approach these foods cautiously, their ever-present hunger makes them brave and eyes bright, they grab and run into corners, elbows sharp to fight off younger weaker siblings.

The fine ladies bring lace handkerchiefs, tiny bottles of scent. They dab the lavender and lily of the valley water onto the fasting girls’ forehead, sweet smells that almost, but not quite, cover the other ever-present smells.

More and more visitors call, the family begin to forget hunger, the children become louder, more of a presence in the courtyard, they begin to play, to call out and in the centre, a constant silence, is the fasting girl.

Late at night, when the households that share this courtyard sleep, the mother creeps out to the girl, tiny scraps of bread, meat, cheese hidden in her apron. The girl struggles to sit up now, needs the support of her mothers’ arms. She turns her face away as she eats, almost as if she is willing this not to happen, almost as if she has begun to believe her own fathers’ lies.

And then, a coach, painted, imposing, somebody important, arrives to see the famous fasting girl, but this visitor is different, less willing to believe, looking for proof. A man of science, a real doctor and one with a plan, a proposition to make.

He stands, fleshy, hat  jammed firmly  down on his  head against the winds that blow constantly down the valley.

He talks to the father man to man. An experience so foreign, but so seductive, that the father grows in stature, becomes more man, but also looses his valley cunning, his  natural cautiousness and makes a fatal error, perhaps because he has finally, fallen prey to his own deceit, begun to believe his own fantasies.

The child will be taken to a hospital and there it will be proven, by men of science, men of education, that the girl, his daughter is truly a miracle, can live on air, on light itself.

The parents stand at the doorway, the younger children silenced by these unusual occurences, the sudden appearance of so many solemn men into their home.

The girl is lifted, although she weighs so little now, that lifting hardly describes the action needed to move her.

The father smiles, it will be alright, he is sure of it, the miracle will happen, they will be rich and no-one will ever have to be hungry again.

Binging and purging and purging and binging……just add nauseum

Sometimes, just sometimes, the hunger stalks you, creeps up on you, a tsunami of desire, of need and then there is nothing you can do.

There are no evasive actions, nothing that will de-rail this lumbering leviathan,

Journey marked out

Calling at all stations

everybody change at the end of the line

First stop….The kitchen, you stand on the balls of your feet, poised for flight, for travel, for a quick getaway…..fooling no-one

You are your own hostess, your own bustling trolley dolly, gathering the in-journey refreshments

( as if there is any refreshment in any of this food….fixed smile…I’m mandy….eat me)

next stop….. the bedroom

( even when the house is empty, will always be empty, this eating must be done behind closed doors, a secret, even to the weary traveler herself)

Lay out the foods, neat lines, bisecting junctions of sugar and fat and carbs ( food reduced to its parts, sans taste, sans color, sans pleasure), tracks reaching out, journeys made again and again – a commute of hunger sated.

next stop ….the eating

automata….hands move like pistons…..hand, bag, plate, hand, mouth and repeat and repeat and repeat

chugga chugg, chugga chug, chugga chug

The rythmn of this journey, familiar, comforting…..

a known landscape and the next stop coming up sooner than you can believe.

Almost the end of the line……the window

And like a dozing suit, warm, comfortable, in that space between wake and sleep…a moment of peace, of calm and then……………….

A crash of grinding gears, metal buckling, brakes applied too little, too late…..

Almost de-railed,

Almost fallen off the tracks,

Head jerks up, terrible realization of what has almost happened

Next stop…..purging

hair pulled back with a practiced hand

The same hand that rams into your throat again and again and again

Half chewed, un- digested food hits the toilet bowl

red and green and orange – traffic signals of loss, of cleansing against the white porcelain.

journeys’ end…..destination reached

final stop…..the bathroom floor

face puffy, stomach bloated from the food that got away

hot forehead cooling on the black and white tiles

The traveller has arrived…….



Hunger 11 – hunger logic – part 1

Sometimes, she wakes convinced that somehow during the night, fast asleep, she has crept downstairs, raided the fridge, the biscuit tin, shoveled handfuls of raisins, dry cereals, lumps of cheese into her mouth.
She can almost feel the ghost of food in her mouth and has to run her tongue over her teeth, the roof of her mouth, not once, but many times to reassure herself that nothing has happened.
But, the feeling of unease remains, the seed of doubt, once planted, cannot be completely removed and so she does a triple set of crunches, sit ups and decides, just to be on the safe side, to skip breakfast anyway.

She worries that the fat from moisturiser, sun block, lip balm will be absorbed into her blood stream, she visualises the little blobs of fat travelling down veins, attaching themselves to organs, dimpling the skin.
She compromises, avoids lip balm, all too easy to lick, to chew, but allows herself a dab of cream on her face every other day.

She weighs herself 5 and 6 and 7 times a day, bows down to the absoloute tyranny of their rule , but chooses to ignore any weight but the heaviest each day. This is the true weight, the weight that must be acted upon, recorded in the notebook that she uses just for this purpose, pages upon pages of numbers, a mapping of desire versus control.

She hears the phrase ” I can put on weight just by looking at food” and despite a good degree, wonders if she should google to check the truth, the likelihood , the outside possibility of this being an actual, verifiable fact.
She knows that late one night,when logic vanishes and the walls crowd in and life comes down to numbers and bones that she will search the internet, just in case.

She loves to bake, loves to watch you eat, takes pleasure from your pleasure, your satedness, the dash of cupcake icing that remains on your chin, long after the cupcake is gone. She urges you to eat more, but when you balk, stomach full, all caked out, she leans forward and runs a finger over the top of the last remaining cake and after
wards, when you, replete, walk home, she carefully carries the cake in to the bin and then, quickly, while she still has control, pours vinegar over it.

She considers cutting off her hair, long, dark curls. The hair she hides behind when her face is simply too ugly to show to the world, the hair that keeps her neck warm, when the cold creeps into her bones and cannot be shifted.
But, the hair has weight, mass, presence. Cutting it off must make a difference, must influence the numbers.
It’s loss will feel like an offering, a sacrifice.
It will be worth it.

She is trying to make herself invisible, trying to become so much less than she used to be. She feels herself diminished.
Dreams of a time when she will be so tiny, so perfect that she will, finally, vanish, become just the ghost of the girl she used to be.

The thinner she becomes, the more people notice her.


Hunger – version 1- original version

A kind friend, thank you Mr S, found the original version of Hunger 1, so just for interest, I’m uploading them both, I would be interested in having your feedback on both versions.


Each morning must start the same way, fingers run down ribs, each rib must be perfectly feeable with no recourse to poking and prodding and then one hand on each side of pelvis, these bones must protrude sufficiently to be visible.

A deep breath, nothing of note has happened overnight, time for a visual check.

Full length mirror, the harsh one, the one that shows each imperfection and the brightest, least forgiving light.

Check one – collar bones, skin must appear tissue thin, a dip where collar and shoulder collide.

Check two – breast bone – a feeling test is insufficient here, the bones should be visible under clothes, she knows she has many months to go before that will be achieved.

Check three – breasts themselves, loose skin can be applauded, evidence that no fat has crept in at night to pad them out.

Check four – stomach, any signs of roundness, softening produce palpable panic, a resolution for sit ups in the evening routine.

Check five – bottom, hands slipped round, the seat bones, a dent should be felt by the open palm.

And finally, the spinal cord, fingers tap out a rythmn on each hard pad.

All these checks can and will be repeated throughout the day without recourse to reflection, a finger caressing the hardness of bone under skin.

And then, a daily decision, an eating day, an almost eating day, a non-eating day.

Once the decision is made it cannot be undone, except of course to downgrade, so an eating day can become a non eating day, but never the other way round.

A non-eating day is the easiest, no decisions to be made, no agonizing over the fruit bowl, hand choosing and then rejecting a banana, a nectarine, replacing them with a small apple,a tiny clementine.

Almost eating days have simple rules, 3 pieces of fruit and a small bowl of meusli, sometimes she cannot control herself and eats the cereal before she is even dressed, standing in the kitchen, spoon, bowl, mouth and repeat, but she has learnt that this is flawed, a poor approach to self control.

The little bowl must be saved until the evening, eaten at the table, slowly, one spoon at a time, savoring each mouthful and one spoonful must be left uneaten,to prove a lack of greed, a demonstration of un-concern.

Eating days are the hardest, the books must be balanced, what is eaten today, must be denied tomorrow, a record kept, no absent minded bovine grazing.

Hunger must be embraced, coldness on even the warmest day proof of negligible calories in and maximum calories out.

Hunger is power, best felt when other eat. She watches their hands reach into bowls, bags, wrappers and the unthinking placing of food into mouths that surely cannot need any more.

Hunger is power, she likes to place herself in danger, next to temptation and admire her own self control. Sometimes she lest her finger touch the sweets, the chocolate, the cake, sometimes, greatly daring, she will quickly lick the sugar, tongue barely touching the skin, fearful that this tiny taste will unleash a flood gate of desire.

Hunger is power, the power of control, the lure of constant vigilance.

“don’t you get hungry?” people ask and she smiles and says “yes, but it’s worth it”

Bed time and the careful physical checks again, a mental note made, subject of course, to a final inspection in the morning.

Eating day, not eating day, almost


Hunger 9- the fat woman’s lament

She is hungry, constantly hungry, engulfed with appetite.
Nothing satisfies her, even as she fills her mouth, she is searching out the next spoonful, the next plate full, the next meal.
Even when she sleeps, she dreams of food, a line of plates stretching as far as the eye can see on snowy white sheets.
The plates are heaped with food, fruits and breads and cakes tumbling to the floor.
In her dreams, she sees herself fall upon freshly baked bread, can taste it’s warm doughy mass against her teeth and lips, her fingers pull at grilled meat, become greasy, shiny with warm fat, pale cooked blood.
She licks them, sighs in pleasure and wakes herself up, pillow damp with licking or chewing or salivating, she cannot tell which.
In supermarkets she peers into other people’s baskets, other people’s lives, remains unconvinced that they are satisfied with their low fat yogurts, their pitta breads,their one lonely chocolate flapjack, half hidden under a bag of salad leaves.

Her hunger rules her, in quiet meetings she cannot believe that the others cannot hear her stomach growl and complain, she makes excuses, flees to the nearest bathroom, storeroom, quiet corner and placates it with bags of smarties, packets of wine gums, loose biscuits crumbling to dust at the bottom of her handbag.

When she eats with others, colleagues, friends, family, she is forced to sit, actually sit on her hands to stop herself reaching out, reaching over and across people to grab at left over food, barely touched plates, ignored side dishes.
Friends who know her well simply pass over their plates when they have finished.
Then watch as she eats one, two, three meals, but it’s never enough, never, ever enough.

Sometimes at night, when she lies, warm, drowsy, body scented from the expensive oils she drops into her bath, hands resting on her rounded, almost full tummy, she wishes she could hold onto this feeling, this peace forever, but she knows, knows full well, that in three, four hours, she will wake, ravenous and will pad on soft night time feet into the kitchen and stand at the open fridge door, hands squishing cheese, soft, cheap bread into an approximation of a sandwich.

The cat will wind around her legs, eyes on the look out for dropped crumbs of cheese, bread, a litany of miaows to tell her that he too is starving and she will reach down and share the final bite of her late night snack with him.

She is big, of course she is big, but with a joyous glamour that means that men stare at her, at her breasts, her full behind, when she walks down the street and other women suddenly feel all angles, too small for their place in the world when they stand next to her.

No-body knows about the hunger that drives her on, the emptiness, the longing for enough.

The hunger has its compensations, she is a baker of cakes, a sharer of sweets, the go to girl when pre-menstural pangs strike her lean, controlled friends.

The many men in her life find that she is the source of un-acknowledged, never aired fantasies in which they imagine themselves buried, enveloped in soft giving flesh, feeding their own hungers, their own needs, mouths full, busy, stuffed.

Her world is full of people who want to feed her,who unknowingly worship at the alter of her hunger, market traders who throw extra aubergines, their shiny flesh almost as seductive as her own, waiters who bring her extra portions, sly slices of pudding, tiny coloured glasses of sweet liqueurs, other people’s parents, who despairing of their own daughters’ bird like appetites, turn cheerfully to her, heap her plate, fathers’ using the excuse of serving another dish of trifle to pat her arm, the curve of her shoulder.

Sometimes, she wonders what it would take to fill her, wonders if her body would actually explode before she reached that moment of satedness, wonders if she would, could actually die of happiness at that moment.

And then one day, quite out of the blue, something magical, something wonderful happens.

It is Thursday, grocery shopping day and she is standing, overwhelmed by the beauty of the piled, pyramided perfection of the soft fruit display in Waitrose.
She stretches out a finger, the nail currently painted a deep purple, perfect counter point to the orange of the tiny clementines, strokes their rough skin and sighs with pleasure.

She hasn’t really noticed the man, standing quietly, perhaps deep in thought as he stares at the wine purple grapes.

And suddenly,he leans towards her and with no warning, pops a grape into her mouth, she is so surprised that she bites down, feels the grape explode with juice and skin and sweetness in her mouth and then she has swallowed it and the pleasure is such that her eyes close, just for a second, but when she re-opens them, he is gone, a bunch of tissue wrapped grapes placed carefully in her basket.

She stands for a moment, the after taste of sweetness in her mouth,her throat and then she understands, that for the first time in memory, that she is not hungry, not hungry at all.

Slowly, thoughtfully, she heads towards the checkouts, but stops to leave her basket, abandoned in the ready meals isle.

She heads out, into the darkness, suddenly knowing exactly what she has been hungering for.


Hunger 5

The memory is so vivid, so real that he feels his mouth pucker, fill with sweet saliva, he can almost taste the blackberries, warm pastry, the goey joy of Birds custard.

Blackberrying – 1939

His mother, hair covered by a silk scarf, wrapped, turban like around her peroxided sausage curls, ranges ahead, using a walking stick, kept especially for this purpose, to pull down the sweetest, hardest to reach fruit.
He, knees scabbed from a failed attempt to tight rope walk the entire length of the garden wall, works in her shadow, reaching out for the best, blackest berries, dropping them in slightly pulpy handfuls into the saucepan on the ground.
His sister, smaller, more easily distracted, wanders from bush to bush, picking, eating, sometimes remembering to drop a token berry into the saucepan with the broken handle.
And afterwards, when he has watched his mother roll out the pastry with a milk bottle left to cool in the larder and cut two perfect leaves from the off cuts to decorate the pies’ lid, he waits, while the smell of almost autumn fills the kitchen.

Another memory and he surrenders himself to it, smiles as he remembers his sisters’ suspicious, almost doubting face.

Banana – 1945

His sister, who is too young to remember their life before the war, pokes the fruit with a cautious finger.
He, 15, almost old enough to join the Home Guard, if peace doesn’t break out soon, can, if he concentrates, remember bananas, banana sandwiches. White bread sliced with the razor sharp bread knife, the banana itself, perfect circles covering every inch of the bread and then a sprinkling of sugar on top, but he has no memory of the taste itself.

The banana has sat, an exotic visitor amongst the slightly wizened, slightly battered apples, the last of this years’ crop, waiting for Sunday tea.

His mother carefully, deftly un-peels the fruit, making sure that none of it is caught within the skin and then slices it into 3 equal pieces.

Brought back to the now, the present, he realizes that he has no recollection of the actual eating, but the waiting, the anticipation is as clear as if it were yesterday.

He lets his mind drift, wool gathering, killing time.

Drinking red wine from France – 1950

He knows about beer, slightly flat, warm beer, drunk on Saturday nights, while they look at girls and wait for something, anything to happen.
He doesn’t much like the taste, but enjoys drunkenness, fuzzy inebriation, the sense of possibility that alcohol gives.

The bottle of wine sits on a kitchen table, between him and Roy, old school friend, university boy, someone who got away.

The cork screw, attachment on a swiss army knife is produced, the bottle opened with great ceremony and then the bottle ” left to breathe”.

Covertly, he watches it while Roy talks about girls and books and people he has never met.

The taste, when finally it comes, is disappointing, reminds him of the bottle of Sarsons vinegar, used liberally on the high days and holidays treat of chip shop chips, never eaten from the wrappers, too common, but placed in a pyrex dish and kept warm in the oven before being served at the table.

But, the drunkenness is glorious, makes him feel smarter, more than his everyday self, can, briefly, imagine himself seated at a Parisian cafe bar, watching girls, French girls stroll by.

The memories are coming faster now, the dead time between lunch and tea flying by.

Spaghetti Bolognaise – 1955

He doesn’t know it now, but this is the girl he will marry, but at this moment they are both stiff with awkwardness in this newly opened Italian restaurant on the High Street.
They have ordered half a carafe of house red and he has squirmed with embarrassment while the waiter has gone through the ritual of pouring an inch of the cheapest wine on the list into his glass.
The spaghetti is served with a spoon and fork, the pepper mill, longer than his forearm is wafted over his food, Parmesan offered and nervously refused.
They both look at the cutlery offered and she more confident, more able to admit confusion, shrugs and calls the waiter, asks for knives and carefully they cut the long strands of pasta into bite sized pieces.
The taste of the food, rich, oily, stays with him until he carefully cleans his teeth the next morning, anxious to remove any hint of garlic before he goes to work.

Cream Tea, Ilfracombe – 1958

He leans forward, happy to have any reason to touch her in this public place and carefully, using his handkerchief, dabs at the blob of clotted cream on her nose.
The beach-side cafe is genteel, silver pots of hot water served alongside the tea pots with the spouts that always leak, just a little.
They are on honeymoon, hoping for sunshine, but happy with rain, happy with anything that allows them to lean into each other, stay close.
The cream tea is a luxury, carefully budgeted for, she piles cream and jam onto the fluffy home-made scone, bites down, the yellow of the clotted cream, the deep red of the plum jam oozing together and smiles with pleasure.
He smokes a Senior Service, carefully nips the tip and puts the half smoked cigarette back into the packet before he spreads butter thinly onto half a scone.

Heinz Chocolate Pudding – 1961,

The baby leans forward, mouth opening in anticipation, he, mindful of his work suit, his white shirt, still 2 days away from needing washing, carefully removes the red lid from the tiny glass jar.
He picks up the spoon, stirs the contents and then carefully, loads the spoon.
The babys’ lips wrap around the sweet desert, smacking together in pleasure as the pudding is devoured.
Her hand, small, soft, wrist ringed with fat suddenly darts towards the spoon, grabs it and drops blobs of chocolate onto his hand, his wrist.
He pulls away, trying to avoid splattering his only decent suit and the speed of the movement frightens her.
He smiles, while still trying to check what damage has been done and then relieved, he offer her more of the desert and almost without thinking licks some of the spilt food from too near his cuff.
The sweetness is intense, almost over-powering.

Tapas – 1968

She, bored of the luke warm Heinz tomato soup, the over-boiled vegetables served every evening at their hotel has found a teen age baby sitter and bullied the thick legged rep into telling them about the nearest proper Spanish restaurant.

And now, they are sitting, skin tingling from too much sun, eating tapas.
The table is piled with tiny brown ceramic dishes, he cannot help thinking that they have ordered far too much food, can already feel the heaviness that will sit on his chest all evening and into the morning, but her delight at the excess is infectious. She dips into a bowl of tiny sun dried tomatoes, he only knows what they are because the waitress has carefully described each dish to them.
She aims the fork at his mouth, laughing at his discomfort and then, because they are on holiday, because he does not want her to think of him as a man scared to take a risk, he opens his mouth and allows her to feed him.
Later, when all the dishes has been cleared away and the waitress, unbending as she sees their pleasure in her mothers’ cooking, has placed a bowl of freshly picked cherries between them, it is he who now places a perfect cherry between his wifes’ lips.

Fondue – 1973

The children, bribed with Radio 1 in their bedroom and allowed to take a whole packet of chocolate biscuits upstairs have been exiled.
His wife has spent days hunting down the exotic ingredients needed for this, their first ever fondue party.
Items are ranged along the kitchen work surface, garlic, nutmeg, a bottle of white wine, a strange cheese, whose name he cannot pronounce and which could not be bought in the local co-op is leaking an unfamiliar smell around the house.

He has been allocated bread cutting duty, the baguettes need to be chopped into neat equal cubes and absently he pops 1, 2, 3 into his mouth until his wife, lips thin with anxiety shouts at him and then he stops, focuses instead in filling the woven bread basket.
He is somewhat surprised, almost disappointed, after the days of preparation to discover that fondue is at heart complicated cheese on toast.

The fondue sets sits on top of the kitchen cupboard for years until the kitchen is re-vamped and it is bagged up and left outside a charity shop.

Muesli – 1979

His daughter has become a vegetarian, is debating veganism.
Meal times have become a battle ground and looking for middle ground, a truce, he has driven her to the local whole food co-op.
The shop reminds him of his childhood, sacks on the floor, brown paper bags, old fashioned weighing scales, but the staff have none of the comfort of Mr Ridley and his dusty brown grocers’ coat.
They sport piercing, pony tails, clothes that are ripped, shabby, but he suspects an artfulness,a deliberation.
His daughter wanders happily, picking up food items that seem joyless, mostly colorless and waiting, he starts a conversation with an older, less threatening man who is carefully bagging up a mixture of oats, nuts and fruits.
They smile at eachother and the assistant, pausing, tells him that this is muesli, a breakfast cereal and that he can tell a lot about a customer from the type of muesli they choose.
He waves a be-ringed hand at the shelf and the father, still waiting, grabs almost at random a bag.
Later, when he examines the cereal more carefully, he sees that it has dried bananas and apricots and wonders what it says about him.

Chicken Tikka Masalla – 1985

The microwave pings, mindfull of the steam burn from the sausage and mash last night, he pauses for a few moments before he pulls away the cellophane.
The chicken is an unlikely orange, cubes of meat suspiciously symmetrical floating in a thickening sauce.
He stirs it cautiously, pulls a plate from the mismatched pile in the almost empty cupboard and then smells burning, the naan bread, left, forgotten under the grill has burst into flames.
He grabs at it, burns his fingers and drops the blackened bread into the washing up bowl, managing to cover last nights’ plate, cup, bowl in burnt ash.
Sitting at the one chair at the too small table, he shovels in the food, missing the naan bread, he uses the crust of a loaf to mop up the sauce and wishes that he still smoked.

McDonalds Happy Meal – 1993

His daughter, vegetarianism long since abandoned, shrugs apologetically, mutters that the kids like it, will eat everything and it’s cheap.
The children start a chant for a Happy Meal and he offers to take them to the counter while she balances the newest baby on her lap.
At first he is perplexed by the queuing system, waits to be served, while giant teenagers push past him until finally, his grandson takes him by the hand and leads him to a counter and confidently orders two Happy Meals.
He is bemused by the choices on offer, has no idea what a Filet of Fish, a Big Mac or a Mcrib could be and aware of the press of people behind him, smiles at the girl at the counter and says he too will have a Happy Meal.
There is a pause and she shakes her head,almost dislodging her red baseball visor, tells him that he cannot have one, only children are allowed happy meals.
He stares at the menu board behind her, has no idea what to order, wants to ask her what is good, what will he enjoy.
His granddaughter feels his discomfort,his anxiety and when the pause has gone on too long, tugs at his hand and whispers that her daddy always orders a Big Mac with cheese.
So, he does.

Sitting with his family, he is surprised that the burger is so tasty and when the children are distracted by the plastic toys, he steals their fries, suddenly ravenous.

And then, he is back in this day, this room.
The door opens and a pinny clad girl, not one he recognizes pushes the door wider with her foot, her arms full of tea time trays.
She approaches bed, smiles vaguely and goes to place the tray of food on the bedside table, she has to push the untouched lunch tray to one side, not really noticing she leaves the tea tray there, just out of reach and is gone.

He wonders, if today, this evening, anyone will remember to come and feed him.