OVEN-READY TURKEY, ANYONE? We are all Brexiteers now: the last Remainers left the country before coronavirus closed the airports, muttering that “it’s somehow our fault that the government we didn’t vote for hasn’t secured the deal we don’t want.
At least I realise now that the dish the Prime Minister had in mind when he boasted about Britain’s “oven-ready Brexit deal” with Europe was always going to be a turkey! A fib most fowl, if you ask me.
Now we’re arguing over whether a Scotch egg is a snack substantial enough to permit pubs (should they ever reopen) to serve alcohol to wash it down. Reminds me of the night my late and much-missed mate The Byreman promised me dinner at the Red Lion and, not for the first or last time, I fell for it.
“Three portions of your finest Northumberland tapas, barman,” commanded the doyen of the dairy world as a whetted appetite played havoc with my imagination.
Huh! I might have known. Smart-aleck Paul the Pint Puller smirked as he laid down a packet of crisps, some pork scratchings and a jar of pickled eggs – a meal almost as barren as a Glasgow Salad (a bag of chips with two pickled onions on top, if you’re not from northern parts). Anyway, talking of food. . .
BORIS’S LATEST COVID COMMAND having reduced our planned Christmas lunch to a shielded elderly twosome without friends or family, Mrs Claus and I have abandoned our planned filet de boef in favour of a takeaway turkey dinner in the style of Wiltshire Farm Foods.
We have ditched hours of preparation – peeling four kinds of veg, disguising sprouts as something edible and painting the ceramic hob gravy-brown – in favour of the kind of meal the Deacon’s Wife has christened “a bung-it”: in other words, a ready meal which one ‘bungs’ in the oven to warm while one waits.
But this is a bit posher and I’ll warrant a mite tastier than the Wiltshire lot offers. Our Festive Takeaway for Two with all the trimmings arrived on Christmas Eve, ordered from the kitchen of the Red Lion and cooked by our personal chef, Iain the Landlord.
All we need do is set the table, pop open the bubbly and settle back to several helpings of heaven. To complete the picture of our post-pensioners’ lunch, I shall then retire to the recliner, wrap myself in tartan rug and furry slippers and pretend to snooze (to dodge the washing-up) until Her Majesty pops up on the screen to rouse me from my reverie.
Meanwhile, our scrumptious slab of fillet will continue to age attractively, to be produced ’neath a perfect pepper sauce and make New Year’s Day lunch something special, replacing as it does Farmer Morebottle’s annual ‘barrel and brunch’ soiree.
I can hardly wait, playmates!
TRUE STORY: One from (before my time!) in America but sworn as true by my New York Daily News colleague Joe Kovacz who told me that, back in 1948, a Washington radio station contacted diplomats in the US capital, asking what each most wished for Christmas.
The French ambassador said he would like to see peace throughout the world. The Russian ambassador wanted “freedom for all people enslaved by imperialism”.
The British ambassador at that time, Sir Oliver Franks, said: “Well, it’s very kind of you to ask. I’d quite like a box of crystallised fruit.” Oi!
BORIS’S BLIND DATE: There’s a column in The Guardian weekend colour supplement which sets up a blind date between two consenting readers and then interviews them about how the date went.
I can’t help wondering what trainee Prime Minister Boris Johnson, 56, and Ursula von der Leyen, 62, president of a major international political and trading group might have had to say following their recent night on the tiles in Brussels. . .
BORIS: Very glam, almost as posh as me.
URSULA: Looked as zo ’e ’ad slept in his suit. And zat ‘air? Mon Dieu!
Any problems on the night?
BORIS: Woman couldn’t speak a word of English. I had to do all the talking,
URSULA: Merde! ‘E would not shut up, I could not get une word een!
What did you talk about?
BORIS: Cod, my favourite porky pies and where we’d be at midnight on December 31st.
URSULA: ’E mentioned some pork pies and zen we said goodnight. I was exhausted, eet was ze longest goodbye I ’ave ever ’ad, even worse zan ze Brexit negotiation!
Did you kiss?
BORIS: Well, a gentleman has to try but the closest we got was to bump elbows.
URSULA: Mon Dieu! Non! A ’sousand times non!
Would you introduce him/her to your friends?
BORIS: Might try to palm her off on old Govey, heh-heh!
URSULA: Not for all ze cash in ze UK economy, which eesn’t very much zees days!
LAST-MINUTE GIFTS: Want a good read for a favoured pal or relative? I recommend The Friends of Harry Perkins, former Sunderland South MP Chris Mullin’s sequel to A Very British Coup. And not only because I know and like our near-neighbour the politician-turned-writer and his wonderful wife, Ngoc.
No, I was reassured by the judgment of South Shields lad Kevin Maguire, now political columnist at the Daily Mirror and a former Fleet Street colleague, called it “a frighteningly believable and surprisingly tender post-Brexit novel”. Maguire went on to recommend the book as highly as do I.
Persuaded by such taste arbiters as Maguire and Banks, how can you go wrong?
I HAVE SURELY USED UP what little store of regard some of my farmer and land-owning friends might ever have had for me in playing my seasonal environmental card.
My Christmas urbi et orbi this year entreated those sons and daughters of the soil to watch Kiss the Ground, a Netflix ‘save the planet’ documentary released this year which impressed me greatly.
At risk of my ‘preachifying’ costing me even more followers, I repeat the invitation to you, dear reader:
Friends, yeomen and countrymen!
I’m really not being preachy, but if you have access to Netflix then this 87-minute documentary <https://kissthegroundmovie.com> is worth a watch, even if only to disagree.
Ignore the Americanised, celeb-driven nature of the video. Ignore also, if you would, the fact that this humble hack should presume to urge landowners, farmers and producers I think of as friends to consider a different technique which might just offer a solution to problems more wide-ranging than simply growing food.
There is a trailer which I don’t recommend: like most trailers, it is flashy and unrepresentative of the core subject. But it might give you some idea of the thrust of the doco’s direction.
I’d love to encourage your reaction and/or conversation. After all, there must be at least two sides to the story!
So far no replies (good, bad or profane) but the comment button below stands ready for your opinion. Please use it.
LETTER OF THE WEEK: “In his winner’s speech for this year’s BBC Sports Personality of the Year Award, Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton urged everyone to “stay positive” in these troubled times. On balance, and I suspect like most other people, I think I would much prefer to stay negative.” – Letter to The Times