Saturday, 31 March 2012

"Yes Chef!"

Were it not for the fact that the work I do is unpaid or badly paid, I would be more than happy. It was, whilst cycling through the town that it dawned on me that I cannot ever again work where there are rules to be followed and a line to be towed. This epiphany came as I rather appositely freewheeled downhill. There was no denying it though, and the truth was suddenly as crystal clear as the ice on the road that I narrowly avoided.
My childhood came to me in flashbacks. I was asked to leave the Brownies and subsequently the Girl Guides due to my disruptive influence on the pack. Sunday school was the bane of my life on a Sunday afternoon; an hour and a half of peace and quiet for my parents meant an hour and a half of head-aches and debate for the elderly and very grave deacons of my chapel, who felt it was their duty to drill into me the word of God.
“How do we know that for sure?" I would ask.
“Because it is written in the Bible”, they would answer.
“How can you believe a book that has been written by various contributors thousands of years ago? It doesn’t make sense to me.”
I questioned the existence of The Garden of Eden; Moses and the parting of the sea, Noah and his improbable Ark.
“As various animals exist on various continents, how on earth did they muster them together on one big boat just before it started drizzling?”
Job, Thomas, Zacheus, Lazarus and so on. Had the deacons taken the time, if only for a moment to say to me:
“Well, we are not exactly sure of the source of the gospel, but how about we accept them as metaphors for how to live a Christian life? Would you be prepared to accept that?”
If they had said, “For instance, if we took Noah as a metaphor for looking out for our planet and fellow creatures, so that in time of war, or man’s brutality or natural disaster, the fact that we have cared for and nurtured our beasts might mean we can avoid their extinction”, would have made sense to me. I would have accepted that God might have had a hand to play in it too. As it was they never did and I was forced to accept their doctrine and it took years before God and I were on speaking terms again. The deacons were extremely relieved when I got to sixteen and told my mother in no uncertain terms that I had ‘done’ with Sunday school and would not be going back.
It was the same at school, I found it hard just to sit there and absorb stuff. If I didn’t understand it at all, like maths and chemistry, I would gaze out of the window and day dream; if it was English, History or Drama then I had a better time. Although I still needed clarification, the teachers of these subjects were more adept at exploiting my creative bent and set me to work writing essays, plays, poems and stories. It was easier for them that way too. The funny thing is I was never rude and impertinent; never swore or rebelled; didn’t hang out with the bad girls, didn’t smoke, barely had sex before marriage, was nice to my mother and passed my exams. To all intents and purposes, I looked normal. Conservative even. Certainly conventional.
It has taken me forty six and a half years to realise that I am none of the above. I find it really hard to follow the herd if I think the herd is going in the wrong direction. Rules, whilst I would never deliberately go about sabotaging them, I find, must be weighed up and considered carefully before blithely following. The rest of the world though, in my experience, does not think like this. This is why they are successful at work and I am not. There is no place for me inside the machine of a big corporation whether it is teaching or commerce. At some point or other, I will ask, as I did of the deacons, “Why? It doesn’t make sense. It is in fact, absurd.”
I have come across other people who think as I do and they are self-employed. All of them, without exception. My uncle Dave is one of them and he knows a kindred spirit when he sees one and so the week that has just passed has seen me sojourn into the world of that as a chef. Uncle Dave went skiing and left me in charge of his restaurant. There are certain rules that apply here that make perfect sense. Food safety, the dangers of cross contamination, cleaning thoroughly etc., etc. However, I was not watched and surveilled as I worked. I didn’t have to serve so many customers per minute or be penalised, nor did I have to offer the customers extras when they most certainly didn’t want them. Lamb shank? Coming up. Hunters chicken? Of course. Steak? ‘How would you like it cooked?’ was as far as the customers were interrogated. Not, “have you considered a sauce with your steak?”, “Would you like extra onions rings? Only one pound extra?”
Whilst in the kitchen before service I whizzed up, with some superfluous mushrooms, a soup in the same name, whipped up a pavlova that would have reduced Nigella to envious tears and my Yorkshire Puddings were the most miraculous things to rise since, well, Lazarus. I felt the freedom I’d experienced freewheeling down the frosty hill. Sod the chocolate that led to my undoing in my previous job, here I could quaff wine as I stirred my soup. And, once I’d bought some extra strong Marigolds for the washing up, I loved every minute. It seems to me that ‘independently owned’ is as much a mind-set as it is a small business.

1 comment:

Cleanknickersandafulltummy said...

I understand completely where you are coming from. I have never been one for convention. I struggle with that concept and have messed up so many opportunities because I speak my mind. And then I kick myself, but always just auttle too late....