Sunday, 23 September 2012

Rich Pickings

“I’ve won the lottery!”, Mags yelled down the phone. Having just read The Sunday Times Rich List, I almost swooned. Several in this list are Euro Millions Lottery winners and Mags and I have made a pact that, should either of us win the lottery, we would pay each other’s mortgage off. I steadied myself. Hubby would be happy again. We wouldn’t be crippled by household expenses; there would be some dosh free to help daughter number one with her university fees. I swallowed hard. “How much?”, I said, barley daring to breathe. “Seventy eight pounds!”, she replied. I wiggled a little finger in my ear. “Seventy eight thousand pounds?”, I checked. “No. Se-ven-ty-eight”, she over pronounced. I sighed. “Why are you bothering to tell me that? That’s peanuts!”. “Don’t be so bloody ungrateful”, she joshed, “I thought that, as it isn’t enough to pay off loans and mortgages, we’d make the best of it and go out to lunch”. Beggars can’t be choosers. “Sounds like a good plan, have you got an idea of where you’d like to go?” “None whatsoever. I’ll leave it to you. Nowhere too far as we have to be back in time to pick up the kids from school”. “Thanks Mags”, I said, “Sincerely. There are several people you could have asked, I feel honoured that you’ve invited me”. “Nonsense. Besides, all my other bloody friends nibble at lettuce at lunch time and hold their tummies after a Muller Light because and I quote, they are ‘so full’, at least you have a rapacious appetite Alice and as I’m sure you’ll order a pudding, I’ll get to share it”. Cheeky cow. Later that day, my baby brother, who is about to turn forty, popped in. He always comes to visit when I am cooking. Funny that. He walked into the kitchen as bold as brass and lifted the lids on various pots and, having taking a dessert spoon from the kitchen drawer, helped himself to the things bubbling inside. “Tasty”, he declared, sampling my Moroccan chicken, “A little more turmeric?” I slapped him with a wooden spoon. “To what do I deserve this honour?”, I asked, pouring chicken stock onto a pan of couscous. “Thought you might like to hear about our weekend”, he said, helping himself to a hunk of bread. I took the bread away from his reach. “Oh yeah, of course”, I remembered, “Your dirty weekend away. How was it?” “Sufficiently dirty, but the food was better!” I slapped him anew. “Charming. Don’t let your wife hear you say that”. “I think she’d agree”, he laughed, “It was a bit like taking Sally, from When Harry Met Sally out for dinner, if her moans were anything to go by”. “Where did you go then?”, I asked him, absent mindedly adding another teaspoon of turmeric to the pot. “Well”, he replied, “We stayed in a lovely hotel in Tavistock because I really wanted to eat in Gorton’s” “Oh”, I recalled, “That chef from the Horn of Plenty?” “The very same. Peter Gorton has opened a restaurant in Tavistock and it was a good place to celebrate my fortieth. It was sublime”. He told me what they’d eaten and it gave me an idea. The next day I texted Mags –‘Lottery lunch booked. We are going to Gorton’s’. I drove. Mags paid, amongst other things, for the parking. She looked lovely in a pair of smart jeans and suede jacket. I, on the other hand, had put a rather unforgiving jersey dress on over an even more exacting, panty girdle. A gift from my mother-in-law. I’d like to say that I don’t know what she was implying, but sadly I do. As we took our seats, the panty girdle did not live up to its expectations and rolled, rather unflatteringly down my tummy and as it gathered speed, it created another roll, this time of flesh. This was far from the streamlined look that I was hoping for. My stomach looked like uber corrugated cardboard. I tugged at the pants. They resolutely refused to budge. “Why are you fidgeting so much?”, asked Mags, peering over the top of the menu. “I’m having a serious wardrobe malfunction with regards my undergarments”, I whispered. The waitress took our order and within minutes, two ginger syrup and prosecco cocktails were handed to us, along with a delicious treat of an amuse bouche of a little cup of soup. I tucked into my pigeon risotto when it arrived and Mags dug into her goat’s cheese starter. Our main courses of duck and a trio of fish was met with my sister-in-law’s similar orgasmic moans, but by now, I was getting a little full and really, the panty girdle thing was playing havoc with my innards. There was no way I was going to be able to digest, let alone enjoy my chocolate tart and coconut sorbet unless I dealt with the situation under my dress. “Excuse me”, I said to Mags, standing up and then, with a sudden terrific snapping of elastic, the hosiery rolled down further until, almost unbelievably, it ended at my knees. The establishment being what it was, meant that other diners had the manners not to point and laugh at my standing there, utterly at a loss as to how to get to the ladies’ in a dignified manner when my knees were bound together with a rather unbecoming pair of pants and I was met instead by silence as though I were an elephant in the room, which at that particular moment was a mortifyingly physical reality and not some silly idiom. There was nothing for it other than to shake my bottom and step, with as much dignity as I could muster, out of the pants, fold them and place them in my handbag. “Nicely done Alice!”, said Mags, chinking my glass, “Style like that can’t be bought” and she picked up her spoon and plunged into my tuile basket.

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