I am an expert.
In a faded ski-jacket and old trainers, it loafs along, dodging backward glances, following my every step.
I’ve had enough.
So I book my annual holiday in a motorway Ibis – amidst a migraine patchwork of dusty vegetation, flight paths and conveyor-belts over graphite lakes.
Here I await my brothers in failure.
I. Menu Rage
Geoff from accruals and accounts payable has ordered some ‘Ukrainian bird’ for marriage and children, perfect for flights from Kiev – her family a mixture of gangsters and radioactive meat suppliers.
We meet in the bar.
‘Women’s teeth are so important – have you read Zadie Smith?
‘Most Slavs suffer from halitosis. I’m hoping my luck will change.’
We discuss the menu. I am familiar with the dizzying rhetorical tricks but Geoff smiles in expectation.
“Here she comes…”
I can’t decide between Hunter’s Chicken and Harissa Lasagne.
No one has yet explained the mysteries of the former. Originally a dish from Provence, eaten on those enormous slaughter-drenched hunts, with rough flagons of liquorice-tasting wine. Then brought to England by the Huguenots and – at first – a delicacy eaten at society balls, or Cambridge graduation ceremonies.
Now, regional variations in England have ensured its continued popularity.
In Cornwall, it can be used in pasties or thrown at tourists.
In Lincolnshire, it is served as enormous coiled sausages then dumped on mashed turnip.
In Lancashire, it is deep-fried with pig’s blood and fed to anorexics on death row.
Harissa! Is it made from body odour or unwashed hair?
Or maybe that’s baba ganoush – which had me evacuated on a drip from Luxor.
II. A Parable of the Pouring Rain
How that family arrived!
A trudge around the hard-shoulder.
Some in national costumes, others in body bags.
One wearing an elephant costume, ridden by Assyrian archers, a cedar tree up the arse.
Geoff and I hosted a welcoming party.
Local schools are full but somehow find room – the fields filled with fair folk, jobs in Homebase – and courses, courses, courses.
Renegotiation will ensure a drawbridge and some grey knight waiting for the holy chalice.