memoirs, art and fragments by Thomas Milner

Sunday lunch in most societies, whether rich or poor, is generally supposed to be set apart from the other meals of the week either in form or content or both.

I can see the cooks all rubbing their chins in front a couple of giant turkeys (grossly pumped full of steroids to increase size and weight) and thinking, um … what we shall we do with these old birds – I know, let’s hack them into manageable chunks and bung them all into the oven …

Or maybe the chunks came from meat-retailer already hacked with the instructions: meat to roast – just stick in oven for 3 hours

Anyway we are all served with an amorphous square of roast turkey (peru assado) which is as tough as an old boot, dry and overcooked. I am interested in where the struggled-with or untouched chunks of meat will go next as they disappear back into the kitchen at the end the meal; will they continue along the food chain as dog food or to feed the pigs, if the latter we will possibly meet again in about a year’s time.

I have to remind myself that this is after all Sunday Lunch and that here badly-cut meat comes with the territory and resolutely try to concentrate on my book and block my ears to the savage berating some poor old dear is receiving for refusing to eat her soup (whence comes so much anger?) or the loud mocking echo of the moans of the demented Maria dos Anjos from the other one. I’m just starting to read Emma again and the first paragraph immediately puts me in a good humour:

Emma Woodhouse, handsome, clever, and rich, with a comfortable home and happy disposition, seemed to unite some of the best blessings of existence; and lived nearly twenty-one years in the world with very little to distress or vex her.

There is a time and place for all writers and the noisy environment is wonderfully offset by Jane Austen’s cool and limpid prose.

Suddenly the hoarse shriek of chairs scrapping against tiled floor signals the end of the meal and I retreat with battered ear-drums to the calm of the second floor for the afternoon; I start a new painting, sketching for an hour and feel better. After tea I spend an hour on my splendid terrace and am soothed even further. I walk up and down the corridor on my frame, consciously striving to improve my posture.

ROAD TO NOWHERE - PAINTING BY THOMAS MILNER

At dinner the tragi-comic farce continues. Both my table companions complain that the soup lacks salt; but guess what, they are wrong! Their taste buds have deceived them again. My father used to quote a Latin tag to us children; I can’t remember exactly how it went but it ended up the words … de gustibus and was to the effect that it was unprofitable to argue about matters of taste; (it was probably Pliny the Younger or someone). Anyway, the teachings of Pliny the Younger evidently have not reached this village … shades of Monty Python: is this a five-minute argument or do you want the full half-hour?   

(Emma has just decided that her young protégé, Jane Fairfax, would make an excellent match for Mr. Elton, the local curate …)

Later, with the low evening sun slanting in lighting up the motes of dust in the quiet hall, I wheel across the room, greeting the few left-over people still at their tables (sometimes my wheelchair is a tired old Toyota pick-up and sometimes it’s a Porsche zig-zagging adroitly among the tables – living dangerously) to the recumbent side of my old friend who used to anxiously ask me what the time was in the old days; these days however she is lies speechless with eyes closed she sleeps her breathing ragged and shallow I hold her old hand lightly and stare out into the garden meditating on a whole raft of thoughts and ideas …

And finally I arrive back in my room to find some flowers in my vase arranged Feng  Shui fashion, left doubtlessly by one the (many) kind-hearted people who work in this place.

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