Middle Ground? It’s for Wimps

It takes all sorts to make a world, and included in this menagerie is the individual who only deals in absolutes. The one who never lets compromise get in the way of an irrational thought. We all know them: the one person who is so black and white that grey doesn’t even exist in their reality. In fact their only concept of shades of grey is a book in Tesco’s that they believe to be a colour chart for artists and decorators, and was a bestseller – though they have no idea why.

They are the type who, mystified by the possibility of a starving population, might offer up a contemporary rendering of Marie Antoinette’s idiom and mutter something along the lines of: ‘Don’t they have Mr Kipling over there, then?’

I had my own such encounter with a monochrome being a couple of Sundays ago. My beloved, in his wisdom, ventured to ask his grandmother to lunch. He recounted the conversation for my benefit.

‘Cook? Her?’ his grandmama had exclaimed, in her most derisory tone. ‘Don’t you mean open a few packets and shove ‘em in the microwave?’

Oh, how they’d laughed together, apparently, and what a sensitive, petulant spoilsport I am for not taking part in the jocularity.

‘She’s only pulling your leg,’ came my Other Half’s stock response. ‘Grandma likes a laugh. You just can’t take a joke.’

Likes a laugh, does she? Why don’t we laugh at how she’s never learnt to drive, yet insists on giving every driver specific instructions on how to control the vehicle?

OR

We could laugh about that handlebar moustache that appears to be sprouting and taking shape above her upper lip? That would be fun, wouldn’t it?

My darling was a picture of indignation. ‘Don’t you dare! She’s an old lady. You’ll upset her.’

‘She’s 67.’

‘Exactly!’

‘The same age as Helen Mirren.’

He visibly shuddered. ‘But Helen Mirren’s fit. A comparison between the two is perverted, incestuous, almost. You’re sick, you are. Now, every time I think of Helen, I’ll see my grandma’s face. Urgh!’

And with that he stormed off, slamming the door behind him. Men and their todgers, eh?

Okay, I’ll show ‘em.

I decided on roast lamb, (‘Can’t eat any of that spicy muck. Good old, plain English cooking, that’s what’s best’) with all the trimmings. See if she could find fault with that. Who was I kidding?

Things didn’t bode well from the moment she arrived and took one look at my beautifully arranged table, declaring it over-fussy and impractical.

‘A single tablecloth and cutlery would have sufficed.’

I made to retreat to the kitchen.

‘I hope that isn’t lamb I smell cooking? All that fat plays havoc with me heartburn.’

Oh ground, please open and swallow me up; end this misery.

‘Let me take your coat, grandma,’ He offered, doing his best to distract her and the bionic eye that could take in every inch of the room in a fraction of a second. ‘Would you like a drink?’

‘Tea. You know I only partake of the demon drink once a year… at Christmas. Don’t want to become addicted.’

‘It’d only be a small..

‘No!’

I sniggered as I closed the kitchen door and took a large gulp from a glass of wine.

‘Let’s have a look at this meat, then.’

I’ll be finding red smatterings of wine around our kitchen for months thanks to the velocity of the liquid as it left my mouth. I hadn’t realised she’d mastered the art of teleportation.

Donning the oven gloves she prodded the lamb declaring ‘it’ll take hours yet’, and instructed me to turn up the heat. Trying to explain the concept of a fan-assisted oven was like using semaphore to guide a plane in a thick fog. I’d forgotten that her favoured method of cooking was roasting an animal, on a spit, over an open fire; preferably with its head and limbs still attached.

‘Where are the sprouts? They need at least an hour.’

She nearly keeled over at the prospect of a seven minute cooking time, and stir-fried with pancetta and garlic.

I tried desperately to avert my gaze from the gravy simmering happily on the back of the hob but, like a cat being warned not to go inside an empty box, I felt compelled to look. Too late; she noticed.

‘Let me do that. It’s my speciality.’

After one taste she added enough salt to grit the roads of Manchester in a bad winter.

No amount of wine could mask the bitterness of the carcinogenic carbon deposits littered across the meat as it swam, like a burnt raft, in congealed fat sliding down the face of each roast potato. Water-logged sprouts, without their intended additions, sat alongside a mush of carrots and swede, and all covered in a liquid with a comparable saline content to that of the Dead Sea.

After a couple of mouthfuls she pushed the plate away: ‘I told you she couldn’t cook. I can’t eat this. I’m going home.’

We were almost treated to the amazing tablecloth disappearing trick as my beloved caught his buckle in the material, on his rush to the door.

‘I’ll walk you to the bus stop.’

‘Pizza?’ he whispered, as he was leaving. I nodded.

And it turns out that the woman with established opinions has made another firm decision: that she will never visit our house again to eat. Result!

Image credit: iakov / 123RF Stock Photo

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