I think you'll all be familiar with the feeling I'm describing here as I'm sure everyone must have gone through it at some stage. It's the one where you just know that what you're about to do should never even have been considered in the first place; the one you get the moment you take that first little step of commitment and realise that every second you spend considering the outcome just makes it more and more difficult to re-trace your steps and make a dignified volte-face. Why do we do these things? Is it fear of change or the unknown? Confusion or just plain laziness? Every time we pay for our actions dearly yet we never learn and we'll go to our graves sad that our lives could have been enriched by so much had we had the courage to turn away. And so it was yesterday evening.
It's not been picked up by Grazia or Heat yet so I can understand if you're not up to speed but the Eclectic Landlady and I have resumed relations. As such, I have now relocated from Kent to the picturesque western edge of Crewe. It's as if I haven't been away. Other long-term students of these meanderings will remember that S has occasional need of the good offices of the bloodletters and sawbones of Hope Hospital in Salford. Last Tuesday an emergency occurred that meant we had to go there early on Wednesday. The line through which her nourishment is imported had fractured and a repair was needed. We were there all day and only left about 8pm. Hungry and not wishing to wait until we got back to Crewe, I remembered a Chinese chippy we'd found by accident last year, rather off-puttingly in Barff Rd in Weaste. Sounds good, doesn't it. Well it was, so I found it again and we enjoyed a very nice alfresco chip supper parked up on the cobbles round the back of the local church. In fact S believed it to be the best meal of its kind she'd experienced.
Cut to Sunday night and I'm summoned rather urgently to the boudoir. Disappointment was again the order of the day as rather disturbingly the things she was holding apart were two sections of her central line (or more accurately her Broviac line), one bit in each hand. This wasn't as it should have been and it was quite obvious that the repair had not been done correctly. As the catheter enters the sub-clavian vein, this is also a serious threat to her health due to the potential for infection. Bummer, another day in Salford beckoned and this time it was raining. Not to worry, said S, a lacklustre day will be made all the more bearable by
And yes, we got bored (no wonder Salford spawned this lot) And as we left about 6pm a terrible thought struck: what if Salford is like Crewe? You see, in Crewe not only do the chippies all shut by 7.30, if they're Chinese they probably don't open at all on Mondays. Not to worry, I said, there was another one at the end of the street, we can go there. And as I said that, I knew I had sealed our fate. As we approached our original target, we saw to our dismay the shutters were down. Disappointment etched our brows as we pulled up outside the open Wing Yip 300 yards away. We were hungry, we'd give it a go. It was an odd moment as I walked in. You know those old Chinese take-aways, the ones with the painted menu boards that have remained unchanged for 35 years except for the prices, and those are now raised half an inch above the rest of the board through having been repainted innumerable times? This wasn't really like that, there had been little alteration at all as these prices were about 15 years old. There was an elderly couple in there who I'm guessing spoke very little English apart from the menu items which would probably explain why a portion of fish was £1.45. Every chippy in the land has reacted to the scarcity of cod by hoicking their prices accordingly and you'd be lucky to get a portion of fish and chips for less than £4. But this was a strange, time warped shop where fish quotas and mesh sizes had passed the owners by and a portion here would set you back the princely sum of £2.33.
Moreover, although it was actually fairly clean, it had obviously seen no redecoration, modernisation or indeed any changes whatsoever since it was first opened. Nearly every tile on the floor and walls was cracked and the once pristine white melamine and shiny stainless steel surfaces had faded and dulled. The counter was bowed where years of leaned upon elbows had taken their toll and the newest things in the place were the large page-a-day calendar and the shiny paperbacks they were both reading. You could see that the place was just getting beyond them now and I couldn't really see it turning much by way of profit. As I walked in, the smell of "oil on the point of needing to be changed" hit my nostrils and I knew I should have turned back there and then. My brain's capacity for remembered smells recalled a place on the Lower Road in Belvedere, Kent where I used to live many years ago called "Peter's" that had an even worse reek, and he couldn't cook if his life depended on it. But I'd seen a pile of pale, thickly cut chips in the warmer that promised much if they were going to be re-heated and my resolution faltered. The old boy's eyes lit up as I asked for two fish. "Fish? Fish?" Yes please, and he scurried off upstairs, came back and whacked two large portions into a bubbling wok and his wife fired up the fryer, presumably to re-fry the chips. I looked around for some encouraging signs but there weren't. What was worse, Mrs came back with new chips and slung them in the fryer instead of the par-cooked ones. Oh dear. Some local kids came in and asked for a portion of chips and didn't seem unduly fussed so maybe this was an undiscovered gem after all.
But the best was yet to come. The old fella came out of the back with his two actually rather decent looking pieces of fish. but then spoilt it by getting a portion of those wan chips to put under each one. "Ah...ssa'a'vi?" Sprinkle, splurt (just two splurts, nowhere near enough is it, especially when the chips look like victoria sponge) and then he attempted to wrap the meal; in just one sheet of newsprint, with none of the skill often associated with the usually dexterous Oriental in evidence. For those unfamiliar with the great British take-away, it's oily if it's just been cooked and one sheet of paper is about as useful as a container as a tissue paper bucket. I parted with my £4.66 and we found our parking spot. Strangely, the fish was just edible. The batter had an unusual taste. Quite light and obviously home made but it was so yellow as to be off-putting. And something alien had been fried in that oil, possibly flies. I tried a chip but immediately had to do an impression of my Dad after having rather too enthusiastically siphoned petrol for the lawn-mower from the car with only a piece of thin tubing. I just managed to get the window open. Oddly, S thought the meal tolerable but I'd seen it prepared and been in the shop for far too long, so couldn't face it.
There is no post script. It was just the story of a drab day in a drab town with drab weather and an even drabb(i)er meal. Makes you appreciate what you've got, though.