Done Up Like A Kipper
I have recently re-discovered the delights of the humble kipper. I could probably smoke my own if I hung fish from the living room ceiling, bought one more packet of ciggies a day and kept the windows closed.
But there's one small problem. I have an exaggerated fear of choking to death on a fish bone. This means they weren't a sensible choice of supper dish to be eating while watching last night's football since every mouthful had to be held up to a 300 Watt lamp and carefully examined for bones through a powerful magnifying glass. (I exaggerate slightly).
The risk asessment for eating a kipper and getting a bone lodged in your throat makes even gloomier reading if you live alone. This is because there's nobody around to get behind you, put their arms round your stomach, bend you over and thrust vigorously forwards.
There's nobody to do the Heimlich Manoeuvre either.
Like many fears, this one has its origins in childhood. Not that I was ever subjected to the hitherto little-known pnenomenon of kipper abuse. But my parents used to run a restaurant and when I was a very small child one of their customers choked on a fish bone. My mother took me with her to visit this man in hospital. She took him a bunch of black grapes. It was a kind gesture but one that would be unlikely today because it might imply culpability and lead to litigation.
"My client's claim rests on the fact that the menu described the fish as a fillet and there was no warning that, in contradiction of this unequivocal description, the plaice in question might contain bones."
I remember wondering if the man might choke for a second time on a grape pip. Although aged only about six, I had already decided that if Fate had it in for you it would come back for another go.
I also wondered if the grapes were just a smokescreen and that the real reason for the hospital visit was that in the confusion of being rushed to hospital in an ambulance the man had not been able to pay the bill for his plaice and chips. Maybe the bill had been discreetly placed inside the bag containing the grapes and included a service charge that would cover our bus fare to the hospital.
This is not to suggest that my mother had a mercenary mindset. But she did all the book-keeping for the business and a plaice and chips that could not be reconciled in the debit and credit columns would have made a mess of her meticulous accounts.
She would do the accounts on a Saturday evening with a glass of port before sitting down to watch Dixon of Dock Green. This relaxation was ruined by the fact that I mistakenly thought Dixon of Dock Green was a comedy programme and laughed loudly throughout. I was a most irritating child.
Until the Revenge of the Breaded Plaice on that provincial diner, the main food-related fear of my childhood was Strontium 90. Today the imminent threat of a mushroom cloud over Middle England has disappeared, which is odd because at the last count there were still 11,000 deliverable nuclear weapons in the world.
But in the 1950s and 1960s there was also concern about the fall-out from nuclear tests getting into the food chain. And in that 'hard rain' that we now know Dylan wasn't actually singing about, nothing was more scary than Strontium 90.
Actually, the one thing more scary was a Brazil nut. These were said to contain more Strontium 90 than anything else. They practically shelled themselves. You could ram them into candlesticks and they'd flood the room with a warm, atomic glow. So whenever my mother put Brazil nuts on the table I would scream "Aaarrgh, Strontium 90!" and fall lifeless to the floor.
Like I said, I was a very irritating child.
Anyway, I survived last night's kipper supper with my windpipe intact and still managed to keep a watching eye on the Manchester United game.
The only time I almost choked was when I heard the commentator say that Ronaldo had been "taken from both sides". But it turned out to be just a double tackle.
Poor Ronaldo. Tackle to the left of him, tackle to the right of him. It must have felt like Saturday night in Tara Palmer-Tomkinson's bedroom.
I wonder what the Portuguese is for 'done up like a kipper'?