Monthly Archives: January 2011

Chicken, tubes and toilets

In the spirit of ‘Blue Monday‘, here are three foodie sights that consistently depress me:

1. Queues outside South London’s multitudinous purveyors of fried chicken

Step forward all you Chicken Shacks, Chicken Huts, Chicken Expresses and Chicken Dinnerz. From 6pm onwards, these places do a roaring trade in low-quality, low-welfare, saturated fat-laden chicken dinners, all pitched at eye-wateringly low prices.

Perhaps more dispiriting are the trails of gnawed chicken bones, discarded on the pavement Hansel and Gretel-style, so that diners can always find their way back. Are the same people queuing day after day? Or are huge numbers of repeat customers treating themselves week in, week out? I can only hope it’s the latter.

2. People who sit down to lunch on the tube

Let me be clear: it’s not eating on the tube per se that upsets me – I hold no truck with peckish travellers who snatch snacks en route to their destination, nor do I object to a perceived lack of consideration for others (unless the all-pervasive Red Bull is involved).

What gets me down is seeing someone who gives every impression that the tube is their idea of the perfect dining location. The culprits are usually men who sit in near-empty carriages at lunchtime, with straight back and feet firmly planted on the floor. They’ll carefully arrange their belongings on the seat to their left and place a crisp, brown paper bag on the seat to their right, from which they’ll reverentially extract some item – a sandwich, a burger, or whatever – before tucking into it with gusto, as if they’ve been waiting all day for this movable feast. Park bench, anyone?

3. The misery of unusual toilet signs in restaurants and bars

I am among the people who – inadvisedly, I know – always wait until the last possible moment to pop to the loo. Alcohol only serves to hinder my judgement in such a matter. So imagine the gnashing of teeth and crossing of legs that ensue when I’m in a bar and encounter any of the following on the toilet doors: a reproduction of a curly-haired Botticelli madonna, versus a curly-haired Regency-era prince; an intricate sketch of a dapper Edwardian gentleman, complete with umbrella, paunch and Penny farthing, versus one of a fragrant Edwardian lady, complete with parasol, bustle and, yes, Penny farthing; an enigmatic letter that could feasibly be attributed to, say, either a lad or a lady; a cartoon of a male sheep/horse/earwig, versus a cartoon of a female sheep/horse/earwig…before you know it, you’ve wet yourself again, haven’t you?

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Beat that sinking feeling

Since now is the season for New Year resolutions, I’ve decided to try to use my dishwasher more often. An easy one, you might think…

It’s a fact that whoever you live with, and however well you get on, you will end up fighting about the washing up. At uni, I’d chide and chivvy my housemates until they complied with the kitchen rota I’d devised, or seethe with fury in the face of their defiance, working through my frustrations by giving the fridge a jolly good clean, or by banging doors and writing passive-aggressive notes about the proximity of cleanliness to godliness.

Friends would come to my shared digs and look askance as they took in the freshly disinfected surfaces, polished taps and sparkling cooker. At the time I thought they were reflecting ashamedly on their own untidy dwellings, but now I can see that they pitied me for dashing my precious youth against the tide marks in the sink.

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