The Jewish Chronicle - - FEATURES -

WHEN I WAS at school I had a friend who used to dread Mon­day nights. That is be­cause his mum al­ways made egg and chips on a Mon­day. She was a poor cook and he didn’t like eggs much any­way.

It al­ways used to amuse me that he knew ex­actly what meal he was go­ing to get on any par­tic­u­lar night (Tues­day was lamb chops, Wed­nes­day was Shep­herd’s pie, can’t re­mem­ber Thurs­day but Fri­day was chal­lah fol­lowed by roast chicken, ob­vi­ously).

At the time, I thought this kind of rou­tine was sub­ur­ban and bour­geois (I used to talk like that when I was 16). I de­cided that I would never fall into this kind of mind­less rou­tine. My fa­ther, on the other hand, though not a par­tic­u­larly re­li­gious man, used to en­joy both rit­ual and rou­tine. He liked mak­ing kid­dush on Shab­bat and he had with­drawal symp­toms if there was no cold fried fish on Fri­day nights. I made a men­tal note that when I was in charge of mak­ing the din­ner, we would have stir fry one Fri­day, curry the next, and teriyaki chicken the one af­ter.

This is more or less what hap­pens. I am no slave to rit­ual; or rou­tine. I live a free, bo­hemian ex­is­tence (as much as one can live a free and bo­hemian ex­is­tence with a mort­gage and two kids in a ter­raced house in Palmers Green).

Then a week ago, I started think­ing a week about my daily habits. I re­alised that ac­tu­ally my ex­is­tence is se­ri­ously af­fected by rit­u­als and rou­tines.

Take chew­ing gum, for ex­am­ple. When I first worked in a non-smok­ing of­fice in the late ’80s, I started to chew sugar-free gum to ease my nico­tine pangs dur­ing the long stretch be­tween 9.30 and lunchtime. Then, early in 1995, I stopped smok­ing, so no need for the gum any more. How­ever, I still chew gum while I am at work, par­tic­u­larly when I am con­cen­trat­ing on writ­ing. But I never chew in the evenings or over the week­end when I am able to smoke (but of course don’t). The only ex­cep­tion to this rule is when I go to see Chelsea when I have to chew one piece of gum in the first half and one in the sec­ond half, be­cause I did this once and we won. I also wear which­ever is my lucky replica shirt, (this de­pends on whether we won the pre­vi­ous game). At a cup fi­nal a few years back, I could not de­cide which shirt was luck­i­est, so I ended up go­ing to Wem­b­ley wear­ing all three.

If it’s not chew­ing gum, it’s Diet Coke. I have to get one can (al­ways a can, never a bot­tle) on the way to work ev­ery day. I have read in many places about the per­ils of As­par­tame and phos­pho­ric acid used in its man­u­fac­ture but I can do noth­ing about it. I need a can a day. If I lead a long and healthy life, I will no doubt be­come a sci­en­tific study.

Even my rule about never hav­ing the same meal on the same day ev­ery week has taken a bat­ter­ing — lit­er­ally. For rea­sons too long and un­in­ter­est­ing to go into, Thurs­day night has be­come fish and chips night round at ours. It has got the point where we feel bereft if there is not a nice piece of had­dock on the ta­ble come din­ner time.

Then there is the cap­puc­cino on Fri­day morn­ing. I don’t know why I buy one on a Fri­day and no other day, but I do. This prob­a­bly ex­plains why I am so ex­hausted by Fri­day evening. By the time I have sipped Diet Coke, chewed gum, blown the froth off a cap­puc­cino and avoided the cracks in the pave­ment, I barely have enough en­ergy to make a curry.

Per­haps I’ll buy a chal­lah on the way home and pop a chicken in the oven in­stead.

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