A slice of blueberry sponge gives rise to unfavourable comparisons
Here is a list of the things I’ve told myself I must remember during the coming weeks:
1 Not to interfere in any way in my sister Deborah’s love life.
2 Not to interfere in any way in the wedding arrangements of my young colleagues Ben and Clare.
3 To listen carefully to wise old Mr Dear when he reminds me of the above.
4 Eat less cake.
If you were here last week, you’ll remember that we were summoned to the palatial home of my sister, who wanted to moan about her love life. We arrived, and she duly moaned. (More of this in a moment.)
In fact, the wreckage of Debs’ romantic dreams was not the main point I took away from our visit. It was a remark she made in passing.
‘Rosie,’ she said. ‘Have you put on weight?’
Ironically, she was passing me a piece of home-made blueberry sponge as she said this. Now, I should say straightaway that it’s true my sister has the odd fault – but I won’t hear a word against her when it comes to her skill at baking cakes.
You’ll see that her question posed what philosophers would call an ethical dilemma. On the one hand, we have the question of whether or not I may have put on a bit of weight. On the other, there’s the prospect of a slice of blueberry sponge that would make Mary Berry throw down her pinny in a huff.
‘Yes, I think I might have put on a
pound or two,’ I said, stuffing my face and spluttering, ‘Oh, Debs, this sponge is absolutely heavenly!’
‘A pound or two? You’re joking, I assume?’ said Debs, who went on
to make an unflattering remark concerning a whale which had recently been spotted in the Thames.
‘No, really. These clothes are just
are bit unflattering, that’s all. It’s well known that lighter clothes make people look fatter.’
‘That top’s blue.’
‘Yes, but light blue.’
‘Seriously, Rosie, you need to start exercising and not eating so much.
For a start, you could lay off the cake. You’re attacking that sponge like a hungry hippopotamus who’s spent the last three months living on whitebait.’
‘I don’t really know much about the eating habits of the hippopotamus,’ I said, with all the indignity of someone whose little sister has compared them,
whether deliberately or not, with first a whale and then a hippo. ‘But I’m willing to bet they don’t eat whitebait.’
By this time, Mr Dear had appeared in the kitchen, having removed his overalls, over which he’d accidentally tipped some of that stuff that ‘does exactly what it says on the tin’ (although the tin very clearly doesn’t mention the staining of clothing). And so Debs was able to resume moaning about her love life to a slightly more sympathetic ear.
Mr Dear, as is his way when it comes to his sister-in-law, laid it on with a trowel. ‘There’s no reason why
somebody like you shouldn’t find a nice chap,’ he began. ‘There should rightly be a queue.’
Debs giggled and blushed, as well she might.
‘Look at it from their point of view,’ he said. ‘You’re comfortably off. You’ve still got your looks. You’re young at heart. You’re good company. You’re a smashing cook. What more could a man want?’
‘That’s the problem,’ said Debs. ‘What do men want? I don’t know any more. The young ones want a bit of
a fling with an older woman, just for the fun of it. The older ones are looking for a nursemaid and housekeeper. Haven’t you got any nice friends, Tom?’
‘I’ll have a think,’ said Mr D, ‘but you should try internet dating. It’s what all the youngsters do.’
‘I’m not sure I qualify as a youngster.’ ‘Nonsense!’ said Mr D.
Debs giggled and blushed again.
‘Oh, all right. I’ll give it a go. It can’t produce men who are worse than the ones I’ve seen over the past six months.’
‘I always thought you could do better than Graham,’ said Mr D.
‘You are sweet,’ said Debs. ‘And, talking of sweet, do you want another slice of blueberry sponge, Rosie?’
There was a pause so long that a selection of monkeys tapping randomly at typewriters could have written three more volumes of War and Peace and
The Complete Works of Shakespeare,
as well as all 20 volumes of the Oxford
English Dictionary (Very Long Edition). ‘No,’ I said eventually. ‘I’m not sure I do. I think I’m a bit full.’
‘Coward,’ said Debs.
‘You’re attacking that sponge like a hungry hippopotamus’