Living like royalty
'We live….' Hermione paused mid-sentence to blow away a fly which had the temerity to land on the tip of her cute button nose, '…like royalty.'
With one hand holding a shovel, while the other was grimed with evil smelling muck, she avoided wiping her fair face. She was likewise constrained from tucking away the unruly curl which had strayed from the confines of her battered broad-brimmed hat to bob down in front of her eye. Her ensemble was completed by an old tee-shirt and a pair of shapeless jogging bottoms worn over a pair of mud encrusted work boots. In short, my wife was the very vision of loveliness - but a far cry from the conventional model of be-medalled royalty.
'I bet there are very few kings or queens who have the privilege of servicing their own cess-pits,' I responded as we set about banishing the unfortunate whiff hanging over The Manor in recent days. Apparently some of Eldrick's friends flushed a punctured football down the toilet in the East Wing, with malodorous consequences as the always delicate balance of our ancient waste disposal system was thrown out of equilibrium. 'And show me the prince or princess who knows one end of a sewer rod from the other.' My voice echoed nicely as I peered down the man-hole we had opened on the edge of the Rolling Acres. 'I would rather remain republican.'
Hermione, fragrant freckled Hermione, squinted from behind the wayward curl as she attached yet another length of rod on to the already worryingly long line. At this rate, the head of the line would soon be popping up in Brisbane: 'No, what I really mean to say is that we eat like royalty.' She moved to dismiss the vision forming in my mind of gold plate and priceless porcelain. 'We eat food fit for royalty and never mind whether we eat that food off dog bowls or Dresden china.'
The menu at Medders Manor is dictated to a large degree by the seasons. At present, potatoes loom large on the bill of fare as extravagant wheelbarrow loads of freshly dug Kerr's Pinks are hauled in from the Side Garden. We are also inundated by tomatoes, prompting preparation of tomato salads, tomato soup, tomato relish and pasta sauce rich in tomatoes.
Tomatoes are deployed as one of the principal ingredients in a nourishing vegetable stew which also helps deal with the glut of courgettes. Our offspring are not keen on the tomatoes and both are actively hostile to the courgettes. So we cut them up small and smuggle them on to the plate in all manner of guises. I confess to fist pumping slyly in triumph the other evening when young Persephone declared my vegetable chowder a culinary triumph and demanded a second helping. Not only does the chowder recipe demand tomato and courgette but it also calls for (horror of adolescent horrors) mushroom.
The family diet is good and hearty but scarcely regal as our potatoes and tomatoes fall far short of being exclusive fare. The supermarket chains make a point of luring customers into their stores with giveaway offers in their greengrocer departments. There is nothing more democratic, more accessible, more proletarian in this day and age than a courgette, or a carrot or a beetroot.
The growers of home produced vegetables are deluding themselves it they reckon they are making a contribution to the household economy . Do the maths. Reckon the cost of seed, of fertilisers, of slug deterrent. Then allow for the man hours which went into producing this bowl of peas or that hank of onions. Growing cucumbers or beetroot is occupational therapy, and not a financially worthwhile undertaking. So what was Hermione on about?
'It's the raspberries,' she explained simply.
The raspberries. Ah, yes. Easy to grow but delicious, a luscious indulgence, decent raspberries are never given away for 40 cent a punnet. For a few weeks each summer, we do indeed eat like royalty, gorging ourselves, juice running down our chins. Lucky us…
A loud sucking noise boomed up the pipe, followed by a noxious wave of sewage gas. Then came a muffled explosion as the football was shoved clear and normal waste water treatment was restored.