Firstly, let me tell you about my tooth… Well, my demi-tooth really – now more accurately known as ‘stump’. It began its disintegration on the first day of Lockdown and it has made a hobby of shedding little bits of itself into my food at inopportune moments ever since. At the weekend it gave up the iron fist in the velvet glove approach and instead went full-on iron fist, divesting itself of everything above gum level in one fell oatcake, with the kind of sound that you get when you inadvertently stand on a snail in the rain. I’m hoping the dentists will see me – she has refused for the last six months unless I claimed to be in agony and I refuse to lie – although what she is going to do with it now I cannot imagine. I’m guessing she will have to try to extract it – it would appear to be all that they are prepared to do at the moment – but exactly what she will be able to pull on, I have no idea. Frankly, I am too scared to find out. I am terrified enough of her, without the fear that she may have to dig down into my gum in the manner of a western frontierswoman armed with miniature pick and shovel with which to liberate the shattered fragments of subterranean dentine. She is a very nice lady, and I am sure that her family love her, but she scares me when all she has to do is examine me; if she approaches me with ‘machinery’ I fear that I will be left with only the silent scream and a sudden lapse into unconsciousness. I worry that I will emerge from the pandemic able only to drink dinner. I can no longer grind my teeth – I will have to gnash my gums instead.
This week, the worries that normally dance around my head like cackling malignant sprites have threatened, temporarily, to engulf me: to descend, en masse, into my soul via my sagging shoulders. Individually they are not heavy, they cannot pull me under, but together, they are having a damn good go at giving me a jolly good dunking. I do not drown when I am in this sort of mood, but I do tend to wallow. It is infuriating that my equilibrium is so easily disturbed, not by major trauma, but by a thousand little dominoes slowly tipping over, each one destabilising two more.
Everything is blown out of proportion in this weirdly fluctuating world of sub-lockdown. Everything is starting to get me down: the constant internal discussion of what is and is not ‘allowed’; the constant deliberation over action – physical welfare versus mental wellbeing; the realisation that half of the world is terrified, whilst the other half is terrified of the half that is not; the constant imperative to explain that the sign that says that masks have to be worn does, indeed, mean that masks have to be worn and it doesn’t really matter if you’ve left it in the car, and I understand that you don’t care if I don’t care, but all the other mask-wearers in here might care, and, yes, it is the law actually. I’m sick of saying ‘I’m sorry, you have to wear a mask,’ and I’m sick of having to wear a mask. I’m sick of staring into the future and seeing nothing there.
Now, I am very keen that you do not think me pathetic – although I almost certainly am – and this is most certainly NOT depression. This is merely being very fed-up indeed, bordering on pissed off. (You see, I swore there. I seldom swear in print – although my characters often do. I’ve just realised how odd that is.) The problem with this current situation is that there is no visible end to it – and infinity always appears to be very, very empty indeed. Everyone is, I think, beginning to feel the weight of it. Even the best of things become tedious if they go on too long. When something begins badly, it almost never improves for an indefinite extension. When I was small, I had a friend who sometimes used to bang his head on the wall. In my naivety, I asked him why. He was a little taken aback: he thought about it for a while and said, “It’s really good when I stop.” It seemed odd at the time, but I think I get it now.
Anyway, my wife, who is obviously more astute than even she realises, decided to give me my favourite comfort meal this evening: fish fingers, mashed potato, frozen peas and parsley sauce – I will hear of no other! It is the perfect comfort food. It fulfils all the criteria:
- It is comforting.
- It is food.
- Possibly most important at the moment, it doesn’t take any chewing.
The only problem with it, is that in the current circumstances, it is nothing like enough, and it’s not the sort of thing that ‘scaling up’ will solve. Supersizing is not the answer. No-one likes to think of fish hands. Nobody wants to be that person who opens the second packet. Eating more and more is never comforting. The trick with comfort food is to eat until you feel pleasantly, comfortably full, not until you feel as though you may have to be rolled to bed. Although, now I come to think of it, a big bowl of sticky toffee pudding would not go amiss – although not with ice cream of course. Not with this tooth…
*Oh wow, look at me now, I’m building up my problems to the size of a cow – The Wonder Stuff