My friend, Mapstew, asks why I wouldn't want to be Beth Ditto, and I can answer this impertinent question with two words: fat lesbian. I would be completely hopeless as a fat person, and particularly useless as a lesbian finding hot girl-on-girl action a huge yawnarama. I am sorry to say that some disappointed suitors can attest to this. Also, I do not have the discipline and commitment required to become truly fat, as I am easily distracted from the task in hand (eg eating a pie) and I am too nervous to enter a fast food establishment. Occasionally, when my prodigal son turns up on the doorstep, with his burning eyes, his hacking cough and raccoon skin hat, I take him for a Drive Thru at MacDonalds. I don't mind doing this. My boy shouts his order into an intercom and the wageslave asks if he wants to go large. Occasionally, I will agree to a Diet Cherry Coke, but I have never had a cheeseburger, nor a Whoppa in my mouth. The MacDonalds we prefer is opposite Reading Gaol. Sometimes, if we park up, my son will observe that it looks fucking awful.
I see other people going into fast fooderies and I envy them. They seem to know what to do. I would be completely lost, because you have to place your order immediately, or risk annoying the queue, and you have to know which sauce you prefer. Under no circumstances can you change your mind, and the napkins are kept in a patented plexiglass trap. This is all I know of MacDonalds. I cannot even begin to imagine what goes on in KFC or Domino's. However, I have to tell you that in Marlow we still have a Wimpy Bar. Yes, really, we do. The Henley Branch has only just closed down (to make way for an Oxfam Bookshop of all the gloomsome things!) so connoisseurs of frankfurters twirled around fried eggs and the fabled Brown Derby dessert have to head down-river. You will be relieved to hear that it is still strictly waitress service and that the menu is illustrated, as it ever was, with highly coloured photographs of the fare. All you have to do is point. No flimflam about sauces, either, as there is a red plastic tomato and a ridged brown dispenser on every table. The dimmer of my twins worked the Gaggia there during one unforgettable summer. His spirited cry of "Una cappuccino, no froth!" was strictly pre-Starbucks.
But I digress. My thrust here is weight. My mailbox is oft-times becrammed with the plaintive plea: Mrs Pouncer, how do you retain your schoolgirl figure (ie that of Marigold Russell in the first reel of Blue Murder at St Trinian's, gymslip and all)? My answer is simple: history. It is a generational thing, I'm afraid, and there is nothing that portly youth can do about it. In the 1970s we walked everywhere; there was no rural bus service to speak of, and parents did not operate as Licensed Cab Drivers in those days. Food in England was not easily available: you had to sit down to eat, for one thing. The thought of Boots the Chemist providing sandwiches and Fruits of the Forest Yogosnaps was unthinkable then. There were chipshops, yes, but none operated before 6.00 pm, and the only Kebab house I knew of was in Lambs Conduit Street. I know some of you will yield up the appalling cry: what about sausage rolls and Oeufs Ecossais then, Mrs Pouncer? Non-kosher, you aunts.
We all smoked, and when not smoking we chewed gum. And then there were diet drinks. How we loved them! My friends would neck quarts of Fresca and Diet Coke (Just For The Taste Of It!) but I loved Tab beyond all human comprehension. I wouldn't have touched Tango with a bargepole; if it wasn't crammed full of cyclamates and sodium benzoate, I wasn't drinking - and none of this Tommyrot about how it inhibited mitachondrial DNA, either! We couldn't care less. We were on a roll then (an Energen Starch Reduced one) as the diet industry kicked in and lycra became leisure wear. We had Limmits Crackers, Outline Low Fat Spread, ToniBell yoghurt and Savoury Beef Bisks - and whatever happened to Ayds? Actually, I never ate any of this stuff, as by then I was supporting a moderate barb. habit and tipped the scales at just under 8 stone. Of course, it wasn't healthy, I am not pretending it was, but the pavements were not logjammed with hefting teenagers who are too fat to care. That can't be healthy either, can it?
The trouble is that a healthy diet is a dreary diet, but I would always put my hand up for more spinach, raspberries, kneidlach, marzipan and vodka. That's balance.