I am no nearer understanding why I'm always in such a rush in the kitchen these days, but I have
remembered a play I saw years ago by Michael Frayn. It was called Make and Break and was about a group of people trying to sell sliding office partitioning at a trade fair in Germany. Somehow, despite the superficially unpromising material, Frayn managed to make the whole thing very funny and rather poignant, while also inserting quite a lot about Buddhism into the script when no-one was looking.
One of the main characters was a middle-aged secretary, played wonderfully in the version I saw by Judi Dench. Her little soliloquy about her evening meals and the tyrannic treadmill of household chores struck a chord with me then - and it still does:
"When I make myself supper in the evening, I always cook myself a proper meal. And I always try to make sure I really enjoy it. I wouldn't enjoy it if I knew I'd still got all the washing-up to do. So I wash up everything I can in the kitchen as I go along, and I put the meal on a tray, so that I can just pop it back in the kitchen when I've finished and wash the last bits and pieces up in the morning with the breakfast things. But the trouble is, when I do sit down with the tray in my lap, what I'm thinking is, 'Well, I've just got this little bit of eating to do and then I can put the tray back in the kitchen.' In fact there was one famous occasion when I took the tray into the living-room to eat and then I just slipped back into the kitchen to wipe up some wet marks I'd noticed on the worktop and I thought, 'Well, that's that, that's all done for tonight. I'll have a bath and get to bed early for once.' Then, about one o'clock, I woke up with this terrible nagging feeling. And, do you know, it wasn't even hunger; it was just worry, because I knew there was something I'd forgotten to do. (Pause).
I suppose if we'd had children ...
I felt a bit small, sitting there in the middle of the night, eating congealed lamb chop."
A Year in Reading: Atticus Lish - A perfect piece of writing: smooth, dramatic, and making you stop and think.
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