Nothing like a girls’ lunch to keep the juices flowing and the mind agile. These girls were eighty two and eighty one. Eighty two years old has just got back from Europe, where she watched her grand-daughter win a gold medal at the Olympics, then nipped across to Germany where her son had restored an old building, and was giving a celebration thank you to all the forty helpers. Friend found herself cooking said dinner for the forty. After a cruise down the Rhine, she came home and popped straight into hospital for a hip replacement. Today she was hiding her white elastic post-op stockings under a snazzy pair of well cut black trousers, and wearing a beautiful turquoise French jacket with silver buttons.
She plays golf, walks her two dogs, attends endless lunches, dinners, and concerts, and is doing a thesis for the U3A on medieval medicine, reading Chaucer in the original Old Englische. If I meet her walking her dogs, and greet her with “Hail to thee, blithe spirit”, she’ll reply with the rest of Shelley’s verses, all twenty one of them, or any other poem I want to mention.
Eighty-one year old gave up sailing last year when her eighty year old husband had to give up judging international yacht races, but she still does yoga every day. She still paints and has exhibitions in a smart gallery, makes all her own exquisite clothes, the envy of her friends, and creates her own jewellery. She’s just finished re-painting and re-decorating in black and white, their holiday home on a near-by island. This included re-covering sofa cushions and chairs and painting furniture.
After much laughter as we consumed fresh salmon on puy lentils with a glass of rose, followed by fresh- out- of- the oven plum and almond tart and coffee, we talked about our lives. We discovered that we each envied the others aspects of their lives, and felt that everyone else had much better relationships than our own. When we discussed our own truths, amid more laughter, we found that our assumptions about each other were completely wrong.
This conversation cheered us all up, and put a lot of things in perspective, so we could count our blessings instead of comparing ourselves with others. Finally our mutual admiration society broke up and we went back to our husbands and children, dogs, painting, writing, golf, reading and grandchildren.
That night one of the loves of my life rang. “Hello,” he said. After we’d discussed his essays and lecture schedule, and covered the various 21st birthday parties he’d been to, he told me he was heading overseas to get a job before going to an overseas university. I had a moment’s inspiration, and said, “darling, you know you could make a fortune if you’d grow a field of hemlock and turn it into little pills for me and all my friends to take when we feel it’s time.”
He entered into this discussion with enthusiasm, replying, ”Yes, Grannie, I know euthanasia will be the thing in future, but I think there’s a better way than hemlock”.
What about Socrates I protested, all he had to do was drink, and then just let himself go cold from his feet up until the poison reached his heart. We discussed Socrates, but grandson was unsure that hemlock was the best way. They’re experimenting with all sorts of things these days, he told me – partly to find methods to kill animals so that people feel they can eat meat without feeling guilty. Really, I queried?
Yes, there’s a gas which expels oxygen, and when the brain is starved of oxygen, you go into a state of bliss, so you die blissfully he assured me.
Well how do they know, I asked, unconvinced? They’ve been experimenting with pigs, he said. (My hackles began to rise at the thought of experimenting on animals.) He went onto tell me that they filled two troughs, one with ordinary apples, the other with apples injected with this gas. The pigs who chose the gassy apples ate their fill, and then staggered off and collapsed. When they came to, because there wasn’t enough gas to actually kill them, they rushed back to the trough to get more of these bliss-filled apples, and they did it several times till the apples had all gone! They knew a good thing when they tasted it. Pigs in heaven!
I was convinced. If intelligent pigs had blissed out and wanted more, it sounded just the ticket to me. And since my husband had just reported from a health board meeting, that an overseas geriatric expert had told them that today’s old never saw their children, because the children were all so busy still working; that it’s one of the biggest health problems these days that there’s no one around to care for the old, I tucked away the thought of those apples. Bliss – filled apples would be just the thing for a rainy day… we could die happy and go straight to heaven!
Food for Threadbare Gourmets
Apples, as we know are cheap, and if there are no bliss-filled apples around we might as well make a heavenly apple tart!
The good thing about this recipe is that you don’t have to cook the pastry blind. Line a pastry dish with short crust pastry, and sprinkle the base with a quarter of a cup of fine white breadcrumbs. Peel and thinly slice four apples and arrange in overlapping circles on the pastry. Combine one cup of cream with half a cup of sugar and two eggs, and pour over the apples. Sprinkle with quarter of a cup of almond slivers and bake at 180 degrees for half an hour or longer until the custard is set. The jury’s out on whether we need cream or not!
Food for Thought
There is something that can be found in one place. It is a great treasure, which may be called the fulfilment of existence. The place where this treasure can be found is the place on which one stands. Martin Buber 1878 -1965 Austrian-born Israeli philosopher