Frivolous Monsters

The Family Shame

Last week, at metaphorical gunpoint, I was forced to attend a rare gathering of the collection of what family I have left, plus assorted others, which makes it sound like a the plot of a Hammer Horror film. And to go along with that theme it gave an airing to, and a trip out for, the family shame.

As expected this coming together led to the dreaded, but inevitable, question from relations asking me: “What is it that you actually do?” If you haven’t worked out yet, as a so-called writer who’s still making no money: I am the family shame.

I was forced to explain what my “work” was about to one of my aunties and ended up mostly impressing myself thinking that I actually made it sound quite good and a worthwhile social document. Which is odd as earlier I described my life to the other auntie as “still not contributing anything worthwhile to society”.

The event took place in a local restaurant off the motorway which calls itself a “farm” but turned out to be in the middle of a concrete industrial estate using the slogan “more than just a restaurant”. Whilst I was reading the menu with the usual vegetarian dread I heard my mother describing the Carvery to someone, with it’s gammon-turkey-lamb-beef combo, and I started getting flashbacks to pensioner couple two years ago in Costa Coffee who’d taken it upon themselves to sell (to me, a random stranger, fifty years their junior) the notion of their favourite carvery… in which I suddenly realised I was now sat.

Paraphrasing the old gimmer’s pearls of wisdom he said to me: “It’d be a good place to go if I wanted to impress a girl”. So how could I not immediately get up out of my chair and go along to have a look at this Carvery of such wonder? I didn’t even impress myself. And then I discovered that the vegeburgers on the menu weren’t even vegetarian. I started believing the place to be “less than just a restaurant”.

I was attending under duress – shame being the enemy of public gatherings – and it was only whilst there that I discovered that the whole event was in aid of my parents’ fortieth wedding anniversary. It was literally news to me. Why am I always the last to know?

Throughout the meal much was considered about the previous clan gathering, in what had to have been my parents’ thirtieth wedding anniversary ten years earlier, where I met my now sister-in-law for the first time. That, for me, was also the time of American girl No. 01 in Bangor – ten whole years ago – and so I thought that if my brother was going to bring a girl then I would be avant-garde and bring one along too. It turned out, when I asked her, that it sounded less like a normal gesture of inclusively and more like a plea to “come home and meet my mother”. Didn’t end well. Didn’t end well at all.

So, using American girl No. 01 as an anchor, I can now consider everything I’ve done and everything I’ve achieved in the past decade… It makes me wonder how I have the gumption to ever leave the house at all. Me, the family shame.

I think I desperately need a girlfriend in time for the fiftieth wedding anniversary in November 2022… And a wife… And kids… And a paying job… I think I’d better make a list.

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20 thoughts on “The Family Shame

  1. “She’s a vegetarian? Will she eat chicken?”

    • She? I’m the vegetarian. No chicken, no fish, no animal fats… Although in a place like that you never what things have been cooked in so you just have to pretend.

      I have eaten in Carverys before that looked a lot more appetising and had a lot more Sunday dinner side-dished like cauliflower cheese. Although that might have been the Carvery where I asked for the vegetarian option and got offered a fish. I asked the guy to have a really good think about it: he offered me a potato instead. I had to get the manager to reveal that, yes, there actually was a vegetarian dish under the counter. I get the impression that many of my kind don’t bother with such places.

  2. I’m not vegetarian but I would definitely avoid a Carvery. And a Carvery/ Family Get-Together combo? What were you thinking?

    • As I said I had no choice. Nothing to do with me. I was told I was going! And I was booked weeks ahead so that the “gathering” avoided a little trip I almost went on. They never said it was for their anniversary: I’ve never got into anniversaries, for some reason, even for those couples whose weddings I attended!

      And the food wasn’t good, but most of the cakes that turned up were the size of your head! I played safe with apple crumble… Worst apple crumble I’ve ever had.

  3. Emmy Charlotte Watts on said:

    Oh God, carveries. I went to one in Reading once with my fat uncle who proceeded to eat EVERYTHING. I quite like just having the trimmings of a roast – roast potatoes, Yorkshire puds, cauliflower cheese, carrots, peas etc. still amount to a pretty hefty meal yet I still find everyone else looking at me pityingly as the meat gets passed around.

    • A fellow vegetarian? I feel your pain. You’re right all the assorted extras are nice, but they seemed to have been lacking or certainly not presented well if they were there.

      I ordered off the menu and other people did say that they enjoyed the food… But it was awful and (to quote the old Jewish joke) such small portions. You do kind-of take it for granted that the vegeburger option is the vegetarian staple, but apparently not, and which meat-chomping person orders the vegeburger?

      • Emmy Charlotte Watts on said:

        I know – I don’t even like veggie burgers unless they’re like the ones you get in Byron or All Star Lanes (do they have those in Manchester?). They tend to be the kind that look and taste like a regurgitated patty of overcooked peas and carrots – I like the ones with portobello mushrooms and goat’s cheese and things. Mostly I’d rather just make really nice vegetables – I make garlic and rosemary roast potatoes, sugared carrots, maple syrup parsnips and cauliflower cheese with stilton. Have you ever tried Quorn’s roast thing? So revolting.

      • I cook a lot for myself and so as a result don’t like much pre-prepared food. So vegeburgers in places like that are a means to an end rather than a good time out. You are way too cool for me as I wouldn’t know about Byron, but checking the website I see that All Star Lanes is soon to open in the centre of Manchester. It doesn’t say when though. Neither are places I had heard of. I’m just obviously just un-hip.

        I guess, like me, you’ve become a cook with the need to survive the meat world! I love cooking and enjoy my food as a result. And I have had Quorn’s roast: That’s my Christmas dinner every year! Again a means to an end, but I have to say that I do like it cold on sandwiches! So shoot me.

        And your veg sounds very adventurous. I may well have had garlic and rosemary roast potatoes, but never sugared carrots, nor maple syrup parsnips! Even the cauliflower cheese with stilton sounds top drawer.

  4. Ha!! Sorry, man…….Have you written about American Girl No. 01 on here?

    • Ha, sorry, I think this is my first mention of American Girl No. 1 on here or pretty much anywhere. I’m not sure that it’s a story I could tell, partly as neither of us seem to come out of it particularly well, but mainly as I don’t know what went on in the end (and can only surmise) and was left just wondering: “WHAT?!?”.

      She did mock me for not having seen the film ‘Happy Gilmore’ and it was only a few years after this that it premiered on British TV. That says a lot.

      Rather that tell me that I was dumped she chose to hide in her friends shower in her halls of residence block when I came around trying to get hold of her. It’s only due to one our joint friends that I eventually found out that pearl of wisdom and got the message. As I said: neither of us come out of it well.

      I think, like Robbie Williams (?), I seem to try and break into the American market once every decade. It turns out that I am not The Beatles…

  5. Why don’t you run a subscription blog? I pay AU$1.91 a month (feed burner) to read one of my favourite blogs, and you are just as readable. Not that you’d make much of one subscription, but there must be others who would also value your writing?

    • Thanks, but I get only a “few” readers as it is and I would feel bad charging in case I put out a duff post. Like daylight robbery! For example this one, which I think is quite worthy, and amusing in opening me up with all my faults to a reader, and so-far it’s only had 37 views going off the wordpress counter. Now that’s 37 readers I’m happy to have, that I’m grateful for, but I don’t think they’d stick around and pay!

      Thanks for the compliment. To give you a sneak preview soon I’ll be posting “Plastic Cups For Jesus”, and before Christmas I hope to have my own festive telling of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol… Just lower your expectations. And then for my year anniversary in January I’m hoping to have a big post twenty years in the making… It just depends how things turn out.

      I guess I’m just happy to have the readers. So thanks for reading.

  6. Well, just so you know, the $1.91 is sitting there… Looking forward to A Christmas Carol retold!

    • Yeah, just don’t come with any expectations, great or otherwise. And I’ve worked it out that if I went all corporate and you did subscribe at that rate it’d bring in 22.92 Australian Dollars which, as an exchange rate of 0.6488 UK pounds to a dollar, would bring me in £14.87 a year. It’s almost worth doing just for one reader!

      But I would miss all the other reader comments. Even though I guess I don’t read all the comments on other people’s blogs that would be something that I’d miss!

      • It’s worth a lot more than before the GFC, your pound was $2.50 – $3.00 AU. Amazing how much (short term) money Australia can make by digging a great hole from beach to beach.

        How about starting the subscription blog on somewhere like blogspot and keep this one? Then you could run your screenplays on the subscription blog and keep us paying readers in suspense for the next episode. It’s the BBC’s loss and our (and your) gain. Use this blog to refer us to the other one of course 🙂 Now before you say “But it’s a screenplay”, then make it into a story written for the screen, then you can sell the rights to it when it takes off.

  7. conroyconroy on said:

    American Girl No.1? Sounds like the start of a series.

  8. Yes I’d quite happily pay 99p to subscribe although I’m just catching up with you as I’ve been too busy building up my potential social support circle for retirement, recently to go online…..even for emails.

    Now ,today, you’ve took me back into bad habits, I’ve been sitting here, in pyjamas being entertained by your very creative writing for two hours, instead of going out for a bike ride while its stopped raining! You are a bad influence my dear.
    But who else could describe a family get together at a carvery in the north of England and make it interesting and amusing even?

    As for vegetarian. I didn’t eat meat for many, many years. (Around 30) Like you I developed a good reportior of dishes to cook. When I was out I’d mainly eat just vegetables and never told people I didn’t eat meat. Quorn was just too meat like for me to stomach it.

    Now, 14 years after I suddenly fancied a bacon butty, whilst on night duty on new years eve, I find vegetarian food very bland. Strange how tastes changes, at one time the smell of cooking bacon was revolting to me. . I still cook my vegetarian dishes but with twice the amount of herbs and spices?

    Need to go and DO something!
    Love Denise.

    • WordPress has got so bad now that they’ve practically removed tag searching, and removed the “view comments” button, and finding new blogs now on WordPress is almost impossible for me now. I don’t know what they’re doing making it so user unfriendly. So there is no way I could ever have paying subscribers when I am just genuinely grateful for every read and comment as it is.

      I’ve mentioned this elsewhere, and will do in my next post, that I have been compiling, editing, and footnote adding for a book for quite a while now. Four hundred pages-ish. We’ll see when that’s finished how that goes.

      I‘m still vegetarian. Holding out. Although had to give up on Holland & Barret dried soya mince as that really didn’t go down well. I could chart my extreme bowel movements. That and the new Cadbury chocolate. It does make me worry about what’s in our food.

      It’s sunny. So get out there! Thanks for reading. Even a post his old.

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