The Weasel

How I bravely endured a medicinal diet of the North Sea's finest crustacea while gazing on three-dimensional images of Mars
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I GUESS you could call it "grace under pressure". All and sundry have been mightily impressed by my brave acceptance of the valetudinarian life. Though it is sheer torment to such a human dynamo as the Weasel, my recuperation from an infected leg has obliged me to pass my days reclining under a plaid blanket while reading the works of P G Wodehouse. Revealing a gritty fortitude that was hitherto unsuspected by even my nearest and dearest, I have steeled myself sufficiently to face up to the regular consumption of restorative viands, even offering detailed menu suggestions and timely reminders when meals are due.

I'm sorry to admit that Mrs Weasel has not shown the same strength of character. After a mere fortnight of poaching eggs, squeezing citrus fruits for fresh juice, applying unguents to my afflicted limb, nipping up to the newsagent, changing the TV channel as required, dashing to the chemist, plumping up pillows, scouring hedgerows for blackberries in order to secure the wherewithal for apple and blackberry pies and popping to the fishmonger for supplies of freshly boiled lobster, my dear spouse has developed an unbecoming red glow in her eyes, while wafts of supercharged steam eddy from her ears.

Perhaps surprisingly, it was the crustacea which particularly got her goat. A shellfish supper three days on the trot proved to be a trifle excessive for this confirmed carnivore, who started baying at the moon in her lust for lamb chops. However, my insistence on fruits de mer was based on medical advice. "Get some zinc into him," suggested the visiting nurse. "Plenty of fish." Despite the gastronomic prejudices of Mrs W, it is just about the pleasantest prescription I have ever received.

Though scoffing large quantities of lobster may appear to be a somewhat plutocratic interpretation of this advice, these handsomely armoured creatures are one of the great bargains of the Yorkshire coast. Go to the right spot and you obtain a blushing homard of moderate size for around three quid. Equally excellent crabs are even cheaper and available in virtually limitless supply. Spotting a crab-packed van, I once asked a driver where he was taking his crates of crustacea. "Hastings," he replied, shaking his head at the impoverished seas of the soft south.

However, I must admit that there is not a great deal of variety at fishmongers in this neck of the woods. I suspect that Yorkshire mariners return delicacies such as spider crabs, cuttlefish and octopus to the deep, though we may be too far north for such exotica. Mostly, the slabs are tenanted by regimented fillets of cod and haddock alongside odd northern specialities like woof and ling. On one occasion, however, the charming proprietress of our local fish shop pointed out a mysterious finny chimera. "Don't know what it is to be honest," she shrugged. "I'll tell Mr Lee at the Chinese take- away about it. He likes that sort of thing.'

In a foolhardy moment at her establishment, I once bought half a pound of something gooey with the irresistible name of smear. A mess of tubing, it was apparently part of the cod's reproductive mechanism, whether male or female I wouldn't like to say. A whitish maritime ooze emerged when it was cooked. Though an interesting gastronomic experience, I doubt if this is the right time to put in a request for smear.

Treated to a copy of National Geographic by Mrs W, you may be surprised to learn that I was excited beyond words by this unimpeachably worthy journal. The reason is that it contained a number of 3-D photographs together with the cardboard specs required to achieve the full effect. Peering through this makeshift lorgnette, the blurry images magically projected from the pages. Unfortunately, the subject matter was less than scintillating . Fourteen pages were devoted to a rocky patch of Mars, while another seven were occupied by decaying detritus on the Titanic.

It struck me that this innovation arrived four decades too late. Back in the innocent Fifties, generations of schoolboys gained an early education in the female form by gazing wonderstruck at National Geographic's features on tribal dances in Bechuanaland or fertility rites in Papua New Guinea. "Now what do I get?" I moaned to Mrs W. "Martian pebbles and rusty railings." Inexplicably, she seemed less than sympathetic to my complaint.


I'M PLEASED to report that a fellow Yorkshireman may have helped the world's best-selling horror writer overcome the burn-out which threatened to bring a premature end to his career.

Unlikely as it may seem, the main reason for Stephen King's recent visit to this country was his desire to see a cricket match. Sadly, it rained continuously during his day at Trent Bridge. Moreover, the doyen of spine- chillers found himself thrown in to the company of fellow best-seller Harold "Dickie" Bird. But what splendid good fortune for an artist who recently insisted, "I'm very near the end of publishing my works."

In the wake of previous King novels on the theme of the cornered writer - The Shining, Misery and Bag of Bones - can we now look forward to Stumps, the tale of an American author who finds himself trapped in a cricket pavilion for infinity? It is not too hard to envisage the nail-biting narrative. Caught in the rain, the nightmare for an innocent Yankee begins with the fatal words "Here's Dickie..." At first, the ex-umpire's reminiscences seem harmless enough, "I don't mind admitting I shed a tear when I walked on to the pitch for the last time..." As monologue and drizzle drift relentlessly, the writer comes to realise the full horror of his predicament as he hears the dread words, "The day I got my 0BE were the proudest of my life..." Inevitably, the Prince of Darkness makes an appearance. "That's Geoffrey Boycott, he's a case..." Such a horror-fest would surely mark the climax of King's career, but could it be more than the sane mind can stand?


DUE TO forces beyond my control, I missed the 21st anniversary of the sad day when Elvis passed from one Graceland to another. To make up for this omission, I have been thumbing through Elvis: In the Twilight of Memory by his early girlfriend June Juanico. A recurring theme in this charming portrait of 1956 is the prodigious appetite which did for the titan of rockaboogie at the age of 42. A typical meal runs to 16 items though June insists quality went hand in hand with quantity: "we had sausage, ham and bacon, well done but not burned... "

Later in the book, Elvis orders a dessert of 28 large scoops of ice-cream ("a beautiful sight at least 10 inches high"). A highlight comes when her mom asks "Have you ever had red beans and rice, Elvis?" The King is ecstatic "This is delicious. You'll have to teach my mother how to fix this." Though the lovelife of the young couple is less than sultry ("Don't worry about June, Mama, she's a virgin and she's gonna stay that way till we get married"), you can't deny that Ms Juanico spills the beans.