We are what we eat, and that's the problem

I Was thinking about France a lot, down in Liskeard last week. Well, you do, don't you, stuck in Cornwall, trying to write, with the rain gouting down, the wind howling, the land sodden and shrouded in cloud (not mist; actual cloud), the birds silent, the roads grey and lethal between high, dripping stone banks, the unavailability of ... the unavailability of anything.

And the dead Bee Gees fan in my bedroom.

There was a dead Bee Gees fan in my bedroom. Or, to be fair, the ghost of a dead Bee Gees fan. You don't need to know any more than that, and I'm not going to tell you anyway, but, hell, the paranormal isn't what it used to be, not even in Cornwall, home of the piskies and Joan the Wad.

Do you remember Joan the Wad? She was a shrivelled pig-iron hag, advertised in the nastier Sunday newspapers, out at the back along with the incontinence supplies and bunion slippers; you sent off 17/6d in the old money, and they sent you a Joan the Wad which you then rubbed. If you rubbed it just right, it brought you luck, and I used to have nasty little visions of millions of leaky old people stumbling along in their bunion slippers, everything going wrong all around them, the bus late, the yobbos surly, the lady wife going to pot with dropsy, the pension inadequate, the fuses gone, the heating on the blink, the dog incontinent, Uncle Alzheimer knocking at the door, and ...

And all they can think of in their own defence is a surreptitious rub of the Wad, if they can get their gnarled fingers to cooperate. The Wad. The bloody, buggardly Joan the Wad, 17/6d in the old money and, just like with the Lottery, the only people who were desperate enough to shell out 17/6d out for Joan the stinking Wad were the people who couldn't afford 17/6d in the old money, or in any money at all.

The only redeeming factor in the whole sorry Wad racket was that the money probably went to some shrewd Wad entrepreneur rather than the remarkably unappealing National Lot- tery profiteers and the alarmingly depressing rattle-bag of greasy and discreditable "causes" to which they contribute. Never mind the ruckus over that crowd of shrieking madmen at Covent Garden, who (I think we all agree) should be left to drown in their mire of bosoms and vibrato; what about the new Hall for Cornwall?

That's what it's called: the Hall for Cornwall. There was far more than I wanted to know about it in the local newspaper, but that's what you get from local newspapers, I suppose. I couldn't tell whether or not "the Hall for Cornwall" has been built with Lottery money, and I don't care; I have made up my mind and if you try to confuse me with silly facts my old friend Mister Smack-In-The-Face will be paying you a call. You know the trouble with today? Too many facts. Facts are for people who cannot cope with life: politicians, functionaries, schoolmasters, single- issue lobbyists, people who would be all the better for a Smack In The Face. You begin to see the elegant symmetry of my argument? Of course you do, if you know what's good for you.

"The Hall for Cornwall" speaks volumes. It speaks, first of all, of a Committee, with all the half-hearted, flaccid, wool-gathering, play-it- safe pseudo-communitarian bollocks of Committees everywhere. And it speaks of Catering. There's a picture of the Catering Person in the local newspaper, and a list of the catering he proposes to provide. I needn't go into detail; enough to say that it's actually described as "catering", which is to food what facts are to life.

It was the "catering" that started me thinking about France. A couple of weeks ago, I was in the Perigord, in a small town roughly the size of Liskeard, and you can imagine the rest of it. The small but stylish and comfortable family hotel. The hotel dining-room, packed to capacity with French people being agreeable to each other, in which I had a modestly priced dinner which I shall remember until I die.

And then to find myself in Liskeard. Nobody moving. The only open restaurant deserted. The boarded-up hotel, for sale, no takers. The stupefied youths grunting on the street corners. The barren takeaways. The municipal slovenliness and disorder. The Somerfield supermarket, selling ogre-sized packets of crisps and slabs of waxy cheddar-style cheese. Despondent, wet, expressionless people in mail-order clothes, plodding around despondently.

My first instinct was to wish I had brought Mister Smack-In-The-Face along, but then I thought about the Hall for Cornwall, and the Somerfield supermarket, and the damnable smell of Catering which hangs about the country, and the duds and phoneys on Lottery committees. And then I thought about France some more, and my confit de canard and my bottle of Beychevelle '86, and the ghost of the Bee Gees fan, and Joan the Wad, and after a bit I got the answer. Most of life's delights are beyond our intervention. We can't change the weather. We can't buy luck. Most people, lacking the astounding allure and sheer technique of, for example, myself, will never truly plumb the feral profundities of the pleasures of the bed. But what we can do is democratise the delights of the table. Stop wasting money on Halls for Cornwall and nasty, boring "regional arts". Abolish subsidised opera for stupefied businessmen trying to swank it over their nasty clients. Claw back the absurd profits of privatised utility companies. Cattle-prod the Camelot sods until they disgorge. And spend all the money instead on food. Subsidised, good restaurants in every town. Eating lessons for schoolchildren. Snack-food companies compulsorily closed down. Government- sponsored terrorists paid to let off stink-bombs and throw up in burger joints. Supermarket "executives", who hate both food and people, to be rounded up, stripped, flogged and exiled to the Isle of Wight forever. Free cookery master-classes. Compulsory two-hour lunch breaks. And a ban, forever, on any doctor ever saying anything about food anywhere. It will be painful at first; but in the long run, who knows? We might even invent our own word for joie de vivre. !

Arts and Entertainment

Great British Bake Off
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

    Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

    But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
    Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

    Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

    Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
    Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

    Britain's 24-hour culture

    With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
    Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

    The addictive nature of Diplomacy

    Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
    Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

    Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

    Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
    8 best children's clocks

    Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

    Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
    Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

    Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

    After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
    Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

    How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

    Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
    Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

    'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

    In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
    Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

    The Arab Spring reversed

    Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
    King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

    Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

    Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
    Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

    Who is Oliver Bonas?

    It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
    Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

    Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

    However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
    60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

    60 years of Scalextric

    Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones