(written may 2011)
ug. i was in whites.
it wuz a sunny fucker
of an august day to be inside
a country manor full of brummies
as if the class divides had shattered
and perhaps they had –
the place was rented for a “teambuilding” weekend
and the groundskeepers had seen to the lawns.
though the catering staff
were still the catering staff.
and some ignorant dick was watching
godawful pop vids at volume
in the lounge-half of the kitchen
at a silvertop age when he should’ve known better
things than flimsy songs of flimsy lusts existed
and should’ve been reading some poetry.
we served and served and served them
curlicued cucumber with the rind and pips removed;
smoked trout and poached trout and fiddly trout;
bread rolls of walnuts and raisins and rosemary
and butter in dishes shaped like shells.
horseradish sauce in dainty little ramekins;
just-so’d carrots buttered and parslied;
tuiles for ice-cream creme-frachied to dessert plates;
handmade fudge, cocoa-d, in paper cases.
(a chaotic opera from an orchestra of colourful ingredients)
white chocolate chips;
pre-goldened chicken breasts;
bain-maries of roastie-tatoes
we prepped up late-at-night yesterday;
jugs of jus, not gravy.
(“shhh about the cartons of knorr”)
all through the afternoon that followed the morning
that led into evening that turned into night
we were octopussing about surrounded by
abandoned bags of lettuce leaves
spewed tubs of cottage cheese
pools of beef blood
a landslide of peppercorns
in little pink jackets
corriander stamped on
and a leaking sink above a box of pastry cases.
we ennobled the morons with food.
the morons devoured and caroused
and got closer
as they got drunker
and i got bitterer
in the pit of sobriety.
the prissy dumb waitresses caked on their waged smiles
and got on with what they’d come to get on with.
eventually a moron cluttered in blithering
“hey, do you guys not have a drink? do you want one?”
facing a shaking-head chef and a team full of “no, i’m fine”s
and a skinny guy, ears pricked, at the back nodding,
right arm aloft. “he’ll have one”
said his father, the designated dogsbody.
too right. a top-popped budweiser. cheers buddy.
then ten minutes later
the scenario repeated with another moron
and the night began showing signs
of becoming bearable.
i was in the pantry
looking for a jar of something
or something to use
for something or other.
the latch rattled. 4 morons came in
wielding a 70 of smirnoff
from a mystery location.
“hey, Chef! how’s it going?
are you enjoying our party?”
“i cut off the crusts,
i de-lumped the custard
i tended the roastie-tatoes for you,
of course it’s been a riot out here.
why don’t you give me a drink?!”
we broke a divide between staff and guests
that would horrify the aristocracy.
i played the rebel, not letting on
that the boss was my bro, so could hardly
chastise me too easy
and i blabbered about lacking in jobwise morals
and preferring to handle plectrums than spatulas
and i blabbered about travel
and giving no damns
and how as soon as i stopped spending everything i had
on booze and music i’d screw off again to anywhere
and tramp until happenstance handed me a chance.
“your mind is so open, so free”
jabbered a moron.
(it must’ve been my slacker bandana)
“well i’m not an ostrich;
this ain’t exactly auschwitz”
i downed a couple of straight vodkas
and they started to love me
for who they weren’t
and what they thought me to be
and they left me a bottle propped
hidden behind a box of cornflakes
when they slid back out to the dining hall.
in between brief periods of walking about the kitchen
pretending to be packing things away
and eating doritos of the sideboard
shifting saucepans from one place to another
and hanging teatowels on the handles of the aga
making quips to deaf ears who were busy
(like drinkers do when the think kicks in)
i was hiding in my pantry
lounging on the low shelf
with my secret stash
shirking the futile work of a world
which i’d known’d’ve
got on without me,
seeing in the cracks
in the old magnolia gloss’d door
one team serving another.
the latch rattled. 4 morons came back in
wielding another 70 of smirnoff
from the mystery location
(the great offy in the sky;
nirvana’s liquor store;
the 24 hour bottle-o of elysium)
“i am about as much a ‘Chef’ as a cracker is a banquet”
i carried on skulling vodka in the scullery with stupid strangers.
there were names but they were vapours.
the drinks were flying
the glasses slugged
a glass got smashed
and was kicked under a cupboard
packets of powdery foodstuffs
fell on the washed-up crockery
and the drinks kept flying.
two more morons cluttered in.
“hey Chef!” etc.
and the drinks kept flying.
and whatever a damn was then
i didn’t give one.
outside the pantry door
my family carried on
at the pantry door
and turning the wheel of food.
piling up profiteroles on platters,
wedges of cheeses on wooden boards,
physalis and grapes in pretty shapes;
picking mint pluches and shaking icing sugar;
breadknifing shop-bought baguettes;
garnishing squiggles of coulis while
finishing sauces and slicing up starfruit
and de-pitting morello cherries while
toiling over boiling kettles.
losing rolls of clingfilm
looking for rolls of clingfilm
finding rolls of clingfilm
and using rolls of clingfilm
waitresses pinned to the timesheet
were diligently clearing the dinnerplates;
putting upside-down cups on saucers on trays
drip-draining champagne flutes
scrubbing stubborn oventrays
drying things away.
all of them,
my kin and compadres,
everything in sight
until they’d done it all and i
said goodbye to my
buddies of the cupboard
the last packed up box
back to the van.
i feel like roadkill.
i was fleeing the headlights.
on the road back home
we were overtaking the brother
(me with the father driving)
on a dual carriageway
and missed by a slim inch a maniac
(or probably a magnificent drunk)
who was hurling a car down the wrong side
straight towards our windscreen.
it could have been the last night of my life.
i would have died laughing with a robbed bottle of beer in my hand,
never having known hard times.