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30 November 2022

Thanks to a kind reader, I now have an eggcup to keep my squalor at bay

The gift is, by some margin, the classiest thing in the Hove-l, and I have been gorging myself on eggs ever since.

By Nicholas Lezard

Once more, bounty falls from the heavens, or rather, my loyal reader A—, who sent me another mysterious parcel. The tape it was sealed with said “Lily & Loaf” in largish capitals, and underneath, “beauty, health, balance”. What is this? I wondered, a scented candle? I smelled the box. Nothing. Also, it did not have the heft of a candle – which reminds me, I had better pop out to Robert Dyas after this to buy some in anticipation of winter’s forthcoming power cuts. I will not need candlesticks because you can stick candles in empty bottles of wine to pleasing effect and believe it or not, I have plenty of those (thanks to the generosity of another reader, T— , who left some vouchers behind the till at Majestic Wine in Brighton).

So I opened it and found a pretty pink cardboard cylinder whose lid said that the contents were “100 per cent natural, certified vegan & cruelty free”. This is fine by me. I am probably as far from being vegan as you can get but I like to think I am, apart from eating meat of course, free of all cruelty. But I am baffled, for something is going clink inside it. Soap and scents and things that come in pretty pink cruelty-free boxes do not go clink. Also, why would anyone send me soap or scent? I know I’ve been dodging baths lately because of the expense, and showers too because undergoing a shower in the Hove-l is a penance – one miserable enough to knock off a few decades in purgatory if you believe in that kind of thing. But I don’t exert myself much and don’t pong, and even if I did who would be there to smell it? No one has got close enough to me to say “You know, you could really do with a wash” since May 2021.

[See also: The Chancellor takes me back to 2013, Watership Down and being in love]

Having decided it’s not an IED or some other kind of booby trap I open it and what do I find? Two very nice olde-style teaspoons, a soup spoon of more modern design and what I can only describe as a darling little chalice in silver plate. An accompanying card from A— says: “I hope you can now enjoy a lovely boiled egg in style.” And you know what? I now have. The chalice/eggcup is, by some margin, the classiest thing in the Hove-l, apart from my grandfather’s wristwatch.

I have been gorging myself on eggs. Tap, tap, tap, goes my little spoon, as purposefully as the Nibelungs’ hammers in Das Rheingold. Have you tried eating a boiled egg with a dessert spoon? It’s really not on. And then I had some soup with the soup spoon and it was another game-changer, if not quite as momentous a one.

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But is it wrong for me to ask for things? After a point, one becomes either complacent or ethically compromised. After this I now begin to know how David Beckham feels after accepting a reported £150m to be an “ambassador” for the World Cup in Qatar. Or, I don’t know, Faust getting his end away with Marguerite. (That’s two opera references in one column, and I have absolutely no idea why.)

[See also: I can survive without teaspoons – but find myself thwarted by an unshuttable window]

Anyway, now that I have East Sussex’s swankiest eggcup I decided it was time to do a little tidying up, and thought I would start with the mess that exists by the side of the bed. A mark of adulthood, I think, is to have a bed that isn’t jammed into a corner, and technically, my bed isn’t: it’s the first time I’ve had a freestanding bed since the Blair administration, but the gap between it and the wardrobe has become filled with a nightmarish pile of books, magazines and any number of empty Haribo, crisp and Garibaldi biscuit packets.

So I got to work and oh my goodness, how dispiriting. There wasn’t anything horribly organic like when they syringed my ears the other day – that, like Sherlock’s Giant Rat of Sumatra, is a story for which the world is not yet prepared – but I had no idea I ate so many sweeties. Why have my teeth not fallen out?

I’m tempting fate with those words but, considering the abuse they’ve taken over the years, it’s not much short of a miracle that they’re still there. Of course, they look like an untended Victorian graveyard and I have to cover my mouth with my hand, like a geisha, when I smile, but they function, and at my age that’s all you can ask of them really. Some years ago an attractive woman said she’d sleep with me if I got my teeth fixed and even got me an initial appointment at a fancy dentist in London. But when they told me how much it would cost I decided that no sex, however fantastic it was likely to be, was worth that much, so I made my excuses and left.

Hmm. I begin to notice a certain theme creeping into this column and it’s not opera. Well, I’m not that morally illiterate, I’m not going to use this column to ask for that kind of thing, and anyway the last time that happened it ended in tears (mine). No, I am content to sit here, staring out to sea, and counting my blessings, which now include some splendid teaspoons and a beautiful chalice. When I strike it with a teaspoon it goes “ting!” like an enchanted bell. That’s good enough for me.

[See also: David Baddiel’s Diary: Shouting at the World Cup, a timeout from Twitter, and why Jews still don’t count]

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This article appears in the 30 Nov 2022 issue of the New Statesman, World Prince