Be Polite

Saturday September 7, 2019

It's here again, that time of year. I came home just now to find a carrier bag hung on my gate, left by my neighbour. Inside there is a marrow, great in length and girth. She has an allotment, and I often enjoy the pleasure of carrots straight from the ground, green beans and strawberries. Some years back she left me the first marrow.

"Did you enjoy that marrow" she called over the fence later. Now I can't see the point of marrows. No flavour, no crunch, and probably no nutritional value.

"Yes" I lied "Very tasty, thank you".

Many many marrows have appeared over the years. I can't pass them on, people more honest than I have told me "No way are you palming that off on me".

I know there is a competitive element to vegetable growing, so it has occurred to me that she never actually eats the things herself. She saw me coming.

I take them into the nearby woods, hoping the animals will eat them. I can imagine the foxes and badgers "Here she comes, more ******* marrows".

Even this has to be done with stealth, the marrow wrapped up in case she sees the shape inside the bag. She sees everything, trust me. I lie through my teeth when asked how I serve them, stuffed, frittered, curried, you name it.

It's not the first time being polite has backfired on me. There used to be a perfume I hated, called Tweed. Not only did the person who first gave it continue to do so year in year out, but she told others, who followed suit. Body lotions and soaps were added. "Oh, my favourite!" I would cry.

My ex-husband told my mother once that he liked tomatoes and celery. Indeed he did, up to a point. My mother rarely cooked, her mental state inspired some odd meals on the rare occasions when she had visitors. However, this piece of information about her son-in-law stuck. A plate of cream cakes, chocolate biscuits with custard, a pint of Harveys Bristol Cream each maybe, but always for him a side dish of a kilo of tomatoes and a whole bunch of celery, served unadorned. It was not a good idea to insult my mother, you could end up in hospital, so he dutifully chomped his way through it all.

The biggest ever test of good manners came when I was around eight. I had gone to see my father at work. He was supposed to be taking me out to eat, but something came up. A nice man who worked for him insisted I come back to his house for a meal, and to meet his little daughter of the same age. Lunch was served. I stared at what was on my plate. The others tucked in, so I picked up my knife and fork. How I got it down I will never know.

"Do you have brains fried at your house Valerie, or pickled like this?" I was asked. "Pickled" I replied. So that's what this slimy disgusting thing was, served with bread and margarine. I finished it and said thank you.

Back with my Dad, he thanked the foreman. "Oh, it's a pleasure, she's welcome any time, she likes her food doesn't she?"

Have you ever regretted being too polite for your own good?

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