independent

Sunday 22 September 2019

She never wanted a cock

By David Medcalf

'He's very small,' declared Hermione, echoing the words of Missus Sowberry, the undertaker's wife in 'Oliver!', as she examined with pitiless pass-remarkability the boy sent from the orphanage to serve in her funeral parlour.

'He's very small,' was Hermione's similarly unsentimental response to the arrival of the Christmas turkey, whom I had named Ataturk. At least the poor bird sitting pale and plucked on the kitchen counter no longer had ears to hear the uncomplimentary verdict being passed on his physique.

There was no chance of Ataturk following Oliver's spirited example by rising up from the roasting pan in which he had been deposited to give my wife an upper-cut with his featherless wing and make a break for freedom.

But I was moved to take offence on his behalf after nearly busting a gut hauling him from the boot of the car and into the house. Smallness is relative and Hermione's 'small' was her spouse's all but ruptured vertebra. My new year's resolution shall be to take that course in proper lifting techniques which I have been promising myself. We had known each other for not much more than an hour or so, Ataturk and I. We first became acquainted in the queue at the butcher's shop, where I was called in to provide muscle power when Hermione completed the purchase of the festive fowl with the proceeds of the Christmas savings club.

As we waited in the line, I spotted him dangling from his hook, a post-it with our family name printed in bold black felt tip slapped on to his veined breast. He seemed to me to be in fine fettle and he came complete with gleaming giblets safely pouched in a little plastic bag thrust up his backside, or maybe down his frontside - my grasp of turkey anatomy is weak. Yet, as we made our way from the shop, Hermione striding out while staggered behind under the burden of prime poultry, the complaints began.

'I never wanted a cock, you know,' said my wife primly. 'I never wanted a cock to start with. I distinctly ordered a hen. And I am not at all convinced that he is big enough.' Once she was set on this course of criticism, there was no diverting her into calmer waters of contentment and optimism. 'Not at all convinced.'

'He's very small,' she repeated as the assessment of hapless Ataturk continued back at headquarters with much pursing of lips and shaking of head. 'He really is very small' she said in the manner of one stating a fact of the blindingly obvious variety. 'Only sixteen pounds.'

Only. Only sixteen pounds. Now I consider myself very much the modern European man, at ease in a world of metric kilos and grams. A quick calculation had the traditional 16lbs promptly converted to 7kgs. Yet, in sticking to old school avoirdupois, Hermione chanced upon a nicely appropriate number, for we were due to have precisely sixteen people sitting down under the vaulted ceiling of the dining hall at Medders Manor for Christmas dinner. Sixteen pounds of meat for sixteen diners.

Though I dared not say it, a portion of one pound of turkey per person sounded more than adequate. When McDonald's advertise their quarter pounders, they do so with no hint of apology for short rations. We were proposing to serve up four times the standard McDonald's amount of protein - maybe allow three times the standard after taking Ataturk's bones into consideration.

Perfectionist Hermione could not be convinced. Expecting Mister Universe and was not happy to accept Ataturk who appeared in her eyes no better built than an apprentice jockey. She barely slept on Christmas night. It was not that she was straining to hear the jingling bells of Santa's sleigh.

At some point around three o'clock in the morning, she elbowed my ribs to wake me and tell me that I would have to hold back at dinnertime and staunch my notorious appetite for flesh by stoking up with roast potatoes.

Of course, she need not have worried. Yes, all sixteen of us sat down beneath the vaulted ceiling under the sightless gaze of the wildebeest shot on safari by great-great-granduncle Wilbur. We gathered merrily around the vast dinging table and we ate our fill. And at the end of the convivial feast we were left with lashings of leftover Ataturk with which to make turkey curry or turkey fricassee.

Wexford People

News