cheese on toast
Friday, 05 December 2014

Help! The Jam in my Doughnut is Missing…

…and someone seems to have removed cheese on toast from the snack menu, says VG Lee

Written by VG Lee
A mild autumn day: my neighbour Ted and I sit on the railway sleepers that make up a raised bed on our allotment. I’ve brought a flask of tea.

‘Builders’ bottom tea,’ Ted quips.

Sometimes when Ted makes what are intended to be inflammatory remarks I tick him off, but the afternoon is so perfect, so orange and gold with sparrows kicking up a rumpus in the hawthorn hedge, that my heart isn’t in it. Also there is a packet of five jamfilled doughnuts from Morrisons to look forward to.

‘Alma prefers a blueberry muffin,’ Ted says, helping himself to the most sugar-covered doughnut.

‘Really?’ In my head I add a sarcastic, fascinating.

We both watch a male sparrow splashing in the ex-cat-litter tray that I’ve utilised as a bird bath, then Ted says, ‘When was the last time you had cheese on toast?’


‘Hah!’ He grins triumphantly. ‘You conform to statistics.’

I help myself to the next most sugar-covered doughnut. ‘What statistics would they be?’

‘Apparently people between the age of 55 and 65 still like cheese on toast for a snack, whereas those under 30 prefer a Pot Noodle.’

‘What about people over 65?’ (Ted is in his 80s.) ‘Weren’t you annoyed at being left out of the statistics?’

‘I’m more annoyed that you keep reminding me of my age. Alma says I could easily pass for 59.’ Alma is Ted’s fancy woman.

I suppress the words, Alma needs her eyes tested!

We raise our jam doughnuts to our mouths, pause to relish the delight to come and then take a leisurely bite. Something is amiss. We peer into the small hole where jam should have been inserted. It is empty.

I inspect the remaining three doughnuts. No jam!

Ted says, ‘Worse things happen at sea.’

‘I can’t think of a single worse thing.’

‘Well, there’s drowning for a start. What if I pop to the corner shop for a couple of Wagon Wheels?’

‘Wagon Wheels tasted stale even when they were popular.’

‘That was part of their charm. We’re all far too fond of finding food delicious. Is that a tongue twister?’ Ted licks sugar from his muddy fingers.

‘I don’t care. Let’s pack up and call in on Deirdre.’

While Ted cleans the mud off the fork and trowel, I ring her.

‘Deirdre, we have both suffered an emotional setback – might we trouble you for tea and cake?’

‘You’ll have to take me as you find me,’ Deirdre says.

‘As long as we find you with cake,’ I answer, but Deirdre has put the receiver down.

Marching towards her house, just to keep the conversation going, I ask Ted, ‘What type of nibbles does Alma prefer?’

Metaphorically kick my ankle hard at foolishly linking Alma with ‘nibbles’. However, for once Ted has other things on his mind.


‘Do you remember Pan Yan Pickle?’


‘Went very well with a Fray Bentos meat pie.’

I change my ‘Your turn to save the planet’ bag containing gardening tools, flask, packet of uneaten decimated doughnuts and the last of the butternut squashes to the other shoulder. Why am I always so loaded down while all Ted is carrying is a rusty pair of secateurs?

‘Kettle’s on. Shoes off,’ Deirdre orders.

I follow them into her immaculate kitchen wondering how Ted can be so jaunty while wearing a pair of threadbare socks that have succumbed to holes in both heels.

Deirdre has provided coffee and walnut cake from M&S, almond slices from the corner shop, linen napkins and her second-best china tea set.

While she cuts the cake, Ted asks,

‘Has anyone ever tried Shippam’s fish paste?’

Deirdre pinches the bridge of her nose as if to facilitate deep thought. ‘I may have tried caviar.’

‘I had it in my sandwiches every day for over a year when I was a lad,’ Ted says. ‘Choice of crab, lobster or bloater.’

‘I couldn’t eat any product that contains the word “bloater”,’ Deirdre says looking pained. ‘Ted, I’m assuming you read that article about certain foods becoming unpopular?’

Mouth full of almond slice, Ted nods.

‘As I recall, the survey found that young adults prefer to snack on bowls of pasta, fajitas and Pot Noodles.’

Ted swallows, slaps his knee, raising a small cloud of earth from his trouser leg. ‘That’s it!’

Deirdre looks mystified. ‘Pot Noodles?’

‘Fajitas!’ He waves his second almond slice at me. ‘You wanted to know what Alma liked to nibble. Fajitas. And she’s not averse to a spring roll.’ Ted roars with laughter, impervious to the chill that has descended on Deirdre’s kitchen.

To distract both of them I take the jamless doughnuts from my bag and put them on the table. ‘Deirdre, could you please photograph these doughnuts? I want them to go viral on Twitter.’ I have no idea what ‘to go viral’ might mean but hope it might tempt Ted off the subject of Alma.

‘She’s not averse to a spot of Welsh rarebit either!’ Ted guffaws.

Deirdre’s shoulders stiffen. Her neck arches. (In her youth an admirer compared it to the swan-like neck of the very late Queen Astrid of Belgium.) There is going to be an almighty row.

My voice comes out as a tremulous bleat. ‘Might Morrisons refund my money, plus throw in a year’s-worth of cakes of my choice to compensate for my traumatic disappointment?’

Ted reaches for his tea cup. ‘Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn!’

Always You, Edina, by VG Lee (Ward Wood Publishing, £9.99).

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