bored of excitement – the griefjunkie blog 

Tiramisu And The Dyspraxic Diner

Dear Rachel

Dyspraxia is often accurately, if unkindly, known as ‘clumsy child syndrome’, but adults have it too: Harry Potter has the condition, as did Albert Einstein.   If Winston Churchill had had it, his famous broadcast to the Empire and Commonwealth as the Germans threatened seabourne invasion would’ve been ‘We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets; we shall fight in the hills.  We shall never surrender.  Blast it, I’ve knocked my bloody brandy over’.  It’s that kind of a thing, really.

If you had your house rewired so that you could drive a bumper car from room to room, or even across rooms to feed the goldfish or put the kettle on, it would be similar to the interactions that a dyspraxic child has with their environment.   I don’t have children and I don’t have dyspraxia, and while the former would appear to be creeping up the agenda, the latter is unlikely to change.  I would suggest, however, that our allegedly impoverished public sector could save a great deal of money spent on conventional testing for infant dyspraxia by simply getting children to walk through a wide doorway with no distractions whatsoever, and seeing what happens.  I myself was sitting near a doorway of this type at a dinner party recently.   Had I not already known the the daughter of my host had very mild dyspraxia, I would’ve offered a prognosis to this end with no paediatric training whatsoever, on account of the number of times she charged into the back of my chair while walking through at steady pace with no distractions at all, then pinballed into the doorframe while trying to correct her trajectory.   This was before the dinner had started.   After the dinner had started, and in support of a conversational point, I managed to say ”Basically, I just can’t stand children’, offering a quick ‘No offence’ to all the people seated on my right, none of whom were over 10.

Much of my attitude towards food comes from my grandfather, a man so working class that he once refused to eat bread cut diagonally on the grounds that it represented unacceptable flamboyancy.  This clashes somewhat with his keynote advice to me as a child, which was ‘always eat as fast as possible, before some other bugger gets it’.   His attitude I suspect stems from a horrifically impoverished childhood in the East End, and therefore has sobering undertones.  Unsurprisingly, he had something to say on the subject of sobriety too, claiming that he was ‘teetotal, apart from all the booze and fags’.  An old friend of mine, Ejaz, once memorably stated that I am the only person he’d ever met who looks around the room every time he has a bite of something, and I am a somewhat tense dinner date for that reason. I think we touched upon this a few years ago when, demonstrating my inability to ignore a thrown gauntlet, I entered into an eating competition with a girl who was so bulimic that she could regurgitate individual courses of a meal.

The day had started curiously, with a massive fry up that consisted of more components than I can list. Eggs are my single favourite foodstuff, and I am sure I had both scrambled and fried varients. There was even a pork chop in there, as I recall.  This was followed by a couple of lunchtime pints at the Nag’s Head public house, Stoke Road, Slough.  The details escape me at this distance, but I think there was some kind of buffet or carvery or something happening, as I remember having a large roast dinner and remarking to Mickey Conroy – a shag-happy ginger bricklayer and serial bigamist who went by the unlikely name of ‘The Tangerine Dream’ in the Slough pubs pool league – that I was more meal than man.  However, bearing in mind that I wasn’t throwing up between courses, I was holding up well.  I remember watching a Manchester derby which United won 3-0, dating this event to Saturday 11th Febuary 1995, although I’m sure it was a Sunday.  Anyway.  Francesco’s in the High Street was the scene for the final act of the day’s grotesque three act culinary horrorshow.  I forget what we ate, but after starters and main, it came down to a penalty shoot out, in which each chose the other’s dessert.   I never look at restaurant menus – the descriptions of the various courses are usually too annoying – and I usually have the options read out to me instead.   In any case, it turned out to be an unfortunate time to discover that I don’t like tiramisu, which I had never heard of until that moment, and this realisation cost me the competition in which I had battled so heroically.  Walking back over the railway bridge to the Printer’s Devil public house – which I later ran – on Stoke Road, I remember feeling drunk on the sheer amount of things my metabolism was having to cope with.  I was, however, entirely fine until I sat down and began listing everything I’d eaten to Ejaz, at which point I had to excuse myself and throw up generously in the staff toilet.  Nonetheless, it was the kind of first date I enjoy.   It seemed to work, too, as our union lasted for six years, which is as long as the Second World War, or enough time, if recommended guidelines are observed, for an adult male such as myself to consume 4,818,000 calories.

There were no such heroics at the recent dinner party, of course.  I answered the dyspraxic daughter’s question of, didn’t I have school in the morning with, yes, but I’m allowed to stay up till nine on Mondays, and gave an affirmative response to her subsequent ‘Do you really like writing?’ enquiry.  ‘Even homework?’ she said brightly, managing to hand me a text book, put a toffee apple in her hair and say ‘You look about 22′ all at the same time.  Happily, I am now of a sufficiently advanced level of maturity to accept other people’s right to food.  By ‘other people’s right to food’, I do of course mean ‘other people’s right to food that I don’t want’.  Also, in the interests of rounding everything off nicely, when I say ‘dinner party’, I mean excellent bangers and mash and unwise quantities of Chilean red, and when I say ‘dyspraxic daughter’ I mean ‘one of the most charming individuals I’ve met in a long time’.



Photards: In the continued absence of photographic accompaniment, I shall describe to you some pictures I’ve taken recently which I thought might be of interest among these posts at some point, but which we may well now never see.

The top one was going to be a portrait of Richard Chown, who makes silver jewellery at Greenwich Market, and opposite whom I often find myself trading. Perhaps the most remarkable thing about the picture is what Richard is wearing, which is a full length blacksmith’s apron made of thick leather by his old dear – a remarkable skill for any mother to possess – and which heavily suggests that, when not making jewelery, he picks up hitchhikers and then kills them later with hammers.

The middle one was the reverse of a fiver across which someone had written the word ‘cheese’ in red felt pen. This is presumably either as a reminder to get some cheese while up the shop, or an ambitious attempt to make someone eat a five pound note with a baked potato with beans.

The lower picture was a shot of traders setting up in Petticoat Lane, in front of a place called Therapy, which for all the world looks like a gay sauna but is actually a mens’ cut price designer outlet. Imagine my surprise.


  1. joe

    Nov 3rd, 2011
    7:28 pm

    it wasn’t the amount of wine it was the leffe that was unwise. Quick update on the clumsy girl, she came down tonight wondering if she was going to wake up blind as shes just looked into her torch…..hand me the leffe.

  2. Paul

    Nov 3rd, 2011
    8:48 pm

    I can’t have red wine as a main course again. A glass is alright but you can’t go at it like you can with more civilised beverages.

  3. Hayley Chalmers

    Nov 4th, 2011
    9:14 am

    Very pleased to see someone else has the same view of children as I do – i.e. not being to stand them. Having spent my entire life gleefully telling people that I would never have children – if I had a gold coloured coin of the realm for every person that had said ‘you’ll change your mind!’ I’d be buying the beers. Of course you being a bloke will not have suffered that.

    Dyspraxia/clumsy child eh? I have a new label to give some some kids I know….

  4. Paul

    Nov 5th, 2011
    12:00 am

    Yeah, I have always got on really well with kids, oddly enough. I don’t like the idea of hanging out with them very much, but it’s always a larf once it happens.

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