A boiled egg and a slice of bread with butter and marmalade, along with a cup of tea.
To my North American sensibilities, it doesn’t seem like a sufficient lunch. But it is forever associated in my mind with lunch at my ancient Uncle John’s house in Wolverhampton, England.
My reserved, smart, funny and strange Uncle John. A lifetime bachelor with, and perhaps because of, a few strange involuntary tics and twitches. A jumpy shoulder that always seemed to be in motion. A bobbing head that seemed to be moving with the shoulder in time to some unheard, exotic jazz beat – 9/8 time or 11/4 time or something equally rare and unorthodox.
In later years, when my parents still took an annual spring trip back to the “old country”, but were no longer independent travellers, I went along to help smooth the logistics.
We often stayed at my Uncle John’s little house for a few days before venturing further afield.
I can still picture coming down for lunch at his little dining table with the lace-edged wtable-cloth and being offered a single boiled egg perched in an egg cup, with the sliced white bread already waiting on the bread plate to the side. Next to that, sat a tea-cup awaiting the caffeinated elixir of choice upon which all of Great Britain gets its energy and spark.
The edges of the dining room contained odds and ends of aged hi-fi equipment, books and musical instruments in no particular order or arrangement. At least, no arrangement that a modern interior designer would approve. But I have no doubt that it was an arrangement that perfectly met the needs of a lifetime bachelor at ease in his home.
My aged parents sat down at the table comfortably as if this was the most natural thing. And perhaps it was to them – from their former lives removed by some forty years in another country. A light nutritious meal like this, combined with hours spent in fresh country air, hiking through the countryside, was what kept them all alive, slim and fit well into their nineties.
I sat down a little bemused at first, but soon finding comfort in this ritualistic scene.
A comfort that comes back to me as I think back to that time over a decade ago.