Monday, 9 October 2017

Did I tell you about when... I was really hungry

Have you ever been hungry? I don’t mean missed-lunch hungry, I don’t mean Hollywood-diet hungry, I mean 3rd world hungry. I have. It was November and the tourists were long gone and they’d taken all their money with them. I had put some money away for my flight home but that had quickly become a ticket on the magic bus which had become 1000 drachmas, little more than the cab fare to the next village and back and my cupboards were bare. I had bought a bag of lentils and some assorted veg and made soup, a lot of soup. Each day I would take out a bowl of soup and pour in a cup of water. The water was beginning to win out.
Now that sounds really grim but the upside was that almost every night a car stopped outside my apartment to take me out drinking, I had been living on a diet of beer and bar nuts for about a month and I was hungry.
I visited friends and left with their potato peelings. Don’t get me wrong, they would have fed me but something had kicked in, something stoic and British. I would let them feed me when I had money, I would take some beers or retsina, but now I had nothing and I couldn’t, before I was poncing, now I was begging. I couldn’t beg.
Twitshot
It was that same pig-headedness that had got me in such dire straights. I had had one too many animated altercations with Fat Yianni. I refused to sell five portions of chicken stew that had been bouncing round the kitchen for days.
“You couldn’t sell the ice cream in the Eskimos!” Fat Yianni spat at me. He had a big problems with mixed metaphors, but not only did I understand it, I was offended.
And I might have risen to the bait but I had asked the cook for a portion the day before. She shook her head grimly and brought me souvlaki, a fact that I had yelled at him in front of a packed restaurant.
That was late August and the end of my revenue stream. I got a little job on the scooters but there were no meals and I’d forgotten what an expense that could be. The ladies from the kitchen would feed me when Fat Yianni was away and leave care packages on my doorstep from time to time but that ended with the tourists.
The cycle continued with the car outside taking me for beers that were given freely by the bars that I had sent tourists to all summer. I guess it was gratitude or maybe just payment for my lunatic antics that spiced up a dull off-season in Halkidiki. I didn’t care. I got beer, I got nuts, I got wasted. The same car, I think, would then drive up outside the village and dump me on the roadside. A drooling lump of Essex laundry with a grin who could continue to entertain himself on the short walk through the village, singing made-up songs to himself, before passing out in the general vicinity of his apartment. Yes, sometimes I did not get all the way.
So, one night I was zig-zagging my way home when I heard a familiar sound. Familiar but this time it had new resonance, new meaning to a man who had been sustained on spot-the-lentil soup for too long. It was the clucking of a chicken. It sounded clucking tasty. I was clucking drooling. I looked around me and vaulted the fence. Now, I was of the opinion that chickens came in buckets and were finger licking good but I had some experience of turning a living thing into satisfied tummy back when we used to visit Uncle Ted. Uncle Ted had a small holding with goats and sheep and even a cow but most importantly in my education, he had rabbits and chickens. Uncle Ted had, when I was about 13, made me wring a chuck’s neck. Now, Uncle Ted had hands like two pound of Wall’s bangers, I did not. He took the poor dumb creature by the neck with his fist inverted and swung its body over the back of his hand. The chuck’s body did most of the work. It was still twitching but it had clucked its last. Then he looked at me. I took it in my boyish hand, “SWING IT!”. I did. In fact, I did it so hard, afraid that I wouldn’t do it hard enough that one of its claws nearly took my eye out. The adrenaline pumped hard, the chicken twitched. I did it. And, I could do it again. Difference was this time I didn’t have Uncle Ted to catch the bastard and hold it for me. I picked the one that looked a little slow on its feet. Was it lame? Did I care? I leaped and slipped in chicken shit but I got it. SWING! I shoved it into my jacket and zipped up. I couldn’t vault back over the fence holding the bottom of my jacket to stop the wriggling lump from falling so I climbed gingerly. A nail snagged my nads. My quarry fell on the floor. Now, many would have you believe that chickens run around after they are decapitated, it’s true they do twitch a lot and I guess if you were to put them on the ground they might run, but they don’t. That said, this one was doing a bloody good job of escaping. Its kinfolk were clucking and flapping while it lay back on the coup side of the fence giving its last. The sun wasn’t long to peer over the horizon and the last thing I wanted was to get caught chicken rustling. I leaned over scooped it up and launched my right leg over the fence. My jeans gave a rip! and unsnarled from the nail and I was off.
Back at the homestead, I pulled out the chuck and stuffed it into a saucepan. My biggest still had the remains of a soup that had sustained me so long so I went for the next down, it didn’t fit but it would have to do. I went to the balcony to suck a few lung-fulls of calm from a cigarette.
Now, what I did know was not much but I did know that plucking a cold bird is a hiding to nowhere. Those feathers need to come out warm and fast. I searched the kitchen for a plastic bag but I hadn’t bought anything for so long that I had nothing. All I could do was use my spare pillowcase and remember this was not a clean white bird, it stunk. I took it to the bathroom and ran it under a hot shower, some of the bits of grit hopped away.
I plucked, I’m not a cluckin’ plucker, I’m a cluckin’ plucker’s son and plucked some more then stuffed it back into the pan and fell unconscious on the bed satisfied with my labours.
I woke in the afternoon with chicken down in my nose. I had left the balcony door open and the breeze had got to the pillow case. I made a cup of tea, I hate tea but someone had left me a couple of boxes of Lipton bags before leaving. I had no milk or sugar but it was better than the taste of my own mouth. And I was spitting feathers.
The chicken’s legs were sticking out of the pan and it still needed gutting and cooking. I had images of mum’s roast chicken but I didn’t have an oven. I dreamed of chicken schnitzel, chicken chow mien, sweat and sour then I found half a bottle of medium sweet red wine, it was a little darker than I remembered. To be frank, I didn’t remember acquiring it or drinking it.
Coq au Vin!
Soon with blunt knives and brute force, I had it gut-free. I put the remains of the lentils in another pan and swished it round under the tap. Ready, Steady, Cook! It was as much as I could do not to nibble on bits of the carcase. I think the stock ended up with a Knorr cube and two parts drool, I was having problems staying objective.
As it was boiling, I went through the cupboards adding pinches of green stuff, red stuff, I even found one of those leaves mum used to put in the bolognese, at least I thought it was.
A knock at the door. Shit! Was it the gamekeeper? Or was it someone smelling my creation and inviting themselves for dinner. I froze. Again, a knock. I swallowed my lungs. I could hear my muscles creaking. Eventually I heard steps away from my door and I sucked in as much air as I could and nearly spat up my throat, fuck! that wine was tart!
I knew it would take an hour or so to cook but I didn’t want to leave it so I moved a chair into the chicken, I mean kitchen and tried to read. After watching the words dance around on the page, I gave up. I brushed my teeth, twice and swallowed the toothpaste. I tidied my room. I collected the feathers. The chicken boiled and boiled. I tried to nap but my stomach had turned on me, growling and griping. I couldn’t take any more. I went to the kitchen and fished out some of the meat that had turned white and brought it to my tongue, which was hanging around my knees. And ate.
The meat was tough but it tasted like Christmas. The juices needed some bread but the bakers would need me to give some bread and I had no bread.
It only took a plate full to make my stomach push against my belt, so unaccustomed to anything more than beer and peanuts, and I slept. I slept Christmas-day-in-front-of-The-Sound-of-Music sleep.
I woke full of beans but added some more coq to them before making my way down to the village square with a scribble pad and a head full of ideas. I slipped round the back of one of the tavernas that had closed for the winter and lifted a crate of empty Amstel bottles and took them to the supermarket. Ten Drachmas a bottle plus the crate got me two full bottles and a packet of Camels.
I pitched up on a wall at the square and began scribbling, poems and lyrics mostly.
A couple of old codgers pitched up within earshot.
“Come on Kosta, you know you can’t count!”
“No mistake. yesterday, I had twelve. This morning, I had eleven.”
“Malaka, It was hiding in the coup.”
“I'm telling you! Bloody Albanians stole my chickens....”
“Well... one.”
"Yeah! one..."


Hey! If you liked this story, do yourself a favour and SUBSCRIBE to me. You'll get a free ebook and some special time with me. So, what have you got to loose? CLICK HERE

No comments:

Post a Comment


“In a hyper-real postmodern world, fact and fiction have become confusingly indistinguishable” Hunter S. Thompson

Throw in your two-pennies worth

From Under Dark Clouds

The Century of DIY