Martin Newell’s Joy of Essex: Never try to second-guess a flying omelette

HERE for my readers, because I now feel that the three of us know each other well enough, is a cautionary Yuletide tale from my guileless early 20s. The story takes place just before Christmas in a pleasant Colchester suburb.

There comes a point during an omelette’s flight where the omelette parts company with the plate which it’s on . . . The omelette, being lighter than the plate, rapidly loses trajectory as it begins to fragment. Some of the component pieces will generally hit a wall, whilst others, depending upon the moisture content of the omelette’s filling, will fragment still further, dropping onto the floor or adhering to other surfaces, such as clothing. The plate, on the other hand, will continue gaining momentum, especially if the person at whom it has been hurled takes evasive action to avoid injury. If this happens, the plate, if it’s of a heavy white catering type, will hit a door frame, shattering on impact as the broken pieces fall to the floor nearest to the impact point.

She had only been back for about 20 minutes. “You look hungry. Let me cook you an omelette,” she suggested. I stood there in our kitchen, in a happy pre-Christmas haze of cheap port and tobacco smoke. After a row and many weeks apart, she had returned. That was the main thing. “Oh, I forgot to mention,” I began, as brightly as I could. “Ian and his German visitors will be back pretty soon, to pick up the girl.” There was a pause. “Girl?” she asked. “Yeah,” I said, explaining that they were all out doing a spot of last-minute Christmas shopping. The German girl had had a drink on the ferry over and was a bit woozy upon arrival.

So when they popped in, they’d asked me if they could leave her here to sleep it off. I added that I’d just been cleaning the place up for Christmas, you know? Putting the odd decoration up and waiting for them all to return . . . “A drunk German girl – here?” she interrupted. “I didn’t notice her in the living room.”

“Well no, you didn’t let me explain that bit,” I smiled. “I thought it was better – since I was making a racket with the Hoover and everything – to put her in the bedroom.”

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“You’ve put a drunk German girl in our bedroom?”

I said: “But it’s not as if you’ve even been here for weeks and there’s nothing going on. I don’t even know her – well, I met her briefly on a German tour once – but I mean . . . Anyway, we put her in there to sleep. Until they pick her up. Which should be any minute now.”

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“Where, exactly, did you put her?” she asked me. “On the bed of course,” I replied. As if I’d considered the wardrobe or maybe draped her over the dressing table but then, upon reflection, had opted for the bed. She stared at me all this time, carefully transferring the omelette from the pan to the plate.

Thus, just as darkness fell on a December afternoon in the late 1970s, began the inaugural and only Flight of the Omelette. The plate skimmed my ribcage before hitting the door lintel and breaking up. Some of the omelette hit me in the chest. Two minutes later, following some quite bad language, I was watching her marching past the kitchen window, down the street, into the winter darkness. In her hands were the two bags which she’d set down upon her arrival and hadn’t yet bothered to unzip. I was busy picking up pieces of broken plate and wiping omelette off the wall and myself with a wet dishcloth. The two cats were helping with the stuff on the floor.

Only minutes afterwards, my friend Ian and his German guests returned. They woke the sleeping girl and loaded her gently into their camper van. The whole drama had happened in their absence. The girl hadn’t even stirred during the row. I told them there’d been a bit of a kerfuffle, whilst they were out. They shrugged – like Germans sometimes do. A while after that, they all got in the van and left, leaving me, the cats and my troubles. I poured myself another port, lit a cigarette, put David Bowie’s Low on the record player and I said to myself: “Merry Christmas, Yoko.”

Here, for interested readers, are the salient lessons learned from this incident:

? Never assume, even if she walked out on you several weeks earlier, that your girlfriend won’t suddenly decide to return, and without any kind of formal announcement.

? Never let anyone deposit a drunk German girl on your bed – not even if they’ve promised to pick her up within a couple of hours.

? Never hope that just because you’ve done a good deed, and are absolutely innocent of any kind of impropriety, that someone won’t think the worst of you.

? Never assume that any woman with whom you’ve been in a relationship will have even a passing acquaintanceship with fairness. Do not expect that she will hear, let alone understand, any of the things which you say in your own defence, in a court of her devising, where she is judge, jury and legal team acting for the prosecution.

? Never try to second-guess a flying omelette.

Merry Christmas. And may all your Christmases be white. Or sometimes yellow, with a few bits of chopped mushroom, garnished with parsley and broken crockery.

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