I was eating a ham salad in the staff room yesterday for lunch. Or so I thought. I buy these salad pots for lunch from Carrefour where they have, not just the three or four you can buy in Tesco or Sainsbury, but forty, maybe more. I’ve had prawn pasta salad, Surimi salad, cous cous salad, beef salad, olive salad, turkey salad, coleslaw salad, and egg salad.
So it was odd when my colleague with a worried and sombre look on his face asked me if I knew what I was eating. I looked at him blankly. It was as though he was asking me why I was eating dog food. Was I that poor? Did I need some money? And the tone was that of a priest offering condolences on the passing of a close friend. In the end I simply shrugged and said, ham salad, to which he caringly put his hand on my shoulder and whispered in my ear.
I believe I’m a good person. When I finally fall to my death, I will reflect in those last few moments that while errors have been made, I’ve lived a good life. I’ve tried. In return, you expect a bit of general goodwill along the way: you’re running late for a train, you make it with 30 seconds left; it’s the last one of the day, your child is sick, your wife pregnant and it’s Christmas. When you finally slump down in your armchair at the end of the night with a Christmas whiskey, you thank whatever makes life not so totally intolerable. If you’re religious, it’s God. If you’re not, something else.
So, it’s lunchtime, I’m eating my salad, it’s Friday, I’ve just been paid, I have one more lesson and then I have four days off with money in the bank and I’m in France and the sun is shining. You don’t want anything to ruin it. You need that bit of luck. You don’t want to get mugged, beaten, robbed on the way home. You don’t want to suddenly contract a bowel disorder or a foot infection, or return home to a burnt-out flat. Let the bad things happen later. In a week or two.
So no-one should tell you on what is becoming the best Friday you’ve had for years, that you are eating museau du porc for lunch. No one should have to tell you you’re eating snout. Eating muzzle. Eating face for lunch.