100daysofgrievances #35 THE MORAL OF THE STORY…

Today did not get off to a good start. Actually, I lie, it got off to an okay-ish start. I intentionally (and successfully) misinformed the BF when he asked me the time (clearly he should have looked himself and not been so effing lazy). As a result, he scurried off to the shower a good fifteen minutes earlier than usual, thus enabling me to stretch out in peace and enjoy a lovely languorous  snooze. After that, things rapidly descended into the dastardly depths of a traditionally tedious Tuesday.


I’ll start at the beginning (that being the logical place to start)…  Last night – after enduring a very long pub shift, I hasten to add (one in which I excelled myself by managing to ID two incredulous twenty-somethings… And their weirdly smooth-faced mother.) – I decided to create a wholesome yet tasty packed lunch for myself and for the long-suffering BF.


I have learned through years of experience, that I am better not to make myself a sandwich for lunch.  More often than not, it will be consumed before 10am (and sometimes even during my walk to work…) Hence, a salad (and the corresponding footery fork requirements/resulting difficulty in powerwalking whilst consuming) was far more likely to survive until lunchtime.


First of all, I whizzed up a few sundried tomatoes and a good glug of their accompanying herby oil, some green olives, a couple of cherry tomatoes, a wee dash of balsamic, some salt and pepper, a spot of tabasco and a squeeze of lemon.  This created a delicious tapenade-esque dressing of sorts. I know it was delicious because I had to keep sampling it during the concocting process. Now please bear with me; whilst you quite possibly have no desire to know the contents of someone’s lunch box (said the actress to the bishop), it is very important for your enjoyment of the remainder of this story that I set the scene adequately.  If you take nothing else from the description of my dressing, I want you to remember that sundried tomatoes are oily and that balsamic vinegar is smelly…


I then added my oily, vinegary dressing to a mixture of cannellini beans, halved cherry tomatoes, more olives (I like olives a lot), capers, chopped raw red pepper and a little fresh parsley.  This bit isn’t actually all that relevant but by now you might be, against your better judgement, wondering what was going to form the bulk of my lunchtime snackage.   So, I stirred that all up and decanted it into two tupperwares (Sistema brand, and VERY IMPORTANT that you retain this particular piece of information). I then topped each Sistema container of beany brilliance* with some avocado, a couple of pungent spicy mackerel fillets and a soft-boiled duck egg (think ever so slightly soft in the centre, not running all over the place – as that would be quite vile).


So, there you have it: oily, vinegary dressing and smelly mackerel and soft egg (not forgetting my very own blood, sweat and tears), all residing within a SISTEMA packed lunch box.  I actually remembered to extract my lunch from the fridge this morning – so often it is the case that I don’t think about it until I am approximately half way to work – and was feeling rather proud of myself.


Today, the half-way-to-work point was punctuated with my dawning realisation that something was somewhat a-kilter… My immediate environment was a little damp, a little oily, a little malodourous (one of my all-time favourite words, incidentally).  Yep, you guessed, it, my comparatively expensive SISTEMA packed lunch box had systematically malfunctioned, rendering my bag and all its contents and my Goretex jacket (this product placement is relevant too, please do read on…) saturated in my oily, vinegary, fishy, eggy lunchtime delight.


I was quite cantankerous by this point (most excellent word #2).


I don’t embrace a minimalist lifestyle (much to the chagrin of the OCD-in-the-nicest-possible-way BF) and it goes without saying that there was rather a lot of STUFF in my bag today.  Lots of lovely stuff to absorb all the lovely oily, fishy goodness. My purse and all of its contents, an assortment of mismatching makeup, an empty padded envelope, three lip balms, my sunglasses pouch (been looking for that!), a lightbulb (my plan was to nip across to B&M after consuming my lovely lunch, and I didn’t want to come home with the wrong bulbs again), a surprisingly absorbent headband, a cereal bar, various receipts – ink now running everywhere and adding to the general chaos, 4 pens (that’s clearly where they’ve all been hiding), hand cream, a tub of vitamin tablets, a packet of Twiglets (salvageable, thank goodness), a disintegrating ibuprofen box, some hayfever tablets, chewing gum, a sodden nail file, etc, etc. You get the picture.


Funny how there definitely wasn’t nearly that much dressing before it all decided to leak out of the stupid Sistema container. Funny also how I am not remotely looking forward to my lunch now that all the stinky mingin’ dressing has leaked out and drenched all my belongings.  Ever want to embark upon a crash diet?  Douse all your effects in my trademarked mixture of fish oil and vinegar, you’ll be a skinny malinky before you know it!


So, back to topic, what was the relevance of  the Goretex?  (Or should I say, stinky, oily, damp Goretex). Well, I shall tell you…  My dad is a big fan of the brand (my dad is also currently cycling from Scotland to Reading for the second time in the space of a year – read into that what you will in terms of common gumption).  Since I was a kid, he has instilled in me the (many, dull) virtues of this particular brand.  A couple of Christmases ago, he kindly bought me a waterproof jacket (Goretex, of course).  I imagine he was picturing me trekking up mountains in it, or perhaps embarking on cycle rides of ridiculous length.  In reality, it became my jacket of choice for festivals and for walking to work on days where the weather was tending towards the inclement (i.e. today).


I am a firm believer in the tenet of wisdom that allowed me to arrive at the conclusion that waterproof jackets are, by their very definition, self-cleaning.  Clearly they are designed to be worn in the rain, and hence do not require frequent further washing – common sense if ever I heard it.  Unfortunately, after a particularly boisterous (and beer-logged) festival last summer, I realised I was simply going to have to wash my jacket if I didn’t wish to go round smelling like a brewery for the foreseeable future (a brewery that hosts bonfires and is situated in a field, if I’m being specific…) As my dad holds the sacred material in such high regard, I knew this was not going to be straight-forward… (My dad actually enjoys carefully applying layers of nickwax to his boots, and considers waterproofing things a hobby of sorts).


Obviously, I didn’t keep the ‘looking after your Goretex garment’ cardboard leaflet-y thing that was attached to the zip of my jacket (who does?!), so I had to go on their website for further instruction.  And instruct me it did!  There was a lengthy list of ‘do’s and ‘do-not’s pertaining to care of my cagoule and, after skim-reading the several pages, I wasn’t really any the wiser. I sat down with a glass of wine later on and really got stuck into the manual.  Basically, I had to wash it in the machine (specific temperature, certain cycle, using a certain ilk of detergent, but never ever, EVER any softener – it was pretty adamant on this particular point), and then, whilst it was still wet, I had to iron every single inch of the stupid thing.  And get this – any bit that didn’t come into contact with the iron, would no longer be waterproof! As a rule, I don’t buy garments with particular and pernickety washing instructions, and it is very seldom that the iron makes an appearance in our household.


What a palaver.


What a palaver I had no intention of repeating for at least another year. It’s not even like I can forget about the fact that I am going to have to faff about washing my stupid Goretex when I get home – as I sit at my desk I am constantly getting less-than-tantalising whiffs of eau de poisson (everyone else probably is, too). Hmmm… Thinking about it, my dad arrives any day now, punctures permitting… I like to imagine he might take the chore out of my hands, perhaps quite literally.  Maybe if I shove the stupid jacket in the washing machine whilst simultaneously waving about the Summer Breeze softener in a mildly threatening manner, he will feel duty-bound to relieve me of the tedious task… He’ll probably enjoy it!


In conclusion to today’s tale of woe, I feel that there are several morals to this particular story that could be of use to us all in our daily grinds:

  1. Never, ever buy Sistema lunch boxes, regardless of the fact that they are currently ubiquitous (another most excellent word), to the extent that they are even found adorning the shelves of Waitrose. They may be expensive and available in pretty colours, and all kinds of fancy shapes and sizes, but they are rubbish and they leak.  Ignore me at your peril!
  2. Buying expensive waterproof things is a false economy as it takes ages to wash them and time is money! (And laundering things is exceedingly boring). Writing strongly-worded emails of complaint is a far more satisfying use of one’s time and energy.
  3. Don’t make smug lunches – nobody likes a smug luncher and a simple sandwich would have sufficed and would not have smelt nearly as bad for the duration of what is proving to be a Very Long Day. I can’t even go for a pint after work because I smell like the inside of a packet of Scampi Fries and am currently lugging all my hastily-wiped belongings about it a crinkly B&M carrier bag…


*’beany brilliance’: Quite clearly I’ve missed my calling as a food critic, A.A. Gill would be quaking in his boots!


The End.





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