There was a time, in the dim and distant past, when I always made a pudding...treacle sponge with a thick layer of gooey syrup under the sponge and lashings of custard...egg custard tart with grated nutmeg on the top...pineapple upside down cake...jam tart and ice-cream...rice pudding...lovely!
And now I don't, unless it's a high day or a Sunday and even then I just don't...I'd rather have some crackers and a piece of stinky Camembert, even if it does repeat on me all evening and Himself finds he isn't hungry enough for a pudding nowadays...he'll have an apple perhaps or a pear...
And there was a time when I'd have rather died than put a sauce bottle on the table...or dished up a meal in the kitchen and carried it through to the table. Because I used to put the vegetables into separate serving dishes and the plates were always hot and there'd be napkins by each place and the gravy was in a gravy boat. My table cloths were starched and ironed within an inch of their lives and the table mats matched and there were proper serving spoons...and proper soup spoons.
To read a book at the table was thought to be the ultimate in plain bad manners...and no-one ever left the table either, until all others had finished their meal. It was the way I was brought up...and I carried it on when I was grown. When we had our small home for our people it taught them patience and good manners...they learned to help themselves to just enough rather than piling the food on their plate willy-nilly...they remembered to pass the gravy boat and the salt and pepper and not to use their pudding spoon to scoop up the rest of the stew...though I never did get through to Georgina...so we all pretended not to notice when her hand moved to her pudding spoon and she slurped up her gravy...and I couldn't be cross when she sat back...replete and with a full tummy and said...'Lovely Sue'
Then, we were on our own. We'd moved to Ireland and we were living in a cottage without windows and no front door...I was cooking anything which fitted into a frying pan on a single gas ring...and our standards dropped...drastically. If it was hot and relatively edible, we ate it on our laps on stone cold plates with a book balanced on the arm of the chair, because by the time we went to bed we were simply too knackered to read.
Making a pudding to follow a main course had me in fits of hysterical laughter...the main course was difficult enough without faffing around with treacle...
But in the end I had a range and a proper sink and a cupboard to keep the flour and treacle in and the gravy boat finally emerged from a box and then there was no excuse...not really. No excuse to eat off our laps and pretend we were still camping out when the table was there in front of us and the table mats had been found at last and there were fat white candles to light.
It's taken me around sixteen years to go back to the way we were...to lay the table properly. To straighten the knives and forks and include side plates and mats...to not automatically open the latest book to read between mouthfuls...though I still do that at lunchtime...to remember the mats and the napkins and not to throw everything onto a plate in the kitchen...
We might not eat a treacle pudding but at least we have gone back to some sort of civilised way of enjoying a meal...