We don’t like change
My Siciliana pizza arrived with three artichoke slices missing last night. Three artichoke slices, two anchovy fillets and a chunk of mozzarella missing to be precise. I know this because I am a creature of obsessional habits and when I get accustomed to a thing, I tend to get neurotically accustomed to it.
When the number of artichoke slices on my pizza suddenly decreases I get a tight feeling in my chest, which is so alarming I have to go to the loo and do breathing exercises. The disappearance of the artichokes might seem like a simple oversight on the part of Pizza Express, were it not for the fact that a few weeks ago my Fine Burger arrived half missing and sporting a tiny bowl of chips and a minuscule salad which barely hid its blushes.
‘Where’s the rest of it?’ I asked my companion, rooting around the plate with my fork as if by lifting up bits of garnish I might discover a part of my meal which the chef had cunningly hidden to amuse himself on a slow evening.
We searched quite thoroughly and found nothing. Even the gherkins, or dill pickles as they like to call them nowadays, had weirdly disappeared. Instead of a brimming bowlful we were presented with two slices of a gherkin. I mean, not even an entire gherkin. When we complained we were assured that if we had come for dinner a few hours earlier we could have had two burgers for the price of one. But we didn’t want two small burgers for the price of one at 5 p.m., we wanted two normal-sized burgers for the normal price of two normal-sized burgers at our normal dining time of 7.30 p.m.
A similarly disturbing incident took place at the pub where we eat Sunday lunch after horse riding. We turned up as usual all bright eyed and glowing with post-equitational vigour to find the television on the wall tuned to something meaningless on terrestrial. When we asked if they could switch it back to Sky Sports, where it usually resides, so we could watch Chelsea vs West Ham they said the horrifying words: ‘We don’t have Sky any more.’
We ordered our meals and went to sit by the fire, which is normally roaring in the grate. But fire was there none. So we shivered and ate two plates of roast beef missing precisely two and a half roast potatoes by my count then huddled in the car listening to the sound of exciting, end-to-end football on the radio.
The whole thing is deeply sad and begs the important question: how are obsessive compulsives to respond to the recession? We don’t want to put extra pressure on struggling restaurateurs at this difficult time by demanding more gherkins like selfish, inconsiderate pigs. We want to be understanding and pull together to support local businesses safe in the Blitz-inspired knowledge that we will come through this one day.
But we don’t like Change, you see. And it would seem to me even in these early stages of financial collapse that what is going on here is Change on a massive, possibly unprecedented scale. This is no good at all, whatever religious people may say about a nice bit of recession being ever so good for us because it reorders our priorities.
As an obsessive, neurotic over-reactor by trade, my priorities are as follows: 1. Keep everything the same. 2. Don’t let anything change. 3. If anything does change, change it back again quickly.
I’m so bad that a friend of mine recommended I read a book called Who Moved My Cheese? by someone with a last name for a first name. I took this as the insult it was meant to be and did not read it, of course. But I looked at it on Amazon and it’s obviously one of those management books which tell you that, if you don’t constantly adapt to your environment, you perish. This would be useful advice if I was an iguana on the Galapagos Islands, but I’m not. I’m a fully-formed human being, at the top of the evolutionary tree. I’m supposed to be finished. When I came out the nurses said ‘congratulations!’ not ‘hmmm, needs a bit more work, possibly with some refinements it might be OK’.
The way I see it, God made me how I am and that is how I shall remain no matter how many books I read by men called Spencer. I need the requisite number of artichokes on my Siciliana and I don’t see why I shouldn’t be able to procure them somehow, no matter how deep the global downturn. So long as there isn’t a specific run on artichokes, which I accept would be tricky.
Melissa Kite is deputy political editor of the Sunday Telegraph.