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Diary

A dispatch from a family of fooshers

Also in Sam Leith’s diary: Prue Leith’s Easter Bonnet Parade, teleporting cats and Little Chef

2 April 2016

9:00 AM

2 April 2016

9:00 AM

I’d like this to have been one of those Spectator diaries that gives the ordinary reader a glimpse into the sort of party to which they’ll never be invited. Unfortunately, I’m never invited to those parties either; and even had I got the last-minute invitation to scoff Creme Eggs at Henry Kissinger’s Easter shindig, I’d have had to turn it down. My six-year-old daughter fooshed most gruesomely on Friday, and I was hanging out at the Whittington Hospital instead. Foosh is a medical acronym for the sort of injury you get when you Fall Onto Outstretched Hand. It’s common with drunks; and, as in this case, keen amateur acrobats with neither fear nor gymnastic talent. She took a header — or, more accurately, a hander — off a climbing frame and broke both radius and ulna. The big idiot. It had to be reset under general anaesthetic, which meant a night on the children’s ward for us both. The doctors, who winced satisfyingly at the X-rays, were impressed with her stoicism. ‘Banana break,’ they told us. I looked that up on Google, but I still don’t know what it means. I do now have some good recipes for banana bread.

Perhaps I seem blasé. My family are champion fooshers. My sister-in-law fooshed on the dancefloor at her other sister’s wedding. Her boyfriend — who spent the night with her at A&E — himself already had both wrists in plaster at the time: he had broken one wrist playing five-a-side football, then unwisely took to the field the following week and broke the other one. For a fortnight or so they had only one working arm between them and were, presumably, eating their toast without marmalade. Me, I’ve never fooshed. If I go over, I foof — Fall Onto Outstretched Face. Life lesson: never go ice-skating drunk.


This is traditionally the bit where you name-drop a celebrity relative. I have no Johnsons, I’m afraid, but my aunt is Prue Leith, off the telly. Will she do? She’ll have to. The clans gathered at her country pile on Monday for her annual Easter Bonnet Parade, a made-up tradition in which everyone is issued with a straw hat and told to scavenge decorations from the garden. We come back looking like Birnam forest en route to Dunsinane and everyone gets a prize: ‘Widest Hat’; ‘Most Blue Hat’, etc. My daughter won ‘Most One-Armed’, which earned her a Kinder Egg. My sister won top prize in the adult category. ‘Most Daffs On A Hat’, or similar. ‘It’s a bit out of date, but it’s absolutely delicious,’ said Prue as she handed over the loot. It was a bottle of fancy olive oil; best before 2011. That woman is my hero.

We mistimed our return and found ourselves in the car at half six with three angry, hungry children. Hence what will probably be the Spectator diary’s first visit to the Little Chef on the A41. It was my first in a couple of decades, though I always liked Little Chef. They used to give you a traffic-light lollipop when you left; though the Happy Eater, of blessed memory, trumped that by having fish-fingers in the shape of actual fish, a culinary innovation never likely to be bettered. Eheu fugaces. Anyway, you could say of the food these days that it is reasonably priced and hygienic. You can see why ‘Happy Eater’. I’ve always wondered why littleness was regarded as a selling point in a chef, however. Gordon Ramsay and Marco Pierre White are both, I think, a bit taller than average and Anthony Bourdain is enormous.

The only dud note was the menu: ‘At Little Chef we care about food, all of our burgers are made from British Beef and they are all fully certified and prepared by our own butcher.’ Spot the error? Most readers will shudder at the comma splice in that sentence. I’m working on a book about style, and will have Things To Say about these. Among other things they put me right off Virginia Woolf. I’m pleased to note that Steven Pinker — no friend of the prescriptivist and the pedant — also can’t bear them.

Can cats teleport? I only ask because ours seems to. For a while, it was from in to out: the cat-sitter used to arrive to find her in the garden miaowing to be let in. Last week, while I was in foosh central, she learned a new trick. My wife slung her out at 4 a.m. (she woke her up by miaowing) and locked the door. At six the cat presented herself in the bedroom, miaowing. Having a magic cat would be cool but the obvious conclusion is that there’s a cat-sized hole in my house which didn’t get picked up in the survey. Leaving me vulnerable, obviously, to cat-burglars. I’ll get my coat. Next year, Dr Kissinger.

Sam Leith is The Spectator’s literary editor, and author of You Talkin’ to Me?


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