Er, got any food?

dannyWhen I was working as a tour guide I learnt, on one of my many visits to China, that there is an ancient Chinese greeting which is still in use today in sophisticated and affluent cities such as Shanghai. The greeting is ‘Have you eaten?’ It is a figure of speech and not to be taken as a literal question, but the implication is that of concern for the other person’s state of health and well-being. Spain is a country steeped in tradition, one far more adept at keeping its old customs alive than our culture, where we mostly recoil in excruciating embarassment from such monstrosities as Morris Dancing and cheese rolling. In Spain they are proud of and not the least bit embarassed by tradition. Now it seems Spain is ready to embrace even traditions from other cultures, such as this ancient greeting from China. Of course, the wording has changed slightly but the sentiment is the same. And the greeting now comes from the guest, not from the host. The greeting, updated to our modern times of crisis, is ‘Er, got any food?….’

Turning up at friends’ houses for mid-morning coffee or late night sessions, we can be seen wandering noncholantly into the kitchen like Danny the Dealer from Withnail and I and asking casually ‘Er, got any food?’ Ok, we’re unlikely to be handed a moist saveloy which we then sniff and ask ‘yeah,, all right, how much do you want for it?’ but believe me, in these time of crisis the scenario is not that far off. ‘Got any food?’ is a polite way of saying, between friends ‘ Look, I haven’t eaten for a day or two, I have no money at all and I’m really, really hungry. Hungry enough to ask…’

Currently off sick with the gammy foot and unable to walk, I am relying for food on the Incredible Ponce, who brings me a menu del dia almost every day from the bar/restaurant where he works. This makes me feel like a granny waiting for her meels on wheels, and at the same time like a baby bird cared for and protected by its mother, but the important thing is, I am being fed, and sumptuously, at the moment. Often we eat together – he turns up after work most nights, and like an urban fox, starts scavenging in the fridge and cupboards. Some days have been, shall we say, frugal over the past few weeks, and we have been known to sit like secret bulimics at three in the morning ravenously scoffing bowls of muesli, becasue that’s all there is.

Last Sunday a couple of friends came round to keep an old cripple company, and as we sat and drank coffee I could see them eyeing my fruit bowl. Finally, one of them said wistfully ‘Oh, you’ve got fruit….’ Fruit was quickly distributed. Later, while making me a cup of tea, one of them said ‘Oooh, greek yoghurts, my favourite….’ Greek yoghurts were promptly distributed. It turns out they were waiting for payday and had no food at home. The planned menu du jour was a rice, potato and stock stew. At this point it was time to hand over the saveloy. No friend of mine goes hungry if I can help it. We reached a perfect solution- one of them who is Italian American, raided my cupboards and cooked a great pasta dish for us all. As they left, they asked for a loo roll, so were sent home with 2 loo rolls, a handfull of cigarettes and a full stomach at least. The deal cuts both ways, I am no Lady Bountiful, and only a couple of weeks ago was at their house one Saturday night desperately hungry and asking for food. I was fed American cereals, a great sugar-boost, and on another occasion, sausage brought back from a recent trip to Italy.

Consequently, I am heading a campaign to choose an apt slogan for the Crisis. I think ‘Er, got any food?’ sums it up perfectly. Like Shirley Bassey, I try always to ‘see things from a different angle’ and to me, this is one of the many blessings of this economic shit-storm: a return to good, old fashioned community values like sharing resources, helping out friends in need, and cutting through the bullshit that everything’s fine and dandy. Far more healthy to admit we’re all screwed and we’re all in this together.


7 Responses to “Er, got any food?”

  1. Yeah, too right, share it out. Like you say it cuts both ways. We all know the anti-social shits who scrounge off everyone else and then disappear when they’ve got money/food and keep it all to themselves. We hope they choke n their smoked salmon.
    WHAT’S WRONG WITH MORRIS DANCING? You clearly have not spent Mayday morning getting stoned & pissed before dawn then welcoming the rising sun with a hearty dance on the lawns sloping down to Sydney Harbour, scaring the shit out of passing joggers with bells and sticks! Hangover at work before 11am. Bloody mad. British ex-pat traditions in Australia get my full support. HANDS OFF MORRIS DANCERS. Signed, a fan.

  2. Thank you for mentioning two great Gloucestershire folk traditions….. we live a 10 minute drive from the Cheese Rolling…… mad fuckers one and all. And as you well know, I myself and me am an out and proud Morris Dancer……

    Excellent blog too….. we’ll seriously have to come and visit one day…..


  3. Tessa…. I speak first and foremost as a friend of Claud’s but also as Dep Squire of the Gloucestershire Morris Men….a trad Cotswold side. I’m not that precious about what we do. I accept the (mainly bad) press we get…….and we are partly to blame for that ourselves. The debate stirred up by the most excellent film “Morris A life With Bells On” shows how we are our own worst enemies, but also a positive way forwards.

    Apart from which…. I think Claud may well have been talking about the general perception rather than a personal viewpoint….

    But she’s definitely right about our attitude to our own folk culture as opposed to the Spanish (or most other European countries for that matter). Look at the Festas that happen in all the little villages there….look at the ages of the dancers involved……

    In 2005 our side danced at an International Folk dance Festival in Poland…and we were by far the oldest there. In fact the only other adult side were a troupe of Egyptian Dervishes…..

    I am proud of my Morris…..but I accept that the general image portrayed is negative….but such is the way of the ignorant. Those of us in the know are aware of the beauty and joy of the Morris 🙂

    • I am 100% with you on the Morris issue, Philip. My Dad was a big fan and it was one of the highlights of our annual summer holiday in Devon to go and see the Morris Men performing. The stick bashing stuff was at times quite ferocious and I recall one chap breaking his against another’s on one occasion. Too right, people who don’t understand it don’t know what they’re missing. The troupe I knew in Sydney were a bunch of ex-pats who got together and danced in public places to the utter astonishment of the locals most of whom had not only never seen it before but had never even heard of it. One Mayday they almost got arrested by a cop who couldn’t make out what they were up to. But, yes, it’s true the Brits have no idea about maintaining their customs and take no pride in them. There is a national inferiority complex that makes the Brits think that anything foreign is better – food, lifestyle, customs, weather, etc. They’ll happily go and see a fake Neapolitan folklore show in Italy (Claud, you know what I’m talking about) and lap it up, but a genuine bit of British culture they will scorn. The trouble is, if you want to stand up for British culture you are seen to be sliding down the slippery slope into the BNP and that’s not what it’s about. One of your words about Morris dancing summed it up nicely for me – JOY.

  4. We as a country, are very good at appropriating other cultures….

    I was on a cruise this year, and one of the shows we saw was all about dances….they did Scottish and Irish trad stuff straight faced, but Morris was performed for laughs….. needless to say I had words. It’s like Celtic stuff is more sensible…..same goes for the music…..

    and don’tget me started on the Americanisation of British culture…….

    God I’m beginning to sound like Angry Of Tunbridge Wells…….

    Look up the organisation Folk Against Fascism

    and join a local Morris Side….and if there isn’t one….form one!!!!

  5. How utterly refreshing to have read the volumes of comments on Morris Dancing,not that I’m an officionado,but having recently just celebrated 200 years of the Bramley Apple in Southwell complete,yes you know where I’m going here now don’t you,Morris dancers, I can say that I thoroughly enjoyed the whole spectacle,even in the pouring rain,I dutifully stood and clapped at each dance.Alright,they may look a little old fashioned but what’s wrong with that.
    Isn’t it great also that folk will still give up their seat on the Metro to a walking wounded.Viva Madrid,I bloody love the place.

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