Weighing in at eleven stones thirteen and a half pounds on my sixtieth birthday, I realised that I had missed my target of being at the upper edge of the Body Mass Index band for my height. I should be no more than eleven stones and ten pounds. When the final three and a half pounds are lost, I shall celebrate with a bag of chips.
Chips were always the way of celebrating a special moment.
I remember an August evening outing to Charmouth in Dorset. Three or four cars filled with family members went to walk on the beach of the seaside town. There was an amble down the riverbank before reaching the sea. Chips in newspaper were the treat at the end of the evening. During the the journey home in my uncle’s van he pointed out how to spot the Somerset cars – the registration letters YA, YB, YC and YD suddenly seemed everywhere.
The village Sunday School outing to Weymouth was another special moment (going to Sunday School was not a requirement – in fact, I’m not sure there was a Sunday School). The day was rounded off with tea in a café – fish and chips and peas and bread and butter.
There were family trips to Lyme Regis where the taste of vinegar blended with the salt of the sea air, and the smells of fish landed on the harbour wall mixed with that of the diesel oil of the solitary fishing boat.
In university days, chips meant Friday. The uncle, in whose house I lodged, would bring armfuls into his London home at teatime. “Now, who’s for what?” he would say; pretending that he had forgotten the order on his way home.
In theological college days, food served in the college on Fridays was so bad that the extravagance of going to the Wimpy could be justified. The fish and chips came with tea served in battered aluminium pots and with slices of white bread thinly spread with butter. The food left you feeling full for hours afterwards.
The years passed and chips came from a takeaway each Christmas Eve, there not being time to cook. The opening of the wrapper became part of the annual rituals. It did not seem Christmas when moving to the country brought an end to a custom that had lasted more than twenty years.
Chips unfortunately became a too frequent occurrence. My weight rose to more than thirteen and a half stones. A cardiologist wagged his finger and suggested that it was time they disappeared from the diet, along with the over plentiful supply of cakes and buns that filled the days of clerical life.