As regular readers know very well, I am Always Thinking About My Stomach.
Which makes doubly distressing the fact that I
have completely lost my sense of taste. I had no idea just how disastrous this might be – both for my poor, empty stomach and for the tender nature of my relationship with Mr B.
Mr B is a nurse of the Do As I Tell You Or Else variety. He is not prepared to accept any nonsense on my part about food tasting like cardboard. He is determined to tickle my taste buds, with or without my cooperation. I
need to eat, he admonishes me, sternly, and, if it has to be cardboard, then cardboard it shall be. He goes shopping and brings me back a selection of food, ranging from full fat milk (“See the blue top!” he exhorts me, tapping it with an
urgent finger) to rice puddings, fruit yoghurts and bananas. I show him the mug of hot water into which I am crumbling an Oxo cube as proof that I am doing my best. He doesn’t look a bit impressed. No taste bud worth its salt would be tickled
by such a feeble effort.
You would think, wouldn’t you, that just imagining some of my favourite meals would revive my taste buds from their current stupor?
I try naming them out loud. Fish and Chips! Roast Beef dinner! Home-made meat pie! Lamb stew and herby dumplings! No response whatsoever from my missing taste buds.
Apparently we have up to 10,000 taste buds in our mouths which are renewed every two weeks. Maybe that’s the problem, mine have just forgotten that they need to be renewed, like library books. Or maybe they have been held up somewhere like
passports in the Passport Office. We also lose taste buds as we get older which seems extremely careless of us, given that the enjoyment of food is one of the pleasures of life which can linger even when one is too old for, say bungee-jumping or white
water rafting. (It goes without saying that I have been too old for either bungee-jumping or white water rafting since I was a babe in arms, but I am sure you get my point.)
Did you know, by the way, that butterflies have taste buds on their feet as well as in their mouths? I don’t know if their taste buds have to be renewed or not because the “Kids’ Health” website I am consulting doesn’t
tell me this. I prefer the kids pages on this particular website to the adult pages for the very reason that they provides such morsels (oh, please, I must stop using words associated with eating, it is just too upsetting) of information like the taste buds
on butterfly’s feet which are singularly missing on the adult pages.
To take my mind off the fact that I don’t feel like eating anything, I join about
30 fellow members of our Questers Group on a guided tour around beautiful Highdown Gardens, one of the hidden gems of Worthing. I think I know the garden pretty well, being a frequent visitor, but there is nothing like being taken around by Jo, the Head Gardener,
no less. Her love of the garden shines through every word. Every so often, she will stop and marvel at a tree, a bush, a flower and say quietly, as if to herself: “It really is a lovely thing....”
Because of the mild winter, the garden is three weeks ahead of itself so some of the blooms we might have expected to see at this time of the year have, in our guide’s words, “gone over.” There’s plenty
to see, nevertheless, as we walk through the Herb Garden, the Chalk Pit, the Fig Border and the Rose Garden. We see the tree planted by Queen Mary who was apparently prone to help herself to plants she particularly liked from gardens she visited. Here is the
Paper Bark Maple which glows when the sun shines through its branches - and the handkerchief tree which has lost its handkerchiefs much as I have lost my sense of taste. At six o’clock we hear the sound of persistent ringing as one of the four
staff who look after the gardens walks through with an old school hand bell warning visitors to make their way to the exit. It’s the kind of bell that used to summon me to dinner, I muse sadly. Even my school dinners had a certain flavour, as I remember...
I am unusually glad that the rather lovely tea shop which we would normally pile into at the end of our visit is now closed due to the lateness of the hour. It would have
been torture indeed to watch my fellow Questers tucking into their scones with butter, jam and clotted cream knowing that, thanks to my absentee taste buds (who deserve to be court-martialled for desertion) the delicious treat would taste of nothing more than
cardboard and sawdust.
Celebrity Masterchef is on tonight - I should be licking my lips in anticipation. Instead I am trying very hard to think up a
really good jokey one-liner with which to finish off today’s blog, just to prove that I haven't lost my sense of humour along with my taste buds.
I come up with, it will probably be completely tasteless.