A Tale Of Two Plates

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The reality of my financial situation soon kicked in. I didn’t have any money of my own. My parents gave enough for rent, bills and food, but nothing to socialise with. I was eighteen, living away from home for the first time and going out was high on my list of things to do. I could have tried to get a part-time job, but was struggling enough with the studies.

My parents had already pre-paid my rent and bills for the term so the only money I had left was for food. It was an easy decision to compromise food for a social life. Roughly speaking, each night out cost about two days’ food. The following week, I went out on both Friday and Saturday evenings which meant, by the time I was nursing a hangover on Sunday afternoon, I hadn’t eaten all weekend and the next few days were going to be spartan. I sat alone in the dingy kitchen at Summerhill House and decided to borrow someone else’s food. There was no choice because I was so hungry. I peeled three potatoes and washed them. I didn’t know how to cook spuds, so I cut them into quarters and looked at the plate. Fuck it. I ate them raw. Hands in the air, I really was that naive.

I went to lectures over the next few days, as normal. Later in the week, Dad had some business near Newcastle, so he arranged to meet me for a beer. We met in a little bar on Newgate Street as it curved toward the River Tyne. When I walked in, Dad was already there and bought me a pint of lager. We talked for a bit and I took a gulp of my drink. The whole room span and I fell off the bar stool, landing on my back with the pint all over me.
Dad stood and asked, “Are you okay?”

“Err, I feel a bit dizzy.” I got back up.

He fired off several questions and soon got to the crux of the matter.

“What have you eaten today?”

“Nothing.”

Dad looked confused and asked, “What? Why’s that?”

Silence.

‘When was the last time you ate?”

“A few days ago.”

He bought me a slap up meal. I still remember it. Rump steak, chips, fat mushrooms and tomatoes. Up until then, I didn’t like tomatoes, but I ate them. Feeling too full afterwards, I talked about how bad my University experience was going and admitted it wasn’t for me. Dad took me home so we could talk things over. But, Mum and Dad were firm. They said it was far too soon to tell and I needed to understand it takes time to get into things. I was dejected. Utterly fucking dejected. I barely spoke a word more. It was clear no one else was going to help, so it was up to me. They sent me back to Newcastle. I was about to grow up very quickly.

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