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Thursday, November 18, 2010

Addicted to the Archers - I am in my own soap opera

Yes, I admit it, I miss Coronation Street. I went into mourning when Jimmy Corkhill wrote a 'D' on the end of Brookside Close, and still get goosebumps when Kat Slater shouts 'Yes I am' to Zoe's statement, 'You're not my mother'. Yes, I admit it; I was a soapaholic.

During the first few months of living here, I longed for some 'ordinary English telly!' There was so much to do here and the television became something to fall asleep to, but as the winter months set in, I found I was watching more. There are a few very good programmes, both serious and comical, but the imaginary smell of Betty Turpin's hot pot became more and more appealing.

No matter how corny the storyline, there is normally a character in British soaps, to whom you connect; either someone you know or a situation that has happened. There are always scenes where one person's panic is seen as trivial to another. On my trips home I would watch as many episodes as possible as well as listening to the Archers on the radio, which my mother has listened to, on and off, for more than half a century.

I moved to the USA when reality programmes were taking up the most airtime and The Real Housewives began to take over from those that were Desperate. Wife swapping became primetime viewing instead of a sleazy pastime for 'swingers', and would you invite THAT woman into your house to check out your cupboards and make you feel guilty for having a packet of penguins amongst your groceries.

It was in desperation that I went to the BBC webpage and to Radio 4, and listened to the plays and comedy shows , but the lack of a continuing story line was adding to the feeling of homesickness. After a couple of trips home, I found myself missing the farming community of Ambridge and was delighted when I found I could listen online. For fifteen minutes a day (work permitting) I travel to the village that has been given its own fictional county and a cast of characters that are as diverse as any television soap opera. The difference is that your imagination has to design the 'set'.

As mentioned before, I am prone to digression and this applies to everything, not just my storytelling. Like a soap opera, I swap from scene to scene, but all eventually rolls into one. My Saturday morning routine, however, has to be without deviation. Housework is my weekly workout. I dont just mean a flick of a duster here and there; I am talking about pulling out furniture (weights). washing windows (aerobics), wiping down paintwork (more aerobics) and then flicking with the duster and hoovering. After I have finished everything and the condo shines, I make a cup of coffee and sit down to listen to any episodes of the Archers I have missed during the week. (It is official. I am becoming my mother.) It is after the fifteen or so minutes of winding down that I have a shower and my weekend officially starts. For the next day and a half, I dont (as a rule) have anything I HAVE to do. Bliss!

So imagine how I reacted to a phone call from Dana, (as I sat relaxing with my coffee, listening to the latest scam being devised by the cowhand in rural England,) reminding me how we had been talking about having our friends, Joe and Gail ,over to the condo, and as we didnt have any plans for the evening, perhaps tonight would be good? Maybe for something to eat? Yes, he was at Joe's now! 'Sure', I replied. With great enthusiasm he confirmed the arrangements and then asked again, 'Is this ok with you?'. 'Sure', I replied, again. I sat there for a few seconds and then panicked. Other's, I am sure, would have seen this as trivial. Joe is a master coffee roaster, but has been a chef at some of the top restaurants in Austin. Gail is an amazing cook who can whip up a masterpiece at the drop of a hat! I was a character in my very own soap opera!

There are two things that you, the reader, needs to know at this point. When someone says to me, 'they are coming for dinner', I interpret this to be a three course minimum banquet. Secondly, as mentioned in previous blogs, unless there is a variety of desserts, it is going to be a disaster.

The time was 12:45 and the guests were arriving at 6:30 to 7. This was not Ready, Steady Cook, where the groceries are on the kitchen table and the fridge is full of strange 'necessities' such as greek yoghurt and calantro. My kitchen does not have a fresh herb garden on the corner of the work surface. I was going to have to go to Walmart!

Armed with my shopping list, 'to do' list and my trusted companion in a crises, Samantha, who had fortunately heard my scream and put her own plans on hold for a couple of hours, I headed for the new 'compact' store which has opened, despite opposition, a couple of miles away.

I had decided on the menu whilst getting dressed and once at the store, we headed off in different directions to optimise time. With military precision, we stormed the aisles, mobile phones connected and met in the middle of the store, releasing the items we had collected into the trolley. 'Chicken, check; soured cream, check; oranges, check;' and so on. As the items were scanned, the young assistant, asked me for some ID! I had bought some wine and she wanted to make sure I was of age! I forgot all my anxiety and told her that she was my new best friend. She apologised and said that she had to ask anyone who she thought was under 30! It was at this point that Samantha told her not to say anything else as I was likely to take her home ! Still smiling, I loaded the car and we were on our way home to start the cooking. I had everything I needed in the car, or at home. Except.....where was the cocoa?? Cocoa in England, is so easy to buy, but chocolate is a different creature on this side of the pond. There is cocoa powder and ..... not. A detour was enough to remove the feel good mood I had temporarily achieved.

We arrived home at 2:45 and I mixed, folded, marinaded, rolled, melted and stirred. I am so blessed to have a daughter that understands a kitchen and Samantha instinctively knew what recepticle or utensil to deliver at every screech and moan.

Seven o'clock arrived and so did my guests. At seven thirty they sat down to a rolled tricolour, (Avocado and tomato wrapped in mozzarella), citrus chicken with roasted potatoes and sweet potatoes, cauliflower cheese, followed by chocolate roulade, raspberry torte and eves pudding. By 10.00 the adrenaline had all but burned out and I was starting to fade. Fortunately, my guests had eaten their full and were feeling slightly sleepy. They apparently were not expecting such a feast. 'Come over this evening for something to eat', on the spur of the moment, usually means a snack, or burgers.....

The next day I made time to finish listening to the highs and lows, ups and downs, calamities and successes of the Midlands Countryfolk.
Of course there is no substitute for lashings of marmite on toast (and Texas toast cannot even begin to compare with Mother's Pride or even Sainsbury or Tesco's own loaves) but being transported to a cowshed, wearing a pair of wellies once a day helps and I will not have to find a serial withdrawal patch. Perhaps one day they will broadcast all soaps online. Maybe one day I will understand how to talk Texan. Now that WILL be ....another story.

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