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August 5, 2015updated 29 Jan 2016 11:02am

Shake off separation with a bake off

By Alessandro Tome

Angel Wife has left. Gone. And she has taken the Twins with her too. All she left behind was the new addition to the family I mostly call the Runt (but otherwise known as Tarzan) — and me. Before any of her girlfriends and some of my male friends rejoice too much at my new singledom, I must hasten to add that — miraculously or even perversely — this departure is not for ever. Though she isn’t back yet…

I always hate the idea of her leaving without me, even if it’s just for a few days visiting Rome with the Twins and then chilling out on a boat and going to plush Roman parties. Perhaps it is because I am only too familiar with plush Roman parties, inhabited as they are with the smoothest of the Middle-Italy slick-haired boys seeking company.

But it isn’t the false promises of dolce vita which terrify me, because I feel the same way every time she leaves, even when she goes to Sainsbury’s for the food shopping. That is why I always try to wiggle my way into her suitcase or even volunteer to accompany her to the nail salon. I have pined for an answer to this behaviour and finally found it in Tarzan. He seems to feel exactly the same way whenever she leaves — not about me or the Twins, just her. Research brought salvation: Tarzan and I suffer from Separation Anxiety.

As she leaves, we try to cling on to her, whining our desire for her not to go and giving her sad puppy eyes in the vain hope she may relent and stay. When the door closes behind her, we pace around, wondering what will become of us, already looking lost. We visit nearly every room of the house, hoping somehow she will reappear. Even the little meal she might have left behind isn’t that appealing and that distraction wears thin pretty quickly. After this initial distress, lost in our thoughts, we tend to accept the reality of the situation and, losing our energy, proceed to the lounging phase.

Here much time is spent, as you’d expect, lounging around, scantily dressed. Slouching really, tummy exposed, with a fair amount of scratching of the nether regions going on. (There is more licking than scratching for Tarzan. Despite my sessions with Egle the Lithuanian Pocket Rocket personal trainer, with particular emphasis on stretching, I haven’t quite got there yet.) We take each other for walks, occasionally chasing pussy cats as long as they don’t chase back because what seemed like a fun game quickly becomes terrifying.

That still left much time on our hands (or paws), so I tried to think of what my friends do to keep busy when left alone, only most of it seems costly and possibly inappropriate. I thought about cycling, but remembered a friend who decided he should cycle to Cornwall. He told me he had underestimated not only the distance but the inclines too. When it came to contemplating cycling back, he baulked and stuck the bike on a train instead — mainly motivated, he said, by the dread of more Vaseline-lathering and the state of his nether regions in spite of it. (He said he had discovered a whole new angle in the to-circumcise-or-not debate.)

So cycling was out. While Tarzan whiled away time, chewing his bone and licking himself some more, I was left sitting in the kitchen wondering what else to eat. It was then that I found myself staring at the Kenwood Chef machine and watching Mary Berry singing The Sound of Music on the television. Reader, I was inspired: I would bake.

I had never baked a thing in my life before, and I detest precise cooking as I feel it should be inspired by your heart and soul, and both are far from precise or consistent. But somehow it appealed. All these grams, ounces, teaspoons, tablespoons, the myriad of sugars and flours, sifting, blending, whipping, kneading. I felt I could turn the kitchen into the Red Room (of pastry pleasure).

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Of course, I went out and bought all the kit: trays, scales, tins, cups and the rest. I ended up lathered in melted butter, self-raising flour, almonds, chocolate, caster and icing sugar, vanilla pods, vanilla extract, egg yolks galore and the odd bit of home-made jam — and that was only one recipe. Time flew by, my mind devoted to cooking times and temperatures, only temporarily distracted by the ability of a special powder to always get a raise. (I wondered if that was what a certain Italian friend of my sister’s says he always uses when on a date.)

Once all had been dusted down, it was just about time for Angel Wife and crew to return. Now, I have always found the moment of return a little odd to manage emotionally. All you want is to get their full attention, see a face filled with joy at the sight of you, ideally with much kissing. Never seems to work out that way, though.

But Tarzan came to the rescue once again. I have studied attentively his behaviour and he totally gets the result, so I have now practised excited whoops, with a wagging of the posterior in a slightly submissive posture to start, quickly followed by jumping up and down and running around with heavy panting, leading to much licking, and finally bringing a gift, usually a big bone. I am trying it for the first time at the airport tomorrow and I am very hopeful it will work for me too.

Non-doms and silly walks

The French coined the expression ‘Caviar Socialist’ to describe their supposedly left-leaning intellectuals who spent most of their time pondering the meaning of their complex lives by looking at their navels while sipping Dom Pérignon and scoffing Iranian caviar, no doubt sent over by Khomeini as a thank-you for enabling him to depose the Shah.

Perhaps the French found them amusing to begin with, but they were downright rage-inducing once they’d been voted into power for decade after decade. They preached equality for the masses as they drank dry the Élysée Palace’s cellars.

In the meantime, across the Channel, we were giggling. No such species here. Our socialists were proper ones, living in council flats, swigging warm beer as they ate battered fish and pies. They actually manned the picket lines and asked for the Tories’ heads to be put on spits. It was proper left-wing stuff over here, and therefore in the main they were unelectable — until Tony, that is. Tony the Great Conjurer, the convenor of unlikely electoral majorities.

We now have a new conjurer among us — our current chancellor and (terrifyingly) our likely next prime minister. Except George is less a conjurer and more a con artist. I have imagined what goes on inside his head: ‘I take the money from the moneyed foreigners to get elected and then I kill them and try to take the rest of their money.’ I think that’s about right, what with non-dom charges and changes.

Why would you want to make it so unpleasant for wealthy people to come and settle here with all their money, which then gets spent in this economy, rather than elsewhere? Does he feel these people have no better options out there? How delusional.

Does he think they come here and pay through the nose because public transport is so good that every time it rains (obviously an unexpected event in England) the Tube floods and the trains float? Or because hospitals are so good that you are happy to come out alive even though all you needed was an appendix removed? Or because the streets feel so safe to walk around at night? Or for the amazing road networks criss-crossing this beautiful island, pothole by pothole (which are also all flooded)? Or… I will stop there.

The country needs investment, really badly. So take the non-doms’ money but spend it wisely, usefully, to make the cost of living in it worthwhile beyond the bling parties and fancy restaurants and art fairs. These fads won’t last and you will be left with very little but a balanced budget nobody needed.

He is a travesty of a Tory and of a chancellor. He belongs more with John Cleese at the Ministry of Silly Walks than leading this beautiful country. At least the Caviar Socialists were more interesting to listen to.

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