After K. and I returned from an in-laws Christmas in Cardiff, I went out to do a big shop. We rarely do that usually, and we certainly rarely buy much junk food—a bag of posh crisps occasionally, sitting alongside the lentils, wholemeal, weekly veg box etc.—but Christmas is a different kettle of fish. And though we might have been in Twixmas, this was nonetheless our Christmas Treats Big Shop.
I have to confess: our pulse-oriented household soaked up the purchases of unhealthy food as parched earth might soak up a sudden monsoon.
Yesterday, therefore, I spent a lot of time eating. And while it was the 160g of milk chocolate that set my teeth on edge and my stomach on a spin cycle, it was the digestive biscuits with fresh coffee I enjoyed the most. In 1998, on my first round of final exams for my master’s degree, I had discovered cafetiere coffee as a suitable secret vice. I began most mornings with a full cafetiere, as many biscuits as would soak it up, and Radio 4. It became a habit when I remained, mostly alone, in college for the new year and January holidays, and kept me warm and cheery throughout the rest of winter’s frosts until my exams in the spring.
Ever since, digestives and coffee have provided me with a number of Proustian moments, taking me back to those days of a weird mix of independence and dependence. I sat there, huddled on the sofa under a duvet, reading a Poirot short story,, with half a dozen digestives and a cup of filter within easy reach, I decided that madeleines, Proust’s own equivalent of the dry and dusty Rich Tea, could ram it.