‘Don’t ask where they came from,’ said our friend Vera Preston. ‘Think of them as a late Christmas present.’
To be honest I’d have been happier with something nice to put in the bath. However after last years ‘Oriental Spice’ bath foam experience, perhaps not. I was still trying to get rid of the smell at New Year. So with that in mind I supposed Vera’s unexpected gift would make less pungent alternative. At least I wouldn’t have to sit there huddled over the gas fire with all the windows open. Still whilst I know you should never look a gift horse in the mouth I did wonder what I was supposed to do with a pair of stolen lobsters.
So did my neighbour Beattie as neither of us are exactly famed for our fine dining habits. She may claim things taste better off her Royal Worcester china than my mismatched plates but if you ask me even a fancy hallmark and a gilt rim will struggle to turn over-boiled vegetables into haute cuisine.
Anyway I thought that whilst I was on the phone thanking Vera for her nice surprise I’d broach the subject of what to do with them.
She said she had no idea because she’d been expecting them to be four boxes of duvet sets her grandson Dwayne had bought off a mate in the pub on New Year’s Eve and if I thought I had a problem I should come round and take a look in her freezer.
‘I’ve got three dozen of the things staring at me every time I open the door,’ she added, ‘and two of those have managed to stick themselves on a frozen trifle so I suppose unless I can scrape some of the cream off that’s ruined too.’
Our other friend Hilary Mason was no help either. Did lobsters have the same aphrodisiac qualities as oysters, she wondered, because if so she was planning to serve an enormous seafood platter the next time it was her and Clive’s turn to host one of their Swingers parties.
‘Anyway give Lila a ring,’ she said. ‘I think she’s got a recipe from her sister in America.’
So I did. And she had. But only for the sauce.
Now some of you may remember Lila’s sister Violet. Last year she came back to Biddermouth on Sea forty years, five husbands and a great deal of costume jewellery later and also, if Beattie is to be believed, carrying a lot of plastic surgery before her.
‘You can say what you like Maureen,’ she’d said after Violet had gone back to Placid Flats, ’but she certainly wasn’t a 48 DD when she set sail all those years ago. And why on earth does she keep on marrying alcoholics? Unless it’s her that drives them to drink.’
Well none of us could answer that one. Even Beattie had been too well-mannered to ask. However one of the many things we did learn was that Violet, or Vileen, as she now called herself, had a walk-in freezer the size of our back kitchens which according to Lila was full to the brim of every luxury food stuff known to mankind, including lobsters. All of which brings me back to why Lila phoned her sister in the first place.
‘But did you ask her what we’re supposed to do with them,’ I asked?
‘I most certainly did not,’ she replied. ‘She made enough fuss over having to eat Corned Beef Hash and Spam fritters and chips so there is no way I was letting her know I hadn’t a clue what to do with a lobster. Anyway I don’t know why Beattie can’t just ask George Cawdrey. She’s always in his fishmongers commenting on the size of his halibut.’
Personally I think that was just Lila being deliberately meddlesome. She knew as well as I did that Beattie would rather walk barefoot over hot coals than step over his threshold. You see whatever dalliance there might have been between her and George was definitely ‘off’ since she’d heard he was spending most of his free time ‘on’ the more happy-go-lucky Rita Randall. Fair enough he was also seeing a chiropractor three times a week as a result of Rita’s pelvic floor but in Beattie’s compendium of verse that was nowhere near enough poetic justice to compensate for the humiliation she’d suffered at his hands. Death by thunderbolt might have been more befitting but sadly Divine retribution had seen fit to confine itself to the use of a walking stick.
‘Still,’ said Lila,’ it can’t be that difficult. They serve lobster pate at the Imperial Hotel don’t they?’
‘But does it have claws,’ I asked?
Lila had to admit I did have a point there. As far as she recalled it didn’t although it did come with little bits of toast.
‘Anyway,’ she added. ‘Keith and I are having ours tonight. I’m planning a candle lit supper to go with that baby doll nightdress he gave me for Christmas. I know I said I wanted a new vacuum cleaner but I suppose you have to make the effort don’t you otherwise you’ll end up like Hilary and Clive, having sex with strangers in the park.’
‘Sorry,’ I asked although knowing Hilary I wouldn’t have put it passed her.
‘It’s the only place with swings’, she explained and set off determined to get herself in the mood for a night of sparkling wine, romance and two plates of Lobster Thermidore.
With hindsight I think even Lila would now admit she should have swallowed her pride and asked Vileen how to prepare a lobster because I gather the evening wasn’t exactly a roaring success. Keith’s idea of sparkling wine turned out to be two cans of warm lager and he’d fallen asleep before the new nightdress had even made its way out of the drawer. As for the seafood all she would say was that it was crunchy, very crunchy.
‘In fact Maureen, ‘she said, ‘you couldn’t even get a knife and fork in either of them. But that sauce was lovely.’
To view my books ‘Bell, Book & Handbag’ and ‘Tourist Trouble & other short stories’, ‘A Festive Falling Out’ and ‘Turkey And All The Trimmings’ all featuring Maureen, Beattie and their friends from Biddermouth on Sea please click HERE
This ‘All Things Biddermouth’ story is ©Ian Ashley 2017