So it happened: the very worst thing. I got norovirus. And just to make sure everyone else had a miserable time, too, I Tweeted about it step by step, reminding those on shift work at 5am that I had now been vomiting for EIGHT HOURS, reminding those getting up with their kids at 7am that I had now been going for TEN HOURS – like some terrible telathon.
But in the end, you know, it wasn’t so bad. I mean, it was the most physically traumatising thing to happen to me apart from giving birth – but once you’ve had it once, you know the drill. Puke so hard it feels like you’re going to turn inside out all night and then sit back for the next day sipping Ribena, graciously accepting an avalanche of sympathy. People are so nice about it that it almost makes it worth having.
And anyway you have to shrug these things off. Like you do when, say, when the Mail rings you and offers you enough money to pay for Christmas, an iPhone and a small non-extradition island in the Caribbean to write a slightly controversial piece for them, and then you get a bit carried away and then get over-excited strangers jumping on your head for days and days because they haven’t worked out yet that no-one writing in the Mail actually means a word they say, (apart from Melanie Phillips). Like that. You have to shrug that off, too – while crossing your fingers that Samantha Brick pops up again to re-direct some heat.
And Christmas. I think I might shrug Christmas off this year. We haven’t got a tree yet. I didn’t get an advent calendar until December 4th. I haven’t done any festive baking. I’m not even that excited about this year’s wrapping paper colour combination (purple with lilac ribbon printed with white snowflakes). It’s the last year I’ll be able to shrug it off, though. I think Kitty will be aware of Christmas next year and we won’t be able to get away with anything less than a 10ft tree and an actual herd of reindeer in the garden. I’m not saying I’m anti-Christmas, before you all get your flipping pitchforks out, I’m just saying that I am shrugging off the pressure.
I’m relaxing, too, about doing things like making my own pastry. I used to insist on making my own pastry before I realised that only people very devoted to the idea of from-scratch baking or who don’t happen to have a packet of Jus-Roll in their freezer or who don’t have children make their own. It’s not that time-consuming, it’s just so much easier getting it out of a packet. Go ahead! Judge me! I don’t care! Not after the week I’ve had.
I’m also henceforth never making my own mayonnaise again, having discovered a way of tarting up Hellman’s that is so satisfying that I actually feel more smug about doing it than making my own. My mother always makes her own mayonnaise, even when we were small, but she has the patience of a saint and was always able to deftly tune out the murderous squabblings of children, humming as she drizzled the oil into the yolks: dum de dum “FUCKING BI…. HATE Y” dum de dum de dum “I’M GOIN TO FUCKING KIL” tum te tum te tum “FAT C” dee dee dum “UCK OFF!!!” dee dee deeeee.
Anyway so this is my cheat’s mayonnaise, which is just super. We have been buying small cooked shrimp from the fishmonger recently and we have it with that, but I recommend you deploy it as an accompaniment to all cold cuts and elaborate sandwiches this festive season.
Some Hellman’s mayonnaise (or whatever you’ve got)
an unpeeled garlic clove
some olive oil
hot smoked paprika
So what you do is start with the mayo in a bowl get some olive oil, dribble a bit in, then some salt and pepper and lemon juice. Taste. Do it all again until you think it tastes nice. You might like a grassier mayonnaise than me.
Now take a clove of garlic and without bothering to peel it, stick it in a crusher and then crush until just a little scraping comes out and flick that into the mayo and stir. You just want a hint of garlic, because too much is just terrible for the digestion and extremely antisocial. If you had some garlic oil I think that would do the job of the olive oil and the garlic in one.
If you are planning to have this with seafood, a dollop of tomato ketchup – 1/2 a teaspoon I’d say, turns this into a Marie Rose sort of thing.
Finish with a rakish dash of paprika.