There are people who set off alarms bells — figuratively and metaphorically —and there are people who don’t. Obviously I fall into the ‘set off loudly’ category. A few years ago, I ended up having to ask our Mayor to intervene with a letter to the area Chief of Police because I was being stopped virtually every single time I left the house. It wasn’t all bad though: I once had a very enlightening conversation, pre-Brexit, with a sandwichless picnic type of police officer who took the time to explain, quite condescendingly I thought, that my GB driving licence was not valid in France because Britain was not in Europe and never had been. There’s not a lot you can say to that.
My perennial aura of culpability follows me everywhere, including security and customs, both of which I seem incapable of negotiating without a full body search and scan and lengthy interrogation. I was once detained for some time at the Eurostar terminal in Waterloo while they searched my luggage at length. Bizarrely, this included going through and watching a load of perfectly innocent films on videotape that I had brought with me from France. This was before mobile ‘phones and my mother, imagining that I’d missed my train, gave up and went home without me.
A few days ago, Gatwick airport gave me a chance to flex my wannabe hooligan muscles once again when my baggage and I were stopped no fewer than three times. Poor Léo, who had gone ahead without a single hitch, had to wait for me on The Other Side, and was forced to explain, rather long-sufferingly, that if he was still hanging around it was because he was waiting for his ‘anarchist mother’; they immediately took pity and even offered him a chair.
Ingredients (serves 4)
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 chicken thighs
2 spring onions, peeled and sliced
2 bulbs fennel, roughly chopped
2 chilli peppers, sliced
4 cloves garlic, unpeeled
1 handful sage leaves
1 large orange, peeled and cut into segments
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons fennel seeds
1 teaspoon curry powder (optional)
1 tablespoon honey
Pre-heat oven to 220C. Arrange all the ingredients in a baking tray, drizzling olive oil over everything and seasoning with salt and pepper, fennel seeds, curry powder and honey. Cook for 40 minutes, squeeze the garlic from its skins and serve. Delicious with rice, fresh pasta or new potatoes.