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Mike Coatesworth

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An eggcellent learning experience
By Mike Coatesworth
Sunday, February 21, 2010

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An eggcellent learning experience in my childhood

A tale of eggcellence

To say that I am surprised is an understatement; today on the 21st February I awoke to find a blanket of snow right across the countryside as far as the eye could see.  Yes I wouldn’t have been so surprised if this had been in the dales of Yorkshire, but here in Ireland where all it usually does is rain leaves me to believe that we are in for some sort of climate change.  It is very rare we have snow with Easter just around the corner...

Talking of Easter suddenly reminds me of an event that took place when I was a child.  Every since I was able to eat solids besides the occasional slice of dripping and bread all I usually had for breakfast was a bowl of porridge with a spoonful of syrup to sweeten it.  One day, completely out of the blue, we were informed that we were going to stay with a distant aunt and uncle for a few days just until our deaf blind aunt Chrissie who cared for us, recovered from an illness.

We arrived at our relative’s home and at first we were shy and just sat quietly on the sofa while the adults talked.  Aunt Louie and uncle Harry as we knew them looked so old to us, more like grandparents.  Their house was so clean and smelled of carbolic, and there were ornaments everywhere and I was afraid to move in case I damaged anything.  Soon it was just me and my brother left alone with our aunt and uncle, but we needn’t have worried about anything as they soon made us welcome in their home and put us at ease.  We were asked what we would like for breakfast and immediately our guard was up again, no one had ever asked us before what we would have liked to eat, we were so used to having food put in front of us and if we didn’t clear the food off our plate we got it for the next meal until it was finished.  My brother and I looked at each other as though willing each other to be the first one to speak.

‘Would you like a boiled egg?’ my aunt asked me.

Our complete silence to a question that we did not understand must have unnerved our relative’s a little as they appeared puzzled as to what to do or say next.  My guess was that they weren’t used to having children around.  Anyway to our relief they disappeared to the kitchen for a while.

‘I need a wee’ I informed my brother. I presumed the toilet was next to the kitchen like in our house, but this meant that I would have to pass our aunt and uncle, and I was afraid that I would literally wet myself if they asked me any more questions that I didn’t understand.  I couldn’t hold it in anymore, I was getting truly desperate, so I nipped brother on the ear and he called out in surprise rather than pain.  When our aunt and uncle came in to see what was going on I quickly informed them that my brother had earache and while they were looking at his ear I sneaked into the kitchen and out the back door to where I thought the toilet was, but there wasn’t anything but a large garden, no toilet to be seen anywhere!

A few moments later my uncle came out and saw me with my legs crossed.  He smiled and took me by the hand up the stairs to a bathroom and I was so shocked at not only seeing a toilet inside, but also a bath with running water that I did pee myself, but I was not embarrassed, I was touching and feeling the toilet and the bath and admiring the beautiful colours of the decorated walls.  I had never seen anything like it.  Anyway my aunt came and cleaned me up and she smiled in understanding that her modern house must have been a shock to my system.

We were ushered into a dining room and sat at a table.  In front of us was placed a plate with sliced toast and something that I could only describe at the time as a funny shaped small ball.  I touched it and quickly pulled my hand away when I felt the heat burn my fingers.  My brother and I stared at each other; we didn’t know what it was or what to do with it.

‘It’s a boiled egg,’ our aunt informed us.

Right, okay, the object in front of me was a boiled egg; I had never in my life seen an egg before, so I didn’t know what I was supposed to do with it.

My aunt came over and showed us how to break the shell and cut the top off the egg and then told us to eat the contents inside the shell.

Hmm, I must admit that it did taste very nice, but it wasn’t as filling as a bowl of porridge.

Later we were told that as it was near to Easter we would be allowed to decorate a few eggs and we watched in horror as some fresh hard boiled eggs were placed in cold water and a while later our uncle dried them off and began to paint the eggs.  This was food!  We’d been brought up strictly never to play with food, so to actually paint it was sacrilege and a complete waste of food.  If we had done this in our own home we would have been severely punished.  I found the courage inside of me to explain this to my aunt.

We needn’t have worried though as our aunt explained that the eggs were decorated in edible food colouring and that afterwards we could peel the eggs and use them in a salad.

Now there was a question, what on earth was a salad..?



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