Just Icing

It’s only just struck me how very “traditional” my family are.

Every Christmas, and every family member birthday there’s always been a cake.

By cake I’m talking about a real cake of course. Not some sponge thing covered in goo masquerading as a cake; how’s something like that supposed to adequately support up to thirty candles, or survive the journey home wrapped in an expensive red party napkin, or still be edible several days, or even weeks, later ? That’s not a cake.

I’m talking about your industrial strength fruit cake, covered in a thick layer of rich yellow marzipan, and then sealed inside an inch of rock hard icing. Fantastic.

Cake’s like these were to “cake world” what Guinness is to the alcoholic beverage community. If coal is what happens to wood after millennia of being compressed under rock, then these cakes would be what happened to a dozen Christmas Puddings that had undergone the same process.

Of course, not everybody liked the cake. In fact, as kids, none of us did. It was too rich. It was a meal in itself, and why would you want to eat another meal when we’d only just finished being forced to eat one the first one !? Because with the cake came the icing.

It was hard, it was sweet, and it would probably rot your teeth in under thirty seconds if you didn’t swallow it down quick enough but boy we loved it. Especially my little sister.

Every Birthday and Christmas, after the initial meal, and the fruit salad, and maybe some sort of cheese cake (that’s not a cake either is it, but never mind), out would come THE Cake, and I’d sit there, pretending of course to be a polite young child waiting to be asked whether I’d like some (like they had to ask), but actually just counting the seconds before my sister, who was probably no more than four or five, would utter those words that drove me insane. Just icing.

“Just icing” she would whine to my mother. Somehow she even managed to lower herself at the table so that she had to look up at my mother at a steeper angle, how did she do that ? I have no idea but it amplified the effect. “Just icing” she would whine. And here’s the part that infuriated me the most, it wasn’t the whiney voice or the looking up at my mother in some magical way that made this five year old the most powerful influential person in the room, it was the fact that moments later my Mother would indulge her request.. no fight, no resistance, no discussion.. she’d just take a slab of icing that had come free during the first cut (I was going to say slice, but you can’t slice a cake like this), put it on a plate and hand it to my sister who would by now be beaming across the table at anyone else who happened to be watching.

Now even at the tender age of nine or ten I had realised that you can’t go through life asking for “just icing” ! Every now and then you have to have some cake too ! Boring though it may be ! What would the world come to if we all started asked for “just icing” !! There’d be a lot of cake left over that’s for sure !!

That big slab of icing that my sister got, and it’s associated yellow marzipan (which I used to enjoy moulding into small shapes on my plate, the little that I had compared to the huge amount of cake of course), meant that someone else was being deprived of their fair share. Me and my brother (I could include my Dad here but he doesn’t really count because I genuinely believed he would eat anything that was put in front of him without question) were eating my sister’s share of cake and It just wasn’t fair.

Worse still, there was no one to appeal to. The highest authority in the land, my mother, had decreed that my sister could have “just icing”.

It wasn’t much comfort, but I’d sit there and think to myself, at least I understand that you have to have some cake with your icing, and at some point that knowledge was bound to stand me in good stead.

Many, many years later have passed since those days. And we’re still having the traditional Birthday and Christmas cake. Although I can’t remember the last time I actually heard my sister ask for “just icing”. But here’s the thing; I’m more of the opinion if you don’t like cake, don’t have cake.

You know, it’s actually pretty stupid to put up with something you don’t like, particularly when you don’t have to.

No, if you want just icing, and it doesn’t hurt yourself, or anyone else, then go ahead. Have just icing !

The biggest irony is, all these years later, I actually prefer the cake.

29 February 2004

The Frog and the Princess – a modern day fairytale for good looking authors

This is tale of the frog and the princess
an anecdote of charm that will capture your interest.
It has everything that a short story must
some mystery, intrigue, a conflict… and lust!
So my friends, let’s begin with the dame
the beautiful Queen’s daughter, of considerable fame
but alas, her passion for garlic and herbs
had taken it’s toll on her romantic Hors D’deurves.
One day, as she wandered, through the wood, by the brook,
she noticed a frog, who was reading a book,
and as it’s well known that frogs cannot read
she assumed he was the product of some evil deed;
perhaps an old hag had met up with a prince
and transformed him to frogness, where he’d been ever since?
So Princess Beatrice sat down by the water
and kicked off the shoes that her mother had bought her.
She turned to the frog, and said in a wisp,
“Hi, I’m the Princess, do you fancy a kiss?”
“No!” said the frog, “so please go away,
you’re an unwelcome blip, on a wonderful day.
I’ve come here to read because I’m not a dimbo,
and the last thing I want is a snog with a bimbo!”
“Excuse me!” said the princess, “but I object to your tone,
that kind of rudeness I will not condone.
You may be twisted and bitter from your life in this bog,
but if you won’t let me kiss you you’ll stay as a frog!”
“Well pardon me for breathing,” said the eloquent toad,
but into your fantasy I will not be bestowed.
Like you I’m a being in my own right,
and for basic frog privileges I will put up a fight.
Besides,” said the frog, “I am not convinced,
that I would be happier transformed to a prince.”
“But..” said poor Beatrice, “I don’t think you see..
I’m a beautiful Princess, don’t you.. fancy me?
I’m a woman of beauty, and will be queen of this land,
I can’t marry a frog… you do understand ?”
“No,” said the frog, “I’m afraid you’re sadly mislead,
if you think that you’re partner must be the same size in bed.
Think for a moment; why should it be,
that a princess can’t marry a frog such as me?
It doesn’t say much for young lady these days
if she looks for her partner through a hormonal haze.”
“No, no!” said the princess, “this just isn’t right,
this isn’t what happened to my good friend snow white
she ended up with a real hunk of a bloke
and nobody told her that she shouldn’t have spoke!”
“Ah!” Said the Frog, “but that was back in the days
when prize winning authors thought women were slaves
and believed that all women wanted in life
was to be chained up in the kitchen like a dutiful wife.”
“So, who,” she enquired, “is writing our lines?
Because whoever it is will get a piece of my mind!”
The frog smiled slyly and leafed through his book
aware that the princess was having a look.
“It’s a brilliant young author, called Peter A Jones.
Famous in fairy land, for his fictional tomes.
He’s a genius really, and still in his prime –
though some argue that he should forget about rhyme.”
“And.. what’s he look like ? ..this Author you speak of,
is he short, green and bald, with only one tooth?”
“Oh no!” said the Frog, “he’s quite a tall chap,
Girls far and wide want to sit on his lap.
For he owes his complexion to a diet of beer,
he looks just like George Clooney (if you’re not standing too near).”
“I see,” said the princess, “well thanks for the small talk,
but I’ve got to go now, to er.. finish my walk.”
“Hey!” Said the frog, “you can’t leave me here,
I thought we’d get married and live by the pier!”
“You’ve gotta be joking,” said Princess in haste
“I’ve got an author to find and there’s no time to waste.”
The moral my friends, is that when writing in rhyme
don’t take it too seriously, have a good time.
Because as all authors know, the words you may mince
but it’s incredibly satisfying to cast yourself as the prince.