I don't know the method other patients use to manage eating their meals, because I never see them at the task. In fact, I never see them at all except when ferried to Oncology by Tracey, and that's only once every three weeks. I've been here just two, so had I been interested, which I'm not, I'd have been lucky to see them at their repast.
I can manage everything from then on.
But there's one small thing. To have a perfectly level tray, there's a fair angle on my trunk – my body, that is. If sitting at the dinner table is 90 degrees to the horizontal, then this is about 150.
Ardent students of geometry, a beautiful subject of study, will know that this lengthens the distance between plate and mouth. With soup or something a bit sloppy as main course (that's most things that I seem to choose, except for the grilled fish), the chances of dropping something on a fresh shirt increase exponentially at that angle.
Therefore, one needs a bib. Let's face it. When visitors come, one does not look as dignified as one would like with dobs of tomato soup, marmalade jam, and something optimistically referred to as blueberry cheesecake forming runic patterns between navel and neck.
Sticking serviettes into shirt tops just doesn't do it for me. They come adrift from their moorings and simply get in the way as I intently explore the culinarily adventurous contents of the bowl of minestrone soup. The serviette hangs at a sad angle, allowing acres of shirt front to be open to guerilla attack and eventual occupation by the enemy.
Invariably it happens, sometimes on the very last mouthful.
In the desire to finish the task in a totaly unsullied condition, one sometimes makes the fatal error of rushing the soup spoon through the last few centimetres to the gob. Instead of a graceful glide of the implement to the lips, one's hand trembles in anticipation. One knows one has failed, now made worse by slight miscalculation of angle of spoon to the very lips themseves. One now has soup dripping down one's chin and in a long thin stream from belly-button to breakfast time.
One feels, and is, a dork.
To reiterate, I need a bib. I was going to suggest to Tracey that she make me one, with something like BIG BABY gaily written in huge kindergarten scrawl across the front.
Tracey found merit in the idea, but would have come up with a more creative epithet.
The idea was that anyone intruding on my meal (an operation usually out of sight of prying eyes because it's an unedifying spectacle), would see the humour in the bib rather than its sheer practicality, and we could laugh our way out of it.
The scheme, which I thought brilliant, had one flaw. It was that the carefully designed bib would inevitably become spotty, fulfilling its purpose admirably but losing its virginal status faster than a precocious teenager.
The bib would need washing, and I would find myself bibless and fearfully exposed to the elements until the laundry maid at Allingham Street had done her task and returned with the bib in sanitised and stainless condition.
I then suggested that all thought of washing the bib might be abandoned altogether, and to allow the spillage to create something artistic as the days went by. Aeolian in its way, visual music composed of organic detritus of many colours – like Joseph's Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, only a bib.
I liked that. A certain je ne sais you know what.
I do know one thing at this point. My similes are getting out of hand.
With some reluctance, I abandoned the artistic idea. In my opinion, it may have been a sad loss to art, in view of some of the monstrosities currently posing in that guise. But Tracey vetoed it on the grounds of hygiene and lack of faith in art-of-the moment, which you have never heard of because I just coined the phrase. Art du moment, to give it a fancy title and instant respectability.
Her veto is a veto as resolute as that of the Chinese Government in the UN Security Council. Or a veto by any one of that little club for that matter.
Truth is, we abandoned the whole project. This was because when the nurse heard us talking about bibs, she went to the equipment room next door and came back with half a dozen freshly laundered bibs-for-adults.
"Just leave it out after you use it and it'll go with the rest of the laundry daily."
I think she may have overheard my artistic proposal. I felt a pang of regret that my art project would never materialise; that my unique chef d'ouvre would never be hung in the Louvre.
Now about those warnings concerning the poached egg. They're ones everyone said in hushed tones here.
I wasn't sure why they said it, but being of an enquiring turn of mind, the instincts of an historian and just plain nosey, when poached egg came up in the menu for the next day, I took the plunge.
I expected that it would arrive either undercooked or like rubber, sitting marooned on an island of oozing soggy toast, sinking slowly in the middle, but no. I was shocked to find that it was cooked to perfection, sitting high and dry on its toasty island as if lightly dried off with a teatowel (maybe it had been) and would have made an perfect Egg Benedict had the chef gone the extra mile with bagette, fresh chives and Hollandaise sauce.
I don't know what they were on about with all those warnings. Perhaps the contractors got a better class of auto-poacher.
I can't deny the possibility that it was a fluke. A sample of one is not really good science.
I've just got hold of the breakfast menu for tomorrow. If there's poached egg, it has my name on it.
One last word on bibs. There's a variation on Murphy's Law that says if there's even one centimetre of shirt left uncovered, that's the spot the tomato sauce will fall. I reckon Murphy has engaged the services of a shirt-seeking nanobot inventor and has these bots in the soup et al cunningly disguised as pepper.
Don't mock me. Just open the tiniest window on what lies beneath the bib, even right up at your shirt collar, and give it a go with baked beans – which, incidentally, I had yesterday morning with marmalade jam on brown bread. Interesting combo it was. It's why I'm full of beans right now. And a pressing date with the bathroom.
There now, you've got your promised bib and brekkie story – now leave me to my poached egg. Be off with you.