You know how it is when you have to see one of those specialists you’d rather avoid and you just hope when you sit in the reception
area that no is there who recognises you. You don’t want the world to know that you’re seeing a specialist who will be taking a good look at you – not your face but your other end.
I arrived a few minutes late and hoped to be shown straight into his rooms to get the whole thing over with but was told to take a seat. I looked around but there were no magazines. Everyone likes a magazine so you can keep your head down and avoid making eye contact. Should have brought my own.
After staring at the walls for nearly an hour an elderly woman shuffled in supported by a younger man who was probably her middle-aged son. I nearly groaned audibly. What were the odds? This is a city of more than four million. It should be possible to get through a few appointments without bumping into people on your Christmas card list. I know that supportive son. It’s Mike. His son, Lachlan, played rugby with Archie.
And I had no magazine to bury my head in. Alas, he saw me and as his mother had taken the seat one up from me, he squeezed into the chair between us.
‘Oh Charlie, what are you doing here?’
It’s obvious isn’t it? ‘I’m just waiting to see the doctor.’
‘Oh, the one called Don?
‘My mum’s seeing him. What time’s your appointment?’ he asked in his usual gruff tone.
‘Mine was 2.45 but I’ve been waiting for nearly an hour.’
He rolled his eyes. ‘Oh mum, did you hear that? He’s running over an hour late’, and he turned to me and said, ‘Charlie, this is my mother, Brenda. Brenda, this is Charlie.’ I leaned forward. ‘Nice to meet you Brenda’. But I was dying on the inside. I just wanted to get through the afternoon quietly and privately.
Brenda leaned forward and asked in a very loud scratchy voice, ‘Are you waiting to see the doctor?’
What else would I be doing here? But I affirmed that I was most pleasantly. Where’s that magazine or a local paper or even a brochure on block-out shutters. Anything.
‘Well don’t be too long because I’m next’.
‘I’ll do my best’.
Mike piped up. ‘What’s Archie doing?’
‘Nothing. He’s taking a year off. A gap year he’s calling it’.
‘Lachlan’s doing nothing. Nothing. Got the HSC this year. Hasn’t done a scrap of work in the last five years so I keep telling him, ‘you’d better pull your finger out.’ That’s not a good turn of phrase in this surgery. But he continued, ‘Is Archie driving?’
‘Yes, he’s got his licence’.
‘Has he crashed the car yet?’
‘No, not yet’.
‘Lochie has. Crashed the car in the first week he had his licence. Drove the car straight into a pole. Is Archie smoking?’
‘He has the occasional cigarette but he’s got asthma so…’
‘Yes, loves a drink’.
‘Lochie’s drinking and smoking. Never stops. That’s all he does. Smokes and drinks and plays rugby and sees his girlfriend. Nothing else. He’s off to Fiji next week with the 1st and 2nd XV. He’s obsessed with rugby.’
‘What does he want to do when he leaves school?’
‘Wants to be a physio. Not the indoor kind though. Like a sports physio where you travel with a team of rugby players. He’s obsessed with rugby. And not the indoor type. Likes to be outside. But I’ve told him, ‘you’d better pull your finger out if you want to be a physio.’ Then he looks at me curiously. ‘So everything’s okay with you?’
‘Fine thanks.’ And then in an effort to deflect the conversation from myself, ‘Do you still own the bottle shops?’
‘No, sold them’.
‘Oh, so what are you doing now?’
‘That must be nice.’ But I’m thinking, ‘like father, like son’.
Finally my name was called. ‘Lovely to meet you Brenda and good seeing you Mike’, I politely say as I’m led away by a slow-walking, obese receptionist.
Some days in some instances it’s great to bump into friends and acquaintances. Other times it’s just plain awkward. Thank goodness today’s focus was turned from me to those with a bad case of teenage-itis. How grateful I am that Lochie is doing nothing except drinking, smoking, seeing his girlfriend and playing rugby. These attributes make for great conversation fillers in awkward moments.
A hot fiery meal is what’s needed to get over the day’s events.
CHARLIE’S CHILLI CHICKEN
I make this quite often, so often, a friend of mine and her children know it as ‘Charlie’s Chilli Chicken’. It’s a great mid-week meal that you can whip up in no time.
Degree of difficulty: 2/5
2 tbspns vegetable oil
6 dried red chillies
6 cloves of garlic finely chopped
1 red onion finely chopped
500g chicken thigh fillets, cut into stir-frying strips
1 tbspn sambal oelek
1 tbspn ketjup manis
1 tbspn soy sauce
1 tbspn palm sugar
1/2 cup roasted unsalted cashews
6 shallots cut into batons
coriander sprigs to garnish
Place the oil in a wok and heat to medium. Add the chillies and fry briefly until they start to darken. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.
Raise the heat to high. Add the garlic, onion and chicken and stir constantly for about 2 minutes. Then add the sambal oelek, ketjup manis, soy sauce and palm sugar. (Add a little stock or water if mixture looks too dry).
Stir-fry for a few more minutes until chicken is cooked through. Add cashews, shallots and fried chillies.
Transfer to a serving plate and garnish with coriander sprigs.
Serve with steamed Jasmine rice.