29 APRIL 1989, Page 41

Low life

Health food horror

Jeffrey Bernard

Ihave spent the last four days in bed, getting out of it only to heat up tins of soup or to make cups of tea. In that time I've used no less than 60 teabags. That is almost Wedgwood-Benn stuff. The boredom has been hell what with only two hours' sleep per night. Reading is hard work when you are ill and television stinks at the moment. I'm sure it didn't used to.

But I did have to venture forth for five minutes just to get more soup and fags. In Neal's Yard I bought a loaf of whole-grain bread that had a crust like teak and was reminded yet again how awful the health food industry is. The people who run these awful shops will play Vivaldi's Four Sea- sons all day long every day. I'm not quite sure what they think that makes them. Even a bar I frequented in Sydney played it continuously. Turn on LBC in the early hours and it is the Pastoral. I hope I never hear either of those works again. On the way home I bought an 'organic' lettuce. It would seem that organic means crawling. The woman in the shop had to put down a copy of the Guardian to serve me and when I got home and dissected the offend- ing lettuce I washed an army of insects down the sink. I wish someone would open an unhealthy food shop. You know, barons of beef and bread that toasts properly and lettuce hearts from Spain.

The only times nowadays that I find living alone not to be a luxury is when I am ill. It would make the world of difference to have one's soup and tea brought to the bedside. Two floors down is a long way. If I was older and rich I think I would move into an extremely posh nursing home. It would have to be close enough to London so as not to deter visitors and set in about 100 acres of superb parkland. I would spend most of my time sitting in a wheel- chair with a blanket over my knees in a conservatory at a constant 85°F replacing sweat with ice-cold drinks served by an attractive gerontophile. I would have very little to do with the other inmates. I had enough of widows and retired colonels ,fr when I lived in Suffolk. (Retired alcoholic naval captains can be quite invigorating, though.) What a different picture it is here, what with soup stains on the duvet and nothing on the box. There was one bit of light relief, though, yesterday when my land- lord, a film animator, lent me a video of Pinocchio: so much better than Snow White to me, although at an early age I found the wicked Queen tremendously sexually attractive. I wonder if Walt Dis- ney was aware of the fact that he had made her so. Any handsome prince worth his salt would have made a beeline for her. Even when she changed herself into a witch she was no worse than Norman's mother. Snow White would have been awful in middle age, subscribing to Woman's Own and presiding over coffee mornings and saying things like, 'Don't you think you've had enough?'

The soup's run out again and I wish I had the strength to make my own. Some gazpacho would go down well and so would a week in Spain, and that is just where I shall go as soon as possible. Apart from Pinocchio I forgot to mention that the day has been saved by an excellent two volumes, Mithener's Iberia. This has to be one of the very best travel books I have ever read and it has made me itch to get out of this bed and get to Salamanca. None of the shops in Neal's Yard do takeaway paella so I suppose it must be dreadfully unhealthy. But how nice it will be to lounge about in a café in the Plaza Mayor and listen to flamenco and not the Four Seasons.