Some things are easier than others. They just are.
In our house, we can scarcely contain our excitement that our next prime minister will be the western politician who has done more in one short sentence to try to precipitate a nuclear war than any other. If we were once bored, it seems to be our lot to be bored no longer. And, if the statisticians are right, in a couple of months’ time, the 90,000 ex UKIP members who make up 50% of the Tory party membership, are going to select as the new leader of the world’s sixth largest economy someone who happens not to be able to decide what party she belongs to, which continent she would like to be part of, and which former prime minister she would like to be compared to. The fact that the IMF thinks her tax policy will drive the country to the brink of bankruptcy is a mere detail to them, and the nuclear war a small added extra, like an after dinner truffle.
So, if we are going to die, we need to toughen up, both for her and for us. And that is where cucumbers come in.
During my recent walk, one kind overnight host furnished me with a cucumber along with the cheese and pickle sandwich and Mars bar that made up my packed lunch. ‘It will keep you nourished, hydrated and,’ he added with a fathomless look, ‘amused.’
It did none of the above, and I disposed of it responsibly along the banks of a nameless canal in some joyless suburb. From that point on, cucumbers became something of a recurring trope to my journey, like that annoying moped in the film Local Hero. Wherever I went, cucumbers followed. From Hadrian’s Wall to Hawick and from Lymington to Lairg, there was a general assumption that what my benighted life most needed was the addition of a cucumber. Sliced, cubed, logged and even pulped, the remaining miles were defined by how many cucumbers could be squeezed into the day. Given that I cordially loathe cucumbers, and that a whole, raw, unpeeled cucumber provides less than 1% of the calorie intake needed by a man on a long walk, this seemed strange.
But not as strange as what happened next.
When I got home, the cucumbers kept coming. It was as if fanatic agents of a foreign power, maybe even associates of Ms Truss, had singled me out as a cucumis sativus heretic who could only be brought into line by a diet that consisted of little else. Riverford Organics started including them in their veg boxes. Friends would proffer dips with cucumber wedges with which to dip into them. Suddenly, cricket teas consisted of little else other than a mound of white, flaccid cucumber sandwiches, pathetically flavoured with Marmite or the like. Even Caroline started buying them, even after 28 years of marriage.
Finally, last night, in the evening glow of a post walk pint at the George at Burpham, my friend Peter dug slyly into his backpack and handed something long and green to my wife.
‘Have a cucumber,’ he said. ‘It is from our garden.’ It was as if my life was entirely surrounded.
But overnight, I have come to see the link between that cucumber and the member of parliament for South-West Norfolk. I lay awake into the small hours and began to unpick the helix of fear and pressure in my brain, until gradually the solution emerged out of the dawn miasma. If I can survive the cucumber, I can survive Liz Truss. Both have been sent from on high to test me, and therefore both must be borne, much as a dog in the summer has to bear fleas.
Almost immediately, things have become better. The stock market is stable; the pound is stable, the builders next door have gone home for the day, and the electricity provider has given me a £1000 cash back for many months of over payments.
With a spring in my step, I can survive anything.