Thursday, 30 October 2008

Trophy Breakfast.....

As I tucked into my morning bowl of Sugar Puffs, the king of breakfast cereals, my mind wandered back to the first breakfast I had when I moved out of the family home. My mind wandered so much that I over filled the bowl with milk and then had to transfer the whole milky sugar puffy mess into a large pasta bowl, well it was either that or a small saucepan. I'm a real class act in the morning.

cornflakes
not a trophy breakfast...


Free from the reigns of parental control I could have what ever I wanted for breakfast, lunch, diner or at any other time of the day. That said, Dad had long since given up on trying to provide me with nourishing meals and what have you. I was a moody, goth, teenager who wouldn't be contained by eating at any of the regularly alloted times or indeed with any regular food. This petulance would later manifest itself as vegetarianism. I was disowned during this period.

So there I was a few months shy of my seventeenth birthday living away from home and having to budget and provide for myself. This was a shock to the system as food at home was always good home cooked fayre. I used to lament my fathers fantastic culinary skills when other kids at school would regale me with stories of frozen chips and tins of beans and that holy grail of convenience food, the Findus Crispy Pancake. Oh no, not for me where the delights of the potato waffle or the frozen pizza. We had to make do with actual fresh meat and vegetables. I considered it to be so medieval.

I have never admitted it but I was a little nervous when I moved out. I was given very little advice or anything else for that matter when I left bolted from the family nest. Dad reached out to ruffle my hair but pulled his hand back when he realised you cant ruffle a twelve inch quiff that's pretty much held in place with a half can of hairspray. He shook his head, gave me a few quid and warned me about the dangers of constant partying. I took the cash and ignored his sage a worldly advice. I had partying to do and crispy pancakes to be buying.

I moved in with my chum Daryl, not into a grotty student flat bedecked with 1970's brown curtains and purple carpet. Oh hell no. This was luxury living, a swish new apartment in the centre of town. Remember this was the early 90's and city centre living was the reserve of the homeless. Our carpets matched our curtains which in turn matched our couch. Crikey, it was just like one of those show houses off the telly. We were beside our favourite bar and club, we were within spitting distance of the big shops, and college was only a stones throw away. We never threw any stones though or actually go to college either now that I come to think of it. This place was just swell and a bona fide babe magnet too. Not that I was ever really able to take advantage of that situation.

Most food shopping was done in either the local Spar shop or the wonderful 24 hours garage that is when we weren't dining out. By dining out I mean eating kebabs at 3am outside the pub. The 24 hour garage was always a delight and the sarcastic and perma-huffy attendant behind the perspex window made or nightly trips complete. Service with a sneer. Having him run to the far side of the shop to pick us up a loaf of bread only to send him back again because we wanted the other one on the left was a shitty trick we never tired off.

Anyway one night shortly after moving in we found ourselves yet again at the perspex window through which most of our daily nourishment came. I never lived in Communist Russia but this must have been what it was like - queueing up for bread at 3am in the rain with the other dregs of society whilst a sneering control freak takes an age to get your sliced white. As I stood there shuffling back and forward in a semi-sober state I spied from the corner of my eye the most sought after of breakfast products. It seemed to glow at me and there was definitely the sound of angels whispering in my ears. It could have been the drunks in the queue but I'm sure it was angels.

It was the breakfast I had always wanted but never got. The choice of children all over the land but the one no self respecting parent ever bought, it was......

....it was, The Kellogg's Variety Pack! Hallelujah! The time had come for me to sample the delights of eight different breakfast cereals from one packet. No more would I have to make do with boring Cornflakes or listen to the repetitiously dull snap crackle and goddamned pop of Rice Krispies!

I could barely get the words out as I inched my way to the window of wonderful delights. I fidgeted in my pockets for some notes, the 24 hour garage being a robbing fucker worse than the taxman, and a quality item such as the Kellogg's Variety Pack would obviously command a high price.

"Variety Pack...", I stuttered.

"What?"

I thought he was demanding civility at the window so I tried again, "Variety Pack...PLEASE."

"Variety Pack of wah? Condoms?"

"Condoms?" Like what the hell was I gonna do with condoms? I barely knew any girls to talk to let alone get close enough to actually need a condom. The procurement of the breakfast of dreams was proving difficult. From behind me came a gruff and angry voice...

"Will ya get a fucking move on...it's pishing out here!" Some ladies have no patience.

So I tried again, "Dude can I please get the Kellogg's Variety Packet PLEASE."

"Dude?"

"Sir, boss, big fella, whatever! Can I just please have my Variety Packet."

"Is there any fucking chance up there? I've been waiting twenty minutes!" Came another angry voice. I was tempted to tell them I had been waiting nearly twenty years but they looked cold and ugly so I kept that thought to myself. But finally I got my Variety Pack and rushed home, avoiding muggers and hoods and all the other wonderful creatures to be found at 3am on a cold Wednesday morning.

By the time I got home I was totally pooped and not really in the mood for anything other than sleep. I awoke a few hours later slumped on the couch and still clutching my trophy breakfast. Despite a killer hangover I bounced into the kitchen to fetch some milk, a bowl and a spoon. This wasn't easy as we only washed dishes on a quarterly basis and we weren't even close to doing them any time soon. But the mould was removed and dubious plant life scoured off. I was ready.

I had waited nearly seventeen years for this moment. I lined them all up minus the Cornflakes and the Rice Krispies and ate them one after the other, tiny packet followed tiny packet. It was at his point that I realised moving out of home was the best thing I had ever done. Funnily enough I don't think I have bought a Variety Packet since.

It's funny the things you think about over a bowl of Sugar Puffs.....

37 People trying to get Manuel's attention:

Ms. McDermott said...

I really like your writing style, and your self-effacing humor. But, now I have to go to the shop for Cornflakes!

Medbh said...

Wow, Manuel, your first apartment was posh, lucky man.
Mine was in a building that was a former junkie flophouse and it was filled with shady motherfuckers. On the floor above was a "modeling agency" that ran children in the sex trade.

Frank B said...

Years ago we used to cut an X in the back of the boxes of the variety packs and pour in the milk, so as to eat the contents from the box.

Waiter Extraordinaire said...

I remember like Frank B cutting the perforations on the box and you could pour the milk in and eat the cereal out of the box. My breakfast treat when I was younger was about 8 slices of cinammon raisin toast with cinammon spread or honey smothering it. Now once in a while I do the same but only 2
pieces now.Not as hungry now and cannot burn it off like I used to.

daisyfae said...

When i first moved in with my (now ex-)husband we would have a box of Cap'n Crunch cereal for dinner at least once a week! And we looked forward to it! Me at 19 years old thought this was the definition of FREEDOM!

great post... picking your own damn cereal... tastes like growing up, doesn't it?

The Hangar Queen said...

Brilliant stuff.

We always had our cereal with warm milk in our house.Never did get the cold milk thing.

Until my first Army breakfast and a half pint of freezing cold milk was fucked at my head when I asked for warm milk.

Gypsy said...

This was a brilliant post Manuel and I laughed from start to finish. Now get stuck into a plate of frozen chips with baked beans and see what that brings up. Thanks for the laugh.

Silverstar said...

If I recall correctly, the breakfast of choice was cold pizza. Actually, that's still the breakfast of choice.

laughykate said...

My first flat was basically a whole lot of rotting wood nailed together that was slowly sinking into the ground.

Whn my parents came to visit (not stay) I was trying to delicately warn them my about the state of my rented accommodation and my father just kept brushing me off, confidently saying, 'Don't worry about it, it couldn't be worse than your sister's first flat. Just.Could.Not.Be.Worse.I am sure it's fine.'

We pulled up outside it. My father looked over, took in an audible breath and uttered three words.

'Oh Jesus Christ.'

Anto said...

The variety pack also offers the greatest of kellogg based thrills. The combo! Frosties + Cornflakes? Start + Coco Pops? And the unholy trinity - Ricicles + Coco Pops + Rice Krispies!!! I always preferred to match the cereal type though; early forays into Corn + Rice combos led only to disappointment.

Is it just me? said...

Manuel, I just wanted to add my voice to the many messages of support you'll no doubt have received at this stage.
Wossy and Brand were very bold boys.

redleeroy said...

you know those jelly beans, the gourmet ones that you can combine to make new flavours. jelly belly.

http://www.jellybelly.com/fun_stuff/jelly_belly_bean_recipes.aspx

Well variety packs have the same powers. Like inventing a new cocktail. Coco pops with crunchy nut corn flakes, coco nut flakes. its all about experimentation. Failure and experimentation.

belfastyouthworker said...

my first flat was a 200-a-month jobby in kansas avenue just off the cavehill road. it was legendary, many a party was had but was far too far away from where the party was at! moved up into stran and havent looked back since! don't party anymore though :)

psychoknitter said...

Just yesterday I was standing with a colleague in our mess hall, looking at all the boxes of cereal, and I commented "why the hell are they buying sugar puffs? what adult eats that shit?"

Now I know.
hahahahahahaha

You're always welcome to join us for a bowl!

Manuel said...

ms McDermott: awh thank you....

medbh: it was so sweet! It;s just a pity that Daryl's parents had died and left him all that cash.....sweet jebus your first place sounds like a 'challenge"......mine got progressively worse after that place....

frank b: classy man.....very classy man

steve: I may have to try it....

daisyfae: "tastes like growing up" bwahahahaha

gypsy: cheers!

silverstar: you wanna swap?

Manuel said...

laughykate: happy days eh?

anto: welcome anto! Ah yes who here never tried the joy and wonder of the combo!?

is it just me? bwahahahaha yeah but we got em in the end.....

redleeroy: the possibilities are endless!

byw: £200 a month? crikey my first place was £25 a week......a week!!!

psychoknitter: I will not hear a bad word said about sugar puffs.....or any other sort of puff.....and thank you but all things considered I will have to take a rain check on your kind invite.....

sheepworrier said...

Brilliant post manuel!
Ah the fun times we had with the grumpy f**ker in the 24hr at malone rd garage. I can still hear his screams of "why the f**k didn't you ask me to get that when I was over there!?", followed by almost imperceptible sobbing.

Manuel said...

sheepo: I was an Ormeau Road garage man myself......this gave the whole proceedings the air of danger and excitement....

sheepworrier said...

Stop at the hat for a wee c.o at 3 in the mornin as well then? £30 for a 6 pack? Bargin.

Sniffle&Cry said...

*snooty voice* Of course there is more nutrition in the cardboard box you know.
But you weren’t concerned with nutrition then. Only hot love or a warm hand.

Hey, your granddaughter and Russell Brand, congrats Manuel, confuckinggrats.
Absolute tosser, what with his “ce” in the scratcher. She’s better of without him you know.

Manuel said...

sheepo: oh christ no.....we always got our from Lavery's in advance......ah I miss my duffle bag...


sniffle & cry: nutrition didn't matter in those days...not really sure it does now either.....

Conan Drumm said...

My first place was £18 a week between the two of us. It's now a swish 'ethnic' restaurant.

Andrew F said...

Cool little story.

jen said...

Ah - brings back fond memories...

Variety Packs were special and saved for holidays only in our house. I used to get so excited.

First shared flat saw me in a room with magenta shagpile carpet and a pyscho-flatmate who used to leave Bible quotes about forgiveness in random spots around my room when I was out. (Back story: there was an argument at one stage but it was sorted and I thought everything was ok. Evidently not.) I never woke up and found her standing over me in the night or anything, but that would have fitted the profile.

savannah said...

sugar puffs? sweeeet! i remember having those with sweet condensed milk and drinking black coffee. how insane was i?????? i haven't thought about that first apartment in ages! xoxox

MJ said...

Good to hear your carpet matched your curtains.

I’m assuming your collars and cuffs matched too?

paddy said...

the variety pack - bought only by the Driscoll clan at special times of year - the week in the caravan at the beach at Easter or the week in a dripping tent up a mountain. Even raisin bran seemed glamourous in those little packets. Holy fucking murder would break out when the others realised someone had got up early and wolfed the Coco Pops though.

dave said...

Mmmmm....Crispy pancakes.....

Bought some yesterday. They are still filled with crap. But, oh so tasty!

Sweetchuck said...

Christ that brought back memories of my first sojourn abroad, i and a trio of other spotty faced 17 yr olds from the humble village of craigavon set off for Ibiza. Now obviously in those days are mums packed our bags (still do) and we took no interest in them til we set down in our appartment knowing that mums will have thought of everything. And yes on inspection the 4 of us had each been given a pack of kellogs variety cereal, uncanny, maybe its in some sort of unwritten mum manual. Upon further digging into the suitcase bigger than me i also found a jar of coffee that a special aunt had included, but this was no ordinary jar of coffee, this was a cash & carry sized jar of maxwell fucking house, what the fuck were we to do with that, snort it? Oh how my chums never let me forget it the rest of the hol and took great pleaseure in regaling every soul we met for the next 2 weeks. Cereals were great though.
Great post mannie.

A.B. said...

I love the "Manuel Back Stories" and believe Sugar Puffs are little golden pieces of love.

sheepworrier said...

Heh @ sweetchuck.
Craigavon on tour - Jaysis!

Lottie said...

Another little piece of the puzzle falls into place.

Manuel said...

conan: ah times must have been fun in ye olden days....

andre f: welcome! cheers.....it's like therapy....

jen: nice!! bet she did it though!

savannah: well tell us about it now....I'll get the sugar puffs..

mj: ha! and I thought you wouldn't be able to find anything in that post!

paddy: not even at christmas in our house.......

conortje said...

I recognise this only too well although I did once get the variety pack as a special prize when I was a wee lad - for my first communion or some other such life changing event - it would have been better not getting it though cause then I knew what I was missing...

Manuel said...

dave: I never got one in the end.....hmpf

sweetchuck: ha! I never got any special coffee form our special aunt....! wtf!

a.b: check back for more later....like tomorrow!

sheepo: don't encourage him...

lottie: you think? oh we are only on the frame....

conortje: I must have been a bad child I never got them ever.....

raptureponies said...

coco pops have made me shed a tear of delight.

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