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Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Bruce Lee, beef curry and boiled rice

When my granny, Ida Hanson, was alive I often used to visit her, during the 1970s, in her cluttered and tiny pensioner’s flat in the middle of Chaddesden – a very large council housing estate close to the city of Derby. This generally sweet old lady, with a tough cantankerous streak, had  a love of verbally attacking her black and white telly during the Saturday afternoon wrestling programmes; one moment she would be serving up strong heavily sugared milky tea and cream cakes and the next she would be vigourously lumping the bemused television with her gigantic handbag. The sight of bad boy cheating Mick McManus in his big  black wrestler’s pants was usually enough to get her riled up to a point of fist shaking fury. Granny fists of fury in fact.

Aaah, the early 1970s, a time when I lived semi-permanently in cinemas eagerly lapping up the latest Bruce Lee film and wolfing down Chinese food from a take-away in Chaddesden. Back in those politically incorrect days this Happy Dragon establishment would have been known as (and I blush to type the words yet to come) … a Chinky.

‘Going for a chinky’ seemed the latest thing in culinary heaven to me back then. If I wasn’t hopping about in faux Bruce Lee fashion, side kicking the ‘evil privet hedges of Chaddo’  and un-self-consciously punching the Derby air with a fierce 'wah ja!'fighting cry guaranteed to attract vicious stray dogs for miles around, I would be dashing off to the local paper shop to eagerly purchase the latest Bruce Lee magazine with fold out poster. I was, Bruce Lee crazy. I just couldn’t get enough.

Derby at that time was devoid of any proper Kung Fu or Jeet Kune Do classes so, a mate called Rob , and my eager self offered our skinny frames up to the rigours of Sunday morning sessions of Shukokai karate classes at a sports centre in Allenton. Oh me and Rob, we just couldn’t get enough of those endless push ups and sit ups, stretches and katas and hip crunching Mawashi geri kicks and blocking techniques and sparring with people twice our size and strength. We were fearless – we were the new Bruce Lee. We were raving bloody mad!!!! Rob left limping in agony after three sessions and I left shortly after having had various bits of my chained up racing bike stolen from petty thieves lurking around the sports centre. If only I’d stayed, I could have got my whole bike nicked.

Still, there was ‘Enter the Dragon’ to watch over and over again and on the way home I could enter into the Happy Dragon owned by a Mr Li (co-incidence or what?) to purchase my fave MSG beef and onion curry and boiled rice take-way. I wasn’t encouraged to eat this at home because my Dad was averse in the extreme to accepting the ‘stink of foreign muck’ in the household. So I would eagerly scoff the food from the aluminium trays on the half hour walk home. I’d get into the habit of eating the rice first and beef curry afterwards, generally slopping a fair proportion of it down my front as I walked and ate. When I got home I would thoroughly enjoy hearing Dad moan on about the stink, the reek, the pong, the whiff, the stench and other dramatic turns of phrase regarding the odour of curry about me. And as for wasting money at the cinema watching Bruce ruddy Lee over and over, goodness me! Or as my dad liked to put it, ‘they must have seen me coming.’ Bless him.

On occasion I used to go to the Shing Do Chinese restaurant with work mates in the butcher’s trade and invariably we’d order the dramatic black pepper T-Bone sizzling steak. Always a favourite with the English customers nervous of going too Chinese in our choices. Apparently, after all these years, it is still a favourite there. There was another restaurant on London Road near to the Odeon cinema that I used to frequent and order their roast half duck in Cantonese orange sauce with chips and peas and I thought myself as being extremely grown up and sophisticated going there to eat.

Later on in life (1980s) I started to go to the Full Moon Tandoori restuarant on Normanton Road, Derby. Normanton has a very large Asian population and at the age of 27/28 I had never had an Indian meal. My landlord Mike Leech took me to the Full Moon for the delights of Indian nosh. Thinking about this, it is amazing we are so used to eating Indian dishes nowadays and are familiar with all sorts of foodstuffs and recipes and yet back then words like madras, poppadum and tandoori and such were all very new and exciting to me.

Not sure that it was a 'tandoori' restuarant in the 1980s

This was my first experience of an exotic night out. I even remember the waiter asking me what my favourite meat was in a way of helping me decide from the ‘foreign’ menu of unfathomable options  what to eat on that first visit. I think I might have had a mild lamb curry. Shame about the rough lads on table six being rude to the waiters and asking for the hottest vindaloo, drinking far too many lagers and behaving like bigoted ignorant prats. Actually, they’d already drunk too many lagers before they crashed into the Indian restaurant pissed up. I felt sorry for the polite staff dealing with these uncultured young men.

Where was granny Hanson with her swinging handbag when you needed her? She’d soon sort ‘em out.


Gailsman said...

I used to watch the wrestling with my dad every Saturday afternoon. The likes of Big Daddy, Giant Haystacks and Kendo Nagasaki. Then of course there was Pat Bomber Roach, who gave up the canvas for celluloid, and was one of the Magnificent Seven in Auf Wiedersehen Pet.

what is it with old ladies and handbags? You would see them bashing the wrestlers with them when they flew out of the ring and landed with a bump.

Did you see that episode of Steptoe and Son, when the old man tries his hand at being Bruce Lee. Very amusing.

Phil Lowe said...

Gailsman: Yes I remember that episode from Steptoe and Son. That was one of my fave series, that and Up Pompei!