Picture of a judge's wigThe Judge RAVES!Picture of a judge's wig

Date: 30/07/16

"...Or Chocolate If You're Strange, It Doesn't Really Matter"

One of the odder consequences of my recent stay in hospital has been my developing a taste for toast again. Specifically, toast at breakfast time.

The last time I had toast for breakfast regularly was during the two years I lived in a university hall of residence where three meals a day were provided as part of the hall fee. On the rare occasions when I could rouse myself from my bed sufficiently early to take advantage of it, I could be found in the refectory munching on a couple of slices (with butter, natch; I was never keen on marmalade, and still don't view toast as being appropriate to be paired with sweet things).

Since then however, and even under the exigencies of having to get up for work of a morning and eat, toast had never played any rôle at all in the proceedings. Until early this month.

I can't remember whether it was on my first morning on the ward that this started to change, but the sight of the breakfast-time tea-and-toast trolley coming clattering down the room shortly after 7am was suddenly very attractive, and the sight of two rounds of thin-sliced with the little foil-wrapped portion of butter (this on a cardiology ward, as well; incongruous or what?) immediately became the ideal start to the day.

(There were complaints about how the toast was always limp and somewhat less than hot by the time it got to us. I never viewed that as a problem: if it had been crisper, the crumbs would have gone everywhere (and they do get everywhere, let's not deny it); and it was still warm enough to melt the butter after thirty seconds or so, producing a very pleasing texture. If it was a bit chewy, then so what?)

After I got home, and faced with the fact that the nasty habit of early waking had followed me back and insisted on kicking me out of bed before eight of a morning, I realised how much I missed it. As a result, my old Salton 'Country Garden' toaster (with a picture of flowers on the side, not ears of wheat - you can take clichés a bit too far in your life sometimes) has been getting a daily workout.

Some very basic rules must be applied for maximum satisfaction: it has to be sliced white bread (and where the hell can you get thin-sliced nowadays? I can only find medium and variations on the theme of 'thick' in Sainsbury's); it has to be toasted until it is just starting to go a medium brown (if I wanted to eat raw carbon for breakfast, I'd chew a barbecue briquette); and the butter must be applied quite thickly and then given time to melt into the bread.

Ambrosial (which, I suspect, is what they call tinned rice pudding in Bristol)!

And every morning as I wait for the slices to pop back up again, a record from my youth plays in my head.

In the late summer of 1978, a London group called Streetband issued a single. The A-side, Hold On, was an unremarkable pop/rock song of its time, and wasn't going anywhere...until some radio DJ decided to turn it over and see what the B-side was like. He liked what he heard and shared it with his listeners, at which point things got a bit odd. The record company re-released the record with Toast as the designated A-side instead, it took off in a way that Hold On was never going to do, and it reached the Top Twenty and got the band on Top Of The Pops.

Some more fascinating facts: the lead vocalist is Paul Young, who went on to have a string of solo hits in the eighties; the producer was Chas Jankel, frequent side-kick and collaborator with the legendary Ian Dury; and that natty bass line was played by Mick Pearl.

"OK, scrape that toast, boys!"

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(As has been pointed out by more than one commenter on the YouTube video above, the photograph used by the uploader isn't Streetband at all, but Bruce Springsteen and The E Street Band. A mistake anyone could make, of course...)