When I was young, I was quite often left by myself at home. My mother would
leave me a meal. Often she would leave me a bowl of something called caramel instant whip for pudding. I hated caramel instant whip. Nevertheless, I would eat it, taking tiny quarter spoonfuls and hoping the sweetness would overpower the other less palatable flavours - dominant among them hints of polystyrene and petrol station forecourts - and distract me from the texture - thick, oily, not quite gluey, less dense than snot but nevertheless faintly snot-like. It was a stomach-turning dish, and yet I never felt I could just tell my mother I hated it. I thought I might hurt her feelings and, of course, the longer I remained silent on the topic the greater I thought the hurt would be if I ever did come clean. The odd thing is that it is only now, more than 45 years later, that I have realised that there was another option. I could have simply washed the whole thing down the drain.