Michael Harding: I could happily sit under a tree all day scratching myself

The trouble with Homo sapiens seems to have started when we began eating wheat and became farmers

Photograph: Thinkstock

Photograph: Thinkstock

 

I bought chickpeas last week because I had been reading Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, a book by Yuval Noah Harari about the human species and how we were all as happy as apes under the trees eating nuts and scratching each other. The trouble seems to have started when we began eating wheat and became farmers.

I would be very happy sitting under a tree eating nuts and scratching myself. And although I might not have absorbed all the nuanced ideas in the book, there is no doubt that what we Homo sapiens have done to other animals since the industrial revolution is an abomination. The book turned me totally off those big lumps of raw meat I used to slap up on the pan with boxty and onions in the evenings, and I decided to go vegetarian for a while.

Not that I am a stranger to raw vegetables. I frequently attend Buddhist workshops where lean boys lurch around the dining tables like scavenging whippets and some women are so thin that when they swallow a slice of apple you can see it going down.

In my late teens I was a member of an exotic Jesus commune where fruit and vegetables were the only things that went into the pot. It was an urban squat where “born-again” teenagers sheltered from the loveless world, huddled on the floor with their eyes closed and their hands in the air as if hoping that Jesus would come down from the attic and share their carrots.

Four-day soak

So I bought the chickpeas but I didn’t know what to do with them. I phoned the Beloved in Warsaw and she said to soak them. I put them in a glass bowl on the table. They were there for four days. I have a great ability to focus on one thing at a time. If I am eating my porridge and there is a glass bowl of chickpeas beside me on the table, I don’t see it. I see only the porridge.

After another few days I noticed the chickpeas again. They had gone yellow, which I thought was a good sign, but they also had little hairs growing out of them and the water had gone foggy. I phoned the Beloved and told her that the peas had been steeping for six days and wondered was it time to cook them yet.

She said I might be better to start over again, but I wasn’t going to throw them out, so I called the General and asked him if he would like to come over for a hairy chickpea curry.

A back-up plan

I went to the supermarket and bought two rib-eye steaks as back-up, in case the General went ballistic over the chickpeas, and I got a bag of nuggets for the cat.

Charlie the Tom is going through cat food very quickly recently because he keeps inviting a black-and-white feral beast to dine with him.

I named her Miss Peabody. She is so terrified that she takes one nugget from the saucer and runs away with it and then comes back for the next.

It is both funny and sad to observe her terror and feral edginess. Although what really shocked me was that each time she turned away to eat a single nugget, she showed her rear end and I came to the conclusion that Miss Peabody was not a suitable name, since there were two fine furry nuts sitting tight between her legs.

Anyway, while I was queuing in the supermarket with the pack of chickpeas and two rib-eye steaks in one hand and a bag of cat food in the other, a woman behind me began staring.

“How did you get on in the election?” she asked. I think she thought I was a politician.

“I have no interest in politics, madam,” I snapped. “I don’t understand any of it.”

Her face began wobbling like jelly, as if she was on the edge of a nervous breakdown, and she tried to change the subject as she stared at the cat food.

“Do you have a cat?” she asked.

For a moment I wanted to say, “No, I’m on a diet.” But I said, “Yes, I have a cat, and in fact he has a girlfriend, who turned out to be a boyfriend. Isn’t life amazing sometimes?”

“Oh,” she said with an air of condescension. “I can see why you would be of no use in politics.” And she smiled, or at least bared her teeth, like we were both apes still sitting under a tree but with little intention of ever scratching each other.

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