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Saturday, 16 November 2013

Tales of love and chocolate

"She's taking you the wrong way again," my niece says, as we're headed to the garden centre for a coffee, a chat and a chocolate cake, and my satnav starts telling me to turn right.

"My grandma used to say the longest way round is the shortest way home," she adds.

"Grans always have daft sayings that sound profound," I say. "Mine used to tell me not to sit with my back to the fire because it would melt the marrow in my bones." 

She chuckles. Cathy has an infectious laugh and lovely eyes that sometimes look sad when she thinks you're not looking. I've enjoyed making her laugh since I first met her, a fortnight old.

We saw less of each other than I'd have liked, as she was growing up, because my own kids were young and she lived a long way away. She still does, so we catch up when we can.

"I miss my grandma," she says, and I give her hand a squeeze and we drive in silence for a while.

"When I worked at Rolls-Royce there was this guy called Colin who'd come out with total gibberish," I say. "Then he'd blame it on his gran. So he'd go 'A nod's as good as a wink to a ripe banana - as my old granny used to say'."

"My grandma used to say, 'Don't put dogs in windows,' Cathy says and goes quiet. "I have no idea what that means."  

"The chocolate cake is nice here then?" I say, as we turn into the car park at Woodlands Nursery. 

"You'll love it," she says. "They make it with chocolate. Then they mix in chocolate and put chocolate on top."

Sure enough a powerful chocolate theme is evident in the cakes and cookies displayed in the nether regions of the sprawling garden centre, where their little cafe is located. 

Inside the glass display case, walnut fudge, black forest gateaux and chocolate layer cake occupy pride of place, like battleships defending the Dardanelles, while the lower shelves are densely packed with ├ęclairs, brownies, macchiato muffins, millionaire shortbread and thick chunks of rocky road

I order a slab of cake the size of a door wedge, while Cathy goes for ice-cream and one of the lighter sponges, decorated with hazelnuts and summer berries.

"I'm not going to get out of here alive," I tell her. "If we sit too long I suspect they'll coat us with chocolate and sell us to somebody."

"What kind of chocolate would you be?" she asks.

"Hazelnut cluster," I say. "Sweet and wholesome-looking, but hard inside. What about you?"

"Cherry liqueur," she says, chuckling again. "Rich, satisfying and slightly piquant."

"It's nice to see you, kid," I say and this time she gives my hand a squeeze. 

"You should visit more often," she says.

"If I knew there was this much chocolate here I would," I say. "I've got a problem though. The cake on my plate is scrumptious. But all those still on the shelves are catching my eye and making me wish I'd picked one of them."

"You'll never be content if you keep looking over the fence and coveting your neighbour's house, or his wife or his ox or his ass," she says.

"That's very true," I say, giving the waiter a little nod. 

"My grandma used to say the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence," she says. 

"Mine used to say there's no sense risking a cholesterol deficiency," I say, and order a large portion of walnut fudge, two hunks of rocky road and a chocolate-topped cappuccino to go.

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