It was only once he started walking on, down the hill and back to the train station that a tumult becomes apparent, a tumult from inside, inside his head. And with each step it grows and grows. The feeling itself was indescribable, some kind of bizarre gnawing, a ravenous hungry squall, some intense pressure from deep within. Dipping into an alleyway the Food Urchin tries to relieve his bladder in the vain hope that this fear would dissipate. But no, this maelstrom from within had nothing to do with the fear of the Food Urchin publicly pissing himself. No, it was far worse than that. This was pure fear.
Onwards the Food Urchin staggers, sweating, shivering, blinking and staggering some more. Shadows linger and stretch across the road, street lights morph and twist into spiral galaxies, whilst his ears buzz all the while with ferocious white noise. In the distance, the Food Urchin can just make out a sign on a wall which reads 'Surbiton' and he breathes a short sigh of relief. 'Perhaps', he thinks, 'Perhaps, if I can just make it to the station, to the lights, to the company of strangers, then maybe I'll be alright.' And after fumbling with hands, as clumsy as trotters, at the ticket barrier for what seemed like an eternity, the Food Urchin finally makes it onto the platform and spills onto a bench, hyperventilating and shaking wildly. 'Someone will come to help me, someone will get me on the train, get me home.' But no-one does, they all simply move away, recoiling, gasping and averting their eyes, leaving a wide empty space around him, a lonely space. Desperate, the Food Urchin looks at a little girl who was being dragged away and tried to say something but no words came. It was the little girl who punctuated the silence - "Mummy, what's wrong with that man's face?"
Again the Food Urchin tries to respond but the clattering and hiss of an arriving train sounds in the distance. Wanting just to get home and to bed, the Food Urchin decides to haul himself up and brush his clothes down, muttering to himself, 'You've had one too many ales, young man that's what it is, now take it easy.' With toes dangerously overlapping the yellow line, teetering and swaying, listing from side to side like a ship on rough seas, the train misses the Food Urchin's nose by an inch but good fortune finally begins to smile on him as the doors open precisely where he stands. Further more, there are seats. 'Ah a place to sit and maybe sleep this off a bit', the Food Urchin thinks to himself, not noticing the clamber of bodies scrambling out of the other door on the carriage. Finally, the Food Urchin slumbers against the cold glass and peacefully drifts off, occasionally scratching his nose. Which by this point more than resembles a snout, yet softly the Food Urchin begins to dream and soon enough he is back at the house from whence he came, dreaming about all the wonderful things he ate.
The chicharones, puffy, porky and crisp dipped in a wonderfully boozy and warm bourbon satay.
The 'Bacon Sarnie' of iberico ham and pan fried brioche with a tomato pil pil sauce. A scoop, a wipe and a single mouthful that was so so good.
The frozen salami - pork loin cured with fennel seed, bay and juniper - thinly sliced and ice cool with fragrant juniper pop corn and a lovely bay granita which could have done without the bitter garlic chips.
The twist on 'Ham and Eggs' which superseded any comfort and familiarity that the original dish has. So delicious was this version that from now on, throughout the land, this dish must be made with cured ham hock, confit egg yolk and grated parmesan and drizzled with sage butter. There can now be no other way.
The 'Boston Butt' brined in apple juice and cooked in a low oven so that it remains scarcely pink and so tender, served up with black pudding, apple and a tangy, minty chimichurri type sauce.
The Three Shots - Jim Bean Black Bourbon, Pigs Trotter Dashi, Gin and Lemon Thyme slush puppy - all intoxicating in their own special way, the gin in particular singing on the taste buds
The 'Bath Chap' oozing sensuality with melting flesh and wobbly fat, with lush pear soaked in prosecco, peppered with stabs of salt from the pecorino, divine.
The Bacon panna cotta, the giddy school boy surprise, lush cream laced with the goodness of streaky, fatty bacon with some candied on the side for equal measure, drizzled with maple syrup. Pure alchemy.
All of it was so so good, so so indulgent and so so piggy and just recalling the images in his mind was enough to make the Food Urchin clutch his stomach and dribble in his sleep with his cheek still pressing against the glass, flashing blue, flashing blue.
Suddenly the Food Urchin realises that the train has stopped. He thinks he is at Waterloo Station but he can't be sure for several police wagons obscure his sight. Slowly but surely, peeling his face away from the window, the Food Urchin suddenly becomes aware of eyes. Lots and lots of eyes framed by helmets with visors down. And guns, lots and lots of guns pointing towards him. In a fit of panic, the Food Urchin tries to shout but instead of remonstration, an alien, shrill squeal emits from his lungs. The helmets jump back before a deafening chorus of "DON'T MOVE" is repeated over and over again. Now frightened the Food Urchin raises his hands in front of his face to protect himself. Except they aren't hands anymore, they are ungulated stumps, hooves, real trotters. In terror, the Food Urchin screams and again that piercing sound resonates and echoes across the concourse before the helmets move in and brutally force the Food Urchin to the ground. Now in a state of total delirium, the Food Urchin thrashes as if his life depended on it, screaming, kicking, squealing, resisting the cuffs but it is no use, he is outnumbered and dragged off the train.
Now all becomes pandemonium. A huge, swelling crowd has been present all along but up to that point, deathly quiet. But when they witness the Food Urchin, bound and defeated, a deafing roar goes up and a hundred phones and cameras are pointed in his direction. Despite being confused, disorientated and scared witless the Food Urchin decides to make a one last ditch effort, to take one last chance for escape and kicks out at no-one in particular. Instantly, a baton strikes his head and the Food Urchin falls to the floor. Slowly he loses consciousness but before he blacks out totally, the Food Urchin hears a familiar voice.
"Leave him alone! Leave him be! He has a condition damn you! LEAVE HIM ALONE!"
When he wakes the Food Urchin finds himself in a darkened room lying on a bed of straw on the floor, with low hung lights and old rickety beams above. In the corner is a trough where several large pigs are scoffing, all different breeds, all different colours, some hairy, some bare. One pauses and looks around and just for a split second, the Food Urchin experiences a flash of familarity as if the pig is an old friend or someone he has met at least once before. It something to do with the eyes, which look sad yet resigned. A door suddenly opens and in walks Neil, the culinary magician, followed by another guy with a mop of blond hair and geeky black rimmed glasses who again looks strangely familiar.
Neil walks up, bends over the Food Urchin and roughly rustles his head, sweetly chirping, "How are you doing Danny Boy, you feeling any better?"
The Food Urchin tries to talk back but again, all he can manage is that same pathetic whine.
"Shhhh, Danny, take it easy, take it easy, you rest up ok? You need to get your strength back. Listen, we're just going to have to keep you in here for a while and we're going to try and make things as comfortable for you as possible. Is that ok? So just relax, eat what you like and most importantly, take things easy because listen Danny, we've got big plans for you, haven't we Tom?"
And with that the guy with the blond mop looks down and just smiles, that same enigmatic smile.
The Food Urchin attended Neil Rankin's inaugural supper club on November 27th in Surbiton and hasn't been seen since.