Growing up it was always a massive pain getting back home to where my parents lived. The tiny hamlet of Conkwell they called home was about 10 miles outside Bath, with an irregular bus service that stopped at about 9.30pm each evening. Which inevitably meant a cab was needed after each terribly-faked-ID-facilitated underage pub session in town. To make matters worse, after a couple of pints I was always absolutely convinced that a tenner was ample to get me safely back to my bed. It never was. It was just about enough to get me to the point where you turned off the main road and on to the tiny unlit lane that took you to the village. As a result that mile-and-a-half stumble along a pitch black country track is forever etched into my brain. I’ve covered the journey in all weather: fording invisible puddles at the point the road dips about halfway along its length; traipsing through the mud where the bridle path meets the tarmac; and sliding on ice when the road finally starts to slope down to my parent’s home.
It was stupid really. My friends all had spare rooms I could have used. And my parents weren’t the sort that would mind if I didn’t come home of an evening. But both me and Will always made the effort to get home (although he was always far better at cadging lifts back from his mates). It was mainly due to the fact the fridge at Conkwell was a godsend to a drunk teen. Whether it was amazing leftovers from whatever the ‘rents had had for dinner or just some homemade bread Marion had decided to knock up when she’d had a spare couple of moments that afternoon, there was always something great to gorge on. Marion and Paul must have despaired at the number of times they came down on a Sunday morning to find their pretty county kitchen decimated with washing up haphazardly piled by the sink.
My brother even had a drunken specialty. The sort of thing only possible in a middle class home close to a town whose only supermarket was a Waitrose. It was simple really. He took two oven pizzas (inevitably from Pizza Express) and stuck them in the oven. When cooked, a whole packet of ‘Italian Cured Meats Selection’ was artfully arranged over one of the pizzas before the other was placed on top to make his signature pizza sandwich. Boozed up genius, even if it probably cost my parent more than the cost of a cab home each time he had one.
The pizza Nat and I got from Base would have been crap for one of Will’s pizza sandwiches though. The base of our “Meat Feast” (featuring two types of sausage, peppers and chillies) was far too soggy to have stood up to folding and manhandling necessary. But it was doing the same job that teenaged dream snack had done all those years ago. Namely soaking up booze. Nat had been to a leaving party and had been unable to extricate herself before she consumed rather more than a couple of shots.
The upshot was that we return back to E8te Towers not only with a rather large pizza but also with a side portion of onion rings, which the poor man in Base had even us cheap (probably somewhat out of pity) after Nat had repeatedly claimed it was her birthday. It wasn’t, but the onion rings were actually pretty OK in a school dinner kind of way.
The pizza itself was much better than OK, with a base that was both pleasingly crispy at the edges and gloriously gooey and underdone in the middle. Sure, the salami and sausage were both of the worryingly cheap varieties, but that’s always somehow alright when it comes to pizza (after all, how else can you explain the continuing success of Dominoes?), but the peppers were nicely charred while retaining some bite and the chilli did enough to wake everything else up and give it some life.
It wasn’t the pizza sandwich of my youth, but then again I didn’t have to walk nearly 2 miles down a terrifying country lane to get it.