GE Mortimore: Confronting a spouse’s haunted memories

And delving into the vegetarian world of meat science

When my late wife Peggy was a little girl in England, she had a life-changing shock.

A nearby building was a slaughterhouse that converted her pet cows and calves into meat.

One day, she wandered in and saw it happening.

That experience made her a vegetarian – or part-vegetarian. Fish-and-chips encased in outer layers of newspaper was comfort food for her. She didn’t know any of the fish personally.

There are twists and undercurrents in the thoughts you share with a close partner. Peggy was tuned in to spooky events.

As a child, she saw fairies dancing on a circle of moss under a tree.

They were real to her. She hadn’t talked about them to anyone else. Apart from a small item in a magazine, for which she gave permission, I have not betrayed her trust until now.

As a child, she saw a giant face gazing through the window of her second-floor bedroom in Poole, Dorset.

Years later, when she was grown and riding in one of the old single compartments of a Southern Railway train running from Corfe Castle to Poole, she found herself alone with a weird, scary woman.

Those compartments had no exit within the train. The outside door was the only way out.

The fellow rider woman had hypnotic, staring eyes and kept beckoning Peggy to jump from the train.

When that train stopped at Poole station, however, Peggy realized she was alone. The woman with the staring eyes was no longer there.

I sold a story of the haunted train to the old Fate magazine, which served ghost-believers.

For that I slipped into the role of fatherly storyteller. Peggy wanted to hear tales of smart crows that solved problems and had adventures. I made up many crow stories to overshadow the pesky, worrisome events of the day.

The story telling and childhood-secrets phase of our lives lasted about a year.  We never recognized it until it was over, and my wife was telling the secret things to our children.

I doubt that Peggy the almost-vegetarian would have been impressed by the public tasting of the first laboratory-grown hamburger, Aug. 5.

 

Biologist Mark Post of the University of Maastricht spent two years and $325,000 to make that hamburger for which no animal died. Google co-founder Sergey Brin put up the

money.

 

Stem cells taken from cows’ shoulder muscles and grown in lab dishes with spices. That’s OK, if you are a meat-eater.

But it looks and tastes like meat. If you are a confirmed vegetarian, you need to change it into something that looks and smells non-meaty.

Give it a kelp flavour and call it green sea protein. Something like that.

After Peggy had come with me to Canada, my father caught six trout when he was fly fishing in an Island river that had water-filled pools in the rock at the river’s edge. He stored his catch alive in the pools.

We should have known what would happen. Peggy turned them all loose. “They want to live,” she declared.

My father sighed, caught two more trout, and kept a more careful watch so that we had trout for dinner.

• G.E. Mortimore is a longtime columnist with the Goldstream News Gazette.

 

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