Chase Lorck. An unlikely name for a hero. But today, Chase – today is your day.
Those of you who know me well will recognise the burning eyed zealous fervour with which I have scoured the country for that perfect holy grail of cucumbers over the years. Many of you have turned away from me in shame as I have made conversation after conversation all about Cucumis Sativus. Oh lord that gourd! In auditions, time after time when it gets to “Any questions?” I let myself down. “Yes … um … do you think my character might actually be a cucumber?” And then those occasions, thankfully getting rarer as I grow older, when I have innocently spoken half of that old cliche “Is that a cucumber in your pocket?” not even considering the possibility that they might be pleased to see me until IT’S TOO LATE, it’s all out in the open, sometimes literally, and once again my credibility is tarnished by my adoration for that delightful cucumiform vine fruit thing.
My last girlfriend – all those years ago. God. I remember it like it was yesterday. There she stood at the base of 30 St Mary Axe: “It’s either me or the cucumbers!” she said. I had taken her there for her birthday. There in the shadow of that lovely building I gave her a perfect bunch of parthenocarpic Persian Burpless that I’d imported from Canada. “They’re ideal for Raitha,” I tried to tell her. “Or we could just eat them now. There’s another one in my pocket.” She slapped me and left, taking the Persian Burpless with her. I never saw her again – or those cucumbers which to be honest weren’t cheap – I had got them in Borough Market off this overenthusiastic bearded man with a handlebar moustache who charged me about three times the value because – as he put it – “These are the hep-cucumbers at the moment.” I hope she made them into raitha and enjoyed them on her own in front of Netflix. Preferably crying. I would’ve made great raitha with her. She would never have been stuck for sandwiches at Henley. The pain of recollection! The way I used to make her Instagram selfies with face-mask on just so much more on trend, using expertly hand sliced Dosakai. But sometimes we have to let these things go.
It was a long time ago. I remember that night, walking all the way home, I took out the Schälgurken that I had had in my pocket and desolately munched it. They’re better fried. But I was sad.
Today I went to The Lambeth Country Show. It’s in Herne Hill. There are sheep and birds of prey. The sheep get rosettes for being good at sheeping. There are many people milling around trying to establish where to get cider in the sunshine. None of the people get rosettes even though they herd together and join long queues making monosyllabic howling sounds. They probably ought to. I was there with Flavia and Ivo, and Eve. This information probably means nothing to most you. I mention it for documentation purposes only. They are not cucumbrists.
At one side of the fair is the vegetable tent. Oh yes, the vegetable tent. This is where the vegetables lie. I went there with a lump in my throat, a desperate surge of adrenaline. Maybe … Dare I hope … Maybe there would be cucumbers!
First I had to put up with butchery. God save me. God save us all. The carved novelty vegetables. “The artist formerly known as Quince.” “The Peaple of Lambeth.” IS THIS COMPETITION JUDGED ENTIRELY ON THE STRENGTH OF THE PUNS? More to the point, where are the cucumbers in all of this??
Just as I was losing my cool – and I pride myself on my cool – I’m very cool. As cool as a very cool thing that is cool. From the hands of Chase Lorck, to your eyes. The perfect cucumber. Right there. In my grasp.
Marvel at this rosette winner. It is not too cucumbersome. It has a darling little stem, or “cue”. It bends gently towards the viewer, reminding us that this is a vine from which things can be plucked. The body is not too shadowed, or “umber.” The shadows are balanced by the lines, suggestive of the determined continuation of human life. We emerge from shadow, we run parallel to one another, some for different lengths. Sometimes we are interrupted or shine brightly, but then we all go back to shadow. Apart from some of us, who go round the bottom end and back the other way but we don’t talk about them. Here she is. The cue and the umber blending where we can “c” it.
Chase Lorck has grown the cucumber of thunder. The gourd of the Gods. Oh cucumber. How I love thee. You are the one I have been waiting for.
There were loads of vegetable police officers at the festival. More than I’ve ever noticed at a gathering in London. They have their own designated area. This is in central London, and it’s a big gathering of people. We have to get used to this reality, it seems, that whenever many of us are milling around there will be loads of vegetable law enforcement officers banging around with guns watching the edges. And the vedges.
Reader, I stole it. I stole that cucumber, and I ran. Like a gazelle. Down Herne Hill I sprinted, clutching my gourdgeous trophy. Sadly with my rib as fucked as it is all that sprinting took me less than 5 foot in ten minutes before twelve vegetable police officers jumped on me and set about me with their asparagus. Not before I had stuffed Chase’s cucumber into my mouth. Crammed it all in with its glorious perfection and crunched and slathered and drooled. Om nom nom nom nom.
Now I’m in holding for crimes against vegetables. But it was worth it. CUCUMBRIVALIS, my fellow cucumberists. Together we will rise!