Pa-1 There's this old bloke at the table, mouth stoved in because he hasn't put his teeth in, unshaven. And he's picking carefully at his plate of orecchiette with their sauce of lovely fresh tomatoes, onions and rocket. He's moving the rocket, leaf by leaf, to the side of the plate.

"What are you doing?" I ask, casual to a fault.

"I don't like it," he replies. (At this point I am going to spare you an accurate transcription of the actual conversation necessitated by his decision that he no longer needs his hearing aid.)

"Do you know what it is?"

"No. But I don't like it."

Another time it is a mixed salad that occupies him, though this time it is the red bits of radicchio that attract attention. Normally, and I've mostly got used to this, green is the danger signal.

The perfect moment comes a few meals later, over a dish of tagliatelli with swordfish bits in the sauce. The pasta is mixed, two colours, the kind shoppers in England who swoon over slimy factoried "fresh" pasta know as paglia e fiene. It is well mixed. But that is no obstacle. I watch, dumb, as he very carefully arranges to eat the straw but not the hay.

I can never even taste the difference between plain and spinach pasta. I assume it is purely decorative. But if it is green, it is not fit to be eaten.

p.s. He wasn't just a bloke. He was my father.

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