There’s a bit in Circle of Friends (the book) when Benny unexpectedly goes to a cafe with her new and charming friends and they each get a plate of chips and one to pick off.
I’m not certain anything quite that wonderful has ever happened to me. But I have had some lovely moments having chips with other people. Here are my top 5.
ONE: Melbourne Zoo 1997
In year ten I went to an international nerd camp in Melbourne. It was a transformative week of suddenly realising there was a whole world of people who were quite like me. One of our outings was to Melbourne Zoo. We broke off into groups and wandered around. One of the South Africans (the one I had a crush on) made a very funny joke about a giant tortoise. Then we all bought buckets of hot chips and one of the other South Africans (the one my friend had a crush on) made a very funny joke about accidentally pouring too much vinegar on his chips.
TWO: Torquay 2004
I had just started “going out” with my housemate (don’t listen to anyone, it’s a great idea). One day I came into the kitchen at about midday and he was having breakfast. It was a stifling hot summer day in our un-airconditioned share house. He casually mentioned he might go to Torquay for a swim and did I want to come. It would never have occurred to me to drive that far for a swim. It was perfect at the beach and totally worth the time in the car. We had chips before driving back to Melbourne. The cool change came through that evening.
THREE: Brighton Baths 2001
Okay, so this one is about a potato cake. It was the summer holidays after my first year at uni. I had spent the first two months working at a bacon factory, picking up bacon and putting it back down again. I then went back my share house in Melbourne and drifted aimlessly for a month. The only activity I needed to do was prepare for my first stand-up comedy gig, the idea of which filled me with dread and nausea.
The day before the big night my housemate Miranda and her friend Daniel invited me to the Brighton Baths. On the way we stopped at a fish and chip shop because Daniel had heard they made the best potato cakes in Melbourne. The potato cakes were were oily, crisp, salty and delicious. We went to the baths. Daniel and Miranda teased each other constantly and were hilarious. I floated in the sea and for an hour or so took a break from feeling nervous and lost.
FOUR: Bendigo Schweppes Centre 1998
I went to watch my friend perform in the Rock Eisteddfod with my mum. Beforehand we got dinner at the Bendigo Schweppes Centre bistro. I ordered chicken sate and then was annoyed at myself because I really wanted chips and should have ordered something that would come with chips. When my meal came out, joy! the chicken sate was served with rice AND chips. My school did really well and I was very proud of how confident and excellent my friend was on stage.
FIVE: North Carlton 2006
I was living in a share house but all of my housemates had gone overseas. My partner was also overseas and I was not enjoying the loneliness of a long-distance relationship. Luckily Beth moved in temporarily and she is a very cheerful and comforting person. One night she came homme with a rotisserie chicken and a packet of frozen chips. She asked if I wanted to share dinner with her and suddenly I was spared another sad night of red-sauce on pasta for one. And there were chips.