A tiring day and chocolate was in order. A pack of ten bars cost only £2 in Sainsbury’s, reduced from the usual price of £2.50. The bars are small, 29.3 grams, barely more than an ounce. Just four chunks make a bar, but they are enough to give that unmistakable lift that comes from eating chocolate.
Chocolate has always had that capacity. I once bought a bar of Cadbury’s Fruit & Nut for no reason other than the fact that I was feeling depressed. Arriving on the Filipino island of Negros in January 1991, with a group from Ireland, we were told of the death of a local priest.
A priest of the Philippine Independent Church had been shot dead by right-wing gunmen outside a cafe; his crime had been to speak for land rights for peasants. Someone did not like what he was saying and had him killed in public.
Going to his wake was an experience never forgotten – a mixture of apprehension, fear and admiration. The gauntlet of paramilitary checkpoints, where a small group of Europeans elicited not much more than curiosity and casual contempt, would also have been experienced by friends and colleagues of the priest, whose lives would have been in danger from those asking them questions.
Paying our respects and journeying back to the city, the comfortable hotel, with its en suite facilities and colour television in every room, seemed surreal, a place entirely detached from the blood and death context in which it was situated.
Sitting in the bar, trying to come to terms with all that happened during the course of the evening, a waiter came to take an order for drinks. “A gin and tonic, please.” In retrospect, it seemed like a seeking after comfort; the drink of polite gatherings before polite dinners; the drink of clergy sitting down with friends.
The drinks finished, it was time to go to our rooms.
The hotel had a small shop; in the middle of the counter was a bar of Cadbury’s Fruit and Nut. While the others drifted off, I bought the tiny bar of chocolate. For the Philippines, it was hideously expensive, 90 Pesos, about two days’ pay for a poor person. At at the time,it was equivalent to about £1.80. Guiltily eating it, square by square, its taste lingered down the years.
There is undoubtedly published research into the eating of chocolate. Eating 29.3 grams of milk chocolate is definitely a preferable option to the drinking of gin.