THE SILLY SEASON
This week, I offer a small cull from my archives – three items amuse you, dear reader, at this mid-summer time.
I have a mild depression, caused largely by a grumbling hip (suggesting surgery may be called for shortly) which makes walking uncomfortable. Nevertheless, having well passed my biblical “three score years and ten” by some distance, I do feel most fortunate. You may feel less so if you read these items when they first appeared. (And remember them!)
I thought might mildly
This notice appeared in the Newsagents/Stationers shop just down the road from us a couple of years ago.
All my friends in Cyprus will understand now why Mary and I returned to the U.K. For the culture, of course!
A few years back, I was invited to lunch by some wine producers at a harbour-side fish restaurant. This is a slightly edited account of the meal.
There were three people out front on the day I had lunch there: a black-clad lady behind a high bar counter, almost obscured by an electronic till, and two waitresses of Eastern European origin – very knowledgeable, efficient and pleasant. It was their dress that seemed a little out of place in a traditional Cypriot fish restaurant. The first waitress was about twentyeight, 5’4” or so in height, with a plumpish figure bordering upon the layered rubber tyre. Her lower anatomy was covered in something that looked like slightly diaphanous white bicycle shorts, which in turn had a mini-ish skirt over of what to my untutored fashion eye could be termed nylon curtain material. Very visible beneath this array was a white thong. Her top areas, quite generously busted, were encased in two layers of translucent white material, fairly body-hugging.
The other lady was taller, dark haired as opposed to the light brown of the first, and well past the first flush of youth. She should really have been more covered up. Her bulbous torso was enshrouded in a very décolleté white blouse, below which she had several layers of skirt which barely came to her knees, the top layer being a sort of flounced “whore’s drawers” kind of nylon. This said, she was a good waitress and in her way unobtrusive. The fish, I have to say, was fresh, deliciously cooked and sauced.
On arrival, it being a warm day, I had discarded my corduroy jacket and hung it across the back of the seat. The meal finished, as befits an old chap, I got up and walked away without it. The younger of the two waitresses picked it up and brought it across, saying, “You forgot this,” and was handing it to me as she said, “You can take it now or you can come back for it later if you like.”
I’m not sure what she meant. I didn’t enquire, simply thanking her and taking my jacket. And I didn’t go back. At my time of life this might have been disastrous in more ways than one. being, “Everything alright?” “Yes”, we generally say, “Wonderful”. On other occasions, he stops with ‘regulars’ who tell him what a good fellow he is. The best chefs talk to ALL the customers, and listen to any comments including bullshit (or genuine) praise, and criticisms.
All too often customers are so besotted at the mere fact that the man who has cooked the meal for which they are paying fifty euros a head has deigned to come out of his den to hold court with them, so all they can mutter is how great it was. When they get home, of course, the wife says: “HUH! And you said how tough the steak was and what crap the sauce was!”
Mind you, there’s one restaurant not far from where I’m writing this where, IF the chef stops by your table he’ll chin-wag for ages – a case of where he talks better than he cooks.
Recently, staying at a tourist hotel in Scotland, we enjoyed our dinner main course of Braised Beef in Red Wine and when the chef did his rounds we told him so. He then described the six hours it had taken from trimming and cutting the meat to bringing it slow-cooked out of the oven. The next morning, outside the hotel I encountered a large van with a famous catering firm’s name on the side. The delivery man told me his firm provided ALL the food served in the hotel, including the braised steak.
I don’t mind ready-cooked meals. And you find them all over the place, especially when travelling.
I remember one day when I looked at the dish before me. It was baked macaroni, known to Greeks and Cypriots as Macaronia Pasticcio. The sauce was fluffy, the pasta properly cooked and the minced meat – lamb – very tasty. Now, this is a dish I often avoid. At its best it’s wonderful. But in the hands of fifty per cent of taverna cooks it’s a heavy, dry, indigestioncreating disaster.
Where was I? I was 10,000 metres up in the air, sky or whatever. Up there, on a Cyprus Airways Airbus A320 bound for Stansted. By the side of my tray was a little bottle of Island Vines red (I had at least two). I was content.
I am not a snob about flying or eating airline food. About 95% of my air journeys have been in economy class (I figure the back of the aeroplane with the peasant like me in it, with luck, lands at the same time as the front), and of the other times, up-front with the alcoholics, eating roast New Zealand lamb washed down by Chateau Margaux at midnight wasn’t worth paying six times the economy class fare.
I have maybe pushed a tray away untouched three times in several thousand flights (Sudan Airways springs to mind), and the grub at the back has nearly always been OK.
I once flew to Stockholm from London in the front row of Economy. I got a cold lunch. The chap in front, back row of Business Class, got a hot meal. “My word”, I said to Mary, “that smells good”. “Yes”, came a voice from the seat in front, “But it’s not worth a hundred and fifty Pounds”.