There was already a crowd gathering outside before we'd even opened the doors.I thought I'd pre empt the rush by opening up early and at least getting drinks served before the diners who'd actually booked arrived.
The couple who like their plates to reflect the shape of the table they sit at were one of the first through the door.The sight of the two of them has the effect of sucking the life force out of all of we who have the pleasure of serving them,taking on the demeanour and personailty of crumpled brown paper bags in their presence(or if you're over forty place a mirror flat on the table in front of you and peer down into it for a visual representation,I fleetingly considering posting a photo of myself doing this but it was just TOO frightening)..On this occasion (hooray) they'd decided to sit in the garden so I thought I'd better follow them out to make a note on the order of the shape of the table they'd chosen to sit at,just to avert any later drama.As I glanced over,quickly noting a round table, I heard my name being called.
I sighed wearily in anticipation of another protracted problem and headed over.
'Biff the table here is on uneven, churned up ground'
'Yes it is on crazy paving,not awfully level I'm afraid'
'But look this chair is wobbling terribly'
'Well lets just move it here..like so.. to this even bit of ground'
'No thats not good enough,it's dangerous'
The voice in my head that keeps a running alternative and far more entertaining commentary on my daily life spoke: 'with a backside that size I don't think you've much to fear on that front missus,you'd have to be dropped from a height far greater than that of a garden chair before that one didn't bounce back'.She must have wondered why the edge of my mouth was twitching as I invited her to take a table inside due to all other outside ones now being occupied..
'No, we want to sit outside,can you move the table up to that top terrace please?'
The top terrace was already chokka so how in Gods name she imagined I could manually shoehorn another table into the already tight space and especially in view of the aforementioned not insignificant backside is an absolute mystery.Besides, having sustained a particularly painful rotator cuff injury(google it- the upshot of which is I can't get my top off without the aid of an appointment with
'Im sorry there's just no space to do that'
Thankfully she spotted a couple about to vacate a table on safe ground and made a supermarket dash to bag the seats before anyone else could get there.Despite the backside she was surprisingly nimble on her feet,I trotted along behind and amended the check with the revised table shape hoping she'd stay put.People have a habit of moving two or three times when they're seated outside,theres always a table with a better view/in the sun/out of the sun/sheltered etc.It can cause havoc when taking out orders,its hard to serve food when the customers are intent on an alfresco game of musical chairs..I was reminded of the first Bank Holiday shortly after we'd arrived here,before we fully understood the practicalities and before we had introduced a foolproof system of allowing diners to sit outside and the chaotic food auction which ensued after they'd all been on the move two or three times.I was sobbing uncontrollably by the end of the afternoon.
Half an hour into service the large group arrived.
You can count on the walkers to give you an easy order,soups,sandwiches and the like, nothing expensive,which on Bank Holiday can get the kitchen out of the shit,despite bringing the average spend per head significantly down for the day.
There's generally always some item missing off the order with large groups,they don't listen when you're trying to establish what they'd like,I think its an intentional ploy to obtain gratis food.In this instance we were a bowl of soup short,despite the outside temperature hitting an unseasonal 15 degrees and them all sweating like pigs in blankets in their waterproofs, a steaming hot bowl of soup was the dish of the day with the group.It's doubtful this had anything to do with the price,as witnessed by the large number of tap waters on order ..
I returned to the kitchen to politely request the additional item, there's not usually much banter coming from the kitchen on a Bank holiday but a missed item on an order solicits at least some comment, on this particular Bank Holiday 'arsehole' was trending,interspersed with the occasional 'this is fucking ridiculous' as ever more checks were piled on.
As I took the soup out the noise level had increased to school dinner hall levels and after two attempts to identify who to deliver it to I decided the old spoon tap on the table was needed to command the attention of the party.
'Can I ask who ordered the extra soup please?'
A middle aged woman raised her hand,by the look of her face you would have thought I'd shat in her shoes,not tried to serve her dinner.
'Its not an extra soup,I haven't had my original one yet..'
I was about to tell her to keep her hair on but aborted that plan when I noticed she had clearly already done so,her facial features would have given Marcus Wareing's arms a run for their money,I doubt that face had ever had an introduction to a set of tweezers.
By 3 o'clock and 95 covers down,there was still no craic to be had from the kitchen,apart from a brief spell when my Day Carer expressed an urgent desire to ransack the knife drawer and head down to the local supermarket with a plan to wreak revenge for the unfeasible and impenetrable food packaging which renders even those with a high level of manually dexterity fumbling sausage fingered oafs.
By this point we were resetting tables ready for the second wave of attack,I went to grab some napkins from the store cupboard located in the back corridor en route to the mens netty.As I pushed open the door I could see a mans legs straddled in the corner of the corridor,Reader, it looked exactly like he was relieving himself..I let out a small involuntary scream followed by:
Why I was apologising for him pissing in the corner on my floor when he was only seconds from the actual bog I have no idea.
He peered over his shoulder, slowly looked me up and down and gesturing with his head(hands otherwise engaged)in the direction of the bogs said:
'The gents is through there'
This is the first time I have been mistaken for a man.
I mumbled something incomprehensible and staggered back shellshocked into the bar minus the napkins and wondering if it was me who needed the acquaintance with the tweezer.As I said to my Day Carer later,I had no idea things were that bad.
Of course he wasn't actually pissing on the floor in my back corridor but the truth is actually equally unbelievable.He had balanced a very young baby on the shoulder height windowsill and was attempting to change the nappy in what was a very cramped and notoriously spidery space.
The baby change issue seems to be a constant theme,it even reared its head on Tripeadvisor recently.
Just then the middle aged couple sitting at Table 2 signalled for their bill.They had sat motionless,saying nothing throughout their meal,no conversation whatsoever,if they hadn't briefly broken the inactivity to eat I would have wondered how long they'd been dead.I heard the usual enquiry being made as to the enjoyment of the meal and was interested to hear that the table they were seated at was the 'noisiest possible table with the till next to it and coffee machine over yonder and people walking past all the time with food,it was an actual disgrace'
Theres only one answer to that comment isn't there?
IF YOU WANT PEACE AND QUIET DON'T GO OUT ON BANK HOLIDAYS.
A sea of glasses and empty crisp packets were piling up on the bar so I headed over to help clear the back log, making some progress before yet another large tray of empties would appear.Presently I clocked a regular walk through the door and in anticipation of his usual order went to reach for his special personal pint pot which he was given as a memento on his tour of the Coronation Street set in 1983 and which he had been using daily since then.
Not today though.
I'd used it as a vase to house some cheery daffodils plucked from the garden just that morning.
|Regulars special pint pot makes a canny vase|
They were sitting right in front of him on the bar.
In his personal treasured souvenir mug resplendent with Rovers Return emblem.
I frantically attempted to engage him in conversation and thus divert his gaze from the pot.
He must have been wondering why he was getting so much attention,especially in light of the fact that he's well known for having nee craic .Anyway he didn't flinch when I handed him his pint in a Timothy Taylor glass so I breathed a huge sigh of relief and strategically slid a small advertising blackboard in front of the daffs when he turned his back.
The queue at the bar had diminished slightly but was beginning to build up again when a couple of chaps asked to order some food.I was doing my best to get orders quickly and keep the bar area as free as possible.They asked for a couple of steak sandwiches.If I was sensible I would have left the order at that but always on the upsell I made the usual offer 'would you like some chips?"
The younger of the two made a quizzical look and then said very slowly and ponderously:
'What's the alternative?'
Quick as a flash I said
'Not have any chips??'
Can you imagine how impatient and rude that must have sounded??
I gave an involuntary nervous laugh and directed them to the only free table.
I had to spend the next 15 minutes grovelling to them in the hopes I could avert yet another Tripeadvisor assassination especially a one with me in the starring role....
The kitchen bell was ringing furiously signifying a pile up on the pass of food waiting to go out so I had the abandon the TA damage limitation and hope for the best..
During the mass food drop I had noticed a party of five sitting in the conservatory that needed clearing so steamed over.
"Did you enjoy everything?'
'Yes but I struggled with the kipper, it was very bony"
This is a regular problem,we should really ditch them from the menu on Bank Holidays,but we're nothing if not optimistic..
'Oh Im sorry about that but ..well.. you know.. kippers are...'
I was cut short:
'Of course it's really NOT a Craster kipper"
'No,kippers are from Grimsby,they're just smoked in Craster'
'Actually,I beg to differ,in Grimsby they're herrings,its only when they're smoked they become kippers.'
(Haha trumped you!!)
In the light of my previous comment at the bar I had immediate second thoughts and decided I'd better retract a bit of that statement so as I cleared the plates away I told them I'd amend the board to 'Craster 'smoked' kippers'.
Twenty minutes later as the kipper police were leaving,the leader stopped me.
'You must be Biff..'
I scanned his face hoping for a glimmer of recognition,he obviously knew me but I had no clue whatsoever who the hell he was.I gave up.
'Yes I am yes,and you are???'
'We've exchanged a couple of emails recently'
Three days beforehand I'd received a particularly arsey email.It seems theres a section of the population who have nothing better to do than to trawl the interwebs looking for errors, grammatical or otherwise on peoples web sites and firing off corrective emails.
Here's a copy of the email.
I have just browsed your web site including details and menu for Christmas 2014.Should 2014 read 2015??? or has 'someone' forgotten to update their site???With your excellent reputation ,I suggest you check it forthwith to avoid looking a little foolish to say the least.
I used to live in (insert small village name) and have known the Inn since the early 70's AND seen it grow.Please don't spoil its good name..
Over to you....
There are two elements of this email which affront me:
1.The presumption that the person in charge is unquestionably a MAN.
2.Those last three fucking words...
Heres my reply:
As our menus are seasonal,we don't update the menu with the coming years menu until nearer the time.When people enquire about Christmas,we direct them to the web site with a view to looking the previous years menu to give them an idea of what they can expect.This has worked well for us in the past in securing forward bookings.Im sorry you view us as foolish and indeed spoiling the good name of the pub which we have worked very hard to build over the last seven years(insert long list of achievements inc pointing out Guide books the pub previously wasnt in).
So given the current success we are enjoying we must be doing something right!!
Thanks for taking time out to ffer your feedback.
In actual fact I was aware the Christmas menu was still on line,updating it was one of a long list of outstanding jobs.However I was moderately pleased with my totally fabricated but reasonably plausible explanation for it being there,the down side being I'm now stuck with last years bastarding Christmas menus on the website and wondering how long would be a reasonable length of time to leave them before I dare change them without losing face or fear of a corrective email..
You will note however that I stopped short of signing off with 'over to you'
I received a further response which was notably more concise.
Thankyou for your forthright reply,I no way intimated that you were foolish..
At this point I decided to call it a day,my Day Carer already thinks I spend far too much time getting bogged down in inconsequential trivia and not enough concentrating on the job in hand,so I didn't bother to acknowledge or enter into any further dialogue,which proved a fatal mistake later as this clearly prompted the personal visit:
'Oh yes..did you enjoy everything?"
'I don't do Tripadvisor..'
There is a God.
'SO you can expect an email from me... VERY SOON...Good day'
To be continued.....
(PS see what we have to put up with on a daily basis?..)