I love performing arts, especially comedy. However, this weekend I found myself a little too close to the “stage” for my liking. It seems that Manuel from Fawlty Towers is alive and well and working in a hotel restaurant in Cheshire.
A last minute trip “up north” to bludgeon an incompetent to death meant I had to book us into the only hotel available in the area. The large ex-country house had been quite nicely restored, some modern touches here and there but still largely old-school. The hotel was quite a way off of the beaten track and in an area of woodland, all quite lovely. And, oh so quiet.
In the morning we left our room and approached the dining area for breakfast. A short, older gentleman looked at us expectantly. “Breakfast?”
I said yes and he looked at me and then my wife. “Two?”
I looked at my wife, “Yes, just two. Us.”
He walked into the dining room. “You can sit here, or you can sit here, or here, or here.” He pointed to random tables, some seating two, some seating six. As we started to run out of dining room we sat down. Of the forty tables only three of them were occupied, the other diners nervously eating and I could sense something was up.
We got up to grab some food from the cold buffet. The waiter appeared with a notepad. “Breakfast?”
I looked around the buffet and nodded. “Yes,” I said hesitantly as I picked up a plate.
“Toast, sausages, bacon, beans, eggs. Fried?”
I frowned and looked around. There was only a cold breakfast buffet and it occurred to me that he was taking my order for a hot breakfast.
“Oh, no, thank you.”
He frowned. “Poached?”
He looked at me like I was insane.
“No cooked breakfast, just this,” I explained clearly.
“No, just this,” I explained again.
He laughed at me and walked into the kitchen laughing loudly. The other diners looked at me in sympathy, I started to realise what we had walked into.
We grabbed some breakfast and sat down to eat, careful to avoid eye contact with the waiter. And then two men walked in, one straight towards the buffet and the other meandered around the tables, deciding where to sit.
Neither acknowledged the waiter. He looked at both of them in horror, not knowing which one to follow first. They had clearly broken the rules of his dining room.
The man looking at tables removed his suit jacket and slung it over the back of a chair and walked past the waiter without looking at him, he was VERY short. The waiter, who had been hurrying towards him, stopped and then stared at the jacket in disgust and then glared at the man.
At the buffet the man lifted up a metal lid to see if there was anything inside a container.
The man spun around to see the waiter steaming towards him. “No!”
“Do you have a hot breakfast?”
The man looked exasperated. “Where is it?”
“You order I bring!” The waiter replied.
The man frowned. “Okay. I see.”
“You sit over there and I will take your order,” the waiter instructed, folding his arms. I smiled, despite being more than happy to take my order while I stood by the buffet he wanted to exert some authority over the man.
“Fine.” The man was not bothered and started to collect some food stuffs.
The waiter was beside himself with rage that the man was ignoring him so focused on the other man. “Breakfast?”
“No,” the other man said.
“No?” The waiter was clearly vexed by these non-breakfast diners.
“Just this,” the other man said as he picked up an apple and left.
The waiter spun around and stared daggers into his back. He stalked around the dining room some more, pausing by the jacket on the back of a chair. He muttered in his native language and tapped his pen angrily on the table top. He then disappeared for a while and a collective sigh was released.
It wasn’t long before he was back and circling the tables, eagle-eyes on everything we were all doing. All of us huddled over our plates, silently eating and hoping to not be questioned.
The man still serving his breakfast realised that one of the cereal boxes was empty. He looked up and saw the waiter standing at his podium, just four metres away.
“Excuse me,” he tried.
“Excuse me,” he said louder. The dining room was silent, everyone had heard him and the waiter clearly was ignoring him.
He edged closer, holding the empty box. “Excuse me.”
It took four more attempts by which time he was so close the waiter must have felt his breath on him. The waiter turned and snatched the box. “I get.”
He returned a few moments later. “No.”
“Okay, I’ll order breakfast then,” the man requested.
“Sit down,” the waiter demanded, pointing to the table.
The man sat down and the waiter began his standard speech. “Toast, sausages, bacon, beans, eggs.”
“Yes, all of that,” the man replied, picking up a paper.
The waiter used the end of his pen to lower the paper. “Fried?”
“Fried egg?” The waiter asked harshly, thinking the man an idiot.
“Yes, I suppose so.”
The waiter mumbled something that didn’t sound friendly and marched into the kitchen.
I looked up at my wife. “Have you finished eating?”
She looked at her plate. “I could be finished.”
“Let’s grab some fruit and run,” I suggested. “I don’t want to be here for the second act, I have a feeling it will descend into slapstick.”
We exited, two other women using the time wisely and also making their exit, almost running for the door.