Monthly Archives: July 2012

The perfect breakfast

When I am travelling and by that I mean, of course, a business trip and NOT “travelling” as in “Me and my fruns went travelling for a year”, which really just means traipsing along the well worn geographic grooves of sex tourism only ever speaking English with a group of dreadlocked wankers who think that they’ve discovered the real Asia because they’ve got a henna tattoo and a travel blog and to whom I say sorry to burst your adventure-bubble “Bear Grylls” but Thomas Cook goes everywhere you went, you just went on a really good holiday – stop pretending you’re Christopher fucking Columbus because you’re not.

 

Anyway let me start again. 

 

When I am travelling I tend to avoid the hotel restaurant, unless, and I know this is sad, I am dining alone. I realise that’s what room service is meant to be for but I don’t do the whole room service thing, I don’t want the smell of food in the place I am going to sleep. There’s really only one thing I want to eat in bed and then wake up next to – and she doesn’t come on business trips with me.

 

So table for one please…….. 

 

The hotel restaurant is a vast uninspiring hangar of culinary despair, it’s the sort of lonely place with no intimacy, always busy but still only ever half full. Or more precisely you arrive thinking it’s half full and leave thinking it’s half empty – it’s that depressing. In “business hotels” breakfast is the biggest and most popular meal of the day – it’s also the worst. Parked in the centre of the dining area is always one of those massive units with the domed silver lids. BEHOLD BREAKFAST ISLAND!! Except I don’t eat anything that lurks under those lids – oh no. You can pull back the cover and be faced with what was once bacon but now looks like Pig-Auschwitz, or some amorphous mass of yellow gunge which the sign promises are “eggs” but should read “cavity wall insulation”. Or “sausages” floating in their fatty yellow-piss-stew like a bowlful of breakfast turds. I once swapped the sign that sits in front of the sausages with my own one which simply read “poo” – nobody batted an eyelid, so much for the art of protest.

 

And you can’t even make decent toast because they don’t have conventional toasters, they insist on using that industrial wire-frame conveyor belt into a hidden furnace which ignores the bread completely on it’s first passing and then cremates it on it’s second and, while you are waiting there at the machine like a toast wanker, other people come up and you notice how they squeeze and fondle the bread before selecting a couple of slices of the type you yourself have just put in and you then have to worry about which ones are yours and which ones belong to the “bread molester” who has probably been picking his itchy little bumhole all morning. And you can’t quite bring yourself to eat the cereal because it’s been uncovered for so long you can’t tell what’s “frosting” and what’s dust. And are those really raisins in the muesli? Probably not – so best to avoid unless you want your breath to smell of mouse shit for the day. And no Englishman has ever eaten luncheon meat for breakfast, so the vast array of pork fanned out in the corner is pretty but verboten. So it just lies there, very still, desperately trying to remain incognito, as if at any moment some food monitor will notice it and shout “why is their spam here? Who has ever had spam for breakfast? No really who has EVER had spam for breakfast?”. 

 

So you get a glass of orange juice and a diamond-hard cube of frozen butter and trudge back to your distant table. Breakfast breakfast everywhere and not a thing to eat. Once seated you know that the butter will take just a bit more time than you have to properly melt so you use it to angrily mash the (possibly poo fingered) toast into an unrecognisable lump, dip it into your tiny hateful pot of jam and chew moodily. The alternative is death-by-omelette, which I cannot be convinced is an acceptable breakfast. A half-moon of coronary heart disease with cheese. The yellow peril of gluttony, lovingly prepared by people who would gladly see you die of cholesterol the minute you have checked out so they can go through your pockets and steal back the shampoo before chopping you up for bacon. I don’t think I could ever face a hotel omelette for breakfast – they look like the warning pictures you get on cigarette packets. They are somehow more yellow than yellow paint. They glow, and until they invent fluorescent Special K, I don’t want my breakfast to glow. 

 

But wait a minute, they are bringing out pastries, could they be fresh? FRESH! The word detonates in your brain and belly, it tickles your salivary glands with the promise of ambrosial satisfaction, okay maybe not, but they’re not dusty. So you sprint the quarter mile back to Breakfast Island and just manage to snaffle one before poo-fingers starts his pastry groping. 

 

Ah a croissant – not filled with chocolate or a dead apricot, not burnt and not cold. Just a croissant. It’s heaven – albeit heaven shaped like dog shit. But that’s how they are meant to look, so y’know – it’s okay. I don’t attempt to cut it in half (given that my knife is so blunt I don’t know if I’m even holding it the right way up), I just tear it, I open it like a favourite book and watch the fragrant steam escape with a happy sigh.

 

“Would you like coffee sir?”

 

“Yes please”

 

And suddenly it doesn’t matter that the rest of it is so shit, it ceases to bother me that this ruinously expensive hotel makes me pay for tonnes of wasted food as part of the cost of staying there. It’s no longer an issue that Pig, the most delicious of all the food animals, in all it’s various tasty forms, has been so comprehensively ruined that even I, Mr Bacon, cannot bring myself to eat any of it. I am happy.

 

I’m happy because I now have a coffee and a croissant and soon I’ll be getting on a plane and coming home to flicked porridge and toast flecked cheeks and cups of tea I never get to drink (and find cold “on the side” an hour later when I get a moment to myself), to spilled milk and to bibs and major after-breakfast clear ups and smiles and laughter. Lots and lots of laughter. Because, as we all know, the perfect breakfast is about who you are eating with and what they mean to you. And bacon, really nice bacon. 

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Hen Party

I was on a Virgin train ready to leave King’s Cross for a stag weekend in Newcastle. Three hours of “sitting and reading” ahead of me, in a blissfully empty carriage, clearly it was too good to be true……. 

 

I heard them coming a full minute before they came into view: they were murdering Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes in broad daylight and cackling as they did it – not a good sign, it was only midday.

 

“I’ve HAAAD the time of my liiiiiiife, ooooh let’s sit here”

 

Let me just take you aside a moment to tell you what I know about Hen parties. Such a strange name, a “hen” party, I assume they’re called that because of the considerable noise they make, the amount of feathers involved and that “laying” something seems to be very much on their agenda. A shrieking herd of tits and hair and laughs dirtier than a second-hand mudflap (they’re great aren’t they?). In any decent sized Hen party there is always (always) representation from every quartile of the sexual promiscuity scale and although this might be cunningly hidden at the beginning, by the time they have each drunk their own body weight in malibu (usually by 6pm) it’s more apparent where they sit on the scale, some have moved up and some have, quite literally, slid down it. It’s a strange phenomenon, for reasons unfathomable the bride-to-be’s so-called last night of freedom appears to infect the whole party, giving the experience an “anything could happen” aura, especially when everyone is away from home for a night or two and having such a good time. A good time, principally because everything is funny on a hen party, notably the letter L. For it’s a fact that making the bride-to-be wear “Learner Driver” plates is utterly hilarious, the very pinnacle of comedy. Closely followed by massive inflatable genitals. 

 

It was one of the aforementioned inflatables, which upon reflection did look a bit like Bill Medley, which was thrust into the carriage and swung around, neatly smacking me in the side of my head to the general hilarity of all who witnessed it. 

 

“OOOhhh makes a change dunnit HAHAHAHAHAHa” etc 

 

No sorry or anything. I watched them as they settled into every empty seat, filled every overhead luggage rack – the carriage was drowned in a pink tsunami. They looked exactly as you are imagining them now. All dressed the same: tour t-shirts with writing across the chest I dared not read. There must’ve been twenty of them, all in full make-up. With the sheer amount of “bronzer” worn by so many people dressed in the same outfit I felt as if I’d been surrounded by massive female oompa loompas.  Hemmed in, suddenly my window seat didn’t seem like such a good idea. What to do? I couldn’t get up and leave. Could I? No I couldn’t. 

 

Now, as a lone man, dealing with 20 women you have to be careful. Oh so very fucking careful. Say the wrong thing and you’ll get eaten alive (and I don’t mean that in the nice way), but say the right thing and you could get eaten alive (I mean that in the nice way) – it’s a delicate path to tread. I had a fair inkling, given the foul language, the plastic “dick whistles” and the 4ft inflatable prick, that I was surrounded by masters of both the double and the single entendre – so the important thing was to choose one’s words with care.

 

I started with “So who’s the lucky girl then?”, noticing as I said it, that the girl diagonally opposite was wearing a veil (well a net-curtain with tinsel) on her head along with “hilarious” L plates. She also had a slight lazy eye.

 

“Oi! Sam – give us a wave Sam, Sam is getting married next month” said bubbly tangerine girl opposite. When I say bubbly, that’s code: she easily weighed more than my wife’s entire hen do on her own – and my wife has lots of friends. Dutifully Sam gave me a wave – at least I think it was me, as I said it was difficult to tell exactly who she was looking at. We chatted for a bit and established that Big and Bubbly Bryony was the sister of Sam’s husband-to-be and that the rest of the girls were all friends except for the older lady who was Sam’s mum. It’s a nice gesture inviting your mum on a hen do, nice but wholly inappropriate – nobody wants to see a pensioner with a blow-up “cock and balls” on public transport. Especially if said pensioner is a bit drunk and keeps pretending to fellate it, invoking shrieks of delight from her daughter’s friends. It may sound like a bit of a turn on but sadly, truth be told, it looked like a simpleton was headbutting a punchbag while other simpletons made chicken noises. 

We chatted some more, I pretended I was interested in the intricacies of “nail bars” and TOWIE. There was a lot of singing: I remember “Girls just wanna have fun” and “Back for Good”, I have tried to forget “Love Shack”. Not joining in was rather awkward as I didn’t really know where to look during the “performance” and (perversely) reading my book in the quiet carriage while a score of tone deaf oompa loompas murdered Karaoke favourites may have been construed as rude.

 

There were times when I did feel a bit like a clothed strippogram but generally it was a surprisingly pleasant journey; yes it was a bit naff but the underlying friendships of the girls was warmly apparent and like the song says they did just “wanna have fun”. When we arrived I wished them well and got off the train. A policeman was waiting at the exit to the train station, handing out bin liners to all the various Hen parties, asking them to cover up any offensive inflatables, reminding them that there were children around and to think about others. Welcome to Newcastle.

 

“Can you cover that up with this bag please girls ”

“Oooh safe sex officer!!” the mother of the bride cackled, falling over. 

 

The rest of the girls picked her up and decanted her into a cab, laughing as they did so. 

 

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Coffee Shop

I hadn’t had a coffee since Monday – been trying to cut down you see.

 

Coffee is funny isn’t it? Quite addictive really. Especially if you drink it almost every day. And if, like me, you are often in a hurry and just want a quick caffeine hit, the methodology of the modern coffee house can be a little frustrating. Take today, for example: whilst maintaining my place in the queue, I was approached by the manager (I could tell he was a manager because of his big bunch of self-important keys jangling by his nuts), he swaggered up and down the queue to ask what people wanted (I came in for a mortgage and some baked beans!! A HOT DRINK YOU MASSIVE PRICK!! GET BEHIND THE COUNTER AND SERVE – I didn’t say).

 

“What would you like Sir?” he enquired

“Oh ……a black coffee please” I said half, expecting him to go and get it.

He gestured vaguely towards the front of queue.

“Of course. Sonja will be your barista today in just a second”

 

Then he strutted away down the queue, smiling at each person and asking them his pointless question, no doubt erect and seeping due to his daily power trip of not wearing the standard uniform. I got over his attitude quite quickly though, after all, at least there was an actual queue, rather than that phalanx of need you get in some coffee shops, where presumably someone has mischievously shouted “BUNDLE!!!!” before sloping off. No thanks – I like a nice orderly queue, you know where you are in a queue (in this case towards the back).

 

The serving staff were made up of SONJA and JAY (hand written IN BLOCK CAPITALS ON THEIR BADGES) and during my 5 minute wait to get to the front of the queue I very quickly picked up on their system. Sonja took the order and the money and then shouted the order to Jay who was stood perhaps 12 inches to her left. “TRIPLE SHOT HALF CAF DOUBLE DE-CAFF LATTE WITH CREAM TO DRINK IN!!!!” she would scream and Jay, who had previously been within touching distance, would shuffle over to the big machine, put a cup in a slot and press the relevant button. If steamed milk were required he would place a nozzle into the cup and press a different button. Once he had removed the nozzle from the cup he would then wank the nozzle furiously with a J cloth to remove the foamy residue before putting the drinks on a tray or putting on a take-away lid. 

 

I don’t want to be mean but it’s not a tough job, no matter how you want to dress this up, essentially you are operating a vending machine whilst wearing a hat. 

 

I approached the front of the queue.

 

“Which beverage can I get for you today?”

“A black filter coffee please”

“An americano?”

“Erm if that’s what you call a black filter coffee then yes”

“Of course. What size would you like”

“A medium sized cup please”

“You mean medio?”

“Apparently”

“Medio?”

“Yes medio”

“Of course. To drink in or to take away?”

“To take away please”

“Of course. Would you like any muffins or sandwiches today?”

“No thank you”

“We are doing coffee and muffin deal, only £3.99”

“Just the coffee please”

“Of course. That’s £3.99 please”

“I don’t want a muffin”

“No that’s just for the large Americano”

“I didn’t want large, I wanted medium”

“Medio”

“Yes medio, remember?”

“Of course”

“How much is that?”

“£3.69. Do you have a loyalty card”

“No I’ve never been here before”

“Of course”

“There’s £3 whole pounds and another 69 pence there you go.”

“LARGE AMERICANO TO GO!!!!!!!”  

 

And then she looked behind my shoulder and was on to the next customer and I looked down at the gratifyingly empty “tips” box and sidestepped awkwardly to the designated “serving area”. Jay pressed the relevant button and without looking up shouted “LARGE AMERICANO TO GO!!!”. I was perhaps 6 inches away from him.

 

“Actually I wanted a medium sized one” I said looking at the pint of coffee in front of me.

“What?”

“This is large. I ordered a medium sized one, just now. You probably heard.”

“Medio”

“Yes sorry medio”

 

So he poured the whole thing away and made another one. Almost 4 quids worth of coffee – well to you and me 4 quids worth of coffee, to them 4 pence worth of coffee.

 

“Oh you didn’t have to throw it all away. You could’ve just poured the large one into a medium sized cup”

“It wouldn’t of fitted, it’s easier if I just make another one”

 

I took a deep breath and blinked…….

I reached across, grabbed them by the ear and slammed both their heads down on the counter.

 

“Listen. First of all you are not “baristas”, you serve bum clenchingly expensive hot drinks and shitty cakes, stop pretending you have a fucking law degree because you don’t – you just press buttons. Secondly if you EVER use the word “beverage” again in my presence I will leap over this counter and kick you both in the mouth so hard that It’ll detach your empty heads and then I’ll wear your stupid smiling vacuous faces like a pair of novelty fucking slippers! Thirdly you know what the fuck “medium” means so stop correcting me every time I don’t use your special pissflap terminology and stop saying “Of course” for no reason and while we’re at it stop pretending that the poverty riddled slaves you have in South America are happy to be fucked over by your piss greedy empire of drug dealing nozzle wankers”

 

“Sir”

 

I blinked again and breathed out. JAY was holding out my drink.

 

“Sir your coffee”

 

“Sorry I was ……just thinking about something” I said and took my medio Americano beverage and left.

 

As I said, I’ve been trying to cut down. 

 

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