Thursday, 13 March 2014

Alfresco Dining And The Plastic Sachet Of Doom.

Finding myself at a local hostelry with my good lady, i thought it would be remiss of me not to indulge in a flaggon of real ale or two, along with a fish and chip dinner in the afternoon sunshine. It is after all, what sunny afternoons in the UK were invented for.

The hostelry in question, one of the now ubiquitous pub chains along the lines of 'The hungry donkey,'  'Big plate,' or 'Gut buster pub,' that pervade our once independent village squares and town high streets, was a pleasant enough place. They did however, insist on antagonising me for no good reason.

Having ordered my fish, chips and mushy peas, i got down to the business of filtering the as yet unidentified flaky bits from the bottom of my glass of real ale through my teeth, a real British tradition i think you will agree. The waitress soon arrived with a small original 18th Century antique faux wooden bucket, containing our knife, fork, napkins and what can only be described as a slack handful of condiments sealed in small, plastic sachets. Oh, the ambience of fine dining, pub chain style.

Our food arrived suspiciously quickly, but looked and smelled as it should so i banished any thought of ready meals from my mind and looked for the salt. As it turned out, the salt was at the bottom of the 18th century original faux wooden bucket, just next to the 'Made in China' stamp. They were in teeny tiny paper sachets which when opened, deposited small amounts of salt into your lap and onto the floor.

The vinegar was a bastard. Sealed in tough, rubberised plastic sachets, they were a test worthy of the Crypton Factor, in that if you did manage to open them, any attempt at removing the contents therein resulted in an arc of vinegar over your shoulder and into the eyes of the person on the next table... A small child in my case. I think i got away with it.

"Is everything to your liking?" Said a waitress.

"Yes, yes... Everything is just fine thank you..." Said I, as my missus rolled her eyes as if to say... "Here we go."

Having opened 3 sachets of salt and two of vinegar to my taste, a small gust of wind disposed of the empty plastic and paper on my behalf, over to the far end of the beer garden.

Next up was the Tartare sauce... Three sachets should be enough. Placing the first sachet of plastic between my teeth i managed to split it in two and dribble the sauce over my fingers and leave a small piece of plastic wedged in the tight gap between my two front teeth, dangling a half empty sachet from my mouth.

"Is everthing to your liking?" Said a passing waitress for no other reason than she happened to be passing. I think they are trained to say this to any person who is eating.

"Yeth, yeth... Efferthink ith juth thine thank you..." Said I, with my stiff upper lip.

As i licked at my greasy fingers, my better half had deftly opened the remaining sachets with the aplomb that only women married to stupid men can do, and deposited the sauce in a neat splodge at the side of my regulation, oversized pub chain plate. She looked at me as if i should be sat in a kiddies high chair, wearing a bib.

"Is everything alright..?" Asked yet another passing waitress. Whether she was asking as a result of boot camp training or at the plight of a grown man with plastic stuck between his teeth and tartare sauce on his fingers, i did not know. Nor did i ask.

"Can I hath a thooth pick pleath..?"

"There should be some in your bucket..." Said the waitress.

There was indeed some toothpicks at the bottom of our faux wooden bucket. small plastic ones, sealed in a paper sachet.

Paul Martin is @ukcameraman on Twitter.