Thursday, 22 August 2013

The Joys Of Driving In Britain

Dirty toilets, expensive food and terrible service, but...

Oh what a pleasure it once was, after driving for hours along one of Britain's overcrowded and crumbling motorways, to be able to stop the car and stretch one's legs in a Little Chef restaurant.
There used to be hundreds of the red and white buildings scattered throughout the land, but following his fall from grace, and the emergence of swankier motorway service areas, our dear friend is on his last legs, and the number of restaurants has dwindled to just a few.
Park the car, get out and admire the scenery. The bins are overflowing with rubbish and there's a terrible stench of exhaust fumes wafting in from the nearby petrol station. But don't hang around outside, because inside is the place to be.

This is GREAT!

A smiling girl greets you, and when you tell her that you would like a seat next to the window, she happily leads you to your desired table, wiping away crumbs and spilt coffee with a cloth which has seen better days.
Do you want tea or coffee, as you scan the menu? Well, I'll have tea, but it's a hell of a job wondering just what I'm going to eat. The girl is back with a small pot of boiling tea and a dirty cup in which to pour it. Have you decided what you want? The fish and chips sounds quite good, but not as good as those which you can get back at home, and I haven't come all of this bloody way to eat an omelet and chips. No - it will have to be the Olympic Breakfast, which is served all day, and the thought of which is already making my mouth water.
The girl returns to the kitchen, and when the chef returns from smoking his cigarette, he gets to work on preparing my mammoth meal. The smell of sizzling bacon and sausages fill the stale air, as my thinly-sliced chips fry merrily away. I burn my tongue on my tea, as the chef busies himself with my fried bread, mushrooms and baked beans. A family of four are greeted by the smiling girl, and as they are driven like sheep to a table in the corner of the restaurant, the mother - a dreary looking individual who's having a hard time with the kids - comments on the smell coming from the kitchen. But all I'm interested in is my plate of greasy, unhealthy, calorie-charged food.

And there she is before me, like an angel, holding before her my meal. I look at the array of colours and smile: THIS is going to be GREAT. The bacon is salty - but that's not a problem. The chips are slightly overcooked - but you can't have everything in life. The fried egg should be running over my sausage - but the chef is having a bad day, and the egg is overcooked. Thank God that the fried bread is just as it should be - dripping in fat.

The family of four have opted for the fish and chips. Silly bastards, I think, as I pay the bill and head off to the toilets. The urinal is cracked and filthy, the floor is sticky and someone has scribbled their telephone number across the mirror. There's no soap in the dispenser and the towel is frayed at the edges. But with my bladder emptied and my stomach full, a sticky floor doesn't seem to really matter.

The girl wishes me a safe journey, and as I hear the mother complaining about her fish, I really want to scream out that she should have gone for the Olympic Breakfast.

Outside, the air is laced with diesel fumes, as a lorry goes rumbling by. Another happy family pulls up, and as the father eases himself from his car, I feel like telling him that it's best if he has the Olympic Breakfast. The man then starts talking French. Oh dear - this is going to test the smiling girl's patience to the limit, and the chef has probably never cooked for our continental cousins.

I pull away from the restaurant, smiling about just how Jean-Paul is going to overcome the language barrier, and as I see the familiar red and white building in my rear-view mirror, I let out an almighty saugage/bacon/fried bread/baked beans/mushrooms/chips-scented belch.



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