We've a fairly busy day today, I mean for us, whose default mode of living ( I don't really like the word 'lifestyle') is quiet, remember. We have friends coming over who wanted to go camping up on the coast above Erquy. Their boat gets in at St Malo this evening, and the municipal campsite they were interested in doesn't take bookings, you just have to turn up and see if there's room. So, to ensure that they had somewhere, we went up this morning to reserve a pitch by putting a something on the spot - a borrowed 'throw-up' tent ( OK, that doesn't sound good but 'instant erection' would have sounded worse...). Then this eveniing we'll drive over to St Malo to meet them so they can follow us back to the site. We could have had them to stay and taken them up there tomorrow, but there was a not unreasonable level of anxiety about coming over without the certainty of a place, which we sought to allay by promising that we would have somewhere sorted out by the time they arrived.
Anyway, that accomplished, we set off home again, only feeling a little anxious about whether they'll like it, whether the throw-up tent will get stolen or thrown up on or whatever, and anything else our minds could scout around to get anxious about given a slightly unusual situation and responsibility.
As we'd be travelling this evening, we decided perhaps we could justify eating out at lunchtime and just taking some sandwiches with us this evening, so we thought we'd stop in Erquy, but then we took a wrong turn and got a bit more fraught, but finally we stopped in Val André, found a place we'd eaten at before which was OK, and ordered. Molly was brought a bowl of water, I found a loo and felt much better, and so far so good.
We asked to share a starter, which came after a bit, rather a small plate of grilled shellfish and a small and rather rock-like bread roll) but then the service got slower and slower. The patronne, a brusque but quite pleasant woman, it seemed, took our order, but she wrote nothing down, rather having the air of someone who believes themselves to be far too much in control of things to bother with such details, and various other younger women served and cleared. We sat over our empty starter plates too long, which is always a downer, they were taken away but then nothing happened and nothing happened, After about 45 minutes we began to think about the little time that we'd have to come home, take a break, sort out extension leads etc for our friends, then set off for St Malo.
I went into the restaurant and asked if it was coming as we were a little pressés, that we could otherwise pay for our starter and drinks and leave. Young woman #3 disappeared into the kitchen, some muttering of the kind which gave away that we had been forgotten. I waited, waited, put my head around the kitchen door and repeated that we could pay now... No, it was coming , there had been a mistake, but it was coming now...
I sat down, after 10 minutes got up again, but brusque patronne said brusquely 'It's coming out now!'. ( No, you're right, I am quite familiar with the several ways one can say sorry in French and did not actually hear any of them...), So I sat for another 5 minutes then cracked. I ordered Tom to take Molly out, I'd sort out paying for what we had had and we'd go.
In the ensuing fracas (italicised or not? Is it a fully adopted English word, what do you think?) the following arguments were put forward.
'If you were in a hurry, you shouldn't have ordered a starter.'
That from the young man behind the bar who was the first line of defence. I said that I didn't know it was going to take so long. Now, I said, we had lost our appetites, which was true.
'You should have said if you were in a hurry.'
I should have said if I didn't want to be still waiting after an hour? I replied, adding that in fact I did say, about 20 minutes ago.
The patronne is coming, he announced, and retired from the field.
She said that I had not said 20 minutes ago that we needed to hurry now; she had taken our order and I had not told her ergo I had not said it.
She said that the magret de canard took a lot of preparation, that's why it took so long. I said I had been told there had been a mistake and that was why. Ha!
At this point the food arrived at last, and she said that if we left the food would all be thrown in the bin, was that what I wanted?
At this point I did begin to weaken somewhat as I do hate waste. Could it not be eaten here? I asked.
By whom? She parried. No, it would all go to waste!
Fortunately Tom then swung in with reinforcements. Too bad, he said, no we would not stay and eat the food, Indeed, to have slunk back to our seats, stuffed it down and paid up would have been ignominious and unacceptable.
Brusque patronne then offered a compromise. And if she were to pack the food as take-away so we could eat it at home later?
I conceded and said we would pay the price of take-away, which I guess we did, because the bill was smaller than it would have been, and food and face were more or less saved on both sides.
Brusque patronne offered Tom an 'au revoir' as we left, to which he replied, 'Ah non!', so I guess we had the last word. We drove home feeling considerably better than if we'd just put up with it, despite the rather uncomfortable heat of a pizza and a plastic ice cream box of magret de canard and its garniture on my lap.
However, I don't really fancy eating it now.
Outside the comfort zone
1 hour ago