9 December 2012

Are you kidding me? Snow? Already? Come on!

Yes, we had snow in the week – only a couple of inches in our area, considerably more in other parts of the country – but honestly, what’s that all about? It’s way too early.


Fortunately, it only lasted a couple of days and created none of the usual disruption to transport (in our area, at least). So, having just about managed to get rid of the remnants of the rain and floods of last week, we now have the f***ing freezing temperatures with more forecast for next week. A great start to the winter!

As most of you know, I’m a pretty relaxed and “laid-back” individual. I don’t generally complain (too much, although Ms Playchute would probably gladly enlighten you concerning my propensity to whine and moan much of the time). Why do I mention this? Because sometimes a situation arises which compels one to complain and sometimes the complaining yields dividends.

We had a great meal out on Monday lunchtime – eventually. Penelope and I met up with a gaggle of my former colleagues and some of their better halves for our once every now and again sometimes occasional reunion luncheon. We went to Loch Fyne in Oxford which is one of my favourite establishments largely because the menu is positively overflowing with shellfish and crustaceans, something which Penelope wouldn’t dream of touching with the proverbial bargepole.

We’ve been there many times in the past and have never been disappointed. On Monday, however, the place was three-quarters empty and we had the misfortune to be waited upon by a new waitress for whom English was not her first language. In addition, this was quite possibly her first day on the job.

She was very willing but her lack of experience showed. It seems that no one had told her that she ought to do such things as (a) ask if anyone wanted drinks on arrival, (b) explain the vagaries of the “specials” and (c) after a suitable pause, enquire what we would like to eat.

I know there is a fine balance between being too attentive and rushing the diners and being too distant and keeping people hanging around. I think we were the only table she was serving but, after a good half hour, we had to suggest that we might be ready to order.

As I said, English was not her first language and the taking of the order was quite confusing. Some folks were having the two course set meal; others were ordering a la carte. Some of the menu items were available as a starter or, in a slightly larger version, as a main course.

After some time, the orders were taken and after an interval the starters began to arrive. Everyone got what they’d ordered and Penelope and I waited patiently for ours. And we waited, imploring our fellow guests to start theirs. And we waited some more.

Eventually I summoned the waitress and asked when our starters would arrive. You can guess that there was a look of some puzzlement on her face as she went off back to the kitchen only to re-emerge, empty handed, to explain that she had made a mistake. She had written our starters down as main courses, in spite of the fact that we had ordered main courses as well. I know I can be a bit of a pig but two main courses? Not likely and certainly very unlikely when dining with Ms Playchute – she wouldn’t let me!

We were promised our starters in five minutes and they duly arrived. Penelope received the risotto she had ordered and I received crab and lobster ravioli. Unfortunately, I had ordered Moules Marinières, one of my all-time favourites and one of the main reasons I enjoy going to Loch Fyne (that and the oysters).

By now we had been there about an hour and a half and as I engaged the waitress in a discussion it became clear that the language issue was insurmountable – I could either eat what she had brought me or wait another three days for my moules. So, I agreed to keep the ravioli which was very good but when you’ve been looking forward to moules for three weeks, nothing else is quite the same.

After a further delay, our main courses began to wander out from the kitchen this time accompanied by our waitress, the front of house chap and the manager. It was clear by this time that our waitress simply wasn’t coping with her one table station and the other two were trying to salvage the situation as best they could. The food was very tasty and this time, I think, all the orders were correct. But, it was now nearly three hours after we had been seated in a three-quarters empty restaurant and some of our party had to rescue their cars from the potential receipt of parking tickets and we had to get home to walk a dog. Everyone agreed to forego dessert and I summoned the manager to suggest that she might like to consider a substantial discount for the poor service and disappointment at my lack of moules. I explained that we loved coming to Loch Fyne, that the food was, as always, very tasty, but that on this occasion the service simply was not good enough and our enjoyment had been significantly impaired. She apologised, recognised that there were some training issues which needed to be addressed and agreed with my suggestion that a discount was in order.

Sometimes, even though I am not one to complain, it’s worth mentioning, in the nicest possible way, of course, when things are not as they should be.

Sorry – I had to get that off my chest! Which doesn’t leave me time to rant about Osborne the Tit’s Autumn Financial Statement in which he conceded that he’d not met any of his targets, that the deficit was still growing, that there is a real risk of the UK economy entering a triple-dip recession, but, according to his assessment, everything is still on track. Simon Hoggart had an amusing column in the Guardian if you want to read his take and Chris Riddell had a cartoon expressing similar sentiments in this morning’s Guardian.

And finally, I accepted delivery of my most recent wine order the other day.

Christmas Wine
It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas

Love to you all,