Monday 3 December 2012

What on earth have we done now?

16st 0lb, zero units. Yesterday we went for lunch to perhaps my favourite pub in the whole of Cheshire. I know this may seem hard to square with the claim that I consumed no alcohol during the day, but we had dinner guests at home on Saturday and I drank so much (just to be sociable, you understand) that today I couldn’t face anything stronger than fizzy water. So we can safely rule out boorishly drunken behaviour as the cause of our mysteriously increasing unpopularity as lunch wore on.

I should explain that this pub is located on a hilltop with stunning views and boasts such assets to the perfect pub as a real fire, excellent food, a fine selection of real ales and – up to now, at any rate – helpful and charming staff.

It all started so well. The young women who greeted us at the bar when we walked in smiled warmly enough, showed us to our reserved table near the fire and kept smiling as she took and delivered our order for drinks. By the time we had consumed our starters she wasn’t smiling. By the end of the main course her face bore a distinct grimace. When I asked for coffee I felt myself lucky not to have it thrown at me. And when I went to the bar to pay at the end and gave her a perfectly generous tip, out of sheer force of habit, she had developed a loathing of me so strong that she could not even bring herself to say “thank you”.

Now, to be honest, I am quite used to this sort of thing. I have an undoubted knack for rubbing people up the wrong way. But, on this occasion, it was clear from the way that she almost kicked them as they followed me off the premises that the charming Mrs H and our boys were at least as much the target of our ire as I was. And the really, really puzzling thing was that neither of us could even begin to work out what we had done to upset her so much.

We hadn’t failed to say “Please” and “Thank you”. We hadn’t shouted “Hoy, you!” or waved at her in an imperious sort of way. We had eaten up all our food and shown our appreciation, though admittedly The Boy, in particular, had taken rather longer about it than seemed to suit her. But when we booked the table for 12.15 they had warned us that they would “need it back” at 2.15 and we were off the premises very shortly after 1.30, so tardiness can hardly have been the critical factor.

Was it The Baby’s messiness? There was, I will admit, an unfeasibly large amount of crumbled bread under his high chair. We never appreciate just how messy he can be until we go out, since at home we have a Border terrier on permanent standby to hoover up anything edible before it even makes contact with the carpet.

Was it the fact that Mrs H borrowed a chair from a neighbouring table, in order to satisfy The Boy’s demand that she sit between him and The Baby? Not that anyone was sitting at said table at the time, so it didn’t seem a particularly heinous crime to us.

Or was it perhaps a horrible case of mistaken identity, caused by confusing me with one of those elderly child molesters that feature so prominently in other media’s coverage of the BBC these days?

I don’t suppose we shall ever know. The sad thing is that, until we do work it out, our favourite pub looks like being off limits, at least until staff turnover bears our waitress off on its ever rolling stream to a more appropriate niche, like looking down her nose at the customers at a high class boutique in Tarporley.

On the plus side there is still the pub in the slightly less stunning location where the food and ale are also excellent, and where the £100 tip I left on the huge bill for The Boy’s christening lunch three years ago is still remembered with such fondness that the staff all greet us as long-lost friends the moment we walk in.

Yes, I think that has to be the answer.