Last weekend began with sandwiches in the waiting room of the National Express bus station at Gatwick South terminal. We were supposed to have had the picnic on the bus on our way up to London. But sandwiches always call so loudly when they are packed away with a beer or two, we couldn’t resist. Then of course after some hours trundling along in the snazzy double decker bus, by the time we got to town we were both famished. One went off to check into the hotel and the other got ready for the meeting, tummy rumbling. Then in the meeting another sandwich moment. A waft of cheese and cucumber on multigrain bread floating across the room prompting untold yearning for at least a bite.
But bite was there none so the only choice was to be patient and rumbly until the meeting was over and we were in position on the terrace. Bundled up in blankets, I could finally order my own food from the National Liberal Club’s wonderful new kitchens. Another sandwich, this time a falafel and spinach burger with chips on the side. It was a joy and rapidly scoffed down. It was so obviously yummy that one of our party couldn’t resist ordering a burger of his own, this time of the carnivore class. Finally full and rumble-free I was able to relax, snuggle down in the blankets, slurp the red wine and take pleasure in what was turning out to be a lovely evening. Plenty of wine, good company and conversation.
It wasn’t long before the conversations were following a bit of a theme, namely how long the second burger was taking to arrive. And then the asides turned into queries with the wait staff, handsome young men with gorgeous smiles and deferential apologies. But no burgers. Queries were repeated inside where we retreated as it was getting too cold to sit on the terrace. Poor burger man had had no food, but he was slowly recovering from the chill and being very brave as plateful after plateful of other peoples’ dinners passed us by. The barstaff gave him a free glass of red. We asked again before concluding that the burger order had been lost in some sort of NLC kitchen black hole and was unlikely ever to appear. Burger man bore all this with good cheer, but a slightly pallid look started to come on. Blood sugars were falling and the charms of a decent red fading fast. The sandwichless situation was becoming critical. And then a burger hoed into view, steaming, tantalising, nestling beside a reassuringly large heap of chips. Burger man salivating, burger man bright eyed and expectant, only for all the excitement to collapse as the waiter passed us by and beetled off to some other far less desperate diner.
Pointing out the worrying condition of burger man to the uber waitstaffer, brought forth a promise that if said sandwich ever did arrive, there would be no charge. And by the way here is a bottle of red wine on us. Good cheer all round and a slight improvement in burger man’s condition. There was nothing for it but to wait and trust the increasingly tense assurances that the burger’s arrival was imminent. After a fully two hour delay the beef burger, shy and embarrassed on the plate, hiding in its bun and with a tub of chips alongside to keep it company, fulfilled the promise. We cheered. We took pictures. We drank the bottle of red and cheered again. It was a marvellous evening.
The next day was a sandwich free zone, but there was another food drama. Having shelled out substantial readies for a posh lunch, we had high hopes for our planned excursion to the East India Club. With an aromatic lamb curry the carnivores were all set, but the vegetarians were in for a truly dire culinary experience. Dire is perhaps a bit mean but I cannot think of a better description of a faux Thai curry made up mostly of peas in a runny gravy with no flavour. Yes there were lots of peas swimming about, but peas are peas and they are far from worthy contenders when it comes to posh lunches. The poppadoms were generously large and explosive, literally shattering in the hand. (Terrible mess on floor hastily kicked under buffet table, hoping no one noticed but of course they did.) After a quick march in four inch heels across town we made it to Victoria Coach station to catch the bus home with minutes to spare. A minute’s as good as an hour, I’ve always found. No one checked tickets amidst the trainstrike mayhem and eventually we made it back to Gatwick, the car, home and the horses who whinnied at us to hurry along and bring them their belated suppers.
And the day after that we were at a Christening followed by the classic English brown spread consisting of little brown sausages, little brown sandwich triangles, little brown muffins, brown fritters and white cake. The cake added fetching contrast to the buffet which was altogether delicious. We took home the leftover sandwiches and it took us until Tuesday to finish them. Last Friday to Tuesday began and ended with sandwiches, with a puddle of peas in the middle. It’s been exhausting.