Wednesday, April 18, 2007

(No-such-thing-as-a) Free meal

WELL, that was an enormous shock to the system! At the weekend I went on what I was reliably informed was 'a freebie' to the picturesque South Devon coast. Definition of a freebie: a gift or service, offered free (according to the Penguin English dictionary I found on Rosey's desk, anyway). Definition of free: Without charge. Definition of charge? Oh, get on with it!
To be fair the weather was almost tropical for the time of year, the views from the courtesy hotel spectacular, the cliff walks invigorating, the company enjoyable and there were splendid days out in Paignton and Exeter.
Paignton, in particular, provided great fun. It's a real picture postcard town, the kind of rude picture postcards that you used to find on the English riviera in the good old 60's (or so I am reliably informed) - the ones embellished by fat, nearly-naked women making insinuations.
It was all candyfloss, cheapo shops and donkeys on the beach.
I spent a fair amount of time in the amusement arcade, trying and failing miserably to win a cuddly Garfield toy with one of those grasping hooks you just KNOW won't work. Amazing, also, how you can fall for that sliding 2p coin machine, where you see money and prizes galore just hanging off the edge. Just one coin applied to the machine at the appropriate time will bring a fortune crashing in your direction. Will it hell! About 40 years after I first attempted it I am still drawn in, though, spending a hard-earned 50p on the task before realising too late that it has done me again.
Did I say done? Well that's how I felt on Monday morning when, checking out of the glorious establishment at which I had stayed, having enjoyed their hospitality and eaten what I had been reliably informed was a free meal accompanied by a free bottle of wine (a pontneuf something or other retailing at the reasonable price of £39) imagine my shock and horror to be presented with a bill for £53! I asked the woman behind the desk whether, in fact, there had been some mistake. No, she said, that was the extras. The room and the scones and clotted cream afternoon tea were free but not the extras charged on the dinner specials or the wine from the exclusive list. B****cks! I don't even drink wine. I only had a glass to be sociable. I'd rather have wasted my £39 on, say, 14 pints of Carling Extra Cold in The Yard.
Did I say Yard? Not very happy with that place either. On Friday I was enjoying a drink in the freezing environment of the outdoor smoking "lounge" when the urge grabbed me to visit the little boy's room. On my return some hairy bozo of a bouncer looked me up and down, fixed his eyes on my blue Australia v England, New Year's Test, Sydney 2007, baseball cap and announced: "Next time you enter, can you take your hat off, sir?" How the hell I didn't reply with: "Do you know who I am?" I am not sure. Oh, actually, I did. Well something like that.
He suggested I was getting a bit mouthy, I suggested he was the one who started it and that I would take my custom elsewhere. I also informed him I drank in The Yard every day of the b***dy week and should be treated with a bit more respect.
To be honest, he didn't take a blind bit of notice so I rounded up Withers and Freeman and off we toddled to the good old City Arms. At least THEY value my custom.

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