Early this morning and it being cold, I met the chef on my way to breakfast. A more personable young man would be hard to find. His smile is a benediction. His tunic is snow white and his checkered trousers are only slightly (hardly worth mentioning) double creased. But never mind that, his smile has conquered my heart. Which is as well, for our chef has no training.
It being early, he has to cook and serve.
I met him on the little decking that overlooks the carpark. He had a neckerchief, a red one, tied cowboy style round his neck. From the waist up he could have been in Pamplona. I think, sometimes in his head, he is. From the waist down he was very much in England.
“Good morning, Sir.”
In my long life, only he has managed this greeting properly. As I say, he has conquered my heart. He is nineteen, no more. He offered me a cigarette, at the same time flicking his onto the lawn below.
“Can I get you some breakfast now?”
He passed me his lighter with another grin.
I take conceited pride that it is me he engages, ignoring the other guests who are drifting in.
“Just come in when you are ready.”
After a while I followed him out of the cold and took a table set for breakfast.
“I’ll get you some tea while you’re waiting.”
I asked for toast and for three fried eggs. I was thinking of toast in a toast rack, and marmalade, as is the custom, and of a plate of fried eggs.
What he brought me was the most pisspoor breakfast in England.
He had recklessly stacked the eggs, one of them upside down, on the toast and then I think in an afterthought, he had slipped a few redundant butter portions in among the pile.
The tea was indescribable. I couldn’t fish out the teabag because short of flicking it out the window, there was nowhere to put it. Yet, and yet, his manners and his youth and vitality conquered all.
I was never so happy.
Later, still ignoring the other earlybirds like they didn't exist, we had another cigarette on the deck with more milky tea, another floating teabag, where he beamed as he told me about the fifty covers he was expecting on Sunday when he does a choice of three roasts and trimmings.
Totally unfazed, deadpan, utterly confident.
Christ, I’d take a shot of that confidence and youth and swagger if it was going.