June 23rd Â 2006
It took me longer at the garden centre than I had bargained for, it had got way past my lunchtime, and driving home from Chesterfield to New Mills I began to feel decidedly peckish. This countryside route is not short of hostelries offering pub grub, a Chef & Brewer, a Beefeater and a Happy Eater amongst them, but these places invariably promise more than they deliver, as I’ve found to my cost in the past. Apart from that it always seems to take for ever for your food to arrive and I wanted a quick fix (a tip – avoid like the plague any pub that advertises ‘fayre’. If they can’t spell the word ‘fare’ there’s a very good chance they can’t cook either).
Getting hungrier by the minute I was almost tempted to turn round and try a Happy Eater Iâ€™d just passed, even though I suspected that if it had been called an Unhappy Eater instead my expectations of it would be much more likely to be fulfilled, when I saw a sign at the side of the road, ‘100 yards ahead, Hot Food, Cold Foodâ€™. I slowed down. It was a mobile snack bar parked up at a lay-by, the sort of thing that lorries pull up at, although none had pulled up there at the moment. Just the ticket, I thought, and pulled in.
The proprietor was at the hatch, and not scratching his belly or picking his nose or anything, always a good sign. There was no menu so I asked him what he had to offer.
“Bacon barmcake, egg barmcake, sausage barmcake, bacon, egg and sausage barmcake.”
“I was looking for something cold,” I ventured.
“Sorry, I haven’t got anything cold.”
“Your sign says ‘Hot Food, Cold Food'” I pointed out.
“Yeh, ham barmcake, cheese barmcake, cheese and ham barmcake, but I’ve run out. The bacon, egg and sausage barmcake is very nice,â€ he added, temptingly. Â
“I don’t doubt it is,” I said, “But it isn’t cold, is it.”
“You can wait for it to go cold,” he suggested.
What enterprise! What ingenuity! I certainly wouldn’t have got such a response if a branch of Chef & Brewer had run out of cold food. “Sorry sir, there’s nothing I can do about it” would have been the very best I could have expected, but more probably Iâ€™d have got a silent and disinterested shrug of the shoulders. Not from this man though. His entrepreneurial skills had kicked in immediately the problem had presented itself, and he had overcome it with ease. Britain could do with more men like this, I said to myself, they were people to be encouraged. I encouraged him. “A bacon, egg and sausage barmcake, please.”
Not a second over two minutes later he slid a fried egg onto the bacon and sausage he had already placed on the bottom half of the barmcake, then joined the two halves together. Two minutes, mind. It would have taken at least half-an-hour at a Happy Eater.
“Don’t blow on it,” I admonished him.
“I was helping it to go cold,” he explained, a little hurt.
Helping it to go cold! Surely we have another
Richard Branson or Alan Sugar in the making here!
â€œThat’s all right, I’ll have it hot,” I said.
It was quite delicious too.