COUP DE GRACE

The removal recently of Elisabeth and Robert across London reminded me of our own journey with three children from Scotland to England when we moved to the South.

It had been a long, tiring and emotional day with a very early start and John had promised us as a treat that we would eat at a good restaurant he used with his colleagues at Scotch Corner.   This was a big upgrade from the usual family type meal in a Little Chef or similar and everyone was looking forward to it.   The children were 9, 7 and 5 respectively, but we were all accustomed to dining in France so a formal meal was no problem for them.    John had booked a table for 5 to make sure we would be received.   We passed several suitable eating places on the way, getting hungrier and hungrier, and we had to detour off our path, but eventually and still within the serving hours we drew up in this much anticipated restaurant’s car park.

It was a handsome house with attractive approach and our spirits rose accordingly.   In we marched.    Imagine our disappointment when a waitress, a middle-aged, motherly-looking woman, stopped us in our tracks.   “I’m very sorry,” she said,  ‘but we do not serve children.’

We couldn’t believe our ears.   John explained he was a business customer;  we had had a long drive and had been looking forwards to their excellent food etc etc.   This charm offensive having failed, he promptly reverted to business mode, and informed her it was a misguided policy, and that he would not be patronising their establishment as a business customer in future.

“Come, children,” he gathered his chickens protectively, “We’ll go and find some place where we are welcome.”

As we walked past the unfortunate waitress, Joanna (9) looked her in the eye.   “We’re very hungry,” she said.   Elisabeth (7) came behind.      She too looked the woman in the face.   “We know how to behave.”   But it fell to Rory (5), smallest of all but even then deadly if provoked, to deliver the coup de grace.   He looked at the woman with all the disdain a five year old could muster.   “We’ve been in better places than this.”

For all my fatigue, hunger and irritation, I felt quite sorry for the poor woman, whose  feeble protestations that this wasn’t HER policy; she would gladly have fed us;  there was a nice place just down the road that might suit us, were utterly ignored by all of us as we sailed magnificently out.   Only when we reached the car did people start to cry!

The next place’s culinary standards were nothing special, but  their food was wholesome, hearty  and they welcomed us in with warmth and kindness.   Better a modest meal in peaceful surroundings where you are made welcome and your comfort and well being considered, than to dine at a pretentious establishment with ideas above its station and so taken up with its own grandeur that they had forgotten who they were.

Besides, businesses should treat children with respect.   Some bank that has patronised them, some restaurant that has refused to serve them, may not be viewed kindly in a few years when those same children may be in charge of major businesses themselves.   Our children have long memories!

PS   I’m taking a summer break:  talk to you in a few weeks.