Completely Ignored…

I used to own a restaurant in Guernsey a channel island between England and France.  It is a twee little place only 5 miles by 7 miles by 9 miles and gets all the weather heaven cares to hurl at it including heavy mists that enshroud the land for days at a time leaving holiday makers and businessmen on both sides of the channel, stranded.  Also stranded on the island are the residents who may or may not want to leave for a short break just to escape the clutches of island fever.   Island fever was one of the reasons I left after only five years.  Like every other fever, it gets worse with time until the mere sight of mist on the horizon, whether a trip off is planned or not, is enough to elevate temperatures.  Eventually the inability to see beyond one’s nose for days on end is enough to drive a blind man to drink.

In the early days while the island still wielded its charm over me, my restaurant and I did business together happily.   I good naturedly suffered the disappointed weather complaints of holiday makers as if I could do anything about the cold, the wind or the rain.  In the United Kingdom this is a hazard of the tourist trade, especially at the beach.

My restaurant was large and bright and airy with a good sea view.  In the mornings, untouched by tourists, it looked delightful, every table cloth had all its creases lined up and crisp, the flowers were fresh, the brass on the bar shone, the glasses sparkled, the toilets were clean.  Coffee and tea were brewing, sandwiches filled the glass cabinets invitingly and the cream teas were waiting in the kitchen for the afternoon crowd.  I had to stop myself from putting up the closed sign and enjoying my untouched source of income undisturbed.

This was not to be, of course, so at nine o’clock I would reluctantly unlock the doors and the crowds would surge forth for their morning cuppas and load up with sandwiches for the beach.  When the first chair was pulled out in readiness for plonking, the spell was broken.  My picture perfect restaurant became an eyesore.   A never ending round of cleaning and carrying and straightening and re-arranging and pouring and collecting began.

Customers!  Bless them, I had to have them but they did make a mess of my place!  Ch-ching, ch-ching!  My attitude was encouraged by Basil Fawlty’s caricature of the long suffering small hotel owner  beseiged by thoughtless patrons.

Since my return I have noticed some places are more competitive and therefore more obliging but yesterday I was treated to a gem of a shop keeper on the very busy high street of Broadstairs, a well loved seaside town in Kent.

Granted I was not in a touristy shop, it was a speciality men’s outerwear shop where my husband had seen a sweater he particularly liked the last time we were passing through.  Several potential customers were browsing in the small place, the owner hadn’t even acknowledged us as we walked in, not unusual for this type of establishment.  We were left to ourselves and browsed the racks unabashedly, grateful that no-one sidled up to us to ask intrusive questions like,

“Are you looking for anything in particular?”  You see, as customers we are just as long suffering!

Finally, just when it looked as though we were all on the verge of leaving the owner looked up from what he was doing and asked,

“Is everyone quite all right being completely ignored out there?  Only I must finish this…”

“We’re used to it,”  I answered as we left the shop, “we’re British ourselves!”

“How absolutely odd!”  My husband commented as we walked along the road!

I suspect he’s never quite experienced the couldn’t care less attitude of the real English shop keeper first hand!

Welcome to Merrye England!

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