“Porridge!” exclaimed the waitress, looking from the man who had ordered it, across the table to his companion, open mouthed. She looked as if this was the strangest breakfast order she had ever encountered, and wanted the man and the man’s friend to share in her sense of startled yet excited bewilderment.
“Porridge!” she repeated. “Excellent.” and she scuttled off, doubtless to relay the strange events of that morning to her colleagues behind the bar.
It is a little difficult, when sitting in a restaurant at breakfast time, but only requiring a coffee, to avoid the overeager solicitations of the waiting staff. An entirely accidental moment of eye contact with one of them, and you run the risk of being approached – yet again – for your non-existent order.
At the bar, a genuinely Italian-looking lady in the uniform of a chef (rather than that of a waiter or waitress) stands by the Gaggia coffee machine, both hands over her mouth, as if witnessing some appalling tragedy. Perhaps, I wonder, she has just remembered having done, or failed to do, something of staggering significance in the kitchen. Whatever it is, it seems to justify my decision not to engage with the frequently-proposed breakfast eating.
A Scottish gentleman to my left, as he decries the banking industry, gesticulates wildly towards his partner in what I decide is a profoundly Italian manner. I start to wonder if maybe I’m reading too much Italianness into the goings on in this quasi-Italian restaurant, this morning, or perhaps there’s a general Italianate atmosphere that is creeping inexorably into the staff and clientele.
Another waiter arrives beside my table to enquire what I would like to order for breakfast. I seem to detect an air of disappointment when I decline the kind offer and ask for my bill.