Chester is a pretty city, along with Bath, York and Edinburgh, one of my favourite UK destinations. It has a rich history (it was the Roman city of Deva), fine architecture, especially the unique and magnificent Rows, many cultural attractions and excellent shopping. It is all the more remarkable, therefore, that our trip last August Bank Holiday was our first to the city for fifteen years.
We had stayed overnight in Sutton Coldfield en route to my wife’s parents in Lancaster for the weekend – just as well as a combination of traffic congestion at the Dartford Crossing and on the M25, major, long standing roadworks on the M1 and intermittent driving rain throughout meant it took us nearly five hours from Maidstone in Kent. We decided to stop somewhere for lunch on the Friday and plumped for Chester as we had not been there for so long.
Janet stated that she would like a jacket potato. So we embarked upon the hunt for a decent, independent cafe where we could sit outside in the bright if lukewarm sun and watch the good citizens of Chester go about their Friday lunchtime business. This ought not to have been a difficult quest, though the city centre was understandably very busy. Eventually, we found an establishment that appeared to fit the bill perfectly with a one available table outside, ideal for both serious people watching and modest sun bathing.
I ordered a prawn salad baguette and Janet asked for a tuna mayonnaise jacket potato, both to be washed down with coffee. The proprietor taking the order was extremely pleasant and efficient (yes, we are still in the UK at this point), and our order was promptly taken. I returned to join Janet in our prime position outside only to find her gathering up her bags and hurrying back into the cafe itself. Possessing higher than the average level of acuity, I promptly deduced that the sudden swarm of wasps and flies encircling our evacuated erstwhile table may have been a contributory factor in her flight.
So we settled at a table towards the back of the cafe, conveniently adjacent for gentlemen (I use the word advisedly) of a certain age, to the washrooms. After around ten minutes our sumptuous repast was delivered to our table. Being very hungry at this point I was not overly disappointed at either the size or texture of my baguette. However, it was a different story for Janet. She had been granted custody of probably the smallest jacket potato either of us had ever seen. She likened it instantly and accurately to a new potato, one that would not have looked out of place peeking coyly from a rocket salad.
Ordinarily, this would have been the cue for me to bestride my white charger and rush to the damsel’s distress – in other words assume the role of a militant consumer and take the matter up with the proprietor, citing my thirty years of experience in customer service. However, Janet was too hungry to wait any longer for a (more substantial) substitute and decided, on this occasion, to let it pass. By the way, my prawn baguette was delicious, but please don’t tell Janet as it will only reopen old wounds for her.
This may, however, and forgive me for perpetrating a gross gender stereotype, if one borne of no little experience, have been partly because any additional minute spent in the cafe would have been a minute less in looking for shoes and jewellery (we did, after all, only have two hours on the parking meter).
Before we were able to do so, Janet’s humour was not assuaged as we left the cafe only to discover that the outlet next door was a branch of the decidedly downmarket Spud-U-Like chain, and their jacket potatoes were enormous. And half the price.