Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Excuses, excuses...

Just around the turn of the last century I was helping to run a pub in Surrey by mistake. I'd been there for about four months and during that time had managed to get the catering side of things running very well indeed!
I had a well varied menu with as much homemade food as I could manage to make on it, and as for the things I couldn't make, I had the best suppliers I could get.
The 'steak and chips for a fiver' deal was very popular in the evenings, and as word got out about my own recipe soups and stews, folk came from all quarters of the village for quick and tasty lunch of soup and a toasted sandwich, or anything else I could rustle up in the kitchen.
But the busiest day of the week by far was Sunday as word got out about my Roast Dinners, especially my secret recipe gravy, which one person told me was even more addictive than crack cocaine*
When I first took over the food side of things I'd made and prepared as much of the meals as I possibly could, but as we got busier by the week I decided I needed some help, and luckily that help came in the form of the then-partner-in-crime's 'adopted' daughter**.
She was a brilliant help. Every Sunday morning she would arrive at 09:00 hours, let herself in and get to work on preparing all the vegetables and tend to any odds and ends such as filling up the condiments and ensuring the cutlery and so was ready. All I had to do after a while was to get up around eleven-thirty to make the gravy, which as you can imagine was fabulous after a busy Saturday night.
I loved my little Sunday morning 'lie-ins' as I didn't get very many of them while working there, and it was heaven to be woken up by the smell of roast beast and a large mug of freshly steeped coffee, also thanks to her firing up the coffee machine.
But one Sunday she didn't turn up.
I realized something was wrong at about ten-thirty when I noticed that the usual smells and noises simply were not there.
I grabbed the alarm clock and realizing the time, kicked the then-partner-in-crime and told him to please get up and call her to see what was going on, and if she was still alive, where the hell was she?
I hastily put on some clothes and scampered downstairs into the kitchen and after throwing the meats into the oven, frantically made a start on the veg.
Again, I asked the TPIC if he'd managed to get hold of her, but every time he phoned there was no reply. Together we dashed about trying to get as much done as we could in the hour or so we had left before the pub opened and prayed that we wouldn't get a rush of diners clamouring for roast dinners, spot on noon.
As I hared about the kitchen muttering and swearing to myself, the TPIC kept trying to call her, but every time, no answer.
I was really beginning to worry when at just after eleven she came in through the door looking as if she'd been dragged through a hedge backwards, forwards and sideways for good measure.
Relieved, I asked her what the hell was she thinking turning up so late without even calling to let me know what was going on!
"I'm really sorry I'm so late" she replied, "But I was at the petrol station helping to catch an escaped ostrich"

The TPIC and I simply stopped what we were doing and stared at her while our chins tried to drop to the floor.
"You... what...?" I finally managed to ask.
Again she told us that the reason she was late was because of the ostrich
"Meh?" said the TPIC.
"Uh?" I added.
That was it. No way could I concentrate on getting anything prepared until I'd heard this story, and so I went and got a much needed coffee and the three of us sat down while she explained.
She'd been filling up her car when suddenly an ostrich ran past her. At first she thought someone had spiked her tea, but no, there really was an ostrich running around her car with two men chasing after it. She went and paid for her petrol and was about to set off when one of the men trying to catch Big Bird got kicked in a place that Sesame Street characters simply don't have, leaving the other poor chap trying to catch the thing by himself.
Now, the TPIC's daughter was raised around horses and figured that if she could catch a Shire horse that didn't want to go in a horse box, she could more than likely catch an ostrich that didn't want to go into an 'ostrich box' as well, so she asked the bloke if he had a long piece of rope.
Sadly he didn't, but a minute or so later a police officer drew up and although he didn't have a very long piece of rope, he called for one and after another five or so minutes, another two coppers pulled up with a very long piece of rope.
As you might imagine, all this palaver had drawn rather a large crowd of people, and as there was a very large and angry bird that liked to kick people on the loose, the petrol station owner helped the police to close the forecourt and try to cordon it off with whatever they could find.
The daughter then told the police her plan which was for one of them to firmly hold one end of the rope, while she hung on to the other. The other two officers and the bloke that could stand were to try to steer the bird toward the middle of the rope, and when it got close, she and the copper would raise the rope level with the bird's neck, and each run round in opposite directions, thus catching the rope around the ostrich's neck.
Thirty minutes and three attempts later, they finally got Big Bird back into the box and at last she could get to work.
As I listened, I wasn't sure whether or not she was telling the truth, or was what I was hearing the best ever made-up excuse for being late for work I'd ever be told.
The TPIC, knowing his daughter was prone to 'exageration' on occasion, was also dubious, but when reports came in later on the local radio about the escaped bird we realized she was indeed telling the truth.
The lunches were about half an hour late that day, but when we told the customers the reason why, all they could do was laugh.
In all my years spent employing people, that still remains The Best Evah Excuse for being late for work, and I highly doubt anyone can top it.

Or can you?

*I didn't ask how he knew, but if anybody wants to research this claim, let me know.
**My ex didn't ever officially adopt her or her brothers, rather when he started going out with their mother who was a few years older than him, they adopted him as their new dad. This meant that the ex's daughter was only ten years younger than him, and only four years younger than me. When she threatened to call me 'mummy' I nearly decked her.