Saturday, Saturday

It’s yet another Saturday, meaning another week has come and gone for me. I sit, as usual, in front of the telly half-watching Match of the Day, half doing something else on the laptop. Usually reading political blogs. What a combination.

It’s been another busy week for me. Lots of work, a fair old bit of money too. Keeps me on my toes. But now the to-do list is empty, and I return to waiting for the phone to ring. Sort of like the bad old days, but hopefully it’s just a temporary lull. I enjoyed the day to relax anyway, especially as it’s co-incided with my own computery problems, which has given me an opportunity to fix them without getting flustered about when I’ll get time to do it.

Well, I sort of enjoyed the day to relax. It’s been several weeks since I had a whole day off, and in truth I spent most of it worrying that the phone might never ring again. Or, at least, take ages for it to. Maybe it’s better for my sanity that I’m kept busy. Probably true.

But the biggest disappointment of the day came when me and my housemate went out for tea. We went to the nearest Harvester, a place we’ve been a few times before. We haven’t been for a while, but we have been to many across the country, and it’s the salad bar that makes it so good. No complaints there.

The biggest problem, however, came at the dessert. Rocky Horror is always my favourite. Melted chocolate cake with ice cream and cream, with more chocolately bits on top. And a very generous size for £2.99. Sheer indulgence, and probably about four million calories.

Except, this time, I just didn’t enjoy it. The cake wasn’t melted. Nor was it a nice chocolate. Clearly very cheap. Meanwhile, there was the fact that my pasta only came with one garlic bread, when every other time it comes with two.

I guess we’re all not averse to an economy drive or two, but after that kind of performance, I feel like I may have fallen out of love with Harvester. I would never have thought I’d say that after all the good experiences I’ve had there.

Oh well. Life is a bit like that though. It sets you up thinking you’re doing something good, and then smacks you in the face to remind you that you’ve gotta keep trying.

Bit like my business, in fact.

Stuffed

In the first ever event of its kind, according to my parents – who should know, I took them out for a meal this lunchtime.

We went to our local Harvester pub to take advantage of their very good meal prices and superb unlimited salad bar offer. No, I’m not on commission.

It was nice to get out of the house for a bit, away from the rest of the family, just the three of us, able to relax and enjoy our surroundings. The place is lovely, out the way from the usual eating venues, and better still, somewhere we haven’t been to before.

And when the value is calculated, it’s pretty damn good. £10 a head for what was effectively a four course meal, starting with a large helping of salad, some pasta with garlic bread (with another big bowl of salad), then a giant chocolate fudge ice cream dessert (£2.99) and a cup of coffee to finish.

I had to pay for the lot, but I’ve been threatening to do that for years. In fact it had become a bit of a joke around these parts. “I’ll pay” was what I would quip before we’d head out to dinner. It’s not like we do this that often, maybe once a month, and that’s usually because it’s someone’s birthday.

But this time I really meant it. Out came the credit card. Like I said, it was nice to treat the family, and all without the rest of my brothers and sisters hanging on. Not that this is a game of one-upmanship, but, you know, I don’t think any of us ever show our appreciation for our parents… so it was nice to do that for a change.

We’re still all stuffed now, three hours since the meal. I probably won’t need to eat much later. Better that I just sit in this chair for a few more hours and let it all digest. Wouldn’t want to see my hard earned money again!

Meanwhile, it’s been a quiet week. No progress on the escape front. Just more hassle from the rest of my family, and more of me dearly wishing to get the hell out of here. It will happen. One day. Just not yet. When it does happen it will be a total nightmare, as the logistics of moving from The North to The South are horrendous.

But that’s yet another reason why I want to try to enjoy my time here, since it may not last for much longer. There may not be many more chances to treat my family, except for the odd weekend when I’m home.

This too shall pass – as I like to tell myself. The four most reassuring – and most frightening – words in language.

Boy, I sure do love depressing myself.

18, 24 and 72

Last night marked the official “Last Supper”. We all went out for a meal and had a reasonably good time, better than the last time I went out for a meal with the miserable Happy Couple.

It was not without its own controversy though, and it brought to the fore something that I find quite annoying in people.

I am a tipper. I like to leave something for staff in restaurants, and taxi drivers and barbers. I’m not as generous as the Americans are (their tipping culture is amazing to us Brits) but I will leave something. 10% or thereabouts is pretty standard.

I see it as a special thank you. Yes, they do get paid for what they do, but they are invariably on the minimum wage, and the tips are an extra special thank you. When someone has personally provided you with service, you should feel a little guilty, and as an act of humility you show your appreciation. It’s fairly standard.

But it seems in the past couple of years my friends have generally not shared this view. Yes, we are students, and yes we are pretty poor most of the time. But the fact remains that they wouldn’t give a second thought to paying £3 for a pint, so neither should they do so when providing a tip.

The problem is simple though – they just don’t tip. I hear stuff like “I don’t believe in it” and “I didn’t think the service was that good” but these are just excuses.

And sure enough, they were all wheeled out last night. We had a meal, 11 of us all together (some of them were friends of friends, alas, my friendship circle is not that big) – and as always large meals are a particular challenge for the staff. People don’t listen to the waiters (or can’t hear and others don’t pass the message on). People forget what they ordered. Lots of meals on the serving tray that all look the same (e.g. lamb korma, chicken korma).

I thought they would automatically add the service charge on. Normally they do if it’s a large group. I almost wish they had because it would have made people pay it. But sadly not. The £180 bill arrived, and most people studied it carefully to work out what they owed. I insisted people put in an extra £2 each to take us up to £200, but it wasn’t happening. The excuses were wheeled out.

In the end it was quite embarrasing to hand over just £185. My meal came to £15, and I ended up putting in £18 (a tip of 20%!) so it meant that just one other person had offered a tip.

Very disappointing. And it left things on a bit of a sour note. We went the pub afterwards and the situation was somewhat awkward, but enhanced too by the fact that the Happy Couple were having one of their typical zero-sum games, where one enjoyed pissing off the other and we all had to sit in the crossfire.

It continued when we got home, when one half of the couple (the girlfriend) decided to go out to a nightclub with her friend, leaving the other half to stay here miserable, and soon went to bed. Urgh. At least it’s over in 24 hours.

And meanwhile, to complete the trilogy, I received my final essay mark yesterday, which was another 72. That’s three 72 marks this semester. Something is very odd about it. In any case, it hasn’t really affected my chances of a first because the exam performance is still the most critical bit of the equation here.

Anyway, let the long, slow and tedious process of packing begin!