I can't remember the last time I went into a fish and chip shop to order anything, it must be at least six years possibly more if my memory serves me correctly. Likewise it's about the same length of time since I have ordered a takeaway or popped into a burger bar so you can say I'm a little out of the loop ordering fried goods as I found out last week.
We had occasion to go for a little stroll, on our way we passed a chip shop that I used to frequent when I was much, much younger, a time when ten bob would buy you fish and chips for the whole family, yes, that long ago. If you are reading this and happen to be of a young age and wonder what a bob is its two sixpences, if you think sixpence is six pence then don't even get me started on florins, crowns and other assorted monetary units us crumblies used to covet.
Anyway, we passed the shop and the alluring smell of frying assaulted my nostrils, my that smells good I though as we passed by. 'Shall we get some dear cherub of my life' I greasily asked Jayne.
'I thought you didn't go in chip shops?' He eyes narrowed, a cross between puzzled and accusing. 'I don't but for old times sake eh?'
So seconds later I was in through the door clutching a pound coin with eager anticipation. A wave of heat hit me as I entered, the smell was intoxicating, the glare of the orange lights lit up the rows of batter fish and sausages like a glistening gristling shop window. There was a large queue.
It was tea time, I wasn't dressed for tea I was dressed in walking boots and a brightly coloured weatherproof jacket, the queue inside was made entirely out of the exact opposite, normal clothed hungry individuals eager to purchase large stocks of chips, fish and battered sausages with enormous rolls of buttered bread all to be washed down with bottles of pop, I it seemed was a tad out of place. Nervously I fumbled with the pound coin as all eyes turned and all faces changed. The place went deathly quiet, from behind the counter a formidable woman glared back, I had only been there less than a minute and already I had alienated the entire queue who had already twigged that I was a chip shop amateur and possibly gained an enemy with Mrs Formidable who was actively thinking of just what part of my meal to spit in, hiking wear was not usual attire for a Mansfield Saturday night tea time trip to the chip shop. Neither was my face, which gave away a naivety as I scanned the large menu at the back and unwittingly mouthed the word 'cheese', a word which dominated the selection of fried goods.
As I stood mesmerised the queue shuffled forward, I shuffled with it and got told off.
'She's first' came a sharp command from behind the counter.
I looked around at a middle aged lady who had sat away from the queue and burbled, 'she's ordered a special' came a second retort. It suddenly dawned on me that I hadn't entered a normal chip shop, this was devided into a special system based on familiarity and locality, obviously I was an intruder and didn't know the rules. I didn't know if you ordered something special you sat at the back, I also didn't know that if you wanted a cheese mix you had preference as the cheese had to be shaved, yes, shaved using a cheese shaver, a skilled job that required a young assistant to help with the shaving and I also didn't know that if your name is Dave or you are part of his immediate family you stand to the left and get served first irrespective of your position in the queue, he was also a big chap that looked likely to stuff me full of cheese should I challenge the rule. So slowly the queue moved forward, sometimes from the front, sometimes from the back until unfathomably I was the only one left so I could get the full glare of Mrs Formidable.
Then I panicked.
I hadn't been concentrating on what I should be ordering, quickly looking up all I could see was cheese, cheese with chicken, with kebab meat, with chips. I was out of touch with the prices too, I thought a pound coin would suffice for a small bag of fried carbohydrates but alas this too was tinged with disappointment. I scanned down looking desperately for something I could afford.
'Well? What do you want?' It was said with a tone that made me feel as though I had urinated in her fryer.
'Small, medium or big?' This stumped me, I could see all three of these cost considerably more than my pound coin, Jayne was outside with more loose change but after waiting for ten minutes the last thing I was going to do was walk out and ask so I did the only thing I could and chose the only item under a pound.
'What made you buy a kids cone of chips?' Asked Jayne as we walked away. 'Oh, I though it would be more healthy than the big bag.' I cringed, turning away to hide my face only to see Mrs Formidable folding her arms and glaring back at me.
Looks like I'll give them a miss for a few more years yet.