Thursday, April 8, 2010

Austerity Britain: 1945-51 by David Kynaston

[After Labour's victory in 1945] The food turned even more to ashes in the mouth for the theatre critic James Agate, despite his best efforts after hearing the appalling news:
I rang up the head waiter at one of my favourite restaurants and said, 'Listen to me carefully, Paul.  I am quite willing in the future you address me as "comrade" or "fellow-worker", and chuck the food at me in the manner of Socialists to their kind.  But that doesn't start until tomorrow morning.  Tonight I am bringing two friends with the intention that we may together eat our last meal as gentlemen.  There will be a magnum of champagne, and the best food your restaurant can provide.  You, Paul, will behave with your wonted obsequiousness.  The sommelier, the table waiter, and the commis waiter will smirk and cringe in the usual way.  From tomorrow you will get no more tips.  Tonight you will be tipped royally.'  The head waiter said, 'Bien, m'sieu.'  That was at a quarter-past six.  At a quarter-past nine I arrived and was escorted by bowing menials to my table, where I found the magnum standing in its bucket and three plates each containing two small slices of spam!
Perhaps the most revealing detail, though, was Agate's rhetorical question: 'Who would have thought a head waiter to have so much wit in him?' (Kynaston, David.  Austerity Britain: 1945-51 (New York: Bloomsbury,  2008), pg. 76)

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