One Step Beyond

We’d planned to meet up with friends at a local pub to celebrate the birthday of one of our number. The place chosen was one familiar to us all, right on our doorstep, and well within walking distance of home. Perfect. In addition we were more than familiar with the menu and given that it was a Wednesday evening with a normal work day expected the following day we’d planned a less ‘excessive’ evening than we perhaps might otherwise indulge at a weekend. When Liz and I arrived at around 7.30 birthday girl Jo, better half Dave and their family had already eaten. Two others turned up at around the same time as us ready to share a table then celebrate with the usual ‘happy birthday sing-song’ complete with presents, cards, cake and candles. We’d all frequented this pub-restaurant countless times over the years without having to book a table and having seen the remnants of our friends’ meal we were sure of hearty fare. We ordered our drinks at the bar and opened an account for the evening to ease the pain of having to part with cash. All was fine until we asked for a menu. ‘I’m sorry’ the landlady explained, ‘We’ve run out of food’. It was our own fault; after all we hadn’t booked, though we’d never had to in the past. All seemed lost. Where else could one go on a Wednesday? Then the landlady suggested something which took us all pleasantly by surprise. We’d jokingly said that perhaps we ought to go home and order a Chinese meal for six instead of staying at the pub. It was at that moment that our evening changed into something that I’d never experienced before. The landlady reached under the bar and presented us with a Chinese takeaway menu from another outlet in Corby. ‘Why don’t you order your meal from these guys, pay for it when it arrives, and in the meantime enjoy your drinks’. We all thought this was a splendid idea and scurried off to study said menu, chipping in our meagre cash supplies for payment on arrival. Eventually a car drew to halt outside the pub with a delivery man producing our dinner from the customary cool-box on the back seat. Then we discovered that the landlady had set a table for us in the main restaurant complete with all the trimmings. This was the first time in my life that I’d emptied the contents of a container of food from one supplier onto a plate belonging to another, yet at the same time having waitress service and our drinks tab still open at the bar. There was a joyous sense of the casual in that we were surrounded by cartons, greaseproof containers and silver-foil, mixed with the formality of a full service restaurant. In came the birthday cake: the song was sung: the banter, the company and the novelty of our evening was unique. Thank you Julie. You know who you are!

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