Thursday, 30 April 2015

"Eateries". Force of Nature. Presentations.

Yesterday was our grandson's tenth birthday. For a treat, he wanted to go out and eat at Nando's, the restaurant chain. So off we went to Nando's in Ashton only to find that we would have to wait over an hour for a table. As it was already well past seven o'clock, by the time we had got our table and ordered some food we might not have been eating until going on for nine o' clock. And the birthday boy and his sisters had to get up for school today! This was not really a problem as there was a Frankie and Benny's restaurant on one side and a Mexican place called Chiquito's on the other. More restaurant chains! We would go elsewhere.

After consultation we opted for the Mexican place. A twenty minute wait, the meeter-and-greeter told us as she handed us what looked like an old-fashioned mobile phone. My almost eighteen-year-old granddaughter and I looked at each other and with one voice asked the meeter-and-greeter, "what is this!" It turned out to be some kind of pager which would flash red when our table was available. How very odd! I can't say I am a great fan of Mexican food. Too many tortilla wraps and fajitas and burgers for my liking. Everyone else was happy though, so I selected a flatbread with roasted vegetable topping. Not wonderful but acceptable. 

What amazed me was the number of people eating out. This was Wednesday evening, not Friday or Saturday, and the three restaurants I have named were all heaving. I thought we were supposed to be in recession, with austerity measures all over the place. And then there are all those television shows encouraging people to be adventurous in their home cooking. It doesn't seem to have influenced the behaviour of people around here very much. 

The location of the restaurant was another of those things that I find odd about modern UK society. There was the Nando's, which we didn't go to, with Frankie and Benny's on the right and Chiquito's on the left. Opposite were at least two other "eateries". All of them were huge places, capable of hosting huge parties and, judging by my admittedly limited experience of such places, presumably all serving exactly the same menu and decorated in exactly the same way, maybe even playing exactly the same music, as all the others in their particular chain. 

In the complex there was also a huge cinema and a bowling alley; it was, I suppose, the entertainment equivalent of an industrial park or a shopping complex. It all seems to me to be a strangely impersonal way of organising things. I wonder if the managers of these chain restaurants ever dream of having their own personal restaurant to run. There appears to be very little opportunity to stamp your own personality onto an establishment of the entertainment complex kind. But perhaps I am just turning into an old romantic! 

This old romantic has been mildly amused by stories of nature getting its own back recently. Thee was the tale of a big game hunter who was killed by a charging bull elephant a week or two ago. Some people believe the elephant was annoyed because the big game hunter had killed a leopard who was a friend of the elephant. Do such friendships exist outside of the world of Disney? And this morning I read about a man standing on his boat of San Diego, California, waiting for his wife to take a photo of him with a huge yellowtail fish he had caught when suddenly a sea lion leapt up, bit into his hand and pulled him overboard. I assume the sea lion was attracted by the fish but I never knew they could attack in that way. Perhaps that is why they are called sea LIONS. The fisherman survived to fish another day but maybe he will be more careful in future. 

This morning I visited our middle granddaughter's school to listen to her and some of her classmates making "presentations" about topics of their choice. They have to demonstrate their spoken skills as well as reading comprehension and writing for their English Language assessments. So I sat and listened to mini-talks, accompanied by PowerPoint, on "My Greyhound", "My dog Baxter" (our granddaughter's choice of topic), "My Holiday in Spain" ("This is the hotel. This is the pool. This is the restaurant. This is the beach. This is Palma airport." At last something indicated that it was actually Spain! This is rather mean of me; after all, these were 12 year-olds!), "Cricket", "The Truth about Sharks" and, possibly my favourite, "Strange Sights in the World". 

This last one had some lovely interaction with the audience, along the lines of asking if anyone could guess what was going on with the goats in a tree or the numerous feral-looking cats who were clearly gathered together to get up to no good. One of his pictures showed a group of around twelve people lined up to hold a huge thing that might have been a sea snake or some kind of marine monster. It turned out to be something called an oarfish. This one did not look as though it was about to take revenge on the folk who had captured it though.

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