Saturday March 25, 2006
Everywhere I looked today there were daffodils. Not hosts of daffodils, but little, hopeful clumps of daffodils, smiling in the sun, relishing temperatures back into double digits at last. But it wasn’t daffodils that fired my candle. Not today, anyway.
And everywhere I looked today as we drove over to Liecestershire there were rolling hills, marked softly with bare hedges and trees with the teensiest, tiniest hint of green about them, stretching dreamily as the sun began the job of waking them to join in the fun. But hills, hedges and trees didn’t fire my candle either. Not today, not entirely, anyway.
Even driving through the wide open parkland at Hungerton, stretched out gently over the landscape, didn’t really fire my candle. I had my mind on other things, you see.
It was like this. We’d decided to drive over to pick up two antique Victorian dining chairs Graham had snapped up on eBay. The drive from Boston to Grantham and on to Melton Mowbray, turning off into the most beautiful part of rural Leicestershire, was fine. Stimulating even. But, I’d missed my breakfast, and my thoughts were, by 10:30, firmly set on food.
By 11:30, I was ravenous. By 12:30, when we arrived, I’d have eaten the perishing chairs if they’d been gently fried and served with the appropriate sauce.
On the way there, we’d whistled past the Roman Cafe on the A62 between Grantham and Boston, too fast to stop. Not the most stimulating of places unless you’re into road side truck stops, but they do do the most delicious smokey joe meals you’ll find on the road almost anywhere.
“Not to worry,” I said in response to Graham’s apologies as navigator, “we’ll pick it up on our way back.”
Which is what we did.
I pulled in, sought out a relatively dry patch in the sea of truck-churned mud that surrounds the place, and we stepped gingerly over the major puddle that blocks the side entrance to the small external picnic area, just by the customer toilets. We stepped over that, too, and accessed the building through a strangely bare glazed porch.
|The Roman Cafe
You get the first hint of the delights to come behind the next door, which opens into the main part of the cafe, bright and gaudy with glittery lights, special offer stars written on luminescent cards, and all the familiar paraphenalia of the British road side cafe. A hidden radio, tuned to a soft rock station, muttered inoffensively through speakers up by the ceiling.
Interior, with menu board
“So, what shall you have?” Graham asked as the young man in the Guns’n’Roses t-shirt came to the counter to serve us.
“Sausage, egg, chips and beans,” I said. “I’ve been looking forward to sausage, egg, chips and beans for the last three hours and it’d be a brave bloke who tried to stop me.”
The young man smiled nicely, and scribbled the code for my order on his little tablet, along with Graham’s less adventurous request for a mushroom omelette, and disappeared into the kitchen to get the cook to fire up and produce the goods.
We took our coffee and eating irons over to a pleasantly situated and very clean table (they even wipe the chairs every day in the Roman Cafe, and between customers if needed) and sat to watch the trickle of Saturday afternoon road users that came in to order light snacks. Scones and tea, for the most part, but one plump middle-aged Midlands lady said firmly and loudly: “Sausage, egg, chips and beans.” Her spousal unit groaned and she glared at him so fiercely he wilted and thereafter kept his silence. Wise bloke.
I recognized a kindred spirit and was inclined to give her a lovely smile in sympathy. I didn’t, though. Plump middle-aged Midlands ladies are not there for the purpose of being smiled at by strange men.
And then, steaming and sizzling gently, my plate of shameless self indulgence was whisked from kitchen to table by another nice young man in a lurid t-shirt, over cook’s trousers, and placed ceremoniously in front of me.
“Oh, wow!” I said. “That looks good. Do you know there’s a blog devoted to sausage, egg, chips and beans?”
“Yeah,” said the cook. “Don’t think he’s been here, though.”
“He doesn’t know what he’s missing.”
|Sausage, egg, chips and beans
“Gosh,” I said, pushing my plate back very shortly afterwards. “I feel much better for that.”
“You look better, too,” Graham said. “Colour coming back to your cheeks, it is.”
“Wonderful what a couple of decent sausages will do.”