How was your Christmas Dinner?
Plenty of turkey, stuffing roast potatoes and Brussel sprouts and gravy, I hope?
I wish I could say the same.
A friend suggested that we join him, his wife and daughter at a local restaurant where they were putting on the usual Christmas fayre.
The five of us all duly assembled at the restaurant a little past 1 pm to find there was already quite a crowd who had been drawn there by the restaurant’s good reputation and very reasonable prices.
I had thought that it would be a waitress served meal but it turned out to be a buffet, which I don’t particularly like. But never mind, the one advantage of a buffet is that I can go back for seconds and thirds if I am still hungry.
Unfortunately it wasn’t exactly the best Christmas turkey meal I have ever had – in fact I can’t really recall a worse one, certainly not in Thailand.
We decided to go and get our food at around 1.45 pm when the food had been in the buffet trays for around 10 minutes. A queue had already formed.
I won’t go into great detail, but suffice to say I did get some freshly roasted turkey along with some of the pre-packed frozen turkey roll variety which tasted like plastic, but we had to stand for 5 minutes waiting as they had run out, and were frantically carving more in the kitchen.
It was the same with the roast potatoes – about a 10 minutes wait for them, as the initial batch had already been snapped up. I managed to grab the last few drops of gravy in the gravy jug, with no signs of a refill any time soon.
There was no stuffing, no sprouts or any other vegetables in sight!
I noticed that later diners seemed to have lucked out and had stuffing and sprouts on their plates, but every time I returned to the table in an effort to get some – or some more turkey and roast potatoes, the food trays were always empty and there was a constant queue waiting for them to be replenished
There was no Christmas pudding; no trifles, no fresh fruit, fruit salads or any other exotic Christmas Day deserts – just a small slice of insipid looking (and tasting) gateaux which was probably bought frozen from Macro. Lek gets better cake from 7-11.
From time to time I caught sight of a slice of water melon on the plates of the other diners, but every time I went to look for some… you gottit… the tray was empty!
Honestly, it really was a bit of a Fred Karno.
The service – such as it was – was quite friendly, but unfortunately the delivery of food to hungry customers left a great deal to be desired.
I won’t name and shame the restaurant, as I know how much harm bad publicity can do to their future business, and by all accounts their usual daily fayre is highly regarded.
I do hope he reads this, (as he must know who I am talking about), learns from his mistakes and makes a better fist of it next year – if indeed he decides to try again.
I personally will not be returning there any time soon. I rarely go out to dine, and I had been looking forward to stuffing myself to the full on turkey and all the trimmings and when we eventually drove home, I still felt a little hungry and quite disappointed.
But it wasn’t all bad. We all had a good old natter and we whiled away a few hours in very pleasant company, determined not to let our disappointment in the food spoil our special day – which it didn’t really.
But I still fancy a proper Christmas lunch and I still feel a bit cheated….
Ah well… can’t win ’em all… at least Lek and my friend’s Thai wife enjoyed their food; fortunately for them, there was a Thai cuisine option and they both ate their fill.
My two daughters back in ye Olde Country have told me that have enjoyed themselves over Christmas; and 10 day old Benjy behaved himself.
I think the main thing that I miss from my days as a bar owner is the music. I thoroughly enjoyed putting together my eclectic playlists and had a great time playing these music videos at my bar. I got quite a kick when I discovered that my choice of music also hit home with many of my customers.
In fact, by far and away the most complements I used to receive from customers was about the music. Many told me they only came to drink at Mobi’s because of my music.
During the six months I ran the bar, I continually updated my playlists, and received a lot of good input from music loving customers in the process. They reminded me of songs that I had long since forgotten about, and I was also introduced to a number of new songs that I had not previously come across.
On some evenings, if I knew a group of customers loved ’80’s’ songs, I would concentrate e on that, and on other nights it might have been 70’s, disco or Motown, or jazz or swing, and so on.
Occasionally I would put on a full length music video concert when knew that the people in the bar liked that particular artist.
If I got it right, I could keep the people there for hour after hour – often well into the wee hours, lapping up the music and buying drinks.
My own taste in music is so varied that I could enjoy almost anything the customers wanted to hear, (with the exception of hip hop and electro crap); but the music I most enjoyed was the music I played late at night when I would ‘cherry pick’ from my favourites – my most loved music video-tracks.
Although my bar’s sound system consisted of an ancient Sony amplifier, and a hotchpotch of speaker ‘cast offs’, all of which was held together with chewing gum and rubber bands, it had a really good sound. I was told by an expert that the low bar ceiling improved the acoustics no end.
For six months, it was my little world of music and sometimes I cranked the volume right up and I ‘lost myself ‘in the stirring sounds.
Jazz and swing bands were amongst my favourite concerts, Many of these were decades old, but there was one contemporary video that I particularly liked, which featured virtuoso jazz trumpeter Chris Botti, performing a gig at a small, intimate venue in L.A. The performance is magic, and sometimes – when I played it with the bar lights all but extinguished – it felt as if I was right there at the venue with him.
I was reminded of this yesterday when I was at home, watching a jazz music concert starring Tony Bennett, and – of all the most unlikely people – Lady Gaga. Their performance was recorded recently in New York and followed the successful release of an album featuring the pair in September.
It is hard to believe, but Tony Bennett is 88 years old and is still performing at the top of his game. Lady Gaga has never been noted as a singer of jazz and as I sat down to watch, I wondered what sort of nonsense were these two total ‘opposites’ were trying to pull.
It seemed highly unlikely that they would find any common ground in music and surely there was no way that they could make good sounds together.
How wrong could I be?
Lady Gaga is one hell of a jazz/swing singer and her performance with Tony Bennett was mesmerising. Her two solos – ‘Bang Bang (My baby shot me down) and Lush Life, compare favourably to any solo by any female Jazz great you care to name – I kid you not.
In fact, she was not in the least upstaged by Bennett’s own enthralling solos: How do you keep the music playing? and Sophisticated Lady.
The duets with Bennett were as good as it gets – with both singers complementing and harmonising with each other so perfectly that you would think they had been singing together for years.
Clearly, the discerning jazz-loving audience at The Lincoln Centre, New York agreed with me, and the standing ovations were quite something.
Gaga is an entertainer down to her fingertips. On this occasion she didn’t indulge in her customary revealing theatrical costumes and outlandish antics; no, nothing audacious, but her understated on-stage movements, her ‘body wiggles’ and so on, fitted the mood of the occasion and the songs to a tee. She was one beautiful, sexy, sophisticated Lady.
Another thing that came through loud and clear (literally) was that even at 88 years of age Bennett’s vocal strength is utterly prestigious. Time after time he held the final notes of songs much longer than Gaga, and to her credit she didn’t even try to ‘compete’, but showed us by her amusing gestures of despair, just how great the great man still is.
The final song brought on stage solo saxophonist David Mann and none other than my favourite trumpeter, Chris Botti. They both played incredible solos during the finale rendition of It Don’t Mean a Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing).
Chris Botti’s appearance reminded me of my time running Mobi’s bar.
How I wish I could have played that Gaga /Bennett concert in my bar, in the late night to a few of my special jazz -loving customers. It truly is a concert to savour.
GP’s – Do they perform a public service or is it just another job?
When I was watching the UK local TV news the other day, just before Christmas, there was an item in which a government health official was asking the public not to overrun the hospitals’ A & E departments during the Christmas period. They were expecting an upsurge in demand because the nation’s GP’s were effectively shutting up shop for 4 days.
The official explained that if you were feeling sick, there were many alternatives to rushing to the nearest A & E department. They suggested that rather than bother the overworked hospital doctors and nurses, they could call the NHS ‘help line’ or even ask for advice from their local pharmacist!
Forgive me for being a little naïve, but can somebody explain to me just why GP’s think that is perfectly acceptable to close their surgeries for days on end at a time when there is an increase in the number of people looking for medical assistance.
I honestly don’t get it.
Do we ever hear a spokesman from the fire department asking us to make sure we have a ladder and a few buckets of water handy as the nation’s fire stations will be closed over Christmas?
Or does the Home Secretary advise us to keep a baseball bat handy to repel burglars as the nation’s cops are all going on a four day Christmas bender?
Then why do we allow these well paid, very comfortable middle-class, medical professionals forsake their duties for 4 days just so that they can enjoy a bit of Christmas fun with their friends and families.
Ask all the front-line doctors and nurses on duty at the hospitals what they think about all this.
Nobody is denying that the GP’s need to have their holidays and their rest days, but why – for all that is holy- can’t they take them at a time which is convenient to their patients and not the other way round?
And quite apart from this Christmas medical debacle, why is it that most GP’s surgeries are only open on weekdays when most people are working, and closed on evenings and weekends, when a majority of the population are off work and able to go to a doctor?
Isn’t it about time that these well paid, self-satisfied members of the so-called noble profession are told that if they wish to continue to be employed by the NHS, then they should be prepared to make sacrifices and changes to their working hours for the good of the nation.
Hospital doctors do this, so why not GP’s?
Once upon a time the high street shops opened at 9 am , closed at 5 pm, shut on Wednesdays and Saturday afternoons and all day Sunday. In fact,the entire country was shut down on a Sunday and we all went to church….
Then, as now, if our local GP deigned to see us at all, it would be during surgery opening hours on weekday mornings and afternoons, and he always shut down on weekends and holidays.
The surgery receptions were run by dragon-ladies and woe betide anyone who stepped out of line – even if they were grievously sick or dying….
The rest of the nation has moved on. Why haven’t our GP’s?
For too long they have had it too good.
Or have I got it all wrong somewhere?