Before the burial yesterday I had arranged to meet an elder relative for a light lunch at The Three Mariners at Oare, near Faversham. I had heard it was a very civilised pub with excellent food, so it seemed a pleasanter idea than some motorway caff.
It is a very civilised pub. With attitude.
I was driving my white van as the children have had my car for the past while as they had so much running about to do. I arrived five minutes early to wait for said relative and parked in the pub car park. Within a few minutes the chef, (or maybe the proprietor is the chef) was knocking on my window. "Are you eating here? You can't park here otherwise as it's reserved for customers." I assured him that I was in fact waiting for a companion and we were eating there, and he backpedalled furiously with some guff about how people use the car park and vanish for the day and then there's no room for their customers etc etc. This rang a little false as I could have parked anywhere on the front street in front of the pub where there seemed to be loads of space. And I couldn't imagine where anyone would disappear to for the day from Oare on a day like yesterday, cold, rainy, grey..... But I obviously looked an unsuitable case for feeding.
When my companion arrived we asked if we could eat and there seemed some doubt whether they could fit us in. I expressed surprise as it was a Monday lunchtime. They assured me that you really always had to book as they were always full. But they could just about manage to squeeze us in. (Miraculously a couple who came in considerably later without booking were "squeezed in" to another large empty table, but I admit they did look more appropriate clientele, a plump ageing rockstar look alike with straggly long grey hair and his equally chunky and chunkily bejewelled black clad lady who was wearing those extraordinary trousers that look like a giant pleated doggy bag with ankle cuffs, probably seriously expensive.) The waitress was one of those young blonds of a certain type in a little short skintight dress giving the impression she was definitely not doing it for the money because she absolutely wouldn't need a waitress' wage, but that she was actually a minor sleb or off duty supermodel just hanging out in a cool place and why on earth didn't we recognise her? I don't know if she had been practising the bad-smell-beneath-her-nose approach to certain customers or if it was natural. At least she had more of a smile for others. Particularly restaurant critic Jay Rayner and his companion who arrived while we were waiting for our food and were ushered to a table below.
As far as we were concerned food was fine, for a light pub lunch. My companion's whitebait was fine, nothing remarkable but fine and copious - but what's the point of serving about 20 whitebait with a pot of garlic mayo scarcely bigger than my thumbnail? My pigeon salad was fine but fairly dry like a dead pigeon as the place was obviously far too sophisticated to have more than the lightest scribble of the balsamic reduction jus whatever that theoretically dressed it. Having had to ask more than once for salt and pepper I didn't dare ask for salad dressing too. But I do wish now that I'd requested ketchup! It only took three requests to get a glass of tap water, the coffee was lukewarm and the hot milk cooler, and the price was quite a lot for what we got. I'm sure Mr Rayner will give it all a glowing review. I look forward to it.
If I had booked in my companion's name, including her title would things have been different?
If I had arrived in the little red alfa rather than the white van?
Worn the label of my favourite charity shop designer dress on the outside of the garment?
Appearances were not on any one's mind at the burial. The children had arranged a fitting and memorable send-off for their father. There is something terrifically moving about a green burial.