Breakfast at the Royal Victoria is an extraordinary event. Served in the main hotel restaurant – more high ceilings and aspidestras. What’s unusual is the hotel staff. I arrive at 6.30am to find a very stocky and chirpy lady who literally shouts,
in one unbroken torrent of words that have me flinching out of my stupor. She looks as if she could easily wrestle a cow to the ground and roll her own cigarette at the same time. Having chosen a seat in a quiet corner with a modest assortment of scrambled eggs, mushrooms and toast, I watch a variety of male, Northern sales reps arrive, with their guts hanging over their trouser fronts. They each fill up their plates with enough grease and cholestorol to feed an Eastern European break-away state – a perk of the job, no doubt. Locals, these reps are – as evidenced by the coloquial “Ey up” that they exchange, the language of Yorkshire. My waitress (name unknown) clearly knows many of them and bestows a “flower” before escorting them to their tables:
Eventually, help arrives as the number of sales reps grows. The first is an old man with a completely bald head and thick, dark-rimmed glasses – he must be 4 foot 6 and looks like a WASP yoda (or Arthur Askey if you can remember that far back). He seems only able to stagger around, mumbling, with plates of fried tomatoes, serving nobody. In one door to the kitchen and out the other, tomatoes in hand. Then the door swings open and a young man hobbles, yes, hobbles in wearing a hoody, jeans and trainers.
“By ‘eck – I must have ‘ad about 25 pints last night.”
That much is obvious, by virtue of the difficulty with which he pulls the hoody over his head, dancing around the restaurant floor to the amusement of his colleagues and the inter-bacon guffaws of the guests. Hoody off, he starts to walk around with a jug of orange juice – somewhat disconcerting as it transpires that his legs are different lengths, producing a rolling kind of walk that sends liquid slapping in all directions. He is either disabled or recently joined the hotel from a Virgin train catering crew and unable to stop compensating. I’m beginning to think this is all an elaborate joke. It’s time to leave when the waitress is chatting to a rotund guest and loudly proclaims:
I don’t know about you flower but I’m sweating bollocks this morning.”
I’m off, before they all turn into zombies and eat me.