Garlic and Miss Jones (2001)
Thursday, August 23
9st 2lb; alcohol units: 12; cigarettes: 27; calories: too horrendous to consider; minutes spent thinking of and rehearsing excuses for boss tomorrow: 117.
2 am. Crisis! Might just have blown major career opportunity. Can’t face the thought of impending humiliation.
All started with “honoured“ client over from France. He was coming in on late flight from Dinard and needed picking up and entertaining. Boss had brainwave that I lived close, knew the hotspots and could charm guest. Suspect he had prior engagement.
Night started well with smooth pickup and clever avoidance of major jams. V. pleased with self. Guest was quite dishy (for a frenchie) so charm came easily. Name: Claude. Tall, thin and very pale (mustn’t get much sun in Brittany. Normandy?). Vaguely exotic.
Dropped bags at hotel and on to restaurant. Excelled myself here. Pulled all sorts of strings and favours to get a table at the Pharmacy. Explained to Claude that we were going to sample modern British cuisine. He hadn’t said much to this point. Hope I wasn’t chattering too much.
Then, disaster (no. 1). He took one look at the restaurant and shuddered. Thought he wasn’t going to go in but after much grimacing he ducked through. Self was very shaken so ordered v. expensive bottle of French Chablis to sweeten Claude. Then realised (horror!) that he didn’t drink white wine. Thought French drank anything. Didn’t they invent wine? Claude snootily ordered another bottle of heavy red Sangre de something. Sounded Spanish. Left rest of wine ordering to Claude.
Ordered meal. Tried small-talk on Claude. Discovered he was a Baron or a Marquis or something (note: can’t wait to tell Magda that I dined with nobility). Has property “old chateau“ near Dinard. Our company interested in converting it to hotel. Hence current smarm.
First course very nice. Embarrassed to say what I had (calorie count massive; sacrificing my body for my career). Claude seemed to like his black pudding. Main course not so good. Claude complained that his steak was too well cooked. Now I understand why the French can never do mine well enough. Eventually he got a slab that looked all but raw but then he spent another 5 minutes picking all the garlic out of the sauce. Is this behaviour normal – even for a Frenchman?
Claude was sulking so decided to skip desert. Paid bill and left. Tried chatting again in taxi but Claude seemed more interested in radio. “Faraway, So Close” by U2. Claude hummed along and seemed to cheer up slightly. Even thanked me for the evening before going into his hotel. Maybe not total disaster. Then realised that he hadn’t smiled once all evening. Hopes crushed.
Came back to apartment and crashed. Dread to think what Claude will tell boss tomorrow. Just taken two Neurofen to try and pre-empt morning hangover (had to finish bottle of white on my own plus some red). Am flushed with mortification. Room very hot. Think I will sleep with window open tonight…
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