“I don’t like to complain, but…

It’s early evening in a Spanish restaurant and that means we’re surrounded by fellow holidaymakers. An earlier experience in Madrid taught us that the locals don’t eat until late, which is the foundation to the gag: What do you call someone in a Spanish restaurant at 6.30? A tourist.

The elderly couple at the next table ordered steak with rice and steak with chips. I know this not because I heard them order, but because we can all hear them telling the waitress that what they are looking at on their plates is neither rice nor chips. They bring both and the elderly lady asks them to remove the garnish from her plate because, “that’s where I want the rice to be”.

No sooner had the adjustments been made when the staff were back at the table dealing with another crisis. “I don’t like to complain, but I asked for my steak to be well done”, says the elderly lady pointing at a fountain of blood pumping out of her sirloin.

I sympathise with both parties. Euro chefs have no concept of what well done means. Anything left on the grill more than a few minutes is simply overcooked and inedible. While Brits abroad (and some at home) insist of cremating anything that was originally connected to four legs.

Back in the hotel I can hear some Brits moaning that they weren’t given a print out of the hotel entertainment, while someone else is saying that the jacuzzi isn’t working, “not that I’d use the bloody thing, but that’s not the point”. Someone is also complaining that a local market is on a Friday. “We’ve only just got here so can’t go and we’ll be gone by next week. So we’ve missed that then.” Spoken as if it was the sole purpose of their visit.

In the corner of ‘Heaven’s Waiting Room’ I can hear some raised German voices and wonder if they are complaining about something or other and if rather than it being a British thing to do abroad it is in fact just part of everyone’s holiday experience.

For the record, the hairdryer in my room doesn’t work and the shower is more of a fast drip that alternates between hot and cold, and ants are marching along a well trodden path across the bathroom floor. But do you hear me complaining?

Postscript

In the hotel restaurant last night just as I was tucking into a bowl of freshly prepared fruit an elderly man stood up and in the broadest Yorkshire accent shouted, “It’s a bloody disgrace. Half an hour I’ve been waiting for my dinner.”

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