Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Ms Angry's Tearoom

"It was supposed to be called Angie's Tearoom.  After all, she was Angela and she owned the place; she served tea and the occasional cake or toasted crumpet, and she threw people out if they asked for coffee.  She'd liked the idea of drifting around a room with little tables and chairs and clumps of people sipping tea from bone china and talking about the consequential things of the world since she was a little girl.  Her teddy-bear's teaparties had always involved dressing the teddy-bears up in suits and having them sit very upright at the tables while they discussed whether Britain should remain on the gold-standard or switch over to the Plutonium standard instead.  So when she was twenty-six and her best friend committed suicide in a public swimming pool in Loughborough she inherited a surprisingly large sum of money and decided to open her teashop after all.
The sign-writer apparently misheard her and didn't see any reason to question what he'd heard, so her tea-room, with the paint still drying on the walls and the new not yet worn off her tea-cups, became Ms Angry's Tearoom.
And the locals loved it so much she couldn't change it back without offending them all dreadfully.


She was staring morosely at the picture of Oswald Moseley that she'd hung on the wall of the little tea-room when three men in business suits came in and sat gracelessly down at a table.  One of them, whose face was acne scarred and a little more stubbly than she considered respectable, made a fuss of pulling his chair out, dragging on the thick-pile carpet like it was the hardest thing he'd ever had to do.  When he sat down, he bunny-hopped it back up to the table, as close as he could get it, and put both his elbows on the table.  Angela's heart sank.
She picked up three menus and approached the table with a measured tread.  Behind her, at the till, the waitresses trembled.  She offered menus to the other two men first, and then stared at the third man, holding his menu just out of reach.  He still tried to take it, and missed.
"This is a tea-room," she said firmly.  "It is not a bar, nor a dive, nor a night-club, nor some disreputable sordid hole of a place that you go to in the hopes of spending money on taking people away with you."
"Can I see the menu, love?" said the acne-scarred man pleasantly.  His voice had an accent that Angela was sure she recognised but couldn't quite place.  Perhaps it was Irish?  She lowered the menu so that he could take it at a stretch, which he did, and allowed herself a tight line for a smile.
"Alison will take your order," she said.  "There are no Eccles cakes left."
"Bloody good thing too," said one of the other men sotto voce as she left.  "Who the hell puts cheese in a sweet cake?"
Angela sat back down at her table, satisfied that she'd made her position clear, and let her thoughts drift away again.  She sat like that for three minutes before Alison, the luckless waitress assigned to that table, nudged her gently.
"They've ordered fourteen teas, miss," said Alison, dropping a little curtsey.  Angela stopped herself from smiling with pleasure just in time.
"Fourteen teas?  Between three of them?"
"Each, miss."
"They said they wanted everything on the menu miss, except the Eccles Cakes."
"Which are off," said Angela automatically.  "Everything on the menu?"
"Which is fourteen types of tea, miss, two kinds of chocolate cake, and the sardines on crumpets."
"Is it Tuesday?"
"Yes miss."
"Oh.  That explains the sardines then.  Well, serve it to them, I suppose.  Ask them if they'd like the teas brought out one at a time though."
"Thank-you miss."
Angela turned slightly so she could see the three men at the table, and the acne-scarred man caught her eye and waved at her.  She blushed, and turned away again.  The cheek of it.
But why had they ordered all the teas on the menu?

No comments: