"Polly, I am going to get Fish and Chips. Please don't ask why, just listen..."
"Fish and Chips? Why?" says Polly.
“Look Polly, I’ve only just walked in the door and we’re supposed to be going out in an hour and I’ve been driving backwards and forwards in the car since 3 o’ clock and there’s absolutely nothing to eat in the house and we’ve got to go out in an hour and I didn’t want to have to explain everything to you and I am extremely irritated and I did say please don’t ask me why and now you have and I don’t want to have to justify everything I ever ask you. All I asked is if you wanted fish and chips and all I want to know is do you want any fish and chips and what fish and chips do you want if you do want it and we’re going out in an hour and that’s it…”
There is a silence.
I'm really anxious and over excited about going out. It's the first time Polly and I have been able to go out together for ages and we're going to go to the comedy club at the Portland Arms.
I am excited for many reasons – Andy Zaltzman is headlining and I have heard him making jokes on a Daniel Kitson bootleg and he is a mate of Daniel Kitson so he will be absolutely BRILLIANT. Caroline Mabey is compering. She is my new favourite comedian and I've never seen her compere. I am meeting Steve Rosier for the first time, who is a local based comedian. Hannah Dunleavy who I run Basement Cracks with is also going to be there and she's going to bring the flier for this month’s club, so it's a big ol' comedy fest and I am anxious to be able to enjoy every single second of it.
"Oh. Can't we go to the Comfort Café?"
"Comfort Café is miles away Polly, I just want an easy evening, I know fish and chips is shit but I can't be bothered, we need to get the kids into bed and anyway we're going out in an hour and I just wanted to know if you wanted to have fish and chips. I just want to have fish and chips so what fish and chips do you want, if you do want fish and chips. Do you want fish and chips? Please? HELLO?"
I am totally manic.
"Just get me fish and chips," Polly says.
As I run around the house putting shoes and coats on the children, the phone rings.
"And Mushy Peas," Polly says.
"Yes, I know," I say and press the green button quite a bit harder than I usually do to switch the phone off. That'll teach her to patronise me, despite the fact that I've just rung her up and gone through a very agressive permission seeking scenario which would suggest that on a subconcious level I very much seek patronage.
I wrestle the children in to the car, drive straight to Polly's work and get her receptionist to call her. She can't be found so they page her. I always laugh when they page Polly Page.
Eventually she shows up.
"Come on, we're going to Comfort Café," I say.
"Great," she grins, and runs off to get her coat.
"I thought you were going to get Fish and Chips?" she says as she gets into the car.
"I was, but then I couldn't be bothered and thought I'd just do what you suggested for a change," I say. "Anyway, if it is a hideous disaster, I can just blame you for it for months and months and use it as ammunition against having to do anything you suggest ever again, not to mention that if your idea does fuck up, when I next want to buy fish and chips I can say to you "remember the comfort café?" and you will instantly back down and let me buy fish and chips."
"Delightful," says Polly.
"WHO WANTS TO GO TO THE COMFORT CAFÉ?" I shout.
"MEEEEEEEEEEE," shout the kids.
“I was thinking of their pie,” says Polly.
“Oh yeah, you said about their pie, I’m going to have that then,” I say, and drive silently, thinking about the Comfort Café Pie.
The Comfort Café is probably the best café in
We used to have an amazing café at the end of the road in Peckham. It did massive portions of greasy food for about £3.00. Polly and I often bemoan the lack of decent fry uppery in
The Comfort Café does a similar standard of fry up as the amazing café at the end of our road in Peckham, but it charges double the price, which, according to café logic, means that it drops in status from amazing to quite poor value for money.
Anyway, Polly sometimes takes Elly there for lunch if the two of them are going to the hospital for some skin wrapping advice. Last time she was there she came back raving about the steak and kidney pie. She said it was massive and delicious and real. This pie was so good that strangers were eyeing it up and walking over to her and saying “What’s that you got there?” and then saying to their partners “I’m having that for lunch,” whilst smiling the smile that is only ever smiled by those basking in the satisfied security of a truly comfortable decision.
Now, Polly does know her steak and kidney pie, but I still can’t believe that this café, which comes in as slightly above mediocre when placed in context of the price of their food, can possibly deliver the goods, but once again I am comforted by the fact that if the Steak and Kidney pie is shit I can blame it all on Polly and right now I am in need of that kind of assurance.
As we pull off the A1307 Polly starts to chant…
“What if it’s not open?”
“What if it’s not open?”
“What if it’s not open?”
The sliproad from the A1307 to the comfort café is about 200m long, but by the time we get to the entrance of the café we have made and rejected 4 contingency plans for what to do in the event of the café not being open.
We will not go to Burger King.
We will not go to McDonald’s.
We will not go to Little Chef.
We will not go to the Three Tuns in Abington.
If the comfort café is closed, we will go to the fish and chip shop on
The comfort café is open.
“Hooray, it’s open,” I shout.
“Hooray,” shouts Polly.
“Hooray,” shouts Elly.
“Raaaaaaayyyyyy,” shouts Mick.
We all bundle out of the car and into the café.
This is brilliant – there are about 3 other people here. This is too good to be true. They must be closing. “What time to you close?” I say.
“8.30,” says the counter woman.
“Wow,” I say.
Polly orders while I take Elly to the toilet and we sit down at a table for 8. Mick has a massive shouting episode about where to put the high chair at the table and insists that we have two high chairs, but it doesn’t matter because no-one is bothered, everyone’s expectations are very, very low.
Mick starts pushing highchairs around the restaurant. It doesn’t matter. No-one bats an eyelid.
Elly sings “I’m going to pinch your bummy,” at the top of her voice, a song that she and I made up a while ago, but instead of singing “I’m going to pinch your bummy,” she is singing “I’m going to pinch your WILLY,” and laughing a lot. It doesn’t matter. No-one bats an eyelid.
We are in a restaurant, we are with the children and Polly and I are relaxed. It’s both exhilarating and shatteringly depressing at the same time.
Then the pie comes over.
It is EXACTLY as Polly described it. A massive brick of a portion - thick pastry, huge chunks of meat and gravy and veg and boiled potatoes.
The kids are happy. The food matches the expectation perfectly. Polly is relaxed. I am very excited about my food.
For two seconds everything is perfect.
I look at Polly. This was a brilliant idea of hers. I’m delighted that we’re here and not eating disgusting fish and chips around our dinner table. I’m amazed that the pie is so fantastic. That she has got it so right.
I open my mouth and say “How come you get to have mashed potato and I have to have these rubbish boiled potatoes?”