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So, I took the wife to a Harvester restaurant. I was on a budget, OK? But, I was on an unspoken promise, and a surf'n'turf is one of the planet's most potent aphrodisiacs. So I've been told.
"Have you been to a Harvester before?"
Yes. Yes I had, and thank you for rubbing my nose in my eternal shame. I've done worse, though. I've had a Berni. In the company of others, many of whom are still alive.
This particular Harvester in Reading didn't do itself any favours by being directly downwind from the sewage works, but as long as they keep the windows closed, you're fine. They'd gone, as Harvesters do, for the rustic look inside, which meant any number of frightening farm implements on the walls, which might come in handy if things turned nasty later on. The staff were of the rustic variety too, it turned out. As in "thick as pigshit".
"Close the bloody windows, love, while you're at it."
It was 100 degrees outside, hardly the best weather to visit a steak-and-chips restaurant, but when you've got an anniversary (the somethingth year of first-going-out) you've got to do something to keep the other half happy, and you never know afterwards. We might get ice cream, or first dibs on the big rakey thing with the blood stains.
Any road up, after our obligatory visit to the drench-it-all-in-Thousand-Island salad cart, we got our starters (mmmm... Prawn Cocktail, I literally oozed class in those days), and waited for our main meals.
"Your sister's still in that place above the laundry, then?"
"They've opened the windows again, the smelly bastards."
"That woman over there keeps staring at me. I'm going to ignore her in a minute."
Two hours later, the fire brigade asked the manager - within very shouty earshot - why there were still customers in the building, seeing as how the kitchen was a raging inferno and "the whole fucking place is about to go up".
"We didn't want to disturb their night out" he replied.
My hand tightened on the handle of the rake. I might have to fight my way to the street. And then go back, naturally, for the wife.
Outside, smoke was still rising from a highly animated chef, but there was still no sign of my steak and chips, the food of professional footballers everywhere.
"So," asked the woman from the other table, "are we going to get our desserts or what?"
Result: Free meals in any Harvester for a year. I'm a sucker for punishment.