South of the River Mum is running a Blog Hop – the theme is ‘Time4You’ and there’s a prize for the author of the best blog post. Click here to join in but please don’t write anything better than my entry as I am desperate to win. Here’s my contribution…
I feel self-conscious before I even set foot inside the hotel. Adjusting my hair as I walk through the car park I instantly regret shoving it up haphazardly with an over-stretched elastic hairband, and kick myself mentally for not sparing the time to wash it and wear it down. I do up my jacket, even though I’m about to take it off inside, suddenly mindful of the fact that first impressions count and I need all the tailoring I can get.
I push the door open ajar and am immediately struck by the unmistakable smell of the open coal fire. It’s an instant soother, transporting me back to childhood holidays in rural Ireland, and my shoulders relax, just a little.
I see him sitting in the foyer, his face illuminated by the glow of his phone, and for a second he doesn’t notice me. I pause in the doorway, letting the heat of the fire warm me up while I find my nerve, and then suddenly he looks up. We exchange smiles, the kind that are all in the eyes, and he gets up and moves towards me at the very same moment that the concierge asks how he can help me.
“Breakfast for two, please,” he answers, authoritatively, and I squirm almost imperceptibly.
The hotel staff are never anything less than warm and welcoming but I suspect they don’t officially ‘do’ breakfast for non-residents. It’s something we’ve invented, and they simply comply. But the routine is always the same. They try not to look flustered as they rush off to prepare an extra table with a flourish. Each time we go there are fewer and fewer residents in the dining room, so I ease my awkwardness by telling myself they can probably use the business.
It’s the most expensive breakfast imaginable but afterwards I can’t eat for 12 hours so I like to think I get my money’s worth. We start with coffee. He takes it black; I have a splash of milk and sometimes a cube of sugar just to be indulgent. That’s the point of this, after all.
Then we load up our plates. I choose local cheeses, smoked mackerel, ham, and thick slices of chorizo. I add a croissant and a handful of pecans, plus some sliced pineapple and melon. He chooses yoghurt and fruit compote. I smile, and surreptitiously take a gigantic chocolate muffin to take home as a treat for the boys – even when stealing away for this grown-up moment, my mind is still on them. Does that ever stop? I hope not.
We slide into our seats and as we tuck in I’m dizzy with anticipation. There’s so much to find out about each other, and the feast before us on the table adds to the voyage of discovery. I resist the urge to talk ten-to-the-dozen, rattling through whatever’s been on my mind, aware that he needs time to warm up to conversation. Often I talk in free-fall before suddenly pausing mid-sentence, guiltily aware that I’m charging through my mental list of Things To Talk About without giving space to him. I’m an extrovert to his introvert, but forcing myself to hold back is always so worthwhile. When he finally pipes up, the conversation’s all the sweeter for being initiated by him. Still waters do indeed run deep.
Soon the waiter comes to take our order, and I always laugh out loud at this point, conscious that I’ve already eaten more from the buffet than I’d normally eat in an entire day. I scan the menu, as if I’m ever going to break with convention and order anything but the full, extravagant Ulster Fry. He asks for his egg poached instead of fried, but in the spirit of indulgence I acquiesce to the unhealthier option.
All too soon our furtive date comes to its conclusion. I have work to do, and he has meetings to attend. He pays the bill and we walk to our respective cars. I shuffle the stolen muffin as he reaches to hold my hand.
We kiss goodbye beside our cars, conscious that it might be a while before we can escape to meet like this again.
After thirteen years of marriage and with two young children and no family readily on-hand to babysit, we’ve taken to going out for (expensive) breakfast when life takes its toll and we need time for us. It works a treat. No babysitters needed thanks to the kids both being at school, plus we’re not too tired to make conversation and don’t have to jostle with other diners in an over-crowded restaurant full of frazzled parents.
Breakfast dates are our thing, our time for us. And even though the hotel itself doesn’t really do breakfasts for non-residents, it’s becoming quite the family tradition.