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Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Queueing Action - Part 1

The Queue. Where would we be without it? Well, probably right at the counter ordering what we want before the rest of them get there.
If you’re a connoisseur of the fine art of queuing then there is nothing better than that perfect example of a contradiction in terms – the fast food queue. The concept of fast food is quite commonplace these days but convenience food is not such a recent phenomenon. Even in my childhood, takeaway food featured as a weekly treat. Of course, we are not talking here about all-beef patties (?) in a sesame seed bun or lumps of poultry of questionable origin deep fried in batter. The nearest I ever got to an ‘all-beef patty’ (whatever that might be) was when Mum consigned the remains of Sunday’s joint to the mincer on Monday to produce rissoles for tea (a personal favourite but never likely to set the High St. swarming with frenzied consumers). The dominant player in the takeaway food market in my childhood was, of course, the fish and chip shop.
Our local chip shop was situated on the corner of Walker St. and Ash St and was hugely popular. Fish and chips were an occasional Saturday lunchtime delicacy in our house and I was usually despatched to fetch them. This was an awesome responsibility. The order was hardly ever adventurous, in those days the height of variety was whether to have mushy peas or not, but I was always convinced that I would forget some vital element when my turn came. Saturday lunchtimes were always particularly busy and people would queue outside the shop door even before it opened. I would join the queue, usually quite a way back from the early leaders, continuously reciting in my head the order (usually something like “two fish and six and a carton of peas, please”, six old pence being the standard price of a portion of chips for quite a long time). We would snake our way into the chip shop, hugging the far wall by the frosted window looking out onto Walker Street, turn sharp left as we encountered the end wall and then left again as we finally came within reach of our destination – the counter. All of this in a room not much wider than your average corridor! 
The tyranny of the Great British Queue must be a source of wonder to psychologists. The linoleum in the centre of the shop floor must have remained brand new because no-one ever dared to stray from this strict route around the shop perimeter. The system only ever came near to collapse at the point of being served. If your order contained some outrageously haute cuisine item like cod roe or fritters then you would probably have to wait whilst this delectable item was especially deep fried for you and you would then be parked to one side as others with more mundane tastes were served while you waited. This inevitably caused confusion “Sorry, weren’t you before me?”, “No, its alright love, I’m just waiting for me saveloy”.

You can find Part 2 by following the link.

The first collection of stories - "Steady Past Your Granny's" is now available in Kindle e-book format at Amazon UK and Amazon USA