I have often come across this phrase, as have we all, but recently I discovered the true meaning of these words.
We set sail on a luxury cruise ship idly tootling around the Caribbean for a week or so. Every modern convenience was manifest, and all was comfort and splendour. As is often the case, the passengers were mostly older people, with the money to spend on such a voyage. I was going to say that they have the time also, but this is not strictly true.
The dining arrangements on these cruise ships are marvellous and many, catering for all tastes at all hours, day and night. Pizza, burgers, hot dogs, room service, silver service in sumptuous dining rooms, and buffets constantly replenished with a fine array of fresh food. All of this for the taking.
We decided to go to breakfast casually on the first day, so headed up to the Buffet. Cutely named the 'Keelhaulers Grill' or some such nautical nonsense, this was a sight to see. Great platters of breads, pastries, cheeses, cold meats, eggs, preserves, butter, and so on and so forth. Lined up in a row were bain-maries piled with sausages, bacon, beans, tomatoes, hash browns and God knows what else. All piping hot and tasty, laid out for self-service, with tongs and spoons galore. So far so good.
Taking a hot plate, I approached the first Bain-Marie containing slices of bacon. In front of me was an old woman who had clearly never seen a rasher of bacon, or a pair of tongs. Eventually, after much clicking and whirring in her brain, and the distant throb of mighty engines somewhere under her silvery hair, she picked up the tongs. More throbbing and keening of overtaxed cooling fans deep within, and she reached out for a rasher of bacon. I held my breath, on tenterhooks, "would this be The One"?, the lucky rasher? No. It was peered at, then let fall onto the heap. Feebly picking at the stack of bacon took a while, but at last the ' Chosen One' was borne aloft in the tongs, and transferred to her plate. Hallelujah! By this time, my grandchildren had grown up, had successful careers, and were flying out to meet us in Florida.
Next, the sausages. These were previously unseen on planet Earth, and had to be carefully observed before trying to make contact. When no amount of peering and prodding persuaded the sausages to fly onto the plate, or make other suitable gestures towards this aged earthling, she picked one up with the tongs, then put it back. Sigh.... Then selected another, and another, before eventually settling on a winsome little fellow who looked identical to all the others, but who evidently had something about him. (Oh God, now I'm talking of sausages as people, ohhhh...).
Next she moved on to the really tricky fellows; tomatoes. These are round, so are hard to pick up, nnnhhhh!, and if you are a fumble-fingered fogey this can be a messy business. Oh yes. Oh yes indeedy!
The Sun expanded to become a Red Giant, engulfing our solar system out as far as Saturn whilst we patiently waited for the capture of the Tricky Tomato. And so it went on, for aeons, whilst the Universe expanded, cooled and became dark. And there were 30 old farts bumbling around the breakfast buffet, not just this one in front of me! As well as spoons and tongs, like wriggling piglets in the wrong hands, there were toasters which needed to be fed with bread, and orange juice machines with TAPS, to fill your own glass, and all sorts and kinds of mysterious utensils, and do not even think about mentioning the coffee and tea facilities!
Oh God! NOW I know why they call it the "All day breakfast" !!!
And as for these old bumbles having time on their hands, just take a look at the maths. They are on average about 80 years old, so with the best will in the world they are only going to get as far as a rasher of bacon before the Grim Reaper turns up. How I prayed for his intervention! "Never mind the bacon tongs missis, here's a bloke who's a dab hand with a scythe! Cheerio!"
All-day breakfast? No thanks.
By Mike April the 24th 2011