House Doctor

One of the best things about the building game is going to the cafe (pronounced KAF) for breakfast. The food on offer in the standard builders' greasy spoon cafe is so conventionally unhealthy that no modern nutritional expert would give odds on your making it back to work afterwards, let alone your life expectancy past 50. And yet, when you are building a wall with nine-inch concrete blocks in mid-winter under a leaden sky, with the snow threatening about you, the cafe can be a life saver.

The main requirement of the working man's cafe is that it must be able to deliver hot food to the table within a very short time. The morning break on the building site is taken from 10 to 10.30. This means you down tools at 10 and pick them up again at 10.30 - walking to and from the cafe, and ordering and waiting for your food, are part of this precious half-hour. So there is no leeway for chef's tantrums or other unexpected hold-ups, such as are commonly experienced in posh restaurants in the West End.

I was taken out to dinner up West the other night, as it happens. It took a quarter of an hour for the waiter to even give us a menu, and another 25 minutes before he asked if we'd made up our minds. My mind had been made up before I'd even got there - I wanted a beer and a pizza. Alright, it was evening and there was no hurry, but old habits die hard, and I can't see the point of sitting at a table reading a grammatically suspect menu for half an hour when you could be eating and drinking.

Talking of habits, I saw the most amazing thing the other day in Nico's in Bethnal Green. Nico's cafe is famous for the size of the portions - these are so huge that most meals arrive on two plates - the egg, bacon, sausages and tomatoes come on one, and the chips on another. Don't even think about asking for toast.

The Amazing Thing was that half way through breakfast a bunch of monks walked in; proper monks with shaved heads, sandals and brown habits done up with ropes. They all filed up to the counter and ordered their breakfasts like everyone else, and sat down at a table. But the really amazing thing was that everyone else in the place stopped swearing. And since swearing makes up around two-thirds of working class conversation in Bethnal Green, this was tantamount to reducing the noise level by 66 per cent. You could practically hear the fag ash landing on the lino. But that wasn't the end of it. When the monk's breakfasts were delivered to their table they all stood up and said Grace. One of them said something and the others responded, in proper Gregorian chant.

But, again, the most remarkable thing about it was the crowd's response. Nobody knew what to do. One bloke took his hat off, as though a funeral was passing. Others looked down at their hands. Everyone seemed to look guilty, in a way that only happens when the working classes are challenged with their Godlessness. It could only happen in a caff.

'Struck Off - The First Year of Doctor on the House', by Jeff Howell is available from Nosecone Publications, P O Box 24650, London E9 7XQ, price pounds 9 inc postage.

Jeff@doctoronthehouse.demon.co.uk

Voices
voices
Life and Style
Upright, everything’s all right (to a point): remaining on one’s feet has its health benefits – though in moderation
HealthIf sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Griffin holds forth in The Simpsons Family Guy crossover episode
arts + ents
Sport
Laura Trott with her gold
Commonwealth GamesJust 48 hours earlier cyclist was under the care of a doctor
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookA wonderful selection of salads, starters and mains featuring venison, grouse and other game
Arts and Entertainment
Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman
arts + entsFilmmaker posted a picture of Israeli actress Gal Gadot on Twitter
News
Bryan had a bracelet given to him by his late father stolen during the raid
people
Arts and Entertainment
Chris Pratt stars in Guardians of the Galaxy
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Pedro Pascal gives a weird look at the camera in the blooper reel
arts + entsPrince Oberyn nearly sets himself on fire with a flaming torch
News
Danny Nickerson, 6, has received 15,000 cards and presents from well-wishers around the world
newsDanny loves to see his name on paper, so his mother put out a request for cards - it went viral
Sport
France striker Loic Remy
sportThe QPR striker flew to Boston earlier in the week to complete deal
News
Orville and Keith Harris. He covered up his condition by getting people to read out scripts to him
People
Arts and Entertainment
Zoe Saldana stars in this summer's big hope Guardians of the Galaxy
filmHollywood's summer blockbusters are no longer money-spinners
Arts and Entertainment
O'Shaughnessy pictured at the Unicorn Theatre in London
tvFiona O'Shaughnessy explains where she ends and her strange and wonderful character begins
Life and Style
Workers in Seattle are paid 100 times as much as workers in Bangladesh
fashionSeattle company lets customers create their own clothes, then click 'buy' and wait for delivery
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Data Analyst

    £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly reputable software house is looking ...

    Application Support Analyst / Junior SQL Server DBA

    £40000 - £45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established professional services...

    Commercial Litigation

    Highly Attractive Salary: Austen Lloyd: CITY - SENIOR COMMERCIAL LITIGATION SO...

    BI Developer - Sheffield - £35,000 ~ £40,000 DOE

    £35000 - £40000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client is...

    Day In a Page

    A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

    A new Russian revolution

    Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
    Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

    Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

    The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
    Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

    Standing my ground

    If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

    Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

    Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
    Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

    Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

    The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
    The man who dared to go on holiday

    The man who dared to go on holiday

    New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

    Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

    For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
    The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

    The Guest List 2014

    Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
    Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

    Jokes on Hollywood

    With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
    It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

    It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

    Voted for by the British public, the artworks on Art Everywhere posters may be the only place where they can be seen
    Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

    Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

    Blanche Marvin reveals how Tennessee Williams used her name and an off-the-cuff remark to create an iconic character
    Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

    Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

    Websites offering your ebooks for nothing is only the latest disrespect the modern writer is subjected to, says DJ Taylor
    Edinburgh Fringe 2014: The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee

    Edinburgh Fringe 2014

    The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee
    Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

    Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

    The woman stepping down as chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund is worried