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

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
News
business
News
Mick Jagger performing at Glastonbury
people
Extras
indybest
Life and Style
beautyBelgian fan lands L'Oreal campaign after being spotted at World Cup
Sport
Germany's Andre Greipel crosses the finish line to win the sixth stage of the Tour de France cycling race over 194 kilometers (120.5 miles) with start in Arras and finish in Reims, France
tour de franceGerman champion achieves sixth Tour stage win in Reims
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
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

    SAP SD OTC Consultant | 12Months

    competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SAP SD OTC Consultant | 12 Months | 500/...

    Business Systems Analyst - London - £40,000 plus benefits

    £35000 - £40000 per annum + substantial benefits: Ashdown Group: Business Syst...

    Campaign Manager

    £40000 - £55000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: Campaign Man...

    JQuery Developer (JQuery, C#, front-end, JQuery, UI, Tomcat)

    £40000 - £45000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A Global Financial Service Organ...

    Day In a Page

    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    The German people demand an end to the fighting
    New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

    New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

    For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
    Can scientists save the world's sea life from

    Can scientists save our sea life?

    By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
    Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

    Richard III review

    Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice
    Hollywood targets Asian audiences as US films enjoy record-breaking run at Chinese box office

    Hollywood targets Asian audiences

    The world's second biggest movie market is fast becoming the Hollywood studios' most crucial
    Grindr founder Joel Simkhai: 'I've found love on my dating app - and my mum keeps trying to hook me up!'

    Grindr founder Joel Simkhai: 'I've found love on my dating app'

    Five years on from its launch and Grindr is the world's most popular dating app for gay men. Its founder Joel Simkhai answers his critics, describes his isolation as a child
    Autocorrect has its uses but it can go rogue with embarrassing results - so is it time to ditch it?

    Is it time to ditch autocorrect?

    Matthew J X Malady persuaded friends to message manually instead, but failed to factor in fat fingers and drunk texting
    10 best girls' summer dresses

    Frock chick: 10 best girls' summer dresses

    Get them ready for the holidays with these cool and pretty options 
    Westminster’s dark secret: Adultery, homosexuality, sadomasochism and abuse of children were all seemingly lumped together

    Westminster’s dark secret

    Adultery, homosexuality, sadomasochism and abuse of children were all seemingly lumped together
    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Dulce et decorum est - a life cut short for a poet whose work achieved immortality

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    Dulce et decorum est: a life cut short for a poet whose work achieved immortality
    Google tells popular music website to censor album cover art in 'sexually explicit content' ban

    Naked censorship?

    The strange case of Google, the music website and the nudity take-down requests
    Howzat! 8 best cricket bats

    Howzat! 8 best cricket bats

    As England take on India at Trent Bridge, here is our pick of the high-performing bats to help you up your run-count this summer 
    Brazil vs Germany World Cup 2014 comment: David Luiz falls from leader figure to symbol of national humiliation

    David Luiz falls from leader figure to symbol of national humiliation

    Captain appears to give up as shocking 7-1 World Cup semi-final defeat threatens ramifications in Brazil