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

Sport
sportWWE latest including Sting vs Triple H, Brock Lesnar vs Roman Reigns and The Undertaker vs Bray Wyatt
Arts and Entertainment
Louis Theroux: By Reason of Insanity takes him behind the bars again
tvBy Reason of Insanity, TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Cassetteboy's latest video is called Emperor's New Clothes rap
videoThe political parody genius duo strike again with new video
Arts and Entertainment
tvPoldark, TV review
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
  • Get to the point
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

    Recruitment Genius: Junior Web Designer - Client Liaison

    £6 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join a gro...

    Recruitment Genius: Service Delivery Manager

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Service Delivery Manager is required to join...

    Recruitment Genius: Massage Therapist / Sports Therapist

    £12000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A opportunity has arisen for a ...

    Ashdown Group: Practice Accountant - Bournemouth - £38,000

    £32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...

    Day In a Page

    Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

    Promises, promises

    But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
    The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

    The death of a Gaza fisherman

    He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
    Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
    Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

    The only direction Zayn could go

    We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
    Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

    Spells like teen spirit

    A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
    Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
    Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

    Licence to offend in the land of the free

    Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
    From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

    From farm to fork in Cornwall

    One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
    Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

    Robert Parker interview

    The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor
    How to make your own Easter egg: Willie Harcourt-Cooze shares his chocolate recipes

    How to make your own Easter egg

    Willie Harcourt-Cooze talks about his love affair with 'cacao' - and creates an Easter egg especially for The Independent on Sunday
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef declares barbecue season open with his twist on a tradtional Easter Sunday lamb lunch

    Bill Granger's twist on Easter Sunday lunch

    Next weekend, our chef plans to return to his Aussie roots by firing up the barbecue
    Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

    Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

    The England prop relives the highs and lows of last Saturday's remarkable afternoon of Six Nations rugby
    Cricket World Cup 2015: Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?

    Cricket World Cup 2015

    Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?
    The Last Word: Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing