Sunday, 11 December 2011
Black pudding in Aberdeen
Black pudding is a visual feast. It glistens and crumbles on the fork. A single mouthful justifies the millions of years that have led to perfectly formed mouths and taste buds.
The one served at the Ardoe house hotel sat on the plate between the bacon, sausage and fried egg. It looked inoffensive. I savoured the moment before cutting into it and raising it to my lips.
It was like chewing pulped cardboard with the faintest aftertaste of manure. Must be some mistake. Nothing can go wrong with black pudding: a savoury mix of barley, pig fat and blood. I left it for a bit and attacked the egg; went back to the black pudding. Dry. Definitely something wrong. Manufactured slurry. A normal person would have left it. The world is full of black puddings.
I tried again, caught by obsession, a history of childhood rationing and just plain stupidity, until the damn thing was gone.
What was I doing at Ardoe House glooming over black pudding?
We had gone to Aberdeen for our son’s graduation and arrived at Jury’s Inn hotel just after midnight. This was after a ten hour journey by train which involved a 90 minute wait for our final connection on a freezing Edinburgh station. Arctic winds screamed through flesh and bone and precipitated hallucinations. How else could I explain the vision of a man with a Desperate Dan chin, clad only in red T shirt and knee length shorts? He stood arms folded, oblivious to the polar weather. His legs bulged in a Macdonald tartan of varicose veins, the only hint of discomfort. And then he vanished.
Eventually we stumbled into the foyer of the Jury Inn, seeking a warm bed and looking forward to breakfast. Unlike the Holy Family, we had booked our rooms weeks ago and confirmed it earlier that morning, warning them that we would be late. ‘No problem’ we were assured.
Only there was. The young male receptionist told us we didn’t have a room. His tone of voice suggested mild displeasure, as though we were somehow to blame for him being in this embarrassing situation. The mild displeasure turned to puzzlement when we didn’t turn cartwheels of joy on finding out that they had found another room for us in a hotel, which involved a ten mile taxi-ride.
Voices were raised, and then a young Irishman emerged and did brilliantly what the young receptionist should have done in the first place. He once again explained they were victims to a double-booking made by a central computer and that as a result the hotel was full and then, instead of just making the best of a bad situation, he exceeded anything we’d anticipated: The alternative hotel was superb (apart from the black-pudding, but I absolve him from blame for that) Our night there was at a discounted rate and our second night at the Jury’s Inn, for which there was a room available would be complimentary – breakfast included.
The following day a free taxi took us back to the original hotel. We were treated like VIP’s and I realised for the first time what the very rich take for granted.
The lesson is that most cock-ups can be resolved through charm – being Irish helps – and daring to be generous. I feel now like some kind of unpaid ambassador for the Jury Inn chain. Ardoe House too, though my stomach is preparing a Minority Report on the Black pudding.