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Dinner At The Grand

by Silvia Hartmann

Yesterday evening, I went out with a dear friend to have dinner.

Unfortunately, the cafe in town we had chosen had just the day before decided to "not serve food after 6pm" any longer and so we just ordered some wine and started to discuss where we should go instead.

"Oh," said the young gentleman with a defeated sigh, "I guess we could just pick up some fish and chips somewhere ... that'll do me ..."

I looked at him, angled my head a little and then said, "Ah. Now I know where we will go."

"Where?"

"We'll go to the Grand Hotel."

He laughed heartily and said, "Ah you're funny. What a funny thing to say ..." and laughed some more. When he had stopped laughing he noticed that I was smiling gently and got concerned.

"Ahm, you're kidding, right? Oh my God, tell me you are joking!! You SURELY cannot be serious! They'd never let us in! We wouldn't get past the front door! And it would cost a total fortune!!"

"Oh, I don't know about any of that. Have you been to dinner there?"

And although this fine young gentleman had lived in Eastbourne all of his life, some 25 years, and his parents are more than wealthy, he had not.

THE Grand Hotel.

Five stars.

Looks like an enormous wedding cake and Eastbourne inhabitants shudder as they go past "the Grand", making their steps a little faster and may try to peek over the high wall to catch a glimpse of the Lamborghinis and Aston Martins in the carpark.

The snootiest hotel on this planet, I wager.

Not the best, don't get me wrong. Not the most expensive. But the Eastbourne Grand is the snootiest. And I've been in a few such places, so you can trust me on that.

So we are going to go to dinner there. My young friend is dressed in Jeans (with holes) and ancient trainers, baseball cap. Hahaha ... I'm wearing my usual black leather coat and not a lot other than that because as I don't take it off, one doesn't really need to bother.

He is shaking his head and halfway between laughing and crying.

"Really, honestly. Let's just go to the pub across the street ... please ..."

"No," I smile. "This'll be good fun. I've never been booted physically down some marble steps before, have you?"

"No!" and so now we're both laughing and going into this whole deal with self concept, fear of what "people may say, think or do" and actually taking this whole idea that ...

a) you can't possibly have fun in Eastbourne, and

b) that we don't belong in a snooty hotel just because our parents were terrified of head waiters ...

... and knock it on the head, once and for all.

So off we went.

I drove merrily into the guarded car park, smiled at the doormen (both over 6 foot and as square as they were wide!) and they actually held the door open for us and bowed deeply.

Inside the place, it looks like a computer level from "Broken Sword" or such. Marble walls and strange reflections. I saw a fire in the distance and headed for this, and so we found a lounge area with highbacked chairs and sat down for an acclimatisation cigarette.

A young waitress came running and I asked her about the eating facilities. She told me there were two restaurants and when I asked which would be better, she said, "My mother goes to the Martello Restaurant when she comes here." That made me laugh out loud and say, "Ok, we'll have the other one then. Go book us a table for two, smoking. Name's Hartmann. We'll be over in a little while."

She scurried off and we are seriously beginning to enjoy ourselves here.

It being rather early, the restaurant in question was totally empty apart from between 16-22 waitors and waitresses, including a very snooty head waitor, just the kind of person to put my own dear old mama into a total tailspin of trying to impress upon him just how rich and well brought up she was. Of course she wasn't and all these attempts were painfully burned into my memory cores and I had to really struggle not to just fall to the floor laughing as we are being led to a table smack in the middle of this winter ocean of white circular islands, sporting instead of palm trees, dozens upon dozens of silver knives and forks of all kinds and uncountable glasses.

We sat down, surrounded by six waitors, hovering with various menues and wine lists and putting napkins on our laps whilst pushing our chairs around.

The minute my butt hit the chair, I saw a a scurrying over my friend's shoulder - the piano player came running because we were there, and not soon after, "Somewhere over the rainbow" came floating through the room.

Well, it was fun. The food was good, the prices remarkably reasonable and we had a truly wonderful time, right down to me picking out a bottle of red sparkling wine (a Krim imitation) and having the pleasure of the head waitor coming back totally red-faced and begging our forgiveness for not having any of it in stock.

No-one blinked an eyelid at our dishevelled appearance. No one gave us a hard time. No-one tried to wind us up or gave us any bother whatsoever. In the contrary, all the many various people were helpful and very polite. Well. We of course were too - we were friendly, didn't give them much attention because we were busy with each other and didn't do any strange things that poor people will do to "impress the servants" such as take a overly dominant attitude or bitch about a stain on the table cloth or such.

It was highly amusing to note as the restaurant filled up with totally starched, totally rigidly scared folk in their best sunday dress, usually in couples who didn't talk to each other at all and just looked either painfully bored or simply totally collapsed into their own states of misery, we were very much the center of attention - the only thing alive in there apart from the floral decorations.

At one point I proposed that they might think my companion was Leonardo di Caprio or someone like that and I was his German agent, because whenever I've seen such folk they look mostly just like us - unshaven, baseball caps and sunglasses.

Oh my!

The bill was UNBELIEVABLY LOW. Really. We had a whole bottle of very nice red wine and a full 6 course menue each and we paid less than twice what you might expect to pay in a grubby old Harvester or such. They took my American Express without hesitation, no problem at all.

When we were done, we strolled out quite happily, went for a walk on the seafront and then collected the car. The doormen smiled and bowed again, one saluted.

And the moral of the tale?

Well, there were many.

The scary "Grand Hotel" is JUST A HOTEL.

The restaurant is just a restaurant.

The Akashic Records contain information as to what fork to use with which course and even if we hadn't been good at the intuition thing, no-one would have given a toss if we knew or not.

The "unbelievably expensive" Grand turned out to be no such thing - simply a good price for premium service and beautifully prepared and presented, very delicious food.

Most of all, and this was what the "exercise in prosperity" was all about, we have now gotten to a point where we feel comfortable in our own skins WHEREVER WE GO because we are us, and we know who we are, and have managed to overcome all sorts of fears of all sorts of nothings that can ruin entire incarnations.

And that this "comfortable inside your skin" thing can be picked up by anyone at all, from the doormen to all the staff and all the other guests, and that it totally overrides appearance, beauty, proprietary even which are possibly used when YOU DON'T HAVE THAT CENTER IN YOURSELF to try and make up for it.

Never worked for my parents, never worked for my friend's parents, either.

So one could say that rather than an exercise in prosperity, this was actually an exercise in freedom. To be able to choose fish and chips or a dinner at the Grand freely, and not make meanings out of it, and be exactly the same person and exactly as comfortable in one, the other, and all the ranges in between.

There is one thing doing "personal development" in your bedroom.

Then there is taking it out for road testing.

And it must be admitted that I'd quite forgotten just how much fun that can be, and I'm very grateful for my young friend who gave me an opportunity to relive that again, and watch him do this thing and learn something important.

03. 04. 04


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