The Things We Do For Free

I’ve always thought of myself as a somewhat picky eater, but really, I’m only picky if there’s a choice. Example: if my choices are a Burger King, Applebee’s or local restaurant, I’ll always choose the local guy. If the choice is Italian, Greek or Indian, I’ll pick according to what I feel like eating. If none of the choices seem appealing, or the place looks dodgy, I’ll go without.

This morning I was having breakfast at the Fleabagge Inne, and it was… acceptable. Bacon was okay (better than the American “streaky” type), the fried eggs were likewise okay, if a tad rubbery, the baked beans come out of a can just like everywhere else, and the coffee was, well, British (poor). To my Stateside Readers, it was like breakfast at the Grandy’s chain, only with worse coffee — but I never eat at Grandy’s. So why was I eating such a canteen-style breakfast here in London? It’s not like you can’t find a decent Full English anywhere, of course; so why here?

At first, I thought I was eating it just because it was free, but on reflection, it wasn’t just that: it was also because it was convenient (just downstairs, as opposed to walking around looking for a place) and, as I realized while eating, it was actually no different from the many hundreds of breakfasts I’d had at boarding school as a boy. In other words, while I’ve become a fussy eater, I’ve had far worse breakfasts before. I don’t really mind compromising when it’s convenient — and I’m only here for a couple of days anyway before heading up to Scottishland, so what the hell.

And there’s nothing wrong with “free” either.

Right: I have an open day in my hands before meeting up with friends, so it’s off to the world’s best bookshop: Foyle’s, on Charing Cross Road.

They’ve modernized it, of course, [sigh] but somehow, I think I’ll manage. That’s not going to be free…


  1. “Bacon was okay (better than the American “streaky” type)”

    You mean thin-sliced, fried pork tenderloin?


  2. Great old memories of trying to do London on $5 per day in the 1960’s, turned out to be more than $10 ea. but it was fun. Wife and I stayed at the Harley House funny old hotel not far from Hyde Park. The key to living cheap was filling up on the free breakfast, eggs OK, sausage kind of good, lots of toast with great jelly and fresh butter and then some fresh fruit. Don’t remember the coffee but I think we had tea in the afternoon and we did the whole lots of cream and sugar and cookies but they called them biscuits for some reason.

    We had a great time in London and did it a couple of times doing all the usual tourist stuff and I found out that if your are in Trafalgar Square in the early morning right after a rain and buy some feed for the pigeons wearing a black raincoat, the pigeons land all over you while you try to open the bag and they leave wet pigeon crap foot prints on your coat and head which is real nasty.

    1. And if it wasn’t online, actually going to Portland would be much too high a price to pay these days.

  3. Kim, how do you get away with eating the “full English” on a regular basis as you have recounted in several posts when you have had bariatric surgery?

    1. LBD, I eat about half of what’s on the plate, and it takes me a LONG time to get even that down. Tiny mouthfuls, well-chewed, and even then, I get full pretty quickly.
      Side-effect of the gastric band: if you eat too quickly, your intake valve gets clogged and you throw up. And I mean, uncontrollably so, right there at the table. It makes self-control simple.
      There are only a couple of things which go down relatively easily: spaghetti bolognaise (angle-hair pasta only) is one, mashed potato the other.
      You can cheat, of course, by drinking water while you still have food in your mouth (which turns it into mush), but a.) that makes it taste crap and b.) why go to all the trouble of the surgery if you’re going to cheat?


    If breakfast were really free the rooms would cost less. I know that when we travel, if the ‘free’ breakfast is anything past a ‘continental’ pastry and is halfway decent, we will partake because we already paid for it.
    Sometimes its a very pleasant surprise how good the food can be. Other times an egg mcmuffin beckons after the first morning’s attempt…

  5. “I don’t really mind compromising when it’s convenient…”


    Wrap up the vacation time it is. Becoming contaminated by the dark side I fear you are. 😛

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