“Would you like that to be a classic or regular?” asked the nice lady at the counter of the café restaurant. It was late afternoon on a rainy weekend near London and we had just ordered some hot tea asking preferably for the “English Breakfast” flavor.
It was the first time that I heard a question about my choice of classic or regular for tea, and assuming that she was referring to the size of the tea cup, I just said “Medium please”. She was a bit surprised with that response and pressed further: “What kind of bread would you like sir?”
Now this was strange. I have traveled numerous times to England but had never been offered bread with my tea. Again I assumed that she was offering some toasted bread to please us and I realized that we were living in a competitive world and cafe style restaurants were trying to differentiate themselves by offering free stuff to new customers.
When she asked “How would you like your eggs sir?” I almost fell off my chair and then I knew there was some grave misunderstanding about our order. So I decided to clarify – “Look Ma’am, we just had lunch and all we need is some hot tea…so if you could kindly…”.
“But you asked for the English breakfast?!” she seemed puzzled and also slightly annoyed.
I glanced at the huge black board behind her with the day’s menu written up in beautiful old fashioned calligraphy using a white chalk and noticed for the first time that this place specialized in offering a variety of breakfasts, and the term “English Breakfast” was mentioned clearly as a menu item with variants such as classic or regular depending upon how you wanted the eggs prepared and whether you liked baked beans to go with it or not.
“Ah – there seems to be a misunderstanding Ma’am, we just wanted the English Breakfast flavor of tea and not the English breakfast per se - if you know what I mean…”
“Oh well – you asked for the English breakfast…and English people have breakfast all day long…” she was still muttering under her breath, but then she was sporty enough to start smiling.
The tea was PG Tips Black tea. That was the only flavor they had. Oh well let’s get our cuppa!
I chuckled to myself, as I reminisced fondly about this micro episode while having breakfast at the Macdonald Berystede hotel in Ascot. This is a nice hotel themed around horse-racing with pictures of the Ascot thoroughbred racing events that take place at the nearby racecourse. Incidentally the Ascot racecourse has a close association with the British royal family, being just a few miles from the Windsor Castle.
The Berystede breakfast was quite a spread. Hash browns, scrambled eggs, poached eggs, sausages, baked beans, tomatoes, mushrooms…all of this while enjoying a beautiful view of the greens. While sipping some English Breakfast tea at breakfast, I realized I was feeling unusually tired. Must be the jet lag I thought plus the fact that I had not slept much the previous night. The temperatures were dropping below 50 degrees Fahrenheit at night. And for some strange reason the switch for heating in my room was continuously being switched back to cooling. It must be a mechanical defect I thought. Surely there was no ghost playing with the switch at night.
The next day I read up on the history of the hotel. The hotel site dated back to 1362 when it was a manor. The original house that was later converted into this hotel was destroyed by fire in 1886, and the Prince of Wales himself had come over from Windsor to inspect the damage. As per history the lady’s maid Eliza Kleininger died in the fire. She had saved her gifts that she received from her employer and their guests in a jewelry box in her room. This was meant to be the precious asset for her retirement.
Everyone including the family members ran out of the house to save their lives. The butler ran out, the valet and the cook ran out, the housekeeper and all the maid servants ran out, the night watchman ran to save his life. But not the lady’s maid Eliza. She attempted to save her jewelry box by rushing into the burning house and died a tragic death.
Eliza’s charred bones were discovered the next day at the foot of the staircase, surrounded by the pieces of jewelry she had so desperately wanted to save.
It is believed that her ghost still haunts the Berystede hotel.
But does she also play with the heating switch at night?! I guess we will never know the answer to that one.