After our dinner of granola bars and shortbread, by the time breakfast came around we were ready and waiting.
Despite a few minutes’ delay in heading downstairs after the earliest time we possibly could have breakfast, we were the first to arrive for the meal.
Our hostess bid us to select our seats at the large dining table that served as the communal breakfast area and help ourselves to the fresh fruit, yogurt and cereals on the sideboard.
It was strangely silent. We could hear two teenage boys with deepening voices chatting in the kitchen, but we were alone in the living-cum-dining room, and though words are never hard to come by between Joe and I, we contented ourselves to take in the contents of the room.
Along the wall opposite us was an array of ephemera with Buckingham Palace headers– menus, invitations, thank you letters– uniformly matted and framed. It was an interesting insight into the very real and everyday relationship between a monarchy and its people. Being from the States, this is a very novel concept, and I regarded each document curiously.
When she reentered the room, we found out that nearly two decades ago, our hostess had worked as a housekeeper at Buckingham Palace. The day to day business was very mundane and repetitive, she said, she much preferred being in the hotel/B&B industry, as you always meet new people and nothing’s ever exactly the same.
Shortly after our discourse, the other two pairs of guests made their way to the table: a husband and wife team from only a few hours’ drive away, and a pair of lady-pensioners, friendly, boisterous, opinionated, and unashamed in the way that only older women can be. Both couples were in town for the previous day’s rugby match. Although the room was fuller, the sets of strangers plunged the room into an awkward silence, as no one was yet comfortable to talk to another pair, and each was unwilling to share low conversations with their partner, as the others would doubtlessly hear it. It’s fascinating social experiment.
As we came to find out, B&B operators often love to question you about your experience and plans in the area, and provide you additional local advice to augment your trip. When this occurs in the presence of other guests, especially those with knowledge of the area, this opens up the lines of communication beyond “Could you please pass the __?” As the token Americans at the table, I rather felt that we were seen by the other guests as curios to be examined.
It was our first experience with a communal breakfast, and not to be our last. But it was definitely the most interesting.