MIDNIGHT in the B and B and all is well. Visitors from Holland and Germany and a couple who’ve walked 15 miles in the pouring rain from Buckden, all tucked up in bed and looking forward to the hearty breakfast we’ve so boldly promised. As I boast about the 15 different kinds of bread we can offer now the new breadmaker’s in operation I have no inkling of the impending disaster . . . At 11.10pm I check the breakfast choices forms the guests have completed to make doubly sure we’ve got everything. Nigel’s brought the bacon and sausage, there’s tomatoes, mushrooms and black pudding galore – and there in the utility room are the eggs. Except they’re not. The boxes are empty, awaiting transfer to the recycling pile. And there’s just one brown egg in the ‘fridge.

“We could ask Margaret and Neal” Ian suggests, not very convincingly. I remember Dennis Potter’s remark that nothing, but nothing, trumps embarrassment when it comes to human emotion. We can bear anything but shame. I just cannot bring myself to confess that we have no eggs to offer our guests for breakfast – correction: our paying guests. Especially as last week I’d had to admit to running out of porridge oats. (Are we really in the right business, considering our age and state of mental health?)

So Ian does a near-midnight run to the 24-hour Tesco store at the biggest army camp in Europe – Catterick Garrison – and (with minutes to spare) gets the eggs. It’s the same store to which we had to return the eight packets of bananas we’d ordered in error yesterday.

I knew we should have put hens at the bottom of the garden instead of his vegetable patch. We’re never going to need broad beans at midnight.


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