I recently popped out to Italy for a few days for a little R&R. Whilst there I did a bunch of stuff in Rome and then travelled out a little to a wondrous town called Bracciano. A truly delightful village/town which nestles around a castle where some of the great and the good get married, (Tom Cruise and Katy Holmes being the most recent). Not that the locals get T&K up close, they just get irritated by paparazzi invading their town in the vain hope of getting a picture. Maybe the locals should amuse themselves papping the pap or whatever the appropriate phrase is for this.
So the scene is set, onto the story. Myself and dear lady wife were staying in Bracciano with a great friend of hers who took us to a lovely little restaurant (good seafood, nice ambience etc) and all was well. Food was great and wine was drunk and much chatting ensued.
Towards then end of the meal I was relating one of my better stories, (honestly I do have some) to the hostess of the evening. I became a little irritated when I realised she was no longer listening to me but merely nodding and looking over my shoulder. I ploughed on through my story, hoping to revive some attention from my listener, but no, all monosyballic answers and the over the shoulder gazes. So I looked over my shoulder in the direction that my host was staring; ah now I get it... there appears to be a large amount of smoke pouring from the kitchen area, and when I say large I mean a lot. This pleases me, in a selfish way, because at least I know my story wasn't the issue, (unless in desperation our host set fire to the kitchen to create a distraction so that she could escape my story). I don't believe this is the case as I don't think the story warranted that extreme a reaction, but, who knows.
The smoke billows and reaches our area, upon sniffing it is quite clear these are not just smells associated with over-zealous cooking because there is a whiff of plastic in the air, not good.
A waitress emerges from the dark cloud in the kitchen, eyes smudged with tears from the smoke and comes to our table. I have some expectations of what she may say, being a health and safety molly coddled Englishman, something along the lines of "the restaurant is now closed", or "please leave, there is an issue in the kitchen".
The waitress, through smoke reddened eyes came up with a much better riposte; "Would anyone like coffee?". No, actually, could we just have the bill I replied and exited before the place burned down.
What was notable about this worthy experience was the Italian approach to Health & Safety. At no point did a smoke alarm go off, nor did any sprinklers kick off when things were clearly going a little pear shaped. Having paid the bill it was noted that some guests were still eating their dinner as if this was some expected performance from the restaurant that they should just laugh off and continue with their order.
Having escaped this madness we adjourned to transport and passed a fire engine going in the opposite direction. I have yet to verify whether this engine was en route to the restaurant or rescuing a cat stuck in a tree.