You Will Know British Holiday‑Makers By Their Painfully Silent Breakfasts
Tea and Toast in the BnB
In these small rooms we keep silence. These rooms of deep reds and dark wood, of little light and heavy curtains. We are British, and it is morning at the bed and breakfast.
Why are we silent as our tea arrives, is poured, is milked and sugared? Why do we only speak to apologize as the teaspoon clatters back too heavily on the flower-patterned saucer or the edge of our broadsheet falls into the raspberry jam?
It’s our national awkwardness, carried around as surely as wet weather clothes and unnecessarily good manners. It’s our uncertainty about how to fill a silence that we mostly decide to solve by leaving only silence and no fill.
We are not unfriendly, we are unnoisy. We are not unhappy, we are unsure. If you walk into a room of us, you’ll find us a silent refectory of weekenders, contemplating breakfast without conversation between our tables set for two.
The breakfast room of a B and B is too small to talk in without being heard, without giving away the state secrets that are our thoughts on the day’s news, our car parking spots, our next stops on the road.
So you will know us, the British holiday makers, by the nature of our quiet, our plans for the day that we whisper so as not to annoy anyone else’s boiled eggs and soldiers. Our eggs we will have ordered with a string of pleases, thank yous, and sorrys for things we haven’t done that wouldn’t have been rude even if we had done them.
We will know you, you world travelers, by your easy conversation, your loudness, your declarations that the B and B is cute and quaint, by the amount we can learn about you while we sit shuffling our newspapers and trying not to let our knives squeak on the plate as we cut our bacon.
You may not know it, but we are dreading you speaking to us, asking us where we’re from and if we’ve seen the castle yet or where we had dinner last night because you found a great little place. If you do speak to us, we reply politely with as few words as possible. Otherwise you will have but one sentence out of us as we put our knives and forks together, stand and push in our chairs.
“Have a good day,” we’ll say. And we nod and we walk out.