Saturday, 27 April 2013

Service Stations - London to Wales

I spent a weekend in Monmouthshire, Wales. The driving rain, new born lambs, and local stereotypes were all perfect. The food in The Crown - tender lamb shank, creamy mash, and carrots - the same. 'Is this lamb local?', asked a friend; stupid question when you can almost see the sheep walking past the window.
To get to Wales from London you point a car west and drive. Well timed, and traffic permitting, you could complete the journey between two meals. Poorly timed, you have to stop. And that's what we did - twice.

Service stations in the UK are sh*t. There is no other word for them. They contain the worst in high street food, sold at a vastly inflated price. Burger King on the way there, Starbuck's unidentifiable meat and pesto panini on the way home.
Those on the continent are no better - although I did once visit one which heavily promoted the local Bresse chicken - but they are less popular. We seem to flock to ours and queue willingly to part with cash and probably our health. It's a national pastime, or at the least a national habit.

Yet the M4 takes you past field after field of lamb, beef, and even some chicken. Free range, UK grown, high quality food. Why isn't it in our service stations? When I travel across the country I want to be able to pause for the local delicacies: lamb in Wales, beef in Hereford, ostrich in Rutland, and buffalo in Derbyshire. I want to be dragged from each service station kicking and screaming, while I wipe my second lunch from my chin.

But I can't. Instead I'll be eating fried bleached Thai-grown chicken from a cardboard box. Next time I need to stop I might walk in throw a tenner on the floor and throw up in the foyer. It's quicker and less painful.

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