The idle ramblings of a Jack of some trades, Master of none

Mar 24, 2008

Maundy and Shafted

On the day around two thousand years earlier Jesus washed his disciples' feet, we found ourselves getting shafted royally and repeatedly, starting in the morning, and ending just before midnight. Such a magical confluence of the sublime and the painful rarely occurs in anyone's lifetime, and so I am compelled to blather a bit about it.

Early on Maundy Thursday, we set out for Gatwick Airport. The automatic train ticket dispenser helpfully suggested two alternatives: "Not London" and "All Permitted Routes." As was usual in such cases, I was baffled by the first choice (after all, we live in London, so how would this apply?) and selected the second, paid for the tickets and, waving them triumphantly, rushed to the train.

Later (as was usual with me, plodder as I am) I found out that the "Not London" alternative was the correct one to choose: I was not going to be using any of the Central London termini to travel to Gatwick. My full price ticket allowed me to use the fast Gatwick Express (which I didn't need), and so the first shaft of the day fell upon me.

Shaftedness: £12.

Luckily the flight to Marrakech was on time and even though we had a brief moment of excitement when we couldn't find the driver who was to take us to our riad (he had put the board with our surname on his lap so it was invisible), eventually we arrived at Place Moukef in one piece. From the taxi stand to the riad is a walk of about 300 metres through a rather congested market-place, and a fellow with a donkey cart stood by eagerly to transport our luggage. We had been told that 2 euros would pay for his efforts, and when we reached the hotel, I gave him a 5 euro note, expecting to get change.

The fellow nodded vigorously and made to depart.

"Hold on," I said. "Give me my change."

"Non, non, c'est bien, c'est bien," the fellow said.

"What!" I said. Or rather, "Quoi! Deux euros!"

He unctuously shook my hand, the wife's hand, chucked the boy under his chin.

"C'est bien, c'est bien," he said again, and before I could respond to his effrontery, he vanished with his cart in a puff of smoke.

Shaftery: €3

The manager of the riad managed to make us feel welcome, plied us with sundry juices and Moroccan delicacies, and informed us that he had reserved a table for us at Le Tobsil, a fine restaurant serving local specialties. The previous day we had written to him that we'd like to have dinner arranged at the riad itself, but for some reason or the other owing to a local feast day, that had not happened. Hence the restaurant reservation.

Le Tobsil was fine. We got our multi-course meal of savoury pastries, tagines and cous-cous and Moroccan salads (a large selection of meze). My chicken tagine with lemon was a trifle salty, but quite palatable otherwise. The wife, as expected, was happiest with the salad; the cous-cous with boiled vegetables that passed for a vegetarian dish left her cold. The quantities of food on offer were prodigious. Even Americans would blench at the piles of food, and that's saying something, given that I sorely miss the extra large portions that I was used to in the Land of the Free.

The boy held out till the end when his patience was rewarded with a sweetmeat. Until then, he entertained the others guests, all of a certain race and a certain age 65.

Then the bill was presented to us, and I think I might have passed out for a moment. No, it was not because of gas.

Shaftment: €120.

Outraged and impotent and cursing the riad manager for having sent us to the most expensive restaurant in town, I paid the oily waiter and we sidled out feeling febrile.

When we got back to the riad, the manager was not to be seen. Feeling foiled, we crept into our room.

In a portentous way (as these things go), I picked up a magazine and idly leafed through it before going to bed. And there I discovered a review of Le Tobsil which had me weeping bitter tears of misery.

The aperitifs, which we had ordered, had been included in the price. But not wanting to pay inflated restaurant prices for wine (especially in an Islamic country where these would be marked up heavily anyway) we hadn't ordered any. But wine had been included in the price as well! And nobody had thought to tell us!

The Shaftation was complete.

[65] Appeared to be the average age of the guests, all of whom were whiter than white.


Shefaly said...


In December, I had considered and rejected Marrakesh in favour of something European (mainly because a friend who had been there, while pregnant, described it as 'dusty and hustling and bustling like India, except a bit French'). This reminds me that I must complete and post the account of that holiday sometime soon. But your story of 'shaftation' makes me feel me feel better about my slumber-on-sofa Easter weekend - complete with sleet and snow outside!

PS: I never understood the use of the term 'shaft' in the sense you use it, until a friend broke the shaft of his 3-iron and found the price of having it repaired. All became clear at that moment! ;-)

Fëanor said...

Your friend was right: Marrakech is incredibly dusty, crowded, polluted, and noisy. It's also cleaner than any Indian city I have been in. There are a few points of historic interest and some are well-preserved, too; there are several riads which are lovely; but it's all rather expensive, I thought.

Regarding 'shafted': now you feel my incremental pain as the day went on :-)

Space Bar said...

deepest sympathies (telegram no. 99).

Fëanor said...

SpaceBar: A No 99! Ooh, I haven't received one of those in a while. Does anyone use telegrams anymore? I tried to find a list of telegram numbers so as to respond pithily to you, but was sadly unsuccessful.

Space Bar said...

heh! I am going to the PO tomorrow and the telephone place being right next door, i shall choose one for you.

(i've actually been meaning to copy the whole list down and do a post on it. i know no. 26 or thereabouts is one that says congratulations on winning the election, which deserves a post all by itself!)

i made up 99, btw. 100 is condolences. i thought sympathies was one point less disastrous, therefore.

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