On the run from Andi Peters following a misunderstanding about cruises, Melissa begrudgingly agrees to follow her friend Joanne (and Joanne’s 17th century throwback ‘life partner’ Fax) to the Edinburgh Fringe. While leafleting for Fax’s dreadful stand up show about faith healing and vegans, Melissa endures the highs and lows of pretentious student plays, ‘street typing’, and the knowledge that her shop has been left in the hands of someone who doesn’t understand tills…

Crap Comedy is the follow up to the 2018 novel Crap Holiday. Read it here.

We end up on a road I recognise from our drive here in the van. My first instinct is to shield myself from ‘silent disco’ knobheads, but there doesn’t seem to be any around, so that’s good. However, there are still four billion people on this street, all absolutely convinced that they need to be somewhere more urgently than everyone else.

After ten minutes of getting elbowed and suitcases running over our feet, the three of us duck into the nearest building that looks like a pub/bar/café/restaurant/fucking brothel/I don’t care just let us get off this bastard street.

It’s a café. Fair enough. Café is fine. We’ll have lunch then Fax can go do his show, Joanne can threaten the audience, and I can pretend I’m not with them.

The guy behind the counter looks surprised to see us.

‘Oh!’

‘Oh sorry are you closed?’

‘Oh no no not at all!’ Come in, grab a table!’

The urgency in his voice suggests we need to be quick if we want to ‘grab a table’. We’re the only ones in here; I think ‘grabbing a table’ is going to be a piece of piss.

He looks very happy to see us. He skips over to us.

‘Can we just have some menus?’

‘Oh! Oh dear’ he laughs. For a second I think he’s going to be like that Brian Clough guy from the Hitler bar, but then he says ‘We don’t really have menus as such, it’s kind of an all you can eat joint.’

‘Oh fair enough.’

‘It’s £10, or 12 Euros per person, and then you guys can help yourselves! But of course feel free to order drinks from the bar, which is me!’

‘Cool, three please.’ Joanne hands him 30 quid, and he returns with three paper bowls, the kind you might be sick into at the hospital, only pink.

I’ll be honest, we hadn’t really been paying attention up until this point. ‘What do we do with these?’

He points towards the far wall, which is adorned with a giant pick n mix display. With a sense of déjà vu, I say to Joanne, ‘One sec, I’m just nipping outside to check something.’

I didn’t imagine it. There really is a café that sells nothing but Quality Street, and this is it. I dive back in through the door, away from the billions of feet and bodies and suitcases. Joanne and Fax are still looking at their bowls, wondering what to do.

‘Guys it’s great, follow me!’ They do, spurred on by never having seen me so enthusiastic about anything. I lead them to the wall of chocolate. For a split second I’m disappointed to discover it’s not just Quality Street: all kinds of pick ‘n’ mix are jostling for my attention. But I know what I’m doing.

‘Don’t worry, it’s all vegan’ I say to them. I have no idea if this is true or not, but it doesn’t matter because I’ve seen them necking Crème Eggs and Maltesers like they’re going out of fashion. They’re crap vegans.

I grab at chocolates while trying very hard not to sing songs from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. I fill my bowl with Quality Street purple ones, but everyone knows you should add colour to your meal, so I chuck in a green triangle, and a couple of cola bottles. Joanne and Fax plump for those bobbly ones (I can never remember what they’re called), and strawberry creams. This is because they are both serial killers.

Half an hour later, I have had the following for lunch:

  • 300 purple Quality Street
  • Three cola bottles
  • One noisette triangle (got to have vegetables)
  • One of those shit toffee ones (must have got in there by mistake)

I’ve had so much sugar that I can smell colours. I feel great. Weirdly, I really fancy some chips now. I reckon we’ve got time to pick some up, or I can get another ‘pail of chips’ from the Kilderkin while Fax and Joanne are demanding fivers from scared laughing people.

We’re all sitting back in our chairs, concentrating very hard on not getting diabetes, when the door swings open. A man comes in wearing denim hotpants and a Che Guevara polo neck. He must be the boss. They start having a conversation behind the counter, but we don’t pay any attention until the boss shouts ‘Jesus Christ Byron!’

‘Byron’ looks like he’s being given a good talking to.

‘Two purple ones per bowl I said! I’m seriously, actually going to go bankrupt, Byron!

‘B-but you never said! I’m sorry!’

‘I’M NOT IN THIS TO GIVE PEOPLE FREE STUFF BYRON!’

At no point does the irony of his Polo neck strike either of them.

The boss ushers ‘Byron’ a few feet further away from us, where presumably he thinks we can’t hear them. ‘Look, occasionally we’re going to get… certain customers, who are going to go straight for all the chocolates.’ They both glance at our table. ‘You did let them know about our vegan healthy options?’

‘They… they just wanted the pick n mix, sorry they didn’t seem like they’d be interested.’

‘But we have unlimited wasabi peas and soy pellets too! Why didn’t you do an upsell!’

Jesus, I should send Saif to work here.

‘You just said to say it’s all you can eat!’

‘Yeah but I didn’t bet on that one coming in and eating all the fu…’

At this point I feel like I should step in. ‘Scuse me love, it’s not his fault. We wouldn’t have had the vegan stuff anyway, it sounds shit.’

The boss leaves Byron alone and smarms over to our table. ‘Oh, I’m so sorry if you overheard any of that. The thing is, my waiter was supposed to instruct you on a strict Quality Street limit. We do, however, have unlimited wasabi pe…’

‘Yeah yeah, we know, we heard’ I reply, in my assumed role as spokesman for the group, since Joanne and Fax are busy muttering to each other about “tantra and public becoming”. ‘But the sign does say “Quality Street Café”, which is why we came in. We didn’t come in to eat peas.’

He looks me up and down, but decides not to say anything. ‘I’m sorry there’s been a misunderstanding, but there is a strict two purples per bowl rule, and since you…’ He pauses and gives a vague gesture as if to include Joanne and Fax in the ‘fat customers I will blame then shun’ group, ‘And since you and your friends have accidentally not been made aware of this, then there’s nothing more to be said, I shall just have to try to recoup the loss, somehow.’

Jesus, he’s acting like I’ve eaten the building.

‘Although, a voluntary donation would always be welcome, since we are an independent start up, and we have just lost our main stock…’

I don’t say anything. He doesn’t say anything. Joanne and Fax are still talking about ‘penile apprehension’.

‘So, a donation is always welcome…’

‘No thanks,’ I say, getting my handbag from under the table. ‘We’ve already had our dinner, you don’t need to give us a donation.’

I prod Joanne and Fax, who have no idea what’s been going on, and we get up to leave. The boss, whose name I don’t know but I will now call him ‘Tarquin’, stands in a silent, impotent rage, turning a colour I like to call “two per bowl rule”. He knows I am right.

Short version: Hipster man opens ‘All you can eat Quality Street café’, hangs up sign confirming this. Is no such thing, customers are bullied into eating peas rather than Quality Street, despite the sign, as cheaper for hipster man. Woman comes in, reasonably eats her weight in purple ones, hipster man does not like it. Fin.

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