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Around The Sun: My Basil Fawlty Impersonation

Steve Harrison recalls the day he was involved in a scene which brought back memories of England's grumpiest hotel manager.

She was a good-for-nothing waitress and I wanted to fire her from day one.

Her English was lousy and she only worked when I was about. When I was present she followed me everywhere saying “Yes sir” and “No sir”, hanging on my every command. The minute my back was turned she came to a complete halt.

She worked the night shift. We were open 24 hours, seven days a week. On at least half a dozen occasions I went into the bar after midnight to find her asleep, slumped over the cash register. On one occasion I took several bottles of spirits from behind the bar whilst she slumbered. I placed them on the bar in front of me and threw a beer mat at her to wake her. She sat up in a flash greeted me profoundly and swore blind she hadn’t been sleeping.

One day the Basil Fawlty that was in me emerged.

I was talking to a customer, enjoying a beer. He asked me about a certain location in Phnom Penh. We usually had pocket guides to the city on the bar counter, but I couldn't find one. I asked the waitress if she had put them behind the cash register. She said she hadn't but would go and get one from the hotel's registration desk.

She then disappeared. And I mean disappeared. From the bar to the reception desk would take two minutes, there and back.

Eventually she did return and plonked a bunch of paper napkins in front of us.

I went and fetched the Phnom Penh guides myself.

Basil Fawlty kicked in. I flicked her left cheek then her right cheek with one of the guides. "This is the guide to Phnom Penh,'' I said.

I then picked up a couple of napkins and repeated the flicking process. "And these are napkins.''

People in the bar thought I had done a perfect immitation of Basil, with the waitress taking the part of Manuel from Barcelona.

She departed in a hurry, saving me the trouble of firing her.

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