If there's one thing the good people of Britain enjoy, it's a nice queue. We just can't resist it. It's the reason that I saw Madonna in concert from a distance of approximately one yard, close enough to see the wrinkles and the scary man-biceps; we saw her in Barcelona, and whilst all the laid-back Spaniards lolled outside in the sun, drinking beer and eyeing up the opposite sex, we QUEUED, because WE'RE BRITISH, and got RIGHT TO THE FRONT, because we were PATIENT.
And if there's another thing we're partial to as a nation, it's a bargain. People are loitering in the reduced-to-clear aisles of their local supermarket AS WE SPEAK, hoping to snag a packet of almost-out-of-date sausages for half price, acting purely on an unverified rumour that an employee has been spotted coming out of the stockroom holding her yellow sticker gun - time to sharpen those elbows and move in, trampling the weak and the dithering in the charge for those fish bits.
Britain really triumphs when these two pastimes are successfully combined. Shoppers queuing for bargains at sale time has become the staple image for Boxing Day news programmes, as people who should surely be at home arguing with their grandmother over a particularly fierce game of Scrabble instead fight it out for a slightly dented fridge freezer, a selection of cashmere sweaters in unpleasant colours, and a pair of Jimmy Choos two sizes too small.
And today, if you live in or near Didsbury, you could reach a particularly Mancunian pinnacle of achievement: queuing, for a bargain, in the rain and cold. For today marks the first birthday of Fosters Fish & Chips; it's a whole year since the Didsbury branch opened its doors to hungry folk fed up with Alderley Edge getting all the good stuff, and the Fosters (or the "Fishy Fosters", as they really like to be called) have very sportingly decided to celebrate the occasion by offering takeaway fish and chips for a pound. You still have time to get down there, as the offer runs until 10pm tonight (stocks permitting), and I can offer the following helpful pointers if you are considering doing so:
- if you have an obliging husband who finishes work earlier than you do, simply send him on ahead to start queuing on your behalf. I suggested Mr Liz fulfil the important man-role of "doing a recce", knowing full well that he would be unable to resist joining the queue when he got there; I sauntered up a good forty minutes later and innocently joined him just as he was approaching the doors of the shop, thus selflessly keeping him company for the final leg of his vigil.
*pause to accept good-wife plaudits*
- if you do not have your own Mr Liz or similar, it's worth knowing that each customer is allowed a maximum of two portions of fish and chips - simply pick someone near the front of the queue who looks as if they might be single and casually fall into conversation with them, perhaps mentioning that you haven't eaten yet and really could manage some fish and chips round about now. Do give them the pound though - obviously you don't want to look cheeky.
- Kath Foster herself has - for once - been allowed onto the premises, and is roaming the queue with fizz and cake pops, so it's worth catching her eye and being nice to her.
- there are also - allegedly - nice ladies with fish cakes patrolling the line; I cannot confirm this however, as Mr Liz, with great selfishness, failed to collect one on my behalf whilst queuing alone. Men.
- there is a fabulous cake on display, decorated with fish, chips and mushy peas crafted from what I can only assume is icing; I did not have a piece of this cake, however, so I feel disinclined to say any more about it.
- finally, and most importantly, the fish and chips are amazing. And everyone in the queue KNOWS they are going to be amazing, because they always are from Fosters, and thus the queue is good-natured, and happy, and patient in waiting for its tea - not for nothing were Fosters recently shortlisted in the final three of the National Fish & Chips Awards for the North West region.
So yes, it will take you a long time to get your dinner, but yes it will be worth it. Or you could simply take the easy option and go another night, a night when the whole of Didsbury is NOT having fish and chips for tea...
- Fosters Fish & Chips are at 812 Wilmslow Road, Didsbury, Manchester M20 6UH.