Friday, 23 January 2015
In 1342 the Carmelite order which came to be known as The White Friars was founded in Coventry during the period that the splendid former home of Leofric and Godiva enjoyed prominence in the booming cloth trade. For two hundred years the friars flourished until the monasteries were dissolved and the brethren officially dispersed, but they continued to meet in secret and exist to this day as a select, anachronistic brotherhood, struggling to make ends meet in the modern world.
The tavern bearing their name, serving a fine selection of real ales had served them well for many years but when Coventry became a university town the traditional pub had suffered because of competition for the younger drinker in the form of various raucous newcomers whose idea of a good night out sat not well with the Carmelite ethos of quiet contemplation. As the noisy, brash ‘youth pub’ scene continued to expand, the sombre atmosphere of the monks’ traditional meeting house attracted none but the regulars whose numbers were falling as they aged.
Something needed to be done to save the order and when an early notice of increased business rates arrived at their door along with repeated offers to buy them out an emergency meeting was convened to discuss their salvation. They began the meeting with silent prayers to their patrons - the prophet Elijah and the Blessed Virgin Mary – and then in open forum invited suggestions. Long into the night they brainstormed, the fevered cranial activity taking a heavy toll on minds more suited to meditation but eventually they had a solution.
Like many an inspired idea it combined simplicity with simple inspiration and afterwards everybody expressed surprise that it had taken so long. The ancient and venerable convocation got to work and soon their new enterprise was ready for unveiling. Thus it was that a few weeks later, attached to the pub and close to the bus stop frequented by many a late night reveller the latest fast food outlet in the city was opened. Brother Michael gave a short speech, led the assembly in a short prayer and invited the Abbot to cut the ribbon on Friar Tuck’s Olde Fishe & Chippe Emporium. Glory be!
Fish and chips, pie and chips, kebab and chips, burger and chips; they did a roaring trade and night after night the monks retired happy and greasy and confident in the assured good fortunes of their hallowed friary. Then one evening the ancient Abbot fell ill and the order held a vigil for him, leaving only Brother Bartholomew to hold the fort at Friar Tuck’s. All went well until the stock of chips was suddenly sold out but, undeterred, Brother B hit on the novel idea of selling fish and pie, sausage and kebab, burger and fish.
Our Father, give us this day our daily chips
But then - disaster - a customer arrived who asked for only a large portion of fries. Desperate to please Bartholomew tried his best to sell one of his formerly winning combinations, but the customer stood his ground. “All I want is a large portion of fries!” he demanded. Brother Bart was flustered and blurted out, “But, I’m only the fish friar… I’m really sorry but you’ll have to wait for the chip monk!”