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by H.P. Seuss
I awoke in Surbiton.
It is not a sentence one utters with pride. In fact, it is not a sentence I would wish on anyone. But there it is: I awoke in Surbiton, after a so-so-biton party in the suburbiton semi of some Surbiton acquaintances.
It may look like any other patch of suburbia, but there's something about Surbiton, a delicate tyranny, an inoffensive apocalypse that gives me the willies. I was in a hurry to leave, but given the impending trek North-Eastwards, my companions and I opted to fortify ourselves with a decent breakfast. We alighted on a brightly innocuous place called Puccino's, part of an expanding chain.
For £4.95 I enjoyed a double full English, which happily dispatched with my burgeoning hangover. I felt slightly cheated by the sausages, which were split in half to be cooked in a panini press, but the core bacon and eggs, and vegetable constituents were perfectly agreeable.
Most striking about Puccino's though, was its customer interface (to use the sort of term that I'm sure was bandied around the boardroom where the idea was spawned). Their packaging comes emblazoned with such legends as "pointless biscuit", "crappy chocolate" and "rubbish flapjack", while the wall displays and menus abound with such defensive self-deprecation. I
found it all rather distasteful, a feeling which increased when I logged on to their website to find that Puccino's is the largest coffee franchise in the UK. Presumably these sinister stabs at humour are an attempt to soften the image of a company which must have squeezed dozens of genuinely characterful cafes out of business.
As our train trundled towards Waterloo, my tongue teasing a scrap of bacon from my teeth, I shuddered. Sly and serviceable, Puccino's is the epitome of the Surbitonisation of the English breakfast, a trend which should be resisted in all its forms.