Tag Archives: Complaining

Complaining or Whinging?

Why do the British have a reputation for an unwillingness to complain? Where does it come from? Why do we put up with stuff? Is it really just the British?

At what age does it kick in? We have not always maintained the attitude of “I’ll shut up for a quiet life.” I’ve seen plenty of nine year-olds complaining about their lot. Mine did last night. The wrong channel on the TV, the trucks were not loose enough on his skateboard, and we’d run out of Reece’s Peanut Butter Cups. Clearly Hotel Rennick was not up to his exacting standards. Please don’t worry, he is still alive…

But the question remains; when and why do we lose the ability to kick off and say we are not happy?

At Rick Stein’s Seafood restaurant, one of our guests ordered a steak. Strange thing to do in a fish joint, I know… The steak was ordered medium-rare. That should mean juice runs from it when cut open. I know these things; it’s kinda in the blood (sorry vegans) Anyway, when he sliced into it, there was no juice, no pinkness, just a sad grey pallor. As the waiter was passing, I mentioned this fact. “That IS medium-rare MADAM.”

Now, it always makes me feel like I am either one half of Hinge and Bracket, or should be fully clad in a PVC cat-suit, and brandishing a whip, when a young man address me as “Madam.” Ah, but that’s a whole ‘nuther blog, as they say…

Anyway, to continue…“Erm, no. It’s definitely on the well done side, but he’s eating it anyway, so let’s leave it.” Now, that’s hardly gonna get me full marks and a gold star at the Cynthia Payne school of getting more Bang-For-Your-Buck or more Whip-For-Your-Wedge… Dammit, I was almost apologising for my own observation, for which I was also about to fork out good money. Maybe the waiter should have borrowed the cat-suit…

So why did I not pursue this? Well, in truth, I was out with a group of lovely people; we were having a very enjoyable time, and I didn’t want to put a dampener on things or make a fuss and upset my companions. Oh yes. Plus, my sole meuniere was off-the-radar-sublime, and it was beginning to get cold.

So who make the best complainers? Some people are so good at it, it could almost be described as an art form. They come out with all sorts of free stuff as a bonus or a sorry; like extra nights in hotels and free puddings with their main course.

I tried again recently. This time I was at Marco Pierre White’s. Now I really was being brave, as he’s been known to fly out the kitchen with a perfectly poised potato peeler should you so much as ask for a sprinkling of salt. The fact was; the burger was rubbery. I said so. The waiter clearly admired my courage, and offered me pudding on the house. He suggested, “Burnt Cream,” that’s crème brûlée to those of us who have not disappeared up our own rectitude. Anyway, the dish arrived; I peered into the rustic ramekin of congealed confection. There was no caramel carapace to crack open in order to expose the sweet silky underbelly – just flaccid cream, with only a solitary raspberry, rudely placed dead centre to protect its modesty. Without its crusty cover-up, it showed itself up as flabby.

The naked truth was pathetically perverse, pale and unappealing. George Hamilton without a suntan. Horrible.

I looked at the waiter, who had actually hovered by the table to see if I really had the temerity to complain twice. This is Marco Pierre White after all! He pre-empted me. Maybe he also had a cat-suit. “Our blowtorch is broken. It is now just….cream.” REALLY?? ARE YOU KIDDING? I sighed, asked for him to take it away, and settled for a large glass of wine…

Is complaining a desire to have things just so, or an inability to ever be satisfied? Do complainers drive you mad? Not me. I love them. As long as they are polite, stick to the point, and most importantly achieve a result. They drive up the benchmark for quality and consistency in a world where by degrees we gradually learn to accept less than and not quite as good as…

The next time you roll your eyes when you hear of someone complaining, ask yourself this: What is the opposite? Mind numbing apathetic acceptance? A constant magnolia shaded wipe clean view-point on mediocrity? Back to flaccid cream? Give me rage any day. I know where I am with that. Ooh, on second thoughts maybe I should get that whip back…

There is a fine line between complaining, and moaning, and I feel that very much needs disambiguation: When you complain, you expect to resolve the matter. You are being pro-active, and dealing with the situation. You are taking a stance, you are choosing what you find acceptable, and most importantly, you are expressing it to those who can do something about it. You are doing what you can to resolve this issue.

When you moan, it really means you are prepared to accept the situation, and you wish only to speak about it to people who can do nothing to effect a change in the situation that is causing you distress. You are actually looking only for sympathy, not a solution. That’s whinging. Bleh.

If you don’t like the status quo, you’ll have to do something about it. And that means standing up, sticking your neck out, and being counted. Bon Courage!