Last week I entered a competition in the Independent to win dinner at the Fat Duck, recently decreed the best restaurant in the World, and home to Heston Blumenthal’s monstrous menu of molecular madness. To enter, readers had to submit a description of their favourite meal in 100 words or less. Here’s mine:
There’s a dozen of us crowded beneath the canvas, the two-mile walk across the Mongolian tundra to the nomad’s tent behind us. We’ve exchanged postcards, sampled snuff, politely enquired as to the well-being of the family’s livestock, and now it’s time to eat. A sweltering block of odoriferous grey cheese the size of a goat’s head is passed round, followed by battered tin cups containing thick, pungent servings of fermented mare’s milk. It’s the most fragrant, extraordinary snack I’ve ever tried, but nearly everyone else looks ready to call an ambulance. The nearest is 250 miles away.
It’s not bad. It’s a true story, and it’s reasonably entertaining. I felt I had a chance of being short-listed.
I wasn’t, of course. Fair enough.
But I decided to complain, mainly because writing frivolous letters to people who have better things to do with their time amuses me, but also because I had spotted a flaw in the competition rules that enabled me to react like a complete prick. Lovely.
I have a question relating to your Fat Duck competition.
In your newspaper, the competition’s closing date was listed as being Wednesday 28th April 2005. This, as most proof-readers will be able to confirm, is a date that does not exist.
I would therefore have thought it prudent on your part to have accepted entries to the competition submitted on the 28th, but you clearly have not done this. Even with my limited knowledge of the printing process, I find it difficult to accept that the early editions of today’s newspaper would be able to carry the results of a competition that had not yet closed.
Would you care to explain this anomaly? As someone who submitted an unusually brilliant entry to your competition in what I thought was in good time to be accepted, I was naturally devastated to discover that I had wasted my time completely.
(Independent reader for 14 years).
In no time at all I received a very nice reply from the Executive Editor (Features).
You’re right to point out that Wednesday 28th April doesn’t exist. It was a printing error, pure and simple. However, we were aware of it, and made a decision to extend the closing date for entries to Thursday 28th. All entries received by 5pm yesterday were considered in the judging process — including your own, which very nearly made the paper this morning. We had so many good entries (hundreds) that we might run another selection next week, space permitting.
Bollocks, I say. I demand my snail porridge and I demand it now.