News Red Symons’ croissant joke had layers – but the bakery server couldn’t see them
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Red Symons’ croissant joke had layers – but the bakery server couldn’t see them

Often wrong, never in doubt, Red likes to make an entrance.
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“I would like a croissant, to celebrate the defeat of the Mongols in Eastern Europe.”

Often wrong, never in doubt, I like to make an entrance.

I enter an op-shop and declare that I didn’t like this stuff the first time around and then inquire about second-hand socks and underwear.

They never have them. I am playing to an imaginary audience.

This was my preferred bakery where I often wandered in at six in the morning to get a croissant hot and fresh.

As I walked away, the brown paper bag would quickly become damp and dark with butter, like shared sheets on a companionable night.

“I would like a croissant, to celebrate the defeat of the Mongols in Eastern Europe.”

“That’s racist”, replied the girl behind the counter. She was in her 20s with a middle-class Home Counties burr.

She was displeased.

I usually wandered away pulling apart my croissant and passing the other bakery in the area.

There is invariably a queue stretching around the corner.

Why do people imagine that because there’s a queue then there must be a good reason?

I have had the alt.croissant and, yes, they do photograph well but wouldn’t you prefer to decorate your palate rather than your phone?

Symons found himself at stalemate with the woman in the bakery. Photo: Getty

I took perverse delight in eating my croissant in front of this captive, unsatiated audience, demonstrably enjoying while they waited.

“Look. A croissant”, I would declare. In a crowd, each member has the luxury of thinking you’re not pointing at them.

“That’s racist”, said the girl behind the counter.

“So stop selling them”, I rejoined.

I paused. I was not adding to the sum-total of human understanding.

“Examine the history of the croissant”, I offered, half helpfully.

I did, subsequently, and I was right give or take week’s walk and a couple of centuries.

History is hearsay made less arguable when someone writes it down.

The croissant celebrates the retreat of the Ottoman army after the siege of Vienna.

Croissant is French for crescent and evokes the moon on the Ottoman flag.

The siege started with a view from behind the ramparts of a whole new city suddenly laid out with tents, carpets and decorative plants. They were settling in for the long haul.

There is an alternative supposition that it was Budapest rather than Vienna. It all boils down to some guy reckons …

Turkey’s flag features a half-crescent moon. Photo: Getty

Fortified towns in the south of France are perched on top of a crag in the middle of a plain.

The people who lived there permanently were the priests and the administrators.

The local peasantry would retreat behind the walls when the neighbours came to pillage.

It would make sense to save the croissants until the happy ending.

I now found myself at a stalemate with the woman in the bakery. I held my croissant in a bag while she brandished the change.

“I’ll have to ask you to leave.”

Paradoxically, despite the ramparts of her counter, I was now holding the croissant of victory.

Smiling directly at her I said, “I shall”, and waited for her to proffer the change.

I find it curious that grievance and grief share the same root.

Whatever grief she had experienced that manifested as grievance was not apparent to me.

I had not arrived from some outside world intent on stripping the shop of its bakery items.

Had that been the case, my race would not have been at issue.

No doubt the Europeans were just as capable of heavy-handedness as the Ottomans or the Mongols.

Perhaps the gozleme or sujuk commemorate a happier time in their version of history.

Some weeks later, I addressed the Mistress of the Bakery about this passing discomfort.

“Political correctness gone mad,” she responded.

The PC expression has become leaden and overworked. Political ideologies can have a great range of nuances.

I prefer to call it tribal propriety.

Each tribe has its own prism. They may not see as you do.

Red Symons is a musician of the 1970s, TV vaudevillian of the 80s and 90s, radio voice of the new millennium and a sprinkled condiment in the theatre and print.

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