Monday, 27 January 2014

No Such Thing As A Free Meal?

The name of Titus Clarysse is not much known outside his native city of Ghent, but he popped up on my radar some time ago when I learned of his wonderful ability to enjoy eating in the finest restaurants without ever paying his bill.

I'm not condoning theft - I received a tax bill recently and I know what it feels like - but the world needs eccentrics. Mr Clarysse was not a man of means, but despite his habit, he was not unpopular. The Belgians are a bit like we British - they appreciate eccentrity, and see it as something desirable in a personality.

Sadly I learn today that this local character was been found in his home, stabbed to death.

The investigating police are not ruling out a connection between this sad event and his behaviour - he had many convictions, for at least 100 incidents.

Tim Joiris, head of the Ghent region restaurant and hotel federation, struggled to believe anyone could have gone so far.

“Curse him? Maybe. But kill him? That makes no sense,” he said.

“It was trouble for everyone. And what's worse, for long nobody knew how really to deal with it, in the end, we knew his face, but you know, on a busy terrace in summer, full of people, he knew how to blend in. He did it all, the grand restaurants, the terraces. He really tried them all.”

Mr Clarysse was a “tafelschuimer” — someone who takes everything, even the crumbs, off the table.
“He was asking for it all — the whole menu,” Mr Joiris said with a laugh. “He would sit and wait after the meal — another beer, a brandy. We are not talking about an aggressive guy. He was just happy-go-lucky about it.”

Mr Joiris said that tales of people being forced to do the dishes if they could not afford to pay were “a myth”.

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