I almost fainted when I learned that I had three hundred hits one day last week. Almost fainted dead away. Who are these people my friends ask? How do I know? I am a shameless self promoter, that is true and I am often out and about. Some funny comments emerge from my constant self promotion. Hannah, at the Dolphin Square Fitness Club said:”Well having your name as your blog is good, at least you won’t forget the name of your blog.” I replied: “And when I do I will be i no shape to be writing it anyway.” Then a man at the Tate Britain told me that he has some serious advice to give me about my blog. “You have got to learn to be more pushy in telling people about it,” I laughed and laughed and whispered a****** in his ear.
This posting is something new and different and consists of a true story that took place in December at an unnamed restaurant. The boss of the restaurant and I are buds and he is very aware of the blog. I let him approve of the content ahead of time if I mention its name. But he thinks it is not a good idea for readers to be told when, as in this case, I am insulting fellow diners. He is of course right. People might stay away in droves. But people could recognize me and ignore me as my picture is posted and it bears a remarkable resemblance to me. But I go along with the program.
Dessert at the unnamed restaurant.
So this is a story about eavesdropping and the results flowing from it. It will curl you hair but not if you are bald.
When I was escorted to my table by the maitre d’ I objected. I whispered in his ear that the table for two was suspiciously close to boring people. “Please sit me somewhere else.” “I can’t because the restaurant is full. “ I usually cannot stand to eavesdrop on conversations because they are so banal, uninteresting and boring. So generally and almost habitually I use, in this advanced technological age, earphones and music on my iPhone. Not podcasts but music. But on December 18th, 2016 in this er restaurant I decided to do something else. I would listen to the women next to me, and makes notes on what they were writing so the thread of banality would be forever preserved. This story has the strangest ending so brace yourself.
I was seated between two tables so I could have boring in stereo, supposedly, but the table to my left were speaking in German, I do not speak German, so there. So I concentrated on the left.
The two women were older, impeccably dressed and coifed. Their hair was white, their jewelry understated and tasteful. I cannot remember looking to see if their ring had more and better diamonds than mine. I usually win – it is the engagement ring of the second marriage. These two women were not, I suppose, stylishly dressed but this is London where people dress tastelessly, perhaps more so when they dress up. But tell me about the conversation, you insist.
It began with sticks. Sticks, for you non Brits, are canes in regular parlance. Hunks of wood or steel that you hang onto when you walk. The woman facing me was considering carrying one because something was tired, I think it was her feet or her legs. My notes are a little incomplete here.
So I have determined from my experiments in the past that when British women get together they discuss health matters, theirs and others. My mother and I are vastly different people but we are of one accord on this: Talking about one’s bad health is boring and should never be attempted. It was actually a self protective move on both our parts because she was, and I am healthy. We would have nothing to talk about and just have to listen. She did eventually die and so she did get sick but she actually died of stubbornness. That will be my fate as well I suddenly and eerily predict.
Perhaps the woman’s companion, the one sitting on the banquette beside me had a similar problem because I cannot recall that she had anything to contribute to the health conversation. But back to my notes. It seems like a condition of general malaise is striking this woman, vague descriptions of tiredness and ennui.(obviously my word and not hers). For purposes of ease, A will be the woman sitting across from me and B will be the woman on the banquette sitting next to me. A makes a profound statement that If Something Is Going to Happen I Want to Know What and When It is Going to Be. I conclude she is talking about her death. Don’t we all, I suppose, want to know that, but I personally do not have the conceit to think that it is possible to be so informed.
But now the conversation suddenly veers to some other person and, what ends up to be his health, or sudden lack of it. A begins by saying that this man is a banker, somewhere in Marylebone and they have seen one another for years. It sounds like for lunch. They have two things in common: Kenya and (I can’t read my writing). This is told with great drama so I am thinking that this man is going to proposition her, I am not sure why but different strokes for different folks. She says that he talked about going to the wedding of his god daughter, I think in Devon. My overactive imagination goes into high gear and I decide that he is proposing that they two of them go together and they consummate their union. But no, because she reports that he goes on the Friday and he comes back on the Sunday night. I do wonder where this is going. Well the cleaning lady comes on Monday to his flat and what does she find? The guy dead on the bathroom floor. A reports that dead guy was skinny and fit so this appears to be a mystery. The funeral has been postponed because of Christmas.
Then the scene changes to a crematorium. But it was not the guy in the prior paragraph’s wake, it is someone else. I loose the thread from time to time. But A meets up with an old friend who is attending the wake with his replacement wife. A knew him with wife #1 and reminds him of the jolly times they had with one another. With great satisfaction A reports that replacement wife acts very jealous and tries to take the husband away from A’s clutches, She does succeed but not without a major battle by the sounds of it.
Next is a very complicated story about A getting offended by the questions asked by a young man. He asks if she is staying over and A takes umbrage. Why I do not know, and never will. But A climbs back on the train and feels that she has righted a terrible wrong in doing so. Huh?
In the meantime I am enjoying my usual excellent service at the hands of the staff. “Top up, Madam” one asks voluntarily. “Yes please it is amazing how you can read my mind.” They are, of course, topping up my wine glass. What else? My neighbors do not enjoy such service. At one point A quite snottily says: “Is there sauce?” She gives a disdainful look and then looks to B for confirmation of her hauteur. I will never understand why a certain group of people in this country think that treating staff rudely is the proper and correct way to achieve good service. The exact opposite is true and I have seen this reenacted several times in this very restaurant. The staff is excellent and well trained but it is probably almost instinctive to ignore rudeness and coarse behavior. I do not remember seeing large scale rudeness in fine restaurants in the USA. I have a theory about this but I digress.
Through all of this B listens but makes few if any contributions. She asks the cause of death of the guy sprawling on the bathroom floor (unknown by A) and somewhat chuckles at the thought of jealousy by replacement wife. But she is largely quiet but attentive.
The staff arrives to take the first course plates away. B dutifully makes a complaint about the food to show how sophisticated she is. It was poorly seasoned she says. Excuse me, silly, you cannot take salt out of food but you can put it in yourself. The staff is most courteous and tell her that they will tell the chef. If they do they will probably say some old hag said the dish was poorly seasoned and the chef will roll his eyes.
But the conversation drones on. Another sick man appear in the conversational thread. His name is Patrick and he can’t find the church. (Perhaps he married her there and wants to put it out of his mind?) He is unsteady, so she offers her hand and walks him to the church. But she seems to have dumped him there. How did he get home, I wonder. But this polite gentleman writes her a thank you note, saying thank you for holding my hand, walking me to church and dumping me there. Well, probably not the last four words.
Then we are back at the crematorium and criticizing the wife of another chap. The wife seems to be taking over and bossing the chap, It does not occur to either A or B that this chap might have dementia or Alzheimers or a stroke or something. It is all the wife’s fault. But that is the stance in all of this eavesdropped conversation – they are utterly suspicious and disdainful towards members of their own sex and impute the best of motives to the men they discuss. Again, I find this unique to this country. I cannot ever recall having or listening a conversation between two women from the United States or Canada where their own sex is constantly disparaged. eat their own sex in such a manner.I am, of course, supposed to be eating and drinking during this time at the restaurant so occasionally I am distracted from the conversation. Then, at one point, I drop my pen and cannot find it. I ask the staff for a pen which cannot be found but the man sitting at the table where German is being spoken lends me his. During this interchange it is revealed that the table is multi lingual. I do whisper and tell them what I am doing. They look rather amused. So there are three of them – two men and one woman. One man, actually rather handsome is sitting next to me on the banquette. We will call him C. Then next to him is a woman who we will call D and everyone, (meaning me and the staff at the restaurant) assume that C and D are married. The man that lent me the pen is sitting across from D. At some point in time C and I get involved in a conversation and I utterly loose interest in the conversation between A and B. I am sure you see why. So we talk and talk, much to the consternation, according to the staff, of D. But I have learned that C is not married, lives near Hamburg and has no children. No children is an important factor to me. So C and I decide to begin a different sort of relationship and write letters to one another. Not emails, not texts, but letters. They will take longer, but that is OK. I wrote the first one and mailed it the next again day. Obviously he supplied me with his address.
But in rather desultory fashion I listen in again and learn that A is advising B that she should get three estimates. So I am thinking they veered off into construction while I was flirting with C. A says something prophetic about time being on your side. Could she be speaking of death again?
The German table prepares to leave. At this point I meet D and E, E being the husband of D. They are from Hannover. I am gob smacked. “I lived in Hannover for seven weeks with my first husband when he was an exchange student at the Medicine Hochshuller” (incorrect German pronunciation and spelling). During that time, my twenty eighth year, I
was sort of a mascot, people loved to be around me and speak English. One day the wife of the medical director took me to see the concentration camp of Bergan-Belsen. He father was the mayor and she said that he did not know what was going on. I recently saw a mock up of the camp at an exhibit in London. It was HUGE. But when I was there it consisted only of mounds of dirt and a few placards. Now it has been enlarged. Ann Frank died at that camp. I do not say this to the German couple, only saying that I was at Bergen-Belsen while living in Hannover and I would like to go back and see it again now that there has been some restoration. We all smile politely and they leave.
To be continued at a later time. There are two very strange quirks to this tale.
For some reason I think I would have assumed American diners to be on average ruder to waiting staff than us reserved Brits !