PC 202 Other’s Manners

Stating the obvious ….. one’s observations about life are very personal! You and I may see the same thing, experience the same event, be in the same space and in the same time, but our own memory will be different as we have developed our own filters through which we make such observations. I have always wondered how autobiographical writers have remembered conversations from months or years ago; yesterday’s difficult enough for me!

Then I read ‘The Spaces In Between’ (Note 1), an autobiographical account of the early life of Caroline Jones, a yoga enthusiast and good friend. She writes about one’s ability to recall experiences: “…..  I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings – and who is to say that my version is true anyway? Who is entitled to say what is true in any family’s history? It is all shades of grey, interpretations and misinterpretations: something that passes one person by might be the thing that tips another onto a different journey; and all, in the end, coloured by imagination and weakened by unreliable memory.” Exactly: so simply put. (Note 2)

On the UK TV’s Channel Four there’s an interesting Belgium drama called The Twelve; fortunately subtitles are provided for those of us who don’t speak Flemish! A jury has been selected to try a case of double murder. As the story unfolds, it focuses on the background of the individuals who make up the jury, making us very aware that their judgments and values are unconsciously coloured by their own experiences, good and bad, despite hearing in the courtroom exactly the same thing.

Normally we try and celebrate my Scorpio birthday with a supper party of some sort. This year we wondered how to do that living in the half-life of Covid 19. So we planned a couple of suppers, maximum 6 to abide by the rules, and Celina would shout a dinner at The Ivy in central Brighton. The name The Ivy is familiar as part of the upmarket London ‘eating & be seen’ scene; actually I ate there once …… didn’t recognise anyone else!  

The original restaurant started life as an unlicensed Italian café in West Street in London’s theatre-land in 1917. Over the decades it’s maintained a reputation as a very special place to eat and remains hugely popular; mobile phones and cameras are banned. In the last decade the company has established The Ivy Collection, a number of similarly-themed restaurants all serving the same good quality food and staffed by well-trained individuals.

Part of the dining area in The Ivy Brighton

There are Ivy Collection restaurants in a number of British cities; for instance we ate in The Ivy in Bath (See PCs 164 & 165) last year. The Ivy in Brighton opened in early summer 2018. Intrigued, we had a drink there a year ago and then in November were delightfully included in the wedding and Ivy luncheon of chums Sandie & Dom.

When you book a table in a restaurant you have no control over the behaviour of the other diners or where you sit, although I appreciate there is probably a difference between those in McDonalds and those dining in The Ritz (Probably better in McDonalds?)  Obviously you imagine that most people are well mannered and sensitive in shared spaces. Some of you may recall our irritating experiences of sharing a sun-terrace in Sicily with some Russians in PC 134? And you may have seen cartoons of an airline passenger sitting in an aisle seat and being next to a giant of a man; I think Gary Larson did one of a huge man coming down the aisle towards his seat?

The Ivy had no free tables on the day of my birthday, last Saturday, so we went earlier on Thursday. With current restrictions the restaurant has to close at 2200 and by 1845 it was full; we were shown to our table, one with places for 4. I guess it’s rude to stare directly at the people at the next table, but I remember clocking them and thinking “Oh! Dear!” Too quick to make a judgment, me, you might suggest; I couldn’t possibly comment.

Mr & Mrs Overweight were accompanied by a couple who in the course of the evening said little and laughed, actually ‘screamed’ is a better word, a lot, in a way that grated on my sensibilities. Mr Overweight clearly appreciated their unconscious admiration at his jokes and stories. It was Mrs Overweight’s birthday so a time for celebration and the alcohol in the form of cocktails (with umbrellas of course) flowed. Halfway through the evening I met him on the stairs to the loo; I was on my way up, returning to our table. No recognition! No ‘after you’ suggestion as one of us had to give way. Gravity and potential energy (Note 3) was of course on his side! During the course of the evening, Mr Overweight’s language, liberally doused with swear words, and the volume at which he spoke got more irritating, all the time ‘stuffing his face’ with food and washing it down with glasses of wine. Twice they left to have a cigarette outside; the smell of stale smoke from their clothes on their return wafted across our table. I have to say I was much relieved when they paid their bill and left. Don’t read this incorrectly! We had a lovely meal of food that we do not normally eat, served by some skilled waitresses, and ignored the riff-raff manners. Celina took a photograph of birthday boy.

In PC 50 from September 2015 I scribbled about suffering a house & pool party of 450 people next to Celina’s parents’ house on Iposeria in the Sān Conrado suburb of Rio de Janeiro? We are often in conflict with others’ behaviour but nowadays there is a growing lack of respect for our fellow human beings and our tolerance levels are extremely low; mine included, sometimes!! Ironic words huh!!

Richard 30th October 2020

Note 1 On the book jacket the typeface had “the spaces in between” with no capitals! Very casual and calming.

Note 2 The late great Clive James’ first autobiographical book was titled “Unreliable Memoirs”.

Note 3 Potential energy is defined mathematically as mgh – ‘m’ mass in kg, ‘g’ acceleration due to gravity and ‘h’ height. Mr Overweight had lots of mass!

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