You know, if this year is notable for nothing else – and its already notable for a whole fuckbunch else, so lets count that sentence as rhetorical, or metaphorical, or nonsensical or something – it is notable for the one master-moment of unEnglishness that took place one Sunday in the month of November.
My beloved and I are probably two of the most English people you might care to meet, in terms of over-politeness, propensity to apologise, unwillingness to complain (well, well complain till the cows come home under our breath, to our friends and family and for months following the event, but at the time it is asked, the question Is everything to your satisfaction? will be answered with a false and effusive Oooh, YES, thank you. Lovely.) we are terribly, terribly English.
And so it was that we went for a terribly English Sunday Lunch at a terribly English pub which, we had heard, was terribly good.
After taking seats, we looked through their menu (which was terribly good, yes) and ordered our drinks and food with the terribly nice waitress.
Twenty minutes later we recieved our lemonade and an orange juice and we sat and watched other people being served, and getting a little hungrier and talking about plans for the rest of the day, and got a little hungrier and a little grumpier and tried to catch the waitresss eye to order more drinks and failed. And so one of us left and went and bought a bottle of water from the newsagent down the street and brought that back to drink and sat for a while longer and talked a bit more but mostly talked about where our food might be and whether we could just get up and leave since we had already ordered food and hadnt paid for the drinks, and how we couldnt pay for the drinks until we actually managed to find a waitress.
About forty minutes after we were given drinks – so almost an hour after we ordered – the waitress came over.
Hi! She grinned Hi! The kitchens really busy – your food will be out shortly. said Pretty Susan the Invisible Waitress.
Ok. Um, thanks!, we Englished.
Great! she said.
No. Said a voice from somewhere. No, actually, not great. Sorry, I think were going to have to just go. Actually. I think were going to have to, you know, just go. Sorry. Thanks.
Its worth noting that at this moment – possibly the bravest of my life – I was still apologising to the restaurant staff whod been ignoring us for an hour.
She looked a bit confused. I looked a bit confused. My beloved looked rather shocked (and also confused). There was someone at the table talking like someone not English at all. This wasnt at all right.
The proper thing in this situation is to say Oooh, thank you, LOVELY. and someone was breaking the unwritten rule of the overpolite. Terrifyingly enough, it seemed to be me.
So can we just pay for the drinks and go? Would that be alright?
Um. Ill just go and get the manager.
We sat and looked at each other, my beloved and I and whispered, worriedly: Was that the right thing to do?; Do you think we should stay if they offer us money off?; Should we just stay anyway, I mean,they are very very busy, I suppose But they still didnt say anything to us until Until we were interrupted by a short man with a long future in restaurant diplomancy ahead of him.
Ive just spoken to the kitchen, and they said theyll put your order on priority. It shouldnt be any more than five minutes.
Oh. Ok, well thanks I began to capitulate at the news that now, after more than an hour and ten minutes of waiting and a decidedly latter-day interest in our wellbeing, we were going to be put on some kind of pissed-off-priority list in the kitche (a kitchen which was either 40 miles away or run by thumbless oxen in heavy boots). Thanks, that would be good
Yes, that WOULD be good,picked up my beloved But its too late. Were just going to go, actually. Actually, were just going to go, I think. Yes? Yes. How much do you owe you for the drinks?
Oh. Nothing. The drinks are free. He chirruped, and slumped off to work out which of the other patient diners were about to get their meals miraculously early.
We left money on the table for the drinks – we drank them, after all – and wandered off into a dimming November day.
Ten minutes later we were sitting on long wooden benches, scarfing The Noodles Of The Righteous.
I know its the littlest, stupidest thing, but it might well be the bravest thing Ive done this year.
And Im still feeling bad about it.
Learning not to feel bad about it is the next step, I think.