The Luncheon of the Boating Party
No, not a mistake, I know what I said there.
Let me explain.
There were eight of us to lunch with a couple who had invited us to their house for the first time. We had met a few times before, had sat at the same table even, just never in our own homes. So the invitation did not come completely out of the blue, but we hadn’t really been expecting one either.
We arrived to find other couples we knew, the host offered wine and the conversation began in a relaxed and amiable fashion. From the beginning, we found that we shared very few of the opinions of the others most of the time. No matter what the topic was, from leisure activities, cultural preferences, religion, politics, to music, literature, films, newspapers, our tastes were quite different from the hosts’ and usually several of the other guests.
Yet it made no difference to the friendly atmosphere round the table. Although we all spoke frankly, nobody fell out with anybody else and when the opinion expressed by one or other seemed too extreme to counter, we just kept quiet.
Back home, I nearly fell off my chair when Beloved casually said “Nice people”. He meant it. I had to agree. In spite of the differences of opinion and some difficulties about the food (the hostess didn’t realize that I have a particular food intolerance), we had both thoroughly enjoyed the lunch. In fact, we and another couple stayed long after it would have been polite to leave. I am certain hat this will not have been the last time we share a meal.
What is it that allows us to get on with people, and enjoy their company, with whom we have nothing in common whereas we can fall out with others, whose opinions we share ?
Family is different. You row and shout and become very rude, you hate each other and say so, you dredge up every last insult and slight and misunderstanding, you vow never to darken each other’s doorstep again. When that is over, and the air is cleared, you band together as a family once more, until the next time.
Very well, it doesn’t happen in your family, your family is different. Lucky you.
There are close friends who do that to each other too. I have no close friends.
When we meet others socially, we have to be on our best behaviour, we are unlikely to provoke a row. Telling the other what we think of him is for children or social morons. Manners come into it, an ability to remain detached and polite, to respect the other and accept them as equals, to listen to what they have to say without interruption.
But what is it that allows us to say, quite genuinely, “Nice People”, when we have just spent a few hours in the company of people of the kind “we don’t like”?
And it wasn’t only the wine!