Friday, 13 November 2015
A Do-Gooding Liberal Goes To The Pub.
The first thing I heard was a woman’s loud voice: “ Oh, he’s gorgeous. What a lovely boy.” She went on and on in the same vein. “What a darling. Look at his beautiful eyes. Just look at them. Oh, you darling, you are a beauty, Here, let me cuddle you.” And more. “You are a sweetie, and so good. Isn’t he well-behaved”.
I was sitting, on my own, at a corner table in the Church Inn in Ludlow, right hand stabbing at scampi, chips and salad, left hand holding my iPhone book. I couldn’t see who this miracle creature was, but obviously the cutest thing on two legs. Two legs? Surely not, nobody makes as much fuss of a child. Besides, there’s always a ‘coo-chi-coo in it when there’s a baby involved. This creature was not being patronised, this creature was admired as a paragon and petted.
Ah, petted. It had to be an animal, most probably a dog. The Church Inn allows dogs to come in. Children are allowed in too but not quite as welcome. Finally, the woman stopped shouting and a couple came past my table, making for the exit. They had a large, rather stout and very hairy dog in tow. He was indeed well-behaved and docile, his lead hanging fairly loose and all three of them relaxed. The waitress, for such she was, followed them for a few steps, stopping at a table opposite me. “He’s lovely,” she sighed and “isn’t he a big boy.”
She had my full attention now that I could see her. Fortyish, a bit buxom, like all the best barmaids, dressed in tight-fitting black clothes, black boots, with dark abundant hair pinned back with combs. A real pub landlady.
The table opposite me was occupied by a middle aged couple, having a sandwich lunch. They were clearly regulars, because the waitress appeared to know them.
“I prefer them to children”, she offered. “You wouldn’t believe the kids that come in here sometimes. Chucking food around, crying and shouting, running between the tables and having big enough tantrums to frighten the customers away. The other day there was a kid who scribbled all over the table with his crayons. Would you believe it?”
“I wouldn’t mind so much if they were regulars. No, they come in once and think they own the place. Think their kids can get away with murder. Tourists are the worst.” November is not tourist season, there was no danger that one of that particular breed of customer was within earshot. Ludlow depends very much on the tourist trade and it would never do to insult a tourist to his face.
“Give me dogs any day". She stopped for a minute to make sure she wasn’t offending the couple at the table. “Do you have children?” The couple shook their heads. “Right, you’re like me. I don’t have kids either, never wanted any. Dogs are less hassle any day.”
“Actually,” she continued, in full flow once again, “I blame the parents. Do they stop the little darlings from creating havoc? Do they, heck. Not likely. It’s all - here her voice attempted a posh accent - 'do stop it, darling; don’t do that'. But they don’t really stop them. Bloody liberal do-gooders. "
Eh? I must have missed something. Where and when did liberal do-gooders come into the picture?
“Bloody liberal do-gooders, that’s who I blame,” she continued. When I was naughty as a kid, I got a clip round the earhole and a smart smack on the back of my legs. Didn’t do me any harm. Nowadays, you’re not allowed to touch them.” The couple agreed with her and all three snorted in disgust.” No, give me dogs any day. No trouble, dogs.”
All this time I kept my head well down and my eyes fixed to the screen of my phone but certainly no longer reading. Would the waitress recognise me for who I am when she saw me? A bloody do-gooding liberal? Finally, she turned away from the table opposite, came over to me and reached for my now empty plate.
“Alright?” she asked in a mellow voice, and much reduced volume. “Everything alright Darling?” Weakly I nodded. “Yes thanks, lovely.”