If he knew the word, its connotations, this Englishman abroad would surely use it. Agitated from the moment they enter, he wears a crew-neck jumper over his shirt despite the heat and gives off the distinct impression that he never relaxes. His family are on guard. At a distance, so are we. The waiter takes his brusqueness, his expectancy that all will talk his language, in his stride. The whippet-thin bulldog is sure the food will be crap. His wife explains patiently to the middle child about reviews and reputation.
Halfway through the meal, the youngest gets a fit of the giggles. Stop laughing, says his father. But the boy’s too far gone. Tell him not to laugh. His wife refuses to scold her son for laughing. There’s hope for him yet. I imagine him one day laughing hard and uproariously at his father. Who may land one on him, but that would only be proving the boy’s point. And by then the boy will be big enough to lamp him back.
The eldest says little, preferring to observe. We are part of her observation, a comparatively quiet family. At one point our eyes meet. Perhaps she’s wondering about a father like me, while I consider hers. When she does speak, it’s with the voice of a different class. She’s a private school girl. There she has learnt tact. She won’t laugh at her father, at least not to his face, but she will frequently be embarrassed by him before she makes good her escape. Already she’s embarrassed. She knows he’s what she might learn to call uncouth. Or – an arsehole.
Can we get a taxi? The waiter won’t condescend to check. He says, At this time? and shrugs. Bulldog huffs off, his family snaking behind. I wish them luck.