Jaqui's Daily Blog

The Company of Strangers

It is raining cats and dogs so Mr B suggests we take a short trip to the Sea Lane Cafe where we can enjoy lunch while watching the rain lashing against the windows and the kite surfers proving that, once you are wet, well, you may as well get thoroughly wet.

 

Incidentally, why do we talk about it raining cats and dogs? I mean, it clearly doesn’t, does it? My favourite theory is that in old England, they had hay roofs on their houses and the cats and dogs would sleep on the roof. When it rained, the roofs got slippery and the cats and dogs would slide off the roofs. A likely story...

 

Given the pouring rain, Mr B was expecting that we would have no trouble at all securing a table at our Cafe of Choice. However the World and His Wife had obviously had the same idea as us. It’s difficult to know what to do with yourselves on a wet Bank Holiday Monday apart from eat and drink. We venture inside to investigate the length of the queue at the counter and are fortunate indeed to be offered a window table by a couple who are on the point of leaving. Whatever it was like outside, the sun was certainly shining on us inside.

 

I never like sitting alone at a table in a crowded cafe or restaurant while Mr B stands at the end of a very long queue waiting to be served. It feels somehow wrong to be reserving a seat in this way, especially as there are so very many people in the queue ahead of Mr B. They will all be searching for a table very soon and, I have no doubt, will be casting Black Looks in my direction. To be fair, I would probably be doing the same in their position. Mr B does not give a fig (now, there’s another interesting phrase or saying) for such concerns, believing that First Come, First Served is superseded, in the case of overcrowded eating establishments, by his favoured rule of Always be Prepared to Jump in the Graves of Departing Customers Whenever the Opportunity Arises.

 

There is a “Polite Notice” posted up on the counter, informing all customers that in busy periods it may be necessary for us to share our tables with others. Mr B makes it clear to me that, while our table may be able to accommodate another couple, a threesome is definitely One Too Many. “But we are all very small people...” someone looking for a table for herself and two companions objects but Mr B is having none of it. The other Major Rule he lives by is “Possession is Nine Tenths of the Law.” It’s the other one-tenth which worries me, lurking below in the depths like the ice-berg which capsized the Titanic...

 

At this point a charming woman in a rain-streaked green raincoat falls into the seat beside me and asks if it is free. She divests herself of her raincoat without waiting for my answer, tells me her husband is in the gents and provides me with a detailed account of how they had been aiming to visit a certain town centre pub (on account of its “splendid wraps”) but were unable to make it through the traffic and endless road closures. I tell her that today is Carnival Day which she says explains just about everything. I relate the tale of how, some years ago Mr B and I had been snapped by an Evening Argus photographer waiting for the Carnival Parade to start. In the photo which appeared in the following day’s newspaper, you can spot us right at the front of the crowd, wearing the most bored expressions imaginable on our faces. Po-faced doesn’t come near it.

 

By now the charming woman’s equally charming husband had joined her and we enjoyed a great natter over our lunch. It turned out they lived very near the Middle of the Darling Daughters so we could share our opinions of various eating establishments which we had both patronised plus other Places We Have Visited like Epsom Swimming Pool and beautiful Nonsuch Park. Honestly, Trip Advisor had nothing on us. Then we talked about the forthcoming Scottish Independence vote; free prescriptions and the effect of them on other NHS funding; the transformation of Cardiff Bay over the years; London cabbies; and the importance of public transport.

 

By the time they got up to go, I felt as if I had known them for years. Surely for more than an hour at a shared table in the Sea Lane Cafe.  What’s more we would almost certainly never, ever see them again. I felt a quite ridiculous pang of loss at the thought.

 

It only goes to show that sharing a table in a crowded cafe is a Good Thing To Do. Maybe we should try it even when the cafe isn’t full and there are lots of empty tables? Perhaps the world would be a happier, more welcoming place if we all just filled up the empty places at tables, rather than always expecting a table all to ourselves?

 

On this wet and dreary Bank Holiday Monday I have come to the conclusion that the Company of Strangers has a great deal to recommend it...

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Latest comments

03.07 | 22:43

Wouldn't have missed it for the world. xx

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12.06 | 02:31

I love that you talk to your plants ... I used to on my allotment ... seemed perfectly rational !

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05.06 | 22:01

Sounds like a perfect day Jacqui, happy birthday for tomorrow, love Val xx

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07.12 | 15:48

what details have you got on your mysterious Wilde?

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