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8:20pm on Tuesday, 5th January, 2010:

Different World


After having lunch at the oldest restaurant in London yesterday, today I had lunch at Vinny's in Colchester. It's basically a greasy spoon, where the whole meal I ate cost less than the soup at Rules but had four times the cholestrol of Rules' entire three courses.

One of the things I like about Vinny's is that the single tables are in the middle (a legacy of when they allowed smoking: the smokers sat one one side and the second-hand smokers sat on the other, with the middle tables free-for-all). This means I get to hear other people's strange conversations. They are invariably strange, too: no-one in Vinny's has a normal conversation.

Today, I heard a woman repeatedly tell her children that her brother had come out of the army but she didn't know what he was doing. She alternated between saying it as I just did there, and saying that she didn't know what her brother was doing but he'd just come out of the army. Also, although sometimes he was "your uncle", he was never Uncle <name>.

I also heard a man describe the world's greatest beefburger. He spent 10 minutes venerating its memory. By an extreme coincidence, out of the entire world, the location of the café that serves what, in this man's opinion ("and I've eaten a lot of beefburgers" — yes, that's why you weigh twice as much as me), is the greatest beefburger, is Ipswich. His explanation of why it is the world's greatest beefburger, was twofold: firstly, it had a diameter two inches greater than that of a non-greatest burger; secondly, you get two of them in a bun (which nevertheless still seems to qualify as one burger). The measure of its greatness was that he could only eat three quarters of it before he was full, but then felt compelled to finish it anway. He was harping on about this burger so much that it was a wonder he was sitting in Vinny's and not on the next train to Ipswich.

A third conversation was ... actually, it wasn't a conversation. An older woman was telling an older man, whom I believe was probably her husband, all about "Nancy". I've no idea who Nancy was, except that she's human and has a baby. This woman kept talking for the entire meal, irrespective of whether she had anything in her mouth or not (she was having egg, bacon, chips and peas). Meanwhile, her husband carried on eating and said not a word. She spoke a constant stream of gossip that it was clear held no interest to her husband whatsoever, yet his lack of participation in the progression of the narrative went entirely unnoticed. She could have been talking to a deaf person who didn't speak English for all the impact she was having.

Ah, Vinny's. I went there because I'd just had my hair cut and it's nearby. My younger daughter noticed as soon as she entered the house, having sensed I would have had my hair cut when I went to town. My wife, on the other hand, despite my having given her a lift back from the station and sat opposite her as we ate our tea, has still failed to register the fact. Haircuts to her are like gossip to the husband in Vinny's: they just pass straight through without awakening any neurons.

I bet she'd notice if I went bald, though.

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Copyright © 2010 Richard Bartle (richard@mud.co.uk).