It has been an irritable period at the Old Doom Bar. Partly because of the weather which in OFSTED terms ‘requires improvement’. We all agreed that the climate had become much more windy over the years. Our resident garden expert noted that this time last year we had temperatures of 22 C and rising. Also there seems to have been a late invasion by Belgian and Dutch campervans clogging up the lanes. Brexiteers would have been cheered by the sentiments expressed on this problem. Campervans are not popular because their occupants spend very little money.
Since our attention had been drawn to cultural differences it was unsurprising that the publicity about ‘burkinis’ came up. Someone asked if that was a new form of ‘mankini‘ – ‘but for berks’ he added. Our womenfolk found this mildly amusing but the topic evoked considerable outrage about the infiltration of alien values. The issue of modesty was a matter of personal choice. Context, manners and common sense determined ones selection of apparel. However unsuited certain figure types might be to abbreviated clothing no bully in a beard had the right to condemn individuals or indeed a whole gender.
For a moment it looked like we would lurch off on the topic of beards and the sex appeal thereof. But the girls had got up steam on the subject of dictatorial men. Everyone agreed that the Archers storyline about the dreadful Rob and abused Helen was a good one but that the stabbing was completely over the top. Interestingly while over the UK as a whole men are much more likely to murder women, in Cornwall it is the reverse. No-one knew why but our wives laughed in a sisterly way. Even so it seemed to us (including our social worker member) that it would have been more helpful to real life victims if the plot had been more about how to escape an abusive relationship than the dramatics of a criminal proceeding which felt like cheap audience hunting.
There was also outrage about Northern Ireland’s attitude toward abortion; and come to that, Republicans in America on the same matter. This was less about a totally laissez faire attitude toward the issue than anger at continued oppressive religious and male prejudice toward women.
There was a suggestion that the emergence of ‘modest fashion’ was a cultural response to concern over internet porn and society’s general moral laxness. The idea was dismissed as over intellectualised nonsense and more likely to be a desperate attempt by the clothing industry – especially Marks & Spencer – to drum up sales.
Which was the point when we tacitly decided not to pursue this open-ended line of potentially divisive discourse. A well-meaning soul enquired about the pleasures of family visits at Easter. Unfortunately the initiative rekindled irritation among some of us at being ‘put upon’ by the invasion of demanding offspring. Apart from families with young children seeming to blame us for the weather, unmarried sons and daughters were a particular cause of tension. A daughter, recently divorced and old enough to know better had brought her new ‘squeeze’ unannounced into one household. A self-proclaimed ‘flaneur‘ he put everyone out by over-familiarity – hugging and stroking the females – and a tendency to pretentious boastfulness. Even the family dog, a venerable and placid animal, growled every time this person appeared. It had not been a happy week-end for family unity.
Elsewhere, a son had brought his latest girl-friend with him and failed to brief his parental hosts adequately. She turned out to be an Estonian celiac vegan for whom roast lamb and apple pie were of course, anathema. The kitchen was in disarray as she insisted on washing and brushing every surface and utensil; subsequently supervising the culinary process. A special shopping expedition had to be mounted to Tesco on Easter Saturday for provisions. Language problems and good manners inhibited very much mutual understanding being reached through conversation. So ‘a little stilted and constrained’ was the verdict on the event.
Recital of these vicissitudes restored everyone’s good humour. We parted with lots of jokes about the summer and BBQs when we could all pitch up in mankinis and burkinis – the women in the former and the men in the latter.