Yes, I admit it I am a bit of a curmudgeon. I should have been born in the days of Queen Victoria. Despite my mental youth I belong firmly to that school of “children should be seen and not heard” and I don’t like having my routine disturbed by other people’s precious dears. So yesterday when we fancied a late Sunday lunch I was disappointed to see a car park filled to the brim at my local hostelry. Apparently everyone in the world had gathered there to rush out and watch the Magna Carta being taken past unseen in a convoy of dignitaries and security guards.
Noting our usual table was free, we went to sit down. Now I have a bit of a thing about sitting in the “pub end” where the chairs are wide and cosy as opposed to the “restaurant end”. The manager on the other hand has recently decided that food belongs in the restaurant where modern reproduction tables and carvers designed for skinny minnies and children dig their cruel sharp side posts into my muscular back and shoulders. In our usual comfy spot we would happily have waited our turn for a menu (the pub recently having acquired table service) but no, we were to go to the far end out of everyone’s way and wait to be seated at a table.
I remonstrated with the staff. Nobody was actually sitting there and we wouldn’t mind the wait in our usual spot (in fact we would have happily had an extra pint while waiting) but no… the landlord has decided these tables will not be used for serving food. As we were not allowed to sit down where we wanted for a drink, we left hungry and disappointed. You see, we knew the plan. When our local is busy, people who arrive in pairs are squeezed into the uncomfortable end near the toilets where peace is shattered by small children (and not so small children too) who rush around showing off to an audience much bigger than usual.
We were not going to comply with their evil plan. Now our local pub probably will not miss the several meals a week we purchase there (because, as a writer, I find cooking distracts me from my work). Nevertheless I refuse to be shoe horned into an unsuitable environment that has pretensions. We left and will not return while they have their busy June period. The Chinese takeaway we ordered instead was cheaper, home booze was available if required, and there were no toilet smells, sharp seats to poke your back or screaming kids to hurt your head.
When my local pub gets its first Michelin star I won’t mind waiting to be seated even though I see free tables, in the meantime, like Matilda, I just say F.U. Unlike Matilda, I doubt the dragon will scorch my fairy dress and eat me up. I was brought up to be seen and not heard!

Of Matilda Who Told Lies: Tales from the Edge of Darkness – 2 is the latest short story in the collection Tales From The Edge Of Darkness and is available to borrow free with Kindle Unlimited and Amazon Prime.


Dear David Cameron and George Osbourne

I write to you regarding what I consider was one of the greatest mistakes the Labour Government made in office and on behalf of childfree adults everywhere I would request you repeal Tony Blair’s misbegotten legislation allowing small children in licensed premises.

Remember when we were very young, dewy eyed and innocent? When pubs were off limits to children and our parents planted us outside in beer gardens and car parks where we endured bottles of warm flat lemonade and packets of crisps with little blue bags of salt inside? Well maybe you are a little young for the little blue bags (or at least the sort you untwist to open) but you are old enough to run the country and as such I consider it my duty to inform you of the work shy culture and damage to the economy brought on by allowing small children in licensed premises.

Never mind that the screams of the spoilt babies and toddlers of this world make it impossible to enjoy a romantic lunch for two without dreading the inevitable consequences of romance. Never mind the lie that kids eat free which disguises the inflated price all adults have to pay to subsidise those with small children. Never mind the uncontrolled kids who run amok through the family restaurants and diners that good old-fashioned pubs have now become. Never mind the old curmudgeon in the corner who says he wants to organise a helicopter trip for all the bored screaming tots who won’t eat their so-called free meals to visit Eyjafjallajökull in full eruption mode. Far more important than any of this is the danger to our fragile economy.

Far more dangerous than the world banking crisis which your party would have me believe is the sole responsibility of Mr Brown; far more insidious than disabled people having box rooms outfitted for relatives and carers; is the destruction of that mainstay of the teenage economy, babysitting. Now when we were small we loved our flat lemonade and soggy crisps on country drives. We loved scampering merrily in and out of the parked vehicles, picking dusty blades of grass and stretching them in our cupped fists to make owl noises or chewing beermats to flick at passing vehicles using the six inch rulers all children seemed to carry permanently in those golden days. Even better were the balmy evenings when mummy and daddy went to the Dinner Dance and we were afforded a treasured opportunity to be truly naughty in their absence while frightened teenagers guarded us from death, destruction, fire, nuclear war and paedophile house invasions in return for a fee that would buy a bar of chocolate and the latest Bay City Rollers single.

This developed a culture of work among teenagers and encouraged them to get on their bikes and skateboards looking for something useful to do. Not so now! These same teenagers, now no longer frightened, do not have to work. From a young age they are encouraged to believe they can eat for free, they are given allowances on an informal national minimum scale that enable them to buy expensive clothes and smart phones on which, provided their parents pay the subscription or provide cash for them to “pay their own” they can listen to their favourite bands for free.

Budgeting other people’s money rather than their own hard earned fees for babysitting and chores leads to a disregard for the value of work and saving. It may lead to a belief that mummy and daddy will always be there to provide. It may lead to a sense of entitlement that afflicts young people for life. “I was conceived, therefore I am the centre of the universe!” may be the result of too much coddling. Why should anyone work in a job they do not enjoy when the state will provide? It takes over when mummy and daddy finally evict them from the second-mortgaged nest to build a nest of their own, a nest from which they can take their offspring to pubs, restaurants and diners to eat at the expense of other adults who would not mind paying the extra hidden cost of the kids’ meals in exchange for just a little bit of peace and quiet on a Sunday lunch timer at their local.

Now, where can I hire that helicopter for a one way trip to Eyjafjallajökull ?