Of all the animals of prey, man is the only sociable one.
Every one of us preys upon his neighbour, and yet we herd together.
The Beggar's Opera: John Gay

Saturday, 3 March 2012

Lunch on Mars

The venue was a coastal golf club that has remained virtually untouched by the passage of the past seventy years. Surrounded by the art-deco panelling of 'the nineteenth' and looking out over the links, amid conversations all but incomprehensible to the non-golfing ear, our hosts lamented the incursions of modern life into their peaceful environment.

One of them had been particularly struck by something she observed in the local High Street the day before; a teenage girl - one of a group - opening a packet of crisps and deliberately dropping them on the ground one at a time, stamping on them as she walked along the pavement.

The matriarchs of Clan Macheath know no fear; where others might have looked away or tutted impotently, our heroine accosted the girl and asked her what she thought she was doing. The response, couched in a series of sulky, incoherent grunts, was that the girl didn't really know why she was doing it but she did know it was wrong to drop litter and would stop doing it now.

It's hard to imagine a scene like that taking place in one of our larger towns or cities these days; few of us now would care to accost a group of unknown teenagers, even in broad daylight in a crowded street, to criticise their behaviour, given the risk of direct retaliation or, more deviously, unfounded allegations of abuse or assault.

It's reassuring to know that there are still places where it can be done - few and far between though they may be. The golf club may be an extreme manifestation - it is certainly an alien environment for those of us who don't indulge in the sport - but it reflects the town that supports it, steadfastly clinging to the manners and customs that have been eroded away elsewhere.

As an illustration of spoilt, decadent behaviour, you could do worse than someone buying food simply to step on it to make a noise, yet, such are the values that permeate popular culture, I have no doubt that the girl and her friends would feel a moral justification in vociferously criticising the members of the golf club for enjoying the excellent lunch we were served on Sunday.


  1. "As an illustration of spoilt, decadent behaviour, you could do worse than someone buying food simply to step on it to make a noise..."

    Spot on. It's the sheer pointlessness and waste of it.

  2. Julia, that was, perhaps, the aspect of the incident that shocked our hosts more than anything; in seventy years - less than their lifetime - the country has gone from the rigours of food rationing to absurd levels of profligacy.