Saturday lunchtime. A perfect opportunity to mark Shirley's retirement with a special family meal out in the Ego restaurant at Dore Moor Inn - on the edge of the city.
The food was excellent and so was the service. As a starter, I had chicken liver and rosemary pate on toast with chilli tomato marmalade. For the main, I had rump steak with peppercorn sauce, fries, plum tomato and rocket. This was followed by a mini chocolate brownie with cream and a latte.
All thoroughly scrumptious and Little Phoebe behaved herself so well. No crying or screaming. Nothing like that. It was a perfect meal in a nice environment and yet...
At a right angle to us, in the bay window, there was another family that included an older teenage girl and a boy of about nine or ten. At first, we hardly noticed them but halfway through the meal period, one of them began playing a game on a smartphone. This game included music, voices and the sound of weaponry and it went on and on. And you know what - it wasn't the boy or the teenage daughter who was playing, it was the forty something mother!
Then one of these things happened:-
A) I put my knife and fork down and stood up. After pushing my chair under our table I went to our neighbours' table and stood right next to the thoughtless woman with the smartphone.
"Excuse me," I said as she continued to play. "If you must play that game, please mute the sound as the noise is spoiling our lunch experience. You may not have noticed but we are sitting at the next table."
She looked up.
"I'm not hurting anybody am I?" she said.
Then her barrel-shaped husband piped up. "Keep your ****ing big nose out of things and sit down mate! There's no law about playing games in pubs is there you ****er!"
Well, as you can imagine, this coarse intervention caused my blood to stir. Not wishing to cause a scene, I invited the fellow into the car park where I boxed his ears. Upon returning to our respective tables, he urged his wife to turn off the irritating game as she dabbed at the trickle of blood that was emerging from the left nostril of his recently reddened nose.
Justice had been done.
B) Upon noticing the game noise I continued to eat my delicious main course trying unsuccessfully to ignore the intrusive din. I kept quiet knowing that any complaint could be awkward and might lead to an angry scene, creating a memory I had no wish to connect with Shirley's special retirement meal. Discretion is often the better part of valour though it might be viewed by some as pure cowardice.
When the other family departed, I breathed a sigh of relief as Shirley and Frances confirmed that they had also found the game noise annoying. They both thought that the unwelcome noise had been made on a device by one of the children but sitting where I was I had been able to watch the mother as she played by looking in an adjacent wall mirror.
I watched as the departing woman passed by outside in front of the bay window - totally oblivious to the annoyance she had just caused during perhaps half an hour of gaming activity.