I never thought the day would come when I was taken to task for my over enthusiastic use of modern technology, but it has finally happened.
I had been with the bar wife to the Plague, Fire and Revolution exhibition at the National Maritime Museum but I could not persuade her to go on with me to watch VCD Athletic play the Metropolitan Police. Off I went, and on the way I decided to drop into the London CAMRA Regional Pub of the Year for 2014, London’s first micro pub, which is to be found in Welling. I was drinking my excellent pint of Four Candles Golden Ale and making a record of it on the notepad facility on my mobile phone, when I received a tap on the shoulder. One of the customers nearby advised me to put the phone away and drew my attention to a notice on the wall, explaining that the landlord really, really did not like them. It took a while to spot the notice amongst the 65 or so other pictures and posters, but indeed there it was, surrounded by a few example of, I thought, rather inferior models skewered with six inch nails. The words on the notice requested patrons not to use mobile phones as it disrespectful to other customers. I must emphasise that at no point did the landlord make any comment. Indeed he was a rather pleasant chap who wished me a good day when I left, and it may be the case that my fellow customer was acting with the best of intentions to save me from greater embarrassment, so I have no complaints about the pub or its patrons. However it did set me wondering about this idea of disrespect. Is it really disrespectful to use a mobile with the sound turned off to make a note in a pub? Would it be any different if I had, as advised, found a piece of paper and written it down? Is reading a newspaper or book in a pub disrespectful? Indeed, what exactly does disrespectful mean?
You might think that the rules on acceptable behaviour are set by the majority, but I don’t think that is the case. Take an example of a dinner given for 100 people. Within the group are five vegetarians. The caterers are only prepared to produce one menu, so the majority who do not mind what they eat are happy to have the vegetarian food to accommodate the minority. This is a scenario that is endlessly repeated in many different ways. Perhaps someone is allergic to nuts, so nuts will not be served on a flight. Maybe a minority of a population have deeply held religious beliefs, so shops or pubs have restricted opening hours on a Sunday. A minority of people who go to football games don’t always behave well, so no one can drink alcohol in sight of the pitch. A few people might be offended by a film, such as Monty Python’s Life of Brian so it is not screened. This is not always a bad thing, and indeed one of the challenges of a democracy is to ensure that the views of people in a minority are considered and accommodated, whilst bowing to the wishes of the majority.
Anyway, I moved on to a Shepherd Neame pub nearer the ground where no such issues occurred. The match? A 3-3 draw in front of 65 people. Given that the Ryman Premier is the same level as the Linnets play, and we draw ten times the crowds, why aren’t the Linnets doing better?