Recently, while on my London jaunt, I was sat in a coffee shop in Canary Wharf, reading A Prayer For Owen Meany by John Irving. A particurlar scene caused me to laugh out loud, gaining the attention of my fellow patrons, and I picked up my mobile to pretend that someone had sent me an amusing text.
It was as if I had been caught doing something shameful in public.
I don’t know why I did this, it was a spontaneous reaction to my sudden display of emotion at the book I was reading. It’s as if we should only be moved in some capacity by social interaction, in response to the prompting of others. Any bibliophile, or nature lover, or music fan, etc, can tell you that you can be adequately entertained and provoked by such solitary pursuits.
Ahem, anyway . . .
After my acute, public act of deception, I was pretty sure that out of this experience I’d be prepared for any future eruption.
It was soon put to the test.
I was reading All Points North by Simon Armitage in another coffee shop, this time, fittingly, in Manchester. I was reading about a news item in a newspaper, as relayed by Armitage, about a Robert Ancliff of Bradford who was upset by a note left on his doorstep by his milkman:
The previous day, Mr Ancliff had typed a polite letter of complaint, asking what had happened to the extra pint of milk he had requested. The handwritten reply read: ‘I did get your milk delivered. It must have been stolen, so kiss my f****** a***.’ The milkman has quit without notice and has not been seen since. A company spokesman has apologized, and Mr Ancliff has been given complimentary milk for his trouble.
I laughed out loud at the milkman’s reply. Perhaps the poor man had been having a bad day and Mr Ancliff’s note was the last straw. As a former postman I can fully relate to that.
Anyway-I laughed out loud.
Immediately, I went to put the book down while fumbling in my pocket for my phone. But then, previous self-analysis kicking in, I shrugged to the people around me, and carried on reading my book.
I came out there and then, in that coffee shop, as a book indulger, rereading the same sentence over and over among a bemused and curious crowd, smirking away into my Americano.