A little while ago, the excellent Steve Hanson emailed me: “I take much cathartic strength from your café blogs. They tell me that I'm human for feeling the same way and not dysfunctional for refusing to get gang raped quietly in those places, by their light jazz music, and their acceptance of amnesiac oblivion and a refusal to acknowledge the other as the default human setting...”
I'm probably more tolerant of the café itself than he. I am most inclined to hate a certain strand of clientèle which seems to gain a sense of entitlement from having children, when it is probably a sign that they're too stupid to practice contraception. I'd say the evidence is at least 50:50.
We have had in here just now 5 children simultaneously turning into cockatiels. The first one to do it today was so unwarranted there was no warning and so shrill that I shouted Shut up before I thought about it.
That is blasphemy.
It has been suggested that some common ancestor of the various human species at present roaming the urban wastes of the planet one day looked at a waterfall or a leaking gutter or some such, felt awe and so had the first religious experience. That may be so but it's a slightly different meaning of the root word, laid claim to by the believers amongst us.
Religion started the first time someone wanted to be told what to do. Eric Mottram caught it rather well in a poem many years ago when he pictured those who wake in the middle of the night screaming “I need a judge”.
Religion itself comes down to a set of behavioural axioms dressed up.
So we're looking at something that the domestic dog manages: anticipating what behaviour is acceptable to dim humans and trying not to cause trouble.
So much is raised to the level of the sacred, mostly to avoid having to face up to and consider contradictions.
So when I blasphemed today people looked at me all round the cafe, more with disbelief and dismay than disapproval. It was: look at the weirdo. Look at the one who isn't like us.
After some minutes I was challenged verbally, though I had said nothing else, presumably by those who feared we were now in trouble as a race and couldn't stand the suspense; and to those who wanted to listen, I put my case. The staff paid no attention. Mine was one more egotistical scream to them.
I disputed that all children make a lot of noise all the time without warning; and when one of the asbos shouted Are you saying I am not bringing up my children properly, I said yes. This was clearly an unexpected answer. She didn't respond.
I referred to the group which had been in here earlier and had included the child in what they were doing and had no noisy difficulties.
They didn't know about that, said some mothers. No, I said, but they were still here; and some here saw them. There were reluctant nods.
All this time brats were running up and down, choosing the time and place for their tantrums as they trained their parents.
Could I do any better? I was asked and I said that I would be happy to discuss this if they wouldn't mind conceding it is irrelevant. People DO manage; I do not bring children into the cafe.
And on and on.
Oh yes, that last brought: I don't know what you're talking about.
It wasn't true. It was a lie to avoid the point.
I did get through a little to one, seemingly; and she kept saying sshhh to her child. This was clearly unprecedented and the kid took her on with considerable skill and understanding of tactics. Once away from the cafe the routine will return to normal, I am sure.
Someone said I had a point but we all to live together, don't we. I said I saw no sign of such tolerance from the other side – I neglected to tell you about the brief political speech about democratic rights which the antisocials had tried to make.
That's a bit unfair, he said.
In what way? I asked
I don't know, he said
Two other of the 5 young mothers were in a frenzy apparently that anyone should speak to them in such terms and banged around and eventually banged out, lathering the children's emotions into a younger frenzy as they went.
We're not all so bloody perfect as you, screamed one of the two. (Oh Lord I am a sinner and I'd like 27 other cases taken into account. Oh good, now I am free of sin again)
And everyone of these people has the vote.