Late Life Crisis - September 2019

I have a confused relationship with croissants. At an overground station I use, there is a kiosk where the smell wafts out as you wait for a train. The smell has that duality of being both enticing and nauseous. But when I take an early morning flight and breakfast in the departure lounge, the smell is irresistible. I march up to order a berry compote, and end up with....guess what?


More food. When my children were young, a family meal out was a treat. There was occasionally somewhere on the posh side - in the memory archives there is the incident when my elder daughter worked out that if you went to the toilet during the meal a waiter would fold your napkin and then seat you on your return; so why just go once? At the other end of the scale was TGI Fridays, with the crayons and colouring books. There were also balloons, although there was trauma when my younger daughter's balloon escaped up into the sky above Mill Hill  (after that we tied the string to her wrist before leaving).

But in this, and without appearing to be middle-class sanctimonious, was the notion that you would sit and talk with your children, and that they would learn the good table manners that would stick with them for the rest of their lives. However, time moves on, and in a North London restaurant recently there was the sight of two couples and one child, she of maybe 11 or 12. Installed at the end of the table, with I Pad and headphones, she went through the meal quite divorced fron the company, the grown-ups chatting contentedly. Everybody wins...or do they?


For this last item I am indebted to my tour guide colleague Rob Smith, who spotted the piece and mentioned it on Facebook. We have all tee heed at disastrous English in "foreign restaurants". My favourite still is a flambe dish that would be "all cocked up by your seat". But the laughs come more subtly in a translated into English article about the East End, called "The hipster capital of Europe".

This has some stand-out phrases: "Bethnal Inexperienced"; "East Finish"; stopping for " a chew to eat". Stil the milder ones are just as much fun: the restaurant expert becomes the "restaurant knowledgeable"; the Leadenhall Building becomes "the Leadenhall constructing"; the idea of staying out very late becomes "you may fortunately keep on the road for the night". At times you just want to fathom out the intended translation.

So thank you Google.You have given us some fun, and possibly even a new language.