Magazine article The Spectator

Real Life

Magazine article The Spectator

Real Life

Article excerpt

'Excuse me. I couldn't help overhearing your conversation and I have to tell you, as a Catholic, I'm offended.'

The girl, a complete stranger, had walked up to our restaurant table to inform us she had been insulted while eavesdropping on us.

I stared at her, not knowing whether to apologise or tell her to go away and mind her own business.

I had been sitting at my favourite table in my favourite restaurant with my two favourite people having a spirited supper discussion with them about whether or not I, as a Roman Catholic, bore any responsibility for what the Catholic Church. . . oh, you know. Need I go into it again? I would really rather not. Once was bad enough. To be honest, it was a total car crash of an evening.

The problem was not the rights and wrongs of organised religion, but the fact that my sugar level was at a catastrophic low. We had arrived at the restaurant late and had sat waiting half an hour to put in our order. My best gay lawyer friend Stephen had walked 20 minutes from the Tube in the rain. The builder boyfriend had had a long day on a roof.

And, most dangerously of all, I was hungry.

'Where is the waitress?' I said, banging my menu on the table like a toddler. When she finally came, I should have ordered the quickest thing possible. Some pate on toast, for example. That would have arrived quickly.

But I fancied the chicken livers to start followed by the bream, and that took way too long. When our food finally arrived at 10 p. m.

I was almost beyond help. Every attempt at conversation, even frivolous banter, was ending in disaster: 'How can you not know who Liz Hurley is?' I screamed at the builder.

'How? HOW?'

If we couldn't handle Liz Hurley we were Why should even a belief in Marxism and a desire for socialist revolution be equated with loathing of a country? never going to handle Ralph Miliband, Marxism, and then, as if we had just decided to light the touchpaper and burn ourselves to death, one of us, I think it was the builder, said: 'I mean, look at what's going on with the Catholic Church. . .'

Much of it is a terrible blur but I do remember flashes. I remember the builder screaming about the Vatican and Nazi gold, and claiming Hitler did not die in the bunker but lived out the rest of his days being served tea and crumpets by the Pope, or some such. …

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