I was on the upstairs bar at a Kensington pub. A girl had hired out the room for her 29th birthday. The crowd was very polite but no one was drinking too much or being too silly.
A tall, blonde, well mannered customer approached the bar and ordered two double Jack Daniels and cokes.
“Certainly,” I replied, and made them immediately. I pushed them toward him and asked for eleven pounds twenty.
“Do you have a straw for these?” he asked, elongating his vowels in that English public school manner.
I did a double take. When I was a bar tender in Melbourne in my uni days, we would get a disdainful “phuh” if we gave a man a straw with an orange juice, let alone a JD and coke. Some of the gay dudes would like straws but not all. This particular guy was very well spoken, not too masculine by Australian standards, and I believed he was heterosexual as he’d been talking about his girlfriend Susie.
I gave over the straws and his change and decided to take out my notebook and pen and eavesdrop on the crowd.
“So how is Susie?” enquired another blond public school accented fellow.
“Oh, really well,” answered Mr. Straw, sipping his JD and Coke. “I took her to the ballet last Thursday, and it was really moving.”
“The ballet? Which one?” asked the Friend.
“The Nutcracker, and if you understand the story behind it, its magnificent, I was moved to tears,” said Mr. Straw.
[I kept my head down and sliced some lemons to disguise that I was very, very surprised to learn about how different Englishmen are to Aussie men. I mean, many Aussie men were Englishmen just a couple of centuries ago yet I had never heard even the most arty Aussie man talk about crying at the ballet, let alone proudly and in public.]
“I’ve always had a fear of dancing,” the friend interjected. “I don’t like dancing in public.”
“Really?” asked Mr. Straw. “What about nightclubs and all that.”
“No, I don’t like them either, and I don’t take chemicals or anything. I have this occurring nightmare about my wedding day and having to do the waltz in front of everyone.”
The friend shrank back to show how anxious he felt.
“Well, of course I could hire a choreographer and all but I don’t think I could remember all the steps correctly…”
“But are you seeing anyone at the moment? A fiancé on the horizon?” Mr. Straw carefully enquired.
“No, no, I’m single at the moment.”
Luckily, the posh English are very gifted with diplomacy and Mr. Straw expressed himself in a more polite, gentle and respectful manner than any brash Australian could.
“Well, maybe you can just meet a lady for the moment. Say, Susie has a friend who doesn’t like dancing either. She prefers art.”
TOP (HAT) IMAGE: Not the actual Mr. Straw, just an approximate artistic representation. (Via Shutterstock.com)