“Why don’t you move that table?”
We are sat round in a big circle in the Non-Village Pub. Such a big circle that we have outgrown our table.
“Move that second table into the middle,” she says.
I look at the second table. It seems comfortable where it is. I give it a little tug. It moves slightly, revealing that it is not fixed in position, but it makes a big scraping sound on the floor that everyone can see. The Bar Lady looks over, sternly.
I do not want to move the table. If I move the table, a man will probably appear and shout at me. I have spent my whole life worrying about doing things in case a man appears and shouts at me, and at my age it is too late to change this approach.
“No go on, just move it in to the middle.”
They are all at it now. Trying to make me move the table. It is peer pressure. I flinch slightly under its power. I know that peer pressure is a terrible thing. One minute you are politely declining to do something, the next minute you are Zammo Maguire.
I move the table another grillionth of an inch. It makes another scraping noise, this time of immense decibality. Upstairs in his office, I can see the man putting down his pen and sighing and saying ‘somebody is trying to move that table again, I will go down and shout at them’.
“Give us a hand,” I say to nobody in general, desperately trying to share the responsibility for the moved table for when it gets to court.
But everybody suddenly looks at their feet and doesn’t meet my eye. A couple pretend not to hear.
Nobody else wants to move the table either.
“Do we really need to move the table?” somebody asks.
There is a chorus of ‘no, no, we do not really need to move the table at all’s.
This is England in a nutshell. Whilst we would like people to bend the rules on our behalf, in fact when it comes down to it we all have respect for the rule of law and order in our society. If I had moved the table they would all have been quite admiring of my ability to flout convention and move a table that clearly was not meant to be moved, but they would also have been a tiny bit contemptuous and talked about it afterwards. Hypocritically, this would have been after they had accepted the benefit of the moved table in terms of putting their drinks on it.
I smiled inwardly at their blatant two-facedness that might have happened.
None of us are perfect, you see. But we can aspire.