Monday 18 November 2013

Phone call from uncle (overheard in a London cafe)

In a crowded cafe near Trafalgar Square, a crumpled old donnish-looking gentleman put down the book he had been reading and made a phone call. Though I was sitting at the other side of the room, I had the benefit of hearing the conversation quite distinctly since the gentleman bellowed every syllable at the top of his lungs, holding the phone at a distance from his face like a singer with a microphone. I have thus recorded his words for posterity, as a distillation of general sound advice for young people everywhere.

Hullo! Now I wanted to say I'm frightfully sorry I've not come to see you. I know we talked about it, and I haven't forgot to come, but I'm afraid it's been quite impossible because, as it were, of the weather. It's been awfully cold and wet in the city – sunny from time to time, you understand, but very cold as a rule – and I can't get out much in weather of that sort. But I hear you've settled in, and I wanted, as it were, to say hello and find out how you're doing. So then: how are you finding things in Sussex? And where are you staying? Do you have, as it were, a flat? And are you sharing it with three or four other characters, or do you have your own little place all to yourself? Ah, I see, and these other characters, what are they like? That is to say, do you get along with them? And do you all, as it were, eat together? And how often do you take these meals together? Excellent. I suppose it's one of those little flats with a shared bathroom and loo somewhere in the building? No? Your own loo? Splendid, splendid, excellent. And how are you finding university? I'm sorry we didn't to get to talk about your Johnson paper, we could certainly have had a little talk about that, but I'm sure the paper went splendidly all the same. And what is the teaching like, how do you find it? I suppose by now you've found the good men who are worth hearing? I suppose you're rushing back and forth taking in lectures by all the best people? And have you been all right, because last year you were really quite depressed. How is all that business now? Do you get out and do things? I mean, apart from study and socialising, do you go out, as it were, to discos? What do you do then? Are you involved in any clubs, that is to say, university clubs apart from study? I see. Are there any hobbies, pastimes, that sort of thing? You do what? Now the trouble with poker is that in the end one always ends up losing one's money, so stay away from poker from now on. And what about girls, do you see any girls? Have you managed to find, as it were, a girlfriend? And where does one go to meet girls in Sussex? I see, I see. It was rather different in my day, quite a different thing. Girls today are concerned about hygiene and cleanliness and that sort of business. It really makes it a lot harder for a chap. But you mustn't let it get you down. I'm not talking specifically about sex, if you catch my drift, but you must try to find a girlfriend if you can, just do your best, but above all, don't get too concerned about it. But you must certainly try to get out more often to places with girls. Get out, as it were, in the evenings. Good man, good man. Now then, here is what we shall do. When the weather improves I shall come to see you in Sussex, and we shall have, as it were, a drink together. It'll be soon, soon. But until then: goodbye!

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