The bowling was great fun and you can barely hear yourself think through the bass of the music, the treble of the nearby slot machines and the smashing of the bowling balls. The level of noise makes bowling a perfect place for children, because they can be as loud as they like and nobody can hear them above the din. After around one hour playing bowls I suffered the ignominy of finishing last out of the five of us.
“Look guys, inside this restaurant will be a lot of adults all trying to look serious while eating their food. I am not saying not to have fun, because we want to have fun, but we do need to keep a conscious ear on our levels of noise.”
“He means be quiet,” said Jude’s friend Iwan.
In we walked and everyone turned around to greet us with an expression of dread. I introduced myself to the waiter and I could see that she was in a dilemma. She was genuinely worried about where to put us because she assumed we were going to upset the other guests. The place was packed, so someone was going to have to put up with a boisterous crowd of children whether they liked it or not.
In the end we were sat in between a young couple having a romantic meal, a foursome who looked like they had just finished work and a group of girls having a party. The waiter came over and handed my group a colouring book and some pencils. They looked at her stoically, and as soon as she was gone, they laughed and pushed them into the middle of the table. It seems eleven year old children do not play with crayons and colouring books. Instead they all started to tell stories just like adults would, and to be fair they had me in stitches. We were having so much fun and yet we kept drawing a thousand eyeballs. Interestingly, the girls who were out having a good time were also having a right old laugh – in fact much louder than we – except their laughter was not met with any eyeballs at all, instead they were all feasting on the eleven year old children in the corner.
The waiter brought another couple over to a nearby empty table and they asked to be seated somewhere else. They were moved to the other side of the room – right next to the party of girls. The champagne corks were popping and laughter was spilling from the table, but everyone kept looking at these four kids chuckling over tales from the schoolyard. I found the whole incident highly amusing but not anywhere as amusing as this…
My son Jude stood up and proceeded to tell the table the story of the time his teacher had made him read Alone on the Wide, Wide Sea by Michael Morpurgo. Jude found a swear word in the book and showed it to the teacher who confirmed that it was OK to proceed.
“Bastard,” he read with a smile on his face.
I asked him if the teacher had explained what the word meant, and Jude confirmed that she had told them that a bastard was a child with no father.
“But it has a double meaning,” said Jude’s friend Iwan. We all looked towards Iwan in expectation before he said, “It is also the name of a female dog.”
We all burst into laughter, “That’s a bitch, silly!” Shouted one of the girls on our table and the whole room stopped, dropped their cutlery and looked over at the table and stared!
The type of situation I found myself in the other night fascinates me. On one hand we had a table of adults who were very noisy, and on the other hand we had a table of children who were just slightly less noisy. So a loud group of children and a louder group of adults, and yet we drew the attention of the public. There was one young woman that just wouldn’t stop staring at our group. Her look could best be described as detestable, and it was designed to tell all of the children to button it up. Yet just next to her was an even louder table and she didn’t bat an eyelid.
So why did this happen?
As soon as we walked through the door, people formed an opinion of us. They all carried out their own form of thin slicing as described in the first book of 52 that I read, Blink by Malcolm Gladwell. They saw a group of children and instantly believed we would be noisy and cause disruption. In fact we didn’t disappoint them, but the fact that the adults were even noisier made the whole experience really worth writing about. It is yet another example of what I believe to be society’s stereotypical way of thinking.