The Lady Guide to Modern Manners: 7 September

Dear Thomas,

Recently, I’ve had several evenings in restaurants ruined by nearby rowdy children. So great news that a German eatery has banned under-14s after 5pm.

Yippee! If only more restaurant owners had the courage…

Martin Ridley, Peterborough

Dear Martin

Let’s just think about this. For a start, there are restaurants, and there are restaurants. The particular one you refer to is in a resort town on the island of Rügen in the Baltic. In the summer holidays, families go there with… well… their families. Big surprise. But the owner of Oma’s Küche (which means ‘Grandma’s Kitchen’ – not a joke) has been exasperated by children throwing wine glasses about and getting in the way of waiters while their parents sit back enjoying the fun. When some historic items got damaged, he finally lost patience.

Opponents of the policy are outraged: would you ban disabled people, they say? Or people of a different race? Supporters cite the liberty of the individual. Speaking of another restaurant owner, Bob Higginson, who in August 2017 barred children from The Chart Room in Brixham, Devon, a local said: ‘It’s his business. His rules.’

But it is discrimination. A blanket prohibition claims, in effect, that all youngsters under a certain age are disruptive – which isn’t true. It’s a prejudice. Whether there should be legislation to stop business owners from doing this kind of thing is another matter.

Readers, do you agree? I’m mystified by all the uproar over this issue. We’re all familiar with self- indulgent, selfish parents, but it’s my impression that most of them have got the sense to know that taking their offspring out to dinner would be a terrible bore for all concerned. They just don’t do it – very often.

A restaurant in a resort town during the summer holidays – well, that’s another matter. You would expect to find a jolly family ambience and, yes, children under 12 having dinner. But do they know how to behave? That’s the question. They should remain at the table, have proper table manners, which includes not treating cutlery and glassware as missiles.

Parents are responsible. If their offspring are so bored and restless they can’t be controlled, then other options for the evening should be considered. When I said earlier that the restaurant proprietor had lost patience, I meant it. He’s lashing out, blaming all children rather than the ones causing the trouble, who should, quite simply, be turned out, and their parents charged for breakages and other damage to property. Treat them exactly as you would an adult who behaved like that. Word would soon get round that Grandma’s Kitchen has certain standards and the owner would avoid all the unpleasant publicity his ban has brought.

Please write to Thomas at the usual Bedford Street address or email manners@lady.co.uk


 WHAT TO DO ABOUT...The fruit bowl

At my mother’s over the Bank Holiday, I suddenly ate a peach in the middle of the morning. ‘Do i dare to eat a peach?’ TS Eliot's J. Alfred Prufrock enquired. So at least I was showing a bit more gumption than him, with his crippling modernist angst. But I was worried my mother might have had other plans for that peach. Hosts and family providers complain, though, that when the fruit bowl is offered at lunch or dinner or even breakfast, it is rejected in favour of more enticing items, such as Viennese Whirl or sticky toffee pudding. Much fruit sinks into squalor and neglect. Or it mysteriously disappears. Bunches of grapes, in particular, are somehow pecked clean by unseen vultures, leaving those tell-tale fleshy stumps. (Oh, grape scissors, where are you?)

Perhaps this is as it should be. Suddenly that pear or plum looks to be at a perfect pitch of ripeness. The passer-by must seize the moment. William Carlos Williams wrote a poem on this theme: 'This is just to say /I have eaten /the plums /that were in /the icebox /and which /you were probably /saving /for breakfast /forgive me /they were delicious /so sweet /and so cold.’

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