“Would you like a cup of tea?”
The woman’s answer was too quiet to hear.
“Would – you – like – a – cup – of – tea?”
I couldn’t see her either as a large plant and twenty yards of nondescript hotel lobby were between us.
“WOULD YOU LIKE A CUP OF TEA? WOULD YOU? W-O-U-L-D -Y-O-U? It’s the future: will you, would you. WOULD YOU like tea? Would you? Would you?”
The grand inquisitor was nothing if not insistent. Everything about him spoke of a middling English public school fifty years ago from the pernickety accent to the greying floppy fringe to the tweed jacket worn out at the elbows to the trousers too short for his spindly legs, revealing an ill-matched pair of socks above scuffed, handmade brogues.
Everything about him also made me want to punch him in his braying, patronising trap and shout “No, she does not want a cup of ******* tea but if you’re making I’ll have milk and two sugars!”
Admittedly I was already in a fairly bad humour having spent most of the morning investigating the circumstances of a 16-year-old German girl’s suicide in western Latvia. She’d jumped beneath the wheels of a train, but it was the detail that was really depressing.
With typical German thoroughness she had left not one but two suicide notes, both of which concentrated on saying how no-one should be blamed for her actions, and that she viewed death as a happy release that she had been carefully considering for several years. She’d also left a list of useful phone numbers for whoever happened to find her body and, most pathetically of all, a small picture album for her parents.
It is not the sort of news one enjoys reporting.
Then, because of a silly mix-up I had missed what as supposed to be the main news event of the day: a press event with new EU bigwig Herman van Rompuy. As it turned out, I hadn’t missed much as Herbert van Rumpole announced before the presser began that it was a press briefing, not a press conference (there is apparently an important difference) and that journalists shouldn’t even think about trying to ask him any questions. Another victory for European democracy.
I was transcribing an audio file of the Henry von der Rumpy-Pumpy lecture when I overheard the “cup of tea” question. After the initial wave of anger and hatred had passed, I became almost grateful for the unwitting and ludicrous intervention of the English idiot. He was so absurd, so very preoccupied with an absolute trifle that he served as a useful receptacle for all the frustration of the day.
He symbolised more eloquently than I could ever explain why I generally have little to do with the British expat community in Latvia. There are a few Brits here I like, but the great majority seem to be cut from the same Harris tweed cloth as this dolt. Their favourite subjects are generally themselves (all blog writers are guilty of similar sophistry) and how grateful Latvians should be to have them around.
Their former favourite topic – how clever they were to buy real estate – has now been replaced by how unfairly they have been hit by the collapse of the property market. I call them the “stuffed shirts.”
I don’t think I’ve ever been as pleased to see and hear one as I was today.
I went and had a coffee.