Saturday, July 29, 2006

No Reading at Table

Reading during mealtimes was always considered extremely rude when I was a child. This, I think, is a great pity as it’s one of my favourite activities. Sometimes it’s great to have a sociable meal with friends and talk: sometimes, however, I just want to eat on my own with a good book or a newspaper.

I eat fast (tut tut, also frowned upon) and I think I began to eat even faster when Emily was little, because she didn’t want to wait around for adults to eat – she wanted to get on with more interesting things, so I would polish off my food quickly before she got bored.

At Park Hotel, where we’ve been staying in Tenby, the food is delicious – here’s the dinner table last night before we messed it all up (the décor, as everywhere in Park Hotel, is of a style best described as “Camp as Christmas” – I love it). Meals are generally four courses and take a bit of time, particularly since my parents both eat very slowly.

So, when Emily was little, we knew she would get bored long before the end of the meal: but one thing would, we knew, keep her happy and that was a good book. So we got into the habit of taking books down to dinner and reading to her in between courses. When she was very little we would have a huge, teetering pile of picture books. Later it dwindled to a couple of books we could read to her: and then to books she could read to herself.

“No Reading at Table!” echoed round my head throughout my childhood – we always had Proper Meals with a Tablecloth. Forbidden to read books at table, I would read everything from the cornflake packet to the HP Sauce bottle (“Cette sauce de haute qualite est un melange - - “ )

Emily, on the other hand, has cunningly continued her reading at table although now, at nearly seventeen, she might be expected to sit and Talk Nicely. No meal at Park Hotel is complete without at least half a novel being read. Do my parents tell her off? No, they do not. A Precedent has been Set. She reads all the time whilst eating at home, too, without any apparent sense of guilt. Of course, this is because I have always let her do what I’ve always wanted to do. So it’s my fault. And I don’t care.

I suspect there are others who share both my enjoyment of reading whilst eating and my big sense of guilt at its naughtiness. I think a café for us would be a good idea. Lots of shelves of books. All the day’s papers. Writing paper. Pens. Tables for One. Bliss.


Blogger Ailbhe said...

Heh, Linnea and I both frequently eat our lunch with books in front of us, at home. Not dinner or breakfast, though, since those are Social Meals.

But eating lunch at the table with my daughter while we each read our own book is one of the great little joys of my life.

11:14 pm  

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