Thursday night, Oxo Tower, 6.30pm. I'm a little early, and my partner in crime for the evening is still on his way, so in the middle of another busy week, I hit an oasis of calm, a period of inactivity. Hunched behind my second house red of the evening, the brasserie looks a little thin on the floor tonight, bringing the spectacular view even more into focus, in the mind's eye especially....
But wait, there's a little commotion in the perihperal vision. In the corner, a table of seven or eight are closely clustered around themselves, and then I glance across to see a couple both sitting on the same side of their table a few metres away. 'City boy' is sitting parallel to the river, boofed up grey hair, jumper - leaning back in his chair, legs crossed, nonchalant, confident in his economic and social standing. This is his scene, after all.
'City girl' has her back to me and is sitting a little too close to City Boy, facing him, legs spread, and she's rabbiting on in his ear about something or other with great gusto, shrugs of the shoulders and such. From the other side near the register, two of the service staff are looking on with interest and amusement, and I realise that there may actually be something of interest to watch.
One of the staff is now standing with the couple and City Girl is giving her a right serve about something, almost loud enough for me to make out words. The staff member's receptiveness and apologetic nature are not quite in tune with her glazed over eyes; not another rowdy bunch, and it's only 6.30.
I exchange an amused look with the manager who is dining at the table across from me. He's curious, but totally unphased - all part of a night's work.
Another more senior staff member is sent over, this time polite but much firmer and City Girl is still raving on at him. Eventually the compromise is met, the staff member leaves, and City Girl complies with a plastered smile. City Boy hasn't moved or said a thing.
I get rankled when people want to mess with the hardworking men and women of the hospitality industry. The long hours, the hierarchy - they've got enough to deal with before having to put up with arrogant customers trying to throw their weight around. Fair enough if the service is dodgy, but I can personally attest to the crew at Oxo doing a pretty good job.
Regardless, eventually the other player, Colour, a great guitarist, turns up, we polish off the mackerel and have a great time across the four sets of the evening. I've been looking forward to this one for a while, and we talk about the scene and Oz and here and people we know and albums and music and it turns out to be a really great night on the trail....