My last supper in London before I moved to the country took place in The Wolseley, on Piccadilly. It’s a cavernous brasserie. It’s fashionable, and therefore packed to the high rafters with extroverts.
I sat opposite my agent, the only person who had turned up, and told him the reasons I was leaving. I wanted peace and quiet. I’d be fine driving 500 miles to and from work. The locals will love me, as I’m an animal lover. I could see his mouth moving but I couldn’t hear a word, given the din from other diners, the clattering of cutlery on polished tables, the braying, the scraping on plates, and the fact that I’m also profoundly deaf.
My last supper in London before I moved to the country took place in The Wolseley, on Piccadilly. I couldn’t lip-read, given it was so gloomy, and so had no idea he was imparting dire warnings. Only five years later, when my house had been shot at and my car pelted with eggs, did he say: ‘Well, I did try to warn you.’
I blame noise in restaurants for my downfall. If only the leading UK deaf and HI charity, which yesterday revealed plans for a mobile phone app to enable diners to record dangerous decibel levels in order to name and shame restaurants, had acted sooner.
The campaigning charity found that a lack of sound-absorbing curtains, carpets, tablecloths and even cushions has made eateries louder. I’d add to that list the fact that children are allowed to run around unfettered. Last Sunday, I was forced to sit outside an Italian with my three collies – no dogs were allowed inside the premises – while packs of feral children circled my table, screaming.
Unwanted noise, such as piped music, raises stress levels and blood pressure, but it’s also isolating, and makes the hard of hearing among us appear stupid.
I remember sitting at a table of 15 or so at a restaurant for a boss’s leaving dinner. I was next to a young, ambitious male political writer and opposite a bitter Left-wing female columnist, the type who orders as much alcohol as possible to cheese off the newspaper proprietor picking up the tab. When I asked him what car he drove, he mumbled something, so I said: ‘Is that an Aston Martin?’ ‘No, it’s an Audi! Jesus.’ They soon, thank God, turned to their companions, abandoning me to stew in a soup of half-caught gossip.