Perhaps, with the light of
hindsight, it had always been an ill-starred
romance. Wayne had been just a working class lad
whilst Rachel had been raised in the culture of
the affluent, English middle classes.
Despite these differences,
love blossomed and Wayne was soon invited to join
Rachels extended family for dinner.
It had been a small
misunderstanding, but a portent of the tragedy to
come, when Wayne initially believed this to be an
invitation to join the family for a sandwich or a
pasty in the middle of the day.
No, silly, said
Rachel, giggling, dinner is in the evening.
What do you have at
dinner time, then? Wayne asked.
In the middle of the
day, we have lunch, she explained.
So you call dinner,
lunch, Wayne summarised, and you call
We have tea in the
late afternoon, said Rachel.
Thats usually bread and jam, or cake,
with a pot of tea.
Wayne replied. We only have breakfast,
dinner and tea, at home.
Youll need to
get used to breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea,
dinner and supper, Rachel explained.
Wayne wrote down the
unfamiliar terms on a piece of paper. Now he had
understood that the dinner to which he had been
invited was actually tea, he would be prepared
for his burger and chips at six oclock.
Wayne missed his normal
lunch (dinner) so he would be ready for a bigger
dinner (tea), but arrived at the home of
Rachels parents a little late for afternoon
tea (no equivalent). He was already, therefore,
He forgot the pangs of
hunger for a couple of hours, however, as
Rachels family chatted with him and made
him feel at home in this alien middle-class
It was around six in the
evening when Rachels mother appeared in the
sitting room (front room) to announce that dinner
(tea) would be a little delayed, probably to nine
oclock, as relatives from Australia were
planning a Skype call at eight-fifteen.
Wayne could not recall a
time when his dinner (tea) had been that late. He
was attempting to demonstrate his best behaviour
on unfamiliar territory, however, so he did not
mention the slight feeling of faintness that he
was experiencing from lack of sustenance.
Somehow, he managed to
maintain focus and subdue his desire to snack on
the pot-plants through seemingly endless
anecdotes about amusing family incidents. Wayne
was proud of his own fortitude when nine
oclock eventually arrived and all were
summoned to the dining room (no equivalent).
As he sat down at the
dining table, he imagined that in just a few
moments full plates of grub would be served. He
was thrown into confusion, therefore, when a pile
of empty plates were brought into the room and
distributed to the diners.
Wayne prodded his plate as
if to check that that he was not hallucinating,
and then quickly withdrew his hand, suffering
what he feared might be third degree burns.
Be careful, everyone,
warned Rachels mother, somewhat belatedly,
the plates are very hot.
The bizarreness of the
situation and the pain from the burn to his
finger distracted Wayne from his hunger and
feelings of faintness. He was used to dinner (tea)
being served on a plate ready to eat. What
possible purpose could there be to giving
everyone empty plates that seem to have been
brought to the temperature of a Space Shuttle
heat shield on re-entry to Earths
His question was partly
answered when various family members brought
bowls of meat and vegetables into the room and
placed these on the table. It appeared that
middle-class dinners (teas) had to be
individually assembled by the diners.
The passing-around process
thus began. Low blood sugar was causing
Waynes vision to blur by this time but he
somehow managed to engage in what seemed like
half an hour of cautiously and inconveniently
manoeuvring dishes of food around the table -
dishes that had clearly also been heated by an
Wayne feared that he would
not be able to maintain consciousness until this
pointless passing-around ritual was over, but
eventually everyone had a full plate and several
family members picked up items of cutlery to
begin to eat.
Wayne reasoned that a few
mouthfuls of vegetables might be enough to help
him maintain consciousness. He quickly filled his
fork and raised it towards his mouth.
Rachels mother in a tone of alarm.
aborted their plans to being eating.
We havent got
Aunt Alices chutney, Rachels
mother continued by way of explanation. We
cant start a meal like this without Aunt
In reality it took less
than ten minutes for Rachels mother to
retrieve a jar of the critical preserve from its
storage location in the loft, but it was precious
time that Wayne did not have.
By the time that she
returned, triumphantly holding aloft a jar of
Aunt Alices chutney, Wayne had already
passed out and fallen from his chair. His head
had already struck the hearth and, despite the
ambulance also having been called, he had sadly,
Looking at all the
circumstances of this tragic case and others like
it, said the coroner, I believe that,
in our modern, socially mobile society, much
greater education is needed amongst the working
classes in respect of middle-class culture.
Particularly, he concluded, in the
grave risks associated with middle-class eating