A candlelit dinner for two, with a blazing row thrown in

`There was a ghastly silence as Jeremy rubbed his cheek and brooded. Then...'

THIS MORNING I have received a letter which casts such an unusual light on British life that I feel I ought to pass it on to the gentle readership of The Independent without altering a word. Here it is:

Dear Mr Kington,

Yesterday, on St Valentine's Day, I made the mistake of taking my wife out to a romantic dinner. It had not occurred to me before, but there must be many many couples who are hoodwinked by commercial pressures into lavishing a night out on each other on 14 February, and who therefore find themselves in a restaurant inhabited solely by romantic couples. So it was with us.

The restaurant we went to had only tables for two, and all those two were male and female, and we all stared into each other's eyes and held hands a bit for fear of looking unromantic.

It would have been terrible except that there was one couple in the restaurant who did not obey the rules. They were quite an attractive couple, perhaps in their early thirties, but they had absolutely no concept of keeping their voices down. As a result, whenever any of us temporarily ran out of things to say, our attention strayed to this pair, and their conversation.

He was Jeremy, she was Cynthia, and to begin with they just talked about the children and the au pair, but then they got on to the subject of a woman called Jenny, and the tone changed. Jenny was obviously Cynthia's best pal. She obviously suspected that there was something going on between her husband and Jenny, and from laughingly denying it, Jeremy suddenly lowered his voice (still audibly) and began defiantly admitting it.

"Jenny's a lot of fun," he said, "which is more than can be said of some people present, who seem to have lost their fun factor somewhere along the way."

"Fun in what way?" said Cynthia icily.

"Every way," said Jeremy. "Especially horizontally."

A choking sound rippled softly round the restaurant. It was clear that most of us were listening. But Jeremy and Cynthia couldn't care less. Within five minutes the row had escalated into a blazing argument, only ended by Cynthia getting to her feet, slapping him and walking out.

There was a ghastly silence as Jeremy rubbed his cheek and brooded. Then...

"Waiter!" he cried. The waiter came. Jeremy asked him, not for the bill, not even for a drink, but for the loan of a mobile phone. It was brought. He dialled a number. Someone answered.

"Darling!" cried Jeremy. "Why don't you pop over?"

We couldn't believe it. He was asking someone else over to finish off the ruined meal. Surely it couldn't be...?

Ten minutes later the door opened and a lovely girl came in.

"Jenny! Darling!" he cried, as if none of us were there, and they both sat down, giving us all a chance to study and comment on this new arrival. We didn't have a lot of time. Suddenly the door opened and - guess what ? Cynthia swept back in! We thought for a moment there would be a battle royal, but they seemed to want to talk it over like adults and all sat down together. It didn't last. Voices flared again, tempers frayed and broke, chairs scraped back - and what do you think happened? The two women linked arms and strode out together !

Not long after, the lone Jeremy, in tears by now, paid and went, and all the tables started chatting animatedly to each other, as you might imagine, and we all ended up the best of friends. And there it might have rested had I not accidentally bumped into Jeremy the next day in the street.

"Forgive a stranger for asking," I said, "but how did it all work out?"

"All what?"

"Last night... Cynthia, Jenny..."

"Oh, that." He laughed. "It worked out fine. We got paid."

"Paid?"

He pulled out a card. "Perhaps this will explain."

He passed on, and I looked at the card. It read: "Street Theatre and Restaurant Performers. No More Dull Dining Rooms and Silent St Valentines! Delight your Diners with a Drama! Also Murder Mysteries, etc, etc." There then followed phone numbers, etc.

What do you think, Mr Kington? Do you think that restaurants should be allowed to imitate unscrupulous BBC TV shows and foist fake fellow diners on an unsuspecting public in this underhand and deceitful way?

Yours etc

Miles Kington writes: Never mind about that - just let me have the name of the restaurant. I want to book for next Valentine's Day...

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