Man About Town: A bum deal for Londoners

Practised and firm, this wasn't a laddish slap or a playful pinch, but a hungry grasp

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The Independent Online

The room at the back of the Groucho Club was full to overflowing - huddles stood outside the two doors in the slim hope of getting in. Those of us who had managed to push into the hot space had to adjust our shoulders to deal with the mass of fellow guests. The event was an auction for the Teenage Cancer Trust, and I watched as hands went up to bid many thousands of pounds for works by some of today's leading artists, when I became aware of another hand. On my buttocks.

Practised and firm, this wasn't a laddish slap or a playful pinch, but a hungry grasp: one hand, two cheeks. If it was an attempt at bidding, there was no way the auctioneer would have seen it.

Despite the squeeze (from the crowd that is), I managed to turn around to see who this hand belonged to: a grinning middle-aged man. As he saw me, his smile dropped. "I'm so sorry," he said. "I thought you were someone else." I was quite keen to find out who this someone else was, but as I've said already, it was pretty crowded and noisy in there. I caught the eye of Mr Grabby Hands a couple of times afterwards and each time he mouthed "sorry" at me.

I wondered whether it might be a new, trendy way to greet friends. But earlier in the week I had been among some extremely fashion-conscious types at Le Caprice restaurant at a dinner for Joe's Jeans, and the well-manicured hands of the extremely fashion-conscious types where kept where everyone could see them. Similarly at the Cannes Film Festival, where I am now writing this, and where such familiarity could be claimed as continental -  the folks are managing just fine with the two kisses.

There might be a cautionary tale in there for some, but I don't know how many readers are in the habit of grabbing the bums of people they *think* they know in busy places. But if there are, stick to the safer shoulder tap, it's worked for a long time.