We need to talk about manners. Or the lack of, as the case may be.

Last night, we watched the RSCs re-envisioned Don Quixote lament the loss of chivalry in Spain. It was awesome, by the way, with Rufus Hound and David Threlfall just as brilliant as promised. Anyway, as he, Don Quixote, cavorted around the stage on his suitably valiant and suitably ridiculous wooden horse, desperately attempting to revive the lost days of knights errand and heroic, chivalric deeds, I couldn’t help but wonder how horrified he would be to land In Real Life around here.

Take my experience in the gym yesterday, for example. It all started out perfectly normally: I changed as quickly as I possibly could to avoid seeing multiple female bodies in various degrees of nakedness, some moisturising their naked limbs with naked bums bent to reach them – MOISTURISING!! – and made my way up to the gym floor. In went the apple earpods and on went the podcast, this time Jessie Ware’s ‘Table Manners’ with the members of ‘My Dad Wrote a Porno’. It’s become my podcast of choice for exercising. I’ve found it to be sufficiently amusing that it eases the pain. But, crucially, it doesn’t bring forth fits of uncontrollable belly-up laughter which might make me more breathless than I already am and cause me to pass out through a lack of oxygen, thus falling off the treadmill, grazing my chin on the still-running rubber belt and make a complete spectacle of myself.

I have relatively small ears, I have discovered, and about 15 minutes in, I needed to re-squeeze the pods into place. Misjudging my own head I knocked one out of my right ear and heard it clanging beneath the treadmill next to me. Shit. Fuck and shit.

My immediate thought was, ‘Rhys will be furious: I have lost ANOTHER thing.’ So there I am crawling along the floor trying to spot it. A second attempt is made, this time with my phone torch on. I’m increasingly concious that I am face down and ass up in a facility where I am surrounded by the lean and beautiful. I imagine that, in this position, my own backside, wrapped as it is in leopard-print lycra, looks nothing short of a small country and wish I had layed of the Wispas. Other gym goers glance at me perplexed. One stares with such incredulity I wondered if I had inadvertently started meowing. But still no sign of the pod.

I ask a member of staff. He looks at me like I’m a lunatic and directs me to another – he has a client – and the other directs me to reception. Here I’m greeted with a non-chalance that not only makes me feel like a nutter, but a very, very small nutter. I’m told he’ll find a cleaner to assist me.

Like a humiliated Borrower, I sit on the edge of my treadmill waiting. And waiting. Until I ask a third member of the gym floor staff to help. His face says it all so I ask instead if he’ll ring reception to chase up the cleaner. He can’t even do that – he hands me the phone instead. By now, my blood is beginning to boil and I start getting flustered. And a bit feisty. It’s a shame that I had to in order to get some attention but there you go, that’s the point: there were no Don Quixotes around, no knights errand to help a damsel in distress. Eventually, a very nice man from the office helped and within five minutes, the pod was retrieved. That’s the power of team work, folks.

I complete my treadmill stint but now I feel dejected and embarassed and hurry off for home. I can’t get down the stairs to the changing room quickly enough. It’s not because my legs won’t carry me down the spiral staircase with sufficient speed, but because there are two bodies already coming up them. Typically, neither says ‘thankyou’. They don’t even look at me.

Now it’s not to say that the area is completely devoid of manners and pleasantries: when walking Betty, especially through Holland Park, I am often greeted with a, ‘Good morning’, but it is invariably uttered from mouths well past the age of retirement.

Perhaps it is nostalgia but I can’t help feeling that such rudeness and indifference is not so apparent beyond the city walls. I wonder what it is that causes such a change. Is it the lack of concequences? Let’s face it, in the sticks, everybody knows everybody and if you were outright rude and unhelpful, word of it would soon get back to haunt you. Before you know it, you’re paying for your indiscretion with a verbal dressing down from your mother or grandmother. Depending on severity and the general mood, said dressing down might be accompanied by a clip across the ear. Or is it the fact that we’re all thrown here from all walks of life so aren’t so connected, consequence or not? Your grandmother taking afternoon tea with the neighbors has its drawback as illustrated, but then again, it has its advantages. You have help when you need it and usually someone is willing to help you jump-start the car or put cattle back in the field. I can’t fathom it. I just hope that if Don Quixote were to make a comeback, he’d find himself in a field well away from here.


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