Nicola Vincent-Abnett

Nicola Vincent-Abnett
"Savant" for Solaris, Wild's End, Further Associates of Sherlock Holms, more Wild's End

Tuesday 14 May 2013

Antisocial Behaviour

The husband and I quite often go out for a drink on a Monday night.

I know it seems odd, but the reason we do it is because we don’t very often go out at the weekend, or, at least, we didn’t. Lately, we’ve become rather more sociable, and have taken one or two forays out on a Saturday night for dinner, and have enjoyed ourselves hugely. As a rule, though, we stay home on Friday and Saturday nights, leaving our local town centre to the young and gorgeous.

We go out for a drink on Monday nights, because it’s generally very quiet out, and because the husband has taken to drinking cocktails. We can be fairly confident that our favourite cocktail bar will be quiet, and Paul, who works the bar on a Monday night will have time to mix something special, often of his own choosing.

So, that’s where we were last night, in our favourite bar, drinking, I believe, a Pisco Sour for him and a Negroni for me, when a man walked in and ordered a Whisky, a McAllen, I believe, a double with one ice cube. He introduced himself to the barman by name, shook his hand and left a tip. He sat at the table next to ours, but with his back to us, and quietly drank his drink.

I was standing talking to Paul at the bar, and to the husband, opposite, when the customer interjected. His conversational gambit was entirely appropriate, polite and perfectly seamless, so, of course, he was soon included in the conversation. Why wouldn’t he be?

We started talking books.

When I came back from the bathroom, a little while later, the husband was apologising to the man. He had inadvertently let slip that Iain Banks is seriously ill. It turns out that the chap is quite a fan. When he got up to have his glass freshened at the bar, I naturally had his next drink added to our bill. I couldn’t have the husband drop a bombshell like that and not buy the poor man a drink. One thing led to another and we had a very convivial hour or two together.

It’s not a terribly unusual story, is it?

I would think not. This sort of thing happens fairly regularly. I talk to people all the time. On the other hand, perhaps that’s just me.

This man has been living in our town for nine months, having moved from Tooting to take up a job in our local hospital. He’s a doctor, as it turns out. He’s quite a junior doctor, but nonetheless, he’s a young professional, and he moved to a strange town, alone, nine whole months ago. He told me that last night was the first time that strangers had welcomed him into their circle, even for a drink and a conversation.

How bloody miserable is that?

He was a perfectly ordinary, perfectly nice bloke. In fact, he was a little more than that, because he was more intelligent, more educated, more socially aware, and  more willing to make an effort than a great many other people might be. He had popped out for something and walked into a bar on a Monday evening on the off chance that he might meet someone, and he’s been walking into public arenas on the off chance for nine months.

It shouldn’t be as tough as that! It really shouldn’t!

We’re all only too happy to meet and talk to total strangers on-line for no better reason than because they happen to have turned up in the same forum or chat room as us. They could be anyone, and probably are. We talk to people on the web with fake names and cartoon avatars, and we think nothing of it, but we won’t shake hands with a real person in a bar and share a drink with him.

Shame on us!

I think we can do better than that, don’t you?

Leo actually thanked us for not rebuffing his conversational gambit; he needn’t have. I like to think that’s something I would never do. You might think twice before turning your back the next time a stranger is friendly to you in person, because it might be a while since they had a real conversation with a real somebody, and, who knows, one of these days, you might be the new guy in town, and, do you know what? You just might meet someone fabulous.


  1. I know how this feels. I used to go out and meet people all the time, but just recently the three nights out I've had in the last four weeks feel like hallmark moments. Its worse when you feel awkward talking in public, its so much easier and, in a lot of ways, there is less pressure when talking online as you can sit back and think about it for a moment, give your reply a measured and thoughtful edge that a live reply 'off the cuff' can lack.

    Get out more, see the sights and hear the sounds of the world as often as you dare. Just avoid Karaoke bars or you'll never leave the house again after dark.

  2. Why do you think you feel that people generally are anti-social, in the sense that they are unreceptive, as opposed to thinking that people in the UK often have underdeveloped social skills and sometimes struggle to form new relationships with others?

    That seems to me to be the more intuitive reading. Your new friend is young, clever, professional, smart and interesting. The odds are stacked in his favour. If he has struggled to form new relationships for months would it not follow that he is the consistent factor in those different encounters?

  3. Having just returned from the Horus Heresy weekender I remember how nervous I was feeling before I went due to the fact I had no friends going and had never been away before on my own.

    What a lovely feeling it was when I got home on the Monday after meeting a great group of people who I hope to meet up with next year. On top of that when in the bar on the Sunday night after the event ended a group of like minded people invited me to join them and we even got a photo with your lovely husband Dan Abnett!

    Something like this would never happen in any of the local bars and pubs in my area where even looking at someone can be construed as an insult so I can guess how difficult it was for your doctor friend to make new acquaintances.
    Finally I wanted to thank you both for putting up with my babbling when I was getting my books signed and for you hubby putting personal messages in them. Looking forward to seeing you all next year!