It’s that time of year when my wife’s father’s family have their annual barbecue. Last year I wrote about the fine array of baseball caps they donned for the occasion. This year, sadly, there were far fewer examples of amusing headwear balanced upon their elderly crowns. Instead, they came ready to impress with an extensive collection of tales from The Anthology of Senior Maladies Best Not Discussed While Eating, and an astonishing repertoire of off-putting digestive noises.
Oh, I know – cultural differences and all that. I accept that and don’t mind a slurp of noodles and a lip-smack now and again, but I’m not sure my tolerance extends to men who think nothing of talking at me whilst simultaneously stuffing beef and pork into their mouth and dribbling saliva and sauce. Or men who have the ability to slurp meat, for that matter. The food was lovely but burps and gurgles, gulps and ‘Aaaaahs’ were in rather more plentiful supply than I would have wished, as was the television celebrity’s favorite – being unable to swallow food before announcing it’s deliciousness. ‘I know it’s a novel idea,’ I wanted to say, ‘but if you wait just a moment, you will spit less across the table.’ I am aware, of course, that these old men are not representative of the nation as a whole, but it did leave me wondering what some of my more polite friends from the UK would have thought if attending such an occasion. For on today’s evidence it would seem that short of letting one go at an Imperial banquet and inviting the Empress to ‘get a whiff of that one’, nothing is off limits at the Japanese dinner table.