Column: Polite chit chat can be very revealing

Richard Oliff
Richard Oliff

Last Friday my nephew married his beautiful bride at a stunning country house in the middle of the Nottinghamshire countryside.

The vintage pile, now a somewhat exclusive hotel, had been commandeered by both families, all there to witness the coming together of these two people, and to celebrate with much feasting and merriment as one might muster. If you remember, the rain had been relentless for the best part of the morning and into the afternoon which, when combined with the strong gusting winds, made the drive north from Corby most hazardous.

Yet, almost as ordered from a menu supplied by the Meteorological Office, the rain ceased in time for photographs to be taken in the grounds by the lake and also later for the firework display to enthral amidst the applause and wonder from the sparkler waving guests.

It occurred to me, as I sat eating the wonderful three courses laid before us, that from time to time, a gathering of different people that one invariably finds at such an event reconnects us with the various arts of conversation associated with a ‘civilisation’, unique to meeting strangers. ‘Polite small-talk’, diplomatic opinion, light humour, observation, and a mutual connection to the newly wedded couple.

We are all on our finest behaviour in our ‘Sunday best’.

I sat next to a retired builder called John yet, despite the probability that we may never meet again, we possibly know more about each other’s lives than often some of those in our day-to-day lives or even families.

The reasons for this are numerous, though mainly, I believe because of time restraints, civility, and curiosity. “That chap you were speaking with seemed nice”, just one of the following morning’s breakfast chit-chat observations, a conclusion drawn mostly from body language.

Perhaps there ought to be a seating plan for breakfast too, that we might continue to connect with the new, mixed with a mingling of the familiar.

A new start inspired by nothing more than love.