James Marston: Why is is bad form to mention a woman’s age when men are fair game?

Felixstowe seafront

Felixstowe seafront

You like Felixstowe, don’t you, James? – they like older people there.”

I had barely finished my prawn cocktail with brown bread and butter when Sarah-Jayne – a lady from the Felixstowe book club of which I am a ? usually non-reading member – said these words to me. Added to which Gill, a lady with whom I work in the small Felixstowe bureau of the East Anglian Daily Times, said “But aren’t you too old for nightclubs, James?”during our regular “what did you do over the weekend” conversation.

Naturally, I was far too polite to retort, though I did think to myself that it’s strange how, in this world of equality, there’s still some odd etiquette that it’s bad form to mention a lady’s age but men are fair game.

By the time I got back to my small flat with sea views (distant) I realised there are lots of odd things I come across that I can’t explain – twerking springs to mind, for one.

On Sunday evening I popped along to a Felixstowe pub for a bite to eat.

Do you remember when things came in a basket? Well, things like chicken and scampi ? not soup. I’m not sure I do and I’m not sure things came in a basket so much as in a plastic bowl that looked like a basket.

When my food arrived it was on not a basket but, of all things, a wooden board.

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The waiter and I exchanged the following remarks:

“How very medieval. Wooden plates!” I exclaimed. “Is it an Elizabethan themed beef burger? Are the chips cut how Henry VIII used to like them?”

“No,” replied the bemused young man.

“So have you run out of plates?”

“No,” replied the bemused young man.

“Do you serve stew on a wooden board?”

“No,” replied the bemused young man.

“Do we keep the wooden board,” I asked, wondering if a bit of kindling was included in the price, though I noted my friend’s “all day breakfast” ? surely a contradiction in terms – came on a white plate, perhaps to offset the colour of the black pudding.

“No,” replied the bemused young man.

In the end I gave up and I’m no further forward to finding an explanation why pottery seems to be falling out of favour – it’s probably the Government’s fault, or the banks or the oil prices or Greece or the anti-hunt lot or any of the other usual suspects.

This week I have also been on board Havengore, the barge that carried the coffin of Winston Churchill up the Thames during his state funeral. Havengore is in Suffolk for repairs and a refit, and a magnificent old lady she is. All teak and lots of history.