He knows a little place

Douglas Johnson

  • Expensive Habits by Peter Mayle
    Sinclair-Stevenson, 191 pp, £14.95, October 1991, ISBN 1 85619 055 2

The contents of this vulgar and irritating book – can the author have deliberately set out to be irritating? – are totally predictable. It is, however, unexpected that we have to wait until page 166 before encountering a familiar example of what some consider to be admirable behaviour. A man leaves a restaurant, naturally a grand and expensive establishment, after paying his bill. The mâitre d’hotel follows him and asks if he has not forgotten something. The diner, heroic in his conviction that the mâitre d’hotel has not done his duty by him, produces a ten-pound note. ‘This was for you,’ he says. But, instead of handing it over, he produces his cigarette lighter and burns the note in the face of the mâitre d’hotel, bids him good evening and goes on his way.

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[*] Avebury, 144 pp., £30, 7 November 1991, 1 85628 100 0.