Is it me?

By Anita Jaynes on 30 July, 2019

John Davies is a senior corporate partner at leading commercial law firm Thrings. As a TBE columnist, John regularly addresses a topical news or business-related issue. This time he’s discussing minding your Ps and Qs.

Perhaps I’m just out of step with certain things. You tell me. 

I recently returned from a city break to Amsterdam with my wife and children (highly recommended, by the way – great for families). We had a fantastic couple of days, enjoying everything the city had to offer. However, there was an incident on our way back which left a slightly sour taste.

We were in the bag drop queue, one of those long snaking lines with people either side of you. At certain points, as we shuffled along slowly, we stood next to a group of young women – I’m guessing they were in their twenties and they were Brits. They’d obviously had a hell of a weekend, but they weren’t enjoying the queue, bless them. I know this because I relived every moment of their weekend with them as they spoke loudly and proudly about it all. That’s fair enough, but every other word was the F-bomb: ’effing this, and ’effing that, with a solid sprinkling of the other usual suspects.

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m fluent in this dialect – and during a particularly taxing corporate transaction I may even go into a solo performance worthy of the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury. But never, ever, in front of children. Never, in fact, in front of strangers, whatever their age and certainly not in front of kids. I’ve taken mine to rugby matches where the lingo can get a bit spicy, but people are generally mortified when they realise they’ve let one go in front of kids. Of course they are, right?

I suspect I’m not alone in this but if I think cursing is getting a bit too much for my kids (or anyone’s kids for that matter). I’ll normally, politely, point out that young ears are present and request that they tone it down a bit. And 99 per cent of the time it’s acknowledged and that’s that.

Not in the queue at Schiphol Airport, it seems. I mentioned to the group that there were children, including mine, in the queue, but on this occasion my intervention wound them up. It turns out they can “’effing swear if they ’effing want to”. I agreed with them that Holland is indeed a free country, but had to accept I couldn’t do much more as I wasn’t about to get into any sort of altercation. 

But it got me wondering whether I should have just stood there and said nothing as they openly described their weekend so colourfully. Is that where we’ve now got to as a society?

Even worse was the fact that the queue was full of people from other countries, most of whom speak and understand English. It was a wonderful little advertisement for our country. I know, I know, the French, Germans, Italians, Swedes and Dutch all swear too, but not on this occasion and not in front of kids. It was really embarrassing, and here it comes, I wasn’t angry with them – I was disappointed. 

So there it is. Would you have done the same? Should a middle-aged bloke have intervened in a (very public) private conversation? Perhaps I’m out of touch with what’s right and wrong here. 

Is it ’effing’ me?

e: jdavies@thrings.com

t: 01793 412634