On a visit to London at the weekend I got up early to see the Lucian Freud show at the National Portrait Gallery. I was there as the gates opened to avoid the tiresome crowds that attend any high-profile art show in London. While the hordes did pour in eventually I got a good run at it before the deluge.
As I ambled around, admiring Freud's bleak portrayals of our too too solid flesh, his mounds of paint-soiled linen, and his affectionate depictions of whippets, I accidentally stood in front of a young guy. He was tall and dark-haired with good jeans (Paul Smith?) and a smart top - an Oxbridge boy perhaps. I only became aware of him when I heard a sarcastic "thanks" just behind me. I hadn't realised I had blocked him (I've been to galleries before and know the etiquette) so asked him "what for". "You stood right in front of me" he said peevishly. Instead of just apologising, as I should have done, I took umbrage at his tone (or perhaps it was an atavistic reaction to his ascendancy accent) and said "oh don't be such a prick". His expression suggested that he very much wanted to give me a serious dig at this stage. Instead, aware no doubt of the omnipresent security, he lurched towards me and attempted to shoulder me. It was a glancing blow - I was shaken but not silenced. "It's only skin deep isn't it, this veneer of being civilised", I chastised him. A bit priggish that perhaps, and of course most veneers are only skin-deep. Anyway we went our separate ways. A little later I came face to face with him in another part of the gallery. "We'll get over it" I said smilingly in a spirit of reconciliation. "You will" he replied, somewhat bitterly, and strode off.