“Between you and me, Sir, that tradition is quite a selling point. Guests love dressing up. We call it Gala Night. Black tie for men and long dresses for the ladies. If you aren’t properly dressed….”
So Peter bought an evening suit and all the gear, including a double-ended bow tie. And he practiced tying that tie until he was perfect.
On Gala Night the sea was calm with a gentle breeze. Peter sang as he put the studs in his shirt: “I’m puttin’ on my top hat, Tyin’ up my black tie…da di da di da di daa.” Not for him one of those lifeless pre-tied things on elastic. His was a Proper Bow Tie. When you pulled the ends a magician’s knot gracefully unwound to become a silken ribbon.
The maître de seated him by the window. A waiter shimmered up and floated the serviette on to Peter’s lap. He ordered salmon followed by fillet steak. As he waited for the starter Peter watched the moon rise, sipped his aperitif and let his thoughts drift …
The spell was broken when a tall dark man, clearly sailing close to the wind in his choice of jacket, raised his voice to the maître de. The maître de threw his hands in the air and the man pushed past him into the restaurant, leading a small blonde in stilettos and mini skirt. Heads turned to follow the action. The man sneered, scanned the spectators, and berthed himself at the table next to Peter. At close quarters his DJ became a creased, grey, linen creation, with jeans and a t-shirt. No trace of any neckwear.
Peter sat to attention. “Guests love dressing up” ... ”If you aren’t properly dressed” … Dress code? Tradition? The words swirled in Peter’s head. His hands shook as he played with the cutlery and fiddled with his tie. This could not be happening: he went over to the maître de.
“How did that gentleman get in?” he asked, on the point of losing his self-control. “ I rather think he should…not be here. What are you going to…?”
“You’re right, Sir, of course you are. Although I would like to, I can’t really ….”
“But you must,” said Peter. “Tradition…”
“I love tradition, Sir, but sometimes….” He mimed toothache.
“OK. I get the picture.” Peter sighed, loosened his tie, and went up to the buffet on the top deck.
A chef in immaculate whites appeared behind the short-order counter: “How can I help you, Sir?” she beamed.
“What’s your best dish?” Peter hung his jacket on the chair.
“Well, Sir, they say I cook a mean plate of scrambled eggs.”
Peter dined on the creamiest, most exquisitely seasoned scrambled eggs ever eaten on the North Atlantic.
With only the moon and stars for company … and a charming short-order chef, properly dressed.