‘To what do we owe invasion by the Mongol horde?’ I asked the woman assistant at the counter.
‘Don’t know,’ she replied blankly. I had the impression that she didn’t actually know what a Mongol horde was, and might even have thought me guilty of political incorrectness. I considered explaining that Mongols are people from Mongolia, and that their historic invasion of refined China and subsequent replacement of the refined Han Chinese dynasties led to the birth of the pejorative euphemism. But I couldn’t be bothered, and then I noticed that two of the horde were standing behind me.
‘Where are you from?’ I asked them. (I did realise that ending a sentence on a preposition is slightly unrefined in itself, but decided that ‘Whence came you?’ would have sounded unwontedly pretentious.)
Now, it is an odd coincidence that some of the snootier Ashbourne residents would consider there to be little to choose between Mongolia and Nottingham in the matter of assessing horde status, but not me. I’m not snooty. (And the coincidence didn’t strike me until later anyway…) So I continued:
‘And what are you doing here?’
(This makes me sound like a right douchebag, doesn’t it? Maybe the person who called me one on YouTube the other night was right after all.)
‘Camping,’ replied the Mongol.
‘Camping, is it? I see. OK.’
I retired to a table with my Americano and blueberry muffin while the two invaders rejoined their comrades, who by now had settled themselves tidily around two small tables near the window. And they were quiet as mice for the rest of my visit.
So then it struck me that there was a certain irony to be found in their behaving in an orderly and respectful manner, while I had been guilty of gross impertinence. And that amused me.