As we queued for our coffee, we both eyed the one remaining table and wondered who would get there first and claim sovereignty.
As it happened we both turned away from the counter with our Latte's at the same time, so an unspoken agreement was reached and we shared that table.
We bandied one or two comments back and forth about crowded coffee shops and people in general before John told me that this was his first visit to the UK since he had been in the Army back in the 70's and 80's.
"Oh yes" he drawled (isn't that how you described an American talking?). "I was stationed in aplace near Aldershot. Dunno what the hell it was called, but I was there for six months before shipping out to Frankfurt, Germany".
"Aldershot is near where I did my basic training" I told him. "After that I was posted to Detmold in Germany".
You see the difference there already? They get "Stationed" and we get "Posted".
We had something in common so, for at least fifty minutes ... maybe an hour, we exchanged 'war' stories and, low and behold, it turns out we both took part in Crusader 80 (a big military manoeuvre in Germany back in 1980. See Another "First Encounter" with Americans, When The Jock Hits The Shit and No Jocks, No Americans, Just Crusader 80 (Part Three) )
We were apparently located fairly close to each other during that exercise. Probably no more than a mileor two apart. We may even have met!
We reminisced and swapped tales for a while and then the subject changed to this ...
(The gas regulator is just behind the foresight)
... which was the standard personal weapon in service with the British (and other) Army. It was quite a heavy rifle, but when used correctly had a stopping power second to none.
"Jeez!" moaned John. "I ne'er un'erstood how you guy's could fire that thing an' survah've".
That is how he spoke. Honest! He missed out letters in most words with two or more syllables and kept sticking in unnecessary H's.
"That SOB had a kick like a mule. Damn near took my shoul'er off'f me when I fired it" he continued,rubbing his long since healed sore shoulder.
"Brits are bastards!" I told him. "There's a gas regulator on those rifles. If it's wide open then the rifle won't re-cock itself. If it's closed all the way, it'll kick harder than any mule you've ever come across".
A few well known expletives were muttered by John after I told him that it was standard practice back then to close the gas regulator before anyone form our 'allies' fired the weapon.
Shock and Awe tactics!
For over twenty years John has lived in awe of Brit squaddies and their abilities to cope with such brutal kick-back.
Now he knows the truth and, I have to admit, I took great pleasure in telling him.