Why I'm anti-pasta; eating out: SAN CARLO, Temple Street, Birmingham.
Think of Hugh Grant or Tim Henman - delightfully defeatist.
But there is another England. The England of the Swagger Lout. Not so much Hugh Grant as Huge Grunt, this bloke usually has his chin and scalp coated with savage stubble or fierce fuzz, making him look like a tennis ball that's been whacked by Roger Federer.
(Not by Tim Henman, of course. When Timmy was a professional sportsman he never whacked a tennis ball in anger. He merely suggested that if it didn't have any other pressing engagements, would it mind, awfully, tootling across to the other side of the net?) Henry VIII was a swagger lout, as is clear from the famous portrait by Hans Holbein.
He looks like the kind of thug you would spot staggering out of a Blackpool club at four in the morning, galloping a barmaid back to his bedsit.
Henry isn't a monarch - he's a Mitchell. As in Phil.
In the Holbein painting, he also sports the world's largest codpiece.
More Blue Whale than cod, really. So even the English - that most humble and apologetic of races - sometimes know how to swagger.
Though they're nothing compared to the Italians.
If you want to see really good swaggering, head to the land of pasta, pizza and Popes. Sometimes you don't even have to go that far.
I saw the best swaggering I've witnessed in my life during a visit to San Carlo in Birmingham city centre recently, courtesy of the waiters.
Well, I say they were waiters, but as they sashayed up and down the dining area, they could easily have been confused with AC Milan's soccer idols marching into the San Siro stadium.
Swagger? They made Henry VIII look like Bashful the dwarf.
Some readers might think, so what? After all, running a decent restaurant isn't that different from running a popular theatre. Performance is imperative.
So, if a bunch of Italian waiters like to strut and preen, it just adds to the sense of the occasion.
All I can say in reply is that I found it annoying, and so did Riki.
It wasn't the only show-offy thing about the restaurant.
As you walk through the door, the walls are coated with photographs of the great, the good and the grumbling of tummy, who all popped in for a bite to eat.
No doubt the celebs arrive because San Carlo has a reputation as one of the finest Italian restaurants around, having won plenty of prestigious awards.
That reputation is my second problem with San Carlo. I just don't get it.
Not that I didn't enjoy the food, but it didn't blow me away, either.
Riki agreed. And when I later discussed the food with friends who had visited the restaurant in the past, they were of the same opinion.
Riki had a starter of cheese (pounds 7.50). Was it good? Not bad. Good, even. But nothing more. My fish soup (pounds 6.95), was also tasty, th ough less than terrif '. Main courses continued the adventure into adequacy.
Riki's spaghetti bolognese (pounds 7.95) was spaghetti bolognese. She's had spaghetti bolognese before, and this was definitely spaghetti bolognese. No doubt about it.
But when it came to the whoop-de-do factor, it was more like whoop-de-don't.
I was slightly more impressed with my beef medallions, but the dish cost pounds 18.50, and I didn't think it was worth that.
For pudding, my profiteroles (pounds 4.80) were far from the best, and Riki's Torta Cioccolata (pounds 4.80) was mostly untouched.
San Carlo has swagger. But there's one thing it won't have, any time soon. The patronage of this paying customer.
LORNE JACKSON Total (including service charge and drinks) pounds 66. San Carlo, 4 Temple Street, Birmingham (0121 633 0251).