Picture the scene. It is a Sunday lunchtime in a perfectly agreeable pub. We are gathered there to celebrate a milestone birthday for Brother number 1. Several generations are there. The menu is full of options and the beer choices are multiple.
Katie is in driving duty. It is the best of all outcomes.
My sister-in-law is pregnant, very pregnant. She pulls Katie and me to one side as we arrive.
"My mom and dad are due in a few minutes," she says. "The only thing is, they don't yet know the sex of the baby. They chose not to know."
Pretty much everyone else around the table knows the gender of her baby. We've known this for ages. We've talked about it at length, discussing name choices, nursery decorating options, the full nine yards.
To be honest, it's got to the point where we don't even think it newsworthy.
But here's the thing. Once someone tells you not to mention something, it is impossible to do so. Or at least, colossally difficult.
There then followed a really anxious hour or so. I felt like I was parsing everything to myself before saying it. Mere small talk was a potential minefield. Could my choice of condiments possibly give away the gender of my nephew/niece to be?
No, I tell myself. Don't be ridiculous. But then I have a vision of me blurting it out somehow. A table-load of faces looks at me with disappointment. To be honest, I'm not surprised. I snap myself out of my reverie and attack the roast beef, hoping that doesn't somehow indicate the sex of a foetus in some cultures.
We managed to get to the end of the meal without divulging any secrets, but it was tough.
This* is why I never joined the Army. I'd be terrible under torture.
Postscript: my nephew was actually born less than a week after this meal. I don't need to watch what I say anymore. Which is just as well.
*(Yeah, because that's the only reason.)