NEW York (and I'm disappointed it's New York; New York generally seems such an outgoing kind of place) is home to a new restaurant in which solo diners are given giant, stuffed Moomin.

Stuffed Moomin is not a dish. It's a giant, cuddly toy Moomin to sit opposite you for company. Well, I've been on dates where the chat has been worse.

The Moomin Cafe presumably hands out Moomin companions because adults are too ashamed to bring their favourite toy out on a date. It might be a little awkward riding the bus with a bear on your knee but I'd say brave it. Children don't deserve all the fun.

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But I'm disappointed The Moomin Cafe is perpetuating the shame of lone dining. There's no shame in lone dining; the worst man is the man afraid of his own company.

I lone dine all the time. My company is excellent.

You might think people are staring at you because they assume you have no friends and perhaps are a little pathetic. You worry they suffer from solomangarephobia and can't believe you'd eat by yourself.

You worry those looks suggest they're weighing up your problems. You're so odious that no-one will be seen in public with you or your table manners are terrifying or you've alienated your social circle by casually mentioning your support for Nigel Farage.

They're not thinking any of these things. When people eat alone they are often travelling from somewhere exotic. The people watching you pretend to be engrossed in a novel to cover the fact you've noticed they're watching you are wondering where you're from.

They imagine you're a film star. Film stars dine alone while they're over from Hollywood, making a movie. Well-connected philanthropists dine alone while they're scouting out new charity investments.

They imagine you are so over-whelmed with friends and hangers-on that you just needed to be alone. Those people staring assume you're a rich, kind-hearted movie star.

Those people staring fancy the pants off you - either that or they just don't care.

Like I say, I love dining alone. I can slough off Catriona Stewart during the starter and be the reincarnation of Elizabeth Taylor come dessert.

Though, to pluck up the courage to dine with a cuddly companion, I'd probably need to have a friend along with me.