10 June 2002
The barbecue season is upon us, and the Lawyer has been afflicted by feelings of deep inadequacy following his head of department's summer garden party.
At the very centre of the patio was the boss's new six-jet gas barbecue monster, which makes a noise like Concorde revving up and has the same effect on sausages that a well-aimed bunsen burner used to have on Trudy Arbuthnott's pencil case in the school lab.
The beaming boss, in a spotless blue and white-striped apron, stood by its side, occasionally caressing the hood until his hand strayed too far and he had to retreat to the bathroom for an application of Savlon. Before retiring wounded, however, he had cooked in one go about 32lbs of assorted pork, beef, chicken and ostrich bits, which now lay in a warm, meaty heap, oozing juice and leering up at our cowering arteries. Pretty soon people were tearing into spicy ribs and chicken wings and grinning at each other with sauce-smeared lips: if David Attenborough had been doing a voice-over, you would have had a BBC nature special on pack hierarchies after the hunt.
Of course, the guys waded in first and went for the steak: if you were looking after children, you were stuck on the boring salad table and counted yourself lucky to get a couple of manky old sausages once the feeding frenzy was over. I made the mistake of guzzling on asparagus, because I'm too mean to buy it for myself, but it makes your pee smell dreadful, and it's always fatal to draw your children's attention to any bodily function if you can possibly help it.
Anyway, that ("Eaurggh, pooh. Mummy, what's that dreadful smell?") was a few hours down the line; meanwhile the partners fed best, bringing their assistants along to hold their wine glasses for them as they stabbed at their bits of meat, while eager associates were offering to take on those impossible jobs of unskewering lamb kebabs (chunks of meat bouncing absolutely everywhere, leaving very satisfying oily smears on chino legs) and deboning the sardines. Hungriest of all were the secretaries, who tend to cluster together at things like this and mutter darkly about whether solicitors should be allowed to cook at all, but not too loudly for fear of being asked to do it themselves.
Before the boss's party, the Lawyer had offered to run the barbecue at our Jubilee street party, but was now worrying about the size of his equipment, as it were. However, instead of buying a bigger barbecue - "Goodness, there's no point in wasting money on impressing the neighbours" - he asked to borrow the boss's machine, working on the theory that this puts him in the boss's debt, which he thinks is a useful place to be.
"It's a bit like saving someone's life," he explained, "which means you have to look after them forever." Which is something I have never really understood: I've never done anything noble and yet here I am, still stuck looking after four other people for what increasingly looks like forever. Could I just opt out of it all?
Unfortunately, he underestimated the power of the thing, and charcoaled six economy packs of spare ribs while chatting to the Vicar. By the time he had the flame-to-meat ratios worked out there was practically nothing left to eat, and I had to make a mercy dash to Sainsbury's. Worst of all, Subjudice barbecued all of Liability's Barbie dolls (in the name of feminism) while the Lawyer wasn't looking, and the plastic dripped down into the machine's innards. He hasn't dared tell the boss yet.