Because it was eat or be eaten in the Lawyer’s family when he was growing up, he develops a predator’s instinct as soon as he gets a napkin in his lap. He had to compete with a rugby-playing brother for the available calories on the menu, and although said brother has now stopped playing rugby and looks like he ate all the pies, it is actually the Lawyer who usually got all the pies on his side of the table in the first place.
You can see him at work at any family meal, when he’ll point to the corner of the room and shout “What’s that big spider doing there?” and by the time the children have turned round again all their sausages have gone. It’s trickier when we’re having Postman Pat spaghetti, but I’ve seen him snaffling all the Jess the Cat shapes Deminimus has lined up on the edge of his plate to save them from destruction before the poor child knows what’s going on.
When we’re out I’ve had to pull him back from stealing food from other people’s children, although he maintains that if you go for a toddler’s plate, by the time they get back from the ball pool they’ll have forgotten that they had four mini chicken kievs on there.
I’ve had to ban him from reading Goldilocks and the Three Bears to the children because he simply doesn’t understand how upsetting it is to find your porridge gone. He’s had the younger ones howling before because he makes up an extra round of roast beef and Yorkshire pudding, raspberry trifle and Mars Bar ice-cream for Goldilocks to tuck into, and the children, naturally, feel for Little Bear. Which is more than the Lawyer does – all his sympathies lay with the fact that Goldilocks can’t go back and lick out the trifle bowl once she’s been caught.
Subjudice, being older and wiser than the others, learned early to eat over her plate, elbows well to the fore, but now she seems to be giving up eating altogether. I fear she wants to join the Anorexic Support Group at school, but won’t listen when I point out this is for troubled sixth formers only. I blame myself – I ate nothing but gherkins and olives when I was carrying her, and she’s come out looking like a cocktail stick.
The Lawyer vindicates his aggressive eating patterns with a story of the time the train broke down at Peterborough, with dinner in the dining car only half served. They’d made it through the starters, but his colleagues had barely made the first incision in their salmon en croute when the steward announced they’d all have to get off and stand on the platform for three hours. The Lawyer was already spearing his last mouthful of osso bucco by the time the steward had reached the end of the announcement, and he leapt up and directed his trainee to run off the train and bag seats in the waiting room. He then ordered the head of commercial to grab some bread rolls and a pile of napkins, and decanted the two salmon en croute into his briefcase, along with three bottles of red from the neighbouring tables, a plate piled with whitebait and an entire beef wellington. (His umbrella and a hardback copy of the latest Scott Turow had to go to make room, but he claimed them back later.) They spent the next three hours balancing beef wellington on their knees and toasting the railway company in red wine, having walked off with some £90-worth of free food. “Who dares, dines,” as the Lawyer always says.