We spent half-term supporting the UK tourist industry in a rain-swept seaside town rather than flying to the Med, as the Lawyer’s grudgingly-given end-of-year bonus surely allowed us to do.
As we weren’t in some classy French resort there were no lovely clothes boutiques, no tastefully themed leisure parks, no quayside cafés, no little fish swimming in the azure harbour. We did, however, have the swings by the caravan park and, with some terrible child-attracting magnetic force, we were drawn there on day three.
We were confronted by a group of fashionably obese children in tracksuits weighing down the merry-go-round. One of them had a cigarette in his mouth. The Lawyer flinched, because he hands over a fair proportion of his salary each term to avoid having to look at children like this. I wondered whether my offspring – admirably slim because I’ve spent the past 13 years mechanically repeating “no more biscuits”, and “you’ve already had an ice-cream today” – would have a Famous Five moment and skitter off saying “nasty, common children!”
As if. They were on that roundabout before you could say oven chips, and I could see Subjudice sidling up to the nasty boy hoping to get a drag of that ciggie.
I turned my back to give her a fighting chance and half-listened to the Lawyer set about the dreadful working class: “Look at the size of them! And it’ll be my taxes that pay for their heart attacks and their lung transplants and their insulin injections! They should be made to go on route marches until all that fat drops off. It’s the only thing holding those disgusting tracksuits up.”
I poked him in the tummy, feeling my finger sink in.
“That’s different,” said the Lawyer, looking down. I bet he couldn’t see his feet. “That’s because I have an important, but sedentary job and no time to spend on exercise.”
“White collar fat, then?” I asked. “Nice, solid, respectable middle-class fat? Because duck paté is compulsory for first course?”
The Lawyer bowed his head. “It’s the law of à la carte,” he said, sadly. When you take clients out for lunch you can’t offer them the two-course menu because it looks cheap. And likewise, when you’re invited out you might as well go for à la carte because they’ll feel embarrassed if you opt for anything cheaper. And then you’re into five courses with little bits of creamy consommé, choccies for afters and two bottles of wine – and before you know it, it’s years since you’ve been able to cut your own toenails.
But the firm doesn’t want its solicitors dropping dead at their computer keyboards, so it has introduced a new policy: if the arms on the chair on which you sit can’t touch the desk in front of you, then it’s treadmill time. Ten-session slots at the gym have been booked, with regular weigh-ins at the end of each bout, and the cost is going straight onto the budget.
“Thus, staff are incentivised to lose weight faster, to avoid paying for another set of 10 workouts,” read the blurb, which they sent home to me – akin to sending an end-of-term report directly to the parents. I predict a run on laxatives and diuretics when the weigh-in comes, just like jockeys.
A group of them, however, have made secret overtures to the employment department to check out where they stand on human rights law. Because forced marches are all right for fat kids in caravans, but no one messes with a middle-class lawyer’s right to five-course lunches.