My friend Pat is wearing a black, plastic spider in her elegant, silvery bob. It looks rather stylish, in a spooky, Hallowe’en related way.
Granddaughter Hazel Bagel has her golden locks tamed in two high buns, one each side of her sweet face. This is what I call her Heidi Look. On each of the buns, a black, plastic spider is perched. Meanwhile, yet another eight-legged
creature has been tucked into the neckline of my top by The Rascal who is keen to see if it will wriggle all the way down to my tummy, not completely of its own accord.
Yes, indeed, there is a distinctly Hallowe’en atmosphere about our latest “Lunch at Bill’s” in sunny Wimbledon. This owes much to the ingenuity of my god-daughter, the ever thoughtful Pip, who has brought specially prepared Trick
or Treat bags for The Trio of Rampaging Rascals which will miraculously curb the rampaging for the duration of our lengthy lunch. The contents of the bags include the spiders, little wind-up figures - a ghost, a skeleton and a zombie - and a selection of what
The Twinkles (who have been unduly influenced by American films and TV shows) insist on calling “candy.”
I am the last to arrive at the restaurant
so our long table is already festooned with colouring books, crayons, felt tip pens, finger puppets and the aforesaid contents of the Trick or Treat bags. I take my seat next to The Rascal who immediately, and repeatedly, tells me he wants to go home. I am
a little concerned, bearing in mind I have only just turned up - until I realise what he is actually saying is that he wants the ghost, currently in Tala’s possession. It seems neither the skeleton nor the zombie has the same appeal.
With very little hope of success, I suggest to Miss Tala that she may wish to swap the ghost for the zombie. Nobody is more surprised than I am when she gives up the ghost
(!) without demur. Pat congratulates me on my powers of diplomacy and I hope I won't be tested again so that I don't slip from my pedestal. Which would be disappointing as well as, possibly, painful.
The Middle of the Darling Daughters orders the Trio’s food first which is always A Good Plan. The Youngest of the Darling Daughters and I study the Lunch Specials and decide to order the same main and pudding. We always
do. Hazel Bagel, who has become my pen pal since leaving home for the heady heights of Arts Ed college of performing arts, reports on her success in locating all the letter boxes in the vicinity of her Bed and Breakfast accommodation and the correct positioning
of stamps on envelopes. My granddaughter is a thoroughly modern Child of The Times.
The Rascal shows me his latest Bottle of Choice - a bright red bottle
of nail varnish. Whose is it, I enquire, looking round the table at the Usual Suspects. Which is when I recognise a look of horror on the face of the Middle of the Darling Daughters which has nothing to do with Hallowe’en. It seems the nail varnish has
been purloined from the make-up counter in Boots. Our Rascal has become The Artful Dodger.
You do know, don't you, I asked the Artful One, that you need money
to pay for that bottle? He turns out the pockets in his jeans in all their emptiness then hands me the bottle saying a heartfelt “Sorry, Nanni!” It will be Back to Boots before the afternoon is done.
Lunch at Bill's always follows the same, well-tested, format. Good food, lots of laughter, plenty of conversation, a precious chance to catch up with each other. There is no doubt that the Trio are much better behaved, even
though one or the other does seem to need to spend time under the table from time to time. In the past they would have been trying to swing from the chandelier above the table, today it is Hazel who gets her hair caught up in the crystals.
On leaving the restaurant, The Trio and their mother set off for Boots to confess the Rascal’s crime. With my youngest daughter and Hazel, I need to catch a train -
so I send Pat and Pip off with the Confessional Party to act as character witnesses, should these be needed.
I understand that the Rascal’s abject
apology was accepted by a somewhat bemused - and amused - shop assistant. I think a Lesson Has Been Learnt. Fagin would be disappointed, but I am proud of my Rascal.
As usual we had asked our waiter to take a photo of us all, sitting at our toy-strewn table. When I look at the photograph at home later, I am delighted to note that Pat is still wearing a spider in her hair…