Back in the day, when that woman from the Darling Buds of May was still er, budding with Pop Larkin and hadn’t even met Michael Douglas who was still on the set of Wall Street, one of his lines was famously ‘Lunch is for wimps.’
He was playing Gordon Gecko, the character who also came out with the 1980s mantra, Greed is good and please let’s move swiftly on before all of us who were there have to admit how much we took that to heart. Gecko was the embodiment of the people who we now subsidise, the ones whose wealth mysteriously didn’t ‘trickle down,’ in theory or otherwise. Gecko did deals on a mobile phone the size of a housebrick, in his dressing gown, on the beach. Yeah, we all thought. That could be me one day.
Except for the lunch thing. Greed is good. Lunch is better.
The anti-lunchers tried to spin it as decadence (And your problem is, exactly?) and a loss of control. And that could happen. I remember going to lunch and being asked to order some drinks. Wine? Sure, you have whatever you like? She waited until the bottle was brought to the table and open before she said: ‘I don’t drink at lunchtime.’
It was presented as if I had a problem drinking when clearly I had no problem drinking at all, unlike the person who was going to lose control after two glasses of wine. Or said she would, anyway. Losing control of the amount she ate didn’t seem to be any kind of problem, but that was obviously a different story.
I never believed it. I’ve always thought if you can’t sit and share some food with someone, or at least a drink, there’s something deeply wrong with them. Life gets better when you sit and talk to people. Food makes a neutral, natural setting for that to happen.
And if I hadn’t been sitting having lunch with a friend this week I wouldn’t have bumped into someone I knew who also believed in the business efficacy of the working pub lunch, who’s just offered me some script-writing work and wants me to do a voice-over test.
Lunch is for wimps, is it? Missing lunch is for people who can’t be trusted.
And if you ever wondered where the darling buds of May thing came from it wasn’t just HE Bates. He nicked it from Shakespeare, who lived in Stratford on Avon, where I was born, where Ben and Claire and Peter and Liz in Not Your Heart Away went one evening a thousand years ago. It’s sonnet XVIII, since you ask.
Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer’s lease hath all too short a date:
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimmed,
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance, or nature’s changing course untrimmed:
But thy eternal summer shall not fade,
Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow’st,
Nor shall death brag thou wander’st in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou grow’st,
So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.
As we say down the Plough & Sail. Sometimes. It depends on the company.