“It is 8.55pm. We need to have had two courses and be out of here by 9.30pm at the very latest. Is this possible, sir?”
The waiter looks anxious. He scuttles off to the chef, and returns promptly, not totally sure of what he has signed up for.
There are four of us. We all met at a Project Trust Returned Volunteer Weekend; the three of them last year, and add me on this year. We have all come from different parts of the UK tonight: Edinburgh, Kent, Leicester, and North London: to go to a VSO meeting and to enjoy each others company.
We order immediately, hurriedly, as if it is some kind of time test on television. ‘Ready, Steady, Eat and Leave’ it should be called. As Stewart stumbles over his words Henry and I jump ahead, to give him time to get his tongue untied. We order for Anna, no time to wait.
Before the food arrives we have paid our bill (employing our discount voucher).
First course: the table is divided. For the guys: bruschetta. For the girls: dough balls with garlic butter. However, Stewart looks on enviously at the dough balls, and myself lovingly at the bruschetta, so we do a half and half split to get the best of both worlds.
By the time the pizzas arrive time is running out. It is a competition; except we all need to be winners. We all need to leave by 9.30 in order to get to our respective stations on time. I fold my pizza over, so there are three slices face to face and face to bottom. I don’t usually eat quickly, but it seems like the only way physically possible to ‘complete the task’ in the time limit.
9.29pm and the last bites are being gobbled. The calming manatee (a meme) reassures us all that we will make it. On leaving a 10% tip (how could we not?) and a decorated thank you not to the waiter, we dashed out: our mission complete.