But dad, it’s disgusting. It never tastes like this when Maria makes it.”
“You don’t have to like it, you just have to eat it.”
“I can’t eat it. It’s all slimy. I’m going to be sick.” Noel slams his knife and fork down on the kitchen table. He sits with his arms crossed and a scowl plastered across his face.
“Noel, just think of it as one of your five a day.” I’m trying to be clear, consistent, fair but firm and without resorting to either bribery or intimidation. So far, it’s been a textbook performance.
“I’ll die if I have to eat this.” I raise my hand to my mouth, stifling a laugh.
“This” is broccoli. With pasta. And grated cheese on top. I’m assured that it ranks amongst Noel’s Top Ten. But not today, it seems. I’m beginning to wish I’d gone back to the office after the meeting with the lawyers to discuss Juliette’s case instead of sneaking home for 6.30pm.
“Eat. It. Noel.” I can feel that my hitherto textbook performance is beginning to slip away from me.
Emma and Maria enter the kitchen, Gwennie and Harry in their arms. At the very same moment, Noel distributes his dinner across the kitchen with a devastating flat backhand drive. For a moment, we are all wide-eyed and dumbstruck, apart from Harry who gurgles happily in Maria’s arms.
“What’s going on?” asks Emma.
Noel pre-empts my own explanation by turning to face his mother, his previously determined face crumpling as he bursts into tears and screams “Daddy made me eat it. And I couldn’t. It’s disgusting mummy.”
After three grim hours with the lawyers discussing objectives and strategies, I’m just about strategised out. But I’ve got a distinct feeling that I’m six to five against in this situation.