The Irritations of Modern Life; 53. Barbecues

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The Independent Culture
AN ESTIMATED 54 million barbecues will be held in the UK this summer. This is 54 million too many. Not only do they break up families and poison friends, they encourage the kind of gender division not seen since women fought for the vote.

For most of the year, blokes will happily slob in front of the TV while women slave. Then summer arrives. "Time for a barbecue," burps the man of the house. Rising from the sofa, he dons a pair of shorts, drapes a tea-towel over his shoulder and assumes culinary control. As guests arrive, he has only just located the barbecue behind his son's old tricycle at the back of the shed. The wife is sent out to the petrol station for coals. "And drop in at the offie while you're at it, love."

Soon the barbie is smoking, ruining next door's billowing sheets. A posse of males bump beer guts in their eagerness to prod, advise and squirt lighter fuel on the steaks. Meanwhile the women lug cutlery and napkins (which blow away in seconds) out to the garden.

By now everybody is starving and the tequila has kicked in. The best cuts are eaten raw by the boys, now in their Neanderthal stride, while the women make do with coagulated potato salad. The chicken wings fall through the grate, the drumsticks are still bloody and the sausages burned to a crisp. A few of the women intervene, resulting in rows, threats of divorce, and the revelation that one husband has been having an affair with another's wife for years.

The women retire indoors to comfort each other with the knowledge that "all men are bastards". The men continue their primeval adventure, but the embers are cooling, and the remains are abandoned to the cats.

The following morning, "chef" surveys the damage. "Who's been pissing in my lobelias?" he bleats.

His wife, retrieving beer cans and polystyrene cups from the shrubbery, gently explains: "You, darling."