Sitting in the Paragon Cafe the other day, on the way to Sydney, I finished my rather tiny bowl of soup and began eyeing off my husband's toasted sandwiches. Without a word spoken by me, the noble man to whom the sandwiches belonged - yes, the same one who brought you Australia v Britain - handed me one of the three triangles remaining on his plate of ham, cheese and tomato sandwiches (it would have been too much to ask to expect him to offer any of the toasted chicken variety, since there was only one of those left). 'It is a truth universally acknowledged,' he said as he did so, 'that a woman in possession of a husband will always under-order and then pinch bits from her husband's plate.'
While his memory of Austen's wording may not have been entirely accurate, the substance of his statement was undeniable. A brief glance around the restaurant proved that. On all sides, women were sneaking chips off the plates of their menfolk and even holding out their plates like begging bowls, hoping to be given, 'just a tiny taste', 'a sliver of the corner, just so I can see what it's like'.
The Queens Bookshop Initiative
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