A hundred meals per hour

It's that time of year again when we all seem to do little else but sit in restaurants, eating.

Peter Edgerton
PETER EDGERTON

Ladies and gentlemen, unbuckle your belts. It's that time of year again when we all seem to do little else but sit in restaurants, eating. From company meals to gatherings of family and friends, our celebrations are, more often than not, focused on chewing the fat in both the literal and figurative sense. However, eating out is an art and potential pitfalls are legion, especially if you're socialising with people you don't know very well or, indeed, at all. Here are some personality types you might wish to keep an eye on.

First, The Organiser. This is usually someone who was once a school teacher and insists on treating all present as if they were six years old. They'll be immediately recognisable by their shrill tones and a tendency to flap their arms in the direction they want people to move. Broadly speaking, if you do the diametrical opposite to whatever they say you won't go far wrong. Key phrases: 'Hands up who's having cake!' and 'Has everybody been to the toilet?'

Next, The Fuss Pot. This person will specify the size and number of ice cubes they want in their drink and might ask the beautiful Andalusian waitress for HP sauce to enhance the flavour of the Iberian pork. Also known for sending things back to the kitchen for reasons nobody else can fathom. Key phrases: 'I didn't order that' and 'This chip's not as big as the other ones.'

Special notice must be taken of The Rudest Person In The World. Typical symptoms include whistling/clicking fingers at the waiting staff and lunging, fork first, at random shared platters with unnerving frequency. Answers mobile phone unencumbered, which, in extreme cases might be left lying on the table throughout the meal. Key phrases: 'Does anyone want this last sausage (said sausage is already in mouth) and 'Have to take this, it's Geoffrey....Geoffrey! Hi! No, no, nothing important..'

Lastly, Officer Quibble. This can be any or all of the above or, in fact, a hitherto inconspicuous character emerging from the shadows. Their special moment is when the bill arrives, at which point they'll take out their spectacles/microscope in order to examine it to within an inch of its life before protesting about being charged for bread sticks or the fact that the peas weren't included in the special offer. Key phrase: "I'll put 25 euros eighty two in the pot because I didn't have any cherry tomatoes," and "Didn't Dave have an extra glass of wine?"

If you are able to avoid these personality types as you go about your yuletide munchings, you will, no doubt, have a splendid time. If,on the other hand, you aren't able to do so, I suggest you follow Dave's example.