The Lawyer’s New Year resolution was to buy us an enormous new house.
“Look at this place,” he said, pointing out the chipped door frames and the wine-stained living room carpet. “We live like poor people. I mean, we bought it when I wasn’t even a partner. It’s like we haven’t moved on. Thank God we never have dinner parties, or people would just laugh at us.”
“We’re not moving!” yelled Liability. “People will plant trees on Fluffy and Snowball [two very much unmissed rabbits] and then God won’t be able to pull them up to Heaven! Waagh!”
“We’re at the top of a falling market, Dad,” said Deminimus from behind the finance page in The Times. (He recently, just to see what would happen, threw a brick at the Lawyer’s car, which is insured under the firm’s policy and thus has a jaw-dropping £500 premium. To teach him the value of cash we said he couldn’t have pocket money again, ever, or he could earn something. We had in mind a paper round, but he’s already made £350 by speculating on mobile phone compensation payouts.)
“Ah, but that’s the clever bit,” said the Lawyer. “It means we can bargain hard.”
“No, it means if you negotiate 10 per cent off you just postpone negative equity for about 12 months,” said Deminimus.
“Well, I think we should move out of this dump,” said Subjudice. “Can we go to that estate all the footballers live on?”
“Hmm,” said the Lawyer, in his Doctor Evil voice. “Senior Partner also lives there. Let’s take a spin in the car, young lady.”
When they returned they looked like raspberry-ripple ice-cream: the Lawyer was white from the shock of the prices on the footballers’ estate, and Subbie was red in the face from shouting that it wasn’t fair, and she’d never be happy again if they didn’t live there. And although Senior Partner saw them, he didn’t invite them in for tea, which the Lawyer has taken as a direct snub and further proof that equity is as far away as ever.
“Right,” I said, opening the property pages of the local paper. “Here’s some likely-looking ones. Let’s all go.”
We kerb-crawled round the various estates and villages, and at each house the Lawyer saw some tiny detail which would mean we’d be eternally unhappy. After an hour of non-stop fault finding I was sitting on my hands to stop myself from battering him round the head. In the medium-posh Cedars area he spotted Fat Bob from his department and forced us all to duck down so we weren’t seen.
“He’s always nicking meeting rooms after you’ve booked them or taking my stapler without asking,” he whispered, trying to drive with his head below the dashboard. “It’s bad enough having to work with him: I couldn’t imagine living next door – nothing would be safe. He might even try to make off with you, darling.” Everyone collapsed in laughter and I stared stonily out of the window. I have my standards, although maybe fat lawyers aren’t so picky as the thin ones.
When we got home I looked up painters and decorators in the Yellow Pages. I reminded the Lawyer that when we bought the house it was before prices went insane and associates could afford more than a half share in a one-bedroom flat in the red light district.
This cheered him up no end and he started looking up the addresses of all the junior staff in the firm phone book. It kept him laughing for hours.