‘When you ask your husband to talk to you more, you don’t usually expect him to turn over, prop himself up on one elbow and tell you about the latest development in EU tax law,” a friend confided to me recently.
I nodded, sympathetically, before launching into the joys and sorrows of living with someone who can talk at great length about lock-out agreements and the finer points of binding with a metal spiral versus plastic, but who couldn’t pick out a Spice Girl at 10 paces. Actually, Subjudice is now at the age when she will begin discarding girl groups in favour of boy singers, although it is slightly alarming to find her saying that Ronan Keating is now far too old for her.
I do feel for my friend, for her husband actually lectures in law, which means he has to read about it, something his erstwhile college chums all stopped doing long ago. Thus her home is full of legal magazines open at the international section (rather than at the jobs section, which is all anyone else reads them for). He spends the weekends frantically producing articles to meet ludicrous publishers’ deadlines, articles which he knows will be sitting in editors’ studies for around 18 months, waiting for a favourable review while, in the outside world, the dinosaur known as European law is actually evolving (however imperceptibly) and rendering redundant any contribution he wishes to make to the debate. Thus he takes revenge by letting books and articles he himself has to edit and review pile up around the sitting room until he is watching the Adventures of Hercules (his only vice) through a tunnel made up of books on tax law.
With tax law not being the average law student’s favourite subject, he has developed a flick of the wrist which can project a biro a good 50 paces across a lecture hall, where it will land on a dozing student’s A4 pad, and execute a curt “Pay attention, idiot” in finest copperplate handwriting before falling undetectably beneath the benches.
He is in great demand at my children’s birthday parties, for, Rolf Harris-like, he can keep a roomful of four-year-olds amused for hours with nothing more than a flip chart and a marker (years of keeping undergraduates awake while dinning into them the difference between Strasbourg and Brussels has given him tremendous stage presence). Relieved from his post, he will then advise the fathers on offshore investments and keep the mothers entertained with accounts of the blood curdling tax evasion of the rich and famous, a little hobby he presses. One day, he may write up who really paid for such and such a businessman’s political donation, or just where such and such a singer’s new nose actually came from.
The Lawyer often asks for his advice on how to do the boss down, because there is no-one so low-down and dirty as an aggrieved university lecturer. With a few well-placed hints he can get unpopular colleagues marking exchange papers for an entire year, or serving on the car parks committee for ever. Subjudice consulted him recently on getting rid of the girl who sat next to her in class; he suggested an anonymous note to her mother about headlice being rampant in the entire lower school and the unsuspecting mite was whisked away like magic. He didn’t even charge Subbie for the advice, although he’s definitely no business innocent. He devised, and still runs, the most popular course in college, the optional summer term module on “Expenses and Charging Out: How to live the Platinum Lifestyle when you’ve only got a Switch Card.”