Legal Widow

Why did the little girl die? I ask at the end of ER, sitting curled up by the fire, face streaked with tears. Not, actually, a metaphysical question, but genuine confusion after an hour of people in green sacks running around and shouting out letters and numbers at other people who are generally lying down and in no position to respond. The Lawyer, sprawled on the sofa in a posture of despair, a sheaf of papers held to his brow, answers that it was because she had read too many proposal documents while young, and thereupon collapses, groaning.

I often fear the house is shrinking under the weight of documents he brings home, and that the subsidence the insurers are sending threatening letters about, is actually due to the piles of paper lying under chairs and in fragile window bays. One day the house will simply tip up sideways and it will be the Yucatan to Milton Keynes pipeline agreement, or the Nervous Dragon Neon Tube factory proposal for Cowdenbeath to blame. And my husband will be picking his way through the smashed-up furniture and parquet match sticks at the bottom of the hole and shouting: “Aha! Clause 5B [part I]! Gotcha!”

So many sections of documents seem to go wandering through our house for such extended walking holidays, that I wonder how anything gets built at all, or how the Lawyer actually keeps his job. But I suppose in a 700-page proposal it takes several passes before anyone realises that a few dozen of them are missing, and by then it can safely be blamed on the trainee, or the other side, or a psychotic cleaner or two.

Little do they know that pages 172-215 of the Harrogate Spa flume ride project are currently lining the hamster’s cage, or that of the draft for the Imperial War Museum Option Halls became a full set of silver-painted armour for Deminimus, our son. (Quite appropriate, I thought).

A sweet boy, Deminimus, but worryingly given to making things, for his father fears he will become a potter or something creative, whereas we all know a real job consists of making red marks on each page of a vast pile of paper and being rude about colleagues behind their backs. I say he has plenty of time to learn about the benefits of a professional career, potters’ workshops not being big on secretaries, messengers, complimentary copies of the FT or any of the other things that give one that satisfied glow of a job well done.

I would rather like Deminimus to be a potter, for I would be able to love the black under the fingernails as signalling his profession, rather than neglect and the imminent arrival of a social worker. I fear for his workshop, though, for he has inherited all the tidiness of his father, and clay weighs much more than paper.

All these things cross my mind as I sweep together the bits of Deminimus’s latest creation from the floor, four-year-olds not being good on glue – or at least not where it matters. I wonder if I will be forced to reassemble Deep Space Nine’s very own Cardboard City module, or whether I can stash the whole thing behind the newspaper recycling bin until safely forgotten, as indeed, Deep Space Nine will be one day. Hopefully. It is while investigating this option that I find, unexpectedly, clauses 92 to 62,131 of the Millennium Dome “Law Matters!” Virtual Experience Pod proposal. Thoughtfully, I bury it beneath three weeks worth of the FT. Some things are best left undisturbed.