Legal widow

We had a clear-out of toys at half term. The children and I spent an enjoyable couple of days turning their bedrooms upside down, deciding which toys would carry on living with us and which would go for a holiday to the Oxfam shop. At first, it was only the bald dolls and the legless teddies they could bear to see leave the house, but when they realised where the toys were going – to the houses of kids who might never have had a real Barbie doll – they pitched in with will. Middle-class guilt will get you every time, and by the end we had three binbags full of animals with all their limbs intact and games with no pieces missing at all.

We put them in the hall, where the Lawyer duly tripped over them after coming in late, sending Mr Potato Head flying in pieces across the room.

When he didn’t even raise his voice in protest, I knew something was up.

“What is it?” I asked, ladling out shepherds pie.

“The cold wind of reorganisation is blowing through the department,” he said elliptically, because Deminimus, having had a bad dream, had joined us, and was contentedly sipping from a beaker of milk.

My heart stopped beating, while Deminimus piped up: “I know that one. Is it like the warm wind of the west?” The Lawyer looked lost. “He’s been doing the weather,” I said.

They can’t mean my hardworking husband, I thought, taking comfort from the fact that he wasn’t beating his head against the table, as he does when he thinks management has got it wrong. I presumed it was someone else for the chop, and turned my back to load the dishwasher. There was an ominous thump of skull against breakfast bar. Delayed shock, I suppose.

It seems targets were not being met and even the ruse of charging train journeys to three different clients had failed to influence the percentages. The department risks being broken up and everyone being assigned to other areas of the business, like property (horrors – there would be fist fights about the filing cabinet space), or litigation (worse horrors – simply fist fights).

Subjudice appeared at the doorway, complaining of a bad tummy, her eyes widening at the sight of the Lawyer drinking whisky straight from the bottle. “Babies drink from bottles, Daddy,” she said, sounding suspiciously like my mother-in-law. “We drink from glasses,” and she got one down from the kitchen cupboard.

Subbie is very practical in a crisis, which she gets from me – but then what lawyer ever listened to his wife in a crisis? She soon had the Lawyer psyched up enough to bang his fist on the counter and shout: “This stops now!”, causing a sleepy Deminimus, head propped on his hand, to slip off the edge and bang his chin.

He rejected Subbie’s idea of kidnapping the managing partner’s children, toyed with the easier target of his golden Labrador, and finally settled on a stiff email to all department heads, pointing out how taking on homeless and overpaid projects lawyers would wreak havoc with their salary budgets.

“Divide and rule,” he said, stalking off to bed with a snoring Subbie and Deminimus under each arm. In the hall we found Liability, never one to be left out of a party, pointing at the toys the Lawyer had kicked across the room. “His bits have come off! Mr Potato Head’s broken!” she wailed.

“No he’s not,” said the Lawyer, grimly. “Mr Potato Head’s going to be just fine.”