The Lawyer is on a month-long secondment down south with one of his company's biggest clients. It has allowed the girls and me to move the TV into mummy and daddy's bedroom and stay up watching Friends on satellite with a big tub of Ben and Jerry's, which is about the closest you can get to heaven on this earth, except when Liability drops a handful of Chunky Monkey between the sheets. And I've got to sit through three hours of the Disney Channel to get there.
They put it on free for a weekend, and the sound of lamenting on Monday morning when it had disappeared from our subscriber portfolio had to be heard to be believed. Well, Hakuna Matata, I said (if there's anyone in the house under the age of five you'll know what I mean), and used that week's child benefit to get it back. I say thank God for universal benefits, although the Government may not actually have intended them to be used for subscribing to additional satellite channels. At least when the Lawyer, slaving upstairs over a hot document, hears all the honks and shrieks he thinks we're all watching National Geographic, rather than the Jungle Kids, and has no idea who paid for either. So that's the children somatised from 6.30am to around bedtime, although I'm missing a lot of EastEnders; I'm hoping they'll graduate to real-life telly soon.
They are missing their father reading them to sleep, though. They think it very funny the way he reads them his trainee's attempts at drafting a contract, occasionally breaking off to wipe his eyes or ring his secretary with corrections, even though she'll be trying to get her own children to sleep on a much more healthy diet of Spot the Dog.
He's good at reading to them, I'll give him that. Their approach to reading a book is much the same as his. Skim page one, skip the next four, five minutes on page five, back to page two for a look at the picture and gallop on to the end, when you can throw the book aside in relief. (He uses a similar technique on The Treble, currently his favourite video. The rewind button is worn to a mere stump.)
Unfortunately for him, the children cottoned on early to the idea of chargeable time and won't be content with a specified number of books. It's 10 minutes solid reading or they'll be demanding milk, biscuits and a place in mummy and daddy's bed at five in the morning. At the Lawyer's rate of reading they get through the whole of the bookshelf by Wednesday (luckily, neither the Lawyer nor the children seem to mind they've read all the books 82 times already).
Which is why Thursday is library day for me and Liability. I make sure my little kleptomaniac daughter is wearing skin-tight leggings and T-shirt; anything baggy and she'll have The Hungry Caterpillar stuffed down her knickers before you can say hamburger. We get a Terry Pratchett for Subjudice (she's very advanced), a new Tintin book for Deminimus, and spend an interesting half-hour debating the merits of Kipper over Harry as a bedtime read for Liability. For the Lawyer I'm getting all the John Grishams out again, although I have to pretend to fumble my way over to the big print section because all the ordinary copies have gone.
It's basic grounding. The famous legal novel is getting bogged down, and he's resorting to flights of fancy, with his hero about to discover a hole in the space/time continuum in the back wall of the Deeds Office. I think the break down south will do him good.