12 February 2001
"Stick your tongue out, Liability," I say. She shakes her head no.
"Daddy's got to go to work. Come on, open your mouth." More head shaking.
"I'm going to turn you upside down and jiggle you about until your head falls off, and then I'll get it." More head shaking, but the unmistakable start of a giggle. "And then we'll have to give you something to put on top of your neck, like this cushion, and we'll call you Miss Cushion Head."
The giggle overwhelms her. "No you won't!" she shouts, spitting the Lawyer's gold cufflink, which she has been hiding in her mouth, across the room.
The Lawyer makes a dive and catches it before it disappears down the back of the sofa, where it would have turned into a five franc piece. Swearing furiously, he escapes to work, leaving me with the tedious but absolutely necessary job of explaining to my daughter why the mouth is not
a filing cabinet. "But what if you'd swallowed it, darling?" I plead, which is ironic, considering the rubbish the Lawyer is prepared to swallow, and with good appetite, too.
Seduced by book club discounts, he has sent off for a pile of business inspiration guides, now littering the kitchen table. They promise much: he could aspire to be a FATHER (Flying Above The Heap), looking down on the BUTTONs (who are Buried Up To Their Own Necks). Or he could stop being the office bunny rabbit (too busy producing to see his own hole) and become the office lion (kills once a week, spends the rest of the time sleeping.)
He rarely, however, gets past page 50. He makes it through the introduction: how I rose to the top of my profession but was never happy; how I saw the light; how I learned to treat my secretary as a human being and treat my wife as my lover (more listening and more silk underwear in both cases); how I gave up my job but gained immense satisfaction from counselling people (and, hey, the kids were living with my divorced wife by then so she had the privilege of becoming a responsible person by going out and getting a job); how I made a million by writing this book (too late for the divorced wife, ha ha, but then she should have stuck by me - luckily I'm now married to an absolutely gorgeous young lady…) and so on.
Then comes the painful questionnaire: "How did you feel, as a sensitive teenager exploring your sexual identity, about your father switching off the TV whenever Freddie Mercury came on?", which the Lawyer always skips because he never answers a direct question to do with sex if he can help it.
Then you're into the changing behaviour bit, and the Lawyer is bored by this time. He believes, though, that due to a 15-year legacy of skimming junior lawyers' draft contracts, he can ingest the contents of any document in 10 minutes flat. So, if we miss out the "throw dramatically to the ground, demand a major rewrite, retire to the kitchen muttering 'useless bloody gits'" sequence, he also believes he is master of the material, already behaving like a lion or a FATHER, and that the rewards of internal harmony are just around the corner.
Unfortunately, his life choices are already made, and he is stuck with children who swallow unsuitable things and a wife who no longer finds his bathtime rendition of Bohemian Rhapsody at all charming. My solution to life's problems is an hour-long session of body pump at the gym and chocolate biscuits. He should try it.