21 July 2003
After months of trying to find out from the Lawyer where the rest of his holiday had got to (I kept receiving replies like: "They're being very tough on time off at the moment," and "I can't just take off at a moment's notice, you know.") I actually rang the personnel department and found out that he had two clear weeks he could take any time this summer. I saved my fury, and booked us straight into a family hotel in Cornwall, subverting the normal process by which the Lawyer prevaricates all year and eventually takes us to the last villa available, a pool-less hovel down a deserted track miles from anywhere in deepest France, where the children dread the food and there is no one for them to play with.
Imagine the joy on their faces when we arrived to find 30 children racing round reception dressed as cowboys and shooting each other in preparation for the Wild West party later that evening. And imagine the despair on the Lawyer's face, especially when I dispatched him back into Tresurfer-on-Sea to buy Stetson hats.
"At least there's a golf course," he muttered, and went off to find it, carrying his new set of clubs we brought with us at the expense of half the children's clothes. It was the smallest course in the world, requiring little more to conquer it than a sand wedge and a putter, but it contained about as much rough as the entire set of St Andrews' courses put together and the Lawyer soon lost all his golf balls. On the other hand, he found lots of others lying about, including some clearly marked with the logo of a prominent magic circle firm.
The Lawyer immediately entered the worst kind of legal competitive frenzy. He was determined to find the owner of the errant balls and challenge him to a pitch and putt death match, and hung around the golf course for days. He even got his secretary to send him a new set of company balls that he left lying around the course, rather like an animal marking its territory. He would talk loudly at dinner about exaggerated partner-profit ratios and scandalous charge-out rates, hoping to flush him out, but no one near our table took the bait.
In fact, after the first night, no one was talking to us very much at all. However, word went round that there was a lawyer in the house and by the end of the first week other solicitors were sidling up to him and muttering the names of their firms like magic passwords. Soon there was a big group of them sitting in the bar in the evenings discussing their thrilling attempts at the seventh hole and exchanging mutual acquaintances and their experiences of working at past firms, much like boys with a set of Top Trumps. You know how it goes: "John Smith? I worked with him at Widgeon Plover. Total prat. Couldn't close a project to save his life."
"Ah, but not so much of a prat as John Jones, from Lapwings. He couldn't close a door," another would reply, and they'd all roar with laughter.
The children came to look at them one night after the kids' evening video had ended. "Why is Daddy shouting with all those loud men?" asked Liability. "Do you think Daddy knows he's on holiday at all?" asked Subjudice.
The next day, the Lawyer borrowed the hotel's computer to log into the firm and spent a happy morning wading through a million junk emails. Next year I'm taking the kids on my own.