8 September 2003
The Lawyer came home cheering the other night after they announced that the disastrous experiment known as 'open plan' was over and that proper office walls would be going back up.
The firm went open plan a few years ago, convinced that excessive gossip about reality TV shows would cease when forced out into the open. They tore down the office partitions while the solicitors stood glumly by, contemplating sharing their breathing space with secretaries and people from unlikely departments such as pensions or European law. It was just like the West Germans bracing themselves for the invasion from the East after the Berlin Wall came down.
"And besides," said the Lawyer, speaking from a lofty plane, "it made concentrating on your work impossible."
"As well as sending all those people having affairs off to the stationary cupboard," I added.
"Yes, that was always very embarrassing," murmured the Lawyer, remembering the time he'd caught the head of commercial in a compromising situation with his shirt tail inadvertently stapled to the 'miscellaneous' shelf.
"Mum, I'm fed up with open plan too," said Deminimus, bolshie after a week back at school. "I can't concentrate on homework if I have to do it on the kitchen table."
"Me too. I need my own space," chimed in Subjudice. "Open plan's not fair and it's not dignified."
"And I want my own computer!" shouted Liability.
Up to now, we've fobbed them off with the Lawyer's old computer kept in a corner of the kitchen, and forbidden them from touching the smart one in the study. The Lawyer, however, magnanimous at the thought of getting his own slice of window and a door to shut, said he'd get them all new computers for their bedrooms.
Of course, we had major tantrums about modem and RAM capacity, especially from those who didn't understand what that meant (Liability and the Lawyer), but we eventually fixed them up with reasonable machines from the local PC Warehouse. After a cautionary lecture on surfing the internet and chatrooms ("Boring! You can always tell an old perv - all they want to do is talk about knickers all the time," said Subjudice disconcertingly) we let them scurry up to their rooms.
Over the next few evenings I noticed they were coming back down to the kitchen more and more often. Soon, it seemed to me, they were even synchronising their visits to the biscuit jar and the bottle of blackcurrant squash in the fridge. A week into the private study experiment and Liability had moved her maths homework downstairs. "So you won't be lonely, Mummy. And can you show me how to do fractions again?" she said.
By Friday night, Subjudice and Deminimus had joined her and were discussing how Subjudice could get the Greek alphabet tattooed up her arms to help her in Greek exams, and Deminimus was asking whether he could get away without learning any dates at all this year in history.
The Lawyer made an early appearance and was shocked at this scene of cosy family life. "What happened to computers in your rooms?" he asked.
"Well, it got lonely," said Liability.
"And Mummy knows an awful lot," said Deminimus.
"And if she disguises her writing I can get her to do essays on the Brontës," said Subjudice.
"I like to think of it as being like Little House on the Prairie," I said.
"But it's just like open plan," gasped the Lawyer.
"Offices are boring," said Subjudice.
"Yes they are, aren't they?" said the Lawyer, opening the biscuit jar. "Who do you think is really going to win Fame Academy?"