“Poor Daddy,” said Liability, looking at the Lawyer’s drawn face and trembling hands over breakfast. “Why don’t you have a proper bedtime like us?”
“Daddy does have a proper bedtime,” I said curtly – for I don’t enjoy being woken at 2am by golf clubs crashing over in the hall, venturing downstairs armed against potential burglars with a rolled-up copy of Hello!, and finding my husband giggling as he chases golf balls under the sofa.
“I just couldn’t leave,” he mumbled.
“Because they’d tied your legs to the table? Because the chefs messed up so completely you didn’t get your main course until midnight? Because your coach had turned into a pumpkin?”
He held up a hand, defeated. “Because every other person there thought that it would be a good idea to go on to a bar after the meal, and I lack the moral fibre to say that I should really be going to bed now because I’ve got work tomorrow. And because my boss was there, and he’s a party animal, and it looks bad if you don’t keep up.”
“Daddy’s suffering from peer pressure,” said Deminimus. “That’s like being bullied, only you have a nicer time when you do it.”
“Well, did you have a nice time?” I asked, slamming bread into the toaster. He’d forgotten to put the date in the calendar, and I’d had to scratch one of my rare nights out. “A nice time at yet another industry dinner? Win any awards yet?”
“Not really,” he said. “And no. And please don’t threaten me with that piece of toast.”
“You are a bit pathetic,” said Subbie. “I mean, what would you do if a stranger offered you a lift in his car? I bet you’d hop in and before you know it you’d have eloped to Scotland. Or Bognor Regis or somewhere even more horrible.”
“I know, I know,” said the Lawyer, sprinkling sugar on his toast, a childhood comfort that reappears as a sure sign of a crushing hangover. “They’re all so macho. They’ve all got work tomorrow too, but it’s this ‘Last Man Standing’ mentality. It’s seen as wimpish to want sleep. I blame Margaret Thatcher.”
I am amazed. Ask anyone who has stood over a cot in the most horrid, darkest stretches of the night whispering swear words under their breath to get a baby to close its eyes: sleep is more precious than rubies. Sleep is for people who deserve it; it’s wasted on the Lawyer.
“Well, I just think if you cared about your work more, you wouldn’t do it,” piped up Liability. We all stared at her. Surely the seven-year-old who asked for a jet-blaster water gun for her birthday (“so I can get next door’s mangy old cats nice and clean”) isn’t turning into the voice of conscience?
“She’s right,” said Subbie. “If I turned up at school like that they’d give me a right lecture on how I didn’t value myself and I was disrespecting the school and how no one could work because of the alcoholic fumes coming off me.”
This sounded so authentic I wondered if it had actually happened. “You’re not drinking vodka behind the bike sheds are you?” I asked.
The Lawyer looked at us. He was obviously rallying. “The reason I spend a fortune in school fees is so that I can be sure responsible people are looking after you,” he said. “The trouble is that if my firm were a school, then the one passing round the bottle would be the headmaster.”