20 June 2005
We went to a big summer barbecue at the weekend; the sort where you spend all your time congratulating yourself on still being a size 12 (me) and still having some hair left (the Lawyer). Everyone else is swelling and balding, but one thing we hadn't noticed until this year was just how big everyone's children are getting.
A teenage tsunami washed through the house and garden, trampling the plants and knocking over the ancient pictures of babies in the living room, dropping hot dogs and wrecking the old climbing frame and the rickety swing. It was like the end of childhood.
As far as we could tell they were the offspring of property lawyers and management consultants, and the very worst were a set of identical twins born from one of those devilish mergers which put accountants into bed with a legal firm. All those lawyers who complained about sharing their office space were astonished to find out how little room accountants need to do their job (compared with a partner with a few lifetime clients on the books and 15 filing cabinets in the corridor), and a few romances sprung up. There's a reason accountants and lawyers don't mix, though, and the retribution came in the form of the children: all the arrogance of the legal profession combined with the due diligence of the accountants meant that the twins trashed the flower bedsÃ¢Â€Â¦ and then took pictures.
We adults sheltered near the barbecue, preparing to throw hot coals at them if they came too near, and watched as a spotty adolescent jumped up and down on the swing and broke the seat, which made the youths on the climbing frame laugh so hard that the whole thing toppled over.
All the parents apologised to the hosts, and Mac from the IT department, who has a bitter ex-wife and no contact with his kids, said that it was a rite of passage and symbolised the fact that we were all entering into a new state of parenthood: the teenage years. Yes, I thought, but why did something have to be broken to do it? Surely we're done with the hideous time of toddlerhood when everything needs mending.
"And all of you," Mac said to us, "will be entering your own time of transition soon."
He's given to dark predictions like this; something to do with coming from Fife, where the weather is often bad.
We made suitable puzzled seal noises, and he continued.
"It's a young man's business, law," he said. "Who can you see among us who's even in their late 50s?"
I raised an eyebrow at him. "Yes, of course I am," he said, "but I've got my escape plan: I've written a brilliant software program that will make me millions from unsuspecting law firms."
Everyone immediately turned their backs on him, as is proper, for lawyers do not like entrepreneurs, who seem threatening - unless they're advising them, when they like to nurture and cosset them. But Mac, six foot of embittered Scotsman, is not the cosseting kind.
While ignoring Mac the lawyers started whispering about their prospects and calculating how many years of school and university they have to stump up for. It's the same conversation they have every time they meet, of course, but given an unusual urgency by the announcement of Mac's bid for freedom.
This time, however, they actually came up with a solution; and it wasn't long before they formed themselves into a consortium, sidled up to Mac, and asked whether he'd sorted out his legal advice yet.