7 November 2005
With a hard winter predicted, the Lawyer has sent a pre-emptive letter to the council despairing of the potholes in the road. Of course, the last thing a hardworking lawyer wants to feel beneath the wheels of his new executive saloon is the bump and grind of a hardworking road, and the Lawyer believes that his taxes entitle him to a better ride.
I tried to explain it to him with marbles and empty jam jars: "This is your Income Tax, and it goes in the whacking great peanut butter jar, which is for national things like hospitals; this is your Council Tax, which goes in this tiny little Marmite jar, and this is for local things like the bins. I don't think they really have room in there for potholes."
"Well, they should let me buy the road, then," said the Lawyer.
"Way to go, Dad," said Deminimus. "We'll be bankrupt. Does that mean I don't have to go to school any more?"
"We could get together, get the council to declare this a private road, and we'd pay for the upkeep," the Lawyer said. "I bet I could do a better job." I said the point of private roads was to have dreadful potholes on them, because then everyone knows you're jolly posh, but the Lawyer thought it was a real winner and started drafting a letter to the neighbours.
Not a chance. Lawyers have a most amazingly gung-ho attitude to domestic concerns which frighten the pants off the rest of us. Our nice, bourgeois neighbours would leave the lawn unmowed before they'd challenge the council or take legal responsibility for a stretch of Tarmac that probably costs a grand a foot to maintain per annum.
The Lawyer is dismissive of friends with household anxieties. There was Geoff, concerned that a neighbour's extension would leave a gutter jutting out over his land. "For God's sake, go after them for a wayleave. It'll be worth a grand."
Then there was Sue, who spent an entire dinner party fretting over the fact that she wanted to sell her flat but couldn't find the share certificate in the management company. The Lawyer wound her up like a clockwork toy, warning her that she could be sued for misappropriation of company property, before advising her she could always get a copy.
And Meg wanted advice on her boundary dispute and couldn't get the Lawyer to see that, if they turned the fence around, she'd be stuck with all the fenceposts on her side, and that this would be upsetting, because who wants to wash-up looking out at a whole load of fenceposts?
I think the Lawyer is unintentionally cruel in these matters, because most people's lives are bound up in their homes, and lawyers are in their own so rarely that domestic worries barely impinge on them.
The road outside, however, is a different matter. Too impatient to wait for input from the neighbours, he rang up the council and asked them what they thought of his plan. Not that it means much any more, but it's a true-blue chamber and it held a big party to celebrate Maggie's 80th. Perhaps I shouldn't be surprised that they sent him a booklet on 'Opting out of Council Services: It's Your Choice', with a personal letter from the Mayor saying what a good idea he'd had. Meanwhile, the neighbours have been ringing up threatening to shoot the Lawyer on sight if he succeeds.
The Lawyer, of course, thinks this is hilarious (cavalier attitude coming into play). It's true: solicitors really are different from us.