3 September 2001
The Lawyer and I have entered that school reunion website, taking over office web space like Japanese knotweed, although it meant creating a whole new email address for him, as I'd logged on first, and he had to use his school nickname, which was Speccy. Poor lad.
What I found, when I logged on to the past, was that I hardly recognised anyone there. Either no one in my year is computer literate, or my school days were populated by a whole load of imaginary friends. Who the hell is Samantha Green? I found myself crying. And who is Michael Schlich? We didn't have any Germans. However, the thing that really made the hairs on the back of my neck rise was seeing that my very first boyfriend had registered with the site in the last week, too - we always were a bit psychic like that. "Could this be a message?" I wondered, as I put down my new gardening catalogue and looked across to the other pillow, where the Lawyer was snoring over a car magazine.
I've chosen to leave out any description about myself - largely because, of course, we all turned out to be so ordinary. "Chartered accountant. Living in the Bristol area." "Married, two sons. Would love to hear from ex-boarders." "Jury's still out on the children thing. Would mean giving up scuba diving." I looked hard, but there were no porn stars or politicians, although a chap in my year has apparently become a famous television gardener, although I have no recollection of him. I mean, was I actually at this school?
The Lawyer, of course, has taken this question of personal notes very seriously. "It's the endless pitches for new work," he told me. "I can't help it. I've got to sell myself."
So he's been wondering what to put. Does he go in on the "married, three children, looking for second-hand diesel people carrier" tack? Does he major on the "partner in commercial law firm, writes for Butterworths on obscure legal technicalities"? Does he talk about golf? I mean, how does a 40-year-old define himself in the eyes of his sniggering classmates?
I suggested he take a look at what his contemporaries have put, which was a real downer: while I don't appear to have attended my schooldays at all, his classmates all became hugely successful and have sprinkled their entries with those weaselly little letters that speak volumes: MD, PhD, QC, GPS (on their yachts, naturally). "It's the benefits of a private education," he said, loftily.
"What are your letters, Daddy?" asked Liability.
"VIP. It's very exclusive. Time for bed."
"Of course, Daddy," said Subjudice, "you don't have to put the truth."
The words fell as a pebble into a deep pool. Later that night I found the Lawyer online, putting the finishing touches to a paragraph describing how he had spent years climbing the world's highest peaks before returning to England following a nasty fall and incurring multiple fractures in South America. There followed a promising career as a concert pianist, until arthritis from the accident put an end to long hours sitting on a piano stool. He dabbled in political campaigning, until compelled to enter the legal profession in order to help the underprivileged. He now works as a human rights solicitor and has received many threats to his own life.
"What do you think?" he asked, beaming.
"You know," I said. "I actually liked the old you. And look, you never found the time to get married or have children. For most of us, that's the greatest achievement of them all."