15 October 2001
The Lawyer has been struck down by a nasty virus and has spent the last week at home with me. It's not often you have a companion to tell you that he doesn't like his shirts being ironed collar first, but frankly the charm of an altered routine wore off by lunchtime.
He has occasionally made it to the computer to run over some documents emailed to him by his secretary, although he spent most of the time on the company website, pulling up the various partners' photos and laughing hysterically.
"Ooh look, it's the axe murderer. And this one's Blowfish - face like a swollen frog. And there's the Slapper - wears fishnet tights; we're always trying to snag her on wastepaper bins."
It was rather like having one of the younger ones at home again, which caused a pang, because they're all out at school now. I duly tucked him up in bed in the afternoons for a nap and found myself reflecting that this wasn't at all normal - if there is anyone you expect to find in your bed at one o'clock on a Thursday afternoon, it's probably not your own husband.
The lurgy spread to school, and I found myself drafted in as an emergency classroom assistant, something I've always resisted because I like to pretend that my children behave like angels as soon as they lose sight of their parents. To my profound delight, I found children at school even worse behaved than mine, and became quite fond of little Finbar in the reception class, who would generally only keep his mind on the painting in front of him if you put him in a headlock.
"An extra pair of hands makes all the difference," gasped the teacher as she ran past, trying to stop Liability doing Mary Poppins out of the window. "At this point in the week we'd have at least three of them in A&E by now."
"What are they actually learning?" asked the Lawyer, showing an interest in his children's education for the first time in 11 years.
"Numbers. Words. Sounds. Why you can't paint Gideon bright purple. How to sit still in assembly without being in an armlock. Inner resources. That kind of thing," I said, watching him flick through the channels.
"Daytime television's rubbish, isn't it?" he said. "Mind you, I've found out a great way to consolidate all our debts."
"Why don't you read a book?" I suggested. "Look, we're doing a crime novel at book club. You could try that one."
"A book?" he asked, bleakly. The last thing the Lawyer had read all the way through, I believe, was the prospectus for his law college, and even then he was checking to see what the students in the pictures were wearing.
"When Subjudice gets past A-levels, she's not going anywhere where there's trainers in shot," he said.
"Mormon college in Utah, then?" I asked.
"You know what I mean," he said.
Apart from that, he opens Chambers once a year, curses wildly and slams it shut. I have asked him how he expects the children to learn to read with an example like that at home, but I know he doesn't expect to do pro bono work when he's paying £20,000 a year in school fees.
So when Liability came home I sent her to read a book with her daddy. "No, silly," I heard her saying. "Daisy's mother is just round the corner."
I came in to find the Lawyer with tears in his eyes. "Daisy got lost," he said. "It was ever so sad."
"It's the power of literature," I told him. "Wait till you try Kipper."