14 October 2002
The refugees like showing him pictures of the family back home, which is nice but time consuming, and the students leave him notes on his work in progress, because they all come from the law college down the road and they're keen to make an impression.
"Have you considered the case of Thunderpants
Outrage and its relevance to aberration validity non-compliance?" asked one note the other day. "And do you have any traineeships coming up next year?"
The Lawyer wrote a note back, asking if the student had considered cleaning the coffee stains off his keyboard, and thoughtfully providing a cotton bud to help him with the job. Which I thought a touch unfair, as the accumulated custard cream residue of years is down there.
Of course, most office cleaners simply move dust around, or in the Lawyer's case, as there is never any desk to be seen, move papers around to show they've actually visited. They don't have to empty the bins any more because rubbish has been banned: everything is recyclable, so paper goes into sacks, they drink coffee from mugs, and heaven help you if you're left with an apple core. The Lawyer has found that if you chew enough of it the pips can be lost inside the keyboard anyway.
There are, of course, only two possible ways to treat cleaners - fawning gratitude and Lord of the Manor, and the Lawyer is good at the second. I'm good at the first, which means that my cleaners at home never clean the bath, wilfully scratch the Aga, think emptying the bins is beneath them and hate me for employing them at all.
The Lawyer's attitude used to earn him respect, but it's a high-risk strategy in these days of full employment. We had a fairly good cleaner in the shape of Rita, a dear old thing who called her daughter from our phone so often that she showed up in our top 10 Friends & Family billing list. There was a falling off, however, as there always is: corners left unswept, rugs unlifted, the empty Pringles tube still lying under the sofa after eight weeks, and so on - and the Lawyer left her a fatal note. "As there is not much to do this week could you clean all the windows and leave me a note of what time you started and what time you finished."
I came home to find the note screwed up on the doormat next to the spare housekeys.
I tell you, cleaners are like gold dust, and there's practically a black market in them. People with good cleaners keep quiet about them, unless they get poached with offers of Dyson-equipped households with no ironing. I finally got one to visit the house, and she turned up looking very glamorous, with false nails two inches long. I kept looking at them and wondering how much scrubbing of the loo she'd do with those. At least I'd be able to tell if she'd been at my terribly expensive La Prairie skin cream by the finger marks in the goo.
When we'd finished the tour she discovered that one of her false nails had fallen off, and we had to go back all over the house looking for it, in all those corners lovely Rita had left uncleaned.
"Ooh, this house is so dirty Mummy," said Liability, who was helping. "No wonder Rita didn't want to come back."