22 July 2002
After a row over taking the bins out, when the Lawyer threatened to throw Subjudice's mobile phone into the back of the next rubbish truck that came along (strikes permitting), our elder daughter spraypainted the number for ChildLine above the phone in the hall and said her entire class had learned it by rote in a recent Citizenship lesson.
It's already proved useful, apparently. Clemency Alldays has managed to keep her playground extortion racket going by threatening to shop the teacher who chastised her for holding two small girls up by their feet while shouting: "I know you've got Jaffa Cakes in there somewhere."
I asked what on earth she could have had against the teacher.
"Doesn't matter," said Subjudice. "Whatever she says, they can't afford not to believe her, can they?"
It hardly seems worth going to university any more: a 12-year-old steeped in the ignorance bred of watching Neighbours and learning text message spelling will always know better than you.
"It was supposed to be a lifeline for children; now it's become a stick to beat us with," said the Lawyer. "It's a national tragedy. If only solicitors had something like it. It could be…" and here, I swear, I saw the lightbulb go on above his head "…LawyerLine."
"Just think," said the Lawyer. "LawyerLine. Staffed by sympathetic former secretaries who will listen without filing their nails; and bitter ex-lawyers who never made partner who'll sue the trousers off anyone you choose. It could cover every disaster. You'd have little yellow stickers to put on your computer. Mousemats with the number on. Little booklets on how to spot an office bully.
"Found out that your yearly payrise just beats inflation while all your colleagues have realised the price of a three-bedroom semi in Datchet? Call LawyerLine. They'll take you through the Three Steps to Constructive Dismissal in less time than it takes you to draw an obscene picture of the department head on your blotter.
"Stuck with a client who insists on paying at the end of a job, rather than in nice monthly settlements? Call LawyerLine. They'll post off their helpful booklet 'The Bills are Alive: How I Listened to my Solicitor, Paid Up Regularly and Saved myself from Bankruptcy'.
"A crackdown on expenses means you can't get first-class rail travel? LawyerLine's resident GP will write you a sick note discussing the dangers of deep vein thrombosis in standard carriages.
"Frosty silence at the end of the phone when you tell your partner at 6pm that you're stuck in Barrow-in-Furness? LawyerLine will send out its brochure on marital breakdown, entitled 'The Wage Earner Always Wins'.
"Busy day in office, but partner - having read 'The Wage Earner Always Wins' - always ringing at awkward moments for marriage-boosting chat? Just switch on LawyerLine's pre-recorded answer loop: 'Mmm. Mmm. Yes. I see. How terrible. You're so right. No, no, not busy at all. Mmm. Mmm. Just do chips. It'll sort itself out. I'll do it later. Mmm. Mmm. No, I really will do it later…'"
"Ah yes, but," I said suspiciously, for that's exactly what he does sound like on the phone, "legal firms being what they are, you'd be seen as a real softie for using LawyerLine. They'd check the outgoing numbers and use it against you in your yearly assessment. You'd come in one day and find 'LoserLine' scrawled over your mousemat. And worst of all, they'd tie your yearly pay rise into inflation just because they know you had a source of solace available to you."
The Lawyer shrieked and the lightbulb disappeared with an audible 'pop'.