Pay and performance reviews are looming, and the Lawyer is bewailing the fact that he is no nearer equity than before, in spite of changing his tactics and going to every single tedious social event and corporate PR do on last year’s calendar, in the hope of charming the board, or at least making sure they know who he is.
I am worried that if you offer to refill glasses and pass round canapés too often, you’ll slip below the radar altogether. (When was the last time anyone actually acknowledged the canteen ladies pouring out the coffee at the boardroom meetings, even if they were dressed like French maids?) In law, I reminded him, no one captures the castle by stealth: they like to know who is climbing over the parapet so they can decide whether to give you a big hug of welcome, or simply push you off again. Anyway, I have problems of my own: a rash of poaching has broken out, and families who once happily shared the school run are now no longer speaking to each other. First of all, I noticed a certain dreaminess about my prized Romanian student cleaner, and a few too many questions about the Rudding family down the road. And before you could say cheeky girl, she’d gone to wipe the floors for them, claiming they paid better and she never had to do windows. The ironing lady recently gave us notice, saying she preferred to work with ladies who take action when the shirt cuffs are worn through to the stuffing; and the gardeners are long gone, because foxy Linda opposite fancied the foreman, and her lawns were neatly trimmed right through the winter, while ours stayed shaggy and unmown – a metaphor there, I feel. Everything went to pot, and despite repeated appeals the Lawyer failed to up the housekeeping budget, which is the only way of keeping staff any more. He evaded his share by claiming he had forgotten how to open the washing machine, and it was only when he ran out of boxer shorts and I had to pop a wet pair in the microwave that he realised it was serious. To make me feel better he told me that it wasn’t always money at the root of the problem: look at all the lawyers jumping ship nowadays, he told me. It’s often because the old firm just doesn’t measure up. Lot of desirable new workplaces out there, he said. Thanks a lot, I told him. “I wish some of ours would get headhunted,” he moaned. “Make a place at the trough for me.” Then Deminimus came in, saying his maths tutor had laid him off. “He’s got a special double trouble rate on the Follifoot twins,” he said. “And the Spofforths have signed him up for GSCEs and A-levels in a multi-child package.” The Lawyer was outraged: no one undermines his right to overwork his children and get them into the highest fee-paying universities known to man. So he prepared a small presentation pack for the children to hand out to their various tutors, ballet, tennis and chess teachers, along with a note saying he was prepared to negotiate on fees. He personally went to see Babette the cleaner and told Joe the gardener that Linda had been keeping company with some very suspect looking window cleaners, and within a fortnight I had a full complement of staff again. “It’s like having your own personal fiefdom,” said the Lawyer, contemplating the newly-cleared garden through the newly-cleaned windows, while Deminimus practised long division out loud behind him. “Who needs equity at all?”