To appease his social conscience, the Lawyer spent the weekend helping run scout camp for the local troop, of which Subjudice is a member. Because there aren't enough guides to go round where we live, they got special dispensation to make it mixed scouts. Subjudice spends her time earning all the business management badges and terrifying the younger boys into doing knots for her.
The Lawyer went off to Wales with a heavy heart, having managed nothing more fearsome in the way of group activities in recent years than being part of a roomful of dozing solicitors attending a project management seminar. He packed what he thought would be useful for children to work on – documents on Power Networking, How To Get Ahead In The Housing Market, and The Careers To Make Your Parents Think It Was Worth Spending All That Money. I took them out and put in a couple of footballs, a pack of cards and a picture of him as a spotty scout on the very same camp 30 years ago.
And of course, he loved it. He loved the hammering in of tent pegs and the cooking of baked beans, the singing of rugby songs and the total disregard for personal hygiene.
I felt his towel when he got back and it was bone dry, but then small boys develop an aversion to water as soon as they sleep under canvas. One mother packed her son's spending money in his flannel, thereby ensuring that he went penniless and without sweeties for the entire weekend. Mind you, the girls don't shower either because while they like to be clean, they would rather die than get clean in front of someone else.
And of course, the Lawyer has come back with the makings of a beard, something men get a bit daring about during the summer, when they figure that no one notices these things. However, I know it will be gone by 1 September, the magical date when lawyers wake up and realise that they just don't suit goatees.
Subjudice kept her distance for the first day until she realised that her father had turned out to be a cool guy. This is because he is good at kicking a ball around, something you forget about when you have a chair glued to your bottom all day, but which comes back on the playing fields of scout camp.
When I play ball games with children I'm terribly encouraging and pat the thing back and forth, commiserating when they fall over or generally prove to be hopeless at sport, whereupon they think I must be pretty hopeless myself. But the Lawyer behaves like an English Pete Sampras and shows no mercy, drilling whatever ball it is straight between the eyes, and the children love him for it. When I picked him up from the coach there were children with terrible bruises all over their arms and legs, all clamouring for the softball league he had promised them in the autumn.
Suddenly Subjudice ran up with a huge shiner, holding the football that did it. "Daddy is so cool!" she shouted. "He made me goalie, and I only let in three goals the whole weekend!" "What happened to your hair, Subjudice?" I said in a voice of doom. "Ah, well," said the Lawyer. "I told her she was just like Fabien Barthez, and she asked me what he looked like, and we caught her just before she really got stuck in with the razor. But she really is an excellent goalie. Do the girls play football at her school?"