I said yes, although Subjudice has never shown much enthusiasm for homework in the past. “But everyone’s doing it, Mum,” she said. “I’d miss out if I didn’t.”
Then Deminimus started coming home from school later and later. “After-school clubs, Mum”, he said. “Martin Maynard wants the teachers to run them every night of the week. And so we’ve all got to do it.”
Finally, Liability started coming home with her lunchbox untouched. “Study hour at lunchtime, Mummy,” she said. “There’s no time to eat, because Kirsty Glossop says we’ve all got to be reading.”
Soon there were drooping children around the supper table, grumpy children in the morning and no one to play with at weekends because they were all doing extra work in their rooms.
“Maybe we should be pleased,” I said to my husband, doubtfully.
“It reminds me terribly of something,” said the Lawyer.
“You used to be like that,” I said.
Of course! The children have merely followed their father into the tunnel of office super time, where everyone works longer and longer hours because the person in front of them is still there, groping through the tunnel and hoping to make it out.
I used to ask him, after another 10.30pm homecoming, why he did it.
“Promotion, I think,” he’d say. “But mostly because everyone else does it.”
“Does it work?”
“I don’t know. It hasn’t done so far.”
Lawyers are obviously not scientists, because even the maddest scientist gives up an experiment after a while if no results are obvious. Apart from anything, their funding runs out, although there seems to be unlimited cash to keep lawyers chained to their desks all night.
The Lawyer has concluded that no amount of being seen at his desk will ever get him a yacht, and he now plays golf instead. He is home by seven, except in the summer, when twilight golf beckons, and he has lost all his excess weight.
We contacted the teachers to see if they were worried about this outbreak of presentism. They told us that they’d love to go home earlier, only chucking children who want to learn out of school doesn’t look good. “Imagine the tabloid headlines,” moaned one headteacher.
The Lawyer called the children down from their rooms at the weekend. “Why do you do it?” he asked.
“Better exam results, I think,” said Deminimus. “But mostly because everyone else does it.”
“But that’s terrible,” said the Lawyer. “What about your individuality?”
Deminimus, Subjudice and Liability looked at the Lawyer witheringly. He was wearing the off-duty solicitor’s uniform of navy round-necked jumper and chinos, with dockside shoes. His smart suits were hanging up in the cupboard, I was ironing next week’s shirts, and the golf clubs were waiting quietly for him in the hall.
“Well, it’s true people generally want the same things in life, but we don’t have to follow the same path to get there,” said the Lawyer pompously.
“So you wouldn’t mind if I became a ballet dancer?” asked Deminimus.
“Can I be a plumber?” asked Liability.
The Lawyer thought of all those school fees, wasted.
“You know, one way round it is to go in, hang your coat on the back of the chair and then hang around the drinks machine gossiping,” he said. “Looks marvellous, and you’re doing no work at all. It kept me going for years.”