Legal Widow

We went to a birthday party the other night where the vast majority of the guests – and their spouses – were solicitors

“I really must get out more,” murmured the host, as another legal couple arrived, waving bottles of Tesco sparkling.

Still, it meant they could all talk about a lawyer who has given it all up to run a vineyard in France and write a book about it. Opinion was split between those who thought he was mad and couldn’t think what else they’d do if they didn’t do law, even though they’re miserable doing it, and those who stood in a melancholy reverie, imagining the red soil between their toes and the sun on their backs.

“Haven’t you ever thought of giving it all up and… I don’t know… growing organic tomatoes or something?” asked Peter – but then he has a beard, which is considered suspicious in some firms. “You know, being able to see the kids in daylight, that sort of thing.”

“I couldn’t afford to give it all up,” said the Lawyer, bluntly. “And neither could you. Your daughter has a nasty horseriding habit that costs a lot to maintain.”

“We’d keep a donkey,” said Peter.

“What about the mortgage?”

“Ah, but we’d live somewhere cheap.”

“There’s nowhere left,” said somebody else. “Everywhere nice has had a bloody makeover programme or relocation thing done on it.”

“But we don’t have to live like this,” said Peter, gesturing around, possibly at my new spray-on tan (£45 for 60 seconds of being sprayed like graffitti on a wall, which I did think a bit much).

“Like what?” asked his wife, rummaging in her Louis Vuitton bag.

“Hah!” said the Lawyer, as if he’d proved his point.

“You tell him, Bettina,” said Peter, ignoring the bag (hard to do, frankly, as it was the new multicoloured one, which costs a fortune. He’ll know when the credit card bill comes in, anyway). “You’ve been going to those Life Choice lessons. We need to sail on calmer waters, don’t we?”

A lifestyle guru has set up in town, attracting the ladies who do lunch like flies round a bikini wax pot, and has already persuaded a partner at one law firm to chuck it all in and sail around the world, children and dog in tow. This has caused tremors among the wives, partly because they’re unhappy at the thought of having to strap a two-year-old to the mast (or blowing up the Labrador’s water wings), but largely because they don’t like to go too long without knowing where the next French manicure is coming from.

Bettina fixed him with a steely look. “The only calmer waters I’m sailing on, matey, are the ponds on Hampstead Heath, and you know it. Tell them about the transfer.”

Peter, it transpires, has been offered the chance to work in London, which means long hours, a vast salary increase, and wall-to-wall shopping for Bettina and the girls.

“I haven’t decided yet,” he said plaintively; but I could see his organic tomatoes withering on the vine.

“But I have,” said Bettina, leading Peter off to the buffet.

“Locked in to the profession, like the rest of us!” said the Lawyer, and laughed out loud. But he was the only one.