If, like my husband’s, your firm is located somewhere in the outer reaches of Siberia, it is not only cold in winter – and I mean that as much in a metaphorical, Now, Voyager sense as in the “really wish I’d installed underfloor heating when we did the kitchen” sense – it is also a long, long way from anywhere else.
Which means a lot of travelling. There are two reasons for this. The first is that the importance of lawyers diminishes in inverse proportion to the distance of the firm in which they practise from London. While you may strut around a bit in Bristol or Birmingham, it’s best not to draw attention to the fact you’re in Leeds or Manchester – and God help you if you’re in Newcastle. The Scots get over it, of course, by pretending that London doesn’t exist at all.
Anyway, we are so unimportant, where we live, that people in London barely think of my husband having an office at all, let alone one they could bring themselves to visit. Perhaps they think he works in a hole in the ground (they know there are lots of those left over from the coalmines shutting down) or somewhere up an industrial chimney (ditto for the textile factories).
The second, related, reason for all the travelling is that the distance from London to Northtown, where we live, is immensely far, measured by the distance the average London lawyer travels in a lifetime. (I mean: home, Tube, office, Tube, Fresh & Wild, home, get up, do it again. That’s not mileage, that’s hopping round the Monopoly board.) Paradoxically, the distance from Northtown to London, in the estimation of a London lawyer, is very, very short. They seem amazed that you wouldn’t want to peg it down to London – six hours there and back – for the honour of an hour in their company. They also seem disappointed that you can’t really get there before 10am, even if you try ever so hard and sit there with your eyes squeezed shut willing the train driver to go faster. Do they think we’re lying and that we actually all live in Luton?
All I’m saying is, no bugger ever comes up north and my husband spends his life on the 7.05am to London. It has its advantages. The menu has improved enormously over the last few years, and you can now get Thai green curry in vegan and vegetarian versions, although you can’t get a cheese sandwich, and it’s a good chance to get stuck into Sudoku.
Of course, the cold hand of winter that hovers over many lawyers in the North has snaked all the way up the motorway from London, where head office lies. There’s no knowing when the hand may fall and squeeze the life out of our poor regional offices, abandoned as a brave attempt at national practice but ultimately redundant because everything still happens in London anyway.
The Lawyer would then have to scuttle down to the capital or, worse, St Albans, where I will have to make new friends for both myself and my husband and reassure the children that they will not be bullied senseless at their snotty new schools, alongside ensuring all the essentials for modern life: ballet classes, football training, proper cappuccinos and a good hairdresser.
In this doomsday scenario I could perhaps stay in the North and make the Lawyer commute weekly to London, in which case he couldn’t reasonably get back home before 9pm on a Friday night. Which would be outrageous, naturally. It couldn’t possibly take that long, could it?