Legal Widow

The Dash for Cash is finally over, and it looks as if the Lawyer will get his pay rise after all. Mind you, like the Budget, I’m fairly sure there will be a catch, and he will find out that it won’t be implemented until 2002, and we’ll have more sulking and raging and refusal to eat anything but fishfingers.

While able to generate more wastepaper than a four-year-old with a new loo roll, lawyers are hopeless at getting anything written down when it comes to their own salaries. In any case, I suspect that the world really will come to an electronic end at midnight on December 31, regardless of whether his office has installed its new word-processing package (the one they hope is going to let them all leap like little herds of fallow deer between elegantly cross-referenced sections of documents. I have to laugh, really).

By 2002, then, we will all be roaming the broken streets in animal skins, except that I will be at home, waiting for my carrots to come up, and he will still be moaning that he should have got an entire leg from the last boar hunt, rather than a mere couple of trotters.

What you don’t understand, I tell him, when he comes home from the office grumbling about appreciation and targets and market rates (you must imagine him, poor hunter/gatherer that he is, trailing his little club on the ground behind him) is that the pay rise you think you deserve is the equivalent of most people’s salaries (specifically, I suppose, mine, if I ever manage to work again).

But I know it is too late. He has crossed the level plain of normal reward systems and is now deep in the heart of the enchanted Legal Salary Forest. Grown men and women get lost in it for years, convinced that at the centre lies the salary level of happiness, the equity partnership of Paradise. Meanwhile, the rest of us sit in little groups outside, like the women at Greenham Common (although with better clothes and, if we have any sense, health club membership), hoping they will come out again one day and, in time, to take the children to their tennis lesson.

This year, the Lawyer’s sustained assault on the heart of the Salary Forest included wangling a weekend balloon trip out of his biggest client’s marketing department and offering it to his boss, “because I’m always in the office on Sunday mornings”.

My part in the whole affair was an ironic, post-modern dinner party where I served prawn Marie Rose, souffle, caramelised oranges and mint chocolate twigs, knowing perfectly well that his boss would not recognise post-modernism if it bit him on the bottom and would merely be reminded of the days when he was a thrusting young projects lawyer in swinging London.

He stuck his hand in his pocket after dinner and jangled his car keys, affording me a moment’s horror when I thought he was going to throw them on the table and suggest we swing all the way. But this (his wife explained to me) is his way of expressing deep satisfaction. I don’t want to think about what else he fumbles with when moved to deep emotion.

But it was worth spending three hours cutting up bits of orange peel when the news came through about the pay rise. I was able to get two months’ worth of bills, a promise on summer camp for the children, and the possibility of a new kitchen past the Lawyer without a single argument.