On Friday, a man called up the office during lunchtime. He asked for a quote for divorce proceedings as he and his wife have decided to split and they plan to do it amicably. According to him, they have spent months talking and they have worked out their financial settlement and arrangement for their children, there will be no issues as the intention to divorce is mutual. I quoted a fee and he responded that it was higher than the information he had obtained from the internet. I would have lowered my fee so I could listen to another story but my professional front forbade me to compromise as it is apparent that legal services are now like any other commodity that allows consumers to shop around for the best bargains and I dislike haggling. Everything we consume and every other utilities we need have gone up in prices exponentially, somehow legal services are something that the consumers feel that the fees should not increase at all and instead reduced due to competition. If you think about it, it is depressing indeed.
I recently read A Spot of Bother by Mark Haddon. The story is about a family of four people living in Peterborough. It has started off quite promising when George Hall, the main protagonist discovers a sinister lesion on his hip and imagines that it is cancer even when the doctor has diagnosed that it is Discoid eczema. To George, the ‘lesion felt like a manhole cover of rotted meat under his shirt.’
‘They were halfway through the blackberry crumble, however, when the lesion began to itch like athlete’s foot. The word tumour came to mind and it was an ugly word which he did not want to be entertaining, but he was unable to remove it from his head.
He could feel it growing as he sat at the table, too slowly perhaps for the naked eye to see, but growing nevertheless, like the bread mould he once kept in a jam-jar on the window sill in his bedroom as a boy.’
George is fifty-seven and he is settling down to a comfortable retirement, building a shed in his garden, reading historical novels, listening to a bit of light jazz. He has spent thirty years managing a small company making and installing good quality playground equipment and he is not naïve as he knows bad things do happen to good people.
George sees Dr Barghoutian who prescribes him some steroid cream that should sort it out. But George is not convinced and he starts to lose his mind.He is a hypochondriac and is very much afraid of dying. Meanwhile Katie, his daughter announces that she is getting married to Ray who loves her but George and his wife, Jean and Jamie, Katie’s brother have reservation about the intending union. To them their daughter has a 2:1 in philosophy and Ray is not intellectual enough although he earns a good salary and is good with Katie’s son, Jacob. In general, George and his wife Jean get on with one another a great deal better than many couples of their acquaintance but to Jean, George is detached and not communicative and not a good listener either.
‘ He and Jean bickered rarely, thanks largely to his own powers of self-restraint. But they did have their silences.’
‘Talking was, in George’s opinion, overrated. You could not turn on the television on these days without seeing someone discussing their adoption or explaining why they had stabbed their husband. Not that he was averse to talking. Talking was one of life’s pleasures. And everyone needed to sound off now and then over a pint of Ruddles about colleagues who did not shower frequently enough, or teenage sons who had returned home drunk in the small hours and thrown up in the dog’s basket. But it did not change anything.’
He knows something about his wife’s affair but he avoids thinking about it. Their son, Jamie is gay and his life falls apart when he fails to invite his lover, Tony to the impending wedding.
Half way through the book, it started to feel slightly bothersome but I had to know the ending so I literally raced through the book.The story is told with humour and insightful observations about ordinary and decent people and their dramas in their lives. It is a bit of a farce and there are hilarious moments in the story.
A Spot of Bother is a pleasurable read as Mark Haddon is a prolific writer. But I was disappointed after reading his much acclaimed début novel The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time which is brilliant and the voice and its plot moved me to tears when I read it click. A Spot of Bother reads like a family drama shown on television.